Home' Greymouth Star : July 3rd 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Thursday, July 3, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
321 - Roman emperor Constantine, a
Christian, proclaims Sunday a day of rest and
religious obser vance.
1806 - Michael Keen, of Isleworth, exhibits
the first edible cultivated strawberry, which he
calls Keen’s Seedling.
1863 - Three-day US Civil War Battle at
Gettysburg ends in a major victory for the
1928 - John Logie Baird transmits
the world’s first colour television
pictures in London.
1940 - O ver 1000 French soldiers
die when British ships destroy the
French fleet at Oran and Mers-el-
Kebir in Algeria to prevent them
falling into enemy hands.
1954 - Rationing brought on by World War
Two finally ends in Britain, nine years after the
1965 - Roy Rogers’ horse, Trigger, dies, aged
1969 - Brian Jones, a founder member of the
British rock group Rolling Stones, drowns in
his swimming pool after a drug overdose.
1993 - German Steffi Graf wins her third
consecutive Wimbledon title.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
John Clare, English poet (1793-1864); Ken
Russell, English film director (1927-2011);
Pete Fountain, US jazz musician (1930-);
Tom Stoppard, British playwright
(1937-); Judith Durham, Australian
singer of The Seekers fame (1943-);
Sir Richard Hadlee, NZ cricketer
(1951-); Laura Branigan, US singer
(1957-2004); Tracey Emin, British
artist (1963-); Yeardley Smith,
US actor (1964-); Julian Assange,
Australian activist (1971-); Tom
Cruise, American actor (1962-); Sebastian
Vettel, German racing driver (1987-).
“ To err is human, but to really foul things up
requires a computer.”
— Paul Ehrlich, American scientist.
“ Instead, as He who called you is holy, be
holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is
written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ . ”
— (1 Peter 1.15).
There is nothing
wrong with the fight
game. There may be
with the people who control it. The chances
of the amateur fighter suffering permanent
injury are slim. The chances of the professional
being badly hurt or killed are much greater.
These are views gathered by a reporter who
formerly covered the national fight scene, and
the admitted testimony of Greymouth fighters
who were in national or international class.
On the eve of Greymouth’s biggest fight
tourney — a battle between Australians and
New Zealanders here on Saturday — the
Greymouth Star received a letter from local
medical practitioner Dr K E Kibblewhite,
casting grave doubts on the value of medical
examinations as they are at present.
Champion of Australia and New Zealand,
Frank Bell says: “I do not believe in
professional boxing but I think that amateur
boxing conducted as it is at present is no more
dangerous than rugby or league.”
“ In 17 years of close association with
the sport in Greymouth, apart from one
ruptured eardrum, I have never seen any
permanent injury to a boxer,” says Dr B W
Nixon, convenor of the West Coast Boxing
Association’s medical panel.
The South Island indoor basketball
tournament held in Greymouth last weekend
boosted the West Coast ’s playing and
administrative status. Key man behind the
tourney was West Coast president and referee
Mr D G Moore.
Top West Coast players Brian Vieceli and
Mike Bourke were selected as members of the
South Island tournament team.
uFood for thought
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It took Nasa’s Gravity Probe-B, one
of the most sophisticated satellites ever
launched, to prove Einstein half-right. The
great physicist had predicted that large
objects, like planets, distort the fabric of
space and time. But it was not until 2007,
90 years after the plasticity of the universe
was first posited, that scientists were ready
to confirm “to a precision of better than
1%” this aspect of Einstein’s theory of
Even then, after years of research and
the expenditure of $700 million, the
“other half ” of Einstein’s prediction, that
a large rotating mass will drag the fabric
of the universe behind it (a phenomenon
known as “frame-dragging”) had yet to be
proved. Suffice to say that, seven years later,
physicists are reasonably satisfied that a
large spinning object will indeed re-align
the axis of a small spinning object to match
It is fascinating (not to say vaguely
alarming) that key media handlers in the
administration of President George W
Bush were able to work these Einsteinian
notions into a powerful political metaphor
fully five years before Nasa was able to
confirm the truth of even half of them.
In 2002 the Pulitzer Prize-winning
American journalist, Ron Suskind,
came under pressure from the Bush
Administration for a highly critical article
he had written for Esquire magazine.
He remembered one testy exchange
in particular. People like him, a White
House official had observed loftily,
belonged to “what we call the reality-based
The “reality-based community”, he said,
was made up of people who “believe that
solutions emerge from your judicious study
of discernable reality”. Suskind remembers
nodding agreement and murmuring
something about “enlightenment principles
and empiricism”. But the presidential aide
was having none of it:
“That ’s not the way the world really works
any more. We’re an empire now, and when
we act, we create our own reality. While
you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as
you will — we will act again, creating other
new realities, which you can study too,
and that ’s how things will sort out. We’re
history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will
be left to just study what we do.”
Reflecting on this extraordinary outburst,
Suskind later concluded that it “gets to the
very heart of the Bush presidency ”.
Observing the relationship between the
Government and our own news media, I’m
convinced that Suskind was quite right to
discern in his anonymous White House
official’s obscure, almost metaphysical rant
a potent metaphor for the way in which
politics in the 21st century is trending.
Massive concentrations of power — like
governments or huge multi-national
corporations — simply distort the fabric
of political spacetime. Like the proverbial
bowling ball placed on a trampoline they
draw towards them everything smaller
than they are. Just as predicted by Einstein’s
“frame-dragging”, the “spin” of these much
larger political objects will, by their sheer
proximity, cause all the smaller centres of
political influence — newspapers, radio
and television networks — to re-align
the ideological axes of their own spin to
match that of the powerful. The energy of
the small is dragged off to augment the
momentum of the large.
How else should we explain the
increasingly common phenomenon of
political journalists, especially those
brought into close proximity with the
over whelming power of the executive
branch of government, being dragged off
into the offices of cabinet ministers and
public relations firms?
What else but the distortion of political
spacetime by “history’s actors”: the ones
who, when they act, create a brand new
version of reality; can explain why the ideas
and policies of the governing parties attract
so much more media approbation than
those espoused by parties belonging to the
Against these — history’s actors — what
can we, history’s audience, possibly do?
Must we simply resign ourselves to being
dragged into their gravitational influence?
Were it not for what is currently
unfolding in Iraq, I might agree.
George Bush’s death star spun very close,
but Iraqis are still making their own reality.
Chris Trotter is an independent
left-wing political commentator
Professor Einstein goes to Washington
utside Las Vegas’
Bellagio hotel, fountains
shoot 150m into the air,
performing a spectacular
dance in time to the
music of Frank Sinatra.
Gondolas ferry honeymooners around
canals modelled on those of Venice,
Roman-themed pools stretch for hectares
and thousands of sprinklers keep golf
courses lush in the middle of the desert.
But as with many things in Sin
City, the apparently endless supply of
water is an illusion. America’s most
decadent destination has been engaged
in a potentially catastrophic gamble
with nature and now, 14 years into a
devastating drought, it is on the verge of
losing it all.
“The situation is as bad as you can
imagine,” Tim Barnett, a climate
scientist at the Scripps Institution of
Oceanography, said. “ Unless it can find a
way to get more water from somewhere,
Las Vegas is out of business. Yet they ’re
The crisis stems from the city’s complete
reliance on Lake Mead, America’s largest
reser voir, which was created by the Hoover
Dam in 1936 — after which it took six
years to fill completely.
It is located 40km outside Las Vegas and
supplies 90% of its water. But over the past
decade, as the city’s population has grown
by 400,000 to two million, Lake Mead
has slowly been drained of more than 15
billion cubic metres of water and is now
well under half full. Barnett predicts it
may be a “dead pool” that provides no
water by about 2036.
The lake currently looks as if someone
has removed a giant plug from it.
Tom Merrit, 51, who has fished on the
lake for years, pointed to the top of a
faraway hill and said: “My boat used to be
right up there. We’ve had to keep moving
down and down as the water recedes. ”
Gesturing to a newly emerging island
about 100m long, he added: “ That rock
never used to be there. It’s really sad
because this used to be a great lake. But
if they don’t do something soon it’ll be
Lake Mead’s water level is currently at
330m above sea level. There are two pipes,
known as “straws”, that take water from it
to Las Vegas.
The first extracts water at an elevation
of 320m and is likely to be sucking at air,
rather than water, soon. The second straw
is at 305m. Lake Mead is expected to fall
a further 6m towards that critical point by
the end of this year.
Beneath the ground, a mammoth effort
is already under way to complete a new,
lower straw which will be able to draw the
last of the water from the lake. But it is a
painfully slow process as a giant drill the
size of two football pitches advances at a
rate of 2.5cm per day.
That rescue project is costing $930.5
million and is expected to be complete by
late 2015, but it is not viewed as a long-
Las Vegas also wants to build a separate
$15.5b pipeline that would pump 102m
cubic metres of groundwater a year from
an aquifer 420km away in rural Nevada.
But a judge has refused permission after
environmentalists sued on the basis that it
would adversely affect 220ha of meadows,
55km of trout streams and 52,600ha of
habitat used by sage grouse, mule deer, elk
and pronghorn, an antelope-like creature
that is endangered in the region. The
court heard that 25 species of Great Basin
springsnails would be pushed toward
Rob Mrowka, a Las Vegas-based
scientist at the Centre for Biological
Diversity, which brought the legal case
against the pipeline, said: “It’s a really
dumb-headed proposition. It would
provide a false sense of security that there’s
plenty of water and it would delay the
inevitable decisions that have to be taken
about water conser vation and restricting
“The drought is like a slow spreading
cancer across the desert. And as the water
situation becomes more dire we are going
to start having to talk about the removal of
people (from Las Vegas).”
Mrowka cited Lake Las Vegas, a
mega-resort where stars including Celine
Dion live, as one of the “most egregious
examples” of wasting water.
He said: “It ’s a community for the rich
and famous and it has a 129.5ha lake filled
with 11.4 billion cubic metres of water
from Lake Mead. That ’s three billion
gallons of drinking water, and each year
they take millions more to keep it from
stagnating and smelling.”
Las Vegas gets just 10cm of rain in a
good year. In the first four months of
2014, there has been just 3cm.
The entire State is now classified as in
“se vere drought ” and rivers are so low that
27m young migrating salmon are having
to be taken to the ocean in trucks.
Mrowka said: “ The Colorado is
essentially a dying river. Ultimately, Las
Vegas and our civilisation in the American
south-west is going to disappear, like the
Indians did before us.” — AP
Sin City running dry
Lake Mead is shown well below normal levels.
The death of Denis Smith
recently leaves behind memories
of a man who was devoted to his
family, an electrician by trade who
enjoyed the humorous side of life,
and was a passionate disciple of the
game of rugby league.
As a player, a coach and a
supporter, Denis made his mark
both on and off the playing field
when it came to the 13-man game.
He played his club football for
Runanga, representing West Coast
through the grades as hooker.
Denis wore the West Coast No
9 jersey in the premier grade for
many years, and during his time he
played alongside and against the
best in the game, including Jock
Butterfield and Trevor Kilkelly.
Following a colourful league
career, Denis later coached
representative schoolboy league
and also coached the Suburbs
premier team for a number of
seasons. He gave rugby league
committees his loyal ser vice and
was a past-president of the West
Coast schoolboy league.
“He was a true character and
staunch rugby league man,” John
“He was innovative, too. I
remember when we were working
up at Rewanui State Mine, where
he ser ved his time, and he had
another business operating — a
coke machine, sixpence a bottle
by the bath house. Denis liked a
story and liked to joke, and playing
football he always took control of
the pack. Above all else he was a
real family man,” John says.
Denis was an electrician by
trade, ser ving his apprenticeship
at Rewanui. D uring his electrical
career he worked at the Ministry
of Works, West Coast Ellery’s, and
the Rewanui, Strongman and Pike
He also worked at the Golden
Bay Cement Works and as an
electrician during the construction
of the Upper Waitaki hydro
electric power project at Twizel,
and on Manapouri.
Denis Smith was a family man;
his family meant everything to
him. He enjoyed people and liked
to tell a good story — and he was
proud to be a West Coaster. He is
sur vived by Therese, his wife of 50
years, and Karl, Lucy, Kate, Kelly
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