VACCINATIONS: DID NORTH & SOUTH GET IT RIGHT?
INVESTIGATE July 2010:
Obama’s Legacy Six perspectives, one verdict
Obama’s Legacy • Crying Wolf on Climate • Vaccinations
Has the UN been exaggerating again?
Is China corrupting our politicians?
Stealing Your Money Elderly migrants mugged by WINZ Issue 114
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: Michael Baigent’s new book reviewed, Mark Steyn on Gaza, and the growing buzz on breast thermography
$8.30 July 2010
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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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W W W. G U T H R I E S . C O . N Z
C ONTENTS Volume 10, Issue 114, ISSN 1175-1290
He was once hailed as “The One”, a messianic presidential candidate. Now, on the eve of looming congressional elections, the Obama dynasty is looking dangerously short-lived. We present perspectives from six writers on the problems now confronting the President.
Vaccines: The Other Side
North & South magazine may think vaccines are wonder drugs, but BETH TAVUI has a different view, after her son was injured by the MeNZB shot
Wealthy Chinese businessmen wining and dining NZ politicos, big investment in our country. PROFESSOR DONG LI warns of China’s aim to turn the West into virtual serfs
The UN has tried to scare the public into thinking climate change will kill humanity through disease and famine, but population scientist PETER CURSON says these claims may be seriously exaggerated
The Race To Armageddon
NZ author Michael Baigent’s new book gets disembowelled by religious studies scholar. ROLLAN MCCLEARY
NZ citizens who migrated here from Europe are having their life-savings stolen by the NZ Government, as PETER HENSLEY reports
Cover: UPIPHOTOS /NEWSCOM
EDITORIAL & OPINION
Focal Point Editorial
Vox-Populi The roar of the crowd
Miranda Devine on education
Turkey’s dark side
Richard Prosser on Air New Zealand
Chris Carter on Gaza
Contra Mundum Matt Flannagan on fairies
L IFESTYLE Poetry
Amy Brooke’s poem of the month
Peter Hensley on migrants
Amy Brooke on permissiveness
Michael Morrissey’s winter reads
Chris Forster on Cambo
Chris Philpott’s CD reviews Karate Kid
Fonzie grows up
A winter treat
Chief Executive Officer Heidi Wishart | Group Managing Editor Ian Wishart | NZ EDITION Advertising 09 373-3676, firstname.lastname@example.org | Contributing Writers: Hal Colebatch, 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 Heidi Wishart | Design & Layout Bozidar Jokanovic | Tel: +64 9 373 3676 | Fax: +64 9 373 3667 | Investigate Magazine, PO Box 188, Kaukapakapa, Auckland 0843, NEW ZEALAND | AUSTRALIAN EDITION Editor Ian Wishart | Advertising email@example.com | Tel/Fax: 1-800 123 983 | SUBSCRIPTIONS – Online: www.investigatemagazine.com By Phone: Australia – 1-800 123 983, NZ – 09 373 3676 By Post: To the PO Box NZ Edition: $85; AU Edition: A$96 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org All content in this magazine is copyright, and may not be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. The opinions of advertisers or contributors are not necessarily those of the magazine, and no liability is accepted. We take no responsibility for unsolicited material sent to us. Please enclose a stamped, SAE envelope. Inquiries in the first instance should be made via email or fax. Investigate magazine Australasia is published by HATM Magazines Ltd
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Why Peter Gluckman has to go WHEN PRIME MINISTER JOHN KEY APPOINTED SIR
Peter Gluckman as his ‘independent’ science advisor last year, I – like many people I suspect – hoped that the outspoken Gluckman would live up to his independence. Sadly, the man has turned into an establishment parrot. Some have criticised his speeches on climate change on the basis that he’s a medical researcher, not a climatologist. But given many of the latter show more scientific affinity with bovine scatology than climate, that criticism is not necessarily fatal. I’m not a climate scientist either, nor is Al Gore, Lord Nicholas Stern or UN IPCC boss and sexromp author Rajendra Pachauri – a train engineer by trade. No, my criticism of Gluckman is pretty much confined to the fact that he could write what he truly knows about climate change on the back of a postage stamp and still have room left for something else. There are giveaways to what I’m confident is Gluckman’s ignorance on the subject, scattered all the way through his pronouncements. He talks, for example, of the “overwhelming consensus” of scientists backing the UN IPCC report. I’d wager good money that Gluckman picked this “overwhelming consensus” meme up from one David Wratt Esq, or one of Wratt’s NIWA associates, because it’s the same line NIWA use in all their climate puffery as well. It just isn’t true. The IPCC boasted by implication that several thousand scientists and reviewers supported its 2007 verdict about human-caused climate change, but in fact it’s well documented that of the nearly 4,000 people involved, only around 30 were responsible and approved the key climate change claims. Not, 4000. Not 3000. Not 2,500. Just thirty. One of whom was the aforementioned Wratt. NIWA gloated that New Zealanders had 6 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
been responsible for driving two of the four main IPCC reports last time around, so you can see where some of the IPCC’s mistakeridden chickens and their rustlers might be roosting. So what of this much-vaunted “consensus”? Interestingly, as we went to press climate scientist Mike Hulme, one of the IPCC’s lead authors, fired a broadside at the IPCC in a new scientific paper: “Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingen-
ago. Glaciers have shrunk since then and average temperatures have warmed. The real issue is by how much, and whether that was caused by humans. That’s where the debate lies, because simply throwing money at climate scientists, the United Nations, and political hangers-on like Gluckman is going to be a fat waste of time and cash if the bulk of warming turns out to be natural. With National’s extravagant ETS tax taking effect on 1 July, and scheduled to become even more draconian within a couple of years, it’s time for New Zealanders to get far more informed about the climate debate,
I’d wager good money that Gluckman picked this “overwhelming consensus” meme up from one David Wratt Esq, or one of Wratt’s NIWA associates, because it’s the same line NIWA use in all their climate puffery as well. It just isn’t true uous. That particular consensus judgement, as are many others in the IPCC reports, is reached by only a few dozen experts in the specific field of detection and attribution studies; other IPCC authors are experts in other fields.” Ouch. Straight from the horse’s mouth. Professor Gluckman is not up with the play on what other scientists are saying. Instead, he caricatures climate scepticism by suggesting we deny the planet has warmed up. No we don’t. It’s evident to anybody with half a brain that the world has warmed a lot since the little ice age ended about 150 years
and for Gluckman to slink back to his medical research lab and do the work he really does know about.
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INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 7
Communiques The roar of the crowd
Open letter to John Key
In most of the world, the science of Global Warming has been thoroughly discredited. Across the Tasman, Climate Change has brought down one party leader, and may bring down another, together with a change of government at the polls. Yet in New Zealand, Global Warming refuses to die. Scientific truth is not decided by opinion or by consensus (which are political matters). It is a rather more boring matter of observation, measurement, experiment and the testing of hypotheses. What is different about climate science that none of this applies? Why have all of the many IPCC climate modellers (14 teams of them) failed to predict the cooler temperatures that the world has experienced over the last decade? What is special about the IPCC that their predictions are still believed despite these failures? Why do the leading advocates of Anthropogenic Global Warming feel the need to deceive and obfuscate? At the international level we have the “hockey stick” graph (the Medieval Warm Period is hidden, random data fed into the model will produce a hockey stick), the errors and distortions of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” (recognised by the High Court in England), the exaggerations and errors of the IPCC’s various reports (melting Himalayan glaciers, for example), the commercial conflicts of interest of Dr Rajendra Pachauri and others, and the “Climategate” scandal at the University of East Anglia (data is selected and manipulated to fit pre-conceived conclusions, critics are silenced, the peer review process is controlled, Freedom of Information requests are denied, and finally, the underlying inputs on which you and the world rely are “lost”). Closer to home, we have NIWA, whose science is world famous. Unfortunately, it is famous for the wrong reasons: NIWA’s 8 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
case for Global Warming is the most easily discredited of all (it is based on a single scientific paper which was not peer reviewed, it selects temperature records from 7 out of 238 weather stations, adds manual adjustments, does not correlate with the historical temperature record, and the underlying inputs have been “lost”). If neither the NZ model for Global Warming, nor the international models, can be justified (they cannot even be reconstructed at the most basic level), why then do you and your government believe them? What is different about climate science that you and your ministers do not require the evidence that is required in every other branch of science? The policies adopted by you and your government on Climate Change are well to the left of those of Kevin Rudd’s and Barack Obama’s administrations. What a strange thing climate science must be for the National Party to adopt and actively promote a set of policies created and espoused by the far left! It is certainly quite baffling to me as a voter. I saw a TV programme recently in which an elder statesman (Chris Patten) was interviewed together with a climate “sceptic”. When push came to shove, Patten’s only defence of why he believed the case for Anthropogenic Global Warming was that he was not prepared to go against the views of the Royal Society and its president. Well, a hundred years ago, the president of the Royal Society declared that heavier than air machines would never fly. No doubt Patten would have believed him. Just as war is too important to be left to the generals, so climate science is far too important to be left to the experts. In the words of Harold Macmillan: “We have not overthrown the divine right of kings to fall down for the divine right of experts”. You need to read up on the issues yourself, both
on the internet, and in books that are available in any good bookshop. For reasons unknown to me, you chose to appoint as Chief Scientific Advisor and Minister for Climate Change Issues individuals who are both heavily invested in the Global Warming movement. This means that you cannot expect unbiased opinion from them. You need to do the reading yourself. It is only a matter of time before public opinion in New Zealand follows the debunking of the science. This has already happened overseas. I suggest it would be much to your credit and political advantage if you were to anticipate public opinion on this issue, rather than follow it. Lastly, I have voted for you and the National Party in the past. I do not expect to do so again while you profess to believe in the scientific and political nonsense that is Global Warming. Paul Deacon, Christchurch
Don’t trust Consumer on CFLs
The latest magazine from Consumer is still barracking for CFL bulbs. I understood that they were going to do some tests of their own to verify the toxicity that you were so concerned about. It seems that they either have not done so or that the tests indicated that there was little need for concern. What’s the latest? Adrian Koppens, via email
The Ministry of Health commissioned a study on broken CFLs, which determined the breakage was “unlikely” to be a health hazard. The authorities have made much of their spin attempts by trying to compare the mercury in bulbs with the mercury in a thermometer, or even in a meal of fish. However, the mercury vapour released by a broken CFL is actually the most bioabsorbable
and toxic form of the deadly metal, so despite being just a tiny amount it still packs a kick. This reality is overlooked by the CFL cheerleaders and patsies over at Consumer magazine. What is also overlooked is the cumulative effect of CFL breakages in a house. One lightbulb breaking might be a temporary hazard to children and pregnant women, but because a portion of the mercury remains stuck in carpet fibres, it can accumulate over time if more bulbs are broken, creating a growing background mercury hazard for families. This could be particularly risky in Housing New Zealand properties, prone to regular tenant damage. The science behind broken bulbs was covered in the Maine Department of Environmental Protection study and a follow up by Brown University in the US. Nothing has changed in the basic dangers of CFLs. The good news is that halogen bulbs are now available for standard light fittings, and halogens are non-toxic for children and pets. Even more efficient LED lights are just around the corner. Anyone who puts a CFL in their home, or takes Consumer’s ongoing advertising of them seriously, is a mug in my humble opinion. Why take a completely avoidable and unnecessary risk?
Another NORML supporter writes
After reading your article in the February edition of Investigate, I was compelled to offer my views on the matter and comment on some assertions within which were mistakes at best or deliberately misleading at worst. Firstly, your assertion that Holland is the ‘poster child’ for decriminalisation shows some very sloppy research: Holland has never formally decriminalised Marijuana. If anything, the ‘poster child’ is Portugal who has the most liberal drug laws in Europe. The fact that Portugal was not even mentioned in your article is bemusing and is perhaps because it has been very successful in this approach. Portugal decriminalised all substances in 2001 and now treats addiction and dependence as issues best solved by health professionals. A report published by the Cato institute in 2009 asked the question ‘Did this approach work?’ Their answer, backed up by solid numbers was an emphatic ‘Yes!’. To quote the Time magazine article reporting on this “Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success.... It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and
control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.” Secondly, the debate surrounding substance reform is hampered by the terminology boundary between Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco. A more reasoned debate should simply be around the term ‘Substances’ (i.e. things that people imbibe to alter their state of mind or mood) as then each substance can be considered separately based on harm and without prejudice. As the figure in your article points out, Marijuana is a far less damaging substance than alcohol, yet often, simply because it is termed a ‘drug’, this fact is overlooked. The lack of logical reasoning in the wider debate, and in your article, is sadly apparent. On the one hand, the article claims that Marijuana is dangerous, on the other it shows quite clearly that is less dangerous than Kiwis other favourite mind altering substance: Alcohol. Logically then, if one believes that the best way to reduce the use and abuse of a substance is to imprison its users and dealers (i.e. the current approach to Marijuana), then all Alcohol users and dealers, given its ranking on the harm scale in your article, should be locked up in order to reduce alcohol abuse and usage rates. Alternately, if one believes the best way to reduce the use and abuse of substance is to treat it as a health issue, then people with addiction or dependence problems should have available the resources to help them get over their problem and return to being productive members of society. I am a firm believer in doing what works. I don’t suggest that the best way to reduce Alcohol use and abuse is to simply lock up all people that consume it, so it would be illogical for me to suggest that the best way to reduce Marijuana use and abuse was to lock up all people that consume that. Tim Barnes, via email
Oh, you mean this Portugal?: http://www.webehigh.com/city/detail. php?CITYID=Algarve
Smoking tolerance level: 4 Legal status: Marijuana possession for personal use is no longer a criminal offence in Portugal, and the law authorities have very little interest in Marijuana smokers. any less than ten days reasonable dosage is legal Law Enforcement: police rarely approach anyone, but if someone (usually drunk) is causing trouble they will get beaten up. just stay
chilled and you will be fine. The Police are not very interested in tourists smoking weed or hash, although if you are apprehended a bribe might be the best way to straighten things out (a 50 Euro note would do nicely). I wouldn’t recommend walking down the street smoking a joint, that would be asking for trouble. If you see a cop coming your way it is best just to put the joint out. Where to buy Marijuana in the Algarve: the poorer black guys on the street will try and sell you “hashish” but it’s always poor quality hash wih candle wax in it. there are hundreds of reps from the uk who try to get punters into the clubs and bars, they are really easy going and you WILL get to know them. if you ask subtly they will probably be able to get you some or show you where to get it. usually high quality Marijuana is very hard to come by in Portugal, although you WILL be offered “weed” by various dodgy looking individuals in the street, DO NOT buy anything from these people, they will charge you a lot and sell you crap (Often just herbs or leaves). Hash is much easier to get, just look for stoner types and ask them, or if you see a headshop they can usually hook you up. Again, DO NOT buy the hash that you are offered on the streets, it will be extremely low quality and they will rip you off. Algarve Marijuana Prices: for candlewax soapbar anything from 1 euro a gram to 10 euros a gram tourist prices. for good hash between 10 and 20 euros for an eighth. cheaper than england, reasonable for the quality The average price for Marijuana when it is available is €10 a gram. Algarve Hash Prices: Hash is readily available; it is much cheaper than weed. You can usually buy a minimum of €10 which gets you an eighth (3.5g). Brands: The weed is usually medium to high quality when found, although you have little choice over strain etc. The hash is the poorer quality “Soap-Bar” hash that is found all over the U.K. and Europe. Personally, Tim, I enjoyed discovering that while Portugal rated 4 out of 5 in marijuana tolerance from the travelling stoners at Webehigh, our very own Auckland, supposedly a hotbed of oppressed dope smokers, scored even better: Auckland Updated: 10/10/2007 Smoking tolerance level: 4.5 out of 5 Legislation: Marijuana is illegal in New Zealand, and so is any related action (growing, purchasing, smoking etc.) INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 9
Law enforcement: grass is tollerated, everyone smokes weed here, but no one admits to it. If the police catch you doing somthing illagle and find weed on you, then its a trip to the popo station. But i have often smoked a joint in the middle of town and no one really cares, just play it cool. Where to buy marijuana: If you’re in auckland over a weekend be sure to try Aeotera Square, toward the top of queen street on a friday/saturday night. Quality wise, on the street its not the best, but its allways weed.. Unlike other countries NZ wont rip you off completly. Else jump on the train and go further south from auckland (Otara/Papakura) you can score much easier, but you will usually end up buying from gangs. PS, I particularly enjoyed the levels of literacy that cannabis brings to its regular users I look forward to such people being my surgeon, prescription-filler at the pharmacy, bus-driver, lawyer or house-builder. Alcohol may cause problems, but marijuana is far more insidious and its toxins stay in the body far longer.
Third party insurance
I read with my usual interest Chris Carter’s contribution. His colourful language and “straight from the shoulder” comments are refreshing. However when I reached the bit about Third Party Insurance I realised that
10 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
he didn’t know what he was talking about. In the “most of the world the third party insurance is built into the registration fee” aspect he doesn’t appreciate that it is done to primarily cover against injury, not damage to vehicles. In New Zealand we do not have that requirement as we have ACC. He also infers that if Third Party Insurance were compulsory it would solve all the problems of the motoring public. However as with any insurance policy there has to be compliance with certain conditions and if a car is not roadworthy, has been modified and approval obtained from the insurance company, if the driver is not licenced or is in breach of licence, if the driver is under the influence, etc, etc, the policy will not respond. If all conditions have been met the liability/responsibility aspect has to be resolved and often, with each driver blaming the other in part or in total the delay before a Disputes Tribunal hearing can sort it out makes speedy settlements unlikely. The best way to protect yourself is to take out full insurance on your own vehicle and then, in the event of an accident, your insurance company will sort things out for you, Mike Brooke, via email
“Leaky homes” is the largest local body blunder ever imposed on private citizens of this country. To make sure the problem is solved
and never happens again, demands must be made within every avenue open to us. As each day passes the problem in real time is manifesting itself in the next minute, the next hour, the next month and for the next how many years yet to come, God only knows. Where are the Police or Investigative Journalists or The Fraud Office in this scam? Something, involving billions of dollars, sounds as rotten as the timber we are talking about. Where are the Insurance Companies? Not a squeak to be heard? Are these rotting homes somehow not insured? Or are the insurance companies running for cover as usual. A touch on the shoulder of every poor unfortunate leaky home owner or mortgagee to the tune 50% is a scandal unheard of, ever. It is tantamount to black-mail. “If you can take this wee package letting yourself in for only 50% of the repair costs or, go brief the lawyers to do it for you, while waving their magic wands and rubbing their hands together. Every leaky problem you have ever had will just disappear over the horizon. Who is trying whom, on? Who is doing the assessments and arriving at a figure for repair that is right and proper? Which corrupt bunch of “Who’s” will be doing that? What will be the checks and balances in that little side show? How long will it all take and how much will cost on its own before repair even begins? If the 1981 Springbok tour was worth marching for, this is worth marching if not, dying for. The writer has seen with his own eyes the effects it has on family life, rich or poor. Mothers with children, house bound, crying in absolute despair, not knowing where to turn or what to do. There is nothing in New Zealand history with which to compare it, The much maligned Government State House, many of which are now Seventy five years old are still standing high and dry as are many private homes now well over a hundred years and in some cases over a hundred and fifty years old. The fundamental question is; Dwellings in this country have been signed off by City Councils and Government agencies under strict building laws and by laws of this country either, knowing they are going to leak or have not paid enough attention to detail. They charge appalling fees for resource consent, plan approvals, progress visits, ticking off as they go various stages of construc-
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tion. But now and since many years past it has all tuned to custard and yet, what is happening? From the outside looking in: Absolutely nothing. If nothing is happening to fix these dwellings, then something crooked is going on. Meanwhile sleepy old Aotearoa slumbers on. Wake up NZ. Call for an unprecedented national strike, march in the streets and withhold taxes particularly City Council rates until: The national Government, the City Councils, the Insurance Companies, the Police, the architects and in many cases the manufacturers of the building products in question, get their act together. Winstone J Norfolk, via email
It seems somewhat ironic that houses built long before there were building regulations and inspectors, are still happily standing, while those built under a raft of Nanny State rules, are not. What does that tell us about the bureaucracy?
Prosser out of order
In response to Richard Prosser’s article ‘Can we fix it’ I would like to make the following comments in regards to his statement... “Also, NO-ONE who hasn’t had kids should be allowed anywhere near the machinery of education policy making”. So, therefore Richard would totally disregard people like Pat Lynch, the head of Catholic education, as unsuitable to make education policy, and also the thousands of Catholic nuns worldwide who educated generations of children, with brilliant results. Richard would consider them unworthy of making education policy. Likewise Jo “Supernanny” Frost, as well as myself, who have been called in for years to sort through family and behavioural problems for parents, yet both Jo and myself would be unsuitable to be anywhere near education policy because of our own lack of offspring. Lastly would Richard consider Christ, and the apostle Paul, totally unsuitable to be
allowed anywhere near education policy, as they also have not had kids? I ask Richard how can all of the above be deemed unworthy that he demeans those who have forsaken ALL, and paid a price, to actually follow their calling. It beggars belief. Paula Wagstaff, Coatesville
I draw your attention to an error in my script that both I and my proof-reader missed and which has unfortunately slipped into the article as published in the latest Investigate magazine (Soapbox, May 2010). I have inadvertently referred to Jerusalem as the birthplace of King David when of course it was Bethlehem. No doubt some of your hawkeyed readers will discover it. I apologise for this carelessness: it is ironic that in an article that picks up on errors of fact by author Bryan Bruce, I have introduced one myself. David E. Richmond, Auckland
Is it poetry? Then send submissions to Poetry Editor Amy Brooke: email@example.com
UPDATE ON A MIRACLE
As regular readers will be aware, our daughter Isabella suffered a messy finger amputation just before Christmas at daycare when it was severed and squashed in a seesaw pivot, covered in dirt and then frostbitten after being left sitting on ice for five hours because of negligence at Middlemore Hospital. The surgeons advised there was no chance of the finger being successfully reattached given the vicious wound and the state of the severed portion, but regular readers will also be aware that as Christians we don’t take negatives from the medical specialists as the final answer unchallenged. Heidi and I prayed for a miracle reattachment, against all odds, and got one. We’ve been repeatedly asked for an update, so here’s the sequence of photos, beginning with the frostbitten blackened finger reattached (photographed two weeks after surgery), and lastly pictured playing this month. Praise God, and thanks to all our readers who prayed or sent best wishes. It’s nice to have a story with a happy ending. And Jesus said to them... ‘This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life’ – John 9:3 Ian & Heidi
12 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
The landscape is barren, Like forty years of wilderness: Not a true prophet On the stark skyline. Bonhoeffer, Lewis and Muggeridge have gone: Only a gang of hollow men Scratching in the ashes Of Sodom and Gomorrah Searching for tomorrow. The wireless waves Brittle with disaster; Images brazen on the screen. Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris fill the vacuum, In a valley of dry bones Sucked drought-dry. The brilliant sunset Shuts off, dark To a stuttering quark! Malcolm Ford
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VACCINATIONS: DID NORTH & SOUTH GET IT RIGHT?
INVESTIGATE July 2010:
Obama’s Legacy Six perspectives, one verdict
HURRY, Limited stock
Obama’s Legacy • Crying Wolf on Climate • Vaccinations
Has the UN been exaggerating again?
Is China corrupting our politicians?
Stealing Your Money
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Miranda Devine Lessening the education gap IF YOU WANT TO SEE A REAL EDUCATION REVOLUTION
then you should go to the remote Cape York town of Aurukun, where Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has imported a radical teaching program into a school in which more than half of the students were barely reading at kindergarten level, if they could read at all. In terms of indigenous disadvantage, Aurukun was at rock bottom, with NAPLAN test results 70 per cent below the national benchmark, and every year the achievement gap widening. The social dysfunction of the Cape’s most violent town, driven by gambling, drugs and alcohol, was being played out in the schoolyard. But Pearson says the children’s backgrounds have always been used by principals, teachers and education department bureaucrats as an “alibi for schooling failure’’. His philosophy is that if a student is at school and ready to learn, “a learning failure is a teaching failure’’. Already, after just oneand-a-half terms, the American-designed Direct Instruction program in which teachers deliver scripted lessons, according to a strictly prescribed, methodical program in literacy and mathematics, has surpassed even Pearson’s extraordinarily high hopes. It is a program on which he has staked his reputation, forced into being against the will of much of the educational establishment, and on which his legacy will be judged. This month, in the 17th week of the DI program, a year 4 girl named Imani Tamwoy became the first in the school to have caught up to her grade level in reading. The grade 5 to 7 students managed to master 76 per cent of the kindergarten program in the first 11 weeks, and the prep – or pre-kindy class of four-year olds – is already 40 per cent through the kindergarten language program. “I’m surprised,’’ Pearson said during a visit with his five-year-old son Ngulunhdhul, aka Charlie, to Aurukun school, two hours 16 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
by charter flight from his Cairns home. “I thought in Aurukun we’d have a hell of a time with behaviour … I thought Aurukun would be special case, with the notoriety of the school and the community. But it hasn’t been, and the great thing is we’re doing it with your stock standard Education Queensland teacher. This is the biggest surprise and they’re doing a bloody great job.’’ Pearson travelled to Oregon last year to meet the architect of DI, Professor Siegfried Engelmann, and after a series of bruising negotiations, and entrenched opposition from some teachers and bureaucrats, installed a $7 million three-year trial in Aurukun and Coen schools at the begin-
Having taught in hardscrabble schools from Kenya to Thursday Island, the former Victorian describes himself as an old-fashioned “chalk and talk’’ teacher. His previous schools have been described as places where “even the grass sits up straight’’. He says DI accords with his educational philosophy, that every child can learn, given a disciplined routine and effective instruction. But even in his wildest dreams he hadn’t known how effective DI could be. “I have no doubt the pupils will be at the national level in maths and English in three years’ time, and many children will be one, two or three years above that level.’’ Walking through the collection of modest
The children’s backgrounds have always been used by principals, teachers and education department bureaucrats as an “alibi for schooling failure’’ ning of the year, with the cautious support of the Queensland Education department. The new principal, Geoff Higham, 59, drafted early this year to replace his less than enthusiastic predecessor, remembers how students in years 8 and 9 used to bring iron bars to school. “The senior boys were out of control. They were reading at kindy level and they hated everything about school,’’ he says. “It’s hard to believe the transformation in just 15 or 16 weeks. “This is a wonderful system. All the children are put into ability groups so no one is failing. The teachers aren’t failing. The children aren’t failing … It’s a magnificent successful educational experiment.’’
white buildings nestled among stringybark and palm trees at the school of 250 pupils, you see everywhere, on teachers’ shirts, on banners and in classrooms, the motto Pearson has coined for his education revolution: “Get ready. Work Hard. Be Good.’’ In Sarah Travers’s kindy class, she wears a microphone around her neck to amplify her voice for children with chronic ear infections. It seems to work, because her 10 fiveyear-old students sit attentively on the floor, calling out sounds as she points to phonetic symbols in a book. At 1.45 pm at the tail end of a busy school week, their concentration and focus is remarkable. In another classroom, children are sound-
ing out words as the teacher clicks her fingers rhythmically to speed up their voices so that the sounds soon join up to become a fluent word. Colleen Page, a 24-year-old teacher from the Sunshine Coast, in her third year at Aurukun, says the change DI has had on her pupils is marked. “They thrive on it. It’s really good to compare the last two years with this year … Previously the kids would be running around your classroom … not listening. Now they’re confident about participation in class.’’ She tells the story of the eight-year-old boy who came to her one morning proudly telling her how he had applied his previous day’s lesson. “Miss, I saw a frog, and I said, ‘You are an amphibian. You are born in water and raised on land.’’’ An essential part of the DI program is weekly testing and data crunching. Every Thursday, 120 pages of detailed test scores and information about each student and class
is faxed to a DI centre in North America to be analysed. The following Tuesday, the school leaders have a conference call with DI experts in Oregon, about any problems identified. For example, the data may pinpoint a deficit in a particular child’s understanding that came from a particular work sheet in a particular lesson that may have been taught six weeks earlier. The solution is prescribed and the process repeats itself. The children seem to thrive on the organised routine. Even those difficult older children in years 9 and 10, who have not gone away to boarding school like most of their peers, and who were expected to be too far behind to reap many rewards from DI, have responded in a way that is heartening and heartbreaking, as you consider countless lost opportunities. The next stage in Pearson’s plan is to extend the school day to run from 8.30 am to 4.45 pm, with direct instruction of
With growing community delight in the new DI system at school, and the charismatic leadership of Pearson, there is a feeling of renewal in the air.
basic skills until 2.15 pm. Afternoons will be devoted to two crucial areas of learning: Club, which is physical activities such as Auskick, and Culture, which is devoted to learning their traditional Aboriginal culture and becoming literate in the first language of most Aurukun children, Wik-Mungkan. With growing community delight in the new DI system at school, and the charismatic leadership of Pearson, there is a feeling of renewal in the air. Or, what Principal Higham calls a corner of light. firstname.lastname@example.org INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 17
Turkey embraces its Dark Side FOREIGN POLICY “REALISTS,” BACK IN THE SADDLE
since the Texan cowboy left town, are extremely fond of the concept of “stability”: America needs a stable Middle East, so we should learn to live with Mubarak and the mullahs and the House of Saud, etc. You can see the appeal of “stability” to your bigtime geopolitical analyst: You don’t have to update your Rolodex too often, never mind rethink your assumptions. “Stability” is a fancy term to upgrade inertia and complacency into strategy. No wonder the fetishization of stability is one of the most stable features of foreign-policy analysis. Unfortunately, back in what passes for the real world, there is no stability. History is always on the march, and, if it’s not moving in your direction, it’s generally moving in the other fellow’s. Take this “humanitarian” “aid” flotilla. Much of what went on – the dissembling of the Palestinian propagandists, the hysteria of the U.N. and the Euro-ninnies – was just business as usual. But what was most striking was the behaviour of the Turks. In the wake of the Israeli raid, Ankara promised to provide Turkish naval protection for the next “aid” convoy to Gaza. This would be, in effect, an act of war – more to the point, an act of war by a NATO member against the State of Israel. Ten years ago, Turkey’s behavior would have been unthinkable. Ankara was Israel’s best friend in a region where every other neighbour wishes, to one degree or another, the Jewish state’s destruction. Even when Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP was elected to power eight years ago, the experts assured us there was no need to worry. I remember sitting in a plush bar late one night with a former Turkish foreign minister, who told me, in between passing round the cigars and chugging back the Scotch, that, yes, the new crowd weren’t quite so convivial in the wee small hours but, other than that, they 18 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
knew where their interests lay. Like many Turkish movers and shakers of his generation, my drinking companion loved the Israelis. “They’re tough hombres,” he said admiringly. “You have to be in this part of the world.” If you had suggested to him that in six years’ time the Turkish prime minister would be telling the Israeli president to his face that “I know well how you kill children on beaches,” he would have dismissed it as a fantasy concoction for some alternative universe. Yet it happened. Erdogan said those words to Shimon Peres at Davos last year and then flounced off stage. Day by day what was formerly the Zionist entity’s staunchest
from Rumelia, and they imposed the modern Turkish republic on a reluctant Anatolia, where Ataturk’s distinction between the state and Islam was never accepted. Now they don’t have to accept it. The swelling population has spilled out of its rural hinterland and into the once solidly Kemalist cities. Do you ever use the expression “young Turks”? I heard it applied to the starry-eyed ideologues around Obama the other day. The phrase comes from the original young Turks, the youthful activists agitating for reform in the last decades of the Ottoman Empire. The very words acknowledge the link between political and demographic energy. Today, the “young Turks” are old
In the wake of the Israeli raid, Ankara promised to provide Turkish naval protection for the next “aid” convoy to Gaza. This would be, in effect, an act of war pal talks more and more like just another cookie-cutter death-to-the-Great-Satan stan-of-the-month. As the think-tankers like to say: “Who lost Turkey?” In a nutshell: Kemal Ataturk. Since he founded post-Ottoman Turkey in his own image nearly nine decades ago, the population has increased from 14 million to over 70 million. But that five-fold increase is not evenly distributed. The short version of Turkish demographics in the 20th century is that Rumelian Turkey – i.e., western, European, secular, Kemalist Turkey – has been outbred by Anatolian Turkey – i.e., eastern, rural, traditionalist, Islamic Turkey. Ataturk and most of his supporters were
Turks: The heirs to the Kemalist reformers who gave women the vote before Britain did are a population in demographic decline. There will be fewer of them in every election. Today’s young Turks are men who think as Erdogan does. That doesn’t mean Turkey is Iran or Waziristan or Saudi Arabia, but it does mean that the country’s leadership is in favour of more or less conventional Islamic imperialism. As Erdogan’s most famous sound bite puts it: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the faithful our soldiers.” Some Western “experts” like to see this as merely a confident, economically buoy-
ant Turkey’s “re-Ottomanization.” But the virulent anti-Semitism emanating from Erdogan’s fief is nothing to do with the old-time caliphate (where, unlike rebellious Arabs, the Jews were loyal or at least quiescent subjects), and all but undistinguishable from the globalized hyper-Islam successfully seeded around the world by Wahhabist money and so enthusiastically embraced by third-generation Euro-Muslims. Since 9/11,
many of us have speculated about Muslim reform, in the Arab world and beyond. It’s hard to recall now but just a few years ago there was talk about whether General Musharraf would be Pakistan’s Ataturk. Instead, what we’re witnessing in Turkey is the most prominent example of Muslim reform being de-reformed, before our very eyes, in nothing flat.
Palestinians carry a Turkish flag after the prayers in the Old City of Jerusalem in protest of the Israeli naval raid on the Gaza bound fortilla that left nine Turkish citizens dead./ UPI/Debbie Hill
© 2010 Mark Steyn INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 19
Richard Prosser The long and short of it WHEN IRISH WRITER JONATHAN SWIFT’S LEMUEL
Gulliver traveled to the fictional Lilliput, two centuries ago, he found its inhabitants to be very small, in mind as well as in stature. Conversely, in Brobdingnag, the people he encountered were giants, both physically and in their outlook on the world. Art imitates life, of course, and Swift’s intention was to ridicule prevailing social norms in his England of the eighteenth century; mores which, human nature being what it is, have clear parallels with our own society today. Now before I go off, don’t get me wrong – this month’s rant is not about having a go at short people. Some of my best friends are dwarves. At 6’1” your favourite commentator is scarcely a beanstalk, at least not by New Zealand standards, but I have to say that even people of my stature live in a world crafted for the comfort of an average which is, shall we say, nearer to the core of Mother Earth than we would have chosen ourselves. I mean even the kitchen bench, for example; it’s about four inches lower than it needs to be in order for someone of my height to work at it comfortably. I don’t use this as an excuse, mind you, to stay out of that particular room of the house, in fact I’m quite domesticated. But it does mean that the time I do spend in there is largely time spent in an uncomfortable stoop. Such is the experience of many a taller person; uncomplaining, we traverse the paths of daily life whilst cramped, crowded, and constrained by the limitations of a world made just that little bit too snug by people who appear to need just a little bit less space around them, people for whom the horizon is a little nearer, and the world beyond the end of their nose is just a little bit less important. Next time you can’t reach the top cupboard, spare a thought for those of us who regularly bang our heads on it. I speak in metaphor, of course; or do I? 20 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
Perhaps the flag our nation flies for the world reveals more about ourselves than we realise. Traveling to the UK a month or two back, my good lady and I weren’t in time to sample the delights of Air New Zealand’s new SkyCouch™, that much-vaunted innovation not being due to be rolled out until the end of this year, but I don’t think it would have made a great deal of difference anyway. I confess I haven’t seen the new wonder economy-class flat bed in the sky in real life, but the cynic in me (and the mathematician, come to that) wonders how a regular person-sized frame such as mine would actually manage to fit into it. Our national airline’s new flying sofa is converted on demand from a row of three standard cattle-
Further, the flag carrier is re-jigging the rest of its Sardine Class seating plan in order to accommodate these new aerial lounge suites, turning nine seats which are already too small into ten which will be even smaller, by forcing the 777 to adopt the seating arrangements of the soon-to-be-retired 747, which has a cabin a full foot wider. Personally I’m not looking forward to the demise of the good old Jumbo Jet. It’s a big, comfortable aeroplane to ride in, unlike the 777. Boeing don’t get it wrong very often, but I have to say they built a lemon with that one, and Air New Zealand haven’t made it any better with the hard, narrow, mean little seats they jam into it. We upgraded to Premium Economy for trip home, such was
We will go forward as a nation by standing upon the shoulders of giants, not by hiding behind the coattails of midgets class stools, by folding the armrests up and replacing the rather euphemistically named “legroom” space in front with a retractable panel. But a regular economy class seat on Air New Zealand’s 777s and 747s is only 17 and 17 1/2 inches wide respectively, and three times that equals about four and a half feet, so I don’t believe that this writer, at least, will be stretching out on one any time soon. Granted, the attractive hobbits who the airline’s advertising agency have hired as models look contented enough sprawled out on what appear to be their reclining queen beds, but an ordinary tape measure tells me that Yours Truly could only achieve parity with them by completely straddling the 14” aisle with my size 12 Shanks’ Ponies.
my discomfort on the outbound leg, and my desire to avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis on the return one. It’s a different world up there, the front of the plane beyond the curtain, I can tell you; the seats are still too hard and too narrow, and the footrest is a joke, but there’s legroom for Africa, and the food is superb, as is the wine, and, of course, Air New Zealand’s unparalleled service. Your scribe has been around this big old world a wee bit, and I have to say that in my informed opinion, about which there is nothing humble, our airline’s cabin crew are simply the best there are. They’re genuinely friendly and thoroughly professional, nothing is a problem for them, they couldn’t have been more helpful with our six-month-old,
…cram as many fare-paying passengers as possible into this one flight, make the numbers look really good on a balance sheet, and, um….well, don’t worry about the future, that’s someone else’s job.
and I’m truly sorry that I won’t be flying with them again. But that’s the reality; I barely fit into those tiny unyielding pews as it is, and when the 747 retires and the new airborne sitting rooms come in and the proletariat benches are made even smaller, it’ll be Singapore Airlines who we travel with when we visit the other half of our daughter’s family. The little Oriental people of that little Asian nation have a large global perspective and an expansive forward-looking outlook when it comes to traveling, their regular seats are wide and gently supportive for the more generous posterior, and besides which, they will take us direct from Christchurch to Manchester, which Air New Zealand won’t – and the older I get, the more I become convinced that Auckland, Los Angeles, and Heathrow, are places it is better to avoid. So why is it that the Singaporeans have set themselves up better for long-haul flying than Air New Zealand? This country is further away from everywhere else than anywhere else, so one could be forgiven for presuming that going the extra distance and taking a long-term view would be things they afforded some priority; but no, it would seem that this nation’s flag carrier is as myopic and petty as most of the rest of the Government when it comes to forward planning. Maybe it’s because Singapore takes a larger view of things generally than we do; their GDP is twice that of our own, thanks largely to their willingness to allow and invest in real manufacturing industry, the WHO ranks their health system 6th in the world against our 41st placing, and their military (including more than 140 combat aircraft) is more than 20 times larger than New Zealand’s, and all this is achieved with a population of five million on an island with nil resources, which would fit into Lake Taupo. Someone is taking the bigger view of the world here, and it isn’t us.
Singapore Airlines have taken the long-term approach when it comes to designing and marketing their product because they want my business not just for the next trip, but for next year and the year after and the year after that. They’re an airline run by big people for big people, and I’m damned sure they’re not doing it at a loss or with Government subsidies. Air New Zealand, conversely, appear to have gone down the short-sighted route beloved of accountants; cram as many farepaying passengers as possible into this one flight, make the numbers look really good on a balance sheet, and, um….well, don’t worry about the future, that’s someone else’s job. Maybe this is why businesses which are run by abacus men go bust. Rob Muldoon would have been proud of the Singaporeans. Not since that much maligned and under-appreciated leader has New Zealand had a Prime Minister with the same vision, foresight, and clarity of purpose. Rob thought Big. He was not a tall man by any stretch of the imagination, but his worldview was large, as was his desire for New Zealand’s place in it. Muldoon wanted us to have power stations and refineries and smelters, fertiliser plants, gas extraction technologies, factories and processing of every kind, everything in fact which makes the rich and powerful nations of the world rich and powerful. His gas-to-gasoline plant at Motunui was a world first, and even today it produces better than $220 million dollars worth of methanol for export every year. In fact Rob Muldoon was a giant of a man, short in stature but huge in outlook. By contrast, the Lilliputians of today’s New Zealand are the
environmentalists and the pacifists and the beancounters, small-minded short-sighted mean little people content to live in the safe little cardboard boxes of their own minds, distrusting of those taller poppies who thrust their heads up above the parapets. They’re the people who oppose everything, from covered stadiums to motorway tunnels to harbour crossings, from gondolas for Milford Sound, to mining on Great Barrier Island, to a commercial airport for Whenuapai, from offshore oil exploration, to making diesel from lignite, to running the Marsden B power station on coal, these miserable little Luddites don’t want us to build factories or irrigate our farmland or drive cars or make electricity, or in fact do anything which involves a bit of vision and largesse. Well I say the Wild West was not won by the timid, nor the Empire forged by the weak, the small, the sour or the humourless. We will go forward as a nation by standing upon the shoulders of giants, not by hiding behind the coattails of midgets. I say we should build the better New Zealand by following in the great strides of the pioneers who went before us; the miners, the explorers, the foresters and farmers and soldiers, the big people who carved a new colony from the bush-covered hills of these far flung islands. We need to be Big, like Piggy Muldoon, and the people of Singapore. And while we’re at it, can we make the ordinary seats on our national airline actually big enough for ordinary people to actually sit in comfortably? That way, the foreign tourists who use it to come here once, might actually think about using it a second time as well. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 21
Chris Carter Peace in our time
THERE REALLY DOES SEEM TO BE A DEAL OF ACCUracy
in the old adage that history tends to repeat itself, and none more so than with the current vilification of Israel combined with rampant anti-semitism being well displayed throughout the Middle East and most alarmingly in Europe. Without running through a potted history of all the reasons why the Palestinians and the Israelis remain at daggers-drawn after sixty-plus years of continual bloodshed, it is not hard to imagine why the Israelis have now developed a castle keep mentality towards their national security and even their own personal survival as individuals. Indeed it must seem to Jews, as they dodge the continual barrage of missiles coming from Hamas ex Lebanon and the Gaza strip plus daily having to listen to the bloodcurdling threats of imminent extinction as a people spewing forth from the evil little dwarf currently leading Iran, that either Adolf Hitler is alive and well, or at least Mein Kampf is currently a bestseller in much of the Middle East! Even here in New Zealand I just cannot believe the propagandised and highly inaccurate nonsense we see on our screens courtesy of the ever anti-Jewish BBC. With the Arab media having to bow its head – no doubt to the crazed wishes of the bearded freaks who are currently in overall control of everything – one can perhaps understand the problems they face, but the BBC – not unlike it’s blatant cheer leading of the Al Gore semi religious global warming nonsense – seems more than happy to present Israel to the world in a manner so incredibly skewed that were it not so serious would be almost hilarious. Take for instance this much media repeated nonsense that Israel is guilty of Piracy for boarding these so called “Peace” vessels Gaza bound. The Americans ran a 22 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
most effective blockade off Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis targeting the Russian Freighters that were trying to deliver the nuclear warheads. Currently, ships from Iran and North Korea are being stopped and inspected by various nations for illegal weapons which, when found, are immediately confiscated. Prior to and indeed right throughout the Second World War the Allies Embargoed the Axis and their suppliers completely, only difference being that if a suspected vessel contained contraband and didn’t heave to when ordered to do so then it would be sunk without any further discussion.
entire population, aided of course by Iran’s proxy terrorists Hamas who, as current rulers of Gaza, shower the Israelis with Iranian supplied rockets. Israel must be a hell of a place to live, completely surrounded by hundreds of millions of religious maniacs with an avowed intention to murder every Israeli and in the meantime, to fill in until that happy day, by killing as many Jews as they possibly can, in ones and twos. One could well imagine how the Queensbury rules, as far as warfare are concerned, Israel may well have cast aside recently out of sheer necessity, and that as an Israeli the mutterings of the UN versus
The Palestinians, it appears, have been very badly served by all the Arab states, they having largely found themselves being shamelessly used as little more than sacrificial lambs That this so called “Peace” flotilla, in full knowledge of the well announced Israeli embargo, did not simply comply with an order to stop to enable inspection really should surprise no one. The aim quite plainly was to create an incident which, one has to allow, Hamas orchestrated extremely well, assisted of course by the aforementioned media so it all turned out to be a propaganda coup of some considerable magnitude. From a Jewish perspective, who’s the winner in all of this? Well, probably the Israelis, being well and truly forewarned and well aware of the hysterical promises of Iran etc to absolutely destroy Israel and to kill its
your actual need to survive therefore, might seem of little importance. When you consider that from the 1940’s when the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem with his then ally Adolf Hitler was planning Israeli Jews’ genocide, to the latest bloodcurdling promises of their much more imminent destruction now coming from the short arse president of Iran, it would seem the opinions and breast-beating of various peace lobbies would be of little concern, I would have thought, against what Israelis now have to suffer daily. War, in any of its many forms is a brutal affair and in this day and age civilians die in bulk numbers due entirely to the actions
IDF released a photos of the weapons they found among the Gaza-bound flotilla. Among the things taken filmed are baseball bats, smoke torches, slingshots, hammers, and Molotov cocktails. / IDF/Chameleons Eye
of their frequently wicked leaders. The Palestinians, it appears, have been very badly served by all the Arab states, they having largely found themselves being shamelessly used as little more than sacrificial lambs in a never ending battle between the radical elements of Islam and the similarly radical face of Zionism. The silly thing is that, proportionately, the true radical elements on each side of this ongoing conflict would be relatively small in number, so perhaps the eventual answer will lie with both currently warring populations to side line the radicals and to work out a peace treaty amongst the ordinary and infinitely more sane general populations, who incidentally, I understand, for centuries got on together pretty well. Radicalism, when you think about it, is not entirely unknown to us here in New Zealand is it? Watching TV news on One
the other evening and as predictable as the sun rising there’s a small demo protesting the “Palestinian Situation”, featuring? Well no prizes here that for sure as it’s a given that there is no show without punch.Yes indeed Pol Pot’s best mate Keith Locke and the everrevolting-against-everything John Minto, well to the front and being eagerly interviewed by a TVNZ repeater (well, journalists they sure
ain’t). Imagine what New Zealand would be like if we were blessed with several thousand cloned examples of similarly disturbed nit wits. Ye gods one could well think that we had suddenly been transported to the streets of Tehran, or perhaps worse, question time in the House. What a nightmare indeed! Chris Carter appears in association with www.snitch.co.nz, a must-see site.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 23
Matthew Flannagan Fairies, leprechauns and spaghetti monsters THAT BELIEF IN GOD IS ON PAR WITH BELIEF IN
fairy tales is a fairly common charge levelled at Christianity. Highly regarded atheist Philosopher Michael Tooley argues, “If there is no evidence in support of the existence of God, then it is reasonable to believe that God does not exist. The essential line of thought which I would hope to develop later on is that if you consider other things like fairies, leprechauns, golden teacups orbiting around Venus, and so on, I would suggest that we have no evidence against the existence of those sorts of things, but if I asked you whether you were agnostic I think the answer would be “no.” You would believe there are no fairies, no leprechauns, no golden teacups orbiting around Venus. That illustrates the general principle in regard to God’s existence that the burden of proof must fall upon the person who is arguing in support of God’s existence. If there’s no positive support for it, then the other side wins by default.” Something like Tooley’s argument regularly features in popular discussions of religion where fairies, leprechauns and golden tea-cups are substituted for flying spaghetti monsters. The basic idea remains the same, to believe in God without providing compelling arguments or evidence for his existence is on par with believing in fairy tales and this is something no sensible, educated, intelligent person can take seriously. To address this argument it is first necessary to unpack it. Three separate claims are being made; first, it is assumed that the rational stance to take towards the existence of fairies, leprechauns, orbiting golden teacups and spaghetti monsters is not a stance of agnosticism but one of certain denial. Second, it is contended that the reason why this stance is correct is not because we have reasons for believing such things do not exist, but rather that we lack any positive evidence for the existence of these things. 24 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
Third, the objector assumes that a person who advocates or defends belief in God, in the absence of compelling evidence for God’s existence, has no principled way of distinguishing the case for God from the case for the existence of fairies, leprechauns, et al. Now I grant the first of these claims, it is obviously silly and irrational to believe in things like fairies, leprechauns, orbiting golden tea-cups and spaghetti monsters. The real issue is whether the second and third claims are correct; I will argue that they are not. Turning to the second claim that the
scientists take the existence of ET’s quite seriously; for example, the SETI research site in California spends millions of dollars sending messages into outer space and searching the universe for signs of intelligent life. I note that they do not do the same in pursuit of the search for signs of fairies, leprechauns, orbiting tea-cups or spaghetti monsters and I cannot find any evidence of an agency anywhere in the world that does. This example suggests that the reason it is rational to deny the existence of the stuff of fairy tales cannot be simply the lack of positive evidence for these things, if it was we
With God, however, the situation is different. It is not that no evidence exists; on the contrary, sophisticated and rigorous arguments for God’s existence have been offered and are still being offered in the literature today reason it is irrational to believe in fairies, leprechauns, et al is solely because we lack evidence for their existence and not because we have reasons for thinking that they do not exist. I am inclined to think this claim is false. Consider another claim for which we also lack evidence for thinking is true, that intelligent extra-terrestrial life (ET’s) exists somewhere in the universe. We lack compelling reasons for thinking this claim is true yet it seems mistaken to infer from this that such beings absolutely do not exist, at best all that we can say is that we do not know. Moreover, even in face of agnosticism, many
would take the same stance towards ET’s yet we do not. This is because there are important differences between ET’s and fairies, leprechauns, et al over and above the mere lack of evidence we have for their existence. ET’s are the sort of things that could exist even if we lack evidence that they do. ET’s fit with the picture of the world we hold, we know that intelligent life can evolve on planets. This is not the case with fairies, leprechauns, orbiting tea-cups, spaghetti monsters and so on. Leprechauns first appeared in fairy tales and folklore; in such tales they store their
wealth in pots of gold at the end of rainbows. We know that the genre of fairy tales is fantasy. We know rainbows do not have ends in the way this picture envisages. Similarly teacups we know are artefacts made by human beings, seeing humans have not been to Venus it is unlikely that such things orbit Venus – even if they are made of gold. It is not just that we lack evidence for the existence of such things but that we have evidence against their existence. What we do know about the world provides us with reasons for doubting they can exist. With ET’s, on the other hand, we have no such reasons for doubting they can exist. Hence, in the latter case agnosticism is justified whereas denial is required in the former case. The insinuation that belief in God is on par with belief in fairies, leprechauns, et al is equally questionable. In the case of these things we have no evidence for their existence. With God, however, the situation is different. It is not that no evidence exists; on the contrary, sophisticated and rigorous arguments for God’s existence have been offered and are still being offered in the literature today, it is that experts in the field are divided on the cogency of these arguments. The best that sceptics can suggest is that the evidence is inconclusive. However, even if we grant this, those who defend belief in God can and have offered principled dis-
tinctions between God and things like flying spaghetti monsters. Two examples will suffice. The first stems from a tradition going back to William James and Blaise Pascal is that when one cannot avoid making a choice, one can act in hope or faith that a belief is true, even if there is no evidence for it, if the expected benefits of the thing hoped for outweigh the benefits of the alternatives. James Jordan provides an example, “A castaway builds a bonfire hoping to catch the attention of any ship or plane that might be passing nearby. Even with no evidence that a plane or ship is nearby, he still gathers driftwood and lights a fire, enhancing the possibility of rescue. The castaway’s reasoning is pragmatic. The benefit associated with fire building exceeds that of not building, and, clearly, no one questions the wisdom of the action.” Pascal argued that if one acts on the assumption that God exists and that assumption turns out to be incorrect then one has lost little but if one acts on the assumption that God does not exist and that assumption turns out to be incorrect then one has lost everything. Modified versions of this line of argument are still defended by philosophers today. A second reason is that even if one has insufficient evidence for the truth of some proposition, one can be rational in believ-
ing it if it is grounded directly in one’s experience. There are plenty of things we believe which are not based on evidence, our belief in our existence in the past or our belief that it is wrong to rape women, our belief that other people exist or that basic axioms of logic are true are not based on arguments or proofs. These things are true because we experience or see them to be true, for example, I remember the existence of a past event, I intuitively conclude that rape is wrong, I observe that other people exist, I see that basic axioms of logic are self-evident. Philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga argue that belief in God is like these beliefs; it is something a person directly sees as true via direct experience or intuition of some sort as opposed to the conclusion of an evidentiary proof. I am not in a short article like this going to be able to develop and defend these lines of argument further. I mention them only to show that according to two standard ways of defending belief in God in the face of inconclusive evidence a principled distinction between belief in God and the stuff of fairy tales can be made. People tend to not directly experience or perceive the existence of these things nor does one risk losing everything by acting on the assumption they do not exist. Moreover, if belief in fairies, leprechauns, orbiting tea-cups and spaghetti monsters did possess these features then it is no longer obvious that belief in such beings is irrational. Suppose that instead of there being no evidence for the existence of leprechauns there was in fact some evidence but it was not compelling, perhaps experts were in disagreement. Suppose also that if I failed to act on the assumption that leprechauns existed and it turned out that they did then I would lose everything but if it turned out that they did not I would gain little. In addition, suppose that I directly perceived a leprechaun in front of me or I remembered clearly seeing one a few days ago and I had no reason for thinking my perception or memory was unreliable. If these conditions were satisfied then it would cease to be obvious that belief in leprechauns was obviously irrational. The claim that believing in God is on par with believing in “fairies, leprechauns, golden teacups orbiting around Venus” and flying spaghetti monsters is then unjustified. Dr Matthew Flannagan is an Auckland based philosopher/theologian who researches and publishes in the area of Philosophy of Religion, Theology and Ethics. He blogs at New Zealand’s most read Christian blog www.mandm.org.nz. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 25
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GOLDEN weather OBAMA IS A PRESIDENT INCREASINGLY OFFSIDE WITH HIS PUBLIC Just months away from Congressional elections that will either define or deflate his presidency, US leader Barack Obama is under siege from crisis after crisis, and no clear vision to solve them. In this collection of commentaries and articles, these leadership tests are presented and examined… INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 27
The BP spill: Obama’s Katrina? What the Obama administration initially claimed was a 5,000 barrel a day spill turned out to be 50,000 plus barrels a day, and now it’s been revealed Obama’s team were offered expert international assistance at the beginning, but turned it down. So is the BP oil spill turning into President Obama’s equivalent of Hurricane Katrina, a disaster that will scar the rest of his presidency? Not quite; not yet, but it’s on course, warns DOYLE MCMANUS
n 2005, when Katrina flooded New Orleans, the federal government’s tragically inadequate response became a symbol of then-President George W. Bush’s inattention to the hard work of managing the nation’s domestic business. When it comes to inattention, Barack Obama is no George W. Bush. But the 40-day-old drama of the uncontrolled oil flow from BP’s well, now the largest spill in U.S. history, has become a public test of his competence at handling an unanticipated crisis, Obama’s authority and credibility leaking away with the gulf ’s oil. As with Katrina, the White House responded to an unexpected problem with hesitation and missteps. Obama’s aides were slow to assert federal responsibility; they initially described the problem as BP’s to solve, not theirs. After that wore thin, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar abruptly suggested that the federal government might seize control of the well – only to be publicly contradicted by his crisis manager, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who said such a move would be foolish. As with Katrina, there have been angry demands from hot-tempered Louisianans – including former Bill Clinton-aide James Carville – for quicker federal action to rescue their state. And as with Katrina, cleaning up the mess and paying for the damage will take years. But those similarities only go so far. There are important differences too, and they still give Obama a chance to regain his footing. But only if he is both lucky and effective from here on out. Unlike Katrina, which flooded New 28 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
Win McNamee /Pool via CNP
“Obama is already testing whether this crisis might even offer an element of opportunity. He argued that the BP accident should spur the Senate to pass the energy bill his Democratic allies have proposed” Orleans within 24 hours of landfall, this crisis has been slower to develop; Obama still has time to act. Last month, he belatedly took public charge of the issue, declaring: “In case you were wondering who’s responsible, I take responsibility.” (When a chief executive needs to affirm that he’s responsible for his own organization’s performance, you know something’s gone wrong.) He brushed aside objections from skeptical experts and ordered Allen to build Louisiana’s Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, one of the artificial barrier islands he’s been asking for, to try to protect beaches and wetlands; that may not be sensible engineering, but it was surely good politics. In his news conference, Obama said he wouldn’t try to compare this crisis to Katrina, but then he went ahead and did
anyway. “When the problem is solved ... I’m confident that people are going to look back and say that this administration was on top of what was an unprecedented crisis,” he said. On top of it? Not likely. But if BP succeeds in its attempt to plug the leak, and if federally directed cleanup efforts accelerate, he could still emerge relatively unscathed. Allen, a 42-year Coast Guard veteran whose plainspoken bluntness comes across as the opposite of political spin, is being given plenty of authority to help make those things happen. As important is what larger lesson voters and their politicians take from the crisis: Does it show that the federal government should be given more power to regulate energy industries, just as the financial crisis showed that
Washington needed more power to regulate Wall Street? Or will it show, as Katrina did, that the federal bureaucracy is too inefficient to deliver relief supplies, let alone regulate big chunks of the economy? On that count, this crisis is very different from Katrina, which was mostly about governments’ failures to prepare for a natural disaster. The oil spill fits into a different political narrative: the Democrats’ insistence on the need for more federal regulation, in this case to protect the environment. In the face of events, voters may take a second look at that proposition. For months, polls have shown that most Americans think the federal government is too big and needs to get smaller. But a Gallup Poll released recently found that a strong majority felt that environmental protection (which, in practice, means federal regulation) should be a top national priority, “even at the risk of limiting energy supplies.” That was a stark reversal from a poll taken only two months before, in the pre-spill era. (The same poll found a growing majority rating Obama’s handing of the disaster as “poor,” one of the reasons the president moved so visibly to take control finally.) Obama is already testing whether this crisis might even offer an element of opportunity. He argued that the BP accident should spur the Senate to pass the energy bill his Democratic allies have proposed. “This economic and environmental tragedy ... underscores the urgent need for this nation to develop clean, renewable sources of energy,” he said. That’s not likely to work. The bill is stalled, not only because Republicans oppose its capand-trade provisions to regulate greenhouse gas emissions but because many Democrats dislike its compromise-seeking provision for, of all things, expanded offshore oil drilling. Even the bill’s principal author, Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., admitted this month that it may be impossible to win passage in an election year. If Obama is very lucky, Republicans will protest his moratorium on new deep-water wells, revive their chant of “Drill, baby, drill,” and move public opinion in the Democrats’ direction. He’s not likely to be that lucky. His crisis in Louisiana won’t have a happy ending; it’s too late for that. But he still has time to prevent it from becoming a symbol of presidential failure. Doyle McManus is a columnist for The Los Angeles Times
Backing the Wrong Horse The Obama administration loathes a new get tough on illegal immigration law in Arizona, but as MICHAEL MUSKAL discovers, the latest polls show nearly half of all US voters want their states to copy the Arizona immigration law, which doesn’t bode well for the Democrats heading into election season
espite questions of constitutionality and discrimination, almost half of Americans surveyed in a new poll say they want their states to pass an immigration law similar to Arizona’s. The Quinnipiac University poll, released this month, also found that Americans opposed a boycott of Arizona to protest the law by a ratio of better than 6-to-1. This latest national poll comes as many municipalities are considering whether to advocate the boycott of the Arizona law and while the Obama administration and others consider bringing legal challenges. Demonstrators have repeatedly protested the law, which broadly increases police power to demand documents proving legal residency.
“The Arizona immigration law has emerged as a major divide in the country, but the numbers are on the side of those supporting it,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “The strong plurality who says they would like a similar law in their own state probably portends the law will be an issue in many, many campaigns this November across the country. Depending on how those elections and court challenges come out, copycat Arizona laws could be a hot issue in state capitals after November.” The survey of 1,914 registered voters was carried out from May 19 to 24. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points. According to the poll, surveyed voters said they wanted their states to pass a law similar to Arizona’s by 48 percent to 35 percent. Overall, voters approved of the law by 51 percent to 31 percent, and, by 45 percent to 36 percent, they believe it will reduce illegal immigration. The support for the Arizona law comes despite the view by voters (45 percent to 40 percent) that it will lead to discrimination against Latinos. By 66 percent to 26 percent, those surveyed said they would like the nation to move toward stricter enforcement of immigration laws rather than integrating immigrants into society. Michael Muskal is with the Los Angeles Times INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 29
Obama Seeks State Control Of Internet In New Zealand, Britain, Australia and now the US, governments are trying to gain control of the internet by regulating it. PHIL KERPEN examines why this is bound to put Obama offside with the public
n its effort to impose heavy-handed regulations on the Internet – an idea with little support from the American public or Congress – the Obama administration turned to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to simply pretend Congress has given it authority to regulate. That effort was blocked when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously struck down the FCC’s regulatory proposals in Comcast v. FCC. President Obama and his close friend and FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, however, reacted to the court decision not by going to Congress through the legitimate legislative 30 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
process, but by escalating their regulatory assault. They are now pursuing the reclassification of the Internet as an old-fashioned public utility, an unprecedented reversal of long-standing policy that would give the government sweeping authority to regulate the Internet. It’s a Washington takeover. Internet access has never been regulated like old-fashioned telephone lines – classified as Title II under the Telecommunications Act. The FCC settled the matter in 1998, when the Commission, under Clintonappointed Chairman William Kennard, demolished the same reclassification arguments being made today in that year’s Report to Congress: “Our findings in this regard are reinforced by the negative policy consequences of a conclusion that Internet access services should be classed as “telecommunications” . . . Classifying Internet access services as telecommunications services could have significant consequences for the global development of the Internet. We recognize the unique qualities of the Internet, and do not presume that legacy regulatory frameworks are appropriately applied to it.” Yet the FCC has now proposed to do precisely that, to apply an inappropriate legacy regulatory framework to the Internet. It’s a huge mistake because free-market Internet
policy has been a tremendous success. The Internet – in the absence of regulation – has flourished into a remarkable engine of economic growth, innovation, competition, and free expression. The FCC would reverse a remarkably successful policy without an honest public debate and without asking Congress to change the law. The FCC’s proposal is extreme, and has been developed and supported by extremists. Consider the words of one of the leading advocates of the proposal, Robert McChesney, founder of the left-wing group Free Press, whose former communications director now works at the FCC and whose former policy director now works at the State Department. McChesney wrote: “What we want to have in the U.S. and in every society is an Internet that is not private property, but a public utility.” He went on to explain that “the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.” This extreme policy change is opposed by a broad bipartisan coalition that supports continuing the successful free-market Internet policy of the past twelve years. Congressman Gene Green of Texas recently led a letter signed by 74 House Democrats urging the FCC to back down and concluding: “We urge you not to move forward with a proposal that undermines critically important investment in broadband and the jobs that come with it.” The dean of the House Democratic Caucus, John Dingell, who was intimated involved in writing the 1996 Telecom Act, sent his own letter to the FCC noting that he supports reasonable regulation but has “strong reservations about the course the Commission is presently taking with respect to the regulation of broadband access services.” The Federal Communications Commission’s plan would have such a dramatic negative effect on investment that respected sector analyst Craig Moffett at Bernstein Research dubbed it “the nuclear option.” When an unelected federal bureaucracy like the FCC proposes sweeping new powers for itself without a vote of Congress, it is appropriate to alert the public. In fact, only by mobilizing the public against such FCC extremism can we prompt Congress to take up the issue and create a more reasonable policy. Phil Kerpen is vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity, a conservative organization in Arlington, Virginia.
UN Control Is A Good Thing, Right? New Zealanders are largely in favour of global governance systems like the International Criminal Court, but Obama’s plans for the US to submit are not being welcomed – for good reason, writes MARION SMITH
any people, even among the current administration, think the International Criminal Court should be the world’s highest arbiter in criminal matters. Despite good intentions, however, there’s a sinister dimension to giving the ICC more power. This month’s 10-year review conference of the ICC is being held in Uganda. It’s unlikely to fix this deeply-flawed institution and may do much to undermine American self-government. The backdrop of the conference will be coloured by several looming scenarios: The ICC is currently investigating alleged war crimes of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which presents a risk to American security and the conduct of American foreign policy. Environmental activists are campaigning to include so-called crimes against the environment – or “ecocide” – among the crimes prosecutable by the ICC. Atheism activists want to use the ICC to prosecute Pope Benedict based on allegations of sexual abuse by priests. One almost forgets that the ICC was founded to prosecute the perpetrators of genocide. The most significant objection to the ICC, however, is one of principle. The spirit and the text of the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, foster an everreaching, ever-presumptuous global court. There’s little respect for the local rule of law – even though that’s historically where justice is usually realized, when self-governing people constitute a legitimate, accountable government and judicial system. Although Americans support justice, the United States shouldn’t support the ICC because of the grave risk to American self-government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disagrees. She says the U.S. must become more involved with the ICC in order to
positively affect the court and address “some of the challenges that are raised concerning (U.S.) membership.” This reasoning guides the U.S. approach to the Kampala conference and is remarkable only in its naivete. American negotiators were astonishingly unsuccessful during talks over the shape of the Rome Statute in 1998, when the U.S. actually had a vote during the treaty negotiations. This time the U.S. won’t have a vote, but will instead depend solely on diplomacy. Without a compelling U.S. presence in Kampala, there’s little hope the conference will achieve an outcome that respects our Constitution and rule of law. This is especially true since the administration has yet to articulate America’s grievances with the Rome Statute, most notably the exclusion of any right to trial by jury for American citizens. This flawed international court strikes at the very heart of America’s founding, and threatens the Rule of Law and would actually undermine justice. Early American patriots realized the importance of legal procedures and their role in preserving liberty. In 1775, the Second Continental Congress enumerated the reasons for taking up arms against the British. They explicitly objected to the British policy that American colonists “charged with committing certain offences, shall be transported to England to be tried.” Indeed, other than taxation without representation, the jurisdictional and legal problems of the British vice-admiralty courts were declared by patriots to be their “greatest grievance.” The core issue of their complaint was the injustice of being tried for crimes far from their homes and by judges answerable to foreign authorities.
After gaining independence from Great Britain, the Founding Fathers sought to secure forever the liberties they fought for and cherished. It is little surprise, therefore, that the U.S. Constitution explicitly mandates that trials for all Crimes, “shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed.” Justice Joseph Story explained the importance of jury trials close to home: it prevents a citizen from being “subjected to the verdict of mere strangers, who may feel no common sympathy, or who may even cherish animosities, or prejudices against him.” Be it 1776 or 2010, the Founders’ principle is still relevant today: Americans should not be tried by illegitimate courts outside of or unaccountable to their government. The Obama administration’s uncritical engagement with the ICC, however, represents a significant shift in U.S. policy and reflects a shallow understanding of the rule of law. Hillary Clinton considers it “a great regret that we are not a signatory” to the Rome Statute, even though the Rome Statute disallows trial by jury among other due process rights sacred to American justice. Justice demands that those entrusted with protecting our liberties defend the rule of law. How the Obama administration behaves at the Kampala conference will reveal much about its commitment to American constitutionalism and due process, let alone our national security. Watch to see if our president and his officials “protect and defend” the United States Constitution. Marion Smith is completing a research fellowship in the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 31
UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg
THE AUDACITY OF HOPE
The Audacity of Political Bribery One of Obama’s big election platforms was changing the culture of Washington. Now, as the old Palmolive ad suggests, it appears Obama is ‘soaking in it’, with an official probe confirming Obama tried to buy off a political candidate standing in the way of his preferred man. This from PETER NICHOLAS
he Obama White House enlisted former President Bill Clinton to push a Democratic candidate out of a primary campaign by offering an appointment to a prestigious federal board as an inducement, according to an internal White House investigation whose findings were released this month. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a top aide to Clinton in the 1990s, used the former president as a go-between 32 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
in the unsuccessful attempt to clear the field for Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., the report showed. Clinton phoned Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., with the suggestion that he quit the Senate race, remain in the House, and accept an unpaid position on a presidential or executive branch board, according to interviews and a report written by White House counsel Robert F. Bauer. Sestak, speaking to reporters outside the Capitol, recounted a bit of the conversation with Clinton last summer: “He said, ‘Joe, if you stay in the House, Rahm had brought up being appointed to a presidential ...’” Sestak said he quickly jumped in to tell Clinton no, he would stay in the race. That’s what he did, going on to defeat Specter in Pennsylvania’s primary election May 18. The White House released its one-and-ahalf page report on a Friday before a long holiday weekend, a strategy employed to dampen news coverage of an embarrassing episode. Despite its exculpatory tone, the report isn’t one the White House will showcase. As a candidate in 2008, Obama pledged to change the culture in Washington. Yet in
this instance, his top aide pushed to turn the Pennsylvania primary into an easy coronation for Specter, whose party switch a year ago gave the White House a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. No illegality took place, Bauer said. The conversations tracked a long history of Democratic and Republican administrations alike, offering “alternative paths to service” for candidates weighing bids for public office, he wrote. “The Democratic Party leadership had a legitimate interest in averting a divisive primary fight and a similarly legitimate concern about the congressman vacating his seat in the House,” Bauer wrote. But Republicans were not appeased. Rep. Darrell Issa of California and other House Republicans have now sent a letter to the FBI asking for an investigation into whether the overtures to Sestak amounted to a bribe. Issa, in an interview, dismissed Bauer’s conclusions as “a defense attorney’s legal spin. Nothing more and nothing less.” Earlier, seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asking him to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether a crime took place. The attorney general’s office would not confirm whether an investigation is under way. But in a letter to Issa, Holder wrote that no special prosecutor would be necessary. Bauer’s report doesn’t specify the positions that were dangled before Sestak. An administration official said one was a spot on the president’s Intelligence Advisory Board, which offers advice on the working of the U.S. intelligence community. The board has unfettered access to the president, according to the White House website. For months, the White House said as little as possible about the Sestak matter. The issue became public in February, when Sestak told a TV reporter the White House had offered him a job to discourage him from challenging Specter. Press secretary Robert Gibbs, asked repeatedly about the claim, gave no information about what happened. Republicans leapt on the issue, and even some prominent Democrats said it was time to lay out what took place. Obama, questioned about Sestak at his news conference early June, insisted “nothing improper took place.” Peter Nicholas is an investigative journalist with the Chicago Tribune’s Washington Bureau
Is Obama an effective leader? “Give him time”, is the answer offered by ANN McFEATTERS
on’t answer based on the polls (48 percent say yes) or whether or not you believe in his politics. Look at whether he fits generally accepted criteria for good leadership. Where possible, does he set the agenda? If you consider that he won his big-ticket “change” items such as health care reform and financial regulation, despite some concessions, yes he does. Does he participate fully and in a timely fashion? Here the answer is not so favourable. He waited months for Congress to act on both health care and financial regulation and almost lost both. On the leaking oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama said he was on top of the crisis from the beginning. But he relied on BP for factual information and was dramatically misled. For example, the leak amounted to as much as 25,000 barrels of oil a day, not 5,000, as BP said. And Obama took months to decide to beef up the military in Afghanistan. Does he lead with passion and conviction? Here, too, his grade is less than stellar. On health care, he let the false charge of “death panels” resonate until he finally went on the offensive and worked on selling his plan. On the oil spill, he let the perception develop for weeks that BP was in charge and that the federal government didn’t understand what was happening. He often seems too phlegmatic, too analytical and too philosophical for the American public in dramatic situations. We admire his calm and cool style and desire for consensus, but sometimes we want more fire. He did say that while he was shaving, his daughter asked him if he had plugged the hole yet, an effort to show that he wakes up worrying about the worst oil disaster in world history and goes to sleep still worried. Is he on top of the situation? At his press conference on the oil spill (his first formal encounter with reporters in 10 months), he said he did not know if the head of the appallingly bad federal agency that “regulates” offshore oil drilling was fired or resigned. That did not bolster his argument
“He often seems too phlegmatic, too analytical and too philosophical for the American public in dramatic situations. We admire his calm and cool style and desire for consensus, but sometimes we want more fire” that dealing with the oil spill is his absolute top priority. (Also, he spent time the same day with World Cup soccer stars and the national-champion Duke basketball team. And he went to political fundraisers as the situation worsened.) Does he articulate his values and visions clearly? He got elected because he’s good at that. But again, he waited too long to insist that the federal government was not slow in responding to the Gulf catastrophe and mitigate the economic and environmental damage. Does he demand transparency? Louisiana wanted booms for protection; Obama said they might have been counterproductive, but why wasn’t this thoroughly explored and why didn’t the government publicly respond to every serious proposal? Asked if his administration offered Pennsylvanian Joe Sestak a high-level job to try to dissuade him from challenging Arlen Specter for his Senate seat, which could be illegal, Obama said there would be a “statement”
from the White House later. He said nothing “improper” happened, but he clearly did not want to be associated with the issue. Not a transparent move. Is he flexible? He demanded an increase in offshore oil drilling before the spill; now, he’s not so certain. Obama finally said he took responsibility even as he rightly blamed BP for taking unacceptable risks and not having the wherewithal to act in a worst-case scenario. He cited the “scandalously close relationship” between oil companies and regulators. Even now the federal government is not coming across well in this crisis. As a result, the public has even less confidence in government. While Obama has many excellent leadership qualities, he at times has disappointed supporters and confirmed the belief of critics he was not ready for prime time. Is there time for him to become a great leader? Yes. q INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 33
How the MenZB vaccine
34 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
When five year old Elijah Tavui had his first meningitis immunisation, his parents BETH & SILIKA TAVUI had no idea what it would lead to
went badly wrong for a five year old
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ur son was born in October 1999. He had all his childhood vaccines because we were pro-vaccine. Apart from an attack of asthma at the age of four, which resulted in hospitalisation, Elijah had no health issues. In 2004, as stories about meningitis became commonplace and discussions of vaccination became more intense, this issue of “do we, don’t we” was foremost in my mind. When the MenZB vaccine finally came out, I was still in two minds as to whether I’d give it to my son. What was the deciding factor? I saw the documentary on Charlotte Bisman, listened to her father talking, and was horrified. I thought, “I don’t want that to happen to my child!” so I signed the consent form. On page 39 of June 2010 North & South issue on vaccinations, Charlotte Bisman’s father dismisses “stories” of vaccine damage by saying, “You hear all sorts of stories, but that’s all they are. Stories. The evidence just isn’t there.” Here is our story and our evidence. On 4th August, 2005, we rolled up for Elijah’s first dose of MenZB. There were no problems. After the 1st September 2005 dose, Elijah was very unwell for two days, but who would worry about that, in exchange for not getting meningitis? Then he started to complain of constant tiredness, a sore and watery eye, which was sensitive to the light. What would parents make of that? On 18th October, the doctor said it was conjunctivitis. So on 27th October 2005, Elijah had his third vaccination. Again, extreme tiredness kicked in. By the 8th November 2005 , Elijah couldn’t see out of the left eye which had become sore after the second shot. The vision tester recommended a private eye appointment, because the state system would take a lot longer. Elijah started to have difficulty walking properly, something later diagnosed as “ataxia”. Three weeks later, the eye clinic at the public hospital said it was a tumour behind the eye, and recommended an MRI. A week later the MRI “confirmed” a tumour behind the left eye, and two more in his brain, but they didn’t know what sort of tumours they were, and Elijah was kept in hospital. Our world was turned upside down. However, the next day, a doctor came and said that they weren’t tumours after all. The MRI showed ������������������������������� extensive changes in basal ganglia, cerebella peduncles and brain stem, 36 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
“The vision tester recommended a private eye appointment, because the state system would take a lot longer. Elijah started to have difficulty walking properly, something later diagnosed as “ataxia” and that Elijah had “Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis” (ADEM) and “Optic Neuritis”. One question that they asked was if he’d been recently vaccinated. I said, “Yes” and thought “Oh my God!”. I asked could that be the cause and was told, “No the timing isn’t right”. I also spoke to some nurses and asked questions about the possible connection to the immunisation and got the brush off. Extensive tests were conducted on Elijah, looking for just about everything you could think of which could cause ADEM, but nothing came back positive.1 Elijah was treated intravenously with methylprednisolone to suppress the immune system, and generally recovered and was discharged with a left sluggish eye, still very tired, but with better balance though still favouring one side on walking. We thought – and hoped – that would be the end of the story, and our lives could get back to normal, but not so. On 22nd August 2006, Elijah complained of pain in his right eye this time, and head-
aches. Tests at the eye clinic showed problems, and by 28th August, he was back in hospital to be treated with more IV methylprednisolone. On 16th August 2007, Elijah again became unwell, but this time it was different. For a few weeks, he was lethargic, off his food, and on and off school. Then he started having sweats night and day, and leg pain. He was weak, vomiting, and in the last week, started running a temperature so we took him to the doctor, who ran bloods, which came back on the 13th September, abnormal with white blood cells, neutrophils and C-reactive proteins highly elevated. On 14th September 2007, he was admitted to hospital and then discharged home on the same day. We had a follow up on the 16th September and we went back home again. By the next day though he could only walk with assistance, couldn’t urinate, or eat so he was readmitted back into hospital where he deteriorated further. No source of infection could be found, so an MRI was ordered.
“Elijah is under the care of a specialist who we absolutely cannot fault his care of Elijah. He has restored Elijah’s health after each episode and for that we will be forever grateful”
Elijah was losing a lot of weight by this time, unable to tolerate food, so regular tube feeding initiated, but no progress was made. On 25th September, the MRI was repeated and came back abnormal with changes in cerebellar peduncles. Blood tests had abnormalities, with the addition of toxic granulations were on Elijah’s neutrophils. The other blood test abnormalities were similar to those in 2005, and 2006. Again, extensive blood tests were done, also looking for even more issues this time, such as mitochondrial antigens, antinuclear antibodies; endomysial antibodies- you name it, they did it. Everything was negative. Complicated metabolic testing was also done on samples in Adelaide’s Women and Children’s hospital, in Australia, with nothing coming back positive. Usually when ADEM happens more than once, there are underlying metabolic, or immunological or other factors to explain them, but with Elijah, none of the normal issues have been found.
IV methylprednisolone was started again for five days, followed by oral steroids for two weeks. Elijah had a slow recovery with slight weakness of one side of the body. He was discharged on 4th October 2007. You’d hope that these things only come in threes, but no. One week after coming off his steroid taper he relapsed quickly with reduced vision. He was then prescribed steroids through to March 2008, but had significant side effects from them. On 18th June, 2008, Elijah was admitted to hospital again for a week with ADEM and left eye involvement (including loss of colour vision) for the fifth time. The diagnosis was changed to Multiphasic Acute Disseminated Encephalopathy. This time it was decided on a different plan, including IV methylprednisolone, and then preventative treatment of IV immunoglobulins. Elijah had his first IV immunoglobulin infusion on 25th July, and on 28th August, admitted to hospital for a portacath to be
inserted in order for him to have monthly infusions on immunoglobulins. Elijah started out with 12 hour Intergram infusions split over 2 days but he didn’t tolerate it that well. During the infusion he was alright but afterwards he had extreme headaches and vomitting. These are normal side effects that we were told could happen. I emphasized very clearly how unwell he had been, so it was reduced down and then the amount was slowly built up with each infusion. Now about 22 months down the track he is fine with most of them but still gets occasional headaches, nausea or vomitting. They are much more mild though when he does get them, compared to the severity of the first time. ADEM happens when your immume system goes into overdrive and starts attacking everything instead of just the baddies. The large doses of Intergram are dampening down his immune system so the overdrive doesn’t happen. Elijah now has 6 hour infusions 6 weeks apart, instead of 12 hour infusions every 4 weeks. He will taper down again soon and will most likely finish up about September/October and get his portacath removed. Elijah is under the care of a specialist who we absolutely cannot fault his care of Elijah. He has restored Elijah’s health after each episode and for that we will be forever grateful. All the doctors and nurses who have been involved in Elijah’s infusion treatments have also been superb. Trying to make the best out of a bad situation for him. After Elijah’s second episode I thought long and hard about what had happened. I INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 37
sat down and made some notes and made a timeline of events. I decided I really wanted it looked into properly. I had become even more sure that it was the MenZB vaccine which did this, so I rang my GP with my concerns and she was marvellous. She agreed the timeline of events was eerie and put into action the application to ACC, who took 8 months to decide while they investigated. Interestingly, in the ACC file which we have, there is a discussion between ACC and a specialist about the fact that accepting the claim would be a “big political call”. Fortunately, for Elijah, the ACC accepted his claim. This is very important to us, because we had been warned in 2007, that Multiphasic ADEM can end up turning into Multiple Sclerosis. Who will pay his medical costs and care then? In their acceptance letter though, the ACC tried to suggest that encephalopathy reactions don’t happen after vaccines, are as a result of mutations of sodium channel genes. However, in our case, the hospital did just about every possible test under the sun, in order to try to find some other
Reeling from Gardasil jab Jodi Speakman has set up a website with other concerned parents after the deaths and serious reactions of teen girls in America to Gardasil. This is her story.
y daughter, Victoria, has been ill since February 2008. Here is some history. I will be as brief as possible. My daughter had her first Gardasil vaccination November 2007. Her second vaccination was in the beginning of February 2008. Immediately after her second vaccination, Victoria experienced severe diarrhea and was nauseous for about eight weeks. She had blood work done many times and doctors thought she had a virus. On March 31, 2008, she had her first seizure. My daughter has been treated by many neurologists, all of whom have not related her seizures to Gardasil. Meanwhile, there are quite a few hundred people that I have found over the internet through my numerous postings and through Erin Brockovich, and their daughters are all experiencing the same symptoms, which occurred after the Gardasil vaccination.
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We have actually formed a group and share our daughters’ stories, symptoms and information. My daughter has had CT scans, MRI’s, MRA’s, EEG’s, blood work and was hospitalized at an epilepsy center in the video EEG monitoring unit for two separate weeks in May 2008 and September 2008. She was put on many different seizure medications. After the normal EEG results, she was taken off all medications. Her SED rate has always been high and she does have protein in her urine, but doctors do not seem concerned. I was told that her red bloods are small, but this apparently is not concerning either. My daughter has been seen by several neurologists, a psychiatrist, psychologist, several neuropsychologists, an immunologist, several infectious disease doctors, and also treated at a Wellness Center for a period of time. Wellness Center physicians believe that my daughter may
have Lyme disease that was dormant until the Gardasil vaccine. Infectious disease doctors differ. Which doctors are correct? I have no idea. My daughter currently experiences the following symptoms: non-epileptic seizures, migraines, fainting, tremors, twitches, numbness, intermittent leg paralysis and facial paralysis, tingling, staring or blank episodes, eye pain, joint pain, neck pain, back pain, memory loss, confusion, brain fog, regression, mood swings and chronic fatigue. She continues to have bouts of nausea and diarrhea. She has not been in school since April 2008. My daughter can never be left home alone. She can’t go to school, go out with her friends or work or has little “normalcy” in her life. She has very few good days and always says she doesn’t feel good. I do not know which way to turn for help. We have seen so many doctors and I can’t seem to find anyone willing to help my daughter. There are so many other young girls who have the same exact symptoms as my daughter and the one thing that all of the girls seem to have in common is the Gardasil vaccination. We are on a fixed income, as most people,
cause to blame the ADEM on, other than the vaccine. No “stone” was left unturned. Elijah had had no other infections in the year prior to his MenZB vaccinations, and no test showed any other reason for his repeated bouts of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. While the ACC said that there had been no other cases of ADEM after MenZB, I found another New Zealand mother who posted on an oversea website that her daughter had had ADEM after MenzB too. I tried to track her down, but failed. The people I have dealt with at ACC have been wonderful and Elijah has a great case manager who makes sure he gets everything he’s entitled to. While it doesn’t turn the clock back, and take away what has happened, I certainly feel justified about my feelings from day one, that the vaccine did this to Elijah. A mother’s gut instinct is very strong. Are we out of the woods yet? Who knows? What will happen when they take the portacath out? Only God knows. I have found a strength and courage I didn’t know I had in me. It certainly has
not been the easiest road. I’ve learnt to be a good advocate for my son. I don’t shout or rage. I’m just gently assertive with a very stubborn streak. When I was tracking down his immunisation dates for the ACC claim, a nurse said very angrily that if this was about ACC, “they don’t do lump sum payouts anymore”. I was so taken aback. I said to her it has nothing to do with lump sums and is about doing the best for my little boy. And as a mother it was something I needed to know. How dare she speak to me that way when I am feeling vulnerable and guilty for letting him be vaccinated in the first place. After initially being upset by her reaction it just made me more determined. I have had to let go of a lot of that guilt as there are more important things to put my energy into, like trying to keep Elijah healthy, and trying to prevent Multiple Sclerosis if possible. Will Elijah get any more vaccines? No way. Charlotte Bisman’s father asks, “Where is the evidence?” There are a lot of children out there, who reacted to the MenZB vaccine, some very badly. Most parents did not have a
GP as helpful and considerate as mine. Most doctors vehemently deny that any vaccine can do any damage at all. One of the ACC nurses who is from overseas, said there is definitely a culture of denial here that an immunisation could be linked to anything untoward. I sometimes wonder how many other mothers there are out there, who also saw Charlotte Bisman, listened to her father, and have lived to regret the day. We don’t hear about them, because like me, they prefer to remain silent. That’s why people like Charlotte Bisman’s father, think that we don’t exist. We have decided to break our silence today, because we don’t consider what has happened to Elijah “a small, calculated risk”.
and we have expended many thousands of dollars in an effort to seek medical opinions and assistance. Although we do have medical insurance, it is very difficult to find doctors willing to treat my daughter who will accept our HMO. Also, there are no “traditional medical doctors” who will relate my daughter’s symptoms to Gardasil as I am told “there is not enough information available” about the vaccine and doctors believe it to be “safe” . The vaccine has been available for less than three years. Meanwhile, there are some doctors who are making the correlation between Gardasil and many of the girls’ symptoms. However, the only doctors I know of right now are in California and Kansas. Other doctors are willing to “try” treatment, most of which is “homeopathic” in nature and extremely costly. Once again, I must reiterate that there are so many other young girls experiencing negative symptoms. Each and every night, I check on my daughter many times in the middle of the night to make sure she is still breathing (like we ALL did when they were babies). I have a chime on her bedroom door so that every time she opens
it, I know she has walked out of her room. I had a deadbolt put on the front door of our home with a key that can be removed from the inside. I never leave the key in the door for fear that Victoria will be confused after a seizure or when she has memory loss, and leave our home. (This has happened many times and she has been missing). When she is in the shower, I have to either stand outside the door and/or keep asking her “are you okay?” Each and every day, I cry and wonder if Victoria will be next one to die from adverse reactions to Gardasil. We are in desperate need of medical treatment for my daughter. I have run out of ideas, doctors to treat with and finances have dwindled. I do not know which direction to turn. Any thoughts are most appreciated, especially from the medical community. The National Vaccine Information Center is in the process of circulating a petition to have Gardasil investigated by the government. There are more than 15,000 reported cases of adverse effects from the vaccine which have been reported to the NVIC (many of the adverse
effects are extremely serious) and approximately 38 deaths have been reported.
ENDNOTES 1. The official ADEM website records: Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is classically described as a uniphasic syndrome occurring in association with an immunization or vaccination (postvaccination encephalomyelitis) or systemic viral infection (parainfectious encephalomyelitis).q
FOOTNOTE Since Jodi Speakman wrote this last year, the number of reported deaths has jumped to nearly 70 in the US, and there has been a fatality in New Zealand as well. A number of girls have developed Hodgkins Lymphoma in the wake of the Gardasil jab in the US, according to comments in response: “My daughter, age 14, was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma 2-1/2 months after receiving her second Gardasil injection,” reported one mother. “My 16y/o daughter rcvd the injections and was dx’d with Hodgkins Lymphoma 8 months later...in addition I’ve met 8 other mothers whose daughters are in the same situation following the vaccine. The vaccine contains HSV6 and EPV both having a connection to Hodgkins. I’d caution anyone thinking about getting the vaccine,” said another. Speakman’s website is http://truthaboutgardasil.org INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 39
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Dancing WITH Dragons HOW THE RISE OF CHINA AS A “SUCCESSFUL DICTATORSHIP” COULD AFFECT US ALL
New Zealand sees itself as a ‘principled’ democracy, taking strong stands on human rights in little countries like Fiji or Zimbabwe. Yet we not only turn a blind eye to even worse events in China, we openly seek ever growing Chinese political and economic investment in New Zealand society. Are we sleepwalking towards effective slavery, blinded by our addiction to cheap products and willingness to believe in fairytale endings? Professor DONG LI argues we just might be INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 41
s we all know, powerful forces in the world are working hard to overrun or remould the democratic system as we know it. On the one hand, fundamentalist Islam made its intention clear with the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. On the other hand, China has dramatically emerged as a “successful dictatorship” under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). From time to time the CCP leaders make public declarations that China will never go the way of liberal democracy. Russia under Vladimir Putin, of course, is not going to be a genuine democracy any time soon. Of all the international forces challenging democracy, I am convinced that the CCP leadership with its one-party dictatorship poses the gravest threat to the future of democracy. Why? Because the CCP regime is much wealthier, much more powerful politically and militarily, much better organised and much more sophisticated than any of the other potential enemies of democracy. And it enjoys growing influence and prestige worldwide, even from some quarters in liberal democracies. I’m afraid that the political significance of China in the world is not fully appreciated by many people in the West. For many, China remains remote and mysterious, beyond the pale of their known world. This misunderstanding is unfortunate, and should be rectified. Some basic facts about China are: • It has a population of 1.3 billion, and is the most populous country in the world. • It occupies a land mass as big as the continent of Europe. • It has the longest continuing civilisation lasting nearly 5,000 years, which has had a profound influence in Asia. • It has a huge diaspora all over the world, numbering about 80 million, many of the members are wealthy and influential. Some are loyal to their ancestral land, no matter who the rulers are. • It is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, enjoying the privilege of veto power on critical world issue. Apart from the above obvious facts, in the past 30 years China has developed into a modern, and successful economic power: • The Chinese economy has been growing at nearly 10 per cent annually for over 30 years. As a result, China either has already surpassed, or will very soon surpass, Japan 42 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
to become the second-largest economy in the world. It is projected that, by 2025, China will overtake the United States of America as the world’s largest economy. • China has outperformed Germany as the world’s number one exporting nation. • As a result of its relentless export-driven trade policy, China is now sitting on the largest foreign currency reserves the world has ever seen – US$2.4 trillion and growing by more than one US$1.0 billion every day. It has become the world’s number one creditor nation, and the major financier to Americans. I have so far reported here a lot of the “good news” about China. Now for the bad news. One-party dictatorship China is a one-party dictatorship. All the real power in China is firmly in the hands of nine men – the members of the standing committee of the Politburo of the CCP. The
An undated file photo of leading Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. A Chinese court in February 2010 upheld an 11-year prison sentence for prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo for writings that called for multiparty democracy – perceived threats to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power./NEWSCOM
People’s Congress is but a rubber stamp of the Politburo of the CCP; the Government a mere front of the Party. The armed police force, the regular police force and the judicial system, as well as the mammoth mass media, are all under the tight control of the Party, which means the CCP leadership controls both the bodies and minds of the population. Even religions are under government control. Believers can only worship
in government-sanctioned and supervised churches, temples and mosques. The Chinese internet police, composed of about 30,000 university graduates with degrees in computing sciences, monitor and intercept internet communication 24 hours, seven days a week. There is no freedom of thought, no freedom of speech. Dissenters are severely punished. A recent case is the heavy sentencing of Dr Liu Xiaobo, a professor of literature, who last Christmas Day was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment for his participation in drafting a document, called “Charter ’08”, an open appeal to the CCP for genuine political reform. The spokesperson of the CCP regime recently said at a news conference that there are no political dissenters in China, only “criminals”. The last bastion of the CCP dictatorship is the mighty armed forces of China – the People’s Liberation Army, which pledges its absolute loyalty to
the CCP, and declares its dual function of maintaining domestic stability as well as national defence. Monopolistic state capitalism It is not so well known in the world that the Chinese economy, in spite of its capitalist façade, is made up mainly of large state-owned monopolies controlled by the CCP. All the key sectors in the economy are state-owned. These include all banking and finance, telecommunications, energy industries (oil, natural gas and electricity), all national and international transportation (rail, sea and air), large-scale mining, the massive media industries (newspapers, magazines, books, radio, TV and film-making), as well as war industry and defence projects, plus the very lucrative revenuegenerating tobacco industry. Of the Fortune 500 Global Companies listed in 2009, 28 are in China, and they are all state-owned
88 red stars as the concept art works are placed on the square to mark the 88th anniversary of the founding of the CCP at The Old Summer Palace, Beijing. CNImaging/NEWSCOM
monopolies. Chinese currency is not freely convertible, and its value is kept artificially low by government manipulation to boost exports. China’s economy is far from being a free market; it would be more accurately described as state capitalism. Some years ago, the Australian and New Zealand governments, incredibly, designated China as a market economy, while the USA, Europe and Japan have so far resisted doing so. What has happened in China demonstrates that a dictatorship can only breed monopolistic state capitalism, and it will INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 43
never, ever, allow genuine privately-owned enterprises to flourish because such enterprises will inevitably challenge its monopoly of state power. Today, a successful state capitalism and a well-established dictatorship exist side-byside in China. And the economic miracle that has occurred is because of, not in spite of, this one-party dictatorship. How is this so? Let us get to the roots of the matter. The “China price” The root cause of China’s economic success is the relentless expansion of its foreign trade, and the secret weapon in this expansion of foreign trade is the incredibly cheap prices of its manufactured goods – the socalled “China price”. Professor Peter Navarro of the University of California-Irvine identified eight factors that made the “China price” possible.1 The major ones are low wages, minimal worker health and safety regulations, lax environmental regulations and enforcement, and subsidies for export. How could all these things – low wages, lack of health and safety 44 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
regulations and the devil-may-care degradation of environment – be possible? Can we imagine similar government policies in countries like Australia and New Zealand or, for that matter, India? Not at all. However, China is a one-party dictatorship, where there is no representative democracy, no freedom of the press, no independent judicial system, no trade unions, no farmers’ organisations, no vocal religious leaders. Meanwhile, the party-state is backed up by a mighty party-army, ever ready to repeat the Tiananmen massacre of June 1989. So the authorities can do whatsoever they want, no matter how unfair, or how damaging it may be in the long run. And, since the 1980s, what the CCP has been focusing on is the expansion of China’s foreign trade in order to accumulate national wealth, which will be under its control. This is an unashamedly mercantilist economic policy. And it has been phenomenally successful. The CCP focus on foreign trade expansion has fortuitously coincided exactly with a period of the world history when the doctrine of free trade has become a dogma, and
when developed economies, in their unrealistic pursuit of universal free trade, have been engaged in a large-scale but poorly managed globalisation, WTO-style. According to American political economist and bestselling author Pat Choate, “The globalisation policies of Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush collectively constitute the worst economic policy mistakes in American history.”2 Choate’s accusation has been underlined by the fact that, within a short historical span of three decades, the US has fallen from being the world’s number one creditor to the world’s number one debtor nation. In the past 20 years, the US has been suffering from an ever-growing trade deficit with China; but the US elites have just nonchalantly watched hundreds of billions of US dollars flowing into Beijing’s coffers. To the ordinary person in the street, this situation is surreal – year in and year out, the wealthiest country in the world is borrowing huge amounts of money from a lowincome developing country; or, to look at the situation from another angle, the lead-
ing liberal democracy in the world is sinking deeper and deeper in debt to a former communist state which is still a one-party dictatorship and which will probably turn out to be the nemesis of democracy. Something here doesn’t add up. “Financial balance of terror” For reasons that defy common sense, the US, when doing business with Beijing, chose to give up the golden rule of reciprocity, and let the trade imbalance between US and China grow and grow and grow until today the world is living under the dark clouds of what President Obama’s economic adviser Larry Summers calls a “financial balance of terror”,3 not unlike the nuclear balance of terror 40 years ago. I never really understand why so many among the Western elites persist in taking such a naïve and over-optimistic view of the CCP leadership. If the past may be used as an indicator of the present or the future, it should be recalled that the CCP under Mao Zedong was responsible for well over 70 million Chinese deaths.4 Moreover, it has fought two bloody wars with the West, first in Korea and then in Vietnam. Nevertheless, many in the West seem to have a sneaking admiration for the rulers in Beijing. They somehow believe that if you make the CCP leaders rich, they will become well disposed towards the West, willingly embracing the universal values of democracy and human rights. Unfortunately, as recent events have shown, wealth only gives the dictators in Beijing more self-confidence, and makes their rule more entrenched and their behaviour more aggressive. Sitting on a powder keg What of the future of China? Will the CCP dictatorship be overthrown by a popular uprising? Or will the CCP leadership ever go the way of democracy, as the authoritarian rulers in South Korea and Taiwan did in the 1970s? My answers to these questions are basically in the negative – a nationwide popular uprising is unlikely to occur. It is true that the CCP is sitting on a powder keg. The economic reform, which has been carried out under a one-party dictatorship, has made the politically powerful (i.e., the top CCP officials and their families) fabulously rich. The gap between rich and poor is getting wider and wider. Within just 30 years, China has transformed from being one of the most egalitarian societies in the world (i.e., nearly everybody was equal in
poverty, as the people of communist Cuba are today) to being a country where the richpoor gap is even more pronounced than it is in the United States. Among the common people there is a widespread hatred of the rich and powerful. Social tensions are high. Every year there are hundreds of thousands of mass protests, and from time to time we hear of instances of suicide (mostly selfincineration) as marks of protest against official injustice, such as forced eviction to make way for a government building project. The CCP officialdom is notoriously corrupt in an institutionalised way. Take the latest Global Corruption Report 2009, published by Transparency International based in Berlin.5 Of the 130-odd countries surveyed, China has fallen further from the 77th rank in 2008 to 79th in 2009 in public sector transparency and accountability. It’s interesting to note that Singapore is perceived as being the third most transparent and accountable country, only after New Zealand and Denmark, while Hong Kong is the 12th. The high rankings of Singapore and Hong Kong prove that the Chinese are
Many in the West seem to have a sneaking admiration for the rulers in Beijing. They somehow believe that if you make the CCP leaders rich, they will become well disposed towards the West./ Ron Sachs / Pool via CNP
not inherently corrupt and that it is largely the existence of an independent media and judiciary – or lack of them – which determines the quality of government. In spite of presiding over some terrible social injustices, the CCP leadership still has ample means and a firm determination to control society and the means of communication as it retains a monopoly of coercive power and control of the mass media. CCP rule is also greatly enhanced by its successful mercantilist trade policies and its current status as the principal creditor to the sole superpower in the world. Many Chinese tolerate CCP brutality and corruption as a necessary price to ensure their country’s greatness. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 45
China’s modus operandi If China is to remain a “successful dictatorship”, as is quite likely, how is it likely to behave in the near future? Here I venture some predictions. Domestically, the CCP leadership will continue to pursue, as its top priority, rapid economic development. It will expand the “China price” advantages to more technologically advanced sectors, such as automobile manufacturing and green technology products. It will increase investment in research and development. At the same time, the juggernaut of Chinese state capitalism will advance with relentless momentum. No privately-owned enterprises of any significant size will be allowed to thrive. Politically, it will introduce cosmetic, feelgood measures to appease the people’s desire to have more say in public affairs. For example, it may conduct polls on local officials’ performance, or nominate two candidates 46 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
In the near future, Chinese overseas efforts will concentrate on grabbing and controlling as much as possible of the world’s remaining raw materials and fossil fuels./NEWSCOM
for an office and let people “elect” one of them. One of the candidates may not even be a CCP member, but he/she must have been carefully vetted and approved beforehand by the CCP. The bottom line, however, is that the absolute monopoly of power and the privilege of final decision on matters of importance will not be relinquished. Should things really get ugly, the CCP leadership will return to Maoist totalitarian rule, rather than permit the emergence of democracy. The CCP will foster and groom native sects of Buddhism, to answer the needs of many Chinese for religion and to deflect for-
eign criticisms of lack of religion freedom. The Chinese Buddhist hierarchy, allowed to survive and thrive under an openly atheist regime, is already corrupt, and the CCP will find it easy to retain it under its control and manipulation. Internationally, China will not, at least in the foreseeable future, seek to replace the US as the world’s top cop; it is simply not interested. The Chinese worldview and frame of mind are solipsistic rather than universalist, i.e., China is only interested in itself; all its actions put Chinese interests foremost; and it is not much concerned with the affairs of other peoples. When Chinese diplomats say that China is not interested in interfering in the affairs of other countries, they are to a great extent being sincere. However, China is slowly and steadily trying to re-write the rules of international trade, technology, currency and climate. The cautionary tale of the frog allowing itself to be slowly boiled alive without trying to escape has been re-told many times in the past. Today, we can see a similar scenario unfolding before our very eyes. Some Western scholars have been anticipating the day when “China rules the world”. This is by no means sensationalism or alarmism. What is so dismaying is the response, or lack of response, to the coming tectonic change in the global power structure. A few Marxist intellectuals gloat over the end of the West; most businessmen happily gather profits while they may; commentators generally take a philosophical attitude of “whatever will be will be”; and the majority of people are either unaware or apathetic. Our mainstream politicians pretend to be unaware of, and avoid acknowledging, the conspicuous elephant in the room. China’s goals In the near future, Chinese overseas efforts will concentrate on grabbing and controlling as much as possible of the world’s remaining raw materials and fossil fuels. A prime example is rare-technology metals (rare earths), which are indispensable in many electronic products. About 20 years ago, the CCP leadership devised a plan to dominate the world’s rareearths market. The first step involves limiting the country’s exports; the second step is to force manufacturers that use rare earths to move to China; and the third step is to buy up other rare-earth resources around the world. Here is a story that has taken place in our part of the world. When two Australian companies, Lynas Corp. and Arafura Resources, which planned to open rare-metals ore mines, met with finan-
cial difficulties as the credit markets collapsed last year, this gave China an opportunity to implement the final stage in its three-step plan: Chinese state-owned companies provided the money needed and, in exchange, they have gained 51.7 per cent of Lynas and 25 per cent of Arafura.6 China now has 97 per cent of the global rare-earths products. Jack Lifton, a rare-earths expert, has warned that the day will come when China isn’t going to sell anybody any rare-technology metals, no matter how much money you offer.7 Along with seizing control of these raw materials, the CCP leadership will launch massive cultural and media offensives in the West in order to finally overturn the domination of the universal values of democracy and human rights. The CCP will hire western reporters and editors to staff their English-language newspapers and TV stations, and the western professionals will work under instructions issued by their bosses, i.e., CCP propaganda officials, as to what to say and what not to say or report. Meanwhile, as “a major component of the grand strategy for overseas propaganda work”, the CCP regime is establishing socalled “Confucius Institutes” everywhere as cultural footholds and recruiting grounds for future collaborators. There are indeed collaborators galore in the Western world. As Eamonn Fingleton, a respected observer on East Asian affairs and best-selling author, writes, “Many of China’s American collaborators operate openly as trade lobbyists. Indeed, the list of good Confucians in the Washington trade lobby would fill a Who’s Who. Starting with George H.W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, and Brent Scowcroft, virtually every retired top American official who has helped shape American foreign policy in the last four decades now works openly to further China’s interest – and does so even when these interests quite obviously conflict with those of the United States.”8 There has been little investigative journalism about how the CCP leadership buy off Australian and New Zealand elites,9 such as the Australian Rudd Government’s hapless former Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon;10 but it is safe to say if you are a person of considerable influence and social standing, you will very likely be approached by a Chinese diplomat or an agent and invited to enjoy sumptuous dinner parties, free travel to China with regal treatment, and other goodies. The CCP, it should be recalled, is a past master at exploiting human weaknesses. Very few mortals can
resist its charm offensives. Less than two years ago, I commented: “Is an authoritarian superpower staring us in the face? It sounds horrible, but is not entirely unthinkable.” Since then things have developed with such accelerating speed – much faster than I anticipated – that now an authoritarian superpower – the Chinese one-party dictatorship – is staring us in the face. I make bold to say that the twentyfirst century will witness a titanic struggle between democracy and dictatorship. Finally, I believe that the fundamental difference between democracy and dictatorship does not lie in ways of governance, but in views of the human condition and of human nature. As Fingleton points out, dictatorship is based upon a bleak view of the human condition, namely, that the human race en masses is incorrigibly stupid and fractious and therefore must be held in check by a ruthless elite with lies and violence. Democracy takes a more flattering view of us human beings. The question is – can we live up to it? Professor Dong Li is a retired Chinese academic, having taught at universities in China, the UK, the USA and New Zealand. This article is based on a speech Professor Li delivered at the Summer Sounds Symposium at Nelson, New Zealand, on March 20, 2010, and first published in The National Observer newspaper in Australia
RECOMMENDED READING: 1. Pat Choate, Dangerous Business: The Risks of Globalization for America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008). 2. Pat Choate, Saving Capitalism: Keeping America Strong (New York: Vintage Books, 2009). 3. Eamonn Fingleton, In the Jaws of the Dragon: America’s Fate in the Coming Era of Chinese Hegemony (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2008). 4. Yasheng Huang, Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics: Entrepreneurship and the State (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008). James Mann, The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression (New York: Viking Penguin, 2007). 5. Peter Navarro, Report of “The China Price Project” (Irvine, California: Merage School of Business, University of California-Irvine, 2006): 30-page monograph. www.peternavarro.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/chinapricereport.pdf 6. Peter Navarro, The Coming China Wars: Where They Will Be Fought and How They Can Be Won  (London: FT Press, revised and expanded edition, 2008). 7. Philip P. Pan, Out of Mao’s Shadow: The Struggle
for the Soul of a New China (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008). 8. Gabor Steingart, The War for Wealth: The True Story of Globalization, or Why the Flat World is Broken (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008).
ENDNOTES 1. Peter Navarro, Report of “The China Price Project” (Irvine, California: Merage School of Business, University of California-Irvine, 2006): 30-page monograph. www.peternavarro.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/chinapricereport.pdf 2. Pat Choate, Dangerous Business: The Risks of Globalization for America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), p.8. 3. Rich Miller and Simon Kennedy, “G-20 plans to end ‘financial balance of terror’ after summit”, Bloomberg.com (New York), September 28, 2009. www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087 &sid=aVpPMKLa50rc 4. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story (New York: Random House, 2005). 5. Global Corruption Report 2009: Corruption and the Private Sector, English edition (Berlin: Transparency International/ Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp.253-57. www.transparency.org/content/ download/46187/739801/ 6. Myra P. Saefong, “Rare earths are vital, and China owns them all”, MarketWatch (Dow Jones, New York), September 24, 2009. www.marketwatch.com/story/rare-earths-arevital-and-china-owns-them-all-2009-09-24 7. Quoted in Cahal Milmo, “Concern as China clamps down on rare earth exports”, The Independent (UK), January 2, 2010. www.independent.co.uk/news/science/concern-as-china-clamps-down-on-rare-earthexports-1855387.html 8. Eamonn Fingleton, In the Jaws of the Dragon: America’s Fate in the Coming Era of Chinese Hegemony (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2008), p.263. 9. Richard Bullivant, “Chinese defectors reveal Chinese strategy and agents in Australia”, National Observer, No. 66, Spring 2005, pp.43-48. www.nationalobserver.net/2005_spring_102.htm Andrew Campbell, “Guanxi and AustralianChina consultants – the risk of dual allegiance”, National Observer, No. 68, Autumn 2006, pp.21-39. www.nationalobserver.net/2006_campbell_68.htm 10. Richard Baker, Philip Dorling and Nick McKenzie, “Minister’s new China link”, The Age (Melbourne), April 9, 2009. www.theage.com.au/national/ministers-newchina-link-20090408-a0tg.html?page=-1 National Observer, Australia, No. 82 (March - May 2010) q INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 47
The Boys Who Cried Wolf On Climate
WILL CLIMATE CHANGE REALLY ENDANGER HUMAN HEALTH?
While the hard science on climate change is unravelling fast, there’s growing evidence that dire warnings of mass death from climate change are also untrue. Population scientist PETER CURSON reviews the links between climate and health
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e are told that global climate change will have significant impacts on human health intensifying the effects of diseases like malaria and dengue, increasing the likelihood of extreme natural events like heatwaves and produce a range of other health impacts. But is it so simple? Have we been somewhat mislead about the true situation and diverted from addressing some of the world’s pressing health problems? The link between human health and climate is not new; it has been recognised since Antiquity. Hippocrates in the 5th century BC drew attention to the fact that many diseases were linked to changes in temperature or season. Some years later Aristotle produced a major study of the links between weather and health which was to remain a standard text for centuries. Feeling “under the weather” has become a common expression in English and hints at the close relationship that exists between weather conditions and human health and wellbeing. Today, our ability to monitor and predict climate variations such as El Nino and La Nina has stimulated interest in the links between climate and human health. There seems little doubt that many fundamental bodily processes seem linked to changes in the weather. For example, blood clotting time changes markedly before the passage of a cold front, joint mobility decreases and blood pressure rises. As temperatures fall, blood vessels dilate and nerve endings cease to conduct sensations. White blood cells increase after a steep barometric fall, and blood volume increases with heat stress and falls during the passage of cold fronts. Many of these changes remain poorly understood particularly in so far as they relate to our health, but there would seem little doubt that some weather patterns are connected to asthma attacks, post-operative complications, arthritis, heart attacks and stroke. It may also be that some people are much more sensitive to weather changes than others. Because weather and climate affect us in different ways, and because the details of climate change remain uncertain at best, and debateable at worst, predicting the effects of climate change on human health remains a difficult undertaking. Despite this, the IPCC, climate change scientists and the world media have strongly pushed the view that global climate change will intensify infectious disease problems; expose millions 50 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
“I believe that they have at worst, misrepresented, and at best, overstated, the impacts of a changing climate on human health and have in the course of this, lost the plot”
more to temperature extremes and natural disasters and produce a host of other changes detrimental to human health. Given all this, the time seems overdue for some sort of re-examination of the claims which are widely canvassed about the impact that climate change will have on human health. Quite possibly my comments may be simply dismissed as emanating from a ‘soft’ social scientist rather than from a ‘hard’ scientist steeped in the science of climate modelling. Be that as it may, when push comes to shove, much of the writing about the human health impacts of climate change, has come from the pens of people who may know a lot about climate, but very little about human health and behaviour, and those ‘health scientists’ who have written about the human health impacts of climate change have tended to uncritically accept the climate change predictions handed to them by climate modellers, almost as ‘tablets from above’. But first, where am I coming from? Is this just another rant by a climate change denier? Far from it. For the best part of 10 years, working in a federally funded research centre, I had responsibility for nurturing research and raising public awareness about the links between climate and human health. I wrote the first paper on climate change and human health in this part of the world back in the 1980s and pioneered the study of the links between weather, climate and asthma, as well as a range of other climate-health studies. So I suppose that I write with at least some small degree of authority. Throughout this period I relied heavily on what my climate science colleagues told me
about climate change, despite harbouring doubts about their imprecise tools of measurement and the geographic scale of their modelling. They in turn seemed to tolerate an interdisciplinary social scientist, hopefully in the belief that he might provide some insights into the dynamics of human vulnerability and the vagaries of human behaviour. Over the years I have never lost my belief in the close links that exist between climate, weather and human health, but I have come to feel decidedly uncomfortable about
the way climate scientists and others have trumpeted about what they believe are the impacts of climate change on human health and the way we are all at risk. In many ways I believe that they have at worst, misrepresented, and at best, overstated, the impacts of a changing climate on human health and have in the course of this, lost the plot. In the words of Paul Reiter, “much of their work gains legitimacy not by scholarship but by repetition”. Rather than understanding the past, and
concentrating on human vulnerability and the mechanisms which produce and sustain disadvantage and marginality, they have continued to churn out studies arguing that climate change will transform human health and expose countless millions to a whole range of new threats. Further, most of the estimates of increased mortality and ill health eminating from climate change presume that human social and economic conditions in the future will be similar to today. But this is most certainly not the case
View over hundreds of miniature tents made forming the artwork ‘climate refugee camp’ by German action artist Hermann Josef Hack in Jena, Germany. /NEWSCOM
as societies are not static, and most probably will be quite different in 50 or so year’s time with different adaptive strategies. Given this, I feel that it is time to re-assess INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 51
some of these claims. Let me begin by stating what the ISSP (International Social Survey Programme) and its followers claim to be the major impacts that climate change will have on human health. In essence they make five broad claims. These are, (1) that climate change will greatly influence the life cycle and geographic distribution of a number of vector-borne diseases, like malaria and dengue which will colonise new areas exposing millions of people to infectious disease threats. (2) That climate change will increase the likelihood of extreme temperature events with considerable implications for human health particularly in the context of rapidly ageing populations. (3) That climate change will influence the production and distribution of aero-allergens like pollens with considerable implications for those suffering from respiratory diseases like asthma. (4) That climate change, particularly warming temperatures, will have detrimental affects on those older people dependent on a daily cocktail of medication. (5) Finally, that climate change will increase the frequency, significance and geographical distribution of extreme natural events like floods, cyclones, hurricanes and droughts. In a world beset by natural disasters, by occasional heat waves, by very high levels of asthma and other respiratory diseases, as well as by regular epidemics of infectious diseases, both ‘new’ and ‘old’, all this sounds reasonable and defensible. But close examination of the evidence suggests all is not as we have been led to believe. Perhaps what I am about to argue will form an “inconvenient truth”, easy to ignore, but I believe that it needs to be said.
et us address the first of these claims, that climate change will increase the risk of vector-borne disease by allowing vectors like mosquitoes to breed more prolifically and to colonise new areas. In the Australian case it is claimed that dengue, now largely confined to Northern Queensland, will eventually be found as far south as Sydney. To begin with, dengue is not endemic in Australia but its vector mosquito is. Normally it requires a visitor or tourist previously exposed to the disease to visit Australia, be bitten by a local mosquito and from this single encounter, an epidemic can arise. Whatever one thinks of global warming, the claim that a rise in temperature will transform the life cycle, biting habits and geographical distribution of the dengue mosquito, remains highly contentious. 52 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
Empirical studies have produced highly contradictory results and in fact there are studies that suggest that warmer temperatures will not lead to increased rates of the disease or a wider geographical distribution, but indeed the opposite. The global distribution of dengue and the history of the disease in Australia, further illustrates the overwhelming significance of human agency and behaviour as the key variables in determining the location and distribution of the disease, and how a false sense of security and backsliding can lead to epidemic outbreaks. Once, the dengue mosquito had a wide distribution over Queensland and a good proportion of New South Wales. From the mid 1940s the mosquito retreated to parts of Northern Queensland and this change had nothing to do with climate but more
“Al Gore’s presentation of malarial mosquitoes making their way up the slopes of snowcapped mountains and invading Nairobi for the first time is fatally flawed” to changes in technology and human behaviour. These included the extension of reticulated water supplies and the decline of domestic water tanks, the emergence of refrigeration and the disappearance of old safes with their ant pots, the replacement of steam trains by diesel and the related disappearance of fire buckets and water tanks from all railway stations, the decline in coastal shipping (bilge waters was a great mosquito breeding area), and the disappearance of horse troughs as the transport technology changed. All this, allied to mosquito surveillance, did much to remove potential mosquito breeding sites. Ironically, if we are going to see a change in the geographical distribution of the dengue mosquito, then it is more likely to come from the growth in breeding sites encour-
aged by human behaviour than it is from any change in the climate. In this, the discarded plastic container, the old tyre, the blocked roof gutter, the backyard bird bath, and the recently appearing rain water tanks, have all taken the place of the water tanks and troughs of 80 years ago. Malaria is another disease widely beloved by the climate change fraternity. Much is made of the fact that global warming and changed rainfall patterns will transform the current distribution of the disease and expose many millions in the Northern and Southern hemispheres to its ravages. Yet as Paul Reiter has eloquently argued, Al Gore’s presentation of malarial mosquitoes making their way up the slopes of snow-capped mountains and invading Nairobi for the first time is fatally flawed. Malarial mosquitoes have a long history around Nairobi and had once inhabited areas at least 3,000 metres above sea level. In Reiter’s words, “these details are not science. They are history”. And then there are claims that malaria will invade parts of Canada, the UK and Europe. Again, history speaks against such predictions. Malaria was once widespread in East Anglia, Kent, Essex and the southern coastlands of Britain as well as in parts of Europe and North America, particularly Ontario in Canada. The key variable in bringing about a change in such distribution was simply, human intervention in the form of modifying the physical environment – draining wetlands, swamps and fenlands and appreciating that forest clearing had provided a good environment for mosquitoes to breed. What might bring malaria back to such locations? Human behaviour gets the nod, not climate change. And what about the claim that heatwaves are likely to increase and place many people at risk? There is little doubt that extreme temperatures can produce significant health outcomes. Prolonged exposure to very high temperatures can cause a wave of illness and premature death, particularly among the elderly. But like excessively cold temperatures, high temperature and heatwave susceptibility are closely related to human vulnerability – particularly to such things as old age, disability and handicap, social marginality and depressed inner city living. Look at the effects of the severe heatwave in Western Europe in 2003. More than 70,000 people were swept away by it in France, Spain and Italy. Most were elderly, either living alone or in under-funded, overcrowded and short-staffed rest homes.
What was the critical variable in this excessive mortality? Well it certainly wasn’t climate change. Overall the jury is still out on whether or not we have seen a growth in the occurrence of heatwaves over the last 50 years. A longer historical view seems to point to the fact that such events were a fairly regular part of the climatic regime of many countries for centuries, and that many more people are likely to be exposed to them. But what is the important variable here which we seem to have lost sight of? Quite simply it is human vulnerability to such events, and the fact that vulnerability is often heightened by poverty, marginality, human neglect, residential and work location, oversight and mismanagement. The 2003 European heatwave demonstrates this only too clearly.
ecently we have also been confronted by the claim that the global increase in asthma over the last half century is somehow related to climate change, and that pollen occurrence and distribution is closely linked to increasing temperatures as is the length of the pollen season. By consequence, asthmatics are being exposed to more pollen for longer periods and climate change is to blame. While it is true that all asthmatics have an allergic component to their asthma, what triggers an attack varies from person to person and there are a wide range of exposure situations, including, environmental exposure to aero-allergens like pollens, cold fronts, viral infections, emotional episodes, food-related exposures, indoor air quality, animal dander and workplace exposures. Leaving aside the fact that climate change, if indeed it occurs, may well lesson the pollen season in some countries, it is a leap of the imagination to claim that it is responsible for the increase in asthma rates. Before the 1950s, asthma was not well recognised and often diagnosed as bronchitis, and much of the increase since then is quite possibly related to changes in human behaviour, increasing urbanisation, mass food production and a host of indoor circumstances like unflued gas heating, dust mites, dampness, indoor air exposures and moulds. And with regards the growth of asthma in the developing world, much of it would seem related to the major shifts of people from rural to urban areas, where in many cases people are forced to live in cramped and polluted environments. But then, why destroy a good story? Finally, a quick comment on the two other climate change-human health claims
often made. The first concerns natural disasters such as floods, drought and hurricanes and cyclones. There is little doubt that such events have been part of human history for thousands of years. There would also seem little evidence to indicate that such disasters have increased in recent years or are likely to do so over the next few decades, and that climate change was or will be responsible. Certainly there is little doubt that our awareness of such episodes has increased, but largely this is due to the world’s media and the 24/7 news service. But more importantly perhaps, what has increased over the last few decades is human vulnerability to such disasters and in truth that is what should really concern us. The other issue which is currently attracting the attention of the climate change fraternity is the fact that when temperatures rise, even slightly, some of the drugs taken on a day-by-day basis by the elderly and others, are not absorbed as well and do not work as effectively. It is argued that in a regime of warming temperatures, tens of thousands of elderly people will be placed at risk. While the effects of higher temperatures on the absorption of drugs is well demonstrated, the aged in many countries have been migrating or retiring to warmer locations for at least the last 50
A child’s doll rests on a pile of household items that were destroyed during the flooding in Providence, Rhode Island, April 2010. / UPI/Matthew Healey
years and so far there has been little real evidence of any increased mortality or ill health resulting from the move. Again this is a classic example of placing climate change on a higher pedestal than human vulnerability. So where does all this leave us? To my mind it suggests that the climate change – human health link has been exploited for all it was worth, and whatever you might think about climate change, the exaggerated, speculative and repetitive claims about its impacts on human health, is in many case indefensible. More importantly perhaps, such claims and the media attention they have invoked, have served to deflect us from addressing more important global health and environmental problems. But that is another story. Peter Curson is Professor of Population and Security in the Centrefor International Security Studies at the University of Sydney q INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 53
ARMAGEDDIN IT Are we really Racing Toward Armageddon?
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The world is going to Hell in a handcart: global economic turbulence, the rise of aggressive Islam, global pollution and the UN’s now-open push for a global government. Not surprisingly, it’s provoking debate, and Kiwi author Michael Baigent’s latest book on the subject is taken apart by ROLLAN MCCLEARY, who senses a looming clash of civilisations
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nderstanding and forecasting apocalypse has engaged many minds over the centuries including Isaac Newton. It has also defeated many. New Zealand born, Michael Baigent, is internationally celebrated in the genre of conspiracy histories especially Holy Blood, Holy Grail – but for interest and accuracy conspiracy prophecy as in his latest book Racing toward Armageddon is plainly a harder nut to crack. Despite fascinating perspectives on a wide range of issues like the beliefs of persons wanting to re-instate Jewish Law, stoning included, the warnings and polemics of Racing risk misleading readers about a vital theme and leaving out as much as they highlight. If we really should be perceiving a rush to Armageddon which is also a “plot” to hasten “the end times” by fringe groups of the Abrahamic faiths then, if, which, and whose Messiah, Antichrist or One World Order would need to precede it might almost be more apropos for examination in the immediate. Yet that problem is scarcely touched upon (the chapter on Armageddon even expands upon theories of evolution!) despite current developments I will mention that might justify concern with it. So here I’m going to highlight some errors, fill in some gaps and inquire if anything prophetic really is going on and then conclude with an alternative to Baigent’s radical solution to our current predicament which is basically to advise ditching monotheism for mysticism and/or polytheism. Sharing blame around the monotheisms While it seems everyone is to blame, of the monotheistic faiths Judaism if anything gets off lightest with Baigent despite having introduced monotheistic belief and more recently the will of a minority to sacrifice a Red Heifer and re-build the Temple on dangerously disputed land. Major threats hastening Armageddon scenarios are seen as a) the Christianity whose fundamentalism itself currently entertains quasi-Zionist and Templist aims and stresses the difficult book of Revelation which is suffering alarming interpretations and b) Islam whose various claims including upon Jerusalem and the Temple area are not well or at all supported by the Koran. Baigent feels the faith cannot help but seem “greedy” to want the 56 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
city and is mired in an anti-Semitism that doesn’t assist international peace. Baigent scarcely has a good word to say about the book of Revelation. It’s nothing but mind poisoning trouble. Yet almost everything he says about Revelation is awash with questionable assertions or outright error. Denying its traditional author
wrote it he assumes it was composed under Domitian at the end of the first century and is about politics of that time plus memories of the Pompeii disaster. Yet already in the second century, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria were maintaining the book was written under Nero as did the Muratorian Canon (170 AD?) which states John wrote
it before Paul’s epistles were finished (68/9 under Nero). In the fourth century a general recorder of church issues and heresies, Epiphanius, twice asserts Revelation dated from Nero’s reign. Other sources maintain the same and though Baigent also dismisses Revelation as “only” supported by Western, not Eastern Churches (who accepted it late
“Baigent scarcely has a good word to say about the book of revelation. It’s nothing but mind poisoning trouble. Yet almost everything he says about Revelation is awash with questionable assertions or outright error” INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 57
for various reasons) the West was correct to the extent they were following Polycarp and Justin Martyr, acknowledged apostolic links with the traditional author. Revelation as inauthentic and non prophetic More crucially, Baigent denies Revelation could be prophetic. The only way we might usefully read it is as a symbol of war against the self, rather as mystical Muslims interpret jihad as war against the self. Granted many rationalists do, like Baigent, hold Revelation is about problems within the Roman empire. But how plausible is that? The book envisages global catastrophes, some unimaginable before our times and suggestive of now familiar situations of gross pollution, radical climate change and ozone layer depletion. Also “the whole world” is described as gazing upon the streets of Jerusalem, something that would require satellite television. In a rather “green” moment we read it’s to save the earth from its destroyers that Jesus returns (Rev 11:18). There’s nothing to suggest the world was being destroyed or soon would be in the first century. Baigent’s trump card here is that the author states 58 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
“the time is close”. However, familiarity with Hebrew prophecy (which the author writing in imperfect Greek would know) and the ways of tense and time in Hebrew diminish the weight of that objection. In our terms, future could even be conveyed by a past tense. It’s all rather confusing, but we have to work with it and see through it. What for us today are almost cultural blinds around Revelation if they can be transcended may also help us better understand the image of God the vision conveys which for Baigent is unacceptable. He reads the text as showing nothing but God pouring out “wrath”. It’s more likely the author understood the situation as one in which God is giving permission to events rendered virtually inevitable by human interference with society and nature. In the quasi-platonic worldview of early Christians, whatever occurs would need to have been enacted/ permitted first at an angelic level of thought and forms to have reality in our derivative physical plane. Therefore the angels convey and allow “wrath” by symbolizing what humanity is determined to do. “Wrath” itself normally means the condition of whatever is separated from and outside God (as Jesus
felt himself hellishly to be at the crucifixion). Baigent stumbles over this but misses the point when citing Rev 16:17 where the angel with the bowl for Armageddon declares “it is done” before it even happens. The Rapture as American escapism Baigent offers extensive criticism of Christian Rapture doctrine, not incorrectly seen as exploited by sometimes nutty American evangelicals, as in the bestselling Left Behind fiction series. The root teaching which Baigent disapproves as escapist involves a belief God’s people will be disappeared from earth before some, or all, of the tribulation experienced under the Antichrist’s rule. It’s a hidden Second Advent preceding the open one, the Second Advent proper and as conventionally imaged – the Advent that ends the Antichrist’s rule and initiates Christ’s Millennial rule from Jerusalem. Baigent scatters as much disinformation about Rapture as he accuses others of doing. He treats it as totally unscriptural unless partially invented by Paul in Thessalonians when talking of the Last Trumpet. He then sees whatever Paul meant as reinvented by
The root teaching which Baigent disapproves as escapist involves a belief God’s people will be disappeared from earth before some, or all, of the tribulation experienced under the Antichrist’s rule
American Christians in denial of all Jewish and Christian tradition. This is nonsense. In the Old Testament there are the translations of Enoch and Elijah while Paul was only enlarging upon a teaching about sudden, surprise deliverance indicated in the gospels where Christ refers to a time when, (like Noah spared from the flood), “one shall be taken and the other left” (Matt 24:40). The notion runs through the apocalyptic parables where it’s all of a warning. (People ignore fire warnings, tsunami alerts and advice about smoking so, however seemingly strange or incredible the teaching might sound it can’t be condemned, per se, Baigent style, because what about people “left behind”?). Though Baigent claims the Rapture is outside Christian tradition (and undeniably it’s an ignored, disputed teaching), in fact it’s referred to c. 260 in the first known commentary on Revelation, from Victorinus of Poetovio who states the last seven plagues occur in the “last times when the church shall have gone out of their midst”. A notable figure for Greek Orthodoxy, the fourth century Ephraim the Syrian proposes “the elect of God are gathered prior to the Tribulation”.
However mainstream or marginal such teachings may be, it’s questionable how far “tradition” should be called upon to certify them today. Long term prophecy is supposed to become clearer as its time approaches. The book of Daniel, influential for Revelation, states its prophecy is sealed up for the times of the end. So we cannot assume all modern commentary would automatically be wrong; and though from a desire to stress American escapism Baigent sticks with flamboyant eccentrics of the Pre-Trib Rapture school who assume the Antichrist and disasters won’t begin until after the Disappearance – others assume various “pre-wrath” or “midTrib” scenarios which place Deliverance after the false prophet’s appearance. Baigent’s surveys fail to take stock of recent major shifts in prophetic interpretation, broadly a move away from Hal Lindsay and Pre- Tribbers with their revived Roman Empire towards Joel Richardson’s notions of a revived Caliphate with Islam contributing to an apocalyptic regime Christians will partially suffer under. This perspective on affairs is more plausible to the extent undeniably Revelation’s empire of the False Prophet is one that executes by beheading – Islam’s
accepted mode of execution - plus today’s EU’s members don’t keep to the borders of Rome. And Islamic writers, sensing affinities have been scouring Christian prophecies to re-interpret their own end times scenarios in terms of a Jesus and an Antichrist differently understood. Christian and Muslim “End Times” Though Sunnis and Shiites differ somewhat and Hadiths (sayings) rather than the Koran support the picture, basically Islam awaits a Mahdi, a Messiah figure who comes to rule the world for Islam. A Jesus will return but he will defer to the Mahdi, reveal the truth about himself to the world and to Christians who had it all wrong about him. New revelations will prove Jesus was never the divine Son of the gospels. There will also be a Dajjal, (deceiver) a Jewish Messiah like an Antichrist figure (that name means Anti or False Messiah) who will oppose the Muslim Jesus and be killed by him. We know that Christianity awaits a persecuting messianic Antichrist figure who will deny Jesus is the Christ and ultimately declare himself to be God in the (rebuilt?) Temple. Islam and Christianity do appear to be at irreconcilable loggerheads in doctrine here and always have been. The Al Aqsa mosque’s dome interior declares God would never have a Son, Christianity declares the spirit of Antichrist is involved with denial of incarnation (1 Joh 2:22). Though the Mid East is a dangerous hot spot I find it almost paranoid to imagine (especially if you don’t believe in Revelation as prophecy) that Armageddon could occur short of some kind of developed messianic scenarios preceding it. We should be asking is there anything at all suggestive of this line of vision? I will mention a few points. Possible Mahdis and Antichrists Perhaps the classic modern Antichrist vision belongs to the late Jeane Dixon. She “saw” his birth in 1962 at a time when (though unmentioned by her) all the visible planets were in Aquarius, sign of humanity, Utopia and the coming era. This in itself was suggestive because with no outer spiritual planets in the sign there is a hint of 666, the too human “number of a man” that’s never arriving at the sacred 7. And with his Aquarian sign ruler, Uranus, conjunct fame giving, regal Regulus in royal Leo, world power might be possible. If one applies name, concept and place asteroids to the natal pattern, a stronger case INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 59
the Prophecy of the Popes from St Malachy in the twelfth century. I’ll interpose a minor puzzle here with no idea if it’s mere coincidence or real prophecy – for astrological forecasts I prefer asteroids to link to planetary energies which isn’t the case here, but….At the birth of Christianity in AD 30 and using a chart which works across history, the asteroid, Ratzinger, was closely conjunct Fini (Fr finished) in shocks and surprises sign, Aquarius. At his birth Pope Benedict shows Ratzinger in direct aspect to Fini (though not conjunct) and this again occurs in the foundation chart of the modern Vatican. Is it possible Pope Benedict really is the last pontiff and Maitreya (no asteroid) will intervene in Vatican and world religious affairs? Some notables claim to have met Maitreya in person and/or spirit. Retired US diplomat, Wayne Peterson, records encounters by himself and distinguished others like Gorbachev in Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Beings (2003). It’s hard to know what to make of this. But if it happens to be true and heralds “end times” scenarios, then from the Christian standpoint Maitreya, to whom miracles are attributed, ought to correspond to the False Prophet’s advocate who makes the world believe in the new Jesus because of the miracles (Rev 13:12). The infernal Trinity of Dragon/ Devil, Antichrist and his Spirit Advocate is thus formed. However….seeing is believing! The Catholic Dixon forecast the last Pope would be assassinated after which a world faith would be formed from Rome. / Fabio Frustaci / EIDON
can be made that Dixon glimpsed the figure of Revelation. Moreover, if Revelation’s “Beast from the Sea” should be symbolically Leviathan-linked in biblical terms as Baigent holds, then even asteroid, Leviathan, suitably falls on a world point on an axis with the False Prophet’s sun to support apocalyptic signs. However, if this person exists he presumably must emerge soon to be relevant. At year’s end an eclipse does hit this person’s Opportunity asteroid itself in direct opportunity aspect to his significant Uranus/ Regulus. Just possibly 2011 would reveal him. Someone else should emerge then and perhaps in tandem….. A very shadowy figure, rather hard to 60 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
believe in, is the Maitreya of Benjamin Creme. There is some doubt whether he is more a real life personage, direct heir and Caliph of the Ahmadiyya version of Islam, or a spirit – a Master as Buddhists and Theosophists would recognize such – resident in a London mosque but manifesting around the globe to persons and groups of all faiths he will supposedly soon emerge to unite. Eventually he will present a Syrian born “Master Jesus” to the world. Creme anticipates Maitreya’s full emergence will be in 12 to 18 months from last January when M supposedly first appeared on US television (but as who and when?) but previous promises have not delivered. When the cult first emerged Creme was talking about Maitreya taking over the Vatican with the aid of Masonic groups in Europe and from Rome overseeing organization of a new world faith. The Catholic Dixon forecast the last Pope would be assassinated after which a world faith would be formed from Rome. The current Pope is last in line according to
Who wants truth at era’s end? If prophecy is true there’s nothing much can be done about it save change our attitudes – but whatever’s happening today I suggest two things are getting seriously overlooked by those wanting to prevent or mitigate Armageddon and no one needs ultra mysticism to deal with them. First and simply there’s the problem of forgiveness in Mid East affairs. Just recently the Son of Hamas memoirs from “Green Prince”, Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of Hamas founder, Sheikh Yousef, raises issues around this for all three faiths. Raised a Koran imbued Muslim murderously hating all Jews, before he was imprisoned as a terrorist Mosab did not realize Jews could be human, even perhaps more forgiving than the Hamas prisoners ready to torture and brutalize their own people so mercilessly he became disillusioned with them and Islam. The Christian doctrine of forgiveness profoundly shocked Mosab and was a stage along the way to his conversion to Christianity. As a spy for Israel’s Shin Bet he saved many lives from
terrorists but not because he’s pro Israel or pro Palestinian. He believes he saved lives for God alone. Leaving aside competing claims to true revelation of the divine among faiths, it’s highly problematic that Islam does not hold forgiveness to be a leading necessary virtue as Muslim convert Cat Stevens once reminded his fans. Can and should non Muslims be so ecumenical as to ignore this fact which Mosab regards as a glaring fault and one he now holds against the God of the Koran? This leads to perhaps a core issue for especially Christian prophecy at this time: the obligation to discern and acknowledge Truth. The same Antichrist who leads to Baigent’s feared Armageddon would only appear because God sends/allows the lie he represents upon those who don’t love truth. (2 Thess 2:11). How do the three religions shape up here? It’s a big a question one can’t hope to cover here but for example the mentioned Muslim claim on Jerusalem is symptomatic of a major problem. The claim is not Koranic, nor could it be. The “furthest mosque” from which Mohammed visited heaven could not have been in Jerusalem – no mosque began to be erected on the Temple Mount till nearly sixty years after the Prophet’s death! As Baigent observes, Islam already has holy Mecca and the centre of its two Caliphites were at Damascus and Baghdad so what do Muslims want or need Jerusalem for when that city so obviously belongs to the Jews if anybody? Well, it’s largely rivalry advances the claims along with apparently such doses of rancor that antiquities around the Temple area that should belong to the world have been damaged or destroyed in recent times by workers for Wafq (supposed to administer the Mount) in surreptitious attempts to cover up there was ever a Solomon’s Temple.. What about Judaism? Baigent cites wouldbe Temple builder Rabbi Richman’s refutation Jesus could even begin to qualify as Messiah. Again, let’s not be polemical, but beyond specific beliefs the degree of dismissal is preposterous truth-wise. It’s asserted there’s nothing in the Bible to indicate the Messiah could be other than human or God ever be “enrobed in flesh”. What about Is 9:7 which makes the Davidic Messiah “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God”. What about appearances of “the Angel of the Lord?”. If, like that being (whom early Christians assumed was the pre-incarnate Christ) deity could never have human face or form, why does Gideon see a Man in the field then exclaim “Help me Lord God”, fearing he will die for seeing God since “God” can’t
be “seen” by mortals? (Jdg.6:19). A union of divine and humanity as in this “Angel” must be admitted as at least possible in light of scriptures or one finishes calling black, white. So what’s the Christian lie? There could be many but in our times perhaps not grasping, believing or declaring truth enough makes for the lie that could be a fast track to what Paul calls the deceptions of the Antichrist. Already there is a new theology from Margaret Barker (commended by the same Archbishop of Canterbury who approves teaching atheism in religious classes via Pullman fantasies), which teaches that the Temple’s ancient earth renewing rites were the true and ignored basis of Christian theology. There looks like much truth in that, but if the Temple were ever rebuilt, elements of this theology could also encourage Christians to worship a false Christ in the Temple as God because his more extravagant claims could be explained away as nothing but a matter of names and rituals. For the rationalist and ecologically minded Barker, when the High Priest enters the Holy of
Holies he less atones for sin than temporarily becomes Yahweh/God to renew the earth. On this basis any exalted leader or priest might claim to be divine incarnations; circumstances and role would define matters and thus seeds of error in Barker’s thought could confuse Christian images of God. And today the trajectory of Christian faith is less towards the eccentric American overbelief Baigent emphasizes than the doubt that increasingly accepts and subverts almost anything. Chrislims, (Christians who practice both Christianity and Islam) is a beginning trend. And in what could be a singular irony Baigent himself long associated with casting doubt upon much claimed of the historical Jesus may eventually be perceived as part of the very Armageddon rush he wants us to avoid, speeding that movement in a postmodern world away from objective Truth towards the mythologizing which is an invitation to emergence of the great Lie. Dr Rollan McCleary is a religious studies scholar and author based in Australia, and occasional contributor to Investigate. q INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 61
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NZ Government steals migrants’ life savings Peter Hensley highlights the plight of foreign migrants
im looked quizzically over at his life time partner and said “That’s funny, I never recall seeing that in the brochure before” “Which brochure are you talking about dear?” Moira replied. “The Work and Income brochure about New Zealand Superannuation, it says here that if you receive a pension from an overseas Government, it is likely to be deducted from your Super.” “The emphasis seems to be on the words, ‘Overseas Government’ ” Moira stated matter-of-factly. Jim went on to say “And all this time I just thought it was a universal benefit with a residential qualification of living in New Zealand for a total of ten years since you turned 20 and five of those years must be since you turned 50”. 62 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
As was Moira’s nature, she had researched the Social Welfare Act (1964) and in particular sections 69G and 70. Roughly interpreted, Section 69 places a legal obligation on an individual to identify and apply for all international pension entitlements and section 70 allows for the confiscation of certain superannuation benefits from overseas. In layman’s terms, should an individual’s international pension entitlement be linked to a foreign public purse then the New Zealand Government arranges for its collection and pays the individual New Zealand Superannuation instead. On the surface this appears fair and reasonable, because why should an individual collect two public pensions. The problem is that the legislation assumes that other countries have similar
welfare entitlements to New Zealand. In NZ, individuals do not have to contribute separately towards NZ Super, it is payable to all who achieve retirement age (currently 65) and pass a residency test – 10 years since 20 and 5 since 50. As Moira found out recently, this is not always the case. The Retirement Policy and Research Centre which is attached to the University of Auckland Business School has identified 11 different types of pensions – starting at totally private individually funded and moving in small increments to the other end of the scale of being totally publically funded. NZ Super falls into the category of being a tax-funded flat-rate universal pension. In reality, pension types and entitlements vary from country to country and in-depth research by the Retirement Policy and Research Centre has highlighted some glaring inequalities in the application of Section 70. Moira read recently of a New Zealand born lady who grew up and worked in the provinces. She met, fell in love with and married a very kind and generous American. They travelled and lived in the US for 19 years. Whilst in the US she worked part time, but was not employed for the required number of quarters to become eligible for Social Security in the US. They then returned to New Zealand where she worked until 65. She had satisfied the residential criteria for NZ Super but was declined. She appealed to the WINZ Benefit Review Committee and lost. It is interesting to note that Section 70 appears to be very subjective with different Work and Income officials applying their own level of discretion. When the lady in question applied for NZ Super she did so at the Work and Income office in Panmure, Auckland. About the same time a lady with virtually the same personal history applied to a Work and Income office in Southland to receive NZ Super and her application was approved. The problem is not limited to individuals who have been told they married the wrong man. It affects most immigrants from the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Australia, China, Fiji, The Netherlands, Switzerland and USA. The collective argument from these immigrants is that they have put aside their own funds in order to provide for their own retirement. They are suggesting that this ownership is being usurped by the New Zealand Government. In fact they believe
that their money is being stolen by bureaucrats who have little or no understanding of the makeup of their international pensions. It is possible that the officials’ rubberstamping Section 70 applications have no comprehension that their actions are effectively cancelling years of personal sacrifice and savings. It is also possible that they are just implementing Ministry Policy which has been developed through a lack of true understanding of fundamental facts. It is possible that the officials who drafted section 70 of the Social Security Act 1964 had a limited understanding or myopic view of international pension parameters. It could be that they believed that pension entitlements were either state funded or they were not. Accordingly section 70 was worded to capture all state funded pensions. In reality there are numerous examples where a pension may be administered by the State, yet funded entirely by private savings. By enacting Section 70, bureaucrats are effectively misappropriating funds and justifying it by saying, we have been doing it for the past 46 years so it must be right. Anecdotal evidence of individuals appealing to their local Members of Parliament suggest that they each receive a sympathetic
The collective argument from these immigrants is that they have put aside their own funds in order to provide for their own retirement. They are suggesting that this ownership is being usurped by the New Zealand Government ear, and the M.P.’s all supply the mirror response. “I will look into it”. It has proved impossible for any one of them to change 46 years of bureaucratic stonewalling. A handful of individuals have had the wherewithal to appeal against Work and
Income Direct Deductions Policy (DDP). Sadly their resources have been outgunned by bureaucracy and the deep powerful pockets belonging to the Government. Recent research by the Retirement Policy and Research Centre has highlighted both individual and group cases which on the surface require review because of glaring inequity. Jim went on to question Moira about their grandson David; his career has already seen him work in four countries and he had contributed to pension schemes in all of them. If the Ministry did not change it’s mind before he came back to retire in New Zealand then it was possible that all his savings could be in vain. Moira also surprised Jim with the comment that the Ministry may have backed itself into a corner by confiscating pension entitlements with just a hint of an international Government fingerprint. If they changed their mind now, they would have to protect themselves against back payment claims by stating a firm starting date of any new policy, non retroactive. A copy of Peter Hensley’s disclosure statement is available on request and is free of charge. Copyright © Peter J Hensley
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
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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”
www.evesbite.com INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 63
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What have they done to our children? Amy Brooke laments the permissive agenda
see no reason why we should try to forgive the quite appalling damage done to New Zealand’s children in recent decades. Ignorance, pigheadedness, parental browbeating – and what can only be called sheer stupidity: all have been conveniently utilized by those with their own agenda, responsible for the toxic culture in which our young now so obviously find themselves. Its kernel, as always, lies concealed within the Marxist-recycled, communist attack on the West, dressed up in the drag of Liberalism, and assisted by the aggressive atheism of Richard Dawkins-type clones. To be genuinely agnostic is reasonable. This is quite different from that hubris with which any individual asserts – on absolutely no evidence – that no supreme intelligence exists, that man, answerable to no higher laws than his 64 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
own personal preferences – is the centre of his own world. Morality then conveniently becomes regarded as a religious imposition. Failing to pass on values basically grounded in Christianity’s teaching that each individual is unique, with man answerable to another authority than his own, has left so many of our young spiritually adrift – and utterly ignorant. What should be education in depth is now third-rate, in a moral vacuum – or even worse – promoting New Age mumbo-jumbo, environmental deification, spurious mysticism and sheer tribal primitivism. We have long neglected the reality that communism itself, intensely anti-religious, has not abandoned its war against the West. Hydra-headed, it simply changes its shape. And as children are the key to a society’s
survival, it is against our children that its attack has been most specifically targeted. Undermine, shock or make fearful the children who should be protected by a stable family life and you white-ant that society. We have only to look around us. Those who even describe themselves as neoMarxist dominate both teachers – and children’s – schooling, their attack carried out at the intellectual, sociopolitical and sexual level. Their dumbing down of the academic content of the school syllabuses in the name of “equality of outcomes” is assisted by the pernicious doctrine of “child-centred education”, abdicating actually passing on knowledge. Their ridiculous reasoning is that, as it is a shifting entity, knowledge should not be “stored”. Children should be given computer skills to acquire what they choose as impor-
Not only had she undergone fitting condoms onto bananas, she had also only been instructed in sexual intercourse, lesbianism and homosexual activity – a direct preempting of her parents’ judgment, and authority
tant, the teacher merely a facilitator. Yet we all know the long tedium of school hours, except when children are actually being taught by a genuinely enthusiastic teacher. However, the prohibition against teachers actually teaching is of course a different matter when it comes to the second area in which our children are under attack and now dangerously destabilized – the all pervasive sex “education” now inexcusably pushed at new entrants onwards. This was again brought home to me by a Christchurch mother describing her third-form daughter arriving home one day shocked and distressed. Not only had she undergone fitting condoms onto bananas, she had also only been instructed in sexual intercourse, lesbianism and homosexual activity – a direct pre-empting of her parents’ judgment, and authority. Moreover, another indignant mother reports that her daughter, querying that surely it would be all right to say no, was soundly ridiculed by another teacher. There are good, confused teachers who admit they want no part of this minefield of a subject – others with a very strong propagandising agenda. However, since when did teachers become experts in areas outside their teaching specialty – if that? Teaching English, for example, has long become a radicalized activity with its inappropriately disturbing, edgy, compulsory reading. Why did parents become so supine in the face of edicts from a politburo with an agenda – and “bovver boy” Trevor Mallard, who had the nerve to make sex education compul-
sory? Its destabilising results are all around us, with, too, the premature sexualisation of children promoted in the mass media, and with advertisers deliberately exploiting sexualised presentations of the young, packaged in inappropriate Spice Girls-type revealing clothing. No wonder so many, deliberately hooked by group-think into a destructive culture, and completely out of their depth, have recourse to alcohol to create another inhibitions-free world for themselves. No wonder so many are damagingly morally adrift. The results of the experimental sex education programme in schools, ostensibly designed to help children, have been utterly destructive, demonstrably a complete failure. But rather than looking at its dismal record of vastly increased teenage sexual activity, sexually-related diseases, the horror of abortion – and drawing the obvious conclusions – the specious call is always for more of the same. Reputable studies are simply ignored – such as a British Medical Journal finding that sex education classes for adolescents and other pregnancy prevention programmes do not reduce pregnancy rates. Rather, they are associated with a rise in sexual activity. By the 1970s, the programmes pushed on youngsters since the permissive 60s produced graphic sex education comics, with the secondary teachers’ magazine Forum, edited at the time by feminist writer Lauris Edmond, advocating swallowing cinnamon to produce cinnamon-flavoured semen – for teachers to suggest to their pupils? The reaction from incredulous parents at this horrific
and appalling recommendation appeared to surprise the editor. It is outrageous that parents should be forced to have their children brainwashed, even shocked, with the inappropriate intrusion of graphic sexual instruction and the mantra – its your body and you decide what to do with it… Once upon a time, girls set the standards. Now conservative girls are ridiculed and bullied by their peers. Groups of what can only be described as sluttishly dressed teenagers spill out from nightclubs drunk, abusive and vomiting – no longer merely a fringe phenomenon. What has the liberal society done to our children? Quite unforgivably, local schools now insidiously recruit teenagers into gay/ lesbian support groups – one school with its own Queers and Straights. To describe this as a wickedness is legitimate. While it is common for teenagers to have innocent crushes on others of the same sex, normally they naturally grow out of this stage of biological immaturity. Now they are preyed on and recruited by agenda-driven teachers – in spite of the repulsion other youngsters feel (culpably, no doubt, in the eyes of the politically correct) and by Rainbow Youth’s intrusion into schools. However, Orwellian legislation to attempt to enforce “acceptable” thinking flies in the face of societies’ age-old taboos – although acknowledging they have been inappropriately, even cruelly, applied. It is fair to call for freedom for the private choices of individual adults, even if these are inappropriate in the eyes of others. But it is simply wrong to propagandise the vulnerable young – so that some will now never become fathers; others never mothers, in what has always been for children the natural, supportive family unit with both a mother’s and father’s unique places in a child’s life. Fancy allowing these things to be done to children… Parents are going to have to become far more active in claiming back their children from the state’s destructionists. Setting up small, like-minded schooling centres is one of the most important movements of the future. But we should be holding to account those who have ensured, deliberately or negligently, that so many New Zealand teenagers now find themselves empty-headed, drunk and promiscuous – morally and spiritually adrift. Yet where is the accountability? © Copyright Amy Brooke www.100days.co.nz www.amybrooke.co.nz www.summersounds..co.nz http://www.livejournal.com/users/brookeonline/ INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 65
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Scott me up, Beamy Once the stuff of science fiction, lasers mark their 50th birthday this month, writes Till Mundzeck
he first laser was demonstrated fifty years ago this month. A half-century on, the laser is now poised to create temperatures and pressures like those in our sun. A laser (short for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) is a monochromatic, coherent beam of light that does not occur naturally. German-born physicist Albert Einstein established the theoretical basis of lasers in 1917. Today they cut through thick steel plates and illuminate the tiniest details inside individual cells. Last year the US Department of Energy completed the world’s largest laser at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Called the National Ignition Facility, or NIF, the laser consists of 192 individual beams that are to be focused on a hollow, peppercorn-sized sphere of beryllium. It is hoped this will compress the fuel inside – a mix of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium – causing super-high temperature, pressure and density that will fuse the 66 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
hydrogen nuclei into helium nuclei, as in the sun and other stars. Initial tests, without fuel, have been successful. Scientists see the controlled fusion of atoms as a possible revolutionary source of energy that is safe and without carbon dioxide emissions. The NIF is the latest milestone in the laser’s amazing career. When the first device was demonstrated in California on May 16, 1960, many people derided it as “a solution looking for a problem.” Laser light was seen as something extraordinary but hardly anyone knew what to do with it. Since then, lasers have become a universal tool in science and industry, and ubiquitous in everyday life as well. “You can basically do anything with lasers. You’ve just got to know how,” remarked Eckhard Beyer, director of the Dresdenbased Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology (IWS). Lasers cut precisely fitting metal parts for
automobiles and airplanes, can weld materials that normally are not joinable, transmit telephone conversations and internet data, read compact discs and bar codes at supermarket checkout counters, destroy tumours and reshape corneas. Scientists are also working on ways to create rain clouds, trigger and deflect lightning and “film” chemical reactions with lasers. The key property of laser light is its coherence, which means its photons all have the same wavelength, phase and direction. “It’s something that practically doesn’t occur in nature,” said Wolfgang Sandner, president of the German Physical Society (DPG). “A few planetary atmospheres and interstellar gas clouds have been found in outer space where something similar to the laser phenomenon takes place. Aside from that, mankind has created an entirely new property of light with lasers.” Today’s experiments on laser-based, selfsustaining nuclear fusion are possible because of lasers’ rapid technical evolution over the
past five decades. “When a technology is 50 years old, you’d think it’s time to replace it with something better,” Sandner said. Some kinds of lasers do, in fact, have their best days behind them. Dye lasers, for example, which were common in the 1970s and most frequently used in medicine, have virtually disappeared. “The technical incarnations come and go, but over the past 50 years the laser principle has proved to be endlessly successful and still future-oriented,” Sandner noted. American physicists said initial fusion experiments at the NIF have been promising. Earlier this year all 192 laser beams were fired at empty fuel capsules, which reached radiation temperatures of 3.3. million degrees Celsius – just as predicted. If all goes well, they will try for fusion ignition – producing more energy from the target than is provided by the laser – at the end of this year or in early 2011. The beryllium capsules will be filled with tiny amounts of deuterium and tritium (D-T). Hopefully, the 192 laser beams will heat the capsules so fast that they implode, compressing the D-T to the density and temperature needed for fusion.
Breakthrough laser treatment New laser technique helps reverse the effects of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – the leading cause of blindness in over-60s.
Age-related macular disease • Membrane at the back of the eye becomes clogged with natural waste materials produced by light-sensitive cells, which clouds vision
New treatment • Laser returns the back of the eye to its youthful state: Macula Boosts enzymes that clean away the waste without damaging the cells that enable us to see Retina
Laser stimulates cell enzymes to clear waste
There is currently no treatment for the most common form of the age-related macular disease – known as “dry” AMD – that the new laser technique could prevent © 2009 MCT
Source: King's College London Graphic: Jutta Scheibe, Scott Bell
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iFab or iFatigue? Apple’s new iPhone is faster, smarter, thinner, but can it keep the limelight? John Boudreau reports
pple CEO Steve Jobs’ unveiling of the next-generation iPhone – it’s thinner, has a higher-resolution display and comes with video chat – may have lacked a single “Wow!” moment. But coupled with the launch of a new operating system and mobile advertising service, the message to competitors was unambiguous: Catch us if you can. The stainless-steel-and-glass mobile device is nearly 25 percent thinner than its predecessor and runs on the company’s in-house A4 chip, the speedy and power-sipping processor at the heart of the iPad. It gives the iPhone 4 longer battery life, including 40 percent more talk time. Talk time will increase from five hours to seven hours per charge, Jobs said. Additionally, the iPhone 4 is promised to have six hours of browsing across the 3G network, 10 hours of browsing over a Wi-Fi network, 40 hours of music playing, 10 hours of video play back and 300 hours on standby before the device needs to be plugged in for a new charge. Jobs, who has declared the end of the era of the personal computer that he helped pioneer, presented the iPhone as part of a new computing platform running on the iPhone operating system, iOS, to thousands of independent software writers attending Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Apple, he told the packed auditorium, is close to selling its 100 millionth device using the iOS operating system, which is installed in the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. He said the Cupertino, Calif., company this month crossed the 5 billion app download line – a milestone that means money in their pockets. Jobs was particularly delighted to announce the company has paid out more than $1 billion to developers selling their software on the App Store, which ultimately drives more consumers to Apple’s products. “No one even comes close to us,” the Apple co-founder said. The iPhone 4 shows that Apple, which redefined the smart-phone industry, intends to maintain its momentum. 68 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
“It blows the competition away,” said Bart Decrem, CEO of Tapulous, a game developer. “We got the iPad, iOS and now we have the iPhone 4 and iAds. The overall innovation is remarkable.” Apple’s engineers were able to use a larger battery by doing things like wrapping the Wi-Fi and 3G antenna on the silver outer ring of the device, Greg Joswiak, Apple’s iPod and iPhone marketing director, said in an interview after the presentation. The new device and operating system, he added, “are years beyond what anybody else has.” Jobs, comparing the new iPhone to a finely crafted Leica camera, put it this way: “This is beyond doubt one of the most precise, beautiful things we’ve ever made.” Two websites, each claiming to have obtained next-generation iPhones prototypes, already had disclosed some of the innovations Apple announced, including a front-facing camera for video calls (some-
thing standard in most 3G phones but not, until now, the iPhone), a higher-resolution screen and a more svelte body. Nonetheless, analysts were impressed. “Apple is showing us the direction (the tech world) is going,” said Ben Bajarin, director of consumer technology at Creative Strategies. Some say “Apple fatigue” has hit the blogosphere as the company battles former allies Google and Adobe Systems, whose Flash video technology is barred from the iPhone platform, and as software developers complain about the rigorous and opaque approval process for the App Store. The Android operating system, meanwhile, is gaining ground on Apple in market share: In the first quarter of 2010, Android, which runs on a number of devices and carriers, ranked second in the North American smartphone market – with 26.6 percent, up from 4.7 percent a year earlier – behind leader Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, according to Gartner. Apple had 22.1 percent, up from 17.9 percent the previous year. But the industry “is still chasing Apple,” said Michael Gartenberg, a partner at the Altimeter Group. He said Apple’s success has occurred despite its sole U.S. carrier partnership with AT&T, whose network is plagued with dropped calls and is often the butt of derision by iPhone users. Jobs gave developers “100 million reasons” to stay in the iPhone universe, the analyst added. “This is the next-generation platform.” Apple is expected to eventually hook up with Verizon, perhaps as early as this fall. Even when a glitch occurred during Jobs’ presentation – he could not get a network connection to demo the iPhone 4 – it served only to underscore the company’s place atop the tech world: The problem arose because bloggers, reporters and analysts were jamming the network by running their laptops off 570 Wi-Fi base stations so they could instantly report his every utterance. “You know you could help me out; if you are on Wi-Fi, if you could just get off,” Jobs said to titters in the audience. He showed off the high-resolution display, an improved camera system with HD video capabilities and a new Apple-made video app, iMovie, which lets users edit and share video. In his “one more thing” moment, Jobs unveiled video chats in a video call with star Apple designer Jony Ive. “I grew up with ‘The Jetsons.’ And I dreamed about this,” Jobs said during the call.
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INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 69
n THINK LIFE
Privacy: In your Face(book) The recent Facebook controversy is worth mulling over
se Facebook? Who doesn’t! Want to keep your private details private? Good luck. It’s not often that internet privacy settings make the front pages but they are. The local press here in New Zealand is offering breathless commentary and the blogosphere is alit with opinions, rants, raves and, occasionally, pertinent information. Even the Privacy Commissioner, Marie Shroff, has opined that “I would like to see Facebook providing good and constant communications to its users about any changes it makes to privacy settings and about new applications, new disclosure possibilities or new ways to choose levels of interactions.” So, what gives? Well, people are concerned about privacy. A public opinion survey recently released by the Privacy Commissioner shows a dramatic rise in New Zealanders’ use of social networking hand-in-hand with high levels of concern about individual privacy and risks to personal information on the internet. Fully 88% of people surveyed said they were concerned about the issue, including 72% who said they were “very concerned”. Oddly enough, overall trust in government (!) and business increases, but concerns about use of information remain high. How seriously do Facebook users feel about security? According to the blog site ‘Ive been Mugged (gotta love that name!) a survey of 1,588 Facebook members found that 76% had, would possibly or were highly likely to quit Facebook out of privacy concerns! Ouch! Chief culprit is the difficulty to effectively set the privacy options on your Facebook account, as ESET blogger Randy Abrams found out. “I decided to check and see if the new controls were rolled out. The first thing I noticed was that Facebook noticed I was not logging in from my normal location and wanted to ask me a few “security questions”. Hmmm, ok. The first security question was not really a question at all. I had to enter a captcha. I found it ironic that I was asked to type in the words “eviler and”. Given that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg thinks that anyone who trusts him with confiden70 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
tial information is stupid (to put it much more politely than Mark actually said it), perhaps eviler was an appropriate captcha word for the site. As for the word “and”, it was like Facebook’s improved privacy settings… we’re left hanging, there is no “and” at this time. “After the captcha I was asked for my date of birth. I don’t regard public information as a practical security question. I doubt it is too difficult to find my date of birth. Finally, Facebook prompted me to choose a name for my computer and register it so that I would not be prompted with security questions each time I log in. Facebook uses a cookie to keep track of the computer name. While a bit of a convenience for me, this is not much security. To mimic an attacker trying to access my account, I logged out, deleted the cookies, and logged back in. I was asked to give the computer a name again, so I used a different name than the last one I had used. Instantly I was logged into my account again. My choice of a good password is a far more robust defense against account hijacking than a cookie with a computer name.
“Facebook is also talking about adding location capabilities so you can let your friends know exactly where you are when. There are some serious privacy and security implications surrounding broadcasting your location. Hopefully Facebook will have comprehensible and functional privacy features rolled out before they add the location features. When Facebook does roll out the location features, I recommend that you make sure your privacy settings are appropriate. Personally, I won’t be using the location features. “It is better that Facebook gets the improvements right rather than roll them out on a specific date. Still, do you trust a company to honour the privacy settings when the CEO thinks you’re a “dumbf**k” to trust him?” Well, it looks like 76% of the ‘dumbf***s’ out there don’t. Hacked together by Chillisoft NZ from various sources, blogs and ramblings by Randy Abrams, Director of Technical Education, ESET LLC (developers of ESET NOD32 antivirus software)
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 71
FEEL LIFE SPORT
Missing the cut Five years ago Michael Campbell made sporting history when he triumphed at the U.S Open. His form slump since 2007 has been equally dramatic. As Chris Forster discovers – it’s a key part of a downward slide for New Zealand golf, which is struggling for traction on the world stage
ambo cuts a forlorn figure on the fairways these days. No-one can take away that magical form of 2005, when he out-played Tiger Woods down the stretch on a tough day at the notoriously difficult Pinehurst course in North Carolina to clinch New Zealand’s only triumph at America’s Open championship. It’s easy to forget the pride of Hawera and Titahi Bay’s inspired form lifted him to the rich World Matchplay title in England later in the year – and clinched top ten finishes in the British Open and PGA Championship. That sparkling form is a stark contrast to his ongoing malaise and first round blowouts, which only manage a fleeting mention
in the media with headlines like “Former US Open Champ flops again”. His official website (www.cambogolf.com) has stopped listing the schedule of forthcoming events, while Campbell broods over the next step to resurrect his career. He had one last crack at the Masters back in April, shooting 83 and 81 – to finish in a tie for last place at 20 over par, alongside veteran Welshman Ian Woosnam. With his British Open exemptions now over and a world ranking blowing out past the 650 mark, Cambo was no chance of even making the list of qualifiers to play at St Andrews. In the days leading up to the famed tournament at Augusta National in April, he
gave up the pretence and delivered an honest analysis of his game. He finally conceded his game had hit rock bottom. “It’s just ridiculous to be shooting the scores I’m shooting. It’s just one of those things I need to go away and think about. It’s definitely between the ears, simple as that. “Physically I feel I’m striking the ball quite nicely … I just can’s see the shot anymore. It’s obviously confidence … a combination of a number of things. “But enough is enough (after) banging my head against a brick wall for the past couple of years”. The 41 year old’s still a popular figure with his fellow golfers, the international media and fans.
Pete Fontaine/Icon SMI
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There may even be a tinge of sympathy these days. “You ask all the other guys, they’ve been very supportive – my fans back in New Zealand have been fantastic – it’s just been a frustrating last two years of my career”. Campbell’s latest move is to hire a sporting psychologist to try and conquer those mental demons in Dr Clark Perry, who’s one of Australia’s best known “mind-coaches” having worked with world class swimmers Ian Thorpe and Kieran Perkins and the Wallabies rugby team. Golf ’s treated Michael Campbell pretty nicely over the years. He’s got houses in England and Sydney. He’s banked plenty of big prizes over the years, notably the 1 million pounds at Wentworth for the World Matchplay title in 2005. But the financial cost of his endless slump must be eating into the fortune. He is still only 41, a prime age for many of the top golfers on tour, and is only halfway through a ten year exemption on the European Tour. You can’t blame him for persevering, and any true golf fans hope Cambo finds a fitting swansong for an erratic but brilliant career. Danny Lee was supposed to be the next big thing in golf. His prodigious swing and unbelievable stroke play netted the Korean-Kiwi the world’s top amateur prizes in 2008, and last year’s Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth, while still playing as an amateur. But his decision to rush into a professional career in the States as an 18 year old hasn’t paid off. After a few promising performances he failed to make the grade, or collect a player’s card for the PGA Tour, although he did make the cut in 6 of the 11 tournaments he played in America, including a top ten finish. Lee switched his focus to the European Tour and has struggled to foot it with the big boys in most events. Still only 19, he’s recently hired an English caddy and a new coach (Bill Jung) – primarily to work on his wayward putting. He’s benefitted by playing all four rounds at events in England and Spain in recent weeks. It’s perhaps symptomatic that he makes the news when he starts off well at tournaments, then he’s forgotten about when his second round fizzles out. A tie for 34th place in the Madrid Open simply doesn’t make the cut in the hectic sports media these days. It’s a bit of a come down for the quietly
Lee still has that magic ingredient of time on his side to re-discover the confidence and extravagant stroke play that makes him such a prodigious talent
spoken boy from Rotorua who was going to take the golfing world by storm. He’s been superseded by Japanese sensation Ryo Isihikawa and the Italian teen Matteo Manaserro. Men in their early 20s like Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and American Rickie Fowler have become major drawcards in the States and Europe. But it’s far from a lost cause, or the depressing slump Michael Campbell’s endured. Lee still has that magic ingredient of time on his side to re-discover the confidence and extravagant stroke play that makes him such a prodigious talent. Australian professional golf is now light years ahead of New Zealand.
You only have to look at the phenomenal numbers of players making waves on the PGA Tour, including the recent tournament victory by Adam Scott in Texas. The durable Robert Allenby’s ranked 13th best player in the world – with 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy in 18th place. In fact there are 14 Aussies in the top 150 – with Japan Tour regular David Smail the best of the Kiwis at 160, then Danny Lee back in 233rd place. Palmerston North lefthander Tim Wilkinson is the only Kiwi making a living on the PGA Tour, on an exemption after injuries cut into his 2009 season. Other New Zealanders making a crust offshore include Mark Brown on the European Tour, Brad Iles on the secondtier Nationwide Tour in the States and Josh Geary on the Canadian Tour. There’s a talented teenager in Ben Campbell (no relation) making waves in amateur tournaments in Europe after being crowned Australian champion. North Harbour professional Michael Hendry’s the leading player on the ONE Asia Tour after a fifth place in Seoul recently. That’s a yawning gap in talent and performance that must be impacting on the number of young players attracted to the game, and having a crack on the huge swathes of golfing real estate around New Zealand. There’s no shortage of options for the athletically gifted these days – with everything from football, to the two rugby codes, rowing and BMX riding, offering a good living for playing sport. Golf in New Zealand needs someone like Danny Lee to prosper and shine on the world stage if it’s to stay in the swing.
o matter what happens to the All Whites on their fantastic voyage at the World Cup in South Africa – they’ve created a legion of new fans by beating the odds and delivering a quality brand of attacking football. Captain Ryan Nelsen’s been the affable and capable figurehead leading a passionate charm offensive which has raised the bar for some of the nation’s other sporting figures. The Blackburn Rovers professional’s shown how to lead a country into a huge sporting occasion, sharing his delight with fans and the media after achieving the feat late in a distinguished career. Nelsen should be a shoe-in for the Halberg Awards next year, if the judges break their tradition of rewarding the traditionally honoured sports of rowing and athletics. The World Rowing Championships at Lake Karapiro are sure to be a complicating factor, but it’s time the judges looked past performances on smaller stages, to games of mass appeal. And you don’t get much bigger than skipper of your country at a FIFA World Cup.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 73
FEEL LIFE HEALTH
Claire Francis examines the vexing problem of high blood pressure
he unpronounceable syphgmomanometer, invented in the late 18th century, was rather a fearsome contraption; a sort of experimental surgical instrument which proved that blood circulates through arteries under pressure. The very first syphgmomanometer was used on a horse. Fourteen hands high and tied down on her back, her blood pressure was mea-
sured by with a brass tube attached to a glass measuring cylinder inserted directly into an abdominal artery, and noting the height her blood reached in the tube with each pulse. The first such device for humans had a similar design and as such, blood pressure was not commonly measured in humans. Improvements came slowly and steadily, but it was not until 1904 that the famil-
Blood pressure is routinely measured at doctor’s appointments, and mentioned in public health campaigns so often as to be ubiquitous, and yet it continues to be a significant public health issue 74 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
iar mercury syphgymomananometer, with auscultation (listening to the pulse with a stethoscope) came into use, and it remains the most accurate method today. Blood pressure is routinely measured at doctor’s appointments, and mentioned in public health campaigns so often as to be ubiquitous, and yet it continues to be a significant public health issue. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is held to be the leading cause of cardiovascular disease worldwide, and yet studies continue to show that it is under-diagnosed and under-treated and – when it is treated – often not very well managed. Studies from around the world have shown that interventions in the past decade have done nothing to lower the rates of high blood pressure (in some countries, it has become more common), and although it is increasingly likely to be diagnosed and treated, control rates are still poor. There are, in short, more people diagnosed with high blood pressure, and treated for it, but between
one and three quarters of those people treated continue to have high blood pressure. In part these results are related to cultural beliefs about health, personal beliefs about illness and medication, access to medical care and so forth. But that is true for most conditions, yet the outcomes for hypertension are poorer than for heart disease, diabetes, and other such chronic conditions. I have always wondered if this is partly due to the somewhat obscure nature of the beast. Indeed, research consistently shows that even patients with a fair understanding of the significance, causes, and management of blood pressure are generally hard-pushed to say what blood pressure actually is. While the pulse is a measure of heart rate, blood pressure is subtler, measuring how much pressure your blood is under as it travels through the major arteries away from the heart. As the heart contracts and relaxes, with each contraction, fresh, oxygenated blood is pushed out into the arteries of the body. Blood pressure reflects both how forcefully the heart is pushing blood out into the body, and how much resistance it is encountering in the arterial system. For this reason, blood pressure readings usually express two measurements – systolic pressure and diastolic pressure – in terms of millimeters of mercury (mmHg), as in 110/70mmHg; the higher number is systolic pressure, when the heart is contracting, and diastolic is the pressure between contractions. Blood pressure in any individual varies according to circumstances, as heart rate does. Low blood pressure (hypotension) is defined as blood pressure below 90/70, and although it may occur in medical emergencies if the heart is pumping very weakly or there has been a great deal of blood loss, in healthy people low blood pressure is generally transient and harmless. A sudden drop in blood pressure can occur after standing up quickly from lying down, for example, and while it may cause a profoundly unpleasant sensation of dizziness, it is fleeting and not generally troublesome. High blood pressure, however, is not so fleeting, more troublesome, and tends to pass unnoticed. Normal blood pressure is defined as a measurement between 91-120 /61-90, hypertension is defined as a measurement over 140/90. Only a minority of people have secondary hypertension (due to some other disease process) and the majority have essential hypertension. In a sense, hypertension is as much a symptom as a disease, being a direct indication of what the body is doing physiologically. High blood pressure is an indication
Quitting smoking, losing weight and reduced salt intake have the strongest effect, but reducing sugary drinks has also been shown to have a small effect also
that either your heart is working harder than it should have to at rest, or that your arteries are restricting the flow of blood through your body, having narrowed or hardened. As such, elevated blood pressure both indicates risk for cardiovascular disease and causes it, due to the extra work the body needs to do to maintain it. As such, of course, it shouldn’t be surprising that the risk factors for hypertension are the same as for heart disease and atherosclerosis. Smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet, especially diets high in fat or salt (since these affect the arteries), and so – of course – “Lifestyle modification”is the order of the day. While medication is an option, it is only effective if it’s taken regularly, and monitored to ensure that it is effective, and it’s only effective while it’s taken. Quitting smoking, losing weight and reduced salt intake have the strongest effect, but reducing sugary drinks has also been shown to have a small effect also. But I sympathize with the unmotivated hypertensive patient. If today’s dinner is going to cause you pain tomorrow, you might demur. But changing your lifestyle is hard and it is difficult to be motivated to change behavior now, to avoid pain later. While the other three vital signs (temperature, pulse and respirations) are readily observable, blood pressure, though, is asymptomatic and for the most part, people seek medical attention because they have some troubling symptom that they would like banished, and if the symptoms are bothersome, there is an immediate motivation to make them go away. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 75
FEEL LIFE ALT.HEALTH
Early breast health breakthrough
ew scientific studies are heralding the value of a technique known as clinical thermography in helping detect early breast cancer and other nasties. The idea behind thermography is quite simple. Medical research has shown that tumours rely on increased blood flow as a food source for growth – and thermography (reading your body heat with infrared cameras) can show those areas where tumours may be causing higher blood flow. Normal breasts should show up as a mirror image of each other in terms of heat patterns and blood flow, but a cancerous breast will appear hotter in the infrared image than the other one. The beauty of thermography is that – unlike mammograms – there’s no radiation, and it doesn’t require breasts to be squashed flat in the vice-like grip of an x-ray robot evidently designed by a misogynist! Instead, it’s quite literally just a heat-seeking photograph
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We’ve all heard the ads imploring us to check for breast lumps and get mammograms if you’re a woman over 50. But women as young as 20 are being diagnosed with breast cancer and mammograms don’t work well on women under 45. Solution? A painless, non-contact monitoring tool capable of finding the signs of tumours where mammograms can’t, as Ian Wishart reports that doesn’t involve anyone touching you. The results are checked by expert clinicians and, if needed, patients are referred to their doctors or experts for follow-up. Although thermography has been used for decades, radiologists operating mammogram machines initially won the upper hand in breast cancer detection from the 1970s onward,
because of the technical limitations of early thermography devices. Computerisation, and the benefits of space-age technology developments, have changed all that. A peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Biomedical Engineering in January this year1 details research carried out by a team of top researchers in radiology, surgery
Thermography detected a suspected malignancy in this 76 year old woman’s lower left breast. An ultrasound closeup of the affected breast detected an abnormality in the same area. The biopsy confirmed cancer.
and biomedicine at the National Taiwan University Hospital. The study, led by radiologist Jane Wang, found that clinical thermography was better than mammograms at differentiating between benign and malignant tumours. “Infrared (IR) imaging of the breast, also known as breast thermography, is a noninvasive, painless examination which does not expose the subject to ionizing radiation,” notes the study. “It is based on the mechanism that the skin temperature overlying a malignancy is higher than skin overlying normal breast tissue. This is due to increasing infrared radiation and is most likely caused by elevated blood flow, metabolic activity, and angiogenesis at and around the lesion. “Abnormal findings on IR imaging of the breast were reported to be a risk factor and useful prognostic predictor for breast cancer, and IR imaging can also be an aid in the differential diagnosis of benign from malignant tumours.” Another study, completed in 20032, studied data from 769 women with 875 biopsied lesions, and found clinical thermography “resulted in a 99% sensitivity”, and concluded that “infrared imaging offers a safe non-invasive procedure that would be valuable as an adjunct to mammography in determining whether a lesion is benign or malignant.” Two years ago, in a separate study, the
A 48 year old woman was found in her thermogram to have a suspected cancer in her right breast. A mammogram subsequently confirmed the diagnosis. Note how the abnormalities are easy to spot, because both breasts are supposed to look the same in normal health. Not every abnormality is a tumour, however blocked ducts or infections like mastitis may also show up as hot zones, hence the need for expert analysis.
American Journal of Surgery3 reported that 92 women whose specialists had recommended a breast biopsy on the basis of ordinary mammograms or ultrasounds were then tested using clinical thermography before they had their biopsy. When 60 of the biopsy results eventually came back as malignant cancer, researchers found thermography had accurately detected “58 of 60 malignancies”, a 97% strike rate compared with actual surgical testing. The researchers described thermography as “a valuable adjunct to mammography and ultrasound”. Another 2008 study4 found the accuracy rate of clinical thermography to be as good as the best mammography, and better than average mammography or ultrasound. “The results are promising as compared to clinical examination by experienced radiologists, which has an accuracy rate of approximately 60-70%”. It concluded, “To sum up, technological advances in the field of infrared thermography over the last 20 years warrant a re-evaluation of the use of high resolution digital thermographic camera systems in the diagnosis and management of breast cancer. “Of particular interest would be investigation in younger women and men, for whom mammography is either unsuitable or of limited effectiveness.” Which raises some important questions. Are there benefits for women simply seeking regular peace of mind via annual thermography checks, in addition to mammograms? For women aged 45 or under, thermogra-
phy performs far better than mammography at detecting breast abnormalities, and with a growing number of women developing breast cancer in their early 20s these days, early detection when mammography doesn’t work is crucial. Researchers in the late 1980s found thermography was detecting possible tumours long before mammograms and ultrasound machines were finding them. More than 25,000 women were studied, and the Journal of Reproductive Medicine findings5 were stunning: “Two hundred and four (21.3%) of the 958 patients who, on their first visit, had an abnormal thermogram but no findings at physical examination or mammography developed cancer within the next three years.” The scientists behind the research, based at Louis Pasteur University in France, came out strongly in favour of clinical thermography as an extremely early detection tool: “This study clearly showed that thermography may contribute to the early detection of breast cancer and to the identification of women at high risk of developing breast cancer.” Some reports suggest thermography can detect tumour related blood-flow changes up to ten years before the lump eventually shows up on a mammogram – a head start in terms of treatment that could mean the difference between life and death. Importantly, lifestyle changes and supplementation of Vitamin D3 at such an early stage could have a significant impact on disease outcomes and eventual treatment options, but only if you know early enough. So does this mean mammography is out the window? Not quite. Mammograms are x-rays that see lumps, but they work best in women after menopause. Thermography is designed to read what your body is doing before tumours are big enough to become visible lumps, and it works well in all age groups. Both strategies are complementary, approaching breast healt from different angles. Used together, they can seriously boost your chances of early detection. REFERENCES: 1. Wang et al, J Biomed Eng, 2010 Jan 7; doi: 10.1186/1475-925X-9-3 2. Parisky et al, Am J Roentgenology, 2003 Jan; 180(1):263-9 3. Arora et al, Am J Surg. 2008 Oct; 196(4):523-6 4. Ng et al, J Med Eng Technol. 2008 MarApr; 32(2):103-114 5. Gautherie et al, J Reprod Med. 1987 Nov; 32(11):833-42 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 77
TASTE LIFE TRAVEL
Wildlife, up close and personal
Galápagos wildlife is a willing focus for travellers’ curiosity, awe, writes Mary Ellen Botter
ne thing above all draws the curious, the adventurous and those who love nature to these rough-hewn volcanic islands 600 miles west of Ecuador: the animals. They swim. They fly. They lounge. They lumber. Sometimes, they do more. Naturalist Klaus Fielsch squats beside the trail along Tower Island’s cliff top. He picks up a twig, twiddling it as he tells his listeners how seabirds teach themselves to fish. They toss and catch sticks to practice speed and aim, he says. The twig’s movement catches the attention of a young Nazca booby nearby. “What’s this? A game?” the football-sized seabird seems to be thinking. It web-foots closer.
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Klaus sees the approach and gently flicks the stick toward the bird. The booby moves nearer. Big, pale eyes target the twig. An even bigger, pastel beak snatches it, and the triumphant bird turns and waddles away, playing pitch-and-catch with its prize, its flat feet slapping the bare ground. Such interaction is rare anywhere, but odds leap in the Galapagos where wildlife, ready for its close-up, generally goes about its business as if humans aren’t there. Even the eldest human watcher becomes a child of wonder in this cradle of life nuzzling the equator in the Pacific Ocean. Although sailors with their own oceangoing boats, and backpackers going cheap, can dip into the islands, strict rules set by Galapagos National Park, which controls 97
percent of the land (a huge marine reserve surrounds it) make independent travel impractical. Most visitors choose cruise tours on which permits, certified guides and fees are arranged by the operator. Taking the organized option, I’ve joined a small group of journalists aboard the 40-passenger ship Isabela II. Our seven-day trip will visit six of the 13 major islands in the archipelago. After a two-hour flight from the mainland, our passenger jet lands at the airstrip on Baltra, first built in World War II by Americans protecting the Panama Canal. Barely onto the tarmac, birders have their first sighting: a small ground finch. It’s one of 13 subspecies of finches found in the Galapagos and named after Charles Darwin,
The northern isle, closed to large vessels, is a chattering, clattering otherworld of Nazca and red-footed boobies tending their babies
whose visit in 1835 added fuel to evolutionists’ theories. The bird is so near that some cameras can’t focus on it. It’s our first experience with what sets the Galapagos apart from most other wildlife hot spots: proximity. You see animals thrillingly close. Many seem fearless, unmoved by the presence of humans. “Here, you’re just another critter, a fellow inhabitant of the planet,” says Fielsch, expedition manager for Metropolitan Touring. He calls the failure to flee a “neurological flaw” developed over generations by species with few natural predators in the islands and decades of protection from harm by humans. “They should fear anything they don’t know,” he says, but they don’t. Shuttle buses take us across hardscrabble
Baltra, where Jerusalem thorn trees thrive, but not much else. Small ferries, their roofs piled with travellers’ luggage, carry us over the narrow Canal de Itabaca to Santa Cruz Island, the archipelago’s most inhabited. Arid lowlands give way to cooler central highlands. Tree daisies tower, and moss drapes and sprouts on moist branches. We turn off the slender highway for a short hike on Rancho Mariposa, where tall grasses provide a banquet for wild giant tortoises. Following lanes that their roaming, grazing bulk has mashed in the vegetation, we find a domed shell with the occupant at home. Its legs are the width of small trees. Ever so slowly, a head emerges from the bony hut to give us a reptilian once-over. A barn owl preening on a rock shelf in a semi-dark lava tube on Mariposa provides an environmental lesson. A fingernail-size feather floats down to visitors in the cave. I pick it up, admiring its beautiful design. “You can’t keep it,” says Isabela II expedi-
tion leader Carlos King, who has joined us for the walk and seems to be reading my mind. It would be an exquisite souvenir, but guides carefully guard against such things’ being transported among islands. Each landfall is a unique environment, and matter from one should not be allowed to reach another and set off unnatural change. Understanding, I reluctantly let the feather fall to the tube’s floor. We descend to Puerto Ayora, the Galapagos’ largest town. Here, we’ll board the Isabela. Beforehand, the Charles Darwin Research Station provides additional time with tortoises. Lonesome George is the star at the facility, which studies and breeds tortoises and land iguanas to resupply declining wild populations. George lives up to his name. The 200-pound hulk is the last living member of his subspecies. Worse, even comely females of closely related lines haven’t caught the eye of the elderly reptile, almost certainly dooming his branch of the family tree to break. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 79
It takes only an afternoon’s walk on Tower Island, and Thomas Kruger of Chemsee, Germany, exclaims, “Perfect! My dream is fulfilled.” The northern isle, closed to large vessels, is a chattering, clattering otherworld of Nazca and red-footed boobies tending their babies, male frigate birds ballooning their crimson throat pouches in hopes of attracting a mate, juveniles of all species on this nesting ground learning life lessons, and storm petrels, tropic birds and swallow-tailed gulls slicing the winds sweeping across the rocky plateau. Tower’s stony, uneven trail, reached after a climb up the boulders of Prince Philip’s Steps, calls for agility and sure-footedness. Many of Isabela’s passengers are middle-age or older; an expensive trip such as this (more than US$4,000 per person) is out of the financial range of most younger travellers. For any age, sweat and physical effort are the price of amazement such as Kruger’s. An overnight sail and a second crossing of the equator (the ship’s GPS systems display Earth’s belt line as “00.00.00”) brings the vessel to Tagus Cove on Isabela Island. Vintage graffiti painted or cut on the rocks is an ugly but fascinating log of ships that passed this way. The earliest scrawl dates to 1836, a year after Darwin’s visit aboard the Beagle; the later marks stretch to World War II. Just above the water’s surface, along the line where barnacles grip the rocks, we spot two only-in-Galapagos residents. Hopping across the stones are small penguins, the world’s northernmost. Distant ancestors, possibly caught in the cold Humboldt Current barrelling northward from Antarctic waters, made landfall – and a new subspecies – here at the equator. Another bird that can’t fly but swims like Michael Phelps is nearby. The flightless cormorant spreads stumpy wings to the hot sun, drying them after an underwater chase for a fish dinner. With plentiful food, no better place to go and a need for streamlining, the bird’s body adapted, shrinking its wings and giving up oils in its feathers that would have made it too buoyant to dive deep. A short but steep trail from the cove overlooks the green soup of Darwin Lake and cloud-crowned La Cumbre volcano across the strait on Fernandina Island. A crowd of scaly, spine-backed, salt-caked marine iguanas forms a sort of welcoming committee as passengers wade through mangrove-shaded shallows and onto Fernandina. The black reptiles, warming themselves after 80 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
feeding underwater on algae, are so numerous and so inert that arriving humans must watch not to stamp on clawed arms or feet. Fernandina, youngest of the Galapagos islands, is still forming. Lava flowed from its volcano as recently as a year ago, and the ropes and glops, shields and clumps, swirls and straws of congealed lava that visitors cross may be less than a millennium old. The payoff of the trudge is sea lions lounging like big, wet dogs on the beige beach. Some snuggle next to each other in sleep while pups yip for mom’s attention. Dozing iguanas punctuate the sprawl. Life here is uninterrupted by human concern or sentimentality. A fly-blown, pitifully thin pup, plainly ill, is left to its fate. The remains of an iguana, curled in the animal’s final sleep, are undisturbed. The ocean dances, pirouetting among lava arches and a grotto on James Island’s Puerto Egas trail. Fur seals, another equatorial oddity, have claimed this rough sanctuary. A fat mama, her pup snoozing against her in a cooling pool, lazily swats flies away with a flipper. A youngster levers itself up a nearly perpendicular wall to rest on a ledge. A marine iguana turns its face to the sun’s warmth above a seal pup sleeping soundly in a shaded crevice. Tiptoeing sideways among them all, as they do on each island, are red-orange sally lightfoot crabs scavenging tidbits from tidepools. Magnificent frigate birds ride the air wave above the Isabela as the ship cruises to one last island on our route, lunarlike Bartolome. It promises the photo everyone wants: skyward- jutting Pinnacle Rock. The silhouette
was made famous in the movie Master and Commander, and the view belongs only to those willing and able to make the hot, steep climb up a walkway’s 370 steps and several inclines to the island’s summit. Winded, Isabela’s intrepid make it to the top as daylight begins its abrupt departure. (At the equator, the sun rises about 6 a.m. and sets about 6 p.m. year-round, and deep darkness bookends those hours.) They photograph the volcanic spearhead and descend, chased by voracious mosquitoes. Of the 42 species of birds I see in the Galapagos, one individual holds my heart. Farther along that Tower Island path where the curious booby snatched Fielsch’s stick, I stop near another young Nazca, this one watching the parade of tourists from pathside. Motionless bird, I think. Great photo opportunity. I go down on one knee, keeping my distance, as required, and begin shooting. One, two, three frames. Late-afternoon sun sets the bird’s eyes aglow. Another shot. And another. The booby in my viewfinder leans first left, then right to see what I’m doing. Winged insects cling to its long brown neck. Then, whap, whap, webbed feet start my way, the sun’s glint on my lens too tempting for the bird to ignore. I freeze, not wanting to alarm the youngster. Suddenly, the screen on my digital camera is filled with a feathered head. Click. Then the head pulls back, and its open beak forms what I’ll take as a smile. The bird and watcher have traded roles. I smile back.
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TASTE LIFE TRAVEL
Relax on a Thai beach As winter kicks in, the lure of azure waters and a quiet Thai beach appeal, writes Peter Janssen
hai beach resorts are not renowned for their cultural attractions. There’s Pattaya, with probably the world’s most girlie bars on one beach; Phuket, where wealthy people go for some sea, sand, sun, spas and maybe a little hanky-panky; and Samui, a cheaper version of Phuket. Then there’s Hua Hin (130 kilometres south-west of Bangkok as the crow flies), Thailand’s oldest beach resort and surprisingly, one of its fastest-growing ones. Hua Hin has been the favourite beachside getaway for Bangkok’s elite since 1911, when the then Royal Siam Railways first opened a line to the district, famed for its rocks (hin) along the coastline. Hua Hin’s tourism renaissance started in the wake of the tsunami of December 26, 2004, which claimed more than 5,000 lives (half of them foreign tourists) in resorts along Thailand’s Andaman Sea coast. Laid-back Hua Hin on the placid Gulf of Thailand drew thousands of tourists escaping the ruins of the tsunami in early 2005 and thereafter established itself as a quiet, safe alternative to Thailand’s more striking resorts on the deep-blue Andaman. “After the tsunami, Hua Hin hotels were full for two years,” said Pinnat Charoenphol, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Hua Hin office. The tourist influx sparked a mini construction boom of posh, boutique hotels, catering primarily to an upmarket crowd. Of Hua Hin’s 260 hotels (120 were built over the past three years) some 70 per cent are in either the four or five-star class. Hua Hin municipal authorities have tried to put a lid on a similar proliferation of girlie bars, partly out of deference to Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej who keeps a summer palace on the city’s northern outskirts, winning Hua Hin the accolade of “the royal resort.” “Local authorities try to enforce good morals because they say this is the city of the king,” Pinnat said. That said, they have not been able to prevent a pretty vibrant “night entertainment” 82 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
scene from blossoming in the back alleys near the Hilton Hotel. What is unique about Hua Hin, however, is that the resort has tried hard to promote itself as a historical and cultural hub. Since 2001, Hua Hin tourism authorities and hoteliers have staged an international Jazz festival every June, in honour of King Bhumibol, 82, who was a well-known jazz player and enthusiast in his younger days. Hua Hin also stages an antique car festival every December, adding considerably to the resort’s already notorious weekend traffic.
And now it has the Vic Hua Hin theatre, officially opened on January 22, by Thailand’s well-known doyenne of the performing arts, Patravadi Mejudhon. Patravadi, 62, founder of the Patravadi Theatre in Bangkok, has shifted the hub of her theatrical activities from the capital to Hua Hin. The move was partly for family reasons – her daughter and sister run resorts in Hua Hin which means she was spending lots of time in the resort – and partly personal. “I’ve stopped going out socially,” Patravadi said. “So it’s nice, now when people ask me
to come to some function I can say, ‘sorry, I’m in Hua Hin.’” Patravadi’s mother, a Khunying (a royally bestowed title) who was schooled in the palace of King Rama VI, spent many summers in Hua Hin, as did Patravadi in her youth (as did most of the offspring of Bangkok’s so-called ‘hi-so,’ or high-society.) But Patravadi’s mother did not spend all her time swimming and socializing. A sharp businesswoman, she purchased numerous plots of land in Hua Hin including the one on which Patravadi has constructed her Vic
Hua Hin theatre and the Patravadi High School Hua Hin, situated about two kilometres south of Hua Hin town. Patravadi opened her high school in May, aimed at attracting students interested in the performing arts and willing to work weekends in her Vic Hua Hin theatre. “The school will have to look after the theatre because there’s no way the theatre can make a profit,” Patravadi said. Shows, featuring either Thai artists and foreign troupes or solo performers, will be open to the public every Friday and Saturday, add-
ing a new cultural attraction to Hua Hin, which is at its busiest over the weekends. “In Bangkok if you go to the theatre you spend two hours in traffic,” Patravadi said. “It takes the same time to come to Hua Hin and here you can rest.” And unlike Bangkok, Patravadi has won a warm welcome from Hua Hin’s more culture-minded tourism industry. “In Bangkok I never got any sort of support,” she said. “The Bangkok hotels would throw away our brochures but here the hotels even send people to get our brochures.” INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 83
TASTE LIFE FOOD
A hearty feed
When the weather’s cold and the sun sets mid-afternoon, James Morrow finds brightness in the kitchen
t has always amazed me that when T.S. Eliot wrote the line, ‘April is the cruelest month’, he wasn’t talking about the onset of winter. Of course, this is hardly surprising given that he lived in the northern hemisphere. Sitting here in June, I’d give anything to be back there in April. Somehow, it’s hard to be cheery when the sky turns black at what always feels like four o’clock. To cope with this seasonal black dog, I’ve tended to take refuge in good food and cooking: after all, much better to stick a roast in the oven than your head in one. Not only does keeping the cooker on full-bore help heat at least one end of my drafty circa-1890s terrace house, but it also provides something in the neighbourhood of an acceptable substitute to that favourite summer pastime – namely, standing in front of the barbeque searing off ribeyes and drinking shiraz at8:30pm, when it’s still bright and sunny. Another advantage is that winter comfort food (for lack of a better, and less hackneyed, phrase) can be as simple or as complicated as one likes. For the home chef with a busy work schedule who still likes to muck about in the kitchen a few nights a week, this is a great advantage: if I’ve knocked off a bit early and am home by six or seven, then I might happily bread and fry some eggplants, knock up a red sauce, grate a few cheeses, and boil some spaghetti (perhaps even making the noodles myself, if the mood strikes) to wind up with a ridiculously huge platter of eggplant parmagiana that will keep me in lunches through the week. (Fill a good bread roll with a few rounds of the leftovers, wrap in foil and bake until gooey). Otherwise, tossing a tray of veggies in the oven to roast for an hour or so while pottering around the house tidying or simply watching Close Up over a quiet drink pays a myriad of dividends. Out of a concession to age and arteries, I don’t do this very often, but lately I’ve taken to tossing the results of this together with some pasta, cream, and good freshly-grated cheese (see recipe). Another old standby for when people 84 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
come by the house is a lamb-and-pasta dish I picked up when I lived in New York (and yes, I realize that complaining about a downunder winter after spending one particularly bleak December-through-February living next to the East River does show a lack of perspective, but bear with me). This involves getting some lamb steaks, flattening them out, rolling and tying and them up into little parcels with mint, rosemary, and cheese. I then brown the packets, set them aside, and make a rich red sauce in the same pan with onions, garlic, mint, and tinned San Marzano tomatoes – deglazing, of course, with some hearty red wine. That done (and here’s the beauty: all this fiddly work can be done in the afternoon), I boil up some orichiette pasta (the name menas ‘little ears’), and serve it in bowls with some of the sauce and a couple of lamb rolls. If you’re out to impress, cut the lamb on a
bias and arrange artfully on top of the pasta, garnishing with some fresh mint or parsley. And serve, of course, with a big earthy red – perhaps a zinfandel or Cape Mentelle (a sister vineyard to Marlborough’s Cloudy Bay). Whether simple or complicated, there is something restorative about the whole cooking process that shuts off the white noise of the previous twelve hours and makes for a welcome distraction from a bout of the winter blues. As American novelist Nora Ephron once put it, ‘what I love about cooking is that after a hard day, there is something comforting about the fact that if you melt butter and add flour and then hot stock, it will get thick! It’s a sure thing! It’s a sure thing in a world where nothing is sure; it has a mathematical certainty in a world where those of us who long for some kind of certainty are forced to settle for crossword puzzles.’
Winter-Warming Bean Soup Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. This a great winter soup that’s not too complicated for a weeknight and packs a spectacular payoff. Plus, with the exception of the optional truffle oil, it costs virtually pennies a bowl to make. My family eats vats of this over winter. You’ll need: Approx. 250g Great Northern beans, soaked overnight 2 litres vegetable stock 2-3 peeled garlic cloves Dried mint, oregano and/or other dried herbs Olive oil 3-4 diced onions 2 starchy potatoes, peeled and diced Leaves of one silverbeet or one head rocket, thinly shredded Fresh parsley Salt and pepper Good extra-virgin olive oil (or, for something really special, truffle oil) 1. In a biggish, heavy-bottomed pot, bring the stock and the beans to the boil. Skim off the froth that comes to the surface, and add the garlic and dried herbs. Give it a good stir and simmer, loosely covered, for up to an hour or until the beans are tender. At this point, crush the garlic cloves against the side of the pan.
Roast Vegetable Pasta Even though it takes a little while to roast the veggies, the actual work time involved in this pasta is virtually nil. And all the cream and cheese makes the healthy bits of the dish much more palatable. You’ll need: 250g dried pasta, such as fettucini, papardelle, or rigatoni An assortment of baby eggplants, fennel bulbs, zucchini, onions, et cetera – whatever looks good at the market that day, roughly chopped 200ml whipping cream 1 cup (or more) freshly-grated grana padano cheese Fresh parsley, for garnish Olive oil 1. Place the chopped vegetables in a roasting tray with a good glug of olive oil,
salt, and pepper. Toss the lot around to coat, and place in a reasonably hot preheated oven. Meanwhile, place a pot of salted water on the stove to boil. 2. After about 45 minutes or so, check the vegetables – when they are good and soft and roasted, throw the pasta in the water. 3. Warm some cream in a wide saucepan, bringing just to the boil. When the pasta is a few minutes away from being al dente, remove the vegetables from the oven and toss with the cream. Add a good handful of the cheese. 4. Drain the pasta, and toss with the cream, vegetables, and cheese. Serve in warmed pasta bowls and sprinkle on some more cheese and fresh parsley. Serves four
2. In a second, bigger pot, bring some olive oil up to a medium-high heat and add the onions and potatoes, stirring so that nothing sticks and everything picks up a bit of colour (about five minutes), with a shot of salt and pepper. Add the silverbeet or rocket, stir until just wilted, and pour the other pot with the beans over the whole affair. Bring it all to a boil, then simmer and stir occasionally for about half an hour. 3. Just before serving, toast some thick slices of good crusty country bread and set aside. Using a wooden spoon, mash some of the potatoes and beans against the side of the pot – this nicely thickens the broth. Check seasoning and ladle into bowls, and drizzle a little good extra-virgin olive or truffle oil over each dish. Serve with toasted bread. Serves: an army. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 85
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SEE LIFE / PAGES
Here be dragons Michael Morrissey sets off on an Amazon adventure The Lost City Of Z By David Grann Pocket Books, $29.00
I first heard of the Amazon when aged eight and immediately wanted to go there. The attraction, apart from the mighty river itself and maps that boldly declared “Interior Unexplored”, was jungle – miles and miles of it, housing giant anacondas, jaguars, piranhas, vampire bats (yes, really), electric eels (600 volts!) and tribes of fierce naked natives with huge bows that propelled poison-tipped arrows. Over fifty years later, I still haven’t got there though I have been as close as the jungles of Guatemala (which also have jaguars). In recent times, the Amazon jungle has had a France-sized chunk deforested but that still leaves an area nearly as large as Australia. One shudders to think what the situation will be like in 50 years. We can just hope the Brazilian government or the United Nations step in and save this magnificent wilderness from extinction. Lost City of Z? It was an alleged large scale civilisation, of inestimable wealth ie gold ornaments or men coated with gold dust buried in the steaming “green hell” and sought for in vain by Colonel Percy 88 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
Harrison Fawcett, the English wanderlust hero of this epic tale, lucidly told by intrepid New Yorker journalist David Grann. Fawcett – a solder, surveyor, explorer, adventurer and map maker – was a larger than life character, whose colourful career was the stuff of legend. (His life and exploits inspired Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger and Indiana Jones, though Fawcett carried a theodolite rather than a bullwhip.) Fawcett led several small expeditions into the Amazonian jungle between 1906 and 1925 and usually took only two or three companions. He survived all his expeditions save the last one in 1925 when he dramatically disappeared. The question of his disappearance became an oddly obsessive matter for the curious – some 13 expeditions and 100 deaths have never quite cleared the matter up. Neither Fawcett nor the lost city of Z was located. He was variously killed by the Kalapos, Arumas, Suyas, or Xavante, or Aloique tribes and according to one account, stepped through a portal into another dimension where if he still survives – who could doubt it? – and where being 143 years of age would presumably be no problem. His alleged bones, passed onto the famous Orlando Villas-Boas, proved to
be five inches shorter than the tall Colonel who stood six feet one and half inches. Other explorers reported a white-haired old man speaking English and a grandson (the “White God of the Xingu”) who turned out to be an albino. Fawcett was supremely fit, strong and tough and had scant patience with those who couldn’t keep up with his cracking pace – usually men less than half his age. Though he and his small crew carried firearms for hunting large animals, he gave strict instructions never to shoot the natives (unlike his millionaire explorer rival the trigger-happy Dr Rice). Fawcett’s courage and peaceful style was deployed on more than one occasion – he famously had one of his party to sing (“A Bicycle for Two”) and play the accordion to convince the war-like tribe that his tiny group was harmless. Obviously, if you stood in front of a small army of armed men, the ruse might not work. Throughout the twenty years of his jungle career, Fawcett seemed immune to disease and injury. The profusion of insect life meant malaria and yellow fever were always a risk. Fawcett never succumbed. On his first expedition, Fawcett claimed to have shot a 62-foot anaconda but needless
to say no one accepted this enormous length as the longest verified anaconda was only 27 feet long. However, his surveys were brilliantly done and he eventually won the coveted gold medal from the Royal Geographic Society. Though the tall Englishman was the most famous Amazonian explorer of his time, he had a rival in Dr Rice who could afford the latest gear, which even in the 1920s included a hydroplane, and a bulky radio. Nonetheless, Fawcett remains the more celebrated figure. The English and the world always has a soft spot for an explorer who perishes doing what he loves best – think of the tragic Robert Scott, whose star still glows more brightly than the banally successful Amundsen – so it is with Fawcett over Rice who also won a Royal Geographic Society gold medal. Well, we might well leave the story there ... but wait – there’s more! On his 2005 expedition, Grann (no tough guy like Fawcett but like so many before him hot on his cooling trail) ran into archaeologist Michael Heckenberger. Heckenberger pointed that a large amount of pottery was in the area and showed Grann a large moat over a mile in diameter. Contrary to the general belief that the soil was too impoverished to sustain a large settlement, Heckenberger claims to have uncovered twenty pre-Columbian settlements with plazas and connecting roads. So the lost city of Z existed in the Xingu region just as Fawcett believed!
An aspect of this grippingly written book that makes for confusion is the index. When I began cross-referencing items, I quickly discovered that nothing in the text corresponded with the listed page number. Then I ascertained if you subtract 2 from the index number you get the right page. In other words, like Fawcett with Z, I was slightly off target. What is even more perturbing is Z itself is not indexed at all. But it’s there all right – both in the book and in the Brazilian jungle near the Xingu river.
Beatrice And Virgil By Yann Martel Text Publishing, $39
Life of Pi – Martel’s earlier Man Book Prizewinning novel – was a delight that enjoyed massive critical acclaim and stratospheric sales. Among other improbable items, it featured a seasick tiger accidentally discovered aboard a life raft by the lone survivor of a shipwreck. The shock surprise ending was that all was not what it initially seemed. Martel uses a comparable technique in Beatrice and Virgil but with considerably less narrative charm. Here, the animals – Beatrice is a donkey and Virgil is a howler monkey (who can play the piano!) – are not presented as real but are constructs in an epic failure of a play written by a sinister taxidermist. The taxidermist feels he needs help to write his dismal play and so approaches a
successful novelist called Henry (modeled on the author?) by way of an anonymous letter drop. Author Henry is grappling with the problem that has beset other writers – how to best write about the awful events of the Holocaust. His unsuccessful solution is to propose a “flip” book – half essay, half novel, printed back to back so the reader would then have to choose which part to read first. However, Henry gets sucked into the shadowy world of the taxidermist (alas, also called Henry) and his unplayable play and the flip book is rejected (unfortunately Beatrice and Virgil was not). The devastated author takes up acting, works in a chocolateria and plays the clarinet. While the details of the taxidermist’s spooky shop and craft are fascinating – Henry’s first glimpse of the wonders within is of a window-displayed extraordinarily lifelike okapi – the text of the play is a ponderous philosophic yawn. Its style is seasoned with very Beckett-like dialogue, too derivative to be of interest. A scene where the animal philosophers discuss the shape of a pear is excruciatingly tedious – though some readers may find it amusing. Belabouring a point can produce laughter. After all, it is a standard technique of comedians, though humour is scarcely Martel’s forte. For this is a very grim book indeed and towards the end its true import – if you hadn’t fully realised – is how to deal with the Holocaust in some metaphoric way as opposed to the largely INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 89
documentary approach that has so far dominated accounts. So towards the end, Martel suddenly and shockingly heaps on cruelty. The animals are tortured to death and the book concludes with some nasty concentration camp moral dilemmas posed as “Games for Gustav”. Though this book is ultimately about the agony of the Holocaust, it is very much about Martel’s agony as a writer – the book has a muddled writer-in-crisis workin-progress feel. Admittedly, Martel’s style is archaically beautiful but the novel reads curiously like a translation. The country in which the symbolic animals are in – or on – is (symbolically?) called Shirt. If you are by now thinking all this is a bit precious, you are not alone (I almost groaned aloud on discovering author Henry has a dog called Erasmus and a cat called Mendelssohn.) Critics have been divided between harshly dismissive condemnation (“this shoddy embarrassing novel” or “dull, misguided, pretentious”) and awed praise (“an extraordinary feat of story telling”) . I can’t recall a book that I have reviewed in the last ten years that has had such a polarised reception. And the reception, as Keith Ovenden noted about The Bone People, was the most interesting aspect of the book – rather than the book itself. Now that Martel has written one memorably good novel involving animals (Life of Pi) and one memorably bad (Beatrice and Virgil), he needs to think very carefully about where to go next. If he uses animals (especially symbolic ones) a third time, then he will forever after be remembered as a latter day Animal Farm symbolic animal writer. On the other hand, if he deviates from his stamping ground, some readers may feel he has mistakenly departed the terrain he can call his own. Only time will tell.
The Night Book
By Charlotte Grimshaw Vintage, $36.99 This is the fourth work of fiction by Charlotte Grimshaw that I have read. Time has dimmed memories of her first novel, Provocation, but I very much enjoyed her two recent cleverly interlinked short story collections Opportunity and Singularity. In terms of tightness and technique, I rate them slightly above The Night Book, though this novel wins hands down in terms of heart and emotional tenderness. The plot is timely – David Hallwright is the favoured candidate to win the election 90 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
and become Prime Minister. He is clearly right wing and therefore National and one might look for signs of John Key roman-aclef similarities but nothing readily identifiable can be detected. Hallwright is not, however, the main character of the novel, this mantle falls on Dr Simon Lampton who appeared in her two earlier short story collections. The other principal protagonist is Hallwright’s wife, Roza, an editor and a recovering alcoholic, a nervy unconfident woman, rendered in satisfying psychological depth by Grimshaw. At times, I felt like shaking Roza and saying, “Snap out of it!” even though this sort of reaction to the depressed and the dreamy doesn’t have the desired effect. The main nexus of the novel turns not on politics but on the unrealised attraction between Roza and Simon. Were this novel written by a male writer (or by Lionel Shriver), the two potential lovers would have quickly moved on to an adulterous affair and the ensuing political scandal juicily explored. As it is, the novel teases but successfully engages us with small but powerful frissons – even holding hands becomes a furtively observed betrayal. In retrospect, I appreciated this authorial restraint, but while actually reading the book, I was impatiently awaiting their pending intimacy. Following an accidental encounter with one of his former patients whose baby he skillfully delivered, Simon becomes involved with Mereana, a young Maori woman who lives in South Auckland. Simon has the typical guilty husband’s wrestle with desire and guilt. Grimshaw clearly and skillfully shows how, though Simon is attracted to Mereana, she is little more than a physical substitute for his much stronger unfulfilled attraction to Roza. Among other insightful portrayals is that of Claire, who could possibly be the most disagreeable teenager in the universe, though I suspect she is not that unusual. As Simon aptly says, “Teenagers are short on empathy ... She can’t handle her own firepower.” Amen to that! Grimshaw also describes the squally Auckland weather with its “drenched calm” and “metallic green light” extremely well – though the weather seems bent on raining all the way through this presumably winter-set novel. In contrast to moody and oppressive Auckland weather, soothing aquariums feature in the homes of the rich and the poor. Grimshaw’s style veers from the plain window pane sort of prose that would have
pleased George Orwell to lusher but always controlled poetic prose. Dialogue is perhaps her weak spot as it is with so many New Zealand writers. At time, it truncated bluntness verges on the banal, but overall, the novel’s undoubted strengths ensures it works well. Nonetheless, I keep wondering what would have happened if Roza and Simon had launched into the full blown affair they both so clearly wanted. Next time, perhaps.
So Much For That By Lionel Shriver Fourth Estate, $29.99
Though my dictionary says that shrive means to hear a confession and give absolution – in other words, to forgive – the word always reminds me of something sharp. To my ear, Ms Shriver has a sharp name and in keeping with my stubborn resistance to dictionary definition, her writing is as keen as a razor. What Double Fault did for tennis, So Much for That (I hate the title) does for cancer – and for a spooky and rare disease called dystautonomia which afflicts a fifteen year-old smart as whip girl called Flicka. The central character is Shepherd Knacker, a businessman who has sold up for a million bucks. This should keep him going for a while and might have done but for two things – Shep is a guy who can’t say no, an almost foolishly warm-hearted fellow who supports his needy, failed artist sister, his crusty old dad and others. More importantly, his wife contracts a particularly nasty form of cancer called mesothelioma. His nest egg means they can initially afford the best of doctors but medical insurance doesn’t provide adequate cover. As the chapter headings clinically inform us, Shepherd’s three quarters of a million gradually shrinks until it’s little more than pocket change. His wife’s cancer stubbornly resists the aggressive treatment it receives and we know (we know all along) there isn’t going to be a miracle cure for her. In fact, as the novel makes angrily clear, the exorbitantly expensive treatments have succeeded in prolonging her life for no more than three months. Shriver’s novels and characters are filled with a rage – I loved Jackson’s anti-government rants – that is characteristically American and I can’t help speculating that this anger is partially fuelled by a deep resentment that the world’s mightiest and richest nation cannot always afford to pay for its citizens’ suffering – nor save them
from it, if that’s what’s in store. In other words, a secular paradise does not provide salvation. So both Glynis and Flicka mercilessly flail those near and dear to them as their respective illnesses tighten their grip. Another medical subplot involves Shep’s best friend Jackson who decides to surprise his wife with a penile enlargement. (Only in America!). As this is a Lionel Shriver novel, the furtive operation doesn’t work out very well. You’ll have to excuse the euphemism because I’m not going to quote Shriver’s grisly detail about what happens when a penile enlargement doesn’t work out very well. Male readers, you have been warned. Like all of Shriver’s novels, this book is written in a fearlessly honest way. Despite the bluntness of its style, it does on occasion rise to a deft lyricism. She is not a literary writer but she sure knows when to put the knife in. And yet improbably, this tragic novel, which oozes suffering and desperation, has an optimistic ending. Shep finds the possibility of a new romance with Jackson’s widow (damn it, I’ve let lose a plot spoiler), and he even reacquires some moderate wealth. They say the Americans like a tragedy with an upbeat ending and this grim novel eventually hands you a hot cup of Milo. By the last page, you feel you’ve earned it.
Mary Mcintyre By Robin Woodward Whitespace, $45
Mary McIntyre is now one of our most established painters and this book is a timely celebration of her art and her achievements. The text is by art historian Robin Woodward but there is also a foreword by Hamish Keith, an afterword by T.J McNamara, a delightful memoir from her niece, the talented writer Tina Shaw, plus appreciative comments from fellow artists and art maestros like Warwick Brown, Greer Twiss, Terry Stringer, Tim McWhannell, Louise Henderson, Gordon Brown and renown collector James Wallace. What a dazzling lineup of fans! When I made an examination of New Zealand writing some years ago, I was struck not only by the lack of a surrealist tradition in poetry but also in art. A good half – and it may be more – of McIntyre’s paintings occupy the challenging zone of surrealism. Apart from the unexpected juxtaposition of often highly dissonant images, the tradition tends to prompt a finely finished technique
with an absence of signs of brushwork, an in focus hard-edged style and a haunting dreamlike atmosphere not only analogous to oneiric consciousness but to drugged or hallucinatory states. Of course, the creation of such images does not mean the artist actually takes drugs or has hallucinations but assuredly the artist – Mary McIntyre – has dreams as we all do. But again dreams are not an artistic necessity. A good imagination and sensitivity to the potentiality of dissonant and surprising contrasts will more than adequately provide the required artistic energy. As Woodward aptly notes, “her paintings have never been easy for the viewer”. What would a Christian make of Christ’s head atop a body builder’s torso and what might a bodybuilder make of Mary McIntyre’s head atop some well defined highly masculine pecs? Reverence or mockery, surreal transgenderism or just surreal juxtaposition without a specified meaning? – indeed with a multiplicity of possible “meanings” (and please note the ambiguous quotation marks). What I find attractive about surrealism and Mary McIntyre’s work is its insistence that the world is a very odd place and may not be amenable to any ready interpretation.
While Woodward’s detailed examination of every image in the book is thoughtful, intelligent and well informed by her breadth of artistic knowledge – particularly Renaissance art – I find some of her interpretations so aggressively feminist – or neo-Freudian – as to be a stretch. Why is Rangitoto a symbol of female sexuality or indeed any sexuality? And why are the men said to be whimpering? Why or how does Mt Taranaki represent a female sexuality that is frozen out? Perhaps my learning curve in these matters hasn’t got off the ground. But then I’m just a whimpering male. Every artist has their own particular path to follow, along which they gradually evolve. McIntyre was a mother of six living in rural isolation when she did a summer art course under the great Colin McCahon which reset the course of her ambition and life. Like many an artist before, in order to allow the full development of her art to flourish, she felt compelled to make the difficult and painful decision to leave her family and strike out on her own. In short, she was a late developer as far as being an artist is concerned. Now, though no longer young, McIntyre has a certain impish vitality that promises well for future work.
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July6/3/10 2010 12:31:06 91 PM
SEE LIFE / MUSIC
The Deftones, the diamond and the fiver Chris Philpott hands out a perfect score, after an initial disappointment The Black Keys
Long time readers might remember my review of The Black Keys album Attack and Release back in June 2008 – their bluesrock inspired album managed a 4.5 out of 5 behind some great song-writing and a unique take on the rock and roll formula. The Black Keys are from a relatively small town in Ohio, and are made up of just 2 members: singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer/producer Patrick Carney. The pair has kept busy in the last 2 years too, with a well-received project titled Blakroc, which paired the duo up with a number of hip-hop stars such as Mos Def and Ludacris, coming out in 2009. Brothers is essentially more of the same – garage rock riffage reminiscent of Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple, with a twist of soul thrown in for good measure – however, unlike Attack and Release, there is a feeling that we’ve seen too much of The Black Keys of late. While the music contained within is top quality, we’re not really being offered anything new. I can’t help think that a longer break, or even a shorter run time, might have helped out immensely. Highlights like “Next Girl” and “Tighten Up” stand out, but overall Brothers just doesn’t feel up to par.
As far as Kiwi albums go, there are two distinct classes: the big names that top the charts, and the lesser-knowns who maintain smaller fan bases but generally make the better music. Edwin Derricutt is firmly in the latter group. Proving his legitimate song writing skills with 2007 debut album Symmetry, Derricutt has pushed himself on Three Hours South and it shows from opener “3 Minutes 23”. Where Symmetry sometimes felt a little soft (for want of a better word), there is plenty of guts to Three Hours South as the album rollicks along at a reasonably brisk pace throughout, helped by Derricutt’s embracing of a wide range of instruments that pepper each song and add valuable flavour to the album. “Life Boat” is a perfect example: a steady drumbeat thuds along in the background, while acoustic guitar and Derricutt’s strong vocal provide the spine of this well-written track, topped by some gorgeous xylophone. On the list of things I never thought I’d say, “gorgeous xylophone” is right up there. In fact, South is so well-written that I’m tempted to crown Derricutt “New Zealand’s answer to mega-star Ben Harper”. I won’t though – that would diminish his great work on this fantastic record.
It’s been four years since California heavy rock band Deftones released their last album, 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist, and the time since has been a bit tumultuous – to say the least. After 2 solid years of touring in support of the album, Deftones returned to the studio to work on a new album, tentatively titled Eros. However, writing and recording on the album stretched to over 12 months, and work was halted in November 2008 when bass player Chi Cheng was involved in a serious car accident and fell into a coma. In response, the group started from scratch in July 2009 and began writing for Diamond Eyes, with new bassist Sergio Vega taking over for Cheng after a precious few live gigs with the band. I’m telling you all this because it makes the resulting album even more astonishing, considering the circumstances. As a fan of heavy rock, I can tell you that not only is Diamond Eyes a must-have for fans of the group and their best album to date, but it is possibly one of the best heavy rock albums of the past decade. If you enjoy crunchy guitars and grinding rhythm lines with your melodic vocals, this is the album for you.
Brothers 3 stars
92 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
Three Hours South 4.5 stars
Diamond Eyes 5 stars
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SEE LIFE / MOVIES
Good film, grasshopper The remake of Karate Kid could win Jackie Chan an Oscar, writes Robert Butler The Karate Kid
Starring: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Taraji P. Henson Directed by: Harald Zwart Rated: PG (for bullying, martial arts action violence and some mild language) Running time: 135 minutes 3 stars Jackie Chan, Oscar nominee? Not as farfetched as you might think. In the new remake of The Karate Kid, the frequently hammy veteran Hong Kong action star gives a performance of such restraint and emotional depth that you’ll sit there with your mouth open ... at least when you’re not tearing up. The rest of the movie isn’t bad either, especially young Jaden Smith, who exhibits a charm and unforced range way beyond his years (he has the right gene pool: His parents are Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith). This Kid can’t escape some clunky ideas it inherited from the 1984 original – a thick vein of sadism (a karate tournament that allows 12-year-olds to whale mercilessly on one another? I don’t think so) and the laughable notion that a youngster can be transformed into a real martial arts contender in just a few weeks. 94 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
In other regards, though, this effort from director Harald Zwart is an improvement. Young Dre Parker (Smith) is none too pleased when his widowed mom (Taraji P. Henson) uproots him from his Detroit home and accepts a position with her company in Beijing. Feeling adrift, Dre thinks he may have found a kindred spirit in Meiying (Wenwen Han), a pretty, violin-playing Chinese girl who attends his new school. But their attraction draws the attention of a gang of kung fu bullies led by Cheng (Zhenwei Wang). Cheng is a student at the martial arts academy of Master Li (Rongguang Yu), an egomaniacal creep who advises his kids, “Your enemy deserves pain.” Dre is saved from a savage beating by Mr. Han (Chan), the quiet maintenance man at their apartment building. After that he begins begging Han for martial arts lessons. Han’s regimen isn’t exactly what Dre expected. He spends a couple of weeks doing nothing but taking off and putting on his jacket. Ah, but there’s a method to Han’s seemingly pointless exercises. It all leads up to a martial arts tournament at which Dre will have to prove himself against Li’s best fighters. This Karate Kid (actually, isn’t “karate” a
Japanese term? And isn’t this kung fu? Never mind ...) works on several levels. It really captures the feel of life in modern Beijing and should open the eyes of younger viewers to the way life is lived in other countries. It has some great scenery (although it’s doubtful that in real life martial arts students are allowed to practice their moves on top of the Great Wall). The tentative romance between Dre and Meiying is wonderfully innocent and sweet. But the film’s heart lies with Han, who for much of the first hour seems almost a ghostly presence, a gray, shadowy man whom you see only out of the corner of your eye. In the original, Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi was a comic presence. But Han is a damaged man carrying some major baggage; the scene in which he reveals his loss to Dre is the finest dramatic moment of Jackie Chan’s career. Of course, it all comes down to a brutal tail-kicking at the big tournament. Director Zwart’s track record doesn’t inspire confidence (Agent Cody Banks, The Pink Panther 2), but after a slow first hour his Kid finds the right gear. The worst you can say about it is that at more than two hours it’s too long. At best it’s a rousing good show. – By Robert W. Butler
Starring: Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Mary Louise-Parker, Imogen Poots Directed by: Brian Koppelman Rated: R (for language and sexual content) Running time: 90 minutes 3 stars Michael Douglas has played some scoundrels in his day but few have been as incorrigible, or as perversely endearing, as Ben Kalman. A respected pillar of the business community, and a decent family man, he suffers an existential crisis in his cardiologist’s office and begins living each day as if it were his last. Unfortunately for Ben and everyone he encounters, it isn’t. We meet him after half a decade of heedless hedonism has drained his bank account, sunk his reputation, and alienated most of his family and former friends. All in all, Ben’s an extra-large trash bag. We’re naturally sympathetic to film underdogs, even the unabashed rogues, and Ben is the fall guy in a comedy of cosmic humiliation. He’s a satirical archetype, the highflying businessman brought low by hubris and a yen for women a third his age. A man who used to close multimillion dollar deals with a grin and a handshake, he’s burned
out, his exhaustion mirroring that of a staggering economy. And nobody does sagging male vanity as well as Douglas. Buoyed by director Brian Koppelman’s sharp script and a stellar supporting cast, he makes Ben’s skid into the ditch mesmerizing. His ex-wife Nancy (Susan Sarandon) views him with weary affection and might welcome him back if he ever snapped out of his selfabsorption. For the time being, however, he’s wooing Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker), a brittle socialite whose well-connected father might help Ben resuscitate his career. Incapacitated by the sniffles, Jordan deputizes Ben to take her monumentally spoiled daughter Allyson (Imogen Poots) to her college interview in Boston. This proves to be the worst plan in the history of bad plans. Ben’s ego and libido collide with Allyson’s hostility to her mother in a conflagration that is excruciating and hilarious to behold. And just for a little collateral damage, Ben
mentors Cheston (Jesse Eisenberg), offering the sweet, shy sophomore cynical tips about closing “the transaction” with girls. Douglas redeems Ben with flashes of charm and self-deprecating humor. Ben is quick to say the worst about himself, as if that pre-empted everyone else’s legitimate criticism. The screenplay shows that he can fool some of the people some of the time, but he can’t fool himself any more. The film doesn’t offer a pat story of redemption, but reveals Ben’s gradual awakening to his own line of bull. In scenes where Ben is on his own, Douglas drops the powerplayer razzmatazz, slumping wearily. Those are the moments that reveal how draining the alpha dog act has become. The finale strikes just the right note of wary optimism. Ben is too flawed for a happy ending, but by the fadeout we know him so well we can’t help wishing him well. – By Colin Covert
We’re naturally sympathetic to film underdogs, even the unabashed rogues, and Ben is the fall guy in a comedy of cosmic humiliation INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010 95
SEE LIFE / THE CUTTING ROOM 1975
Fonzie grows up Henry ‘Fonzie’ Winkler has returned to TV in Royal Pains, and talks to Luaine Lee Fonzie’s leather jacket may be in the Smithsonian, but the man who created him is still scaling the treadmill. In fact, Henry Winkler is beginning a new challenge to match the multitudes behind him. Winkler is costarring on USA’s Royal Pains as the slightly shady father to Hank Lawson and his goof-off brother. “It seems I borrowed money from my younger son, and I never paid him back and caused him great financial difficulties, so when I show up my son is not happy,” says Winkler, in the office of his writing partner. Even at this point Winkler admits he still gets nervous when a part is in the offing. When he met with the executive producers of Royal Pains for a get-acquainted breakfast, Winkler says he ordered pancakes. “And I’m taking the syrup and pouring it all over my pancakes and chatting. I actually poured cream all over my pancakes. I thought, ‘OK, they make pancakes with buttermilk, why not half-and-half? So I’m just eating it as if it was something I do.” Much of his life Winkler has pretended to be more confident than he is. He has suffered from dyslexia since he was a kid, and still does. “My brain doesn’t compute. The words kind of float on the page,” he says, 96 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM July 2010
holding his hands above the table and passing them over the surface. “I see words that aren’t there and can’t see words that are there. So I read very slowly, and that makes it hard to read a script.” He strained all through school, convinced he was a dunderhead, an attitude that was supported by his parents who were tough on him. But if anyone is a self-made man, it’s Winkler. He earned a master’s degree from the Yale School of Drama and, after the adored Happy Days ended, he became a top TV executive with productions like MacGyver, the films The Sure Thing and Young Sherlock Holmes, the TV movie A Family Again and several programs for young people. He’s more astonished than anyone by the fact that he is also an author. He and his co-author, Lin Oliver, are working on their second series about young Hank Zipzer, the world’s greatest underachiever, all gleaned from Winkler’s own experiences as a dyslexic boy. He says he talks to children all across the world. “I tell them you have to figure out your gift and how you learn, at what rate you learn. If you’re a slow learner it has nothing to do with how brilliant you are because you don’t know what you’ll be able to create. I go
all over the world I say, ‘I’m a husband and a father. We have two dogs. I have three children. I’m an actor, director, producer and I write. I’m in the bottom 3 percent academically in America. So you cannot tell me that you cannot achieve.’” Beloved because of his swagger, his motorcycle and thumbs-up gesture, Winkler’s Fonzie became a national icon during Happy Days 10-year run. And for Winkler it was a life-changing tsunami. “I went from not dating the girl I wanted to date to having my choice,” he says. “My life just exploded everywhere. And look at the people I worked with: Ron Howard, Marion Ross – one of the great women of our time – Garry Marshall is the mentor. “That I made a living, that I was able to provide for my family, that I met the people I’ve been able to meet, that I’ve traveled where I’ve traveled and been honored the way I’ve been honored, it’s just unbelievable.” Winkler, 64, has been married 32 years to wife Stacey. Asked the secret to a successful marriage, he says, “I’ve thought about this a long, long time. It doesn’t have to do with the heart. It has to do with hearing, listening to what the other person is saying. The same goes for your children. Listen to what they say.”