‘LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug – as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction’.. 

.

LSD is often associated with trippy songs such as ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ – Purple Haze’ – and ‘Yellow Submarine’. But before it became the drug of choice for the 1960s counterculture – lysergic acid diethylamide had a previous existence – as an experimental medicine for a broad spectrum of psychological problems ranging from depression and addiction – to schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Before the drug was banned – for recreational use in 1966 – and medical use in 1973 – dozens of studies – of varying degrees of scientific rigour – had taken place in Europe and America. Some of the findings were promising – but unreliable.

But in recent years scientists have begun to revisit the potential of the drug as a psychotherapeutic tool. Studies in Switzerland have suggested it could alleviate anxiety experienced by the terminally ill – and last week the BMJ carried an article by a leading psychiatrist calling for the drug’s legal status to be downgraded to make it easier to study in the lab.

Research in the UK is being spearheaded at Imperial College London by a team co-led by the former government drugs adviser David Nutt. His team is the first in the world to use modern brain scanners to observe the effects of LSD on 20 volunteers.

(cont..)

(ed:..historically speaking there are certain ironies to be found in the fact that lsd is now being investigated as healing-tool for those burdened with schitzophrenia – when a common drug-scare-story of the 60’s – was that taking lsd would lead to schitzophrenia in the taker –

– and for awhile i lived in a squat in sydney with among others – an awol airforce guy who was also an ex-alcoholic – and he attributed lsd with/for getting him off the sauce –

– and so he took it upon himself to spread the cure amongst the inner-city slum alkies we lived amongst..

.. so you would regularly come home to find some smelly street-person alkie – and the awol airforce guy – in the kitchen/wherever – both with grins the size of the harbour-bridge on their faces..)

Source: LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction – Health News – Health & Families – The Independent

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’20 Big Ideas From Bernie Sanders – to Reverse Inequality – Expand Safety Nets – and Stop America’s Plutocrats’.. 

Sanders outlines his platform in a major hometown speech.

 (cont:..ed:..my ideal president/vice-president mixing – with either in either role – is sanders and elizabeth warren –

– then we would see some rock and rollng..

– and these are reforms that we could well do with here..)

Source: 20 Big Ideas From Bernie Sanders to Reverse Inequality, Expand Safety Nets and Stop America’s Plutocrats | Alternet

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‘What is Sativex – can we do better?’..

During all of my posts on Medical Cannabis there have been may references to Sativex – the only LEGAL medical Cannabis preparation in NZ – so I thought it was time to delve deeply into the product and explain it – and why it is an incomplete solution to the problem of medical Cannabis in NZ.

Sativex – with the scientific name nabixomols is essentially hash oil in a mouth spray designed and patented by GW Pharma. Grown in high quality conditions – mould (bud rot) and pesticide use is controlled –  just like at other high end medical Cannabis growing companies. Bedrocan from the Netherlands and Canada and Tikkun Olam from Israel also grow the plants to similarly tight conditions – so firstly the growing phase is not particularly special or unique.

To quote Kevin Hague ‘If they can do it- there seems to be no reason why New Zealand – a country that prides itself on high-quality primary production – cannot’.

In order for Sativex to have a reliable dose per spray it is unique in that it is made from 2 Cannabis liquids –  a High THC variety similar to the plants grown for recreational purposes – and a high CBD Variety similar to the famed “Charlottes web” strain.  By manufacturing the liquids separately they can then factor in for variances in yield – as the 2 oils are mixed – and get a more accurate dosing than if a single breed of plant was grown with an intended ratio from the start.

To make it seem more pharmaceutical and artificial (important for public perception) the typical amber or brown color of hash oils had to go – this is the magic sauce – a patented process is used to remove the chlorophyll and and much of coloration that may normally be visible for example – in “honey oil

(cont..)

Source: What is Sativex, can we do better? | unitedincompassionnz

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‘How Do Internet Trolls Justify Their Nasty – Misogynist – Life-Ruining Behavior?’.. 

They diffuse responsibility by saying they were only a small part of the conduct.

Such is the morality of the trollplex.

Source: How Do Internet Trolls Justify Their Nasty, Misogynist, Life-Ruining Behavior? | Alternet

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‘Colbert – De Niro – and More: 6 of the Best Commencement Speech Zingers of 2015′.. 

A funny, progressive-minded graduation speech doesn’t make up for all the student debt and dim job prospects –

– but we might as well enjoy them.

 (cont..)

Source: Colbert, De Niro and More: 6 of the Best Commencement Speech Zingers of 2015 | Alternet

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‘Climate Change Is Killing People Around the World – and It’s Only Going to Get Worse’.. 

Climate denier Mike Huckabee has dismissed concerns about climate-related deaths.

Someone please send him to India.

(cont..)

Source: Climate Change Is Killing People Around the World and It’s Only Going to Get Worse | Alternet

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‘Children used to be scared of the dark – now they fear failure’.. 

Many facets distinguish the minds of children from those of adults – among them imaginative capacity – the repression of reason – and the mysterious condition of innocence. But perhaps one of the most telling divisions is between the things adults fear – and those that worry children.

I recently asked one of my youngest daughters what she feared most. She answered without hesitation: failure. This disturbed and surprised me. I had always thought of fear of failure as an adult preoccupation – but it seems that one of the effects of the climate of the times (and the media saturation that expresses it) is the importation of adult fears to childish minds. The fear of ghosts is being replaced by the terror of underperformance.

This ‘adultisation’ of fear is underlined by a survey I came across on the internet suggesting that children’s fears had changed considerably over the past few generations. In this survey – from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore – the top five fears 30 years ago were animals – being in a dark room – high places – strangers – and loud noises.

In the updated survey kids were afraid of divorce – nuclear war – cancer – pollution – and being mugged.

A more recent poll, carried out in the UK a little over a year ago points up some enduring traditional fears – including spiders and bugs – witches – the dark – and clowns. However – being bullied – being approached by strangers – and school performance – all featured.

Children’s fears are a litmus test of the society we live in and they are clearly changing – becoming more concrete – as society becomes more performance-driven insecure and saturated with threatening upsetting facts. Refreshingly missing from either of the lists – was fear of terrorist attack or paedophile abduction – the sort of thing parents have nightmares about – but it is clear that the imaginative arena of anxiety is undergoing a transformation and perhaps an intensification.

(cont..)

Source: Children used to be scared of the dark – now they fear failure | Life and style | The Guardian

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‘Health workers say ‘non’ as 35-hour week takes blame for France’s problems’.. 

Productivity is better than in Germany or Britain – and flexible arrangements are common – but still the working week is seen as the cause of France’s problems.

Nothing divides France like the 35-hour week-  or to give its correct name-  the loi Aubry-  after Martine Aubry – the Socialist minister who pushed it through in 2000 when she was part of a centre-left government ‘cohabiting’ – sharing power – with a centre-right president.

When the centre-right controlled France between 2002 and 2012 it moaned about and tinkered with the 35-hour law – but did not repeal it. Easings and adjustments – what the French call détricotage – or unravelling – now mean companies can negotiate – for example – for working time to be calculated not weekly but annually – at just over 1,600 hours a year.

Les 35 heures has become the scapegoat for all the country’s economic woes. France’s neighbours regard the rule with a mix of scorn and envy – as evidence of supposed Gallic laziness. But that overlooks the fact that France’s hourly production figures are higher than Britain’s or Germany’s.

As the law has been loosened companies have taken a flexible approach to the 35-hour week – paying overtime at higher rates-  say. As a result the “actual” hours worked have crept up: by 2012, state researchers found the average number of hours worked by full-time staff in France was 39.5.At some companies such as EDF – which is 85% state-owned, staff have it written into their contracts that they can claim between 27 and 31 days on top of the 27 days’ paid annual leave. A deal signed by EDF with staff in 1999 – as the 35-hour working week came into effect, allowed some staff to work a 32-hour week. In a report in 2013 the French state auditors noted that the average number of hours worked by staff at EDF was 1,570 hours a year – well below the 1,607 hours a year expected of a full-time post according to the Code du travail. EDF is trying to buy out this privilege in return for longer hours.

President François Hollande and his socialist government – led by Manuel Valls – have repeated their commitment to les 35 heures.

But is France to be congratulated for creating work-life balance for its citizens – or criticised because it cannot afford such a luxury at the height of a global economic crisis?

The arguments rage – and les 35 heures remain.

(cont..)

Source: Health workers say ‘non’ as 35-hour week takes blame for France’s problems | World news | The Guardian

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‘May 22 2015 – Ulbricht letter to Judge Forrest’..

ed:..this is the transcript of the letter ross ulbricht wrote to the judge –

– before he was sentenced to life – with no hope of parole..

Source: May 22 2015 – Ulbricht letter to Judge Forrest

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‘Fifa fatcats given suits – suites – and sweeteners – while in NZ’.. 

Fifa representatives got tailored suits – $480-a-night hotel suites – business class flights – and glass trophies while in NZ.

Tailored suits – $480-a-night hotel suites – business class flights – and glass trophies. This is what Fifa representatives were treated to during their stay in New Zealand. Meanwhile, the best teenage players on the planet receive less than $5 a day ‘pocket money’ from the world footballing body.

For Michael Glading, there was a darkly funny side to the corruption allegations engulfing Fifa.

Photographed with Fifa president Sepp Blatter when New Zealand was awarded the Under-20 tournament – the pair’s hands were partly hidden from the cameras. Speaking last month the former NZ Football boss cracked a joke about handing over envelopes stuffed with cash to secure the hosting rights.

Not everyone was amused. One guest at the event – held before dozens of media and football identities – was gobsmacked at the casual way in which the murky undercurrent of football was dismissed.

Former NZ Football chief executive Michael Glading (right) joked about handing over envelopes of cash after shaking hands with Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

Former NZ Football chief executive Michael Glading (right) joked about handing over envelopes of cash after shaking hands with Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

This week, Fifa executives were arrested on suspicion of corruption bribery and racketeering – and the inevitable questions began being asked of New Zealand. Glading has been forced to declare New Zealand’s bid was free of corruption.

‘I was having a laugh’ Glading declares now. ‘I was poking the fun at myself. It’s so hilarious, it’s mind-boggling that anyone could think it was serious’.

Yesterday some of the same Fifa delegates who awarded the tournament to New Zealand reelected 79-year-old Blatter to a fifth term as their president.

It is expected they and Blatter will soon head to New Zealand, where they will again be treated to extravagant hospitality and gifts.

(cont..)

Source: Fifa fatcats given suits, suites and sweeteners while in NZ | Stuff.co.nz

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‘The vast unplayable history of video games’.. 

We face a practical — and cultural — archiving crisis unprecedented in any other medium. It’s time to change that.

My cinema classes offered me a very clearly delineated set of films I could watch in order to understand the history – technical advancements – and artistic developments of American cinema. Workers Leaving the Factory – Citizen Kane – Casablanca – and so on and so on – until we reach the present day.

Games – an art form only about 30 years old – has no such canon of great works. Maybe that’s due to the youth of the medium. But let’s say we had such a list: Would we still have easy access to them all? Would they be archived in such a way that we could still play them – or might their platforms – their technology – have aged out of relevance – lost to the winds?

pttt1

One of the greatest hurdles in archiving games is that there is no surefire way to archive digital media across the board. Cinema is having its own crisis on how to properly archive video. Tape degrades quickly – and colors and sound wear out as the years go by. DVDs eventually stop playing from use. Hard drives – thought to be infallible – can dry up and spin their last – become aging – enormous bricks left in the wake of technological progress’ march.

(cont..)

Source: The vast, unplayable history of video games – Boing Boing

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‘My Travels on the Clinton Conspiracy Trail’.. 

I went to Arkansas – to find the Hillary haters looking for one last piece of dirt.

I met Larry Nichols – the self-described smut king of Arkansas – at a breakfast joint in Conway, not far from the spot where he claims Bill Clinton loyalists once fired on him and a reporter for London’s Sunday Telegraph. ‘You have to understand’ he said, looking up from his coffee ‘you’re in Redneck City’. Nichols had declared war on the Clintons in 1988 – when Bill was governor – after being canned from his job at a state agency for placing dozens of long-distance phone calls on behalf of the Nicaraguan Contras. As he hunched over the table in four layers of winter clothin – Nichols indulged in the caginess that had once seduced a small army of conservative journalists seeking dirt on the Clintons—the lurching twangy conspiratorial tones of someone with a secret he wasn’t sure how to spill. For a moment I felt as if I’d taken the wrong exit off I-40 – and ended up in 1995.

But Nichols – who did as much as anyone in Arkansas to paint an image of the 42nd president as a womanizing cocaine-snorting dirty-dealing drug-running mafioso – was ready to move on. ‘There is nothing you’re gonna find here’ he told me. ‘Pack your shit and go home. Good God man—that was 20 years ago’.

With Hillary Clinton the odds-on favorite in next year’s Democratic presidential primary – all that was past is suddenly new again. The reinvestigation of the Clintons was already well underway by January, when Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus boasted to Bloomberg that he had dispatched a team of operatives to Little Rock to investigate the former first lady and secretary of state. ‘We’re not going to be shy about what we are doing’ he said. ‘We’re going to be active. We’re going to get whatever we have to in order to share with the American people the truth about Hillary and Bill Clinton’. Last year, America Rising – an opposition research firm/political action group that works with Republican candidates – placed a full-time researcher in Little Rock – where she pored over newly declassified documents at the Clinton Presidential Library.

But 20 years after the so-called Arkansas Project – the multimillion-dollar campaign financed by conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife that turned Whitewater and Troopergate into household names – opposition researchers face a conundrum: Considering that the first expedition for dirt on the Clintons culminated in impeachment proceedings – are there any stones left unturned in Little Rock?

Few pieces of political turf have been excavated as thoroughly as Arkansas was in the 1990s-  when conservatives scoured the Ozarks for evidence of everything from plastic surgery (to fix Bill’s supposedly cocaine-ravaged nose) to murder (a list of suspicious deaths – promoted by Nichols – became known as ‘Arkancides’) and of course womanizing. In the state capital the return of the oppo researchers has been met with a sigh.

(cont..)

Source: My Travels on the Clinton Conspiracy Trail | Mother Jones

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‘Free Your Mind: Practice Vipassana Meditation’.. 

Vipassana meditation is a widely used relaxation practice that can be done easily by beginners – with great results.

Vipassana Meditation

Besides being asked ‘What’s an Indie Spiritualist?’ the second most common question I’m typically asked is ‘What type of meditation do you practice?’

While I personally practice many different types of medita­tion—never feeling like I have to stay within the confines of only one tradition—I typically respond with vipassana – as I’ve found it to be the most universally applicable form of meditation around. Any form of meditation that resonates with you—whether guided – man­tra – movement – and so forth—will definitely be of benefit.

I adore meditation because there are countless ways to meditate – with no particular style being any better than another. It’s all about what resonates with you. You can find many free guided medita­tions online by searching Google or YouTube – as well as by visiting your local library. Most meditation practices are to spirituality what Bob Ross was to painting—very laid back and go with the flow. And while your practice may not provide you with happy little trees – it will over time create a greater sense of peace – clarity – and serenity in your life – and that’s sorta like happy little trees – right?

Through years of drug addiction I did considerable damage to myself – resulting in heavy bouts of depression and anxiety. For years I relied on antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications to keep me in a somewhat balanced state – but after cultivating a dedicated meditation practice I eventually found myself at a place where under doctor supervision – I was able to taper off the medication and no longer needed it.

(cont..)

Source: Free Your Mind: Practice Vipassana Meditation – Mind and Body – Utne Reader

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‘The Silk Road Saga Is Way More Than a Crime Story’..

The Silk Road story turned out to be much more than a crime narrative.

In October 2013 the FBI arrested a young entrepreneur named Ross Ulbricht at the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library. It was the culmination of a two-year investigation into a vast online drug market called Silk Road. The authorities charged that Ulbricht – an idealistic 29-year-old Eagle Scout from Austin Texas – was the kingpin of the operation. They said he’d reaped millions from the site – all transacted anonymously with Bitcoin. They said he’d devolved into a cold-blooded criminal – hiring hit men to take out those who crossed him.

Writer Joshuah Bearman spent more than a year reporting and writing a definitive account of how Ulbricht founded Silk Road – how it grew into a $1.2 billion operation – and how federal law enforcement shut it down.

As he discusses in this video interview – the story turned out to be much more than a crime narrative. It’s also a gripping tale of ambition –  temptation – and lost innocence.

(cont..)

Source: The Silk Road Saga Is Way More Than a Crime Story | WIRED

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‘Archaeologists discover 2,400-year-old gold bongs in Russia’.. 

The ‘once-in-a-century’ discovery of a set of solid gold bongs has offered a glimpse into the little-understood lives of Scythians – who ruled vast areas of Eurasia for a thousand years 2,400 years ago.

Ornately embellished with depictions of humans and animals – archaeologists found the golden vessels in a vast grave mound in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia – where the Scythians ruled between 9th century BC and 4th century AD.

Anton Gass – an archaeologist at the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin – told National Geographic: ‘These are among the finest objects we know from the region

It’s a once-in-a-century discovery’ he said.

Analysis on a sticky black residue in the golden cups revealed the objects were used to hold a concoction of opium and cannabis, which mirror the writings of Greek historian Herodotus – who said: ‘Scythians used a plant to produce smoke that no Grecian vapour-bath can surpass which made them shout aloud’.

Source: Archaeologists discover 2,400-year-old gold bongs in Russia – Archaeology – Science – The Independent

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‘Dustin Hoffman’s online acting class: What it’s like to learn from the master’.. 

I remember the bright lights, the stage. I remember how they all agreed (after only moderate prodding) that in that glorious St Matthew’s Primary School play of 1978 I made a damned fine Christmas tree.

But the Hollywood talent spotters must have been inexplicably out of town (Ipswich), that night. Because there were no calls from directors, no agents knocking at the door. Stardom failed to beckon.

Until now. Because now I have discovered MasterClass.com ‘access to genius’.

Newly launched by a pair of San Francisco technology entrepreneurs – it promises ‘the best online education in the world – from the best people in the world’.

Masterclass.com promises “the best online education in the world, from the best people in the world

Masterclass.com promises ‘the best online education in the world – from the best people in the world’

You can learn writing with James Patterson – best- selling author of the Alex Cross detective novels.

Coming soon are photography with Annie Leibovitz and performance with pop star Usher.

And most eye-popping of all there is ‘Dustin Hoffman teaches acting': ‘In his first ever online class the two-time Academy Award-winning star of The GraduateTootsie – and Rain Man teaches you everything he’s learned during his 50-year career’.

At just $90 (£58) this surely was the moderately priced path to stardom cruelly denied me in 1978.

I signed up. I got access to the video classes: ‘Dustin imparts his wisdom and tips in 24 lessons’.

I got the class workbook and homework (‘interactive assignments’ – some to be completed by acting with fellow students – in person or via Skype).

I got a lovely email from a chap called Brad – the ‘community manager’ inviting me to ‘reach out’ and sign up to the Facebook group and Twitter feed.

(Brad didn’t bother with the formality of a surname – but given the celebrity-packed nature of MasterClass –  I wasn’t discounting the possibility it was Pitt.)

Best of all I got Dustin himself – online on video – telling me: ‘Hi – my name is Dustin Hoffman – welcome to my master class’.

Actress Anne Bancroft staring alongside actor Dustin Hoffman in the movie

Actress Anne Bancroft staring alongside actor Dustin Hoffman in the movie The Graduate.

He was in his armchair – looking relaxed – much younger than his 77 years and frankly – with the swimming pool behind him – rich. What more motivation did a budding actor need?

And that was before the wisdom and tips.

(cont..)

Source: Dustin Hoffman’s online acting class: What it’s like to learn from the master – Features – Films – The Independent

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‘Silk Road operator Ross Ulbricht sentenced to life in prison’.. 

Thirty-one-year-old behind illegal online drug emporium handed five sentences – including two for life – to be served concurrently with no chance of parole.

Ross Ulbricht, the man behind illegal online drug emporium Silk Road, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday by Judge Katherine Forrest of Manhattan’s US district court for the southern district of New York.

Before the sentencing the parents of the victims of drug overdoses addressed the court. Ulbricht broke down in tears. ‘I never wanted that to happen’ he said. ‘I wish I could go back and convince myself to take a different path’.

The 31-year-old physics graduate and former boy scout was handed five sentences: one for 20 years – one for 15 years – one for five and two for life. All are to be served concurrently with no chance of parole.

The judge handed out the most severe sentence available to the man US authorities identified as ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ pseudonymous founder of an Amazon-like online market for illegal goods.

‘The stated purpose [of Silk Road] was to be beyond the law. In the world you created over time, democracy didn’t exist. You were captain of the ship-  the dread Pirate Roberts. You made your own laws’ Forrest told Ulbricht as she read the sentence.

Ulbrict had begged the judge to ‘leave a light at the end of the tunnel’ ahead of his sentence. ‘I know you must take away my middle years – but please leave me my old age’ he wrote to Forrest this week. Prosecutors wrote Forrest a 16-page letter requesting the opposite: ‘[A] lengthy sentence – one substantially above the mandatory minimum is appropriate in this case.”

‘I’ve changed. I’m not the man I was when I created Silk Road. I’m a little wiser. A little more mature and much more humble’ Ulbricht pled in court.

Forrest rejected arguments that Silk Road had reduced harm among drug users by taking illegal activities off the street. ‘No drug dealer from the Bronx has ever made this argument to the court. It’s a privileged argument and it’s an argument made by one of the privileged’ she said.

Silk Road was once the largest ‘dark web’ marketplace for illegal drugs and other services. In March 2013 the secret site listed 10,000 items for sale – 7,000 of which were drugs including cannabis – MDMA – and heroin. Prosecutors said Silk Road had generated nearly $213.9m (£140m) in sales and $13.2m in commissions before police shut it down.

(cont..)

Source: Silk Road operator Ross Ulbricht sentenced to life in prison | Technology | The Guardian

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‘Government shrugs off climate change’.. 

A big economic call the Government has to make this year is what emissions target New Zealand will commit to for the 2020s.

A brief public consultation process is under way – though unlike a similar exercise in 2009 – the Minister responsible is not fronting up.

The consultation document he released three weeks ago is a perfunctory and tendentious affair.

The Government also recently released the result of economic modelling it commissioned to inform this decision.

But the possible worlds it asked the modellers to explore bear little resemblance to the one we inhabit – so they illuminate the debate we ought to be having in a pretty limited way.

The brief the Government has given modellers at Infometrics and Landcare is essentially to interrogate their models of the New Zealand economy and the wider world with this question: for a limited set of combinations of global carbon prices and New Zealand emissions targets, what would be the impact on the country’s output and national income?

Spoiler alert: It turns out – for all but the most extreme scenario – to be pretty small.

But before we take too much comfort from that we have to recognise what the modellers were being asked to assume – and to ignore.

First the baseline – the counterfactual with which the various emissions targets are to be compared. It is a world in which no action to reduce emissions is taken by any country.

That is hardly business as usual. New Zealand already has a target of 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and a statutory commitment to 50 per cent below by 2050.

The expectation on every country is that the coming Paris conference will see them commit to doing more. The United States – China – and Europe – which between them account for most global emissions – have already tabled offers which significantly increase their effort.

(cont..)

Source: Government shrugs off climate change – Opinion – NZ Herald News

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‘Saudi deal: bribe or facilitation payment?’..

Auditor-General Lyn Provost must investigate Murray McCully’s secret Saudi deal – which is attracting far too much adverse comment on the international stage – to be easily swept under the carpet.

Cabinet documents do not shed sufficient light on why McCully spearheaded an initiative which at its kindest interpretation resulted in a sweetheart deal to look after Saudi businessman Hamood Al-Ali Al-Khalaf – whose company had made legal threats to seek $30 million after National reconfirmed its predecessor’s ban on the live sheep exports.

Nor do those documents – which are very carefully constructed – pass the smell test for a Government that has become rather too easy a prey for commercial shakedowns by aggrieved foreign investors.

The story goes that the Al-Khalaf Group employed public-law lobbyist Mai Chen to prosecute its grievance with the National Government by arguing that it had been commercially harmed by a policy about-face. This after rival lobbyist Matthew Hooton – who ultimately blew the whistle on the affair – lost out on the representational contract.

The chain of events so far disclosed suggests that Cabinet ministers were not prepared to run the risk that Al-Khalaf – a powerful figure in Saudi Arabia – could permanently sour New Zealand’s negotiations towards a free-trade deal with the Gulf states unless he was ‘looked after’.

There may have been legitimate reasons for compensation to be made. But in an environment where investor disputes are becoming politically charged through opposition to such measures within the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership – McCully and his officials instead opted for a creative face-saver which delivered value to the aggrieved Saudi businessman and got him off their backs.

The resultant moves to invest in an agribusiness hub on Al-Khalaf’s farm and fly pregnant ewes to Saudi Arabia have not been dressed up in the official documents as outright compensation. Instead, they are investment towards securing the free-trade deal.

Opposition politicians have tried to damn McCully’s actions as a ‘bribe’. This is clever politics.

(cont..)

Source: Saudi deal: bribe or facilitation payment? – Politics – NZ Herald News

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‘The secret diary of … Campbell Live’.. 

John Key: Yeah – to be perfectly honest I’ll always have a soft spot for wassisname.

Brian Edwards

As one of the pre-eminent broadcasters of the 19th century – I saw fit this week to send a patronising and graceless open letter to John Campbell on my popular ‘blog’.

In it I made mention of some of my many shows which brought me a level of fame that John Campbell – Mike Hosking – Paul Henry – and Lorde – will never know.

There was the radio show on Saturday mornings when I said many charming and inconsequential things in a leisurely manner. There was the TV show which I created and is still being made but lacks a vital component. It’s not for me to say it’s me. However – it’s me.

Some of those shows were axed – and as such my advice to John was ‘Shit happens’.

And now I’m not happening. Shit.

(cont..)

Source: The secret diary of … Campbell Live – Entertainment – NZ Herald News

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“..Guard of honour for broadcaster..” 

John Campbell had TV3 staff in tears last night as he made a heart-felt speech after signing off from his last show.

The Herald can reveal the Campbell Live host spoke to hundreds of staffers who had gathered in the show’s Eden Terrace building when the 7pm show ended.

As they sipped champagne – wine – and beer – he told them that journalism was endangered and to ‘let journalism shine’.

He added: ‘Journalism matters. It’s never mattered more than now’.

News boss Mark Jennings also addressed staff – his voice breaking – and said it was ‘a night for the newsroom – not the company’.

3D journalist Sarah Hall told members of the public – who had gathered at the Flower St headquarters – that hundreds of staff members had stood in a guard of honour – as Campbell walked down the hall after the show.

As the show aired – boxes of champagne and other drinks were taken through the back of the building. A courier driver took bunches of flowers into reception.

While signing off on air – Campbell fought back tears.

‘I started here aged 27 in a suit I borrowed from my dad’ he said.

‘I could never have dreamed what would happen in the next 24 years. Thank you so much for watching us. Ka kite ano, and a very good evening’.

Campbell had been joined on air by several members of the show’s production and reporting team – who he paid tribute to. The show took viewers through a montage of previous stories covered by the team.

The show ended with a shot of Mr Campbell driving out of TV3’s headquarters – which had been pre-recorded.

Earlier – the presenter received kisses from 3 News hosts Hilary Barry and Mike McRoberts.

(cont..)

(ed:..not a good day for broadcasting/political-journalism in new zealand – campbell will be sorely missed – and will hopefully re-appear – fully-formed – elsewhere – eh.?..)

Source: Guard of honour for broadcaster – Entertainment – NZ Herald News

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‘SIS spies to Kim Dotcom: We’re sorry for calling you fatty’.. 

  Security Intelligence Service chief Rebecca Kitteridge has apologised to Kim Dotcom for the behaviour of her spies – who swapped emails about the internet entrepreneur’s weight and wife – while mocking his chances of getting New Zealand residency

An extraordinary cache of emails has emerged from an Official Information Act request by the Weekend Herald – including one in which an SIS staff member sends a picture of Dotcom to others – saying – ‘What a fatty po po’.

Ms Kitteridge’s apology is the second Dotcom has secured from the intelligence agencies. The Government Communications Security Bureau had to say sorry in 2012 after it was caught carrying out illegal surveillance.

The Kitteridge apology refers to two tranches of emails discussing Dotcom.

One group of emails is from 2010 – when the SIS was carrying out security checks over Dotcom’s residency application.

Staff assigned to do the checks appeared incredulous at the application. ‘I love this guy Dotcom’ writes one. ‘He has a mega mansion in Auckland with a lap pool and a giraffe and rhinoceros sculptures and he drives million-dollar cars with the number plate GOD etc. He’s such a tool – but the best PR [permanent residency] I’ve had for quite a while. Just another nihilistic crim by the sound of it’.

In another email an SIS staffer says: ‘I love this guy. He is so dodgy’.

(cont..)

Source: SIS spies to Kim Dotcom: We’re sorry for calling you fatty – National – NZ Herald News

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‘Greens leadership race too close to call’..(ed:..where/why i endorse james shaw for the role..) (update:..he won..!..) 

The Greens should have a new co-leader by Saturday afternoon.

It started out a no-brainer – but heading toward the finish line the race to be the Greens’ new male co-leader is too close to call.

While there are four candidates – it’s largely expected party votes will be split fairly evenly between third term MP Kevin Hague and first term MP James Shaw at the party’s annual conference on Saturday.

But it’s understood up to 30 delegates are holding their cards close to their chest and are not saying which way they intend to vote.

Hague – a former District Health Board chief executive, was the clear favourite early on – with Shaw considered too inexperienced for the job.

But Shaw has made a strong showing and betting on forecasting website iPredict gives him a slight lead.

The other candidates are MP Gareth Hughes and parliamentary outsider Vernon Tava.

The leadership race was sparked in January when co-leader Russel Norman announced his resignation. Over the past month he has taken a back seat from party business – letting co-leader Metiria Turei dominate public issues.

Norman steps down at the conference after nine years in the top job. Turei intends to stand again as female co-leader in the annual vote –  though there is unlikely to be any significant competition against her.

The vote also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Green Party.

But while celebrations play out – delegates still reeling from a disappointing result in September’s general election could deliver a surprise result.

In a series of meetings to delegates across the country – Shaw has been pitching himself as the one to grow the Greens’ vote base.

He was a target of National in Parliament this week – but Government tactics to undermine him may prove to work in his favour.

(cont..)

(ed:..my arc in this race has been assumption that hague would win – and the shaw candidacy something of a bad-rightwing-joke..

..and/but going largely on shaws’ performance-standards in parliament – which are high..

..the fact that no one person can run the party like a dictator – (unlike – say – national) – the checks and balances within the party remove those dictator-dangers..

..his likely appeal to the wider electorate..

and his age..(once again – potential to grow vote..)

..all of these factors have combined to change my mind..

..and i now support shaw getting the nod..

..i can’t see it doing any harm – and i see the potential for it doing a lot of good in that ultimate-goal – to grow the size and influence of the green party..

..and i find i am quite strong in that new belief/judgement..

..to the degree that i will be disappointed (for the green party) should hague still manage to get the numbers..

(and that is not an attack on hague – i think he has been worse than bloody useless in his role as spokesperson on cannabis law reform – but in other areas he seems to be more than competent – and he too is no slouch at the role of applying the blowtorch to the genital-regions of govt. ministers..in parliament..)

..the greens are spoilt for choice –

..but i hope they choose to embrace what shaw has to offer..

..and in choosing shaw they will get a renewed interest in the party –

(- esp. from those who have flirted with the idea of voting green before –

– but pulled back at the last moment..)

– whereas hague is resolute in his call for more of the same –

– and i don’t think that will serve the green party as well as what shaw has on offer.

(update:..i got my wish – and shaw is the new leader of the green party – congratulations to both him and the green party –

– the wisdom of the crowd prevailed..)

Source: Greens leadership race too close to call | Stuff.co.nz

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‘John Key’s rural New Zealand problem’.. 

Legend has it that Rob Muldoon required signed and undated resignation letters from all his Cabinet ministers as the price of entry to the club.

Key’s announcement after Tuesday’s caucus that the health and safety legislation was on hold for another two months revealed the extent of disquiet in National’s ranks.

The row has been rumbling along quietly for months – but the bill’s imminent return to Parliament brought matters to a head.

The debate pits groups like farmers – National’s grassroots base whose record for workplace safety also happens to be among the worst  – against the Council of Trade Unions – led by Helen Kelly.

Kelly has her sights set on farmers after getting traction shining the spotlight on the dismal safety record in forestry.

A concerted – and confrontational – campaign by the CTU has forced a dramatic improvement in the accident rate.

The appalling catalogue of health and safety failures in the Pike River mine disaster – where 29 men died – was the catalyst for the legislation – which follows other efforts to beef up the workplace safety regime – including a new body – WorkSafe – which has a mandate to be zealous in its pursuit of health and safety breaches.

But the prosecution of Marlborough sharemilker Maria Carlson and her partner Phil Jones for not wearing helmets and carrying passengers has become the lightning rod for disquiet in the rural sector. Carlson and Jones were fined $40,000.

The health and safety law being considered by Parliament carries much stiffer penalties – up to five years in jail or a fine of up to $600,000 for being reckless in exposing someone ‘owed a duty of care’ to a risk of death or serious injury.

That has translated in the farming community to complaints that they risk prosecution over accidents to anyone allowed on their land.

Small businesses, and organisations staffed by volunteers – also warning the new rules are too onerous and will swallow them up in red tape.

From their positions on the back bench Collins and Williamson are closer to the ear of the back bench MPs – who are wearing the backlash from their constituents and local board members.

For recent MPs – this will be a new new experience. For older ones – they will remember the last time they had to wear the backlash for a Cabinet decision  – that was over class sizes.

Cabinet was forced to execute a hasty u-turn.

For any MP whose future rests on the goodwill of voters – any backlash is a cause for panic.

Pike River exposed the extent to which complacency and a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude had contributed to New Zealand’s dismal workplace safety record – twice as bad as Australia’s and six times worse than Britain.

But jitters on National’s back bench over its loss to Winston Peters in Northland have raised the political stakes over any measure that gets them off-side with provincial New Zealand.

Peters has adroitly used Northland to reposition himself as the voice of the regions – backed by some shrewd operators among his crop of new MPs.

The fear of the back benches is that measures like the health and safety bill will open up a new anti-PC or ‘political correctness’ front in the battle for hearts and minds in rural New Zealand.

National knows how devastating the PC label can become in the hands of an opponent.

It won the 2008 election thanks to the PC-backlash against Labour.

(cont..)

Source: John Key’s rural New Zealand problem | Stuff.co.nz

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‘Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation’s dark heart’.. 

Near the beginning of the 161-page indictment a telling sentence offers a glimpse of what is to come. It says that the Fifa officials and the other defendants-  who mainly worked for large sports marketing companies which sold the rights to tournaments – conspired with one another to co-ordinate schemes ‘involving the solicitation – offer – acceptance – payment – and receipt of undisclosed and illegal payments – bribes – and kickbacks’.

While acknowledging that they managed to do this while also keeping Fifa on track with its goals of promoting football in developing countries and holding world class tournaments – the document says they ultimately ‘corrupted the enterprise’ through their extensive criminal activities.

They were able to get away with it by using a series of ‘trusted intermediaries’ –including bankers – financial advisors – and currency dealers –to facilitate illicit payments – the document says. They also used shell companies and bank accounts in tax havens – smuggled cash in bulk – and made use of safe deposit boxes.

The indictment points out that the damage the men did to the game of football was ‘far-reaching’. By pocketing so much of the cash generated by the sport through marketing rights – the men deprived national teams – youth leagues – and development programmes all over the world of what was rightfully theirs – it says.

‘The corruption of the enterprise became endemic’ the document adds.

(cont..)

Source: Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation’s dark heart – Europe – World – The Independent

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‘The British left must learn to speak a new language – Spanish’.. 

The victories for Podemos in Spain came after it abandoned rhetoric and reconnected with voters. Labour should listen.

The left in Britain is still in shock. We did not have time to emotionally prepare ourselves for a Tory majority government – because the pollsters and analysts with their fancy graphs and scientific formulas were insistent that the election race was neck and neck – despite the travesty that was the Labour ‘opposition’. For many it is though time stopped at 10pm on 7 May 2015: we’re still trapped in that moment of horror and panicky disbelief.

Demoralisation is compounded by the farce that is the Labour leadership “debate”. Strip politics of any conviction – inspiration – sense of purpose – add in a few vacuous buzzwords guaranteed to make the eyes of the average punter in the pub glaze over – and voila – you have the leadership contest.

How tempting for the left to turn inwards – to suddenly feel like strangers in a foreign and hostile land – populated by shy Tories and rampant Ukippery. You can see how the already inward-looking left could become ever more insular – with leftwing meetings serving as group therapy rather than a means to win over the unconvinced or the unreached – and activists retreating into online ‘safe spaces’ free of those who think differently. Our language often seems intended to exclude – full of rhetoric and terminology that only those who have associated with leftwing milieus could ever hope to digest.

Social media abounds with activists attacking others on the left for failing to abide by the strict rules of communication.

Not speaking or writing in the correct way can be seen as suspicious at best – treacherous at worst. For millions of people who are not au fait with the latest queer theories – that means being written off. Being ‘leftwing’ become a cultural label – like being a hipster or an emo-kid – a way of standing out from the crowd and asserting difference in a Ukip-ised England.

How ironic that the right preaches rampant individualism but often displays great solidarity – while the left professes collectivism – but often operates in the most rampantly individualistic way. Voices on the left who achieve any prominence whatsoever are castigated for careerism or other ulterior motives – or for failing to use their platform to promote the correct form of politics.

Rather than seeing different strategies as complementary – an advocate of a different approach risks being accused of not acting in good faith.

(cont..)

(ed:..this is also very much about the new zealand labour party – both are as ideologically confused/lost as each other..)

Source: The British left must learn to speak a new language – Spanish | Owen Jones | Comment is free | The Guardian

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‘Ad blocking software has figured out native content – threatening the new media economy’.. 

For publishers, ad blockers are the elephant in the room: Everybody sees them – no one talks about them. The common understanding is that the first to speak up will be dead—it will acknowledge that the volume of ads actually delivered can in fact be 30% to 50% smaller than claimed—and invoiced. Publishers fear retaliation from media buying agencies—even though the ad community is quick to forget that it dug its own grave by flooding the web with intolerable amounts of promotional formats.

 A week ago, I was in Finland for the Google-sponsored conference Newsgeist. The gathering was setup by Richard Gingras and his Google News team – and by Google’s media team in London. Up there, in a  high-tech campus nested in a birch forest outside Helsinki – about 150 internet people from Europe and the United States were setting the  agenda for what is called an un-conference—as opposed to the usual PowerPoint-saturated format delivered in one-way mode. As expected one session was devoted to the ad blocking issue. (I can’t quote anyone since discussions took place under the Chatham House Rule).
Everybody agreed: ad blockers have grown exponentially in every market, and are now threatening the whole ecosystem.Their reach now extends to native advertising—which was until now relatively spared – because native ads can be managed by the publisher’s Content Management System – instead of an ad-server.
But ABP’s engineers found a way to spot and remove any phrase like ‘sponsored content’ or ‘sponsored by’. This creates pernicious side-effects – as the user won’t be able to distinguish between commercial and legitimate editorial content on websites. In doing so the Eyeo people now drift far away from their self-assigned ‘mission’ to protect users from aggressive ads—because branded content is seen by publishers as a credible alternative to invasive formats that disfigure websites.
(cont..)

Source: Ad blocking software has figured out native content, threatening the new media economy – Quartz

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‘Chris Hedges: America’s Mania for Positive Thinking and Denial of Reality – Will Be Our Downfall’.. 

The ridiculous positivism – the belief that we are headed toward some glorious future – defies reality.

The naive belief that history is linear – that moral progress accompanies technical progress – is a form of collective self-delusion. It cripples our capacity for radical action – and lulls us into a false sense of security. Those who cling to the myth of human progress – who believe that the world inevitably moves toward a higher material and moral state – are held captive by power.

Only those who accept the very real possibility of dystopia – of the rise of a ruthless corporate totalitarianism – buttressed by the most terrifying security and surveillance apparatus in human history – are likely to carry out the self-sacrifice necessary for revolt.

The yearning for positivism that pervades our corporate culture ignores human nature and human history. But to challenge it – to state the obvious fact that things are getting worse – and may soon get much worse – is to be tossed out of the circle of magical thinking that defines American and much of Western culture.

The left is as infected with this mania for hope as the right. It is a mania that obscures reality even as global capitalism disintegrates and the ecosystem unravels – potentially dooming us all.

The 19th century theorist Louis-Auguste Blanqui – unlike nearly all of his contemporaries – dismissed the belief – central to Karl Marx – that human history is a linear progression toward equality and greater morality.

He warned that this absurd positivism is the lie perpetrated by oppressors: ‘All atrocities of the victor – the long series of his attacks are coldly transformed into constant inevitable evolution – like that of nature. …

But the sequence of human things is not inevitable like that of the universe. It can be changed at any moment’.

He foresaw that scientific and technological advancement – rather than being a harbinger of progress – could be ‘a terrible weapon in the hands of Capital against Work and Thought’.

And in a day when few others did so – he decried the despoiling of the natural world. ‘The axe fells – nobody replants. There is no concern for the future’s ill health’.

(cont..)

Source: Chris Hedges: America’s Mania for Positive Thinking and Denial of Reality Will Be Our Downfall | Alternet

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‘What Is Your Vision of a Just and Climate-Stable 2050?’.. 

Shell’s Arctic drilling plan has energized the climate movement. Now a new project invites you to imagine the better future – and collaborate to make it a reality.

Last week, thousands of people came to Seattle — on foot and by kayak — and put their bodies on the line to say ‘Shell No’ to arctic drilling. Like many climate activists who couldn’t be there in person I watched the events unfold on Twitter – on the edge of my seat. Seeing hundreds of people stand up to a 30-story arctic drilling rig in their tiny kayaks is enough to make a longtime activist think maybe we’re not so screwed after all. The odds might still be stacked against us- but at least now we’re witnessing the rise of a mass movement determined to fight back. As one local organizer of the ‘Paddle in Seattle’ recently said ‘I’ve never seen anything like this. When the Kulluk [another Shell Arctic drilling rig] was here in 2012 there was nothing like this here’.

The past few years have been a time of unprecedented energy and dedication in the climate movement. Together we’ve marched in the streets in the largest climate mobilization in history. We’ve fought in our communities – and stopped dirty energy projects from going forward. We’ve successfully pushed public institutions – universities – and pension funds – to divest from fossil fuels. We’ve banned fracking in New York – stopped coal export terminals from being built – and blockaded oil trains.

Within the past year there were two big victories on corporate campaigns that Rainforest Action Network and our allies worked on for years – that many people told us would never be won: agribusiness giant Cargill – the largest importer of rainforest-destroying – climate-killing conflict palm oil into the U.S. – announced last September that it would implement a new policy across its sprawling global supply chains to eliminate suppliers connected to deforestation and carbon pollution. And after years of pressure Bank of America announced earlier this month – that it would phase out its support for coal mining entirely. When we first approached Bank of America four years ago they told us they aspired to be ‘number one in every sector’ — including coal. But here we are in 2015, with BofA ‘turning its back on coal’ in the words of one industry publication.

(cont..)

Source: What Is Your Vision of a Just and Climate-Stable 2050? | Alternet

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‘Delusionary Thinking in Washington: The Desperate Plight of a Declining Superpower’.. 

What is a declining superpower to do in the face of widespread defiance?

Take a look around the world and it’s hard not to conclude that the United States is a superpower in decline. Whether in Europe Asia or the Middle East – aspiring powers are flexing their muscles –  ignoring Washington’s dictates – or actively combating them. Russia refuses to curtail its support for armed separatists in Ukraine – China refuses to abandon its base-building endeavors in the South China Sea – Saudi Arabia refuses to endorse the U.S.-brokered nuclear deal with Iran – the Islamic State movement (ISIS) refuses to capitulate in the face of U.S. airpower.

What is a declining superpower supposed to do in the face of such defiance?

This is no small matter. For decades being a superpower has been the defining characteristic of American identity. The embrace of global supremacy began after World War II – when the United States assumed responsibility for resisting Soviet expansionism around the world – it persisted through the Cold War era and only grew after the implosion of the Soviet Union – when the U.S. assumed sole responsibility for combating a whole new array of international threats. As General Colin Powell famously exclaimed in the final days of the Soviet era –

‘We have to put a shingle outside our door saying ‘Superpower Lives Here’ no matter what the Soviets do – even if they evacuate from Eastern Europe’.

(cont..)

Source: Delusionary Thinking in Washington, The Desperate Plight of a Declining Superpower | Alternet

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‘Pebble Time review: the simple but effective answer to Apple Watch’.. 

Pebble’s latest crowdfunding success story doesn’t try too hard – reaping the benefits of a focus on functionality – notifications – and battery life.

Beyond notifications, music controls are the key reason to own a smartwatch. Pebble’s universal music remote shows what’s currently playing on the phone – can change the volume – pause – play – and skip tracks. It’s fast – effective – and works great with the iOS Music app – Spotify – Google Play Music – and most others.

Apps

Pebble Time review

Pinterest
With more than 6,500 user and developer created apps, there’s an app for almost anything. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Pebble also has more than 6,500 apps in its app store – typically focused on doing one thing well. Highlights include Misfit and Up for health and fitness monitoring – including sleep tracking – Runkeeper and Runtastic for tracking runs – Evernote – some transport and train times apps – Foursquare’s Swarm – and internet of things apps such as Leaf – which is used to control a Nest thermostat – the list is long.

Many of these apps are made by hobbiests and are clean simple and free.

(cont..)

Source: Pebble Time review: the simple but effective answer to Apple Watch | Technology | The Guardian

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‘Spare Rib: the top 10 reads from the archives’.. 

As the British Library’s collection of Spare Rib magazines launches online – we look back its legacy – and ask the archive’s curator to pick the articles revealing the magazine at its sharp – irreverent – revolutionary – best.

When you look over back issues of Spare Rib – a number of things strike you about feminism and how it has changed – I would say that they are depressing and heartening in the ratio of roughly 9:1. To start with the good news – it is salient to remember how much change has been wrought in terms of individual rights. There are cases in the news pages that make your jaw hang open: a woman fired from her job for wearing a badge that said ‘lesbians ignite’ – judgments handed down that dripped with contempt – not just for women who were gay but for women who worked – women who unmeekly existed. We have come further than we think. Equal pay is not the only win; there have been less measurable but more important victories in the realm of how much casual misogyny you can say out loud – while remaining in the broad category of civilised society.

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‘Norway fund could trigger wave of large fossil fuel divestments – say experts’.. 

Other investors are likely to follow Norwegian fund’s move out of coal-based investments – due to its size as the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund.

Norway’s decision to dump all coal-focused investments from its $900bn sovereign wealth fund could unleash a wave of divestment from other large funds – according to investment experts. The fund – the largest in the world – is one of the top 10 investors in the global coal industry.

The move – agreed late on Wednesday – is one of the most significant victories to date for a fast-growing and UN-backed fossil-fuel divestment campaign. It will affect $9bn-$10bn (£5.8-£6.5bn) of coal-related investments – according to the Norwegian government.

‘Investments in coal companies can have both a climate risk and a future financial risk’ – said Svein Flaatten of the governing Conservative party – which made a cross-party agreement to implement the selling of coal investments.

A series of analyses have shown that the world’s existing reserves of fossil fuels are several times greater than can be burned while keeping the temperature below the 2C safety limit agreed by the world’s governments.

Furthermore, authorities such as the World Bank and Bank of England have warned that fossil fuel reserves will be left worthless if the action needed to cut carbon emissions kicks in.

‘The significance of the Norway decision is that – because of their size and reach – this will act as a major signal for other investors to follow. This will certainly create a wave’  said Mark Campanale – founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative – which has pioneered analysis of the financial risks of fossil fuels.

‘Coupled with the news from AXA that it was exiting €500m (£355m) of coal and investing €3bn in renewables – this is a grim week for the listed coal majors’ Campanale said.

Tom Sanzillo – a former comptroller of New York State who oversaw a $156bn pension fund – also said Norway’s move was likely to spark others to do the same:

‘Coal stocks are losing money every day. No investment policy that I am familiar with can keep holding stocks in an industry with catastrophic losses – and with no realistic case for an upside. Norway has led – and I suspect they will not be alone for long’.

(cont..)

Source: Norway fund could trigger wave of large fossil fuel divestments, say experts | Environment | The Guardian

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‘Saudi farm deal could be examined by Auditor-General’.. 

 The deal that saw millions of dollars spent on a businessman’s Saudi Arabian farm could be scrutinised by the Auditor-General.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully came under further pressure today – with questions about whether a threat of legal action cited as a reason for the deal was genuine.

Green Party trade spokesman James Shaw revealed that he had written to the Auditor-General, Lyn Provost, asking for the farm deal to be investigated, specifically procurement processes.

‘Everyone knows lawyers throw around threats of big law suits to gain leverage for their clients’ Mr Shaw said.

‘The fact the Government appears to have believed the hype and jumped at these threats is both remarkable and possibly in breach of proper process’.

A spokesman for the Office of the Auditor-General confirmed receipt of Mr Shaw’s letter and would consider the request ‘as per our usual process’.

National has pushed back this week by blaming Labour for antagonising businessman Sheikh Hamood Al Ali Khalaf – to the extent where the Government was exposed to a legal claim of up to $30 million.

Spending about $11.5 million on Mr Al Ali Khalaf’s farm in Saudi Arabia was a way to defuse that threat – Mr McCully argued.

It would also mend relations with the Saudis to make a stalled regional free trade more likely – and serve as a demonstration base for Kiwi agribusiness.

Labour has said the legal threat was clearly hollow from the start – and during questioning by media Mr McCully confirmed it had been withdrawn by the time Cabinet signed-off on the deal in February 2013.

(cont..)

Source: Saudi farm deal could be examined by Auditor-General – Politics – NZ Herald News

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‘SuperCity agrees to pay $23.8 million leaky building bill’.. 

Auckland ratepayers are coughing up $23.8 million in the region’s biggest leaky building case.

 The 150 owners of the Nautilus Building in Orewa can now begin fixing their apartments – after the Auckland Council yesterday agreed to pay most of a $25.07 million award against the council and other parties.

Trevor Corin – chairman of Nautilus’ body corporate – said it had been a hard road for apartment owners – many of whom were semi-retired or retired – who had endured six years of hardship after discovering issues in 2009.

‘To get this outcome everybody will be relieved and it means we can get on and fix our building. Everything going well we should be able to start work early next year’ Mr Corin said. He said it would be two years before most owners’ lives were back to normal.

The High Court at Auckland awarded $25.07 million to the owners of the 12-level Nautilus Building on April 29 this year.

The judgment held that the council, builders Brookfield Multiplex – Walkers Architects and local water-proofing company Charles Norager Ltd were liable.

With the builder and architect in liquidation – the council has been left responsible for paying the full amount – minus a small amount for some allegations the court did not find the council liable for.

Said Mayor Len Brown: ‘We have a liability to pay forthwith’.

The council yesterday instructed chief executive Stephen Town to take all necessary steps to recover some of the money from the other parties.

Building control claims manager Sally Grey told councillors it was ‘inaccurate”‘that the lawyer for the apartment owners –  Tim Rainey – had offered the council a settlement of $15 million six weeks before the trial.

Mr Rainey yesterday stood by his claim – saying the offer was not made six weeks before the trial – but in February last year – six months before the case. ‘They made their decision and chose to take it to trial and that didn’t work out so well for them’ he said.

(cont..)

Source: SuperCity agrees to pay $23.8 million leaky building bill – National – NZ Herald News

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‘Spy agencies’ surveillance power to grow’..

Google – Facebook – and other big internet companies will be forced to hand over encrypted conversations of suspected terrorists and criminals under plans to bolster surveillance powers in Britain.

New laws will require applications to hand messages sent by their users to MI5 – MI6 – and GCHQ – if they are under investigation.

The power will be included in an Investigatory Powers Bill which will overhaul the spy agencies’ ability to monitor suspects.

The Bill – announced in the Queen’s Speech – will revive the so-called ‘snoopers’ charter’ but is much wider than previously planned.

The Conservatives are pushing ahead with legislation blocked by the Liberal Democrats. The Government has promised to ‘address ongoing capability gaps’ that it says hinder the ability of the security services to fight terrorism and other serious crime.

It will also seek to allow the intelligence agencies to ‘target’ the communications of terrorists – paedophiles – and serious criminals.

The Tories said they would also push ahead with plans to allow Ofcom to take ‘tough measures’ against broadcasters that air interviews with extremists.

Schools – nurseries – and organisations working with children will be able to check whether a potential member of staff is an extremist.

The security and intelligence agencies are concerned that the encryption of conversations is now so sophisticated that they cannot discover what suspects are planning.

(cont..)

Source: Spy agencies’ surveillance power to grow – World – NZ Herald News

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‘Cutting down on meat? – Be careful what you replace it with’.. 

Eating less meat for better nutrition? What you decide to pile on your plate instead is what really counts.

But simply eating less meat is not a solid plan in and of itself. What you decide to pile on your plate instead of that steak, chop or cutlet is equally, if not more, important. If less meat translates to more stuffed-crust pizza for dinner, you could be doing yourself more harm than good.

Even those committed to healthful vegetarian options often don’t strike the right balance. Many turn to dairy, particularly cheese, as their default protein, which can certainly make for nutrient-packed and delicious meals. But if you are eating meatlessly a lot, and dairy is your only go-to, you could be missing out on some important nutrients and getting more unhealthful fat than you realise.

Vegetables must be part of a healthy meat-free diet, but they can't be the only part.

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Vegetables must be part of a healthy meat-free diet, but they can’t be the only part.

Meat is more than just protein – it is incredibly rich in several essential minerals and vitamins – particularly B vitamins – zinc – iron – and selenium. While dairy packs many B vitamins – selenium – and other nutrients in spades – it doesn’t have zinc – iron – or much B6. And while options such as low-fat yoghurt and milk are lean – a piece of cheddar cheese the size of your thumb has about double the saturated fat of 85 grams of lean beef.

To eat healthily with less meat it’s important to include more plant protein: nuts – seeds – beans – lentils – peas – and whole grains. While these are incomplete proteins – lacking the full spectrum of essential amino acids in sufficient amounts on their own – the amino acids in grains complement those in the nuts and legumes – so together they are complete.

You don’t have to eat them at the same time – as was once thought. Just getting a variety throughout the day will help cover you – not only for the protein you’d otherwise be getting from meat – but for iron – zinc – and B6 as well. Plus – they contain healthy fats – fibre – and a spectrum of protective antioxidants.

Source: Cutting down on meat? Be careful what you replace it with | Stuff.co.nz

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‘Breast cancer could be ‘stopped in its tracks’ by new technique – say scientists’.. 

Discovery of method for blocking enzyme that spreads cancer cells to bones is described as ‘important progress’ in prevention of secondary stage of disease.

Certain breast cancers spread to the bones using an enzyme that drills ‘seed holes’ for planting new tumours – research has shown.

The discovery could lead to treatments aimed at preventing secondary breast cancers in patients with non-hormone sensitive disease.

The enzyme lysyl oxidase (Lox) is released from the primary tumour in the breast. Scientists found that it produces holes in bone that provide fertile ground for the growth of spreading – or metastatic – cancer cells.

But the process could be blocked – at least in mice – with bisphosphonate drugs that prevent bone loss and are used to treat osteoporosis.

The drugs are already prescribed to men with advanced prostate cancer that has spread to the bones, to prevent pain and fractures.

Dr Alison Gartland – from the University of Sheffield, who led the research, said: ‘This is important progress in the fight against breast cancer metastasis – and these findings could lead to new treatments to stop secondary breast tumours growing in the bone – increasing the chances of survival for thousands of patients.

‘We are really excited about our results that show breast cancer tumours send out signals to destroy the bone before cancer cells get there – in order to prepare the bone for the cancer cells’ arrival.

‘The next step is to find out exactly how the tumour secreted Lox interacts with bone cells to be able to develop new drugs to stop the formation of the bone lesions and cancer metastasis.

This could also have implications for how we treat other bone diseases too’.

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Source: Breast cancer could be ‘stopped in its tracks’ by new technique, say scientists | Society | The Guardian

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‘Sexists Are Scared of Mad Max – Because It’s a Call to Dismantle Patriarchies’.. 

The film shows the horror of sexism – and is full of small and not-so-small feminist moments. That’s what makes the movie so forward-thinking.

I hadn’t planned on seeing Mad Max: Fury Road – but once I heard that some menhad declared the movie a feminist conspiracy of mass-emasculating proportions – I couldn’t resist.

And now I’m here to tell you that I can see why some men – sexist men, anyway – would be afraid of it. They should be.

The movie – as has been said by others – is glorious: beautifully shot – fun – fast-paced – and yes – feminist. And if the popularity of the film is any indication (global cumulative box office is already $227m) this iteration of Mad Max shows that movie audiences are thrilled by its female action heroes – a plot that shows the necessity of dismantling patriarchies – and its ‘leading’ man who supports the real hero – the leading lady.

The film focuses on Charlize Theron’s character Furiosa – who is a soldier for a dystopian tyrant in a world in which women are milked like cows for their breastmilk and locked away as breeders. She seeks redemption from past bad deeds by freeing her leader’s “wives” (sex slaves – really) with plans to bring them to her childhood home called ‘the green place’. The wives – desperate to leave and insisting ‘we are not things’ have to outrun an old murderous husband – who chases after them screaming ‘my property!’

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Source: Sexists Are Scared of Mad Max Because It’s a Call to Dismantle Patriarchies | Alternet

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‘How Bernie Sanders Learned to Be a Real Politician’.. 

A portrait of the candidate as a young radical.

Sometime in the late 1970s – after he’d had a kid – divorced his college sweetheart – lost four elections for statewide offices – and been evicted from his home on Maple Street in Burlington Vermont – Bernie Sanders moved in with a friend named Richard Sugarman. Sanders a restless political activist and armchair psychologist – with a penchant for arguing his theories late into the night – found a sounding board in the young scholar – who taught philosophy at the nearby University of Vermont. At the time Sanders was struggling to square his revolutionary zeal with his overwhelming rejection at the polls—and this was reflected in a regular ritual. Many mornings Sanders would greet his roommate with a simple statement: ‘We’re not crazy’.

‘I’d say ‘Bernard – maybe the first thing you should say is ‘Good morning’ or something,'” Sugarman recalls. ‘But he’d say ‘We’re. Not. Crazy’.

Sanders eventually got a place of his own – found his way – and in 1981 was elected mayor of Burlington – Vermont’s largest city—the start of an improbable political career that led him to Congress – and soon he hopes – the White House.

On Tuesday – after more than three decades as a self-described independent socialist – the septuagenarian senator launched his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in the Vermont city where this long strange trip began.

But it was during Sanders’ first turbulent decade in Vermont that he discovered it wasn’t enough to hold lofty ideas and wait for the world to fall in line; in the Green Mountains – he learned how to be a politician.

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(ed:..i am a bernie sanders fanboy – him and elizabeth warren are the two american politicians who talk the most sense..)

Source: How Bernie Sanders Learned to Be a Real Politician | Mother Jones

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