Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sideswipe

By Ana Samways

Henry is an Australian who has been living in Aotearoa for 20 years, and although his allegiance is still "firmly across the ditch", he is astounded that New Zealand’s win in the netball wasn’t first up on One News. "The first story was about some refugee being kicked out of the country ages ago. The next was about political party polling (who gives a rat’s) and I think I can safely speak for a large percentage of the country. Is it any wonder this country is so psychologically down in the dumps with this sort of reporting? A 1500m runner just made history the other night. Only Snell and someone else has achieved what this man did. The netballers have just won the last medal of the Games, against their oldest adversary ... I know TV has a format, I know that political parties are important to run the country, but why does the media doom merchants’ focus on internal pessimistic bollocks take priority over celebrating New Zealand’s fabulous achievements? I think all TV folk need to be on a serious dose of Prozac after watching tonight’s news ... It was probably the most deflating evening I’ve had in ages ... Is it any wonder people are switching channels." Reply: Henry, mate. Settle, petal. Although a dose of happy pills may well aid television management in general, how do you propose the One News team could write the story of the game, cut together the highlights and get comment from a still-puffed Irene van Dyk in the fleeting minutes between the end of the live coverage of the Commonwealth Games netball final and their bulletin? Hmm?

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Prince is being sued for painting everything in his rented mansion purple. A basketball star and owner of the $70,000 a month Los Angeles pad recently sued the singer for painting the exterior of the house with purple striping, a "prince" symbol and the numbers 3121 - the title of Prince’s new album. Other renovations in the publicity stunt included the laying of a purple monogrammed carpet in the master bedroom and plumbing and piping added in the downstairs bedroom for "water transfer for beauty salon chairs". Prince is expected to hold a private concert at the Hollywood property for album buyers who find a purple ticket inside their CD cases, like Willy Wonka did with his chocolate. (Source: thesmokinggun.com)

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By the way ... Has anyone out there received their Rolling Stones tickets?

Editorial: Tony Blair has work to finish

Tony Blair, who arrives in New Zealand this afternoon, is in some ways the most misunderstood figure on the international stage.

It is nine years since he led the British Labour Party back to power, having reconciled it to monetarism and a market economy. Britain was booming and the "New Labour" mission was to see that the fruit was spread more equitably, mainly through better social services.

The Blair Government’s attempts at state service reform have not been notably successful, but Britain is still booming. Mr Blair’s more significant role has been in foreign affairs.

His name will forever be linked with that of George W. Bush and the invasion of Iraq. The Prime Minister and President never looked like natural companions, in style, personality or political persuasion, but Mr Blair saw it as his personal duty to support the United States through thick and thin.

In that respect, too, he was keeping faith with policy set by those in Downing St before him. Britain has learned through two World Wars that its security depends on the United States. The greatest fear of the Foreign Office has been American isolationism and British policy has been aimed above all at keeping the US engaged with the world, especially with Europe.

Arguably, that mission ceased for Britain on September 11, 2001. Since that day there has seemed no danger that Washington would ever again turn its back on events outside. Quite the reverse; the danger has been that in reaction to the first acts of terrorism from abroad the Bush Administration reserved the right to engage potential enemies anywhere in the world it believed them to be, with no need of international endorsement.

But Britain’s new concern seemed to be of US isolation in action. As the President issued ultimatums to Saddam Hussein, Mr Blair did his utmost to elicit international support.

He convinced Mr Bush to seek a resolution from the United Nations Security Council and worked hard to bring about some sort of accord between Washington and European Governments. In the end he could not avert a rift in the Western alliance, but he could not be faulted for trying.

When diplomacy had run its course Mr Blair was faced with a decision: to join the US in an unprovoked invasion of an Arab country or to uphold a semblance of international law. He decided it was more important that the US not be left alone.

Australia and a few other countries followed suit but Britain was the most significant ally. It was Mr Blair more than anyone who enabled the White House to claim it led a "coalition".

The Prime Minister has paid a price for his decision. His Government was re-elected last year with a much reduced majority, and in the expectation that Mr Blair will step down, as he has indicated, before another term is out. It is hard to see how he can escape that undertaking.

He has spent most of his political capital on the Iraq war and its bloody aftermath. His ambitious Chancellor, Gordon Brown, could make the decisive move at any moment. Mr Blair has the look of a lame duck.

He continues to prosecute the war on terror as assiduously as President Bush and that will be his primary message here, as it was in Australia. But here he is welcomed by a Labour Government that took a different view of the Iraq campaign.

Helen Clark might acknowledge the efforts he made to maintain the mantle of international law and discuss what more might be done now to deal with the mess the coalition has left in Iraq and the resentment still festering in Muslim societies.

Mr Blair probably feels his international responsibilities are far from finished and he is right.

Paul Buchanan: Contrary courage a costly venture

Lost amid the drama of the Christian Peacemaker Team hostage-taking and rescue in Iraq are two sub-plots of some import. One is psychological and the other is legal and fiscal.

On the psychological front is the mental disposition of the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) hostages themselves.

Although they are to be admired for the courage of their convictions and the fact that they actually engage in direct action rather than just talk, the CPT workers held captive in Iraq display traits remarkably akin to those of Islamic jihadists and Iraqi resistance fighters - they are willing to put themselves in suicidal positions for a cause.

They may well see themselves as helpers and facilitators for peace, but in going to Iraq against all reasoned advice, in the middle of a combined war of resistance against occupation and sectarian strife between primordial interests, they assured themselves of a brush with death. This is known as the martyr complex, although to be fair, perhaps these men were exhibiting it unwittingly.

This may be because the activists involved - including New Zealand resident Harmeet Sooden - had previously undertaken missions in Palestine in opposition to the Israeli occupation. Perhaps they thought Baghdad would be equivalent and the risk would be the same. They were wrong.

In Palestine, foreign peacemakers are received by a largely sympathetic population confronting a relatively "soft" occupation.

The Israeli Government and Palestinian authorities are acutely conscious of the public relations value of Western civilian peacemakers, so both sides work hard to ensure the safety of those individuals.

In Iraq the failures of US planning, and conflicts between Iraqi political elites, have led to a security vacuum that has been filled by armed groups of various stripes, including criminal as well as political organisations.

With sectarian violence approaching civil war and with desperation levels among the population at a breaking point, fear and loathing of Westerners are at an all-time high, regardless of the motive that brings them to Iraq. Rather than being seen as helpers and facilitators, they are perceived as interlopers and, increasingly, as easy sources of cash if kidnapped for ransom.

Such was the case with Sooden and his companions.

Some have commented that, in demanding that no force be used in securing their release and in belatedly thanking their military rescuers and reportedly not co-operating with Coalition authorities (including Canadians) in the intelligence debriefing that followed their liberation, the hostages were not only exhibiting a martyr complex but also the so-called Stockholm Syndrome.

This is a situation where captives begin to sympathise with their captors as a result of physical and emotional dependency.

That is not what has happened in this instance for one simple reason. Unlike most kidnap victims, Sooden and his friends were sympathetic to their captors long before they were taken.
Their mission in Iraq was to document Coalition atrocities and violations, and they fully empathised with those who, by choice or not, employed kidnapping and extortion as a means of financial redress or political statement. In this instance the motive was cash.

Although under duress in captivity, the CPT hostages understood the position of their captors. Unfortunately for the American captive Tom Fox, the US policy of not negotiating or paying ransom made him expendable, whereas the Canadian and British hostages had the benefit of Governments working to secure their release through negotiation - or counter-terrorism operations.

If nothing else, extending the timeframe of negotiations allowed Coalition security teams to develop actionable intelligence.

Whether as part of a negotiated settlement or as a result of good intelligence work leading to military rescue, the CPT hostages are now free.

That brings up the second point: who should pay for the costs of the affair?

Amazingly, the Christian Peacemakers admit that they had no contacts on the ground in Iraq through whom they could negotiate with the kidnappers.

That left the job of contacting and negotiating with the kidnappers to the very Governments - Canada in particular - which repeatedly warned them against travel to Iraq for anything other than officially sanctioned purposes.

It was Canada that led the negotiations, expending much diplomatic time and effort to secure the release of the hostages. It was Canada, Britain and other security partners (there were rumours of New Zealand involvement) which eventually developed the intelligence leads that located the site where they were being held. The steps taken to secure their release cost money as well as effort and time.

In this case we have four individuals - one now dead - aided and abetted by a non-governmental agency, who deliberately and consciously ignored official warnings from their Governments not to enter a war zone.

They were captured, suffered the indignity of captivity, and were rescued or released through the concerted efforts of those same Governments.

In many countries, including New Zealand, individuals who ignore official and expert advice and engage in risky ventures that require their being saved are required to pay the costs of the rescue operation.

Perhaps it is time to do the same with Sooden and his colleagues.

* Paul G. Buchanan is the director of the working group on alternative security perspectives at the University of Auckland.

Greg Ansley: It’ll take a huge budget to out-do Melbourne

As Melbourne takes a deep breath from the past 12 heady days, would-be hosts are looking at the more than A$1 billion ($1.14 billion) it cost the city to stage these Commonwealth Games and wondering: "Can we afford them?"

New Delhi has long made its mind up. The Indian capital will host the next Games in 2010, and has had a large team looking over Melbourne’s shoulder to see how it pulled its event together.

Potential bidders for subsequent Games have also been more than interested in the Melbourne experience.

Among them is Auckland, which is considering a bid for the 2018 Games, against potential rivals Lusaka in Zambia, Karachi in Pakistan and Sheffield in England. Auckland has hosted the Games twice before, in 1950 and 1990, but the cost and complexity almost three decades on will be vastly greater.

These will be major issues for the three cities so far vying for the 2014 Games: Halifax in Canada, Glasgow in Scotland and Abuja, Nigeria. The most ambitious is Halifax, a city about the size of Christchurch in the eastern maritime province of Novia Scotia. Glasgow has a population in its greater area roughly the same as Auckland, and Abuja, Nigeria’s purpose-built capital since 1991, has 2.5 million people.

That is fast changing. Nigerian Commonwealth Games Minister Nasir el-Ruferi, said when he announced the bid that by 2014 Abuja’s population would have soared to 13 million, with massive spending on sporting and other infrastructure.

But the costs for any city contemplating a Commonwealth Games are fearful. Each time a city hosts the event it lifts the bar for the succeeding host. And in Melbourne, where record crowds bought more than 1.5 million tickets, packed stadiums, thronged roadsides, cheered a A$50 million ($56.9 million) opening ceremony and partied through a non-stop festival, observers began asking if the bar was simply getting too high.

"That’s a question we keep asking ourselves all of the time," Games Federation president Mike Fennell said. "It is always a difficult thing looking into the future. "

The implications will be studied hard in Auckland, which has neither the scale nor the sophistication of Melbourne’s venue complex, nor its roads and public transport. The solutions will come, but not easily or cheaply.

According to the reported conclusions of estimates produced by Sir Ron Scott, the man behind Christchurch’s $8.5 million 1974 Games, the bill for Auckland if it held the 2014 event would run to about $1.5 billion. Another four years on, that bill would be even higher.

The Victorian Government put a A$697 million ($794.2 million) cap on its direct spending on the Games, which Commonwealth Games Minister Justin Madden said at the weekend he expected to be met. But this did not include the cost of a massive security blanket or venue and other infrastructure upgrading that seems likely to push the final total closer to A$1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) than the official estimate of A$1.1 billion.

The federal Government kicked in a further A$290 million ($330.4 million), much of it spent on jet fighters, warships, commandos and spies deployed to protect athletes and spectators from terrorists and other potential threats.

Melbourne knew what it was doing. The city could present to the Games Federation a city with a mix of venues and support systems, proven annually with the Australian tennis open, a Formula One grand prix and a string of other big, testing events.

Even so, the city had to spend hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading its facilities and services. Unlike Sydney, where taxpayers are still paying A$42 million ($47.8 million) a year for the Olympics, Games chairman Ron Walker said Melbourne had the cost covered.

"Most of [the upgrading and new facilities] are debt-free, " he said.

"Sure, we’ve raised the bar but that’s the way we do things here because we’ve had this vast experience over the years in running major events."

India, only the third developing Commonwealth country to hold the Games - after Jamaica in 1966 and Malaysia in 1988 - will be out to top Melbourne. It has previously twice staged the Asian Games and has ambitions to hold the Olympics, and sees the Commonwealth event as a key staging post.

Like other Games hosts, it sees large potential economic spin-offs and is prepared to put up the necessary hundreds of millions. The central Government will build two new stadiums and upgrade others. It has also guaranteed to underwrite any shortfall between the organising committee’s expenditure and revenue.

India will also fly athletes and officials to the Games free of charge, based on the average size of each country’s teams at Manchester and Melbourne, and will throw in free air tickets and luxury accommodation for two members of each national Games federation.

For bidders for 2014 and beyond, this means finding an increasingly larger pool of money.

Fennell said Melbourne had raised the bar considerably and that Delhi - and each succeeding host city - would try to lift it further.

"That’s not necessarily to say we want grandeur, but the quality of what we do and how we present it. It’s a struggle to do that without going to enormous levels of expense," he said.

"The fact is that each city wants to do better than the others because they see the tremendous benefits that accrue to the city."

But he said that it was still possible for even comparatively smaller cities such as Manchester to stage very successful events. Manchester has a population of 437,000 and tailored its facilities to compromise between the Games and long-term use.

Fennell said the Games Federation now had a formalised and sophisticated system to pass knowledge from one Games to the next, including comprehensive bidding seminars where potential hosts were told of minimum requirements, likely costs, and possible solutions. The next seminar will be held in Melbourne in July.

A key message of these is that all Games spending must be justified beyond the event. Bidding cities are encouraged not to spend any money on venues that do not have a sustainable use afterwards. Manchester held the capacity of its new 2002 pool to 15,000 to match expected future demand rather than a Games peak.

Melbourne believes it found the right balance, selling corporate sponsorship worth more than A$100 million ($113.9 million) and predicting net economic gain. Games Minister Madden said: "We invested substantial amounts of money in these Games, but we use the term ‘investment’ over and over again. All these facilities will be used week in, week out, after the Games."

Finding that balance will be the challenge for future host cities.

Christopher Niesche: Thrown out with the rubbish

Waste Management and Australia's Transpacific Industries might like to call the deal they announced yesterday a merger, but make no mistake - this is a takeover.

Transpacific wants to buy all of the shares in the New Zealand-based rubbish company, leaving Waste Management shareholders with no equity in the new business.

As Transpacific said in its briefing notes: "Waste Management NZ will cease to exist following completion of the amalgamation."

In short, the company will join the list of others that have recently departed from the New Zealand stock market.

By calling a takeover a merger, Transpacific can get around the Takeovers Code, which would require it to win 90 per cent of Waste Management's shares before it could acquire all the shares in the company and take it off the sharemarket.

Under the Transpacific proposal, company law requires only 75 per cent of shareholders to vote in favour of the deal for it to go ahead.

This means that up to 25 per cent of Waste Management shareholders can decide they don't want to accept the offer, but still have their shares compulsorily acquired.

Transpacific has a strong position in liquid waste, Waste Management in solid waste. Together, the two companies will create what they say is Australasia's largest waste management business and save A$30 million ($35 million) a year in synergy benefits.

Investors acknowledged what a great deal this is for Transpacific, pushing its shares up 23 per cent on the ASX yesterday. Waste Management shareholders will get a 24 per cent premium over Friday's close if enough of them accept the $8.64-a-share offer. But that's all they can hope for. They won't be able to go along for the ride.

Paran Balakrishnan: India gets mobile in numbers game

In early February, India's Telecom Regulatory Authority did a small victory jig and announced that India had pulled slightly ahead of China to become the world's fastest-growing telecoms market. "India seems to have really caught up with China in mobile growth," said an exultant statement.
The triumph was short-lived. The riposte, when it came a few weeks later, put India firmly back where it belonged, in second place. The Ministry for Information Industry said the Chinese had added 5.37 million new subscribers in January. The implied message: "We're still the Numero Uno and yah, boo, sucks to you."

Still, India is now turning out figures that should set corporate barons and investment gurus thinking. Since December, 13 million new subscribers have signed up for mobile phones - what one ad calls 'anywhere talk'. That's over 4 million new subscribers each month. OK, the Chinese are still ahead but it's not a figure to be scoffed at.

If that isn't convincing enough, here's another figure that shows how India is speeding into the telephony fast track. In 2009, Indians are expected to buy 139 million mobile handsets, says consultancy company Gartner. That will be ahead of mobile-crazy China, it says.

Hop into a time machine for a short ride back to 1990. If you've made it to an Indian city like Mumbai or Delhi, look around for the nearest phone and get ready for a harrowing experience. Offices don't have enough lines so their switchboards are engaged for hours on end. Even worse, calls never make it past overloaded exchanges.

Now step back to 2006. Hang about a crowded street for a few minutes and you are bound to spot people walking along with that familiar pose of a hand clasped to an ear. Even, perhaps, a man on a bicycle who has stopped by the kerb for a quick chat.

The man on the bike gives the game away. About six or seven years ago, mobile telephony was strictly for the urban rich. Calls cost about 50c a minute and monthly bills, by Indian standards, were wallet-gouging affairs. The early users would keep their mobiles on show. The drill was to step inside a smart restaurant and place your mobile on the table where everyone could see it.

But mobile telephony is an irresistible force and India isn't different from anywhere else in the world. What is different about India is its sheer size and a thirst for telephony that can only be matched in sheer numbers by China. So, in India there were 27 million new mobile subscribers in 2005 and the numbers climbed steeply each month. December's 4.46 million was up from November's 3.5 million mainly because of special offers by the phone companies. The mobile market grew 58 per cent in 2005.

The result of all this explosive growth is that after about 11 years of mobile services there are about 84 million mobile subscribers in India.

That's compared with about 49 million fixed line users even though the fixed line phones were introduced around a century ago. And telecom ministry officials are now targeting 250 million telephone users by 2007 - that includes fixed line and mobile users.

That's not really the little league, but it's still a few laps behind China. OK, India's adding lots of mobile phone connections, but China has got a bad case of telephonitis with about 325 million fixed lines and 398 million mobiles. That's a total of 723 million phones.

Nevertheless, while India may be a long way behind in raw numbers, it's still the second largest market in the world. And nobody's laughing at the Indian figures any longer. About three years ago, some of India's top manufacturers went on a trip to China and proudly boasted that they sold about 800,000 connections a month. They were scornfully brushed off by the Chinese who made it clear that they only counted in millions.

The telecom companies are looking long and hard at India for another reason too. Teledensity - the number of phones per 100 people - has already soared to about 29 per 100 in China. About 10 years ago, teledensity in India was an almost non-existent three per 100. Even now it has only risen to about 12 per 100. Those are the kind of figures that make telecom companies drool into their handsets.

So, it wasn't a surprise that in October Europe's giant phone company, Vodafone, paid US$1.5 billion ($2.5 billion) to buy a 10 per cent stake in Bharti Tele-Ventures, the largest Indian mobile phone company. Two weeks ago, it was Nokia's turn. The Finnish cellphone company is by far the market leader in India and it will spend US$150 million on a factory in Chennai that was opened this month by the Finnish prime minister. Three months earlier, Samsung said it would be starting mobile phone manufacture in the near future. Another Korean giant, LG, started production earlier this year.

If this sounds like a rosy success story, don't think it was scripted overnight. The Indian economy has always been likened to a lumbering elephant rather than a swift-moving tiger. In telecommunications, while the world was racing ahead in the 90s, India was getting it spectacularly wrong.

As a result a host of foreign telecom giants like Vodafone, which had set up shop here, gave up in despair because the government was all talk and no action and the state-owned service providers wanted to block all competition. One by one, the foreign companies turned off their phones and headed off to other smaller markets.

Big mistake. They should have stuck around or, like some foreign venture capitalists, plunged back into India quickly when the telecom market started showing signs of life. Take a look at Singapore's Telecom (SingTel) which took a bite-sized stake in Bharti Tele-Ventures. Another Singapore Telecom company, STT, put its bets on another Indian company Idea Cellular.

Singapore's powerful venture cap company Temasek has a controlling stake in Singtel and STT. Now they are both faring well.

The telecommunications industry began to find its way out of the bureaucratic maze in 1999 when the government framed its New Telecom Policy. With the fresh rules, suddenly the action began. The numbers began to leap a few years later when an additional two new service providers were given licences and they slashed rates dramatically, winning customers in the process. Today, Indian calling rates have dropped from being among the highest in the world to nearly the lowest.

The state-owned players are still big forces, especially in the fixed-line business and that may explain why that sector is barely growing. But the state sector companies and the private players are pushing into the smaller towns and semi-rural areas where phone services are still decades behind other parts of the country. And there are plenty of people out in the boondocks, where 60 per cent of India's one billion population lives, waiting to dial up the world.

* Each week the Business Herald's columnists track the latest developments in the world's two emerging economic superpowers. Paran Balakrishnan is the associate editor of the Telegraph, Kolkata.

Blair Mayston: Midwife caught up in tensions over a mother’s rights

At the heart of Jennifer Crawshaw’s trial lay a woman’s right to refuse medical treatment - a right medical ethicist Professor Don Evans describes as inalienable.

"To encroach on anyone’s liberty is a major, major thing and very few people are entitled to do it," said Professor Evans, the director of the Bioethics Centre at the University of Otago.
The Dunedin midwife was acquitted of manslaughter. The charge related to a baby she delivered to a first-time mother in 2004.

Testimony delivered during the trial made clear the mother’s wish for a birth without medical intervention.

Professor Evans acknowledged there were cases of parents being taken to court for not providing the necessaries of life, including medical treatment. But the same rules did not apply during pregnancy.

"A fetus has no status in law until the birth."

He said the law took a gradualist view of the growth of the moral status of a fetus, meaning as it grew it came closer to becoming a human with rights. The process was completed once the baby was delivered.

That legal position created a tension with modern medical practice, in which many medical staff thought in terms of having two patients - the mother and the unborn child - during pregnancy.

"We can even perform surgery of certain kinds on fetuses which makes them consumers of health and disability services," Professor Evans said. "Nevertheless, you can’t do anything to a fetus without doing something to the mother, and you can’t do anything to a patient without their consent."

So should that law be changed, to protect the welfare of an unborn child? Professor Evans believes that could be problematic.

"If we were to be consistent, we would say one fetus is no more important than another, so there would be no termination of pregnancy," he said.

Although some people would favour that, Professor Evans suspected many more would not.

The law could put medical staff in an unenviable position when patients refused treatment their practitioner believed to be in their best interests.

"That is very frustrating for a doctor and it’s very sad, but it’s a fact."

That unenviable position appears to have been the one in which Mrs Crawshaw found herself.

Approaches to the family to speak have been declined. The suppression of their identities prevents the publication of much personal information, but they are members of the Exclusive Brethren, a conservative religious sect which tends to keep to itself.

There was only a passing reference to religion during the trial, with mention of police asking Mrs Crawshaw in the months after the birth whether the religious belief of the parents played a role in their desire for a natural birth.

The midwife said that question needed to be addressed to the parents.

It became clear during the trial the mother was strongly opposed to medical intervention in the delivery of her baby.

"This being her first baby, she wanted the birth to be a very private thing - she found it difficult, the idea of many people being around when the baby was born," her husband said in his testimony.

"She said it was bad enough having Crawshaw involved."

It is worth remembering she laid no complaint against Mrs Crawshaw; the identity of the complainant is unknown.

Indeed, the mother sought Mrs Crawshaw out to deliver her second baby little more than a year after the death of her first, and on hearing the not guilty verdict smiled broadly and hugged the midwife.

Testimony revealed the mother wrote a birthing plan which stipulated that doctors would be involved only if all four people in the birthing room - the mother, the father, and two midwives - agreed it was medically necessary.

Mrs Crawshaw gave evidence she told the parents during the labour a medical opinion might be needed, but the mother indicated by her body language she did not want a doctor at that stage.

The mother acknowledged she was aware a caesarean could be needed to save the baby’s life if complications arose, but said: "If that became necessary, I’d probably have fought against it."

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES