Home' Greymouth Star : February 3rd 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Tuesday, February 3, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1894 - The Dirigo, the first steel sailing ship,
is launched at Bath, Maine, in United States.
1917 - US breaks off diplomatic relations
with Germany after Berlin announces a policy
of unrestricted submarine warfare.
1919 - League of Nations meets
for the first time in Paris.
1924 - Death of Woodrow
Wilson, 28th US president.
1931 - Huge earthquake strikes
New Zealand, almost destroying
the towns of Napier and Hastings
and killing 256 people.
1959 - Rock singers Buddy Holly, Richie
Valens and J P (Big Bopper) Richardson die
in a US plane crash.
1967 - Ronald Ryan becomes the last man
hanged in Australia, for killing a Melbourne
1973 - Fighting in Vietnam comes to a halt
after a ceasefire goes into effect.
2003 - American rock producer Phil Spector
is arrested after an alleged murder.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Felix Mendelsson, German composer (1809-
1847); Gertrude Stein, US author (1874-1946);
Norman Rockwell, US artist (1894-1978);
James Michener, US author (1907-1997); Joey
Bishop, member of the Rat Pack (1918-2007);
Shelley Berman, US comedian
(1926-); Val Doonican, Irish singer
(1927-); Frankie Vaughan, British
entertainer (1928-1999); Bobby
Simpson, Australian cricketer (1936-
); Dave Davies, British guitarist of
The Kinks fame (1947-); Melanie,
US singer (1947-); Morgan Fairchild,
US actress (1950-) .
“There is a coherent plan in the Universe,
though I don’t know what it’s a plan for..”
— Sir Fred Hoyle, English astronomer-author.
“ Just as they were leaving Him, Peter said to
Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let
us make three dwellings, one for You, one for
Moses, and one for Elijah.’ — not knowing
what he said. ” — (Luke 9.33).
Shots were fired
from a .22 six-
chamber gas pistol
in Greymouth in the
early hours of this morning before a 27-year-
old man was arrested at his town flat by
Greymouth police. The arrest was made at 2am
following reports that a man had run amok
with a pistol.
More than three policeman were involved in
the arrest and subsequent attempts to restrain
the man. The police said this morning that no
arms were used by their officers when making
The man appeared before two Justices of the
Peace this morning charged with presenting
a single action gas pistol at constable W
Bennie. He was remanded to an institution
till February 23 under the provisions of the
Mental Health Act.
Industrious activity is under way as Ministry
of Works employees, trucks and loaders
strive to complete Greymouth’s biggest ever
deviation — the Smith Street project. Most
of the work on the deviation is expected to be
completed this summer with about £10,000 of
the £15,000 National Roads Board allocation
having already been spent.
Commenting on the work today, resident
Ministry of Works engineer, Mr H A Grigg
said it was expected that £24,300 would have
been spent on the project by April and added
that the original estimate for the work was
£35,000. “I shoudl not think there will be
much more work to do next financial year,” he
The deviation skirts around the back of the
town’s main business area and will divert the
through traffic flow from the shopping streets.
uFood for thought
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ays of rolling blackouts
last week have blighted
South African society
and business, and they
face an increasing
number of outages in
years to come. But the alternative, a grid
collapse, could be catastrophic.
Bordered by tiny, war-scarred or
impoverished states such as Botswana,
Mozambique and Zimbabwe, Africa’s
most advanced economy cannot rely on
help to power its 42,000 MW electricity
network and has nobody to turn to if the
lights go out.
State power firm Eskom has
implemented rolling blackouts for
almost a year as its old, deteriorating
infrastructure buckles under the strain.
They are a last-resort measure to avoid
total failure of the power system.
Such a collapse would bring the country
to its knees within days. After their back-
up diesel generators run out, everything
from hospitals to water suppliers and
mobile phone firms could cease to
function, while law and order could break
Eskom has suffered from years of
underfunding and investment in new
plants has not kept up with demand. It
has warned South Africans face rolling
blackouts for several years to come.
As yet no plans for a long-term solution
have been announced. President Jacob
Zuma’s government is working on a
financing plan for the sector and details
are expected to be outlined when the
finance minister presents the budget next
Rolling blackouts — when electricity
is shut off to specific areas at certain
times to conser ve capacity — became
more frequent in November after a major
power-generating silo collapsed. There
have been three days of power cuts this
Many restaurants, shops and offices
simply shut when they hit — a big
blow to an economy whose growth
averaged 5% in the five years before a
2009 recession, but has languished below
2% since, and a deterrent to foreign
Crime is already a major concern for
most South Africans and with no power
going to electric fences or security gates
and streets pitch black at night, criminals
have new opportunities in a nation
with 25% unemployment and massive
Such effects can be devastating — but
they still pale in comparison with the
consequences of a grid collapse.
The chaos would not be short-lived.
Eskom, which stresses that a complete
shutdown is extremely unlikely,
nonetheless has emergency plans in place
to resume power delivery — known as
a black start — but warns it would take
“In our projections, it is roughly a
two-to-four week period to restart the
whole country,” Al’Louise van Deventer,
Eskom’s national control manager, told
Reuters at the utility ’s ner ve centre near
Behind her in the bowels of the ultra-
secure building stand banks of screens
and computer terminals, staffed round-
the-clock in an operation similar to
Nasa’s mission control.
In such an emergency scenario, Zuma
and his cabinet would be taken to a secret
location and soldiers would be deployed
at key sites such as the central bank and
South African Broadcasting Corporation
headquarters, a government source
“The government has command centres
that will be activated to make sure
we can maintain law and order,” said
another government source. “ The military
will be deployed so broadcast and
communication is secure.”
Zuma’s office declined to comment.
After a power supply crunch and spate
of blackouts in 2008, many South African
businesses and a few homes have back-up
generators, but over time they will run
out of fuel — as will the generators at
fuel stations, bringing transport to a halt.
“Those who have diesel generators will
only be able to run them for as long as
fuel reser ves last, as petrol and diesel
pumps work off electricity. Then, people
will be in trouble,” van Deventer said.
Eskom, which supplies almost all the
country’s electricity, has not put a figure
on how much investment it would need
to upgrade infrastructure to the level
needed to avoid blackouts.
Zuma’s government in October said
it would inject 20 billion rand ($1.7
billion) to boost its coffers and convert its
existing 60 billion rand subordinated loan
to state-owned equity.
At their worst, rolling blackouts or
“ load-shedding” have never taken out
more than 3000 MW of demand, roughly
10% of consumption.
However, many big companies are not
taking their chances.
Gold and platinum mining companies
say they have emergency power units to
get men above ground, but are unable to
generate the vast amounts of electricity
needed to operate what are some of
the deepest mines in the world, at up to
MTN, Africa’s biggest mobile phone
firm, has a private 2 MW power plant at
its Johannesburg headquarters with 1.5
million litres of diesel reser ves — enough,
its says, to keep its core operations going
for a month.
“If you don’t have diesel reser ves then
you are in big trouble,” Willem Webber,
MTN’s “core implementation manager”
said. He is working on plans to generate
up to 24 MW for the firm’s own needs
and possible feeding back into the grid.
“Imagine a company like MTN down
for a month.” — Reuters
For years, Jimmy White woke up
worrying about roadkill.
An official with the Virginia highway
system, White’s responsibilities included
ensuring that thousands of deer and other
animals hit by cars were collected, a process
that cost the State some $4.1 million per
But roadside burial is increasingly not an
option because of underground cables, pipes
and other infrastructure near highways,
while landfills charge fees and a decline
in the United States rendering industry
has removed another disposal outlet.
Dragging the carcasses into nearby bushes
or dropping them into pits can pollute
groundwater, Jean Bonhotal, director of the
Waste Management Institute at New York’s
Cornell University, said.
Today, White rests easier thanks to a
new facility in the south-eastern Virginia
town of Windsor that takes some of the
10,000 to 15,000 animals, mostly whitetail
deer, killed by cars each year, piles them
under sawdust and turns the remains into
landscaping material for roadsides.
“ We’re on the leading edge for this kind
of composting,” White, project manager for
the Virginia Department of Transportation,
said in an inter view at the State’s newest
mass composting site, 72km west of the
tourist town of Virginia Beach.
Standing amid the four concrete bins and
piles of sawdust at a highway yard that will
be the last stop for thousands of Virginia
deer, White described the composting
process as “really clean and pretty much a
natural thing to do.”
Virginia, the No 5 US State for deer-
vehicle collisions, is among the few states
where composting is a new tool for
highway officials faced with cleaning up
after deer-vehicle collisions while also
reducing the load on landfills.
Particularly in the eastern United States,
highway officials have faced a growing
problem in managing roadkill in recent
decades. Populations of whitetail deer
have rebounded from a low of a few
hundred thousand little more than a
century ago to about 15 million today,
according to the National Wildlife
State Farm, the biggest US auto insurer,
says there were 1.2m deer-related crashes
in the 12 months ending in mid-2013, with
the average property damage $3414.
Virginia had been spending some $4.1m
a year to dispose of roadkill carcases, with
much of the cost going for landfill fees,
according to the state Transportation
Its new $140,000 system began operating
at the highway yard in south-eastern
Virginia at the start of December. The
programme was developed by North
Carolina’s Advanced Composting
Technologies for farm carcases and tailored
The system calls for laying carcases on a
bed of sawdust inside a bin. Workers cover
the deer with another layer of sawdust, and
they generate heat as microbes break them
down, sped by a forced-air system.
Microbe-rich liquid is drained off and
funnelled into a tank, to be sprayed onto
the pile twice weekly. That helps raise its
internal temperature to more than 66degC.
Within two months, nothing remains of
the deer but some bones scattered in a rich
brown compost, White said.
The weeks of heat kill almost all the
pathogens, or disease-causing agents. Even
with about 120 deer rapidly decaying at
the site, there was no odour beyond that of
humus and a whiff of ammonia.
“Environmentally, it is the best way to
dispose of the animals,” said Cornell’s
She said only a few states were
composting road-kill, including New Jersey
and New York along its State-run thruway.
western states have avoided composting out
of fear of spreading chronic wasting disease,
the deer equivalent of mad cow disease
and most commonly found in western
mountains, Bonhotal said.
A sur vey of 23 states by the American
Association of State Highway and
Tr a ffi c Officials found that four compost
roadkill, though mostly in scattered sites.
Composting is also encouraged by the US
Environmental Protection Agency.
With composting, “a 1200-pound (540kg)
cow will disappear in three months, except
for bones,” Bonhotal said.
States turn to composting roadkill deer
Blocking the brain to battle obesity.
A New Zealand-led study investigated
whether particular signalling pathways in
the brain could be blocked to decrease the
causes of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.They
used butein to directly stop inflammatory
processes in the brain’s hypothalamus
caused by a high-fat diet, helping lower
blood sugar levels and reduce insulin
resistance.The approach was shown to
work in obese mice. The researchers
say such natural compounds that block
inflammation in the brain should be
“ vigorously investigated” as novel anti-
New Zealand scientists have found a
curious new way to combat obesity and
Type 2 Diabetes in an antioxidant linked
to Chinese medicine.
Trials on mice by Otago University
researchers suggest that butein, derived
from plants used in traditional Chinese
herbal medicine, can be used to block diet-
driven processes in the brain that lead to
The study led by Dr Alex Tups,
of the university’s Centre for
Neuroendocrinology and Department of
Physiology, centred on a part of the brain
called the hypothalamus, which is linked
to the ner vous system and helps regulate
many important functions including sleep,
heart rate, body temperature, appetite, and
body weight. The team sought to find out
whether directly stopping inflammatory
processes in the hypothalamus caused
by a high fat diet could help lower
blood sugar levels and reduce insulin
In two types of obese mice, butein
was used to block the specific signalling
pathways involved in the body’s
inflammatory immune responses.
The approach worked, showing that
administering butein either directly into
the brain or orally greatly improved
glucose tolerance and brain insulin
Dr Tups said the profound effect was
also dose-dependent, with higher doses of
butein increasing tolerance to glucose.
Interestingly, the improved tolerance in
the mice given high-fat diets and treated
with butein resulted in them showing no
noticeable difference from the “control”
mice than had not received butein nor a
To confirm the link between the
investigated brain pathways and metabolic
obesity symptoms, the researchers also
used a gene therapy technique to inhibit it
in neurons in the hypothalamus.
This resulted in the high-fat diet mice
having a reduced body weight, building
up less fat, expending more energy, and
showing evidence of improved leptin-
Dr Tups said the study, published in the
leading international journal Diabetes,
added to growing body of evidence that
a diet high in saturated fats activated a
cascade of inflammatory processes in the
brain which impair leptin and insulin
signalling, leading to obesity and type II
diabetes. — New Zealand Herald
Brain-signal study offers hope in obesity fight
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