Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kiwi involved in tragic sea mystery - skipper fell overboard...

Kiwi involved in tragic sea mystery - skipper fell overboard to his death...

David Parkinson, whose adventures inspired the film Proof of Life, was lost at sea between Niue and Tonga.

Doc David Parkinson's final voyage (PDF)

A New Zealand man was left adrift and helpless on a yacht in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for three days after his skipper mysteriously fell overboard to be lost at sea.

Alexander McDonald, 65, found he was alone on the 40-foot sloop Santana somewhere between Niue and Tonga after he awoke about 6pm on August 20.

British yacht-owner David Parkinson, a former British Royal Marine whose adventures inspired a Hollywood film, is missing, presumed dead.

Tonga police commander Chris Kelley said McDonald was unable to sail the yacht alone but still tried to search for Parkinson.

"He effectively went around in ever decreasing circles for at least three days. He attempted to recover him, but he's been unsuccessful and he [Parkinson] was lost at sea."

McDonald told Kelley he did not know how to operate the communications equipment and was unable to call for help.

After three days adrift, he managed to activate the rescue beacon, which was picked up in the United Kingdom.

British authorities alerted New Zealand that help was needed in the Pacific, and a Tongan Navy rescue boat was sent to save an increasingly worried McDonald.

An aerial search found no sign of the missing skipper.

Parkinson's brother Chris, who lives in the United States, said in an email: "No body and I doubt there'll be one. God knows, I hope his passing was quick and painless - though I doubt it was peaceful."

He believed McDonald had weathered a storm since becoming adrift, having received a message from officials saying: "The engine was broken and the sails were broken."

It was an amazing round-the-world attempt that should never have been possible. The British skipper suffered from Parkinson's disease - yet set off after an experimental operation. Surgeons implanted a pacemaker in Parkinson's chest which sent electrical impulses to electrodes in his brain.

Friend of 20 years Michael Lewis, a photographer based in the United States, had recently sailed with Parkinson. "Having sailed a fair amount I can't imagine anything that is more horrific than being in the ocean and watching the boat leave you behind."

He said Parkinson was "well aware" of his physical limitations. He needed a volunteer crew to help him with sailing - and had given up going in the water.

"He wasn't going in at all. He was afraid he would have a seizure, he was being very cautious. David was really concerned about his ability to function properly outside the cockpit."

Lewis said his friend sought solace in the sea. "He comes alive when he is at the helm ... He was obviously an adventurous soul. He was bound and determined to complete his around the world journey despite the limitations that the disease was having on him."

Lewis said Parkinson had left the military to work for a company called Control Risks in London as a hostage negotiator. He worked often in Colombia, where one of his cases was made into the film Proof of Life with Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan. He recalled Parkinson saying: "We didn't really go in with guns blazing. That only happens in Hollywood."

Parkinson and Spanish crewman Magi Bacardi arrived in Rarotonga from Bora Bora on May 28. Bacardi left to join another yacht, and Parkinson began to search for another crew member.

He met McDonald, and Cook Island officials said the pair left for Niue on August 6. A spokesman for Niue Customs said Santana never arrived.

McDonald had been spoken to "at length" by Tongan police and was now free to leave the island, police chief Kelley said. The Santana would remain under guard at Nuku'alofa harbour until the police investigation was complete.

A spokesman for the Tongan Defence Services, which rescued McDonald, said the Kiwi seemed in good health.

Acknowledgements: MSN NZ

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Three All Blacks stars to play for Canterbury in Ranfurly Shield/Air NZ Cup match against Wellington on Sat. night...

Canterbury will start their three All Blacks stars in the Air NZ Cup/Ranfurly Shield rugby challenge against Wellington on Saturday.

Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Brad Thorn have all been confirmed in the starting 15 for the match in Wellington, with All Blacks skipper McCaw today named to play at No 8.

His customary role at openside flanker is filled by George Whitelock, who retains the captaincy after leading Canterbury in McCaw's absence this winter.

The match marks the first time McCaw has played in a shield challenge.

Carter has recovered from a slight calf strain which he picked up in the Tri-Nations test win over Australia in Sydney last Saturday.

Also back in Canterbury's ranks is loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett, who was involved with the All Blacks during the build-up to the Bledisloe Cup test but wasn't used in the playing 22.

Another international, loose forward Kieran Read, has not recovered sufficiently from knee injury to take his place in the Canterbury side.

Canterbury coach Rob Penney welcomed the availability of his All Blacks.

"It's great to have these guys available for us and keen to play and that enthusiasm is the key. They are obviously quality players and are extremely excited about playing in this match.

Carter comes in for Stephen Brett, who played well in Canterbury's 25-21 victory over Tasman last weekend and will be on the reserves bench.

Thorn replaces Luke Romano and McCaw comes in for Mike Coman, who is expected to be sidelined for three weeks with an ankle sprain.

In other changes, second five-eighth Ryan Crotty replaces Tim Bateman, who moves out one spot to centre, with Adam Whitelock named on the reserves bench.

James Paterson comes on to the left wing for Tu Umaga-Marshall.

Colin Slade, Sean Maitland, Tim Bateman, Ryan Crotty, James Paterson, Dan Carter, Tyson Keats, Richie McCaw, George Whitelock (captain), Michael Paterson, Brad Thorn, James Broadhurst, Peter Borlase, Ti'i Paulo, Wyatt Crockett.

Reserves: Corey Flynn, Andrew Olorenshaw, Sam Whitelock, Matt Todd, Andy Ellis, Stephen Brett, Adam Whitelock.

Acknowledgements: NZPA

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Auckland super city brews up a storm - political hide and seek...

Auckland super city brews up a storm - political hide and seek...

Hide denies threatening Govt over Maori super city seats

Hide denies threatening Govt over Maori super city seats
Audrey Young: Hide's Maori seats threat - principle or strategy?
Act leader Rodney Hide has told Prime Minister John Key he will resign as Local Government Minister if National agrees to Maori representation on the Auckland Super City council.

Government stability would not be threatened, however, because Act's five votes would still support National on confidence and money supply votes, Mr Hide said.

The issue has been reignited after it was revealed that National MP Tau Henare sent his colleagues an email on Tuesday trying to convince them to support Maori seats in the Super City bill that will be returned to Parliament soon.

But Act's refusal to budge means that a compromise on the Maori seats that Mr Key had previously hinted at looks impossible.

Mr Hide is responsible for steering the Super City restructuring bill through Parliament. He told the Herald last night that he had made it clear to Mr Key that he could not remain as minister if the legislation included Maori seats on the council.

"But it wasn't by way of a threat," he said.

Mr Hide said he told Mr Key: "Just to be absolutely clear, you have got our support for supply and confidence but as a minister, as the Act leader, I couldn't be responsible for introducing to the House a bill that would have reserve seats in it."

Auckland-based Mr Henare is on the committee considering the bill.

His email, obtained by TV3, asks National MPs to consider a free vote on the issue of the Maori seats.

"I believe the issue is too far-reaching and too important for a party presently sitting on 1 per cent in the polls to decide alone."

The email said Mr Hide had threatened to end Act's relationship with National if Maori seats were allowed.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said last night that she was disappointed at Mr Hide's position but her party's support for the Government would not change. "We always knew when we went into this arrangement with National that there would be issues that would take us right to the wire and this is one of them.

"But we have no intentions of withdrawing support for the Government and we have no intention of withdrawing our ministerial roles. That's not what we went into the relationship for."

Meanwhile, a private member's bill promoted by Auckland-based Labour list MP Phil Twyford that would have required a referendum before any Super City assets were sold or privatised was defeated in Parliament last night at its first reading.

But seriously, are we seeing the Key administration de-threading itself? Will it see out its full term? But of course, is there an alternative prime minister?

Come back Helen Clark all is forgiven!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Helen Clark loses her influence over old comrades...

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark allegedly pressured her former ministerial colleague Margaret Shields into not accepting the title "Dame". Helen Clark, like myself considers knighthoods and damehoods as a total anachronism in the 21st century. Americans regard these awards as a novelty and being so cool, but it belongs in another century. Now out of government and non-active in the labour Party, Helen has lost her influence over old comrades. Would I in another life have accepted a knighthood? Don' think so!

But the former MP for Kapiti did not buckle, and this afternoon she will be invested as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Dame Margaret is one of the 24 women and 48 men who will be formally installed as dames and knights at a ceremony in Wellington.

Helen Clark's Labour Government replaced the titles in May 2000 with the non-titular honours of principal and distinguished companions of the order.

National restored the titles in March and gave the 84 people affected by the change four months to choose whether to become dames and knights.

Helen Clark sent Mrs Shields a letter setting out why Labour had abolished the titles and saying she hoped she would not accept one.

Dame Margaret described Helen Clark's approach as being asked to "toe the line", but said she did not see it as a party-political issue.

She did not believe that accepting the title meant she was a royalist.

Dame Margaret said she and Helen Clark had agreed to disagree. "I have a great deal of respect for Helen, but I am not a clone."

The only other former Labour MP given the title choice was the former Speaker Margaret Wilson, and there was never any doubt she would reject the title. As Attorney-General, she had presided over the abolition of the right of appeal to the Privy Council.

Helen Clark, now Administrator of the United Nations Development Fund, is in New Zealand on holiday but could not be reached for comment.

But she is understood to have been deeply disappointed that Dame Margaret and some others to whom her Government awarded high non-titular honours had accepted titles.

Dame Margaret - a Cabinet minister for six of her nine years in Parliament and later chairwoman of the Greater Wellington Regional Council - was initially made a distinguished companion in January last year. She was already a companion of the Queen's Service Order.

She said the reason she accepted the title of "dame" was "overwhelming support" from the public and people who had supported her for years.

"They were annoyed when I got the award and no title."

Only 13 people who had the option of becoming dames or knights turned down a title. They included actor Sam Neill, academics Ranginui Walker and Vincent O'Sullivan and authors Patricia Grace, Joy Cowley and Witi Ihimaera-Smiler.

Among those being invested today will be former PM Dame Jenny Shipley, sports heroes Sir Russell Coutts, Sir Peter Snell and Sir Colin Meads, Maori leaders Sir Tumu te Heuheu, Sir Archie Taiaroa and Sir Harawira Gardiner and businessmen Sir Stephen Tindall, Sir Ralph Norris, Sir Peter Maire and Sir George Fistonich.

No doubt in a few more years the question of these awards will be debated again, and I can see the same result when next we have a Labour Government. This will be debated along with the possibility of a republic and a new flag, and of course the future of the Treaty of Waitangi too!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Minty on the run - go Minty go...

Minty on the run - go Minty go! Who's Minty?

Minty is a little capuchin monkey who escaped from the Willowbank Wildlife reserve in Christchurch, NZ.

An attempt to lure Minty from her treetop home failed, leaving her on the loose for another day.

She escaped from the reserve after a series of unfortunate events, including falling into a moat, swimming the wrong way and being propelled out of her enclosure by an electric shock. Poor Minty!

The reserve manager said she was spotted twice yesterday by park staff. A self closing trap set with bait was left overnight, but he didn't expect to find Minty inside it today. After all, Minty is a monkey, not a mouse. Its fingers crossed for reserve staff really!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Where I want my body to rest...

A group of us Kiwis were discussing where we would like our bodies taken to before our respective funerals.

One was definately in favour of being at home. Another at the chapel, and a Maori bloke wanted to be on view at the marae. One other said just leave me in the morgue!

But I said to him,"Hey Mike, you'll be lonely there; you won't have anybody to talk to." He looked at me, and laughed!

The community

So really forgiveness to whom...

Crown receives statement of forgiveness: Forgiveness to whom?

Iwi delivered the first ever statement of forgiveness to the Crown at Parliament last night, in regard to the Port Nicholson Block Settlement in the Wellington region.

The statement by Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika followed a formal apology by Prime Minister, John Key, on behalf of the Crown.

"The Crown unreservedly apologises to your ancestors, to their descendents and to the people of Taranaki Whanui today for its actions which have hurt and caused prejudice to you."

Sir Paul Reeves responded by delivering the statement of forgiveness on behalf of the tribe.

"We acknowledge and forgive the Crown for its actions that caused hurt and prejudice for Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika. We acknowledge and accept the Crown's profound regret."

The historic moment capped off the enactment of the Port Nicholson Block Settlement which provides for redress and a financial package of around $25 million. The legislation settles claims involving the wider Wellington region and includes ownership of the three Wellington Harbour islands.

The Deed of Settlement will settle all the historical claims of the Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika collective in the Port Nicholson Block. The collective includes Te Atiawa, Ngati Tama, Ngati Ruanui, Taranaki and some Taranaki

No mention was made that these lands were usurped from their original Maori owners in or about 1835. The Crown has supported what in fact is sheer hypocricy by the Taranaki iwi. To take land by force from other iwi is okay, but when Pakeha did the some thing to the usurpers, there was obviously a different set of rules? Is there any apology or compensation given to the original owners of these lands? Perhaps 10% of the final settlement would be a fair amount?

So really forgiveness to whom?

Scientists claim differences in gay and straight brain configurations

I read recently about the possibility of differences in human brain configuration between gay men, straight men, lesbian women and straight women. Scientists have allegedly found evidence that confirms this claim. Please read Craig Young's reply to an article in another magazine. Please read below:

What might a "Gay Brain" Mean?

By Craig Young;

"Scientists have found tentative evidence that gay men's brains are similar in configuration to those of straight women, while lesbian brains were similar to those of straight men"
Watching TV3's 60 Minutes recently, I spotted a segment on advances in neurological imaging technology, which made me wonder about what this might mean for us.

Back in the nineties, there was some preliminary neurological autopsy work done which seemed to indicate that gay male brains were different in structure to straight male ones, although it should be noted that the autopsies were performed on gay male PLWAs, so it's possible that opportunistic neurological infections might have affected the overall picture. More recently, other scientists found tentative evidence that gay men's brains are similar in configuration to those of straight women, while lesbian brains were similar to those of straight men.

Let's assume that these neurological images from magnetic resonance imaging are valid ones, though, and question what advances in neuroanatomical scanning might mean for us.

Granted, forensic MRI technology could be useful in contexts like law enforcement and neurological medical applications. However, problems arise beyond that limited context of application. It's not difficult to work out why that might be the case. Remember, the Bill of Rights and Code of Health and Disability Consumers Rights prevent forced medical treatment unless one is a tangible risk to oneself or others. One must also recall that the Code has similar provisions that deal with informed consent to medical treatment and privacy and confidentiality of medical records. When it comes to DNA sampling, for example, the New Zealand Police are obligated to destroy any collected DNA samples if a suspect is eliminated from consideration, or acquitted of criminal charges.

If forensic MRI technology were to spread beyond those narrow and legitimate applications, then we might well suffer. As yet, this is a fledgling technology. It is possible that variations in individual neuroanatomy might result in misleading results. This technology should not be allowed into the private sector, and it should not be used to provide covert disability, genetic or antigay discrimination based on intrusive and non-consensual neurological scans during employment interviews, for example, or in equally intrusive personalised 'neuromarketing'.

I have included homophobic (and transphobic) discrimination in case identifiable gay genetic sequences do turn out to cause particular neuroanatomical results. Abused, forensic MRI scans could be exploited to pry into one's latent sexual orientation or gender identity, violating one's right to medical confidentiality and privacy. I would also oppose their abuse in the context of employment or other discrimination against those with psychiatric disabilities, as this group has particularly suffered from exclusion and discrimination related to educational attainment, housing and employment stability. I imagine disability rights groups would feel the same way if it came to physical anomalies that might emerge in later life. Many disability rights activists believe that the insurance industry already has too much latitude in these areas.

As with the related area of genetic discrimination, and developments in artificial intelligence, advances in neuroscan technology may play a role in future LGBT lives. For that reason, we need to insure now that its future potential applications must not stray beyond the legitimate needs of law enforcement and medical need.


Vernon Rosario (ed) Sciences and Homosexualities: New York: Routledge: 1997.

Johann Hari: "What Makes You Want to Have Sex With Men?" Attitude 169: August 2008: 62-64.

Craig Young - 20th March 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pitfalls of the proposed Government youth unemployment scheme....

I can personally see pitfalls ahead in the Government's youth unemployment package, below, with older unemployed people becoming victims of the policy, and many employers ripping off the system as usual. I would say good luck to the Government, but I have seen Tory policies before during the last couple of decades that don't benefit workers of any age. Please read on:

Critics say there are pitfalls in the Government's $152 million package to tackle youth unemployment.

The scheme, announced at the annual conference of the National Party on Sunday, includes subsidised work, education and training for unemployed young people.

Wellington High School principal Prue Kelly says some young people drop out of school before they become eligible for the scheme.

She says training can be expensive for 16 to 18 year olds struggling with training without any income.

Other critics argue the scheme would shift the unemployment problem from young, subsidised workers, to older, unsubsidised workers.

But Stuart Middleton of the Manukau Institute of Technology, says there are 17,000 - 25,000 people between 16 and 24 who are doing nothing because they have no training and are unattractive to employers.

Copyright © 2009 Radio New Zealand

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Leopard never changes its spots...

The Social Development Minister says plans to cancel benefits of people who refuse three job offers are on hold...

Paula Bennett says the recession has forced her to put some of The National Party's most radical benefit changes on hold.

The Social Development Minister says she is still keen to make savings in the system, which is currently spending more than $16 billion a year.

But Ms Bennett, speaking on TVNZ's Q&A programme, said plans to cancel the benefits of people who refuse three job offers, or will not accept training, are on the back burner.

Ms Bennett says right now the country expects her to be helping people who have lost their jobs because of the downturn. She says another 35,000 people have signed on for the dole since the slowdown began, and helping them should be the priority.

The Minister says circumstances have made it necessary to soften the policy, but she still wants to see it brought in before the end of the Government's first term in office.