Melamine-poisoned food kills 1500 dogs


Dog food poisoned by melamine has killed around 1500 dogs in China.

The raccoon dogs – a breed native to east Asia that is raised for its fur – were fed a product that contained melamine and developed kidney stones, Zhang Wenkui, a veterinary professor at Shenyang Agriculture University, said Monday. All of the dogs died on farms in just one village.

“First, we found melamine in the dogs’ feed, and second, I found that 25 per cent of the stones in the dogs’ kidneys were made up of melamine,” said Zhang, who determined that the animals died of kidney failure after performing a necropsy – an animal autopsy – on about a dozen dogs.

Tens of thousands of Chinese children have become ill and at least four have died after drinking milk contaminated by melamine.

Six people who either sold melamine or added it to the milk have been arrested.

Authorities say middlemen apparently added melamine to milk they collected from farmers to sell to large dairy companies. The suppliers are accused of watering down the milk and then adding the nitrogen-rich chemical to make the milk seem higher in protein when tested. Protein tests often simply measure nitrogen levels.

As of Wednesday, a total of 46,717 children had been treated and discharged from hospitals, the health ministry said. Milk powder contaminated with melamine has been blamed for the deaths of four infants.

There have not been any more reports of deaths, the ministry said, adding that all the deaths occurred between May to August, which was before the public knew milk products were tainted.

Macdoctor  points out that many chidlren will have permanent kidney damage because of the melamine poisoning.

That creates an enormous health burden for the future. Some of these children will eventually need kidney transplants, many will have regular kidney problems and many will require dialysis in 40 – 50 years time.

Britain officially in recession


Britain’s economy is shrinking for the first time in 16 years, confirming it is in recession.

The toll from the credit crisis and housing crash has ended Britain’s longest unbroken run of growth since quarterly records began in 1955. City analysts gave a warning that the economy could shrink at an even faster pace in coming months.

Figures for gross domestic product revealed a worse-than-expected fall of 0.5 per cent over the past three months. A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth, but a further contraction is inevitable.

We aren’t as dependent on Britain to buy our produce as we were last century. But it’s still a significant market for our exports so if the Brits tighten their belts we’ll feel it too.

Who’s right?


I had just finished reading a Kiwiblog post on the story behind the trust which received $78,000 from New Zealand First when TV One’s news came on.

Kiwiblog says the trust was set up a couple of months after Winston Peters announced his party had donated to charities the $158,000 they owed the tax payer; that two of Peters’ lawyers are trustees and:

There is no reference to Susan Couch in the trust deed, except being the name of the trust. Couch is not listed as the Patron, and the three Trustees have total power over the Trust.  She is not listed specifically as a beneficiary either. Again the Trustees have total discretion over who the money goes to (so long as within the objects), and Couch has no rights or say at all. So the Herald is wrong when they say it is “A trust for Susan Couch”.

That doesn’t mean the trust can’t give her money, but there’s a difference in a trust for someone and a trust from which someone may benefit.

However,  TV 1 says:

A trust for Susan Couch received money that was supposed to be paid back to parliamentary services for New Zealand First’s overspending in the 2005 election campaign, but was instead given to charity.

“I’m not sure what the exact figure is, but obviously I’m not going to say no and this money benefits,” Couch says.

“It’s a victim of crime fund, so it will benefit many people,”

That’s a little vague – does it mean she’s actually got some money, or just that she knows the trust has money it could give her?

I’m not doubting her need. She was the victim of an horrific crime and is unable to work because of the injuries she received. But Peters has used her for political ends and chose to donate money to a trust rather than repay the debt he owes the public.

That makes it a story of public interest and the TV news version appears to be at odds with the information on Kiwiblog.

Saturday’s smiles


This arrived in an email last night and I thought it was an appropriate choice for this Saturday’s smiles in light of all the discussion over how far you can go before cosmetic enhancement becomes a false image.

A 54 year old woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital.  While on the operating table she had a near death experience. 

Seeing God she asked ‘Is my time up?’ God said, ‘No, you have another 43 years, 2 months and 8 days to live.’ 

On recovery, the woman decided since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it. 


She also thought that if she was little more than half way through her life her body was in need of some repairs and renovation so she consulted a cosmetic surgeon who gave her a face-lift, liposuction, breast implants and a tummy tuck. 

She then had someone come in and change her hair colour and brighten her teeth so she’d look her best when she was discharged. 

The day finally came for her to leave hospital and she felt so good she decided to walk home. But while waiting to cross the street she caught sight of her new self in a shop window and was so excited she stepped onto the road without looking and was run over by an ambulance. 
Arriving in front of God, she said, ‘I thought you said I had another 43 years? 
Why didn’t you pull me from out of the path of the ambulance?’ 

God replied: ‘I didn’t recognise you.’ 

Plant enters blogosphere


Inquiring Mind has been running his eye across the blogs of John Key and Helen Clark each day and isn’t very impressed.

Perhaps he’ll be happier with the offerings from Dennis Plant, leader of the Future New Zealand Party and MP for Wakatipu.

You can find out more about the party on its website including its other MP  and  wheelchair policy.

Hat Tip: Big News

Seven headed monster = headless chook


Gary left a comment on an earlier post pointing out that a Labour, Greens, Maori Party, NZ First, Progressive government wouldn’t be a five headed monstor, it would be seven headed because two of the parties have two heads each.

As he said, that would mean that more than 10% of the government would be leaders.

What we get is the-is update image of a hydra shown on Cactus Kate:
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A government headed by that many heads would be headed for trouble and achieve about as much as a headless chook.

Helping others with others’ money


Using other people’s misfortune for political advantage is despicable, using other other people’s money to do it is even worse.

Winston Peters refused to accept that he and his party did anything wrong when they used public money to pay for their 2005 election campaign but tried to get a political advantage by donating to charity the money they owed to the tax payer.

That back fired when Starship Hospital handed the cheque back. When other charities were reluctant to accept the money Peters announced they’d given it away but wouldn’t name the beneficiaries.

He’s now said  that $78,000 went to a trust set up by his lawyer, Brian Henry, to help victims of violent crime and “thousands” to the family of a disabled child.

Mr Peters confirmed yesterday that $78,000 was given to The Susan Couch and Crime Victims Charitable Trust, named for the survivor of RSA triple-killer William Bell.

Henry is also the lawyer for Susan Couch, but he is working for her for free so there is no suggestion he has anything to gain from this donation.

That’s beside the point anyway because the trust, its trustees, beneficiaries and the people associated with them are irrelevant. So too is the identity of any other recipients of the party’s money. I am not questioning their need for help nor the right of any individual or group to help them.

What matters is that Peters has used donations to worthy causes for political ends and NZ First still owes the tax payer $158,000.

They don’t appear to be spending much on their campaign, probably because they don’t have much to spend, but every cent they are spending is a cent they owe us.

Foot note: The Dominion reports all other parties have repaid the money they owed:

Auditor-General Kevin Brady’s investigation into how parties used taxpayer funds for expenses before the 2005 election found that a total of $1.2 million was misspent – mostly on election advertising. Labour was the biggest offender, with $824,524. The NZ First figure was $157,934, National $11,912, Greens $87,192, UnitedFuture $71,867, ACT $20,114 and the Maori Party $54. All, apart from NZ First, have repaid the money.

Historic Pen-y-Bryn for sale


The historic Oamaru boutique hotel Pen-y-Bryn  is for sale.

The large, single storey house was built as a private residence but now operates as a luxury hotel.

Roy and Bernice Vannini bought Pen-y-bryn, which has a category one Historic Places Trust classification, in 1997. It is believed to be the largest all-timber single-storeyed house in New Zealand.

. . . While they thought it was a bad time to sell, given the world financial markets, people were wanting to invest their money in something “solid and safe” and there had been overseas interest, Mrs Vannini said.

The house had worked very well as a family home for more than 100 years and it could be a private home again if the new owner did not want to run a lodge, Mr Vannini said.

Pen-y-bryn’s claim to being the largest all-timber single storyed house in the country is not undisputed.

Burnside Homestead  at Enfield, inland from Oamaru makes a similar claim, as does Wallingford  in Hawkes Bay.

I have to put parochialism aside and say I think Wallingford is bigger than the two North Otago homesteads but I couldn’t differentiate between them for the quality of service.

Consumers flee Contact


Contact Energy customers are taking their business to other electricity companies in the wake of its decision to increase its prices and the pool of money available for directors’ fees.

Electricity retailers yesterday reported a flood of inquiries during the past two days from Contact customers considering switching suppliers.

Many were from the South Island.

Meridian Energy reported a 200% increase in calls to its call centre on Thursday, a pace which continued yesterday.

TrustPower had 800 callers on Thursday inquiring about changing, equivalent to the normal volume of callers it received in a month.

A Genesis Energy spokesman said inquiries through its call centre on Thursday and Friday were nearly 50% higher than forecast.

Mercury Energy began its marketing push into Dunedin at 3.30pm on Thursday and confirmed its first customer in the city at 3.33pm.

Mercury retail manager Richard De Luca said an average Dunedin household would pay $200 less a year for its electricity than it would from Contact.

I’ve never been 100% convinced about the merits of competition for utilities because of the hassle involved in changing suppliers.

If I don’t like the service or price at one supermarket it’s easy enough to go to another. Changing power or telephone companies is more complicated and usually requires dealing with call centres which I approach with great reluctance.

However, this story proves me wrong, if customers are disgruntled enough with one electricity supplier they will go to the trouble of finding another. Only time will tell if they’re better off for doing it.

Spending on sweeteners could sour economy


The ODT editorialises on the alarming financial times:

Now is the time to be thankful that the Labour Government put money away for a rainy day and reduced Government debt – but while regretting that Labour also presided over the steady undermining of New Zealand’s competitiveness, as well as colossal increases in spending and tax during the past nine years.

I agree with the second part of this sentence, but one of the problems is that the money wasn’t put away for a rainy day – it’s all been spent.

Growth built largely on household debt was always going to be unsustainable. Looking forward, while additional spending means adding to Government debt, that is the best policy in seriously recessionary times.

It is just a shame that much of the promised money will go on election sweeteners rather than on infrastructure and economic capacity.

That depends which parties you look at – the few Labour policies which have been announced and costed are mostly sweeteners. If voters are silly enough to trust them with a fourth term we’ll get more over taxing and over spending. But National’s policy is focused on careful spending of public money and policies which will help economic growth. 

The choice is stark – more of what helped get us into the economic mire or a fresh, and costed, approach to help us out of it.

Could Mark make mark in Rimutaka?


The ODT’s Dene Mackenzie is taking the pulse  of New Zealand and has found Ron Mark making his mark in Rimutaka.

Ron Mark has a novel approach to campaigning in the Rimutaka electorate he is contesting in this election. As a leading spokesman for the party on law and order, he is required to visit electorates around the country, campaigning hard for the party vote.

In Rimutaka, he stands up at meet-the-candidate nights and tells people he wants to be their MP.

If people tell him they are supporters of other parties, he accepts that but asks bluntly for their electorate vote.

“A vote for me will not be wasted,” he said in an interview.

“National and Labour are getting up asking for the party vote. Not me. I want to be the MP for Rimutaka.”

If Mr Mark does win the seat, something that would have seemed improbable this time last year, it changes the face of the NZ First campaign. Then, even if NZ First polls only 3%, as recent opinion polls have been indicating, it means that leader Winston Peters will return to Parliament thanks to Mr Mark.

It’s the party vote that counts and that message is drummed in to candidates, but a party that’s hardly approached 5% in the polls for three years could get in to parliament if it won a seat.

Mark’s chances of doing that would be helped if Labour nobbled its candidate, but they wouldn’t be that desperate would they?

14 more sleeps


. . . unitl the election and the thought of a five headed monstor is enough to put anyone off their whitebait.

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