Word of the day

July 31, 2013

Bloggbävning – blog quake; the process by which a topic explodes in the blogosphere and is then picked up by more mainstream media outlets.


50 shades of red

July 31, 2013

Fire fighters in London are blaming Fifty Shades of Grey for an increase in the number of call-outs to release people trapped in handcuffs:

It is emergency calls that firemen are expected to answer, not embarrassing ones.

But thanks to the popularity of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, they are increasingly being called out to free people handcuffed to beds.

London Fire Brigade said it had turned out to 79 such incidents – and nine instances of men with rings stuck on their penises – and urged people ‘always keep the keys handy’.

Third officer Dave Brown, said: ‘Some of the incidents our firefighters are called out to could be prevented with a little common sense. 

‘I don’t know whether it’s the Fifty Shades effect, but the number of incidents involving items like handcuffs seems to have gone up.

‘I’m sure most people will be fifty shades of red by the time our crews arrive to free them.’

There’s smouldering passion and burning with desire but I don’t think needing the fire brigade is the outcome intended when someone says, come on baby light my fire.

Rural round-up

July 31, 2013

Fonterra’s ‘overdraft clearing forecast’ for 2013/14:

A milk price of $7.50 per kilogram of milksolids (kg/MS), now being forecast by Fonterra Cooperative Group for the 2013/14 season, is an ‘overdraft clearer’. Federated Farmers believes farmers will look to pay back credit lines extended to them during the drought.

“This increase in the payout forecast from $7 to $7.50 kg/MS comes off a very strong balance sheet,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairman.

“Obviously this and an advance payout of $5.50 kg/MS, is great news after a disappointing back end to the last season. Given this time last year payout forecast were being paired back, seeing it go up is a huge relief. . . .

Increased forecast milk price, advance payout evidence of Fonterra’s strength: Brown:

A 50 cent increase in the forecast Farmgate Milk Price and advance for the 2013/14 season is reflection of the Co-operative’s strength said Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chairman, Ian Brown.

The Fonterra Board of Directors today announced a revised Farmgate Milk Price forecast of $7.50 per kg/MS for the 2013/14 season, including a $5.50 advance, and an estimated dividend of 32 cents per share.

Ian Brown: “This outcome is evidence of a strong organisation that has moved appropriately for the benefit of its supplier Shareholders. . .

Latest water quality trends ‘red letter day’ for farming:

Good environmental farm management is starting to show through in the Ministry for the Environment’s (MfE) latest River condition indicator.  This shows that over a decade at 90 percent of the sites tested, most of the MfE’s key indicators were either stable or improving.

“Improved management of the land and water resource by everyone may be starting to show up in these water quality results,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“In broad brush terms New Zealand’s water quality is steadily improving.

“In recent years, farmers and communities have really stepped up their efforts but we know we can and must do better. This latest report shows we are heading in the right direction and we need to take this as encouragement to further step up our collective efforts. . .

AgResearch Plans Its Future Footprint:

The country’s largest Crown Research Institute, AgResearch, has released further details of its plans to reinvest $100 million into its campus facilities and resources.

AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Tom Richardson says the proposal is now with staff for consultation and involves a major reconfiguration and reinvestment of AgResearch’s campus and farm infrastructure to create a vital agricultural research institute for the next 50 years.

“We will be modernising our science facilities, co-locating our capability wherever possible, and participating in large agriculture innovation hubs, all of which will generate greater returns across the pastoral sector.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to put AgResearch in the best possible long-term position to do more quality science more effectively and efficiently, and to make a much bigger difference to the agricultural sector’s productivity and profitability,” he says. . . .

New on-line weather forecast service:

Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith today launched a new online mountain weather forecast service that will improve the enjoyment and safety of trampers, hunters, mountain bikers, skiers and fishers using New Zealand’s National and Forest Parks.

“New Zealand’s mountain environment can quickly turn from warm and calm to treacherous. We can improve the safety and enjoyment of users by providing more frequent and detailed weather forecasts on the internet,” Dr Smith says.

“We lose about six people per year in our mountains and often these deaths are weather related. We also have about 150 mountain search and rescue callouts a year. This improved weather service will reduce risk and save lives.

“The new online mountain weather forecast service will provide standardised five day forecasts updated every day for 24 mountain locations across eight of New Zealand’s most popular parks. This compares to a previous service of eight locations with a mix of forecast lengths from two to five days and from a frequency of twice daily to weekly. . .

Speech to Horticulture New Zealand annual conference – Nathan Guy:

Today I want to talk to you about my priorities for the primary sector, of which horticulture is a major part. In particular I want to talk about the two goals that the Ministry for Primary Industries has – to grow and protect New Zealand’s economy.

As you all know, the primary sector is the powerhouse of our economy. It is worth around $30 billion a year to the New Zealand economy and makes up around 72 per cent of our exports.

Your industry is a major part of this equation, with New Zealand’s horticultural exports earned $3.6 billion in the year ended 31 March 2013. The total value of horticultural products produced is around $6.6 billion. . .

Farm Environment Awards Motivate Northland Farmers to Lift Game:

Participating in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards inspired Ken and Janine Hames to step up environmental work on their Northland farm.

Ken says they entered the awards to benchmark themselves against other farmers and “to see where we were at” in terms of environmental sustainability.

He and Janine, a vet at Ruawai, first entered the Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards in 2010 and were thrilled to win two category awards.

“I guess it showed we were on the right track,” says Ken, who runs an intensive bull finishing operation on 400ha at Paparoa, southeast of Dargaville. . .


Milk payout up

July 31, 2013

Analysts had been a predicting an increase in Fonterra’s payout and they were right.

The company has announced a 50 cent increase in the payout and a 32 cent increase in the dividend, bringing the total forecast up to $7.82.

Chairman John Wilson said the higher Forecast Farmgate Milk Price for the new season reflected continuing strong international prices for dairy.
 
“At the beginning of this season, our forecast was that dairy commodity prices would continue at or near current levels until the fourth quarter of 2013.  However, supply constraints in Europe and China during the Northern Hemisphere spring have contributed to an increase in dairy prices of 3 per cent over the past two months.  In addition, the NZ dollar has weakened against the US dollar.  These factors have contributed to our updated forecast,” said Mr Wilson. 
 
The Co-operative also confirmed a further increase to the advance rate schedule, starting from $5.50 per kilo of milk solids which is very good for farmers’ cash flows.
 
“A higher Advance Rate provides our farmer shareholders a strong start to the season and the opportunity to grow their own farming businesses.” 
 
Commenting on the forecast dividend for FY14, Mr Wilson said Fonterra’s Board has amended the Co-operative’s dividend policy. 
 
“The Board has approved a new policy that aims to deliver a sustainable dividend from FY14 onwards.  When setting the dividend, the Board will take into account short and medium term earnings to deliver a dividend per share of between 65–75 per cent of adjusted Net Profit after Tax over a period of time. The dividend remains at the Board’s discretion, and subject to market conditions and Fonterra’s financial position.
 
“Additionally, from FY14 we are adopting a qualitative earnings guidance approach, rather than the previous quantitative earnings per share guidance.  
 
“The changes mean we will provide more market commentary – but will no longer put numbers around future earnings per share.  This new policy will enable the business to provide a longer term view on any potential volatility in earnings,” said Mr Wilson.  
 
Chief Executive Theo Spierings said international dairy trade growth is currently being led by strong demand for powders (combined whole milk and skim).
 
“This trend, relative to prices for cheese and casein, currently would have a short term negative influence on product mix returns during the first half of FY14.
 
“As we drive for growth in our consumer businesses, during the first half of FY14 we are likely to have to absorb some of the expected substantial increases in the cost of goods arising from current high commodity prices, and this could have an impact on margins.
 
“Taking into account the headwinds we face and current market volatility, the FY14 estimated dividend of 32 cents per share may be outside the 65-75 per cent range.
 
Fonterra’s offer of a fixed $7 price was oversubscribed. 
 
Those who took it won’t be upset that their requests were scaled back.
 
They’ll have to accept that in insuring against a fall in the payout they were also taking the risk of not being able to take advantage of an increase.
 
But it might put people off the offer should it be made again next year.
 
The increase is welcome but it is very unlikely to be anywhere near this good next season.
 
In a newsletter to shareholders Wilson warns that the market is still very volatile and farmers should be very careful with budgets.
 
Production in other countries is likely to increase and unless there’s adverse weather conditions which impact production the supply will go up.

Test on idiots

July 31, 2013

Quote of the day:

“If it’s necessary to have these mind-changing chemicals, then test them on the idiots that want to take them, because there’s hundreds that want to do it.” John Banks.

He was commenting on testing party pills on animals.

Banks was the only MP to vote against legislation which would allow animal testing. However, Associate Health Minister Todd McLay shares his concerns.

“Many New Zealanders have raised concerns around the possibility of animal testing for psychoactive products, and I am one of them.

“I have today clarified with the Ministry of Health that no licences to test psychoactive substances are to be issued before the Expert Advisory Committee has completed its consideration of what constitutes a low risk of harm and the appropriateness of all aspects of a testing regime,” says Mr McClay.

“New Zealand has a policy of replacing, refining and reducing any testing involving animals and I have made it clear that it is my expectation we will set an example in this area. Within days of receiving my ministerial warrant I inserted Clause 12 of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 ruling out any animal testing where an alternative exists.

“Last week I had a positive meeting with animal welfare representatives to discuss how we can together work towards a regime that will exclude animal tests. I welcome their input as I am sure this will add to the effective and practical implementation of the Act in the months ahead,” says Mr McClay.

The Psychoactive Substances Act removed legal highs from hundreds of retailers around New Zealand and will ensure that only low risk products are available in the future. The Government’s overriding objective with the legislation is the health and welfare of young people, and the Act is already having a positive effect for those most vulnerable.

Countries around the world continue to struggle with how to deal with these products and New Zealand is leading the world in addressing these completely new substances.

“There is a lot of water to pass under the bridge before any testing regime is finalised and I look forward to working with interested parties, including those involved in today’s marches, on this issue in the weeks ahead,” says Mr McClay.

I am not against animal testing on drugs which could do a lot of good but party pills definitely don’t fall into that category.

 


Free trade is only real fair trade

July 31, 2013

Fair Trade – that’s got to be good, hasn’t it?

No.

Over at Anti Dismal, Paul Walker discusses an article in The Economist by Amrita Narlikar and Dan Kim which argues that like a lot of other ideas that sound good in theory,  it does more harm than good in practice:

Despite the claims of its champions, the fair-trade movement doesn’t help alleviate poverty in developing countries. Even worse, it is just another direct farm subsidy of the kind most conscientious consumers despise. In the long term, the world needs free trade, not fair trade. . .

The stated purpose of the fair-trade movement is to give economic security to producers in developing countries — often of unprocessed commodities such as fruits, live animals, and minerals — by requiring companies and consumers to pay a premium on the market price.

Until now, any questioning of the fair-trade movement has been limited to the micro level. The movement has faced repeated criticisms, for example, for the relatively expensive fees that producers must pay to get a fair-trade label, which make it ineffective for many poor farmers. Another area of concern is just how lucrative the process is for middlemen and retailers. Finally, several studies show that very little of the premium that consumers pay actually reaches needy producers. Consumers might be surprised to learn that only one or two percent of the retail price of an expensive cup of “ethical” coffee goes directly to poor farmers.

The adverse effects of fair trade are even more worrying at the macro level. First, fair trade deflects attention from real, long-term solutions to rural poverty in developing countries; and second, it has the potential to fragment the world agricultural market and depress wages for non-fair-trade farm workers. . .

Walker points out in spite of the marketing which tries to convince consumers that Fair Trade is good for producers, they get only a tiny percentage of the money made:

An interesting statistic is that in 2010, retail sales of fair-trade-labelled products totalled about $5.5 billion, with about $66 million premium — or about 1.2 percent of total retail sales — reaching the participating producers. There has to be a better way of helping poor farmers. Having only 1.2 cents out of every dollar spent on fair-trade products reach the target farmers is a hugely inefficient way of helping these people. If people wish to help these farmers there has to be charities out there that can transfer more than 1.2 cents per dollar to them.

Also a more efficient and straightforward way to help poor farmers is to remove the massive OECD subsidies and tariffs we see on agricultural products. In other words, a move towards free trade is needed.

Fair Trade has a powerful brand but it’s not one which really helps producers.

They, and consumers, would have much more to gain from free trade, which is the only real fair trade.


Submissions on independent constitutional review close today

July 31, 2013

Submissions on the independent constitutional review close today.

The New Zealand Centre for Political research has a submission form which covers most areas of discussion.

My view:

The parliamentary term should be four years and fixed.

Three years leads to short-term thinking and governing, hampers productivity, is more expensive for the state and increases the costs and workloads of volunteers in political parties.

A fixed term would prevent governments playing politics with the election date, and provide certainty for planning and administration.

The number of electorates should increase and the population tolerance increase from 5% to 10%.

Provincial electorates already cover far too great an area. Retaining the same number of MPs as the population increases or reducing the number would make that worse.

The number of South Island seats should be increased by at least one to reduce the geographic size. That would then lead to more North Island seats to retain a similar number of people in each electorate.

The population tolerance should increase from 5% to 10% to allow more flexibility over communities of interest. Adding another couple of thousand people to a city electorate would have little impact but could reduce the size of a rural electorate significantly.

The Maori electoral option and seats should be abolished.

They provide poorer representation owing to the large geographical area they cover.

MMP helps address diversity and Maori are more than capable of being elected in general seats.

Treaty breaches should be addressed and compensation made but the Treaty should not be enshrined in the constitution.

Property rights should be included in the Bill of Rights.

Our current flexible constitutional arrangements should remain.

A written constitution is not necessary.

Constitutional changes should require a public mandate through a referendum with a majority of at least 75% or a parliamentary vote with a similar level of support.

Constitutional matters should not be changed by bare majorities.


30% of HortNZ levies used to counter councils

July 31, 2013

While Horticulture New Zealand, holds its national conference to celebrate industry growth on one side of Wellington, across town in the High Court it is battling against decisions which could stop the industry in its tracks.

 HortNZ uses 30% of the levy funding it raises from all commercial fruit and vegetable growers to represent grower interests in regional and district council planning across the country.

At the end of 2012 HortNZ was working on 43 different actions with councils. By the middle of this year that number had risen to around 50, at an estimated cost of $750,000 last year alone. 

What a waste of energy, money and time.

This is an indictment on the planning system and a strong argument for continuing reform of local government and the Resource Management Act.

Officials in the Ministry for the Environment are also predicting a significant increase in plan changes between 2016 and 2020, giving even more cause for concern.

The High Court case this week is to hear an appeal against the Environment Court’s decisions on the Horizons Regional Council’s ‘One Plan’.

“What has happened in Horizons is just the tip of an enormous iceberg of misunderstanding, misinformation and misguided old school thinking,” HortNZ president Andrew Fenton said in his speech to the conference this morning.

“The case is being run to try and prevent these mistakes repeating around the country through other councils, affecting growers and the commercial viability of their horticulture businesses.

“Setting a precedent through the courts has become an accepted method of managing rights and interests, and this is unacceptably dangerous for growers and business certainty.

“This means you can’t just say ‘hey, that’s not my region, it doesn’t matter’ because eventually, it will matter, for all of us.”

The One Plan, as it now stands, will impose excessively harsh restrictions on horticulture and have a negative economic impact on the region’s jobs, communities and the price of food production in New Zealand.

Producers and consumers all over the country should be grateful that HortNZ is fighting this battle.

The outcome of their case will have implications for all other councils that will determine how and where agriculture and horticulture businesses operate.


July 31 in history

July 31, 2013

30 BC  Battle of Alexandria: Mark Antony achieved a minor victory over Octavian’s forces, but most of his army subsequently deserted, leading to his suicide.

781 The oldest recorded eruption of Mt. Fuji.

904 Thessalonica fell to the Arabs, who destroyed the city.

1009  Pope Sergius IV became the 142nd pope, succeeding Pope John XVIII.

1200 Attempted usurpation of John Komnenos the Fat.

1423  Hundred Years’ War: Battle of Cravant – the French army was defeated at Cravant.

1451  Jacques Cœur was arrested by order of Charles VII of France.

1492 Jews were expelled from Spain when the Alhambra Decree took effect.

1498 On his third voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus became the first European to discover the island of Trinidad.

1658 Aurangzeb was proclaimed Moghul emperor of India.

1667   Treaty of Breda ended the second Anglo-Dutch War.

1703  Daniel Defoe was placed in a pillory for the crime of seditious libel after publishing a politically satirical pamphlet, but was pelted with flowers.

1741  Charles Albert of Bavaria invaded Upper Austria and Bohemia.

1777 Pedro Ignacio de Castro Barros, Argentine statesman and priest, was born (d. 1849).

1777 The U.S. Second Continental Congress passed a resolution that the services of Marquis de Lafayette “be accepted, and that, in consideration of his zeal, illustrious family and connexions, he have the rank and commission of major-general of the United States.”

1790  First U.S. patent was issued to inventor Samuel Hopkins for a potash process.

1800 Friedrich Wöhler, German chemist and founder of organic chemistry, was born (d. 1882).

1803 John Ericsson, Swedish inventor and engineer, was born (d. 1889).

1856  Christchurch, New Zealand, was chartered as a city.

1860 Mary Vaux Walcott, American artist and naturalist, was born (d. 1940).

1865 The first narrow gauge mainline railway in the world opened at Grandchester, Australia.

1895  The Basque Nationalist Party (Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea-Partido Nacionalista Vasco) was founded by Basque nationalist leader Sabino Arana.

1909  Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Austrian writer and polyglot, was born (d. 1999).

1912  Milton Friedman, American economist, Nobel laureate (d. 2006).

1913 The Balkan States signed an armistice at Bucharest.

1919 German national assembly adopted the Weimar constitution.

1921 Peter Benenson, British founder of Amnesty International, was born (d. 2005).

1930  The radio mystery programme The Shadow  aired for the first time.

1932  The NSDAP won more than 38% of the vote in German elections.

1936  The International Olympic Committee announced that the 1940 Summer Olympics would be held in Tokyo. However, the games were given back to the IOC after the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out, and are eventually cancelled altogether because of World War II.

1938 Bulgaria signed a non-aggression pact with Greece and other states of Balkan Antanti (Turkey, Romania, Yugoslavia).

1938 Archaeologists discovered engraved gold and silver plates from King Darius in Persepolis.

1940 A doodlebug train in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio collided with a multi-car freight train heading in the opposite direction, killing 43 people.

1941  Holocaust: under instructions from Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, ordered SS General Reinhard Heydrich to “submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired final solution of the Jewish question.”

1943 Lobo, American singer and songwriter, was born.

1944  Geraldine Chaplin, American actress, was born.

1944 – Jonathan Dimbleby, British journalist and television presenter.

1945  Pierre Laval, the fugitive former leader of Vichy France, surrendered to Allied soldiers in Austria.

1945  John K. Giles attempted to escape from Alcatraz prison.

1948  New York International Airport (later renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport) was dedicated.

1951  Japan Airlines was established.

1954 First ascent of K2, by an Italian expedition led by Ardito Desio.

1959  The Basque separatist organisation ETA was founded.

1964 Jim Corr, Irish singer and musician (The Corrs), was born.

1964  Ranger 7 sent back the first close-up photographs of the moon, with images 1,000 times clearer than anything ever seen from earth-bound telescopes.

1970 Black Tot Day: The last day of the officially sanctioned rum ration in the Royal Navy.

1972 – Operation Motorman: British troops moved into the no-go areas of Belfast and Derry. End of Free Derry.

1972 – Three car bombs detonated in Claudy, Northern Ireland, killing nine.

1973 A Delta Air Lines jetliner crashed while landing in fog at Logan Airport, Boston, Massachusetts killing 89.

1976 John Walker won gold in the 1500 metres at the Montreal Olympics.

John Walker wins gold in Montreal

1976 NASA released the  Face on Mars photo.

1978 Will Champion, English musician (Coldplay), was born.

1980 Mils Muliaina, New Zealand rugby union player, was born.

1980 Mikko Hirvonen, Finnish rally driver, was born.

1981 – General Omar Torrijos of Panama died in a plane crash.

1981 A total solar eclipse occured.

1987  A rare, class F4 tornado ripped through Edmonton, Alberta, killing 27 people and causing $330 million in damage.

1988  32 people died and 1,674 injured when a bridge at the Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal collapsed in Butterworth, Malaysia.

1991  The Medininkai Massacre in Lithuania. Soviet OMON attacked Lithuanian customs post in Medininkai, killing 7 officers and severely wounding one other.

1992  A Thai Airways Airbus A300-310 crashed into a mountain north of Kathmandu, Nepal killing 113.

1999  Lunar Prospector – NASA intentionally crashed the spacecraft into the Moon, ending its mission to detect frozen water on the moon’s surface.

2002  Hebrew University of Jerusalem was attacked when a bomb exploded in a cafeteria, killing 9.

2006  Fidel Castro handed over power temporarily to brother Raúl Castro.

2007 Operation Banner, the presence of the British Army in Northern Ireland, and the longest-running British Army operation ever, ended.

2012 – Michael Phelps broke the record set in 1964 by Larisa Latynina for the greatest number of medals won at the Olympics.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


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