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ISSN 1172-4153 | Volume 2 | Issue 26 |
False declaration deepens scandal Blitzkrieg injunction fails, new allegations tonight
| 20 February 2009
By Ian Wishart
The managing director of a finance and banking services company trying to get listed on the NZ Stock Exchange provided a false declaration to regulators in his bid to get a banking licence for one of his companies. WSD Global Markets Ltd CEO Riaz Patel is in the spotlight this week after his company’s chairman, Matt Robson, tried and failed to get an interim injunction gagging TGIF Edition from publishing tonight’s story. TGIF has been told Patel,who was seeking a Cook Islands tax haven banking licence for a WSD sister company named WSBC Bank,was required to swear an affidavit in 2004 as to his good character to show he was a fit and proper person to run a bank. The affidavit included a question about whether any company he was a director or significant shareholder in had ever been named in a court case or judgment relating to breaches or alleged breaches of the law. Despite being the director of an Australian company whose offices were raided and the staff charged with money-laundering and later jailed, TGIF has learned Riaz Patel answered ‘no’, in his statement made on oath, and Cook Islands financial regulators hit the roof when they found they had not been told the facts in a sworn affidavit. It’s a devastating blow on top of a week of devastating blows for WSD Global Markets Ltd, which first tried to get a surprise injunction against TGIF Edition last Friday and failed, then tried again on Wednesday after papers were served on Investigate magazine by lawyers acting for WSD and its chairman, Matt Robson. Robson’s clumsy kneejerk response to inquiries
KERRY IN GAZA An historic vist Page 9
Seen the movie yet? Page 13 TROPICAL HEAT: the ramshackle office of a “US$150m” Cook Islands tax haven bank. PHOTO: Cook Islands News
during the initial phase of preparing our first story, than attacking the newspaper’s work as“totally inaccurate”and telling journalists he was preparing to sue for defamation,gave TGIF the necessary incentive to start digging very deeply into the WSD story. Not that we’ve had to do all the work ourselves.Robson, the deputy leader of Jim Anderton’s Progressive Party,obligingly attached a Serious Fraud Office Section 9 Notice to his affidavit seeking the injunction which, as you’re about to see, did him no favours.
“WSD complies with all statutory requirements,” Robson huffed in his affidavit filed with the court. “In November 2008, the Serious Fraud Office issued a compliance notice to produce documents in relation to another entity under investigation, WSBC Bank Ltd. “WSD complied fully with the notice and provided the documents in its power. The SFO has advised that it has no further interest in WSD, as it was not the party being investigated.
Why you need them Page 16 Continue reading
UK exec ‘tele-commutes’ from bop Wellington, Feb 20 – The chief financial officer of a local authority in England has kept his job despite moving to Omokoroa in the Western Bay of Plenty. Mat Taylor, 44, is being paid a stg20,000 ($NZ56,700) salary to work for the Fenland District in Cambridgeshire one day a week until a permanent replacement can be found, but critics of the arrangement said it did not represent good value for taxpayers. Mr Taylor had worked for the council for five years before leaving last October, heading first to Australia
with his wife Kim and their three children. Despite a time difference of 11 or 13 hours – depending on whether daylight saving is in place – he has been using a Skype video link to keep in touch with colleagues. Usually he scrutinises the council accounts and books at night, and in January he attended a council meeting without leaving home. He presented the council’s stg16 million annual budget over the internet using a Skype link. Mr Taylor told the Bay of Plenty Times it was a win-win situation:“We do stuff as a family in the day
and then I work from 9pm to midnight. “When I go online there (to Fenland) it’s still dark and raining – it reminds me of all the reasons why we left the UK.” Mr Taylor said Skype had been such a success for his one-on-one calls and the council meeting that other members of staff had started using it. Instead of travelling an hour each way from the council headquarters in the town of March to Cambridge, Skype was being used as an alternative, saving staff time and fuel costs. Mr Taylor said there had been a lot of envy from
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his colleagues, particularly as Britain experiences an Arctic chill and blizzards. He said he expects to be a part-time finance officer until November and then he will look for another part-time job. In 2004, New Zealand had a police officer, Chris McKee, then aged 48, who lived in Dunedin but physically commuted to his job as a constable with London’s Metropolitan Police. Flexible working hours which let him do two months on and two months off, while his family remained in New Zealand. – NZPA
off BEAT You know you’re smokin’ in it? SEATTLE, Feb. 20 (UPI) – Customs inspectors say a Canadian truck driver attempted to enter the United States with 800kg of marijuana stashed under a load of cattle. Edwin Roy Fuller of Langley, British Columbia, was arrested Wednesday at the Sumas road crossing, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported today. Fuller was being held pending an appearance in federal court in Seattle. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers selected Fuller’s truck for an inspection, officials said. Once the cattle were out of the truck, agents using an X-ray imaging device found a hidden compartment under the floor of the trailer. “Officers scraped off the natural byproduct of cows and endured the associated odours to unbolt false panels which concealed hundreds of plastic bags of marijuana beneath,” Customs said in a news release. Officials said the marijuana, a locally grown variety known as B.C. Bud, might have brought in $6 million when sold. Without the cow dung, it might only have fetched half that.
“Sony” the Sea Otter found holding vidcam MONTEREY, Calif., Feb. 20 (UPI) – A California wildlife photographer, out on Monterey Bay with a group of fellow professionals, was the only one to capture a sea otter holding a video camera. Enrique Aguirre told The Santa Cruz Sentinel he had the otter in his view finder before he noticed something strange. “I was like, did I actually see an otter with a video camera or was I hallucinating?” he said. The otter was floating, holding the camera in its paws, the lens apparently aimed at the photographers on Capt. Yohn Gideon’s Elkhorn Slough Safari boat. It did not stick around long, going into a dive with the camera trailing after it. Aguirre said the video camera was rusty and decked with seaweed, suggesting it had been in the water some time. Man uses shovel, rifle to scare off bear ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland, Feb. 20 (UPI) – A man in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s easternmost province, said he had to hit a polar bear with a shovel and shoot it twice to drive it away. Ed Dyson said he spotted the polar bear from his back porch in Black Tickle shortly before it grabbed his small dog and threw it into the air, Canwest News Service reported today. “When the dog landed, he ran under the (porch) and the bear tried to get at him ... so then I had a smack at him with the shovel. But that didn’t stop him much,” Dyson said. He said he retrieved his rifle and tried to scare the bear away by firing a shot into the ground, but the animal was not phased. “He just more or less looked at me, so I fired at him again, and that time I nicked him,” Dyson said. He shot the bear a third time, hitting it in the side, before the animal finally turned to leave. Dyson, who said his dog was not seriously injured, said it is not uncommon to see bears in the area, but they usually avoid human contact. “I’ve seen bears before – but not a bear so close as that. If I had a mind to reach down I could have put my hand on it,” he said.
20 February 2009
FROM FRONT PAGE
“As a result of the SFO investigations, the directors of WSD and its lawyers met with NZX who were satisfied that WSD was not under any investigation,”stated Robson. A little further on, Robson adds,“Mr Wishart alleges that there was an Indian money laundering case involving $100 million in letters of credit.There is no such case…I have no knowledge of WSBC being the subject of a criminal…investigation.” As TGIF fired back in its own response to the court, Robson’s claims were“confused and inaccurate”: “Mr Robson declares at paragraph 4 that the SFO advised it had no further interest in WSD, although he has not annexed any correspondence from the SFO confirming this. “On 17 February I managed to make contact with the Serious Fraud Office Director, Mr Grant Liddell. I specifically referred him to Mr Robson and [WSBC employee] Mr Mohanty’s affidavits, and the Section 9 notice annexed to Mr Robson’s affidavit. “I specifically referred the SFO Director to Mr Robson’s sworn claim that ‘the SFO has advised that it has no further interest in WSD’, from which flowed the actions Mr Robson refers to in his paragraph five where he purports that his agents advised the New Zealand Stock Exchange,‘who were satisfied that WSD was not under any investigation’. “For the record, the Director of the Serious Fraud Office last evening issued a statement directly contradicting the statements made by the second plaintiff, confirming a ‘current investigation into WSBC and its associated entities’ which, given that the Director could easily have confirmed Mr Robson’s assessment and did not, strongly indicates the Serious Fraud Office is still considering all the WSD group companies and all staff at this point,”noted the newspaper’s affidavit. There’s also the issue of Robson’s claim to the court that he was unaware of any criminal investigation into WSBC, yet the obvious role of the Serious Fraud Office in investigating alleged financial crimes appears to have escaped the former Minister of Corrections’ notice; they weren’t visiting WSD’s offices to pick daisies. Lawyers for WSD Global Markets accepted, after being sent the newspaper’s submissions and after failing to injunct the first story, that the chances of an immediate injunction on Wednesday were now slim to nil, and instead turned their attention to seeking an injunction in March, at a hearing date yet to be determined by the court. “Mr Wishart is correct when he says, as he does, that ‘the horse has bolted’,”conceded Julian Miles QC for WSD,“but my clients feel there is value in continuing this process.” “Perhaps they’re wondering if Mr Wishart has more horses left in his stable,” quipped Justice Raynor Asher. But again,WSD Chairman Matt Robson appears
to be doing a decent job of spooking the horses all on his own. In his sworn affidavit he states,“In any event, WSD has no involvement in the issuing of letters of credit with WSBC”. Yet, in a taped phone interview,WSD’s managing director Riaz Patel told the paper: “Auckland would do the letter of credit deals, they would do the credit proposals and stuff like that, put those documents together and send them over to the Cook Islands.The Cook Islands handle the processes of letters of credit, the co-credit application and everything happens at the Cook Islands office.” In other words, credit checks, know-your-client checks and basic documentation was done in Auckland, with the final button being pushed inside the Cook Islands office.WSD Chairman Matt Robson’s sworn testimony to the court is at odds with what his managing director is saying. But if potential investors were looking for reassurance from Chairman Robson that the good ship WSD was back under control and steaming for less turbulent waters, Robson appears to have fired a spectacular secret weapon in his affidavit that will hardly give them comfort – a ‘boomerang torpedo’ that’s managed to strike WSD Global amidships. After denying involvement with Indian export Jet King, mentioned in our first article: “Jet King has never been a client”, Robson’s affidavit reveals that the entity at the top of the Serious Fraud Office’s items of interest when it ordered WSD to cough up documents was Kumar Trading Company. Tonight, TGIF can reveal one Naresh Jain is listed by a US Justice Department investigation into money laundering networks as“the proprietor of Kumar Trading Co”in Dubai. Naresh Jain is the man named in Indian newspapers as confessing to money laundering for Osama bin Laden’s al Qa’ida network and the organized crime organization of Dawood Ibrahim: “…a report that if true means a confessed money launderer for al Qa’ida and Dawood Ibrahim’s drug network was a first hand client of WSBC, and the transactional records were kept in the first plaintiff’s Auckland offices under the nose of the second plaintiff, who has admitted now providing those documents to the NZ Serious Fraud Office only a matter of weeks ago,”TGIF submitted to the High Court. TGIF Edition can also reveal that a Naresh Jain of Kumar Trading Company in Dubai was prosecuted in absentia by New York regulators in April 2007, soon after his arrest in the case tied to WSBC Bank, for money laundering. In the NewYork case, it was alleged associates laundered money via Dubaibased foreign exchange dealers: “[The Defendants] engaged in a series of illegal commodity futures transactions on New York mercantile exchange (“NYMEX”) and commodity exchange (“COMEX”) markets involving backmonth, illiquid contracts fast matched at off the
market prices during an unusual time of day,”reads the New York court judgement. In plain English,they timed their futures contract dealing so that they would buy and sell off each other at the same moment,one making a deliberate loss on the futures deal,while the other party made the same amount in profit. Money transferred, hey presto. “With this conduct,”said the court,“defendants violated … the Commodity Exchange Act ... by entering into a transaction that is of the character of or is commonly known to the trade as, a ‘wash sale’or ‘accommodation trade’or is a fictitious sale involving the purchase or sale of a commodity for future delivery…” And in case there’s any doubt about the Kumar Trading Company’s involvement in money laundering through the US, the court specifies it here: “Naresh Is an Indian national residing in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Upon information and belief, Naresh owns a United Arab Emirates entity named Kumar Trading Co. LLC, which has the same address as the employer of Kanta Nath Jain, Jayna Trading Co. LLC.” “Specifically, on at least three trading days in March 2007, Supama [a Dubai-based company] and Naresh engaged in a series of futures transactions offered by NYMEX on Globex whereby Supama repeatedly traded opposite Naresh, resulting in US$164,680 in profits to Supama’s accounts and the same amount of losses to Naresh’s accounts. “Supama and Naresh engaged in the following pattern of trading activity repeatedly: Supama bought commodity futures contract at low prices from Naresh and immediately sold them back to Naresh at higher prices. “In each series of offsetting transactions, Supama profited and Naresh incurred a loss.” There is no suggestion that WSBC was used for this series of transactions at all, we should add. Nonetheless, if the SFO notice attached to Chairman Robson’s affidavit is correct, then Naresh Jain was a client of WSBC Bank and some of the grunt work for his business dealings was done from WSD’s Auckland offices, based on the admissions in Robson’s affidavit. The timing of the money-laundering futures trades through the NYMEX exchange, in March 2007, fits hand in glove with the timing of the busting of the money-laundering ring in Dubai and Naresh Jain’s subsequent admissions that he was laundering for al Qa’ida. So when Matt Robson told the NBR this week,“I can categorically say that WSD or myself does not have an account with Mr O. Laden, and is not connected in any way with any terrorist attacks,”he’d be correct as far as it refers to Robson personally. But the documents he filed in court suggest one of “Mr O. Laden’s”minions might just have an account with the WSD group somehow after all. Read more of our interview with Riaz Patel
Public service loses bid for 5 weeks leave Wellington, Feb 20 – Around 20,000 public servants chances of getting a one-week increase in their annual leave have been sharply reduced after State Services Minister Tony Ryall ordered a clamp down on state sector pay. Mr Ryall has told public service chief executives any pay increases for staff will have to be met within existing budgets. Labour says that amounts to a pay freeze across the public service. Mr Ryall yesterday released the Government’s Expectations for Pay and Employment Conditions in the State Sector which set out expectations that pay changes not lead private sector pay, be value for money and be made in consultation with the State Services Commission (SSC). There are 43,000 core state sector staff. Mr Ryall also rescinded the previous government’s directive to move to five weeks’leave across the state sector and instead replaced this with a maximum of five weeks’ leave. “Introducing common leave provisions represents a significant non-wage cost which in several cases is
unaffordable within baselines,”Mr Ryall said. “In future, any changes to leave provisions within the maximum are to be agreed by the relevant public service chief executive within baselines.” The SSC said about half of the 43,000 people in the core state sector were not yet on five weeks’leave. Mr Ryall said the SSC would hold chief executives to account for meeting expectations in their performance reviews. Labour MP Grant Robertson said the moves amounted to freezing public sector salaries. “And in some cases, where departments are looking at big budget cuts, pay cuts,”he said. “Chief executives are being given the message, reduce salaries or cut jobs.” Crown entities were expected to keep their responsible Minister informed about proposed actions not in line with the expectations. Mr Robertson said executives could show leadership and restraint in tough economic times rather than penalise front line workers. Mr Ryall said the public sector had to recognise the pain the private sector was facing.
“We’re entering quite a difficult economic period, everybody from families to communities to businesses are tightening their belts and we’re saying to the public service chief executives pay conditions are going to have to be negotiated within the resources they have.” Mr Ryall said pay increases had been met within baselines before and some people would still get pay rises. “They (chief executives) have to make sure that doesn’t flow through into greater pressure in the private sector.” Mr Ryall also said the Government would drop two pay and employment equity investigations – considering why female social workers at Child, Youth and Family are paid 9.5 percent less than their male colleagues, and inequities in female school support workers pay – because they would cost too much. However, departments were expected to continue to address equality issues as part of being a good employer. – NZPA
20 February 2009
Government running low on cash Wellington, Feb 20 – The economic recession is biting into the Government’s books with tax revenue now tracking $1 billion below forecasts. Treasury today released the Government’s Financial Statements for the year ended December 31,painting a gloomy picture for the economy,with things expected to get worse.Treasury deputy secretary Peter Bushnell said with the exception of investment losses,there was little difference between today’s results and information previously released in updates of estimates. Tax revenue was tracking below forecast by around
$1 billion with corporate tax down 11.9 percent on forecasts ($564m) and the shortfall expected to persist until 2009/2010 as companies profits decline. GST revenue was down 6.2 percent ($366m), but Treasury said it was still unclear about how much of this was due to a change in GST filing dates or a fall in consumer spending. Source deductions (mainly PAYE) were 3.1 percent less than forecast ($371m) due to people working less hours and possibly the October 1 tax cuts having a greater effect that expected.
As a result, the operating balance before gains and losses was $0.1b – $1.1b lower than forecast, and the residual cash deficit was negative $8.3b – $0.9b lower than forecast. Including gains and losses, the operating balance of negative $6.2b was $8.4b lower than forecast. Gross debt was higher than forecast due to the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities and high demand for Treasury Bills. Net core Crown debt remained lower than forecast at $5.5b. – NZPA
TVNZ staff brace for redundancies Wellington, Feb 20 – State-owned broadcaster TVNZ briefed staff today on a plan to cut costs by $25 million by June 30. At this stage there is no figure for job losses but they are expected to eventuate from such a large cost saving target.TVNZ employs about 1500 people, with the majority based in Auckland, according to its website. Fifty senior managers have been asked to come up with ways of saving money. The cost cutting plan is a result of a collapse in the advertising market since Christmas. “At yesterday’s TVNZ leaders forum, which the executive team and I host twice a year, I shared with the 80 or so leaders in attendance that our revenue and profit projections for the financial year ending June 30, 2009 and for the calendar year of 2009 had deteriorated rapidly since January,”chief executive Rick Ellis said in a note to staff. TVNZ said advertising revenues are 10 percent below budget, which represents an annualised shortfall of income of $30m. The half-year result due at the end of this month will be“pleasing”but reflective of trading to December 31. Mr Ellis said there has been a “fundamental
NZPA / Ross Setford
change in market behaviour and willingness to spend on advertising”as a result of the global economic recession. “We have no choice but to reduce our budgets by about $25m in the next few months to compensate
in order to avoid a financial loss while we continue with our strategy of inspiring New Zealanders on every screen,”Mr Ellis said. TVNZ did not comment on likely cost cutting strategies. Fisher & Paykel this week announced a
5 percent cut in pay for executives and asked salaried staff to take a rostered day off a month. Its chief executive is taking a 7.5 percent pay cut on a $1.1m salary. The broadcaster also did not comment on whether its dividend to the Crown would be reduced. In the year to June 30, 2008 the broadcaster paid the Crown a dividend of $10.3m after reporting an after-tax profit of $19.4m. Excluding government funding for the digital channels, total income for the year to June 30, 2008 was $379.7m. Excluding costs for the digital channels which are covered by government funding, total expenses were $352.6m. Other media companies were expected to report a drop in advertising revenue this reporting season. Fairfax and APN News & Media both report next week. Sky Network Television today reported its profit dropped 16.7 percent in the six months to the end of December. This was mainly a result of investment in the new High Definition (HD) platform and the impact of the recession on its free-to-air Prime channel’s advertising revenue – which decreased 11.9 percent to $12.6m. – NZPA
NZPA / Tim Hales
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Wellington, Feb 20 – There is an admission of an accounting kind in the Government’s latest accounts that the Government paid too much for rail. A note reveals that the rail business the Government paid $690 million for on July 1 last year valued up at $442m in September. The September valuation is a provisional assessment. A final valuation will be completed a year from the original purchase. “No goodwill has been recognised and the difference between the provisional assessment of fair value of the assets acquired and liabilities assumed and the cost of acquisiton has been charged to the statement of the financial performance,”the note states.
In other words, the Government wrote off $248m on the investment less than a year after making it and there may be more to come. The accounts show that KiwiRail made a loss of $4m in the six months to December 31 on turnover of $332m. The Government bought the rail and ferry business from Toll Holdings of Australia, having earlier purchased the track for $1.Toll continues to own the trucking and freight forwarding assets once owned by Tranz Rail and has purchased other companies in New Zealand. It reports its profit next week.
Figures prove Labour got railroaded
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20 February 2009
Probation failures: who’s to blame? By Maggie Tait of NZPA
Wellington, Feb 20 – Corrections Department chief executive Barry Matthews is not resigning from his position over failures in probation. And he says he has nothing to fear from a State Services Commission (SSC) inquiry. The heat may now go on the general manager of probation, Katrina Casey, who Mr Matthews highlighted has delegated authority for the area. Corrections Minister Judith Collins is demanding accountability over the failures, reported by the Auditor-General Kevin Brady, and has asked the State Services Commission to report back to her. She has refused to say she has confidence in Mr Matthews. Mr Brady examined 100 parole cases, including 52 high risk offenders, and reported that in most of them the correct procedures were not followed. Staff did not even carry out some of the special provisions brought in after parolee Graeme Burton murdered Karl Kuchenbecker in January 2007. Mr Matthews told NZPA that as head of the department, he was accountable for its performance and how it delivered government goals. “I don’t have any problem with that and equally
everybody in the organisation is accountable for the job they do given the resources they’ve got and the task ahead of them there,”he said. Mr Matthews said on taking on the role four years ago his first priority was dealing with overcrowded prisons, but he said the focus on sentence and probation compliance had continued. “That authority was delegated to the general manager of probation (Katrina Casey) to in fact deliver on that.” Mr Matthews said in the year to December there had been a 20 percent improvement in sentence compliance reaching 80 percent, this year’s target was 90 percent. He knew staff were struggling with meeting timeframes due to new and complex sentences and greater volumes of offenders. The department had sought more staff in budgets and recruited more this year and “tremendous” changes had been made since the Burton rampage. Ms Collins described the report findings as damn-
ing and her refusal to offer confidence sparked speculation Mr Matthews would be sacked. He spoke to her this morning and assured her he was committed to doing his best for her and the department. “I have told her she has my absolute loyalty and commitment in not only meeting her priority and goals but also the government’s priorities and goals and my intention is to in fact do that.” He believed Ms Collins views had been misinterpreted and comments that National’s criticism of him in opposition were affecting the Government’s treatment of him now were wrong. “No, I do not think that the National Party have got it in for me at all, neither do I believe the Minister has it in for me.” Mr Matthews accepted Ms Collins’reason for refusing to offer confidence was so she did not influence the SSC process and that was why he had also refrained. “I don’t want to prejudge (the review), I am just saying I am not fearful of what the state services commissioner will report. I am confident on my
performance over the last four years that I have endeavoured to raise the performance of the department, and we have been successful.We are not at the level that we would like to be.” The week had been spent helping the SSC with their work. “I have been completely focused on that.” Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove yesterday made several allegations in Parliament about the employment matter including that Mr Matthews had been offered a sweetheart job if he resigned. Mr Matthews said he would not engage in politics but had not sought or been offered another job. “I have a job, I am committed to doing that job.” Asked why he wanted one-on-one interviews, he said he wanted to avoid a media frenzy but also give journalists the chance to get answers to their questions. In 2000 Mr Matthews said his former boss Peter Doone should have resigned as police commissioner over an incident that led to his early retirement. He said any ambiguity over his actions meant he had to fall on his sword. Mr Matthews saw no connection to his own situation. “It’s got nothing to do with Peter Doone.”
Kiwi teens boosting booze figures Wellington, Feb 20 – New Zealanders are drinking more according to the latest figures, and that means more weekend binges and young people lured onto alcopops, says the agency promoting responsible use of alcohol. During 2008 the total volume of alcohol available for consumption increased 3.4 percent to 486.4 million litres from 2007, Statistics New Zealand said today. The volume of pure alcohol available, per person aged 15 years and over, increased 3.3 percent to 9.5 litres. It was the highest volume since 1994. Spirits and spirit-based drinks now represent 14.3 percent of the total alcohol available for consumption, continuing a steady increase since 1996. Consumption of spirits increased to 8 million litres, up 5.5 percent on the previous year and now accounts for 25 per cent of the total consumption of alcohol per capita. “People are drinking more, on one level it’s as simple as that, said Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC) chief executive Gerard Vaughan. The figures on their own, if they showed people were increasing their drinking across the week and in a responsible manner, would not be a concern, but
ALAC knew that wasn’t the case, he said. Other statistics showed the huge harm and cost on the police and hospital systems, he said. With its drinking age, alcohol availability and drink-driving restrictions, New Zealand had a liberal drinking environment, he said. While acknowledging that alcohol was an enjoyable part of New Zealand life, the big harm was from our drinking patterns.“Unfortunately New Zealanders do not drink in a sophisticated manner.We are a country that tends to save up our drinking for a Thursday,Friday and Saturday night and drink large amounts.” Mr Vaughan said increase in spirit consumption was driven by the emergence of the relatively-recent ready-to-drink products, or alcopops. That was concerning because of its packaging, high sugar, masking of the alcohol taste and high alcohol content made them attractive to younger drinkers.They were also priced to appeal. “If your intention is to get out of it then it won’t cost you that much.” ALAC had tracked community attitudes over the last five years and seen significant shifts in understanding of problems of binge drinking. “But I think we haven’t really made the impact
into the binge drinking culture. “It’s taken us 100 years to firmly establish a problematic drinking culture. We need to think this is about generational change.” The Statistics NZ figures are taken from the New Zealand Customs Service, based on duty paid, and indicates how much is actually released to the market but not what is actually consumed. Beer was still the most popular type of alcoholic beverage in New Zealand and last year there were
322.5 million litres of beer available,which makes up 66.3 percent of the total beverage available for consumption.Wine was up 2.3 percent to 94.2m litres Meanwhile, the number of cigarettes available for consumption was up 4.3 percent, to 2.5 billion in 2008. This increase in cigarettes contrasted with a decrease in the amount of tobacco available for consumption, which was down 3.7 percent to 870 tonnes in 2008.
the ordinary becomes
NZ dollar drifts down in lacklustre trade “It is not my present expectation we’re going to find ourselves at nothing,”Mr Stevens said. Ms Hampton said overall the NZ dollar had looked perky early on in the session but then US equities tanked. Weakness in the equity markets increases the aversion to risky markets like the NZ dollar market. The NZ dollar was also down against the euro at 0.3991 from 0.4068. It was down against the Japanese yen to 47.37 from 47.98 yesterday and was lower against the British pound, at 35.41p from 35.87p yesterday. The trade weighted index was 51.71 from 52.49 yesterday. Next week the local diary includes the National Bank business outlook survey but sentiment about the world economy and financial markets is again expected to dominate. – NZPA
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Wellington, Feb 20 – The New Zealand dollar embarked on a slow drift down today and is expected to remain hostage to events outside New Zealand next week. The NZ dollar was worth US50.36c at 5pm from US51.20c at 5pm yesterday. The big move was on the Australian cross to A78.80c from A79.70c yesterday. “There was a lot of selling of kiwi against the aussie after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) governor downplayed the likelihood of further aussie rate cuts,” said BNZ currency strategist Danica Hampton. RBA governor Glenn Stevens did not rule out cutting the cash rate from its present 45-year low of 3.25 percent but said the rate is unlikely to fall to zero. “We’ll be prepared to go low enough to what is needed,” Mr Stevens told a House of Representatives Economics Committee hearing in Canberra on Friday.
20 February 2009
The arrogance of a corporate socialist In this week’s issue of TGIF Edition, you can witness first hand what happens when political pork dips its snout into the corporate trough. As a one time, storm-the-barricades socialist, the last place you might expect to find the Deputy Leader of Jim Anderton’s Progressive Party is as Chairman of the Board of a financial services company whose CEO is dishonest. Except, perhaps on second thoughts, maybe that is where socialism’s dishonest heart really beats strongest anyway. Matt Robson is trying to sue TGIF Edition for defamation, having tried and failed to gag this newspaper in a sneak attack last Friday. But in my humble opinion, the Progressives deputy leader has revealed himself to be a buffoon via his actions over the past week, and he alone would be a good reason to avoid investing in any company that he’s associated with. Here’s why. I dealt with three directors at WSD Global Markets Ltd before running last week’s story. One, Joseph van Wijk from investment company Tasman Capital, struck me as genuine and straight-up in
our dealings. I could see he wasn’t pleased about the upcoming story, and frankly I took no joy from running it, but we both understood the situation and acted professionally. Riaz Patel, the man at the centre of the controversy, made himself briefly accessible and we had a useful conversation. Matt Robson,on the other hand,refused to answer any verbal questions and became annoyingly rude. Upon receiving some preliminary questions, there was no courtesy of a reply. Instead, Chairman Matt scurried straight to his lawyers in the forlorn hope of getting the newspaper injuncted without notice. The last crowd to try that stunt on us were European Pacific Banking Corporation, of the Winebox fame, and look where that ended. In my view, if Matt had stopped his bombast long enough to listen to what I was trying to ask him in the original phone call, he might have realized that despite what the loopy left might tell each other on late night blogs, we don’t generally go off halfcocked at Investigate or TGIF, and a better strategy as chairman of the board might have been to take some skilled PR advice.
If he did, we’ve seen no evidence. Instead, so rushed was WSD Global’s legal response that they didn’t even get the name of their own company right on the legal papers we were served with. Here they were,suing me for alleged inaccuracy,in the name of a company that doesn’t exist.Oh,the irony. To make matters worse, Matt Robson’s affidavit contradicted not just reality but also an affidavit from one of his colleagues,and he managed to score a remarkable own goal by revealing the Serious Fraud Office was investigating WSD’s links to a company allegedly owned by an al Qa’ida money launderer – without Robson apparently even realising the significance of what he’d revealed and while he was denying,in the very same affidavit,any link between his company and money launderers or al Qa’ida. In my opinion – hopeless, bordering on incompetent. This, more than anything else, suggested to me Chairman Matt’s approach was simply a case of shoot first, and ask where the target is later. Like I said last week, you can’t save people from themselves, yet they want to lecture us about jour SUBSCRIBE TO TGIF! nalism. Go figure.
A common-ground era for religion? By William McKenzie The Dallas Morning News
Here in the Barack Obama era, finding common ground has become the national pastime. At the same time he was hunting for Republican votes for his stimulus plan last week, the new president was striking a blow for ecumenism. He made a point of telling the National Prayer Breakfast last Friday that all major religions share common values. In general, I like his signal. He wants no holy wars, which is the point George W. Bush made after 9/11. But is it really possible to find common ground on religion? Look at these recent headlines: The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church visited Fort Worth on Saturday to deal with the realities of the diocese there splitting off from the national denomination. Pope Benedict tried to straddle different parts of the Roman Catholic Church when it came to rehabilitating a bishop who had denied the Holocaust’s existence. Iraq’s recent elections, again, were largely a tussle between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Ironically, many believers see themselves as healers. But how can they be when they hold sharply different views? And should there be common religious ground? That could require some to violate their beliefs. Rule No. 1 for this common-ground era should be this: Don’t approach the discussion with a mushy mind, assuming our differences will vanish if we simply talk. Silly, that is. Committed believers are always going to have sharp differences; deny them and we strip religions of their meaning. But here’s Rule No. 2: We have no choice but to work to create enough space for various believers to live side-by-side. Religion involves claims about absolute values and eternal truths, which make discussions more charged than ones about, say, economics. They require a heavy dose of tolerance so they don’t lead to deadly intolerance, which we’ve seen recently in India and Gaza. What I love about our country is that we have embraced religious pluralism. Sure, some occasionally want to dominate, but we have carved out room for people of many faiths. As a result, we haven’t experienced the religious intolerance that has sparked wars in Europe and the Middle East. That’s why we must keep working at common ground or, better yet, the common good. People of faith will have differences, but they still can come together to build a stable society.
The challenge is growing tolerance internationally, where the three Abrahamic faiths rub against each other. One of the most encouraging bridgebuilding efforts I’ve heard is a group of Jewish, Muslim and Christian scholars who meet in different parts of the world to discuss their religious texts. Each must read a passage from another’s holy text; the discussion goes from there. Will this bring global peace? No, but this is how we breed common ground.We learn to disagree. Sadly, this can become more difficult within a single faith or denomination. Look at my church, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.We seem endlessly stuck on a brouhaha over ordaining practicing gay ministers. I see no way around it at the moment. Not when people start from such different biblical views and with such distinct experiences. But work we must at living with our differences. As in marriage, some differences can’t be overcome, so you move around them until perhaps a clear answer emerges. Meanwhile, the church focuses on “keeping the rumour of God alive,”as Bob Shelton, former head of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, wonderfully put it. Obama was onto something at the prayer breakfast. But let’s understand the ground rules.We will disillusion ourselves if we fail to recognize religious distinctions. And we will make the globe even less secure if we don’t hear each other amid those differences.This isn’t a challenge for the faint-hearted.
What I love about our country is that we have embraced religious pluralism. As a result, we haven’t experienced the religious intolerance that has sparked wars in Europe and the Middle East
By Bob McCoskrie -Boot camps a family affair The proposed ‘boot camps’, monitoring, and Youth Court residential sentences proposed by the government will only work if the parents and families of young offenders are included in the process. This doesn’t mean that the parents need to go to military training but it does mean that the corrective work and support needs to be targeted at both the young offender and the family. In many cases, the youth offending has simply been an outcome of a dysfunctional home life, drug and alcohol abuse within the home, family breakdown and other contributing factors. For too long we have separated young people and their rights from the family and environment in which they are being raised. In some cases, this has undermined the efforts of good parents to place appropriate boundaries on their children. In other cases, it has prevented social agencies tackling the real problem which is dysfunctional parenting. If we only treat the teenager without addressing the underlying problems within the home, then the programme is doomed to failure. Boot camps without parental and family involvement is simply a short term solution to a long term problem. -Sex Abuse Doctor Should Be Named The Auckland doctor who has admitted sexually abusing three young girls twenty years ago should be named as the public have a right to know the character of their doctor – especially relating to any criminal activity. There are a number of aggravating factors in this particular case. The age of the girls was very young (between 5 and 8 at the time of the offences), the doctor was in a position of trust within the community which was betrayed, and his profession demands a high level of professional conduct which was severely breached. The historic nature does not change the fact that these serious crimes were committed in the first place and that it has impacted the victims severely. That is the consequence of such a serious crime. Ultimately patients and parents have a right to know the background of their doctor and especially if that person has committed crimes of a sexual nature. This knowledge may affect a family’s willingness to use a particular doctor. Whether he survives in the profession as a doctor should therefore be determined not by name suppression or the Medical Council, but by the trust that the general public is willing to give him based on the facts at hand. The rights of the doctor to name suppression should not outweigh the right of current and potential patients to know the facts. -Children Having Children Concern has been expressed about the number of children becoming fathers. This has surfaced from coverage of a UK case where a baby-faced 13 year old fathered a child to a 15 year old girl. According to Statistics NZ, there were 15 new kiwi dads under the age of 15 in 2007, up from four in 2006. There were also a record 54 15-year-old new dads in 2007. But the mothering trend also makes grim reading. In birth figures for women released during the week, 39 girls under the age of 15 gave birth, and more than 5,000 teenagers 15 and over became teen mums. Melanie Phillips, a commentator in the UK’s Daily Mail, provides the best summary of what we are seeing in both the UK and NZ. She says: “There has been a profound loss of the very notions of self-restraint and boundaries of behaviour, promoted from the top by narcissistic liberals and funded at the bottom by welfare benefits which cushion people from the consequences of their actions. The liberal intelligentsia pushed the idea that the worst things in the world were stigma and shame. Illegitimacy was accordingly abolished, lone mothers provided with welfare benefits and any talk about the advantages to children from marriage and sexual continence was to be banned as ‘judgmental’. With all constraints on behaviour vilified as ‘moralising’, sex became treated merely as a pleasurable pastime devoid of any spiritual dimension.” And then we wonder why our teen pregnancy rate in NZ is one of the highest in the world! 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
20 February 2009
OK, now it’s really looking bad By Martin Walker
LONDON – For the past month there has been something of a race between East Asia and Eastern Europe to see which is collapsing faster in the global recession. Until this week the catastrophic decline in Asia’s export trade appeared to make it the more likely candidate.Taiwan’s exports fell 42 percent year on year in December, and its economy shrank by almost 7 percent in the fourth quarter last year.South Korea’s exports fell by 23 percent.Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports contracted 35 percent in January from a year earlier, the government reported. Japan is in grim shape. Its exports fell 35 percent in December, year on year. Industrial output fell 9.6 percent. The economy is contracting at an annual rate of 12 percent. Falling exports are triggering a downward spiral of production, incomes and spending. It is important to prepare for swift policy steps, including those usually regarded as unusual, notes the Bank of Japan’s Atsushi Mizuno. China’s Ministry of Agriculture estimated this month that 20 million migrant workers from rural areas have lost their jobs, as another 7 million school leavers and new graduates join the workforce. Morgan Stanley and Standard Chartered, whose assessments of the Chinese economy have been highly reliable, estimate that China is currently running at close to zero growth. Europe itself is in trouble. German export orders fells 25 percent year on year in December. French house prices fell 9.9 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, the steepest since data collection began in 1936. Ireland lost 36,500 jobs in January – equivalent to a monthly loss of 2.3 million jobs in the United States. Spain’s unemployment has risen to 3.3 million
– or 14.4 percent – and is still rising.The bursting of the property bubble has been devastating for an economy in which construction provided almost 20 percent of GDP. The labour minister said over the weekend that Spain’s economy could not tolerate any further immigration after this hurricane devastation. “We’re dealing with truly appalling data, the likes of which have never been seen before in postwar Europe,” said Julian Callow, Europe economist at Barclays Capital. World trade itself is shrinking. The CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Analysis estimates world trade volume fell 8 percent in November.The International Air Transport Association says air cargo fell 22 percent, year on year, in December.The U.S. National Retail Federation says container shipments into the United States fell 8 percent in 2008 and expects a further fall of 12 percent this year. The latest news from Eastern Europe is even worse. Industrial output in Russia collapsed by 20 percent in January (car production alone declined by 80 percent), and by 27 percent in Ukraine. The markets are now pricing in a 90 percent likelihood that Ukraine will default on its sovereign debt.The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is estimating that 20 percent of its loans in the region are either in or about to default. The woes of Eastern Europe and Russia are in a class by themselves, not only because of their severity but because of their implications for the already faltering global banking system.When the region was booming and credit was easy, a large number of loans, for residential mortgages and for businesses, were taken out in foreign currencies, mainly euros and Swiss francs. But now the Russian ruble and the Polish zloty and the Hungarian forint have all collapsed by up to half, and repaying those loans becomes twice as costly.
Morgan Stanley’s head of currency Stephen Jen reports that Eastern Europe has borrowed a total of US$1.7 trillion abroad, much of it in short-term debts that mature quickly. It must repay – or roll over – $400 billion this year, equal to a third of the region’s boom-era GDP. Its chances of raising these sums in current market conditions are very low.The alternative is to turn to the International Monetary Fund, but its war chest is down to around $200 billion, and it faces other demands from Turkey, Pakistan and elsewhere. European banks, particularly those of Austria, Sweden and Germany, but also including Italy’s UniCredit and the Netherlands’ ING, are heavily
exposed to defaulting debtors in Eastern Europe. Efforts by Austrian Finance Minister Josef Proell to persuade his EU partners to put together a rescue package for the region have fallen on deaf ears. The EU countries need the money at home. The European banks are already teetering on the brink of collapse, according to a report by Daniel Gros, director of the prestigious Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels,who calculates that they are claiming as assets on their balance sheets more than $300 billion in intangibles. The usual term for such intangibles is goodwill,but few customers these days would rate the value of goodwill toward bankers as worth more than a few coppers.Subtract the intangibles, and the true and tangible capital base of Europe’s banks becomes perilously thin. In many cases, each euro of tangible capital supports more than 50 euros of assets, a much higher ratio than in the U.S., Gros writes. The need to recapitalize European banks is thus even greater than regulators and the bankers themselves have admitted so far. If Asia’s plunge into depression threatens to sink the U.S. dollar by closing the wallets of the usual purchasers of U.S. debt, then Eastern Europe’s collapse threatens to bring the European banking system down with it. It is not easy to judge which is the more dangerous for a global economy that could slide into a new Great Depression. – UPI
The climate alarmists advising Obama Many of the places most likely to be hardest hit disasters, like droughts, could create resource by changing weather patterns are also the most shortages or force people from their homes. Lack The new head of U.S. intelligence and top adviser politically unstable and economically troubled. For of food, water and/or shelter would likely create to President Barack Obama says climate change is example, a series of studies at Columbia University social unrest, leading to potential political upheaval, a top threat to the national security. found the largest number of people exposed to sea making room for extremist movements to take over Poor countries, often with weaker governance sys- level rises live in China, the Philippines, Egypt and the government. tems, also will be hit hardest by the extreme flooding Indonesia; 64 million people in China and the Phil“This can happen anytime a government can’t or dry spells forced by significant warming of the ippines alone inhabit areas at risk for flooding if sea satisfy the basic needs of its citizens,” Butts said, planet, undermining leadership there and putting levels rise as predicted by the Intergovernmental pointing to the 2006 political victory of Hamas, at-risk citizens further in harm’s way, warns Director Panel on Climate Change, an international body of an extremist organization that won the majority of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair. scientists that has released reports on the topic. of seats in the Palestinian parliamentary election “The impacts (of climate change) will worsen “All these factors combine to pose serious that year. existing problems such as poverty, social tensions, national security risks for the United States,”said However, climate change could make political environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership Gen. Gordon Sullivan, former Army chief of staff and turnovers much more common by making it more and weak political institutions,”Blair told senators chairman of the military difficult for governments last week. advisory board for CNA’s to maintain economic climate change As temperatures rise, scientists predict natural climate-change report. and social normalcy, could make disasters like floods and drought will also increase “It’s a threat multiplier,” Butts said. and government instability worldwide is likely to he told UPI.“Places that political turnovers “When a government follow, he said. will be hit are already much more common by can’t meet the needs of These outcomes have been predicted before, hard hit.” its people, it lays out a particularly in a 2007 report, National Security The list of areas pre- making it more difficult welcome mat for Islamic and the Threat of Global Climate Change, by the dicted to be dramati- for governments to extremism,”he said. Center for Naval Analyses, a non-profit research cally affected by climate Terrorists can take maintain economic organization. change isn’t small, either; advantage of climate “The risks have increased in the last two years,” “it includes almost all of and social normalcy change in other ways as CNA General Counsel Sherri Goodman told United Africa, Central Asia and well, including using the Press International. “The indicators of climate the Middle East,”said Kent Butts, director of the issue as fuel to garner support and turn people change have increased, from melting in the arctic National Security Issues Group at the U.S Army against Western nations, particularly the United to the increases in droughts and flooding to the War College, a training facility that prepares mili- States.“That’s because many terrorists preach that wildfires in Australia and Greece.” tary officers and civilians for strategic leadership climate change is largely the result of capacious Such events cause instability in the affected positions. consumption of energy resources by the West and regions by increasing water shortages and health “The potential geopolitical problems that could that the impacts fall on Muslim people,”Butts told problems, among other things, Goodman said. result from climate change range from mass migra- UPI. In Ethiopia, some experts say changing weather tions to civil wars and decreased agricultural producIn fact, Osama bin Laden included a message to linked to rising global temperatures has exacer- tivity to the spread of terrorist groups,”Butts said. this effect in a 2007 videotaped statement. bated the cholera epidemic, plunging the already These resulting disasters would follow a long chain It’s not just terrorists,though,who recognize the induspoverty-stricken nation further into turmoil. of events, Butts explained.“First, climate-induced trialized world’s hand in spurring on climate change. By Rosalie Westenskow
Developed nations are responsible for 70 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from 1950 to 2000, according to the World Resources Institute, but are also expected to be less severely impacted by changing weather patterns.“As a result, these richer nations should help poorer countries adapt to a changing world,”said Marc Levy, deputy director of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University. “We really need to come up with some kind of international adaptation mechanism,” Levy said. “Since the wealthy countries emitted all the carbon that’s up there, they have the moral obligation to help other countries.” Some measures have been taken to address the problem, both from the adaptation and mitigation standpoints. In January 2008 Congress passed legislation requiring the next National Security Strategy and National Defence Strategy consider risks posed by climate change to Department of Defence facilities, capabilities and missions. According to Sullivan, who worked on the CNA report, military officials are well aware of the fact that destabilization caused by climate change is “very important … (and they) are considering the implications of climate change, like drought, flooding and failed states.” The international community is gearing up to draft the next international agreement on greenhouse emissions this December in Copenhagen, Denmark, and many experts predict the treaty will include binding targets to reduce heat-trapping gases. The Obama administration has also advocated the implementation of a domestic capand-trade system that would limit the amount of carbon dioxide emissions U.S. businesses could send into the atmosphere.
20 February 2009
U.S. plans big push to end nukes By Shaun Waterman
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is planning a series of game changing moves on the issue of global nuclear disarmament, members of an international commission said this week. “I think it’s fair to say that we are pushing at a reasonably open door on all these issues,”Gareth Evans of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament told reporters after meetings in Washington with senior U.S. officials, in which he outlined five priority issues the new administration
should address to reduce the nuclear threat. But some observers suggested the commission needs to broaden its focus. “Everything we heard … was extremely encouraging, and it’s extremely important in global terms, because in this, as in frankly so many other areas, U.S. leadership is absolutely critical and … has been somewhat missing over the last eight years,”said Evans, former foreign minister of Australia and co-chair of the commission – an international body established by the Australian and Japanese governments to lead a global debate on cutting nuclear arsenals and to work
to ensure the success of the next round of talks on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 2010. Evans and the commission’s other co-chair,former Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, met with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, national security adviser Gen. James Jones, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and the chairmen of several key congressional committees, including Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I got a very, very positive impression of serious commitment from President Obama to really do some
game-changing things in this area,”Evans added in an interview with The Australian newspaper. The White House National Security Council spokesman’s office declined to respond directly to Evans’ comments, but a senior administration official told UPI that the issues the commission had raised were “important issues, priority issues. They’re under review and we look forward to engaging (with them) early and in depth.” The five issues that the commissioners called on the United States to make particular priorities in terms of new action or renewed action, as Evans put it, were: • Getting the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty ratified, if that can possibly be managed.“We understand the political difficulties”; • Revitalizing the negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty,an international agreement to ban the production of new fissile material for nuclear weapons; • Successfully concluding a deal with Russia on the continuation or replacement or extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, involving further deep reductions in strategic weapons; • Starting serious, wide-ranging strategic dialogues with both Russia and China on other issues, especially the controversial U.S. ballistic missile defence program; and • Visible changes in U.S. nuclear doctrine to rule out the first use of nuclear weapons. Evans called these “very, very important steps … in changing the psychological landscape internationally and reinvigorating the momentum for both disarmament and non-proliferation.” Henry Sokolski,the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, told UPI the commission was pushing very hard on issues where national governments are already focused like a laser beam.“They should be putting a spotlight on things that national governments are not paying so much attention to. … That is where they can add value.” As an example, Sokolski cited the spread of nuclear power and the question of“how there can be a growth in the number of states with large nuclear reactors without a growth in the numbers of nuclear (weapons) ready states. “They have done great work in lifting the carpet on the growing nuclear capabilities of Pakistan, India and China and the threats that poses,”he continued.“We need to see more detail as to what might be done to counter those threats.” The commission, he concluded, was still a work in progress. – UPI
Peace ‘activists’ are not necessarily ‘peaceful’ By Shaun Waterman
WASHINGTON – A Democratic U.S. senator says he is dissatisfied with the answers he has received from federal officials about the surveillance of Maryland peace activists by state police, and plans to use his new role as chairman of a key terrorism and homeland security panel to probe the issue. “Thus far, I have been dissatisfied with the responses we have received from law enforcement and intelligence officials regarding their access to and use of data on dozens of Maryland peace activists,”Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., told United Press International in a statement. Cardin, who last week became chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, and two other senators wrote last year to the Department of Homeland Security asking about possible DHS involvement in the surveillance of the activists, several of whom were entered into federally funded databases designed to track terrorists and drug traffickers. “In response to your letter, DHS again conducted an exhaustive review of its records and databases, and found no indication of ever receiving information from the subject efforts of (the Maryland State Police),”officials replied in January, according to a copy of the letter obtained by UPI. But earlier this week documents revealed that
DHS officials from the Federal Protective Service – the agency that guards federal buildings and is a part of the department – sent e-mails to the state police about planned demonstrations by one of the groups, the DC Anti-War Network.“Activists are going to stage several small (12-15) weekly demonstrations at the Silver Spring Armed Forces Recruitment Center,”reads the note in the state police files, obtained by The Washington Post in response to a state Public Information Act request. “It should not be this difficult to get full and complete answers to our questions in a timely manner,”Cardin told UPI. An FPS employee in Atlanta forwarded a notice about the forthcoming protest to Maryland State Police, said DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa.“This was information from a public Web site, and it was shared as they might share information about weather or traffic events,”she said. “FPS has a responsibility for federal buildings and to be aware of any events that may impact a federal facility. ...They shared it with another law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction in that area.” Kudwa said the department would continue to work with the senator to get answers to any further questions he might have. Cardin said he would indeed continue to look into the matter. “As I assume the chairmanship of the Senate
Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, I intend to use the oversight tools available to 1) ensure this type of activity is not repeated, 2) use this as an example to review if counter-terrorism data sharing between state and federal officials is working as it should, and 3) (determine whether) federal counter-terrorism resources are being used appropriately,”he said. In an earlier interview with UPI, Cardin said he would also use his new role as chairman of the subcommittee to keep a weather eye on the way the Obama administration is using the legal authorities granted it by Congress.
In addition to oversight of government eavesdropping and other counter-terrorism programs, Cardin said his agenda would cover plans for the closure of the U.S. military’s detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the possible renewal of some authorities granted by the Patriot Act, which are due to sunset during this Congress. Cardin told UPI he will be checking to see that the administration is using new surveillance authorities passed last year by Congress appropriately and consistent with congressional intent. “We need to ensure that the law is adequate to protect us from terrorism and to protect our civil liberties,”he said. In July 2008 Congress amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1974 law governing wiretapping by the nation’s spy agencies, after The New York Times revealed that a secret Bush administration counter-terrorism program had authorized warrantless electronic surveillance – outside of FISA – of Americans’foreign communications, including phone calls and e-mails. – UPI
20 February 2009
Cricket billionaire vanishes, victims queue Mexico City/New York – Latin American countries moved today to stem losses from another US finance scandal, this time centred on Texas billionaire Robert Allen Stanford and his Antigua-based bank. Long lines of anxious investors formed outside branches in Mexico, Antigua, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru waiting for information and to retrieve their money. US regulators have charged that Stanford ran a “massive, ongoing fraud” that has bled 8 billion dollars from investors in the United States, mostly through the South, and abroad. One US investor told CNN that she had put her money into Stanford’s so-called certificates of deposit (CDs) “because we were nervous about the markets and thought it would be safe.” The scandal follows closely on the heels of revelations about the 50-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme of US financier Bernard Madoff, who paid huge returns on people’s investments by “borrowing” money from new investors. He is under house arrest while facing criminal charges. On Thursday, the Venezuelan government intervened with the local branches of the Stanford Bank, “to stem fears of investors,” officials said. Finance
Minister Ali Rodriguez said there were already “groups interested in buying the bank” and gave reassurances that the Venezuelan economy was sound. In Panama, branches of the bank were closed after news yesterday of the civil charges brought against Stanford by the US Securities Exchange Commission which regulates the finance industry. Long lines formed outside branches in Antigua,
Mexico and other countries of Latin America.They waited in vain to retrieve their money. In Mexico City, investigations were launched into the extent of the damage, which could affect many.Around 200 people gathered at one Stanford Bank building, hoping for information. Some investors charged that their money had been funnelled through Canada to Antigua. The US federal police, the FBI, was reported by ABC news to be investigating possible links between the flamboyant banker and money laundering for Mexican drug lords. In Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, banks which worked with Stanford were ordered to restrict their links or totally cut their ties. A Colombian commissioner resigned her office and was under observation by national financial oversight officials. In Ecuador, financial officials suspended all firms which belonged to Stanford Trust and ordered an investigation. The head of Stanford Casa de Valores in Ecuador, Carla Roggiero, emphasized that her company was not engaged in raising capital.The firm had revenues of 80 million dollars in 2008, press reports said. Stanford was not represented in either Argentina or Brazil.
The US SEC charged earlier this week that Stanford, 58, who’s just been served legal papers in Virginia, ran a massive, ongoing fraud”through his group of companies and lured investors with improbable if not impossible”claims about investment returns. Stanford Group, Stanford International and Stanford Capital Management LLC were named in the SEC complaint. The bank, based in tax-haven Antigua, attracted clients with assurances that its CDs were as safe as US government-insured accounts, if not safer, investors said. Most US certificates of deposit are insured for as much as 250,000 dollars by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. CDs issued by Stanford International, a foreign company, are not FDIC-protected. The bank’s assets in the US have been temporarily frozen by a US federal judge, and regulators have appointed a receiver to account for investor money. Stanford is best known in New Zealand for bankrolling 20/20 cricket, and had been in talks to fund a UK series featuring the Black Caps. – DPA
Gutless Taliban use children as shields Octuplets’ Krakow, Poland – The Afghan army is leading an increasing number of counter-insurgency operations, but NATO needs to provide it with far more trainers if it is to meet its target of expanding to 134,000 by 2010, alliance officials said today. And while there are now“many rays of sunshine” in Afghanistan, much still needs to be done, Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told NATO defence ministers meeting in Krakow, Poland. “The south and east of Afghanistan are riven by insurgency, while drugs and the lack of effective government contribute to frustration felt by Afghans at the lack of progress in building their country up,” the NATO chief said. De Hoop Scheffer expressed regret at last year’s record number of civilian casualties,as highlighted by a recent UN report,but blamed the Taliban for using children and young women as human shields. “I have never met a NATO soldier ... who would intentionally kill innocent civilians. The intent to kill innocent civilians by the thousands is the intent of the Taliban,”he said. To prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists, NATO should send“more forces, more trainers”and launch “a civilian surge.” His comments came in the wake of a decision by US President Barack Obama to send an additional 17,000 soldiers to Afghanistan.The move was welcomed by ministers meeting in Krakow, but it added pressure on them to do more. “More forces is not only leaning back and waiting for our American friends,”he said,“it is very much for the other allies to live up to their commitment.” Updated figures show the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan having now grown to 56,400 soldiers from 41 nations. But nearly half of these are from the US. Speaking on his way to Krakow, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates offered concessions to those Europeans allies unwilling to commit troops to Afghanistan’s most restive regions by saying they could also help its development and its fight against drugs and corruption. “These are all areas where civilian contributions can be made,”Gates said. According to NATO commanders, the Afghan army now leads about half of all counter-insurgency operations in the country and participates in most of them. Its size is set to expand to 86,000 troops by the end of March and to 134,000 by the end of 2010. The international community is helping by providing about 50 training teams, but at least 20 more are needed, officials said.
family could be homeless
increase its troops by 500 to 2,800 and send an extra 250 soldiers during the elections. During their two days of talks in Krakow, defence ministers were also likely to discuss a proposal by British Defence Minister John Hutton for the creation of a standing force of some 3,000 troops to defend the NATO alliance’s territory against possible attacks. Hutton told the Financial Times that such a force would both reassure NATO’s Eastern European members, shaken by last year’s invasion by Russia of Georgia, and help break the deadlock over the NRF, while eventually freeing up more resources for Afghanistan. Part of Thursday’s talks were also attended by Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and the United Nations’ special envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide of Norway.
Los Angeles – The family of the woman who gave birth to octuplets may soon find itself on the street after failing to pay the mortgage on its home for almost a year, according to a default notice filed with local authoriNadya Suleman ties. The Los Angeles Times reported today that Angela Suleman,the grandmother of Nadya Suleman’s 14 young children, was $23,324 in arrears on the Los Angeles area home that the family lives in. The default notice was filed on February 9. Suleman bought the house in March 2006 for $605,000 with a loan of $453,750 dollars. The new information could increase the public backlash against Nadya Suleman, who is single and unemployed and who has already come in for scathing criticism over her fixation on having children even though she has no apparent way to support them. Even her plans to cash in on the sensational birth of eight babies via media interviews and book deals appear to be coming unstuck. The public relations firm that was helping her withdrew its support last week in the aftermath of a torrent of threats,while her book agent also decided not to handle her story. However Us magazine said that Suleman had managed to parlay her extraordinary story into cash and has received $100,000 from US tabloids and $227,000 from British tabloids. Angela Suleman reportedly received $40,000 for an online video interview in which she showed the inside of the cramped home and blasted her daughter’s actions as“unconscionable.” News of the Suleman’s mortgage troubles came to light a day after US president Barack Obama extended a $75 billion government lifeline to homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages. The default or foreclosure on more than 3 million US mortgages is at the heart of the cascading global economic crisis. But the new lifeline is not intended for people who speculated in the housing market.
De Hoop Scheffer expressed regret at last year’s record number of civilian casualties, as highlighted by a recent UN report, but blamed the Taliban for using children and young women as human shields Ideal candidates for the job include French gendarmes, Italian carabinieri and Canadian mounted police officers. NATO officials also said ISAF’s three-weekold fight against drug traffickers who finance the insurgency had already lead to“several arrests,”the closure of 11 labs and the seizure of 500,000 dollars worth of narcotics. Defence ministers, meanwhile, said they were committed to ensuring that the August 20 presidential elections, in which Hamid Karzai is seeking a new mandate, run smoothly. Germany, which is ISAF’s third-largest contributor, with about 3,400 troops, has already announced the deployment of an additional 600 soldiers. Of these, 200 will be sent on a temporary basis during the election period. And Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa confirmed in Krakow that Italy could, by June,
20 February 2009
Evidence of Syrian nukes Iraq’s final election results Vienna – The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has detected more uranium particles and other, possibly nuclear-related material in samples from an alleged Syrian reactor site, an IAEA report and a senior United Nations official said Friday. The Vienna-based agency said in the report that Syria needed to do more to clear up allegations that the site bombed by the Israeli air force in 2007 was a reactor. The IAEA reported detection of 80 particles of man-made uranium in samples taken since June at the al-Kibar site, said a senior UN official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Previous research through November had only discovered half that amount. “It’s clear that this is a significant finding,”said the official.“We have found nuclear material at the site, and Syria has to explain where that material came from.” The report countered Syria’s claim that the uranium originated from Israeli munitions dropped at the al-Kibar site in the desert. “The agency’s current assessment is that there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles,”IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei wrote in the report, citing chemical analyses. The United States has alleged the installation was a nuclear reactor geared toward producing plutonium. Syria insists that Israel hit a conventional military facility. In addition to the uranium,which is used as fuel in some types of reactors,the IAEA has detected traces
of graphite,a material that can serve as a construction element in the reactor core. “We are sure it’s man-made,” the UN official said about the graphite. This finding was not included in the report as the IAEA had not yet determined if the material was of the type used in nuclear installations, he said. So far, Syria has denied inspectors access to additional sites, despite IAEA requests. “These measures, together with the sampling of destroyed and salvaged equipment and debris, are essential for the agency to complete its assessment,” ElBaradei wrote. The restricted report was sent to IAEA member countries, which are expected to discuss it at an upcoming meeting of the IAEA governing board, scheduled to start March 2. US State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said in a statement that Washington expects the IAEA meeting “to address the mounting evidence and ongoing concerns related to Syria’s clandestine nuclear activities,”as noted in the latest report. “We fully support the IAEA in its investigation and urge the international community to continue insisting that Syria comply with its IAEA obligations and cooperate fully with the IAEA without delay,”Duguid said. “In particular, it is imperative that Syria fully cooperate with the IAEA by granting the IAEA unfettered access to any site or information needed for the investigation.” – DPA
Sen. John Kerry and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni look over the Gaza-Israel border from a helicopter. UPI Photo/Yossi Zamir/Pool
Hamas passes letter to Obama’s envoy Tel Aviv/New York – US Senator John Kerry, who narrowly lost the 2004 presidential election, entered the Gaza Strip this morning in a rare visit by a US elected official. Kerry, who was the centre-left Democratic Party’s previous presidential nominee, met with Karen Abu Zaid, director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). During the meeting, Zaid gave Kerry a letter addressed to new US President Barack Obama from the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, an UNRWA spokeswoman confirmed at UN headquarters in NewYork.There was no information about the contents of the Hamas letter. Kerry chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His office in Washington could not confirm that Kerry accepted the Hamas letter.
Kerry was travelling with two congressmen, Brian Baird of Washington state and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, both fellow Democrats. In 2006, Ellison became the first Muslim elected to the US Congress. The trio are the highest-ranking US officials to enter Gaza during the 20 months of Hamas rule. The trip was described as a fact-finding mission to examine humanitarian conditions in the territory, in the wake of a three-week Israeli offensive in December and January against Hamas targets, in response to missile fire into southern Israel by Gaza militants. Palestinian media reported that the Kerry delegation did not meet with any Hamas representatives. Kerry met early this morning in Tel Aviv with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and is scheduled to meet tonight with President Shimon Peres. – DPA
By Trenton Daniel McClatchy Newspapers
BAGHDAD – Final election results released tonight echoed what already was known:The political party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won big in provincial polls Jan.31,a victory stemming from his crackdown on sectarian violence in the war-torn nation. Preliminary results released early this month showed that Maliki’s State of Law coalition won a plurality in nine of the 14 provinces that voted, more than any other party.The success highlighted that voters want a strong central and secular-minded government, marking a departure from the religious parties that had enjoyed power.The incumbents, the Iranian-allied Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, performed poorly. The success of Maliki’s State of Law coalition – highlighted in oil-rich Basra province, where his party locked 20 out of 35 seats – will boost the prime minister’s popularity ahead of parliamentary elections slated for later this year. Maliki’s party also took 28 out of 57 seats in Baghdad province. Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission estimated voter turnout at 51 percent. Maliki enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past
year after he successfully cracked down on Shiite Muslim militias in Baghdad and southern Iraq.At the same time, the Islamist prime minister redrew himself as a pragmatic leader bent on stamping out sectarian violence and divisions. In the Sunni Muslim-majority province of Salahuddin, the State of Law coalition won two seats. The Iraqi Accord Front and the Iraqi National List came out on top. The Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq got clobbered, losing big in much of the southern provinces it once governed.The party has advocated creating a semiautonomous region in the south similar to Kurdistan in the north. Such a division would give the party control over the region, which houses many of Iraq’s oil fields and its only seaports. One Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq member attributed the loss to several factors, ranging from what he called the Independent High Electoral Commission’s bad planning to voters’ ignorance of governance. He also said that voters didn’t realize that reconstruction focused too much on Baghdad instead of the provinces.Sectarian clashes in the south chased away building efforts and services suffered, he added. “Somehow we lost for that,”Amari said.
Police dog killed in suicide bid Los Angeles – A man who sent a police dog to its death as it was trying to prevent him from committing suicide has been sentenced to 44 months in jail, the San Diego Tribune reported today. Cory Byron, 27, was attempting to jump off the Coronado Bridge in San Diego on December 31,2007, after driving drunkenly through traffic.A police office trying to apprehend him saw Byron’s suicide bid and released police dog Stryker to intercept. As Byron got ready to jump off the bridge,Stryker locked his teeth onto his arm and both plunged some 70 meters into the waters below.
Byron survived the fall and was rescued, but the dog died. He pleaded guilty last September to one count each of felony evading and driving under the influence.He also entered a no-contest plea to a misdemeanour charge of harming a service animal.He told the court that he did not realize the dog had fallen with him. California highway patrol officers say Byron’s blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. He has been in jail since the incident and could be released later this year. – DPA
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20 February 2009
International cricket still No 1 says Dhoni Wellington, Feb 20 – Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is adamant the mega-rich Twenty20 cricket leagues that have surfaced in his country have not been a distraction for him or his players. Dhoni gave an assurance that the international game was still the first priority after the Indians arrived in Christchurch for their first New Zealand tour in six years, starting with a Twenty20 international on Wednesday. “I’m playing for my country so it’s not about money,” Dhoni said when asked if the huge cash incentives for playing Twenty20 cricket was threatening to overshadow one-day internationals and test cricket. “With Indian cricket I know that if I’m playing for my country and doing well than I will get money that will be more than enough for me and my family so I don’t think it is a distraction. “The money flows in but one thing for sure is that if you’re not playing good cricket then you won’t get the money.” Indian Premier League side Chennai splashed out $US1.5 million ($NZ2.96 million) for Dhoni’s services when it launched last year, making him the top-paid player. He was surpassed this year by Englishmen Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pieterson, who both fetched $US1.55 million at auction. Such figures weren’t a distraction, Dhoni insisted. “Playing cricket for your country is most important for us. “Whatever fame or whatever status we have now is all because of that.It’s about going onto the field and giving a 100 per cent, day in-day out for India.” While India boasts such proven test batsmen as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid,VVS Laxman and
Virender Sehwag, Dhoni said India’s rise to the top had come through a team effort and that had been a focal point for the last year. They are coming off home test series wins over Australia and England and, most recently, a 4-1 one-day series defeat of Sri Lanka. “I’m proud to say that this Indian team is not relying on any individual. Everybody is contributing and everyone has a definite role to play in the side and that’s what they are doing. “If we fail to get a good start from the openers someone in the middle order stands up. “If the batsmen don’t score too many runs then it’s the bowlers who stand up and take the opportunity to prove themselves and that’s why we are winning more games.” Dhoni said while he hoped the retirement of world-class players such as Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman would be later rather than sooner, he believed India had a strong nucleus of emerging players who would serve India proudly. “There are people who can fill the gaps who won’t really be a Sachin Tendulkar or a Rahul Dravid, but they accept they have been given a chance. “Whoever comes in needs to be himself and play the kind of cricket he loves to play.” Dhoni said New Zealand would have benefited from playing one of cricket’s world powers, Australia, in a limited overs series across the Tasman in recent weeks. However, he believed India had the resources to justify their tag at favourites for a tour that comprises two Twenty20 matches, five one-day internationals and three tests. “We have more firepower now to exploit whatever conditions we strike, whether it is a seaming pitch or a batting paradise,”he said. – NZPA
Anstey looms as Tiger to tame By Chris Barclay of NZPA
Auckland, Feb 20 – Having cut one big man down to size, the New Zealand Breakers are plotting to curb the influence of Australian legend Chris Anstey if they are to progress to the Australian National Basketball League (ANBL) grand final. The Breakers’ historic season rolled on at the North Shore Events Centre last night, a record 131-101 rout of the Adelaide 36ers setting up a best-of-three series with reigning champions the Melbourne Tigers. While Kirk Penney and CJ Bruton were conspicuous on the scoring stats with 31 and 26 point hauls respectively, the Breakers control of 2.16metre Luke Schenscher was also a contributing factor to the quarterfinal success. Touted as a possible All Star centre, Schenscher, who amassed 37 points in his previous outing against Wollongong, was essentially neutered by a Breakers defence that allowed him only nine points. “He’d been getting huge numbers and rebounding very well,”Penney said. “We scouted him at Wollongong and had a game plan on him making sure he didn’t use his right hand.We wanted him to force him to left and double teamed him.” Anstey, arguably the league’s marquee centre, now looms as a significant obstacle. The 2.13-metre double Olympian, who had stints with Dallas and Chicago in the National Basketball Association, is among the danger men on a roster brimming with talent. A reliable scorer, Anstey was also voted the ANBL’s defensive player of the year last season, and has been something of a talisman since he return to Melbourne in 2006 after playing overseas. The Tigers have won 105 matches and lost 35 during the 29-year-old’s second stint with the Tigers. Last season he notched a 20-point, 20-rebound double in a match on four occasions.
“He’s a quality player and we’ll work on that this week,”said Penney, who thought the fact Anstey has not played since February 8 due to injury may work in the Breakers’ favour. American-born forward Ebi Ere and Canadian guard David Thompson also command attention but Penney said the Breakers head to Melbourne for game one on Wednesday in a positive frame of mind. “To win in such a fashion is huge,” Penney said, referring to the Breakers’ 45-point final quarter blitz last night. “We’ve got players that can step up and change games.There was a segment (against Adelaide) when CJ went ‘bang bang bang’ and the game’s over. “They’re going to be great battles and great games to watch,”he said. Adelaide’s now-retired captain Brett Maher thought the Breakers were capable of beating the three remaining clubs. “They had a bit of a slump but they’re all healthy, they can knock anyone off in that top four.” However, the 17-year ANBL veteran thought home court advantage may swing the semifinal series in the Tigers favour. The Breakers had a recovery session today and are back on the practice court tomorrow. “We’re confident going in. They present their challenges as all teams at this level do,”said coach Andrej Lemanis. ‘We’ve played them four times (for two wins). Each team has had the opportunity to win at various times.” Lemanis, meanwhile, reserved judgment on whether the Tigers could be underdone in terms of match fitness given they have not played since a 14-point loss in Perth on February 14. “I can only give an answer on Wednesday.They’ve had some time to rest some bodies, I know we don’t like sitting around for 10 days. “We want to play and having come off a win we feel good about ourselves and our chances going in.”
UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg
Meanwhile, ticket sales for game two at the North Shore Events Centre on Friday have been hampered by an internet glitch. Breakers fans had difficulties on Monday purchasing tickets online for last night’s match and
problems resurfaced today, prompting a plea for patience from the club. “Telstra Clear has advised they are working on the problem but are unsure when it will be resolved,” said Breakers general manager Richard Clarke.
20 February 2009
Venus and Serena to clash Dubai, UAE – Venus and Serena Williams will line up for their first meeting in three months as both advanced today into the semi-finals of the Barclays Championships. Sixth seed Venus, as busy with the off-court visa denial dramas of Israeli Shahar Peer as with her own tennis,got past Russian fourth seed and ASB Classic winner Elena Dementieva 6-3,6-3.Topseeded sister Serena overcame Serb Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-4 in only the second meeting between the pair of current and former No. 1 players. The Williams siblings last met in round-robin play at the year-end championships in nearby Doha. Venus expressed satisfaction after the UAE said it would grant a special visa to Israeli men’s ATP doubles player Andy Ram, heading off another crisis less than a week after Israeli Peer was banned from entering the emirate. The decision was a complete reversal of position by the UAE government after worldwide controversy this week. “It’s wonderful that he will have a chance to play,” said WTA player council member Williams.“We are here as athletes, we don’t have a platform. “We all just want to play.This (controversy) was a big deal around the world, I don’t know what the next step will be.” WTA boss Larry Scott issued a statement praising the change of mind among officials in the emirate, whose public was incensed by the Israeli bombing attacks on Gaza last month. But Scott laid down an implicit threat, as he spoke of “remedies for her (Peer), penalties to be imposed on the tournament, and the additional assurances we will require to guarantee all Israeli athletes entry to the UAE so that future tournaments in the UAE may take place.” In the other semi-final, Estonian outsider Kaia Kanepi will aim for a third consecutive victory over Virginie Razzano. Kanepi, ranked 24, followed up her upset of thirdseeded Jelena Jankovic with a defeat of Russian Elena Vesnina 6-3, 7-5. Razzano knocked out Russian fifth seed Vera Zvonareva in a marathon lasting two and a quarter hours, 7-6 (9-7), 7-5.
Razzano will be trying to overturn losses to Kanepi last season in Tokyo and the Beijing Olympics. The Frenchwoman, ranked 58th with two career hardcourt trophies, had to struggle against world number five Zvonareva, who has already won a title last week in Pattaya and placed into an Australian Open semi-final. Razzano lost serve on six of 13 occasions while breaking Zvonareva five times. A pair of high-profile withdrawals have hit the men’s tournament starting on Monday. Rafael Nadal joined Roger Federer on the injury list, with the Spanish number 1 pulling out to rest from a knee injury. Nadal’s website said that he had to cancel his trip to Dubai due to doctor’s orders. Separately,Federer withdrew with a back injury,which will also cause him to skip Switzerland’s Davis Cup tie in Alabama against the United States March 6-8. “I’m very disappointed not to be able to compete in Dubai but the doctor has advised me to stay home and rest after the pain on my knee in Rotterdam (final) last week,”Nadal said on his website. “(It is) nothing to be worried about, but it needs some rest. I ask my fans and the tournament organisers to understand and I am sorry for this. – DPA
Erakovic eliminated in Memphis Memphis, Feb 20 – New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic has been eliminated in the quarterfinals of the $US200,000 ($NZ395,960) WTA hardcourt tennis tournament in the United States. The world No 56 today bowed out in three sets to tournament fourth seed Anne Keothavong, of Britain, in the Memphis Championships in Tennessee. Erakovic, the fifth seed, went down 2-6 6-1 2-6, a year after reaching the semifinals in the same tournament before losing to former world No 1 Lindsay Devenport, of the United States. – NZPA
Mixed fortunes for UK UEFA sides Hamburg – English clubs suffered mixed fortunes in UEFA Cup round of 32 first-leg ties today as Tottenham Hotspur conceded two late goals to go down to Shakhtar Donetsk while Manchester City drew away to FC Copenhagen. Spurs paid the price for some poor defending in the Olympiyskiy Stadium when substitute Yevgen Seleznov was able to head Brazilian midfielder Jadson’s free-kick past goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes 11 minutes from time to put the home side in front. Jadson made it 2-0 just before full time after playing a one-two with Seleznov to leave Harry Redknapp’s side facing a tough task in the return leg at White Hart Lane next Thursday if they are make it to the last 16 of the tournament. Manchester City, on the other hand, will be favourites to book their place in the next round despite conceding a late goal to draw 2-2 with Copenhagen in Denmark. Nedum Onuoha opened the scoring after Copenhagen goalkeeper Jesper Christiansen somehow managed to allow the defender’s weak shot squeeze under his body. Ailton Almeida levelled matters for the home side but Stephen Ireland restored City’s lead with a half-volley. However, Martin Vingaard gave Copenhagen
some hope of progressing when he headed in Dame Ndoye’s cross in injury time to make it 2-2. Lech Poznan came from two goals down to also snatch a 2-2 draw at home to Udinese. After a goalless first period, Udinese wasted no time in the second half, going in front five minutes after the restart when Fabio Quagliarella headed home a Gaetano D’Agostino free-kick. The Serie A side doubled their lead five minutes later when Lech goalkeeper Turina blocked a strike from Gokhan Inler only for the ball to rebound off defender Manuel Arboleda and into his own net. Lech gave themselves hope when Peruvian Hernan Rengifo pulled one back nine minutes from time and Arboleda completed an unlikely comeback three minutes later, heading past goalkeeper Samir Handanovic after the Udinese defence failed to clear. The 2-2 draw means both sides still have it all to play for in the return leg in Italy. In the night’s other matches, Twente Enchede hold the edge over Marseille after Marko Arnautovic’s 22nd minute strike gave Steve McClaren’s side a 1-0 win while Ajax Amsterdam beat Fiorentina by the same scoreline courtesy of a goal from Kennedy Bakircioglu. – DPA
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TV & Film
Marley & Me
0Cast: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston 0Director: David Frankel 0Length:115 minutes 0Rated: PG (contains sexual references)
A moving film Slumdog Millionaire
0Cast: Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Freida Pinto 0Director: Danny Boyle 0Length: 120 minutes 0Rated: R13 (contains violence and offensive language If Charles Dickens set Oliver Twist in 21st-century Mumbai,re-imagining the sweeping story of love and friendship,poverty and tragedy through a Bollywood lens, the result would be a lot like Slumdog Millionaire. Don’t let the exotic setting put you off; this is a massively cool cross-cultural crowd-pleaser. The film has a flavour as distinctive as cardamom tea. It’s a stingingly funny romantic drama, the latest surprise from the prodigious English director Danny Boyle, who seems capable of filling any odd vessel with his overflowing talent. Boyle has made impressive suspense, children’s, comedy and horror films.This project calls on his established strengths and reveals new ones. The sprawling story shows us the layer cake of Indian society through the experiences of a street urchin who becomes a national icon. The India of Slumdog has one foot in high tech and pop culture, and the other in a world of medieval squalour where child abuse is the national sport. Boyle manages to convey the dreadful poverty surrounding his urchin hero, Jamal, without going all maudlin.Yes, Jamal’s growing up in awful circumstances, the film tells us, but look at what a resourceful little chap he is; never fear, he’ll emerge with his integrity and spirit undimmed. The film bristles with life and sheer audiovisual excitement of a kind I haven’t seen since 2001’s great Brazilian slum drama City of God.The heatsaturated cinematography captures the bustle and grit of Mumbai’s pulsating slums, and the whipcrack editing urges the action ahead, injecting religious uprisings and fistfights atop Mumbai skyscrapers with white-knuckle tension. Boyle has created a kaleidoscopic vision of Third World life that is tough-minded but unquenchably optimistic. The film depicts drugs and riots, blinded beggars, brutal gang lords, gun-crazy pimps and pathetic whores, homicidal mobs and even a gross-out scene in which a boy dives into a pit of human waste.And yet it’s one of the most uplifting, jubilant films of the year. The frame of the story is 20-year-old Jamal (Dev Patel) appearing on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”He’s an amiable, unprepossessing fellow, and the arrogant host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) sees him as a nobody to be taunted for the audience’s enjoyment. Jamal is unusually relaxed, however, and he knows the answers to every question. Who invented the revolver? Which U.S. president’s face is on the $100 bill? How can an unedu-
cated castoff know these things? The egocentric game show host has the police drag Jamal in for a bruising interrogation and he tells his story, a saga of loyalty, hardship and undying love. The film’s inventive narrative structure uses each question as a jumping off point for the period in Jamal’s life when he learned that particular answer. We learn what Jamal knows not just about trivia, but about life itself. We cut to his early childhood, the Hindu uprising that orphaned Jamal and his older brother, Salim, and his first meeting with Latika, who steals Jamal’s heart at first sight.The three travel through several turbulent years, imagining themselves as the Three Musketeers, the book that Jamal and Salim were reading at school before their mother’s death. Salim, the most pragmatic and business-savvy of the three, follows a criminal path. Beautiful, destitute Latika becomes a rich man’s bauble. Humble, kind Jamal schemes his way on to the game show and plays calmly because he’s not in it for the money. He hopes
that Latika will see him and run to his side. Boyle cast three sets of actors to play his Three Musketeers as children, adolescents, and 20-yearolds, and in those nine performances there isn’t a single false moment.There’s a deep humanity to all the characters, whether they are idealistic or corrupt.The reliably excellent Irfan Khan (the father in The Namesake) makes Jamal’s police inquisitor a sharply intelligent torturer. As the TV quizmaster, Kapoor is a multifaceted egomaniac, first viewing Jamal as a joke, then grudgingly admiring his achievement, and ultimately seeing him as a threat to be stopped by fair means or foul. Through it all, Patel is magnetically likable, an underdog whose good-spirited dignity attracts legions of fans. Uproariously entertaining, feverishly energetic, teeming with players to swoon for, cheer on, and despise, Slumdog will make you feel like a million rupees. Watch the trailer
– By Colin Covert
Hooray for Bollywood The success of “Slumdog Millionaire” – a global creation set in Mumbai, with an Indian cast and a British director – has put a spotlight on Bollywood.
What is Bollywood? s Name combines Bombay (now Mumbai) and Hollywood; often used to describe the Indian film industry, but technically refers only to Hindi-language films made in Mumbai s Largest film producer in India; one of the largest in the world s Virtually every film is a musical, with song and dance numbers; actors lip-synch to songs previously recorded by playback singers, who are very popular in India s Most films are long; Oscar-nominated “Lagaan” (2002), a four-hour movie about cricket, was only slightly longer than average s Films often combine saga, melodrama, comic relief, beautiful sets, soulful stares, but few steamy, full-mouth kisses Scene from “Dilwale ...”
Slumdog’s global appeal
All-time, top grossing films, adjusted for inflation, in millions:
Films “Slumdog” director Danny Boyle says inspired him:
Box office revenues in top countries, in millions, as of Feb. 15:
“Sholay” (“Fire”) (1975) Curry Western
“Mughal E Azam” (1960) Doomed love in the 16th century
“Mother India” (1957) Peasant mother defends her family
“Hum Aapke ...” (1994) $22.7 Romantic comedy “Dilwale ...” (1995) $20.3 India’s Romeo and Juliet
“Black Friday” (2004) Film’s famous 12-minute police chase through Mumbai’s Dharavi slum imitated in “Slumdog’s” opening scene “Satya” (“The Truth”) (1998) Pictured Mumbai’s underworld “Deewar” (“The Wall”) (1975) Film star Amitabh Bachchan – first host of India’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” – plays the gangster in this hit crime movie set in Bombay
EXAMPLE: “Spider-man” (2002) took $404 million at the U.S. box office © 2009 MCT Source: Internet Movie Database, Box Office India, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The New York Times
Bollywood stars Top movie actors who appear in “Slumdog” Anil Kapoor Quiz-show host Irrfan Khan Police inspector Graphic: Pat Carr, Junie Bro-Jorgensen
“Extraordinary how potent cheap music is,” Noel Coward observed, and the same goes for movies. Marley & Me is shamelessly manipulative yet undeniably effective. Director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) adapts John Grogan’s sentimental bestseller with no artistic pretensions beyond alternately making you feel like your heart is caving in, then injecting you with a gigantic syringe of good cheer. Those unfamiliar with the book may come to Marley anticipating a canine comedy, an expectation encouraged by the film’s advertising, which is heavy on adorable canine hijinks. And there are plenty of moments that are simply physical comedy, which stand or fall on their ability to get a laugh. (Three-quarters of them are variations on chewing valuables, and they work fine.) There’s a good deal more to the story, though. Marley cleverly uses the lifespan of a couple’s pet to illustrate the passages that mark their relationship. Journalists John (Owen Wilson) and Jenny (Jennifer Aniston) move up the professional ladder, make life-defining tradeoffs between work and personal satisfaction, raise children and enter middle age. The value of the story is that it is so completely typical. It represents the norm of married life, evolving over a decade or so of success and sacrifice, joy and frustration. At the starting gate, Jenny is the more promising character, a confident, accomplished reporter for the Miami Herald, writing big pieces about important issues while John struggles to find his footing as a writer at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. As a trial run to test their suitability as parents, the honeymoon couple buy a golden lab puppy that John christens Marley. (The skittish pup finds reggae soothing.) The dog is a charmer but resistant to training, and freaks out big time whenever there’s a thunderstorm, which occur like clockwork in the Sunshine State. John’s accounts of his incorrigible pooch prove more compelling than his straight reporting, and his editor (the sublimely dry Alan Arkin) makes him a columnist. His career begins to pull ahead of Jenny’s in the two-income relay race, but he envies his friend Sebastian (Eric Dane), an adventurer reporting from the world’s trouble spots. When babies start arriving, John also feels pangs of jealousy about Sebastian’s bachelor freedom. Jenny surrenders her fulltime job, and money troubles descend at what should be a purely happy time. John’s editor begins doubling as a marriage counsellor, offering a blend of horse sense, half-sense and nonsense. Though it all, Marley functions as an emblem of the family’s bond, an inextricable knot of love and trouble. John frequently calls Marley “the worst dog in the world,” but he could never abandon him. In one memorable passage, John must hose down Marley’s droppings to find a gold locket the dog gobbled out of Jenny’s hand. There you have visual symbolism at its purest. At 40 and 39 respectively, Wilson and Aniston make unconvincing late-20s newlyweds. They age into their roles persuasively, though, as do the various child actors who play their three kids and the 22 dogs that portray Marley from pup to senior citizen. Marley doesn’t emerge as a Lassie-class animal performer, but he serves his purpose well. For all the drool and damaged drywall he leaves in his wake, the family dog is a purehearted fountain of devotion and loyalty. Frankel works our heartstrings like Yo-Yo Ma, gently nudging us into a strong rapport with the characters, and by the time John haltingly apologizes to the aged, ailing Marley – “you’re NOT the worst dog in the world” – many an eye will need wiping. Amazing how touching mundane movies can be. Watch the trailer – By Colin Covert
20 February 2009
Celebrity bands – the good, the not-so bad and the awful
Nice,”for his 1997 film The Postman.(www.kevincostnermodernwest.com ) Russell Crowe
Most folks probably wouldn’t immediately peg Aussie actor Crowe as the sensitive artistic sort, but that’s exactly the side of himself he revealed in 30 Odd Foot of Grunts (later renamed The Ordinary Fear of God), which has released four albums. Crowe’s voice is hit-and-miss, but the small success enjoyed by single“Sail Those Same Oceans”suggests he could make the music gig full-time if he’d like. (www.gruntland.com ) Scarlett Johansson
More at home in the tabloids and on the big screen, Johansson rankled a lot of hipster bloggers in 2008 by recording an album comprised largely of Tom Waits covers titled “Anywhere I Lay My Head.”Her gauzy,quirky treatment of the songs (coupled with an intriguing singing voice) proved divisive,but Johansson told MTV News that an album of original material may surface at some point. (www.scarlettalbum.com ) Jared Leto
Leto originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue a music career and fell into acting as a means of paying the bills. In 1998, he returned to his first love with the formation of 30 Seconds to Mars, an emo-ish alt-rock band that’s proven quite popular at home and abroad. The band is embroiled in a lawsuit with Virgin Records, but that’s OK – it’s just delaying more screamed, furiously strummed pap. (www.thirtysecondstomars.com )
His acting ability is just as questionable, so it should come as little surprise that his musical chops are suspect, too. With help from Corey Feldman’s Truth Movement (Feldman released a pair of solo albums in 1999 and 2002), the actor has made the world safe again for sub-par rock that is liable to leave your ears bleeding. (www.coreyfeldman.net ) Juliette Lewis
By Preston Jones McClatchy Newspapers
Given the fleeting nature of fame, it would stand to reason that becoming a celebrity would itself be reward enough. But for many high-profile public figures, that simply isn’t the case. Every year, the list of artists, actors, authors and other celebrities dabbling in popular music grows. Keanu Reeves, of “The Matrix” and “Speed” fame, has long endured ribbing for his gigs with rock band Dogstar;“Face the Nation”host Bob Schieffer occasionally performs with country outfit Honky Tonk Confidential, while Oscar-winning actor/director Kevin Costner recently toured with his countryrock outfit Modern West (more on that shortly). Even mercurial actor Joaquin Phoenix is getting into the act, recently announcing that he’s swearing off Hollywood and embarking on a career as a rapper, but it’s too early to tell if Phoenix is merely engaged in an elaborate prank. We look at 15 celeb musicians and bands – the good, the middling and the awful.
THE GOOD Kevin Bacon
The surprisingly solid celebrity bands are often the ones you’ve heard about the least. Case in point – Bacon and his older brother, Michael, have been performing as folk-tinged, country-rock duo the Bacon Brothers since 1995, releasing five studio
albums to date.Their straightforward sound is clean and pleasing, with a minimum of look-at-me rock star posturing. (www.baconbrothers.com )
“goth-bubblegum”band the Gothic Archies. (www. lemonysnicket.com ) Billy Bob Thornton
The public first got a glimpse of Deschanel’s talent in 2003’s“Elf,”in which she crooned a few bars of“Baby It’s Cold Outside.”Teamed with acclaimed indie rock singer/songwriter M.Ward to create the band She & Him,Deschanel wowed the critics on the pair’s debut album,“Volume One,”in 2008.Lilting vocals and shuffling,folk-flecked instrumentation didn’t just win fans – Deschanel is engaged to Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard. (www.sheandhim.com )
Don’t laugh (well, maybe at Thornton’s solo stuff), but the Arkansas native’s work with the Boxmasters is pretty spot-on.Thornton describes the Boxmasters sound as “electric hillbilly music,” which undersells the dryly funny, classically country colors evident on songs like “The Poor House”and “She’s Lookin’ Better By the Minute.” (www.theboxmasters. com )
Formed in 2003, Juliette and the New Romantiques (formerly the Licks) are a showcase for actress Lewis’s punky proclivities, complete with lots of atonal sing-speaking, painfully amateurish lyrics and rote punk-inspired riffs. In 2009, Lewis is reportedly overhauling the band – hence the new name – but no word as to whether the music will be improved. (www.julietteandthelicks.com ) Dennis Quaid
There’s not a thing wrong with bar bands – acts that aspire to little more than providing the soundtrack to your next beer in a dimly lit dive – but when actors who can barely carry a tune, like Quaid, start playing with bar bands like the Sharks, things just go sideways. Seems like he plays decent-ish guitar though. (www.dqandthesharks.com )
The star of FX’s “The Riches”and such films as Good Will Hunting and Grosse Pointe Blank was involved in music before her acting career took off. She returned to the world of roadies and recording studios with 2004’s“Everything I’ve Got in My Pocket,”a critically acclaimed disc;no less than Ryan Adams professed to be a fan, pitching in to help with her 2007 sophomore disc,“Seastories.”Driver’s got a fantastic voice and her moody, melodic tunes reward repeat listens. (www.minniedriver.com )
Band From TV
Led by“Heroes’”Greg Grunberg, this motley collective of TV actors includes Hugh Laurie, James Denton, Teri Hatcher, Adrian Pasdar and Bob Guiney, to name a few. The group’s raison d’etre is benefiting charities, but their sound skews a bit too karaoke for comfort – it’s not for nothing their debut CD is called “Hoggin’All the Covers.” (www. bandfromtv.org )
Jada Pinkett Smith Kevin Costner
Best known by his pen name – Lemony Snicket – author Handler also has some indie-rock cred.While not officially a member of the Magnetic Fields (he’s contributed to a few of the group’s albums), Handler has collaborated with Fields mastermind Stephin Merritt on several projects, including Merritt’s
What sounds like an amusing Saturday Night Live skit is, in fact, reality.The star of such classics as Under Siege and Hard to Kill has been quietly building a music career as – get this – a blues guitarist. He’s released two albums and somehow, reportedly, roped B.B. King into saying that he was “great at guitar.”Um, OK. (www.stevenseagal.com )
If you were surprised by the appearance of Modern West, the country-rock group fronted by Oscar winner Costner, you haven’t been paying close attention. Before he felt the urge to cut a record and tour the country, Costner had dabbled in the music biz with the Kevin Costner Band and even recorded a duet with Amy Grant,“You Didn’t Have to Be So
Her husband,Will Smith, has a popular, profitable rap career to go with his acting, but Pinkett Smith’s forays into the music world are ... how do we put this ... much less appealing. As the frontwoman for the head-banging Wicked Wisdom, a metal band formed in 2002, Pinkett Smith has, improbably, opened for Britney Spears and appeared at Ozzfest. (www.wickedwisdom.net )
20 February 2009
NEW CD RELEASES
First unauthorized Palin biography
Dean Martin 0Amore 0Capitol/ECM
While it’s easy to remember Dean Martin as the suave Rat Pack member, he had some smooth pipes. And his liquid voice gets a thorough airing on this collection of love tunes, with surging strings and background voices. Born Dino Paul Crocetti in Steubenville,Ohio,Martin was a fixture in Ohio ballrooms before departing to New York and Los Angeles and all the rest. The tunes here range from 1953 to 1960, before cigarettes and liquor took their toll.They show him to be a good craftsman and a Barry Manilow predecessor, crooning a love song with suave abandon. The backings here range from big-band to solid Muzak, and it gets all syrupy at times. But spun sugar is fine in moderation. – Karl Stark
0Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics 0Republic This album, the follow-up to 2006’s “Testimony Vol. 1, Life & Relationship,” tackles some heavy issues but still manages to sound breezy and beautiful. On the love side, silky ballads such as“Chocolate High”incorporate an old-school Motown sweetness with strings and gorgeous interplay between the singer and her backing vocalists. (Ironic since“Vol. 2”is Arie’s first album since parting with Motown for Universal Republic.) “Chocolate High” also features a cameo from R&B star Musiq Soulchild, one of a boatload of guests who are the sonic equivalent of a United Nations assemblage. Others on hand include MC Lyte, reggae singer Gramps Morgan,African singer Dobet Gnahore and Turkish folk star Sezen Aksu. Lyrical couplets such as that one and the toosugary sentiment of“Chocolate High”sound mighty close to the scribbles in a high-school notebook, but the groove makes it go down fine. And on “Ghetto,” one of the political nods, Arie finds meaningful ground in the notion that the world is a ghetto, from the Havana to Savannah. Even better, like the rest of her“Testimony,”it’s easy on the ears. – Jim Abbott
0Piano Concerto No. 1, Well-Tempered Clavier excerpts, Chaconne in D minor and Prelude and Fugue in A minor” Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Helene Grimaud piano and conducting 0Deutsche Grammophon Did somebody forget to tell Helene Grimaud she’s not playing Rachmaninoff? That’s how it sounds in the opening of her new all-Bach recording, but not, as it turns out, inappropriately. No composer accommodates such a range of interpretation as Bach, and since Grimaud has always sounded more Russian than French (her nationality) or American (her adopted home), you would expect extra interpretive leeway.What you also get is the kind of digital clarity that’s the legacy of Glenn Gould. However, some of the selections are transcriptions by Liszt and (guess who?) Rachmaninoff. Grimaud isn’t best enjoyed with objectivity.You can listen to this disc and have aesthetic disagreements at every turn, but still be completely taken in by it, and want to hear it again. – David Patrick Stearns
Trailblazer: An Intimate Biography of Sarah Palin 0Lorenzo Benet 0Threshold Editions, $20, via Amazon
A new unauthorized biography of Gov. Sarah Palin written by a People magazine editor hit bookstores this week, drawing quick criticism from a Palin spokeswoman who said it can’t be trusted and that Palin wants to write a book of her own. The governor has hired a Washington lawyer who brokered book deals for President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton to work with publishers, said the spokeswoman, Meghan Stapleton. Publishers have been approaching the governor about a book since the campaign, she said. But first comes Trailblazer: An Intimate Biography of Sarah Palin, written by Lorenzo Benet, an assistant editor at People. Benet says he interviewed the governor’s parents, sister and old friends to explore Palin’s personal life, from her pre-politics days in Wasilla to pregnancy in office.The story recounts her underdog run for governor and her explosive bid for the vice presidency, though political junkies searching for bombshells may instead find an emphasis on things like Palin’s tastes and relationships. “Her taste in hair, her clothing ... I write a whole chapter about Todd and why she was attracted to him ... It’s called ‘I like a man in Carhartts,”Benet said. Among the other chapter titles:“Taking charge,” “Shaking up the old guard”and “Building a city.” The book didn’t have Palin’s cooperation and doesn’t have her blessing, said Stapleton, who looked to discredit the biography by zeroing in on one fact in particular. On Page 185, the book says Palin “travelled to Washington,D.C.,for the National Governors’Conference,where she met privately with John McCain and learned she was on his short list as a running mate.” Stapleton said that’s not true. McCain and Palin never met privately at the February conference, she said, and no one told the governor she was a top contender for the job. “Nothing happened on the VP selection until August,”Stapleton wrote in an e-mail to the Anchorage Daily News.“Getting such an important fact wrong casts doubts on whatever else might be in the book. And, attributing his conjecture to the Governor is bad journalism.The Governor did not authorize this book and is not responsible for whatever fantasies the author might conjure up.” Benet said he doesn’t know if McCain actually told Palin she was a top contender to join the Republican ticket at the time, but believes Palin had an inkling she was among the favourites for the job. “I see how it could be a little misleading. But just let me clarify, that’s a belief, it’s not so much a statement of fact.” Later, in an e-mail, Benet noted that he never attributed the line about learning she was on McCain’s list to Palin. “I stand by Trailblazer: An Intimate Biography of Sarah Palin and requested an interview with the governor for the book through her campaign office and Mr. Palin, and she did not respond,”he wrote. He did interview Palin’s sister, Heather Bruce, whom Benet credits with providing some of the photos for the book. Through Stapleton, Bruce denounced the book Wednesday. “The only time I ‘cooperated’with (Benet) was in September when he told me the campaign wanted me to speak with him,”she said in an e-mail.“That was disingenuous. I don’t plan to read his book.” Benet interviewed Palin once, in early June, while working on a People story about her pregnancy and birth of her son Trig. He’s co-written biographies of
romance novelist Danielle Steel, a memoir by figure-skater Scott Hamilton and Star Parker’s“Pimps, Whores and Welfare Brats – The Stunning Conservative Transformation of a Former Welfare Queen.” As many as six more unauthorized Palin biographies are in the works, Stapleton said. At some point the governor wants to write a book of her own, the spokeswoman said. Palin has hired Washington lawyer Robert Barnett to field calls from publishers, she said. “She doesn’t have any deal and she’s not signed anything,”Stapleton said. Palin asked for Barnett’s help in November or early December, she said. Barnett is a partner at Williams & Connolly, the Washington firm that also represents former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens in his criminal case. Barnett is described on his firm’s biography page as “one of the premier authors’ representatives in the world,” and a 2004 profile in the New York Times said,“Mr. Barnett’s secret ... is taking on clients who need no introduction, then using his immense negotiating skills, honed by representing corporate giants like McDonald’s and Toyota, to get them more than they dreamed possible.” Palin will pay Barnett’s legal fees, Stapleton said. Writing an autobiography isn’t a sure thing for Palin, Stapleton said,“but if I had to guess, I think that – I know – that she would like to some day.” – By Kyle Hopkins
Chris Bohjalian puts spotlight on WWII Germans Skeletons at the Feast 0Chris Bohjalian 0Three Rivers, $14.95
His latest novel is not his first inspired by real life, but Chris Bohjalian knows it’s a huge departure from his 10 other books. “It’s the first novel that isn’t largely set in northern New England or nearby. That was more liberating than you can imagine,” Bohjalian says. “I wrote scenes set in March and didn’t have to describe a sugar house! That was great. I was telling someone how much fun it was and how different it felt to write historical literature, and he said,‘Oh, come on. Evergreens, snow, unpleasant temperatures – how far did you really go?’” Author of The Double Bind, Before You Know, Kindness and The Law of Similars, among other novels, Bohjalian traveled pretty far. Skeletons at the Feast, follows the harrowing exodus of east Germans who flee the advancing Soviet army in the waning days of World War II, a setting that Bohjalian calls “the most brutal period in human history.”The novel, inspired by the diary of a friend’s East Prussian grandmother, brings together an unlikely contingent: German teenager Anna Emmerich and her younger brother Theo; their mother, who at the start of the journey still believes in her Fuhrer; Scottish POW Callum, who had been working at the family’s farm, and Uri, a soldier whose mysterious identity deepens the thrust of the novel and casts a shadow on the romance between Anna and Callum. On a journey of a different sort is Cecile, a concentration-camp prisoner bent on survival as guards ruthlessly march the inmates west. Bohjalian, who lives in Vermont, was interested in themes similar to those found in The Reader, a novel and movie he greatly admires. “From the very beginning, I wanted to explore the complicity of the average German citizen in the Holocaust. How do the Nazis murder 6 million people without there being a certain amount of complicity?” Q: Were you sceptical when your friend first asked you to look at the diary?
A: My first reaction was:“Start the waterboard torture now.” But I’m good friends with him, so I said I’d be happy to look at it.As I do with most of these sorts of things, I went in with low expectations.The reality is the diarist was a woman living in a real cauldron, and while a lot of the diary was the minutiae of living in a rural corner of Europe between wars and had more about growing sugar beets than anyone needed to know, it was riveting not just from historical perspective but from the characters. ...There were pages that stayed with me. Eight years later, when I read Max Hastings’Armageddon, about the last year of the war in Germany, I started having moments of deja vu. Q: Is the Emmerich family typical of the German family of the time? A: I wanted to convey an extremely ordinary, rural German family. They’re certainly entitled, wealthy, but they don’t have a lot of amenities and luxuries that some of their peers might’ve had. They’re not capitalizing on the Nazi regime for the sorts of splendor other aristocrats might have been doing.Anna’s entire character arc is the sense she’s largely oblivious. ... That casual antiSemitism was virulent in the cities from 1933 on, and an entire nation looked away as a percentage of its citizens had civil rights winnowed away. And then the deportations and exterminations began. If you’re the Emmerich family, you might be oblivious to the deportations because you don’t see it. I interviewed a couple of elderly Germans for this book who said,“I didn’t know anybody who was Jewish.”You want to say – and I did –“But still you had to be aware of Kristallnacht!”They had no answers. Q: What are some of the challenges of writing a historical novel? A: First of all, there’s the challenge of historical detail. When you’re writing about the Second World War, the Civil War, the First World War, there are people who know this material inside out, and if you have the wrong shade of green for an Army uniform, they will point it out to you. If you have a Spitfire flying farther than it can based on its engines and gas tanks, they will let you know. I had to be scrupulously accurate. ... I had to understand conversation in a way that I didn’t in other books. I know how people speak in 2009, but how an 18year-old Prussian farm girl might speak in 1945 is different.You want to convey authenticity.When I was interviewing people for the book, I would listen carefully to how they spoke. The third challenge was geography. There were maps of Poland in 1939 prior to the invasion, then there were maps of Poland under German occupation where many towns were renamed, and then maps of Poland in 1946, when the Soviets renamed the towns yet again. So I was constantly layering maps upon maps, making sure my characters weren’t walking 80 kilometres in a day. I write in the library in my house that used to be a living room, and my desk takes up a small portion of the room so there’s a lot of floor space. Usually it’s used by my cats to play turd hockey, but my wife walked in one day and saw about four square yards of maps on the floor. Q: You seem comfortable writing from a variety of perspectives. Is that something you strive for? A: Sometimes I fear I am more of a mimic than a novelist. I do like exploring different voices and perspectives in a narrative. I had great fun writing about Dana Stevens, the transsexual in Trans-sister Radio, and being a midwife’s daughter in Midwives.Skeletons is a pretty traditional Jamesian novel, in the thirdperson omniscient, but I really enjoyed viewing the world from Anna’s perspective and from Theo’s, too. And despite whatever mimicry I resort to, all these books have a tiny bit of autobiographical minutiae in them.Most novelists pull small details from their lives shamelessly. In the case of Skeletons all of the scenes involving Anna and Theo and the horses were pulled directly from when my daughter was a little girl, and we rode horses together two or three days a week.Those scenes are reminiscent of those afternoons. – By Connie Ogle
20 February 2009
Downturn leads to longer work life for boomers By Jane Glenn Haas The Orange County Register
It wasn’t supposed to end this way. For baby boomers trickling toward retirement, these were going to be the golden years.The good life earned after toiling in some version of the 20th century vineyards. A big percent of boomers envisioned no work at all. Others – more purposeful – planned to seek a volunteer“job”giving back.The Peace Corps, maybe, or helping the homeless. The “Third Third” some called it, expecting the boomers to chart new lifestyle options by living a third of their predicted long lives outside the routine place called“work.” But some amazing events have turned thisYellow Brick Road into a murky swampland. First, boomers’parents are living longer.The trillions of inheritance dollars evaporated as oldsters spent freely and also lived much longer than anticipated.The funny RV bumper sticker“I’m Spending My Children’s Inheritance”turned out to be real. Then, boomers forgot to save. In June 2008, McKinsey & Co. said two-thirds of older boomers had too much debt and the lowest savings rate (10 percent) of any other generation.Not enough money to retire,they concluded, so the only solution is to keep working. No worries. Eight in 10 boomers told AARP they planned to work at least part time and others envisioned starting their own business. But in August 2008, the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University revealed workers are suddenly more anxious about jobs and the economy. “An alarming percentage of Americans are experiencing serious anxiety and distress,”the report says. “More than a quarter of respondents (27 percent) score 3.0 or higher, signifying an excessive level of anxiety and fully 45 percent of the American public is experiencing two or more of these conditions.”
And in December,AARP reported a“fragile economy threatens the financial security of all Americans,” particularly workers 45-plus who have seen a more than 55 percent increase in unemployment and those 55 and older who have experienced a 65 percent increase. “I tell older workers this is not a good time to quit your job,” says Marc Freedman, head of the non-profit Civic Ventures, civicventures.org. He’s being serious. Freedman is the author of Prime Time and Encore, books that examine the ways boomers will change society by working longer – often at lower wages in a career that“gives back,”
such as teaching or “greening”society. “As I talked about before, because of financial need and preference, boomers will make a contribution in later life through work and not volunteering,” Freedman tells me.“And when we started looking at the idea of encore careers, that seemed a perfect fit. People told me they wanted to work in education, health care, environment.” A few months ago, he was able to forecast up to a million openings in the non-profit sector alone. Today, Freedman talks about “a pretty dire labour market – with one bright spot.The most recessionresistant fields remain education, health care and
the federal government. So there are still some opportunities, even in this downturn. “We’re telling people in the long run, the prospect of working in these fields and the non-profit field still looks promising. But this is probably not the time to leave your job and go into one of these areas. It is, however, the time to consider volunteering in an area you might like to work in one day or even going back to school for some retraining.” Meanwhile,“tighten your belts,”suggests Linda Barlow, a financial planner based in Santa Ana, Calif. And remember, nothing lasts forever. Not even the bad times.
Dollar Wise: Making the food budget work By Nancy Visser The Dallas Morning News
How to make a low-budget margarita: Mix two shots of tequila, two lime Popsicles (minus the sticks) and some ginger ale. Blend. Pour. Skip the garnish. That’s one lesson my husband, Guy, and I learned in January when we set a $100 food budget for the entire month.The purpose was to consume some of the stock overflowing from the pantry and freezer and to develop better habits for frugal living. The budget came in at $98.95. Most of that was spent on milk,bread,eggs and produce.Our last purchase was an $11 splurge at McDonald’s that included Happy Meals for my 5-year-old and his friend. The payoff went far beyond the money saved last month. I learned that – despite two decades of being nagged by women’s magazines – I don’t plan our meals very well at all! Guy is a great cook. I’m great at shopping the sales and stocking up. But we wing it on too many meals. Here’s the old way:We stand in the kitchen before a meal and someone says,“What do you want to do for dinner?”We choose one of these options: 1. Fend for yourself; 2. Run to the store to pull together a meal; 3. Go out to eat. Option 1 is never very satisfying. Options 2 and 3 run up the food bill. The new way: Before I went on my most recent shopping trip, I pulled out recipes for vegetable chilli, a beef-and-mushroom dish, bran muffins and a cherry tart. I planned specific meals for specific days and made sure there would be plenty of leftovers for lunches at work. What a difference. I’m not even tempted to go out to eat because we’ve been eating so well at home. And that racks up the savings.
Different onions, all beneficial Onions are rich in phenols and flavonoids, which help protect against heart disease and cancer; strong-tasting ones contain by far the most. Protective chemical content
Most Shallots (pictured) Standard yellow onions Empire, Peruvian and other sweet onions Vidalia sweet onions
Nutrients 1 cup (160 g) raw onion* s CALORIES s MG VITAMIN # (17% of daily requirement) s G FIBER (12% of daily requirement) *Average, all types
Source: The World’s Healthiest Foods, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, MCT Photo Service Graphic: Helen Lee McComas
Other lessons Here are a few other things I learned: 1.You can’t ruin Tuna Helper. I hadn’t made it in years,if not a decade or two.So I was concerned when I poured in the topping mix instead of the sauce,and then the bottom burned. But it was great. (I am tempted to apologize for liking Tuna Helper and buying processed foods and taking cooking
© 2009 MCT
shortcuts. But I still struggle with the planning and the cooking, so this is good for now.) 2. Don’t run out of dog biscuits. By mid-month, we were feeding our terrier mutts, Xena and Noodle, odd treats from the pantry. (Guy fed them sugar cones.) The day I gave each half a hamburger bun, Noodle sought revenge by eating an entire stick of 100-percent cocoa butter for chapped hands.
3.The restaurant craving will go away.During the first week,all I could think about was Zen Sushi’s half-price Mondays;sweet potato fries and strawberry salad;Urban Market’s Cajun shrimp and any place for pizza. By the second week, we were planning pot luck dinners, grilling in the back yard and making new recipes.And the restaurant craving disappeared. 4. Ready-to-serve meat entrees are awesome – if you can find them on sale.They’re easy, fairly low-fat and don’t have preservatives. I discovered them this summer when I tried a recipe for an easy stew. So, when the butcher had a 2-for-1 sale in November, I bought six packages of roast beef au jus and two of pork roast for $4 each. They turned out to be a blessing last month.We had pulled pork sandwiches, beef sandwiches, various beef stews, and then I found a recipe for beef and mushrooms in the newspaper. It’s a keeper, though next time I’m cutting the amount of onions and serving it with rice. 5.We have some quirks. Guy won’t eat Campbell’s tomato soup no matter how it’s doctored up. My son, Drew, wouldn’t substitute regular oatmeal for instant oatmeal with dinosaur eggs. 6. Popsicle margaritas are pretty good. I prefer a mix of undiluted frozen limeade and diet ginger ale. But the Popsicles were a fine substitute.They gave the drink a kind of Slurpee quality. TRY IT Honestly, I really didn’t expect to learn much from our experiment. I figured we’d have fun with the challenge and would save a few bucks. But I’m pleased with the results.After that rocky first week when I felt I didn’t have a single satisfying meal, we got it in gear. Anyone interested in cutting their food budget should experiment with the family routine.You’ll be amazed at what you will learn.
20 February 2009
Microsoft unveils Windows Mobile 6.5 Microsoft Corp. has officially announced a new mobile operating system for smart phones. Called Windows Mobile 6.5, it will be the latest version of software found on phones from a number of companies, including LG, Motorola and Samsung. Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer unveiled the mobile operating system at a phone industry trade show in Barcelona, Spain. I recently had a demonstration of the product with Scott Rockfeld, director of Windows Mobile, and my initial impression is that this refreshed operating system looks similar to what T-Mobile offers on the G1, the first phone based on the Google-led Android operating system. I will reserve judgment until Windows Mobile 6.5 hits the market, expected in the fourth quarter, but I think it will please business users and consumers alike. And pleasing both groups is what Microsoft hopes, and needs, to achieve. The first Android phone and Apple’s iPhone are miles ahead of Microsoft in terms of public interest and usability. “We’re doing a lot of things – some people would say catch-up – that appeal to the person who also wants to do some work with their phone,”Rockfeld said.“We are at a big inflection point in the market right now.” Microsoft is heading in the right direction. Here’s what I found interesting on Windows Mobile 6.5: The software is“finger friendly,”a term Rockfeld uses to describe touch controls. It has a new user interface so icons can be moved about the display with a finger. The home screen scrolls up and down, revealing more icons.The icons are in a honeycomb design, spaced evenly from one another.The screen looks very orderly. The home screen in “locked”mode features only key notices – such as time, upcoming appointments and messages missed – but that view reminded me of the Android design.
The phone can access the new Windows marketplace for mobile – just like Apple’s App store and the Android marketplace. This service will launch before the release of phones with Windows Mobile 6.5, so existing Mobile 6.0 and 6.1 users can access new applications. Microsoft My Phone is a wireless service to automatically back up contacts, photos and documents – any vital information you keep on your phone.This provides protection if your phone is lost or stolen. The free My Phone service, which may launch sooner than Windows Mobile 6.5, can store up to 200 megabytes of data. Rockfeld said it may offer more storage, but there is a point,“like backing up 8 gigabytes of music, where we may need do some tiering”with prices. Some of this may sound familiar to people who have been following the smart phone market. Given that there is such long lead time here, and that competitors may have fresher ideas, the version of Windows Mobile 6.5 I saw could differ greatly from what hits the market. Indeed, Rockfeld said it isn’t even “beta”yet. It will be compatible with Windows 7, the desktop operating system that Microsoft likely will launch later this year.Also, the software will be upgradable for people buying phones with the current Microsoft OS. There’s no question Microsoft needs to get its mobile operating system right. It has several partners, from phonemakers to wireless carriers,that crave attractive products for our increasingly mobile society. “We understand the changes in the market,” Rockfeld said.“When it switched from businessonly to consumer and business, that happened pretty quickly.” Microsoft still has decent market share in the mobile space,trailing Nokia’s Symbian platform and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry operating system. Its share grew from 11 percent in 2007 to 12.3 percent in 2008, according to research firm IDC. Apple’s rose from 3 percent in 2007 to 9 percent in 2008.
Help! I’m in a baby swing and can’t get out By Lori Borgman Our son and daughter-in-law assembled one of those fancy baby wings to get ready for their new arrival. It was like watching pilots do a preflight inspection on a 747. Four-position reclining seat? Check. Padded cushion? Check. Three-point safety harness? Check. Plenty of leg room? Check. I didn’t see a seat pocket for the Wall Street Journal or Sky Mall, but I may have missed it. The swing has “enhanced electronics” that provide 10 classical songs, five nature sounds and white noise. How about a headset to go with that blankie? You can choose from three speeds: idle, take-off and cruising altitude. The only thing missing is a motion sickness bag. Oh yes, and a little oxygen mask that could drop down in the event of an unexpected change in air pressure in the nursery. Did I mention the monkeys? In addition to swinging, reclining and listening to the sound of rushing water, four monkeys dangle from a bar overhead and circle wildly. The parents-to-be fire up all systems for a test run. The carnival music is blaring. The swing is flying back and forth at speeds clearly in excess of 130 km/h. The clicking noise is clicking, the swinging monkeys are swinging – and over the racket, the daughter-in-law calmly says, “No wonder kids have such short attention spans.” It does make you wonder. It also makes you wonder about the pictures of the babies
in the ads for the swings. They’re always reaching out with their pudgy little hands. I get it now. They’re grabbing for the mobile figures, the “electronic enhancement” features – and the off buttons. If babies could talk, 9 out of 10 would be yelling, “How about a little peace and quiet around here? Anybody ever think of that?” It’s not easy being pre-verbal. Being strapped into one of those swings with all the noise and motion and flying monkeys would be great fun for a few minutes – and then you’d want to claw your way out of the funhouse. And this wasn’t even one of the deluxe swings that come with spinning rims and underbody neons. The Mercedes of swings isn’t even a swing. It looks like a swing and swings like a swing, but it’s called a Sweetpeace Newborn Soothing Centre. The soothing centre has six swing speeds and “comforting low frequency sounds the baby heard in utero.” There are also soothing lullabies, “waketime” songs, and an MP3 player jack and holder so babies can listen to their own playlists through high-quality speakers. Who would have thought infants would have Top Ten playlists? You should also know that most swings will hold a baby weighing 11 to 13 kg (25 to 30 pounds). Thirty pounds is a 3-year-old in the 50th percentile for growth. But when your entertainment is provided, why move? Every growing family needs a baby swing. A swing can buy you 10, 15, if you’re lucky, maybe 30 minutes, in which you can grab a shower, brush your teeth, and clean up the kitchen. And if the electronic enhancement features are off, you might even catch a little peace and quiet.
There’s no question Microsoft needs to get its mobile operating system right. It has several partners, from phonemakers to wireless carriers, that crave attractive products for our increasingly mobile society
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By Eric Benderoff Chicago Tribune
20 February 2009
WSD Global’s ‘Mr Nice Guy’
Some tricky questions for managing director Riaz Patel written approval of all parties to the transaction, including the issuing bank. An expired L/C would The man at the centre of this week’s tax haven con- not normally be acceptable. troversy is, by all accounts,“Mr Nice Guy”. IndianWe asked Patel about the Times of India reports born, formerly Dubai-based, businessman Riaz suggesting al Qa’ida involvement in the transacPatel arrived in Auckland with just a few dollars tions, following the arrest of confessed money-launto his name in the early 2000s, but clawed his way derer Naresh Jain. quickly up the corporate ladder. “That’s not true!,”Patel exclaimed.“The people It’s not as if he wasn’t wealthy on paper. As one at the other end have been actually let off, the cases of the heirs to the House of Patels fortune in India, didn’t stick against them,they’re not in jail any more. Riaz Patel would have been flush at the time had So these are all wild allegations that were made there not been a falling out with his father in the against people. That article in the Times of India late 90s – a dispute now long resolved. was totally incorrect,the reference to Riaz Patel was Those who know Patel use words like“polite”, or ‘Riyaz’– that’s another gentleman totally, that’s not “you couldn’t meet a nicer guy”. But they also talk even the Riaz Patel that you are speaking to.” about a hidden side:“He’s capable of lying like a What, so there’s another Riaz Patel who owns flatfish. If he thinks he can get away with it, and he Wall Street Banking Corporation?, we asked. needs to, he’ll lie.And he’s very good at it.” “No, there’s another Riyaz Patel that exists that So when TGIF phoned Riaz Patel last week, we they keep talking about, and he’s the one that is found him “nice”to talk to, but with an interesting connected to the mob and stuff, and the sensational spin on events. press reports have just been put together.” “I’m in Thailand right now actually,”he told us,“I It appears to be a desperate attempt to drop some think Matt [Robson] is working on putting some- poor sucker named ‘Riyaz’Patel right in it, because thing together to send over to you.” the Times of India report specifies the Patel they’re Robson, as it transpired, was indeed working on talking about was a Dubai-based Indian businesssomething to send to TGIF that day: injunction man who owned Wall Street Banking Corporation proceedings. But that’s another story. in the Cook Islands. We wanted to know whether Patel’s group of TGIF checked Google for any negative references overseas based companies had spent enough time to a ‘Riyaz Patel’matched with money laundering checking the credibility of their clients. or ‘Dawood Ibrahim’, as well as ‘Riaz Patel’ in the “I’ve seen the questions that you have asked Matt, same dataset. In both cases, it was a Patel at WSBC all those incidents have been checked and investi- and no one else. gated by the regulators and the authorities and they So if Patel has direct knowledge of a mobster have all been cleared. I mean, they are past issues sharing his name, more detail would be useful. that happened a fairly long time ago – the last one TGIF raised the case of the 2003 fraud on Indoin 2007 as you are mentioning.” nesia’s state-owned BNI bank, perpetrated by some But it’s not exactly ‘cleared’. The 2007 inves- WSBC clients. There’s no suggestion WSBC or its tigations, which alleged three Indian companies staff realised it was a fraud, but arguably on the exported $100 million worth of a food crop called documents revealed by auditors in last week’s TGIF, ‘pulses’to Dubai during a seasonal export ban, are perhaps they should have, and at least checked the still ongoing, and the transactions definitely took clients better. place,“so when you say cleared what do you mean?” Doesn’t it, we asked Patel,“come down to this TGIF asked Patel. issue of whether the very industry that you’re in is “Well the fact is we were the bank on the other making you extremely vulnerable to clientele who end, I mean there are two banks – the bank in India may be criminal or otherwise?” and the bank overseas. None of the bankers have “The issue is,” he responded,“someone opens a been found with any wrongdoing, the investiga- letter of credit by a bank – let’s say the ASB bank tion is over. It wasn’t that they were not looking will open a letter of credit, that letter of credit will to prosecute anything overseas, they did contact be opened on a bank in Indonesia for example, and us, they did speak to us, we did cooperate with the then the Indonesian bank and the ASB bank will authorities in every way shape or form.The Finan- have a transaction. In this case what happened was cial Intelligence Unit got all the papers, every letter that the beneficiary took that letter of credit and of credit that we have opened and all the documents went to another bank in Indonesia, in this case BNI, were given by us to them, and because of the fact and actually took a loan from the bank before even they were given copies of papers and letters of credit having a transaction in place.And he didn’t pay the and other information the authorities were able to bank back.” prosecute people who were to be prosecuted.” Patel says his staff co-operated with investigatPatel denies some of the media reports about the 2007 ing agencies. bust,saying the letters of credit provided byWSBC were “We cooperated in every way shape or form, gave not backdated,as claimed by authorities. them all the documents, and there was no wrongdo“No, they weren’t backdated, they were alleged ing found on behalf of any of the banks there.” to be backdated, but they weren’t. That was the But again, we asked, are you checking your clients allegation, but there was no backdating of the letters well enough or are your companies more interested of credit and that’s what we were able to prove. For in the fees they’ll be paid? the simple reason, that when the letters of credit “All the clients on the books are clients of repute were received by the banks there they were stamped and stuff like that,”insists Riaz Patel. electronically by the banks at the other end. They “Various checks and due diligence have been done couldn’t have been backdated by us.” on clients, that’s what I’m saying,WSBC will be able But again, it’s not quite that simple. The L/Cs to provide you with all the information if you were dates fell within the permitted period for export, to request it of them.They have all that information, but the exports didn’t happen on the dates the L/Cs checks have been done, they do checks from a world claimed. check database, they verify their clients as per the “The fact was,”explains Patel,“the letters of credit regulations and FTRA regulations and so on, it’s had been opened a while back and then the export not that our clients are criminals and accounts have happened after the banned period which we had no been opened with the bank.” control over, and in fact we didn’t even know it had Unfortunately, at the time of this interview, we been banned. How would we know?” didn’t know that WSBC’s client Kumar Trading Arguably,Wall Street Banking Corporation would Company in Dubai, and its owner Naresh Jain, had not have known. But again, the explanation is not been named in a US Justice Department report on that simple. There are rules when it comes to Let- money laundering, and that Jain had also been conters of Credit, and they include strict conditions on victed in April 2007 of money laundering through documents being exactly in order, otherwise the Let- New York’s NYMEX exchange (see lead story). ter of Credit cannot be cashed without the express The revelations that Jain has allegedly confessed By Ian Wishart
Cook Islands government moves to boot out offshore banks are provoking public debate in Rarotonga, as this cartoon from last weekend’s Cook Islands News reveals
to laundering money for Osama bin Laden and Asian organised crime boss Dawood Ibrahim cast serious doubt, in our view, on the boast from Riaz Patel that all his companies’ clients are impeccable, and their backgrounds have been fully checked by WSBC. Because if that’s the standard of care so far, what confidence can investors in the proposed NZ Stock Exchange listed company WSD Global Markets have that vetting procedures will improve. Patel and his companies seem, to us, to be in denial. And it’s that “denial” that got them into trouble with Cook Islands regulators, when Patel decided not to mention his“Australian experience” while applying for a banking licence in the Cooks. TGIF: Tell me about the Australian experience that you guys had? PATEL:“What?” TGIF: The various cases that the National Crime Authority brought against your staff for effectively laundering money, up to $4.8 million worth of cash not received but documented for? PATEL: “That was apparently a fraud done by the employees, there was surveillance on them and they were found to be doing this activity on their own.The authorities prosecuted, I was a director but wasn’t investigated, or charged or even queried in this case.They were prosecuted by the authorities for the frauds that they had committed.” TGIF: Does that mean that you didn’t have proper supervision of your Australian company? PATEL: “Yes you could say so, but fraud in any situation is difficult to detect and with a small company that barely had three or four staff it was difficult to supervise the kind of frauds that they were committing.” TGIF: You were there, you must surely have noticed something? PATEL: “No, we directors weren’t on the spot, it was basically an absentee situation.” TGIF: But you went over there, you looked at the books, balance sheets and so forth? PATEL: “No, not really.There was very little time spent even visiting the operation and stuff like that. The senior management basically ran the operation with total authority over that and there was very little supervision at that time.” TGIF: But you must have, you were looking for your company to make a profit, you were looking to make money from all these transactions, if all the staff had been doing things for themselves you would have noticed, surely? PATEL: “No. That’s exactly, the problem there was that the management in terms of the principals were themselves defrauded, the company lost money as a result of that. It was definitely an issue of fraud in this case where the company lost
money and the directors and principals were not adequately supervising the operation and had no clue what their staff were doing.This clearly came out in the investigators role as well, apparently they were under surveillance for a long time and the authorities decided themselves and concluded that the principals and directors were not involved.” Yet, as TGIF reported last week, one court judgment from Australia notes: “This investigation concerned the activities of a currency exchange and investment business conducted by Wall Street Exchange and Finance Pty Limited (“Wall Street”) located in Kings Cross.Allegations had been made that directors of that company engaged in financial transactions designed to assist clients to systematically evade payment of income tax and/or launder the proceeds of crime.” At best, it was arguably a shocking case of slack corporate governance from Riaz Patel and the other directors – three of whom were putting themselves forward as suitable nominees to serve on the board of the WSBC tax haven bank. Patel insists the staff acted on their own. But the amounts involved totalled nearly $5 million – and that’s only the transactions Australian Federal Police could find documentation for. There is no evidence in the court reports that the two staff accused were sitting on a mountain of cash. It appears to have been routine business transactions, as evidenced by police prosecutions against some of Wall Street’s clients. Then there’s the thorny issue of wider company involvement:some of those money shipments came in from Wall Street’s Hong Kong office.If the two Aussie staff had simply gone rogue, how do we explain the complicity of another branch of the company? Patel insists they acted alone, but loses his appreciation for the detail when pressed. “Well there was a situation at that point of time, it was a long, long time ago, and the matter was in fact settled from a taxation point of view with the tax authority later on.” Indeed it was. It cost Wall Street Exchange and Finance Pty Ltd more than a million dollars in a settlement with the ATO. But Riaz Patel didn’t volunteer that information to TGIF. As we mentioned a moment ago, Patel’s selectiveness when it comes to answering questions got him into serious trouble in the Cook Islands. Patel was required to fill out an affidavit attesting to his personal character. TGIF understands one of the questions, on oath, was along the lines of,‘have you or any entity you’ve directed or been a significant shareholder in ever been named in a court judgement where the court was considering violations or alleged violations of the law?’
TGIF INDEPTH 19
20 February 2009
The reason for a question like that is simple – it goes to character and also honesty: will the person tell the truth about their past dealings, so that regulators can have confidence they are honest enough to run a bank. Lots of companies are named in court rulings,there is not necessarily any stigma, and the information is relevant to banking regulators.Patel however,TGIF understands, replied ‘No’to the question. On oath. Given that Wall Street Exchange and Finance Pty Ltd in Australia had been named in court judgements where its senior management were convicted of money laundering offences, it appears Patel’s testimony, even under oath, cannot be taken at face value as accurate. It may be a family trait. Patel’s father once boasted to an interviewer that his financial group had the necessary experience to engage in banking because “we already have a bank in New Zealand.” For the record, they don’t, and never have. It was that blanket denial in Riaz Patel’s affidavit that set alarm bells ringing in the Cook Islands government. TGIF’s sources tell us WSBC tried to fight off an angry Financial Supervisory Commission in the Cooks by arguing that you couldn’t cancel a bank’s licence just because some staff in a company owned by the principals of WSBC had been caught breaking the law in Australia. That argument, however, overlooks that it may not have been the Australian breach as such, but failing to declare it in a sworn statement afterward when asked, that broke the camel’s back. Regulators are understood to have told WSBC that the fact that three of the bank’s directors just happened to be three directors who should have supervised Australia’s WSEF during the time the money laundering was taking place,“inevitably will impact their reputations”as directors of a bank. WSBC’s lawyers are believed to have argued that because the directors were never questioned or charged, and the company wasn’t charged, that Patel was therefore within his rights to answer ‘No’ to that question in the affidavit. But they’re wrong. The question doesn’t ask about who was to blame, it apparently asks whether the company was mentioned in dispatches, and it was. It’s a yes/no question, and Patel gave an answer that wasn’t true. It was at this point in the interview we put a particularly curly question to WSD Global Markets Ltd’s managing director:“Have you ever spent time in an Indian or Dubai police cell?” There was a pause. “No.” “Never?” “No, never.” “Not been interviewed by police in those countries in regard to anything?” “No, not at all.” But Riaz Patel is not telling the whole story. In 1994, he was arrested and interrogated when his office in India was raided by police investigating alleged money laundering by one of Patel’s business partners, a Mr Dhawan. Patel has confided to others that he was not only held for questioning, he was tortured. Patel was also detained by police at Dubai airport and questioned about a bounced cheque – it’s illegal in the United Arab Emirates to bounce a cheque, punishable by up to three years’jail. Patel flew out of Dubai at the first opportunity after being released from questioning and has not returned since. To be fair to Patel, it wasn’t his fault.A business deal involving his father’s businesses had gone sour and when Byramji Javat, the owner of the lease to Patel’s office, entered the building while Patel was overseas, he found a series of pre-signed cheques intended for minor office expenses like stationery, then promptly filled in one to the value of a million dollars and tried to cash it. Naturally the cheque bounced, so the lease-holder laid a complaint with police to that effect. Knowing all this in advance, we wondered whether Patel would be entirely honest with us: TGIF: What led to you breaching Dubai regulations, how did that happen? PATEL:“Well, there was, when you say breaching Dubai regulations, what are you referring to?”
Cook Islands News
it was arguably a shocking case of slack corporate governance from Riaz Patel and the other directors – three of whom were putting themselves forward as suitable nominees to serve on the board of the WSBC tax haven bank TGIF: Have you ever been charged with a crime in Dubai? PATEL: “No. There is an ongoing issue with a fraud being committed against me where one of my cheques was misused, that’s the only issue but I’m not charged with any crime. There is a case which is happening in the courts which is that allegation, it’s a matter where my instrument, my cheque, has been deposited after being misused.” TGIF: What’s your travel status in Dubai, when was the last time you went there? PATEL: “About three or four years ago.” TGIF: Because your company, your father’s companies, had extensive interests in Dubai, and our understanding is that if you were to return you might be arrested, is that one of the reasons you haven’t been back? PATEL: “No, no there’s no such issue.” TGIF: Well it’s been three or four years since you’ve been there,the WSD proposals for New Zealand suggest that you have offices in Dubai, how on earth do you service those if you haven’t been back? PATEL:“I don’t need to physically be back, we have offices in several countries and I don’t actually need to visit those offices.We have executives that service those offices. I don’t visit all the offices, we have a large contingent of staff that deal with those matters.” The irony that we were talking to Patel in his firm’s Thailand office while he said he didn’t need to visit overseas offices was apparently lost on him. TGIF: What did you disclose about this to the New Zealand authorities? PATEL: “Well, a dispute where a cheque has been misused and that cheque has basically been deposited to create an issue with the police where they were, you know, they would, you know, basically, you know, create a local violation of a disputed point and the local police come and arrest you on certain matters.” Ah, so an arrest was potentially on the cards then. We continued to gently probe. TGIF: This is the allegation about the cheque that bounced, and it’s illegal to bounce a cheque in Dubai? PATEL: “Yes, that’s the law and we have basically disclosed that matter to local regulators and authorities. It was disclosed a long time ago.” TGIF: That’s the New Zealand authorities? PATEL: “Yes.” TGIF: Is that a reason you haven’t returned to Dubai? PATEL:“No, that’s not the reason. It’s just that I haven’t been back for a while since then.The matter’s in the courts and there was no need for me to go back at that point in time.” TGIF: Wouldn’t you have had to appear as a witness in court? In fact weren’t you named as a respondent in court? PATEL: “No.There was no respondent in court
named at that point in time.” TGIF: Because the information we’re getting suggests you were being charged PATEL: “Aha.Well, I mean, the local cases work that way, and they have been contested in court, and those court processes are continuing.” TGIF: When you say the court processes are continuing, in the sense of, you haven’t gone back and so they’re just in abeyance? PATEL: “No they’re not in abeyance, they’re continuing because the matter, what really happened is that someone stole my properly, misused my cheque, there was no consideration made for that matter, in the problem that caused that cheque to be bounced, to create that situation of an illegal matter, so that has been appealed in the courts and it’s now a civil matter being processed in the court.” TGIF: What legal firm did you use in Dubai to represent you? PATEL:“I used several legal firms, you know, at different stages.” TGIF: What was the last judgement, the last ruling entered by the court? PATEL: “I’m not aware, it’s been a long time, but I can fish out the details and give to you.” Despite his promise to get details to us on this, and the 2007 letters of credit, he never did. The WSD Global Markets managing director has also been questioned by New Zealand’s Securities Commission, over documents where Wall Street staff apparently forged a client’s signature. PATEL: “It’s a long time ago, I don’t have any recollection, but that was a matter that the Securities Commission investigated and they found the matters to be in my or our favours. So there’s no issue with that, the client had actually signed the documents in the original and there was a forensic test done and the client was proved to be wrong.” TGIF: Well the forensic tests found the documents had proven to be altered? PATEL: “No, the forensic tests showed there was one set of documents that had been altered but we never got to the bottom of what that document, why that document was in the file, but there was another set in the files and that was the originals. Based on that, the Securities Commission told the client that hey, we’ve got an original set here.There were issues as to why that document, how that document got there, but we could never find out why it needed to be there in the first place with an altered signature. It must have come through the introducing brokers that we deal with.” What Patel couldn’t explain is why one of his “introducing brokers”would feel a need to forge a document when a perfectly good original existed. The chronology might provide more of a clue, however.A dispute arose causing the Securities Commission to request a copy of the document the client had signed.Wall Street staff couldn’t find the original document, but miraculously a copy turned up
just in time for the Securities Commission deadline. The document appeared to be a forgery, however, and two sets of forensic tests confirmed it was. During this time, however, Wall Street finally located the original.And because no one could explain why the forgery was there, or who was responsible, the matter was dropped. TGIF: By all accounts, everyone who has met you says you are an incredibly nice man. But you sound like somebody who has the worst luck in business that I’ve seen in a long time.You have staff and clients who have managed to give your business a bad reputation, bad things happen to you, you’ve left your cheque-book lying around, someone’s nicked one of your cheques and got you prosecuted in Dubai, what faith can investors have that your running a finance company in New Zealand is not going to lead to more embarrassment for them? PATEL: “Well you could put it that way, and it could look like that, but at this point of time there is sufficient corporate governance, there’s an independent board of directors, there is an independent management around everything. The whole process is very tight and well run, and the independent board members and management have put sufficient controls in place so that it doesn’t have to be left on one individual, either myself or anyone else for that matter, to manage the operation.” TGIF: So if you had to sum up the events that have captured world headlines for the Wall Street group and Wall Street Banking Corporation, you’d put down to an incredible run of bad luck? PATEL: Well yes, I would say not only incredible bad luck but also global events that happened in previous years.You’re asking these questions as if I physically ran these companies and ran the operation, it wasn’t exactly like that. I wasn’t the single most in charge guy, you’re just pointing the finger as if I was the single most guy in charge in every operation that went on,that’s not a fact.There are other people who ran the operation, it’s just that I happened to be one of the directors at that point in time and not directly handling the operation.Even in the Wall Street bank that you are making out to be, I never handled the operations, I was a director on the board and I was just privy to the transactions post happening.” But if that’s the case, why is the internet cluttered with press releases boasting about how Auckland is the engine room for the Cook Islands bank, with “back office”and“sophisticated IT”support? “The transactions don’t happen in Auckland,” says Patel.“The back-office situation that you were referring to is an outsourced arrangement for margin trading activities that was put in place for the servers to be left in place in Auckland for the IT setup. It doesn’t mean that the transactions happen in Auckland. Everything emanates out of the Cook Islands, mind and management is there and decisions are taken from the Cook Islands. It’s not as if I’m sitting in Auckland doing transactions, none of those people I’ve ever dealt with will be able to point the finger at me and say that Riaz has been involved in the deals or putting them together. TGIF: So there’s no staff in Auckland who would be able to come forward and say ‘we worked on some of these deals in Auckland for Cook Islands?’ PATEL: “Well, whilst none of the deals had been processed in Auckland, Auckland would do the letter of credit deals, they would do the credit proposals and stuff like that, put those documents together and send them over to the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands handle the processes of letters of credit, the co-credit application and everything happens at the Cook Islands office.” TGIF: So some of the documentation was prepared in Auckland and sent to the Cook Islands, is that what you’re saying? PATEL: “Some of the documentation for the credit applications, so once a client has already become a client of the bank, has been signed on with due diligence, and they want to open a letter of credit or get a loan, then it’s like a Dun & Bradstreet report or world check is done offshore in Auckland or Dubai wherever because clients are outside the country, outside the Cook Islands.” NEXT WEEK, RIAZ PATEL ANSWERS MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS TAX HAVEN BANK DEALINGS Back to the front page
20 February 2009
Why the Duncan went to New Zealand
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.
It would be vain to attempt to depict the feelings of Glenarvan and his friends when the songs of old Scotia fell on their ears.The moment they set foot on the deck of the DUNCAN, the piper blew his bagpipes, and commenced the national pibroch of the Malcolm clan, while loud hurrahs rent the air. Glenarvan and his whole party, even the Major himself, were crying and embracing each other.They were delirious with joy.The geographer was absolutely mad. He frisked about, telescope in hand, pointing it at the last canoe approaching the shore. But at the sight of Glenarvan and his companions, with their clothing in rags, and thin, haggard faces, bearing marks of horrible sufferings, the crew ceased their noisy demonstrations.These were spectres who had returned - not the bright, adventurous travellers who had left the yacht three months before, so full of hope! Chance, and chance only, had brought them back to the deck of the yacht they never thought to see again. And in what a state of exhaustion and feebleness. But before thinking of fatigue, or attending to the imperious demands of hunger and thirst, Glenarvan questioned Tom Austin about his being on this coast. Why had the DUNCAN come to the eastern coast of New Zealand? How was it not in the hands of Ben Joyce? By what providential fatality had God brought them in the track of the fugitives? Why? how? and for what purpose? Tom was stormed with questions on all sides.The old sailor did not know which to listen to first, and at last resolved to hear nobody but Glenarvan, and to answer nobody but him. “But the convicts?” inquired Glenarvan.“What did you do with them?” “The convicts?”replied Tom, with the air of a man who does not in the least understand what he is being asked. “Yes, the wretches who attacked the yacht.” “What yacht? Your Honour`s?” “Why, of course, Tom. The DUNCAN, and Ben Joyce, who came on board.” “I don`t know this Ben Joyce, and have never seen him.” “Never seen him!”exclaimed Paganel, stupefied at the old sailor`s replies.“Then pray tell me,Tom, how it is that the DUNCAN is cruising at this moment on the coast of New Zealand?” But if Glenarvan and his friends were totally at a loss to understand the bewilderment of the old sailor, what was their amazement when he replied in a calm voice: “The DUNCAN is cruising here by your Honour`s orders.” “By my orders?”cried Glenarvan. “Yes, my Lord. I only acted in obedience to the instructions sent in your letter of January fourteenth.” “My letter! my letter!”exclaimed Glenarvan. The ten travellers pressed closer round Tom Austin, devouring him with their eyes.The letter dated from Snowy River had reached the DUNCAN, then. “Let us come to explanations, pray, for it seems to me I am dreaming. You received a letter,Tom?” “Yes, a letter from your Honour.” “At Melbourne?” “At Melbourne, just as our repairs were completed.” “And this letter?” “It was not written by you, but bore your signature, my Lord.” “Just so; my letter was brought by a convict called Ben Joyce.” “No, by a sailor called Ayrton, a quartermaster on the BRITANNIA.” “Yes, Ayrton or Ben Joyce, one and the same individual.Well, and what were the contents of this letter?” “It contained orders to leave Melbourne without delay, and go and cruise on the eastern coast of--” “Australia!”said Glenarvan with such vehemence that the old sailor was somewhat disconcerted. “Of Australia?”repeated Tom,opening his eyes.“No,but New Zealand.” “Australia,Tom! Australia!”they all cried with one voice. Austin`s head began to feel in a whirl. Glenarvan spoke with such assurance that he thought after all he must have made a mistake in reading the letter. Could a faithful, exact old servant like himself have been guilty of such a thing! He turned red and looked quite disturbed. “Never mind,Tom,”said Lady Helena.“God so willed it.” “But, no, madam, pardon me,”replied old Tom.“No, it is impossible, I was not mistaken. Ayrton read the letter as I did, and it was he, on the contrary, who wished to bring me to the Australian coast.” “Ayrton!”cried Glenarvan.
“Yes,Ayrton himself. He insisted it was a mistake: that you meant to order me to Twofold Bay.” “Have you the letter still,Tom?”asked the Major, extremely interested in this mystery. “Yes, Mr. McNabbs,”replied Austin.“I`ll go and fetch it.” He ran at once to his cabin in the forecastle. During his momentary absence they gazed at each other in silence, all but the Major, who crossed his arms and said: “Well, now, Paganel, you must own this would be going a little too far.” “What?”growled Paganel, looking like a gigantic note of interrogation, with his spectacles on his forehead and his stooping back. Austin returned directly with the letter written by Paganel and signed by Glenarvan. “Will your Honour read it?”he said, handing it to him. Glenarvan took the letter and read as follows: “Order to Tom Austin to put out to sea without delay, and to take the Duncan, by latitude 37 degrees to the eastern coast of New Zealand!” “New Zealand!”cried Paganel, leaping up. And he seized the letter from Glenarvan, rubbed his eyes, pushed down his spectacles on his nose, and read it for himself. “New Zealand!” he repeated in an indescribable tone, letting the order slip between his fingers. That same moment he felt a hand laid on his shoulder, and turning round found himself face to face with the Major, who said in a grave tone: “Well, my good Paganel, after all, it is a lucky thing you did not send the DUNCAN to Cochin China!” This pleasantry finished the poor geographer. The crew burst out into loud Homeric laughter. Paganel ran about like a madman, seized his head with both hands and tore his hair. He neither knew what he was doing nor what he wanted to do. He rushed down the poop stairs mechanically and paced the deck, nodding to himself and going straight before without aim or object till he reached the forecastle. There his feet got entangled in a coil of rope. He stumbled and fell, accidentally catching hold of a rope with both hands in his fall. Suddenly a tremendous explosion was heard. The forecastle gun had gone off, riddling the quiet calm of the waves with a volley of small shot. The unfortunate Paganel had caught hold of the cord of the loaded gun.The geographer was thrown down the forecastle ladder and disappeared below. A cry of terror succeeded the surprise produced by the explosion. Everybody thought something terrible must have happened.The sailors rushed between decks and lifted up Paganel, almost bent double. The geographer uttered no sound. They carried his long body onto the poop. His companions were in despair. The Major, who was always the surgeon on great occasions, began to strip the unfortunate that he might dress his wounds; but he had scarcely put his hands on the dying man when he started up as if touched by an electrical machine. “Never! never!”he exclaimed, and pulling his ragged coat tightly round him, he began buttoning it up in a strangely excited manner. “But, Paganel,”began the Major. “No, I tell you!” “I must examine--” “You shall not examine.” “You may perhaps have broken--”continued McNabbs. “Yes,” continued Paganel, getting up on his long legs,“but what I have broken the carpenter can mend.” “What is it, then?” “There.” Bursts of laughter from the crew greeted this speech. Paganel`s friends were quite reassured about him now.They were satisfied that he had come off safe and sound from his adventure with the forecastle gun. “At any rate,” thought the Major,“the geographer is wonderfully bashful.” But now Paganel was recovered a little, he had to reply to a question he could not escape. “Now, Paganel,”said Glenarvan,“tell us frankly all about it. I own that your blunder was providential. It is sure and certain that but for you the DUNCAN would have fallen into the hands of the convicts; but for you we should have been recaptured by the Maories. But for my sake tell me by what supernatural aberration of mind you were induced to write New Zealand instead of Australia?” “Well, upon my oath,”said Paganel,“it is--”
But the same instant his eyes fell on Mary and Robert Grant, and he stopped short and then went on: “What would you have me say, my dear Glenarvan? I am mad, I am an idiot, an incorrigible fellow, and I shall live and die the most terrible absent man. I can`t change my skin.” “Unless you get flayed alive.” “Get flayed alive!”cried the geographer, with a furious look.“Is that a personal allusion?” “An allusion to what?” asked McNabbs, quietly. This was all that passed. The mystery of the DUNCAN`S presence on the coast was explained, and all that the travellers thought about now was to get back to their comfortable cabins, and to have breakfast. However, Glenarvan and John Mangles stayed behind with Tom Austin after the others had retired.They wished to put some further questions to him. “Now, then, old Austin,” said Glenarvan,“tell me, didn`t it strike you as strange to be ordered to go and cruise on the coast of New Zealand?” “Yes, your Honour,”replied Tom.“I was very much surprised, but it is not my custom to discuss any orders I receive, and I obeyed. Could I do otherwise? If some catastrophe had occurred through not carrying out your injunctions to the letter, should not I have been to blame? Would you have acted differently, captain?” “No,Tom,”replied John Mangles. “But what did you think?”asked Glenarvan. “I thought, your Honour, that in the interest of Harry Grant, it was necessary to go where I was told to go. I thought that in consequence of fresh arrangements, you were to sail over to New Zealand, and that I was to wait for you on the east coast of the island. Moreover, on leaving Melbourne, I kept our destination a secret, and the crew only knew it when we were right out at sea, and the Australian continent was finally out of sight. But one circumstance occurred which greatly perplexed me.” “What was it,Tom?”asked Glenarvan. “Just this, that when the quartermaster of the BRITANNIA heard our destination--” “Ayrton!”cried Glenarvan.“Then he is on board?” “Yes, your Honor.” “Ayrton here?”repeated Glenarvan, looking at John Mangles. “God has so willed!”said the young captain. In an instant, like lightning, Ayrton`s conduct, his long-planned treachery, Glenarvan`s wound, Mulrady`s assassination, the sufferings of the expedition in the marshes of the Snowy River, the whole past life of the miscreant, flashed before the eyes of the two men.And now, by the strangest concourse of events, the convict was in their power. “Where is he?”asked Glenarvan eagerly. “In a cabin in the forecastle, and under guard.” “Why was he imprisoned?” “Because when Ayrton heard the vessel was going to New Zealand, he was in a fury; because he tried to force me to alter the course of the ship; because he threatened me; and, last of all, because he incited my men to mutiny. I saw clearly he was a dangerous individual, and I must take precautions against him.” “And since then?” “Since then he has remained in his cabin without attempting to go out.” “That`s well,Tom.” Just at this moment Glenarvan and John Mangles were summoned to the saloon where breakfast, which they so sorely needed, was awaiting them.They seated themselves at the table and spoke no more of Ayrton. But after the meal was over, and the guests were refreshed and invigorated, and they all went upon deck, Glenarvan acquainted them with the fact of the quartermaster`s presence on board, and at the same time announced his intention of having him brought before them. “May I beg to be excused from being present at his examination?” said Lady Helena.“I confess, dear Edward, it would be extremely painful for me to see the wretched man.” “He must be confronted with us, Helena,”replied Lord Glenarvan;“I beg you will stay. Ben Joyce must see all his victims face to face.” Lady Helena yielded to his wish. Mary Grant sat beside her, near Glenarvan. All the others formed a group round them, the whole party that had been compromised so seriously by the treachery of the convict.The crew of the yacht, without understanding the gravity of the situation, kept profound silence. “Bring Ayrton here,”said Glenarvan.