Dotcom’s reverse Midas touch

24/01/2014

A media release on Scoop:

Alastair Thompson resigns from Internet Party role

Friday, 24 January 2014, 5:35 pm
Press Release: Alastair Thompson

January 24 2014

MEDIA STATEMENT

Scoop website co-founder Alastair Thompson has resigned as interim general secretary of the Internet Party.

Mr Thompson is not available for further comment.

(ends)

Kim Dotcom used to enjoy favourable media attention which gave the impression he could do no wrong.

But since the announcement of his party he seems to have the reverse Midas touch – turning everything the party touches into dross.

 


Word of the day

24/01/2014

Roucoulement – soft cooing or murmuring noise; the characteristic sound made by a dove or pigeon.


Rural round-up

24/01/2014

Promise of plenty – Nigel Stirling:

This year has the potential to be a vintage one for breaking down barriers to New Zealand’s agricultural trade with the rest of the world.

But don’t break out the champagne just yet.

It is a fine line between success and failure in trade negotiations, which have a habit of falling at the last hurdle. . .

Dam directors keep the faith – Tim Fulton:

The 6.2 magnitude earthquake near Eketahuna had Tim Fulton asking what quakes mean for dams like Ruataniwha in Hawke’s Bay.

The Ruataniwha dam will be strong enough to withstand a large earthquake, project manager Graeme Hansen says.

The planning team had done quake investigations to death, he said.

The Mohaka fault goes through the water-storage scheme’s proposed reservoir area.

“It’s certainly been a bone of contention, or should I say a topic of conversation, around building a water-storage structure on or near a major fault,” Hansen said. . .

Dairying boost tipped for economy – Christopher Adams:

Economists say a combination of rising international dairy prices and favourable farming conditions bode well for New Zealand’s economic growth, which is already expected to outpace most other developed nations this year.

Dairy product prices in Tuesday night’s GlobalDairyTrade auction rose 1.4 per cent from the last sale on January 8, led by surging prices for butter and cheese. Those two products have posed problems for Fonterra as their prices lagged behind whole milk powder.

The average winning price was US$5025 ($6040) a tonne from US$4953 a tonne at the last auction. About 41,024 tonnes of product was sold, down from 46,418 two weeks ago, for about US$206.1 million. . .

Manuka authentication project:

An organisation representing most of the country’s manuka honey producers says it’s got the backing of a major overseas customer for a project authenticating the highly-prized honey.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has begun working on a new guideline for New Zealand’s most valuable honey, after concerns were raised in some overseas markets about false claims and labelling for manuka, which commands top prices for its anti-bacterial and healing qualities.

Meanwhile, the Unique Manuka Factor or Honey Association is collecting samples from around the country to establish a chemical profile of manuka. . .

Looking forward to 2014 – Kirsten Bryant;

There’s been plenty to keep us occupied on the farm over January, so it’s been very much a case of head down. But, out the corner of my eye, I optimistically note that we’ve had great grass growth and improved stock performance.

Year to date, my impression is that, while we don’t have the certainty of price that dairy farmers enjoy, sheep and beef farmers are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. It’s amazing the effect available feed and forecast rain have on the soul and, consequently, our outlooks. It feels good.

This week, I had the privilege of listening to the inspirational Kevin Biggar – one half of TVNZ’s First Crossings’ duo. Kevin was speaking about his journey from self-admitted couch potato, to Trans-Atlantic rower and South Pole adventurer. . .

Rabbits threatens our gin and tonic: Wild animals are overgrazing on juniper berries:

Wild rabbits are threatening the traditional British gin and tonic by over-grazing on juniper berries – a key ingredient of the drink.

The animals have eaten so many plants that experts fear the juniper could be wiped out in parts of the country.

Now a gin manufacturer has donated £1,000 to Steyning Downland Scheme, a charity working to save the ancient plant which is also under threat from disease.

It will use the money from No.3 London Dry Gin to put up fences around the few remaining junipers near Lancing, West Sussex.

It is hoped the barriers will keep the rabbits out and protect the juniper, which gives gin its distinctive bitter taste. . .


Friday’s answers

24/01/2014

Thursday’s questions were:

1. Who said: Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.?

2. What was the title of Thomas Hughes’s novel set at Rugby School?

3. It’s élève in French, allievo in Italian, alumno in Spanish and koringo in Maori, what is it in English?

4. Who sang Schools out for Summer?

5. If you could do one thing to improve education, what would it be?

Points for answers:

Andrei got four right.

Alwyn wins an electronic box of apricots for a clean sweep.

Paul got a welcome back, and three right plus a bonus for lateral thinking.

Paranormal got four and a bonus for honesty.

Grant also wins an electronic box of apricots for a clean sweep (taking a generous view of his answer to #3 because all words given translate to pupil but I’m not sure they all translate to graduate).

Answers follow the break:

1. Nelson Mandela.

2. Tom Brown’s School Days.

3. Pupil.

4. Alice Cooper.

5. Make sure teachers perform and are paid as skilled professionals.


Sound fiscal maangement must continue

24/01/2014

The Government’s financial statements for the five months to 30 November reinforce the need to remain focused on disciplined fiscal and economic policy, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Lower core Crown tax revenue than forecast in the Half-Year Update last month left the operating deficit before gains and losses at $2.34 billion for the five months.

This was about $400 million larger than forecast, although the Treasury believes most of this revenue difference was due to timing issues and will reverse out in coming months.

“We remain on track to surplus in 2014/15, but, as we have said many times before, this remains quite a challenge,” Mr English says.

“In particular, we need to remain focused and disciplined and now is certainly not the time to get loose with spending and fiscal policy – as some political parties are advocating.”

The latest financial statements confirm core Crown expenses are close to forecast at $29.2 billion and net core Crown debt is slightly lower than forecast at $59.6 billion.

Continued strength in world sharemarkets generated gains on Crown financial instruments of $2.8 billion in the five months, which was $2 billion ahead of forecast. This left the operating surplus $1.6 billion larger than forecast at $2.3 billion.

“Overall, we are making good progress in putting the Government’s finances on a stronger footing and in getting back to surplus,” Mr English says. “It will require responsible fiscal management well beyond our return to surplus – something this Government is committed to delivering.”

Sound fiscal management must continue and Prime Minister John Key emphasised this in his state of the nation speech yesterday:

. . . But that doesn’t mean the job’s done – in fact it’s just begun.

It’s vitally important that over the next few years we continue to build on the hard-won gains we are making as a country.

That includes a huge improvement in managing the country’s finances.

We have made careful savings, been disciplined with spending, and run the public sector far more efficiently.

That’s a lot different than the previous government, which increased spending by 50 per cent in just five years. That spending helped push mortgage rates to almost 11 per cent and crippled the internationally competitive parts of the economy.

New Zealand can’t afford that approach again.

The Government will get back to running surpluses next year. At first they will be very small but they will build up over time. There might be some room for modest spending or revenue initiatives, but the top priority has to be getting our debt down.

The Government has borrowed – on behalf of New Zealanders – around $50 billion over six years to get the country safely through a recession, the greatest financial crisis since the 1930s, and one of the most expensive natural disasters in history.

In better economic times we have to reduce that debt.

That will lift national savings, and help keep a lid on interest rate rises as the economy heats up.

We also have to lock in the improvements we are making to New Zealand’s economic settings. And we have to lock in the progress we are making in delivering better public services.

Those changes will continue to serve the country well.

New Zealand now has the opportunity to significantly improve its economic fortunes and provide a better future for New Zealand families.

We can achieve the long-term lift in economic performance that this country has aspired to for so long, providing we keep to our steady and responsible programme.

The alternative to locking in our programme of change is to go off into left field. And I really do mean left field. . . .

That’s the tax and spend left led by Labour and the Green Party.

Any utterances they’ve made show they’ve failed to learn from the failed policies of the last Labour-led government which put New Zealand into recession long before the financial and natural disasters the National-led government has had to handle.

We’re on track back to surplus but that’s only the beginning, Continuing careful management and debt reduction are necessary for the strong foundation the country needs.


1080 myths dispelled

24/01/2014

Wilderness magazine says it’s time to end the 1080 debate once and for all:

Opponents to the aerial use of 1080 should stop scaremongering and start thinking of better alternatives, say leading independent experts.

The experts, interviewed in the February issue of Wilderness magazine, have categorically dispelled many of the myths surrounding use of the poison. These myths include the idea that it kills kiwi, gets into our water supplies, threatens native bird populations and is no more effective than trapping and hunting.

Editor of Wilderness Alistair Hall believes it’s vital to stamp out rumours especially at a time when beech mast threatens many of the country’s rarest species. DOC’s preparing to launch a 1080 attack on rats, mice and stoats after predictions a bumper summer of beech flowering will lead to a huge increase of the predators later in the year.

“It’s time to get a few things straight,” said Hall. “1080 has never killed a kiwi, it has never been found in a drinking water supply and only one person has ever been killed by the poison – and that was in the 1960s.

“It’s not us who are saying this, it’s every expert we’ve spoken to. We made sure we picked people who are independent, rather than those who represent one side of the argument. The experts were unanimous in saying there’s currently no viable alternative when it comes to controlling pests on a large scale and that, without 1080, many of our native species would only exist on off-shore islands and intensively protected pockets on the mainland.”

Wilderness spoke to Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr James Ross, senior lecturer in wildlife management at Lincoln University, and Penny Fisher from Landcare Research.

Each expert was presented with 10 commonly held beliefs and asked to state whether they’re true or not based on what is currently known about the toxin.
“It’s fascinating to read what they have to say,” said Hall. “I often hear the argument that there hasn’t been enough research conducted on 1080 to determine whether it’s safe or not. In actual fact, there’s been continuous research since the 1950s.

“It’s so important to get this message across. As a tramping community we want to hear and see native birds and plants when we head into the backcountry. It’s clear to us, having spoken to those in the know, that using 1080 is the only way to ensure we can continue to do this.”

Full interviews with the experts are in the February issue of Wilderness magazine, available in shops from today and online here.

Animals targeted by 1080 endanger native flora and fauna they also carry TB which is a risk to animal and human health.

Where alternatives to 1080 can be used they are. But in many areas, including those of dense bush, there is no viable alternative to it.


Just one fly

24/01/2014

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has placed controls on the movement of whole fresh fruit and some vegetables out of a specific area of Whangarei following a find of a single male Queensland fruit fly in a surveillance trap.

“These legal controls are an important precaution while we investigate whether there are any further fruit flies present,” says Andrew Coleman, MPI Deputy Director General, Compliance and Response. “Should there be any as yet undetected flies out there, this will help prevent their spread out of the area.

“The Queensland fruit fly is an unwanted and notifiable insect that could have serious consequences for our horticultural industries. While we search for any further signs of the fruit fly in Whangarei, we need the support of local people.”

The Controlled Area Notice is in force for a 1.5km circular area around the location of the find, taking in parts of Parihaka, Riverside and central Whangarei.

Note that this description is approximate and detailed maps of the controlled area and a full description of the boundaries, and full information about the rules are at http://www.mpi.govt.nz

Whole fresh fruit and vegetables (except for leafy vegetables and root veges) can not be moved outside of the Controlled Area.

Within the wider Controlled Area there is a smaller central Zone A (which takes in a circle 200 metres out from the initial find), and whole fruit and vegetables cannot be moved outside of this Zone at all.  Fruit and vegetables can continue to be transported from outside the Controlled Area into the Controlled Area.

Key fruits, vegetables and plants of concern are:
All citrus fruits, all stonefruit, pears, apples, blackberry, boysenberry, grapes, feijoa, kiwifruit, passionfruit, tomato, eggplant, capsicum, pumpkin, avocado, custard apple, quince, persimmon, loquat, olives, oleander, kumquat, crab-apple, cape gooseberry and guava. 

Residents are asked to avoid composting any of these risk fruits and vegetables. For disposing of fruit and vegetable waste, they are encouraged to use a sink waste disposal unit if possible. MPI is providing special bins in the Controlled Area for the disposal of fruit and vegetable waste. The locations of these bins will be advised shortly.

“We appreciate this will be inconvenient for the many people living in and around Parihaka, Riverside and parts of central Whangarei, but compliance with these restrictions is a critical precaution to protect our horticultural industries and home gardens,” Mr Coleman says.

“It is likely the restrictions will be in place for at least a couple of weeks.

MPI and its partners have deployed investigators in the affected area. They will be laying traps and checking fruit trees, vegetable gardens and rubbish bins for any signs of fruit flies.

“It is vital that we ascertain if the insect is a solitary find or if there is a wider population in Northland which will need to be treated,” Mr Coleman says.

If further fruit flies are found, the Ministry says there will not be aerial spraying of insecticides as there are other more effective treatment methods available.

This might seem a very strong reaction to the discovery of just one fly but it is the appropriate one to safeguard the fruit and vegetables that would be endangered if this unwanted Aussie immigrant got established itself and its mates here.

 

 

 


Better education will reduce inequality

24/01/2014

The biggest criticism against the proposals to improve educational achievement Labour leader David Cunliffe could come up with was that they don’t address inequality.

He’s wrong.

Education is one of the best ways to life people out of poverty.

One very good example of this is our newest minister, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga:

During his maiden speech to Parliament he said his father had walked from Ponsonby to Parnell to save the bus fare, while up to 16 people lived in his family’s three-bedroom house in Mangere.

How do you rise above poverty like that?

However his education, which he described as “the key to unlocking so many of the opportunities that I have enjoyed in life” has been impressive.

After attending Auckland Grammar, Lotu-Iiga studied law and commerce at the University of Auckland, before being employed at top law firm Russell McVeagh.

He then travelled to London where he worked as a financial analyst for the Bankers Trust, while completing an MBA at the University of Cambridge.. .

All children deserve the education which provides them with the key to unlocking opportunities.

They also deserve the loving and supportive family which he credits for his success too.

Addressing deprivation in that area is harder than improving education which was the focus of yesterday’s announcement.

But it’s not a matter of either better education or policies which address either problems, it just isn’t all together in one day.

Yesterday’s focus was education, other policies will follow.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/9635413/The-rapid-rise-of-a-well-educated-man


Contagious excellence

24/01/2014

Th Post Primary Teachers’ Association is ‘cautiously optimistic’ about proposals for new, and better paid, roles for teachers and principals announced by Prime Minister John Key yesterday.

PPTA President Angela Roberts said she was “cautiously optimistic” and welcomed the extra resourcing to support teachers, as well as greater collaboration between teachers across schools.

She said its ability to work as intended would depend on how it was implemented, but welcomed Mr Key’s promise that the profession would be involved in implementing the new roles. . . .

She said it provided the potential for good teachers to advance their careers without having to leave the classroom to take up leadership positions.

“It feels like what they have done is not just recognise and reward the great teachers, but once they’ve recognised those great teachers they will treat them for what they are, which is a great resource, and enable them to support their colleagues.”

That’s high praise from the organisation which normally opposes anything from National on principle.

Principals’ Federation President Phil Harding said the announcements were significant for both principals and teachers.

“It’s hard for me to say it but I’m pretty damned impressed. It is a huge amount of new money and I have never seen such a transformation of ideas and discussion into policy and money in my life. It has gone from a theoretical discussion about how the system needed to evolve and change just last year to the appropriation of significant resource.”

He was hopeful it would work as intended and believed the $50,000 financial incentives for good principals to take on challenging schools were sufficient. . . .

Why it’s hard for him to say he’s impressed has a lot more to do with politics than education, but at least he’s said it.

The School Trustees’ Association, which is more focussed on the impact on pupils than teachers, is less guarded in its enthusiasm:

Keeping great teachers in the classroom and investing in better career pathways for our teachers and principals is a great way to start the new year, says NZSTA President Lorraine Kerr.

“We’ve been talking about finding better ways to boost collaboration between schools for a long time.

It’s exciting to see the talk being converted into action,” she says. “This is a really good initiative.”

Providing better career pathways for our teachers and principals is an idea that that we fully endorse, as is developing a better way of supporting teachers and principals to continually improve their professional practice. Boards will be enthusiastic about the message this sends about valuing our principals and teachers. We will need to work through the practicalities of how Executive Principals

and Expert Teachers being off-site two days a week will shake down in their own schools, but boards are generally very proud of the expertise their staff have, and will be eager to share that expertise with other schools in a structured way as long as their own staff and students don’t lose out as a result.

It is good to hear the commitment to working through the practicalities through consultation with the sector, and NZSTA is looking forward to playing a constructive part in those discussions. We have all shown a lot of good faith over the last year or so, including principals’ groups and teacher unions, by engaging in open discussions with Minister Parata. The Ministerial Cross-Sector Forum is a good example. It hasn’t always been easy, so it’s good to see that investment in relationship-building bearing fruit.

If we do this right, there is potential for these new positions to make excellence contagious through all our schools. That will be our opportunity for 2014.

Challenge accepted.

The NZEI is sceptical which means it can’t see past its politics to the benefits this will bring to teachers and more importantly pupils but Audrey Young writes they and the opposition:

will look as though they are opposing it for the sake of opposing it.

Key has identified an age-old problem in schools that really good teachers often leave the classroom to progress their careers.

Credible research over the years has linked good teaching to good results by pupils.

Most of us know that anecdotally because we’ve experienced it.

We don’t need credible research to know that good teachers can lift achievement and that good principals can have a huge impact on the school environment, the expectations and teaching quality. . .

It’s difficult for unions to argue against this without shooting holes in their arguments about how important teachers are.

. . . Teacher unions have found it difficult to accept performance pay because it necessarily implies some teachers are not performing well. They fear it could undermine the collegiality among teachers that is vital to successful schools.

But the way that Key has outlined the new teacher positions however looks less like a policy to divide and rule teachers and more like something all teachers should aspire to becoming. Hopefully it will also lift the status of the teaching profession in society.

The teacher unions need to accept that plans to improve teaching need not be an attack on their members. . . .

Rather the opposite is the case.

Improving teaching, rewarding good ones, helping all of them getting and treating them like the professionals they should be is good for them and those they teach.


January 24 in history

24/01/2014

41 Gaius Caesar (Caligula), known for his eccentricity and cruel despotism, was assassinated by his disgruntled Praetorian Guards. Claudius succeeded his nephew.

76 – Hadrian, Roman Emperor, was born (d. 138).

1670  William Congreve, English playwright, was born (d. 1729).

1679 – King Charles II disbanded Parliament.

1742 – Charles VII Albert became Holy Roman Emperor.

1848 – California Gold Rush: James W. Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill near Sacramento.

1857 The University of Calcutta was formally founded as the first full-fledged university in south Asia.

1859  Political union of Moldavia and Wallachia; Alexandru Ioan Cuza was elected as ruler.

1862  Bucharest proclaimed capital of Romania.

1864 Marguerite Durand, French feminist leader, was born (d. 1936).

1865 General Cameron left Wanganui with 1200 Imperial troops to invade southern Taranaki.

Imperial forces invade South Taranaki
1872 Ethel Turner, Australian author, was born (d. 1958).

1916 – In Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad, the Supreme Court of the United States declared the federal income tax constitutional.

1924 –Petrograd, formerly Saint Petersburg, was renamed Leningrad.

1928 Desmond Morris, British anthropologist, was born.

1930 – Bernard Matthews, British poultry industry figure , was born (d. 2010).

1941 Neil Diamond, American singer, was born.

1952 Vincent Massey was sworn in as the first Canadian-born Governor-General of Canada.

1957 Adrian Edmondson, English comedian, was born.

1961 – 1961 Goldsboro B-52 crash: A bomber carrying two H-bombs broke up in mid-air over North Carolina. One weapon nearly detonated.

1972 Japanese Sgt. Shoichi Yokoi was found hiding in a Guam jungle, where he had been since the end of World War II.

1977 Massacre of Atocha in Madrid, during the Spanish transition to democracy.

1978 Soviet satellite Cosmos 954, with a nuclear reactor on board, burnt up in Earth’s atmosphere, scattering radioactive debris over Canada’s Northwest Territories.
1980 – The ambassador of the Soviet Union, Vsevolod Sofinsky, was ordered to leave New Zealand for giving money to the pro-Soviet Socialist Unity Party.
1984 The first Apple Macintosh went on sale.

1986 Voyager 2 passed within 81,500 km (50,680 miles) of Uranus.

2003 The United States Department of Homeland Security officially began operation.

2009 – The storm Klaus made landfall near Bordeaux. It subsequently caused 26 deaths as well as extensive disruptions to public transport and power supplies.

2011 – At least 35 died and 180 injured in a bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.


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