Home' Greymouth Star : June 15th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Monday, June 15, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1752 - Benjamin Franklin demonstrates
relationship between lightning and electricity
when he launches a kite during a storm at
Philadelphia. 1888 - Death of Frederick III,
eighth King of Prussia and German emperor.
1919 - Englishmen John Alcock and Arthur
Brown complete the first non-stop
1920 - The first radio broadcast
of live music takes place from
1985 - Experts in Brazil
reassemble skull and skeleton of
body believed to be that of Nazi war
criminal Josef Mengele.
1994 - Israel and the Vatican establish
full diplomatic relations, after centuries of
bitterness between Roman Catholics and Jews.
1996 - A bomb explodes in a van near a
shopping centre in Manchester, England,
injuring more than 200 people.
1996 - Death of Ella Fitzgerald, America’s
‘first lady of song’, aged 79.
2014 - Casey Kasem, radio broadcaster who
became the king of the top 40 countdown dies,
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Thomas Randolph, English poet-dramatist
(1605-1635); Thomas Mitchell, British
explorer of Australia, (1792-1855); Edvard
Grieg, Nor wegian composer
(1843-1907); Yuri Andropov,
Soviet president (1914-1982);
Johnny Hallyday, French singer
and actor (1943-); Demis Roussos,
Greek singer (1947- 2015); Russell
Hitchcock, Australian singer of Air
Supply fame (1949-); James Belushi,
US actor (1954-); Helen Hunt, US actor
(1963-); Courteney Cox Arquette, US actor
(1964-); Ice Cube, US rapper-actor (1969-).
“ War is a contagion. ” — Franklin D
Roosevelt, US president (1882-1945).
“Then He poured water into a basin and
began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe
them with the towel that was tied around
Him.” — ( John 13.5).
The Omoto ‘greasy-
back’ is still on the
move, and since
Friday night the road
and railway line have carried about 7 to 8 feet
closer to the Grey River. Both the Ministry
of Works and Railways Department have had
men on the spot all weekend.
Railway employees have had to drag the
line back to its right position on numerous
occasions, while Ministry of Works men
have been required to use rock and fill on the
hillside section of the road to keep it open for
traffic. A Railways official said he expected the
current movement to cease shortly, as the rain
had ceased, and the material sliding down the
hill would gradually dry out and become stable
until the next heavy rainfall.
Only a few hours before Mrs L Griffen
had been celebrating her 81st birthday with
a few relatives and friends. At 4.30 yesterday
morning she was homeless after fire swept
through her wooden home at Ikamatua.
Virtually nothing was saved.
The other occupant of the house at the time,
Mr Basil Climo, Mrs Griffen’s son, awoke
shortly before 4.30am to find the house full
of smoke. He and his mother rushed from the
house in their night attire. The Ikamatua fire
brigade arrived soon after only to find that
the fire had burst through the floor and had a
complete hold on the house. Only a burnt shell
remained at daylight.
A neighbour, Mrs A N McVicar took them
in for the night. She said not only were the
occupants upset by the ordeal but also the
neighbours. “It gave us all a nasty fright,” she
said, “we’re all still a bit shaky. ”
uFood for thought
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ff a corridor at
world culture agency
a modest office with
potted plants and three
small desks has become the war room in
the fight against looted antiquities from
Iraq and Syria.
“UNESCO has no blue helmets,” its
deputy heritage director Mechtild Rossler
said, using the common jargon for United
“ We work with three people ... So what
do you want us to do?”
Islamic State’s pillaging of the ancient
Assyrian city of Nimrud, video of
museum statues and carvings destroyed
in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and now the
seizure of the Syrian heritage site of
Palmyra have underscored the world’s
impotence at saving some of its most
precious archaeological treasures.
With major powers not willing to put
troops on the ground, Islamic State
fighters have extended the reach of their
fundamentalist caliphate against depleted
and demoralised government forces in
both Syria and Iraq.
The world’s failure to stem daily
killings, atrocities and mounting
humanitarian crises in the two countries
understandably gets most attention.
But its inability to safeguard heritage
sites from an array of threats is also
storing up trouble, as much-needed
future livelihoods based on tourism are
ruined and potentially lucrative sources of
funding for Islamist insurgents created.
The fear that the trade in looted
artefacts can aggravate the conflicts
has earned them the nickname ‘blood
antiquities’ — adapting the ‘ blood
diamond ’ tag coined for the gems that
have financed fighters in African wars
from Angola to Sierra Leone.
“The situation in Syria and Iraq is
unprecedented,” said Rossler, whose
career has spanned the 1993 destruction
of Bosnia’s Ottoman-era Mostar bridge
by Croatian forces and the Taliban
dynamiting of Afghanistan’s Buddhas of
Bamiyan in 2001.
Yet if the world has had ample
experience of assaults on cultural sites,
the quest for a counter-strategy is uphill.
UNESCO, headed by polyglot
Bulgarian ex-foreign minister Irina
Bokova, has led world calls for a halt to
the destruction. But its own resources are
limited, not least because of the United
States decision in 2011 to cut off funding
of the body after other members backed a
Palestinian bid for full membership.
No fewer than six international
conventions have been drawn up over
the years to protect cultural heritage.
Alarm bells have been sounded in United
Nations Security Council resolutions
and in declarations by heads of state, top
museums and the art world.
But, despite some successes in
recovering objects, the effort is hamstrung
by the patchwork approach of national
authorities, a failure to tackle smuggling
networks head-on and a lack of even
basic information about the market they
“ When a crisis like this erupts, we feel
the need to act. But we don’t know what
to do,” said Jason Felch, co-author of the
book Chasing Aphrodite that reported on
how looted antiquities can end up in the
hands of the world’s museums.
Syria’s famed archaeological sites have
suffered extensive damage during four
years of conflict, with gems such as the
old souk in Aleppo devastated by the
fighting. But as the civil war has ground
on, the threat of plunder has risen to the
In late-2014, media around the world
leapt on the assertion by a US-funded
archaeologist that antiquities-trafficking
had become IS’s second largest source
of revenue after oil sales. Some even
estimated the take ran into billions of
At around the same time, satellite
images published by the US government
and others showed heritage sites such as
Syria’s 3rd century BC Dura-Europos
city increasingly pockmarked by crude
excavation pits over a period from mid-
2012 to early 2014.
Some experts believe the worst of the
looting took place when the site was
under the control of the western —
and Arab-backed Free Syrian Army,
suggesting the problem is rampant and
afflicting many sites regardless of which
faction is in charge.
While those images are still widely
accepted as evidence that theft is taking
place on a huge scale, doubts have since
emerged about the methodology and
data basis of estimates of the amount of
proceeds that have flown to IS or other
“ We still need to figure out the
market itself,” Richard Stengel, US
Department of State Under Secretary
for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs,
acknowledged at a conference held at
Paris’s Louvre museum this month.
UNESCO is similarly circumspect.
Rossler puts the revenue yield to IS in
the ‘high millions’ of dollars, but said
her organisation did not have an official
Black markets in any goods are
notoriously difficult to quantify and
ultimately the debate may yet prove
moot: the very fact looting is taking place
on IS-controlled sites suggests the group
is confident it will one day derive revenue
Yet the episode reveals the continued
lack of institutional knowledge about a
trade thought to piggy-back smuggling
networks for other illicit goods such as
narcotics, starting in neighbours such as
Turkey and Lebanon and ending in the
That is mirrored by the patchiness of
UNESCO’s 1970 flagship convention
aimed at prohibiting the illicit trade
in cultural property has been ratified
by some 130 of its 195 member states.
But Rossler said only two countries, the
United States and Switzerland, directly
While February ’s UN Security Council
Resolution on Syria outlaws exports,
there have been few national moves
to ban all sales of Syrian and Iraqi
antiquities outright because of the harm
that could do to secondary markets for
The British Museum said this week
it was holding for safekeeping an
undisclosed artefact illegally removed
from Syria, and there have been sightings
on e-commerce websites of limestone
figures believed to be from Palmyra.
But so far, few objects are known to
have surfaced in art circles, suggesting
to some that traffickers are repeating
a tactic used after the Iraq war when
looted objects were stored for a period of
time before being quietly placed on the
Author Felch said such a “cooling off
period ” can be used by illicit traders
to ease the entry of an object into the
legitimate art world, often via a private
collector who will donate it to a museum
in return for a tax break worth much
more than the purchase price.
Others argue the existence of super-
rich collectors ready to pay huge sums to
privately display illicit treasures may owe
more to Hollywood than reality. They say
the real effort must lie with persuading
bona fide art players to reject anything
whose provenance cannot be proven
Alice Farren-Bradley at London-based
Art Recovery Group, a private company
that runs a database of registered
antiquities, said everything from solid
documentation to common sense is
needed to determine whether the origin
of an object was suspect.
“It’s that gut feeling when you are
offered something ... for example if it’s
got chisel-marks on it. I did archaeology
and one does not excavate with a chisel.
You go in as lightly as possible,” she said,
noting that much looting is done quickly,
clumsily and after nightfall.
Farren-Bradley argued that schemes
to establish the exact provenance of
objects can help by undermining the
market value of any good seen as suspect,
therefore removing the financial incentive
for it to be looted in the first place.
UNESCO’s Rossler agreed, saying
the organisation was working with
auctioneers Christie’s and Sotheby’s to
persuade art professionals never to buy
anything without clear documentation.
Yet the setbacks encountered by the
‘ Kimberley Process’, a certification
scheme launched in 2000 to combat
blood diamonds, show it will not be easy.
As recently as last November, a UN panel
concluded that illicit diamond sales were
still funding a bloody conflict in Central
Felch argues a more direct route would
be to provide proper funding for law
enforcement agents in potential end-
markets such as the United States and
elsewhere to help undercover efforts
to penetrate smuggling networks and
ensnare the ringleaders.
“Federal agents are being offered looted
stuff out of Syria,” he said. “But they don’t
even have the resources to set up a sting
operation.” — Reuters
‘Blood antiquities’ obstacles
A general view of the Temple of Bel in the historical city of Palmyra, Syria.
Pope Francis will call on all people to
be ‘stewards of creation’ and address the
hot-button topic of climate change this
week in the most feverishly awaited papal
encyclical in decades.
By making environmental protection a
moral imperative, his inter vention could
spur the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to
lobby policymakers on ecology issues.
Francis has already used his two-year-
old papacy to lead in areas such as the
resumption of diplomatic ties between
Cuba and the United States, a deal the
Francis has said he wants the document,
called Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the
Care of O ur Common Home, to be part
of the debate at a major United Nations
summit on climate change later this year.
Speaking to tens of thousands people
in Saint Peter’s Square, he said it was
‘addressed to everyone’. He hoped it could
spark ‘renewed attention to situations
of environmental degradation and to
recovery’ and lead to ‘greater responsibility
for the common home that God has
entrusted to us’.
People familiar with the encyclical say it
will note the impact of climate change on
the poor and discuss inequalities of wealth
— already a major theme for the first
pope from Latin America, where poverty
is widespread — and population issues.
Rich nations will be asked to re-examine
‘throw-away ’ lifestyles.
Politicians have increasingly
acknowledged religion’s role in the
environmental debate, although anxious
conser vatives and climate change sceptics,
particularly in the United States, have
excoriated the Pope for delving into
“If you are concerned about God, a
creator and His creation, then you have
to be concerned that His creation is not
destroyed,” said French Foreign Minister
Laurent Fabius, who will host the make-or
break summit in Paris from November 30
to December 11.
The first papal encyclical, or teaching
letter, dedicated to the environment is
expected to have particular sway over
Latin American nations whose votes could
be crucial at the summit.
The Vatican will hold a private briefing
for ambassadors from some 170 countries
after it is published. “I have strict orders,
as do many of my colleagues, to send it
instantly to my government,” said one
Much of the pre-publication frenzy
has focused on what it might say about
climate change. Environmental activists
are hoping to use the Pope’s words as a big
gun in their arsenal to clinch international
agreements to stem global warming.
Persons familiar with the document say
it gives credence by default to scientific
consensus that much of global warming is
caused by human activity but that neither
climate change activists or sceptics will be
able to claim total victory.
Francis took his name from Saint Francis
of Assisi, patron of ecology and the title
of the encyclical comes from one of the
saint ’s prayers in praise of nature.
The Pope hinted at what he would say
while talking to reporters about climate
change in January.
“I don’t know if it is all (man’s fault) but
the majority is, for the most part, it is man
who continuously slaps down nature,”
he said. “ I think man has gone too far ...
thank God that today there are voices that
are speaking out about this.”
At a conference at
the Vatican in April,
the Holy See teamed
up with the United
Nations and came
down firmly against
sceptics who deny
human activities help
change global weather
The final statement
of the conference,
attended by United
General Ban Ki-
Moon and some 60
leaders and diplomats,
climate change is a
scientific reality ...”
Santorum, a Catholic
and climate change
sceptic, said the Church
would be “better off
leaving science to the
a commentator for the
conser vative US website
First Things, published
by The Institute on
Religion and Public
Life, called Francis
“an ideologue and a meddlesome egoist ”
who was “sacralising politics and bending
theology to premature, intemperate policy
endorsements (on climate change). ”
A papal encyclical is part of a pope’s
‘ordinary magisterium’, or teaching
function, meaning it is authoritative but
“ He doesn’t thereby canonise or
dogmatise a scientific theory, which by its
very nature is subject to falsification and
revision,” said John Cavadini, professor of
theology and director of the Institute for
Church Life at the University of Notre
Dame in the United States.
“ But it is within the Pope’s competence
and authority to call attention to our
moral responsibilities and duties in the
face of the best scientific theory out there,
especially when the consequences of not
doing so are serious or even drastic, and
where silence could be interpreted as
scandalous,” he said. — Reuters
Pope hopes to influence debate at climate change summit
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