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ISSN 1172-4153 | Volume 1 | Issue 4 |
| 29 August 2008
the Labour MP’s Class-A drug addiction battle on INSIDE By Ian Wishart Editor, TGIF Edition
High-flying Labour MP Darien Fenton has admitted battling a serious drug addiction before entering parliament, but is disappointed the issue has surfaced just weeks out from a crucial election. Fenton, the former national secretary of the Service and Food Workers Union, is a Labour list MP who entered parliament at the last election in controversial circumstances. Her campaign, backed by the union, was criticized by union members amid revelations up to $200,000 of union members’funds had been spent on getting Labour re-elected. There was further anger when evidence emerged Fenton had tried to manipulate the result of a union membership election campaign so that her chosen successor won the vote. The story featured in Investigate magazine two years ago after key documents were leaked to the magazine. However, neither Fenton nor TGIF Edition were expecting this latest twist to emerge – an email from a voter questioning Fenton’s suitability to be an MP given her drugs background. “I am not sure if she is still on it but some time ago both she and [name deleted for privacy reasons] were both on the methadone programme run out of Ward 6 (psychiatric services) Whangarei Base hospital by Dr Paul Berks. “I know this because I was on it also and had some dealings with Fenton,”said the correspondent. Describing the future MP as a “chronic junkie” who“injected…methadone and whatever else”she could get her hands on, the correspondent said his biggest concern was not the drug-taking, but the personality type.
Massive lawsuit looms Page 3
MPs dumped by Clark Page 4
Five days in a wreck Page 9
“I do not consider Darien Fenton to be worthy of being an MP, and was stunned when I read she was a Labour list MP. I thought [her one] of the worst people I met. [Her] reputation amongst the other people on the programme was very bad – liars, thieves etc. I do not think that having been on the methadone programme in itself is bad as it has helped a great many people normalise their lives, myself includedit’s more what kind of person she was.”
‘It’s all above board’ – Winston’s lawyer By Maggie Tait of NZPA
Wellington, Aug 29 NZPA – New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and his advisors will spend the weekend preparing for a crucial meeting with the Serious Fraud Office, after Peters stood aside from his ministerial portfolios late today. But Peters will be without the immediate assistance of one of his closest confidantes, lawyer Brian Henry, who’s travelling in South Africa this weekend. Instead, the baton’s been picked up by Peter Williams QC, who told TV3’s Campbell Live tonight he personally has the transaction documents proving the Spencer Trust donations “are all above board”,
and believes he can satisfy the SFO within just five minutes. “I’m absolutely angered at the way people have pre-judged these matters,”Peter Williams told John Campbell. Prime Minister Helen Clark said Mr Peters had asked her and she had agreed to be acting minister in each of his portfolios: Foreign Affairs, Racing and Associate Senior Citizens. She said it was clear to both her and Mr Peters that was the appropriate approach to take.She said he was hurt but calm during their meeting this afternoon. “In politics each of us has a reputation and obvi-
When TGIF Edition phoned Fenton to factcheck, she said she was no longer on methadone treatment, which had ended“a few years ago”.Asked whether successfully battling a drug addiction and methadone treatment to eventually enter national politics could be seen as a positive story for others, Fenton declined to comment further. “You can write what you like. I’m not going to talk about it further”. ously Mr Peters is very keen as any of us would be to defend his reputation and he will be offering total cooperation to the Serious Fraud Office.” If the SFO cleared him he would be reinstated. He is at the centre of a maelstrom of controversy regarding donations to his party and the SFO yesterday announced the inquiry. “It is to be hoped that the SFO will address their matters expeditiously,”Miss Clark said. “Mr Peters is offering his total cooperation to the SFO and the first meeting between his lawyers (including Peter Williams QC) and the Office will take place tomorrow morning.” Miss Clark said Mr Peters had not had a chance yet to give his side to the SFO and would open all relevant books and documents which she thought
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Prime Minister Helen Clark with list MP Darien Fenton. NZPA/ Ross Setford
RALLY PRANG The first day’s action Page 12 would help it progress quickly. Miss Clark said there had been “no difficulty” reaching the position. “Mr Peters has been thinking very carefully about this, it’s been clear to me this would be the appropriate course of action but there hasn’t had to be a lengthy argument about this at all. It’s accepted this is totally proper and there are precedents for it.” Asked if the controversy reflected on her, Miss Clark said as Prime Minister these were issues she had to deal with. “You don’t ask for them to come along but you have to deal with them and I am endeavouring to deal with this in a way which is fair and has some dignity about it.” With additional reporting by TGIF Edition
29 August 2008
BEAT Film crew claims footage may be monster Sweden, (UPI) – A Swedish TV station has captured footage that it claims might depict the country’s legendary Storsjoodjuret sea monster in the north of the country. Svergies Television said cameras set up at the Storsjon lake captured footage that shows a blurry, long and narrow silhouette that might belong to the Storsjoodjuret, or Great Lake Sea Monster, Swedish news agency TT reported Thursday. (The video) clearly shows that it’s warm and is made up of cells, otherwise our cameras wouldn’t indicate red, so it can be a sea snake or some other kind of sea animal, a member of the film crew said. The TV station said 30 cameras will be set up to monitor the lake by 2009 to watch for signs of the beast, which was first mentioned in print in 1635, The Telegraph (Britain) reported today. More than 200 sightings of the Storsjoodjuret have been reported in Sweden. Watch Swedish video of alleged monster No frills, low altitude flight fright Sweden, (UPI) – Officials with a Stockholm, Sweden, airport said a woman took a ride on a baggage conveyor belt after mishearing instructions from personnel. Arlanda Airport officials said the 78-year-old woman, who was en route to Germany, misheard instructions from airport workers to take her bags to an unmanned conveyor belt after she checked in and instead climbed aboard the conveyor herself, the Swedish news agency TT reported Thursday. The conveyor took her to the baggage handling area, where personnel were able to help her down off the belt and direct her toward the passenger area of the airport. The woman wasn’t injured and was taken to the proper place in time to catch her flight, the airport told TT. Phillips busted for alleged drug offense LOS ANGELES, (UPI) – Singer and TV actress MacKenzie Phillips was arrested yesterday in Los Angeles after airport security allegedly found drugs in her possession, police said.Phillips, 48, has battled an addiction to drugs for years. Best known for her work on the 1970s and 1980s sit-com One Day at a Time, she also appeared in the Disney Channel series So Weird in the 1990s.Police said the daughter of The Mamas and the Papas lead singer John Phillips was arrested for drug possession at Los Angeles International Airport Thursday.
Firearms officer Nevin Stevenson points a Taser X26 gun during a demonstration of the device at the Police College. NZPA/ Ross Setford
Police report on taser trials says risks can be managed Wellington, Aug 29 – While the Taser stun gun is not risk-free, the likelihood of life-threatening events associated with its use is“very low”, according to a police report released today. Police Commissioner Howard Broad yesterday approved the Taser as a tactical weapon option following a year long trial in Auckland and Wellington. Thirty two Tasers fitted with cameras will initially be introduced to three police districts in Wellington and Auckland. Mr Broad today released on the police website a 192 page evaluation report which concluded the trials of the Taser “appears to have been successful”. The X26 Taser that was trialled fires a “shaped pulse” of electrical energy that can bring down a person in body armour, though there is a risk of head injuries from the offender’s head striking surfaces after their muscles seize. The report said that often officers only had to present the weapon to control a subject’s violent and threatening behaviour and to de-escalate a situation.
“Injuries to subjects and police officers were minor despite the serious circumstances of incidents.” Subjects sustained expected minor injuries associated with probe wounds, and required no additional medical follow up. Though the public was generally accepting of Taser use,“the majority identified the potential risk of injuries or fatalities”the report said. Many people referred to international research, particularly reports prepared by Amnesty International, which suggested there were links between Taser use and serious injury and/or death. Another common concern was that officers might use the device inappropriately or excessively, with a related concern that certain groups, such as those with mental health issues, Maori or Pacific peoples, would be unfairly targeted. But police taking part in the trials felt that adherence to guidelines, careful selection of staff, audits of use, mandatory reporting of Taser use, and provision of operator training could reduce potential risks such as handling and operator errors, inappropriate
use, and injury to subjects, the report said. “Officers felt that the Taser filled a gap in their options for safely dealing with these situations”. “There is the potential to realise benefits such as a reduction in firearms presentations, assaults on police officers, and injuries to subjects if Tasers were available more widely as a tactical option,” the report said. The report said 39 percent of officers surveyed could identify no risks or disadvantages to having a Taser available to police officers. Some thought that the Taser posed no more risk than other tactical options. The potential risks they identified were that subjects may gain control of the Taser and use it to incapacitate officers, misuse of the device, and that some officers may become over reliant on Tasers, electing to use them when firearms should be used. RELATED STORIES: Investigate magazine http://www. thebriefingroom.com/archives/2007/03/stunning_revela.html Police chief refuses to set example: http://tvnz.co.nz/ view/page/411365/2042207
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One of New Zealand’s popular agricultural pesticides is at the centre of a prosecutor’s investigation in Europe and North America amid claims it may be contributing to the worldwide die-off of honeybees. The product is“Poncho”, manufactured by Bayer Cropscience and based on the chemical clothianidin. It is normally applied to maize seed as an anti-pest protective coating, but German federal prosecutors are weighing up whether to serve search warrants on the company’s head office, after allegations it failed to fully disclose data relating to the chemical’s impact on honeybees. In the US and Europe, honeybee populations are mysteriously dying in a phenomenon known as“colony collapse disorder”.Scientists are frantically trying to find a cause,because the world’s agricultural harvests are heavily dependent on bees doing the pollination work.It’s estimated worldwide famine would be unavoidable within five years if the honeybees die off. German regulators suspended new registrations of Poncho use three months ago after a large bee die-off linked to crops affected by Poncho.Bayer Cropscience New Zealand says it’s aware of the problem,but insists
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the bees were killed because farm machinery used in the pesticide’s application accidentally pumped it into the wider environment. “Many areas of Germany where maize has been sown near beehives have not resulted in deaths,”said Bayer NZ spokesman Kirk MacGibbon. MacGibbon says the company has not been questioned about the issue by New Zealand regulators, and he says Bayer international has not failed to disclose data on honeybees either. The company argues New Zealand honeybees are not at risk, despite the international headlines. “It is accepted that clothianidin and other neonicotinoids can be harmful to bees – if it is contained in a spray for example,” MacGibbon said today. “Applied as a seed treatment bees do not come into contact with maize seeds.The bee safety of Poncho has been confirmed in field trials.” Reports this year indicated bees feeding on organically-grown crops were not being affected by colony collapse disorder, lending further weight to a chemical cause. To read more on the German investigation into Bayer, see TGIF Science & Tech.
29 August 2008 NZPA / Ross Setford
Running out of lives: the caging of politics’ resident big cat New Zealand First leader Winston Peters today stood down from his ministerial roles while dealing with a Serious Fraud Office investigation. He now faces the most perilous period of his political career. MAGGIE TAIT of NZPA backgrounds the battle-scarred politician.
Embarassing court case could hurt NZ taxpayers
Grace toldTGIF.“We’ll make a further announcement on Monday.” More than a hundred businesses collapsed as a result of the Australia/NZ recall order, and By Ian Wishart King said was a “class 1 recall”, was not a natural supplement but last week Grace’s Health FreeNew Zealand taxpayers could (implying potentially fatal). a synthetic drug manufactured dom coalition demanded King’s be hit with the bill for a massive But last week Jim Selim, the by Pan Pharmaceuticals. resignation – particularly given lawsuit after moves to ban natu- owner of Pan Pharmaceuticals, Accusing Health Minister King’s efforts to try and bring ral health supplements were over- won NZ$62 million in damages Annette King of shooting her New Zealand under the TGA’s turned by the courts in Australia. from the Australian Therapeutic mouth off before she had all the jurisdiction. The scandal stems from a Goods Agency (TGA), after the facts, and nearly destroying the “We are glad for the New Zeahighly-publicised government- New South Wales Supreme Court natural health industry in the land taxpayers and natural prodordered recall of products in earlier ruled the recall was illegal. process, Nicola Grace says New uct users that we were able to halt 2003 surrounding items manuThat recall forced some com- Zealand industry members are our Government’s plans to allow factured by Australian company panies “to remove 95% of their considering whether to sue the our regulator to be absorbed into Pan Pharmaceuticals. In New natural health products from the New Zealand government for its this unaccountable and out of Zealand, pharmacies, super- market”, said New Zealand-based role in the scandal. control agency,” said Grace, who markets and health shops were natural health lobbyist Nicola “There’s a $500 million class pointed out the rapid move to a forced to clearCLIENT their shelves of Grace to TGIF Edition today, but action lawsuit being launched in settlement in the TGA/Pan lawPUBLICATION natural supplements following the irony is that the product that Australia,and we’re looking at what suit followed a growing realiza099684370 COVER DATE(S) firstname.lastname@example.org TRIM SIZE Annette what Health Minister sparked the recall, Travacalm, action we might wish to take here,” tion that the Government agency AD NAME/NUMBER could not win. “If Mr Selim succeeds, his damages are going to be huge, & aren’t they?” Justice Emmett was quoted as asking the TGA’s barrister, David Brogan. “Yes, your honour,” Brogan confirmed. “And the reputations of sevMillions of people use ScanSoft PaperPort to turn piles of paper into organised digital documents. 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Wellington, Aug 29 – Winston Peters and Helen Clark pulled off an unusual arrangement when she made him a minister in her Government outside of Cabinet. That was after the 2005 election, and it nearly lasted the distance. The intensely private, ever well-dressed and equally sharptongued Mr Peters was determined to make it work after the melt-down of the National-NZ First coalition government in 1998. During the 2005 campaign Mr Peters ruled out accepting any baubles of office but then took roles of foreign affairs, racing and associate senior citizens minister as part of an agreement where NZ First supported the Government. He handled the ensuing intense media attention in his usual way – attack, attack, attack. But despite a few hiccups, such as lashing out at media in front of Republican congressman John McCain during a Washington trip, he had managed to make a fairly good fist of the high profile foreign affairs portfolio. Achievements included a much improved relationship with the US and enormous budget gains for his foreign affairs ministry. Being Maori made him attractive to the Pacific and he was bestowed with a chiefly title in Samoa, Vaovasamanaia, translated as “beautiful, handsome, awesome, delighted and joyful”. A profile on his blogsite describes Mr Peters in equally glowing terms. He is“larger than life”,“a devastating debater”and “a champion of traditional values and a strong supporter of the people’s interests, fighting for them against shonky government and big business”. Mr Peters railed against the behaviour of some in big business. For eight years he fought the Winebox case where he accused Sir Michael Fay, David Richwhite and others of an elaborate tax evasion scam. He also railed against big business backing political parties. Now the SFO is looking into what donations made by Sir Robert Jones and the wealthy Vela family to NZ First were actually spent on. The privileges committee is considering whether rules around disclosure were broken regarding a $100,000 donation from billionaire Owen Glenn. Mr Peters’ denial for months that there was any such dona-
tion has seen his usually tense relationship with the media, whom he describes as brainless meerkats and reef fish, become acrimonious. It’s been a tough parliamentary term for Mr Peters, he suffered health problems ranging from a spider bite to a knee operation to fix an old rugby injury, and in July just as pressure was intensifying his mother died. Mr Peters is in a relationship and he has children from a previous relationship. In 2006 political consultants Saunders Unsworth said that he may have lost some of his edge, and wings it more often than not. But no one is writing Mr Peters off. He is a survivor. He defied the odds to get into Parliament, with a courtordered recount, taking Hunua for National in 1979. A series of disagreements saw Mr Peters quit National in 1993 after earlier being expelled from Cabinet. He formed the NZ First Party, retaining his Tauranga seat in 1993,and his party won Northern Maori. In 1996, under MMP, NZ First got 17 MPs into Parliament after winning all the Maori seats – the “tight five”MPs led by Tau Henare.The party went into an illfated coalition with National. Mr Peters blamed Jenny Shipley, who ousted then prime minister Jim Bolger as leader, for the breakdown. He was bitter about the “treachery” of National, and some of the colleagues who came to Parliament on his coat-tails abandoned him when the coalition fell apart. Back in opposition, Mr Peters was soon back in the news after pushing National MP John Banks around in the lobbies outside the debating chamber and had to appear before Parliament’s privileges committee. The following election, in 1999, he held onto Tauranga by 63 votes and his party returned with five seats. In 2002 NZ First was back with 13 seats but this was reduced to seven in 2005 when Mr Peters also lost Tauranga to National’s Bob Clarkson. Criticised as a racist for his stands on law and order, immigration and the Waitangi Treaty industry, Mr Peters’ support among a small proportion of the population has kept him going. They may well continue to do so. – NZPA
29 August 2008
Kiwi dollar up slightly Wellington, Aug 29 – The New Zealand dollar traded slightly higher today with building consents data providing a focus during the session. By 5pm the New Zealand dollar was US70.52c, up from US70.16c at 8am and little changed from US70.56c at 5pm yesterday. The currency rose slightly after the number of consents issued for new houses in July rose slightly from June’s 7-1/2-year low. During the Asian session the US dollar retreated against a basket of currencies amid fears that Russia may cut oil supplies to Western Europe.
Support is seen for the NZ dollar at around US69.85c and resistance at around current levels. Going into the weekend the focus is on moves in the US dollar. The NZ dollar eased against the yen to 76.85 by 5pm from 76.99 at 5pm yesterday. The kiwi opened locally at 0.4773 euro, the same level as it had closed the previous evening, and by the end of the day reached 0.4780. The kiwi was little changed against the aussie,buying A81.45c around 5pm.The trade weighted index was to 65.73 at 5pm from 65.72 yesterday. – NZPA
More houses at risk in Auckland slip
Hall of Shame: ministerial casualties
Wellington, Aug 29 – More Kawakawa Bay properties east of Auckland have been deemed unsafe and people evacuated as a major landslip threatens. The landslide, described as“no ordinary slip”, continues to close the main coastal road at Turei Hill, just north of the Kawakawa Bay settlement. The Manukau City Council is now warning, that with the threat of further major slips, the road could be closed for up to a month. Following heavy rain in July about 500 cubic metres fell on the road on Sunday. Slips continued through this week and yesterday the major slip moved about 45mm over 12 hours. The council today deemed a further two properties to be unsafe, bringing to six the total number of properties at risk from debris in the event of a major landslide. It is unlikely more houses will be evacuated. A handful of residents have now been voluntarily evacuated. Two of the houses were unoccupied. The manager of the Beachcomber Motel,Tony Blundell, had four elderly evacuees staying at his motel. He said they were distraught at the plight of their houses. One of the worst affected houses was only about five years old and the others were very nice properties, he said. Mr Blundell said it was now almost uneconomic for many of the settlement’s 600 residents to drive the alternative route into Auckland, which took an extra 90 minutes.
Ministerial casualties under PM Helen Clark
He said the town seemed“very desolate”, with nothing happening there. With the road closure the council is providing a free ferry between Kawakawa Bay and the Pine Harbour marina for the next week, and a limited bus service to Papakura and Thames. Council economic director Rick Walden said there was potential for another major slip to happen at any time. “The risk has increased significantly since the road was closed on Sunday. It is dangerous for people to get near the slip area, they shouldn’t be walking on the beach to get around it. “A much larger landslip could come down very quickly,bringing thousands of tonnes of debris onto the road and affect properties. “Our advice from geotechnical experts is that cracks in the rock face and continuing movement could mean a huge landslip will happen.” Mr Walden said the council realised the road closure was frustrating and inconvenient, but public safety had to be the number one priority. Students who normally went to school in Clevedon will use a room at Orere School and be taught by their usual teacher. Work is also being done to make sure electricity and phones won’t be cut off if a landslip happens.The council was also looking at temporary alternative routes around the landslip. – NZPA
New Zealand’s Rodney So’oialo is tackled by Australia’s George Smith in a Tri Nations Rugby test, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, August 02, 2008. NZPA / Wayne Drought
Christchurch bid for RWC games Wellington, Aug 29 – Four Government MPs based in Christchurch have written to organisers of the 2011 rugby World Cup in New Zealand calling for two quarterfinals to be held in the South Island. Labour MPs Tim Barnett, Lianne Dalziel, Ruth Dyson and Progressive leader Jim Anderton said it was important to recognise
the rest of the country, outside Auckland. “If the South Island cannot host either semifinal,which we accept is the reality due to the logistics of moving so many people to Auckland for the final, then Christchurch should host two quarterfinals to reinforce that it is New Zealand, not just Auckland, that is hosting the Rugby World Cup.”
Rugby New Zealand, which is planning and delivering the World Cup, will announce on Thursday which venues have secured the quarterfinals and bronze final matches. Auckland, already guaranteed the final and semifinals, has also bid for the quarterfinals and the third placing match. Christchurch and Wellington
have applied to host quarterfinals. Auckland and Hamilton have bid for the“bronze final”between the losing semifinalists. Auckland has proposed either Eden Park or North Harbour Stadium as a venue for the bronze final. Eden Park has previously been selected to host the final and both semifinals. – NZPA
Wellington, Aug 29 – A summary of ministers sacked, suspended, stood down or forced to resign since Helen Clark became prime minister in 1999. June 28, 2000 Dover Samuels Sacked from the Maori Affairs portfolio by Prime Minister Helen Clark, who said he could not be effective while “allegations, controversy and public debate swirl around him”. Mr Samuels, who faced allegations of sexual misconduct, had refused to resign. A police investigation ended without charges being laid and in August 2002 Mr Samuels was made a minister outside Cabinet. October 31, 2000 Ruth Dyson Resigned from Cabinet after failing a breath test while driving home from the Beehive in October 2000. She was fined $600, lost her licence for six months, and returned to Cabinet in June 2001. February 23, 2001 Marian Hobbs and Phillida Bunkle (Alliance) Resigned from ministerial positions following investigations into claiming out-of-town allowances while enrolled on the Wellington Central electoral roll. Ms Hobbs came back into Cabinet at the end of the investigation. Ms Bunkle, an Alliance minister outside Cabinet, never regained her job. July 23, 2003 Harry Duynhoven. Had his ministerial powers temporarily suspended after inadvertently breaking electoral law by renewing his Dutch citizenship. Parliament passed legislation to ensure that Mr Duynhoven did not have to quit as an MP. He retains his ministerial roles. February 20, 2004 Lianne Dalziel Forced to resign from Cabinet when she misled NZPA over whether she knew who leaked documents about a controversial immigration case to the media. Later returned to Cabinet and still serves as a minister. November 4, 2004 John Tamihere Resigned his portfolios after standing down on October 15 following reports that he accepted a $195,000 payment when he left the Waipareira Trust in 1999 to become an MP. He had told voters he would not take such a payment. Mr Tamihere was cleared
by the Serious Fraud Office, but harshly criticised his colleagues and never returned to Cabinet. May 16, 2005 David Benson-Pope. Stood down as associate education minister after TV3 News reported five former students of Dunedin’s Bayfield High School had come forward to back allegations that as a teacher he tied boys’hands together and jammed tennis balls into their mouths, and once smacked a pupil with the back of his hand, making his nose bleed. Police said there was conflicting evidence and decided it was not in the public interest to lay charges. Mr Benson-Pope returned to his job despite fierce criticism from the Opposition over the allegations and how his story had changed as he defended them. October 19, 2005 Taito Phillip Field Before the 2005 election Mr Field faced allegations he took bribes and used illegal workers to work on his homes in exchange for visa assistance. His appointments lapsed on October 19, following the election, and he was never reinstated to Cabinet. Police took up the case and he was thrown out of Labour after he threatened to stand as an independent. Now facing corruption charges. March 20, 2006 David Parker resigns as Attorney-General as the Companies Office launches an investigation into whether he filed proper returns in relation to a company. A day later he resigns his transport and energy portfolios. However the Companies Office clears him of doing anything wrong and he is later reinstated as energy, climate change and land information minister. July 27, 2007 Mr Benson-Pope Resigned from Cabinet after his role in the removal of Madeleine Setchell from her job as Environment Ministry communications manager was questioned. Miss Clark told reporters Mr Benson-Pope had been misleading in what he had said about his involvement. August 29, 2008 Winston Peters stands down as Foreign Affairs, Racing and Associate Senior Citizens Minister after the Serious Fraud Office launches an investigation into undeclared donations to NZ First. Prime Minister Helen Clark becomes acting minister in those portfolios. – NZPA
29 August 2008
Politicians and their baggage: a voter’s right to know Two politicians stand in the headlights of public scrutiny this weekend. Winston Peters, of course, is one (of whom, more in a moment). The other is Darien Fenton. The decision to publish the story of Fenton’s private battle with drug addiction was not taken lightly. At the end of the day, however, with elected representatives it always comes down to the public’s right to know. First and foremost,anyone putting themselves forward as a candidate for election in local or national politics should be utterly and totally aware that they have sacrificed all but common privacy – their lives are effectively carte blanche for public examination. Of course the fact of previous substance abuse is relevant to politics.Whilst some voters may shrug and say “so what?” (which they’re entitled to do), equally others will take a different view of it. The mere existence of differing opinions is proof of the genuine public interest principle. Substance abuse can illustrate an underlying personality deficiency. Whilst many people can live functional lives, their influence on others is limited
to family and immediate colDemocracy is served, because I can’t help Labour leagues. Politicians, on the other voters can make an wondering hand, can influence the lives of informed choice, and the pubeveryone. lic are served because future about the One could argue that it is, after appointments of Fenton to public all, a “house of representatives’, motivations of office can be assessed in context, but such logic is too simplistic. the mysterious as can her public utterances. For Do we then reserve space for example, whilst a trade union pedophiles or murderers to enter Owen Glenn official Fenton spoke out against parliament purely so we can accuworkplace testing for illicit drug use rately reflect the makeup of our community? – how were the public to know whether this was her This is not, by the way, to equate Darien Fenton’s objective, considered opinion, or merely a subjective drug hell with more serious crime – it is merely to view based on her own drug use? illustrate the flaw in the argument. Then, of course, there’s Winston. The public are As a former Class A drug addict who spent years certainly entitled to know more about Winston and on methadone, Fenton cannot possibly have stood NZ First’s funding, for all the reasons outlined above, for election without expecting the story might one and also because of NZ First’s unprincipled support day see the light of day – if she hadn’t factored that for the Electoral Finance Act. possibility into the political equation then frankly However, I have not personally known Peters to lie, you’d have to question her political ‘nous’. and I certainly have not known his lawyer Brian Henry Fenton is better off now that it’s out, it’s no longer to lie.I can’t help wondering about the motivations of a dark secret, it’s a story of survival, if she chooses the mysterious Owen Glenn, the ‘gift who keeps on SUBSCRIBE TO TGIF! to tell it. giving’. I will wait and see.
Israeli attack on Iran imminent? By Arnaud de Borchgrave
WASHINGTON – To bomb or not to bomb Iran is now a matter of time, according to the principal players, but none could agree this month on when the clock runs out. For Israel, it runs out before the U.S. elections on Nov. 4. After that Barack Obama may be the next president of the United States, and Israeli powers that be fear he may disassociate himself from any Israeli military action against Iran. When Israel’s Shaul Mofaz talks, Washington listens, very carefully. It is a race against time, he said this month, and time is winning.The Iranianborn Mofaz, 60, is now deputy prime minister. He came to Israel at the age of 9, when his parents were forced to leave their native Iran. He took part in the legendary 1976 rescue mission in Uganda and fought in the Six-Day War, theYom Kippur War and the 1982 Lebanon War. From paratroop brigade commander, Mofaz kept moving up. Superhawk Binyamin Netanyahu, when he was prime minister in 1998, appointed Mofaz the 16th chief of staff of Israel’s armed forces. He served under four different Israeli prime ministers, and in 1997 Ariel Sharon appointed him defense minister. He may be Israel’s next prime minister. In Washington this month, Mofaz’s private utterances and public statements were parsed for hidden intentions. Bush administration interlocutors made clear that diplomacy – and economic sanctions – still had many arrows in its quiver. But three sets of sanctions voted by the U.N. Security Council are weak, designed as they were to keep China and Russia in the loop.Today, these two budding superpowers would veto stronger medicine. China is now Iran’s major trading partner. Russia is selling Iran anti-aircraft systems to defend nuclear installations against an Israeli aerial attack. The financial sanctions Mofaz said must be tightened were already being circumvented through the citystate of Dubai, the new Hong Kong in the Persian Gulf, where Middle Eastern headquarters for major U.S.,European and Japanese corporations,and New York and Washington law firms, are now located. Dubai is also a major entrepot port where goods arrive from all over the world for the planet’s most modern city, which has its tallest building, twice the height of the Empire State Building. Some 300,000 Iranians, mostly businessmen, live there, and scores of diesel-powered fast dhows run shuttle services to Iran,100 miles away.Watertight sanctions against Iran in Dubai would quickly incur the wrath of the reigning Maktoum dynasty, which is hell-bent on making Dubai the best and finest of everything in the world. Money is no object.The six Gulf Cooperation Coun-
cil countries’oil revenues will be cresting at US$600 billion next year.Dubai is one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates, whose oil revenues this year are estimated at $100 billion. Construction projects now under way in Dubai total $300 billion. All the Gulfies are anxious to remain on good terms with the mullahs in Tehran. Respectfully fearful of Iran, the last thing they want is to become a target of Tehran’s formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities against American targets following Israeli raids against their nuclear installations. That was the message Dubai’s top Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum delivered to President Bush at Camp David in August. Hezbollah, Iran’s auxiliary in Lebanon, accord-
is hawkish and uncompromising on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Even liberal newspapers like Haaretz don’t see a way out unless Iran abandons uranium enrichment and opens itself up to meticulous international inspection. The mullahs’ aim, therefore, with no ifs or buts, is what Mofaz called the destruction of Israel. In 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power, the world ignored the paranoid rants in Mein Kampf about the Jewish peril, a preview of coming horrors Hitler published nine years before. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory utterances on the stump, say Jews, are tantamount to talking about a final solution for the Jewish homeland. Book-ending Mofaz in Washington were Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, rivals to succeed the disgraced, corrupt Ehud Olmert, who said he would resign next month. On Iran, there was hardly a sliver of daylight between the four on Israel’s existential crisis. In early June the Israeli air force conducted the largest exercise in its 60-year history, flying more than 100 fighter bombers more than 900 miles – the roundtrip distance to some of Iran’s principal nuclear targets – with the assistance of midair refueling tankers and helicopters to rescue downed pilots. The Bush administration’s national security team (minus Vice President Dick Cheney) argues the clock won’t run out until Jan. 20, 2009, when Bush turns the White House over to John McCain or Barack Obama. Some U.S. players maintain Iran is not a political monolith and the clock should be reset to the results of Iran’s presidential contest next June, when a less doctrinaire leader may emerge. Meanwhile, the United States has belatedly engaged Iran with the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, and is opening a consular section in Tehran. Hopefully cooler Israeli heads will prevail. An Israeli attack against Iran will automatically unleash ing to Mofaz, already has rockets and missiles that the fury of the theocracy against U.S. targets in the cover most of Israel. One Iranian nuclear weapon in Gulf,mining and sinking tankers in the Strait of Horthe nose cone of the mullahs’ latest medium-range muz, the world’s most vital oil route, with volleys of ballistic missile aimed at Tel Aviv would effectively missiles.This would automatically involve the United wipe out the state of Israel. Iran with a nuclear States, which is why some Israeli hawks don’t worry weapon, said Mofaz, will deepen and strengthen about the red light flashing in Washington. the global terrorist threat.Therefore, he explained, If polls show John McCain with a substantial lead Israel will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear capa- in the fall, a new Israeli government, led by Mofaz bility, because Israel is not prepared to face a second or, following elections, by Netanyahu, will know it Holocaust. Holocaust, of course, evokes the memory can count on U.S. support. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a of Hitler’s final solution that killed 6 million Jews close friend and adviser to McCain, agrees with the and is now seen in Israel as a mammoth Iranian neocon refrain:The only thing worse than bombing sword of Damocles. Iran is an Iranian bomb. From right to left, the prevailing mood in Israel – UPI
-The Owen Glenn question Can you please help me? Ok things are a little confusing so let me get this straight. There was a $100,000 given to Winston Raymond Peters, 63, M.P. that he didn’t know about until his lawyer told him about it. Despite asking for it in person and thanking the donor for his support after it was given but before he said he knew about it when he said never had never got even ONE CENT from the donor and the photographs showing him at a place he said he never attended And the letters written by the donors are all fakes and we are all dreaming…oh…and…there is a conspiracy. The P.M. who said She didn’t know anything about this and accepted Mr. Peters assurances, now says She knew about all this a year ago? Being an M.P. must be a really confusing profession. Stan Blanch, Auckland -The teaching of Latin Lucyna Maria, even though she’s obviously a trendy modernist who talks of kids instead of children, and uses “students” rather than pupils in reference to primary and secondary children, makes a very valid point about the learning of Latin at a young age. The bottom line is that Latin, “dead” language though it may be, has such close connections to English that it is an invaluable teaching aid for boys who might be a bit slow in learning our native language. Take the infinitive ambulare; straight away a lad will spot a root for amble, ambulance and ambulatory. Faced with the word perambulator, he might balk – but he should get a root with per (for or on behalf of) ambulator (again the walking bit, with the significant ator suffixation). So it goes: marina – sailor, agricola – farmer, mensa – table, etc. Mrs Maria manages to make a turgid pseudo-intellectual discourse of her blog, but essentially she’s right. Latin is an invaluable teaching tool for lads who struggle with English. As, however, it is patently clear that “teachers” these days have a nefarious agenda, through dumbing down, to turn out a younger generation of sub-literate proles, we’ll certainly never see the teaching of Latin in place again beyond the home-schooling regimen. John Adeane, Queensland, Australia - Parental authority Over the next few months the media and most politicians will, as they do every election, tell us peasants what the election issues are. They’ll say it’s: ‘the economy’, ‘health’, ‘education’, ‘law and order’, or God forbid, ‘global warming’. But one issue they won’t mention stands above all others. It’s the way 113 members of parliament voted last year to criminalise every parent who corrects their kids. Poll after poll said 80% plus New Zealanders rejected State intrusion into their families to remove their parental authority, yet Labour, National, and the Greens block voted to bring this iniquitous law into place. And now that a referendum on this has been confirmed, Helen Clark in true Fascist fashion is denying New Zealanders their say at election time. Why? Because she doesn’t want ordinary Kiwi mums and dads to be reminded – right in election booths – of how they have been abused by her government. The removal of parental authority by the State is THE most important issue in this election. One party has pledged to repeal this abominable law. The Kiwi Party deserves the party vote of all New Zealand parents for its outspoken stand and activism on their behalf. Renton Maclachlan, Porirua TGIF Edition is published every Friday evening via email to subscribers.Subscriptions can be obtained via the website, www.tgifedition.com. Letters to the editor can be posted to: PO BOX 302188, Nort Harbour, North Shore 0751 or emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
29 August 2008
Best of the blogs Government PR puff pieces alive and welL By Dave Gee Dave Gee
It appears the New Zealand Government can still rely on the “mainstream media”to deliver unchallenged PR puff pieces... today’s was promoting the supposed brilliance of state-owned Kiwibank (an Anderton idea, backed by Labour). The bank announced its annual results today, and this evening’s 3 News tv report faithfully repeated the PR spin from Kiwibank’s (admittedly talented) CEO Sam Knowles, with very balanced lines like “Kiwibank opened its books today, and they made for impressive reading...”?! The bank now has almost 650,000 customers“on its books”, with loans and advances rising to $5.6 billion (including $700 million from the acquisition of the AMP home loan portfolio). And while Kiwibank has managed to sell the customer numbers as an impressive figure in its free PR coverage, in actual fact the bank has a very small share of the New Zealand banking market... around just 3%. Journalists faithfully reported that the SOE made an annual profit of $36.8 million this financial year, an increase of 19% on last year’s result. What the TV news story neglected to mention was that a decent whack of that profit actually comes from non-core banking activities like bill payments, which previously came under parent NZ Post’s accounts. (Kiwibank is always reluctant to release any breakdowns). And the bank is a long way off“breaking even”for the New Zealand taxpayer, and Knowles admitted it’s “still a year or two off”paying dividends to the Government. Kiwibank cost around $80 million to start in 2002. Since then taxpayers have given the SOE another $200 million in funding, including $55 million in additional capital in the year to June ‘07, and a further $50 million to June this year.
THE SPIRAL OF EVENTS
By Russell Brown PUBLIC ADDRESS Such is the spiralling nature of events that the news that he is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office late yesterday afternoon has, paradoxically, moved the agenda on from Helen Clark’s revelation only hours earlier that she had been told back in February by Owen Glenn that he had donated $100,000 to Peter’s legal defence fund. Perhaps we should deal with that first. Why on earth would Helen Clark have decided not to implicitly trust Owen Glenn when he told her that? One reason is simpler than you might think: Glenn had recently given interviews in which his recollection of the timing and purpose of his donations to her own party was demonstrably off the planet. Shortly before Glenn told Clark that he had made a donation directly to New Zealand First, he gave an interview to the Dominion Post’s Kim Ruscoe in which he said he had donated his $500,000 to Labour’s 2005 campaign because he was concerned about the“sneaky”influence of the Exclusive Brethren on the election. This simply could not have been true: the Brethren flap blew up only weeks before polling day 2005. Glenn’s donation was made – and properly declared – in two chunks in 2003 and 2004. It was all cheerily reported in the Herald in June 2005 – four months before anyone outside the Brethren and some people in the National Party knew that the Brethren was involved in the campaign at all. And yet here he was, in February 2008, giving an account that seemed to have sprung entirely from his imagination.In the same interview,Glenn also made the unlikely claim that Clark had seriously suggested he could be her Minister of Transport if he would but
return to New Zealand.Glenn subsequently admitted he’d been big-noting to a lady reporter. So if you’d been wondering – as Messrs Farrar and Hooton have been doing very loudly – how Clark could possibly have doubted the recollection of a prominent party donor over the word of her foreign minister, that’s it.Glenn,successful businessman and excellent philanthropist that he is,had been demonstrating that he was not necessarily a reliable witness.Clark did,we now know, take the matter seriously enough to place an urgent call to Peters in South Africa. But we can perhaps understand her reluctance to pull the pin by calling her minister a liar. And yet … Glenn’s odd interview did include a statement that did prove to be demonstrably true:that he had loaned Labour $100,000 after the election,in order that it could set up a more robust fund-raising structure.There was nothing illegal or improper about that,and the forgone interest that constituted a donation was not large enough to meet the threshold for a statutory declaration.But Williams lied by omission to journalists, and the political cost of that was a demonstration of the folly of not actively advancing relevant information.Clark is reaping the same,even if she had quite good reasons for not implying that her minister was a liar. But, of course, a verbal claim from Glenn is different to a careful, clear letter from Glenn to the select committee saying the same thing, and it’s likely that things began to turn with the receipt of that letter. A possible heads-up on the SFO’s intentions may also have hastened the disclosure. The SFO inquiry doesn’t – yet – cover the most incendiary allegations around Peters: that he requested $50,000 from the Simunovich family return for covering up alleged corruption in the fishing industry. But it would be wise, for the moment, to bear in mind that that allegation was made under privilege by Rodney Hide, who is currently in throw-stuff-atthe-walls to see if it sticks mode.Another claim by Hide – that TVNZ had deliberately destroyed evidence supporting that allegation – has been shown to be entirely fanciful. Earlier in the week, Hide made another wild (not to say despicable, cynical and unpleasant) public allegation – that the EPMU, which was respecting its duty not to speak publicly during its employment negotiations with surprise Act candidate Shawn Tan, only had a problem with Tan because of his race. There may be a great deal more to come, but the fact that Rodney Hide says so most surely does not make it true. I said this affair demonstrates the political perils of not volunteering information. It also underlines the problem of parties chasing donations from the likes of Glenn.And it underlines the role that a free and lively press plays in a democracy. Chris Trotter makes the staggering comparison of the press pursuit of Peters to a “gang-rape”. I’m saying that whatever the upshot here, we owe a debt to the likes of AudreyYoung and, in particular to the Dom Post’s Phil Kitchin, for the shedding of light. But I’ll give Winston one thing: for all his barking and flailing, he has not accused Kitchin, whose stories appear to be based on New Zealand First documents, of“theft”of leaked documents, or of“hacking” party systems. The Opposition Party, whose own wealthy donors, and their quid pro quos, have been hidden behind carefully structured, opaque trusts, should really count its blessings.And to think a little harder the next time it is inclined to smear its own troublesome journalist.
LYING IN THE NAME OF INDOCTRINATION
By Anika Smith EVOLUTION, NEWS & VIEWS Dogmatists committed to a dying paradigm will argue with falsehoods to convince the public of their claims... especially when they’re targeting children.
As we’ve covered here this week, Haeckel’s faked embryo drawings are still used in science textbooks because, according to some Darwinists,“it is OK to use some inaccuracies temporarily if they help you reach the students.” That’s right.According to Darwinist biology professor Bora Zivkovic, who blogs as Coturnix at A Blog Around The Clock and is Online Community Manager at PLoS-ONE, sometimes you have to lie to students in order to get them to accept evolution. Why? Because: “Education is a subversive activity that is implicitly in place in order to counter the prevailing culture. And the prevailing culture in ... many other schools in the country, is a deeply conservative religious culture.” In order to combat that“deeply conservative religious culture,” Darwinists like Zivkovic push the “non-overlapping magisteria” model, or NOMA, which claims that science is about facts and religion is about values, and when we keep them in these nice separate realms, nobody gets hurt. In reality, this scheme was designed by Darwinists in order to convince religious people that evolution is not threatening to their beliefs... the first step towards dismantling their belief system: “You cannot bludgeon kids with truth (or insult their religion, i.e., their parents and friends) and hope they will smile and believe you.Yes, NOMA is wrong, but is a good first tool for gaining trust.You have to bring them over to your side, gain their trust, and then hold their hands and help them step by
step.And on that slow journey, which will be painful for many of them, it is OK to use some inaccuracies temporarily if they help you reach the students.” (emphasis added) You see, teaching isn’t about actually instructing children to think critically or giving them factual knowledge about a subject like biology. It’s about getting young minds to accept evolution,even if that means they’re mistaken about the facts of biology for the rest of their lives. Zivkovic admits that teaching bogus examples to kids,like Mickey Mouse’s changing appearance over the years is an example of evolution in action,may be factually incorrect,but it’s not morally wrong. Zivkovic explains it all for us: “If a student, like Natalie Wright who I quoted above, goes on to study biology, then he or she will unlearn the inaccuracies in time. If most of the students do not, but those cutesy examples help them accept evolution, then it is OK if they keep some of those little inaccuracies for the rest of their lives. It is perfectly fine if they keep thinking that Mickey Mouse evolved as long as they think evolution is fine and dandy overall. Without Mickey, they may have become Creationist activists instead.Without belief in NOMA they would have never accepted anything, and well, so be it. Better NOMA-believers than Creationists, don’t you think?” This isn’t about minor mistakes in textbooks – this is about the willful use of inaccurate information in order to convince students that evolution is a fact. Mistaken believers are better than skeptical students for Darwinist biology teachers.
29 August 2008
Shifting Middle East alliances By Claude Salhani
WASHINGTON,Aug. 25 – Alliances in the Greater Middle East are written in sand, not stone, and as the winds blow and the sands shift, so do alliances. Today the prevailing wind appears to be blowing from Moscow. Russia’s aggressive response in Georgia has unleashed what Joshua Landis, co-director of the Center for Middle East Studies and a specialist on Syrian affairs at the University of Oklahoma, calls a tectonic shift in the region. It has emboldened Syria, Hezbollah and Iran to push harder against Israel and the U.S. in an attempt to capitalize on recent setbacks in the Balkans, Lebanon and Afghanistan, Landis writes on his Syria Comment blog at www.joshualandis. com/blog. Indeed, Russia’s heavy-handed reply to Georgia has established a landmark phase in a new era in EastWest relations.This is the new realpolitik as perceived by the Kremlin, and it will set the pace of Moscow’s offensive policy in dealing with regional crises. One of the first casualties of Russia’s muscle-flexing will be a drastic shift of alliances in the Caucasus/Greater Middle East region. U.S.-Iranian relations – or lack thereof – may very well turn out to be one of the first changes this new political reality will dictate.Tehran, which has regarded the United States as its enemy ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the Shah, abolished the monarchy and established a strict theocratic regime, suddenly might re-evaluate its policy of anti-Americanism. Iran’s mullahs may yet awaken to the reality that the United States, or the Shaitan Bozorg, the Great Satan, as the mullahcracy often refers to the United States, is not all bad and could, in fact, come in very handy in a showdown with the Russians. Despite the many disagreements and exchanges
of rhetoric between Tehran and Washington, at the end of the day the United States has no territorial desires over Iran.This is more than can be said about Russia, which long has craved access to a warmwater port and has ogled with great envy ports on the Persian Gulf. On the reverse side of the coin, the United States might find it serves its national interest to cut Tehran some slack and have the Iranians on the same side when trying to thwart Russia’s efforts to expand its zone of influence in the Caucasus/Middle East region.The nukes Iran so badly craves might after all serve to deter the Russians, ironically enough. Here is how the cards are stacked at this point: As the contention over Iran’s nuclear program continues, the Islamic Republic suddenly could find itself in a much tougher situation than it initially expected, this time with Russia breathing down its neck. For reference, just ask the Georgians what that means. Given the shifting alliances likely to emerge in this post-Georgian conflict, a nuclear-armed Iran is very likely to render the Russians even more nervous than the United States or Israel. Russia is only about 106 miles from the closest Iranian border, well within striking distance of Iran’s Shahab-3 missiles, which have a range of more than 1,200 miles.The United States, however, remains far beyond the reach of the Islamic Republic’s arsenal. A nuclear-armed Iran, in fact, would represent more of a deterrent to Moscow than a threat to Washington.And the Russians, as was demonstrated by their recent show of force in Georgia, would have no qualms about destroying Iran’s nuclear arsenal, regardless of the amount of collateral damage – the military euphemism for civilian casualties – that would cause. Additionally, Russia and Iran have an existing
An Iranian Shahab-3 missile is launched as Iranian clergymen look on during a military maneuver dubbed “al-Rasoul alAazam,” or Greater Prophet in a desert near the holy city of Qom, 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Tehran on November 2, 2006. The Iranian military reportedly test-fired nine missiles July 9, 2008, including one that Tehran claims can reach Israel. UPI PHOTO/Hossein Fatemi/Fars News Agency
dispute over rights to the Caspian Sea, which Russia might just decide to settle in the same manner in which it addressed its contention with Georgia over the two autonomous republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia is 860 miles from the Persian Gulf waters on Iran’s southern coast. Russia’s longtime ambition is to have direct access to a warm-water port for its navy, as it is currently restricted to using bases on Russia’s Pacific coast headquartered in Vladivostok or the limited capacity of the Baltic Fleet based in Kaliningrad, a small Russian exclave situated between Poland and Lithuania that tends to freeze during those long northern European win-
Walker’s World: The price of Putin By Martin Walker
PARIS, Aug. 28 – The extraordinary European summit to be convened this Monday by French President Nicolas Sarkozy is intended to agree on a common policy toward Russia in the wake of its short, sharp war with Georgia. Given the divisions of interest between those who depend on Russian oil and gas and those more concerned with a resurgence of Russian bullying, only optimists think it is likely to succeed. But there are intriguing signs in Russia that those whose jobs and markets and investments are most integrated with Europe and the global economy are starting to count the cost of Vladimir Putin, the former Russian president who is now prime minister but who still seems to rule the Kremlin.The costs to Russian democracy and its chances of joining the World Trade Organization are already unpleasantly clear. The costs in cash and in Russia’s economic prospects are still being reckoned. Russian officials have sought to explain away the US$16.4 billion outflow in foreign reserves in the week of the invasion of Georgia and also the 32 percent drop in Moscow’s stock market since Putin began expressing his displeasure with the Mechel coal group in May. Mechel shares alone lost US$8 billion after Putin’s first remarks. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin claimed over the weekend that the outflows had stopped. But Russian debt and equity markets also have gone into decline since the conflict with Georgia began Aug. 8, with yields on domestic ruble bonds increasing by up to 150 basis points over the last month. That is the equivalent of a 1.5-point jump in interest rates, the kind of panic measure that few central banks would risk taking except in extreme circumstances. The pace of capital flight from Russia has been the highest since the 1998 collapse of the ruble, when
At current rates of Russia defaulted, and extraction combined the amount of cash with rising national leaving the country consumption, Russia’s in the second week of known oil reserves will August was the highstart to run out in the est on record. 2020s, and a lack of There is still plenty investment in mainof cash left. Russia’s tenance and develcentral bank, which opment means the reported the $16.5 two main gas fields billion decline last expected to maintain week, still reckons to Russia’s export income have US$581 billion are falling ominously in reserves, money behind schedule. being stored away for The largest, Yamal, the rainy day when is supposed to start the oil runs out and producing next year, the gas flow starts to according to Gazprom, falter. This may come but construction in the somewhat sooner than ITAR-TASS / Mikhail Klimentyev forbidding permafrost many think. environment of Siberia Kudrin also noted last week that the decline in oil prices could force has barely begun. The offshore Shtokman field in Russia to start spending its savings, known as the the forbidding arctic waters is supposed to start Reserve Fund, in 2015 because oil and gas revenues producing gas in 2014, but this will depend on foreign investment and expertise. Gazprom’s share will be insufficient. Kudrin spoke after the Cabinet approved the price dropped sharply this week when Gazprom draft federal budget for the next three years, which announced it would have to increase its $40 billion assumes that Russia’s main oil blend, Urals, will sell investment budget. The readiness of foreign investors to take risks for at least $95 a barrel. (The current price is $112, but the Russian government’s own budget estimates in Russia has been jeopardized by the experience suggest that the oil price is expected to drop to $90 of BP, whose own stake in Siberian oil is threatened in 2010 and $88 in 2011.) by a combination of Russian oligarchs and state Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko officials who have blocked working permits for BP warned publicly this year that the output level we executives. have today is a plateau, or stagnation, and Leonid Russia’s private sector is getting nervous, after Fedun, vice president of LUKoil, is on record declar- Putin noted at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting that ing, Russian oil production has peaked and may the government should prepare for any eventualnever return to current levels. ity, even negative. Alfa-Bank reported it expects
ter months, restricting the navy’s movements. As for Russia’s Black Sea and Mediterranean fleets, both are obliged to pass through the Bosporus in Istanbul, a 19-mile-long and only half-mile wide passage separating Europe from Asia. As a strategic point with great tactical value, the Bosporus is under the tight control of the Turkish military – and therefore NATO. However, as the winds of change blow through the region,Washington will need to engage proactively, accepting that it too needs to change its Middle East policy. Claude Salhani is editor of the Middle East Times.
Russia’s economy to slow in the second half of the year because of higher borrowing rates after the military intervention in Georgia and a decline in the construction industry. InterBank lending rates have jumped as high as 10 percent. President Dmitry Medvedev faces pressure from business leaders at next month’s annual summit of oligarchs with business leaders, already nervous that the global credit crunch is hitting Russia. Vladimir Potanin, head of the giant Interros industrial conglomerate, already has raised the lack of long-term credit with Medvedev, the financial paper Vedomosti reported last week. The market is vulnerable to foreign capital flight, warned investment bank Troika Dialogue.The major Achilles heel of the Russian market is that there is very little domestic long-term capital. The conflict with Georgia and the nervousness created by the government’s criticism of Mechel have substantially damaged the economic outlook, Alfa’s chief economist, Natalya Orlova, wrote in a note to investors. Russia’s banking sector already is suffering from a liquidity shortage, with about $45 billion in tax payments looming in October, Orlova added. The flight from the ruble, which occurred at the beginning of the conflict with Georgia, damaged local liquidity, she said, adding that unless capital inflows resume next month, the central bank could have to lower banks’ mandatory reserve requirements for lenders. So far there is little sign that market sentiment is likely to restrain the Kremlin’s foreign policy, where the siloviki, veterans like Putin of the old Soviet Union’s intelligence agencies and security establishment, hold sway. But the Russian economy is still massively dependent on its oil and gas exports and the prosperity and foreign investment they have brought. By risking that, Putin and the siloviki are risking everything.The cost of Putin could turn out to be very high indeed. In the long run, it may do more to restrain Russian behavior toward its neighbours than any number of EU summits.
29 August 2008
Obama and Biden: can they fix it?
By Larry Eichel The Philadelphia Inquirer
DENVER – On a glorious summer night, in a football stadium filled with flag-waving delegates and loyalists, Barack Obama tried to assure a skeptical electorate that there is real substance behind his notion of change. Whether voters buy it – or his attempt to paint John McCain as the second coming of George W.Bush – will help determine whether the Democratic nominee goes into history as a major party’s first nominee of color or the nation’s first such president. Change, Obama said this afternoon, means eliminating tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas, cutting taxes for the vast majority of Americans, and moving dramatically in the direction of energy independence, spending billions on
renewable and non-renewable sources alike. None of this was new. What was different was Obama’s attempt to package it all as a coherent and comprehensive plan. And in his acceptance speech, Obama argued that his Republican opponent – who knows he can win only if he is seen as a change agent as well – has no right to the title, not when he has voted with the administration more than 90 percent of the time. “I don’t know about you,”said the Illinois senator,“but I’m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.” The question haunting the Obama candidacy – the one that makes many Democrats uneasy – is whether America is prepared to take a chance on a 47-year-old politician, gifted as he might be, who has been on the national scene for only four years.
Indeed, the Republicans raise the subject at every opportunity; in their attacks against him, nearly all conversations include the phrase“not ready.”Using those words allows them to attack his qualifications, which voters see as a legitimate concern, without attacking him personally. Obama effectively acknowledged the concern with his selection of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate. But voters will judge him through his performance last night, in the debates and in the rest of the campaign. The mass setting was not without risk, giving the Republicans new fodder and images their “celebrity” offensive against him. The temple-like stage backdrop was easy to ridicule. In Denver Thursday, Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota and potential McCain running mate, warned voters not to get carried away with the“glitz, glamour and spectacle.”Focus instead, he told them, on what’s behind the grandiose production, which, he said, isn’t much. Obama’s aides said that letting the public attend the event was in keeping with the Obama campaign’s goal of bringing new people into politics. As a practical matter, they said, it might also help energize their foot-soldiers in Colorado, a battleground state. It’s unlikely that the speech will produce much of a bounce in the polls, not with McCain and the Republicans ready to claim the spotlight. Strategists on both sides expect voters who are undecided now to stay undecided a while longer. Besides, the days in which a convention would produce dramatic movement in public opinion might well be over. In this era, with so much political information constantly available from so many sources, little that happens at a convention comes as a total surprise to voters. The Gallup daily tracking poll yesterday showed modest movement in Obama’s direction; he was up by six points. If that lead survives next week and
Democratic vice presidential candidate
Born 1942, in Scranton, Pa.; grew up in Wilmington, Del. suburbs; overcame a stutter by reciting poetry in front of a mirror Education B.A., University of Delaware, 1965; law degree, Syracuse University, 1968
1968-70 Practiced law 1970 Elected to New Castle County Council, age 27 1972- present U.S. Senator; soon after being elected, his first wife, daughter were killed in a car crash; began daily train commute from Del. to Washington to care for his sons Senate highlight Chaired Judiciary Committee during Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork confirmation hearing, 1987 2007 Begins unsuccessful Democratic presidential bid 2008 Picked by Barack Obama to be his running mate
© 2008 MCT Source: U.S.Senate, joebiden.com, Almanac of American Politics, MCT Photo Service Graphic: Lee Hulteng, Judy Treible
the Republican gathering in St. Paul, Minn., it might actually mean something. Other polls show the race essentially even. How the candidate’s words play among swing voters in the key states.The rest of the Democratic presidential campaign begins this afternoon when the Obama and arrive in Pennsylvania.
Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, stands with her daughters, Sasha (left) and Malia, following her speech to delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT
Michelle Obama caught out bending truth
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DENVER – What happened: In her Tuesday speech to the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, said she gave up what sounded like a lucrative career for public service. “In my own life, in my own small way, I have tried to give back to this country that has given me so much,”she said.“See, that’s why I left a job at a big law firm for a career in public service, working to empower young people to volunteer in their communities.” Why that’s wrong: She omitted the fact that she later went on to a high-paying job at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where she worked in community and external affairs. In March 2005, she was promoted to vice president for community and external affairs, and her salary jumped from $121,910 to $316,962, which included a one-time bonus. In 2006, her salary was $273,618, according to the Chicago Tribune. Her promotion came two months after her hus-
band became a senator, but campaign aides said that she’d been offered the promotion and turned it down before that. In 2006, Sen. Obama sought, but didn’t get, a $1 million earmark for the medical center. Aides and university officials said at the time that Michelle Obama had nothing to do with the request, and that her husband was merely trying to help a constituent like many others. Obama, however, later said that he should have asked another senator to request the earmark for his wife’s workplace.“This is something that slipped through our cracks, through our screening system,” he said. Michelle Obama also was named to the board of TreeHouse Foods, which makes specialty foods and whose biggest customer is Wal-Mart. Her compensation for that totaled $101,083 in 2006, according to the Chicago Tribune.That brought her earnings in 2006 to a total of $374,701.
29 August 2008
Miracle rescue of missing mother By Victoria Cherrie The Charlotte Observer
North Carolina – Tommy Courtner had searched for Amber Pennell with hundreds of others for five days. They had combed miles of winding roads in North Carolina where they believed the 21-yearold mother of two had crashed on her way home. Many worried they would never find her - much less alive. On Tuesday night, just before rescuers were ready to give up for the day, Courtner said he was walking along the state highway and was drawn to a swath of moist kudzu behind a six metreembankment. There he saw tyre tracks and followed them to the edge of a 30 metre ravine. Seeing nothing at first, he turned to leave. Then he spotted the tip of a chrome fender shining from the bottom of the hole. Feeling a surge of adrenalin, he called for Pennell. “Amber,” he shouted,“can you hear me?” Moments later, bloodied, drenched from rain and still pinned beneath the pickup’s dashboard,Amber turned her head. Courtner’s heart felt like it stopped, he said. He and crews carved a path through the kudzu to climb down to the crushed Toyota Tacoma pickup. Lucid, but weak, Pennell begged them for something to
eat and drink as paramedics filled her veins with fluids. Rescuers pried open the truck, then used ropes and a stretcher to pull Pennell up the ravine. A helicopter airlifted her in critical condition to Carolinas Medical Center. Most people, especially someone with Pennell’s injuries, couldn’t survive more than a few days without food or water, Courtner said. The only reason she survived,he said, is because“she had the will.” She whispered as much to her husband from her hospital bed. “She told me she wasn’t going to die and leave her children,” said Mitchell Pennell.“And she said she knew I would be looking until I found her.” Surgeons on Wednesday were able to put a rod in Pennell’s broken leg and told her family that, despite a broken arm, fractured skull and other injuries, she would likely be OK. “If you don’t believe in miracles, you should,”Caldwell County Detective BJ Fore said. “I can attest to one now.” Amber Pennell called her husband just before 10 p.m. last Thursday as she clocked out of Hannah’s Bar-BQ where she’s been a waitress since she was 16. She was going to go shopping and would be right home, she told him. She never arrived. Investigators tracked Pennell from work to a Lenoir store where she picked up some dog food,a box
of laundry detergent and birthday invitations for her daughter,Gracelyn, who turns 3 today. Surveillance video shows she then went to a gas station at the city limits where she bought $4 in gas before heading home about 10:20 p.m. Pennell was driving north on U.S. 321 when she crossed a 10metre-wide grassy median and two lanes of traffic about 10:45 p.m. The pickup hit a six-metre embankment, sending the truck airborne before it plunged into a steep, 30-metre ravine covered in kudzu, State Trooper Vic Misenheimer said. It’s possible she was speeding, he said. But investigators aren’t sure and haven’t yet interviewed Pennell. No drugs or alcohol are
suspected, and it doesn’t appear she hit any type of animal, troopers said. While Pennell lay trapped in her truck that night, her husband finished bathing Gracelyn and their son Cameron, who is 1. His wife still hadn’t made it home by 11:30. He was worried. Mitchell Pennell grabbed a spotlight and began walking up and down the mountain they live on. Around 2 a.m. he drove to Lenoir and filed a report with the sheriff’s office. His wife of four years would have called if something was wrong, he told deputies. She’d never abandon her children or husband, her friends said. “I knew something was bad wrong,”he said.
Pennell told investigators he thought his wife had crashed. She wasn’t a great driver - highlighted in court documents by a history of speeding and other traffic charges. Over the next five days, their children kept asking for Mommy. Pennell didn’t know what to say. “I just couldn’t tell them their mommy was gone,” he said. “I tried to keep them occupied.” The day after Amber Pennell disappeared, crews began searching a 35km area between the Lenoir store and Pennell’s home. Co-workers, who make up her second family, traded shifts and took turns to help out. Customers offered to print fliers, some even joined the search. “This whole county has been
turned inside out looking for her,” said her friend, Laci Austin.“We were never going to give up trying to find her.” Authorities also combed U.S. 321, the main north-south route between Hickory and the resort town of Blowing Rock. Courtner, the county’s emergency services director, said he prayed:“God, give me something,” he said. On Tuesday NZ time, the fifth day of searching, rescue crews made their way back to U.S. 321 at about 3 p.m., working in sometimes heavy rain and fog. “We didn’t want to give up until we ruled out every hole,” Fore said. Just before it began raining again, rescuers planned to end the day’s search. But they decided to keep going, and Courtner spotted the tyre tracks. About 8 p.m.,Mitchell Pennell’s phone kept ringing with people asking: Was it true? Have they found her? Minutes later,a rescuer ran toward him with the news. Mitchell Pennell caught his breath and wept.“It was the most amazing feeling,”he said.“I couldn’t get to her quick enough.” Wednesday night Amber Pennell was asking for her children,but doesn’t remember the accident. “She’s so strong,” her husband said. “Last night she told me, because of her two babies, she wasn’t going to die on them.” Watch news video of the rescue operation
Confession of a suicide-bomber By Leila Fadel
BAQOUBA, Iraq – The 15-yearold girl had the chubby cheeks of a child who hadn’t lost her baby fat when she was arrested Monday by an alert policeman. Around her chest was a vest packed with explosives. The policeman chained her to the bars of a window, stripped off her dress, found the vest and deactivated the bomb. Had he not intervened, Rania Ibrahim would have been this year’s 31st suicide bomber in Iraq. A day later, Rania seemed in a daze as she spoke about the people who put her up to it: the relatives who forced her to don the vest and apparently drugged her, her husband, whom police accuse of being a member of the group al-Qa’ida in Iraq, and her mother, who seemed to play a central role in turning Rania into a human bomb but whom she looked to as a rescuer. Sitting in the office of the Ministry of the Interior, Rania narrated a tale that at times was wrenching, at times highly improbable. She said in an interview Tuesday with McClatchy Newspapers that she didn’t know that the wired vest was a
bomb. But she also said she was suspicious from the moment her husband’s female cousins told her to wear it. . Rania has rheumatism, and her cousins told her that the vest would help her back, she said. “I asked,‘Is it explosive?’ and they said ‘No,’’’ she said, her hair and body cloaked in the long, black abaya that many Muslim women wear to cover themselves. “I asked,‘What are these wires?’ They told me it won’t explode. They said,‘Don’t touch anything. Don’t play with the wires, and it will not explode.’” By Rania’s account, the older women gave her peach juice, which made her dizzy, and they walked her halfway to the square. For three hours, she said, she wandered side streets trying to find her mother to give the vest to her because she didn’t know what to do, before police detained her. “Thank God I got rid of this vest,” she said. “I was afraid I would explode.” According to Brig. Gen.Abdel Kareem Khalaf of the Interior Ministry, who arranged the interview, the vest had a yellow detonator button, covered with duct tape, but Rania said that she
Police in Baquoba, in Iraq’s Diyala province, arrested this 15year-old named Rania, who was wearing a suicide vest and wandering through town for three hours on Sunday morning. Leila Fadel/MCT
didn’t know it was there. As she told her story in Khalaf’s presence, she looked bewildered. Rania, a child bride, is from a poor family in the capital of Diyala province, north of Baghdad. She quit school in the fifth grade and married at age 14. She
can barely read or write, and her accent is thick and difficult for an outsider to understand. According to her mother, Bassaad Salman, who sat with Rania and coached her during the interview, Shiite Muslim militias had displaced the Sunni Muslim fam-
ily.Salman said that Shiite militias had kidnapped Rania’s father. Police said, however, that the single mother of five was an “emira,”a princess or leader in alQa’ida in Iraq. She said that she had no connection to the group. Their story has varied with each telling, according to police. One day after telling the police that she had no idea who the women were who put the vest on her, Rania told McClatchy that they were her husband’s cousins. By Salman’s account, Rania’s husband needed money for fertility treatments and planned to borrow it from the same cousins who put the vest on Rania,her mother said. The man wasn’t there when police went to her home. Rania admitted that she hadn’t wanted to get married. “I didn’t accept it out of choice. It was against my wishes,” she said. “My mother and uncle wanted it. ... But he was good to me,”she said. “I didn’t want to explode,”she said.“I didn’t want to die.” “I die 100 times when I think about this,”her mother added.“I think if she had cancer it would be better than to die like this.” As they readied themselves
to return to their interrogation, Khalaf walked over to Salman. Angrily, he told her that he knew she was involved and that he knew she’d done this to her daughter. “Do you know God?”he asked. “Where is God in this?” As for Rania, Khalaf said he was unsure what to do with her, unsure whether she knew what she was doing or was just a child who’d been drugged and manipulated into being a killer. The young police officer, Sabah Mohammed Khalaf, who threw himself at Rania when he realized she was wearing an explosive vest was awarded the equivalent of about $6000. His commander, Col.Ali Ismail Fatah, said he thought that Rania didn’t know what she was doing. “She wasn’t in her right mind,” he said. “She did not seem to understand she was doing something terrible.” The young policeman not only prevented the loss of innocent life but also saved Rania from her fate. “Thank God I am finished from this vest,”she said.“I got rid of this vest. I didn’t explode.” – MCT
29 Augustâ€‚ 2008
Oil from coal By Dave Montgomery McClatchy Newspapers
saying it would deepen the countryâ€™s dependency on fossil fuels. WASHINGTON â€“ High oil prices â€œThis is the filthiest, most are energizing a nascent liquefied- impractical and expensive way coal industry that hopes to power you could ever dream up to make trains, planes and automobiles fuel,â€? said Julia Bovey, the envifrom the nationâ€™s coal reserves, ronmental groupâ€™s Washington using modern-day offshoots of spokeswoman. technology that powered Adolf The liquefied-coal industry Hitlerâ€™s war machine. could be an economic boost for The U.S. military and commer- coal-producing states such as cial airlines are looking at lique- Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvafied coal and other alternative-fuel nia, West Virginia and Wyoming. options to escape rising energy The U.S. has 27 percent of the costs. The Crow Tribe recently worldâ€™s coal supply â€“ 493 billion signed a deal with an Australian tons â€“ and is sometimes referred company to build a $7 billion coal- to as â€œthe Saudi Arabia of coal.â€? to-liquid plant in Montana. In addition to abundant natuNearly a dozen companies ral resources, industry advocates are pursuing plans for starting also cite readily available technolcoal-to-liquid complexes early ogy, notably the Fischer-Tropsch in the next decade to tap into process, which has been used for a potential high-growth market nearly eight decades to convert fed by consumers seeking relief both coal and natural gas into from gasoline prices, says Corey liquid fuel. Henry, a spokesman for the Invented in Germany in the National Mining Association, a 1920s by chemists Franz Fischer leading member of the Coal-to- and Hans Tropsch,it was first used Liquids Coalition. extensively by Nazi forces during But whether the industry grows World War II. German syntheticbeyond its infancy depends largely fuel plants were frequent targets on its ability to convince skeptics of Allied bombing raids. â€“ including environmentalists and Today, the worldâ€™s biggest user Democratic congressional leaders of the Fischer-Tropsch process is â€“ that liquefied coal can be pro- South African energy giant Sasol. duced cleanly without contribut- Planned U.S.coal-to-liquid plants ing to global warming. will either use Fischer-Tropsch or Industry supporters say it a gasification process that concan, promoting technology that verts coal into gasoline. strips out carbon dioxide and Regardless of the choice of other impurities. But the Natural technology, coal-to-liquid proResources Defense Council calls ponents say, the result is an enviliquefied coalâ€œthe height of folly,â€? ronmentally friendly fuel devoid
Nearly a dozen companies are pursuing plans for starting coal-to-liquid complexes early in the next decade to tap into a potential high-growth market fed by consumers seeking relief from gasoline prices,
of pollutants that contribute to global warming. Carbon dioxide from coal is pumped into the ground â€“ the technical term is sequestered â€“ and used to force out deposits of hard-to-get oil. Sulfur and other chemicals are also stripped out and developed into marketable byproducts. Henry said the U.S. has made two previous, but unsuccessful, â€œkicks at the canâ€? to develop a synthetic-fuel industry â€“ shortly after World War II and during the
energy crisis of the 1970s, when President Jimmy Carter established the Synthetic Fuels Corp. In both cases, the efforts evaporated when oil again became abundant â€“ and cheap. By contrast, he says, the price of oil is now â€œsky high.â€?Also contributing to the bright prospects for a 21st century synfuel industry, Henry adds, is â€œthe growing awareness of Americans that they need to reduce their dependence on foreign oil.â€?
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US kid-killer grins at death sentence BOISE, Idaho, Aug. 28 â€“ Convicted child killer Joseph Duncan III smiled Thursday as a juryâ€™s verdict sentencing him to death was passed to the judge at a courthouse in Boise, Idaho. The jury took three hours before deciding Duncan should be executed for the torture slaying of Dylan Groene, who he kidnapped along with his sister from his Idaho home, KTRV-TV in Boise reported. Duncan may now be sent to Southern California to stand trial
for the 1997 kidnapping and killing of Anthony Martinez, 10. Authorities said Duncan killed Dylanâ€™s mother, older brother and his motherâ€™s fiance to kidnap him and his younger sister. Duncan took the two children to a Montana campsite where he raped and tortured them before shooting Dylan in the head and burning his body. Dylanâ€™s sister was rescued weeks later when a waitress at a restaurant in Coeur dâ€™Alene called police after recognizing the two.
HEBRON, West Bank, Aug. 28 â€“ A Palestinian man has been arrested on allegations he had locked up his children for more than 20 years in a basement under his house. The man,who lives near theWest Bank city of Hebron, said he was ashamed of his two children, who had mental disabilities,The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday. The man said he preferred to hide the children rather than let his acquaintances mock him for fathering abnormal children, the newspaper reported. The siblings,now in their thirties, were found in a dank basement.The childrenâ€™s mother died several years ago and the father remarried. The father was arrested in the course of a pursuit of arms and drug dealers. His children were taken to a psychiatric institute, the newspaper said. â€“ UPI
29 August 2008
Warriors looking to ride wave of emotion By Robert Lowe of NZPA
Auckland, Aug 29 – The New Zealand Warriors will look to ride a wave of emotion on Sunday to keep their National Rugby League playoff hopes alive. Outside the top eight with two rounds to go, they face a virtual sudden-death scenario against Penrith in Auckland, knowing defeat will probably spell the end of their semifinal ambitions. While the Warriors are battling to keep their season alive, the match will also be the last at home for three club favourites – prop Ruben Wiki, and second rowers Logan Swann and Wairangi Koopu. “It would be silly not to use that sort of emotion for our benefit in this game,” backrower Michael Luck said. “Those three guys have been outstanding for this club and it would be sad to see them come off the field for the last time.We have to make sure we play well and bring a bit happiness to the occasion as well.” A similar situation in late June did produce victory, with the Warriors marking Wiki’s achievement or playing his 300th NRL game by holding out the Wests Tigers 28-26. Against Penrith, Luck will be making his return to action after two weeks out with a shoulder problem. The injury ended his streak of 70 successive firstgrade appearances since joining the Warriors from North Queensland at the start of 2006. Luck admitted that being unable to keep the sequence going had been a“pretty big”disappointment. “In saying that, I had a good run and I was pretty lucky,”he said. “Hopefully, that’s done now and I’m on the field more often than not.” Penrith are even more desperate for victory, being a point behind the Warriors on the table. Luck described the Panthers as one of the NRL’s most dangerous sides on attack, pointing to the 4622 hiding they handed out to the Warriors in Sydney in May. “They along with Canberra are sides who can put tries on you from anywhere,”he said.
Warrior’s Ben Matulino fends off Sharks Brett Kimmorley in a NRL rugby league match, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, August 16, 2008.NZPA / Wayne Drought
“Coming from their own end, they can split you open pretty easily.” Penrith were without skipper Petero Civoniceva for the round-10 clash, with the Kangaroo prop on Queensland State of Origin duty. Their star that day was Kiwi second rower Frank Pritchard, who scored two of the Panthers’ eight tries and was also devastating in general play. Pritchard will be missing this time around,sidelined by a shoulder problem that saw him leave the field during in the 40-6 loss to Melbourne last Monday night.
His early departure against the Storm led to claims, which he has vehemently denied, that he had feigned injury. The Warriors are also coming off a disappointing loss, beaten 34-6 away to St George Illawarra last Sunday. After his team’s good run of six wins in seven matches, coach Ivan Cleary blamed poor execution for the defeat to the Dragons. Cleary wasn’t concerned at the prospect that there would be plenty of emotion when his players
run out at Mt Smart Stadium. He was confident the occasion of Wiki, Swann and Koopu’s farewell to home fans would be a motivator rather than a distraction. “You can’t hide from the fact that it’s an emotional game,”he said. “It’s also a really important game as well. I’m not too worried about players’getting too emotional. “We’ve had a bit of success in the past in games that have had a bit of emotion attached to them, so I think we can channel that in the right direction.”
New Zealand pioneer in the NBA moves to New Orleans Hornets The 208cm Marks moved to the United States in 1992 to play for the University of California, where he majored in political science, graduating with a Bachelor degree in 1998
Phoenix Suns Sean Marks against Charlotte Bobcats/ZUMA
Wellington, Aug 29 – The first New Zealander signed by a United States NBA side nine years ago, Sean Marks, has been signed by the New Orleans Hornets. “We are excited for Sean to join our team,”said Hornets general manager Jeff Bower, who did not release terms of the contract with the NZX free agent. “He is a veteran leader who has been on winning teams and will be a great addition to our frontcourt.”
The 208cm Marks moved to the United States in 1992 to play for the University of California, where he majored in political science, graduating with a Bachelor degree in 1998. He was drafted 44th overall in the 1998 NBA draft by the NewYork Knicks and went on to make his debut with the Toronto Raptors in 1999. He later played both as a power forward and a centre for Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs and averaged 3.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 9.1 minutes per game. Most recently with the Phoenix Suns, Marks played in 19 games during the 2007-08 season, shooting 53.5 percent (23-of-43) from the field and averaging 3.1 points per contest. He scored in 13 of 19 appearances, including a season-high 16 points and career-high 13 rebounds in the Suns’ season finale April 16 against Portland. Internationally, Marks has represented New Zealand in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, and was part of their fourth place finish at the 2002 world championships. – NZPA
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29 August 2008
New Zealand’s Andre Meier out of control action during stage one of Rally New Zealand in the WRC FIA World Rally, Pirongia West, Waikato, New Zealand, Friday, August 29, 2008. NZPA / Wayne Drought.
Hirvonen ahead, but Loeb’s penalty the big talking point By Robert Lowe of NZPA
Out, but not down New York – Shaken number one Ana Ivanovic vowed a rapid recovery after suffering an historic US Open defeat early this morning, becoming the first women’s top seed at the event to crash out in the second round. The Serb’s ranking atop the WTA table is also in danger after she went down in a flurry of errors to unfancied frenchwoman Julie Coin 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Defeat in just under two hours marked the first time in the post- 1968 era that the top woman in New York has exited before the third round. Ivanovic duplicated the 1966, second-round exit of Billie Jean King at Flushing Meadows. “I was nervous going onto the court because I never saw her play before, so I didn’t know what to expect,”said the French Open champion.“I thought I can slowly get into the match. She played completely different than I expected, serving extremely well and hitting very powerful shots.” Ivanovic conceded that she “really struggled.” “I made too many unforced errors, and my serve was not working really well. It’s very frustrating, because I know I can play so much better,”she said. “I have to put some hard yards on the court and go back out there and work hard.” Coin, 25, a 188th-ranked qualifier playing in her first match at any elite level, was overjoyed even after fluffing her first match point with a nervous double-fault. But the US university graduate knows the win will buy her only as far as her third-round clash with French tennis icon Amelie Mauresmo. “I felt nervous at the beginning, and then it went away,”said Coin. “I don’t know how I did it. I am not thinking about anything right now, just enjoying the moment. I don’t realize yet that I beat the number one in the world. I don’t realize that I played at the big court. I don’t know how I’m going sleep tonight.” Men’s top seed Rafael Nadal made to avoid the same fate, crushing his own qualifying opponent in US player Ryler De Heart 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
James Blake and Mardy Fish followed Andy Roddick with wins into the third round, in a continuing revival for home players at the US Open. Blake, the ninth seed who struggled for five sets in his opening match to subdue teenaged Donald Young, caught a break when Belgian Steve Darcis retired, trailing 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 with a back problem. Blake, never a consistent performer at the big events, has been trying to bottle the magic he showed as he knocked Roger Federer from the Olympic quarter-finals this month before losing his last two matches and coming home without a medal. The soon-to-be-married Fish advanced over Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to follow best friend Roddick, who won his opening match Wednesday. Seeds kept up a hot pace at Flushing Meadows, with Spain’s number four David Ferrer, number six Andy Murray and number 10 Stan Wawrinka all moving through. Ferrer beat German Andreas Beck 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5). Murray put out France’s Michael Llodra 6-1, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (9-7), while Olympic doubles gold medallist Wawrinka secured a straight-sets win of the week over US player Wayne Odesnik 6-4, 7-6 (8-6), 6-2. Beijing Olympic silver medallist Dinara Safina sees room for improvement in her near-flawless current game after swamping Italian Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-3. “I think it still could be better, especially I was 4-1 up in the first set, and then I let it go to 4-all,” said the Russian, who has reached the finals in six of her last seven tournaments including the Olympics and the French Open. Five-time Wimbledon winner Venus Williams, seeded seventh, set the pace in her family as she hammered Rossana Del Los Rios of Paraguay 6-0, 6-3. Her sister Serena was equally devastating, 6-1, 6-1, over Russian Elena Vesnina. – DPA
Hamilton, Aug 29 – Frenchman Sebastien Loeb and Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen continued their duel for the world rally championship on the opening day of Rally New Zealand today. Defending world champion Loeb and Hirvonen are sitting one and two in the WRC driver standings and they occupied the rally’s top two positions after the first five special stages in the Waikato, with Hirvonen 27.8 seconds in front. Third was Loeb’s Citroen teammate, Spaniard Dani Sordo, at 30sec down. But the big talking point was a 30sec penalty that Loeb copped midway through the split stage four around Waitomo, when he was just 0.07sec behind Hirvonen. The Frenchman got the penalty for being late for the second half of the stage,which organisers had divided because of a landslip caused by storm damage. Loeb, who went on to finish the stage at 27.4sec overall behind Hirvonen, said the reason he failed to be on time was a starter problem with his Citroen. He and co-driver Daniel Elena opened the bonnet and tried to get the engine going but couldn’t. “I just hit the starter button and it didn’t work,” he said. “We tried everything. In the end we rolled the car back, pushed it and finally got it going. It had nothing to do with tactics.” However, his explanation failed to quell speculation that the delay might have been designed to
improve his chances of not overtaking Hirvonen. The overall classifications after that stage determined the starting order for tomorrow, with the leader setting off at the head of the field. The consensus is that tomorrow’s stages around Port Waikato and Te Akau could be decisive and being first away will be a disadvantage. The reason is that the amount of fresh gravel on the roads to repair damage from the winter’s bad weather would make the surface more slippery early on, while later runners would have a cleaner racing line. However, Hirvonen said Loeb’s predicament seemed genuine. “I don’t know what was wrong, but Seb really did seem to have a problem,”he said. “So tomorrow it looks like I’ll be first car on the road. Okay, it won’t be easy but we’ve found a good rhythm today, so we’ll see what we can do.” Loeb, who is seeking his fifth world title in a row, went off the road in the opening stage at Pirongia West and said he was lucky not to roll while trying to avoid loose stones. Australian Chris Atkinson did roll, when the same set of roads were used again as stage three, ending his hopes of a debut win in a WRC round. His new Subaru went into a ditch and landed heavily on its left-hand front corner. Fourth on the WRC driver standings, Atkinson managed to right his vehicle and get going again, but he retired later when the engine cut out.
Campbell says Gleneagles greens not good enough Gleneagles, Aug 29 – New Zealand golfer Michael Campbell says the Centenary Course greens at Gleneagles are the worst he has played on. Competing in the European tour’s Johnnie Walker championship in Scotland which began today (NZtime), Campbell was among a large group of players criticising the putting surfaces. “In fairness there’s been a lot of rain in the region lately but these are the worst putting surfaces I have ever putted on,”said Campbell, who carded an evenpar 73 to be tied for 22nd after the opening round. Gareth Paddison was the best of the New Zealanders, a one-under 72 putting him in a tie for 13th, four shots off leader Gregory Havret. Paddison’s round included four birdies and three bogeys. Steve Alker finished the day at three over par and Mark Brown is two shots further back. Paddison, was one who did not have problems with the greens – he needed only 22 putts in his round which took in four birdies including three in the first five holes of his second nine. Brown’s 78 included one birdie, four bogeys and a 12th hole double bogey. “It’s very disappointing as my stroke average for
first rounds continues to be around 78,”said Brown. “The conditions were not easy but then I made it look tough with the way I played.” – NZPA
29 August 2008
TV & Film
0Director: Michael McCullers 0Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sigourney Weaver, Romany Falco, Dax Shepard 0Length: 95 minutes 0Rated: M – Low level offensive language Baby Mama is a pleasantly predictable new wrinkle on the“moving to the mommy track”comedy, which Baby Boom launched lo those many years ago. It’s about surrogacy, or as the annoying entrepreneurzealot (Sigourney Weaver) who hooks up fertile women (“gestation assistants”) with those who can’t have kids puts it,“outsourcing”pregnancy. And if this comedy filled with Saturday Night Live alumni isn’t a laugh riot, well, when was the last time anything producer Lorne Michaels stuck his name on was a hoot? Tina Fey stars as Kate, 37 years old and hearing her biological clock’s alarm go off. “Katy’s coming out of the mommy closet,”teases her sister (Maura Tierney), who already has kids. But Kate’s been career-oriented, tossing over men who want to settle down so that she could rise to vice president of Round Earth foods, a trendy organic supermarket chain. Now, working for the goofy guru in charge (Steve Martin, channeling every surfing, New Age pony-tailed corporate cliche in film history) isn’t enough. Kate wants kids. Her“baby mania”scares guys off.And her ob-gyn tells her that the reason her designer-fertilized eggs won’t take is simple. “I just don’t like your uterus.” So she coughs up $100,000 to Weaver’s entrepreneur and contracts with Angie (Amy Poehler of SNL) to carry her egg to term. Poehler presents Angie as a long-lost Spears sibling, a trashy, uneducated lout who says she “never has trouble”getting pregnant. Only she has no kids (figure it out).She has a lazy jerk “common law”husband (Dax Shepard, letting it all hang out).They figure to cash in on the one life-skill Angie seems to possess. Until they split up. So American Idol-obsessed, junk-food eating, chain-smoking, gum-snapping Angie winds up living with uptight, micro-managing, baby-book-reading Kate in Kate’s posh Philly apartment waiting for the blessed event.
Spielberg still set to direct Tintin LOS ANGELES, Aug. 27 (UPI) – Steven Spielberg’s publicist said the U.S. director is still to direct the first of three planned Tintin films, contrary to reports saying Peter Jackson will. The Hollywood Reporter said Herge Studios, the Brussels company that owns the rights to the characters, announced Wednesday that Jackson would direct the first film instead of Spielberg, but E! Online said representatives for both filmmakers have contradicted that announcement, stating Spielberg plans to direct the first movie, while Jackson will produce it and then direct its sequel. The film series is to star Thomas Sangster of Nanny McPhee and Love Actually fame, as well as Andy Serkis, who collaborated with Jackson on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong.
there are a couple of minor surprises and enough laughs and truisms floating around the supporting cast to make this an easy comedy to watch. But the few gratuitous moments of profanity and trips to the toilet don’t give it “edge” Fireworks, right? Well, not exactly. Baby Mama has its moments, but it is somewhat less than the sum of its parts. Romany Falco of 40Year Old Virgin may be playing a cliche, the streetwise doorman. But he’s a funny one. Shepard and Weaver score big laughs. Martin’s character is more a funny idea than hilariously executed. Greg Kinnear, playing almost exactly the same guy he trotted out for Feast of Love, shows how easy his charm wears when he doesn’t have to tear-up or carry the movie (he’s Kate’s new love interest). But Fey and Poehler, despite their SNL years, don’t really click. They don’t challenge each other enough to push their characters into the realm of outrageous. It’s as if they suppress each other’s performances.Angie’s true trashiness only shines when
she shares a scene with Shepard. Fey is pretty much a supporting player, a straight woman in her own movie, another version of her“30 Rock”role. Kate is snobby, but sweet.The SNL vet writer-director of Baby Mama (Michael McCullers) gives her a nice moment in an elevator, offering her finger to an infant and then smelling its hair. But Fey is more real than funny, and her many scenes with Poehler wear that label, too. Still, there are a couple of minor surprises and enough laughs and truisms floating around the supporting cast to make this an easy comedy to watch. But the few gratuitous moments of profanity and trips to the toilet don’t give it“edge.”Lorne Michaels rubbed that off most of his troops years ago. – By Roger Moore
Keith Urban suffering from slipped disc LOS ANGELES, Aug. 27 (UPI) – Keith Urban’s publicist says the New Zealand-born country music star is suffering from a slipped disc. His representative, Paul Freundlich, confirmed to People.com that Urban was diagnosed with the injury but declined to comment on what had caused it. Urban and his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, recently celebrated the birth of Sunday Rose, their first child together. Rumours of my death ‘premature’ CUPERTINO, Calif., Aug. 28 (UPI) – The Bloomberg news agency inadvertently ran an obituary for Apple Inc. co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, who is still very much alive. Jobs, 53, is famous for his contributions to the worlds of technology, information, communication and entertainment through creations including the Macintosh computer, the iPod and the iPhone. The former top executive of Pixar Animation Studios is also a pancreatic cancer survivor. Gawker.com reported Bloomberg’s mistake and posted on its own Web site the obituary that was accidentally published, complete with the note HOLD FOR RELEASE – DO NOT USE, as well as a list of people for Bloomberg reporters to contact for quotes about Jobs’s demise. Gawker.com also published the retraction the news agency posted quickly after erroneously posting the obituary Wednesday.
29 August 2008
things musically. His talents helped get the band signed to a major-label deal with Columbia Records, but the trio was dropped after its 2006 debut,“It’s About Time,”failed to crack 100,000 sales. Piggybacking on the Cyrus/Hannah Montana tour, however, helped buoy sales of the self-titled follow-up album last year, and persuaded Disney and Hollywood Records to rev up the marketing machine.A reality TV series (“Jonas Brothers – Living the Dream”) this spring and a Disney Channel movie (“Camp Rock”) followed, and anticipation for “A Little Bit Longer” skyrocketed. Next year, the Jonas franchise will expand to include a 3-D concert movie, the Disney Channel show“J.O.N.A.S! (Junior Operatives Networking As Spies)” and a “Camp Rock”sequel. The songs on the new album, most written by the band, zoom along on a mixture of relentless cheerfulness, relatively chaste skirt-chasing breathlessness, harmony vocals with just a pinch of grit and punchy power-pop guitars, reminiscent of bubble gum rock sensations from earlier eras (Rick“Jessie’s Girl”Springfield,Tommy Tutone, the Knack). The Brothers veer off topic to blast shallow starlets (“Video Girl”) and slam on the brakes to let Nick Jonas deliver an inspirational ballad about living with diabetes (“A Little Bit Longer”).“I’ll be fine,” Jonas sings, the last words heard on the new album. His band isn’t doing too badly either.The Jonas Brothers’music is polished and polite, but relatively cringe-free. Their songs are terse and catchy, with just enough bite to edge into rock terrain. In time, the trio may grow into something more than the latest Disney product line.
A TEEN-POP PRIMER
The Jonas Brothers: not just another boy band By Greg Kot Chicago Tribune
Your daughter would rather be grounded for a month than miss seeing the Jonas Brothers perform on Disney Channel.And that’s when she’s not glued to the box watching Miley Cyrus play Hannah Montana in concert. Parents may not fully understand, but to a nation of adolescents, Cyrus and the Jonas boys aren’t just pop acts.They’re 24/7 obsessions.To a legion of businessmen presiding over a slumping industry, they are trend-defying sales juggernauts.And to culturewatchers, they are the latest in a series of teen-pop acts dating back to Ricky Nelson who serve as a generation’s musical rite of passage. The latest Jonas Brothers album,“A Little Bit Longer” (Hollywood), is shaping up as one of the year’s best-selling rock releases. It debuted at No. 1 last week with 525,000 discs sold, following up its 1.3 million-selling 2007 self-titled predecessor, which rose to No. 10 – the first time any artist has had two albums in the top 10 simultaneously in nine years. The new album includes an unprecedented three straight hits that generated more than 100,000 downloads each at the iTunes store.A few weeks earlier, Cyrus’ second album,“Breakout” (Hollywood), also debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart with more than 370,000 sales, the biggest week this year by a female artist not named Mariah Carey. In an industry experiencing a 25 percent sales decline in the last eight years, these are reasons for the suits to celebrate.The impressive numbers are just the latest indicator that there are few entertainment consumers more avid than youngsters catching their first music buzz. In recent years, the younger demographic has generated monster hits by the likes of Avril Lavigne, Chris Brown and“American Idol”winner Kelly Clarkson. And there are few entertainment conglomerates better equipped to market to that audience than the
Walt Disney Co., which oversees the careers of both Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Disney is Teen Pop Central, with Radio Disney, the Disney Channel and Hollywood Records conspiring to churn out a series of multimedia hits for the Cheetah Girls, the“High School Musical” soundtracks and Cyrus’“Hannah Montana”franchise. But even the Disney aura has its limits. For many cultural arbiters,“teen pop”is code for“totally disposable.”If these callow entertainers endure, history tells us, it’s usually as a nostalgia act.A prime example is the Monkees, whose reunion tours of 1986-87 were among the top revenue earners of the decade. But the group failed to come up with new music that rivaled its ‘60s hits. It remains to be seen whether the reunited New Kids on the Block will be able to build a comeback on the back of their first studio album in 14 years,“The Block”(Columbia), due out
TV soundtrack to debut atop the Billboard Top 200. The next album,“Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus,”spawned a 2007 tour that raked in $36 million, surpassing such revenue-generating perennials as Jimmy Buffett and Beyonce. Then came Cyrus’ first career misstep. Photos of her posing semiclothed in Vanity Fair a few months ago stirred speculation that she was turning into another Britney Spears: a Disney-approved entertainer who reinvents herself as a pop Lolita. But “Breakout” isn’t warmed-over Spears so much as recycled Go-Go’s, the early ‘80s new wave band that scored hits such as“We Got the Beat”and “Vacation.”Indeed, former Go-Go’s drummer Gina Schock co-wrote the album’s title track. Cyrus conjures more 2-decade-old nostalgia with a turbo-speed cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,”and even channels goth-rockers
While the flameouts far outweigh the success stories, a few teen stars do end up reinventing themselves as credible adult artists. Will the Jonas Brothers and Cyrus be among them? Both acts are already trying to transform themselves into mainstream rock acts Sept. 4. Late ‘90s hitmakers the Backstreet Boys are attempting a similar comeback. While the flameouts far outweigh the success stories, a few teen stars do end up reinventing themselves as credible adult artists.Will the Jonas Brothers and Cyrus be among them? Both acts are already trying to transform themselves into mainstream rock acts, a transition only partly realized on their most recent albums. The 15-year-old Cyrus was the first to break out as the star of the Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana”show. It spun off a No. 1 album in 2006, the first
Siouxsie and the Banshees on “Fly on the Wall.” She sounds out of her league only when trying to address the perils of global warming in “Wake Up America,” but then offers an instant disclaimer designed to disarm her critics:“I know that you don’t want to hear it/Especially coming from someone so young.” Not that she needs to worry about the grownups just yet. And neither does the opening act on her 2007 tour, the Jonas boys. Two-thirds of the band (20-year-old Kevin and 19-year-old Joe) is old enough to vote, but it’s 15-year-old Nick who drives
Fabian Along with Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell, Fabian Anthony Forte had a number of hits as a teen in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, but his matinee-idol looks and crooner’s voice soon fell out of fashion. DeFranco Family The five Canadian siblings couldn’t duplicate the massive success of their 2-million-selling 1973 debut single,“Heartbeat, It’s a Love Beat.” Tiffany Tiffany Renee Darwish toured shopping malls and became the first teenage girl to score a No. 1 album, but two albums later she was already a has-been. Spice Girls Sold a lot of records, T-shirts and lunch boxes, and then – poof! – the Brit quintet’s “girl power”vanished by the time their optimistically titled third album,“Forever,” was released in 2000. Beyond teen fame: Ricky Nelson After his ‘50s TV appearances with his parents on“The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” he went on to sell 100 million records and score hits well into his 30s. Michael Jackson The Jackson 5, the last of the Motown-era powerhouse acts, launched 11-year-old Michael into stardom that would culminate in 1982 with the landmark solo album, “Thriller.” Beyonce Beyonce Knowles grew up in public with Destiny’s Child, then leapfrogged into even bigger solo fame. Justin Timberlake ‘N Sync vocalist matured into a savvy cross-genre hitmaker by collaborating with producer Timbaland.
WHO ARE THE JONAS BROTHERS? Kevin Jonas, born 1987 The oldest member of the band and self-taught lead guitarist, he appeared in several TV commercials as a child. Joe Jonas, born 1989 The trio’s primary lead vocalist, he originally aspired to be a comedian. Inspired by his younger brother, Nick, he scored a Broadway role in “La Boheme” before the band formed. Nick Jonas, born 1992 The youngest member of the band is also the most accomplished musician. He landed a series of Broadway roles, then was signed to a solo record deal before his brothers got involved. His well-documented battle with diabetes has turned him into a national spokesman on the subject.
29 August 2008
NEW CD RELEASES
A life-altering journey retraced
0B.B. King 0One Kind Favor 0Geffen As anyone who’s seen B.B. King perform in the past decade or so can attest, the considerable powers as a singer and guitarist of the iconic blues man, who turns 83 this month, are largely undiminished by time. What can sometimes mar a King of the Blues concert, however, is a more than understandable tendency to take it easy after all these years and rely on showbiz shtick. Happily, there’s not a smidgen of that to be heard on“One Kind Favor,”an old fashioned (but not purist) recording produced by T-Bone Burnett, with a deeply sympathetic band that includes Dr. John on piano and Jim Keltner on drums.The song selection is astute, pulling from King’s heroes and contemporaries, such as Blind Lemon Jefferson (“See That My Grave I Kept Clean”),T-Bone Walker (“Waiting For Your Call”) and Lonnie Johnson (“My Love Is Down” and “Tomorrow Night”), the band swings, and King sings it like he means it. More than anyone could have a right to expect. – Dan DeLuca
0Danilo Perez 0Across the Crystal Sea 0Emarcy Some powerful personalities come together on pianist Danilo Perez’new CD. The German composer and arranger Claus Ogerman, whose collaborators have included Antonio Carlos Jobim, Bill Evans, George Benson, and Michael Brecker, recreates here a 1965 session he made with Evans and strings. With Perez on keys, Ogerman fashions liquid arrangements of classical melodies by Rachmaninoff, Sibelius, de Falla, and Massenet. Bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash provide the high-class locomotion. The producer,Tommy LiPuma, also worked with Ogerman on Benson’s“Breezin’”in 1976 and several other projects, including Diana Krall’s 2001 CD, “The Look of Love.” The sound they create here occurs in a perpetual state of hush. It’s cinematic and often florid. The strings are repeatedly in holding patterns,and you can hear hints of Jobim and Benson wafting through. Perez, who oversees the Mellon Jazz Up Close series at Philly’s Kimmel Center, moves lightly in this lush soundscape, never imposing his will while occasionally enhancing the surroundings.Yet he often ends up far from the focus. Singer Cassandra Wilson appears on two cuts, including a cooingly slow take of“Lazy Afternoon.” This complex cocktail proves to be romantic at times but also remote. – Karl Stark
The sound they create here occurs in a perpetual state of hush. It’s cinematic and often florid. The strings are repeatedly in holding patterns, and you can hear hints of Jobim and Benson wafting through
Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar 0By Paul Theroux 0Penguin, $37
In 1975 Paul Theroux published a travel book, The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia, that pushed him to the front ranks of the London literary scene. He had seven novels under his belt, including his early masterpieces Jungle Lovers and Saint Jack. But while his fiction had won him praise, it hadn’t brought in much income. Railway Bazaar hit the best-seller lists, becoming the first in a series of travel memoirs that readers have lapped up for 30-odd years now. Happy times, yes? Well, no.The book came at a price that Theroux scarcely hinted at in its pages. His months-long absence from home, he says, put a big crack in his first marriage. He came back to London to find that his wife, resentful of his leaving, had taken a lover. “I had not been missed,”Theroux ruefully remarks in his new book about retracing his old journey.“I had been replaced.” Railway Bazaar,he adds,was written“in a fury”– an explanation, perhaps, for its zesty, crackling energy. In Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar, by contrast,Theroux is contented on the home front and in transit. Older and happily remarried, he is as curious as ever about the people he meets and the places he visits on his 28,000-mile journey through Eastern Europe,Asia, India, Japan and Siberia. Still, Ghost Train can be a sobering book. Brightly rendered and endlessly informative, it serves up one sharp, insightful anecdote or historical tidbit after another; and Theroux gamely puts up with delays, crowds, filth and occasional ailments as long as he feels he’s getting an unedited glimpse of the countries he’s in.Yet what has happened to some of those countries in the three decades since he last saw them is often unsettling. Dictators have come to power, or held onto it for decades.You may be able to read elsewhere about Lee KwanYew’s oppressive,one-party micromanagement of Singapore (Theroux has a long history with the place).But Turkmenistan’s Saparmyrat Niyazov will probably be news to you, as he was to me. While in power he banned beards, gold teeth and ballet, renamed the month of January after himself and April after his mother (he also tried to rename bread after her). He siphoned his country’s naturalgas revenue into his own pockets and erected gold statues of himself all over the place, demolishing much-needed housing in the process.Theroux tells us all this while drawing sympathetic quick-sketch portraits of the brave, put-upon souls living under this insane regime. In another vein, his journey through nearby Georgia – still, to Theroux’s eyes, establishing a fragile sense of independence after decades of Soviet domination – is more chilling than intended, given the recent headlines. Then there’s the population explosion. Chennai (Madras) in India had a population of 2 million when Theroux was there in 1973;now it’s 11 million.A veteran walker,Theroux tries strolling down one of the city’s familiar main drags – and finds it impossible. Any American traveling these days wants to gauge his country’s standing in the world.Theroux finds only two Bush supporters among the hundreds of people he meets.(A veteran of the Soviet Union’s failed campaigns in Afghanistan is especially doubtful about what we’re doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.) But Ghost Star isn’t all sombre. There are lively meetings with authors Haruki Murakami in Tokyo and Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul (“one of the most easily negotiated and hospitable cities in the world”). Thailand gives him great pleasure. Vietnam, he writes, is“reborn”after decades of war (even in 1973 he was impressed by its beauty – and is
more impressed now by its population’s forgiveness toward Americans). Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, casts a spell on him. A happy reunion with a hotel-running family in northern Myanmar (also known as Burma) is entirely unexpected – although Theroux fully registers the oppressiveness of the military regime there. Throughout the book,Theroux’s fresh phrasing is a treat, whether he’s evoking the desolation of rural Turkmenistan (“a landscape like cat litter”),the heat of Jodhpur (“like a glittering hammer”) or a massage in Bangkok (“a sort of samba along my spine”). The ghost that haunts this trip is Theroux’s younger self, whom he addresses from time to time. But his more urgent focus is on a world that, with few exceptions, is taking a turn for the worse.“Only the old can really see how gracelessly the world is aging and all that we have lost,”Theroux writes. The 33-year gap between his prose snapshots of the countries on his route makes for a telling double exposure. – By Michael Upchurch
Going the distance What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami
0By Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel, Alfred A. Knopf 0Harvill Secker, $37 Before Haruki Murakami became a novelist, the author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore ran a jazz club. That might sound like a transition from a potentially unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy one.But in fact,as the fanciful and philosophical Japanese writer explains in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – which he describes as“a kind of memoir centered on the act of running”– the opposite was the case. The idea to become a novelist first occurred to him while watching a baseball game between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp in Tokyo in 1978.“You know what? I could write a novel?”he thought to himself out of the clear blue sky. While he was still operating his club, he wrote two, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball in 1973, before deciding to dedicate himself to fiction full-time.“I had to give it everything I had,”he writes.“I knew that if I did things half-heartedly and they didn’t work out, I’d have regrets.” But an unexpected problem arose. Without the physical exertion required to keep a business running, he got fat, despite smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. So in 1982, he started to run, and hasn’t stopped. He has completed more than two dozen marathons, several triathlons, and one 100km ultra-marathon. The races, coupled with a training schedule that
runs to as much as 300km a month, have given Murakami plenty of time to think about running, and writing, and how they intertwine. In both endeavors, he considers himself “more a workhorse than a race horse.”Each is noncompetitive, except with the only person who counts.“What’s crucial is whether your writing attains the standards you set for yourself. ... In this sense writing novels and running full marathons are very much alike. Basically a writer has a quiet, inner motivation, and doesn’t seek validation in the outwardly visible.” For Murakami,“running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. ... In long distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.” As he aged, that gospel of self-improvement ran into difficulties for the 59-year-old Murakami, who titled this book after Raymond Carver’s influential 1981 short-story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Murakami, who calls Carver“a writer beloved to me,”translated the collection into Japanese. After his late 40s, Murakami’s marathon times began to get worse. He hopes that that won’t be the case with his novels, and that the discipline and endurance required in long-distance running will aid him in sustaining a level of artistic excellence attained by his heroes, such as Dostoyevsky, who knocked out “The Brothers Karamozov”just before his death at 60,and Domenico Scarlatti,who wrote most of his 555 piano sonatas between the ages of 57 and 62. The clean, easily accessible style with inclinations toward profundity that marks Murakami’s novels is evident here – as is the interest in American pop culture that has earned him a devoted audience of Western readers and a teaching job at Harvard, conveniently located near the banks of the runnerfriendly Charles River and the 40km course of the Boston Marathon. While running, he listens to 1960s pop by the Lovin’ Spoonful, Carla Thomas and Otis Redding. He competes in a Japanese triathlon with the title of Bryan Adams’song 18 Till I Die scrawled on his bike.“It’s a joke, of course,”he writes.“Being eighteen till you die means you die when you’re eighteen.” What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is by no means the equal of daringly ambitious novels like Kafka and Wind-Up Bird.What sets Murakami apart is his unfettered imagination, and this is a short, introspective work of nonfiction that can be read in less time than it takes to run from Marathon to Athens. (A course Murakami ran in 1983, sucking exhaust fumes in oppressive heat at rush hour.) It’s no juicy tell-all memoir, but something much more intriguing: a tightly focused window into a defining avocation of one of the world’s great novelists. It goes a long way toward explaining what makes him tick, and keeps him running. – By Dan DeLuca
29 August 2008
Why are Somali immigrants suffering higher autism rates? By Maura Lerner Star-Tribuner
MINNEAPOLIS – As an educator,Anne Harrington had her suspicions.As a pediatrician, Dr. Dan McLellan also had his. Both noticed an unusual number of Somali children turning up in their autism programs in Minneapolis and began to wonder why. Now that question has captured the attention of state and federal health officials, as fears about a possible surge in autism have swept the Somali community. Autism, a brain disorder that can cause disruptive and withdrawn behavior, has been rising rapidly throughout the country. The discovery of a cluster among Somalis, experts say, could help scientists shed light on why. Or, it could just be a statistical fluke. Recent news reports have prompted speculation about all kinds of potential culprits, from vitamin D deficiency to genetics to vaccines. In Minneapolis, fears have been fueled by some puzzling statistics. Last year, Somali children made up nearly 6 percent of the school population, but 17 percent of those in the early childhood autism programs (14 of 81 children). The numbers have been creeping up for several years, especially among young children. “People are worried,”said Saeed Fahia, who heads a Somali community group.“Nobody remembers any autistic children in Somalia. I’m sure there must have been some, but there were not that many.” Autistic children often have trouble speaking, adapting to change or controlling outbursts, and tend to avoid eye contact and prefer to be alone. Somali children appear to have a more severe
form of the condition, said McLellan, a developmental pediatrician and autism specialist at Children’s Hospital. He estimates that 10 percent of his patients are Somali.“I do think there’s something up with this,”he said.“I don’t know what it is.” For now, state and federal officials say they’re not sure whether Somalis in Minnesota are getting autism at an unusual rate or whether there’s another explanation. But they’re taking it seriously enough to look closer. “We want to understand the numbers.That’s my goal,” said Judy Punyko, who is heading a study group for the Minnesota Department of Health. One of the concerns, she said, is that Somali parents may stop vaccinating their children because of widespread fears - never proven - that the shots might trigger autism. Just last week, federal officials warned of growing measles outbreaks among the unvaccinated. The autism scare is“increasing a level of concern and panic,”Punyko said.“We have a condition that has no known cause and there is no cure.And people are looking to us to provide them with answers.” A CULTURAL STIGMA One Somali-born woman was so alarmed by the number of Somali children in her son’s autism class that she started calling politicians, news organizations and state officials to call attention to the issue. Yet because of cultural stigmas, she has kept her son’s autism a secret from relatives. “Not only is it high among us here, but we Somalis don’t accept this disorder,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified. Harrington, a special education coordinator in
the Minneapolis schools, has watched the number of Somali students in autism programs climb from zero in 1999 to 43 last year.The number of Somalispeaking students in the district grew as well, from 1,773 to 2,029 during that time, statistics show. When it comes to autism, Harrington said,“the statistics will kind of leap out at you.”As of July, 3.6 percent of Somali students were in autism-related programs - about twice the district average. The problem appears starkest in the youngest age groups. Last year, she said, 25 percent of the class for the most severely autistic preschool children was Somali.“The (parents) feel like it is something that has happened to their children here,”she said. “What we’re trying to do is find out ... if it is true that there’s this alarming incidence.” DO NUMBERS REVEAL A TREND? At the Health Department, Punyko has assembled a team of scientists to try to answer that question. She cautions against jumping to conclusions and notes that numbers can be misleading - especially when it comes to autism. “We don’t have a blood test or a lab test to say you have autism, so it’s somewhat subjective,” she said.“The bottom line is that we don’t have enough information.” One problem is just getting an accurate count. In Minnesota, children don’t need a medical diagnosis to qualify for autism programs. Schools make their own assessments, which can vary by district. The bigger problem, experts say, is that autism itself is a moving target. Before 1991, it wasn’t even an official category in schools. Since then, the definition has expanded, and more people have been
trained to identify it. Since 1997, the number of Minnesota children in autism special-ed programs has jumped tenfold, from 648 to 6,662 in grades six and under, according to the state Department of Education. Some researchers argue that only the label has changed, not kids. In the past, many with those symptoms were called something else, such as mentally handicapped, mentally ill or simply odd. “We know that more children are diagnosed today (than) in the past,”said Catherine Rice, who heads the autism monitoring program for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is working with the Minnesota study group.“A lot of it is the change in what we call autism. But we can’t say that explains all of it.” It’s especially tricky to find out whether autism is increasing in a group like Somali immigrants, she said. Was it really less common in Africa, or is it simply better identified here? “We certainly get indications that autism exists in other communities of the world,”Rice said,“but whether it exists to the same degree, as common, it’s not quite as clear.” Intriguing hints have turned up elsewhere. Swedish researchers reported this summer that Somali children in Stockholm appeared to have three to four times the rate of autism as other children though the study was based on only 17 children. Another Swedish study found high autism rates among African immigrants from Uganda. For now, there are plenty of questions, but no answers, Punyko said.“What do we tell the people in the meantime?”she said.“Just get (the children) into early intervention. And trust us, we’re trying to get an answer.”
Boy scout gets black plague MILFORD, Connecticut – An 18-year-old Boy Scout from Connecticut was diagnosed with the bubonic plague after his scout troop visited Wyoming, officials say. Connecticut Yankee Council Scout executive Louis Salute said the unidentified scout had been bitten by a flea during a troupe outing last week to rural areas in Wyoming including Bridger-Teton National Forest,The Hartford (Conn.) Courant said Wednesday. It appears the boy was bitten by a flea, Salute said. He came back here and got ill. He was running a pretty high fever. After being taken to a hospital because of swelling of his neck and malaise, blood tests revealed the teenager was suffering from the bacterial disease. Salute told the Courant said the disease, which most people commonly associate with the Black Death that decimated Europe six centuries ago, was caught in its first stage in the teen and wasn’t considered contagious or potentially fatal. The newspaper said Wyoming officials are investigating the rural areas for signs of the potentially deadly infection.
A deadly traveler During the last 400 years, Norway rats migrated to every continent except Antarctica. Along the way they became killers, as well as dubious pests.
Norway rat Rat flea
‘Black death’ • Plague-infested fleas rode the backs of rat hosts into villages and towns and onto ships, passing the deadly bacteria to humans around the globe Pacific Ocean NORTH AMERICA
14thcentury French grave marker • Bubonic plague claimed 25 million lives in five years in 14th-century Europe
ASIA SOUTH AMERICA
• A second wave killed 50 million Europeans by 1771
Study: Stunning regenerative medicine
Study warns of ayurvedic medicine dangers
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, Aug. 27 – U.S. scientists, in what’s called a stunning achievement,have transformed one type of adult mouse cell directly into another type inside a living animal. In a feat of biological prestidigitation likely to turn the field of regenerative medicine on its head, Harvard Stem Cell Institute co-director Doug Melton (and post doctoral fellow Qiao Zhou) report having achieved what has long been a dream and ultimate goal of developmental biologists … the institute said in a statement. Using a technique they call direct reprogramming, the team transformed mouse exocrine cells, which
Philadeplhia – As Americans flock to the Internet searching for health-care information and products, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine warn of big risks associated with buying certain traditional herbal cures online. Robert B. Saper and colleagues at the school bought samples of various Indian ayurvedic remedies and tested them for lead, mercury and arsenic. In a study published in Thursday’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers reported that one in five of the Ayurvedic medicines purchased online contained toxic levels of the heavy metals. And they said the dangerous metals were found at the same rate in supplements made in India and those made in the United States.
Source: S.C. Dept. of Natural Resources, N.C. State, GeoWeek, Audubon Society Graphic: Wm. Pitzer, The Charlotte Observer
© 2008 MCT
make up about 95 percent of the pancreas,into insulin-producing beta cells. We’re intrigued by the possibility that this approach, which has worked for pancreatic insulin-producing cells, could be more widely applied to many kind of cells,especially those that are lost in disease or following injury,Melton,who led the study,said.And at the same time, we are exploring the possibility of using this general approach in a clinical context to make new beta cells for patients. The work is reported in the online edition of the journal Nature. – UPI
The researchers analyzed 193 randomly selected medicines purchased online after searching 673 products using popular Internet search engines. Nearly 21 percent of the medicines contained toxic levels of heavy metals. In the Indian rasa shastra medical tradition, herbs are combined with metals, minerals and crushed gems such as pearls. Experts in the tradition claim that properly made and administered, those mixtures are safe and effective treatments. Saper’s research, however, suggests many of the medicines sold as supplements in this country and over the Internet could be dangerous. “We suggest strictly enforced, government-mandated daily dose limits for toxic metals in all dietary supplements,”the authors concluded. – UPI
SCIENCE & TECH 17
29 August 2008
Call of the wired: seniors online By Wailin Wong Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO – Dr. Manus Kraff’s iMac and MacBook Pro are hooked up to a home wireless network. He recently replaced his old iPhone with the latest version and downloads podcasts of scientific lectures so he can listen to them while jogging. In his downtime at the office, he signs onto Google Reader to skim his favorite Web sites. Kraff is 76 years old. The way he has embraced technology is rare for his age group, which remains the last generation to go online in significant numbers. But in many ways Kraff is on the leading edge of seniors wading deeper into technology at a pivotal time. Even for some older adults who have long resisted going online, the Internet is now too powerful to ignore.This year’s presidential election underscores the generational divide, pitting a 71-year-old who has admitted he rarely goes online by himself against a 46-year-old who hired a founder of Facebook to organize Web-based support. Still, the overall ranks of Web-savvy seniors remain low. Just 35 percent of Americans over the age of 65 use the Internet, according to data compiled in April and May by the Pew Internet & American Life Center. But that’s up from 30 percent in November 2006. By comparison, 70 percent of people aged 50-64 use the Internet.
Susan Good, who didn’t disclose her age, goes online at least five times a day to look up information on Google, e-mail friends and family, and read about politics. When traveling, she keeps track of her calendar on her iPhone.”Without knowing how to use a cell phone and use a computer, and knowing how to type, you were kind of like an old soul instead of a young soul in modern America,”Good said, explaining how she came to take private computer lessons from Tony Marengo, who calls himself The Mac Tutor. Marengo tailors his instruction for adults who are 65 or older, visiting their homes for weekly or biweekly sessions that cost $75 an hour. He works with students such as Good and Kraff, as well as newcomers. One client once put the mouse directly on the monitor, while another didn’t know she could access other Web sites besidesYahoo because that was her browser’s home page. “There’s such a level of apprehension whenever you’re new to something,”Marengo said.“The key is not to get frustrated.” When Kraff,the founder of the Kraff Eye Institute in Chicago,started taking classes in 2001,he thought, “Everybody else takes golf lessons and tennis lessons. I’m going to take computer lessons,”he said. During a recent session, Marengo showed Kraff how he could view messages from multiple accounts
at one time, rather than clicking on each mailbox individually in his e-mail software. “I learned something,” said Kraff, tapping his forehead.“That’s the pearl today.” With beginning students Marengo assigns simple homework, such as writing three e-mails or bookmarking four Web sites.And he always reminds his students that “there is no self-destruct button” on the computer, so they shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes. Aleksey Gorelik, 79, a regular who reads Russian news sites and recently looked up online travel information before taking a trip to Canada, said,“I can see all the world on my computer. I e-mail with friends in Chicago. I send letters to Belarus and Moscow and Minsk, all over.” Baby boomers who are well-versed in e-mail and Web surfing also are expanding their use of the Web, plugging into social outlets, for example. Jeff Taylor, founder of job site Monster.com, has a new boomer online community called Eons.com, with 750,000 registered members. Eons members create personal profiles, upload personal photos and join interest groups, similar to Facebook and MySpace. But in contrast with those social networking sites where younger users connect with their existing friends, many Eons members are scouting for new friends, especially as they retire and lose contact with former co-workers.
Finally, an easy way to backup your computer By Craig Crossman
LOS ANGELES – I’ve been saying it for years now: It’s not“if”your hard drive will fail, it’s“when.”Eventually, your hard drive is going to crash and when it does, it’s most likely going to take everything you have stored on it with it. So just ask yourself: How much of your stuff are you willing to lose? Are you willing to lose all of the documents you created with your word processor? How about all those digital photos you took and stored there? Any and all of the work you created with your computer will be gone forever if you don’t make sure you back it all up somewhere safe. But most people don’t make backups and it seems like the reason they don’t is a pretty straightforward one: because it’s complicated. Oh sure, there are backup programs that say they make things easy, but have you ever taken the time to actually look at some of them? The first clue is that the included instruction manual is an inch or more thick. Then
they give you lots of options. It’s nice to have options, but mostly the options themselves can make things complicated.They ask questions like:“What do you want to backup?”You mean I don’t want to back up the contents of the entire hard drive? Evidently not, because you probably already have all of your applications on the original CDs you purchased, so why back those up? You need something that already knows this and just backs up all that work you created – and not only that, something that knows how to put it all back the way you had it when it’s time to restore it to a new or repaired computer system. That’s basically what the ClickFree does – and it does it all automatically for you. Here’s how it works.You buy the ClickFree Automatic Backup, is a palm-sized external hard drive. Currently there are two sizes: 120 gigabytes for US$129.99 and a 160-gigabyte model that does not yet have a price listed. Larger drives are forthcoming.
For most users, these capacities are more than enough to back up your data.Typically a 500-gigabyte drive contains about 10-50 gigs of user data. I understand that if you have gobs of videos and high-density pictures, you’ll have a lot more data to back up – but I’m talking about most users with word processing documents,e-mails,some digital pictures and similar data that doesn’t take up much storage space. Take the ClickFree drive out of the box and plug it into any USB port.That’s it.No power cord is needed. There’s no software to install. From there, you’ll see a screen that does a 30-second countdown telling you it is about to scan your entire hard drive and begin making a backup.When it’s done, it tells you so and you unplug the ClickFree drive.Your backup is finished. The next time you do it,things will happen even more quickly because it performs an incremental backup – basically,it knows what changed since the last time and will only back up the new stuff. Also, if you have more than one computer, just
plug in the ClickFree and it will back up each one. It will automatically recognize whichever computer you plug it into again later on and perform an incremental backup for it too. When the inevitable happens, just have your computer repaired and install a fresh copy of Windows. Then plug in the ClickFree and it will ask which computer backup you wish to restore if you had different computers backed up to it. If there is only one, the restore begins immediately.All of your data will be replaced where it was originally, in every folder, right down to the bookmarks in your browser, your e-mail and even the wallpaper you selected for your desktop.When done, the computer will be restored exactly as it was when the backup was last made. It couldn’t be simpler. www.goclickfree.com
Bayer on defensive in bee deaths
By Sabine Vollmer
RALEIGH, N.C.– Bayer CropScience is facing scrutiny because of the effect one of its best-selling pesticides has had on honeybees. A German prosecutor is investigating Werner Wenning, Bayer’s chairman, and Friedrich Berschauer, the head of Bayer CropScience, after critics alleged that they knowingly polluted the environment. The investigation was triggered by an Aug.13 com-
plaint filed by German beekeepers and consumer protection advocates, a Coalition against Bayer Dangers spokesman, Philipp Mimkes, said this week. The complaint is part of efforts by groups on both sides of the Atlantic to determine how much Bayer CropScience knows about the part that clothianidin may have played in the death of millions of honeybees. Bayer CropScience, which has its U.S. headquarters in North Carolina, said field studies have shown that bees’ exposure to the pesticide is minimal or nonexistent if the chemical is used properly. Clothianidin and related pesticides generated about $1 billion of Bayer CropScience’s $8.6 billion in global sales last year.The coalition is demanding that the company withdraw all of the pesticides. “We’re suspecting that Bayer submitted flawed studies to play down the risks of pesticide residues in treated plants,”said Harro Schultze, the coalition’s attorney. “Bayer’s ... management has to be called to account, since the risks ... have now been known for more than 10 years.” Under German law, a criminal investigation could lead to a search of Bayer offices, Mimkes said. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Natural
Resources Defense Council is pressing for research information on clothianidin. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the pesticide in 2003 under the condition that Bayer submit additional data.A lawsuit, which the environmental group filed Aug. 19 in federal court in Washington, accuses the EPA of hiding the honeybee data. The group thinks the data might show what role chlothianidine played in the loss of millions of U.S. honeybee colonies. Researchers have been puzzled by what is causing the bees to disappear at what is considered an alarming rate. The phenomenon, known as colony collapse disorder, threatens a $15 billion portion of the U.S. food supply. In the U.S. diet, about one in three mouthfuls comes from crops that bees pollinate. Scientists are looking at viruses, parasites and stresses that might compromise bees’immune system. In the past two years, Congress has earmarked about $20 million to boost research. Clothianidin,sold under the brand name Poncho,is used to coat corn, sugar beet and sorghum seeds and
protect them from pests. A nerve toxin that has the potential to be toxic for bees, it gets into all parts of the plant that grows from the coated seeds. In 1999, French regulators banned an older relative of Poncho and subsequently declined approval for clothianidin. French researchers found that bees were a lot more sensitive to the pesticides than Bayer CropScience studies had shown. Three months ago, German regulators suspended sales of chlothianidine and related chemicals after the family of pesticides was blamed for the destruction of more than 11,000 bee colonies. The Julius Kohn Institute, a state-run crop research institute in Germany, collected samples of dead honeybees and determined that clothianidin caused the deaths. Bayer CropScience blamed defective seed corn batches. The company said that the coating came off as the seeds were sown, which allowed unusually high amounts of toxic dust to spread to adjacent areas where bees collected pollen and nectar. Bayer paid about $3 million in damages, Mimkes said – MCT.
29 August 2008
Ancient Italian horse race captivates By Christine Spolar Chicago Tribune
SIENA, Italy – Never think of the Palio di Siena as just a horse race. In a slow week anywhere else in Italy, the days leading up to this Tuscan festival are anything but lumbering. Workers busily inspect the fresh, thick layer of clay that coats the city’s sun-drenched piazza. Women brandish dust cloths to climb and clean the tiers of wooden bleachers that ring the temporary track. Thousands of tourists wandered through stony, narrow streets, waiting for the dawn of the festivities earlier this month. The Sienese – selling juicy roast pork sandwiches for lunch or manning souvenir kiosks swarmed day and night by youngsters – maintained a surprisingly cheery sense of welcome. Summer is their boom time, after all, and they should make the most of the visitors. But perhaps the Sienese stayed cool and kind above the fray because they knew they had something that no outsider could touch: Really, how could anyone born and raised outside their historic walls understand the thrill of the Palio? Leonardo Giorgi, a man who has lived a lifetime on the edge of the race, chatted from the threshold of his ceramics shop to explain his medieval and modern universe.“Business during Palio isn’t good,”he said amiably,“but I wouldn’t be anywhere else. “For us, the Palio is about competition and tradition and where you belong. ...You live here, you live in your neighborhood. And all week, we have special dinners, special meetings. ... It’s emotional, yes, but it’s all friendly. I don’t know that you have anything like it in the States. I don’t think there is really anything like it in the world.” Giorgi’s shop was nearly blockaded by stacks of bleachers. But determined friends hopped over seats and barriers to stop by and ask how the past year, since the last race, had gone. Between quick kisses and hugs, Giorgi shrugged that this, too, is part of the Palio tradition. A horse race brings the world home. To visitors, the Palio offers a glimpse of the resilience of deep Italian tradition.The Palio simply never changes – or at least, by all accounts, not for 400 or so years. There are two horse races every summer, one in July, one in August. Both are tied to Roman Catholic religious celebrations of the Madonna. In August, the run is specifically tied to the Feast of the Assumption. Horses are selected through a lottery among the city’s 17 neighbourhoods, or contrade. (Each neighbourhood is identified by a seal of an animal or figure – a tower, a porcupine, a snail, a tortoise, a rhinoceros; the list goes on.) Only 10 neighbourhoods can have a horse and a jockey in each race – the Piazza del Campo is simply too small to harbour more horses safely. It is considered an honour to be part of the preparations. Each contrada (they operate much like a city ward) has an office dedicated to the annual event. Parading through town as a Palio conqueror – dancing a kind of happy, massive conga line with the winning silk banner hung high – is a cherished memory. The last couple of days before the race, Siena blooms with silk banners that mark the boundaries of each neighborhood. Racehorses
There are two horse races every summer, one in July, one in August. Both are tied to Roman Catholic religious celebrations of the Madonna.
clomp to parish churches for special blessings. Children and grownups prep, in rich velvet medieval garb, for an afternoon procession that will play out before the race. In parking lots and on hillsides, they are twirling silks, tapping drums and fumbling the occasional toss of a banner. “It seems like this is what the town lives for,” said Gosia Siuda, a teacher from Ontario who was on vacation with her husband. Siuda, 39, emigrated from Poland when she was a teenager. Neither her new nor old country, she said, had such an all-encompassing tradition that ruled a single community. “The race takes all of a minute, I hear,”she said.“We had to come. Where else could you see something like this?” The Paganini family of Long Island, New York, waited in a cafe as the hours-long pre-race procession passed. Dante and Theresa Paganini, a young couple with two children, said they don’t speak Italian and don’t know anyone in town, but they try to see the Palio every couple of years.
“We don’t have any family here, but we try to give the kids a sense of their culture and history,”said Dante Paganini,an electrician.“I mean,we save all year – we really have to prepare – but there’s nothing like it.” The race Aug. 16 was swift and safe. (In some years horses have been injured and, in 2004, one gravely so.) Each turn – there are three laps of pell-mell galloping – left a different horse a favorite. First, the neighborhood of the goose was winning.Then the neighborhood of the tower punched ahead. Then the dragon silk almost pulled out the win in the last stretch – only to be bested by a jockey and horse bearing the symbol of the lowly caterpillar. Ceramics seller Giorgi watched the race with glee and no great regrets. For the first time that the 44-year-old could remember, his neighbourhood – home to a lanky gray wolf – had lost the lottery for both the July and August races. He had no horse in the race. It was, Giorgi said, just the luck of the draw.“And that’s life. And that’s the Palio.” Watch the 2008 July Palio here
29 August 2008
Parade of excuses: There’s no ‘whole truth’ in traffic court By Debra McKinney
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – In Courtroom 25, beneath the faint hum of fluorescent lights, a trim, grim blonde stands before Magistrate Ron Wielkopolski explaining why she blasted through a red light that dark, slick winter morning at rush hour. “I did see the yellow light as I approached the intersection of Ninth and Gambell,”she says, shoulders rigid, voice cracking.“I did not feel it was safe enough to stop in time. ... So instead of braking before the intersection, I accelerated.At the time I was on my cell phone.” Wielkopolski listens patiently from the bench. Then, she continues, she saw lights flashing behind her. On, then off. The officer must be on his way to an accident, she thought. She changed lanes. So did he. Again, the lights. Odd. She changed lanes again. So did he. Finally, she got it and pulled over. Already tense from driving on icy roads and having to run a red light, being pulled over that way was confusing and terribly stressful, she explains. Oh, and she’s really sorry. She’s learned her lesson and will never do it again. “Anything else?”Wielkopolski asks. He then calmly explains the law and the way things work in traffic court. She either ran the red light or she didn’t. She did. “Guilty as charged.” The bad call she made that morning cost her $200,plus a $10 surcharge, four demerits on her driving record and possibly a hike in insurance rates. Dejected, she picks up her paperwork and heads out the door. Next. Sometimes people get traffic tickets who don’t deserve them. Sometimes they present a convincing case. But often, traffic court is a perpetual parade of excuses, most of them old and tired.Among the oldest and tiredest? “I thought it safer to run the light than slam on my brakes.” You can almost hear the buzzer going off every time someone tries it: EEEEENH! You lose. Clerk Nara Brown, who asks involved parties to raise their right hands and swear “to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” recalls one particular favourite: “She said she was speeding because she’d had surgery and she couldn’t hold her bowels. “That was sort of different.” One can easily get through this world without experiencing traffic court.You get a speeding ticket, you write a cheque, drop it in the mail and get on with your life. But, if you want to contest the accuracy of a traffic cop’s laser reading – the remote sensing technology NASA used to map the topography of Mars – knock yourself out. Check the box on the back of the ticket to fight this affront to your driving integrity and you’ll get yourself a personal invitation to traffic court. Show up on time, take a seat, tap your feet, swap nervous glances with the others, wait for your name to be called, then tell your side of the story. Bring evidence or witnesses if you like. If there’s anything to your story, there’s a chance of getting your fine reduced. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. It can’t hurt to try.The worst that could happen is you pay the fine you would have paid anyway – plus prime-time downtown parking fees. You may even win the traffic court lottery.The officer fails to show up and your citation gets dismissed. It happens now and then.And when it does,unless the officer called in or has a good excuse, he or she could be in hot water and you get to skate. Just a little advice should you be so lucky. Bite the lip. Don’t say what the guy with sunglasses and a smug smile said the other day on his way out the door: “Same thing happened last time I was here.” Just make sure you’re not the one pulling the no-show. Blow off your date with traffic court, and you get a default judgment entered against you and slapped with an additional $25 in court fees.
When radar doesn’t work How a driver can be wrongfully ticketed by speed-triggered radar devices:
A vehicle traveling at or above the posted speed limit of 35 mph (56 kph) triggers camera (top photo) • Marks on road are 5 ft. (1.5 m) apart • Photos taken 0.2 seconds apart
Driver of Vehicle B, traveling the speed limit, receives fine by mail for driving 51 mph (83 kph) in a 35 mph (56 kph) zone even though Vehicle A is the one actually speeding
A second photo verifies distance traveled after 0.2 sec. (there are 3,600 seconds in an hour, 5,280 ft. in a mile)
Vehicle A 15 ft. ÷ 0.2 sec. = 75 ft. per sec. 75 ft. per sec. x 3,600 sec. = 270,000 ft. per hour
270,000 ft. per hour ÷ 5,280 ft. = 51.1 mph
15 ft. (4.6 m)
10 ft. (3 m)
Vehicle B 10 ft. ÷ 0.2 sec. = 50 ft. per sec. 50 ft. per sec. x 3,600 sec. = 180,000 ft. per hour
© 2008 MCT Source: D.C. Metropolitan Police Department
Graphic: Lee Hulteng
...They’re sobbing.They bring their entire support network. “And then you get the frequent fliers. “I think some people take their traffic tickets far more to heart than many people take their criminal cases, or their civil cases, I should say.” You’d be surprised, for instance, how controversial“stop”can be.The opposite of go.A total cessation of movement. Defendants are certain they stopped at the stop sign.The traffic officers are certain they didn’t, and sometimes have footage to prove it. “It’s not uncommon for people to argue with the videos,”said Magistrate Brian Johnson.“I had one earlier this week, a guy on video who just bombed right through the stop sign. I mean, he slowed down a little but he still probably went through that stop sign at 16 km an hour. He thought he came to a complete stop. He said,‘That video is not what happened.’ “One would think when you saw it. ... But people will come up, stand right in front of the monitor and watch it over and over again. “We watched that one probably 10 to 12 times, and it didn’t change from the first time to the last.” The man had the right to question it. And Johnson had the right to find him “guilty as charged.” Next. It’s not always about misbehavior at the wheel behind these doors.A magistrate’s courtroom is like the emergency room of the courthouse. Traffic court gets interrupted now and then to accommodate urgent business, like bail hearings for the newly arrested. Between this ticket and that, for instance,Wielkopolski set bail for a guy charged with child endangerment, who was caring for an 11month old baby while drunk on his lips. He was nearly three times the legal limit, and there appeared to be beer in the baby’s sippy cup. Magistrate Tina Otto had a show-stopper the other day. It went down something like this. A man was slumped in the driver’s seat of a car parked near the PARADE OF EXCUSES courthouse, someone thought it suspicious and called police.An officer If ever there was a cross-section of humanity, traffic court is it. On any checked it out. given day, the docket ranges from habitual traffic menaces to worn-out “How’s it goin’?” moms running so late for their early morning school drop-offs, they “Fine.” get pulled over in their pajamas. The officer then noticed a baggy in the front seat. “What makes traffic court interesting in my perception is that for “Crack?”he asked. many, many people, it’s their only exposure to the justice system,” “No. Methamphetamines.” said Suzanne Cole, who did a traffic court rotation for 11 years before Turns out the guy was on his way to traffic court. becoming a Superior Court master.“You get the wide range of folks who But it was not to be. His traffic court brethren got to hear his sorry have never been in court before, never had contact with a police officer story over speakerphone at his bail hearing on his way to jail. before, who are terrified and don’t really understand what’s happening. Next.
180,000 ft. per hour ÷ 5,280 ft. = 34.1 mph
You get the wide range of folks who have never been in court before, never had contact with a police officer before, who are terrified and don’t really understand what’s happening. ... They’re sobbing. They bring their entire support network
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