Tapering off

October 16, 2012

Last week TV3 was happy to give David Shearer air time with his claims Prime Minister John Key was taped speaking to the GCSB.

This week the channel’s enthusiasm for Shearer’s point of view is tapering off as it asks has Shearer’s GCSB claim backfired?:

Labour leader David Shearer says his party has “asked the question” of the Prime Minister, by claiming that Mr Key was recorded mentioning Kim Dotcom at the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) before the date Mr Key says he first knew about the man behind Megaupload.

But an increasingly stressed Mr Shearer now faces serious questions himself.

The central one is: was a recording actually made? Did the GCSB tape ever actually exist?

There is no evidence that it does or ever did and Shearer’s colleagues aren’t rushing to support their leader.

Quote of the day on that goes to Shane Jones:

“I’ve had a guts full in my career of talking about video tapes – believe you me,” says Shane Jones.

His leader might well be sharing those feelings.

Word of the day

October 16, 2012

Predacious – living by seizing or taking prey; habitually hunting and killing other animals for food; given to victimizing, plundering, or destroying for one’s own gain; preying on others.


Wish for a smile

October 16, 2012

A few weeks ago friend who is an orthodontist spoke to me about a trust her profession was planning to set up to help children whose families can’t afford treatment.

It sounded like a good idea but like many good ideas needed a lot of work to make it work.

That work has now been done and the Wish for a Smile Trust was launched last night.

The Wish for a Smile Trust is a public health initiative of the New Zealand Association of Orthodontists. The trust aims to make specialist orthodontic treatment available to young New Zealanders who would otherwise be unable to access orthodontic care.

Orthodontic treatment can make a huge difference to a child through increased self esteem and an optimistic future outlook. Unlike standard dental care, orthodontics is not free for young people in New Zealand.

Wish for a Smile

This isn’t cosmetic surgery for the vain, it’s orthodontic treatment for young people with serious dental problems.

Campbell Live’s story about the trust is here.


Rural round-up

October 16, 2012

Bacteria Are Smart Survivors, Including PSA – Sue Edmonds:

The PSA bacteria (Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae) isn’t just attacking New Zealand kiwifruit vines. Now considered a pandemic, it has spread to twelve countries.

First recorded in China in 1984, attempts to curtail its spread are not working very well here, with affected vines being removed, and copper and streptomycin sprays proving ineffectual.

Fred Harvey of Te Puke, a relatively small grower who has been using biological methods focused on soil and vine health, had heard reports from Italy that things were improving there. Although his orchard has some PSA infection, he wasn’t convinced that the advice being given to New Zealand growers was the total answer. So he took a trip to a major Italian growing area south of Rome, and spent four days interviewing kiwifruit orchardists whose revised systems were showing both lowered rates of infection and increased harvests. . .

Mission Estate’s revolutionary new technique could minimise major economic threat to New Zealand’s vineyards:

It’s the often-invisible virus that lowers vineyard yields and affects wine quality, making it arguably the most economically damaging threat to the New Zealand wine industry.

Now, a world first indicator grafting technique developed by Mission Estate Viticulturist Caine Thompson and Professor Gerhard Pietersen from the University of Pretoria, South Africa could identify leaf roll virus in white varieties before it takes hold. . .

If we imagine beyond the actuality of how we produce – Pasture Harmonies:

Science has served New Zealand agriculture extremely well. It should and needs to do so in the future.

It is also that pragmatic rationale approach that has delivered and developed a wonderfully integrated on-farm representation of responsible pastoralism.

Put another way, we’ve engineered a farming solution that makes best use of the temperate climate and relatively thin, bony, young soils of New Zealand.

We are one of the few countries in the world where farmers aren’t peasants.

We tend to take it so much for granted, that what we have, what we project from (most of) our farming, is ‘normal’. In doing so we forget what it looks like. . .

Ministry for Primary Industries’ Strategy 2030 – Allan Barber:

The Ministry for Primary Industries has set itself an ambitious strategy to 2030 with the subtitle ‘Growing and protecting New Zealand.’ In its introduction, the Ministry asks ‘Why this strategy?’ which it answers by saying a re-balancing of the economy towards more productive sources of growth is required and New Zealand must trade itself to greater growth and prosperity.

When one considers that 71 cents in every dollar of merchandise export earnings come from the primary sector, there are no prizes for guessing where most of this is expected to come from. The Government’s strategic growth agenda contains the goal of increasing the ratio of exports to GDP from 30% to 40% of GDP by 2025, so clearly agriculture will be expected to generate the majority of this increase. . .

Beef + Lamb New Zealand support Café Challenge

Beef + Lamb New Zealand is teaming up with NZX Agri on an initiative to create a greater understanding of the agriculture sector.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chief Executive Officer, Dr Scott Champion said the two organisations were working together on the Café Challenge, a light hearted initiative to get rural publications onto the magazine racks of city cafes.

“We want to share positive farming stories with city folk and a great way to do that is to ensure rural publications are among the magazines they read in city cafes.” . . .

Hey, Farmer man, What Are You Doing? that’s Not Your Land. NZ’s State-Run Farms – Life Behind the Iron Drape:

I’m in the process of penning a piece regarding Tyler Cowan’s interesting Great Stagnation Thesis, as it may apply to farming in New Zealand, and much sooner than might be thought with a Labour/Green government artificially stopping on-farm innovation and taxing the last life out of the sector from 2014 – for the good of the environment, of course – however, in the interim, there is one frightening connection between farming in New Zealand and China, that has nothing to do with the Labour/Green/NZ First xenophobia regarding Chinese investment, that may also feed into this: it’s the out-of-control, indebted state, again, and it’s destruction of private property rights as a means for its survival. . .

If you ate today

October 16, 2012

Apropos of  World Food Day:


The truth, the whole truth . . .

October 16, 2012

When Keith Ng blogged about the leaks on the MSD servers which could be accessed from WINZ offices he said he’d acted on a tip-off.

Only later in the day did he explain who gave him the tip:

So. The guy who tipped me off is Ira Bailey. He was one of the Urewera 17. He currently works as a system administrator, has a young child, and is not interested in being the media limelight. That’s why he asked for anonymity.

He did not have any special access to the system – he just had half an hour to kill at a WINZ office. He plugged in his USB drive and it didn’t appear, so he had a poke around the system to find it – and found the giant vulnerability instead.

He called MSD to ask if they had a reward system for reporting security vulnerabilities. This is not unusual practice, and it’s certainly not blackmail. . .

The additional background puts a different complexion on the story and raise several questions, not least of which is: why someone who is employed happened to have half an hour to kill and chose to spend in at a WINZ office?

Yesterday we might have wondered why the person who found the security hole chose to go to a blogger rather than the Ministry.

Today we know that Bailey did go to the Ministry, asked for money in exchange for the information and when none was forthcoming chose to go public.

What’s the difference?

There’s a reason court witnesses are asked to tell not just the truth but the whole truth and nothing but the whole truth.

By telling only part of the truth yesterday the people involved looked a whole lot more public-spirited than they do today. Now the element of personal gain and possible desire to do political damage have been added.

Had we known this when the story first broke it would have been seen in a different light.

This doesn’t change the fact that there was a massive hole in MSD’s computer security.

But it does raise questions about the people who exposed it, their motivation and whether or not we now know the whole truth.


NZ farmer confidence lower

October 16, 2012

Rabobank’s latest quarterly Rural Confidence Survey shows New Zealand farmers’ confidence is lower.

Results at a glance:

• Farmer confidence has continued to decline and remains in negative territory
• High dollar and lower commodity prices main dampeners on confidence
• Negative sentiment now impacting farmers expectations of their own business performance
• Dairy sector confidence has staged slight lift

The survey which was conducted in September found:

. . .  that 44 per cent of the nation’s farmers expect the agricultural economy to worsen over the next 12 months (compared to 36 per cent with that expectation in the previous quarter and 10 per cent at the same time last year). Just 15 per cent expect economic conditions to improve.

That is a bit gloomier than the rural grapevine suggests, but of course the grapevine isn’t a scientific tool.

Rabobank New Zealand CEO Ben Russell said that while New Zealand farmer confidence had been on the decline since March last year, this survey was the first to show farmers now expected a greater negative impact on their own businesses.

“Farmers’ expectations of their own farm business performance had previously held up better than confidence in the agricultural economy as a whole, however this measure has also now showed some deterioration,” he said.    “This latest survey found 42 per cent of farmers expect their own farm business performance to worsen over the next 12 months, compared to 29 per cent in the previous quarter.”

Mr Russell said the high New Zealand dollar and falling commodity prices were key reasons for farmers’ declining confidence, cited by 50 per cent of farmers who expected conditions to worsen.

“Overseas market conditions and rising input costs were also shown to be a concern,” he said.

Of those New Zealand farmers surveyed who had a positive outlook, confidence was being driven by the expectation of positive flow-on effects to New Zealand agriculture from the drought in the US and tight food supplies globally.

Dairy and sheep farmers I’ve been talking to are expecting returns this season to be down on last year’s and that will impact on budgets and bottom lines.

But this is regarded as a temporary blip rather than a trend. The medium to long term outlook is generally pretty positive.

 


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