Home' Greymouth Star : May 29th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Friday, May 29, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1914 - The liner Empress of Ireland carrying
1477 passengers and crew collides with the
Norwegian freighter Storstadt in the St
Lawrence River in Canada. At least 1012 people
1923 - Palestine constitution is suspended
by British because Arabs refuse to
1941 - The HMAS Perth is
damaged while evacuating Allied
troops from Crete, in World War
1942 - Bing Crosby records Irving
Berlin’s White Christmas. It becomes
one of the best-selling songs of all time.
1942 - US actor John Barrymore dies.
1953 - Edmund Hillary of New Zealand
and Tensing Norgay of Nepal become the first
people to reach the top of Mount Everest.
1974 - The British government brings
Northern Ireland under direct rule from
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Charles II, British monarch (1630-1685);
Patrick Henry, US statesman (1736-1799); G
K Chesterton, English author (1874-1936);
Bob Hope, US comedian-actor (1903-2003);
John F Kennedy, US president
(1917-1963); Andre Brink, South
African writer (1935-2015); Al
Unser Sr, US racing driver (1939-);
La Toya Jackson, US singer (1956-);
Rupert Everett, British actor (1959-
); Melissa Etheridge, US singer
(1961-); Noel Gallagher, British
musician (1967-); Melanie ‘Scary Spice’ Brown,
British singer (1975-).
“The first and great commandment is: Don’t
let them scare you.” — Elmer Davis, American
news commentator (1890-1958).
“For by the grace given to me I say to
everyone among you not to think of yourself
more highly than you ought to think, but to
think with sober judgment, each according to
the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
— (Romans 12.3).
Speaking on the
decision to send New
Zealand troops to
Vietnam, the Prime Minister Mr Holyoake
said in Wellington yesterday: “ We believe the
majority of the country will support us. ” His
assertion was narrowly supported in a poll
conducted in Greymouth this morning.
Carried out by the Evening Star, the poll
revealed that of the 88 people questioned 34
were in favour of the Government ’s decision,
24 were against it and 18 were not prepared to
voice an opinion. Soon after it was launched
a definite pattern of answers began to emerge.
It became apparent that women were nearly
100% opposed to the Government ’s move.
Men, especially returned ser vicemen, were
mostly of the affirmative.
West Coast fishermen will seek an inter view
with Mr J R Wattie to discuss proposals for the
establishment of a fish canning industry here.
This decision followed yesterday’s meeting of
the Fishermen’s Association which was held
in Greymouth. After the meeting, the re-
appointed secretary of the association
Mr S Gladstone said: “ That Mr Wattie and
others interested be supplied all information
asked for and an inter view with Mr Wattie
be sought either in Greymouth or elsewhere
suitable to him.”
Mr Wattie had earlier in the week been
reported as being “very interested” in
establishing a fish canning industry here.
President of the Greymouth Chamber
of Commerce, Mr M G E Kelly said
this morning that the chamber would do
everything possible to further the project.
uFood for thought
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Swati Pandey and Jane Wardell
early a year after
embarking on a multi-
million dollar quest to
solve one of aviation’s
mysteries, authorities and
search teams are being criticised
over their approach to finding Flight
MH370 in the remote southern Indian
The Australian-led search, already the
most expensive in aviation history, has
found no trace of the Malaysia Airlines
jet or its 239 passengers and crew,
prompting calls for a rethink into the way
the mission is conducted.
Experts involved in past deep water
searches say the search to find MH370
could easily miss the plane as D utch
company Fugro NV, the firm at the
forefront of the mission, is using
inappropriate technology for some terrain
and inexperienced personnel for the
highly specialised task of hunting man-
Heightening concerns, Australian
authorities said another search vessel, the
Go Phoenix, which is using the world’s
best deep sea search equipment and crew
provided by United States firm Phoenix
International Holdings Inc, would pull
out within weeks. No reason was given
for withdrawing the vessel from the
“Fugro is a big company but they don’t
have any experience in this kind of search
and it ’s really a very specialised job,” said
Paul-Henry Nargeolet, a former French
naval officer who was hired by France’s
air accident investigation agency BEA to
co-ordinate the search and recovery of
Air France Flight AF447 in 2009.
“This is a big job,” Nargeolet said. “I’m
not an Australian taxpayer, but if I was,
I would be very mad to see money being
spent like that.”
Fugro, which was contracted by the
Australian government to operate
three ships pulling sonar across the vast
60,000km search zone, has rejected
claims it is using the wrong equipment,
saying its gear is rigorously tested.
Still, Nargeolet ’s concerns are echoed by
others in the tightly held deep sea search
and rescue industry, who are worried that
unless the search ships pass right over any
wreckage the sonar scanning either side
of the vessels will not pick it up.
Experts also question the lack of data
released by the Australian Transport
Safety Bureau (ATSB) on the activities of
the Fugro ships.
Three of the bidders rejected for the
MH370 contract, US firm Williamson
and Associates, France’s ixBlue SAS and
Mauritius-based Deep Ocean Search Ltd,
have taken the unusual step of detailing
their concerns — months down the track
— directly to Australian authorities in
correspondence viewed by Reuters.
Several other experts are also critical,
including some who requested anonymity,
citing the close knit nature of the
industry which has just a few companies
and militaries capable of conducting
“I have serious concerns that the
MH370 search operation may not be able
to convincingly demonstrate that 100%
sea floor coverage is being achieved,”
Mike Williamson, founder and president
of Williamson and Associates said.
Australia took over the search for
the missing plane from Malaysia in
late March last year, three weeks after
MH370 disappeared off the radar during
a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The search area was determined by
satellite data that revealed the plane
turned back sharply over the Malaysian
Peninsula and flew undetected for
another six hours before crashing into the
inhospitable southern Indian Ocean.
The unchartered waters, buffeted by
the Roaring Forties winds, stretch as
deep as 6km, hiding old volcanoes and
cliffs in their depths. Australia, Malaysia
and China earlier this month agreed to
double the search area to 120,000 square
Whether Phoenix International, which
has US navy contracts and found the
recorders of AF447, will be part of that
extended search area is unclear after the
ATSB said that Go Phoenix, owned
by Australian firm Go Marine, will
cease operating on June 19. Phoenix
International, which was contracted
separately by the Malaysian government,
did not immediately return calls about
its position. The Malaysian government
also did not reply to requests for
Two of the Fugro ships traverse up and
down 2.4 km-wide strips of the sea floor,
pulling via a cable a ‘towfish’ that contains
sonar equipment, in a technique often
called ‘mowing the lawn’.
The towfish coasts around 100m above
the sea floor, sending out sound waves
diagonally across a swath, or broad strip,
to produce a flattened image of the
The Fugro ships are using sonar
provided by EdgeTech, the same
US company whose sonar was used
successfully to find Air France AF447
after it crashed in the Atlantic Ocean.
However, experts say while the type of
sonar equipment being used by Fugro
gives good results in flat surfaces, it is less
well-suited to rugged under water terrain,
a world of confusing shadows.
The ATSB has routinely released
detailed data from Go Phoenix, but has
not done so for the Fugro ships. Experts
have cobbled have gauged the Edge Tech
sonars are operating at swathes beyond
their optimum capabilities, resulting in
poor quality images and leaving side gaps
“It makes no sense to be using fine
scale tools to cover a massive area; it
is like mowing an entire wheat field
with a household lawnmower,” said
Rob McCallum, a vice-president at
Williamson and Associates.
Fugro deputy managing director Paul
Kennedy said the sonar is running
within its capabilities, noting the system
identified five ‘debris-like’ objects in
700m deep water at a test range off the
West Australian coast.
“The test range gives us full confidence
the sonars will see the debris field when
we cross it,” he said.
Fugro is known for its expertise in
high-quality low-resolution mapping
of sea floors but has far less experience
than some of the rejected bidders in
deep water aircraft searches. It has been
involved in 17 search and recovery
efforts for aircraft or ships over 15 years,
compared with some of the bidders who
search for 4-5 aircraft every year.
Kennedy pointed to the find earlier
this month of a previously uncharted
shipwreck as evidence Fugro was capable
of finding the plane.
Concerning experts further is the fact
that the third Fugro vessel, which was
being used to scan the gaps between the
other two ships with an autonomous
under water vehicle (AUV ), was this
month taken out of action because of
encroaching wild winter weather.
That leaves the daily search without
an AUV, a much more nimble piece of
equipment that was vital in successful
search for AF447.
“ We are continuously reviewing the
search data as it comes in and we are
satisfied that the coverage and detection
standards we have specified are being met
or exceeded,” ATSB Chief Commissioner
Martin Dolan said in an e-mail.
Search all at sea
Another layer of
Why am I not filled with enthusiasm
by the description of the new regional
economic development agency?
(Greymouth Star, May 27).
Is it because it looks like a further
bureaucrat, controlled by the existing
bureaucrats in a non-transparent manner,
is to be drawn into the intellectual black
hole which sits over the Coast? The image
of gagged men sitting in a room holding
hands is truly Kafka-esque.
The regional council is currently
consulting on a regional plan which
is intellectually muddled. The DWC
chief executive incessantly ponders on
how many angels can be seated on the
head of a pin — how is an economic
organisation called Development West
Coast not into economic development?
And no one is allowed to publicly say
anything contentious. Meanwhile, Mayor
Kokshoorn continues to rabbit on about
‘ black gold’ — is this what is meant by
contentious (or is it simply
When the Grey District Council was
forming its economic development
strategy by calling open meetings, a
presentation was given on the concept of
small business incubators, a concept that
had worked well in a United Kingdom
town facing similar issues. This involves
providing a subsidised working space for
people wanting to trial a small business
concept, as well as them being able to
share other infrastructural costs.
The proposition was firmly rejected
by a report from the chief executive,
but I would suggest that if some of the
current empty retail space in the towns
was occupied by people publicly giving
something a go, it would be a far better
use of the $300,000.
Meanwhile, I suspect the Greymouth
Star will continue to milk the topic for
the scandal it may provide rather than
give analysis and debate.
We held a forum on the topic of
sustainable economic development on
May Day with a range of local, national
and international well-informed speakers.
No coverage was provided by the local
press. A summary of the speeches was
forwarded, nothing acknowledged.
Unfortunately, the local media is part of
the black hole, in my opinion.
Finally, in this undoubtedly vain attempt
to resist the fiercely attractive force, let me
make a final suggestion. Given the current
angst of local young people with regard
to being heard, why not establish, like
in other towns, a youth council, meeting
once a month in the council chambers,
with access to a modest budget? It would
be something to do (something which
used to be called democracy), which could
well lead to other things to do.
I noted in a recent article, an extra
$500,000 has been allocated for palliative
care funding in the West Coast, including
extra support for terminally ill at home
and aged-care facilities. Whether it is for
the benefit or the detriment of the patient
depends on how the funding is used.
Many people confuse palliative care
with terminal care. Some involved in
developing the health funding system may
also confuse the meaning.
I was once told about a patient who had
his palliative care services removed after
six months. Apparently, palliative care
funds can only be used for a maximum of
Palliative care usually means the focus
is on improving or maintaining quality of
life and not prolonging life, and applies to
many conditions apart from cancer. One
of the side effects of improving quality
of life is prolongation of life. Palliative
approach to treatment does not require
the patient life expectancy to be less
than six months. For some patients, it
can mean a life expectancy of decades,
depending on the quality of life and the
expectation of the patient.
The term palliative treatment can also
be used to describe non-curative cancer
treatments including chemotherapy and
radiotherapy. Incurable cancer does not
mean life expectancy of less than six
months. Again, the life expectancy can be
decades, depending on the characteristics
of cancer and the response to treatment.
Often under such circumstances, life-
prolonging treatment may be appropriate
for non-cancer related medical problems,
depending on the wishes of the patient.
Palliative care is sometimes used as
an excuse for failing to assess the cause of
the symptoms in patients managed
at home or in aged-care facilities.
Palliative care patients sometimes have
simply treatable problems but the
clinical assessment may require
considerable clinical expertise.
This National Government seems to
have found a soft target in Kiwisaver.
Firstly, the $1040 annual tax credit was
reduced to $520 and now the $1000
kickstart, which will not affect those who
are already enrolled in the scheme, has
I do not think anyone who is in
Kiwisaver will begrudge this if the money
is being used to reduce child poverty, but
Mr Key has said time and again that the
best way out of poverty is through work
so where were the work initiatives in the
budget, apart from compelling single
mothers to seek work when their youngest
child turns three? Maybe offering a cash
incentive to employers to take on the
long-term unemployed may help.
It will only be a matter of time before
the $520 tax credit is scrapped but even
without it, Kiwisaver is such a great
scheme that anyone who is in work and
not in Kiwisaver must really be financially
R A Stewart
Scientists say they have created a small
robot that can recover from damage, in
a step towards machines that mimic the
remarkable adaptive powers of humans
The feat could one day lead to first-
responder robots which can cope with
dangers that today would put them out of
operation, they said this week.
“The idea is to have robots that can
sur vive in hostile environments such as
a Fukushima-type nuclear disaster,” said
Jean-Baptiste Mouret of the Pierre and
Marie Curie University in Paris.
“If we send in robots, they have to be
able to pursue their mission even if they
are damaged, and not just come to a halt
in the middle of a reactor,” he said.
The research, published in the journal
Nature, is inspired by the learning abilities
of the natural world.
If a dog hurts its paw, for instance, it will
seek to move differently to avoid putting
pressure on the painful wound.
The adaptive skill comes from experience
— from knowing how the body moves and
exploring the options that are available.
This is what Mouret ’s team sought to
replicate in a powerful computer program
to guide a six-legged 50cm walking robot.
The core of the programme is to build
a knowledge base for the robot of how
it moves, and to assign to each of these
movements a ‘value’ as to how useful they
could be in a crisis.
The ‘values’ are rather like intuition.
In the case of the injured dog, the animal
knows that to walk again, it has to learn how
to shift its weight around. Behaviours such
as sniffing or wagging its tail are rejected at
this time because they will not help.
The ‘values’ are then used to guide a
learning algorithm, called Intelligent Trial
and Error, that conducts experiments to
see if compensatory behaviour will help
the robot to continue its mission even
Using it, the prototype robot found a
way to keep walking after just a couple
of minutes, even when two of its legs had
The team also used the programme on
a flexible robotic arm, which was tasked
with dropping a ball into a bin.
The limb swiftly learned ways of carrying
on with its mission, even when several of
its ‘ joints’ were broken. — AFP
Self-healing robots could aid in disasters
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