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INVESTIGATEdigital This is the Adobe Flash edition of Investigate magazine. To zoom in, simply click the mouse on the page, then use the mouse to move the page. Whilst back issues will appear publicly online after they’ve gone off sale at the newsstands, you can purchase a premium digital subscription and get a link to the latest editions as they’re published. If you prefer, you can also purchase a fully functional PDF of the magazine to save to your disk – putting the text of the entire issue at your fingertips. For all these options and more, visit our webstore: http://www.tgifedition.com For access to our news feeds, story archives and blogs, visit our main site: http://www.investigatemagazine.com In the meantime, enjoy, and feel free to share this edition with friends and colleagues.
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50 Bacterium at the Gates
A covertly taped video of an ex-Telecom executive confessing to altering phone records on police orders and instructions from a government spy agency raises serious questions about the powers of the State. IAN WISHART has the exclusive story
Could bugs be the hostile forces that bring Western civilisation to its knees? PETER CURSON analyses the threat posed by pandemics
Recent Airbus crashes including the one that killed Air New Zealand staff last year have thrown the spotlight back on what were thought to be safe jetliners. WILLIAM JOHN COX reports
One of the stated aims of the ‘global governance’ movement is to wind down defence spending by the US and UK in favour of increased military spending by the United Nations. HAL G. P. COLEBATCH finds the UK armed forces are coincidentally being dismantled by the British Labour government
40 Chinese Checker
60 Game Over
A well-connected Chinese migrant who gained NZ citizenship after befriending Labour cabinet ministers has been arrested at Auckland Airport. IAN WISHART has the stories from Investigate’s TGIF Edition that forced police to finally take action
54 The War Within
A photo essay from the finals at Wimbledon this month
Editorial and opinion 06 Focal Point
Volume 9, Issue 103, ISSN 1175-1290
The roar of the crowd
16 Simply Devine
Miranda Devine on Airbus
18 Mark Steyn A changing climate
20 Global Warning
Ian Wishart on ‘global governance’
22 Eyes Right
Richard Prosser on signs of idiocy
24 Line 1
Chris Carter on road safety
Lifestyle 14 Poetry
Amy Brooke’s poem of the month
Peter Hensley on snare cons
Amy Brooke on tinkering
The strongest substance
How long should a password be?
Chris Forster on Ronaldo
Claire Morrow on swine flu
Contributing Writers: Melody Towns, Selwyn Parker, Amy Brooke, Chris Forster, Peter Hensley, Chris Carter, Mark Steyn, Chris Philpott, Michael Morrissey, Miranda Devine, Richard Prosser, Claire Morrow, James Morrow, Len Restall, Laura Wilson, and the worldwide resources of MCTribune Group, UPI and Newscom Art Direction Design & Layout
Heidi Wishart Bozidar Jokanovic
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Editorial Join the dots
s it just me, or is the world currently giving every impression issue of this magazine, plans are now so well advanced that interof going to hell on a handcart? I ask this question rhetorically, of national media are starting to report details. course, not expecting anything more than nods of agreement over Just days before this issue went on sale, Obama’s science ‘czar’ the morning coffee as you read this, but it certainly seems so. John Holdren was revealed to have advocated this as part of his This month’s cover story is about a shocking lapse in standards and vision for the political future: public phone privacy – something once considered unthinkable. “A transnational “Planetary Regime” should assume control of According to a senior worker who left Telecom several years ago, the global economy and also dictate the most intimate details of at that stage police, Crown prosecutors and even the Government’s Americans’ lives – using an armed international police force.” main electronic spy agency, the GCSB, were getting phone comHoldren’s “Planetary Regime” (his words) vision was laid out panies to alter people’s phone records. in a green policy text book back in 1977, but it meshes brilliantly Now, it’s one thing to snoop on phone calls, but it’s a whole with this 2005 report on the United Nations website: different beast to realize that details of where you are and who “Socialists and social-democrats agree that with increasing globalyou are speaking to on the phone can be physically altered in ization and, in particular, increasing integration of financial markets, Telecom’s computers, to make it look like your phone was in a there is need for a global regulator of these markets as well as an different location or calling a different number. institution that can help countries that experience financial crisis. Imagine a court case that hinged on someone’s whereabouts on Markets do need regulation and supervision, and when they have the night of the 25th. Suppose become global, these functhe accused was at home alone tions must also be global. Do we really want a world where on the night in question, with Moreover, the developing his cellphone on the bedside countries generally, and even nation states like New Zealand table. Telecom would have more so, the least developed records of where that phone countries, should have access was, either via the GPS track- merely become the local enforcement to concessional resources, ing that’s built into many both, because they cannot arm of a “Planetary Regime”? modern phones, or from cellcover the costs of providing site data in the area. for global public goods from Now imagine the implications if police, desperate to get a con- which everyone benefits such as environmental protection, disease viction against the suspect, arranged for the location details in the control and security and, as a matter of international solidarity, there Telecom computer to be changed so it appeared the suspect was should be some redistribution of income from the most fortunate 20 kilometres away near a crime scene. to those most in need also across national borders.” According to this ex-Telecom staff member, not only is it techIs it merely a coincidence that Obama has appointed to his nically possible but it has happened, and he’s helped change the cabinet a man with just such world government, or should we say phone records at the request of police. “Planetary Regime” aspirations? Another member of the Obama Now, sure, in most cases the police have probably got the right cabinet, climate change ‘czar’ Carol Browner, shares similar views person. But if police are prepared to stoop to this level of corrup- and was a member of Socialist International, the left wing think tion to make a conviction stick, what happens if you or I get on tank behind that 2005 report we just quoted. the wrong side of a police investigation one day? What’s to stop Do we really want a world where nation states like New Zealand merely a similar stunt being pulled in our own cases? become the local enforcement arm of a “Planetary Regime” whose stated In real terms, if this executive’s confession is genuine, New goal is to control the world economy and ultimately your life? Zealand has lurched several steps towards becoming a police state, So in a strange way, our cover story on phone-tapping is a where government agencies believe they have a right to determine inno- microcosm of a bigger malaise: the rapid growth worldwide of cence or guilt based on their own agendas, unrelated to the facts. Big Brother, who knows best. Now jump out of New Zealand’s micro-issue to the latest news breaking internationally about plans for a supercharged “global governance” system to rule the planet. As alluded to in the May INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
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> vox populi
Communiques The roar of the crowd THE EVOLUTION DEBATE I have to congratulate Renton Maclachlan (June 2009). In one brief paragraph he has managed to encapsulate the key elements of misinformation continuously propagated by those who would denigrate both evolution and atheism, and therefore their proponents. Your correspondent and I have sparred many times over the past twenty years or so, on the creation/evolution front, so the points I am about to make should be familiar to him. His description of evolution as an “atheistic evolutionary religion” is, of course, nonsense, an oxymoron in the same category as socalled creation science. Evolution is not a religion. Not only is it a legitimate (testable) scientific concept but, as I have oft stated, it is supported by a mountain of empirical evidence, so much so it can be regarded as a key component of objective reality. Applying the term “atheistic” to evolution is to show a further lack of understanding of the nature of science. Science ignores the supernatural, not through a desire to promote atheism, but simply because appealing to the supernatural can in no way contribute to the scientific enterprise, a vehicle of inquiry necessarily concerned with evidence gleaned from the natural world and with natural explanations. As Robert Pennock has observed, “…supernatural hypotheses remain immune from disconfirmation.” Mr Maclachlan is also confused about the nature of atheism. It is far from being “at root meaningless and without purpose”. Firmly anchored in the cosmic perspective revealed by science, atheism for many merges into secular humanism, a positive life stance placing great emphasis on a number of factors relevant to a life worth living without reference to the supernatural. On a more personal note, your correspondent likes to accuse me of “ranting endlessly against creation”. However, my prime objectives as a participant in the creation/evolution debate have always been to counter, in measured fashion, the misinformation about evolution promoted by anti-evolutionists (this letter is a case in point), and to oppose those who would threaten the integrity of science education by endorsing the establishment of creationism, in any of its numerous guises, as an alternative to evolution in the science classroom. Warwick Don, Dunedin
A BUCK THE OTHER WAY So some long retired banker/lawyer/accountant wants to foster debate on the comments by Peter Hensley regarding the foundation to the current crisis around debt as money. Happy to oblige! That Alan Gallagher starts the ball rolling around some outdated perception of there being a division in economic philosophy indi INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
cates he hasn’t got past the events of the past 50 years and the fact that the division between socialism and capitalism exists mainly in the minds of political junkies who find the mythology and the divisions it causes convenient fodder for uneducated voters. The reality is that both the left and the right use the same economic concept put in place over three hundred years ago as the foundation for the political policies they offer as solutions to the problems caused by that concept. The concept is the use of debt, created mainly by the process of banks providing mortgages and overdrafts to their clients – the mechanism of interest bearing debt being injected into the economic system as purchasing power (money). Mr Gallagher professes to hold some expertise in his assertions that banks do not create credit or print money. I assume he holds fast to the thoroughly discredited (no pun intended) myth that banks can only lend the ‘money’ placed in their vaults by depositors (savings). Well, whip me with a derivative while I provide some factual evidence that Mr Hensley is right and Mr Gallagher should apply for admission to the economic flat earth society. Richard C. Cook is a retired federal analyst, whose career included twenty-one years with the U.S. Treasury Department. He wrote; “Besides, haven’t we learned by now that what has aptly been called “market fundamentalism” is really shorthand for the tyranny of money? It is a fact that control of economic life, at least in most of the Western nations, has been turned over to the monetary elite who control the world’s industry and resources through the private issuance of credit that originates from the privilege of fractional reserve banking. This vestige of the financial systems from the middle ages allows banks to produce credit “out of thin air” and lend it at a profit. They lend to consumers, businesses, investors, speculators (such as hedge funds), and to federal, state, and local governments. Under the banking laws, they generate this credit against a small “reserve base” consisting of customer deposits, government debt, overnight deposits from corporations and government agencies, and even – as has been well-documented – by laundering the proceeds of drug dealing and other types of crime. The dependence of economic life on debt has assured that there has been a steady flow of wealth from the producing economy of goods and services into the financial web which surrounds it. Debt from lending at interest grows at an exponential rate”. Another expert who supports Mr Hensley is the late U S economist J K Galbraith who in his 1977 book “The age of uncertainty” wrote; “The creation of money (credit/debt) by a bank is so simple that the mind is slightly repelled – It’s done every day”.
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How about the writers of the NZ Bankers Association publication “Banking in NZ” (4th edition) which contains the following gem in a chapter entitled the Creation of Money and Credit; “Nowadays banks do not lend the physical cash. They provide the borrower with a credit facility such as a loan account or an overdraft on a customer’s current account”. Now Mr Gallagher, if the bankers don’t know what they are doing perhaps there is an opportunity for you to use some of your extensive knowledge to re-educate them. Finally, but by no means an end to the evidence available to illustrate the yawning gap in Mr Gallagher’s knowledgebase, I include the following from a professor of economics, an Australian to boot.
THE MYSTERIOUS MONEY MACHINE
Friday, August 04, 2006 Steve Keen Non-economists might hope that one thing economists know about is how money is created. They would be disappointed. Though money is the quintessential element of economics, it is one whose nature is forever disputed by economists. And though there is a widely accepted model of money creation, it is contradicted by the empirical data. This model, in brief, is that money creation begins with the government either printing money, or borrowing from the Reserve Bank. I’ll simplify my argument by just considering the former, calling the money so created “Base Money”, and using the example of a billion dollars of new money created in this way. This Base Money is paid by the government to individuals and companies, who in turn deposit it in their bank accounts. Now begins the second, “Credit Money” stage of money creation – according to the conventional view. Banks record the $1,000 million as depositors’ funds, and then lend most of this out to borrowers, while holding some fraction in reserve to meet anticipated demand from depositors for withdrawals. If they hold on to twenty per cent (or $200 million) to meet depositors’ expected needs, that leaves them with $800 million to lend. This they duly do, and the recipients of those loaned dollars in turn deposit them in their own bank accounts – increasing the recorded level of depositors’ funds to $1,800 million. $800 million of Credit Money has thus been created by the banking system. I suspect it may be people like Alan who “struggle with a cure without knowing the problem”. Trevor Crosbie, Hamilton
VACCINES AND SHAKEN BABY SYNDROME? I am a very curious chap by nature, so the internet has been a very dangerous thing for me. I have spent thousands of hours delving into every detail of every issue from the implausibility of carbon related climate change and its suspicious coincidence with the engineered financial collapse by the private global banking elite setting the stage for world government with carbon taxation. Endless hours of sifting evidence and testimony relating to WTC7 and the pentagon on 9/11, Kennedy’s ‘magic bullet’, the swine flu spliced virus and its implication for mandatory vaccination eugenics etc. But now I think I have stumbled upon the story to end all stories. 10 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
I found this movie telling the Alan Yurko story. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6531447125053615129 After watching it I thought I would see what examples I could find of similar cases reported in New Zealand. I only managed to find 4 news reports with enough information to establish similarities, But the commonality is staggering. Shaken baby syndrome presents the following symptoms: • retinal and other scattered brain bleeding, brain swelling, seizures, scull and rib fractures, no sign of related external bruising or trauma, consistent and adamant denial by the accused perpetrators, at least until they realize their defense has no chance, and they opt for a guilty plea to a lesser charge. Blood toxicity as an adverse vaccine reaction presents the following symptoms: • retinal and other scattered brain bleeding, brain swelling, seizures, scull and rib fractures, due to severe ascorbic acid depletion resulting in scurvy symptoms. • no sign of related external bruising or trauma. No known or suspected child abuse. In the four cases I could find, two of the events occurred in a four week window after scheduled 3 month immunisation. The other two events occurred in a four week window after scheduled 15 month immunisation. A closer look at the recent high profile cases reveals the following: Lilybing: At first I thought a clear case of child abuse. Death occurring nowhere near scheduled vaccination at 23 months and reported sexual abuse. Then I read reports that Lilybing for some months had ‘no spirit, no life’, ‘sad looking’, ‘hated wearing shoes and socks’, slow language development compared to siblings. These are the classic symptoms of Autism, the other condition, epidemic and undeniably connected to vaccination. Lilybing had been that way for approximately five months according to one report, which would take her back to toward the scheduled 15 month vaccination. No one was ever charged with the alleged sexual abuse-more hemorrhaging? The cause of death? – brain injury from shaking. Kahui twins: Both died at three months. Had they had their 3 month vaccinations? In spite of all alleged abuses, the cause of death was hemorrhaging and lacerations to the brain, brain swelling, fractures and seizures. In hindsight, doesn’t the whole ‘tight 12’ thing seem a bit unlikely? Doesn’t it seem a bit odd, everyone believed someone else did it, but no one knew or saw anything? I began to realize how emotional outrage and pre-existing paradigms we harbour with regard to family breakdown, non-biological live-in carers, benefit dependency and ‘slack’ parenting prevent us from rationally observing the facts in cases of child abuse. My God, what if we’ve got this all wrong, what have we put these people through? I’ve got a really bad feeling about this. Of all the cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome can you recall a single instance of a single witness walking in and catching someone in the act of shaking a baby? It’s the Yeti of child abuse. How hard do you have to shake an infant to make its brain explode? My kids have been bouncing off every imaginable structure for years without the slightest hint of a brain hemorrhage. Think of the implications. The child smacking laws, callously driven on the backs of the suffering of children such as these may be completely unwarranted. Epidemic SIDS and SBS may be the price we are paying for corporate pharma profits. Mark Wilding, Hastings
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SHAMELESS PLUG, BUT WE ENJOYED IT Like most people I’ve had enough of the doom and gloom about the economy. The word recessions’ true meaning is opportunity. In the depression of the 1930s millionaires we still made. The reason some people thrived and some people dived in the 30s was the meaning they attached to the word depression. The ones that associated words like loss, failure, and poverty to the word depression got loss, failure and poverty. The ones that associated words like opportunity to the word depression got opportunities and they thrived. The world we live in finds itself in a very similar situation to that of the Great Depression and those of us that are going to thrive need to improve our view on the word recession just like those that thrived then we need to think of the word opportunity every time the word recession comes up. In times like these there is mass hysteria that the economy is going to fail; that is blatantly untrue. It does not matter how bad the economy may seem there are still people out there buying things. People still have needs to fill and business continue to fill those needs. Even in the Great Depression there were those that thrived, people still went to the movies, they still had a bear at the end of the week, there were still cars on the road, people were still eating and food still needed to be delivered to the shops which were still operating and continued to operate until long after WWII and the Great Depression were distant memories. Opportunity always exists even if it takes a different form from what we are used to. I work with a number of companies who are in a real panic, they are worried the recession is going to be over by Christmas and they only have another few months to take advantage of it. These companies are employing more people to cope with the amount of new work they are getting. They understand that in times like these all their competitions customers are looking for alternatives to get better efficiencies in their business. Let’s just look at that again in a slightly different way; right now all your competitors’ customers are looking for alternatives right now to get better efficiencies for their businesses. There is no better time to go out and get more customers. When times are good we all get a bit lazy, when times are tough, like now, we are all looking to run more efficiently. The opportunity for you to increase your business is knocking at your door in the form of this recession. The economy might fluctuate however we still have the same population. All of us still need to eat, sleep and be entertained. Opportunities are out there and skills that you possess are still in high demand, they just need to be packaged and presented slightly differently to meet the demands of the current market. Opportunity is knocking right now are you going to open the door and embrace it or leave it shut and let it pass you by? Vaughan Tombs, www.vtsalestraining.co.nz
BANK ERROR NOT IN YOUR FAVOUR Have you considered doing a story on the issue of unfair bank charges. This is a big issue that must be taking millions of dollars out of the pockets of those who can least afford it. The issue looks set to come to a head with the banks and the UK Office of Fair Trade (OFT) about to conclude an appeal to the House of Lords. I’ve heard nothing about this in the MSM. I have lodged a claim with my bank for a little over $1500 in dishonor charges that they have unlawfully deducted from my 14 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
Poetry Is it poetry? Then send submissions to Poetry Editor Amy Brooke:firstname.lastname@example.org proseur so let me get this straight all I have to do is write a suitably inscrutable sentence sprinkle it
across the page
taking pains on pain of poetic – licence – loss to cleanse the sheet of unfashionably elitist linguistic lighthouses capitals commas and any hint of rhyme and a man from Wellington will give me m o n e y John Ansell
account over the last 5 years. You can be sure I’ll be singing about it if they pay out. To date their course of action has been to stall and offer to help me avoid future fines. My next step is to take it to disputes tribunal. I am adding interest to the bill in this case so it will be $1800 that I am seeking. I have the paper work all ready but to date they have been clever and havenot actually refused to pay. The disputes tribunal will only accept theclaim if the amount is in dispute. Here are some web links to the Australian and UK groups that are fightingthis issue. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8119057.stm http://www.which.co.uk/advice/how-to-reclaim-unfair-bankcharges/index.jsp http://www.choice.com.au/viewArticle.aspx?id=105774&catId =100117&tid=100022&p=1&title=Fair+go+on+fees Wish me luck! Name and address of Don Quixote supplied
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> simply devine
Too late to reboot when in the air
isgruntled passengers on the new Qantas A380 luxEssentially pilots are flying a computer in the sky. “And someury superjumbos have started calling it the A3-Lately or times things go wrong with your computer,” says the A380 captain the A-180 (as in degrees), because of delays as long as eight Barry Jackson, president of the Australian and International Pilots hours. Association. “It’s pretty hard to reset something in the air.” And, according to one Qantas insider, premium business pasBut he says he is “confident going to work” on the A380, that sengers are demanding to be on the old Boeing 747, saying there is the aircraft is safe, and he will be flying one to Singapore as part “absolutely no way” they are travelling on the Airbus A380 because of his roster. of the unreliable departures. He stressed that the A380 is different from the Air France A330, The A-180 nickname stuck after one plane, bound for Los and in particular that the speed sensor system that appears to have Angeles last month, came out of the hangar, loaded up with pas- been one of the causes of the Air France crash is not the same. But sengers, had technical problems, unloaded and went back to the he agreed Airbuses “haven’t been having a good run lately”. hangar – a 180-degree turn. The problem with the A380 fuel gauge was a design problem According to one business class passenger, that QF 11 flight took that Qantas engineers have since developed a maintenance prooff eight hours late. After several attempts to rectify technical prob- cedure to prevent. lems, the pilot told passengers he was not happy and unloaded “Technically the A380 has had its teething problems,” he said yesterthem onto another A380 that took off just before 9pm. day. But he says 747s had similar teething problems when they were A week later, QF 12 from introduced by Boeing. Los Angeles to Sydney was Investigators of the Air Around the world, aviation three hours late due to what France Airbus A330-200 the pilot told passengers was flight 447 from Rio to Paris experts and pilots are debating an electrical fault with the which disappeared on May A380 air-conditioning. 31 with 228 people, have whether planes are becoming too Another passenger reported been looking at technologian A380 flying to LA earlier cal malfunctions, beginning automated for pilots to control in last month had a faulty fuel with the plane’s speed sengauge which showed a full sors, combined with stormy emergencies, in which computers tank halfway into the flight. weather, as the cause of the There appear to be issues crash. The A330 is typical of override pilots with plane layout as well. the fly-by-wire aircraft that According to one flight attenuse electronic systems to dant, when Russell Crowe was travelling in first class in the A380 control the plane rather than hydraulic or mechanical devices. recently, he complained about the noise from people walking up According to The Sunday Times the pilot’s instruments were and down a set of stairs next to the first class suites. (The actor giving “inconsistent” readings of the plane’s speed. And an interdid not return a call.) nal Air France report, quoted by the British newspaper, said “the The A380 is so quiet first class passengers could hear any clat- reliability of these [fly-by-wire] aircraft has the consequence of ter nearby. A barrier has since been erected to stop business class reducing the pilots’ appreciation of risk”. passengers using the stairs to access first class toilets. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has also been investigating And while pilots who fly the A380 say they are confident in the recent incidents caused by computer glitches on high tech planes. planes, the Air France A330 crash last month and other recent There was the Qantas Airbus A330-303 “in-flight upset” on October incidents involving high tech Airbuses have sparked concerns 7 last year when the plane surged up and down over Western Australia, about over-reliance on technology which has essentially “pilot- before pilots were able to wrest control from the computer and bring it proofed” aircraft. down safely. The aircraft, en route from Singapore to Perth, “abruptly Around the world, aviation experts and pilots are debating pitched nose-down twice while in normal cruise flight”. A flight attenwhether planes are becoming too automated for pilots to control dant and 11 passengers were seriously injured. in emergencies, in which computers override pilots. The bureau found the autopilot had disconnected after the air16 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
While pilots who fly the A380 say they are confident in the planes, the Air France A330 crash last month and other recent incidents involving high tech Airbuses have sparked concerns about over-reliance on technology which has essentially “pilot-proofed” aircraft
craft’s computer systems started receiving “erroneous data” from the so-called air data inertial reference units (ADIRUs). The bureau also reported “other occurrences” involving similar anomalous ADIRU behaviour” in September 2006 and December 2008. “But in neither case was there an in-flight upset.” In March the bureau investigated another computer glitch which led to a tail strike involving a United Arab Emirates Airbus A340500 during take-off at Melbourne Airport. The investigation found “an incorrect weight had been inadvertently entered into the laptop when completing the take-off performance calculation prior to departure based on a take-off weight that was 100 tonnes below the actual take-off weight of the aircraft”. The result was the plane did not produce enough power to take off and although the pilots managed to override the computer and apply maximum thrust, the plane’s tail hit the runway. Then there was the Air New Zealand A320 Airbus that crashed off southern France on November 28 after what French investigators described as a power surge which made it fly sharply upwards, stall and crash as it was landing in Perpignan.
Jackson says the concern is the prospect that, as planes become more automated, financially strapped airlines will devalue pilot skills. Just this January, flight engineers were phased out of Qantas flight decks because their functions had been automated. After 22 years with Qantas, Jackson says experience in flying light planes or in the air force is superior to simulator training. “Those skills are still needed no matter how automated planes are.” Yet cheaper pilots, with fewer “real world” flying hours are replacing experienced pilots around the world, he says. The importance of pilot skill was clear in the emergency landing of a US Airways plane on New York’s Hudson River in January. In this high-tech age we can’t forget that the most important safety equipment is a well-trained pilot. firstname.lastname@example.org [Investigate magazine would like to offer condolences to Miranda Devine and her family over the death of her father Frank Devine, a New Zealandborn journalist whose career began at the Marlborough Express in 1948, before he eventually took up roles as editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and New York Post, as well as serving as senior editor at The Reader’s Digest]
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 17
> straight talk
Obama isn’t cool – the globe is
resident Obama was supposed to be “cool.” But he isn’t. well-connected Democratic Party interests surely represents the He’s square. Not just mildly so, but embarrassingly square. environmental movement’s formal jumping of the endangered He’s squaresville squared. It’s as if you’re having a party great white shark. with your friends and he’s the cringe-making middle-aged Back at the New York Times, Thomas Friedman agreed the bill parent who wants to show he digs where the young people are at by “stinks” and says “it’s a mess” and he “detests” it but we neverthegrooving around in the middle of the dance floor all night long. less need to pass it because his “gut” tells him so. How do I know? I’ve been there, and I’ve been square. By “there,” Maybe his gut is really telling him the New York Times canteen’s I mean I’ve been in places that have tried all the cool Obama dance daily specials have been adversely affected by the company’s colmoves and eventually wised up to what utter clunkers they are. lapsing share price. Who knows? Late June, the House of Representatives passed some garganAt any rate, for reasons not entirely obvious from his prose style, tuan “cap-and-trade” bill designed to “save the environment.” Paul the eminent columnist believes himself to have a special influence Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, accused those on the youth of today and so directed the grand finale of his gut’s Neanderthals who voted against the bill of committing “treason analysis to them especially: “Attention all young Americans,” he against the planet.” By that standard, most of the planet is guilty of proclaimed. “You want to make a difference? Then get out of treason against the planet. I don’t mean just in the sense that China, Facebook and into somebody’s face. Get a million people on the already the world’s No. 1 carbon dioxide emitter, and India and Washington Mall calling for a price on carbon.” other rising economic powers Perhaps it’ll work. Getting have absolutely no intention into Mr. Friedman’s face, I see The Obama administration is of doing what the Democrats the ruddy bloom of late midhave done, no way, no how – dle age has not yet faded from getting into the global-warming because they don’t see why they it, so maybe, as his command should stay poor just because of the lingo shows, he is hep beads and kaftan just as everyone New York Times columnists to the scene. Maybe the kids think it’s good for them. will abandon their Tweet cred else is beginning to toss ‘em into No, I mean most of the for street cred. Maybe they’ll developed world already has get outta MySpace and into the recycling bin gone down the paved road of Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s parkgood intentions and is frantiing space. cally trying to pedal up out of it. New Zealand was one of the few I don’t know how Mr. Friedman defines “young,” but let’s be Western nations to sign on to Kyoto and then attempt to abide generous: If you’re 29, there has been no global warming for your by it – until the New Zealanders realized they could only do so entire adult life. If you’re graduating high school, there has been by destroying their economy. They introduced a Democratic- no global warming since you entered first grade. There has been style cap-and-trade regime – and last year they suspended it. In no global warming this century. None. Australia, the Labor government postponed its emissions-reducAdmittedly, the 21st century is only one century out of the many tion program until 2011, and the Aussie Senate may scuttle it. The centuries of planetary existence, but it happens to be the one you’re Obama administration has gotten to the climate-change hop just stuck living in. Alan Carlin, in a report for the Environmental as the glitter ball has stopped whirling and the band is packing Protection Racket – whoops, Environmental Protection Agency up its instruments. – that the agency attempted to suppress, says: The congressional cap-and-trade shtick would be tired even if “Fossil fuel and cement emissions increased by 3.3 percent per weren’t the familiar boondoggle of tax increases, big-government year during 2000-2006, compared to 1.3 percent per year in the micro-regulation, and pork-a-palooza payoffs to preferred clients 1990s. Similarly, atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by of the Democratic Party. 1.93 parts per million per year during 2000-2006, compared to Granted that carbon credits already were a dubious racket 1.58 ppm in the 1990s. And yet, despite accelerating emission rates equivalent to the sale of “indulgences” in medieval Europe, the and concentrations, there’s been no net warming in the 21st cendecision by congressional power brokers to give away credits to tury, and more accurately, a decline.” 18 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
Mr. Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Barney Frank and their chums are spending at a rate that threatens American stability. And, except for the scale and the dollar figure, it all has been tried before, and it all has failed before
The Obama administration is getting into the global-warming beads and kaftan just as everyone else is beginning to toss ‘em into the recycling bin. Same with government automobiles: Been there, drove that – from Eastern Europe to Northern Ireland. There’s something weirdly parochial about Mr. Obama, the supposed “citizen of the world.” A recent piece of mine about “the Europeanization of America” prompted Randall Hoven of the American Thinker to respond that this was unfair ... to Europeans. He has a point. While the United States is going full throttle for Scandinavia-a-go-go, the Continentals have begun to discern to the limits of Europeanization. In 2007, government spending in Europe averaged 46.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP); in America it was 37.4 percent, of which 20 percent was federal. A mere two years later, federal spending is up to 28.5 percent, so, even if state and local spending stand still, we’re at 46 percent – the European average. But, as Mr. Hoven points out, the real story is that we’re at 46 percent and climbing, the Continentals are at 46 percent and heading down. In 1993, government spending averaged 52.2 percent in Europe, and 70.9 percent in Sweden. The Swedes have reduced government spending (as a fraction of GDP) by almost a third in the last 15 years. Their corporate tax rates are lower than ours. And that’s before Mr. Obama raised them.
This month, the donut chain Tim Hortons, which operates on both sides of the border but is incorporated in the state of Delaware, announced it was reorganizing itself as a Canadian corporation to take advantage of Canadian tax rates. “To take advantage of Canadian tax rates”? What kind of cockamamie phrase is that? And who would have thought any columnist south of the border would ever have cause to type it? The Europeans have figured out that you can be too European for your own good, and they are trying to reacquaint themselves with the real world. Not Mr. Obama. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! Male unemployment has hit 10 percent? The stimulus is a bust? It’s stimulating nothing but non-jobs like executive stimulus coordinator for community organization stimulus assistance programs? Hey, let’s spend even more, even faster, even less stimulatingly! Mr. Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Barney Frank and their chums are spending at a rate that threatens American stability. And, except for the scale and the dollar figure, it all has been tried before, and it all has failed before. There’s nothing cool about Mr. Obama. He’s a nonstop square dance, swinging us around till we’re dozy and he’s got all the dough. Mark Steyn is the author of the New York Times best-seller America Alone. © 2009 Mark Steyn
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 19
> global warning
Gore admits: Climate Change will usher in “global governance”
lobal warming guru Al Gore has told the UK that com- pollution emission permits – for global environmental programs. bating climate change will require the world to usher in “The suggestion of taxes that could be earmarked for global “global governance” – the new left-wing buzz-phrase for a objectives has a long history. To avert their being perceived as single world government. encroachments on participating countries’ fiscal sovereignty, it Speaking in London on July 7, Gore saluted the passing through has been agreed that these taxes should be nationally imposed, the US Congress of President Obama’s emissions trading scheme, but internationally coordinated.” saying it “will dramatically increase the prospects for success” in At the end of the G8 summit in Italy this month, Canadian tackling the “crisis” of global warming. However, he told his audi- Prime Minister Stephen Harper was another to talk of global govence, of even more significance is the “awareness” that is building, ernance to solve the world’s financial woes: because it makes possible something unprecedented since the days “There has to be international coordination, there has to be an of the Roman Empire: international peer review process for national regulations...in a “It is the awareness itself that will drive the change and one of globalised economy we are going to have to take global responsithe ways it will drive the change is through global governance and bilities, and there is going to have to be some semblance of global global agreements,” Gore said in his speech to the Smith School governance,” Harper told journalists. World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford. If it sounds like everyone’s reading from the same script sheet, It’s not the first time senior political leaders or bureaucrats have you’re probably just being paranoid. But US media watchdog Cliff suggested we’re on the eve Kincaid from Accuracy in of world government. Three Media shares your concerns: There have also been suggestions months ago, Investigate pub“While our media sleep, the lished documents from the United Nations is proceedto auction global natural resources ing, with President Obama’s United Nations Development Programme (now run by acquiescence, to implement – such as ocean fishing rights and Helen Clark) and Socialist a global plan to create a new International, detailing plans international socialist order pollution emission permits – for for funding an expanded UN financed by global taxes on by proceeds from emissions the American people. global environmental programs trading schemes, carbon taxes “The Conference on and for Western countries to the World Financial and cut military spending in favour of bigger donations to the UN, Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development that begins which would eventually take responsibility for all military action. on Wednesday will consider adoption of a document calling for Gore’s comments at Oxford lit up blogsites around the world, “new voluntary and innovative sources of financing initiatives to and led to extracts from Chapter 16 of the book Air Con, which provide additional stable sources of development finance...” This covers the global political agenda driving climate change, to be is U.N.-speak for global taxes. They are anything but “voluntary” posted like wildfire by internet users. for the people forced to pay them. “What is at stake is to launch a reform process of the general “The most “popular” proposals, which could generate tens of bilUN system in view of fostering a new global agenda and building lions of dollars in revenue for global purposes, involve taxes on greena New World Order,” Helen Clark’s predecessor at the UN DP has house gas emissions and financial transactions such as stock trades. written in a paper published by Socialist International recently. “The document was agreed to at an informal meeting of expert Adding fuel to the fire this month is another document on the “facilitators” and was made available on Monday afternoon at 3 UN website, written by Obama associate Joseph Stiglitz: p.m. It is doubtful that any changes will be made to it.” “Some of the initiatives that have been proposed encompass ‘soliAs Copenhagen nears in December, it seems clear the world’s darity levies’ or, more generally, taxation for global objectives. Some political leaders are confident they have this plan for the UN to countries have already decreed solidarity levies on airline tickets but become a defacto world government funded by climate and envithere is a larger set of proposals. There have also been suggestions to ronment taxes almost “in the bag”. Unless, of course, the public auction global natural resources – such as ocean fishing rights and kick up merry hell. 20 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
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> eyes right
10 Ways to tell if you’re an Idiot
enry Louis Mencken, American journalist, social com- ple. Discipline and correction are one thing, assault is another. mentator, and philosopher, once remarked “The most com- Different things, different intentions, different effects, different mon of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably outcomes. Little children are not knowledgeable adults who can not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.” be reasoned with and who can rationalise the consequences of He was right, of course; human beings, strange creatures that we various courses of action. They are little children. They require are, appear unshakeably inclined towards grasping the wrong end of guidance. Loving guidance sometimes requires instantaneous corthe stick, as firmly, as self-destructively, and as often as possible. rection (light sockets and busy roads spring to mind). Boundaries I had a circular email arrive in my inbox the other day. An oldie, around safety and socially acceptable behaviour need to be learned but a goodie, entitled “10 Ways to tell if you’re Gay.” It’s funny, long before, and indeed in order to facilitate, the development particularly if, like me, you’re an insensitive non-PC redneck who of rational thinking. Pain first, explanation second, learning foldoesn’t consider very much to be sacred, and if you don’t care that lows. The pain lasts but a few fleeting moments, the learning lasts most of it isn’t actually true. I mean a bloke can like cats, and be into a lifetime. Not necessary in every instance, but very necessary on interior decorating, without being a bender, but that doesn’t detract occasion. Smacking is not the same thing as violence. If you can’t from the humour of the thing. Stereotypes are funny. I wish the lib- work this one out, you’re an idiot. Please don’t make things worse erals and the other fun Nazis could get that through their heads. It by becoming a parent. Or a teacher. Or a politician. doesn’t even matter that it’s been round the block more than a few times; some things stay funny, 2. Fluoride: There is or at least interesting, no matplenty enough fluoride to Will they still be telling us to stop guarantee dental health availter how many times they get rehashed, like Fawlty Towers able from ordinary dietary burning firewood when there are and Monty Python. This is just sources, and plenty more as well for TVNZ’s Christmas in toothpaste for those who icebergs in Cook Strait? programming, and indeed the want it. 99.999% of your Internet itself, which seems to household water supply goes consist more and more of the same old material doing the rounds straight back down the drain, through the bath, the shower, the over and over. Imagine, perhaps humanity’s greatest and most pow- washing machine, the kitchen sink, the garden hose, and flushing erful of creations, the networking of hundreds of millions of com- the toilet. There’s a great deal to be said for teaching kids to brush puters and billions of independent minds, and most of it dedicated properly, and not basing their diets on sugary junk food and soft to nothing more constructive than the endless recirculation of the drinks as well. Too much fluoride in your drinking water, however, same old jokes and the same tired porn images. can be a cause of brain damage – evidence enough for this writer But I digress. The email did get me to thinking. Perhaps who- that the proponents of it have already had their overdose. ever crafted it was onto something. Maybe there really are people out there who could benefit from a checklist against which they 3. Biofuels: These wouldn’t save the planet even if it needed could measure their foolishness, in the same way that it pleases saving, which remains contentious. They produce the same exhaust the aforementioned rednecks among us to imagine that some folk gases as mineral fuels (namely, mostly, carbon dioxide, carbon may appreciate having their sexuality questioned. monoxide, water vapour, and soot), in the same quantities per In keeping with this line of thought, and as something of a social unit energy delivered, because they all work by burning carbon, service for the benefit of those members of Government and the and there are no free lunches in carbon-oxygen chemistry. On media whose personal challenges might be relevant to it, your top of this they cause people to starve by turning food into fuel. favourite commentator has drafted just such a list. In no particu- If you’re a believer in biofuels, you’re truly certifiable. lar order, here are the top ten beliefs by which the uncertain may determine their relative stupidity, or lack of it. 4. Flying Pig Flu: Swine Flu, Bird Flu, SARS, AIDS, yada yada yada. SARS came to nothing. AIDS – Newsflash – is still 1. Smacking: This is not the same thing as assault. Actually almost nothing, even amongst the “high-risk” communities. Bird this is a good one to start with, because it’s so really very sim- Flu…..whatever happened to Bird Flu? Aren’t we all supposed 22 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
to have died from it already? Swine Flu isn’t even Swine Flu, for God’s sake. It’s North American H1N1 influenza virus, and it’s only connection with pigs is that some pigs in Mexico caught it from humans. These are beat-ups, people. Nothing more, nothing less. They are the product of an irresponsible, sensationalist, commercially-motivated media and the natural tendency of the human animal towards panic. The end is not nigh. Count the number of times you have been convinced that it is, and it hasn’t turned out to be at all. If you still believe it, you’re a simpleton. 5. The Credit Crunch: Oh, please. Why would there be, how could there possibly be, a shortage of money available for lending? If, as we are told, bank loan money comes from other people’s savings, and those other people still have their money in a Bank somewhere, and the bank is paying them interest on it, then where could the said Bank possibly be getting the interest with which to pay them, other than by making loans? You think the Banks are paying interest to their depositors out of their own pockets? And if those other people don’t have their money in a bank, then where is it? If some of them have “transferred” their investments into gold or real estate, what did the people who sold them the gold and the real estate do with the money, other than to put it into a Bank? This is just an excuse to keep the interest rates up higher than they should be. If you believe otherwise, you’re a moron. 6. The Centre Line: This is not some magical boundary between the realms of the living and the dead, and crossing it will not automatically result in your tragic and instantaneous death. In fact on many parts of New Zealand’s poorly constructed thirdworld roading system, chopping the inside off a badly designed corner, through which you can see perfectly well, may be your best way of guaranteeing your safety. Likewise, your vehicle will not explode, or hurl itself into the verges – or the oncoming traffic – the instant it reaches 101 kilometres per hour, even when there isn’t a passing lane. This won’t even happen if your cellphone happens to ring at the same time. If you believe that any of the above is true, you’re an idiot. If you’re a traffic cop and you believe it, you’re a double idiot. 7. Nuclear Powered Ships: These are not bombs waiting to explode. They aren’t built the same way, and they can’t do that, plain and simple. Likewise, they are not at imminent risk of melting down. Maritime nuclear reactors are cooled by the ocean, so as long as the sea has water in it, this isn’t going to happen. Nor do they make us a target for attack, any more or less than we were ever going to be anyway, and they don’t make the fishes grow three eyes or the coral reefs glow in the dark, any more than there are monsters in your closet. Understand the science of this technology, and learn the truth of its safe history, before you fly into a blind panic about it. If you’re still worried about radiation from nuclear powered ships, you’d best stop using your microwave oven too, because you’re an idiot. 8. Peak Oil: The Black Stuff is not running out, and it isn’t ever going to. There’s more there than we will ever use. The Stone Age didn’t end because of a shortage of stone, and so will it be with the Oil Age. See also #5 above….it’s a beat-up to keep the prices high, and you’re swallowing it. Oil has been running out in thirty years, every year for the last 35 years, and it’s still due to run out in 30 years. Believe it and keep paying the money, morons.
9. The Benign Strategic Environment: This only ever existed in the minds of Pacifists and the similarly retarded. We live in a lull in the fighting, that’s all, a brief period of relative peace in between continuing bouts of war, which is the natural state of the human condition. But go on, beat your sword into a ploughshare – it’ll make it easier for me to come along and subjugate you with my weapons. Oh and by the way, the Chinese have started sending warships out with their fishing fleets, to protect them as they poach in other nations’ fishing grounds. Does this suggest anything to the numbskulls among us? 10. Global Warming: Ah yes, but it isn’t, is it. No indeedy, it’s cooling, and has been for the better part of a decade now. It’s the sun which drives global temperature, not humans and their gases, and if the Russians are right, and the sunspot activity stays low, we are headed for the beginning of a mini ice-age, possibly as soon as 2012. Switching the name of this non-existent phenomenon to “Climate Change” doesn’t make it any more believable, because it doesn’t make it any more real. The icecaps are not melting, the polar bears are not dying out, the earth is not flat, and we are not affecting its climate – and none of these things will become true no matter how hard you believe in them. Will they still be telling us to stop burning firewood when there are icebergs in Cook Strait and glaciers rolling over the Port Hills? If you’re a Global Warming Believer, you are a complete and utter fool, and the more letters you have after your name, the dumber you are with it. Perhaps this topic might be worthy of a sequel sometime. There is, as you know, plenty of material to work with.
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> line one
Chris Carter Re-thinking road safety
newly arrived Brit, totally shattered as a result of actually know what they are doing. Germans for instance: buildpersonally seeing several road fatalities first hand, has been ers of fiendishly quick but very safe motor cars that frequently moved to send an open letter to all and sundry; he recently drive at speeds that would have our local authorities wetting their appeared on TV One’s brekky show as a result. He made pants. By combining driver training light years ahead of our own more sense to me in a five minute interview than I have heard with traffic engineering that is state of the art, the Huns can belt from Land Transport NZ since their formation in 2004 – having around the Fatherland having considerably fewer accidents per been commissioned in that year to try to cover up the total, and kilometre than probably even our home grown driving instrucdeadly to motorists, incompetence displayed by the nitwits who tors manage to achieve. previously ran the LTSA. Even the Poms, with whom most Kiwis think we share a cerPlainly this re-launching of essentially the same old tub even tain genetic link or so, have managed to put together a system of with a new name and paint job has had little or no effect at all driver training that by comparison to ours perhaps should have on road safety. Indeed this is clearly outlined by the continued us all re-checking our family trees. expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars to promote the Think about it. Kiwis are world renowned for having a natusame tired old mantra that its speed, drink driving and not wear- ral ability to take on just about anything. The true number eight ing seat belts that is solely responsible for New Zealand’s appall- wire society where, with advanced thinking and problem solving road toll. ing abilities, Kiwi workers are highly sought after world wide The true problem that we all as we seem to be able to face on our roads still remains fix anything, do anything, Kiwi workers are highly sought beyond the comprehension well that is except for drivof these desk-bound LTNZ ing motor cars safely. So is after world wide as we seem to be bureaucrats who, if they ever it high time that we applied actually venture forth on our ourselves to fixing, once and able to fix anything, do anything, highways, are very likely just for all, the one major probas poorly trained to do so as lem that exists in this counmost of the rest of us! And this well that is except for driving motor try that if we really stop to is the problem, is it not – that think about it is so very eascars safely the basic training of would be ily solved. drivers is so bad in this counFirst up, let’s immediately try that it would not surprise me at all to learn that an enterpris- get away from just mindlessly dishing out monetary penalties with ing chimpanzee had “scratched” his way through the road code countless traffic tickets as quite plainly this is achieving absolutely exam and would shortly be tailgating me down the Southern nothing, well, perhaps apart from financing equally mindless and motorway. very expensive TV commercials and the like. Introduce a police You may remember a short while back a wee bit of a contro- re-training course that henceforth will have all police concentrate versy about some enterprising, if somewhat bent, group of driv- on bad driving, a task that would very likely have them very busy ing test officers in West Auckland accepting bribes to pass certain indeed. Tailgating, lane swapping, failing to keep left, excessive folk for their 007 licenses to kill. I couldn’t for the life of me speed for the conditions, inconsiderate driving (which in itself covreally see what all the fuss was about as the end result in a road ers a multitude), ignoring road signs, traffic lights, road works... the safety sense in telling the difference between a driver with a legal list goes on. These new age freshly re-trained NZ Traffic Officers or illegally obtained license would probably be damned hard to would be writing out warning notices like one armed paper hangpick in any case. ers for a whole new system to weed out those who quite plainly But enough of bagging the current system, which even a card should not be out there on the road. carrying idiot realises is the real reason that Kiwis are killing How to achieve this? OK, we all make mistakes do we not, only and maiming each other on our roads. Time to re-educate the from here on in these will be officially noted and logged. Three or so called powers that be for a bit of a change, or conversely fire more of these in a 12 month period and you will be up for re-testthe lot of them and employ some overseas trained experts who ing under a new regime of testing lifted directly from the British 24 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
driving test that is both expensive and extremely thorough. Initially this will create a whole heap of new jobs and will probably have to include many British testing officers as new immigrants but will also be easily self funded by the new fees. All brand new drivers of course will be going through the new system as well. Current kiwi drivers will very quickly learn that to avoid all of this time consuming and reasonably expensive driver re-training will be to simply clean up their acts because rich or poor if you are consistently seen to be a bad driver you will either improve or will end up having to walk. Actually the Greens should be happy with all of this as well because if things don’t quickly improve the need for public transport would sky-rocket. My pick, however, is that Kiwis – being a pretty intelligent lot – would become world class drivers almost overnight or certainly within a couple of years. Another thing I think most New Zealanders would also appreciate, and the Police too for that matter, would be moving away from the pointless and completely ineffective dishing out of traffic fines that completely alienates the public from the police who have recently gained the reputation of being just government revenue collectors, when with this system all fair minded Kiwis would quickly see the coppers were doing a damn good job and for the first time really saving lives. Best of all everyone would be a winner. Our hospitals would be treating thousands fewer accident patients, ACC levies would drop markedly, insurance etc would be cheaper, the country as a whole would be billions in credit as otherwise dead or severely injured Kiwis continued to work and produce wealth and pay taxes, to say nothing about the reduction in the current grief and underlying mental trauma that our current inexcusable road toll is costing us all at the moment. Sure there are also a number of other issues that should also be looked at as well, like lousy traffic engineering for instance, but the number one priority that should stand out above all others just has to be to be what’s really killing and maiming people in the thousands, and that, people is us, simple as that. Call it what you like, and there will be, you can absolutely guarantee it all sorts of experts who would love to bring in all kinds of other complicated “issues” to stuff up any simple yet effective system to solve our appalling driving record, and why not? After all, currently our authorities are making a very good living out of farming the road toll instead of even attempting to kill this goose that lays a constant supply, for them at least, very golden eggs. It’s become a macabre industry financed by a constant supply of millions of dollars whereby so called Public Servants are feasting from a trough
that is being filled by the misery of others. Worst of all nothing ever seems to shake these people into realising their ineptitude when it comes to simple problem solving. Imbued with an almost insane desire to punish people instead of educating them to eventually change their ways, the whole “business of road safety” has degenerated into being just that! We should also feel for the poor old Police who now knowingly have to play a part in a system of “enforcement” that they know doesn’t work; it also has changed, in the eyes of many, the traditional belief that the police are our friends. So there you go: how we might, should we have the will, change our whole approach to better driving and the eventual major improvement to road safety in this country. Then again, let us not hold our breath for inevitably there will be another name change for the old Ministry of Transport, perhaps another heroic title where, under a new banner, they will sally forth with even more ineffectual ideas and new means of punishment, while we in our turn will continue to simply perform our expected function, to needlessly die and be maimed on New Zealand’s roads. Chris Carter appears in association with www.snitch.co.nz, a must-see site.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 25
Caught on video, a former Telecom worker discusses alleged crimes. VIDEO: Miles Dixon
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BOMBSHELL EX-TELECOM STAFFER SAYS POLICE ORDERED HIM TO ALTER SUSPECTS’ PHONE RECORDS
A video recording has raised serious questions about the integrity of the justice system, with allegations that police, Crown lawyers and even the Government’s top spy agency have not just been snooping on public phone calls, but also altering phone records to destroy alibis or plant evidence. IAN WISHART has the exclusive story INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 27
Christchurch businessman who claims a police officer falsified evidence to get him prosecuted has delivered bombshell evidence to Investigate magazine – a video-recording of a former Telecom worker confessing to altering phone records on police and Crown law instructions. The revelations are political dynamite, because if true they call into question the integrity of hundreds of court trials where phone records have been used to establish or demolish alibis. Even more disturbing is the fact that lawyers from the Crown solicitor’s office and police and Telecom workers are named on the video as being directly involved in perverting the course of justice. More on those details shortly, but first the background to the case. Miles Dixon, a company director and property agent, has told Investigate his troubles with police began six years ago when he received a phone call about a property he owned. “I had a rental property over the Cashmere Hills way, in Christchurch. It was seven years old, immaculate. “My neighbour beside the townhouse rang to say my burglar alarm was going off, but I didn’t have a burglar alarm. She rang back five minutes later and said ‘I think I can see smoke’ – they’re old people – and she said ‘I think I can see smoke down the back’.” At the time, Dixon was miles away in another part of the city, with one of his staff. “My property manager was sitting in the car with me when we got the phone call that there was a fire – we were on the other side of town!” Dixon and his employee sped to the scene, but found the fire already out, the curtains had smouldered then extinguished, causing smoke damage to the house but little else. “There were four curtains burned in the main bedroom at the back of the house – that was it. The house wasn’t burned down, four curtains were burned, that was it,” says Dixon. “It was empty because I had new tenants coming in in a week’s time. I had the place insured for replacement, so there was no financial benefit to me, at all. “But the previous tenants who’d left, the back bedroom, their kid had drawn ballpoint pen marks all over the wall, that had to be painted. There was a stain in the carpet that had to be cleaned up, and the curtains were ripped. “Funny that, the very day she [the previous tenant] was supposed to go around and clean it on the Friday I get a phone call saying my alarm’s going off. Isn’t it a coincidence that the back bedroom was lit?” Dixon maintains the motivation for the Friday afternoon blaze was his refusal to hand over the bond unless the wall was repainted, carpets cleaned and curtains replaced. “And she [the tenant] rang up and spoke to my property manager on the Monday and said, ‘I want my bond back because I know about the fire’.” But the fire had not been in the news because only four curtains were damaged and the ‘blaze’ was actually out by the time the fire service arrived, Dixon says. “So how did she know about the fire? That’s when we clicked something was wrong. But it didn’t matter, the cops wanted one person and one person only. The investigating officer told me I was a jumped up little prick and by the time he’d finished with me I’d have nothing left.” But what was the motivation for police to hound Dixon? He 28 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
claims it was a mixture of two things. Firstly, a personality clash with the main investigating officer on the arson case. “Oh, they hated me. I was very young, very successful. What the guy did when he arrested me, he said, ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong or right, I’ll get you’. He’d turn up at my businesses and say ‘I’d like to speak to the arsonist’, and I hadn’t even been convicted of anything at the time. Staff started leaving, it turned into an absolute nightmare.” The second reason for police wanting to get him, Dixon believes, is because the tenant was a police witness in an upcoming drugs trial. “There was no way they were going to put their witness protection person behind bars, if you know what I mean.” As if to prove the point, the tenant in the court case claimed she’d been on the phone for 25 minutes to a female police officer
when the fire happened, but Dixon pulled that claim to shreds. “What a great alibi, that she spoke to that woman at the police station for 25 minutes! But I pulled her phone numbers and she spoke to her for only two minutes, so there is no alibi.” In depositions it got thrown out. “It went to depositions but they all laughed, and it was thrown out. The police re-charged me so it went back to court again. The woman [tenant] kept lying. On the day, in court, she was asked, between 12pm and 1pm which is when the fire was or thereabouts, ‘did you make any phone calls to your partner?’ She said ‘No’. “Now her partner’s a drug dealer. But we pulled her phone lines [landline records] and she’d made nine phone calls in that time to him, and the calls were like 30 seconds, one minute. Now, her partner was in the area [of the fire], because the neighbor at the
front (mine was the back townhouse) seen a car go down the driveway that she’d seen for the last year – which was when the tenants were renting the property – it was the same truck that went down the back and the neighbor couldn’t understand why because she knew they’d left. So he [the tenant’s boyfriend] got in the car, drove down the back, lit the curtains got in the car again and drove off. The only reason the neighbor thought it was suspicious was because of the way it zoomed out of the driveway.” Despite being able to place the tenant’s boyfriend at the scene, and despite his own employee testifying she and Dixon were across town when the fire broke out, police charged Dixon and got a prosecution. “I know who lit the fire, it was the tenants of the property. I got a court order for my cellphone, her cellphones and her partINVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 29
ner’s cellphones, but when I went to get the cellphone bills they had gone. Telecom legally had to keep them for seven years, but it was wiped out of the computer, gone. Because that would have put them [the tenants] at the place. “I’ve been chasing this, and I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on it for the last six years. That video, alone, puts it out there for the public to see exactly what they’re up against. At the end of the day they can walk into your house, Ian, and say ‘Look, we know you were outside the gas station because it’s there on your cellphone records’, then put that in front of a jury and it’s goodbye.”
ixon went to jail, knowing he hadn’t done the crime and infuriated that cellphone records which would have cleared him and incriminated the tenant and her boyfriend had mysteriously vanished. There it might have ended, but for a chance meeting with a former Telecom employee who told him how police had routinely arranged for phone records to be altered so they could gain convictions against people. The revelation was mindblowing – that police could effectively fit someone up for a crime, or manufacture evidence against them, by leaning on mates inside the phone companies. In a later meeting, secretly video-taped with a hidden camera and concealed microphone, Miles Dixon with the aid of legal campaigner Dermot Nottingham, encouraged the former Telecom staff member to tell them how the system worked. A copy of that DVD has been shown to Investigate, and here are some of the most damaging revelations: “We had a good relationship with the Crown solicitor’s office ... particularly [name withheld for natural justice reasons], and what would happen is they would ring, or email, and say ‘we’re looking for this kind of personal information, can you tell us if it exists?’. We would say, ‘yes, it exists’, and on the basis of that they would issue a search warrant.” “So they were actually getting information prior to getting a search warrant?” asks Nottingham on the video. “In the majority of cases, yes.” “In relation to the deletion of information, what happened there?” asked Nottingham. “Telecom interacts with the Police and the GCSB, the GCSB has an office opposite. They ask for circuits to be put in, they ask for all sorts of stuff to be put in, and at the end of it billing information is deleted or the tracking just disappears. “What’s the GCSB?” “The Government Communications Security Bureau. They are based in Wellington, they have offices throughout. They do security monitoring and surveillance stuff of people who are a threat to New Zealand. “Are they the ones who tap?” “They tap. We provide the data, we provide the links, they just tap into it. It’s hooked in via their office or directly – Telecom will just a direct a cable – “And they were across the road?” “They still are, off Cathedral Square, in an old deserted building. You’d never know it’s there. The police also have their intelligence operation for Christchurch in the same building. It’s completely unknown.” “What building is it?” “If you’re in the square, and you are standing in front of the Telecom building, you know the old tower building with the clock on the top? It’s got people in it, heaps of people.” “What floor?” 30 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
“Sixth, and seventh. Accessed by lift. You can actually go in there and it tells you who’s in the building, Government Communications Security Bureau, you can just see it on the side of the wall as you walk in the door.” “Just getting back to these issues of deletion,” continued Dermot Nottingham, “what did the cops or the Crown say to you?” “You were just asked to remove records.” “On what grounds would Telecom agree to delete files if instructed by the police or the Crown solicitor’s office?” “It’s not an officially sanctioned activity. It occurs, but it’s just one of those things that occurs. It’s not a directive as much as it’s a ‘can you liaise with these people’. You liaise with them, they ask you to do something, you go back and ask if you should do it, and it’s like, ‘yeah, do what they want, I don’t want to hear about it, don’t want to know, just do it’.” “Who contacts you in the first instance?” “It depends. It can be the Police, and there’s a couple – either the Crown solicitor’s office direct or there’s various police liaison people who go between. They can be police but they can also be from Telecom. [Name deleted] is the Telecom guy who did most of the liaison.” “Can you remember any names of police officers?” “[name deleted], I’ve kept records.” “Anyone from the Crown solicitor’s office?” “[Name deleted]” “And he would email you or phone?” “Phone. Occasionally you’d get an email.” The former Telecom executive also alleges the corporation kept its security and data experts outside the corporate fold in terms of their email and IT support, giving them non-Telecom email accounts to use. “Was there a reason for that?” Nottingham asks. “It can’t be requested. You can issue a search warrant against Telecom and get Telecom email, but you are up against an entity which is owned by Telecom but doesn’t go through the same email system, because you would have to ask a very specific question and generally people don’t ask specific questions.” “And that particular way of doing things, was that designed by a particular person?” “It was more of a group effort.” “With the deletions, when you were told to delete files, were they phone records?” “Yes…Every Telecom account has a nine digit account number. All you do is you are given a request to delete files between such and such a date and such and such a date on a nine digit account number. “Did I know that it was legal or illegal? No. Did I ever question the reasons? No. Did I actually care? No. I was well paid. “I do have issues with what I did in terms of looking back. Yes, I realize that what I did was wrong, and yes, I realize that I’ve messed up a lot of people’s lives. There are a lot of people who have had either convictions or have had some rather unfortunate things occur to them that needn’t have occurred, that were orchestrated for a greater purpose. It’s easy when you are part of a big entity to blame the big entity, but at the end of the day I helped out, I made the calls, I did a lot of that sort of stuff. “I’m not saying it occurs all the time, but I am saying most of the time justice is, or can be construed, in New Zealand it can be bought. If you piss them off enough it all comes down on you,” says the former Telecom executive on the video.
“If a call had been made from a person’s house to the Justice Department – or hadn’t been made, let’s put it the other way around,” asks Nottingham, “could you actually put in information that would falsely show a call had been made?” “Yes.” “So if you want to go back three years, and you want to produce a document that shows a phone call – that in fact wasn’t made – was made…could another person put in –” “Yes, very easily. Essentially it’s just a text file. A very big database in a text file structure…As long as something fits the format the systems will interpret it as a valid record.” The whistleblower reveals on the video how Telecom’s customer billing records are kept in different computer databases, while raw data about the actual phone calls is copied and downloaded all the time to a master computer system named PROBE. While the billing records can easily be, and are, altered at the request of police and other agencies, he says, such a crime could be detected if the judge in a court case ordered Telecom to produce the raw data from PROBE, rather than just its billing records. The Telecom employee pointed out that only a file “checksum” test against Telecom’s master database, PROBE, could detect if billing records had been falsified. “PROBE is the original source of the truth. These things [the other billing databases] can be altered, but PROBE just grabs it, you can’t take information out and add to it other than by its common flow. “There’s one small ‘flaw’ with PROBE that works in your favour. It has transaction records, so every transaction [phone call] that goes into it, it flags and gives it a code, and those codes are sequential numbers.” “In other words,” interrupts Nottingham, “that’s why you couldn’t interfere with the historical data?” “It has its own check. Once the data gets into PROBE it can’t be moved or changed because it would throw the sequence out. Any PROBE printout will have referencing numbers against it.” The former Telecom executive claims the slippage in public phone record security has happened because many ex-police are doing security for phone companies. “Here’s the rub: [name deleted], who does most of this kind of stuff – there’s about ten other guys – they’re all ex-cops, retired cops, cops who perfed [now working as security consultants to the phone companies].” Those people, he says, may be the ones who turn up in court cases as expert witnesses swearing that the phone data is accurate. “There are a large number of people – they did the crimes but some of the evidence against them was created. They’ve protested loudly. I had the unfortunate pleasure of [meeting] with some of those people – they didn’t know that was what I did and I sure as hell wasn’t going to confess to them that I’d done it, but I’ve known them well enough to know that the stuff wasn’t real. I’m sorry about that but that’s life. “120/D [name deleted] Street is an address that is extremely familiar, and I think it’s familiar because it’s in relation to that that some stuff was modified. And I’m sorry for that, but that was what I did. At the time I didn’t put a name to it and I don’t know the guy still, so it’s not really an issue. But the address is frighteningly familiar. I’ve got a pretty good memory and I’m pretty sure I’ve done something with that.” Investigate has spoken to its own sources inside the phone companies who reiterate the official policy that no one should lift a
“While the billing records can easily be, and are, altered at the request of police and other agencies, such a crime could be detected if the judge in a court case ordered Telecom to produce the raw data from PROBE, rather than just its billing records” finger unless there’s a court approved search warrant, and that data should never be altered. For Christchurch businessman Miles Dixon it hasn’t been an easy decision to release the information that police and the Government’s GCSB spy agency have been altering public phone records, but he makes the point that any member of the public is vulnerable to having their life destroyed in the wrong circumstances by what is effectively high-level corruption. “I went to jail”, he says, “for something I just didn’t do.” n INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 31
AIR-BUST What’s causing a string of tragedies involving Airbus?
Photo: French Navy
32 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
Qantas has experienced mid-air emergencies, an Air New Zealand jet plunged into the Mediterranean, and now the aviation community is abuzz over the cause of the Air France tragedy in the Atlantic. WILLIAM JOHN COX explores disturbing new evidence about the safety of Airbus aircraft
s commercial aviation becomes increasingly dependent upon computerized digital technology and less reliant upon handson human control, we have to consider the crash of Air France Flight 447 into the Atlantic Ocean, with the loss of all aboard, and other similar disasters in the light of our collective experience and expectations. The Comet First flown in 1949 and introduced into passenger service in1951, the Comet was the first pressurized, jet-propelled commercial aircraft. Powered by four “Ghost” turbojet engines, the Comet was found to be fuel efficient above 30,000 feet and flew at almost 500 miles per hour, far faster than the most advanced pistonpowered airplanes in service at the time. England’s de Havilland Company rapidly gained a significant advantage in the commercial aircraft market, carrying more than 30,000 passengers and receiving orders for 30 Comets in the first year; however, serious problems with the innovative design quickly developed. Two crashes in the first year in Italy and Pakistan were likely caused by a defective wing profile design that resulted in a loss of lift during steep takeoffs. A series of catastrophic crashes followed. In 1953, structural failure of the airframe beginning with the stabilizer caused a Comet to crash shortly after takeoff in India. The Comet was equipped with fully powered flight controls that were criticized because they resulted in a loss of “feel” and may have caused excessive stress on the flight control surfaces. Later in 1953, another Comet
exploded in midair during a storm over India with the loss of all passengers and crew. The following year, in 1954, two more Comets experienced midair explosive decompression and fell into the Mediterranean killing everyone aboard. Prime Minister Winston Churchill grounded the fleet saying, “The cost of solving the Comet mystery must be reckoned neither in money nor in manpower.” The Comet airframes were subjected to extensive testing that ultimately identified the most likely cause to be metal fatigue caused by stress and strain on the aircraft skin caused by repeated cycles of pressurization. The first series of Comets were scrapped and modifications were made to the second series; however, the fleet remained grounded until the fourth series was introduced in 1958. Although the plane became the first jet used for transatlantic service, de Havilland had already lost its competitive advantage to Boeing, Douglas and other U.S. manufacturers, who profited from the Comet experience. The last Comet was delivered in 1964, and even the government-owned British Overseas Airways Corporation began to fly American aircraft. The Airbus Commencing in the mid-1960, a consortium of European aircraft firms began to collaborate in an attempt to break the lock held by American manufacturers on the commercial aircraft market by agreeing to collectively manufacture a low-cost “airbus” to transport smaller numbers of passengers over shorter distances. Underwritten by the governments of England, France and Germany, the Airbus was intended to be the first mass-produced “fly-by-wire” (FBW) airliner.
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Lights out to sea mark the spot where the Air New Zealand jet went down
Although pilot control of commercial aircraft had progressed beyond the direct use of cables and pulleys to move aircraft control surfaces by relying on hydraulics and electrical assistance, the introduction of electronic control of commercial aircraft increasingly shifted responsibility from human pilots to computers. First developed by NASA to augment control of the space shuttle and high-performance military combat planes, FBW technology is similar in some respects to the anti-lock braking systems (ABS) on modern motor vehicles that prevents wheels from locking when the brakes are applied and which automatically controls the allocation of braking between the front and rear brakes. Relying upon sensors on each wheel, the hydraulic pressure to each can be increased or decreased up to 20 times per second, far beyond the abilities of any human driver. However, under conditions other than smooth dry pavements, such as deep snow and gravel, ABS can be far less effective than an experienced operator. Additionally, drivers of ABS equipped vehicles tend to overcome the safety benefit by driving more aggressively. Airplanes that are flown by “wire” still have a stick, rudders, throttles and brake pedals; however, these controls are only connected to sensors that provide “input” to computers that pass along the information to other computers located at or near the control surfaces, engines or wheels to actuate the desired mechanical response. A software program takes the pilot’s input into consideration; however, it is the computer that controls the aircraft. Relying upon the entire range of sensors, the computer can make as many as 40 adjustments per second. FBW control over the aircraft presents a new set of problems that can have an effect on aircraft safety. Since the pilot can no longer “feel” 34 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
the control surface response through the mechanical system, there is a risk that the surfaces can be over stressed due to excessive movement, or that the computer may erroneously decide that the pilot is wrong and that it knows best what is better for flight safety. Aircraft designers decide the limits of the planes’ performance and program the computers to prevent the pilots from exceeding these limits. The Airbus is designed with very hard limits, while Boeing takes a softer approach. According to the Seattle PostIntelligencer, John Cashman, Boeing’s director of flight-crew operations, said, “It’s not a lack of trust in technology. We certainly don’t have the feeling that we do not want to rely on technology. But the pilot in control of the aircraft should have the ultimate authority.” Cashman also believes that hard limits reduce a plane’s absolute capability. For example a Boeing 747 tumbled out of control over the Pacific Ocean in 1985 and the pilots were able to recover by subjecting the plane to four times the force of gravity. The stress caused by emergency maneuvering of an Airbus is limited to 2.5 times the force of gravity. Both Boeing and Airbus depend upon FBW technology in aircraft design; however, there are fundamental differences. Basically, a pilot can override the computer in a Boeing aircraft, while Airbus pilots are not allowed to second guess the flight control computer. Boeing pilots also receive greater visual feedback from control surfaces by relying upon a conventional control yoke, while Airbus pilots use a small joystick. A Boeing pilot can turn the airplane upside down, release the controls and the plane will right itself. If an Airbus pilot wants to lose lift and stall to avoid a midair crash and the computer decides that acceleration and a climb is better, the pilot simply
Rescue workers recover one of the bodies from the deck of a coastguard vessel
hangs on for the ride. Only if all electronic systems fail does the Airbus default into a “manual backup” mode allowing limited use of basic mechanical systems while the pilots attempt to determine the cause of the electrical and computer failure. Although airplanes equipped with FBW systems are reportedly easier to fly, the very efficiency can conceal defects that might be otherwise discovered by hands-on mechanical operations and may allow a plane to be operated under conditions where a human operator would fail. The accident rates for Boeing and Airbus are similar: however, there have been some unusual Airbus accidents apparently caused by computer malfunctions. One of the first occurred in 1988 shortly after the Airbus was placed in service. During a flyover at a French air show, the computer assumed that the plane was supposed to land since it was close to the ground and the landing gear was down. Although the pilot attempted to accelerate and climb, the computer ignored his input and landed the plane in an adjacent forest killing three passengers. Airbus attempted to blame the accident on pilot error. Another incongruous accident more recently occurred during the testing of a brand new 472-passenger Airbus A-340-600 being delivered to Etihad Airlines in 2007 at the Toulouse airport. As the flight crew ramped up the four engines to takeoff power with the brakes on, a takeoff warning horn sounded because the computer sensed that the plane was not properly configured for takeoff. When the crew silenced the alarm, the computer apparently decided the plane was flying and trying to land with its brakes on. The computer released the brakes and the plane accelerated into a crash barrier at full power.
The spectacular televised landing of a JetBlue Airbus at the Los Angeles airport in 2005 with its nosewheel locked in place crosswise to the fuselage brought to light at least 67 earlier “nosewheel failures” on a variety of Airbus aircraft that were usually repaired by the replacement or “reprogramming” of the Brake Steering Control Unit computer. A rudder design implemented by Airbus in 1988 increased the sensitivity of actual rudder movement to the pilot’s movement of the pedals by slightly more than one inch and allowed for a wider degree of rudder travel per pound of force on the pedal. Rudder movement is necessarily restricted at cruising speeds; however, the Airbus computer did not impose a limit at lower speeds, such as during takeoff. These rudder changes contributed to the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 on November 12, 2001 shortly after takeoff from Kennedy Airport in New York City when the aircraft encountered wake vortices from the preceding aircraft. As the copilot attempted to maintain the Airbus’ steady-state left turn, he sought to correct an unexpected, vortex-caused “overbank” by using the rudder attached to the back of the tail fin. The copilot commanded rapid left-right rudder movements that exceeded the design loads of the vertical stabilizer, and the computer was not programmed to limit the command at low speeds. The all-composite stabilizer was ripped from the fuselage and the aircraft became uncontrollable. Its crash killed nine crew members, 251 passengers and five people on the ground. The relatively intact tail fin was found floating in the waters of Jamaica Bay. Although several catastrophic Airbus crashes into the ocean with major loss of life have been blamed on pilot error, including INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 35
the 2000 losses of Kenya Airways Flight 431 and Gulf Air Flight 072, the crash of an Airbus belonging to Air New Zealand on November 27, 2008 into the Mediterranean Sea has raised new questions about Airbus safety. Seven crew members engaged in a test maintenance flight died in the crash, and the tail section was found floating where the plane went down. No official cause for the accident has been reported. One month previously, an accident aboard Qantas Flight 72 on October 7, 2008 that injured 106 of the 313 passengers was apparently caused by a malfunction of the FBW system. While traveling at 37,000 feet, the computer reported an autopilot irregularity and trouble with the inertial reference system. After the Airbus A330-300’s autopilot was disengaged, the computer caused the aircraft to suddenly pitch down and rapidly descend 650 feet in 20 seconds before the pilots could regain control. Three minutes later, the computer again caused the plane to pitch down and descend 400 feet in 16 seconds. The crew declared a Mayday and made an emergency landing at the Learmonth airport. Preliminarily, the “likely origin of the event” has been blamed on the failure of an Air Data Inertial Reference Unit that supplied incorrect data to other aircraft systems. The Unit may have falsely reported that the airplane angle of attack was very high resulting in the flight control computers commanding the nose-down movements, or the computer may have believed that the plane was going too slow and put it into a dive to increase speed. On June 1, 2009, Air France Flight 447 operating an Airbus A330 carrying 216 passengers from Rio de Janeiro to Paris was four hours into its flight and was cruising at an altitude of 35,000 feet in excess of 500 mph as it approached an area of thunderstorms that extended upwards to 41,000 feet. Over a four-minute period, Air France received a series of automatic failure and warning messages from the Airbus’s Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System, relayed by satellite, indicating there were serious problems aboard the aircraft. The autopilot was disengaged, the electrical and pressurization systems had broken down and the plane’s control system was receiving contradictory information about its airspeed. The final message reported faults with its Air Data Inertial Reference Unit that, among other things, provides speed warnings. In addition, as a result of earlier incidences involving a loss of airspeed data during the cruise phase of Air France A340s and A330 and recent tests, it had been determined that icing of the external speed monitors known as “Pitot tubes” could be a factor in a loss of data. Although Airbus had issued a recommendation in September 2007 to replace the tubes, replacement was not viewed as a mandatory safety concern. Air France did not commence the replacement of the airspeed indicators with an improved Pitot tube in its fleet of A330s until April 27, 2009. The airline had not gotten around to the aircraft operated by Flight 447 on June 1, 2009. Irrespective of the cause of the “inconsistency in measured air speeds,” the inability of the flight control computers to accurately calculate speed while flying at a high altitude could have caused the disaster. If it was falsely believed that the airplane was going too fast, particularly if the plane had already been slowed down to enter the thunderstorm, the plane could have easily stalled and a recovery in a storm would have been difficult or impossible. Or, if it was falsely believed that the speed was too slow and a stall was imminent, an unnecessary increase in speed could have taken the plane beyond its design capacity. 36 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
The plane’s tail fin was found floating in the ocean near where the last transmissions occurred indicating that the aircraft broke up in midair. Otherwise, the plane would have been torn into small pieces and sunk immediately when it struck the ocean surface. In addition, 41 bodies have been recovered thus far from the ocean surface, some of which were separated by 53 miles, also indicating a midair disintegration of the aircraft. The fact that the stabilizer was relatively intact also provides similarities to the crashes of American Airlines Flight 587 in 2001 and the Air New Zealand crash last year. Although the Airbus A330 is equipped with a “rudder limiter” to restrict the movement of the rudder at high speeds, a failure of the computerized control system and disengagement of the autopilot might have allowed the rudder to exceed its limitations, particularly if the plane erroneously exceeded its design speed in the high turbulence of a thunderstorm. Aided by a French nuclear submarine, the search for the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders continues, even though such recorders have never been recovered from ocean depths as deep as 12,000 feet where Flight 447 crashed. Unless the “black boxes” are recovered, we may never know if the crash resulted from a failure of the computerized flight control system, including its sensors, or if the system was unable to assist the human pilots cope with an emergency, such as the catastrophic loss of the stabilizer. As the world waits, Airbus continues to deliver more and more aircraft each year. It has more than 5,000 planes flying, including its new A380, the largest passenger plane in history. First flown commercially on October 25, 2007, and depending upon its seating configuration, the A380 can carry between 555 and 853 passengers on two decks. The A380 has 330 miles of electrical wiring involving 100,000 separate wires and 40,300 connectors. Cockpit instrumentation has been simplified and made easier to use, and a new Network Systems Server is the file cabinet for a paperless cockpit that does away with paper manuals and charts. The entire electrical power system is computerized and many electrical components have been replaced by solid-state devices. As we move into the future of commercial aviation, pilots may find themselves increasingly supplanted by computers and ultimately replaced in the cockpit. The military is increasingly launching aircraft without onboard pilots and the day may come when the “welcome aboard” message from the captain is relayed by satellite. The Spaceplane The world caught a glimpse of the future as the United States and the former USSR competed to produce the first aircraft capable of orbiting the Earth and landing on runways. Ultimately, the U.S. was able to launch the Space Shuttle, while Russia emerged as the heavy-lift rocket champion. The Shuttle will be grounded next year, and the West will be dependent upon Russian rockets to service the International Space Station. The Dyna-Soar X-20. Almost forgotten in the race for space is the Dyna-Soar (“Dynamic Soarer”) X-20 project originated during the Eisenhower administration as a demonstration of the President’s commitment to the demilitarization of space. Originally envisioned as a winged craft launched into orbit by a large rocket, the program was ultimately cancelled during the Kennedy administration by Secretary of Defense McNamara in favor of the ICBM and Apollo programs.
“Seven crew members engaged in a test maintenance flight died in the crash, and the tail section was found floating where the plane went down. No official cause for the accident has been reported” The Air Force wanted a spaceplane to perform a variety of missions, including the maintenance of U.S. satellites and the destruction of U.S.S.R. satellites. In addition, the Air Force imagined the spaceplane could be used as a nuclear-armed bomber subject to recall. Ultimately, the Nixon administration pressured the Air Force to give up the X-20 and its progeny in favor of the space shuttle program. The X-30. The spaceplane idea was resurrected during the Reagan administration as a project of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) between 1982 and 1985. The program called for a supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) aircraft that could achieve Mach 8 speeds. The administration encouraged competition between the major defense contractors to produce a hypersonic, air-breathing Single State to Orbit (SSTO) aircraft known as the X-30. President Reagan was relying on the X-30 project when, during his 1986 State of the Union address, he called for “a new Orient Express that could, by the end of the next decade, take off from Dulles Airport, accelerate up to 25 times the speed of sound,
attaining low earth orbit or flying to Tokyo within two hours.” The X-30 program remained under development until 1993, when it was cancelled by the Clinton administration for both technical and budgetary reasons. The program was probably a secret part of the government’s Space Defense Initiative and lost favor as its development proved too complicated. Aerodynamically, the X-30 was a “waverider” that achieved compression lift under a fuselage that looked much like a surfboard with small tail fins. The design relied upon low weight, high temperature surface materials to deal with the heating problems, and was to be equipped with scramjet engines that compressed and heated hypersonic air in a combustion chamber, where it ignited liquid hydrogen and produced thrust. Details of the X-30 remain classified; however U.S. interest in spaceplane transport of both passengers and freight continues. There are several basic problems that have to be overcome, including the need for wings to provide lift for takeoff and landings, which become a heating and stability problem during reentry. Moreover, jet engines can be used during takeoff and landing INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 37
when atmospheric oxygen is available; however, an onboard oxidizer is required to fuel rockets in space. One solution is a two-stage operation combining a large jet-powered lifting body to transport and launch a smaller rocket-powered craft from high altitudes. A single-stage solution combines a turbojet to reach supersonic speed (Mach 1), a ramjet to attain hypersonic speed (Mach 4), a scramjet to achieve Mach 15, and a rocket to achieve escape velocity (Mach 25) and to perform space operations, and adapted for use in the current generation of commercial aircraft. The X-43. Following cancellation of the X-30, NASA developed a B-52 launched and rocket-accelerated aircraft known as the X43 to test hypersonic flight and scramjet engines. The aircraft was disposable and was designed to crash into the ocean after flight testing. It was successfully flown several times and set a speed record of 7,546 mph (Mach 9.68) in 2004. The X-43 program was indefinitely suspended in 2004 and replaced by an experimental program operated by the U.S. military. The X-51. The Air Force Research Laboratory, in cooperation with DARPA, created a scramjet program in 2003, and awarded contracts in 2004 to the Boeing Phantom Works to construct the airframe and to Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne to construct the engines for a demonstration flight test vehicle designated as the X-51. The scramjet engine was tested in 2006, and test flights of the airframe from a B-52 at 50,000 feet are tentatively planned for late 2009. The plane will be accelerated by a solid fuel rocket to Mach 4.5, whereupon the scramjet engine will engage and take the plane up to 80,000 feet and Mach 6. The HTV-3X Blackswift. In association with the X-51 program, DARPA contracted with Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works to build a replacement to the famed SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, which had used gigantic turbojets that morphed into ramjets at speeds in excess of Mach 3. Designated as the HTV-3X and commonly known as the Blackswift, the unmanned plane was to be powered by a turbojet to Mach 3 and then by a ramjet to Mach 6. The secret program was publicly revealed in March 2008 when DARPA called for bids to manufacture a prototype. The proposed robotic hyperplane had to be reusable, able to take off and land on ordinary runways, and be capable of performing a barrel roll. The program was suddenly cancelled in October 2008. The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). The U.S. plans to replace the space shuttle with a wingless conical spacecraft launched by the same solid rocket booster and upper stage main engine used to lift the current space shuttle into orbit. The CEV is designed to accommodate six astronauts and to carry a payload of up to 25 metric tons. The vehicles are intended to be reusable for up to ten flights and to be capable of parachuting down over water or land. NASA originally planed to launch the first CEV in 2011; however, the contract was modified in 2007 to extend the period of performance to 2013. With the last space shuttle flight currently scheduled for September 16, 2010, the U.S. has resurrected the idea of rocketboosted spaceplanes to transport satellites into orbit and astronauts to the International Space Station. In doing so, it will be building upon the computerized flight control systems originally developed during the X programs. Russia. The Soviet Union reportedly worked on a spaceplane called the Uragan in the 1980s; however, it was apparently cancelled along with the Soviet’s Buran space shuttle. Now, with Russia’s emergence as the go-to rocket heavy lifter, it has been hard 38 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
at work to develop a six-person wingless spaceplane known as the “Clipper,” or “Kliper” to replace its aging Soyuz capsule. In 2006, the European Space Agency (ESA) reached an agreement with Russia to cooperate in the design of the Clipper allowing European astronauts to fly to the International Space Station and perhaps to the Moon. Japan also expressed an interest in participating in the program. As a part of the collaboration, ESA’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana is being modified to accommodate Russia’s Soyuz rocket for the launching of satellites, with manned missions to be flown from Russia’s Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Russia completed the design of its Kliper spaceplane in 2006 and announced plans to place it into operation by 2015. It is designed to be operated by two crew members and to transport as many as four passengers, including space tourists to orbit, and ultimately to the Moon. Japan. A report submitted to Japan’s Space Activities Commission in 2000 proposed the development of a space plane using reusable rockets for space tourism and outer space energy production in association with Japan’s deployment of its HopeX space shuttle. In late 2002, Japan’s National Space Development Agency and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan flew a robotic test model of the space shuttle to an altitude of 8,200 feet and achieved a speed of 212 mph, before landing on a runway. In fulfillment of Japan’s 20-year dream to achieve a presence in outer space, the U.S. space shuttle Discovery delivered the nation’s Exposed Facility and Experiment Logistics Module to the International Space Station in May 2008. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. has designed a single-stageto-orbit spaceplane using scramjet engines to lift a crew of 10 into Earth orbit. China. Japan is not alone in its interest to compete with the U.S., Russia, European and the other space faring nations. A Chinese astronaut walked in space last year, and the year before, China demonstrated its space prowess by shooting down one of their own failed satellites. A secret photograph posted on the Internet in 2008 reveals that the Chinese may have developed a small spaceplane designated as the “Divine Dragon.” Although the posting does not appear to be a hoax, there has been no official confirmation of government involvement in developing a spaceplane; however, China’s determination to develop a “space combat weapons platform” is well established.
The Future It is difficult to image the future of commercial air travel given the worldwide economic depression that has wiped out enormous amounts of wealth from the financial accounts of nations and their individual citizens and corporations; however, there have been substantial gains made in the development of spaceplanes, and the momentum should propel hyperspace travel forward into the future. Undoubtedly, all of these spaceplanes will have to increasingly rely upon computerized flight operations to handle the complexities of space travel. There is no going back. While Airbus is now in the spotlight as a result of the loss of Flight 447, we must keep in mind that the company has been a technological leader in aircraft design, such as fly-by-wire, automated cockpits and the use of composite materials. Just days before the crash of Flight 447, Airbus announced the first round of winners in its €30,000 contest for the best ideas for future aircraft design and engineering. Five entries were chosen from among the proposals submitted by 2,350 students from 82 countries. Suggestions included the elimination of windows and the use of electric motors to taxi aircraft. Boeing and Airbus continue to go head to head in seeking to manufacture the current and next generation of commercial aircraft. It currently appears that Airbus is ahead in the number of orders on its books and the quantities of aircraft it is delivering;
however, unless and until it solves the hazards of computerized flight operations along with taking advantage of the benefits, it could find its planes buried in the Comet graveyard. Passengers will not continue to board commercial aircraft with fear in their gut, when there is a safer alternative. The flight crew of US Airways Flight 1549 displayed amazing professional competence after the engines of their Airbus A320 automatically shut down after striking a flock of birds shortly after takeoff on January 15, 2009. The crew was able to maintain control of the aircraft and land in the Hudson River without loss of life. Pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III, has become a national hero; however, there remains a question whether the Airbus flight control system unnecessarily shut down both engines, whereas a Boeing aircraft engines might have chewed up the birds and kept flying. When the copilot, Jeffrey B. Skiles was asked by National Transportation Safety Board investigators how he liked the Airbus, he replied that he liked it “right up until the accident.” Nonetheless, as we jet into a future that will increasingly rely on flight control computers to fly commercial airplanes, I believe it is safe to say that most of us would prefer to have a “Sully” in the captain’s seat instead of a robot. William John Cox is the author of You’re Not Stupid! Get the Truth: A Brief on the Bush Presidency and he is currently working on a fact-based fictional political philosophy. n
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Chinese Checker TGIF EDITION STORY RESULTS IN PROSECUTION
A Labour party campaign donor now faces a lengthy jail sentence if convicted, after an expose by Investigate magazine’s TGIF Edition forced a police investigation. IAN WISHART has the full story
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Chinese immigrant who donated large sums of cash to New Zealand politicians and received political endorsement for his citizenship application is now facing criminal charges after being arrested at Auckland Airport. The strange case of Yan Yongming, aka Yang Liu, aka Bill Liu, was first broken in an exclusive investigation by this magazine’s digital newspaper, TGIF Edition, late last year. Now for the first time Investigate can reveal the exact charges Yan Yongming is facing: # On 8 December 2001, used a document, namely a visitor’s visa to obtain a benefit, namely a visitor’s permit (Crimes Act 1961). # On or about 7 January 2002, used a document, namely an application for visiting New Zealand, to obtain a benefit, namely a work permit (Crimes Act). # On or about 30 January 2002, used a document, namely an application for visiting New Zealand to obtain a benefit, namely a work permit (Crimes Act). # On or about 19 January 2002, used a document, namely an application for residence in New Zealand under the investor category, to obtain a benefit, namely a New Zealand Residence Visa (Crimes Act). # On or about 9 January 2002, used a document, namely a New Zealand Immigration Service medical and X-ray certification form to obtain a benefit, namely a New Zealand Residence Visa (Crimes Act). # Between 17 June 2002 and 23 June 2005, without reasonable excuse had in his possession within New Zealand a document purporting to be a passport issued by the Government of ... China being passport number G11865281 in the name of Liu Yang, knowing it had been obtained by a false representation (Passport Act 1992). # Between 17 June 2002 and 23 June 2005, without reasonable excuse had in his possession within New Zealand a document purporting to be a passport issued by the Government of ... China being passport number 148408465 in the name of Liu Yang, knowing it had been obtained by a false representation (Passport Act 1992). # On December 2004 without reasonable excuse supplied information to an Immigration Officer, namely an application for a returning Resident’s Visa, knowing that it was false and misleading in a material respect (Immigration Act). # On or about 10 May 2005, knowingly deceived Olele Johannes Gambo, exercising a function imposed or conferred under [the Citizenship Act], namely processing a new Zealand Citizenship application in the name of Liu Yang (Citizenship Act) # On or about 12 August 2008 with intent to obtain property, namely a New Zealand Passport, number EB128567, dishonestly and without claim of right used a document, namely an application for a New Zealand passport filled out in the name of Liu Yang (Crimes Act) # On 15 August 2008, made a statutory declaration for change of name from Liu Yang to William Yan, which would amount to perjury if made on oath in a judicial proceeding (Crimes Act) # On or about 9 December 2008 with intent to obtain property, namely a New Zealand passport, number EB238536 dishonestly and without claim of right used a document, namely a New Zealand passport application filled in in the name of Liu Yang (Crimes Act). News of Yan Yongming’s arrest first broke in the Weekend 42 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
Herald this month, but it began with a TGIF investigation. Strangely, there appears to have been no police investigation to date into the political aspects of Yan Yongming’s alleged crimes. These TGIF Edition exclusives that follow provide the background to this month’s court appearances, but also underline some serious political questions still needing answers, particularly from Labour leader Phil Goff and his #3, David Cunliffe.
PASSPORT SCANDAL Two ministers, one MP, implicated By Ian Wishart Editor, TGIF Edition
Chinese businessman allegedly wanted for fraud in China and whose assets were seized in Australia last year after he was found opening bank accounts using a different identity, has been awarded New Zealand citizenship by the Minister of Internal Affairs – against the recommendations of New Zealand citizenship officials. To make matters even more complex, TGIF Edition has been given information alleging the businessman told an official he had donated money to the New Zealand Labour Party. The Labour government ministers in the gun are Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker, whose office allegedly approved the citizenship against the advice of officials, and Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones who was brought in to make the final call on Barker’s behalf. Former Labour cabinet minister Dover Samuels sponsored the application. The businessman goes in this country by the name Yang (Bill) Liu. Property records reveal he lives in a plush Metropolis apartment in central Auckland with a 2005 valuation of $2.4 million. According to official certificate of title records, Yang Liu paid cash in 2002 – there is no mortgage registered against the property. Records show Liu also owns a property in the Auckland suburb of Bayswater for which he paid $5 million early last year – again, in cash. However, documents obtained by TGIF Edition from the website of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions in Australia reveal he was prosecuted there under the alias of Yongming Yan: “Yongming Yan “Yongming Yan, a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, was wanted by law enforcement authorities of China for alleged largescale misappropriation and embezzlement offences committed in China. Yan travelled to Australia on a number of occasions, first as Yan, and later under the name ‘Yang Liu’. “On these later occasions Yan is alleged to have produced a Chinese passport in the name ‘Yang Liu’, and failed to advise Australian immigration officials that he had previously travelled to and entered Australia in the name ‘Yongming Yan’. “Whilst present in Australia, Yan opened and operated a number of bank accounts. Some of the bank accounts were opened and operated in the name ‘Yang Liu’, in circumstances where Yan allegedly failed to advise that he was also known by the name ‘Yongming Yan’, contrary to section 24 of the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988. “On 22 August 2005 a civil restraining order under the POC [Proceeds of Crime] Act 2002 was obtained over bank accounts held in the name Desant Group Ltd, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. The accounts in the name Desant Group Ltd were able to be restrained on the basis that they were suspected of being under the effective control of Yan, who was
operating the accounts in the name ‘Yang Liu’. The basis for the restraining orders was that Yan was suspected of having committed offences of opening and operating bank accounts in a false name in Australia. “Yan later made an application seeking revocation of the restraining order. “The DPP’s proceedings were ultimately resolved by orders of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 15 November 2006, by consent, forfeiting the sum of A$3,374,236.19 to the Commonwealth. “On 7 June 2007, pursuant to the equitable sharing provisions of the POC Act 2002, the Australian Government repatriated a sum of over $3.37 million to the Government of the People’s Republic of China,” reported the Director of Public Prosecutions in October last year. Fascinating stuff, but even more so when the documents obtained by TGIF Edition reveal Yang Liu’s Australian prosecution happened whilst Liu was already a New Zealand permanent resident and has been since 2002. The evidence for this is a signed letter by Labour MP and former cabinet minister Dover Samuels, written on Labour Party letterhead [ http://www.investigatemagazine.com/dover.pdf ], dated 30 January 2008 and addressed to Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker. “I personally know Mr Liu,” begins Samuels, naming Liu’s partner and “two young children” before continuing: “Mr Liu has Permanent Residence and has lived in Auckland for six years or more. During the years that I have known him he has demonstrated to be a caring father and husband, with humility and generosity of spirit.
“It is my understanding and confirmed by many New Zealand Chinese, that Bill is a decent law abiding person and would make a model New Zealand citizen. I agree with them. “Mr Liu is well known for his public profile, his advocacy of open democracy, social justice and Human Rights,” waxed Dover Samuels, “the same principles that make us proud to be New Zealanders.” Then, in the only clue that Samuels knew of darker allegations swirling around his protégé Yang Liu, he wrote, “Unfortunately, there are those who think otherwise.” INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 43
Samuels didn’t specify what the “otherwise” might entail, but clearly he’s on the record as being aware, and his comment suggests the Minister was aware as well because Samuels saw no reason to elaborate further. Instead, he told Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker: “Over the years, Bill has developed a constructive and meaningful relationship with Tangata Whenua, he has also made investments into the fishing and hospitality industry.” A further document, obtained by TGIF Edition, is the reply from Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker to Dover Samuels: “Dear Dover, thank you for your letter dated 30 January 2008 supporting Yang (Bill) Liu’s application for a grant of New Zealand citizenship. A copy of your letter has been sent to the Citizenship Office to be attached to Mr Liu’s file. “I assure you that when Mr Liu’s application is forwarded to me for a decision, I will take his personal circumstances and your letter of support into consideration. Yours sincerely, Rick Barker.” On 17 March this year , the paper trail reveals the Internal Affairs Department’s Citizenship Office in Manukau wrote to Yang Liu about a hiccup in his application. “One of the requirements of New Zealand citizenship is that an applicant must be able to satisfy the Minister of Internal Affairs that she/he is of good character,” wrote DIA’s Johannes Gambo. “As you are aware, there is still an active Red Interpol Notice recorded against your name, indicating that an arrest warrant has been issued by the Chinese judicial authorities.” Gambo suggested the best course of action was for Liu to ask China to rescind the arrest warrant, but an alternative route existed if preferred: “If, however, you do not wish to ask them to cancel the arrest warrant, your application should be referred to the Minister in an individual submission…You may wish to provide additional information and evidence to satisfy the Minister that, in spite of the above information, you do meet the good character requirement. “The Minister may approve your application if he is satisfied that you have exceptional circumstances and that it would be in the public interest for you to receive the grant of citizenship.” A further letter on Liu’s DIA file (file number CIT2005011583), dated 25 March 2008, reveals the Internal Affairs Department has grave doubts about the suitability of Yang Liu to even be in New Zealand as a permanent resident, let alone be awarded citizenship. “Could you please answer the following questions in writing,” asked Gambo: 1. How many identities do you have or have you used? 2. Why are you using multiple identities? 3. Which of these identities are false? 4. What is your true name? 5. What is your correct date of birth? 6. Is your birth certificate a true record of your birth? If no, why? 7. If 20 October 1972 was not your correct date of birth, why did you declare on your application form that you were born on 20 October 1972? Why are you using a Chinese passport that shows your date of birth as 20 October 1972? 8. If 15 June 1969 was not your correct date of birth, why are you using a Chinese passport that shows your date of birth as 15 June 1969? Or why have you used a Chinese passport that shows your date of birth as 15 June 1969? 9. How did you obtain this passport? What documents were used to obtain this passport (the Chinese passport authorities 44 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
would have sighted documentation with this date of birth before issuing a passport to you)? 10. What happened to these [other] passports: 144944669; 143080886; 140275129? 11. What dates of birth and names were used in obtaining these passports? 12. Are all the documents you have provided to us in support of your application genuine in every respect? If no, why? 13. Were your travel documents, visas and permits all obtained legally using genuine documents? If no, why? 14. What dates of birth have you used in your dealings with other government departments and non-government agencies in New Zealand and overseas (for example, banks, Inland Revenue Department, WINZ and LTSA)? Please provide documentary evidence. 15. What names have you used [with the entities in 14]? 16. How many identities have you used to enter (or depart from) United States of America? If more than one, why? 17. How many identities have you used to enter (or depart from) Australia? If more than one, why? 18. How many identities have you used to enter (or depart from) New Zealand? If more than one, why? 19. How many offshore registered companies do you currently own? If any, where? 20. How many offshore registered companies have you owned? If any, where? The letter reveals knowledge of at least two international criminal investigations into Yang Liu, or whoever he really is, and further asks: “Apart from America and Australia, have you visited any other country in the last five years? If yes, why were they omitted from your application form?” Gambo’s letter concludes with a warning that it’s a criminal offence under s27 of the Citizenship Act to “knowingly or recklessly provide a false statement or submit false/forged documents in support of your citizenship application.” As is very clear, by this stage the DIA didn’t even know who it was really dealing with. Yang Liu is a man with two passports in different names, and possibly three other passports as well. His companies were also registered in the British Virgin Islands tax haven – the same haven where Labour’s previous major campaign donor, Owen Glenn, has domiciled his companies. According to TGIF Edition’s informant inside the DIA, Liu allegedly mentioned to a DIA case worker he had donated to Labour at a function at the Jade Terrace restaurant: “The Minister for Internal Affairs is giving New Zealand citizenship to people (people who have donated money to the party) who do not meet the requirements,” our informant said when first tipping us off about Liu’s case. “These citizenships were given against the department’s recommendations. One recent case is in connection with a man who has multiple identities. He is also wanted by the law enforcement agency in his home country. The Minister approved the application against the Department’s recommendation. These actions are devaluing the New Zealand passport.” Our informant added tonight: “This is not the first one. The fact is that Mr Liu is unable to meet the “good character requirement” of the Citizenship Act. He was only approved because he is a big donor to the Labour party. He was also given an urgent ceremony. This is worse than Philip Taito Field’s story. You do not give a New Zealand passport to dodgy people without a reason.”
Liu’s citizenship application was fast-tracked, according to DIA sources: “Mr. Liu got his citizenship on 11 August 2008 at a private ceremony in Wellington officiated by Dover Samuels.” TGIF Edition received independent corroboration from one of our other sources that citizenship has indeed been conferred on Yang Liu, and Dover Samuels has confirmed he conducted the ceremony. Regardless of what motivated Labour to approve Liu’s citizenship, the hard facts are that Liu’s citizenship was approved by the Minister, despite knowing that Liu was using multiple identities, had not declared his aliases, and had allegedly supplied false information on his citizenship forms. Whilst Dover Samuels points out that Liu has not used his aliases in New Zealand, it’s a different story across the Tasman where bank accounts were opened using what police allege were false identities. For Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker and Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones – knowing that DIA had discovered criminal breaches in Liu’s application punishable by up to five years’ jail – the questions they now face are serious. Many applicants for residency, let alone citizenship, have been turned away from New Zealand for far less. There is a punishment of up to ten years jail for anyone who issues a citizenship to someone not lawfully entitled to it, under the Citizenship Act. Rick Barker denies making the final decision on Liu’s citizenship application, but the Department of Internal Affairs has gone on record this afternoon to confirm it sent its recommendations to
“I had been advised by a previous candidate, Steven Ching, to be ‘cautious’ in my dealings with Yang Liu, so I never sought donations or assistance from him.” It’s understood up to $200,000 can be raised at a single event, on a good night. Mike Williams told TGIF that donations collected are “aggregated” rather than entered under the names of individual donors. We asked Barker whether it was wise for a Minister in his position to be hosting fundraisers within immigrant communities whose members could require him to determine their immigration status later. “Can I come back to you on that?” Barker initially responded. After further questioning from TGIF Rick Barker began to elaborate on the fundraisers: “The implication you’ve got is that I attended a fundraising dinner with Yang Liu, and I want to say to you I have not.” “Would you know, if you had?” “I know the individual yes, but I have not attended a fundraising dinner with him.” “How do you know him?”, TGIF asked. “I’ll come back to you with the answers to a range of questions… I know who he is. I’m very careful about any fundraising function. I don’t do it for me personally, I do it for the party, and I’m very conscious that if anybody’s got any issues I don’t want them to participate in any function at all.
“Yang Liu is a man with two passports in different names, and possibly three other passports as well. His companies were also registered in the British Virgin Islands tax haven – the same haven where Labour’s previous major campaign donor, Owen Glenn, has domiciled his companies” the Minister. The file would have contained all the information uncovered, confirmed a DIA head office spokesman. Although Barker was actively involved in the file as recently as February this year, TGIF received confirmation from Dover Samuels this afternoon that Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones was called in to act on Barker’s behalf. But why was Jones brought in? What Barker didn’t tell TGIF when we first approached him this morning, was that the Internal Affairs Minister has been a guest of honour at “fundraising” functions amongst the Chinese community at Auckland’s Jade Terrace restaurant. And not just Barker. TGIF only found out about the extent of fundraising when we sought comment from Labour Party President Mike Williams about Liu’s donation status. Williams told us that while he didn’t recognise Yang Liu’s name as a formal donor, he could well have attended fundraising functions that Labour hosted in Auckland. “Like the Jade restaurant?” we asked. “Yes, at the Jade,” said Williams, who referred us to one of Labour’s Asian candidates for further detail. Candidate Raymond Huo confirmed to TGIF Edition that “five or six fundraising dinners” have been held at Jade Terrace this year, including some featuring Rick Barker and others featuring Yang Liu’s friend Dover Samuels. Huo said Liu did not attend the fundraiser Huo organised on May 24, and was not invited.
“My office has a firm rule. Any offers of cash or money for services or anything like that is to be refused.” “How long have you known Yang Liu,” TGIF asked again. “Ah, I’m going to come back to you with my other answers as well. It’s part of a package of answers.” Dover Samuels’ friendship with Yang Liu is already on the record, but the revelation that Liu was known personally by the Minister of Internal Affairs is a bombshell twist to the case. TGIF sought comment from Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones, but he hung up on us. We wanted to ask Jones whether, as DIA staff allege, he had a role in letting Liu stay in the country, and whether in fact Jones was called on to make the final decision because of Rick Barker’s conflict of interest. Jones and his office have so far failed to respond. Officially, at press time, neither Rick Barker’s office nor Jones’ office have confirmed Jones’ role in the sequence of events. Dover Samuels, on the other hand, defended his decision to support Yang Liu despite the allegations swirling around them, telling the newspaper that Liu and his family were victims of a vendetta originating in China. Samuels says he was aware Liu had two different passports with different names, but says Liu told him it was because he was fostered out as a child. The passports however not only have different names, but the birth dates are three years apart. Samuels also claimed Liu had told him the Australian court verdict against him had been overturned in a ruling only three INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 45
weeks ago, but checks with the Australian prosecutor’s office have shown Liu’s claim is untrue. Kathy Medved, from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions head office in Canberra, told TGIF late today that the claim of a new court case overturning the verdict is “a fantasy”. “The situation remains exactly as we laid out in our official report last year,” she said. Dover Samuels also told TGIF that Liu had hired John Billington QC, but when we rang Billington this afternoon his response was: “Who? I don’t have any idea who you are talking about.” If Samuels was relying on Liu for his information, so far it hasn’t been convincing. Liu’s phone was going unanswered today. Samuels and Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker – who both know Yang Liu – deny knowing whether he is a Labour party donor. Barker denies attending any fundraising “dinners” with Liu, but has not yet disclosed how he knows the man. And if Liu did make donations to Labour at a fundraising meeting, there is unlikely to be any official record because of Labour’s policy of simply lumping all the money together that is raised each night. While it makes the donation technically hard to prove, it also makes it technically hard for Labour to rule it out because of a lack of integrity in their fundraising methods. New Zealand Police already have a prosecution underway of another former Labour cabinet minister, Taito Philip Field, into allegations that he received cheap tiling and painting from members of the Thai community in return for assisting their immigration applications. Police only launched their investigation of Field, however, after he refused to guarantee his vote in Parliament would continue to support Labour. An official government inquiry lasting months and costing a fortune was launched to ascertain whether, in fact, Field had received any donations of money or labour. Given the politicisation of the NZ Police headquarters, only a Serious Fraud Office investigation could possibly unravel the details of this latest citizenship scandal, one way or the other.
GOTCHA! Labour donor is Asian organised crime boss By Ian Wishart Editor, TGIF Edition
e’s at the centre of a growing political scandal, and tonight TGIF Edition can reveal Chinese millionaire Yang Liu is not who he claims to be – his New Zealand passport, political donations, expensive properties, bank accounts, immigration status and company directorships were all obtained using a false name and identification. Liu, whose political donations to the Labour Party were linked by Department of Internal Affairs staff in TGIF last week to his obtaining NZ citizenship via direct ministerial intervention, is wanted in China for trial on charges of embezzling quarter of a billion New Zealand dollars. His real name, confirmed for the first time in this country by TGIF Edition, is indeed Yongming Yan (referred to from here in as Yan Yongming in the Chinese reverse style where the surname is used first) – the identity on a second passport published on the front page of last week’s newspaper. Even worse, an informant resource report to the Immigration Service last year, but apparently ignored by Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones, provides detailed information on Yan’s involvement at the head of an Asian organised crime syndicate, 46 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
which “paid large cash sums to various ministers and delegates indirectly through secret anonymous accounts including to Mr [Labour MP’s name deleted for evidential purposes] – some of these are ‘worked’ by [Yan] to have drunken dinners and then enticed to frequent some Chinese prostitutes with this person. Chinese have been practicing corruption for decades. New Zealand is new to it. [Yan] then uses this ‘secret prostitution conduct’ to force corruption and manipulation.” Additionally, after reading our major investigation on Yan’s links to the Labour Party and his fast-tracked citizenship application last week, a police source contacted us claiming a police investigation into him commenced by the Asian Crime Unit in Auckland several years ago had been shelved after what he called “political interference” from Wellington. When we contacted Asian Crime Unit boss Detective Sergeant Tim Chao for comment, he refused to discuss why the investigation was in limbo, referring all inquiries to Police National Headquarters in Wellington where, apparently, the file now sits. Coming hard on the heels of allegations that Yan, using the alias Yang (Bill) Liu, curried favour with Labour politicians to boost his citizenship bid, the claim Police HQ has smothered a live criminal investigation into the Chinese businessman is more potential dynamite the Government won’t be wanting to face just three weeks out from a must-win election – was the police investigation “pulled” as a result of Yan’s business and political clout? Police National HQ deny, for the record, that they’re sitting on the file for “political” reasons. But just how hard is it to find out more about Yan? It might have been difficult for Police HQ, but evidently not for TGIF Edition. Using the identity information published last week, we can confirm that of the two passport identities, only Yan Yongming has any official family history (registered family members) we can locate in China, and Yan Yongming is the name of the man officially facing massive fraud charges in China. Yang Liu appears to be the alias Yan used to create a fake identity with in New Zealand. Yan Yongming was born in 1969, the third son of factory-working parents of modest means, in the town of Tonghua, in Jilin province. His mother, Deng Yuling, is Yan’s official next of kin. TGIF’s Asian contacts scanned official databases and the Chinese media for information on his background, and reported back to us yesterday. “Yan Yongming, former Chairman of Tonghua Jinma Pharmaceutical, has a severe economic criminal record in China who fled to overseas countries with illegally collected funds in 2000. “Yan Yongming was born in Tonghua in 1969. He is said to have little education but claims to graduated from Peking University major in Economic Management. “Yan Yongming founded Tonghua Sanli Chemical Industry Company in 1992 with registered capital RMB 460 million (US$66 million), Yan held 96% of the shares. His wealth is of concerns since at the time he was only 21 with no previous significant career accumulation. “Sanli Chemical invested in Tonghua Biochemical Pharmaceutical Factory prior to its IPO in 1993 and through a series [of ] acquisition and restructuring actions, Sanli became the biggest shareholder of the public company, later known as Tonghua Jinma, and Yan Yongming the Chairman. According to some insiders, Yan was backed by some capable person whose identity was unknown. “In 2000, Tonghua Jinma bought Qi Sheng Capsule technology and further acquired Wuhu Zhang Heng Chun Pharmaceutical.
In November the same year, Tonghua Jinma announced net profit RMB 242 million (US$34 million). “While in 2001, the company’s performance plunged and the loss was RMB 584 million; 318 million Yuan disappeared in one year’s time. Yan resigned Chairman in October and fled to Australia and New Zealand two month later. “Yan was charged for accounting frauds and fund embezzlement of public company, the amount was said to be RMB 720 million or 1.08 billion (between NZ$167 million and NZ$257 million).” One of the most significant aspects of the report, apart from the sheer sums of money involved, is the suggestion that Yan Yongming is someone else’s glove puppet, that he’s been “backed by some capable person whose identity was unknown”. The Interpol red alert against Yan Yongming was issued by China’s Public Security Authority (national police). In contrast, a search of the name Liu Yang, which he uses in New Zealand, turned up no media reports in China on his criminal status, except for those reports that resulted directly from last week’s TGIF story. A story on China’s state-run CCTV News published on June 7, 2007, detailed how Yan Yongming had fled to Australia in December 2000, and how NZ$5 million was eventually confiscated and repatriated to China by the Aussie courts last year. The TV reports stated Yan Yongming was the subject of “a significant economic criminal charge”. Back here in New Zealand’s Asian community there is also some awareness of Yan Yongming’s fraud, although not the precise details because no one knew his real name: “No one has yet obtained factual documentary evidence of where the multi-millions this person manages come from,” one Asian community figure told TGIF Edition this week. “The anecdotal story as to what enterprise he operated in China to make so much large sums of money is as follows: “He set up with accomplices a pharmaceutical company in China that produced placebo tablet medicine. The medicine was sold mass market to thousands of doctors and hospitals who were paid under the table on a percentage of sales basis to promote the sale of the medicine. The medicine was sold as part of other drugs as a ‘no risk’ accompanying advisable treatment. “The growth in sales was phenomenal. The company listed on the stock exchange and the shares escalated at a rate of value that was billions in dollar value. [Yan] sold out his shareholding and left China with the proceeds.” Which of course dovetails exactly with the now documented evidence TGIF obtained out of China this week. So who is Bill Liu? It appears Liu was an alias created by Yan to help him flee China and set up residence in New Zealand. The cover story he provided for the Liu character includes a claim that he’s a member of the persecuted Falun Gong sect. It was under the name Liu that Yan applied for and received New Zealand permanent residency. It was as Liu that he donated to Labour politicians Chris Carter, Dover Samuels and Internal Affairs minister Rick Barker, as well as National’s John Key –although neither Key nor National’s Pansy Wong had any idea of his background, unlike
the Labour MPs. And it was under the name Liu that Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones decided not to revoke his residency but instead approve Liu’s application for a New Zealand passport, against the advice of officials. As a result, until the TGIF Edition report last weekend, Liu had got away with creating an entirely fictitious new identity with the help of friendly but gullible Labour MPs. There is now a serious risk, however, that NZ Immigration officials will be ordered by the government to immediately arrest and deport Yan Yongming, which would not only remove an election embarrassment but also prevent any further law enforcement inquiries into either Yongming himself, or the alleged political corruption surrounding him.
POLICE HQ IMPLICATED IN YANG LIU COVER-UP By Ian Wishart Editor, TGIF Edition
here are fresh questions tonight about whether Police National Headquarters has acted corruptly, after revelations that it quashed a criminal inquiry into a Labour party campaign donor, and has failed to re-open its investigation file on the wealthy Chinese migrant despite damning new evidence. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 47
quashed an Asian Crime Unit investigation into alleged moneylaundering and other activities of ‘Yang Liu’, because of the man’s high level political connections. Liu, as he is known in New Zealand, has been confirmed as a Labour party political donor and good friend of just-retired Labour MP Dover Samuels, who lobbied heavily on Liu’s behalf to obtain NZ citizenship for him. It’s now also been confirmed that Liu is a friend of former Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker, and that a former Liu associate’s brother worked in the office of Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones when the Labour MP was twice required to make a ruling on Liu’s immigration status. Liu was given a New Zealand passport in August at a fasttracked special ceremony at parliament, after Shane Jones went against the advice of officials who’d discovered his false identities and criminal history, and who had recommended his citizenship should be declined. Kiwiblog author, and commentator for the National Business Review, David Farrar, rating the Liu case as “an A- scandal”, has called in today’s NBR for the new National Government to announce an independent inquiry into the affair, given the involvement of three senior Labour politicians, and allegations of bribery and corruption. Meanwhile, both the Internal Affairs Department and NZ Immigration Service also appear to be dragging their feet on releasing further information to TGIF Edition, despite Official Information Act requests filed under urgency three weeks ago. EXCLUSIVE
GOFF IN LOCKDOWN, CUNLIFFE IMPLICATED By Ian Wishart Editor, TGIF Edition
Despite a Weekend Herald report earlier this month suggesting New Zealand police had travelled to China to inquire about Yan Yongming, alias Yang Liu, Police National Headquarters has now told TGIF Edition that the Herald report was wrong, and there is no investigation. “There isn’t one,” PNHQ spokesman Jon Neilson told TGIF this afternoon. It’s a staggering confirmation that police have not lifted a finger to investigate documented evidence that Yan Yongming entered New Zealand using a false passport in the name of Yang Liu, and set up bank accounts here in Liu’s name, operated businesses in Liu’s name and donated thousands of dollars to Labour politicians, in Liu’s name. On the face of the documents obtained by TGIF, Yan Yongming has broken the Crimes Act, Immigration Act, Citizenship Act and Companies Act in numerous places, punishable by jail terms of up to seven years. Liu is wanted back in China under his real name, Yan Yongming, on charges relating to a quarter billion dollar fraud, and an Interpol warrant has been issued for his arrest. Despite this, the only police investigation into the man was sidelined, and the file sent to Headquarters, where still nothing has been done. The Police National Headquarters admission today that it has not carried out further investigations despite official Chinese records confirming the use of false identities, lends circumstantial weight to claims from within Auckland Police that Headquarters 48 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
abour leader Phil Goff is in lockdown mode tonight as the Yang Liu citizenship scandal threatens to engulf his front bench, with another top Labour MP dragged into the controversy tonight. Goff has been considering three questions from TGIF Edition since midday, but at 5pm his chief media advisor Gordon Jon Thompson revealed the Labour leader was choosing to stay silent. The reason for Goff’s silence is simple: the New Zealand Immigration Service has now implicated former Immigration Minister and Labour front-bencher David Cunliffe in the growing scandal surrounding Yang Liu’s donations to the Labour Party and the government’s subsequent decision to award him citizenship. The revelation is a body-blow to Goff, whose attempts to lead Labour in a new direction are being overshadowed by what is shaping up as New Zealand’s most serious political scandal in years. Up till now attention has focused on former Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones, and his ministerial colleagues Rick Barker, Dover Samuels and – to a lesser extent - Chris Carter. But the addition of David Cunliffe, Labour’s former Minister of Immigration, to the list of those who were tipped off about Yang Liu’s criminal record and who failed to act, means that Phil Goff’s talent pool is now being seriously compromised by the scandal. Liu, real name Yongming Yan, is wanted by Chinese police for an alleged company fraud involving up to a quarter of a billion dollars. Papers released to TGIF Edition by both Internal Affairs sources and the Department itself have revealed Liu’s entire New Zealand identity appears to be fake. If true, that would mean
dozens of breaches of the Crimes Act with maximum jail sentences of seven years or even higher on each count, because of the network of companies, bank accounts and official applications he has lodged under a false name. TGIF Edition sought copies under the Official Information Act of the file that went to Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones that “discussed the option of revoking the permanent residency of Yang (Bill) Liu”. Jones, as Associate Immigration Minister, was presumed to have seen immigration files on Yang Liu, in addition to his role as delegated Internal Affairs Minister. It was in that latter role that Jones gave Liu New Zealand citizenship, against the explicit warnings of officials who told him Liu’s identity was believed fake and that his citizenship application was fraudulent. Internal Affairs sources have told TGIF that a recommendation also went to the Minister of Immigration recommending Liu’s permanent residency be revoked while it was still possible to do so, but the Minister overturned it. TGIF spoke to then Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove who denied any involvement with the Liu case and said such cases would normally have been handled by the Associate Minister. Cosgrove subsequently told us this week he’d received a verbal briefing from officials confirming they believed Liu’s residency had been obtained fraudulently, and that he was under investigation. But Cosgrove reiterated he had never seen Liu’s file or received any written briefing. Yet our OIA request to the Immigration Service for the file to Shane Jones recommending residency be revoked turned up a surprise answer: “Papers of that nature were sent to a previous Minister of Immigration and are withheld,” confirmed Api Fiso, the Group Manager for Border Security at the Immigration Service. With Cosgrove out of the picture, that left his predecessor David Cunliffe in the gun. It now appears Cunliffe was, like Jones, explicitly warned about Yang Liu’s fraudulent residency application, yet for inexplicable reasons chose not to revoke the Labour party donor’s visa when he had the chance. TGIF Edition left messages for Cunliffe this week that were not returned, so this morning we fired three questions to Cunliffe’s new boss, Phil Goff. 1. Can you please offer any explanation as to why a senior cabinet minister would not take the opportunity to revoke Yang Liu’s residency when his officials discovered his identity (and thus original application) appeared to be fake? 2. What do you plan to ask Mr Cunliffe about this case? 3. As a new broom at the helm of the Labour Party in parliament, would you welcome an independent inquiry into the actions of former ministers and officials in the Yang Liu case as a means of clarifying what happened at a ministerial level (as opposed to the separate investigation into Liu himself )? Goff, as you’ve seen, sent an email at 5pm refusing to answer those questions tonight, but he can’t escape the growing political heat. So far, the scandal has claimed former Labour associate minister Dover Samuels, who backed Yang Liu (real name Yongming Yan) to the hilt. It has also claimed former Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker, whose socialising with Yang Liu was so close he had to declare a conflict of interest and deputise Shane Jones to sign off on Liu’s citizenship application. But revelations that Jones was explicitly warned about Liu’s criminal activi-
“It was in that latter role that Jones gave Liu New Zealand citizenship, against the explicit warnings of officials who told him Liu’s identity was believed fake and that his citizenship application was fraudulent” ties and told to DECLINE the application – which he ignored – have effectively destroyed any hope that Jones could ever serve as a cabinet minister again. Labour front bencher Chris Carter was dumped in the frame by the Internal Affairs Department two weeks ago when released papers showed Yang Liu, who had donated $5,000 to Chris Carter, then benefited when Carter wrote a character reference to Internal Affairs on Liu’s behalf. But tonight’s TGIF revelations are the biggest hit yet: David Cunliffe was seen as a potential leadership rival to Phil Goff and is ranked third in the Labour line-up. Cunliffe, like Goff, wasn’t taking calls from TGIF this week, but if he had the chance to revoke Liu’s residency on official advice, and didn’t, his competence to ever serve as a Minister again will be called into question, as Shane Jones’ has. n INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 49
BACTERIUM at the
gates WILL THE WEST BE FELLED BY BUGS? AS NEW ZEALAND’S H1N1/A DEATH TOLL CLIMBS, PETER CURSON EXAMINES THE BATTLE BETWEEN DISEASE AND THE MEDICAL PROFESSION IN AN AGE OF GLOBAL TRAVEL
50 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
ver since SARS we have been told repeatedly that a pandemic was coming, and coming soon. It might be flu or perhaps some other exotic infection nurtured in wild animals in parts of Asia, but whatever it was, it was coming. Health experts, governments and the media have been saying so, therefore, it had to be true. And now the WHO has finally accorded swine flu official ‘pandemic’ status and it appears that our worst fears have been realised, “Pandemic’ has become the buzz word of the 21st century. In many ways it is extraordinary how easily we are panicked by the threat of a pandemic and how small a part knowledge of past pandemics and epidemics plays in our historical memory. Australia and New Zealand are no stranger to pandemics and severe epidemics – our history is littered with them. Since the 19th century our two nations have been swept up in many pandemics and innumerable epidemics ranging from childhood infections like scarlet fever, whooping cough and measles to pandemic diseases like smallpox, bubonic plague, influenza, polio and HIV/ AIDS. Many of these were defining moments in Australia and New Zealand’s history. But how quickly we forget such things and how little we seem to have learned from past experience. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 51
The last great pandemic of bubonic plague which swept the world between 1890 and 1940 causing more than 30 million deaths claimed at least 535 lives in Australia and caused a major dislocation to social and economic life for at least 10 years. It also affected New Zealand and lead to the establishment of a Department of Public Health. The polio outbreaks between 1903 and 1956 also left an indelible imprint on both country’s psyche. More recently, most people would remember the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the impact that this had, an impact which continues to this day.
nd so we officially have another pandemic of influenza. Certainly we would seem overdue for such a pandemic. The last one was 41 years ago and since 1720 the world has experienced 10 flu pandemics with a spacing varying from 5 to 53 years. Australia and New Zealand participated in quite a number of these and while most were relatively mild, two vividly stand out in the historical memory. The pandemic of 1889-91, which affected Australia in 1890-91, and lingered on until 1894 in New Zealand, was the first time all the Australian States and New Zealand had been swept up in a flu pandemic and it ushered in a new epidemiological age. It was the first pandemic with widespread effects and few families escaped its ravages. It was also the first to have a major effect on business and social life. Schools were closed, government services severely cut and many businesses were pushed to the edge. It was also the first epidemic crisis to produce a public education campaign to encourage people to avoid public gatherings and crowds and to go home and stay home until well. The 1918-19 flu pandemic was a major demographic and social tragedy affecting millions in both countries. In New Zealand more than 8,500 people died from flu in less than two months in 1918 and the following year, more than 14,000 people died in Australia. In Sydney in 1919, almost 40% of the population had flu and unlike earlier flu pandemics, this one targeted young healthy adults. In Sydney, for example, 27% of the population were aged between 25 and 40 in 1919, yet this age group delivered almost 50% of all the flu deaths. More than 5000 children lost one or both of their parents and 5000 marriages saw the loss of one partner. In an attempt to contain the pandemic the Australian and New Zealand authorities pursued a combination of strategies. Schools, sporting events, churches, cinemas and pubs were shut, streets were sprayed, people compelled to wear masks, borders were closed and travel severely restricted. Like in 1890-94 people were urged to stay home and avoid crowds. Hospitals were overrun and temporary hospitals established in school halls, bowling greens and public buildings. More than 25,000 people were hospitalised in NSW alone. Here’s the good news. There seems little doubt that we are better prepared to confront a flu pandemic than we were in 189094 or 1918-19, although our experience of SARS and Bird Flu suggests that public fear and hysteria can easily overwhelm even the best laid plans. Medical advances have enabled the relatively quick development of vaccines and anti-virals. Effective antibiotics address the problem of secondary bacterial infections so significant during the 1918-19 pandemic. Global and national surveillance systems are more far more active in geographic reach and reaction time. Pandemic Response Plans have been prepared by the governments of both countries highlighting such things as surveillance, rapid identification and response, travel alerts and restrictions, stockpiling of specific drugs, quarantine, public closures and home quarantine. 52 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
So do we feel safe? Here’s the bad news. I very much doubt it, and the reasons are two fold. In the first case there are many concerns surrounding the current Pandemic Response Plans. The second concern relates to how we as ordinary people regard risk in our lives, how government and media pronouncements stimulate fear and hysteria and whether we think that in times of great epidemic crisis the government can really protect us. But first take the development of an effective vaccine. Usually it would take from three to six months to develop sufficient doses of a new flu vaccine by which time the pandemic may well have run its course. Even if it hadn’t, governments would face the critical dilemma of who to deliver vaccine stocks to, when and how. These are not easy questions and apply equally to the distribution of antivirals during the height of a pandemic. In both countries the government’s priority list for vaccines and antivirals includes health and emergency workers (and hopefully their families?). But after them who would be at the top of the list- those already suffering from flu, politicians and heads of government departments, neighbours and workmates of people who were ill, the old and/or chronically ill, or perhaps the “worried well’ with clout, and just how would a vaccine be physically delivered to such people? Would people be keen to line up with infected people outside government buildings? Would local chemists or GP’s still be working, or would they be at home looking after their family or perhaps sick themselves? Even if a coordinated mass distribution scheme could be implemented what about the environment of fear, hysteria and panic that might prevail? Australian history is laced with examples of riots and social disorder during mass vaccinations in times of epidemics. As the spread of influenza is closely related to close contact and crowding, the closure of public buildings, the banning of public gatherings and home quarantine would all seem potentially effective measures. Home quarantine raises many issues of concern. Formal incarceration in Quarantine Stations is no longer an option particularly when very large numbers of people are infected. Special hospitals would be designated to care for the critically ill, but for the remainder it would be ‘go home and stay home’ and work from home if possible. The issue of people being quarantined in their homes for say 4-6 weeks or longer raises many concerns, such as accessing essential food and medical supplies. Would anyone be keen or indeed available to deliver food, milk or medicines to ‘infected’ suburbs? I think not. And what about the psychological impacts of such quarantine? Studies of people quarantined in their homes in Toronto during the SARS outbreak suggests that many suffered considerable psychological turmoil when confined and cut off from family, relatives and workmates. And what about so called ‘hub’ workers, those whose jobs link to all the rest. Take the nation’s truck drivers, for example. When a UK strike blocked petrol deliveries for 10 days in 2000, nearly one-third of motorists ran out of petrol, some train and bus services couldn’t operate, shops began to run out of food, hazardous wastes built up, hospitals ran on minimal services and bodies were left unburied. What might happen during a pandemic if truck drivers were sick or quarantined at home with their families? The knockon effects would be substantial particularly for the food industry and for the critical supplies of drugs, blood and gases regularly delivered to hospitals. During the 1919 flu pandemic in Sydney staff absences reached levels of 35 to 50 percent. Undoubtedly the best way to avoid infection would be to stay at home but if too many people did this the implications for critical services such as
electricity, gas and water as well as basic food and medical supplies would be devastating. And then we have the wave of fear, hysteria and panic that would sweep the community. How would authorities manage such things? The governments’ Pandemic Plans are silent on the issue. Would we see ‘mateship’, a concern for neighbours and workmates, go out the window as happened in earlier epidemics? During the plague epidemic in Sydney in 1900, for example, the police were deluged with letters reporting that a neighbour or workmate had not been seen for a couple of days or was heard coughing, and perhaps they might have plague. Sadly, many of these people were forcibly removed to the Quarantine Station and detained for lengthy periods even though they were free of the disease. In times of pandemic crisis rationality is replaced by emotion, and where there is no magic cure, confidence in the government rapidly disappears. People inevitably fall back on their own resources and family and relatives come first. There seems little doubt that many of us harbour deep-seated fears about infection and contagion which are a mix of rational and irrational fears. Further, most of us react emotionally to the opinions and behaviour expressed by others around us. If friends and colleagues are fearful and stockpiling food and antivirals then we too will become more fearful and do the same. In all of this government and media pronouncements play an important part, not only informing and advising, but more critically raising fears and public hysteria. While it seems true that a certain amount of fear is a useful device for raising awareness and encouraging people to adopt precautionary measures, the line between what is ‘reasonable fear’ and something which inspires dread, hysteria and panic is not well defined. Finally, could we expect all levels of government and business to happily cooperate in containing the pandemic? In Australia, current official policy is that the Commonwealth would take over responsibility for managing the outbreak and put into place specific quarantine, border controls and other measures and that all levels of government would work cooperatively. Yet history suggests otherwise. In 1918, for example, the Commonwealth and all the States and Territories convened a conference to address the flu pandemic threat, All agreed on a 13 point plan whereby the Commonwealth would be notified immediately flu cases appeared and then would assume total authority for interstate transport, border security and formal quarantine. What actually happened? Well in 1919 when the first flu cases appeared in Melbourne the Victorian Government delayed informing the Commonwealth for some weeks for fear of what quarantine might do to local businesses, by which time the disease had spread to NSW. South Australia also initially refused to notify cases. Once flu was officially declared in Victoria, NSW closed its land and sea borders and instituted its own quarantine and border security procedures. Then it was every state for itself and the Commonwealth agreement of 1919 went out the window. Australia’s pandemic history is replete with such examples. And finally, the really bad news. The swine flu pandemic and/ or a new and perhaps more virulent human flu pandemic sometime in the next few years, will not be the last pandemics we face.
“Would local chemists or GP’s still be working, or would they be at home looking after their family or perhaps sick themselves?” Many believe that we are entering a new era of infectious disease and that future generations will have to face a dangerous array of infectious threats. It is a sobering thought. Peter Curson is Professor in Population & Security, at the Centre for International Security Studies, Faculty of Economics & Business, the University of Sydney. n
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Defe g in tl n a m is d re a ft e L How the British
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As the world hurtles headlong toward some kind of global government, HAL G.P. COLEBATCH reports on moves to disarm Britain INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 55
n an enlightening if depressing insight into how inputs into British policy-making are now taking place, a left-wing British think-tank, The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), has just recommended that Britain cut another 24 billion pounds ($48 billion) from its defence spending. This is not, of course, official policy, or not yet, but the IPPR is sufficiently close to the government for its effusions to attract serious attention. Such cuts would effectively spell the end of British defence forces, already desperately overstretched and fighting among themselves for what little money is available. In the case of the Royal Navy, the future of two new aircraft-carriers, originally estimated to cost about US$7.8 billion and which have been talked about for more than ten years, is already under a cloud. This is despite the fact that some much less affluent countries and countries with smaller economies are at present able to build aircraft-carriers. It is also despite the fact that the Royal Navy has already been cut by the Labour Government until it is considerably smaller than the French Navy. The number of a new class of destroyers has been cut from 12 first to eight and now to six, and the few to survive will, according to recent reports, lack vital missile systems. The report also points at the new Astute class attack submarines as possible candidates for axing. The Army and the Royal Air Force are in comparable positions: the Joint Strike Fighter is pointed at as something that may go. Already a long series of official enquiries has found that deaths of British servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan have been due to skimped and inadequate equipment. In 2008, in the House of Lords, in an action unprecedented in modern times and probably ever, all five former Chiefs of Defence Staff rose to complain that, in effect, the compact between the armed service and the country was ruins, and that the government was neglecting the armed forces and risking soldier’s lives. Similar concerns were expressed by others with the highest credentials. Admiral Michael Boyce, who led British forces into Iraq before retiring in 2003, said there was “blood on the floor” at the Ministry of Defence. This is despite the fact that at the time of his appointment Admiral Boyce had been criticized for being a political Admiral and allegedly too pliable to the government. General Guthrie said Prime Minister Brown was personally to blame for failing to fund the forces during a decade in charge of the treasury. “He was the most unsympathetic Chancellor of the Exchequer as far as defence is concerned,” he said. “I think really he must take much of the blame for the very serious situation we find the services in today.” “The money that defence is given for its budget is not sufficient to meet the level of activities we are currently required to engage in,” Admiral Boyce told BBC television. He continued that because soldiers did not have resources for training: “The first time they see some of their equipment is when they actually go out on their very first operational patrol.” He attacked Mr Brown for giving the defence secretary a second job running Scotland: “I feel that he has let the armed forces down by not appointing a secretary of state who is full time. When you’ve got people who are getting killed and maimed in the service of their government, and you put at the head of the shop someone who is part-time, that sends a very bad message. And that is the message I get back from our soldiers and our sailors and our airmen. They feel insulted. They feel he is treating them with contempt.” Military writer Frederick Forsyth reported that when he learned of the criticism, Brown was heard to remark: “I’m not being pushed around by those bastards.” 56 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
There have also been a series of scandals regarding poor living conditions for servicemen and poor, sometimes derisory, compensation for wounds or disablement incurred in the line of duty. Once cuts of the magnitude called for are made if is very hard to see how they could be reversed. Major capital items, the skills to operate them and all the various back-up and support needed – such as highly-trained aircrew, aircraft and escort vessels for carriers – cannot be acquired in a few weeks or a few years. Intangible traditions of great units, built up over, perhaps, centuries, can be literally priceless assets but be lost at the stroke of a bureaucratic pen. Another report, by the venerable and professionally respected Royal United Services Institute, says that the immediate aftermath of the next election will see a “comprehensive review of govern-
“General Guthrie said Prime Minister Brown was personally to blame for failing to fund the forces during a decade in charge of the treasury. “He was the most unsympathetic Chancellor of the Exchequer as far as defence is concerned,” he said. “I think really he must take much of the blame for the very serious situation we find the services in today”
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 57
ment commitments leading to a prolonged period of austerity in public spending starting with the fiscal year 2011/12.” The total British defense budget for 2010/11 is currently set at almost 37 billion pounds, but this is thought to be gravely inadequate to meet current requirements.
eanwhile it is now estimated that the 1212 London Olympics will cost US $20 billion, and it seems certain that this will prove an underestimate. There is apparently no suggestion that national defence might take priority over this. In 2007 Britain was already spending less of its wealth on defence than Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey despite the constant demands placed on its Armed Forces, and defence spending as a proportion of the UK’s gross domestic product was at its lowest since 1930. One of the IPPR report’s principal authors, Lord Ashdown, said the UK would have to “reach out to establish a new concordat with other nations and other global powers in order to secure a secure world in changing and turbulent circumstances. That does require new thinking.” He continued: “One conclusion we arrive at is we can no longer afford to maintain museum Cold War armaments. We can no longer afford to maintain full-spectrum armed forces capable of operating anywhere in the globe like a mini-United States.” This could be rephrased as advocating the surrender of Britain’s ability to defend itself as an independent power. No other major middleranking powers (Britain still has the forth-biggest economy in the world) have policy expressed in such terms. Spokesmen for the British defence industry have reacted angrily to the IPPR report. Ian Godden, chief executive of the Society of British Aerospace Companies, said: “The debate about big projects versus better conditions for troops or more boots on the ground and between one service or another is a false one or at best highly risky. “The real issue is the fact that as a nation we no longer adequately fund our own defence. Threats to our security do not go away simply because we are in a recession.” BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the 180-page IPPR document, published after two years of research, would carry weight in Whitehall, given its highly-experienced authors. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, commentator Benedict Brogan has said of the state of British defence today: “In this particular kingdom we are nodding off, distracted by the agonies of a financial crisis and the positioning of leaders vying for power. A time of great uncertainty abroad is met by political indifference at home. “From climate change and resource shortages, to cyber-warfare and disorderly states, to Islamist terrorism and international criminal networks, the dangers are multiplying. And then there are the unknown unknowns, the things we don’t know that we don’t know that kept Donald Rumsfeld up at night. Thirty years from now, who is to say that Russia will not have reverted to its expansionist ways, or that a nuclear-armed Caliphate of Waziristan will not be parked where Pakistan used to be? … Funnily enough, no one is offering up any of the spare admirals or the 100,000 officials in the Ministry of Defence for sacrifice …” The RUSI says the immediate aftermath of the next election will see a “comprehensive review of government commitments leading to a prolonged period of austerity in public spending starting with the fiscal year 2011/12.” The significant thing about the IPPR report is that, extremist 58 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
as it is, it cannot be written off as inconsequential. It is not the product of some politically impotent fringe-group pathetically remembering the glory days of communism. On the contrary, the Institute of Public Policy Research has very close links with the government. Leading Labour left politicians Patricia Hewitt, David Miliband and Tristram Hunt are among those who passed through it as staff. An institution like the RUSI, despite its highly-professional membership (it was founded by theDuke of wellington to encourage officers to study military matters) doesn’t have remotely comparable connections with those presently in power. The IPPR is credited with having shaped many current Labour policies, including the institution of compulsory identity cards, litter-bin taxes and road pricing. It has been described as one of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s favorite think tanks. It pushes a broad-spectrum left-wing package deal apparently aimed at destroying traditional values and institutions, and also, incidentally, apparently aimed at destroying the position of Christianity in Britain. In 2007 it recommended that Christmas, if it could not be obliterated, should be down-graded in order to promote multiculturalism. It said that because it would be hard to “expunge” Christmas from the national calendar (although this would apparently be desirable), public organizations must be made to give non-Christian religious festivals equal footing. Add to this the push for compulsory and highly-detailed identity cards and the virtual destruction of the defence forces and you get a pretty good idea of the sort of Britain its institutional mind-set seems to want and be working for. The IPPR became the first ever think-thank to win the Prospect magazine “Think-Tank of the Year” Award for the second time. Showing how seriously it is taken by the government and how good its connections are, the award was presented by Schools Secretary Ed Balls MP at a ceremony in the Great Hall at King’s College. Co-author of the IPPR report on defence is Lord Robertson, a former anti-nuclear protester who, after Labour won the 1997 General Election, was appointed Secretary of State for Defence, a position he held until he resigned from the Cabinet in order to become Secretary General of NATO in 1999. Its trustees include such uniquely-named socialist nobility as The Lord Eatwell, the Lord Bhattacharyya, the Baroness Young of Old Scone (I am not making these up) and the Lord Kinnock (former Labour Party Leader Neil Kinnock whose wife has just been appointed to the Government as Minister for Europe), as well as publishing tycoon the Lord Gavron, whose former wife made the memorable pronouncement that Prince Charles ought to be compelled to marry a black bride (I am not making that up either). Comic titles aside, however, a check-list of the institute’s trustees show they have networks of enormous influence in politics, academia, the media and above all on various unelected boards and quangos. Themselves unelected and unaccountable, their influence is worth taking seriously as one of the important drivers of British policy-making during the last eleven disastrous years of Labour government, promulgating hard-leftist ideology while allowing Prime Minister Blair, and then – less successfully in the general current degringolade – Prime Minister Brown, to appear as nonideological managerialists. Both the Government and the Tory Opposition contain important elements which would love to cut defence spending to free up money for more effective vote-buying and for them this report may be welcome. n
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INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 59
GAME OVER Serena Williams and Roger Federer emerged victorious at Wimbledon this month. Investigate’s affiliates were courtside
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Serena Williams [facing page] in action in this year’s Wimbledon final against her sister Venus [above] / NOTIMEX
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Serena Williams claims victory over sister Venus / WENN
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Roger Federer becomes officially the world’s greatest tennis player after winning his 15th grand slam by defeating Andy Roddick in the men’s final. / WENN
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think life | money
Snare con Peter Hensley profiles what happens when you don’t pay attention and engage brain The day dawned cold and dull. Dave had not slept. He was perplexed and unsure of himself. This was in stark contrast to the public’s image of this fine upstanding and successful businessman. He had, by all accounts, been very successful. He was now questioning why he was let down by the same abilities he had utilised to become so successful. He thought back to the first phone call he had received “in the middle of the night”, almost three years ago. The caller had introduced himself as “George” and he was contacting Dave because a friend of Dave’s had passed on his number. The friend knew that Dave’s business was successful and that he owned a number of New Zealand shares. In fact he had a substantial portfolio built up over many years. Dave was perplexed, it was the middle of winter, the cold wet Taranaki days were short and this in turn did not allow for him and his crew to maximise their earning potential. He yearned for the winter solstice to pass and for the days to lengthen. His business relied heavily on the clean crisp clear days that the district was renowned for. 66 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
Days when the sun shone brightly and the odd shower passed, thus providing the dairy farmers with the raw material to manufacture white gold. This in turn allowed the farmers to employ contractors, each a specialist in his field, to assist and boost their production tally. Dave was an excellent contractor and had assembled a team of skilled trades people to serve his customers well. This system had not changed for centuries, however Dave had used it to maximise his share of the gold. He was personable, well liked and respected in the community. He had studied and taken good counsel when it came to investing his profits. Dave’s mind raced back to that first phone call. Business had been flat, no major contracts to chase and although normally a very cautious person, Dave felt an immediate affinity with George. George was well-spoken, obviously well educated and curious about Dave’s investment strategy. It had taken several late night phone calls for both of them to accept each other as equals, they were approximately the same age and their respective children were academically gifted. During that first phone
call George did mention that he worked in a large brokering firm in Manila. It was raised casually and almost in passing. The calls where late [NZ time] because of the time zone difference between the two countries. Just before he rang off, George asked for permission to ring the next night about the same time. Dave thought nothing of it and said “sure”. Now Dave used his ability to remember trivial details to analyse the conversations that took place all that time ago. George had been quick to agree with Dave’s comments about the Government of the time and how it stifled entrepreneurs’ ability to stimulate the economy. George only volunteered the facts about his children after Dave had told him about the proud achievements of his. George never had a bad day and was always up-beat about life. He never brought up the subject of his work until prodded by Dave. It was then that George took Dave into his confidence. His company “had people on the inside” and were able to predict with confidence which shares were “a good buy”. He had used this information himself to set him and his family up for life. He only came into work now because he enjoyed it, not because he had to. Dave liked the sound of this. He had always suspected that “someone had to know” which firms were allotted plum Government contracts and which firms had the edge in technology. Casually and almost as a favour, George asked Dave if he was interested in recommendations for good stocks. Dave thought he was talking to Santa Claus, of course he would be interested. Dave did not abandon his lifetime habit of being cautious. He watered down George’s suggestions and placed orders for three stocks, one was a Canadian company which was due to receive a multimillion US Government order spaced over three years. The other two were well placed with their research and development teams to launch new and exceptional products into the market place. Dave’s initial order amounted to NZD$60,000. Dave was supplied the appropriate bank account details in Manila and his wife dutifully arranged for the telegraphic transfer. The day after the certificates arrived, George was on the phone again. He could hardly contain himself he was so excited. The share price for one company had doubled in that week. It had surpassed all predictions and the analyst’s comments could
not be better. They had gotten in at precisely the right time, they had brought their shares at the lowest price possible, USD$17.53 and now it was trading at USD$38.12. The share price of both other companies had increased as well, one by 40 % the other by 62 %. George was his normal happy self, and Dave quietly pleased. He had chosen well. Dave now remembered that George was his only source of price data. He relied upon the information that George passed on. His experience had taught him that the certificates provided him with a safety net. It was proof of ownership. What Dave did not know, nor could comprehend, was that George had indeed bought the shares in Dave’s name, however the real price was USD$0.03 each. The brokerage paid to the accredited US share-broker was greater than the value of the shares. All three shares were similarly priced. The information about the government contracts and superior research technology was false. As was the price data. It was a well-rehearsed sting. George was real and his record indicated that he was one of the best. He then went to work on Dave. George took some time off. He had earned a well-deserved holiday bonus. Upon
his return he turned up the heat on Dave. He convinced him to “trade” two of his purchases for new, more exciting (& profitable) opportunities. He did. The sting continued, more money was wired over. Certificates were traded and posted backwards and forwards. George maintained his happy disposition and Dave was proud of his international investments. He even boasted about them whenever they hosted dinner parties. Over the previous two years he had asked his wife to transfer over NZD$200,000 to “his broker in Manila”. It was now twelve months since Dave had spoken with George. During that conversation, George had reassured him that his stock portfolio was booming in value and that it was now time for Dave to be transferred to another broker, however they would still remain friends and stay in touch. Dave never heard from George again. Dave wasn’t worried. He had the share certificates and was confident as to their value. Dave’s business was booming, his talents, skills and ability were in demand. This demand placed a strain on cash flow. He approached a local broker to appraise his stock portfolio and to arrange to liquidate some of his international holdings. The adviser was keen to assist George,
however the story sounded all too familiar. The adviser had heard it before and knew the result in advance. Two of the five shares he held were worthless, they were not even trading. Another had been de-listed by the New York Stock exchange because of non-compliance. One company did not even exist. The certificate looked real, yet all efforts to trace it proved fruitless. The fifth company was still listed, however the minimum brokerage would be greater than the sale price. When Dave opened the letter of explanation from his new adviser, he half expected it to confirm that he had been conned, yet he still held some hope that he could recoup something. However the harsh reality was that it was all gone. He should have known better. Looking back he could not believe that he had sent over $200,000 to an individual he had never met. He could not believe that the certificates that he held in his hand were worthless. He could not believe that it had happened to him. Every other time he had heard about a con or a scam it had always happened to someone else… © Peter J Hensley June 2009 A copy of Peter Hensley’s disclosure statement is available on request and is free of charge.
THE DIVINITY CODE
“…the most politically incorrect book” in New Zealand. He is absolutely right…Prepare to be surprised and shocked. Wishart may ruﬀle a few feathers but his arguments are fair as his evidence proves. If you are looking for a stimulating mental challenge, or a cause to fight for, Eve’s Bite will definitely satisfy. – Wairarapa Times-Age
Wishart takes up the gauntlet laid down by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, and in fact, uses Dawkins own logic and methodology to launch a counter-attack against unbelief. Challenging…thought provoking…compelling – keepingstock.blogspot.com
Discover the truth for yourself. Get these two books today from Whitcoulls, Borders, PaperPlus, Dymocks, Take Note, and all good independent booksellers, or online at
I’m having a cracking good read of another cracking good read – The Divinity Code by Ian Wishart, his follow-up book to Eve’s Bite which was also a cracking good read – comment on “Being Frank”
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think life | EDUCATION
Ratcheting the education system downwards Amy Brooke is not optimistic about the tinkering with education standards
Recently I heard an ill-spoken representative of the School Trustees Association complaining about how unfair and unnecessary is a national standard of assessment for school pupils. Had she herself been assessed to a national standard, her illthought pronouncements and uncouth voice might well have failed her. Herein lies the rub. Good teachers and schools have nothing to fear from national standards. In the ironic recognition of the community, the NCEA acronym represents No Chance of Employment Afterwards. Nor is there anything wrong with ranking schools. The challenge this lays down is for all to strive to provide the best possible teaching for their pupils. Assessing teachers, too, should be a must. Many are not fit to be foisted off on pupils with no choice but to endure them. Similarly, today’s recalcitrant, aggressive pupils should be booted out of mainstream classrooms, where they damage fellow pupils’ chances to learn, and willing teachers’ chances to teach. Being in a classroom should be a privilege, as in so many Third World countries. For the dis68 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
ruptive and destructive there should be alternative, mana-reducing provisions. It isn’t well-performing, but mediocre and poor schools that are so hostile to ranking – information which parents deserve to have. Moreover, the current level of hostility to the notion of national standards, by, predictably, the leftist teacher unions, would be almost incredible, were it not for the fact that once again history’s “useful fools” are being led by the nose by those whose agenda is long rooted in the Marxist attack on the West. With some obvious exceptions, our state schools are now largely a lost cause. However, in his new book, The Beautiful Tree, Professor James Tooley instances a growing movement which sees history repeating itself along the lines of Pliny the Younger’s challenge to the citizens of his hometown, Comum, for parents to get together to establish their own small private schools. Professor Tooley documents his journey of several years visiting some of the poorest areas in the world; “back slum streets teeming with private
and parent-funded schools… attended by sons and daughters of rickshaw drivers and fishermen…willing to pay modest fees to see their children well-educated.” Yet the notion of “well-educated” is one which the education bureaucracy in this country has long repudiated. Professor Tooley encountered parallel situations. Travelling across China, Africa and India, he encountered cynicism and denial from government officials, and even international aid agencies (possibly the same whose priority is apparently handing out condoms) antagonistic to the fact that parents were choosing these schools. Interestingly, in every area, the same pattern emerged: “The world’s poor… opting out of publicly funded education, preferring to send their children to small, privately run educational establishments...schools affordable to parents…earning perhaps a dollar a day” but “scrimping and saving to ensure their children got the best education they could afford.” In urban slums of India, 75% of pupils were enrolled in private schools. In China’s Gansu province he
found 586 private schools located in remote mountain villages, despite a universal state education system. The lesson for parents here, dismayed at the dumbing down of the state education system, and the politically-correct, distorted agenda inflicted on our children, is obvious. One might think, if one were naïve, that a government anxious for New Zealanders’ future prosperity and harmony would want to encourage the notion of competition within a poorly performing state system, challenging it to raise its standards, and so improving the chances of quality education for all. But the history of education in this country over the last 50 years, in particular since the agenda-laden,1961 new English syllabus, has been its takeover by those who recognise only too well that competence in the English language in particular is vital to our ability to think well. Allied to a sound knowledge of history, it is arguably one of the chief means of educating each new generation, of achieving a stable society and preserving a civilisation itself. The ensuing attack on these subject areas was not accidental, basically amounting to a sociopolitical revolution. Clear descriptions of what was to be taught were removed, especially in English and history, which, as a knowledgeable correspondent pointed out, are by now the only subjects requiring essays (i.e. sustained thinking) in the secondary system. The influence of the radicalised Noam Chomsky, disparaging “prescriptive” syllabuses, has done untold damage to the cause of clarifying what is important to be taught, and why. For what is most needed for merely average or ignorant teachers is a clear statement of aims to be specifically pursued in teaching a subject thoroughly and well – and a prescribed course content. This has long been replaced by woolly and evasive descriptions; “should have some idea of”… “should have some knowledge of”. Whereas fine teachers have no trouble teaching rigorously and well to their own criteria, such evasive and nebulous assertions are no help at all to many indifferent teachers disadvantaged by the failure of the bureaucracy to lay down precise goals -and syllabuses precisely detailing the knowledge to be mastered in sequence – if pupils are to be taught competently. The National Party’s failure to insist on external national standards as a basis for equality of opportunity for young New Zealanders greatly reduces the chances of a
“Parents are, in the future, going to more and more abandon our state schools, moving to homeschooling and small neighbourhood schools – as a result of what has been called the ratchet affect level playing field for all. And now even its minimalist requirements for schools to aim at literacy and numeracy goals are being inveighed against by teachers who should enthusiastically welcome them, as offering the best outcomes for their pupils. The fragmentation and trivialising of the curriculum by Tomorrow’s Schools introduced the discredited unit standards, now replaced by the equally discredited achievement standards, leaving better performing schools to virtually abandon the NCEA, choosing instead the internationally accredited Cambridge and International Baccalaureate examinations. These offer students a considerably greater challenge than that from our education bureaucracy. At the same time as the valuable trades apprenticeships were removed, the latter also dumped the Inspectorate and the teacher-grading system as tools of accountability. Now only external examination results can show the performance of individual schools, of teachers, of children, and of the degree of parental support – or lack of it. Little wonder about the vociferous antagonism to these from within the establishment. Parents are, in the future, going to more and more abandon our state schools, mov-
ing to home-schooling and small neighbourhood schools – as a result of what has been called the ratchet affect. In other words, incoming governments of the Right in this country have been inadequate at undoing any of the damage done by the Marxist-inspired Left these last decades. They wilt before the virulent attacks by the teacher unions and bureaucracy, feebly marking time before the next Labour coalition again achieves office, ratcheting down another notch from where its fellow-travelling predecessors temporarily halted. In due course, then, parents can look forward with dismay to the boorish and aggressive Trevor Mallard yet again assuming an arguably quite inappropriate role as Minister of Education – one more appropriate for deeply knowledgeable individuals of demonstrably civilised standards and behaviour. Inevitably, those who care deeply about their children being short-changed and mis-taught want something far better than what our Left-dominated education bureaucracy continues to impose. © Amy Brooke www.amybrooke.co.nz www.summersounds..co.nz http://www.livejournal.com/users/brookeonline/
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 69
think life | SCIENCE
Big leap forward New wonder material, one-atom thick, has scientists abuzz writes Robert S. Boyd Imagine a carbon sheet that’s only one atom thick but is stronger than diamond and conducts electricity 100 times faster than the silicon in computer chips. That’s graphene, the latest wonder material coming out of science laboratories around the world. It’s creating tremendous buzz among physicists, chemists and electronic engineers. “It is the thinnest known material in the universe, and the strongest ever measured,” Andre Geim, a physicist at the University 70 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
of Manchester, England, wrote in the June 19 issue of the journal Science. “A few grams could cover a football field,” said Rod Ruoff, a graphene researcher at the University of Texas, Austin, in an e-mail. Like diamond, graphene is pure carbon. It forms a six-sided mesh of atoms that, through an electron microscope, looks like a honeycomb or piece of chicken wire. Despite its strength, it’s as flexible as plastic wrap and can be bent, folded or rolled up like a scroll.
Graphite, the lead in a pencil, is made of stacks of graphene layers. Although each individual layer is tough, the bonds between them are weak, so they slip off easily and leave a dark mark when you write. Potential graphene applications include touch screens, solar cells, energy storage devices, cell phones and, eventually, highspeed computer chips. Replacing silicon, the basic electronic material in computer chips, however, “is a long way off ... far beyond the horizon,”
This is an electron microscope image of individual carbon atoms in a sheet of graphene, the thinnest and strongest material known to science. (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory/MCT)
“Like diamond, graphene is pure carbon. It forms a six-sided mesh of atoms that, through an electron microscope, looks like a honeycomb or piece of chicken wire. Despite its strength, it’s as flexible as plastic wrap and can be bent, folded or rolled up like a scroll
says Geim, who first discovered how to produce graphene five years ago. “In the near- and medium-term, it’s going to be extremely difficult for graphene to displace silicon as the main material in computer electronics,” says Tomas Palacios, a graphene researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Silicon is a multibillion-dollar industry that has been perfecting silicon processing for 40 years.” Government and university laboratories, long-established companies such as IBM, and small start-ups are working to solve difficult problems in making graphene and turning it into useful products. Ruoff founded a company in Texas called Graphene Energy, which is seeking ways to store renewable energy from solar cells or the energy captured from braking in autos. The Pentagon is also interested in this new high-tech material. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is spending $22 million on research to make computer chips and transistors out of graphene. Graphene was the leading topic at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society – a leading organization of physicists – in Pittsburgh in April. Researchers packed 23 panel sessions on the topic.
About 1,500 scientific papers on graphene were published in 2008 alone. Until last year, the only way to make graphene was to mount flakes of graphite on sticky tape and separate a single layer by carefully peeling away the tape. They called it the “Scotch Tape technique.” Recently, however, scientists have discovered a more efficient way to produce graphene on an underlying base of copper, nickel or silicon, which subsequently is etched away. “There has been spectacular progress in the last two or three months,” Geim reported in the journal Science. “Challenges that looked so daunting just two years ago have suddenly shrunk, if not evaporated.” “I’m confident there will be many commercial applications,” Ruoff says. “We will begin to see hybrid devices – mostly made from silicon, but with a critical part of the device being graphene – in niche applications.” ON THE WEB More from the University of Texas, Austin: http://www.engr.utexas.edu/news/articles/200905071710/index.cfm More from MIT: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/graphene-palacios-0319.html
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 71
think life | TECHNOLOGY
Passwords – Size really matters We’re making it too easy for hackers, warns ESET’s Randy Abrams
In the past, advice about passwords has often been pedantically correct, yet useless. Let’s face it, you are not likely to use a password like “!r4%^s2A”, and if you do, you have still failed to create a good one, unless you are on a system with an 8 character limit for the password. The keys to good passwords lie in length (size really matters), and not using a single word in the dictionary, even if it is really long. “Conventional wisdom” dictates passwords that you cannot remember, should not write down, and probably will not use. Seems like a dilemma. But, good passwords are actually easy. The problem with a password like “!r4%^s2A” is that it is too short. A password like “I really hate passwords” is actually much better. 72 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
The easiest approach to guessing a password is to find out information about someone and go from there. Spouses name? Pet names, Birthdays? Talk to people and you will find out how truly easy it is to get this information from someone. People who use these passwords are easy pickings. Passwords that are short and pertain to one’s personal or even business life are commonly used and easily guessed. Attacks on such passwords are accomplished with simple “social engineering,” or with stolen data. Dictionary attacks try a variety of words found in the dictionary. If you choose the password “January” it will be guessed in a couple of seconds or less by a computer program. You can use real words, but just not one. The art is in combinations, but more on that later.
No matter what you choose for a password it can be cracked eventually with brute force. Brute force simply means trying every possible combination of characters that can be in a password. This is where size really matters. If the password is long enough, a brute force attack will take months or even years. If you only use lowercase letters and have a 7 letter password there are roughly 8 billion combinations for a brute force cracking program to try. This may sound like a lot, but it can be cracked extremely quickly with a computer. If you use uppercase letters, lower case letters, numbers, punctuation, and special characters, like ¥ or © you are now up to almost 70 trillion combinations. This is still a trivial task for a
“As long as the information isn’t easily guessable then it will be very hard for an attacker to change your password by answering a ridiculously easy question
computer to solve. Now take a look at a password such as “isthisgood”. A 10 character password with only lower case letters has about 141 trillion possibilities. So your 10 character lower case password is better than any 7 character password. It is still good to use more than just lower case letters though. A password such as “8 Resolutions this year!” is 24 characters long, easy to remember, uses 4 different character sets (upper case, lower case, numbers, and punctuation) and is a very hard password to crack with brute force. One of my favorite techniques uses math equations. Can you remember that 49+51=100? This is too short, but what about “Forty9 and 51=One hundred ”. That’s 27 characters! The spaces
are legal characters, and if you remember a space at the end you could write the password on a piece of paper as “Forty9 and 51=One hundred”. Note that there was a space at the end of the password that is not seen on the paper reminder. Add 2 to 8 spaces at the end and it is killer. How about “Was I was born in 1960?” Easy for me to remember (I was), but hard for a computer to crack. Mark Burnett, the author of Perfect Passwords, recommends that once or twice a year businesses and individuals alike have a “password day”. Change all of your passwords across your company. If you only change some passwords then an attacker has a lot of time to work on the others. It can only take one known password for a skilled hacker to gain access to the entire network. Honesty is not The Best Policy for Password Resets In light of yet another Twitter hack involving a Yahoo email password reset attack, you might think twice about the answers you provide for password reset questions. Common password reset questions include the following: What is your mother’s maiden name?
Where were you born? What high school did you graduate from? All of these and many others have answers that are probably public information. In other words, it isn’t hard to know the answer to your “secret question”. Let dishonesty be your secret weapon!!! There is no reason you can’t make up the answers, the only trick is to remember your lies. OK, let me put this in a more socially acceptable manner. Make up a new life. Make up a story and remember it. So, now your mother’s maiden name becomes “Smurf ” or something equally silly. You graduated from “Basketcase HS”. I was born in “A Different Galaxy”. Make up a story, it will help you to remember it. Pick a character in a book if you wish. As long as the information isn’t easily guessable then it will be very hard for an attacker to change your password by answering a ridiculously easy question. If you choose your own questions then make sure the answer isn’t easy to guess or find on the web. Hacked together by Chillisoft NZ from various ramblings by Randy Abrams, Director of Technical Education, ESET LLC [developers of ESET NOD32 antivirus software]
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 73
feel life | SPORT
Recession? What recession? Chris Forster finds some athletes are immune to economic conditions
A precocious Portuguese lad by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo has proved money is no object when it comes to football and outrageous talent. The world’s best player even had the audacity to claim his record $200 (NZ) million transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid was a “fair price”. Ronaldo’s weekly pay cheque of $650,000 eclipses the annual salary of New Zealand’s best known player, Blackburn Rovers and All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen. The top paid All Black is sure to be first five Dan Carter – who like Ronaldo attracts a multitude of admirers in the looks department. Carter’s believed to be on an annual salary of between $700,000 and $900,000, 74 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
marginally more than captain Richie McCaw. Although the NZRU confidentiality for wages makes the exact amount pure media speculation Senior New Zealand rugby internationals like injured lock Ali Williams, fullback Mils Muliaina and prop Tony Woodcock, earn between $400,000 and $600,000 per annum. On the world stage, though, they’re bit players. Ronaldo’s right in front of the audience with a lead role and backed-up by some very impressive credentials. His 2007-8 season in the English Premier League was remarkable. He nailed 42 goals in 49 appearances, won Europe’s greatest accolade – the Ballon D’Or, was named FIFA World Player of the Year and voted Player of
the Year by his fellow professional footballers in the UK for the second year running. He’s an idol in his homeland, a captain of the highly-ranked Portugal national team and one of the most recognisable faces on the planet. He was born Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro in February 1985 in Madeira, the youngest of 4 children, Ronaldo’s prodigious skills quickly made him a hot property in his hometown, and at 12 years old was snapped up by Sporting Lisbon after a solitary training session. He quickly turned heads from the English Premier League and Man U supremo Sir Alex Ferguson swooped on the then 18 year old in 2003, for the princely sum of $30 million. He’d go on to nail two Premier League
titles and a Champions League crown with the Red Devils – but poignantly failed to fire in this year’s Champions League final as they lost 2-nil to Real Madrid’s bitter Spanish rivals, Barcelona. Real’s endless riches and desire to build success with a team of superstars proved irresistible to Ronaldo. He’d already publically stated his desire to join the Spanish giants in 2008. He parted with Ferguson’s blessing, and contributed the equivalent of a few pocketsized third world country economies to the Old Trafford coffers. Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez recently had a lash at the “crazy” amounts of cash changing money during the summer transfer season in Europe. “The market is all money, money, money now”. The Spaniard had just forked out 17-million for English international back Glen Johnson, when the reality of his homeland’s lavish spending binge slammed the door shut on the Anfield coffers. Real Madrid’s combined bill for the megatalents of Ronaldo, Brazilian star Kaka, and two other big name footballers pushed close to half a billion New Zealand bucks. But unlike most European clubs Madrid’s incredibly wealthy owners are the decision makers. They run the elections, the board and operate the business at the famed Bernabeu Stadium. They’re in the ego business of returning the club to its glory days and stacking a side full of the best players in the world is their solution. Outraged politicians in Europe (including the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero) have slammed the club’s sheer extravagance during tough economic times, joining the likes of Pele and Benitez. But Real clearly believe they can buy success – with their “Galacticos” of superstars – led by Cristiano Ronaldo. HENRY’S MISSION STATEMENT This time two years ago Graham Henry was finalising his master plan to take the All Blacks to France and World Cup glory. Their stumble to the inspired Frenchmen in the Cardiff quarterfinal on that ill-fated October evening may well have signalled the end of his top level rugby coaching career. But at the age of 63, Henry’s five year reign alongside assistants Steve Hanson and Wayne Smith, will roll on until after the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand. The NZRU board decision came straight
“Henry’s credentials, outside of the Millenium Stadium horror show, are impeccable. New Zealand’s been the dominant force in the Tri Nations against fierce rivals the Wallabies and the Springboks, winning 4 of the 5 competitions after a scratchy start to their 2009 international season, with an unconvincing drawn series at home against their bogey side France and a substandard victory over Italy. But the die had been cast. With Robbie Deans tied up at the Wallabies and Warren Gatland committed to Wales, the NZRU’s best option was to stick with the status quo. Henry’s credentials, outside of the Millenium Stadium horror show, are impeccable. New Zealand’s been the dominant force in the Tri Nations against fierce rivals the Wallabies and the Springboks, winning 4 of the 5 competitions. They’ve held the Bledisloe Cup throughout and forged a 3-nil rout of the touring British and Irish Lions back in 2005. An overall record for the coaching triumvirate of 57 from 66 matches at the time of their contract extension, is virtually unequalled in any international team sport. Henry cut a diplomatic figure when facing a media scrum last month as the All Blacks started their planning for a difficult Tri Nations campaign. “It was a real privilege to be asked to do this job and coach this team”. “After the World Cup I don’t think any of us thought we would continue. But after a review and the support of other people and the support of the guys we coach – we decided to carry on”.
The New Zealand print media have refused to let him, or the rugby public, forget about Cardiff. Most stories about the All Blacks mention the inglorious exit in the first couple of paragraphs. “There are goals along the way – but we want to get through this Tri Nations first. We’ve got challenges this year – with a number of new guys in the team”. But even the venerable old coach hints he can lift the game to a new level. “We are always trying to get better and if you don’t there’s no point in carrying on. The game is changing we have to change as well”. Henry was lost for words after that abject display against Italy in Christchurch – a performance labelled by some critics as their worst in tests in 20 years. But this is a rebuilding time. Richie McCaw, Rodney So’oialo and Sitiveni Sivivatu are all back in the fray, a recuperating Dan Carter’s close to returning to provincial rugby – and Henry gets a chance to build depth and test experience two years out from his next holy grail. It will be his last mission. The pressure to break a 24 year drought since the very first World Cup will be suffocating and relentless, especially in New Zealand. Anything less than “Graham’s glory” in 2011 will not be acceptable. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 75
feel life | HEALTH
Like a pig in muck Claire Morrow surveys the likely impact of H1N1/A
In the last few days of April the first three cases of H1N1/A Flu in New Zealand were confirmed. It must have been terrifying for the parents of those children (infected on a school trip to Mexico) – not much was known about the disease at the time and there was a great deal of concern in scientific and community circles. Mercifully, the facts of the virus appears (at this stage) to be less alarming than was initially feared. By the time of writing, more than 1500 New Zealanders had caught the disease and six had died, although all had underlying health complications. Having “the ‘flu” is not a pleasant experience, of course, but we are all familiar with it, and perhaps a little blasé. A bad ‘flu can make you very ill indeed, but most people don’t think of ‘flu as being particularly deadly. But the worldwide annual death toll from ordinary, everyday ‘flu is estimated at between 250,000 and 500,000 people each year. “Swine flu” is, by comparison, nothing to worry about, at this stage. Even though swine flu is categorized as a pandemic by the WHO, at this stage it is a relatively harmless virus. Much like the 76 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
regular flu, only less deadly. At this stage. The “mother of all pandemics” (http:// www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol12no01/050979.htm) has been said to have been the 1918-1919 “Spanish Flu”. Total deaths from that pandemic are estimated at between 50 and 100 million; it was highly infectious (easily spread amongst humans), had a high mortality rate, and people had little immunity to it. There have been nasty ‘flu’s since then, but none so devastating. Much of the concern over future pandemics is rooted in a fear that sooner or later, one of these days, we will face the emergence of a ’flu with the deadly mortality of that 1918 virus. Research suggests that all human influeza A pandemics since 1918 (except avian viruses) are descendants of the deadly 1918 virus. It is a very successful virus, in that sense, and luckily we humans have become rather used to it – we have some immunity. Recall that – unless you are very ill, and too immune-compromised to organize an immune response – humans are successful at fighting off viral illnesses like flu, and are then immune. Although we might feel that we have the same flu over and over again,
we do not. Each year there are a number of prominent strains of influenza virus thriving amongst humans. The annual ‘flu vaccine aims to protect us from catching these strains of ‘flu, but doesn’t protect us from catching all possible strains. Likewise, having had the ‘flu does not protect you from getting another ‘flu. But since we have had all these ‘flus, the human immune system tends to recognize them – unpleasant as it is to be sick, when we are well, we have a good ability to recover from the flu. A large part of the concern about cross species influenzas is their potential to be devastating because human immune systems will not recognize them and will fail to mount a timely defense, allowing the viruses time to take hold. Efficient cross species influenzas occur rarely, but viruses evolve rapidly, and some animal ‘flus are closer to human flus than others, meaning that if these viruses meet, they can cross breed. Not in humans, in fact, but in pigs. Pigs suffer from pig flu (which makes them ill), but they can also catch human and bird flus (which don’t make them ill). It is thought that the
viruses then meet and mingle and create new flu viruses. Debate is still out as to what role pigs played in the 1918 pandemic, in which pigs were also struck down by ‘flu, but the leading hypothesis is that pigs initially caught the disease from humans. Most of these novel influenza viruses die out because they are not particularly contagious or efficient as viruses, but some catch hold. The outbreaks in recent years of SARS and Birds flu were nasty diseases, the viruses binding to receptors in the lungs (rather than in the nose and throat as with more benign viruses, such as swine flu), and the mortality rate was high – many of those infected died of the disease. But the diseases weren’t very contagious – they did not become pandemics because very few people caught them. Swine flu appears to be fairly contagious but relatively mild – less contagious and less deadly than the regular ‘flu. As many as four out of five pig workers have antibodies to swine flu, because they have been exposed to a version of it which doesn’t make humans ill. There have also been a few cases of humans becoming ill from swine flu caught directly from
pigs, but the disease did not infect other humans. There was, however, an outbreak of Swine ‘flu in the United States in 1976. It was a very small outbreak. The particular strain in question was identified when an army recruit at Fort Dix died, after being hospitalized with ‘flu, and 4 fellow soldiers were hospitalized with the same illness. That strain was identified from January 19 to February 9, and then vanished without a trace, but alarm bells had been sounded, and increased surveillance identified another alarming looking strain, which was in circulation (causing mostly mild illness) in March of that year. Public health officials in the U.S. panicked, but they panicked in a very bureaucratic way. Determined to vaccinate the entire population of the U.S., the vaccination program did not actually begin until October. The virus was not doing anything alarming at that stage, but it was coming up to the northern hemisphere winter, and it looked like good public relations. Not all of the deaths linked to the vaccine were proved to be caused by the vaccine, but there was a media outcry, and less than a third of the American population ended up receiving
the vaccination. No vaccine is completely safe, of course, the hope is that the vaccine is much safer than the illness. In the case of the 1976 swine ‘flu outbreak in the US, however, the illness turned out to be less of a threat than was feared, the vaccine was an uncommonly nasty one, causing around 500 confirmed cases of a rare neuromuscular disorder called Guillian-Barre syndrome, resulting in 25 deaths. It was a case of “if in doubt, do something…anything.” , and public health officials are decried for doing nothing as much as for when they try to do something. Because they don’t, at the end of the day, know any more than anyone else. The current swine ‘flu looks to be a mild illness, and if it is then only those at special risk should be treated. We have bacterial “superbugs” as a direct result of the overuse of antibiotics, if we throw antiviral medication at mild ‘flus, we increase the chance that the next pandemic will be immune to it. Given the low mortality of swine ‘flu, the best advice would seem to be as for normal flu: wash your hands often and cover your mouth when you cough. And don’t panic.
HEALTHBRIEFS Human egg cells grow to maturity in lab u CHICAGO, (UPI) – U.S. medical scientists say they have grown immature human egg cells to near maturity in a laboratory. The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine researchers said their achievement marks the first time anyone has successfully grown a woman’s immature egg cells, contained in a tiny sac called a follicle, to a healthy and nearly mature egg in the laboratory. When an egg is fully mature, it is ready to be fertilized. The scientists said their research, if successful in the next steps, might eventually provide a new fertility option for women whose cancer treatments destroy their ability to reproduce. “By being able to take an immature ovarian follicle and grow it to produce a good quality egg, we’re closer to that holy grail, which is to get an egg directly from ovarian tissue that can be fertilized for a cancer patient,” said Teresa Woodruff, chief of fertility preservation at the Feinberg School. “This represents the basic science breakthrough necessary to better accomplish our goals of fertility preservation in cancer patients in the future.” Woodruff, working with Professor Lonnie Shea and colleagues, reports the research in the July 14 issue of the journal Human Reproduction. Molecule detects, treats prostate cancer u WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, (UPI) – U.S. scientists say they have developed a prostate cancer homing device that could improve detection and allow the first targeted treatment of the disease. Purdue University researchers said they synthesized a molecule that finds and penetrates prostate cancer cells, and have created imaging agents and therapeutic drugs that can link to the molecule and be carried with it as cargo. Professor Philip Low, who led the research, said a targeted treatment could be much more effective in treating cancer and would greatly reduce the harmful side effects associated with current treatments. “Currently, none of the drugs available to treat prostate cancer are targeted, which means they go everywhere in the body as opposed to only the tumor, and so are quite toxic for the patient,” Low said. “By being able to target only the cancer cells, we could eliminate toxic side effects of treatments. In addition, the ability to target only the cancer cells can greatly improve imaging of the cancer to diagnose the disease, determine if it has spread or is responding to treatment.” There also is potential for the targeting molecule to be used to attack the vasculature of solid tumors of other types of cancers, Low said. Two papers detailing the research appeared in the June 1 issue of the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 77
feel life | ALT.HEALTH
The folic acid debate Should you take folic acid? Too much may cause cancer; additional research is suggested, reports Emily Sohn Folic acid is one of those great public health success stories. In the decade following fortification of cereal grains and other foods, the rate of certain birth defects dropped dramatically. As studies started showing that folic acid also could help prevent cancers, it started to seem like a wonder vitamin. Folic acid’s heyday may be over. New studies suggest that getting too much folic acid might fuel certain cancers in some people. And with the vitamin showing up in ready-to-eat cereals, bread, snack bars and multivitamins, some experts fear it’s easy to exceed the recommended daily intake of 400 micrograms. There is an urgent need, some say, to figure out how much folic acid is enough but not too much for different segments of the population. “Too little folic acid we know is not good, and too much folic acid is probably not good,” says Connie Motter, a genetic counselor at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio and co-chair of the National Council on Folic Acid, a coalition of advocacy groups. “The answer is not going to be easy.” Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate, vitamin B9, which is found naturally in such foods as leafy greens, orange juice and legumes. It helps the body make and maintain new cells. The United States 78 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
began requiring fortification of flour and several other cereal grains in 1998, after studies linked folic acid deficiency with spina bifida and anencephaly, two potentially devastating birth defects. Since then, the rate of both defects has declined by 20 percent to 50 percent. Now, New Zealand and Australia have mandated folate fortification of bread. No one disputes that women should have adequate amounts of folic acid in their bodies at conception. The first few weeks of pregnancy are especially critical. And because more than half of pregnancies are unplanned, doctors recommend that all women of childbearing age take a daily supplement of up to 800 micrograms. Getting enough folate also may protect against anemia, premature birth and congenital heart defects, and keeps hair, skin and nails healthy. But scientists also know that excess folic acid can cover up a shortage of the vitamin B12, a common condition in older people that can cause dementia if unaddressed. Then there’s cancer. The vitamin can help prevent development of certain cancers, particularly in the colon, where cells replicate especially fast. Studies show that people who get plenty of folic acid reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer and precancer-
ous polyps by 40 percent to 60 percent. But folic acid helps cancerous cells grow too. Animal studies show that once cells are on the path to becoming cancers, the vitamin makes things worse. Researchers noticed that rates of colorectal cancer went up in North America around the time that fortification began. One 2007 study acknowledged that the link could be a coincidence. But another published this year found the same thing happened in Chile after fortification began there in 2000. “It’s not as simple of a relationship as we thought,” says Joel B. Mason, professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston, author of the 2007 study. Folic acid also has been studied in clinical trials. In the largest one, half of almost 1,000 people who had had precancerous colon polyps took a daily supplement of 1 milligram of folic acid (2.5 times the recommended 400 micrograms). Several years later, those people were more than twice as likely to have three or more new polyps, researchers reported in 2007. Also, the men who had taken folic acid supplements were nearly three times as likely to develop prostate cancer up to a decade later, researchers reported in March. The numbers were small-34 prostate cancers in more than 600 men-but enough to cause concern. Experts say that all women of childbearing age should get 400 daily micrograms of folic acid through food and/or supplements. Pregnant women should get 600 micrograms, adds Janis Biermann, a health educator at the March of Dimes. Breastfeeding mothers should get 500 micrograms. Pregnant or regularly breast-feeding women who have already had a child with a brain or spinal cord defect should take 1 milligram. It’s hard to get researchers to recommend amounts for other categories of people. The Institute of Medicine’s recommended upper limit for folic acid is 1 milligram, from synthetic and natural sources combined. “That’s one thing consumers can really take home,” says Marian Neuhouser, nutritional epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “Not to get more than 1,000 micrograms.” Folate in your food Find a chart on folic acid/folate levels in foods at ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/folate.asp
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www.danskemobler.co.nz INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 79
taste life travel
Don’t mention the war Low prices, hard-working people, history mark vivid journey in Vietnam, reports Ellen Creager HOI AN, Vietnam – Temples and monuments are interesting. But they don’t hold a candle to Vietnam’s people. Why? The duality of this nation, with one foot in slow, ancient ways and the other in a hectic future, begs to be noticed. The only way to do that is to get out of the tourist bus. Step out of the bubble and meet people. Walk around. Ask questions. Pay attention. Since Vietnam normalized relations with the United States in 1995, the nation of 85 million has soared economically. Skyscrapers rise. Cell phones spread. But work here is labour intensive. People still pick rice by hand. If a tablecloth takes 80 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
10 weeks to embroider, so be it. If silk requires the cultivation of silkworms, consider it done. If a hole needs digging, bring on 10 men with shovels. Although Vietnam likely won’t meet its goal of 5 million tourists this year because of the slowing world economy, more than 330,000 Americans have already visited this year, up 6 percent from a year ago. Vietnam is not only historically meaningful to Americans, it is amazingly affordable. With $3 dinners and $60 hotel rooms, you can spend nearly three weeks in Vietnam for the same price as a week in Europe. It’s also possible to plan a custom trip at a reasonable price. Best of all, you
can request cultural tourism opportunities that will expand your experience. The wider you roam, the better you will understand this country. Here are six indelible images of Vietnam: 1. Hoi An (central Vietnam) Mr. Sanh, Mrs. Bay and I sit in a shallow wooden boat on the Thu Bon River. They drop a trailing net and lift their paddles. Then ... Bam! Bam! Bam! They hit the sides of the boat. They give me a paddle. Bam! I hit the boat. The noise, they say, attracts fish. We paddle back and pull up the silvery net,
tofu, spring rolls – while Mr. The regales tourists with the history of his house. Eleven framed pictures of Catholic saints hang on the walls. They were given to Mr. The’s relatives by missionaries decades ago. He says he is Catholic. Also Buddhist. Also, like most Vietnamese, he worships his ancestors. Mr. The has opened his house to tourists, offering lunch. Afterward, he takes them on a driving tour of his village, including the pagoda where he worships and an old Buddhist temple. Duong Lam evokes an old Vietnam – no billboards, little traffic and quiet vistas of farmers in conical hats harvesting rice growing heavy in the fields. Mr. The has relatives in America. They lived in Saigon and fled after the Vietnam War. They came back to visit him once, but he’s never been to visit them. What do they do in America? I ask. He shrugs. “Something with fish.”
“I give the girl $3. I pop open the new umbrella and walk down the street, just like a Hanoi woman, deliberately and with dignity revealing four wriggling fish no bigger than my hand from the brackish river. We throw the line out again. And again. And again. Along the riverbanks grow thick water coconut palms. During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong hid in those palms, unseen by their enemies. Mr. Sanh and Mrs. Bay – I never do find out their first names – fish to make a living. They fish to eat. They live on the riverbank in a small concrete house, which has electricity and a TV. So their whole world is not fishing. Just most of it. This town, Hoi An, is also an arts mecca, a haven for painters, lantern makers and silk makers. You can have a custom suit
made overnight. You can buy original art. You can visit a Chinese temple or Japanese bridge. You can go to the beach on the South China Sea. Or, you can just go fishing. 2. Duong Lam (2 hours northwest of Hanoi) Mr. The Ha Huu brews his own soy sauce and sells it. He knows how to raise honeybees and grow rice. He lives in a 375-yearold home of red brick, owned by his family since it was built. Mr. The’s wife serves visitors a complex meal she whips up on two tiny kitchen burners – seaweed-wrapped pork, delicate fried
3. Hanoi (northern Vietnam) It is pouring rain. I step out from my hotel onto the crazy street, cars and motorbikes going every which way, heedless of traffic signs, honking, honking. My umbrella keeps inverting in the post-typhoon wind. I need another. I walk past many small shops, but I can’t see inside their dark interiors. Then I see a little girl minding a shop. Behind her is a shelf with one red plaid umbrella. How much is the umbrella? I ask. She runs to get her father, or maybe it’s her uncle or brother. He says $3. I nod. I give the girl $3. I pop open the new umbrella and walk down the street, just like a Hanoi woman, deliberately and with dignity. I try not to cross the street for fear of being killed by a motorbike. I look up at wrought iron balconies and slanted red roofs, at thick electrical lines crisscrossing like spider webs. The city of 6 million is full of funky and colorful French-inspired four-story houses only about 12 feet wide and very deep, so multiple generations can live together. On the ground floor is usually a shop. On the upper floors, the families. The streets are a maze of all these shops. Different streets have shops that sell the same thing. So there’s the paint street, the appliance street, the shoe street, the box-and-paper street, like a mall without a map. Before I get completely lost, I navigate back to the hotel in the rain. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 81
4. Cu Da (16 k’s west of Hanoi) A one-legged man in his tiny shop beckons me inside. His shop is part of a crumbling villa at least 150 years old. His town is billed as another “ancient village” like Duong Lam, another stop on the cultural tour I requested. But Cu Da is not ready for tourists. Inside his courtyard, five dogs whimper and bark. He shouts at them and they cower away. He just recently moved to this old home, which looks out on a dirt street. Rain falls steadily. A motorbike roars past. Across the street is the Nhue River, which smells ripe and heavy with sewage. Trash litters the bank and boxes float down the shiny dark surface. The smell is overpowering. Like some other “former” rivers in metropolitan Hanoi, Nhue has become a sewer. The village is in an otherwise pretty spot, surrounded by rice paddies and fields of arrowroot, which the residents make into flour for vermicelli noodles. Canals contain plenty of fish, caught with picturesque bamboo fishing traps. Morning glories grow in the canals. Rice paddies line the road. Many dogs – small, short-legged and brown – roam the streets. Chickens cackle. Ducks skitter. Like the chickens and ducks, the dogs will be killed and eaten. 82 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
5. Saigon Saigon living, admits my guide Bui Do Cong Thanh, is more relaxed than in the uptight north. “We are in a hurry here to do business, but there will suddenly be a moment in the day that we notice we have forgotten to see the bird singing in the tree,” he says. “We love life.” They also love danger. On the roads, everyone goes. Nobody stops, not even for traffic lights. Wild drivers on motorbikes carry everything from ladders to stacks of caged birds to babies on their laps. This has been a sophisticated – and even decadent – tourist and ex-pat destination since the French ruled Indochina in the first half of the 20th Century. Novelist Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American here. War correspondents hung out at the Rex Hotel, which today is finely restored and accepting guests. And tell this to your mail carrier next time you see him. The most interesting building in Vietnam’s largest city (7 million people) is the Saigon Central Post Office. Built by the French, it has glorious arching ceilings and a cathedral-like air. A giant portrait of a smiling Ho Chi Minh hangs high on the wall. The post office is the second busiest tourist attraction in Saigon, after the Cu Chi tunnels.
6. Cu Chi (80k’s north of Saigon) Squeeze down the stairs and through a low, tiny tunnel. Hunch over and follow the man with the flashlight. It is claustrophobic and panic-inducing. Also riveting. The Cu Chi tunnels are the most famous site from the Vietnam War. From about 1965 to 1975, 16,000 Viet Cong and their families lived underground here. Their mission? Hold territory in South Vietnam and fight off the American attack. Visitors can see how the Viet Cong expanded into about 125 miles of tunnels. They dug by hand, using only tiny shovels and small bamboo baskets. The incredibly complex web was complete with booby traps, secret smoke-releasing structures, air vents disguised as termite mounds, and weapons created out of leftover metal bomb parts. Cu Chi was the terminus of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, connected to North Vietnam during the war. Above ground, American forces dropped bombs and chemicals to strip the land and force the Viet Cong from their underground lair. It did not work. Now, Cu Chi has a souvenir shop. Its grounds include parts of the original tunnels visitors can walk through (widened for larger Westerners), some original bunkers and some B-52 bomb craters. It also has a visitors center with a cutaway scale model of the three-level tunnel complex, which looks an awfully lot like an ant farm. Visitors also see a 10-minute scratchy blackand-white film about Cu Chi, produced by the Vietnamese in 1967 during what they call the American War. “Like a crazy bunch of devils, the Americans fired on women and children and chickens ... who were destroyed by the bombs and bullets of Washington, D.C.” the movie’s narrator says. My guide says some Western visitors are upset by that film. I found it interesting as an historic artifact. And a testament that former enemies can turn into friends. GETTING THERE:
Thai Airways flies twice daily ex Bangkok to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) morning and evening. Thai flies out of Auckland non stop to Bangkok four times a week, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday returning Bangkok to Auckland Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. See www. thaiair.co.nz for details
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 83
taste life FOOD
Shell game James Morrow gets something off his chest. Chestnut, that is Consider the chestnut. No, I am serious. Where would we be without the chestnut? After all, if someone passed on a “peanut of wisdom”, you would not likely be impressed, and hearing Nat King Cole sing “subversive literature roasting on an open fire” around Christmas time is hardly as festive. More importantly, a world without chestnuts would be a world without an awful lot of really yummy foods. This is the time of year when chestnuts, with their uniquely creamy and nutty taste, belong in soups, mixed into polenta, or even on their own (readers with access to a proper, open fireplace will perhaps know what I am talk84 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
ing about here). Chestnuts are one of the great flavours of winter, and they deserve a more prominent place on our tables. In researching this month’s column, I was surprised to discover that for many decades – centuries, even – chestnuts were not given a second look by middle-class diners in many Western countries, and that the things were unfairly maligned as staples in the diets of poor people and livestock. And it is certainly true that chestnuts have been used as animal fodder (though pigs allowed to root around chestnut trees are said to produce meat that is that much sweeter, and that chestnut flour has been
used to make bread and even pasta when the regular stuff has not been available. Still, some places embrace the chestnut in times of peace and plenty as much as in war and want. In northern Italy, chef Giorgio Locatelli reports in his excellent opus, Made in Italy, “chestnuts were an important staple for people during the War, and typical desserts are castagnoli con crema (fritters filled with chestnut cream), castagnaccio (a cake made with chestnut flour, often with sultanas, walnuts and pine nuts added, and sometimes topped with rosemary), and torta di pasta alle castagne (pasta made with chestnut flour, c’ooked
were boiled, roasted, or dried, pounded and made into polenta”. Prior to that they were a staple of Mediterranean cuisine; indeed retreating Greek armies lived on them during the infamous Retreat of the Ten Thousand from Asia Minor in 399 BC. But what of us today? For all the talk of global recession, very few of us are reduced to rooting around on the forest floor for sustenance – and those who are probably are doing so as part of an expensive backto-nature retreat. Instead, the chestnuts that we encounter are most likely going to be found heaped in trays or stacked in convenient little netted bags at the fruit and veg shop. And while they will not be as cheap as those one finds for free, they do not cost the Earth. Part of the reason for their economy has
surely to do with their hardiness, though this hardiness is something of a doubleedged sword when it comes time to prep for dinner. There is no easy or polite way of saying this: peeling chestnuts can be a right royal pain. Not that they are not worth the effort (I urge skeptics to give this month’s soup recipe a go and see if they can honestly disagree), but they are fiddly. First one has to to score them with a cross, and for this I recommend using a tea towel and a very sharp knife. Then they should be roasted for about 8 minutes in a hot oven, lightly smeared with olive oil. Finally, they should be peeled, though depending on the age of one’s nuts (and no, this is not the set-up to a Michael Jackson joke) they will either yield easily or, occasionally, reduce you to a fit of obscenities as you spray shards of shell and flesh around your kitchen.
Chestnut Soup This elegant and easy soup is a great dinner party starter. I’ve adapted this from Serge Dansereau, chef at Sydney’s Bather’s Pavillion; he uses chicken stock but I prefer beef stock for a heartier soup. Great served with a chilled amontillado sherry.
in a syrup and pressed and set hard into a solid cake, which is very, very good). The Italian love affair with chestnuts goes back well before World War II, however: the medieval historian Bonvesin reported in his The Marvels of Milan that roasted chestnuts were eaten year-round at the end of a meal by Milanese of all castes, and that these same chestnuts were sometimes made into a bread – a practice dating back to Roman times. Another scholar tells us that throughout the middle ages and beyond, “chestnuts were a fundamental food [for Italians], especially in more mountainous parts: they
You’ll need 750 grams chestnuts 2 tablespoons olive oil 5 peeled eschallots, roughly chopped 3 peeled cloves garlic, roughly chopped 150 grams butter 8 cups beef stock sea salt and fresh ground pepper Method 1. First prepare your chestnuts by scoring the nuts and roasting with the olive oil for
about 7 minutes at 200 degrees, or until they begin to split open. Peel while still hot and chop roughly. 2. In a heavy, medium-sized pot melt 50 grams of your butter and gently sweat the chestnuts, eschallots and garlic without colouring – about 8 to 10 minutes should do it. Add stock and simmer gently for about an hour. 3. Drain soup through a strainer, reserving cooking liquid. In a blender, puree the solids and slowly return the liquid to to mix until you achieve a smooth, silky consistency. Pass again through a strainer to remove any solids, season with salt and pepper, and heat when ready to serve, whisking in the remaing butter. To further enrichen the dish, pour at the table into bowls heaped with prepared green lentils and shredded ham hocks.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 85
touch life > toybox
EH-TW4000 projector Epson has released a new high performance 1080p High Definition [HD] home cinema projector with the latest generation of LCD panels, greatly enhanced contrast ratios, high speed auto-iris function, advanced technologies such as frame interpolation, HQV Reon VX video processing chip, and all at very affordable prices. The EH-TW4000 delivers an incredible 75,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio with Epson’s innovative DeepBlack technology and new version of Epson’s E-TORL lamp, which produces the ultimate deep, rich blacks in smoothly flowing images by increasing the native contrast ratio of the projector by a factor of about four. This outstanding home cinema projector has 3 of Epson’s latest generation D7 C2Fine LCD panels with larger apertures to increase the native contrast of the projector, and Epson’s Crystal Clear Fine filters that reduce light leakage and further increase native contrast. The EH-TW4000 uses Epson’s FineFrame interpolation technology to deconstruct and reconstruct the signal from High Definition video sources such as Blu-Ray players for a consistent 1080p frame rate output of up to 120 Hz, virtually eliminating flicker and frame-toframe judder. As a result, in fast action scenes blurring is suppressed and pictures are much smoother and sharper. The colour and image management technologies are complemented by a state-of-the-art OptiCinema lens system, a brand trusted by renowned Hollywood filmmakers. This precision, high quality optical grade system was co-developed with Fujinon, a top supplier of precision camera optics to the world’s leading HD camera makers. The EH-TW4000 comes with a 3 year warranty covering both the projector and the lamp. The Epson EH-TW4000 is $6,399 RRP. wwww.epson.co.nz
Canon PowerShot D10 From surfing to snorkelling, skiing to mountaineering, the Canon PowerShot. D10 waterproof camera is designed to accompany users on every adventure - it’s waterproof to 10m, can withstand the shock of a drop onto a hard surface from 1.22m, is dustproof and will function at temperatures as low as -10oC. Incredible 12.1 Megapixel resolution is captured by the camera’s sensor, allowing the freedom to crop or enlarge images while retaining outstanding image detail. The digital underwater camera 3x zoom lens offers a range of versatile framing options, with Image Stabilizer preventing camera-shake from causing unwanted blur. This is particularly useful when participating in the high-movement activities for which the camera is designed. www.canon.co.uk [source: letsgodigital.org]
86 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
Toshiba Portégé R600 Toshiba has launched the Portégé R600 - the world’s first notebook with 512GB SSD (solid state drive). With a density four times that of the next SSD integrated model, the Portégé R600 now protects and stores more of your data than ever before. The new model will be available in New Zealand from June and will come with 3G mobile broadband (RRP $6,549 incl. GST). With no mechanical hard drive or internal moving parts, SSD technology almost eliminates the risk of losing any data that could occur through the constant bumps, knocks and vibrations of everyday use. So as your notebook moves with you from the desktop to the coffee shop, to the aeroplane, you can be sure that important files are cocooned from the rough and tumble of daily life. The integration of SSD reinforces the performance excellence of the Portégé R600, making it the perfect notebook to use beyond the front door and out on the road. Offering true mobility, the Portégé R600 has a light, (approx 1,095g) thin (19.5mm to 25.5mm) design that integrates the essential features for mobile notebooks, including long-time battery operation (up to 8 hours). www.toshiba.com.au
Samsung Pixon12 Samsung Electronics reinforced its leadership in the high megapixel camera phone market by unveiling Samsung Pixon12 – the world’s first 12 megapixel camera phone with full AMOLED touch screen. A response to today’s mobile phone users who demand robust digital camera features in their mobile phones, the Samsung Pixon12 camera phone comes packed with a host of digital photography functions which enable consumers to easily capture, browse and share their images and videos on the move – all on a brilliant fulltouch 3.1-inch AMOLED screen. The Samsung Pixon12 cell phone enables users to take perfect pictures quickly and easily, thanks to a Dedicated Camera Power Key which gives users fast one-touch access to the camera function. Once the camera is turned on, users can aim and snap, capturing images as fast as today’s advanced digital camera. Samsung Pixon12 also features fast image saving for next shot, so users can move to next shot within around 2 seconds. www.samsung.com [source: letsgodigital.org]
32 GB SanDisk Extreme SDHC card SanDisk Corporation has introduced the fastest 32-gigabyte (GB) SDHC card on the market.The 32GB SanDisk Extreme SDHC card at up to 30 megabytes per second (MB/ s) read and write speeds combines industry-leading performance with massive storage capacity, helping digital photography enthusiasts utilize the advanced features of today’s DSLR cameras. A memory card’s write speed plays a crucial role in the overall system of the camera when taking pictures in rapid succession. If a card cannot process data quickly enough then the burst mode shooting may pause unexpectedly as the card catches up to the camera. Burst mode bottlenecks can lead to missing “the” shot, especially at sporting or other fast-motion events. The SanDisk Extreme SDHC card offers maximum data-transfer rates, giving consumers a memory card fast enough to unlock the full capabilities of their DSLRs. www.sandisk.com
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see life / pages
Signs of promise Michael Morrissey finds Eleanor Catton’s debut novel challenging THE REHEARSAL By Eleanor Catton Victoria University Press, $30 Eleanor Catton, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 23, has had her first novel published by the highly active Victoria University Press. It has also been published by the highly respected Granta Press in England and Little Brown in the United States. I’ve no problem with that. What I have a problem with is this: “I require of all my students,” the saxophone teacher continues, “that they are downy and pubescent, pimpled with sullen mistrust, and boiling away with private fury and ardour and uncertainty and gloom. I require that they wait in the corridor for ten minutes at least before each lesson, tenderly nursing their injustices, picking miserably at their own unworthiness as one might finger a scab or caress a scar. If I am to teach your daughter, you darling hopeless and inadequate mother, she must be moody and bewildered and awkward and dissatisfied and wrong.” There is one word for this type of writing, a word well-known to writers and critics – purple. The Rehearsal is full of writing shaded purple to indigo. I closed the book vowing not to read another line. I was however, persuaded by a good friend and fellow author to keep reading. So I kept reading and it was no easy or enjoyable task. The ongoing atmosphere is one of bullying, bitchiness and emotional cruelty. The book is full of wooden characters who talk in monologuing essays. At acting school, there is the sadistic Head of Acting (who orders a student nearly drowned in order to demonstrate the Theatre of Cruelty) plus the Head of Voice, Head of Movement and Head of Improvisation – all of whom talk in essays. In short, they are talking heads though the saxophone teacher remains the worst offender. Much of The Rehearsal reads like third rate Aldous Huxley. 88 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
Is the book uniformly badly written? Thankfully not. Some of the essay-style monologues contain provocative and insightful remarks about acting but it is in the descriptive passages that Catton shows she can write, and at times, write brilliantly. In short, this is a curate’s egg of a book – good in parts. I kept futilely wishing this novel had been written by Iris Murdoch or Angus Wilson who would have made it interestingly dramatic. The feeling of excessive unedited verbosity and over-writing lessens toward the end of the book and some genuine drama arrives. From about page 200 (it is a 300-page book), the action picks up. Stanley, a young aspirant actor, eavesdrops on the Head of Movement talking to the young sadist-accomplice boy and feels jealousy; Stanley is accused of taking advantage of an under age girl – and because it is presented more directly is more gripping than the reported sexual misconduct of the elusive Mr Saladin, which is always off stage and therefore fails to seize interest. Julia’s denunciation of the classic feminist diatribe about power is intriguingly provocative (and this occurs earlier on) but like so many speeches in this novel, remains just that – words leading nowhere. Stanley is required to act in a play which focuses on the Saladin incident which will embarrass interested parties – but here’s the rub – this dramatic event occurs only a few pages before the end of the book . It should have occurred earlier and its repercussive effects more fully explored. Then there is the steamy lesbian side – principally explored through Julia’s fixation on the young Isolde. Julia gives an extraordinary analysis of the significance of their one partly violent kiss which is sadly echoed by the older life-soured saxophone teacher, reflecting on her own experience of stand alone kisses. These passages are brilliantly written but again the speech of the saxophone teacher is so formally elaborate, it is implausible as dialogue – it should have been rendered as narrative. Despite my largely negative reaction to this novel, I look for-
ward to Catton’s second and further novels. She does have an unusual talent but this initial overwritten book is marred by precocious verbosity and groves of academe hothouse cleverness Let us hope her future books regain emotional balance and improved dramatic construction. MY FATHER’S TEARS & OTHER STORIES By John Updike Hamish Hamilton, $37 This year has seen the passing of two important writers – Harold Pinter and John Updike. Though arguably Pinter was the more influential of the two – he created a whole new style of theatre – Updike was one of the leading American writers of our time. Updike’s published output ran to over 60 books – mainly fiction – but also poetry, criticism and writing for children. In particular, he produced some 16 volumes of short stories, making him one of the most prolific as well as most skillful masters of the genre. His career began very early – at 23 – with contributions to the outstanding magazine New Yorker, a fruitful association that stretched over several decades. The New Yorker school, which includes writers like John Cheever, J.D Salinger, Saul Bellow, and of course Updike, has been characterised as “smooth and sophisticated” and also much given to scrupulously accurate and meticulous detail. It was this descriptive mastery that made a deep impression on me when I read Pigeon Feathers, my first book of Updike stories some forty year ago. Over a fifty-year career, did Updike’s work improve, deteriorate or stay the same? While other writers often show an unevenness, Updike maintained a uniform state of excellence. Certainly, I have never read a poorly written Updike story or book. Because his style is so elaborately wrought, I considered him a writer given to a great deal of revision, so I was surprised to read in an interview that he wrote quickly without a lot of revision. All I can say is, John, you’re even cleverer than I thought. For those readers who think American fiction (and America itself ) is dominated by violence, crime, gang warfare, scandal, ruthless ambition and Hollywood style excesses not to mention Californian weirdness, a stiff course in Updike will reveal another quieter more civilised America – a place of small towns that have wooden churches, post offices and supermarkets where, astonish-
ing as it might seem, there is not a high level of violence. Yet even Updike, long an inhabitant of small town Shillington, Pennsylvania – fictionally transmuted to Olinger – and later in rural Massachusetts, felt compelled to write about the events of 9/11. “Varieties of Religious Experience” begins with a theological shock: “There is no God: the revelation came to Dan Kellog in the instant he saw the World Trade Center South Tower fall.” However, his atheism does not last and by the story’s end, he has returned to belief in the Deity. Updike’s often inwardly tortured characters shift back and forth in their belief. Yet, as noted, in one of the finest stories in this collection, “The Walk with Elizanne” “unresisted atheism” leaves “people to suffer with the mute recessive stoicism of animals.” It was a surprise and pleasure to re-meet in the same story, the David Kern of Pigeon Feathers (1962). David the boy (who comes to believe that a God who had lavished such care on the design of bird would hardly let his soul disappear into nothingness), is now Kern the man. While attending a school reunion, he remeets Elizanne, a teenage sweetheart and she recalls their first kiss. Tentatively and tenderly, they try for an encore. The story ends on a delicate note of rekindled romance with Kern still stammering (as did Updike). As befits a mature writer, memory plays a major part in these late and now final stories. At times, Updike’s power of description pushes out narrative – so his fictions become highly wrought sketches rather than stories. But what descriptions they are! He brought back to my mind a memory I had forgotten of older style buildings with their “wrought-iron cage elevators and overhead pneumatic tubes for the whizzing brass canisters carrying change and receipts from a hidden treasury above”. For mature readers, the pleasures of reading Updike include a magnificent prose style, memories of a bygone era, and affirmations of ordinary lives. Though many of his characters are bothered by the question of whether God exists, in one of his last pieces of writing, Updike wrote, “I believe, then, that religious faith will continue to be an essential part of being human, as it has been for me.” THE CULT FILES By Chris Mikul Pier 9, $35 This is a depressing book though some readers may feel the dark journey it offers can provide a salutary warning against the weirdness and dangers of cults. A good deal of the time, the most bizarre of these deluded groups are thankfully small – no larger than extended families. The majority documented here flourished in the United States though Japan also has hundreds of cults, the most notorious and murderous of which being the Aum Shinrikyo. In a scenario, that might have been inspired by Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, the members of this group intended to mount a successful coup against the Japanese government, fly helicopters over Tokyo pumping out the Nazi-invented nerve gas sarin. Their leader, the half-blind Asahara, would then be crowned “Holy Monk Emperor.” While their earlier experiments with botulism and anthrax failed, they did succeed in gassing 12 people to death on the Tokyo subway, and injuring over 5000 others. The pattern of many of these cults is strikingly similar. A cult leader emerges who either interprets the Bible in the most bizarre way or concocts his own religious ideology, often of the schizophrenic-science fiction variety involving hidden planets in the farINVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 89
off heavens. Then the leader pronounces that the world is about to end or suffer from a crippling catastrophe. When the world doesn’t end at the predicted time, the leader simply re-sets the date. Acolytes are requested to give up all their worldly goods, change their names and cut off contact with their families. The cult leader may either find some completely untenable justification to have multiple wives (often under age) or sexual intercourse with female members (while denying the other male members the same privilege) or may renounce sex altogether. Often the followers are fed inadequately and deprived of sleep while the leader has plenty to eat, lots of sleep while enjoying the spoils of wealth that the followers put in his charge. The followers of this style of cult run the risk of the leader either exploiting them or even in a few cases, murdering them. The end result can be a military standoff with the authorities or mass suicide. Here is a typical account from the David Koresh Waco group – followers “were expected to live communally and donate all income to the group. Their diet consisted of meagre portions of cereal, fruit and vegetables. They rose every day before dawn, exercised for ninety minutes. These spartan living conditions did not apply to Howells (aka Koresh) who often slept in until the afternoon, ate what he wanted, drank beer and took up smoking.” He decided – claiming that God had so instructed him – that he had the right to take any female in the sect as his wife, regardless of whether they were already married or under the age of consent. Male followers were, on the other hand, to remain celibate, and sleep in separate quarters.” Sounds familiar? In simple psychological terms, a sadist rules over a group of masochists. The surprising thing is that the followers are frequently well-educated, though often going though a life crisis that makes them vulnerable to being as, it were, “brain-washed”, by a domineering leader. The most extreme – in a group of extremists – was Roch Theriault, a Canadian cult leader, who killed one of his wives, pulled several teeth from another and followed that brutality by chopping off her arm. He also performed a number of other grisly operations. Incredibly, some of his eight wives still remained loyal to him. Though these prophets and gurus frequently invoke God as justification for their practices, their behaviour suggests the influence of the devil. A criticism of this book is that it includes too many cults and winds up treating them shallowly. For instance, in the chapter on Rajneesh (of orange people fame), there is no mention of the famous 93 Rolls Royces (which were intended to level off at 365 – one for each day of the year), no mention of Rajneesh’s apocalyptic prophecy of nuclear war nor of the 650 books his teaching subsequently filled nor any details of his elaborate therapies. The writing style is cool-clinical to tabloid without any deeper analysis of the whole phenomenon. Nonetheless, The Cult Files serves as an introduction to each of the sinister cults examined and could prompt – if the reader has the stomach for it – further reading (see the bibliography section) about some of the most outlandish and destructive social groups of our time. THE DOUBLE RAINBOW: James K. Baxter, Ngati Hau and the Jerusalem Commune By John Newton Victoria University Press, $40 In 1968, James K Baxter, at the time New Zealand’s most wellknown poet and some would say its best (though I would give that 90 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
accolade to Allen Curnow), had a Godly visitation which urged him to journey to the isolated village of Jerusalem and found a commune which would co-join Pakeha and Maori cultural values. Members would try to live without money or books, worship God and work the land. To some degree he succeeded, though on a modest scale and for a modest duration. As this brilliantly researched history makes clear, Baxter’s legacy passed on beyond the termination of Jerusalem to other communes in the lower North Island area, and also to Wellington and Auckland houses and continues to this day. As I was living in Australia around the time of Baxter’s commune, my awareness of it has been historical and remote so I’m pleased to have taken this journey with Newton as my guide. As he points out throughout his account, this was a forward-looking and unique experiment. Baxter felt that since Maori was the senior culture, Pakeha should learn from them and not the other way round. This meant that Baxter always gave great respect to the local Ngati Hau tribe many of whom offered much practical help to the precarious Baxter-led commune which acquired the Maori tribal name of Nga Mokai.. Was it ever really a commune? According to Tim Shadbolt, who was associated with the Huia commune, it was merely a “rural crashpad”, presumably referring to the lack of much community-oriented practical activity though gardens were eventually established more firmly under the leadership of Greg Chalmers, Baxter’s effective successor, a mere 22 years of age when he took up the mantle. The term “crashpad” appears many times throughout the book in relation to other later neo-Baxterian run houses in Auckland and Wellington. Baxter himself preferred the term community to commune and in some ways it was a more appropriate term. He did, however, view “hippie” as a positive term rather than a negative one. Hippie-inspired communities were widespread at the time, Baxter or no Baxter. Baxter’s commune differed from hippie-style communes in its lack of drugs, Catholic orientation, and vigorous attempt to incorporate full dialogue with Maori culture. Many of the Jerusalem folk were young, unemployed, ex-drug addicts or mental patients, and not exuberantly fired up by what has been called the Protestant work ethic. Most, being city-bred, had few practical survival skills such as farming, horticultural, fishing or hunting experience. The time out nature of the community was always part of Baxter’s vision. In practice, he assisted in the running of the commune by pouring in some of his own writer-earned money. Newton’s thoughtful and meticulous analysis gives an exhaustive account of other Jerusalem personalities such the highly supportive though strict Wehe Wallace, the fiery charismatic Milton Hohaia and the generous and long-lived Father Te Awhitu, the first Maori priest, and many others, including the poet, Peter Olds. Alas, he makes no mention of my humorous benignly satiric story linking Baxter and Kerouac (Jack Kerouac Sat Down Beside the Wanganui River and Wept). I was surprised, though perhaps shouldn’t have been, at the relatively little time Baxter spent there and he actually died in Auckland, not on the commune. But the huge 800-strong tangi, the largest in the settlement’s history, was, in Newton’s view, a political statement in itself. He notes that comparatively few writers and poets turned up and no one read any poems at the event to the vexation of fellow poet Alistair Campbell, and no doubt other writers. The writers let the younger tribe of followers hold sway. In my view, they should have opened their mouths but then I wasn’t there.
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK By Neil Gaiman Bloomsbury, $49.99 Fellow writers keep urging me to read novels for young people and I keep resisting, protesting – “But I haven’t read War and Peace yet!” However, I was persuaded to take the plunge with Gaiman’s much vaunted book, the storyline of which echoes Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Initially, I hated the Victorian-melodramatic beginning which kicked off with a raised knife but I persevered. The Graveyard Book has its spooky premise, a human boy called Nobody Owens, Bod for short, being raised by ghosts. And just why is Bod being raised by spooks? His parents and sister were murdered by a sinister character variously called The Man Jack, Jack or Mr Frost. Bod escapes into a cemetery and is nurtured by the graveyard’s friendly ghosts (who bear no resemblance to Caspar). Being palsy with spooks, Bod is taught some ghostly abilities such as Haunting (hardly a surprise), Dream-walking and Fading, the latter being very handy when in a tight spot. Rather more frightening than the amiable ghosts, is a mysterious three-headed creature called the Sleer. Other eeriely sounding things include Night Gaunt, Ghulheim, and ghoulgate which suggests Gaiman is having an affair with G–named entities. Perhaps the most intriguing character is Silas, who isn’t quite alive and not quite dead (sounds like a few people I know) who is Bod’s general friend, teacher and protector. It’s hinted he is a vampire, though a benign one. For additional human interest, there is Scarlett Amber Perkins who has been friends with Bod since he was five but who mistakenly thinks he is imaginary because her parents told her so. Plus the apparently human Miss Lupescue who turns out to be a werewolf. Fortunately, she is on Bod’s side. Gaiman’s interweave of the human, the half human and the not human at all is deft and entertaining as well as just spooky enough to give a chill though not too terrifying for younger readers who I suspect probably have higher fear thresholds these days than their adult counterparts. In the end, the villain is Sleer-vanquished and Bod leaves the “warmth” of the graveyard that has been his nursery and his school (so to speak) and enters the wide world of Life “with eyes and heart wide open.” A satisfyingly affirmative ending.
the beating that would become the grisly evening ritual. From the age of ten until I was nineteen I was tied up most nights while they beat me with their belts, hula hoops, or whip-like canes. My legs would be wide apart while they beat me around my buttocks and thighs.” The “justification” for these beatings was that they were beating the devil out of her or that she was stubborn. Clearly, sexual sadism was involved in these assaults and there was nothing to justify them. Not all the nuns were cruel – Thompson fondly remembers the benign Sister Francis of Rome who was always kind to her and two Irish nuns who were friendly and always laughing. When she had chicken pox that too was described by the nuns as the devil coming out of her. It is odd to read what resembles medieval ideas being uttered in New Zealand in the mid twentieth century. And what was the Catholic Church (until recent times) doing about these atrocities? Essentially, nothing. Pope Paul 11 was more concerned about the suffering of his bishops than the real victims. The current Pope, Benedict XV1, has apologised for the abuse and personally met with victims. Yet according to Father Tom Doyle, an indefatigable campaigner for victims of clerical abuse, who has written an epilogue to his book, the Pope has failed to punish the bishops who have allowed the abuse to occur and in some cases even been responsible for abuse themselves. There is hope – Thompson and many others who have suffered similarly, are now banding together to take WORLD legal action. And the IN THE TABLOID church has now paid up to $1 billion in compensation. A fascinating footnote revealsItthat a survey of 1500just priests seems enough todone in 1971 indicated 20-25 per cent suffered from neurosis or alcoholism and go into rehab. up to 70 per cent were emotionally immature. More light needs to be shone into these Spend dark corners. a little time and
Ready When You Are!
lot of money and presto! THE PLEASURESaAND SORROWS OF WORK By Alain de Botton All Fixed. Hamish Hamilton, $50 IN THE REAL WORLD William Faulkner once famously remarked: “You can’t eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love It’s quite different for eight hours – all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man and everybody else so miserIt makes needshimself a special ingredient, able and unhappy.” But de Botton has a more favourable view of YOU. work and has written a most elegantly phrased book in order to give employment good press. We need your personal Early in his book, de Botton introduces a breed of men (I’m commitment motivation sure women have better things to do)and dedicated to the meticulous art of ship spotting. He amiably compares them to children who to make it all work. notice the small details of life such as chewing gum squashed on the pavement. And what arouses de Botton’s vigorous curiosity is theWe’re unobtrusiveReady... way ships and planes routinely carry food and When You Are! goods around the world at all times of the day and night with scant notice from a media obsessed with catastrophe. He discovered that information about this ceaseless activity is hard to come by – “Attempts to trace – let alone to witness or photograph – how warm-water fish reach our tables are liable to provoke the same suspicion which must have greeted enquiries into the slave trade in the 1780s.” To land his fish, as it were, the author travels to the Maldives to Ashburn Private 1916, Dunedin, witness theThe catching and Clinic, killing of tuna. Bag The clubbing to deathNZ. and Telis03 2092 sight Fax 03 gutting of a large fish not476 a pretty but476 like4255 any objective Email firstname.lastname@example.org www.ashburn.co.nz yet compassionate reporter, de Botton follows the long journey of the doomed fish from the sea to the plate. Unlike the intrepid INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 91
Newton is understandably keen to join the two Baxters – the poet Baxter and the commune leader Baxter. I’m not entirely convinced he has succeeded but there is a quiet mention of St Francis – the model for Baxter’s voluntary poverty and bare feet – who was a troubadour before he became a beggar. Spot the parallel? I personally consider Baxter’s pre-commune poetry better than his Jerusalem sonnets, though they have helped set a fashion for prose-like poetry that I cannot persuade myself to be comfortable with. Baxter stood firm against a drug-taking guru who turned up uninvited and generally maintained good relations with the local Maori and the convent. When he died, he was given the first time honour for a pakeha of a full tangi and burial on Maori ground. In that final gesture, as Newton notes, his bicultural mission was successful. (It is worth noting the enormous difference between Baxter’s more selfless and non-materialistic commune and the fanatical often highly materialistic and viciously exploitative cults – many of whom had communes the size of Jerusalem – looked at in the preceding review.)
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Old rockers never die... Pop princes on the other hand – Chris Philpott pens a paean to Jacko but marks down Chickenfoot Grizzly Bear Veckatimest Back with their third full length album, Brooklyn-based indie act Grizzly Bear have released one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year with Veckatimest. Named for a small island in Massachusetts and produced by band member Chris Taylor, Veckatimest takes its musical cues from the likes of Arcade Fire or Mercury Rev, but the group manages to capture their unique sound, led by multi-instrumentalist Christopher Bear (who manages to contribute drums, glockenspiel, xylophone and steel guitar to the album, while also somehow handling the vocal duties), while aiming for something much bigger. Sure, multi-layered ‘doo-wop’ harmonies on “Two Weeks” are gorgeous, the old-school rock feel drizzled over “While You Wait For The Others” is pleasantly surprising, and the majestic stomp of “Southern Point” is inspiring, all while proving the groups legitimate pop writing skills - but it’s the truly big moments that define this record. “I Live For You”, with its appearance by the Brooklyn Youth Choir and tender string arrangements by Nico Muhly, and equally beautiful tracks “Fine For Now” and “Dory”, are among the many highlights on a wonderful album that almost perfectly straddles the important line between the groups’ larger-than-life ambition and the heart-warming intimacy the songs deserve. Wilco Wilco (The Album) Perhaps better known in music circles for the controversy surrounding their 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – the finished album was rejected by their label, Reprise Records, and the band were released from their contract, before being picked up by Nonesuch Records and releasing the album, despite both Reprise and Nonesuch being subsidiaries of Warner Music – Wilco are back this month with Wilco (The Album). Eponymously named because singer Jeff Tweedy felt this album reflected what the band should really sound like, and partly 92 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
recorded at Roundhead Studios in Auckland, The Album is easily the groups most accessible work to date, shunning the more experimental tendencies of past records and largely veering away from the groups usual country-fused rock sound. Opener “Wilco (The Song)” and highlight “One Wing” display this new sound, though tracks like “Bull Black Nova”, “You and I”, with its appearance by Canadian pop star Feist, and “I’ll Fight” get closer to the groups’ roots, but never turn the casual listener off the album. The real high points here are the tender moments on acoustic-driven ballad “Solitaire” or piano-based album closer “Everlasting Everything”, which showcase Tweedy’s unique ability to entice the listener by giving character to the most minimal of soundscapes. Chickenfoot Chickenfoot On paper, a hard-rock supergroup featuring former Van Halen members Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony, on vocals and bass respectively, with guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani and Red Hot Chilli Peppers drummer Chad Smith seems like a pretty good idea, and when the news broke last year that the group would release an album in June 2009 the hype machine began cranking out story after story on the fledgling band, particularly in their home country. So effective was the hype that the group’s self-titled debut managed to land at number 4 on the US charts. Sadly, while it seems like a can’t-miss idea, the finished product falls short – not really falling short of expectations, as there really weren’t any, but falling short of what you would imagine the group’s potential could be. Singer Sammy Hagar does his best, and sounds great at times, but his Robert Plant-inspired vocal ultimately sounds dated. Michael Anthony and Chad Smith do their best, but their freewheeling rock sensibilities are sometimes hampered by the tight precision and carefully-planned arrangement that Joe Satriani has made a career out of. Despite highlights “Runnin Out” and “Soap on a Rope”, it all sounds a little scripted and tied-down.
In death, Jackson finally remembered properly Like everyone, I’ve been following the news of pop star Michael Jackson’s death closely, trying to figure out exactly what happened to one of the most talented, most gifted musicians to ever walk the earth. In a little under 25 years Jackson went from being an idolised pop star performing on the back of Thriller, an album that is considered perfect by most music critics (myself included) and sold an estimated 109 million copies, to being a reclusive shell of his former self, dealing with a decade long career slump, widespread skepticism over his ability to perform an upcoming series of concerts, an addiction to painkillers, and the stigma following a highprofile trial in which he was found not guilty on seven counts of child sexual abuse. Up until his death on June 25th this year any mention of Michael Jackson invariably brought up his chequered past; his increasingly bizarre behaviour, such as moving to Bahrain after the aforementioned trial; and his odd parenting techniques, such as having his family wear surgical masks during outings or leaning over a balcony while holding a baby son, known as ‘Blanket’, in 2002. Given all of this, it strikes me as odd that “Wacko Jacko” has been remembered a lot more fondly since his death than he was thought of during life. The outpouring of emotion in the seven days following his death has been truly baffling. A year ago our general collective opinion of Jackson was that he was crazy and weird, a recluse, a likely paedophile, a musical has-been, and a poster-boy for the damaging effects of the celebrity machine. We are now lauding him once again as ‘the King of Pop’, the most gifted musician and dancer in music history, and equating his loss with the shocking death of Princess Diana in 1997. A little over a year ago, in March 2008, Los Angeles Times staff writer
Ann Powers wrote that “Michael Jackson will never be just like us. ... a snap of him shopping invokes not normality, but one of those renderings of space aliens from the Weekly World News.” (source: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/mar/01/entertainment/et-jacko1) Now he’s simply Michael Jackson, the mastermind behind a decade of best-selling albums. So, why the sudden change of heart? I mean we’re not suddenly a more forgiving race of people, and we didn’t somehow forget everything that happened, involving Jackson, in the last 25 years. The truth is that Michael Jackson was the bizarre recluse we considered him to be. But the problem was that we’d completely lost sight of the fact that he was also the mastermind behind Thriller, that he was also the guy who sold hundreds of millions of albums, that he was also the most gifted musician and dancer in pop history, and that he was idolised the world over, beloved by music fans everywhere. Perhaps more troubling is that we didn’t tell him any of that – until now. A speaker I saw recently discussed the phenomenon of eulogies and memorials, suggesting that we should say to people what they mean to us now, rather than wait until their death to say them to everyone else. For Michael Jackson, just a little of the kind of coverage he’s received since his death might have been the difference between the reclusive life he led or a more normal, balanced life. Being told that what he meant to those who loved and idolised him – even just once – might have been the difference between life and death. The tragedy is that it took Jackson’s death for us to realise it. By Chris Philpott INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 93
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Shootout Dillinger proves to be top gun, Beth Cooper DOA PUBLIC ENEMIES Starring: Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard, Christian Bale Directed by: Michael Mann Rated: R (for language, violence) 140 minutes Is there any role Johnny Depp cannot make his own? Last seen as a singing Victorian barber and serial killer in Sweeney Todd, the human chameleon has effortlessly mutated into Depression-era desperado John Dillinger for director Michael Mann’s Public Enemies. Charismatic, funny, dangerous ... Depp blends derring-do, cocky self-confidence, sly sexuality and a bit of madness to give us a crook we can cheer for. From a distance of more than seven decades it’s difficult to imagine a time when a bank robber was considered by millions to be a national hero. Depp helps us understand why. He is the tireless motor that drives the film and is the main reason it succeeds. Though well-mounted, Public Enemies is a fairly generic crime drama filled with underdeveloped characters. Without Depp’s weight, the film would be flimsy. With him, it’s a heady romp through a legendary era of America’s criminal past. In adapting Bryan Burrough’s sprawling nonfiction best-seller, Mann and co-writers Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman jump on two story lines. First there’s the relationship between Dillinger and nightclub hatcheck girl Billie Frechette (Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard), a doomed Bonnie-and-Clyde romance fueled by adventure, sex and a recklessness born of fatalism. Then there are the G-men – top federal cop J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) and especially agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), who are determined to bring down the working-class gangsters who shot up the Midwest in the early ‘30s. Depp’s tasty performance views Dillinger as a folk hero in the making. The son of a poor Indiana farmer, this criminal quickly 94 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
learned the value of publicity. He even developed a trademark – once in a bank he’d loudly introduce himself and gracefully vault over the teller’s counter, tommy-gun in hand. People remember an entrance like that. Dillinger would clean out the vault but leave untouched the cash held by individual customers, saying he was there for the bank’s money, not theirs. At a time when many had seen their savings wiped out in bank collapses, this was sweet revenge. While some members of his gang – particularly the psychopathic Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) – were crazed killers, Dillinger seems to have shown restraint. It’s never been proven that a bullet fired by him killed anyone. And he had a devil-may-care attitude that many found intoxicating. Told by a colleague that he should stop going to nightclubs and baseball games, Dillinger answered, “We’re having too good a time today. We ain’t thinkin’ about tomorrow.” Mann’s film takes some liberties, particularly with time lines (the movie opens with Agent Purvis gunning down Pretty Boy Floyd; in reality, Floyd died months after Dillinger, and Purvis wasn’t there). But it faithfully re-creates some of the book’s most memorable moments, like Dillinger’s daring escape from an Indiana jail using a “gun” carved from wood and the FBI’s wintry nighttime shootout with the gang at a remote Wisconsin resort. Public Enemies attempts to establish a sort of personal duel between the taunting, charming crook and Bale’s grim, unemotional lawman. But the film’s true emotional core lies in the Dillinger/Frechette affair. Cotillard is excellent as the unremarkable young woman who falls hard for the electric excitement radiating from her lover’s every pore. Depp is so dominant here that Mann’s casting of familiar faces in smaller roles – James Russo, David Wenham, Stephen Dorff, Giovanni Ribisi, Leelee Sobieski, Shawn Hatosy, Matt Craven, Lili Taylor – seems a bit distracting. By the time you recognize these actors they’ve vanished.
A few manage to make an impression. Peter Gerety has a scenestealing moment as Dillinger’s mobbed-up lawyer, delivering an impassioned courtroom speech (one pulled directly from the trial record) that is a wonder of hyperbole and emotional chainyanking. Graham’s crazed Nelson is hard to forget – especially his cathartic death scene, howling in defiance while being riddled with fed bullets. And Stephen Lang is powerfully intense as a lethal old Texas lawman brought in to show Hoover’s college-boy agents how to track down and kill a bad man. The film’s violence is furious and graphic. Occasionally it is genuinely upsetting, as in the FBI’s brutal interrogation of Billie Frechette (this was way before Miranda rights). Technically the film looks good, with solid production values. The handheld camera of cinematographer Dante Spinotti (The Insider) provides the feeling of life caught on the fly but avoids the worst excesses of shaky-cam. The soundtrack features some gritty electric blues. Best of all, Mann and his cast achieve a grim atmosphere of fatal inevitability as the net slowly tightens around Dillinger and his free-wheeling criminal cohorts. Reviewed by Robert W. Butler I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER Starring: Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust Directed by: Chris Columbus Rated: PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, language, some teen drinking and drug references, and brief violence) 101 minutes Oh, to have teenage kids just so I could forbid them to see I Love You, Beth Cooper. A miscast and misjudged graduation-night comedy, Cooper occasionally – only occasionally – wanders into “harmless.” Much
of the time it’s sending bad messages about, oh, driving without your lights on after dark, using sex to score beer and letting peer pressure determine your sexuality. Let’s state emphatically that America’s teens are too smart to do most of those things. Let’s also state they probably won’t find much to laugh at in this emphatically unfunny comedy from the guy who owes his career to Home Alone. Paul Rust is the charmless, uncharismatic lead, Denis, a nerd who uses his valedictory speech to tell his classmates what he really thinks of them. And that girl he has lusted for, but never ever spoken to? She (Hayden Panettiere) gets his punch line. “I love you, Beth Cooper.” She is flattered, and over the course of a long and tedious graduation night, Denis and his pal Rich (Jack Carpenter), whom he outed in his speech, follow Beth and “The Trinity” (Lauren London and the hilarious Lauren Storm) as Beth drives her Yaris like a long lost Andretti, flees her maniacal military boyfriend and knocks herself off the pedestal Denis put her on. The reason this was made was to escort young Panettiere from “cutie” to “hottie.” But did they need the lame cocaine jokes, the military bashing, the parents (Alan Ruck, Cynthia Stevenson) playing hide-the-vibrating-cell-phone? There is no way to discuss this movie without wondering if there has ever been a more successful awful director than Chris Columbus. The movie was adapted by the fellow who wrote the novel, Larry Doyle, and is so tone-deaf as to make one fear for American publishing. And the woebegone Rust, the poor man’s McLovin, is illsuited for this in so many ways that you don’t even have to get into his appearance – no timing, no sparkle, zero chemistry with Hayden. At least this should quickly become one of those blips on Panettiere’s resume, a Leprechaun for the New Jennifer Aniston to roll her eyes about on Conan’s couch a few years down the road. Reviewed by Roger Moore ACE INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009 95
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A moment in history Tom Cruise stars in the true story of Valkyrie, and pulls it off VALKYRIE Starring: Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Terrence Stamp, Kenneth Branagh Directed by: Bryan Singer. Rated: PG-13 (for violence and brief strong language) 114 minutes An unfussy, adult and stoic Tom Cruise anchors the World War II thriller Valkyrie. In a compact performance of nerve and rare glimpses of emotion, Cruise is a leading man who takes us through a complex story, and ennobles and personalizes events that have now almost faded into history. This Bryan Singer film is about the most famous attempt by Germans to kill the Fuehrer who led the world into war and Germany into horror. And it is about the man at the center of that conspiracy, Claus von Stauffenberg. He was an army officer from German nobility, that rare man with the resolve, “tenacity and determination,” historian Roger Moorhouse says in his book, Killing Hitler, to carry out an attempted coup to “save Germany.” Valkyrie introduces the principals – civilians struggling to find a way to seize control of government from a military dictatorship, Wehrmacht officers appalled by the “stain” the mass murderer Hitler had brought to the Army. “We have to show the world that not all of us were like him,” longtime plotter Major General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh) reminds the others. Despite taking an oath of loyalty to Adolph Hitler himself, Army officers were willing to attempt assassinations, especially after the war turned unwinnable. Von Stauffenberg, a Nazi hater early on, lost an eye, a hand and fingers in service to his country. 96 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM August 2009
But he was driven to feel he had one last duty he could perform for Germany. Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) ably handles the story’s ticking-clock elements, the many attempts that failed, the rising stakes as the conspirators risk discovery and certain execution. The final attempt is filmed crisply in a way that hides the outcome even as the coup unfolds. Christopher McQuarrie’s script gives us distinct personalities, even if we’ve never heard of them. There’s the dithering general (Bill Nighy), the brave figurehead (Terrence Stamp), the opportunist in charge of the Home Guard (Tom Wilkinson) and the mysterious “inside man” (Eddie Izzard) who may or may not help when the chips are down. But the movie sorely needs that conversion moment, the “kill everyone” orders that tarred the army with the same civilian-murdering brush that the SS had. What resistance there was in the German military was born in those massacres. The film introduces von Stauffenberg’s wife (Carice van Houten of Black Book), and small children, letting us see what he has at stake. But it lacks the sense of desperation as they raced the clock trying to separate the nation and its people from the public face that the world was united to destroy. The historian David McCullough has often said that we must remember that the people taking part in great events don’t have our gift of hindsight. They don’t know how things will turn out. That informs Cruise’s performance as Stauffenberg. He isn’t a fatalist, sprinting toward his doom. He is pragmatic, a pokerfaced gambler willing to risk all because he’s sure of himself and his abilities and he likes his odds. In Cruise’s hands, von Stauffenberg comes off as a very human window into this history and this engrossing and involving movie. Reviewed by Roger Moore