Archive for the ‘Politics – The Right Way’ Category

NZ budget almost shock-proof: IMF

Monday, September 6th, 2010

– Another thing to add to the list of reasons why I am here.


New Zealand is among only a handful of advanced economies where the government’s budget is best placed to deal with “unexpected shocks”, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report says.

The National government has been criticised by the opposition for increasing debt to fund tax cuts during tough economic times.

But the IMF staff report released yesterday found New Zealand had the second smallest government debt out of the 23 advanced economies it analysed, suggesting the country’s budget would be well-placed to deal with future shocks.

The Washington-based institution examined a country’s “debt limit” based on its historical track record and its current debt level, which it describes as the “fiscal space”.

“Among the advanced economies, Australia, Denmark, Korea, New Zealand and Norway generally have the most fiscal space to deal with unexpected shocks,” the report said.

– More…

– Research thanks to Tony H.

Take a deep breath – why the world is running out of helium

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

– Not entirely sure if I’ve written on this subject before.   But, if I had money to invest, I can think of three areas where I’d probably focus myself.   Helium, Lithium and the Norwegian Kroner.

– The first two because they are chemical elements and they have unique properties that nothing else can duplicate and they are here in earth in finite amounts and our demand for them is rising.  And looks strongly like it will continue to rise.

– We know where virtually all of the Helium is on Earth is and, as the article documents, we are not conserving it very well while our need for it looks to continue to rise indefinitely.   A good bet, I’d say.

– Lithium is coming into its own because it is an essential ingredient in the zillions of batteries we are soon going to be needing and using for cars; among other things.   Bolivia has a bunch of it and the world’s major corporation are in a lather to get their hands on it.   And Bolivia’s people’s president, is having the audacity to say that the profits and benefits of mining and selling the stuff should accrue to the Bolivian people (can you imagine?).  The CIA took Allende down for far less cheek than this.   Now they are saying that vast amounts of Lithium have been discovered in Afghanistan.  That should prove interesting.

– And then Norwegian Kroners.  Well, the Norwegians are just about the only ones who’ve had vast oil wealth fall on their head that haven’t rushed out to build the world’s tallest building for the country’s ego or a personal ski-jump for each of their citizens.

– Instead, they’ve created one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds and then had the audacity to invest it ethically.  An investment that is beating a lot of countries investing in crap.   If I was looking for a stable currency to hold, my money would be on the Norwegian Kroner.

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It is the second-lightest element in the Universe, has the lowest boiling-point of any gas and is commonly used through the world to inflate party balloons.

But helium is also a non-renewable resource and the world’s reserves of the precious gas are about to run out, a shortage that is likely to have far-reaching repercussions.

Scientists have warned that the world’s most commonly used inert gas is being depleted at an astonishing rate because of a law passed in the United States in 1996 which has effectively made helium too cheap to recycle.

The law stipulates that the US National Helium Reserve, which is kept in a disused underground gas field near Amarillo, Texas – by far the biggest store of helium in the world – must all be sold off by 2015, irrespective of the market price.

The experts warn that the world could run out of helium within 25 to 30 years, potentially spelling disaster for hospitals, whose MRI scanners are cooled by the gas in liquid form, and anti-terrorist authorities who rely on helium for their radiation monitors, as well as the millions of children who love to watch their helium-filled balloons float into the sky.

– More…

UN declares water, sanitation ‘human right’

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

The UN General Assembly has declared access to clean water and sanitation a “human right”.

However, more than 40 countries including the United States failed to support the resolution.

The resolution adopted by the 192-member world body expresses deep concern that an estimated 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation.

The non-binding vote was 122-0 with 41 abstentions, including the United States, and many Western nations though Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain and Norway supported it.

UN anti-poverty goals call for the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation to be cut in half by 2015.

– To the original…

– List of the countries who voted for it (122) or abstained from voting(41).  No country voted against it:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

Abstain:  Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Greece, Guyana, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Zambia.

Finland makes broadband a ‘legal right’

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Finland has become the first country in the world to make broadband a legal right for every citizen.

From 1 July every Finn will have the right to access to a 1Mbps (megabit per second) broadband connection.

Finland has vowed to connect everyone to a 100Mbps connection by 2015.

In the UK the government has promised a minimum connection of at least 2Mbps to all homes by 2012 but has stopped short of enshrining this as a right in law.

The Finnish deal means that from 1 July all telecommunications companies will be obliged to provide all residents with broadband lines that can run at a minimum 1Mbps speed.

Broadband commitment

Speaking to the BBC, Finland’s communication minister Suvi Linden explained the thinking behind the legislation: “We considered the role of the internet in Finns everyday life. Internet services are no longer just for entertainment.

“Finland has worked hard to develop an information society and a couple of years ago we realised not everyone had access,” she said.

It is believed up to 96% of the population are already online and that only about 4,000 homes still need connecting to comply with the law.

In the UK internet penetration stands at 73%.

The British government has agreed to provide everyone with a minimum 2Mbps broadband connection by 2012 but it is a commitment rather than a legally binding ruling.

“The UK has a universal service obligation which means virtually all communities will have broadband,” said a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

– More…

Kiwi cities rank among world’s best

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Auckland has the world’s fourth-best quality of living, according to a new ranking dominated by European cities.

But in another ranking for eco-cities, Wellington beats out Auckland, ranking fifth worldwide.

In both categories, New Zealand cities sit at the top of the Asia Pacific, ahead of Australian contenders.

The 2010 Mercer Worldwide Quality of Living Survey was released today, ranking cities for overall quality of living based on political, socio-economic and environmental criteria as well as sanitisation, education and transport. The company also compiled a list of top eco-cities.

Spokeswoman Georgina Harley said in a statement to media that New Zealand cities had been recognised for having “quality housing close to the city”, “political stability” and “transport”.

Ms Harley also praised New Zealand cities’ “wide selection of restaurants”.

Auckland ranked fourth while Wellington was judged 12th worldwide for quality

Among eco-cities, Wellington was fifth while Auckland was deemed 13th.

– More…

New Zealand most peaceful nation

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

New Zealand has been named the most peaceful nation for the second year running, smashing Australia which barely managed to scrape into the top 20.

The fourth annual Global Peace Index (GPI), compiled by global think tank Institute for Economics and Peace, looked at the relationship between economic development, business and peace.

The report examines key areas of conflict, safety, security and military factors in 149 countries.

Their latest index, presented on Tuesday, suggested the world has become slightly less peaceful in the past 12 months.

New Zealand took out the top spot because of its political stability, safety and harmonious relations with neighbouring countries like Australia, which came in at number 19 in the poll.

The “peace indicators” which the Kiwis outshone their trans-Tasman neighbours in were the number of conflicts fought, the likelihood of violent demonstrations, the level of security required per capita and a number of military factors.

The Kiwis were followed by Iceland and Japan in the poll, while Austria and Norway rounded out the top five.

– More:

Government review to examine threat of world resources shortage

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Study commissioned following sharp rises in commodity prices on world markets and food riots in some countries

[British] Ministers have ordered a review of looming global shortages of resources, from fish and timber to water and precious metals, amid mounting concern that the problem could hit every sector of the economy.

The study has been commissioned following sharp rises in many commodity prices on the world markets and recent riots in some countries over food shortages.

There is also evidence that some nations are stockpiling important materials, buying up key producers and land and restricting exports in an attempt to protect their own businesses from increasingly fierce global competition.

Several research projects have also warned of a pending crisis in natural resources, such as water and wildlife, which have suffered dramatic losses due to over-use, pollution, habitat loss, and, increasingly, changes caused by global warming.

– more…

– research thanks to Tony H.

Senior military leaders announce support for climate bill

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

33 generals, admirals: “Climate change is making the world a more dangerous place” and “threatening America’s security”

The Pentagon affirmed earlier this year that “Climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked.”

Today an unprecedented 33 retired US military generals and admirals announced that they support comprehensive climate and energy legislation in a letter to Senators Reid and McConnell as well as a full page ad.  The news release points out:

It was the largest such announcement of support ever, reflecting the consensus of the national security community that climate change and oil dependence pose a threat American security.

– More…

5 Years After: Portugal’s Drug Decriminalization Policy Shows Positive Results

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Street drug–related deaths from overdoses drop and the rate of HIV cases crashes

In the face of a growing number of deaths and cases of HIV linked to drug abuse, the Portuguese government in 2001 tried a new tack to get a handle on the problem—it decriminalized the use and possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and other illicit street drugs. The theory: focusing on treatment and prevention instead of jailing users would decrease the number of deaths and infections.

Five years later, the number of deaths from street drug overdoses dropped from around 400 to 290 annually, and the number of new HIV cases caused by using dirty needles to inject heroin, cocaine and other illegal substances plummeted from nearly 1,400 in 2000 to about 400 in 2006,  according to a report released recently by the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C, libertarian think tank.

“Now instead of being put into prison, addicts are going to treatment centers and they’re learning how to control their drug usage or getting off drugs entirely,” report author Glenn Greenwald, a former New York State constitutional litigator, said during a press briefing at Cato last week.

Under the Portuguese plan, penalties for people caught dealing and trafficking drugs are unchanged; dealers are still jailed and subjected to fines depending on the crime. But people caught using or possessing small amounts—defined as the amount needed for 10 days of personal use—are brought before what’s known as a “Dissuasion Commission,” an administrative body created by the 2001 law.

Each three-person commission includes at least one lawyer or judge and one health care or social services worker. The panel has the option of recommending treatment, a small fine, or no sanction.


Obama warns of US food ‘hazard’

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

President Barack Obama has said the US food safety system is a “public health hazard” and in need of an overhaul.

He sounded the warning during his weekly radio and video address, as he appointed a new head of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

New York Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has been named for the post.

Mr Obama cited a string of recent food safety scandals including a salmonella outbreak in peanut products this year that has been linked to nine deaths.

The president said recent underfunding and understaffing at the FDA had left the agency unable to conduct annual inspections of more than a fraction of America’s 150,000 food processing premises.

“That is a hazard to public health. It is unacceptable. And it will change under the leadership of Dr Margaret Hamburg,” Mr Obama pledged.