Home' Greymouth Star : July 4th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
6 - Friday, July 4, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
1528 - England experiences its first serious
outbreak of the plague.
1776 - American Declaration of
Independence is approved by the Continental
Congress in Philadelphia.
1826 - Deaths of Thomas Jefferson, third US
president (1801-09), and John Adams, second
1829 - The first regular scheduled
bus ser vice is introduced in
1831 - James Monroe, fifth US
president (1817-25), dies.
1884 - The Statue of Liberty is
presented to America by the people
1934 - Death of Marie Curie, Polish-French
physicist and Nobel prizewinner.
1976 - About 20 Ugandan soldiers, four
Israelis and seven hijackers are killed when
Israeli commandos raid a hijacked airliner in
Entebbe, Uganda, to rescue of 103 hostages.
1987 - Klaus Barbie, a local Gestapo chief
in World War Two, is convicted of crimes
against humanity in Lyon, France, and
sentenced to life imprisonment.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Nathaniel Hawthorne, US author (1804-
1882); Calvin Coolidge, 30th US president
(1872-1933); Louis Armstrong, US jazz
musician (1900-1971); Eva Marie Saint,
US actress (1924-); Neil Simon,
US playwright (1927-); Gina
Lollobrigida, Italian actress (1927-);
Geraldo Rivera, US talk show host
(1943-); Ray Meagher, Australian
actor (1944-); Pam Shriver, US
tennis player (1962-); Matt Malley,
US musician of Counting Crows
“If a man does not keep pace with his
companions, perhaps it is because he hears a
different drummer. Let him step to the music
which he hears, however measured or far away.”
— Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862).
“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in
one point has become accountable for all of it.”
— ( James 2.10).
Fears that 3ZA,
station might drown
out other New Zealand stations are not entirely
without foundation. However, its interference
with other stations will depend largely on the
type, size and cost of the listener’s radio.
One Greymouth racing fan expressed concern
that when trying to listen to the Auckland
races from 1YA recently, the new station had
drowned out Auckland. A Greymouth radio
expert said today that interference by this or
any other station would depend entirely on the
set and the size of the aerial used.
The owner of the smaller radio must expect
other stations to interfere. Already there is
a great deal of interference from Australian
stations, especially at night.
A five-year-old boy hurtled through a plate
glass door or window at Nelson Creek School
yesterday afternoon. His plunge resulted in
lacerations to the chin and wrist, the latter
injuries neccesitating a skin graft.
The boy, Geoffrey Ross Sadler, who lives in
the Nelson Creek area with his parents, was
treated by Dr G B Clarke, of Dobson, and
admitted to the Greymouth Hospital late in
Two minutes after a nationwide broadcast
that James Baldwin’s novel, Another Country,
was to be released in New Zealand, the
Greymouth Public Library had a man on the
phone reser ving a copy. And he was only the
first of many.
In this way at least, the Indecent Publications
Tribunal helps the finances of the local library
because it costs 3d to reser ve a copy of this sort
of fringe literature.
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
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03 769 7900 (office)
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orkers are finally
preparing to enter
one of the most
in the world —
the site of a 1976
blast in the United States that exposed a
technician to a massive dose of radiation
and led to his nickname: the “Atomic
Harold McCluskey, then 64, was
working in the room at the Hanford
Nuclear Reser vation when a chemical
reaction caused a glass glove box to
He was exposed to the highest dose
of radiation from the chemical element
americium ever recorded — 500 times the
Hanford, located in central Washington
State, made plutonium for nuclear
weapons for decades. The room was
used to recover radioactive americium, a
byproduct of plutonium.
Covered with blood, McCluskey
was dragged from the room and put
into an ambulance headed for the
decontamination centre. Because he was
too hot to handle, he was removed by
remote control and transported to a steel-
and-concrete isolation tank.
During the next five months, doctors
laboriously extracted tiny bits of glass and
razor-sharp pieces of metal embedded in
Nurses scrubbed him down three times
a day and shaved every inch of his body
every day. The radioactive bathwater and
thousands of towels became nuclear waste.
McCluskey also received some 600 shots
of zinc DTPA, an experimental drug
that helped him excrete the radioactive
He was placed in isolation in a
decontamination facility for five months.
Within a year, his body’s radiation count
had fallen by about 80% and he was
allowed to return home.
But his radiation-related medical
problems proliferated. He had a kidney
infection, four heart attacks in as many
months and cataract surgery on both
eyes, followed by a cornea transplant and
a precipitous drop in his blood platelet
count, which required transfusions.
Friends at first avoided him until his
minister told people it was safe to be
around him. The accident sapped his
stamina, and he was unable to hunt, fish
or do any of the things he had planned for
his retirement. He was studied extensively
by doctors for the rest of his life and died
of coronary artery disease in 1987 at the
age of 75.
the nation’s greatest collection of nuclear
waste, and for more than two decades
has been engaged in the dangerous work
of cleaning up that waste. The space now
dubbed the McCluskey Room is located
inside the closed Plutonium Finishing
Plant and is scheduled for cleanup this
“ It ’s been largely closed up since the
accident,” Geoff Tyree, a spokesman for
the United States Department of Energy
(DOE) in Richland, said this week. “It was
restricted for the potential for airborne
Since 2008, the Department of Energy
and contractor CH2M HILL Plateau
Remediation Company have been
preparing the plant for demolition.
“About two-thirds of the Plutonium
Finishing Plant is deactivated — cleaned
out and ready for demolition,” said Jon
Peschong, an assistant DOE manager in
Richland. “Cleaning out the McCluskey
Room will be a major step for ward.”
When specially trained and equipped
workers enter the room this summer,
they will encounter airborne radioactivity,
surface contamination, confined spaces
and poor ventilation, the DOE said.
They will be wearing abrasion-resistant
suits that protect them from surface
contamination and chemicals. A dual-
purpose air system will provide cool air
for breathing and cool air throughout the
suit for worker comfort, allowing them
to work for longer periods of time. The
suits are pressurised, to prevent workers
from coming into contact with airborne
The McCluskey Room “is going to be
the toughest work ahead of us as we finish
c leaning the plant and getting it ready
for demolition by the end of September
2016,” Tyree said. — New Zealand Herald
A health physics technician, is pictured during a rare entry into the McCluskey Room to take radiation
readings in June 2005.
Atomic man’s legacy
Harold McCluskey before the accident.
How do Tibetans thrive in high-altitude,
low-oxygen conditions that would make
others wither? Well, they may have
received some help from an unexpected
Scientists said recently many Tibetans
possess a rare variant of a gene involved
in carrying oxygen in the blood that they
likely inherited from an enigmatic group
of extinct humans who interbred with our
species tens of thousands of years ago.
It enables Tibetans to function well in
low oxygen levels at elevations upwards of
4500m like the vast high plateau of south-
western China. People without this variant
would be apt to develop thick blood,
leading to high blood pressure, heart
attacks, strokes, low-birth-weight babies
and higher infant mortality.
This version of the EPAS1 gene is nearly
identical to one found in Denisovans, a
lineage related to Neanderthals — but is
very different from other people today.
Denisovans are known from a single
finger bone and two teeth found in
a Siberian cave. DNA testing on
the 41,000-year-old bone indicated
Denisovans were distinct from our species
“O ur finding may suggest that the
exchange of genes through mating with
extinct species may be more important in
human evolution than previously thought,”
said Rasmus Nielsen, a computational
biology professor at the University of
California, Berkeley and the University of
Copenhagen, whose study appears in the
Our genome contains residual genetic
fragments from other organisms like
viruses as well as species like Neanderthals
with which early modern humans
interbred. The researchers called their
study the first to show that a gene from
an archaic human species has helped
modern humans adjust to different living
“Such exchange of genes with other
species may in fact have helped humans
adapt to new environments encountered as
they spread out of Africa and into the rest
of the world,” said Nielsen.
Asan Ciren, a researcher with China’s
BGI genomics centre, added, “ The
genetic relationship or blood relationship
between modern humans and archaic
hominins is a hot topic of the current
The researchers said early modern
humans trekking out of Africa interbred
with Denisovans in Eurasia en route to
China. Their descendants harbour a tiny
percentage of Denisovan DNA.
Genetic studies show nearly 90% of
Tibetans have the high-altitude gene
variant, along with a small percentage
of Han Chinese, who share a common
ancestor with Tibetans. It is seen in no
The researchers conducted genetic
studies on 40 Tibetans and 40 Han
Chinese and performed a statistical
analysis showing that the gene variant
almost certainly was inherited from the
The gene regulates production of
hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells
that carries oxygen. It is turned on when
blood oxygen levels drop, stimulating more
At elevations above 4000m, the common
form of the gene boosts hemoglobin
and red blood cell production, causing
dangerous side effects. The Tibetans’
variant increases hemoglobin and red
blood cell levels only modestly, sparing
them these effects. — Reuters
Gene from extinct human species helps Tibetans cope with altitude
Getting the job done
A couple of matters I wish to comment
The letter writer Steve Maitland
(Greymouth Star, July 2) fails to see that,
while he had mooted the idea of logging
windblown logs, it never got done, and that
is the difference between him and Maureen
Pugh. She got it done.
I had two guests over from Australia a
couple of weeks ago and took them with
the boat to Jackson Bay. Three hours of
digging ourselves out when we got stuck
launching the boat put a damper on
the day. Same thing happened to me at
Christmas. I was one of about 120 who
signed the support letter to build a ramp,
and yet it was stopped by a small ratepayer
group in Hokitika that had no connection
at all to Jackson Bay.
If you want to attract people to the area it
should be supported with infrastructure and
not be squashed for the political objectives
of a little group.
another scenic road
We have an interesting gentleman in Te
Anau, obviously selling jade bric-a-brac,
sheepskin rugs and other New Zealand
memorabilia supporting the proposed road
to Milford from Cascade to Hollyford by
quoting the old and tired adage of, ‘Our
wilderness areas are not for the young and
fit ’. Oh dear, it is indeed hard to know
where to start to rebuff this idiocy?
For starters, this always remote and
indeed intriguing wilderness area has been
the late domain of literally generations of
explorers and prospectors, lately followed by
tramping clubs and people like myself, lone
travellers matching themselves against ‘the
Uninformed and generally ignorant of
the values to be inculcated by exposure and
travel in ‘wilderness areas’, this Te Anau
undoubted shopkeeper has obviously never
ever ventured into the remoter areas of
northern Fiordland ’s most dramatic and
history-soaked areas. Yet, he champions
the right of the elderly to enter these
‘wilderness areas’ via vehicles and coaches.
So the road is built and we have busloads
of overseas and mainly Asian tourists
travelling through this ‘wilderness area’. The
proportion of New Zealanders who have
never had the opportunity to view these
areas in their youth are minimal. Not all
New Zealanders are trampers and hunters,
and climbers get to where they wish to go
in any case.
So we have busloads of Asian tourists
travelling this new ‘Silk Road ’ stopping
for group photographs outside concrete-
blocked ‘potty-stops’ and looking with
bland and inscrutable faces at yet another
two lakes with mountain backdrops. Apart
from the fact that tourists very often do
not know where they are in time and space
from one day to the next — as I have said
before — after a saturation of lakes, bush
and mountains, nothing is very important
to the average tourist except a hot shower,
tucker and a bed. This argument is both
specious and sophistic.
The letter ‘O’Connor vs Pugh’
(Greymouth Star, July 2) cast the Labour
MP as the architect of all sorts of things.
The $120 million was compensation for a
Labour government destroying our timber
industry and has its origins in the efforts
of all West Coasters, as I recall walking to
Parliament, leaving Greymouth at 5am.
The other claims are a bit of a stretch as the
respective boards were responsible for the
decisions made, not Mr O’Connor.
More importantly, these things all
happened many years ago. Can you name
one thing that can be attributed to Mr
O’Connor in the last six or even eight
years? He has had Parliamentary Services
funding to run his electorate, so tangible
examples should be easy.
Job losses in the commodity sector are
governed by world commodity prices and
always will be. What is more important is
ensuring that the disgraceful performance
we witnessed with the green lobby forcing
Bathurst through 32 separate hurdles over
many years, and then claiming Bathurst
had run out of money, without admitting
they were the cause of a considerable loss of
shareholders’ funds, never happens again.
We should not forget that Labour cannot
govern without the Greens, and the Coast
would grind to a halt under a Labour-
Our DHB have had time to show
whether they will heavily involve everyone
in the community as promised. To date,
their actions have been consequential,
reflecting election year and in response to
the growing outrage of the community.
Staff are charging time spent discussing,
meeting or planning etc, against the $60
million. Three million dollars has already
been lost; money that has to be paid back
with interest. Surely this building capital
is for the building; should not discussions
between management and staff be separate?
With DHB management ’s lack of
experience, clearly defined in the lack
of progress over the past eight years, the
money will simply disappear in the cost of
meetings, ‘in committee’, of course.
Who gave our programme director the
right, or the power, to promote and pass
judgment on medical services and then tell
the media how they should have presented
it? Is this the way things are going to be
moving forward? And we are only in the
concept stage, still. Who is he to state that
the newspaper missed an opportunity?
The history, including medical, patients,
special needs, is hugely detailed with
knowledge that the bureaucrat has simply
ignored in favour of his own ‘opinion’
— opinion that excludes the years of
knowledge and common sense that are
quintessential for this ser vice on the Coast.
The subsequent medical response clearly
showed that he was very much out of order.
It is the medical profession’s role to design
and present medical service; bureaucrats
are only there to facilitate this process. Not
a good look for the hospital rebuild. My
advice is lose the ‘cocky’ and listen up; do
some research on our 150-year history.
Our clinical director states that all ser vices
should be on one site? What? Has this
been discussed with the public? Is it based
on the present outpatient parking, or even
common sense? What does this attitude tell
you about the style of management?
These are the very issues that must be
openly discussed and agreed to with the
whole community. Listen to what people
have to say about this; they do have an
Yet again I see a media statement
implying the reason for less surgery being
performed in Greymouth as the ‘ budget-
breaking’ expense of locum surgeons.
What I do not hear repeatedly is that the
orthopaedic surgeon Dr Peter Hucker
wrote to the Minister of Health stating
that they were working as locums because
the West Coast District Health Board
refused to offer them permanent positions
(Greymouth Star, July 5, 2012).
The article from 2012 referred to three
orthopaedic surgeons, whom the DHB had
refused to provide permanent positions.
What the public may not know is that
orthopaedic surgeons working in large
hospitals often develop additional expertise
in one to two joints. To my knowledge
of the three surgeons who wanted a
permanent position in Greymouth in 2012,
each had a different areas of expertise.
Employing orthopaedic surgeons with
different areas of expertise would have
increased the scope of procedures which
could be performed in Greymouth,
leading to fewer transfers ‘over the hill’.
To my knowledge, no explanation has
been provided for the refusal to provide
permanent positions to these surgeons.
On March 20, 2013, the minister was
questioned in Parliament about the scaling
down of ser vices to Buller. His response
for allowing the scaling down of services
was that the existing ser vices were ‘far
better than that of most other populations
of that type around the country ’. I have
difficulty comprehending the logic of
cutting down services to be able to match
worse performing services. I am not sure of
the meaning of the comment ‘population of
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