Home' Greymouth Star : April 21st 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Tuesday, April 21, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
753 BC - According to legend, the city of
Rome is founded by Romulus.
1509 - Death of King Henry VII of England.
His son succeeds him as Henry VIII.
1836 - The Mexicans defeated by the Texans
at the battle of San Jacinto, thus ensuring Texan
1910 - Death of US author Samuel
Langhorne Clemens, better known
as Mark Twain.
1918 - Baron Manfred von
Richthofen, the German ace known
as the Red Baron, is killed in action
during World War One.
1959 - English ballerina Dame
Margot Fonteyn is jailed for a day
in Panama while the police look for
her Panamanian husband, accused of plotting a
1971 - Death of Francois ‘Papa Doc’ D uvalier,
president of Haiti since 1957.
1994 - Belfast court clears Paul Hill of
the 1974 murder of a former British soldier,
absolving him of IRA guerrilla links for which
he was wrongfully jailed for 13 years.
1995 - FBI arrests former soldier Timothy
McVeigh. He was charged in connection with
the deadly Oklahoma City bombing.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Charlotte Bronte, English novelist (1816-
1855); Anthony Quinn, Mexican actor
(1915-2001); Queen Elizabeth
II (1926-); Iggy Pop, US singer
(1947-); Tony Danza, US actor
(1951-); Andie MacDowell, US
actress (1958-); Michael Franti, US
rap singer (1966-); James McAvoy,
Scottish actor (1979-); Princess
Isabella of Denmark, daughter of
Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess
“ I am a great believer in luck, and I find the
harder I work the more I have of it.”
— Stephen Leacock, Canadian economist and
“ If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and
just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from
all unrighteousness.” — (1 John 1.9).
Like the Erua
Moana lagoon not
far from it, the
is also experiencing a facial change. Within
the next 10 years the hospital, the heart of
local medical care, will alter tremendously
in character. A major addition to the already
expanding unit will be a new double ward
block, expected to be completed by the end of
The new building will go up in the south-
west corner of the existing hospital, with full
use being made of the plateau and land below
on Water Walk Road. The block will mean a
departure from the traditional compactness
of hospital buildings. A road and car park will
be constructed around the site to link up with
Water Walk Road. The visitor’s entrance will
therefore move down to the lower level.
Viewed from the Blaketown beach last night,
an Aurora Australis appeared as a brilliant light
on the north-west horizon. The phenomenon
was more than just an unusual occurrence for
it is generally seen on the south-west horizon
and, secondly, it is generally coloured.
Last night, the Aurora Australis was one
colour — white. It looked like three brilliant
Greymouth Marist and Invercargill Marist
were the finalists in the South Island Catholic
rugby clubs’ annual tournament at Trafalgar
Park, Nelson, yesterday.
Greymouth, after trailing 5-6 at the inter val,
came back superbly to down Invercargill
10-6 in the final. It was a grand victory for
Greymouth as the players had a particularly
hard game in the morning against Nelson
before winning 9-6.
uFood for thought
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Andy Bruce, Kate Holton and
n Scotland’s biggest city,
nationalists have triggered a once-
in-a -century shift in political
loyalties that could dash Labour
leader Ed Miliband ’s dreams of
winning the May 7 election and
thrust secessionist ‘kingmakers’ to the
heart of British power.
The shifting currents in Glasgow, the
citadel of Scottish socialism for more
than a century, show the seriousness
of the nationalists’ bid to end Labour’s
dominance of Scotland, a significant
change in recent British political history.
The nationalist challenge could trigger
events after the election that threaten
the future of the United Kingdom and
possibly its membership of the European
Scots voted to preserve the United
Kingdom in a September 18 referendum
but the once marginal Scottish National
Party (SNP) has spent two decades
persuading Scots that it is a worthy
alternative to Labour, which many voters
say has abandoned its Scottish heritage.
“ We’re recovering from a period where
the Scottish Labour party wasn’t strong
enough, and it wasn’t good enough. And
that takes time,” Jim Murphy, leader of
the Scottish Labour Party said.
“ We’ve got less than three weeks to turn
it round but I’m confident that we can,”
Murphy, a 47-year-old teetotal vegetarian
who opinion polls show has so far failed
to stem a flood of support from Labour to
the SNP said.
The destiny of Glasgow’s once safe
Labour seats will show whether Labour
has lost Scotland, a defeat that would
scupper Miliband’s bid to win an
overall majority in the 650-seat London
parliament and potentially give the SNP a
kingmaker position from which to bargain
for more powers for Scotland.
The loss of Glasgow, a party stronghold
for so many decades, would symbolise the
extent of Labour’s decline in Scotland
and the emerging supremacy of the
Labour won all seven of Glasgow’s seats
in the British parliament in the 2010
election with apparently unassailable
majorities of up to 16,000 votes.
Now all but one are threatened by the
SNP, according to John Curtice, professor
of politics at the University of Strathclyde
and Scotland’s most respected opinion
“Glasgow North-east is the safest
Labour seat in the country and nobody
has yet come up with an opinion poll
that suggests it could be lost,” he told
Reuters. “But everything else in the city is
absolutely up for grabs.”
From the banks of the River Clyde,
Glasgow ’s merchants earned fortunes
in the 18th Century from tobacco
from America and after the American
Revolution disrupted trade, they imported
sugar from the West Indies.
Glasgow became one of Europe’s biggest
shipbuilding centres by the 19th Century
but by the early 20th Century, the docks
of ‘Red Clydeside’ were breeding a radical
socialism that spooked Britain’s leaders
during World War One.
Labour became Scotland’s biggest party
in the British parliament in 1922 and the
last time it lost Scotland in a national
election was in 1955. By 2014, 45% of
Scots would vote for independence.
In a small campaign office in a block
of council flats, the SNP candidate for
Glasgow Central, Alison Thewliss, is
trying to sow the seeds of Labour’s defeat.
Asked why so many Scots were turning
away from Labour, she said: “They saw
Labour joining up with the Tories during
the referendum, and it’s hurt people
Labour’s joint effort with the
Conser vative Party to urge Scots to reject
independence alienated some voters,
even those who support the 308-year-old
union, she said.
Labour’s potential loss of Scotland
illustrates the divergence of England and
Scotland and what many Scots see as an
arrogant London political establishment
that has failed to heed or address their
While Conser vative Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher moved England
rightwards from 1979 to 1990, Scots
stood opposed, especially to Thatcher’s use
of Scotland to test an unpopular poll tax.
Her successors, from John Major to
Labour prime ministers Tony Blair
and Gordon Brown, broadly accepted
Thatcher’s legacy while millions of Scots
held to their socialist traditions.
Those traditions go back to the dawn of
the British Labour movement when Keir
Hardie, the Scottish trade unionist born
in Glasgow in 1856, helped found the
As Blair moved Labour rightwards to
win voters in England and established the
Scottish parliament, the party assumed its
Scottish flank would be secure.
That opened an opportunity for the
SNP, which pitches itself as the social
conscience of Scotland opposed to
what leader Nicola Sturgeon calls the
crumbling institutions of the London
Just 12 years after the establishment of
the Scottish Parliament, the SNP would
topple Labour, winning a majority in the
2011 Scottish election.
“Labour has, from the 1970s, been
regarded as the natural party of
government in Scotland,” said Stewart
MacLennan, 64, a former Labour
candidate who now backs the SNP.
But now Murphy is greeted on the
campaign trail by SNP taunts that
Labour, whose party colour is red, are
the ‘Red Tories’, in reference to the
While the SNP has added members
since the referendum, opinion polls show
its share of the vote has risen just a few
What has changed is that Scots now
appear to have broken a tradition of
voting SNP only in Scottish elections and
have now also fixed their sights on the
Such a change in voting habits could
shake the foundations of Britain’s political
A You Gov poll on April 8-9 found the
SNP had 49% support in Scotland, with
Labour on 25%. It was the biggest lead so
far for the SNP and the lowest level for
Labour since 2007 in a You Gov poll.
Under a uniform swing, the poll showed
the SNP would win 53 seats out of all
59 in Scotland, up from six in the 2010
general election, while Labour would
win four Scottish seats, down from 41 in
2010, making it Labour’s worst result in
Scotland since 1918, YouGov said.
The Liberal Democrats would win
one seat, down from 11 in 2010, while
the Conser vatives would hold its one
Losing so many seats would scupper
Miliband’s chances of leading a majority
government and potentially allow Prime
Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives
to win a second term.
Sturgeon has given mixed signals
on seeking a second independence
referendum but has warned that a vote on
Britain’s membership of European Union,
which Cameron has promised, could
trigger another referendum.
“The referendum last year was the
culmination of a long process of political
disillusionment,” Professor Gregor Gall,
editor of the Scottish Labour History
Society said. “ The whirlwind from that is
still being reaped for Labour.”
Scots turn from ‘Red Tories’
Labour leader Ed Miliband, left, and Scottish Labour Leader Jim Murphy at a joint news conference in Edinburgh.
Killer Robots is a
dreadful name, do
you not think? It
reminds you of the
killing machines in
the Terminator series
and the Battle Droids
of Star Wars. Lethal
Systems is a much
classier name, and the
acronym is even better: Laws. So the
international conference that opened at
the United Nations Geneva office on
Monday is about Laws.
Do not think drones here. Drones loiter
almost silently, high in the air above
your picnic, until the operator back in
Las Vegas decides that you are plotting
a terrorist attack and orders the drone
to kill you and your family. But at least
there is an operator, a human being in the
With Laws, there is not. The machine
sorts through its algorithms, and decides
on its own whether to kill you or not. So
you will probably be glad to know that
there are no operational machines of that
sort — yet. But military researchers in
various countries are working hard on
them, and they probably will exist in 10 or
Unless we ban them. That is what the
conference in Geneva is about. It is
a meeting of diplomats, arms control
experts, and ethics and human rights
specialists who, if they agree that this is
a real threat, will put it on the agenda
of the next November’s annual meeting
of the countries that have signed the
Convention on Certain Conventional
Weapons (CCW ). So it is early days yet,
and there is still a chance to nip this in
That is an awkward name, but not
nearly as clumsy as the full name:
the Convention on Prohibitions or
Restrictions on the Use of Certain
Conventional Weapons Which May Be
Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or
to Have Indiscriminate Effects. But it
actually has done some good already, and
it may do some more.
Protocol I bans “the use of weapons the
primary effect of which is to injure by
fragments which are not detectable by
x-rays in the human body”.
Protocol II requires countries that use
land mines to make them deactivate
automatically after a certain period.
Protocol V, added in 1995, prohibits the
use of blinding laser weapons.
The world would be a worse place if they
did not exist. They do exist, and by and
large they are obeyed. But none of these
weapons would make a decisive difference
in actual battle, whereas they cause or
would cause great human misery, so it was
easy to ban them.
The problem with killer robots is that
they could make a decisive difference in
battle. They do not get tired, they do not
get paralysed with fear, and if you lose
them, so what? It is just a machine. There
is no person in there. But that is precisely
the problem; there is no person in there.
Do you trust the machine to make
decisions about killing people — who is a
soldier and a legitimate target, who is an
innocent civilian — all by itself ?
Now, let us be honest about this. Human
soldiers on battlefields do not always
make wise, ethically correct decisions
about whom to kill and whom to leave
alive either. An example. There is sniper
fire coming from that house over there,
and you know that there are civilians
trapped in there too. You have to get rid
of those snipers or you will be stuck here
all day. You have two options.
You can send a squad of your own
soldiers in to clear the house. They will
kill the snipers, and most of the civilians
will be spared. But you may lose one or
two of your own soldiers doing it that way,
and these are people you know, for whose
lives you are directly responsible. Or you
can just call in artillery or an air strike and
mash the whole house. If you do not think
that is a hard choice to make, you do not
know much about human beings.
Whereas the killer robot will just go in
there and kill the snipers. No hesitation.
If its software is properly designed, it will
not kill the civilians.
Killer robots are a very bad idea, but
let us not get romantic about this. Wars
involve killing people, and whether you
are doing it with live soldiers or Lethal
Autonomous Weapons Systems, it is
never going to be morally tidy. The real
worry is how much easier it would be for
a technologically advanced country to
decide on war if it did not have to see lots
of its own soldiers get killed.
So by all means let us ban purpose-built
killer robots if we can; this is an initiative
that deserves our support. But bear in
mind that there will almost certainly be
autonomous machines eventually, and
some of them will certainly be capable of
killing. So it is also time to start working
on international rules governing their
Isaac Asomov ’s Three Laws of Robotics
(written in 1942) would be a good point
1. A robot may not injure a human being
or, through inaction, allow a human being
to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given
it by human beings, except where such
orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own
existence as long as such protection does
not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
Killer robots of the future
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
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