Home' Greymouth Star : October 23rd 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Thursday, October 23, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
42 BC - Roman Marcus Junius Brutus, a
leader in the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar,
commits suicide when his republican cause is
1641 - Great Irish Massacre occurs after
discovery of conspiracy against British.
1861 - First transcontinental
telegraph message sent from San
Francisco to President Abraham
Lincoln in Washington.
1917 - US troops see first action in
World War I near Luneville, France.
1944 - Soviet Red Army enters
1954 - Britain, the United States, France and
the Soviet Union agree to end the occupation
1968 - Egyptian and Israeli jet planes battle
over Suez Canal in first such reported clash
since 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
1980 - Alexei Kosygin resigns as Soviet prime
minister due to ill health.
1993 - IRA bomb kills 10 in Belfast.
2003 - Madame Chiang Kai-shek, once the
most powerful woman in China, dies in her
sleep in New York aged 106.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Sarah Hale, US author (Mary Had A Little
Lamb) (1788-1879); Ludwig Leichhardt,
German-born explorer (1813-
1848); Diana Dors, British actress
(1931-1984); Pele, Brazilian soccer
star (1940-); Michael Crichton,
US author (1942-2008); Ang Lee,
Taiwanese director (1954-); Weird
Al Yankovic, US parodist (1959-);
Steve Harmison, English cricketer (1978-);
Princess Mako of Akishino of Japan (1991-).
“ It is the characteristic of the most stringent
censorships that they give credibility to the
opinions they attack.” — Voltaire, French
author and philosopher (1694-1778).
“ I consider my life worth nothing to me, if
only I may finish the race and complete the
task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of
testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
— Acts 20:24.
There has been
no change in the
Strongman State mines. They came out on
Monday over a disagreement for water in dusty
places in Liverpool No 3 mine, but the issue
was not resolved at a mass union meeting on
Tuesday nor at discussions with management.
Termination or continuation of the miners’
strike now depends on the right or wrong
words from Wellington, where the Federation
of Labour is negotiating on the union’s
behalf with the Minister of Mines. This was
indicated by the president of the Runanga
State Coal Miners’ Union Mr R H Mitchell
in a statement late this morning following a
meeting of the group.
Expenditure of an extra £42,500 for widening
work on the Weheka Hills and Mt Hercules
has been approved by the National Roads
Board. The NRB yesterday sanctioned £20,00
of the money for the current financial year and
programmed the work for completion by the
time the Haast highway is opened.
By the time the Haast is opened to traffic
in about a year the total investment from the
National Road Fund and the Consolidated
Fund will be not far short of £4 million.
The National Roads Board has said no to a
£300,000 proposal for the construction of a
19-mile deviation running between Hari Hari
and Whataroa. The assistant director of roading
told the board’s monthly meeting that a project
of this size could not be entertained in the area
for many years.
The proposition had been investigated by the
department but the district commissioner of
works was unable to recommend it.
uFood for thought
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The anguish of Labour supporters on
election night was expressed mostly in
Anglo-Saxon. Polite English just doesn’t
have the emotional range for disaster on
such a lavish scale.
Unquestionably, as political disasters go,
this one was a biggie.
Bill Rowling told the nation on election
night 1975 (when Rob Muldoon sent
Labour plummeting to the abysmal
depths of 39.6%) that he “felt like he’d
been run over by a bus”. Oh, what David
Cunliffe would have given for that bus!
On the night of September 20, 2014,
Labour’s hapless leader must have felt
like he had been run over by a fully-laden
freight train, which had then stopped and
reversed back over him, just to make sure.
No wonder the poor fellow behaved
bizarrely. When the political historians
have to go all the way back to 1922 to
find a comparable result, bizarre behaviour
is probably the very least that should
be expected. Because, sadly, no political
leader can come back from a hiding of
such career-killing severity. Sooner or
later that bitter truth just had to sink
home. In David Cunliffe’s case, sooner
would have been better, but he got there
in the end.
And now, of course, we are witnessing
the contest to find his successor. Andrew
Little, Nanaia Mahuta, David Parker
and Grant Robertson are all vying for
Labour’s top job while the rest of New
Zealand looks on with a mixture of
fascination and disbelief. Most cannot
fathom why Labour’s caucus and the
wider party organisation have opted to
set about finding a new leader before
determining what needs to be done to get
Labour match-fit by 2017.
See above regarding bizarre behaviour.
By resigning the leadership when he did,
Mr Cunliffe set in motion a relentless
constitutional process that neither
Labour’s MPs nor its New Zealand
Councillors can countermand. A more
rational order of events might have
been assured if, on election night, Mr
Cunliffe had announced his intention
to stand down as leader in six months’
time — thereby permitting a thorough
post-mortem of the debacle. But, he did
not. So, they aren’t.
In the absence of any conspicuous
rationality, a host of political journalists,
columnists, PR specialists, bloggers and
academics have hastened to proffer their
well-meaning (and not so well-meaning)
advice as to how the party might be
resurrected. Most of this may be boiled
down to: Labour lurched too far to the
left. Recovery lies in the centre-ground.
Labour’s 2014 manifesto was
considerably less left-wing than the
manifesto it took to the country in 2011.
David Cunliffe may have campaigned
for the Labour leadership in fiery
left-wing poetry, but he campaigned to
become New Zealand ’s prime-minister
in the dullest, the most uninspiring and,
ultimately, the most unconvincing prose.
The party’s election strategy, under both
David Cunliffe and his predecessors,
David Shearer and Phil Goff, had been
to woo “soft” National Party voters back
into Labour’s orbit. There was nothing
remotely left-wing about raising the age
of eligibility for superannuation. In fact, it
turned Labour supporters off — in droves.
The same applies to Labour’s Capital
Gains Tax — a measure which even the
OECD has advised New Zealand to
Labour did not lose the election because
it was too left-wing; it lost because
in an election dominated by extra-
parliamentary sideshows (Dirty Politics
and The Moment of Truth) it failed to get
How does one get cut-through? Well,
for a start, you hire the very best pollsters
and focus-group analysts you can afford;
you tell them exactly what you’re trying
to do; and then you listen to them when
they tell you how to do it. That is what
National and its leader, John Key, does —
and it works.
There is absolutely no point in acquiring
accurate intelligence about the electorate’s
mood; its likes and dislikes; its hopes
and fears; if you then do nothing
constructive with it. A political party
should never allow its policies to be
dictated by polls and focus groups, but
when it comes to telling a party how to
present or, more importantly, how not
to present its policies, they become tools
of extraordinary utility. If talking about
a specific policy turns voters off — don’t
talk about it.
Whoever becomes Labour’s leader
needs to understand, precisely, what New
Zealanders do not want to hear, and stop
saying it to them — loudly.
Chris Trotter is an independent,
left-wing political commentator.
Labour’s bizarre election aftermath
Women exposed to high levels
of traffic pollution during the
second trimester of pregnancy are
at higher risk of giving birth to a
child with weak lungs, researchers
In a long-term study, investigators
in Barcelona enrolled 1295
pregnant women who attended
pre-natal clinics in Sabadell, in
Catalonia, and at Gipuzkoa in the
northwestern Basque region.
They measured two traffic
pollutants — benzene and
nitrous dioxide — in the women’s
residential neighbourhoods at
different times during their
They used this data to draw up a
model of exposure for the women,
and also for their offspring during
their first year of life.
The model took account of
differences in geography, climate,
population density and time of year.
When the children reached four
and a half years of age, a nurse
measured their lung capacity
with an inflation gadget called a
A total 620 preschoolers were
tested — many others were unable
to blow properly into the device.
The children of women exposed
to higher benzene levels during
their fourth to sixth months of
pregnancy were 22% more likely to
have impaired lung function than
those from less polluted areas, the
For nitrous oxide, the risk was
The link was stronger among
children with allergies, or those
from a lower social class.
But exposure levels to traffic
pollution in the first year of
life made no difference to lung
strength, the inquiry found.
The results “suggest that exposure
to traffic-related air pollutants
during the prenatal period could
adversely impact the developing
lung ”, the authors reported in the
“Substantial health benefits”
could accrue from curbing traffic
pollution, they added.
The team led by Eva Morales at
Barcelona’s Centre for Research
in Environmental Epidemiology
(CREAL), believe they are the first
to give a long-term view of how
air pollution during pregnancy can
affect a child’s lungs.
The study did consider whether
either or both of a child’s parents
smoked before or during pregnancy.
But it did not examine whether
the mothers had been exposed to
gas, dust or fumes in their jobs
Nor was it powered to measure
exposure to particulate matter,
another notorious traffic pollutant.
In an independent comment, Seif
Shaheen, a professor of respiratory
epidemiology at Barts and the
London School of Medicine and
Dentistry, said a clearer picture may
have emerged if pollution levels
were monitored directly in the
volunteers’ homes rather than their
Even so, “the findings should
be taken very seriously by
policymakers”, Britain’s Science
Media Centre quoted Shaheen as
“The results suggest that more
needs to be done to reduce air
pollution in order to improve
public health, and in particular the
lung health of the next generation.”
Pollution hurts unborn babies — study
fter winning praise around
the world for his fresh and
open style, the honey-
moon period seems to be
over for Pope Francis.
A tumultuous two-week
Vatican synod exposed polarisation in the
Catholic Church over his push to reform
its traditional approach to sexual morality
by becoming more welcoming to gays
and easing restrictions on divorced and
A Jesuit unafraid of frank debate,
Francis has set off a clash of opinions
not seen since the reformist Second
Vatican Council of 1962-1965. Rather
than impose his views as a Pope can, he
has chosen the difficult path to reform by
opting to have his bishops freely discuss
Catholic teaching on sex.
The pope won a standing ovation from
almost 200 bishops at the synod ’s close
and general support for his reform drive.
But a vocal minority, backed by what one
cardinal called a “massive wave of attacks”
on the Pope from traditionalist media,
emerged to block some of the reform
The synod will meet again in October
2015 to make its final recommendations
to the Pope. In the meantime, he is
counting on discussions among Catholics
to increase support for reforms. His critics
say they will use the time to rally against
“The Pope has put his authority on the
line,” French Vatican expert Jean-Marie
Guenois, author of the new book Jusqu’ou
ira Francois? (How Far Will Francis
Go?), said. “If he fails to find a solution, it
will be his failure.”
Massimo Faggioli, a church historian at
Saint Thomas University in Minnesota,
saw “different Catholic cultures” emerging
and said keeping them together “is going
to be the biggest gamble for Francis in the
next 12 months.
“It could become more difficult for him
to speak to all Catholics,” he said, adding
some conservatives nostalgic for his more
doctrinaire predecessors John Paul and
Benedict “will think he should leave right
The bishops are meant to continue
discussions with clergy and laity in their
dioceses before the second synod meets.
Francis said the process would allow ideas
to “mature”, without saying exactly what
he wanted to see emerge from the process.
The challenge will be to find a consensus
among mostly westerners open to
changing lifestyles and traditionalists. The
latter are especially strong in Africa where
the Church is growing, homosexuality
is seen as taboo and polygamy rather
than divorce or cohabitation is the main
problem for Catholic marriage.
“ What the Catholic Church is trying to
do is a sociological adventure,” Munich
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a senior advisor
to Francis, said during the synod.
“Finding a common language on
such existential themes as sexuality and
marriage in Africa, Asia, Manhattan and
(the Roman district of ) Trastevere is
actually not possible,” he said.
When Jorge Mario Bergoglio was
elected pope in March 2013, his fellow
cardinals gave him a clear mandate to
clean up the Vatican’s murky finances,
reorganise the Curia bureaucracy and deal
with the crisis of priests sexually abusing
But the former archbishop of Buenos
Aires had even wider ambitions, including
a less imperial papacy and more mercy for
the divorced, gays or unmarried couples
living together despite the Church’s
“Whoam I to judge?”he said of gay
Catholics in July 2013, comments that
clearly signalled the new tone at the
Vatican, even though he declared he
would not change age-old doctrines.
An unprecedented global sur vey Francis
ordered last year showed widespread
disagreement with Church teaching
on sex, especially among the young in
The frank survey became the basis for
debate at the synods, whereas previous
synods had been carefully managed affairs
with little real debate.
After his election last year, many
Catholic traditionalists argued Francis’
papacy was a continuation of Benedict ’s.
Among their proofs was his opposition
to far-reaching reforms such as ordaining
women priests or approving of abortion.
But as preparations for the synod
progressed, they saw his open approach
resembled that of the 1960’s council,
known among Catholics as Vatican II,
which they blame for many modern
problems in the Church. John Paul and
Benedict spent years redefining the
Council’s legacy in a more conservative
They began to organise.
Five cardinals, including Francis’s own
doctrinal watchdog Gerhard Mueller,
published a book arguing that easing a
ban on divorced and remarried Catholics
receiving the sacraments was impossible
because Jesus himself condemned divorce.
During the synod, arch-conservative
Catholics, many from the United States
and Africa, complained the meeting
was stage-managed to approve liberal
reforms. US Cardinal Raymond Burke,
the Vatican’s top judge, accused the Pope
of harming the Church.
When an interim text said the Church
should welcome gays and accept
homosexuality, they had the English
translation watered down even though the
Italian original remained the official one.
In the end, the bishops agreed to almost
all the synod proposals except three
dealing with gays and divorced Catholics,
even though they had been toned down
from the interim text.
Francis unexpectedly left the three
rejected paragraphs in the final document
and published the usually secret vote
totals to show they fell just short of
the two-thirds majority needed to be
accepted, thereby ensuring they would
stay in the debate and have a chance of
approval by the next synod.
Despite his deft bending of the
rules, it is not clear exactly how much
reform Francis wants or what he will
decide. Predicting outcomes is further
complicated by the fact that not all
delegates to the next synod will be the
same as the first.
Francis ended the synod with a moving
address warning traditionalists against
“hostile inflexibility” and liberals against a
destructive “do-gooder” approach.
Ute Eberl, a German family counsellor
attending the synod, said the session
aimed to get the Church “out of its
comfort zone ... to hear about real life for
families around the world”.
After hearing the Pope’s final address
to the bishops and their five-minute
standing ovation in response, she said:
“Pope Francis’s plan is working.”
Bishops attend a synod at the Vatican earlier this month.
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