Lost in translation?

June 25, 2014

The Herald updates the Labour donations story:

Donghua Liu has issued a new statement to the Herald confirming “close to” $100,000 in total payments to Labour and its MPs – including anonymous donations – but clarifying that the money was not for one bottle of wine.

Liu, to whom Labour gave permanent residency against official advice, says his earlier signed statement on the wine auction was “capable of two meanings” and after repeated inquiries from the Herald he says he wants to clarify what he spent the $100,000 on.

The signed statement obtained by the Herald on Sunday said that at a 2007 Labour Party fundraiser, he “successfully bid on bottles of wine including one bottle signed by the then Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon Helen Clark, with a contribution of close to $100,000”.

The previous sentence in the signed statement said dinner and a boat trip on the Yangtze River in 2007 with a group including Rick Barker, the Minister for Internal Affairs at the time, which Liu estimated to cost between $50,000 to $60,000.

Today, Liu said: “I did say I made a contribution of close to $100,000 and that is my closing comment in my statement…that is how much I believe I have donated in total to Labour and some of their MPs during their last term in Government.”

He said the figure was the total payments to Labour and its politicians which included the wine auctions, a $2000 donation to the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club, the Yangtze River trip and anonymous donations to MPs. . .

It is possible that the difference between giving to the Labour Party, shouting one of its MPs a trip and donating to the rowing club the MP’s daughter belonged to was lost in translation.

Those might have been differences without distinction in China but that isn’t the case here.

However, if he gave nearly $100,000 there is still around $40,000 unaccounted for.

It might have been given to different electorates, MPs or candidates in smaller amounts.

Although under current rules that wouldn’t make any difference to the declaration the total given to the party whether as a whole or in different amounts at different times to different people or groups within the party must be added up and declared.


Word of the day

June 25, 2014

Inhere – exist essentially or permanently and inseparably in, as a quality, attribute, characteristic, element or right; belong intrinsically; be inherent or innate.


Rural round-up

June 25, 2014

Neighbours to sheep shooting worried:

Neighbours of a North Otago farm where nearly 200 sheep have been shot say they also fear what will happen next.

Police are investigating the unexplained slaughter in Ngapara, 30km inland from Oamaru at the weekend. Peter Stackhouse discovered the dead sheep, and others wandering injured, at sites about 1km inside his farm over two successive nights.

On Saturday morning, he found 110 sheep that had been killed and though he shifted the flock, another 80 hoggets were killed on Saturday night.

Mr Stackhouse said the the killing of his stock was a great shock and he was not sleeping well, worrying about what will happen next. Although the sheep were shot, he had not found any spent cartridges or bullets. . .

Lincoln and Canterbury – is a merger the solution? – Keith Woodford:

Last week I wrote how Lincoln University is facing hard times, and is shedding lecturing staff in core areas of land-based education. I suggested one solution could be for Lincoln to become much more focused on its true areas of specialisation and to greatly reduce the managerial and marketing spend which has recently ballooned. The other alternative is to link with Canterbury University.

Unfortunately, the first alternative is unlikely to occur. It would require the senior management team to reverse key policies with which they are collectively associated.

So the other alternative of joining with Canterbury University now needs careful scrutiny. The Tertiary Education Commission stated earlier this year that in its opinion New Zealand had too many Universities, and if that really is the case then Lincoln surely has to be first cab off the rank. Also, Lincoln’s Vice Chancellor (VC) himself said some two years back that, if his proposed growth strategy failed, then the alternative would be to join “the fine university down the road”. . .

Sex and inbreeding (in bees) – Peter K Dearden:

Tomorrow I am speaking at the National Bee Keepers Association conference in Whanganui and thought I might write a bit about what we have been doing to help me get things clear.

Much of my research work is on bees; trying to learn how they work, trying to find new ways to protect them and, occasionally doing research to help the beekeeping industry.

Beekeeping is a reasonably large business in New Zealand, making over $100 Million per annum in bee-related exports. More importantly, it is estimated that Bees bring $5.1 Billion each year to the New Zealand economy through pollination. Bees are a vital part of our primary production sector and we need to care about them. . .

Alliance venison plants cleared for China:

The Alliance meat group has had a breakthrough in getting both of its venison processing plants certified to supply the China market, that doubles the number of listed New Zealand venison plans to four.

New Zealand has had a long established trade in deer velvet or antler to China and some other deer products.

But venison is relatively new to that market. . .

Return to profit: Blue Sky smiling – Sally Rae:

Blue Sky Meats’ return to profitability spells an end to about two and-a-half years of turmoil in the international sheep meat industry, chairman Graham Cooney says.

Directors were ”quite rightly proud” of how the Southland-based company had not only survived but moved forward in a time when the sheep meat processing and exporting industry had reputedly lost $200 million, he said.

The company has recorded a $1.946 million after-tax profit for the year to March. . . .

South Canterbury ag-student is finalist in Green Agriculture Innovation Award:

Twenty-year old University student Genevieve Steven, of Timaru, is the winner of the Viafos Youth Award, putting her in the running against nine other finalists as the supreme award winner of the inaugural Green Agriculture Innovation Awards (GAIA) in New Zealand.

The youngest contender for the award, Ms Steven is in her second year at Lincoln University on a DairyNZ scholarship studying biochemistry, animal sciences, plant sciences, soil science and management papers.

Her ultimate goal is a move into biological farming. “I would like to be an educator and advisor to farmers already using the principles of biological farming, but also take the concept of ‘biological farming’ to those who don’t know much about it. I enjoy the challenge of changing people’s perceptions.” . . .

Grower lauds sugar beet ‘wonder fuel’ – Diane Bishop:

Sugar beet is the new wonder fuel, according to Southern Cross Produce owner Matthew Malcolm who has started growing and harvesting sugar beet for the dairy market.

“I can see a real future for it.

“With a lot more wintering sheds going up there will be a bigger demand to take the crop to the cows,” he said.

Malcolm, who has grown 10 hectares of the crop on his Woodlands property in Southland, was keen to try sugar beet which has a higher sugar content than fodder beet. . .

2014 Young Viticulturist of the Year set to be the biggest and best yet:

With just two weeks to go until the first regional rounds of Young Viticulturist of The Year 2014, this year’s competition is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet! Now in its ninth year Young Viticulturist of The Year will host a fourth regional competition for the first time with Wairarapa Winegrowers, joining Hawkes Bay, Marlborough and Central Otago.

Competition organiser, Emma Taylor said “Since the success of Braden Crosby from Borthwick Estate who was the 2012 national champion, it seems that many viticulturists in the Wairarapa region have been inspired by him and there is now enough interest for Wairarapa to hold their own round of the competition.” Braden Crosby will use his experience as a past competitor to shape the competition which will be held at Te Kairanga Winery on the 30th July alongside the regional Silver Secateurs competition. . .

 


Currency traders aren’t charities

June 25, 2014

Remember Greenpeace fighting to retain its charitable status for tax purposes?

. . . Environmental and peace organisation Greenpeace is arguing its political advocacy should not disqualify it from having charitable status.

Greenpeace is one of many organisations that lost its charitable status – which has tax implications – in the wake of a law change in 2005. . .

Whether its political advocacy is charitable is debatable but I doubt anyone would think an organisation big enough to sustain a loss of $5.9 million in curency trading is a charity.

Greenpeace International has acknowledged losing 3.8 million euros ($5.9 million) on a bet the euro would not strengthen against other currencies in 2013- but it did.

The environmental group, which is based in Amsterdam, said the money was lost by an employee who acted beyond the limits of his authority but had hoped to benefit the organization. . .

In a statement Monday, Greenpeace apologized for the blunder to supporters and donors and said it was studying what went wrong.

It said it would absorb the loss over a period of several years by trimming “infrastructure investments.” . . .

The organisation and its supporters on the left put a lot of energy into opposing “big” business – but any organisation which can absorb that magnitude is a big business.

What’s more it’s one which has put its carbon footprint in its mouth.

 One of Greenpeace’s most senior executives commutes 400km each way to work by plane, the environmental group has admitted.

Pascal Husting, the programme director at Greenpeace International, said he began “commuting between Luxembourg and Amsterdam” when he took the job in 2012 and made the round trip about twice a month.

The flights, costing 250 ($390) return, are paid by Greenpeace, even though it campaigns to cut air travel, arguing the growth in flying “is ruining our chances of stopping dangerous climate change”.

One volunteer described the arrangement as “almost unbelievable”. Another was going to cancel their donation after a series of disclosures about financial mismanagement in documents leaked to the Guardian newspaper. . .

Two return flights a month might not be a lot but it gives them a do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do appearance.


Which English do you speak?

June 25, 2014
This experiment is being conducted by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. – See more at: http://www.gameswithwords.org/WhichEnglish/#sthash.YLtURdvV.dpuf

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is developing an algorithm to detect which dialect of English people speak.

The top three guesses for my dialect were:

1. New Zealandish 2. Scottish. 3. English.

The top three for my native language were:

1. English, 2 Finnish 3. German.


NZ 5th for doing good for planet

June 25, 2014

The Good Country Index measures how much each of 125 countries contributes to the planet.

Irish people, rejoice! It turns out, your green land is the “goodest” country in the world. That’s right. The “goodest.” At least, that’s according to Simon Anholt, who’s spent the past two years compiling an index to determine which of 125 countries contributes the most to the common, global good.

“I wanted to know why people admire Country A and not Country B,” Anholt said . . . “To cut a long story short, I discovered the thing people most admired is the perception that a country is good. That turned out to be much more important than the perception they’re rich or beautiful or powerful or modern or anything like that. So then I wanted to know which countries are perceived to contribute the most to humanity — and which countries actually are good.” . . .

There are 125 country balance sheets graded across seven categories, including things like science and technology, world order, prosperity and equality and health and wellbeing. Each of those seven has got five datasets in them. Take for example world order. That includes five data sets representing things like how much each country gives in charity and overseas development, its population growth, and its status of ratification and signatories of UN treaties. . .

Anholt admits there are flaws in his approach.

So despite the disparity in the measurements, the different timeframes, the different everything throughout the data, you stand behind this Index. Couldn’t someone reasonably pick holes in the approach?
The objections to the approach massively outnumber the supporting factors. I have become the world’s leading expert on why this is a crap idea. And I decided to do it anyway. The simple reason that I’m not claiming to have the final answer on any of this. This is a very well constructed piece of research, but it’s by no means the final answer, because you couldn’t have the final answer unless you had enormously more data than is currently available. So it’s designed to be basically a step in the right direction.

What do you want people to take away from the Index?
The reason I’ve done it is not because I wanted to do an index but because I wanted ordinary people — not politicians – to start thinking about whether countries are good or bad. At the moment all they ever talk about or measure is whether a country is successful. We have fallen into the habit of measuring the performance of countries as if they were islands, as if they had no connection with each other, and as if one country doing well had no impact whatsoever on other countries. But of course this is the age of globalization, and the central fact of the age we live in is that every country, every market, every medium of communication, every natural resource is connected. A chicken catches a cold and sneezes in a Chinese village. 20 years ago that would only have been bad news for the chicken and its immediate family; today it threatens the survival of the human species because of globalization. Two small banks fail in rural America. 20 years ago that was no problem except for them and their communities; today it knocks the entire global economic system for six.

And you don’t think that countries are legislating effectively for the global age?
Countries still behave as if they weren’t connected; they still measure their performance entirely inwards. My argument is that we can’t just blame governments for this, it’s the fault of populations who don’t demand anything different of them. They say they want three percent growth or they’ll vote for someone else. We have to start asking where that growth comes from. We are screwing poorer countries to buy products more cheaply, we are raping the environment to produce more energy to drive our industry faster. Countries perform better and better but the world and planet and humanity in general are getting worse and worse. The whole system starts to look like a rapidly growing tumor. It has an illusion of health because of its growth but it’s almost as big as the host body.

How will thinking globally help?
It’s essential to get ordinary people along with politicians and businesses and so on to start to ask themselves about the international implications of what they’re doing. That’s what I mean by a “good” country. I don’t mean morally or ethically good, but a country that considers the common good as much as it considers its own citizens. By day I’m a policy advisor, I advise presidents and prime ministers around the world, 53 of them in the last 20 years, I haven’t seen a single example of a domestic issue or policy that wasn’t massively improved by considering the international context.

But wouldn’t you agree that there’s a pretty big disconnect between policy makers and “ordinary” people? How do you make people aware that they have to pay attention — and appreciate that they actually can influence said policy makers?
There used to be this automatic and universal relationship of love and trust between citizens and their cities or their city states, the equivalent of the modern country. What that is being replaced with today is a relationship of prostitution. It’s very simple: We throw money at the government as if they were hired management teams and tell them to sort out our problems and they’ll hear from us if we don’t like the way they do it. It seems to me that’s a very sad thing and it has to somehow change.

It’s interesting to hear you describe the government as basically crap middle managers to whom we have delegated the task of running the world. Business plays such a big part in this — particularly with globalization. Certain companies are arguably more powerful than countries now. How does that play into the Index? And what of the fact a public company has a fiduciary duty to do the best it can for its shareholders, which might contradict what we otherwise see as being “good”?
Just as public companies have a fiduciary duty to shareholders, so there’s an unwritten supposition but very real rule that a government’s primary duty is to its citizens. No one would dream of questioning that. And I don’t, either. I just say it’s not impossible to align that with a broader, further-reaching, longer agenda.

The fact is that companies are way ahead of countries in this. They underwent a revolution ten, twenty years ago of Corporate Social Responsibility. In fact, when I first started working on this, I came up with this ludicrous tag, “Governmental Social Responsibility,” because it’s an exact equivalent. Now, people love to sneer at CSR, and when you probe to find out why, the main answer seems to be that people think that companies are being hypocritical. And that’s interesting because I don’t think it matters. I’ve seen this work over and over again. Someone starts behaving in a right-on way for purely cynical reasons, they’re lying through their teeth, just doing it for PR. But the moment it starts working — and it usually does work — and they start receiving some of that warmth from public opinion, it becomes the most important thing they’ve ever done. Their reputation, as soon as they start to earn one, instantly becomes their most treasured possession. They will do anything to maintain that reputation and build it further; they will even become good – even that! — in order to maintain it. That little loophole in human nature is probably what will save us all.

I think this means the results aren’t as important as the intent – to get people thinking globally and influencing governments to do the same.

The Good Country Index is here.

 


Labour’s yeah-nah on IMP & Te Tai Tokerau

June 25, 2014

In May David Cunliffe said Labour was going to be trying to win all seven Maori seats.

. . . Mr Cunliffe said he expects that Kelvin Davis, who was 1165 votes behind Mr Harawira at the 2011 election, to run a vigorous campaign. He said there would be no deals with other parties until after the election on 20 September once it is known what voters want. . .

Earlier this month he said he’d be open to a post-election deal with Internet Mana.

Labour leader David Cunliffe confirmed he would still be open to a post-election deal with Internet Mana despite making the abolition of “coat-tailing” under MMP a priority for a Labour-led Government. . . .

However, ranking its Te Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis at 18 on the list is sending mixed messages:

The list, released yesterday, had Mr Davis at number 18 – but if Labour wins the 27 electorates it expects to, it will need 29 per cent of the party vote for Mr Davis to return to Parliament, if he does not win the seat off incumbent MP and Mana leader Hone Harawira.

On current polling, that will be a challenge. . .

A better place on the list and it would be a clear signal that the party was protecting Davis and was prepared to sacrifice him in the electorate to help Mana leader Hone Harawira and give it a potential coalition partner.

A worse  place on the list would signal his only route to parliament was by winning the seat and that Labour was not wanting a post-election deal with Internet Mana.

As it is it’s sending  a yeah-nah, may be-maybe not message.


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