Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The media versus Swine Flu equals great sales!

Some quotes from news organisations from around the world when this story broke last weekend....all within 12 hours of the WHO press release.

"...a fast moving new new form of the flu...and at this stage the death toll is rising"
"...are we on the path to a pandemic?"
"...the highly contagious disease may already be in Europe."
"...any indication this may have been caused by bio-terrorism?"
"...swine flu could wipe out tens of millions of people if it isn't stopped."

These case are all from American networks however even here in NZ, we have our own cases of hype. TVNZ's Wendy Petrie has been constantly talking about the 'deadly virus' and the 'killer virus', yet all the stories in the piece introduced by her referred to "suspected cases."

This deadly virus hasn't caused and issues for those outside Mexico, in fact our own health minister, Tony Ryall, from day one has said that the infected NZ people were 'doing well' and had 'very minor' symptoms. The headlines are telling us to freak out, but the people with the information are telling us not to.

But people were scared. Within 12 hours of these stories Petra and I did talk back on it and asked the question, is this a media beat up?

From a texter
"Pat you say u don't want to belittle the swine flu but u are! Wake up, when your child dies then your tune [will change]."

From callers

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

On Monday, in NZ, face masks flew off the shelves of chemists, and the Healthline had over 1600 calls specifically around Swine flu. Countries are issuing travel warnings about NZ, the A1GP has been cancelled in Mexico, Canada has cancelled all flights to South America....what the hell is going on?

So how deadly is this 'killer virus'. Well in Mexico 3% of deaths are attributed to pneumonia or influenza, that means annually between 15,000 and 20,000 people die from influenza. In the USA around 35,000 people die annually from it. From day one, not one headline said "SWINE FLU!!! Not that much more deadly that 'every year' flu"...I guess that wouldn't sell papers.

Here's the beef, it would appear at the moment this has been another beat up, like Ebola, SARS and Bird Flu before, not anywhere near as dangerous as the first BREAKING NEWS headlines told us...but...if it was the big once-in-a-lifetime can we trust what the media says? How will we know next time that bird or swine or cow or rooster flu turns up....that we can trust what they are saying?

Here's the kicker. We've been the many people have died in Mexico. Well the latest WHO report has just come out...remember the first one warned of a world pandemic of a deadly they started the hype, how many have died???


That's right, 7!!!!!!!

A WHO representative said today the agency had officially recorded only seven swine flu deaths around the world.

Reports have put the likely death toll from the virus at 152, with Mexican officials confirming 20 deaths. The number of cases under observation in Mexico alone has reportedly reached 1614.

But Vivienne Allan, from WHO's patient safety program, said the body had confirmed that worldwide there had been just seven deaths - all in Mexico - and 79 confirmed cases of the disease.

"That figure is not a figure that's come from the World Health Organisation and, I repeat, the death toll is seven and they are all from Mexico," Ms Allan told ABC Radio this morning.

My kingdom for some decent reporting, with some accurate facts and figures.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The question is...where is the line?

To waterboard, or not to waterboard…that is literally the question.

There are a couple of links in this blog that are short interview’s with Matthew Alexander, they are really worth a watch.

In the last week President Obama has released documents showing what the Bush administration authorised in ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on Guantanemo Bay prisoners including prolonged isolation, prolonged sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, extremely painful "stress positions," sensory bombardment (such as prolonged loud noise and/or bright lights), forced nakedness, sexual humiliation, cultural humiliation (such as desecration of holy scriptures), being subjected to extreme cold that induces hypothermia, exploitation of phobias and simulation of the experience of drowning, i.e., waterboarding.

Since then the conservative media in America have come out condemning the release of this information citing how the use of some ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, including waterboarding, led to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed revealing plans for an attack on Los Angeles.

There is also no real conversation on what could be called a gap in the ‘interrogation’ market for other forms of information gathering. As an example see Matthew Alexander’s interview on FOX here

How ever what they haven’t researched or revealed is if this was a plausible threat, or a false piece of information, and, how many other pieces of intelligence they have lost with prisoners ‘hunkering down’ through these techniques.

So the question is…where is the line? Does anything go in ‘war’, if the greater good is achieved?

Would it be okay to take a terrorists child and put a gun to their head, threaten to pull the trigger if they didn’t tell us (the good guys) where the next attack was, then when the terrorist didn’t comply, pull the trigger and get their next child?

If it meant saving thousands of lives?

Of course the answer is, “No, that’s not okay…that’s over the line”…but where is the line?

For the Bush administration the line was stepping outside the Geneva Convention, and changing legislation twice to get around the US Supreme court telling them this was wrong. For them the line was allowing ‘techniques’ that at the end of World War Two, the US sentenced Japanese soldiers to death, for performing on Allied soldiers.

For President Obama, the line is very different. We don’t fully know yet where he is going with it, but presently it would appear that his line is more in line with the Geneva Convention, and within the laws of the land. It would appear at the moment, Obama is more in line with Matthew Alexander than George W. Bush

Which is better, only time will tell…but the question is, where is the line?

Matthew Alexander on Fox

Matthew Alexander on The Daily Show

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lovely holiday week...

Had a nice week off spent in Raglan with the wife and kids, walking the beach, sipping coffee's, sleeping like a normal person at night...and eating like it was the 1970s...true story, we ate like it was the 1970s...lots of comfort food...check it out

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The difference between Bin Laden and The Taliban

Interesting interview from the Daily Show this week. The book will be a interesting read.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Reza Aslan
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

America - We don't torture

President Obama released information from the Bush administration and their policies on torture.

This is the Daily Show take on it...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
We Don't Torture
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Monday, April 20, 2009

Still number one

I've told people that I would let you know about the numbers from our latest survey.

For Thursday to Saturday nights, there are 96,300 listeners. For Sunday Sunday there are 64,300 listeners

For Thursday to Saturday nights, 23.6% of the listening audience listens to ZB, while for Sunday Sunday 21.6% of people listen.

Thanks for keeping us at Number One.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Paper or Plastic?

There is a ridiculous sentiment going around at the moment by industry around ‘being green’. We, the public are being told that numerous costs are going to be put upon us because it’s going to help the environment.

Tony Carter, Managing Director of Foodstuffs New Zealand, says of the new initiative to charge consumers 5 cents per plastic bag, "We think we are doing the right thing for New Zealand, the environment and for our customers, it's quite a big step for us Foodstuffs can be proud of taking this leadership position."

For New Zealand….for the environment…and for our customers…according to Carter, there is no benefit for Foodstuffs, it’s not about them, it’s for us…our country…and mother earth…my aren’t they philanthropical!

I would challenge that, and challenge it hard.

The only reason any company ‘makes a stand’ like this is for publicity, to tick the current trend of ‘being green’.

See, how this all falls over, is that if the suggestion logically makes no sense, it’s probably not the real reason. And the reason this makes no sense is because Foodstuffs is doing nothing, not one thing, to stop people using plastic bags…all they are saying is that if you need to commit your environmental ‘sin’ a 5 cent penance will clear your conscience.

On a personal level I don’t have a big problem with not using plastic bags, we tend to shop at Pak’n’Save and use boxes, cloth bags and reuse other plastic bags. I do have a problem though, with groups…be they businesses, government departments, lobby groups or anyone else, using the environment as a convenient excuse to allow them to tick that green box. If Foodstuffs were truly trying to help the environment then the answer at the checkout is simple…paper bags.

I am also sick of these groups ‘fining’ us for being bad, instead of helping us to follow the rules. Plastic is bad, pay your 5 cent fine and everyone can sleep better. How about no fine, but if I bring my cloth bag you give me a discount…surely that’s more likely that I would stop using the evil plastic. This is a mini version of the Emissions Trading Scheme, there is nothing that the government has done to help us stop emitting carbon…they have just said if you do…pay your fine, and we’ll all sleep better. It’s Ludicrous.

There is one more thing to think about, Foodstuffs have said that they are going to give the proceeds to charity, fair enough, nice even…but what does that mean?

Currently Foodstuffs uses 200 million plastic bags, Tony Clark says they’d like this idea to cut that use by 80%. That means in an ideal world Foodstuffs would still be using 40 million bags. At 5 cents each that’s $2 million dollars donated to charity. What does a business do then after it donates money to charity…it claims it back, this ‘charitable’ philanthropic act may reduce Foodstuffs tax bill by hundreds of thousands of dollars…and they haven’t told a fib…they may have just left something out. What about me, when I donate to charity I claim money back in my taxes, therefore from now on, when I go to a Foodstuffs store, and buy my bag…it’s me donating to charity, it’s my 5 cents.

I will be waiting with anticipation for my charitable donation receipt next time I am in my local 4 square.

Friday, April 17, 2009

New year, new government...same story?

For a few months I have been talking about how our major parties have seemed to 'changed scripts'

By that I mean it's weird how now Labour sounds like the National Party of 12 months ago, and National sounds like the last Labour government. Several examples of policies have already come up where it seems as if the wrong side if either supporting it, or opposing it.

Example, the Maori Prisons. National has tentatively supported the idea, Labour has come out against it. National crowing about the $246 billion that we will receive from Kyotol, a bill that hey passionately opposed...and the list goes on.

It's as if there is a handbook for the opposition, and one for the government, and all that has happened is that the sides have changed seats...but left the handbooks behind.

The same can be said for the media and groups that were attacking the Labour government last year for too much bureaucracy in the health sector, but seem to let through things happily this year under National like the new compulsory, no matter where you come from, English tests for nurses that came into affect on January 1st this year.

It doesn't seem to be a NZ problem though, it seems to just be part and parcel of politics. Below is a segment from tonights The Daily Show which shows it happens everywhere...the issues don't seem to matter to long as your side is the one saying them.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Nationwide Tax Protests
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An Open Letter to the National Government

Three tangible ideas to turn the country around.

This is an open letter from an Average Joe that wants to see New Zealand move through the current recession but also wants to look to see how in two of three years, hopefully when we are in better times, we can still be a country that the world looks on with envy at our success. The three ideas cover off areas of personal/national wealth, education and tourism.

Idea One – bringing people out of poverty
This is not entirely mine, but one that was mentioned on talkback a few weeks ago that I have extended on and investigated. I think that we should adjust the State Housing system. A story on TVNZ in 2006 listed the cost of repairs to State Houses in NZ at $21 million, for the purpose of this idea let’s assume its similar now, and round it to $20 million.

Tenants don’t get anything from this relationship with the government that helps then to move forward in life, it’s an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff that helps day to day, but doesn’t address the poverty issue. I propose that the government starts building more state houses, from there the house gets sold to what would today be a tenant, it’s sold at cost, and the government negotiates the mortgage with a 0% to 2% interest rate. The payment of the mortgage would still be income tested as is rent currently for a State House, and if an owner reneged on the mortgage then like any of us they could lose the house and the money they have paid for it thus far.

The benefits of this would be numerous, but initially it would start the low income earner building equity, and in doing so wealth which would build wealth for the whole country. Secondly it would reduce the bill each year for repairing State Houses. Under the new system the owners would be responsible for everything a homeowner would be expected to pay for. The current State Housing system should not be gotten rid of, this would be supplementary to what is currently happening.

Idea Two – ‘free’ education
Education is the cornerstone for moving this country forward in the next generation. We may never stop the ‘brain drain’, but we could start to look at replacing them with people who are already here, but are maybe missing the opportunity, or motivation for further education. The idea is simple, a school leaver, chooses to join one of the armed forces for one year, straight out of school. They are guaranteed that they will not be deployed internationally; they are serving their country from within for the year. For this the get a $20,000 credit for their tertiary education.

The current salary for a recruit in the armed services is $31,894. Take $20k out and pay the recruit the remaining 12,000 for the year. $231 a week when you have no expenses should keep someone in money to play with.

The other tangible result we would see from this is some teenagers, who currently may be lacking in discipline would come out of a programme like this, different people, they would need to have a fitness level to get in, and have completed schooling to a certain level. What would be better motivation than, ‘stay fit, keep your grades okay and we’ll give you a free degree/diploma’. I also think you’d see that the number of those in the armed services would go up as some would find it as their career in the years ‘service’ they gave.

Idea Three – build tourism through free airfares
One in ten jobs in NZ are connected to the tourism industry. Therefore if tourism is successful then NZ is successful, if tourism is making money, NZ is making money.

On average a tourist spends $131 per day, which means they pay $14.56 a day in GST.

We own 84% of Air New Zealand, the government should offer free airfares to international visitors, using a formula that makes the GST cover the airfare. For example, a return airfare from Sydney is around $350, theoretically that’s around 3 weeks visit. So the formula is if you spend 4 weeks in New Zealand you get a free return flight from Australia. A similar formula could be used for the UK, USA or anywhere else. There is the possibility of attracting people who may not be the kind of tourist that pays the $131 average per day, you could add other conditions in to minimize the chances of this happening for example, you’d need to be 40 or older to apply.

We have been told by John Key that $50 million dollars will be allocated for the building of a cycle way the length of the country. If we add our estimate of State Housing repairs on top of that we have a pool to start these initiatives of $70 million, which will build a lot of houses, especially if government owned land is used, or purchase a lot of airfares to reap the GST reward at a later date.

These ideas are the kinds we need to hear about when it comes to moving the country forward, the cycle way (due respect) isn’t going to do it. These ideas will help all areas of life in NZ, educating our younger New Zealanders, helping the issue of poverty with a tangible solution and helping an industry that employs 10% of our population, and maybe even in this time of recession, may even grow it.