Home' Greymouth Star : September 25th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Friday, September 25, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1066 - Harold II, king of England, defeats the
Nor wegians under King Harald the Ruthless
at the battle of Stamford Bridge near York, but
falls against the Normans three weeks later.
1818 - The first transfusion using human
blood takes place at Guy ’s Hospital
in L ondon.
1957 - US National Guardsmen
escort nine black children into Little
Rock Central High School, Arkansas
as whites protest outside.
1962 - Sonny Liston wins the
world heavyweight boxing title after
knocking out Floyd Patterson.
1977 - South African black civil rights leader
Steve Biko is buried in King William’s Town
after dying in police custody.
1983 - Leopold III, king of Belgium 1934-51,
2005 - US actor and comedian Don Adams,
best known for his role as the bumbling secret
agent Maxwell Smart in the television espionage
spoof Get Smart, dies aged 82.
2012 - Popular US singer Andy Williams dies
at his home in Missouri aged 84.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
William Faulkner, US author
(1897-1962);Barbara Walters, US tv
commentator (1929-); Juliet Prowse,
Indian born actress (1936-1996);
Michael Douglas, US actor-
producer (1944-); Felicity Kendal,
British actress (1946-); Christopher
Reeve, US actor (1952-2004);
Heather Locklear, US actress (1961-
); Will Smith, US actor/singer
(1968-); Catherine Zeta-Jones,
Welsh-born actress (1969-); Hansie Cronje,
South African cricketer (1969-2002); Donald
Glover, US actor and rapper (1983-).
“ History is too serious to be left to
historians,” — Iain Macleod, British politician
“He . . . has given you a full understanding of
the truth.” — (1 Corinthians 1:5).
Over two inches of
rain which fell during
the past 24 hours
brought with it flash
floods in the Grey River and creeks all over the
district. Introducing the deluge early yesterday
afternoon was a snappy electrical storm,
followed by biting hail and almost incessant
A surprising feature about the storm was
that there was little damage left in its wake’.
One Greymouth whitebaiter, pondering on
the lack of bait, was awakened suddenly during
the thunderstorm yesterday afternoon. Mr Bill
Trowland was in the small shack on the “Big
Rock” when lightning struck the iron roof and
a flash of flame burst from a transistor radio
hanging on the wall.
The small shelter rocked for a moment and
the fisherman thought it was going to be
wrenched from its foundations into the river.
He was out of the shack, up the ladder and on
to the wharf in smart time.
“ What will you do now that you’ve retired?”
Cr G J Williams, longstanding member of
the Inangahua County Council and chairman
for the past few years, was asked at his last
monthly meeting. “ Well, I’ll be able to do some
work now,” was his reply.
Mr Williams has had 21 consecutive years
on the council but did not nominate last week
for a further term. Councillors expressed regret
at Mr Williams’ decision to retire from local
body politics and appreciation even came from
A letter received from Mr B Wealleans,
Reefton, stated that during the past decade
the county had seen many improved amenities
thanks to Cr Williams.
uFood for thought
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Steve Scherer and Francesca Piscioneri
ost southern Italian
businessmen do not
cross the ‘Ndrangheta
Saffioti did, and paid
a high price.
The owner of a successful cement
business near the small town of Palmi,
Saffioti in 2002 became one of only 30
people to turn State’s witness against
That year, out of deference to the
mobsters or fear, 55 of his 60 employees
quit, local banks closed his accounts, and
his clients shunned him. His company ’s
sales fell 97%, and he and his family have
lived under 24-hour armed guard ever
“Most businessmen learn to live with
the ‘Ndrangheta,” Federico Cafiero de
Raho, chief prosecutor in the region’s
largest city, Reggio Calabria, said of the
crime syndicate with a global reach and
deep pockets thanks to narcotics.
“It is the arbiter of who can do what in
the economy,” added Cafiero de Raho,
whose court resides in a city that even
saw its local government dissolved in
2012 because it had been infiltrated by
While the ‘Ndrangheta (pronounced
en-DRANG-eta) flourishes, Calabria,
the poorest of Italy’s 20 regions with a
population of almost two million, has
seen no benefit for its local economy.
Calabria is a natural and historical
treasure. It has almost 800km of pristine
beaches. The Apennine mountains rise
thousands of feet in the interior, and
hillsides tumble down to the sea, covered
in cacti and century-old olive groves.
Once at the heart of the Greek and
Roman empires, evocative ruins dot the
coastline. The Riace bronzes, considered
two of the most spectacular sculptures of
the ancient world, were pulled out of the
crystal clear waters of the Ionian coast.
But like the rest of the Mezzogiorno
— Italy’s six southern regions plus the
islands of Sicily and Sardinia — Calabria
has suffered seven straight years of
recession and is challenging Prime
Minister Matteo Renzi’s efforts to fuel a
From 2008 to 2014, output in Calabria,
which forms the toe of Italy’s boot,
shrank more than 11%. Unemployment
is three times that of the north and
annual per capita output is 15,800 euros
($17,600), the weakest in the country.
In July, Svimez research institute said
744,000 people left the Mezzogiorno
between 2001 and 2014, and more than
70% of the emigrants were under the age
of 34. The body warned of a “a permanent
state of underdevelopment ” in a region
also home to separate mafia groups in
Sicily, Campania and Puglia.
Renzi has promised to tackle the
mob and offer a “master plan” for the
withered south in coming weeks. But
filing cabinets in Rome are full of failed
economic initiatives for the south and
well-meaning anti-mob plans that have
For Saffioti, the reason growth has
stubbornly failed to take root in Calabria
is because the ‘Ndrangheta chokes it off.
“The ‘Ndrangheta wants a hand in
everything,” Saffioti, 54, saod. “If Calabria
were wealthy, there would be no need
for the ‘Ndrangheta. Real growth would
marginalise it.” “LIKE Guantanamo”
Thanks to Saffioti’s testimony and closed
circuit video recordings he made when he
paid the mob, 48 ‘Ndrangheta members
from nine different crime families went
to jail. According to his own records
and testimony, he paid the equivalent of
$4.45m in extortion over 18 years.
He could have fled and assumed a new
identity as part of the witness protection
programme, but he chose to stay.
Now both his home and adjacent
business are surrounded by 4m concrete
walls, barbed wire, towering spotlights
and dozens of video cameras. Four police
stand on duty.
“It looks like Guantanamo,” quips the
bearded and bear-like Saffioti. “But I’m
very happy to have rid my life of that
scum. I’m a free man now.” For many,
the Italian mob evokes images from
the fictional Godfather movies or The
Sopranos tv series, but the ‘Ndrangheta’s
power is real and thriving on the euro
zone’s southern periphery in the 21st
Over the past two decades, the
‘Ndrangheta, which takes its meaning
from ‘strong man’ in ancient Greek, has
eclipsed its more storied Sicilian cousin
Cosa Nostra by becoming Europe’s
biggest cocaine broker and establishing
criminal colonies across the globe,
prosecutor Cafiero de Raho said.
But the ‘Ndrangheta business model, he
says, requires it to be a local power broker
with broad consensus, especially among
businessmen, politicians, and the church.
The ‘Ndrangheta’s role as an
intermediary — from job provider to
lender of last resort — dates back to the
creation of Italy 150 years ago, when a
northern king conquered the south. The
mob has long cultivated a warped sort
of colonial mentality where the State is
considered a foreign occupier.
“ Whoever is born here must follow the
unwritten rules of a parallel state. To buy
or sell a property or open a business, you
go to the ‘Ndrangheta, not the bureau of
commerce,” Saffioti said, adding that no
deal was too small.
Before he turned State’s witness, he had
a job pouring concrete in the nearby town
of Polistena. Though he was going to earn
only some $280 for the work, the local
boss, Giovanni Longo, demanded his cut.
“He told me it wasn’t a question of
money, but of respect. He said: ‘It’s like
when you go visit someone’s home, you
knock on the door. You don’t just walk
in.” In 2001, a mafia hit man shot Longo
David Bumbaca, whose seaside
restaurant and bathing area in Locri is
just the kind of economic activity the area
needs, is weighing up whether his future
Over the past year because he refused to
pay extortion “as a matter of principle”,
two of his cars were burned, two men
wearing ski masks tried to beat him up
in front of his home, and he received an
anonymous letter with a death threat.
“My problems began when I started
to be visibly successful,” Bumbaca
said, sitting in a shaded corner of his
restaurant, which specialises in fresh
seafood salad and other local treats.
The 46-year-old Bumbaca got a
business degree in northern Italy, but he
says he returned out of love for Calabria.
“Now I don’t know how long my love
of this land will hold out. I’m thinking
more about selling and moving away than
investing at this point,” he said. “It’s not
a good situation for my family, and these
things weigh on you.” For now, in part
because magistrates and police are among
his regular clients, he is holding out. He
has reported the threats to police, but he
does not want to become a State’s witness
“I admire the people who make those
choices. I just don’t know if I could do
it. I want to be with my family and live a
safe life. I don’t want to be anyone’s hero,”
he said. — Reuters
Thriving mafia sucks hope
Gaetano Saffioti, centre, near police body guards at his cement plant near Palmi, southern Italy.
The Volkswagen emissions scandal has
broader implications than the potential
damage it can do to Europe’s biggest car
maker. It is the result of Europe backing
the wrong emissions-reducing technology
on a regulatory level.
There is now an opportunity to reverse
that error and force the continent ’s car
manufacturers to concentrate on hybrid
and electric vehicles. They have got the
technology and resources to reshape the
The scandal is about VW ’s bad business
decision to cheat testing equipment so it
could rush new engine models to market
in the United States It is also about a
failure of regulatory oversight and testing
technology. Most of all, however, it is
about diesel engines. They were the ones
performing so badly on the tests that VW
engineers had to look for a workaround
so marketers could trumpet the advent of
Volkswagen had an advantage in diesel
technology, which it wanted to leverage
in the US, for a reason. In the mid-1990s,
the European Commission and European
Union member countries’ governments
started a campaign of massive
inter vention to stimulate the use of diesel
engines in cars. At the beginning of that
decade, Europe and Japan had about 10%
of diesel cars on the road. After 1995, the
trends diverged widely.
In a 2013 paper, Michel Cames and
Eckard Helmers estimated that without
the government inter vention, diesel cars
would have accounted for about 15%
of vehicles on the road in 15 core EU
countries, but now they make up 35% of
This is the result of lower excise taxes
on diesel than on petrol throughout
most of Europe (the United Kingdom
is a notable exception) and relatively
lax environmental standards for diesel
engines, allowing higher emissions of
nitrogen oxide and harmful particles.
Some countries, such as Belgium, France
and Spain, have long imposed lower
taxes on diesel cars. In France, Peugeot
even obtained a government guarantee
of such a tax policy before prioritising
the development of diesel
engines over petrol ones.
As a result, most core
EU countries have more
diesel cars on the road
than any other kind. Only
the Netherlands, and to a
limited extent Germany,
have bucked the trend by
It is possible that the
incentives were the result
of oil industry lobbying —
as the sales of fuel oil fell,
refiners needed to sell more
diesel fuel, which is a similar
type of product. But they
probably stemmed from a
misunderstanding of the
“Green” regulation in
European countries has
centred on CO2 emissions,
and diesel exhaust contains
relatively little of that
gas. Smog-creating NOx
and soot particles were
overlooked until the ultra-
strict Euro 6 standard came
into effect this month.
The French authorities
have now realised this. It
would have been hard not
to; Paris now has a smog
problem, which it did not
have in the 1990s. “In
France, the diesel engine
has long been privileged,”
Prime Minister Manuel
Valls told an environmental
conference in November, 2014. “ That was
The government now wants to move
toward a diesel ban, which will force
Renault and Peugeot to make a difficult
transition since about two-thirds of the
cars they now sell in Europe are equipped
with diesel engines.
In fact, most European car makers have
a bad case of diesel dependence. Modern
diesel engines are capable of keeping
emissions below levels permissible under
Euro 6. Implementing the necessary
technology, however, makes the cars more
expensive, may affect their performance
and requires the owner to watch the level
of yet another liquid — urea, used to
So even the cars sold today do not
meet the emissions standards on the
road, regardless of how they do in tests.
Following the VW scandal, testing is
likely to become more rigorous both
in the US and in Europe, and more
producers will be caught and fined for
There will be only two paths for them
to take: Making sure the emissions
performance of all new diesel cars is
irreproachable — which is not easy in
the real world — or shifting production
toward hybrid and electric vehicles,
as Japanese companies did when they
decided diesel was on its way out.
In 2013, according to the International
Council of Clean Transportation, Japan
had 21% of hybrid and electric vehicles
in its fleet — more than any country in
the world. The European leaders in the
technology, Norway and the Netherlands,
had 12.8% and 11.3%, respectively.
Germany had just 1%.
European car makers have the
technology to compete in the electric
vehicle market: Their models outsell
Japanese and American ones in EU
countries where electric powertrains are
popular. In business terms, however, the
move away from diesel — which should
accelerate now — will be extremely costly,
much more expensive than the regulatory
fines the industry will probably face in
the aftermath of the VW scandal.
There is light at the end of the tunnel,
though. Once the transition is completed,
the Europeans, with their engineering
strength, will make the hybrid and
electric market much more competitive.
In the US, too, Volkswagen will be back.
After all, its e-Golf outsells the Tesla
Model S in Nor way today.
Leonid Bershidsky, a Bloomberg
View contributor, is a Berlin-based writer.
Europe backs the wrong emissions-reducing technology
A new diesel Volkswagen Golf TDI drives in Huntington Beach, California.
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