Chinese milk problems in Nth Korea 3 yrs ago


Ex-expat left a comment on a previous post with a link to The Daily NK  which carries a story saying children fed on milk powder imported from China were falling ill and dying three years ago.

 Amidst the Chinese ¡°Melamine milk¡± repercussions that are spreading rapidly across the world, it has come to light that a number of North Korean infants who had been given Chinese powdered milk in 2005 died.

According to merchants trading between China and North Korea, the Chinese Melamine-tainted milk affair started in Pyongyang in the summer of 2005. At the time, infants who ate imported Chinese powdered milk fell unconscious and, in more serious cases, died.

Does the fact that neither China nor North Korea are bastions of free speech have anything to do with this not having been widely known until now?

Desert island date


The Herald is doing its bit to lighten the election campaign by running a series of character polls on the party leaders.

The current one asks: which of these politicians would you rather be stranded on a desert island  with?

Those upset by the furore over leaders’ debates on TV will be pleased to know the eight leaders of the parties in parliament are all there.


Hat Tip: Inquiring Mind

More melamine contamination


The Wall Street Journal reports that 31 more batches of Chinese milk powder were found to be conaminated with melamine.

The new batches were mostly milk-powder products for adults. A previous round of tests found melamine in 69 batches of infant milk powder.

The new figure brings to at least 100 the number of tested batches of milk powder found to contain melamine. Dozens of brands sold by more than a score of dairy firms, including some of China’s biggest names, have been among those tested.

A Japanese company is recalling custard tarts imported from China which contain tiny amounts of melamine.

The level of contamination posed no risk to health “if (an average adult) keeps eating 428 of them every day for life,” the company said in a statement. The company said it has received no reports of health problems.

And tests in Hong Kong cleared sweets produced by several Western brands and manufactured in China, including Mars, Cadbury and Kraft.

Hat Tip: Inquiring Mind.

Just wondering . .


. . . if there’s a note on a mail box saying no circulars, would it be alright to put in something rectangular?

Let’s axe ’em all


MWT puts a compelling case  for abolishing the Electoral Commission.

There must be plenty of other unelected bodies that stand between Labour and eternal power – judiciary, police, other parties . . .

Why not just axe the lot of them?

Parents sue Sanlu


The parents of a one year old baby have sued Sanlu  because he developed kidney stones after drinking infant formula contaminated by melamine.

The case is being represented by Ji Cheng . . . [who] said his clients sought legal help because they could no longer afford medical treatment for their child, the report said.

Even though China’s State Council, the Cabinet, has ordered hospitals to provide free health care for sick children, the facility where this child was being treated, Beijing Children’s Hospital, only offers free treatment to children diagnosed after September 12, when the scandal broke, the magazine said.

It said Ji’s clients have had to foot all medical expenses incurred since June, when the baby started showing symptoms.

Fonterra has a 43% stake in Sanlu which is one of 22 companies in China which used milk poisoned by melamine to produce baby formula.

Update: Macdoctor has more on this here.

What does this mean?


I’m a sucker for quizes so I followed the link from In a Strange Land  to the MMP quiz.

I scored 8/9 (missed the one on the last date you can enrol for a general election). That put me above the average of 5.5/9 and encouraged by that I went on to the advanced quiz.

I got one wrong there too. It was:

Which of the following is true?
Parliamentary parties are the only ones that receive state funding
Each registered party can spend up to $1 million on its party vote campaign
There is no state funding of campaigns
Registered parties receive state campaign funding based largely on their success at the previous election
I opted for no state funding and was surprised to get it wrong because the answer is:

Registered parties receive state campaign funding based largely on their success at the previous election.

Please tell me that refers only to the allocation of broadcasting funding and that full state funding hasn’t been introduced by stealth?

US senate approves bail out


The United State senate has approved a $700 billion rescue package for Wall Street, most of which will be used to take over bad mortgages from finance companies and investors.

EFA seriously silly


The Electoral Commission’s annual report is less than complimentary about the Electoral Finance Act:

These changes have presented implementation and administrative challenges to all involved. The meanings of significant sections of the legislation are obscure. This situation has required – and will require – constant legal advice to assist with interpretation.

The commission is not confident that it will be able to reach informed positions on the interpretation of some provisions within the election period, and notes that the situation is exacerbated by the legal reality that it cannot finally determine questions of whether, for instance, an item is an election advertisement.

Kiwiblog reminds us:

If Labour First are re-elected they will not only keep the Electoral Finance Act, but they will change it to make their taxpayer funded advertising exempt from it.

Roarprawn points out how the law is nirvana for lawyers.

While all of this is serious, the EFA is also silly.

I’ve been wandering the streets of Wanaka popping properly authorised pens in letter boxes, but the bag I’ve been carrying them in had to be turned inside out because it’s got a National Party logo on it.

Since we don’t know yet if logos are election advertisements and the bag doesn’t have authorisation, I can only use it inside out until November 9th and that’s seriously silly.

Homepaddock blocked by MoH!


The Hive reports that Homepaddock has been blocked by the Ministry of Health.

Any employer has the right to take a tough line on employees wasting their time blog-surfing during working hours so I don’t have any objection to the blocking per se. But if the MoH block is allowing their staff to waste their time on blogs without my blue tint we have a problem.

However, the usual reason for blocking a website is offensive content and The Hive’s sources say that is the reason behind the Ministry’s censorship.

I make no attempt to hide my polticial bias so have no objection to being called unbalanced, I also accept the scorn of those who know better when I make silly mistakes. But I take strong exception to the accusation that this blog contains offensive material.

When writing on rural issues you can sometimes stray into subjects which might be construed as crude in other contexts and I did write a post about porn in the paddock, way back in June.

I’ve also done a couple of posts about neutering options which mentioned Winston Peters and cryptorchid in the same sentence.

It’s sad reflection on society that the search terms employed most often by visitors lead them to a post on pc gone mad which mentions children in their birthday suits at a swimming pool, and a couple of posts on topless women on motor cycles. They’ll be disappointed when they get there because, like every other post I’ve written they’re free from obscene words and images. 

The only other posts I can think of which might have been caught in a censor’s net would be several I’ve written recently on the melamine milk scandal. I’ve mentioned more than once that formula is second best and it’s better to feed babies as nature intended. In doing so I’ve made no effort to avoid the obvious term for what happens to be a part of the body which might excite a dirt-alert in another context.

If that’s what’s caused the problem then sites such as La Leche or Plunket probably run into the same problem.

That would be a pity because some MOH staff might have a legitimate work-related interest in those sites and in the melamine milk scandal.

Trust or trussed?


 Apropos of the previous post:

The cost of bureaucracy


Does anyone ever say, “when I grow up I”m going to be a bureaucrat?”

It’s not that we don’t need them, theirs is an essential role in the smooth running of any large organisation. But you can have too much of a good thing and we’ve definitely gone beyond what’s necessary in the public service.

As John Key pointed out in a recent speech  to the Public Service Association:

Since 2000, the number of teachers in state primary and secondary schools has grown by 12%. But over the same period, the number of people employed in the various education bureaucracies has grown by 40%. . . Since 2000, the number of nurses and doctors employed in district health boards has grown by 28%. But over the same period, the number of people employed in the Ministry of Health has grown by 51%.  . .


Since 2002, the service delivery part of MSD, namely Work and Income, and Child Youth and Family, has grown by 23%. But over the same period, the policy analysis, research, and corporate units of MSD have grown by 109%.The Quarterly Employment Survey shows a similar picture over the whole of the state sector – the number of jobs in central government administration has grown faster than those in the rest of the state sector, and faster than the number of jobs in the economy as a whole.


The inbalance between front line workers and bureaucrats, and taxpayer funded employees and those in the private sector, comes at a considerable cost and not just in wages.

Gerry Brownlee  points out it’s not just wages:

In the past five years Labour has overseen an increase in the amount of extra floor space leased for bureaucrats in central Wellington equivalent to almost four Te Papas, says National’s State Services spokesman, Gerry Brownlee.“How can people have faith and trust in Labour’s stewardship of the public service when it has overseen an increase in the amount of extra floor space leased for bureaucrats in the past five years that equates to an additional 13.2 hectares?”


. . . Mr Brownlee says the extra floor space has not come cheaply, and the government now pays around $106 million a year in rent.

That’s the direct cost, there’s also the impact it has on the market, pushing up property prices rents and contributing to inflation.

Kiwiblog lists some of the bigger increases:

  1. Human Rights Commission up 178%
  2. Commerce Commission up 176%
  3. Education Ministry up 155%
  4. Social Development Ministry up 122%
  5. Transport up 117%
  6. Environment Ministry up 110%

In absolute terms the IRD has grown by 25,000 square metres, Education Ministry by 13,000 square metres, Labour Department by almost 7,000 square metres, ACC by 6,000 square metres, NZQA by 5,000 square metres, Justice Ministry by 5,000 square metres.

Congratulations to Treasury who reduced their office space by 2,000 square metres or 18%.

Won’t it be a great day when schools and hopsitals have everything they need and a government department has to run a cake stall for a new computer?

Can PGW SFF deal survive?


Chalkie’s Spetember 18 column in The Independent (not on line) was headlined PGW: Over here, over there and over geared.

She said that even before the Silver Fern Farms’ shareholders approved the deal for PGG Wrightson to take a 50% stake in their company, PGW balance sheet was regarded as reletively leveraged:

Core net debt rose by $82m to $312m in the year ended June 30 and equity then was only 32.7% or $1.47 billion in total assets, although that also included its $500m finance book.

Given that and the uncertain state of financial markets, it’s not surprising that PGW announced that it couldn’t get all the $145m it needed to make it first payment to SFF.

PGW says it’s still confident it will be able to make the payments, but as David Hargreaves said:

The massive rally in PGW’s share price today tells you that investors in that company are hugely relieved that, for now, the deal won’t be happening.

There have been huge concerns about the amount of debt PGW was intending to take on. . .

PGW is still speaking optimistically that the deal will go ahead, but the capital raising of last week has now been retrospectively cancelled and you have to wonder whether this deal will now ever happen.

These are not times to be attempting a big brave restructuring and that’s what this was. An extremely ambitious plan at a time when everybody is beyond cautious.

Neal Wallace  writes on the same lines:

The $220 million Silver Fern Farms-PGG Wrightson partnership looks to be over before it started, the victim of the global financial meltdown.

Directors and management of the two companies were yesterday trying to keep the deal on track, but brokers and observers doubted it would proceed, given a debt-raising proposal was contingent on the now cancelled $110 million placement of shares.

As Chalkie pointed out there were questions about PGW’s ability to get the finance they needed for the SFF deal anyway. The international credit crunch makes it even less likely now.

Minister may step into kindy dispute


Building Minister Shane Jones may fly to Invercargill if the dispute between Cottage Kindergarten and the Invercargill District Council can’t be sorted out.

The problem arose when the council building inspector wouldn’t sign off the building compliance because the catch on the gate was too high for people in wheel chairs and the kindy wouldn’t lower it because if they did children could reach it.

Other pre-school and child care centres don’t seem to have had this problem. Does that mean it’s not the law at fault but the Invercargill council’s interpretation of it; or has it sensibly been ignored in other places?

Cromwell winery in receivership


Central Otago Vintners  winery has gone into receivership after just two years.

Cromwell has been booming with the spin off from the development of vinyards and wineries and new housing on the shores of Lake Dunstan.

But it’s still a smallish community and a receivership like this will be a concern not just on the winery staff but its creditors and their employees too.

New milk plant on hold


Construction of the Mataura Valley Milk plant  near Gore has been postponed for 12 months because of funding difficulties.

The $90 million plant was due to open next August:

However, chief executive Chris Shelley said last night company directors thought it prudent to postpone construction by 12 months because delays in closing funding meant a risk of missing the start of the 2009 milking season.

Mr Shelley said commercial production would now begin in August 2010.

The global financial crisis was also a factor in the postponement, he said.

 This is only a posptonment but  there are pretty strong indications the dairy boom has peaked.

Milk companies forecasts for this season’s payout are good by historical standards, but down on last season’s.

Dairy returns are still better than those for beef and lamb, but rising prices for meat are closing the gap which make conversion to dairying less attractive than it was.

37 more sleeps . . .


. . . until election day and Bible-bashing was taken literally at an election meeting.

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