Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ozzies: Send In Some Muscle!

Australians are overwhelmingly in favour of their govt monitoring Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.
A Morgan poll finds 76.9% of 1,002 people want a Customs ship to monitor Japanese whaling.
The Coalition had previously been accused of backing off a pre-election commitment to tackle whaling in the Southern Ocean, after refusing to send the specialist Customs patrol vessel Ocean Protector, and instead sending aircraft to monitor the hunt.
Greens senator Nick McKim said the Coalition was backing away from the monitoring commitment made in opposition, and PM Malcolm Turnbull had refused to express anything stronger than "disappointment" about whaling on his recent visit to Japan.
The poll comes at the end of a fraught year on the whaling issue, in which Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku was fined $1m for wilful contempt of the Australian federal court, after breaching an order to stop killing whales.
The decision to resume whaling also flies in the face of a 2014 international court of justice (ICJ) ruling saying the programme had no basis in science and should be halted.
A spokesman for environment minister, Greg Hunt, said: "The govt has made representations at the highest level to urge Japan not to resume whaling and we will continue to do so. We will also continue our efforts in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to strongly oppose commercial whaling, and to promote whale conservation."
However in 2013 when in opposition, Hunt strongly supported having a Customs vessel in the Southern Ocean...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Chch Heritage Building To Be Restored

Isaac House, which has stood on the Colombo/Armagh corner in Christchurch since 1926, and withstood the big earthquakes, will be saved from the wreckers.
The site opposite Forsyth Barr Tower was originally earmarked for the city's new Convention Centre, but the Crown lifted the designation on the property this year.
Owner, the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust, had planned to repair the four-storey brick building, but instead put the property on the market.
The new owners are Auckland-based Patrick Fontein and Paul Naylor, who previously restored the old Twisted Hop building on Lichfield St (which reopened as Dux Central).
Isaac House survived the EQs pretty well because of some previous strengthening, but it still needs a lot of work.
Paddy and Paul still have to decide between turning it into high-end apartments, a boutique hotel, or offices upstairs with hospitality outlets below, but promise it'll be returned to its "former glory". Work should start work in Feb.2016.
Isaac House has a Heritage NZ Cat.II listing (No.7383), and is one of Christchurch's best examples of the Georgian Revival style.

(In the background of the pic is the now-demolished Victoria Apartments tower.)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Penguins Staring Down The Gun

Otago's yellow-eyed penguin population has reached rock bottom, after a year of sweltering temperatures, disease, and barracuda
Fewer than 190 breeding pairs were counted on the Otago coast this season...down from 500 in 2012!
Many chicks were hit by avian diphtheria, an infection that forms ulcers in chicks' mouths, making it difficult to eat and breathe. Some chicks had died due to overheating, as they remained under the protection of their parent's body.
Coastal Otago Biodiversity Ranger Mel Young: "There's no obvious pattern to the infection outbreak, but most infected chicks have also been underweight. The heat has played a large part too."
Ailing penguins have been fed salmon smoothies every few days, and had the lesions in their mouths removed, allowing them to eat and breathe easier. Despite this, about 45% of chicks at monitored sites had died.
Tourists visiting those sites have also caused problems. The Department of Conservation (DoC) urges them to take established tours, rather than explore on their own, so as not to disturb breeding.
It's a sentiment echoed by the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust GM Sue Murray: "The penguins have had a tough four breeding seasons, so we're trying to minimise every possible risk, to give them their best chance of survival."
Penguins face many dangers - disease, interference from humans and livestock at breeding areas, heat stress, predation by stoats and ferrets, and dog attacks.
In 2013, a mass mortality event believed to be a toxic bloom, killed around 70 adults and juveniles on the Otago Peninsula. Also that year, low food supplies left penguins emaciated and unable to moult without help.
Early in 2015, 50+ penguins were maimed in barracuda attacks.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

TV3 News Now One-Dimensional

This week, tears flowed on-screen as Mediaworks axed yet another
investigative tv programme.
The demise of TV3's 3D was announced earlier this month with parent company Mediaworks saying long-form current affairs "is challenging to make commercially viable...and given the way media consumption habits are changing, unfortunately continuing 3D may not be possible".
During the final show, reporter Sarah Hall remarked: "This type of storytelling is so important to us as a country. I truly hope that somehow, some way, programmes like ours will still find a place, because without them, these stories are going to be lost." The end of 3D follows the widely-bagged axing of Campbell Live earlier this year.
In a statement, the broadcaster said it was now working with staff on "redeployment opportunities" but wouldn't give a number of how many staff are affected.
Media comentator Brian Edwards says Mediaworks' conscious shift into tabloid-style reality tv is something it's been consistently open about: "In my opinion, they don't seem to be dedicated to public service broadcasting or current affairs... at the end of the day, it comes down to generating revenue and profit."
Media blogger Martyn Bradbury writes that TV3 should 'come out', admit it's right-wing, and "end this facade of fourth estate accountability."
A Mediaworks spokesman says news and current affairs remain a priority for TV3 and points out it's invested heavily in Story, Paul Henry and Newsworthy to reflect that. A pity then, that these programmes seem decidedly NOT newsworthy...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Flag Referendum: Symbolic Loss For John Key

The official result for the first NZ Flag referendum has been declared.
The majority of voters chose Kyle Lockwood's 'Silver fern (black, white and blue)' design over four other contenders.
Results show 1,527,042 voted - that's only 48% of all enrolled voters. By contrast, 77% had their say in the 2014 general election.
University of Otago politics lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards describes the 48% turnout as "...a symbolic loss for the Prime Minister" (John Key being the main driver behind the flag change).
There's no threshold that makes a referendum legitimate, but the arbitrary figure of 50% was often seen as a rough guideline.
Many voters were unhappy about either the change itself, or the $26-million cost of the referendum. This dissatisfaction was reflected in the 2476 invalid votes and 148,022 informal votes (making up 10% of the total). "Informals" are those not satisfying the clear intention of the referendum, and likely includes people who used their vote to protest the flag change.
Edwards: "So the result is likely to be seen as lacking the moral mandate, and that'll be a problem advancing to the second stage."
The 2nd.referendum in March 2016 will pit Kyle Lockwood's design against the current NZ flag.
The low voter turnout in the first referendum, coupled with the fact that no single design secured an overwhelming majority, means the current NZ flag wil go into the deciding referendum in a strong position. It's expected public interest will increase now there're just two options...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Whaling: Agree To Disagree - Japan

We've done nothing wrong by going whaling again, says Japan's top whaling official. quotes Joji Morishita, Japan's IWC Commissioner, as quipping "the world must agree to disagree on the issue."
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) said last year that Japan's Southern Ocean whaling must stop (though not necessarily forever) and the International Whaling Committee (IWC) ruled that Japan had yet to demonstrate a need for killing whales.
"A-whaling we will go!"
So Tokyo took a year off from Antarctic whaling.
But Morishita says reworking of its hunt plan for the 2015/16 season - which cuts the minke whale target by two-thirds to 333 - has made every effort to meet the objections of both the court and the IWC. "We decided to implement our research plan, because we are confident we completed the scientific homework, as well as meeting the ICJ requirement."
Morishita added that whaling may just be another one of many irreconcilable differences international society has to live with: "However, this does not mean we'll take all whales - exactly because we'd like to have sustainable whaling, we'd like to have a healthy whale population."
If Japan steps back from the emotive public debate and impassioned environmental protests for a moment, it can surely see it is still in breach of rulings from both the IWC and ICJ.
It is not up to Japan to decide it's met the requirements of a court judgement. It has to present it's fresh plans for further evaluation. Only then, if the IWC rules in favour, can it carry on sushi-gathering in the name of 'research'.
As for ignoring the full-stop laid down by the ICJ, there must be more fall-out from this, than just a "tut-tut". Does the ICJ have the teeth to impose upon Japan punitive sanctions for contempt of court, or does it have as little strength as the UN?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Post-EQ Sky's The Limit!

Christchurch's tallest post-quake apartment complex is about to take shape.
The $40-million-plus West Kilmore Precinct - 11 storeys tall - will rise from a site on the corner of Kilmore St and Cranmer Square, where Ernst and Young House stood before the earthquakes.
Christchurch property developer Grant MacKinnon is behind the project, along with an unnamed local investor living offshore.
Now, here's the thing: building height restrictions in the area were lowered to 11m in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, but McKinnon will use existing use rights to build more than twice as high!
I would have thought that in these enlightened post-EQ times, the height restrictions would have been "one limit fits all - no exceptions". I'd also have expected those same height restrictions to have been applied from date-of-EQ, annulling all pre-EQ deals or permits!
What's also curious is that MacKinnon himself has described the high-end apartment market in the central city as "difficult". Yet he's quite happily building 15 apartments priced at $450K-$950K; 35 apartments from $500K-$1.2 million...and, as if they aren't expensive enough, there'll also be some "higher end" apartments at whatever price someone-with-money-to-burn is prepared to pay!
Obviously, money talks...and right now it's probably yelling at me to shut the f*** UP!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Killing Never Stops

"Ahhh vell, it helps to pass ze time on zez cold vinter days, jah!"
On the last day of November, 11 more pilot whales were slaughtered at the killing beach of Fuglafirði in the Faroe Islands.
Though it's assumed by outsiders that these killings happen only in the Northern summers, a grindadráp can be called at any time of the year - whenever a whale pod is sighted.
Environmental group Sea Shepherd has left the Faroe Islands for this year, ending its 6th campaign there (entitled Operation Sleppid Grindini), but strongly disputes the local media's claims that the slaughter was "smooth and quick".
Rosie Kunneke, SS's Land Team Leader: "For an hour and a half these pilot whales were harassed by small boats, driven onto the killing beach, hooked by their blowholes, dragged onto the rocks and sand and then slaughtered...the truth of the grindadráp is a slow and torturous death. To claim otherwise is a totally outrageous sham."
This was the 7th grindadráp of 2015, bringing the total number of pilot whales slaughtered to 501. Since the beginning of 2010, the Faroese have killed nearly 4,000 whales and dolphins... 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Star Wars vs The China Syndrome

A black British actor in the new Star Wars film Episode VII: The Force Awakens has been shrunk in a promo poster in China!
Lead actor John Boyega - who plays lightsaber-wielding Finn - has appeared much smaller on the Chinese ad than the UK version. His image has moved beneath those of Han Solo and Princess Leia, with TIE fighters firing upon the Millennium Falcon filling up the right side of the poster. Other characters are missing, and the droid BB-8 is much larger in the Chinese version.
As expected, the changes are stirring up accusations of racism on socal social media. A message on Star Wars forum reads: "Every Asian poster for the film that I've seen has done this. That this way of doing business went over Westerners' heads is surprising. Everyone was acting as if Disney made those cuts. No, it's the Chinese way." Disney's made no comment at time of writing.
In China, cosmetic surgery is one of the most popular ways to spend discretionary income. China ranks 3rd globally for cosmetic operations performed each year. But unlike Western women wanting boob jobs and liposuction, many Chinese girls want to look more "Western". Perhaps in the Chinese mind, a black man can't possibly be an admired Westerner...? Or is this more than skin-deep?
There is virtually no racial problem in China because the Chinese are essentially one race (the Han race: about 92%). The minorities live mostly in the outlying regions. And Chinese generally like lighter skin. A popular Chinese saying reads: "One white covers up a hundred defects." If a girl has lighter skin, Chinese say she's rather white, even if she has many imperfections. Conversely, if she has darker complexion, Chinese point out that she has the darker skin, even if she is rather pretty. So the lighter-skinned girl often has the edge when looking for a mate.
Another important factor is that Chinese have little contact with black-skinned people. What they know about them is mostly from media and, as people generally only hear/remember bad things, Chinese already have a subconscious prejudice. The poster change may simply be a result of this.
But, as John Boyega said when he was cast in the role: "If you have an issue with a black Stormtrooper, get over it!"
The Star Wars continuation opens in NZ cinemas on 17 December.
Note: And to avoid any confusion, The China Syndrome (1979) was about a cover-up at a nuclear power plant - starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Japan Says FU To The World

Older Japanese are licking their lips in anticipation: their country will resume whaling in the Antarctic in late December...oh, only for 'science', of course!
This is despite an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that Japan cease all whaling.
The Jap.govt says it's "taken into account" the court ruling and its whaling programme this time will be much smaller. But the announcement has been condemned by environmental groups and the Oz and UK govts.
Minke whale breaching
The whaling fleet sailed for the Southern Ocean doubt hoping to catch environmentalists on the back foot. Under it's revised plan, it will reduce the number of minke whales caught each year by two thirds to 333. Japan believes it's plan is scientifically reasonable, but that's unlikely to placate opponents.
In 2014, Australia and NZ won a case against Japan in the ICJ in the Netherlands. The court ruled that Japan's 'scientific' whaling programme was not scientific at all - and ordered Tokyo to recall its fleet. Crucially, the ruling stated that it did not believe it was necessary for Japan to kill whales, in order to study them.
...meanwhile, in a landmark ruling, the Oz Federal Court has found Japanese whalers to be in contempt of court and fined them AUS $1 million for killing minkes in the Sthrn.Ocean's Australian Whale Sanctuary, in violation of a 2008 injunction.
The Australian court ruling finds the whalers in "willful contempt" of a 2008 injunction, banning them from killing, injuring, taking or interfering with any Antarctic minke, fin or humpback whale in the Australian Whale Sanctuary. The sanctuary was established in 1999 to protect whales within 200nm of the Australian continent and of portions of Antarctica over which Australia asserts sovereignty.
Sadly, there's a snowball's chance in hell of seeing that fine paid!
...the nasty Nippons are also facing claims filed by environmentalists Sea Shepherd, asking a US court to find that Japan's Sthrn.Ocean whaling programme violates international law, and to impose an injunction to prevent it from continuing.