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ISSN 1172-4153 | Volume 2 | Issue 29 |
| 13 March 2009
Govt wrong on crisis – Sir Roger Wellington, March 13 – The ACT Party’s annual conference opened in Auckland tonight with a message from its founder Sir Roger Douglas – the Government’s strategy for dealing with the recession isn’t going to work. “Pretending we can avoid the pain of economic contraction may make us feel better in the short term, but pretence will add to the pain we feel when the inevitable adjustment occurs,” he said in a speech to delegates. “Borrowing beyond our means, to increase the amount of spending, is what households have done over the past 10 years, and has led to our current recession. “Now the Government wants to try the exact same strategy to get us out of the recession.” Sir Roger said New Zealand’s economy had been shrinking since the beginning of 2008 because of failed government policies. “We have been moving in the wrong direction – we’ve moved from a government geared towards growing our wealth to a government geared towards redistributing it,”he said. “This pushed us into a recession and now the financial crisis will hurt us further.” Sir Roger had a list of lessons on how to handle the recession. Among them were: • Don’t blame the free market. If a company fails it is because consumers do not want to buy its products. • Reverse the trend towards low productivity growth by making the labour market more flexible. • Making work does not make people wealthy.The proposed cycleway will divert people from productive work to less productive work. “That is a recipe for poverty, not prosperity.” • Lower taxes across the board to encourage people to work more. • Aim high for prosperity. Beat Australia by 2020, achieve sustainable economic growth of 5 percent a year. • Don’t protect the public sector, it should carry the cost as much as the private sector. Prime Minister John Key will get the chance to defend the Government’s policies when he speaks at the conference tomorrow. ACT leader Rodney Hide will speak in the afternoon and the conference winds up in the evening.
Vince Siemer case Page 2
DEATH METAL Music behind shootings Page 8
GHOST BANKS Dead men walking Page 16
SOE heads told: Lift your game Wellington, March 13 – The Government has summoned the heads of State-owned enterprises to an April 9 meeting, where they will be told to raise their game. “We are keen to talk to them to make sure they are contributing to the economy in an efficient way,”StateOwned Enterprises Minister Simon Power told NZPA. “In the six months to the end of December 2008 we have seen the net profit after tax across those portfolios reduce by 50 percent. “That is a matter that a shareholder of any com-
mercial enterprise would be concerned to discuss.” Mr Power said SOEs made up a significant part of the Crown’s balance sheet, representing a taxpayer investment of just under $24 billion. Opposition parties today called on State-owned power companies to use their profits to help consumers with their winter power bills, citing results announced by Genesis and Meridian. Asked whether the Government was prepared to accept lower dividends from the energy SOEs, Mr Power said the prices they charged was up to them.
“The net profit after tax across all four of the energy companies is actually a loss of $50 million in that six-month period compared with a $260 million net profit after tax in the six months to December 2007,”he said. Labour’s energy spokesman, Charles Chauvel, said the minister’s letter to SOE chairs calling them to a meeting on April 9 in Finance Minister Bill English’s office stated that the purpose was to discuss measures to improve their financial performance. “This is code for SOEs charging higher prices to
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the public,”he said. “There is fundamentally one way that energy SOEs can contribute higher dividends to the Government – by charging higher prices.” Progressive Party leader JimAnderton said the power company profits should be returned to consumers. “Mighty River Power recorded a profit of $235 million in the last six months of last year,”he said. “That on its own is enough for every household in New Zealand to get a cheque for nearly $200.” – NZPA
off BEAT Golfer’s first game yields hole-in-one ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 13 (UPI) – A woman who scored a hole-in-one at a St. Petersburg, Fla., golf course said the shot was her very first attempt at the sport after two months of lessons. Unni Haskell, 62, a Norway native who moved to Florida from Connecticut last year, said she scored a hole-in-one Feb. 25 on the 100-yard, par-3 first hole at Cypress Links golf course, the St. Petersburg Times reported. Haskell said the shot was her first attempt at golf on a course after about two months of lessons from PGA teaching professional Rick Sopka. “(Sopka) said you should find something to line the shot up,’’ she said to the newspaper. “I saw a little leaf over there and I asked Rick if that was a good thing to line up with. He thought it looked good. Then I swung the club and Rick said it looked really good. He said it might go in the hole. Then he goes nuts. I couldn’t believe it. I had to get Rick to take me up to the hole to prove it.’’ The rest of Haskell’s first game was more typical of an inexperienced golfer, scoring 4 on the second hole and 6 on the third hole. “We were going to do a putting lesson that day,” Sopka told the Times of the hole-in-one. “She said, no, she wanted to play. She didn’t even hit a range ball. No warm-up at all.’’ Kid nicked cuffs while being arrested MIAMI, March 13 (UPI) – A Miami court has tossed a theft conviction for a teenager who was accused of stealing handcuffs from a police officer during an attempted arrest. The 15-year-old, who was identified as J.B. in court papers, had been charged with battery on an officer, resisting arrest and theft after he elbowed an officer and ran away with handcuffs attached to one of his wrists, The Miami Herald reported today. Police said the officer had been trying to arrest J.B. for talking too loud in a public library. The theft charge was the only count for which the teenager was found guilty. However, the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami tossed the theft conviction yesterday, saying the state failed to prove that the teenager intended to steal the cuffs. “The state is required to prove that J.B. intended to deprive the officer of her right to use the handcuffs or benefit from them, or that he intended to appropriate the handcuffs for his own use,” the appeals court wrote in its decision. “Actually, we are sure that J.B. would have gladly relinquished any dominion, control or possessory rights to the handcuffs if he only had the key to release them.” Teacher resigns after dart incident BEAUFORT, S.C., March 12 (UPI) – A South Carolina high school teacher who was put on paid leave after shooting a student with a foam Nerf dart has resigned his position with the district. Jacqueline Rosswurm, human resources services officer for the Beaufort County School District, said science teacher Jeffery Baker, 29, resigned Friday from his job at Battery Creek High School without giving a specific reason, the Beaufort (S.C.) Gazette reported. A Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office report said Baker fired a foam dart in a joking manner Feb. 23 that struck a 14-year-old student in her left shoulder. The report said the student stood up and slapped Baker with the back of her hand. The girl’s mother said after the incident that she wanted to seek assault charges against Baker, but no charges had been filed as of last night. Baker declined to comment on his resignation. “I’m not responding to this at all,” he said. Fans try to end Col. Sanders ‘curse’ OSAKA, Japan, March 13 (UPI) – Fans of Japan’s Hanshin Tigers hope the curse of Col. Sanders is finally at rest now that the Kentucky Fried Chicken founder’s statue is out of the river. Exuberant supporters of the team threw Sanders’ life-sized statue into the Dotonborigawa River in Osaka 24 years ago to celebrate Hanshin’s Central League baseball pennant. The Tigers also won the Japan Series in 1985. They haven’t won the series since. Two sections of the plastic statue of the colonel were recovered from the river bottom this week near the Ebisubashi bridge, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported. The baseball team reportedly was haunted by the Sanders curse and now that the colonel’s statue is back on dry land fans hope their luck on the diamond will change.
13 March 2009
Claim Parliament’s Speaker misled By Ian Wishart
There are claims tonight Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith may have been misled by parliamentary officials when he tried to investigate matters surrounding controversial Auckland businessman Vince Siemer. Siemer is currently appealing a jail sentence for contempt of court issue after a long running legal battle over defamation. At the time in August 2007 when Siemer had been physically jailed as a punishment for contempt, his supporters petitioned parliament’s Justice and Electoral Committee for an urgent hearing into the jailing. But documents obtained by Siemer’s supporters under the Official Information Act reveal that petition on his case was prevented from being heard during the last parliament,after officials advised the Select Committee Siemer’s case was “sub judice”. Specifically, the Crown Law office advised the office of Parliament’s Clerk that Solicitor-General David Collins planned to file further contempt proceedings against Siemer.The Clerk’s office then advised the select committee accordingly. But the problem for the Solicitor General is that he had not actually filed proceedings against Siemer, and didn’t do so for five months, so the matter was not technically ‘sub judice’for the purposes of parliament at all. To make matters even more mysterious, when Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith reviewed the file earlier this year after an approach from Siemer’s supporters, the letters between Crown Law and the Clerk of the House allegedly establishing the lawful reason for the petition not to be heard had vanished from the official file.
A High Court official and police officer ask Vince Siemer, left and Penny Bright to remove their protest signs from the front of the courthouse, Auckland, 2007. NZPA / Ross Setford.
Supporter Penny Bright describes herself as“furious”that the Crown Law office used the “threat”of proceedings to derail a parliamentary inquiry, and equally furious that the Clerk’s office “rolled over”
even though no case was before the courts on that point at all. She’s equally “unimpressed” that key documentation for the Speaker’s investigation was missing from the file.
NZ volcano quietly blows its top
Wellington, March 13 – One of New Zealand’s biggest underwater volcanoes has quietly blown its top. The Rumble III volcano, part of the 250km long southern ridge of the Kermadec Arc of 90 submarine volcanoes, rises 2300 metres from the sea floor. The size of Mount Ngauruhoe, it used to be notable for its peak coming to within 200m of the sea
surface about 350km northeast of Tauranga. But scientists on an American research vessel, the Thomas G Thompson which has just docked in Auckland, have found a“startling change”in the shape of the summit, which has been lowered by about 100m. GNS Science researcher Heidi Berkenbosch said that on Wednesday the ship was towing a sonar sled over
Rumble II when it was noticed that the volcano crater, last mapped in 2007,appeared to have vanished. Voyage co-leader, Cornel de Ronde, of GNS, said there had been a“fairly catastrophic”eruption, since the 2007 survey, when there was an 800m-wide crater near the mountain’s conical top. “The whole of that crater seems to be infilled, and the cone’s missing – so probably it blew up and most of the debris slid into the crater ,”Dr de Ronde said. “That’s a pretty big hole that got filled up.” Images taken by an underwater camera towed by the research ship showed the seabed strewn with lava boulders covered by black volcanic ash near the summit of the volcano, Dr de Ronde said. A number of the volcanoes along the Kermadec Arc are highly active, and Dr de Ronde said finding evidence of the catastrophic collapse at Rumble III was a voyage highlight. The ship is operated by the University of Washington, and was carrying 13 final-year oceanographic students from the University of Washington and four students from Southampton University in England to complete their studies while scientists from the US and New Zealand gathered fresh information on the sea mounts. – NZPA
Kiwi dollar recovers ground Wellington, March 13 – The New Zealand dollar settled into a range today having risen to the highest level in about a month on the small cut in the official cash rate cut yesterday. By 5pm today the NZ dollar was buying US52.00c from US51.24c at 5pm yesterday. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand yesterday cut the official cash rate to 3 percent from 3.5 percent, which was at the lower end of what was expected. The central bank also signalled smaller future cuts and a base to the easing cycle higher than in other
jurisdictions.The NZ dollar continued rising offshore after gaining in its domestic session. A strong US equities market also helped reduce risk aversion. The comments about smaller interest rate cuts, if and when, continued to drive sentiment, said Murray Hindley, chief foreign exchange dealer at ANZ Institutional Bank. “After the big move we had yesterday it has just consolidated,”he said. The next key economic data locally was near the end of the month, he said.
Against the Australian dollar the kiwi was around a three-week high of A79.76c at the open and eased to A79.48c at today’s local close from A79.03c yesterday. Similarly, the NZ dollar rose to its highest level in three weeks against the euro, buying 0.4048 at 8am from 0.3995 at yesterday’s local close before ending today at 0.4024. The trade weighted index rose to 53.16 from 52.50 yesterday. – NZPA
13 March 2009
Hanover debtor fails to pay
detailed structural survey. “This deep-level survey found the airframe to be in excellent condition with no corrosion of any significance found,”the select committee was told. “The routine maintenance and this deep-level survey confirm that the Skyhawk fleet remain in excellent condition for sale.” In August last year then defence minister Phil Goff said he had been assured by the United States government it would approve the sale of the Skyhawks within a few months. The fleet of Skyhawks was sold for $155 million to an American company but the sale had been held up by the US State Department, which must approve any sale of aircraft with American military avionics.
Wellington, March 13 – A Hanover Group subsidiary is set to apply for Wellington businessman and yachtsman Stewart Thwaites to be made bankrupt in court on Monday. Last October the High Court ordered Thwaites to pay finance company Commercial Receivables – wholly owned by the troubled Hanover whose shareholders are Eric Watson and Mark Hotchin – to pay $3.2 million, plus accruing 22 percent interest. A bankruptcy application by Commercial Receivables is listed for the High Court at Wellington on Monday. The debt arose from guarantees Thwaites and his family trust gave to cover debts of Starlight Yachting, which was placed in liquidation last year. Money lent in a revolving credit agreement to Starlight was secured by a mortgage over the super maxi racing yacht Zana, also known as Konica Minolta, which cost $7 million to build. After Starlight failed to pay two monthly instalments on its loan, the yacht was repossessed in Valencia, Spain, the October court judgment said. Commercial Receivables told the court that between September 2006 and April last year it spent $760,823 repossessing, moving, repairing, insuring, marketing, maintaining and berthing the yacht, which was moved to a marina in southern England. Thwaites and the family trust claimed Commercial Receivables should have accepted an offer of $A1.1 million made in November 2006, which would have substantially repaid the debt then owing. They also said the yacht had not been marketed appropriately and not been properly maintained after it was repossessed, but the court rejected those arguments. NZPA was told today the yacht was still for sale. In August 2007, one-time millionaire property developer and bar owner Thwaites was sentenced to 400 hours’community work for tax evasion, and found $1.4 million to pay employees’tax deductions which had not been passed on to Inland Revenue.
Skyhawks fit to fly Auckland, March 13 – Aviation engineers have given the air force’s mothballed fighter jets a clean bill of health after they pulled one apart to check it for water damage. The Skyhawk was one of 17 stored with a protective latex coating at the Woodbourne air base near Blenheim. They have been in the open since they were moved out of a hangar in December 2007, and last month Associate Defence Minister Heather Roy confirmed some had been damaged by the weather. The Labour government decommissioned the air force’s air combat wing in 2001 and the Skyhawks had been on the market since then.
Ms Roy told NZPA during a tour of the Devonport naval base in Auckland with Defence Minister Dr Wayne Mapp last month, there had been“a little deterioration but no more than you would expect under the circumstances”. Yesterday Parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee was told some of the aircraft canopies had not sealed properly after a routine maintenance check and some water had got inside the cockpits. The aircraft were routinely maintained by a civilian contractor. “As part of this ongoing maintenance programme, an aircraft was disassembled and subjected to a
Musician pinged on arsenal charges Christchurch, March 13 – Christchurch Symphony Orchestra musician Bernard David Shapiro still has prospects of an international career after being discharged without conviction on seven Arms Act charges, and the St John Ambulance can expect a $5000 windfall. The 37-year-old french horn player narrowly escaped conviction when defence counsel Jonathan Eaton convinced Judge John Cadenhead that the effects of a criminal record would be disproportionately high. Shapiro himself told the judge:“If I am convicted I will never, ever get another job with another musical organisation again – certainly not overseas. I’ll be able to continue working in New Zealand but I won’t be able to attend places like the London Guild Hall. It will be a closed door to me, Sir.” When asked about his ability to pay a fine, Shapiro said his income had been cut by a third in 20078 and he was clawing his way back now. He was expecting a tax rebate which should cover most of the $5000 donation he was ordered to make. In a reserved judgment that followed the hearing of evidence in the judge-alone trial last year, and more evidence this year, Judge Cadenhead convicted Shapiro on seven of the eight charges he faced. He was found guilty, but no convictions were entered, for unlawful possession of two military style semi-automatic rifles, Powergel explosive, two military flares, a smoke grenade, a thunderflash pyrotechnic used for training and re-enactments, and an anti-personnel mine. Judge Cadenhead dismissed a charge of possessing an M203 grenade launcher. He held that the
device was a 37mm flare pistol rather than a 40mm grenade launcher. But he also said that he regarded the offences as technical breaches of the regulations rather than criminal. Mr Eaton sought the discharge without conviction under section 106 of the Sentencing Act because of the effect the convictions would have on Shapiro’s ability to travel and work. He said the reserved decision had held that the offences were technical breaches in which Shapiro had exercised poor judgment,had been taken advantage of by a friend, and had relied on advice which proved to be not entirely accurate, from an arms dealer. Judge Cadenhead said the convictions could have a“disproportionate and severe impact”on Shapiro’s career. He granted the discharge without conviction but ordered him to make a $5000 donation to the St John Ambulance. – NZPA
In a reserved judgment that followed the hearing of evidence in the judgealone trial last year, and more evidence this year, Judge Cadenhead convicted Shapiro on seven of the eight charges he faced
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13 March 2009
Turning the corner The Reserve Bank sent a signal to the markets and householders this week: there’s light at the end of this tunnel. By cutting interest rates only half a percent, Slasher Bollard and team indicated, albeit in very subtle fashion, that for New Zealand at least it’s time for some equilibrium to return to the economy. Those who could break their mortgages probably have already.The cost of breaking a 9.5% fixed rate now, when interest rates are as low as 5.5% for some terms, would be utterly prohibitive. So for those who moved in December and January, there’s now opportunity. Some mortgage repayments have sunk by as much as $700 a month thanks to rate cuts, and that’s cash now in the hands being spent on a daily basis.
For thousands of others, of course, loans remain locked in at high fixed rates until reviews late this year or next, but even so there’s no looming boom cycle ahead – low interest rates will still be here when the mortgages roll over. And this is why Bollard’s cut on Thursday was so important. By not continuing to slash, the Reserve Bank told the world and New Zealanders we were slightly more confident in the long term picture. Overseas investors, who’ve seen interest rate returns in many jurisdictions drop to near zero because of central bank rate cuts, reacted optimistically today to the RBNZ OCR of 3%, which allows a bigger rate of return for foreign money than many other countries can deliver. The Kiwi sprung from its lows of US$0.49 back
up to nearly US$0.53, such was the joy that someone, somewhere, was finally calling time on the interest rate slide. It is true that as an export economy New Zealand will need the rest of the world to get into a buying mood, but by the same token the rest of the world still has to eat, and New Zealand produce remains remarkably cheap on international markets thanks to the dollar. Our tourism industry may take a big hit on long haul routes, but again – we’re cheap – and it may simply be an opportunity to seriously boost visitor numbers from the 20 million strong market across the ditch. We’re not out of the woods, but the trees aren’t looking quite so big anymore. SUBSCRIBE TO TGIF!
Americans wake up to paperless papers By Eric Pryne The Seattle Times
SEATTLE – If the Seattle Post-Intelligencer stops publishing in print but stays alive in some form online – as now seems likely – it won’t be the first daily newspaper to make the move. Over the last 15 months, two failing Midwest papers have taken similar leaps. On the last day of 2007, media giant E.W. Scripps shut down the shrinking Cincinnati Post and Kentucky Post, a zoned edition that served the city’s Northern Kentucky suburbs. A day later it launched KyPost.com, with a veteran Post editor as managing editor. In Madison,Wis.,the struggling afternoon Capital Times halted daily print publication last April and unveiled a beefed-up Web news operation. It also started two new weekly tabloid print publications. The P-I seems poised to make a similar break with the past. Owner Hearst Corp. put the moneylosing paper up for sale in January, saying it would close it unless a buyer emerged in 60 days.A sale is considered highly unlikely. But Hearst also said the P-I might re-emerge an online-only publication. And last week, with the 60-day deadline nearing, it quietly began offering a few P-I staffers jobs with a new Web venture. Hearst won’t say anything about its plans. The Cincinnati and Madison online newspapers emphasize what’s local. Both contain familiar newspaper content, such as obituaries and high-school sports results.The Wisconsin site even has comics. Both sites report significant increases in traffic.The Capital Times’ owners say the move to digital should result in cost savings of $3.5 million to $4 million in 2009. A Scripps vice president says KyPost.com should break even this year. But neither is a stand-alone venture. Both have relationships with traditional media outlets – a television station in Cincinnati, the remaining print daily in Madison – that effectively subsidize the fledgling Web operations. In Seattle, by contrast, seattlepi.com apparently would be flying solo. CINCINNATI
The Cincinnati/Kentucky Post died when the jointoperating agreement that linked it to the dominant, morning Cincinnati Enquirer expired at the end of 2007. Under the JOA – similar to one that links the P-I with The Seattle Times – the two papers maintained competing newsrooms, but the Enquirer handled the business operations for both and the publishers split the combined profits. The Post’s weekday circulation had plummeted – from 188,000 in 1977 to just 27,000.Scripps concluded the Post couldn’t be sustained outside the JOA. But the Kentucky Post’s brand was strong in Northern Kentucky, says Adam Symson, vice president of interactive for Scripps’television group.With
the paper’s demise the company saw a news and advertising niche an online product might fill. Plus a Kentucky-focused online operation could piggyback on Scripps’Cincinnati television station, WCPO.“That was fundamental to the launch of KyPost.com,”Symson says. The Web site operates out of WCPO’s offices.TV station employees sell its ads and run its servers. Stories from the TV station’s Northern Kentucky reporter are posted on the site, which Symson says is promoted regularly on WCPO’s newscasts. Those synergies allow Scripps to keep KyPost. com’s costs low. Managing Editor Kerry Duke doesn’t dispute that the news staff is bare-bones. Besides him, there’s just one other full-time journalist, a Web producer/reporter, plus two interns and about five sports freelancers. Before it closed, the Cincinnati/ Kentucky Post newsroom had 50 employees. MADISON
The Capital Times is a more ambitious enterprise. The size of its news staff is down more than onethird from its print days. Still, it employs about 40 journalists – editors, columnists, beat reporters, photographers, sports writers, critics. But editor Paul Fanlund says there’s no way the online and remaining print ad revenues would support a staff that big. It’s possible only because for 60 years the Times has been part of what amounts to a JOA with Madison’s remaining print daily, the morning Wisconsin State Journal. The family-owned Times gets half the combined profits while generating only a small fraction of the combined revenues. The Journal subsidizes the Times, Fanlund acknowledges,“but they’ve been doing it for 30 years.And the subsidy is less substantial now (since
the Times went primarily online) than it’s probably ever been.” By the time the Times stopped publishing daily in print last April,its weekday circulation had dwindled to just 17,000, while the Journal’s stood at 89,000. The line between the two papers has blurred since the Times moved primarily online. Its two weekly print tabloids – one focusing on news and opinion, the other on arts and entertainment – are inserted in the Journal. Each publication’s Web site links to some stories from the other. Sports reporters from both collaborated on a blog from the state high-school wrestling tournament last month. At first,Fanlund says,the online CapitalTimes tried to be“a CNN for Madison,”emphasizing breaking news. There’s still plenty of that on the site. But Fanlund says he’s pushing the online Times to become “a more substantial, magazine-type publication,” with at least one good long-form read every day plus lots of opinion and commentary. OTHER PAPERS DE-EMPHASIZING PRINT, EMPHASIZING WEB
• East Valley Tribune: Daily paper in Phoenix suburbs cut print publication to four days a week in January while continuing to publish daily online. • Detroit Free Press/Detroit News: Partners in a joint-operating agreement are scheduled this month to cut back home delivery of print papers to three days a week while beefing up online presence. • Christian Science Monitor: National paper plans to stop publishing daily in April, replacing it with weekly print magazine and daily subscription-only online edition.
-Chief Censor wins “Hypocrisy Award”! Chief censor Bill Hastings has said that parents who give their underage children access to violent video games should be prosecuted to serve as “shock value” to other families. Mr Hastings said studies had shown that repeated exposure to violence and sexual violence had an adverse effect on attitude, and it was important that parents realised some games were created for adults not children. While the Chief Censor is pointing the finger at parents, he needs to observe the three fingers pointing back at him! The Chief and Deputy Censor have been responsible for the release of brutal rape and sexually violent films. There are also a huge numbers of hard core obscene DVDs and video games that are cleared for adult (R18) home viewing ‘entertainment’ every month which are easily accessible to young people, as evidenced by the number of teenagers who have played Grand Theft Auto, despite its R18 status. The “repeated exposure to the violence and sexual content” that the Chief Censor is releasing into NZ is not only affecting teenagers but also adults. As well, children as young as 14 have been subjected to footage of rape, sadism and domestic violence as part of research by his office. In 2006, the Labour Minister of Internal Affairs, in response to a call for the replacing of the Board, said in Parliament that we must “accept that the standards of what are acceptable and objectionable today differ from those when I was growing up in the 1960’s”. We totally disagree. Rape, necrophilia, violence and sexual violence and degrading treatment of women are, and will always be, wrong! We need Censors and a Censorship Board who will act in the best interests of all NZ’ers and families and not pander to the minority who demand freedom of speech at any cost. -Residents win brilliant brothel victory The Mt Victoria Residents Association (Wellington) is to be congratulated for their successful legal action against both a brothel in their street and the Wellington City Council who allowed the brothel to operate there. This is a victory for families who have been victimised by the effects of the decriminalisation of prostitution – including street prostitution, residential brothels, and brothels located near schools and pre-schools. The Mt Victoria residents complained of illegally parked cars, intimidating men, a client sleeping in his car, and the brothel being busiest during the middle of the day. The brothel was located close to a children’s playground, kindergarten, and primary school, and on a major walking route for children to two secondary schools in the area. The politicians cannot now ignore the pleas from communities throughout NZ who are saying that the decriminalisation of prostitution has been a spectacular failure. -FPA want to kill by pill The prospect of Family Planning applying to the Abortion Supervisory Committee for a license to use the abortion pill RU486 to perform abortions is alarming. This will mean that Family Planning will be able to talk women into having abortions, and then carry the procedure out on them. There is a huge conflict of interest here. Those offering advice shouldn’t be the ones performing the abortions. There is also huge concern about the drug’s considerable harmful effects on women’s health. The US FDA has released reports of complications, including death, resulting from: • hemorrhage (excessive bleeding) • serious and sometimes fatal infections • missed diagnoses of ectopic pregnancy (outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube) The chairman of the French company which introduced RU486 said “..a woman who wants to end her pregnancy has to ‘live’ with her abortion for at least a week using this technique. It’s an appalling psychological ordeal.” Family First is calling for informed consent (including ultrasound) for women considering an abortion, and a ‘cooling period’ before making the decision. Women and teenage girls are entitled to the truth when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, including all the options available. Sign Up Now to receive FREE regular updates about the issues affecting families in NZ, visit http://www.familyfirst.org.nz/ index.cfm/Sign_Up
13 March 2009
Terror revisits Northern Ireland
By Stefan Nicola
BERLIN – The shooting deaths of a police officer and two soldiers in just 48 hours have stirred up worries that sectarian violence could return to Northern Ireland. On Monday night,police officer Stephen Carroll,48, was shot dead southwest of Belfast in an area with a
strong nationalist republican backing, when he and his colleague responded to an emergency call. The killing came just two days after soldiers Mark Quinsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, were shot dead when they picked up pizza from two delivery men at the gates of a Massereene Barracks in the town of Antrim.Two other soldiers and the two deliverymen were seriously wounded.
A dissident republican group, the Real IRA, claimed responsibility for the attack on the soldiers; another group, the Continuity IRA, claimed the killing of the policeman, who was shot in the head while waiting in his car in the town of Craigavon in County Armagh. The three killings have brought back memories of the violence that dominated Northern Ireland for decades until a peace deal was reached in 2005. “The mood in Northern Ireland on Tuesday was one of shock, terror and outrage,”Richard Wilford, a politics professor at Queen’s University Belfast and a leading expert on the peace process in Northern Ireland, told United Press International in a telephone interview. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, eager to diffuse tensions, said the killings would not damage the peace process. “The people of Northern Ireland and the political parties of Northern Ireland stand behind the political process, want to see it work and to be effective,” Brown told reporters. He vowed that the attackers would be hunted down and brought to justice as quickly as possible. Even leaders of Sinn Fein, the predominantly Catholic party associated with the Irish Republic Army, denounced the killings. “These people are traitors to the island of Ireland,”Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness, also Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, told reporters.“They don’t deserve the support of anyone.” Some are concerned that the peace process and the power-sharing government between Catholics and Protestants will be undermined if Britain brings back troops to Northern Ireland to contain resurgent violence. While such a move isn’t being considered at the moment, no one knows what could happen if violence continues unabated.“I don’t think these two attacks we just witnessed will be the last,”Wilford warned. There have been a series of attacks by the Real IRA over the past 18 months, in which five police
officers were injured (one was shot in the chest while dropping off his daughter at school).The most recent attacks, however, have a new quality. They already prompted McGuinness and Peter Robinson, a Protestant leader and Northern Ireland’s first minister, to cancel their joint visit to the United States, where they had planned to meet President Barack Obama. “Local officials in Northern Ireland are about to take over the sectors of policing and criminal justice from the British government, a development that displeases the republican dissidents,”Wilford said. “From their perspective, it’s better to have policing and criminal justice in the hands of the British government, because it can be seen as striking at the British state in attacking soldiers and police officers,”he told UPI. There is some indication that the Real IRA, a dissident group founded in 1997, and the smaller Continuity IRA, founded in 1994, share personnel, intelligence and information between them, Wilford said. While their attacks have become more sinister, the groups’means are limited. Based on a cellular structure, both groups are poorly resourced, lightly armed and small in numbers –“the Real IRA has some 100 active members, the Continuity IRA even fewer,”Wilford said. “That’s why they can’t bring Northern Ireland to a complete standstill,”he added. There is, however, the risk of retaliatory attacks from Protestant paramilitaries, which could plunge Northern Ireland into sectarian violence once again. Major Protestant leaders have urged their followers not to strike back, but Wilford said the loyalist paramilitaries are somewhat hard to control. “They don’t have that kind of unified central command and control structure the Provisional IRA enjoyed,”he told UPI.“So there is always some risk that some lunatic from the loyalist camp might decide to do something stupid.” – UPI
Popular anger could kill globalisation By Martin Walker
PARIS – The total loss of wealth of the world’s financial crisis over the last 18 months has now topped US$50 trillion.The Asia Development Bank estimated this week that more than $33 trillion has disappeared in lost stock market prices and another $17 trillion (and probably more) in falling real estate values. The scale of the threat to the global economy and the challenge to world leaders could hardly be greater. But with three weeks to go before the crucial Group of 20 summit in London,the prospects of success for this meeting of the world’s leading developed and developing countries are poor and getting poorer. Initially, there were hopes that it would craft a new global financial system, along with new financial regulations, and an invigorated and recapitalized International Monetary Fund to help the most threatened countries. Above all, it was hoped the G20 summit would agree to a concerted international effort to revive the world economy and save the gains in wealth, trade and prosperity that globalization has secured over the past 30 years. But officials closely involved in the preliminary discussions are gloomy over each of those goals, except possibly for recapitalizing the IMF where there is a growing consensus. The Europeans and Americans do not agree about regulations, and few still speak of a new Bretton Woods to redesign the world’s financial system.With the World Bank now predicting the first fall of both world economic output and world trade since the 1940s, the fear now is not whether globalization can be saved, but whether the domestic political pressures for de-globalization and protection can be stopped.
The most immediate and alarming problem is the effects of the crisis was not to our liking,”said that the Europeans and Americans do not seem to Luxembourg Premier Jean-Claude Juncker, who agree on what is needed. Larry Summers, former chairs the eurozone group.“We would not want to U.S. treasury secretary who now leads President give the impression that we were considering impleBarack Obama’s National Economic Council, wants menting further recovery packages. Europe and the a global agreement by all the G20 countries to pump Euro Group (of eurozone finance ministers) have demand into the world economy by stimulus pack- done what they needed to do.” ages and public spending. In fact, the European Union has done less than “The right macro-economic focus for the G20 is it promised. The EU Council, the powerful body on global demand, and in which the heads the world needs more of government meet the fear now is not global demand,”Sumto make the big deciwhether globalization sions, said at its summers told the Financial Times this week can be saved, but mit last year the EU in an interview. “The should collectively old global imbalances whether the domestic aim at pumping 1.5 agenda was more political pressures for percent of GDP into demand in China, less stimulus spending this de-globalization and demand in America. year. Given their colNobody thinks that is protection can be stopped lective GDP of US$16 the right agenda now. trillion, that should There’s no place that should be reducing its contri- amount to $240 billion. bution to global demand right now. It is really the But the Brussels-based Bruegel think tank has universal demand agenda.” been monitoring the decisions of the 27 EU memChina with its announcement of a $586 billion ber states and calculates that even after Germany’s package, and the United States with the $800 bil- latest pledge of $50 billion more in public spending, lion Obama stimulus bill and now the planned $1.7 the EU as a whole will contribute this year no more trillion budget deficit, are making heroic efforts.The than $115 billion, or less than 0.9 percent of GDP. Europeans, however, are doing a very great deal Only four of the EU members – Germany, Ausless, and Monday’s meeting of the eurozone finance tria, Spain and Britain – are spending more than ministers made it clear they are not ready to do 1 percent of GDP. more, in part because they fear that rising levels of By contrast, the United States is pumping in public debt may not be sustainable. more than double that amount this year, some 2 “The 16 euro area ministers agreed that recent percent of GDP (with much more next year), and American appeals insisting that the Europeans China is spending 7 percent of its much lower GDP make an additional budgetary effort to combat this year alone.
“While some questions regarding the Chinese data remain, it is nevertheless striking how China’s stimulus package stands out as by far the largest as a percentage of GDP,”says the Bruegel report.“There are at least two important reasons for this. First, investment makes up almost half of Chinese GDP, and since investment usually follows the economic cycle, the Chinese government is concerned that the current slowdown could lead to severe disruptions both economically and socially. Second, China has a large capacity for deficit spending given its low stock of government debt. The U.S. package, as signed by President Obama, is twice as large as the European package, occupying a middle ground between the EU and Chinese packages.” The Americans have grown accustomed to Europeans dragging their feet over strategic issues like sending troops to Afghanistan or spending serious money on defence and modernizing their military forces. But at least in the past the United States could expect Europe to play the role of an economic superpower, if only because it was in Europe’s direct self-interest to do so. There are a number of reasons for Europe’s hesitance, including different levels of exposure to the housing bubble, more or less globalized banking systems, widely differing levels of importance of the informal economy, and so on. Some of the richer Western European states have average incomes of more than US$30,000 a year, more than four times that of Bulgaria or Romania. But the rules of the single market and the EU treaties they have adopted mean that in a profound sense, they are all in the same boat.And if the EU members cannot get their act together, what hope is there for the G20? – UPII
13 March 2009
Russia plots to corner oil market
By John C. K. Daly
WASHINGTON, (UPI) – The seismic cracks produced in the Western economic structures amid the greatest recession since the Great Depression are reverberating far beyond the major financial centres of Wall Street and the City of London as nations consider how to protect their economies from further contraction. New ideas and concepts are receiving a far more sympathetic hearing as countries scramble to halt their economies’ decline. One of the most potentially significant new ideas whose time may have come involves the establishment by major energy-exporting nations of alternative exchanges for oil, the world’s most actively traded commodity, and natural gas. Until now oil trade has been dominated by the New York Mercantile Exchange, the world’s largest physical commodity futures exchange, which handles West Texas Intermediate benchmark futures, and London’s Intercontinental Exchange, which deals in North Sea Brent.All trades are in dollars, effectively giving the U.S. currency a monopoly. Now Russia, the world’s second-largest oil exporter, is discussing with Iran, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ second-largest exporter, the possibility of Tehran using the St. Petersburg Commodity Exchange to market its
output. Given the shifting tectonic plates of the global economy, the offer, if accepted, may prove to be the harbinger of change in how marketing the world’s most fungible commodity is traded, with potentially ominous implications for NewYork and London’s effective monopoly. The proposed collaboration is initially modest but significant: On March 3, during a visit to Tehran, Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko observed that Moscow could assist Iran in marketing its gas in Europe, as Russia enjoys a good and effective position in the European gas market. Warming to his theme, Shmatko told journalists that he suggested, during his discussions with Iranian Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari,“the establishment of a joint oil bourse (stock exchange) by Iran and Russia to form a regional market for oil trade, as many of the oil-producing countries are currently seeking different markets for their crude oil.”Shmatko added,“The Russian side has proposed that our Iranian partners consider the possibility of selling a part of Iran’s oil at the St. Petersburg Commodity Exchange,”to which Nozari replied that the Iranian government would review the offer. Nozari and Shmatko agreed to establish a joint energy committee to enhance Russian-Iranian energy cooperation.According to Nozari, Iran and Russia have been discussing proposals for natural
gas swaps, building a refinery in the Caspian Sea region, Russian participation in constructing the trans-Iran Neka-Jask pipeline to the Gulf of Oman, as well as joint exploration and development of oil fields. It is hardly a secret that both countries have chafed for years under the Anglo-American and dollar’s predominance in the global oil trade, and Nozari’s and Shmatko’s discussions represent an incremental undermining of NYMEX and ICE’s dominance of global energy markets. Both countries have established exchanges, though their trading is at present dwarfed by both NYMEX and ICE. In April 2008 a consortium of Russian oil and transport companies and large banks founded the St. Petersburg Commodity Exchange, which conducted its first trading session five months later, trading a small number of aviation and diesel fuel contracts. As the bourse’s opening coincided with the onset of the global recession, plans for full-scale trading to start in early 2009 have been delayed. In a sign of Moscow’s intention to downsize its energy market’s dependence on the dollar, the St. Petersburg Commodity Exchange’s news service reported that bourse director Sergei Maslov said Feb. 26 that the Russian branch of British company British Petroleum TNK-BP will begin to sell crude oil for rubles at the Exchange. The policy has strong state support, as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said repeatedly that Russia should begin trading energy contracts in rubles to tighten state control over prices. As TNK-BP is currently responsible for 18 percent of Russia’s current oil production, it is not an insignificant move.As the Exchange’s membership includes Transneft, Rosneft, Transnefteproduct, Gazprom Neft, Zarubezhneft and Surgutneftegaz,TNK-BP’s move could be followed by others that collectively produce the majority of Russia’s oil. On Feb. 17, 2008, Iran opened its own Petroleum Exchange on its Persian Gulf Kish Island, which Tehran had designated as a free trade zone. The Exchange was set up to trade contracts in euros, Iranian rials and a basket of other currencies other than dollars.The previous year, Iran had requested that its petroleum customers pay in non-dollar currencies, and by Dec. 8, 2007, Iran reportedly had converted all of its oil export payments to non-dollar currencies. The Kish Island Petroleum Exchange currently trades contracts for oil-derived products, such as
those used as feedstock for plastics and pharmaceuticals. According to Nozari, the bourse eventually may begin direct trading in crude oil, if the exchange successfully establishes itself. Should Iran participate in the St. Petersburg Commodity Exchange, it could avail itself of Russia’s greater expertise in European markets while nurturing its own petroleum commodity exchange, and sharing Moscow’s declared intention to shift trade beyond the international dollar-dominated market. Diversification away from the dollar has long been a key tenet of Iranian government policy.On June 17 last year,addressing the 29th meeting of the Council of Ministers of the OPEC Fund for International Development in the Iranian city of Isfahan, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told those in attendance: The fall in the value of the dollar is one of the biggest problems facing the world today. The damage caused by this has already affected the global economy, particularly those of the energyexporting countries. ...Therefore, I repeat my earlier suggestion, that a combination of the world’s valid currencies should become a basis for oil transactions, or (OPEC) member countries should determine a new currency for oil transactions. If the growing rapprochement between Russia and Iran is enough to unsettle New York and London oil brokers,Washington’s previously solid relationship with Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil producer, may also be about to shift toward Moscow. Last year National Security Council of Saudi Arabia Secretary-General Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, who had served as Saudi ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005, becoming dean of the Washington diplomatic corps and earning the sobriquet Bandar Bush for his closeness to the president’s family, visited Russia, ostensibly to explore Saudi-Russian military cooperation.What was overlooked by many Western energy analysts, however, was his single sentence, as reported by Interfax on July 14, Both Russia and Saudi Arabia agree upon and understand each other in virtually every energy-related issue. If Russia’s assiduous courtship of the Middle East’s pre-eminent oil producers bears fruit, then Britain and the United States may shortly find in the globalist world they so assiduously promoted that their hegemony in the world’s energy markets has been diminished by forces beyond the control of both Wall Street and the City of London. – UPI
Dutch Obama in Rotterdam By Stefan Nicola
BERLIN, (UPI) – A Moroccan-born immigrant to the Netherlands dubbed the Dutch Obama is the first Muslim migrant who has become mayor of a major European city, a development hailed as a big step for the integration of minorities in the country. Born to poor parents in Morocco, Ahmed Aboutaleb, 47, came to the Netherlands as a teenage immigrant who spoke no Dutch. On Jan. 5, 2009, he was appointed mayor of Rotterdam, with nearly 600,000 inhabitants the second-largest city of the Netherlands. It’s a success story many people in the Netherlands liken to that of U.S. President Barack Obama. “His nomination proves that there is upward mobility for immigrants in the Netherlands,”Rinus van Schendelen, political expert at Erasmus University of Rotterdam, told United Press International in a telephone interview.“In companies, universities and politics, you can see that immigrants are climbing the career ladder.” The son of an imam,Aboutaleb arrived in Amsterdam in 1976, looking for a better future. In Morocco, his family was living in a house without running water, and their possessions included, according to Aboutaleb, a cow, a donkey and a few boulders. Yet in Amsterdam, one of Europe’s most liberal
cities, Aboutaleb was able to quickly develop his talents. Here he learned Dutch, finished high school and obtained a bachelor’s degree in engineering. After he had worked as a radio journalist, the country’s Labour Party took the talented immigrant into its ranks, employing him as a spokesman for the Health Ministry. In 1998 Aboutaleb became director of the Forum organization, an institute dealing with multiculturalism in the Netherlands, and entered local politics. His political breakthrough came in 2007, when the Labour Party, which shares the government with the Christian Democrats, chose him as deputy minister for social affairs. His most recent appointment as the mayor of Rotterdam makes sense:The demographics of this traditionally blue-collar city, the site of Europe’s busiest harbour (superseded in the world only by Shanghai), have been changing in recent years. Today nearly half of its population has an immigrant background, with many stemming from Suriname,Turkey, the Caribbean and North Africa. Experts say that by 2015, the majority of Rotterdam citizens will be Muslims. Observers say Aboutaleb (in the Netherlands, mayors are not elected, but appointed by the queen) will provide immigrants with a role model and at the same time help legitimize tough anti-crime efforts made in Rotterdam. Aboutaleb is eager to integrate immigrants and
can relate to their fate, but he is also a hard-liner who has announced that he will be tough on street crime, a phenomenon tied often to young Moroccans. His message has been: If you don’t follow the rules, then there’s no place for you in this country. But if you work hard, you can make it to the top. That doesn’t mean every immigrant will bond with Aboutaleb. Rotterdam’s different ethnic groups are still quite divided. “The immigrants from Turkey and the Caribbean don’t see him as their man,” van Schendelen said. “They nevertheless find it fantastic that someone like him could be nominated.” The successful integration of immigrants in Europe – many from predominantly Muslim countries – isn’t motivated by goodwill only. It’s also a security necessity. Alienated by few job chances in mainstream society, French youths with immigrant backgrounds rioted in the Paris suburbs in the fall of 2005. Germany also has had trouble integrating the children of its so-called guest workers from Turkey, despite the fact that they are born in the country. The Netherlands has had a history of violence connected to its Muslim immigrant population. In November 2004 in Amsterdam, a Dutch teenager of Moroccan descent stabbed to death and nearly decapitated the filmmaker Theo van Gogh after the airing of his controversial film Submission, which
criticized the suppression of women in Islamic culture. After a populist right-wing politician in early 2008 announced the airing of an anti-Islam film, the Dutch government even prepared a set of emergency measures in case of riots or attacks, including short-term evacuations of Dutch embassies and citizens from the Middle East. In Rotterdam, however, it’s not about Muslims vs. Christians, said van Schendelen. “We have still nominally a large percentage of Christians, but only on paper; in practice, most Christians hardly or never go to church or send their kids to church schools,”he said.“The Christian parties consider the Islamic groupings to be more of a friend than an enemy – because they have a common interest in keeping religion in a strong position in Dutch society.” Rotterdam’s appointment nevertheless has dominated headlines in the country. Aware of the controversy of his position,“Aboutaleb has chosen a style of governing that has been very controlled so far,”van Schendelen told UPI.“He wants to avoid even the chance of a mistake.” “That doesn’t mean that the people are overly critical of their new mayor. The population here takes a wait-and-see approach, and they are giving him a chance,”van Schendelen said. – UPI
in 60 seconds China has jailed 70 for online speech WASHINGTON, March 13 (UPI) – Twelve countries have turned the Internet into an Intranet to control the information their citizens can access, an advocate of free speech said Thursday. In a report, Enemies of the Internet, Reporters Without Borders said at least 70 people are in detention in China for postings the government believes are undesirable. Iran and Vietnam also have large numbers of people behind bars for cyber-speech. Other countries singled out for online censorship were Burma, Cuba, Egypt, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. All these countries distinguish themselves not only by their ability to censor online news and information but also by their virtually systematic persecution of troublesome Internet users, Reporters Without Borders said. Another 10 countries, including Australia and South Korea, are moving in the direction of censorship, the group said. Governments also organize hacker attacks to shut down Web sites, the report said. Obama: Many answers will revive economy WASHINGTON, March 13 (UPI) – Financial market problems are joined by healthcare, energy independence and education issues in threatening the U.S. economy, President Barack Obama said. “I am not choosing to address these additional challenges just because I feel like it, or because I’m a glutton for punishment,” Obama told the Business Roundtable in Washington today. “I am doing so because they are fundamental to our economic growth, and to ensuring that we don’t have more crises like this in the future.” Americans can’t return to the endless cycles of bubble and bust, Obama said. “This crisis teaches us that such activity is not the creation of lasting wealth. It is the illusion of prosperity, and it hurts us all in the end. “America’s recovery must be built on a lasting foundation that must be addressed now,” Obama said. “Delaying investments in healthcare, green jobs, clean energy, infrastructure and education for another four to eight years would be to continue the same irresponsibility that led us to this point. It would be doing exactly what Washington has done for decades. And it will make our recovery more fragile and our future less secure.” Saying he is a strong believer in the free market system, Obama said he believed the role of lawmakers wasn’t to stifle the market but to strengthen its ability to unleash the creativity and innovation that still make this nation the envy of the world.
13 March 2009
Europe and US clash over crisis Berlin – Group of 20 (G20) finance ministers and central bankers are meeting near London this weekend amid signs of renewed tensions over the action to combat the global recession and the long-term drive to tighten global market regulation. Gathering in the neo-Jacobean splendour of the South Lodge Hotel in the rolling green hills on the outskirts of the British capital, the finance ministers from the world’s leading industrial and emerging nations will also set the stage for next month’s summit in London of the G20 government chiefs. But as was the case in the runup to the last G20 leaders’summit in November in Washington, signs of friction have emerged again between the US and Europe over the European push for stricter financial regulation and the US drive for more immediate action to contain the global economic slump. Renewed tensions between the big economic powers over tightening up financial market regulation could help to clear the way for the world’s major emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil to once again play a critical role both at the weekend G20 finance ministers’ meeting and next month leaders’ summit. This is especially case as the scale of the crisis gripping the global economy has helped to sweep aside long-standing strains between G20 member states over currency exchange rates, notably previous calls for China to allow the yuan and Japan to allow the yen to appreciate. Now several nations are hoping that weaker currencies will help to haul their economies out of what International Monetary chief Dominique StraussKahn has called the Great Recession. This includes both Central and Eastern European states as well as Britain, whose economies have taken a pounding as a result of the global crisis that was unleashed by the meltdown in the US mortgage market. But the key task for the finance ministers meeting in the wood-panelled rooms of the South Lodge Hotel this weekend will be to try to allay the deepening sense of uncertainty about the global eco-
nomic outlook by stressing that everything is being done to ward off the downturn. Dispatching the US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to the finance ministers’ meeting,American President Barack Obama called on the G20 to step up moves to halt the global economic slowdown, adding that more government stimulus will be a top US priority at G20 leaders’summit in London next month. “As aggressive as the actions we are taking have been so far, it’s very important to make sure that other countries are moving in the same direction, because the global economy is all tied together,” Obama said yesterday in a meeting with Geithner. But speaking today at a joint press conference in Berlin with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the need for overhauling financial market regulation to help face up to the world economic slowdown. Merkel said that economic stimulus packages“can under no circumstances replace the necessary regulation”of the financial markets. “The problem is not spending more money,”said Sarkozy,“but putting in place financial systems of regulation.” There appears to be general agreement on the need for global joint economic action with a draft European Union (EU) paper prepared in advance of the G20 meetings saying:“Coordinated and timely action is necessary to put the global economy back on the track towards recovery.”
But underscoring the EU drive for tighter financial market regulation, the paper said:“The G20 summit in London has a crucial role to play in reshaping the global financial system and rebuilding the confidence of economic actors across the world.” However, sweeping changes to the financial system could still take some time to finalize. What is more, despite a measure of calm returning to markets, the buildup to the weekend G20 meeting has been accompanied by a slew of almost catastrophic economic numbers. This in turn has helped to fuel concerns that the economic and financial crisis could rapidly transform itself into a labour market crisis as companies around the world step up production cuts and layoffs to cope with a slump in business. As a result, with interest rates in the world’s leading economies approaching zero, the pressure is likely to grow on the G20 to come up with more solutions for undercutting the recession. However, the problem for both the G20 leaders and the finance ministers is that it could also take some time for the stimulus plans to take effect and consequently to assess their impact on limiting the fallout from the crisis. In the meantime, the focus for many governments has now shifted to micro managing national problems and helping to come up with specific solutions to the difficulties facing industries notably the crisis-hit car sector. – DPA
Nobody’s gonna go to school today… Winnenden, Germany – The small town of Winnenden in south-west Germany struggled to come to terms today with the school bloodbath in its midst that left 16 dead. “Why?”was the question most commonly asked by students as they paid tribute to the pupils, teachers and innocent bystanders gunned down by Tim Kretschmer, 17. “What did you have against them?”read a message at one of the tables decorated with flowers and candles that schools in the vicinity set up for pupils to pay their respects. “I am totally shocked,”said an 11-year-old, as she walked across the playground of a school just a few hundred metres away from the Albertville secondary school where Thursday morning’s attack took place. Kretschmer killed nine students and three teachers before fleeing and gunning down three other people until he shot himself after being cornered by police 40 kilometres away. The Albertville school remained closed as psychiatrists provided counselling to traumatized students and teachers as well as the families of the victims. Counsellors were also present at other schools where“we could talk with them all day about what happened,”said one girl who saw the body of a gardener shot dead by Kretschmer as he fled. “It’s really painful to think about it,”said another girl. Some of the schools cancelled lessons for the rest of the week, but teachers were there to discuss
events with pupils. “The children were upset,”said one teacher.“It’s important to let them give vent to their feelings.” The town is planning a memorial service overnight, but the major remembrance ceremony will take place on March 21 when Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Horst Koehler are due to attend. Police disclosed that one of their officers called to the scene of the attack learned over the police radio that his wife, a teacher at the school, may have been one of the victims. It later turned out that she was among the dead, possibly gunned down as she tried to shield her class from Kretschmer, who was a pupil at the school until last year. The youth was first identified as the gunman by three former classmates who survived the bloodbath by climbing out of a school window and alerting police. The children described how Kretschmer came into their classroom, shot dead four girls and left, only to return a short while later. He then started firing indiscriminately as the students dived for cover behind their desks. Police arrived on the scene shortly afterwards. Officials said earlier the gunman was a troubled youth with a love of guns and heavy metal who had been undergoing treatment for depression. He apparently acted out of revenge, believing his former schoolmates had made fun of him and did
not take him seriously. Officials said there had been threats to six other schools in region after the shooting, prompting police to increase surveillance of school buildings. It was Germany’s worst school bloodbath since
Psychologists studying the latest school shooting are again noting one big common denominator – heavy metal music. Not only is it a factor in the latest attack, it was also at the centre of last year’s high school massacre in Finland. On that occasion, the gunman posted YouTube videos in advance of the massacre that killed 10, featuring violent lyrics and music from a German heavy metal band. In March 2005 17 year old student Jeff Wiese in Minnesota went on a gun rampage killing 10, including himself. Fellow students recalled he liked to wear black and listen to heavy metal. A year later, March 2006, 28 year old Kyle Huff murdered seven in Seattle. Friends described him as “sweet”, but also that “he liked heavy metal”. In December 2004, the former lead guitarist of heavy metal band Pantera, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott was one of five killed when 25 year old heavy met-
April 2002, when a 19-year-old high school student went on a rampage in Erfurt, killing 12 teachers, two students, a school secretary and a policeman before killing himself. – – DPA
aller Nathan Gale walked on stage at a rock concert and opened fire on the band before turning his gun on the audience. Gale was shot dead by police while still onstage. In Montreal, another trenchcoat wearing rock fan struck: “The blog paints a dark portrait of the 25-year-old man published reports have identified as the trenchcoat-wearing gunman who opened fire on students at Montreal’s Dawson College Wednesday, killing one and injuring 19 others, according to the Canadian Press. “Gill’s list of favourite music groups is a who’s who of heavy metal: OZZY OSBOURNE, MARILYN MANSON, IRON MAIDEN, DANZIG and METALLICA, but only the ‘old stuff’.” Marilyn Manson was also one of the inspirations for the Virginia Tech massacre that killed 32, and another school shooting in Ohio that injured four. And of course the Columbine killers were big fans of metal and death singer Marilyn Manson.
13 March 2009
Aussie cleanup begins off Brisbane Sydney – Oil from a damaged ship has washed up on 60 kilometres of beaches on Australia’s east coast in what officials declared an environmental disaster. Oil gushed from the Hong Kong-owned Pacific Adventurer on Wednesday when it was lashed by a storm in international waters near Brisbane. The 180-metre vessel also lost 31 containers overboard that contained the fertilizer ingredient ammonium nitrate. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the spill was much bigger than the captain reported and the damage much greater than anticipated. “We know that the ship was capable of carrying 100 tonnes (of oil)so it could be anywhere between 30 and 100, but it is certainly significantly more than the 30 (tonnes initially reported),”Bligh said. Beaches are closed to tourists until the mess has been cleaned up. “At this stage my priority is to have teams of
people out there cleaning this mess up, to protect wildlife in what may well be the worst environmental disaster that Queensland, or the south-east of our state, has faced,”Bligh said. “If there is any evidence that this ship owner breached any regulations we will not hesitate to
prosecute.We’ll be pursuing the ship’s owner for full compensation for the cost of this clean-up.” The Pacific Adventurer is now safely at anchor in Moreton Bay.Aerial searches failed to locate any of the containers. Sunshine Coast Council spokesman Stephen Skull
said removing the oil would be a long and laborious job. “It’s certainly bigger than the first reports I was getting in terms of the extent of it and the magnitude of what’s impacting on our beaches,”he said. University of Queensland academic Michael White said that ammonium nitrate was not a threat to marine life but warned that the lost containers were a threat to shipping. “It’s a hazard then, because if especially small craft come onto it, especially in heavy weather like now, they would bash the hull against the container and probably would break up the ship,”he said. Queensland Seafood Industry Association president Neil Green said containers bobbing in the ocean were worrying trawler captains. “We’re horrified,”he said.“Looking at the location of where these containers went over, it’s smack bang in the middle of our trawl grounds.” – DPA
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which included a large furniture store and an electronics market,Welten said. The goal was to carry out bombings in stores and kill as many people as possible, the report said. Police searching for explosives went through businesses near Amsterdam’s football stadium Thursday morning and indefinitely closed down several stores and a concert hall. It was not clear if explosives were found, the report said. The all-out search included several homes in Amsterdam. Parallel actions were carried out in the Belgian capital, Brussels, the report said.
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Islamic terrorists caught in bomb plot The Hague – Seven terrorist suspects, identified as ‘Dutch citizens of Moroccan heritage’, were arrested in the Netherlands on charges they planned bombings around Amsterdam, Dutch radio reported. The suspects, detained this morning, were six men and a woman, aged 19 to 64. One was a relative of a suspect in the March 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed 191 people. Police chief Bernard Welten said investigators received a phone tip-off Wednesday from an informant in Brussels about the attack plans. The informant named three men as being involved in the plot as well as the attack targets,
conflicts or difference of opinions, including Tibet issues,”Ban said. The Alliance of Civilizations,headed by Turkey and Iran, has been trying to bring together the religions and cultures of the world, particularly the West and Islam, which has drawn particular attention since the terrorist attacks against the United States in 2001. The Istanbul conference will be the second important one attended by heads of state and government after a meeting in Madrid last year. China considers Tibet as its territory and therefore an internal matter in any dispute. The Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Buddhism, has called on China to respect the tradition, culture and religion in his land. He fled Lhassa 50 years ago this week and has been living in exile in India.
ures broc ent h dv
Beijing – China’s nominal parliament on Friday endorsed policies designed to bolster the economy against the global recession and approved an annual budget that included another large hike in military spending. Reports on the budget and economic performance were approved by a large majority of the nearly 3,000 members of the National People’s Congress, who took part in rapid electronic voting at the end of the parliament’s nine-day annual session. Premier Wen Jiabao’s economic report, which was approved by 98 per cent of the voting delegates, included a rallying call to tackle the “arduous and
formidable”tasks of reinvigorating China’s faltering economic growth this year. The expansion of domestic consumption,“especially individual consumption,”would be crucial to the efforts to rebalance the economy,Wen told the congress, which endorses policies and legislation drafted by the ruling Communist Party. The government said it believes China could still achieve its target for 8-per-cent growth this year in the gross domestic product by implementing a 4trillion-yuan (586-billion-dollar) economic stimulus package, which was announced in November,Wen’s report said. Speaking after the approval of the report, Wen said the stimulus package would address “not only the symptoms but also the root causes”of China’s economic problems. The “massive plan to adjust and reinvigorate industries”would focus on cars, steel, shipbuilding, petrochemicals, information technology and other key industries. It includes 1.18 trillion yuan in direct government investment for new projects in social welfare, technology, environment and infrastructure, Wen said. “The whole process will be transparent and the whole process will be subject to supervision,”he said. The government has reserved further funds in case it needs to tackle a “protracted and very difficult”financial crisis,“which means that at any time, we can introduce new stimulus policies,”Wen said. The annual budget report included another 14.9per-cent jump in military spending this year after several years of double-digit rises. It was approved by 85 per cent of the congress delegates. Reports by the Supreme People’s Court gained 75 per cent of the votes, in a traditional reflection of concerns over judicial corruption by a minority of delegates.
New York –The dispute involving China over Tibetan sovereignty can be resolved like any other conflict by the creation of“very harmonious atmosphere worldwide,” UN Secretary General Ban Kimoon said today. Ban made the description of a hoped-for forum to settle the long-running dispute over Tibet at a news conference where he was asked for his reaction to a comment by the Dalai Lama, who had criticized Chinese oppression in his homeland. Ban said the upcoming meeting in Istanbul in early April of the Alliance of Civilizations, which will be attended by US President Barack Obama, would be a“opportunity to discuss all the matters pertaining to differences of opinions and promote mutual understandings between religions and traditions.” “I hope by creating a very harmonious atmosphere worldwide, we will see the end of all the
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13 March 2009
Confirmation: Dope test flawed London – The current doping test in sport for the steroid testosterone is not suitable because of ethnic variations, a Swiss study published today revealed. The study was commissioned by the ruling football FIFA and carried out among 171 players around the world. The results were examined at the Lausanne, Switzerland, lab approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and published in the“British
Journal of Sports and Medicine.” Testosterone is a natural hormone but has also been used as a performance-enhancing doping substance by athletes, including American cyclist Floyd Landis and baseballer Alex Rodriguez. The study revealed “significant differences”in the so-called testosterone-epitestosterone ratio with which the use of synthetic testosterone is to be detected. The officialWADA benchmark of 4:1 was surpassed
by Hispanics (5.8:1),Caucasians (5.7:1) and Africans (5.6:1) while Asians registered 3.8:1 in the tests after steroids were added to their urine samples. “These results demonstrate that a unique and nonspecific threshold to evidence testosterone misuse is not fit for purpose,”said the study. The study suggested that a biological passport for athletes should replace the current test method, with suspicious levels then leading to targeted doping tests.
Wilfried Schaenzer, head of the doping lab in Cologne, Germany, did not make much of the findings, saying“we know for a long time that different people produce different levels of testosterone.” Schaenzer said that the so-called isotope test can still determine whether synthetic testosterone was added. However, he also said“it will be the likely strategy to introduce the biological passport.” – DPA
Silver ferns games announced Wellington, March 13 – New Zealand will play three netball tests against an invitation world team in August followed by five tests split into two series against Australia. In a bumper 2009 schedule announced today by Netball New Zealand, the Silver Ferns will face a challenging series against a world team comprising players from Jamaica, Africa, England, Australia and Samoa. The tests will be in Wellington, Rotorua and Auckland. The Silver Ferns will then play three tests against Australia in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in September, followed by a home trans-Tasman series comprising two tests in Invercargill and Auckland. NNZ chief executive Raelene Castle said she was delighted to secure eight quality internationals for 2009. “This is a really important year for the Silver Ferns as they build towards the 2010 Commonwealth Games and we want the Silver Ferns team
NZPA/ Wayne Drought
and squad to get as much competitive international match play as possible,”Castle said. – NZPA
Schedule Aug 24: v invitation world team, Wellington, 7.30pm Aug 26: v invitation world team, Rotorua, 7.30pm Aug 29: v invitation world team, Auckland, 7.30pm Sept 6: v Australia, Sydney, 2.25pm (NZ time) Sept 9: v Australia, Melbourne, 9.55pm (NZ time) Sept 13: v Australia, Brisbane, 6.25pm (NZ time) Sept 20: v Australia, Invercargill, 4pm Sept 23: v Australia, Auckland, 7.30pm
Warriors see defence as the key By Robert Lowe of NZPA
Auckland, March 13 – The New Zealand Warriors open their new National Rugby League campaign tomorrow night boasting plenty of attacking options, but see defence as the key to their aspirations. The Warriors leaked more than 30 points a game over the early part of last season, an average they managed to get down to 24 as they scraped into the playoffs. Coach Ivan Cleary said it an area the club had done plenty of work on over the summer. “It was something last year that,if you looked across the whole of season, it wasn’t good enough,”he said. “In the second half of the year it was reasonably good, but it’s something we’re trying to make consistent and a foundation of our game.” The Warriors go into their round-one clash with Parramatta in Auckland at shorter odds to land their first title than before the start of any season in their 14-year history. Their passage through to the final four last September and their recruiting have convinced Australian bookmakers to rate them as third favourites behind premiers Manly and Melbourne. Among their buys are winger Denan Kemp, fiveeighth Joel Moon and Queensland State of Origin second rower Jacob Lillyman, who all make their debuts for the club against the Eels. Kemp, 21, has already proved his try-scoring ability with Brisbane, while fellow former Bronco Moon, 20, could be the player to bring consistency to the Warriors’No 6 jersey. Their presence adds potency to a backline that has plenty of test experience in centres Brent Tate and Jerome Ropati, winger Manu Vatuvei and halfback Nathan Fien. At fullback,Wade McKinnon will look to recapture his superb form of 2007 after having had last season wrecked by a serious knee injury. The Warriors won all three of their trials – against Melbourne, North Queensland and Gold Coast – a turnaround from previous years when pre-season victories were a rarity.
Cleary said the first round was always different from trials, when the interchange regulations were relaxed, allowing players more of a breather. “There’ll be a bit of a fatigue element there,”he said. “It will be pretty intense and I’m sure the heat will turn up a little bit. “I guess it just comes down to getting the basics right – controlling the ball and getting your defence right. I know it sounds like a cliche, but that’s really important this week.” There will be plenty of emotion at Mt Smart Stadium, with a big crowd of over 20,000 expected. Skipper Steve Price makes his 300th first-grade appearance, becoming just the 11th player in the competition’s 101-year history to achieve the feat. Before kickoff, there will be minute’s silence for up-and-coming Warrior Sonny Fai, who is presumed to have drowned when making a rescue at Bethells Beach in west Auckland in early January. The return of former coach Daniel Anderson adds an extra element to the encounter. He had plenty of success with the Warriors after taking over as coach in 2001, but made a sudden departure in mid-204 amid reports of tensions in the dressing room. After a successful stint with English giants St Helens, he is back in the NRL as Parramatta’s new coach and looking to turn around the club’s fortunes after they failed to make the finals last season. Like the Warriors, the Eels also won their three trials. Cleary, who played under Anderson at the Warriors, isn’t expecting radical changes in tactics from Parramatta, who are skippered by Kiwis World Cupwinning captain Nathan Cayless. “They’ve still got a pretty similar team from last year and they have a lot of guys there who will play a similar style regardless of whoever coaches them,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll be well-prepared and we’ll be facing a pretty determined outfit with a lot of talent there.” – NZPA
NZPA/ Wayne Drought
Highlanders make three changes; Dagg in doubt Wellington, March 13 – The Highlanders have revamped their loose forward trio for the Super 14 rugby match against the Chiefs in Invercargill tomorrow night. Despite last weekend’s 6-0 defeat of the Crusaders in Dunedin, Highlanders coach Glenn Moore has opted to replace flanker Alando Soakai and No 8 George Naoupu with Tim Boys and Steven Setephano respectively.
The other change comes in the backline, where second five-eighth Johnny Leota returns from injury in place of Jayden Hayward. There could be another change, with in-form fullback Israel Dagg to undergo a fitness test on a leg injury. If he isn’t cleared, Dagg will be replaced at the back by winger Ben Smith, with Kendrick Lynn coming onto the right wing. – NZPA
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TV & Film
0Cast: Salvatore Abruzzese , Simone Sacchettino, Salvatore Ruocco, Vincenzo Fabricino 0Director: Matteo Garrone 0Length: 137 minutes 0Rated: R16 (for violence,offensive language and drug use)
0Cast: Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Candice Bergen, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith 0Director: Diane English 0Length: 116 minutes 0Rated: PG (for coarse language) In 1936 when The Women bounded onto Broadway, Clare Boothe Luce’s merciless suggestion that the parlours of Park Avenue are kennels for female dogs struck one observer as so acidic that it “could turn litmus paper pink.” For Luce, as for Anita Loos and Jane Murfin, who adapted the gossip-girl comedy into the 1939 film classic, the idea of “female friendship” was practically an oxymoron. Not so Diane English’s intermittently amusing update starring Meg Ryan,Annette Bening and Jada Pinkett Smith, acid-balanced as a salon shampoo. In English’s version, fidelity among friends is as important – perhaps more so – than that between spouses. So, instead of characterizing its central figure, Mary Haines (Ryan), as an innocent pup amid the attack canines, English takes the more optimistic view that even rabid middle-aged dogs can learn new tricks – like obedience to friends. Nice message,if one with considerably less bite than the source material. English has taken Luce’s insight that for women,friendship can be a lethal weapon,and blunted it in the warm bath of self-help. And because Luce’s account of how women behave in men-free zones prefigured Sex and the City, that effervescent TV and movie phenom also makes English’s remix seem a tad flat. Maybe it’s the watered-down, sitcommy direction (this marks the directorial debut of English, creator of Murphy Brown) that dilutes this cocktail’s fizz. The distinction between the upscale milieus of SATC and The Women may seem subtle. But in their niche universes, SATC is an edgy 35, drinks Mojitos, reads Vogue, and shops Bergdorfs; The
Women is a centered 48, sips martinis, rips into O, and haunts Saks. It is fair to say that Saks is to The Women what the Sistine Chapel is to The Agony and the Ecstasy – a sacred place for prayer, communion and confession. At the salon of the Fifth Avenue fashion emporium, married Mary (Ryan, tossing her ringlets like a bowl of fusilli) learns from a chatty manicurist that her husband,Steven,is dallying with sultry Saks perfume spritzer Crystal (Eva Mendes).Her friends,Sylvie (Bening), a magazine editor;Alex (Jada Pinkett Smith), a novelist; and Edie (Debra Messing), an earthy mama, already have heard the news. As Mary’s sharp-tongued pals deliberate how to break it to her, they can’t help but savour this juicy morsel of ill fortune.A fashion designer with a Connecticut estate, adorable daughter and Wall Street spouse, Mary has the Olympian life they all wanted but, being mere mortals, never got. If her gal pals aren’t happy,exactly,at the prospect of Mary’s humiliation, they are secretly pleased that in her misery she is rendered mortal like them.And when Mary finds that one of them has confirmed her marital blitz to a New York tabloid, it leads to an estrangement as painful as that from her husband. English wrangles her talent like a virtuoso. Best is Murphy Brown herself, Candice Bergen, as Mary’s mother, Catherine, who counsels forgiveness when others counsel revenge. Also quite fine in a movie where the piquant sides are tastier than the bland main dish, is Bening, whose Sylvie reveals more than one dimension. Ryan has the thankless task of delivering the film’s sapless homily: Knowing what you want is the key to personal and professional happiness. (She is in excellent company. Mary Haines is a role that defeated both Norma Shearer – in 1939’s The Women – and June Allyson – in the 1957 music remake, The Opposite Sex.) In writing this I feel like a hung jury. My final verdict on The Women: Enjoyed, not overjoyed. Watch the trailer
– By Carrie Rickey
In English’s version, fidelity among friends is as important – perhaps more so – than that between spouses
Gomorrah is a fictionalized adaptation of an Italian crime expose, but it plays like an angry cinema verité document of mob life. Roberto Saviano’s riveting bestseller tore the lid off Naples’ murderous Camorra crime family, the cousin of Sicily’s Cosa Nostra. It was quite a piece of journalism, unglamorous, viciously unsentimental, and now the author lives under 24-hour police protection. In the hard-boiled film version, professional actors mingle with local kids and actual Cammora thugs, several of whom have since been arrested for crimes like those they perform onscreen. To say the film has an aura of authenticity is understating it. It’s gripping, occasionally terrifying, but unlikely to be anyone’s favourite movie. Is there such a thing as too real? Writer/director Matteo Garrone’s film records daily life under a brutal crime regime as dispassionately as an X-ray revealing cancer. This is a “slice of life” movie made of raw, impressionistic scenes, not a plot. Garrone throws us into the thick of things without a road map, insisting that we stay alert, connect the dots, work things out for ourselves, sink or swim. The film opens in a surreal blue glow as a few Cammoristi bake at a tanning salon. They’re shockingly shot dead in a twist on the old gangster-film barbershop rub-out. The who and why of the scene matters less than the brutally realistic depiction of the murders. Mob wars have been going on for generations; this is just today’s tally. Gomorrah’s body count is high, but the killings never feel routine. Each death comes as a moment of horror with huge emotional impact. The story is a constant, bloody struggle for money and power set in a prison-like housing project, scrubby public parks and garment industry sweat shops. Here we encounter a half dozen men trying to get into the mob, survive it or escape it. Marco and Ciro are loose cannons with a taste for chaos who wave guns, shout Al Pacino’s lines from Scarface, and stage impulsive robberies. Don Ciro, a Camorra bag man, doles out payoffs to families of jailed Mafiosi, a once-routine clerking job growing increasingly dangerous. University student Roberto becomes a junior executive, applying his chemical training with a mob toxic waste subsidiary that is poisoning his hometown. Pasquale, a master tailor for mob-controlled couture clothing factories, risks his life by secretly teaching workers in a Chinese competitor’s facility. Toto, a grocery delivery boy from the projects, takes up drug dealing as unselfconsciously as is it was skateboarding. The characters’ stories don’t intersect, and the episodic narrative allows little character development, but the film evokes a panorama of greed and betrayal. The Italy we see looks like a Third World viper pit at worst, drab and banal at best. Travel-poster vistas appear only in a brief scene when Roberto accompanies a smoothly tailored Camorra businessman to Venice for a corrupt poison-control deal. “We’ll be travelling a lot,” the older man says, a tossoff remark that reverberates with menace. Garrone’s world view is dark and disconcerting, but not hopeless. Several characters move away from lives of mob control. Others die, soon to be replaced by eager new opportunists. Gomorrah is stark and powerful filmmaking, a welcome alternative to romanticized American mob melodramas. Watch the trailer – By Colin Covert
13 March 2009
Britney Spears may be back on track By Jim Abbott The Orlando Sentinel
She’s been bubble-gum cute, a Lolita vixen, a mom, a mess. And now, Britney Spears is back again, as the Comeback Kid. When the pop star’s “Circus”tour pulls into town where I am on Sunday,it’ll be a splashy tent revival with magic and acrobats.At times,the singer will be perched atop a giant umbrella, suspended from the ceiling and sawed in half as part of a magician’s routine. Like a good magic trick, her comeback defies expectations, too.“Circus”yielded the pulsating hit “Womanizer,”that put Spears, 27, at the top of the pop singles chart for the first time since“Baby, One More Time”in 1998.The song’s one-week ascension from No. 96 to No. 1 set a Billboard record. And although she’s in the midst of a breach-ofcontract lawsuit involving a former manager, the singer’s outrageous, occasionally panty-less tabloid exploits are in the past tense – for now, at least. In a music industry that is struggling, her tour is one of the bright spots. “If you are deemed a must-see attraction, people are still ponying the money up,”says Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of Pollstar magazine.“A good example is the Britney Spears tour. It went on sale in the middle of the meltdown, and business has been very good.” The transition from death watch to rebirth is just the latest chapter in a story that started in Central Florida.
Before K-Fed and the tabloids, before the shaved head, unbuckled toddlers and MTV awards-show debacle, Spears was one of the fresh faces of a new generation of an American institution,“The Mickey Mouse Club,”taped at Disney-MGM Studios. That promising beginning, in a cast that also included Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez and Christina Aguilera, showcased singing and dancing skills often forgotten in the tabloid turmoil. “She’s a talented entertainer,” said Alex Greggs, a Winter Park, Fla., producer who worked in the studio extensively with Spears during the time of 2003’s “In the Zone.” “There’s a big difference between a music artist and an entertainer,” Greggs said.“She’s a really talented singer, but she seemed to put that in the back seat and she concentrated on image – destroying that old image to prove to everyone that she’s grown-up now.” The initial solo stardom, of course, was attached to the sticky bubble-gum of“Baby, One More Time” and“Oops! ... I Did It Again,”songs that helped birth the 1990s teen-pop craze. She sold more than 83 million records worldwide, to rank eighth on the Recording Industry Association of America’s list of female artists. Then she got weird. In January 2004, there was the quickie, 55-hour marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander, with vows exchanged at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.
That summer, she returned to the altar to marry Kevin Federline, a back-up dancer who already was in a relationship with pregnant actress Shar Jackson. Federline and Spears detailed their personal lives in a short-lived reality TV show and eventually had two children. Even more than her nights on the town with Paris Hilton or encounters with the paparazzi, it was reports of Spears’erratic treatment of the children that turned things from curious to tragic.
ing to cooperate by behaving badly,” said Robert Thompson, founder for the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University. The tragedy of the Spears decline,Thompson says,was that her fame started with talent,unlike some others. “There’s a type of celebrity out there that has become the modern-day equivalent of the jester – and some start out that way,”Thompson said. “Anna Nicole Smith started out that way.” Spears’discovery on the“Mickey Mouse Club”was
although she’s in the midst of a breach-ofcontract lawsuit involving a former manager, the singer’s outrageous, occasionally panty-less tabloid exploits are in the past tense – for now, at least. In a music industry that is struggling, her tour is one of the bright spots It was a little more than a year ago that police were called to her home after she refused to relinquish custody, an incident that ended with Spears being held for psychiatric evaluation at CedarsSinai Medical Center. There was new music, such as 2007’s “Blackout,” but the singer’s full-time job was being the world’s biggest celebrity train wreck. “If we’re willing to consume it, there are those willing to make money off it, if someone is will-
the stuff of American dreams. “We’ve made movies about this kind of story for years and years,”Thompson says. “A hometown girl grabs the brass ring and becomes a star.‘Oops! ... I Did It Again,’I don’t care what anybody says, that’s a great song. She was a pop star in the old-fashioned sense of the word.” With a little magic, the comeback kid can do it again. Baby One More Time
13 March 2009
NEW CD RELEASES Kelly Clarkson
0All I Ever Wanted 0RCA Kelly Clarkson has learned her lessons well. She figured out that the problem with her last album, “My December,” wasn’t that it was dark, but that it was unfinished. The emotions were valid, but the way she expressed them was a bit lacking. No problem with that this time. Not only is“All I Ever Wanted”overflowing with potential hit singles, but it covers all the same ground she wanted to cover the last time – esteem issues, betrayal, longing – in a far more effective way, using a wide variety of pop styles to make her points. Clarkson easily swings from the fizzy dance-pop of her No. 1 single“My Life Would Suck WithoutYou” to the Pinkish rock anthem “I Do Not Hook Up,” written by“American Idol”judge Kara DioGuardi, Katy“I Kissed a Girl”Perry and Greg Wells. But that’s just a warm-up. The gorgeous ballad “If No One Will Listen”shows she can still beat any “Idol”contender in a throwdown, while she spits out the punk-pop nugget“Whyyawannabringmedown” with enough venom to knock out almost any Warped Tour band. On“I WantYou,”she plays the girl-group, Amy Winehouse, retro-pop vibe perfectly, while the wall of guitars on“Don’t Let Me StopYou”shows she hasn’t abandoned the rock style she was trying to build with Mike Watt on “My December.” Despite her very public stumble with “My December,”Clarkson did not retreat on “All I Ever Wanted.”She moved full steam ahead with building a bright, vibrant pop world that suits her, as well as all of her fans.
Death of a lefty The Believers
0Zoe Heller 0Harper (US$25.95 via Amazon)
Within the rigorous, infuriating confines of our families, we’re all caught – often forever – in roles we would love to shed. We’re the rebel or the smart one, the crybaby, the peacemaker, the black sheep, the mama’s boy. Breaking free of such moulds requires the rare combination of time passing at just the right speed, changing circumstances, more courage than we can generally muster after a hard day’s work – and just plain luck. British novelist Zoe Heller understands this universal conundrum, and in The Believers she puts her perverse wit to work examining it. The result is a sharply satiric exploration of what happens to the Litvinoff clan when vibrant patriarch Joel – a wealthy, radical lawyer whose cheery lefty idealism doesn’t prevent him from cherishing a rather inflated view of himself – suddenly has a stroke and ends up in a coma. At first, the Litvinoffs’roles are deeply ingrained trenches from which there seems no escape.Audrey, Joel’s antagonistic wife, is a hardcore stoic, chastising one of her daughters for weeping at Joel’s hospital bed:“Don’t start blubbing, Karla, please.” She always takes the hard line and remains unreasonable and unwavering in her devotion to adopted son Lenny, a spoiled, wastrel drug addict who shows few signs of improvement or promise. A social worker married to a union activist, Karla is viewed as a born nurturer, but, in truth, she wishes she’d followed her father’s footsteps into Chris Cornell law. She “had spent many happy hours in her bed0Scream room re-enacting important, historical trials with 0Interscope/Mosley Music her Barbies and her gerbil ... Picking up on certain familial hints – the mood of rueful scepticism that arose whenever she spoke of law school, her mother’s Combining the talents of former breezy speculations as to whether she might not be Soundgarden/Audioslave front- ‘a bit dyslexic’ – she came to understand that she man Chris Cornell and super had horribly overestimated her potential.”Trying hit-maker Timbaland could dutifully to do what’s expected, she’s trapped in the have been a pretty good idea. harrowing cycle of attempting to outwit infertility Unfortunately, the resulting but not entirely sure she wants to be a mother. “Scream” makes it sound like it was the last good Her sister Rosa has always been the lively radical, one either of them had during their sessions. The teaching in Cuba in service to the Revolution, but oddness of “Sweet Revenge,” which sounds like recently even Rosa has abandoned her romance the duo re-creating “Bad”-era Michael Jackson, is with socialism and horrified her parents by exhibpassable. But when Cornell restrains his trademark iting an interest in Orthodox Judaism.“Joel and yowl to accommodate an apparent Nelly Furtado Audrey had a keen contempt for all religions, but castoff on the painful “Part of Me”and the mono- Judaism, being the only variety of theistic mumbotone OneRepublic-styled“Long Gone,”you have to jumbo in which they were themselves ancestrally wonder how he went from superstar to musically implicated, had always inspired their most vehebankrupt so quickly. ment scorn.”Joel even used to return bar mitzvah invitations with “THERE IS NO GOD scrawled rudely across their engraved lettering.” But even HOT SONG though she despises her parents’ intolerance, Rosa The video for Ciara’s new single, “Never Ever” can’t be sure what, if anything, the recent religious (LaFace), is filled with Janet Jackson references, awakening means to her. fitting for this breathy Jacksonesque ballad that The sanctimonious attitudes of true believers are twists together the Harold Melvin and the Blue a rich target, and Heller is merciless in dissecting Notes classic “If You Don’t Know Me by Now”and hypocrisy and the ways in which rampaging egos rhymes from Young Jeezy.The sweetness of Ciara’s gleefully trump idealism. One high-minded antivoice and the freshness of the approach make the war meeting digresses to the point where members whole package work. argue over whether to have Susan Sarandon speak – Reviewed by Glenn Gamboa at an upcoming protest.“Everybody always wants to have Susan Sarandon at these things because she’s good looking, but how well informed is she, ALSO NEW THIS WEEK really?”Another woman cries,“What about Tim Robbins?” The-Dream And even as Rosa tries to bend herself to the will 0Love vs. Money of a demanding God, she can’t shake the idea of how outsiders see her: Dressed for an Orthodox field trip, Ballas Hough Band she“looked like nothing so much as a mad Victorian 0bhb governess trying to hide a skin disease.” But Heller is not completely ambivalent about Madeleine Peyroux her characters’ fates; she generously allows them 0Bare Bones room to change. Even stubborn Audrey, faced with a
reality she can’t bulldoze her way out of, recognizes her limits:“How had she ended up like this, imprisoned in the role of harridan? ... Somewhere along the line, when she hadn’t been paying attention, her temper had ceased to be a beguiling party act that could be switched on and off at will.” We may feel we’re trapped,Heller argues,but we’re not. Life always offers a bit of room to manoeuvre, if only we’re willing to surrender. – By Connie Ogle
Preacher says biblical church is vanishing from America The Vanishing Church: Searching for Significance in the 21st Century 0Bob Pearle 0Hannibal Books, (US$14.95 via Amazon)
Author Edwin Black is a child of Holocaust survivors. When he first saw an IBM card-sorting machine as part of an exhibit at the United States Holocaust Museum, he vowed to learn more about this machine and the role of its manufacturer.The result was 2001’s IBM and the Holocaust, a devastating account of the venerated American firm’s hand-in-hand collaboration with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government in identifying, organizing and exterminating Jews and others who were deemed non-Aryan and undesirable. Black’s exhaustive investigation, abetted by an international research team, resulted in worldwide headlines – and stonewalling, obfuscation and denials by its subject – which continues to this day. Black’s next book, War Against the Weak (2003), studied the role of the fake science of eugenics and its rise in the United States in the early 20th century, which provided the rationale for Hitler’s racial policies. In shocking detail, Black related the subjugation, sterilization and murder of thousands of Americans solely on the basis of their race, country of origin or failure to pass culturally biased “intelligence” tests. This was fuelled by xenophobia and ignorance, and supported – astonishingly – by corporate names like Carnegie, Rockefeller and others. Black’s new Nazi Nexus uses these earlier works as primary sources. But this new volume offers a compact and highly concentrated dose of history that powerfully demonstrates the deleterious effects of the convergence of avarice and ideology,American-style. The author’s premise is that American businesses beyond IBM were also complicit with Hitler’s rise to power, conquest of Europe and war against the United States and that many of their activities continued through the war. In addition to doing business with the Nazis, philanthropic organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation, for example, contributed the equivalent of millions of dollars in support of German institutions devoted to eugenics, which served to legitimize racism by attaching a “scientific”basis for it, according to Black.The ties between German and American researchers in this area are astounding. Black subsequently cast his attention to our insatiable consumption of petroleum in “Internal Combustion,”which also covered the role of General Motors in supplying Hitler with a fleet of vehicles that enabled the Nazi blitzkrieg across Poland and other nations. It was made possible, Black writes, by the close cooperation between the Germans and a wholly owned GM operation, Opel, which manufactured a light truck called the Blitz, hence“blitzkrieg,”the lightning attack. Black writes about GM CEO Alfred P. Sloan, who not only collaborated with the Nazis, but worked hard to organize opposition to President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration whenever possible.
The Rev.Bob Pearle says a different kind of church has risen in America. In vast auditoriums and smaller places people listen to preachers who roam the stage and tickle the ears with feel-good messages. Pearle is pastor of Fort Worth, Texas’s Birchman Baptist Church and president of the Grapevinebased Southern Baptists of Texas,a conservative state convention. He doesn’t hold that churches are literally“vanishing,”since there are all kinds of churches, often filled to overflowing, in his neck of the woods. “What I’m saying is that the biblical New Testament church is vanishing from society today,” he said.“Anything and everything is acceptable as long as it builds a crowd. Jesus wasn’t as interested in building a crowd as he was in telling the truth.” Seeker-sensitive churches take surveys to find out what the unchurched want, then build their product to meet consumer demand, he said.“It’s a bankrupt philosophy. Our responsibility as pastors and leaders is not to give people what they want necessarily but what they need.” Also weakening the American church, he said, are what he calls unbiblical actions of the Episcopal Church and other denominations in tolerating same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian clergy. Pearle – who rejects the label of fundamentalist – says declining membership in many mainline Protestant groups results from watering down core biblical teachings. He believes that evangelicals who do that will suffer the same fate. “You have to hear the bad news that we are sinners, before your receive the good news of salvation,” Pearle says. Elaine Heath, author of The Mystic Way of Evangelism: A Contemplative Vision for Christian Outreach, says preaching about hell and damnation isn’t the best strategy to win converts. “When missional, evangelistic Christians like me refuse to lead with threats of hell, preferring instead to lead with the good news of God’s love, it is not a move away from the tradition, but a move toward the ancient tradition,” said Heath, assistant professor of evangelism at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.“And it is a move that touches people’s hearts and lives with hope and healing and an invitation to receive the transforming love of God.” Pearle says he’s all for preaching God’s love, as long as it includes biblical truth. Pearle said there are many kinds of megachurches, some more biblical than others, when asked about the largest church in America, Lakewood Church in Houston, where Joel Osteen preaches to as many as 30,000 each Sunday. “Let’s face it,”Pearle said.“Joel Osteen,if he adheres to the same theology that his dad (John Osteen) did, you really can’t tell it by his preaching. His dad, although I disagreed with some of the theology he espoused, was much more biblical than his son.” In the past, Osteen has said he doesn’t mention sin and damnation much, because people attending already know they are sinners and need to be given a message of hope. He ends each of his television broadcasts with a short message inviting people to accept Jesus as their saviour. “I’m just saying churches need to get rid of historical amnesia and get back to being the church,” he said.“We need to declare that we are all sinners, sin separates us from God, and that Jesus Christ is our only Saviour.”
– By Richard Pachter
– By Jim Jones
U.S. firms that backed Hitler revealed Nazi Nexus: America’s Corporate Connections to Hitler’s Holocaust 0Edwin Black 0Dialog Press (US$19.95 via Amazon)
13 March 2009
Too big to fail?
5 biggest banks are ‘dead men walking’ By Greg Gordon and Kevin G. Hall McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON–America’s five largest banks, which already have received $145 billion in taxpayer bailout dollars,still face potentially catastrophic losses from exotic investments if economic conditions substantially worsen, their latest financial reports show. Citibank, Bank of America, HSBC Bank USA, Wells Fargo Bank and J.P. Morgan Chase reported that their“current”net loss risks from derivatives– insurance-like bets tied to a loan or other underlying asset–surged to US$587 billion as of Dec. 31. Buried in year-end regulatory reports that McClatchy Newspapers has reviewed, the figures reflect a jump of 49 percent in just 90 days. The disclosures underscore the challenges that the banks face as they struggle to navigate through a deepening recession in which all types of loan defaults are soaring. The banks’ potentially huge losses, which could be contained if the economy quickly recovers, also shed new light on the hurdles that President Barack Obama’s economic team must overcome to save institutions it deems too big to fail. While the potential loss totals include risks reported by Wachovia Bank, which Wells Fargo agreed to acquire in October, they don’t reflect another Pandora’s box: the impact of Bank of America’s Jan. 1 acquisition of tottering investment bank Merrill Lynch, a major derivatives dealer. Federal regulators portray the potential loss figures as worst-case. However, the risks of these offbalance sheet investments, once thought minimal, have risen sharply as the U.S. has fallen into the steepest economic downturn since World War II, and the big banks’share prices have plummeted to unimaginable lows. With 12.5 million Americans unemployed and consumer spending in a freefall, fears are rising that a spate of corporate bankruptcies could deliver a new, crippling blow to major banks. Because of the trading in derivatives, corporate bankruptcies could cause a chain reaction that deprives the banks of
hundreds of billions of dollars in insurance they bought on risky debt or forces them to shell out huge sums to cover debt they guaranteed. The biggest concerns are the banks’ holdings of contracts known as credit-default swaps, which can provide insurance against defaults on loans such as subprime mortgages or guarantee actual payments for borrowers who walk away from their debts. The banks’ credit-default swap holdings, with face values in the trillions of dollars, are “a ticking time bomb, and how bad it gets is going to depend on how bad the economy gets,” said Christopher Whalen, a managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics, a company that grades banks on their degree of loss risk from complex investments. J.P. Morgan is credited with launching the creditdefault market and is one of the most sophisticated players. It remains highly profitable, even after acquiring the remains of failed investment banker dealer Bear Stearns, and says it has limited its exposure. The New York-based bank, however, also has received $25 billion in federal bailout money. Gary Kopff, president of Everest Management and an expert witness in shareholder suits against banks, has scrutinized the big banks’ financial reports. He noted that Citibank now lists 60 percent of its $301 billion in potential losses from its wheeling and dealing in derivatives in the highest-risk category, up from 40 percent in early 2007. Citibank is a unit of New York-based Citigroup. In Monday trading on the NewYork Stock Exchange, Citigroup shares closed at $1.05. Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett, a revered financial guru and America’s second-wealthiest person after Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, ominously warned that derivatives “are dangerous” in a February letter to his company’s shareholders. In it, he confessed that he cost his company hundreds of millions of dollars when he bought a re-insurance company burdened with bad derivatives bets. These instruments, he wrote,“have made it almost impossible for investors to understand and analyze our largest commercial banks and investment
lion to rescue AIG and, indirectly, investors on the other end of the firm’s swap contracts. AIG posted a fourth-quarter 2008 loss last week of more than $61 billion, the worst quarterly performance in U.S. corporate history. The five major banks, which account for more than 95 percent of U.S. banks’trading in this array of complex derivatives, declined to say how much of the AIG bailout money flowed to them to make good on these contracts. Banking industry officials stress that most of the exotic trades are less risky–such as interest-rate swaps, in which a bank might have tried to limit potential losses by trading the variable rate interest of one loan for the fixed-rate interest of another. In their annual reports to shareholders, the banks say that parties insuring credit-default swaps or other derivatives are required to post substantial cash collateral. However, even after subtracting collateralized risks, the banks’ collective exposure is “a big, big number” and a matter for concern, said a senior official in a banking regulatory agency, speaking on the condition of anonymity because agency policy restricts public comments. In their reports, the banks said their net current risks and potential future losses from derivatives surpass $1.2 trillion.The potential near-term losses of $587 billion easily exceed the banks’ combined $497 billion in so-called “risk-based capital,” the assets they hold in reserve for disaster scenarios. Four of the banks’ reserves already have been augmented by taxpayer bailout money, topped by Citibank–$50 billion–and Bank of America–$45 billion, plus a $100 billion loan guarantee. The banks’quarterly financial reports show that as of Dec. 31: • J.P. Morgan had potential current derivatives losses of $241.2 billion, outstripping its $144 billion in reserves, and future exposure of $299 billion. • Citibank had potential current losses of $140.3 billion, exceeding its $108 billion in reserves, and future losses of $161.2 billion. • Bank of America reported $80.4 billion in curbanks. ... When I read the pages of ‘disclosure’ in rent exposure, below its $122.4 billion reserve, but (annual reports) of companies that are entangled $218 billion in total exposure. with these instruments, all I end up knowing is that • HSBC Bank USA had current potential losses I don’t know what is going on in their portfolios.And of $62 billion, more than triple its reserves, and then I reach for some aspirin.” potential total exposure of $95 billion. Most of the banks declined to comment, but Bank • San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, which agreed of America spokeswoman Eloise Hale said:“We do to take over Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia in not believe our derivative exposure is a threat to October, reported current potential losses totalthe bank’s solvency.” ing nearly $64 billion, below the banks’ combined While Bank of America advised shareholders that reserves of $104 billion, but total future risks of its risks from these instruments are no more $13.5 about $109 billion. billion, Wachovia last year similarly said it could Kopff, the bank shareholders’ expert, said that overcome major risks. In reporting a $707 million several of the big banks’risks are so large that they first-quarter loss, Wachovia acknowledged that it are“dead men walking.” faced heavy subprime mortgage risks,but said it was The banks’credit-default portfolios have gotten “well positioned”with“strong capital and liquidity.” little scrutiny because they’re off-the-books entries Within months, losses mushroomed and Wachovia that are largely unregulated. However, government submitted to a takeover by Wells Fargo, which soon officials said in late February that federal examiners got $25 billion in federal bailout money. would review the top 19 banks’ swap exposures in Trading in credit-default contracts has sparked the coming weeks as part of “stress tests”to evaluinvestor fears because they are bought and sold in ate the institutions’ ability to withstand further a murky, private market that is largely out of the deterioration in the economy. reach of federal regulators. No one, except those Representatives for Citibank, J.P. Morgan and holding the instruments, knows who owes what to Wells Fargo declined to comment. whom. Not even banks and insurers can accurately Hale, the Bank of America spokeswoman, said calculate their risks. that the bank uses swaps as insurance against its “I don’t trust any numbers on them,”said David loan portfolio–they“gain value when the loans they Wyss, the chief economist for the New York credit- are hedging lose value.” rating agency Standard & Poor’s. She said that Bank of America requires thousands The risks of these below-the-radar insurance of parties that are guarantors on these insurancepolicies became abundantly clear last September like contracts to post “the most secure collateral– with the collapse of investment banker Lehman cash and U.S.Treasuries, minimizing risk roughly 35 Brothers and global insurer American International percent.”The collateral is adjusted daily. Group, both major swap dealers.Their insolvencies Bank of America’s report of an $80.4 billion expothreatened to zero out the value of billions of dollars sure doesn’t count the collateral and“also assumes in contracts held by banks and others. the default of each of the thousands of counterparty Until then,“we assumed everyone makes good on customers, which isn’t likely,”Hale said. Counterparthe contracts,”said Vincent Reinhart, a former top ties are the investors on the other side of the deal, economist for the Federal Reserve Board. often other banks or investment banks. Lehman’s and AIG’s failures put in doubt their In response to questions from McClatchy Newsguarantees on hundreds of billions of dollars in con- papers, HSBC spokesman Neil Brazil said that the tracts and unleashed a global pullback from risk, bank closely manages its derivatives contracts “to leading to the current credit crunch. ensure that credit risks are assessed accurately, The government has since committed $182 bil- approved properly (and) monitored regularly.”
the ordinary becomes
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13 March 2009
The interrogation continues
Acclaimed science fiction writer Jules Verne didn’t just write Around the World in 80 Days, he also wrote an epic about New Zealand and Australia called In Search of the Castaways, published in 1867. If you missed the previous instalment of this serial, you can download it here.
“You are sure then,”he said,“that it was on the 8th of April you were left on the west coast of Australia?” “On that very day,”replied Ayrton. “And do you know what projects Harry Grant had in view at the time?” “In an indefinite way I do.” “Say all you can,Ayrton,”said Glenarvan,“the least indication may set us in the right course.” “I only know this much, my Lord,”replied the quartermaster,“that Captain Grant intended to visit New Zealand. Now, as this part of the programme was not carried out while I was on board, it is not impossible that on leaving Callao the Britannia went to reconnoitre New Zealand. This would agree with the date assigned by the document to the shipwreck–the 27th of June, 1862.” “Clearly,”said Paganel. “But,” objected Glenarvan,“there is nothing in the fragmentary words in the document that could apply to New Zealand.” “That I cannot answer,”said the quartermaster. “Well,Ayrton,”said Glenarvan,“you have kept your word, and I will keep mine.We have to decide now on what island of the Pacific Ocean you are to be left?” “It matters little, my Lord,”replied Ayrton. “Return to your cabin,”said Glenarvan,“and wait our decision.” The quartermaster withdrew, guarded by the two sailors. “That villain might have been a man,”said the Major. “Yes,”returned Glenarvan;“he is a strong, clear-headed fellow.Why was it that he must needs turn his powers to such evil account?” “But Harry Grant?” “I must fear he is irrevocably lost. Poor children! Who can tell them where their father is?” “I can!”replied Paganel.“Yes; I can!”One could not help remarking that the geographer, so loquacious and impatient usually, had scarcely spoken during Ayrton`s examination. He listened without opening his mouth. But this speech of his now was worth many others, and it made Glenarvan spring to his feet, crying out:“You, Paganel! you know where Captain Grant is?” “Yes, as far as can be known.” “How do you know?” “From that infernal document.” “Ah!”said the Major, in a tone of the most profound incredulity. “Hear me first, and shrug your shoulders afterward,”said Paganel.“I did not speak sooner, because you would not have believed me. Besides, it was useless; and I only speak to-day because Ayrton`s opinion just supports my own.” “Then it is New Zealand?”asked Glenarvan. “Listen and judge,” replied Paganel.“It is not without reason, or, rather, I had a reason for making the blunder which has saved our lives.When I was in the very act of writing the letter to Glenarvan`s dictation, the word Zealand was swimming in my brain. This is why. You remember we were in the wagon. McNabbs had just apprised Lady Helena about the convicts; he had given her the number of the “Australian and New Zealand Gazette”which contained the account of the catastrophe at Camden Bridge. Now, just as I was writing, the newspaper was lying on the ground, folded in such a manner that only two syllables of the title were visible; these two syllables were ALAND. What a sudden light flashed on my mind. ALAND was one of the words in the English document, one that hitherto we had translated
_Capitaine Grant_ ont pu y ABORDER. La CONTINUellement en PRoie a une CRUELle INDIgence, ils ont _jete ce document_ par–_ de lon_gitude ET 37 degrees 11` de LATItude. _Venex a leur_ secours, ou ils sont PERDUS!”(On the 27th of June, 1865, the three-mast vessel BRITANNIA, of Glasgow, has foundered after a long AGOnie in the Southern Seas, on the coast of New Zealand.Two sailors and Captain Grant have succeeded in landing. Continually a prey to cruel indigence, they have thrown this document into the sea in– longitude and 37 degrees 11` latitude. Come to their help, or they are lost.) Paganel stopped. His interpretation was admissible. But precisely because it appeared as likely as the preceding, it might be as false. Glenarvan and the Major did not then try and discuss it. However, since no traces of the Britannia had yet been met with, either on the Patagonian or Australian coasts, at the points where these countries are crossed by the 37th parallel, the chances were in favour of New Zealand. “Now, Paganel,”said Glenarvan,“will you tell me why you have kept this interpretation secret for nearly two months?” “Because I did not wish to buoy you up again with vain hopes. Besides, we were going to Auckland, to the very spot indicated by the latitude of the document.” “But since then, when we were dragged out of the route, why did you not speak?” “Because, however just the interpretation, it could do nothing for the deliverance of the captain.” “Why not, Paganel?” “Because, admitting that the captain was wrecked on the New Zealand coast, now that two years have passed and he has not reappeared, he must have perished by shipwreck or by the New Zealanders.” “Then you are of the opinion,”said Glenarvan,“that–” “That vestiges of the wreck might be found; but that the survivors of the Britannia have, beyond doubt, perished.” “Keep all this silent, friends,”said Glenarvan,“and let me choose a fitting moment to communicate these sad tidings to Captain Grant`s children.”
“a terre”, and which must have been the termination of the proper noun, ZEALAND.” “Indeed!”said Glenarvan. “Yes,”continued Paganel, with profound conviction;“this meaning had escaped me, and do you know why? Because my wits were exercised naturally on the French document, as it was most complete, and in that this important word was wanting.” “Oh, oh!”said the Major;“your imagination goes too far, Paganel; and you forget your former deductions.” “Go on, Major; I am ready to answer you.” “Well, then, what do you make of your word AUSTRA?” “What it was at first. It merely means southern countries.” “Well, and this syllable, INDI, which was first the root of the INDIANS, and second the root of the word ‘indigenes?’” “Well, the third and last time,” replied Paganel, “it will be the first syllable of the word INDIGENCE.” “And CONTIN?” cried McNabbs.“Does that still mean CONTINENT?” “No; since New Zealand is only an island.” “What then?”asked Glenarvan. “My dear lord,”replied Paganel, “I am going to translate the document according to my third interpretation, and you shall judge. I only make two observations beforehand. First, forget as much as possible preceding interpretations, and divest your mind of all preconceived notions. Second, certain parts may appear to you strained, and it is possible that I translate them badly; but they are of no importance; among others, the word AGONIE, which chokes me; but I cannot find any other explanation. Besides, my interpretation was founded on the French document; and don`t forget it was written by an Englishman, who could not be familiar with the idioms of the French language. Now then, having said this much, I will begin.” And slowly articulating each syllable, he repeated the following Mollies Invites You to a Distinctive Dining Experience sentences: Nestled in St Mary's Bay, the “Dining Room” at Mollies is now open to the public for a relaxed, “LE 27th JUIN, 1862, gourmet dining experience. With elegant cuisine and a selection of the finest wines, the a la carte _le trois-mats Britannia_, de and degustation menus feature the best of local produce, prepared by Mollies talented and creative young team of Kiwi chefs. _Glasgow, a sombre_ apres une Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner are available and reservations are recommended. longue AGONIE dans les mers AUSTRALES sur les cotes de la Nouvelle ZELANDE–in English 6 Tweed St, St Mary’s Bay, Auckland Phone: (09) 376 3489 Email: email@example.com www.mollies.co.nz _Zealand. Deux matelots_ et le