Home' Greymouth Star : March 9th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Thursday, March 9, 2017
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uLetters to the editor
1796 - Future French emperor Napoleon
Bonaparte marries Josephine de Beauharnais,
widow of a former French officer executed
during the revolution.
1831 - The French Foreign Legion is founded
by King Louis Philippe with its headquarters
1864 - In the US Civil War,
General Ulysses S Grant is appointed
commander-in-chief of the Union
1870 - Death of Maria Ann
“Granny” Smith, who gave her name
to a green apple propagated a couple
of years earlier on her property in the
Ryde-Eastwood area of Sydney.
1916 - Germany declares war on Portugal
on grounds that Portugal had seized German
shipping in Portuguese harbours.
1956 - Archbishop Makarios, whom the
British suspected of terrorism, is deported from
Cyprus to the Seychelles.
1959 - Barbie is displayed at the American
International Toy Fair in New York, deemed to
be the doll’s first public appearance.
1976 - Forty-two people die in Cavalese in
Italy in the world’s worst cable car disaster.
One teenage girl sur vives.
1990 - Two Germanys begin preliminary
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Amerigo Vespucci, Italian explorer for whom
America is named (1451-1512); Tom Roberts,
Australian artist (1856-1931); Vyacheslav
Mikhailovich Molotov, Soviet foreign minister
(1890-1986); Samuel Barber, US composer
(1910-1981); Mickey Spillane, US
author (1918-2006); Lloyd Price, US
singer (1933-); Yuri Gagarin, Russian
astronaut, first man in space (1934-
1968); Mickey Gilley, US country
singer (1936-); Raul Julia, Puerto
Rican actor (1940-1994); Bobby
Fischer, US chess player (1943-
2008); Linda Fiorentino, US actor (1958-);
Juliette Binoche, French actress (1964-); Tony
Lockett, Australian Rules footballer (1966-);
Emmanuel Lewis, US actor (1971-); Lucas
Neill, Australian soccer player (1978-); Oscar
Isaac, Guatemalan-born US actor (1979-);
Kim Tae-yeon, Korean pop star (1989-).
“ It is the nature of man to rise to greatness
if greatness is expected of him.” — John
Steinbeck, American author (1902-1968).
“ Keep yourselves in the love of God; look
for ward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ
that leads to eternal life.” — Jude 1:21
Members of the
Park Board have
seen at first hand the
almost insuperable difficulties that would be
associated with the building of a road from the
West Coast to The Hermitage via the Copland
Pass. Accompanying the board members
on their ‘familiaristion trip’ to the southern
boundary of their park was resident engineer
for the Ministry of Works Mr H A Grigg.
Today Mr Grigg admitted that building a
road in the upper reaches of the park would be
“extremely difficult ” but conceded that nothing
was impossible from the engineering point of
view providing the money was available.
Board member Mr L M Schaef said he
thought the difficulties associated with
building a road and tunnel through the
Copland Pass would be insuperable though “it
is an exciting idea. ”
The suggestion of an access road from the
West Coast via the Copland Pass to The
Hermitage was made as long ago as 1920.
Possibilities were discussed with Ministry of
Works officials and the prime minister at the
time, Mr Coates, but nothing eventuated.
One of the gaps in Mackay Street is to be
sealed shortly. The section on which stood the
furniture factory of Duncan Hardie Ltd, until
it was demolished after a disastrous fire last
year, has been purchased by the neighbouring
hardware firm of John Burns and Co, and the
firm intends to build a new showroom on the
Greymouth manager Mr R Hamilton said
this morning that the property has been
purchased from the Coates estate. It extends
from Mackay Street through to Guinness
uFood for thought
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The accepted wisdom concerning
New Zealand Superannuation is
that it will become unsustainable
if nothing is done to make it more
affordable. I agree. But what the
acceptably wise believe needs to
be done, and what actually needs
to be done, are two very different
There is no institution more
acceptably wise than the New
Zealand Treasury — and its
prescription for NZ Super is harsh.
Not only does it favour the age of
eligibility being pushed out beyond
65, but it also wants that to happen
a lot sooner than 2040.
That is by no means all. To
rein-in the long-term cost of the
scheme, Treasury also favours
changing the way the quantum of
NZ Super payments is calculated.
As is so often the case with
Treasury, however, there is more
to these gnomic prognostications
than meets the eye.
In political-economic terms,
Treasury is as dry as the Atacama
Desert. As both the fountainhead
and champion of neo-liberalism
in New Zealand, it operates
according to a remorseless
set of right-wing ideological
assumptions. None of these are
compatible with the principle
of universal entitlement which
lies at the heart of the NZ
Superannuation scheme, as
recommendations have very little
to do with NZ Superannuation,
per se. Rather, they are based
on what it considers to be an
“acceptable” level of long-term
government debt. This it has set at
20% of GDP.
Possible policy pathways to this
ideologically arrived-at figure
include quietly enhancing the
revenue-gathering effects of
fiscal drag; increasing the rate of
GST; and significantly reducing
Government spending on health.
It is easy to see why the Prime
Minister chose the option of
Equally easy to see is Bill
English’s determination to lead an
“austerity government ”. Reducing
long-term Crown indebtedness
to 20% of GDP is simply not
achievable without savage cuts in
The biggest public spenders, by
far — NZ Superannuation, social
welfare, health and education —
will be the first to feel English’s
austerity lash. If the National-led
Government is returned for a
fourth term, then New Zealanders
should brace themselves for the
same sort of harrowing headlines
currently besetting the United
Kingdom and Europe.
None of the right’s nostrums,
however, adequately address the
devastating impact which the
rising trend of young people
renting, rather than owning,
their dwelling-places is bound to
have on the affordability of NZ
The key assumption of the
present scheme’s defenders is that
a very large proportion of New
Zealanders aged 65 and over
will continue to enjoy freehold
possession of their own home. NZ
Super simply is not configured to
provide an income large enough
to cover not only the over-65’s
basic living expenses, but their
accommodation costs as well.
Those Generation Xers who
airily opine that “superannuation
probably won’t be there for me”,
really need to think this through.
Are they truly that confident
of their ability to save a capital
sum large enough to carry them
through their old age unaided by
the State? If not, how do they see
themselves surviving on a pension
currently set at a figure well below
their weekly accommodation
A Treasury less obsessed with
leading us further into the
arid wilderness of free market
economics would already be
grappling with this looming social
disaster. A government genuinely
concerned with the future welfare
of its younger citizens would be
demanding answers — right here,
Politicians of the left, in
particular, should be looking
at the linkages between
housing unaffordability and the
increasingly unsupportable burden
NZ Super is predicted to become
in 30 to 40 years’ time.
This is not a baby boomer crisis:
it is a crisis which, if a radical
revision of New Zealand’s entire
system of economic management
is not undertaken more-or-less
immediately, is going to engulf
the boomers’ children and
The redesign of our welfare
State must begin now. Not
on the basis of meeting the
arbitrarily determined targets
of ideologically-driven fanatics,
but on the basis of meeting
the measurable and predictable
needs of the entire population.
Everything must be thrown into
the mix: taxation policy; housing
policy; health policy, education
policy and, most importantly, how
to guarantee a living income to
young and old alike.
The alternative to systemic
change is systemic collapse. With
old age becoming, once again,
a looming spectre of misery,
loneliness and despair.
Chris Trotter is a left-wing
The unspoken superannuation crisis
Trapped by war, wall
Syrian families dig in for long exile
awaz Atmeh and Mohammed
Musa’s families were among
the first to flee Russia’s
inter vention in the Syrian
conflict, sheltering in tents
on boggy ground near the
Turkish border as aircraft bombed their
villages further east.
As Syria’s battle lines have shifted in
nearly 18 months since, the two young
men have watched their camp swell with
families and fighters escaping government
territorial gains, insurgent infighting and
Islamic State violence.
The blue and white tarpaulin tents
have doubled, Atmeh says, and rubbish
is strewn along a shallow ditch running
through the camp, where boys play
football and men sit on plastic chairs to
pass the time, sometimes going out on
fruitless job hunts.
Atmeh and Musa, who first spoke when
they arrived at the camp in Idlib province
in October 2015, still hope they will one
day go back to their homes in the southern
But each new twist in the conflict makes
return a more distant dream for those
huddling at the border.
Trapped between fighting in western
Syria on one side, and an increasingly
tightly sealed Turkish frontier on the
other, they are beginning to prepare for a
lifetime of exile.
“ We’re on Turkey ’s doorstep, but
forbidden from crossing — Turkey has put
a wall up, and shoots at anyone who gets
close,” Atmeh, 33, said, speaking by phone
from his camp.
“In the other direction — inside Syria —
we can only move about 15km away from
the camp,” before getting dangerously
close to the insurgent infighting in Idlib.
“ We can’t go back to our homes — the
regime is in control of that area. I’m
wanted by the government, and for my
family it’s the same — half of us are
accused of terrorism” for sympathising
with the Syrian uprising that began in
2011, he said.
The Syrian battlefield has shifted since
Russia began its air campaign in support
of President Bashar al-Assad, and has
sent more displaced flooding to the Idlib
Assad won back Aleppo in December,
forcing many rebels and their families to
leave to Idlib in the process. Insurgents
and their kin have also headed there
from around Damascus as the Syrian
government flushes out rebel-held pockets
of territory near the capital.
More recently, Syrians in Idlib province
itself have fled fighting between jihadist
insurgents and more moderate factions.
United Nations data shows some of
the displaced near the Turkish border
have come from as far as al-Bab, where
Turkish-backed rebels recently drove out
In all, some 900,000 displaced Syrians
are sheltering in Idlib, nearly half the
province’s total population, the UN says.
The Syrian conflict has displaced more
than 11 million people, about half within
Syria and half as refugees abroad.
Turkey, which conducted its own
incursion into Syria in support of the
anti-IS rebels, is meanwhile erecting a wall
and fortifying stretches of the frontier, in
a clampdown which is keeping out both
militants and refugees.
Seeing no escape, Atmeh and the 11
family members in his tent, including
his wife and three children, have tried to
make the abode more liveable, putting
up curtains as screens and laying down
blankets for a floor.
Musa, 25, and his family lived for
almost a year alongside Atmeh, but he
moved to a tent on higher ground in
recent months with his wife and a six-
month-old baby to escape the damp and
mud, he said.
The two men say they rely on irregular
food basket deliveries by international
NGOs or the kindness of other residents
or locals to sur vive. There is not even
casual work available nearby for Atmeh,
a former civil ser vant and Musa, a former
The nearest town, of several thousand
people, cannot absorb even a fraction of
the labour force among the displaced, they
Daily life is dull, with little to do other
than sur vive, but the fear of further
upheaval is always there, Musa said.
“ When there are clashes between the
factions (insurgents), they can get fairly
close. We’re scared for the children and
women — if a stray bullet hits one tent
it will go through 10 of them. We’re very
vulnerable should the violence get closer.”
In the camps, there are those who do not
want to wait around, and are so desperate
to leave that they regularly brave the
gunfire of Turkish troops to try to cross
Mohammed al-Ali, a 30-year-old who
fled Hama province further south about
three years ago, approaches the wall which
is visible from the camp on a daily basis to
see if there is a chance to cross over.
“It’s dangerous, you take your life in
your hands if you try. The Turks have
clamped down a lot at the border,” he
“ If you’re on the Syrian side and you’re
trying to get across (illegally), they fire
above your head. If you manage to get
onto the Turkish side, they’ll shoot at
you. Someone was killed that way the day
before yesterday,” he said.
The Syrian Obser vatory for Human
Rights, which monitors the conflict, has
reported regular injuries and deaths from
Turkish troops firing at people trying to
cross the border.
Turkey has been sealing its frontier with
Syria with fences, mines and ditches, in
an effort to halt the movement of Islamic
State fighters and curb Kurdish militias.
The clampdown has also sharply reduced
the flow of Syrian refugees.
A European Union-Turkish migration
deal to stem movement of refugees to
Europe has also put pressure on Ankara
to accommodate the nearly three million
Syrians it already hosts.
As Ali tries each day to get to Turkey,
Atmeh and Musa wait it out.
Atmeh sent a picture of a dwelling he
said belonged to the “richest person in the
camp” — four muddy brick walls with two
metal doors and tarpaulins stretched over
as a roof.
“Syrians — we’ve become like gypsies,”
he said. — Reuters
Tents housing internally displaced people in Atma camp, near the Syrian-Turkish border in Idlib Governorate.
of the New Zealand Herald
New Zealand scientists have found
an intriguing new way to control
individual atoms, in a discovery a decade
in the making and which could boost
development of super-fast quantum
computers to crunch extremely complex
The new research by the team of six
Otago University physicists follows
a global breakthrough in 2010,
when they isolated and captured a
neutral rubidium-85 atom, and then
photographed it for the first time.
The group, led by Dr Mikkel Andersen,
draw on seven lasers, with components
from compact disc players and precision
They work in an air-conditioned
laboratory from which as many kinds
of “noise’’ — electromagnetic, sound,
temperature contrasts — that can affect
the equipment and results have been
minimised or eliminated using a little
“ We cool the atoms, hold them, change
how they affect each other and make them
visible by shining laser light, with different
frequency and intensity, on them,’’
Dr Andersen said.
“ We make repeated use of the
phenomenal degree of control one can
have over the frequency of laser light,
which is a truly astounding feature of
Dr Andersen said ingenuity came into
play when his team was faced with the
fact it did not have a low-noise laboratory
that would typically be a necessity for such
“Naturally, finding out how to do things
that have never been done before involves
lots of hard work.’’
The tables on which the experiment had
been built float on air, which was one way
of keeping down the noise.
Dropping the temperature of the atom
to almost absolute zero, an astonishing
- 273degC, eliminated its random
wobbling, allowing it to reach a quantum
state with high purity.
This represented the ultimate control
over individual atoms, Andersen said.
“ We are pushing the boundaries for the
level of control that scientists can have
over microscopic systems.
“ Technical revolutions our society has
undergone in past decades largely, if not
entirely, originate from being able to control
systems at a smaller and smaller scale.
“This has been a long journey. This is
what we have been trying to get to for 10
Andersen said their results of the
work, supported by a $717,000 Marsden
Fund grant, could be beneficial in the
future development of a wide range
of technologies, including quantum
“ Time will tell what the applications will
be. It is likely the main applications will be
in technologies we have not yet thought
Further work would involve investigating
how two atoms being brought together
could exchange properties, and building
molecules in particular quantum states
from individual atoms.
Scientists control atoms in new breakthrough
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