Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sideswipe

This back car window sign was found in the 1,2,3 Dollar Shop at Hunter's Plaza, Papatoetoe by a bemused Clare Scott.

By Ana Samways

Did the world learn nothing from inventing the "Metrosexual?" According to a lengthy analysis in New York Magazine, "Grups" is a term for adults who, in subconscious desperation, dress and act way younger than they are. It's "grownups" with the "own" removed. The long-winded article picked it up from, where else, science fiction TV: "The term taken from an episode of Star Trek (keep reading) in which Captain Kirk et al land on a planet ruled by children with no adults in sight. It turns out that all the grown-ups have died from a virus that greatly slows the aging process and kills anybody who grows up." Marketers will already be targeting you.

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The largest number of pills popped by one person is 40,000 in nine years, according to doctors from London University. The 37-year-old known only as Mr A dropped 25 MDMA tabs (Ecstasy) a day at peak. He stopped taking the drug seven years ago, but still suffers from severe memory problems, paranoia, hallucinations and depression, and a painful muscle rigidity around his neck and jaw, which often stops him from opening his mouth. (Source: Guardian Unlimited)

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From one God-awful job to another: Prostitutes in Germany are being retrained as telemarketers, according to Reuters. "Competition in prostitution is fierce and the days when one could make a decent living out of it are long gone, especially once you hit the 30s," says project co-ordinator Gisela Zohren. "After years of prostitution, they know how to listen, look after people and are savvy in selling over the phone."

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All respectable bases covered: There has been much praise for Anand Satyanand's appointment as our next Governor-General, says Vaibhav Gangan, editor of the Global Indian, a magazine for Indians in Australasia. Fijians are happy because he is of Fijian origin, he says, and Indians make a claim on his Indian heritage. National's Chinese MP Pansy Wong is proud that he is an Asian. Minister for Ethnic Affairs Chris Carter shows him off as a member of the "ethnic" community. And if that was not enough, a caller to Newstalk ZB yesterday gushed: "He makes us all proud as Catholics. He's the first Catholic to be appointed the head of state not only in New Zealand, but in the entire world." (He meant the Commonwealth).

Editorial: UN report worthy of discussion

It does no harm to hear an outside view of ourselves. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the special rapporteur for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, might not be dispassionate on the subject of his mission, "the fundamental freedoms of indigenous people", and his conclusions may be predictable. But they deserve discussion.

Having made a fairly comprehensive survey of Maori fortunes, past and present, the main deficiencies he sees are constitutional. He thinks the Treaty of Waitangi should be entrenched in law in some way, the Waitangi Tribunal's decision should be legally binding on the Government and iwi and hapu should have a greater degree of self-governance.

The informality of our constitutional understandings would probably strike any visitor as a deficiency and Professor Stavenhagen might be unaware of the standing of the Treaty today. He is unlikely to have heard its entrenchment in law urged by many of the Maori he consulted here. Even if the Treaty could be enshrined in a way that put it beyond parliamentary amendment or repeal, its meaning would be the subject of more litigation than it might bear.

The professor suggests it should be entrenched in a form that "respects the pluralism of New Zealand society" and makes provision for Maori "as a distinct people possessing an alternative system of knowledge, philosophy and law". That is a contradictory prescription to start with. The Treaty is better left to stand, with its contradictions and imprecision, as a touchstone for the national aspirations of Maori and Pakeha.

Likewise, the Waitangi Tribunal would struggle with the constitutional authority he recommends. The Tribunal is primarily a sounding board for tribes to tell their stories of land loss. To turn it into a court of binding adjudication would force it to take a much more critical approach to history and load it with more political contention than it might bear. Better that the tribunal remain a commission of inquiry whose findings form a good basis for the aggrieved and the Government to negotiate redress.

The UN's emissary has been notably unhelpful on the particular issue that brought him here: the foreshore and seabed. Understandably, he finds it contrary to human rights that the Government has unilaterally extinguished indigenous customary right following its recognition in principle by the Court of Appeal. But the best he can recommend is that the Government try to reach a negotiated settlement that recognises an inherent right of Maori to foreshore and seabed and establishes a regime that allows for free public access to the coast. That is more or less what the Government has done, albeit unilaterally.

He also confronts the National Party's Orewa doctrine that race has no place in political representation or in the design of social welfare. He advocates constitutional entrenchment of MMP to ensure Maori are represented in the legislature and in local government. And strictly race-blind social programmes, he says, neglect one of the causes of persistent inequalities. There is still value, he believes, in services delivered "by Maori for Maori". That needed to be said.

The cold reception of the UN report by both sides in Parliament suggests it is not going to provoke much change. But it deserves better than some of the derision that has greeted it. When criticism from outside is met by defensive resentment it has probably found a vulnerable target. This report recognises our progress as well as our problems. It offers no new suggestions but it has argued for minority recognition as a matter of human rights. That is worth pondering.

Garth George: Eyes and ears opened to wonders of natural world

Deborah Coddington's piece in the Herald on Sunday about the widening divide between urban and rural New Zealand struck an immediate chord with me. It was brought home to me powerfully just before Christmas when I flew down to Golden Bay to spend a week with my daughter.

She is the partner of a farmer who is into dairying in a big way - as was his father and grandfather before him - and lives in a home built on a hill overlooking hundreds of hectares of magnificent pasture, much of which has over decades been reclaimed from scrubby bush.

The valley in which this highly productive farm lies is surrounded by brooding hills covered in dense and lovely native forest, but in which far too many introduced pines give offence to the eye. (Where's the Department of Conservation when you need it?)

I hadn't been there more than a day before I began to feel refreshed, to shuck off the cares of modern city life and instinctively to take on the tranquillity about me as a protective cloak.

I say instinctively, because there was a time when as a child, a youth and a young man I availed myself of the liberating restfulness of such rural serenity.

But oddly enough it was in leafing through a multiplicity of farming journals - some of which I used to write for - that brought home to me starkly that there are two separate societies in New Zealand - rural and urban.

Straight Furrow, Rural News, Countrywide, the NZ Farmers' Weekly, the Dairy Exporter and other newspapers and magazines were crammed with news and advertising which today's average city-dweller would make as much sense of if it were written in Chinese.

Yet there was a time when much of such information would have routinely appeared in the nation's city newspapers, for the farm editor and his staff were a key component of every paper's news-gathering team. Not so today.

Don't think I'm blaming the press for the widening urban-rural divide, or that the main reason is the burgeoning of cities, particularly Auckland.

Neither is it all that much to do with the fact that most of our politicians these days are schoolteachers or lawyers or accountants or businessmen when once a large proportion were farmers.

The other day I received a letter from an Auckland chap who is obviously a long-time reader of this column, for he sent me a copy of one I wrote in 2000 in which I suggested that we New Zealanders had lost sight of the simple things of life.

And that, I think, goes a long way towards explaining the increasing rural-urban divide.

We in the cities seem to spend much of our leisure glued to televisions, computer screens, iPods, PlayStations, and Gameboys or whatever, our ears covered by cellphones, ensconced in movie theatres, video game parlours, casinos, pubs, cafes and restaurants; and all of our working lives trapped in our cars and our office buildings.

And all the time out there, not far from our urban fringes, is a veritable paradise of natural phenomena, of richly productive farmland, of animal, bird and plant life, of wide open spaces - to all of which we are intimately connected, whether we like it or not.

I wonder if our loss of contact with the natural world we live in- confined as we let ourselves be to the artificial environment that all big cities by their very nature become- hasn't contributed to a significant degree to our sense of ill-being as a society, to the sense of lostness that seems to afflict so many of us - children and young people particularly - and to the urban-rural dichotomy.

I remember my own childhood, youth and young manhood, which were filled with the simple delights of exploration, from netting tadpoles in the local creeks as a child to hunting rabbits in the hills of Central Otago and deer in the mountains of Fiordland as a young man.

I could tell you the difference between a Hereford and an Aberdeen Angus, a Jersey and a Friesian, a Romney and a Southdown, recognise clover and fescue, shear a sheep or milk a cow, tie on a fly and catch a trout, and drive a tractor.

I swam in lakes and rivers, dams and the sea, searched for crabs under rocks and toheroa under the sand, could clean a fish and skin and gut a rabbit, knew where to find and watch birds' nests and how to feed hens and open oysters.

All this was as natural and normal to me as going to school, sitting in church, listening to the radio, attending a movie or preening for the Saturday night hop.

In the world I lived in I was part of a whole - urban and rural, man-made and natural - and I instinctively knew that I had a legitimate place in it.

In spite of spending more than 35 years in Auckland, I have seldom lost that sense of belonging.

What I seem to have mislaid, I said in that 2000 column, was my sense of wonder and joy at the simple things of life, and my reader wanted to know if I had recovered them.

The answer is that I found them not mislaid at all, but put on a mental shelf until I can escape from this increasingly ugly, noisy and smelly metropolis to a South Island place which doesn't take an hour or more to get out of.

And, incidentally, when I came home, that wonderful sense of peace and serenity I acquired in Golden Bay lasted all the way from Auckland Airport to Avondale.

Brian Fallow: Wallowing in the carbon sink

In the fog which occupies the space where a national climate change policy should stand a couple of indistinct shapes can be made out.

Some kind of graduated charge, possibly levied at registration time, to penalise owners of gas-guzzling vehicles seems to be on the cards.

That would arguably send a clearer signal than a 4c a litre carbon tax on petrol and diesel, which would have been inaudible against the noise from rising world oil prices and a plummeting dollar.

And a narrow-based carbon tax on large industrial emitters and fossil fuel-burning power stations was an option left conspicuously on the table when the original carbon tax was axed before Christmas.

That would at least give the smokestack industries an incentive to move to world's best practice in energy efficiency and emissions in order to avoid the tax, and it would build a price of carbon emissions into consumers' power bills.

Officials were sent back to the drawing board after the Government bulldozed the foundation of its 2002 policy, a tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels. They are due to report to the Cabinet this month. Not with a new policy, you understand, but with suggestions for further work programmes aimed at developing one.

It is less than two years before the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period begins, and there is a rapidly widening fiscal hole as estimates of national emissions are increased and offsetting forest sinks decreased.

In the circumstances such tardiness on the policy front makes any suggestions that New Zealand is "getting ahead of the pack" fatuous indeed.

Frustrating for a business sector looking for certainty and predictability is the absence of anything like cross-party consensus on climate change policy.

One of the reasons adduced for dropping the carbon tax was that National opposes it and to be effective in changing people's behaviour they had to be convinced it would be a permanent, and increasingly onerous, feature of the landscape.

National's "policy" does not seem to have advanced from its late 2004 position: wait to see what the United States and Australia (the coalition of the unwilling) do, and a vague preference for emission trading down the track.

But if you want to see what a serious climate change policy might look like, the Green Party's proposals (released last week in a document called Turn Down the Heat) are instructive.

The Greens' policy includes:

* Paying the owners of Kyoto forests - those planted since 1990 on land not already forested - for the carbon sequestered in their trees, while penalising deforestation.

* Requiring increases in livestock numbers to be offset by projects that reduce emissions.

* Capping emissions from domestic air travel, requiring carbon offsets for any increase from 1990 levels.

* Aiming for a fully renewable electricity generation system.

* Aiming for a 15 per cent improvement in the fuel economy of the vehicle fleet by 2012.

The Government's 2002 policy package was predicated on the assumption that continued afforestation, which gives rise to credits under Kyoto's rules, would more than cover the growth in gross emissions over the treaty's first commitment period, 2008 to 2012, at least.

But emissions have grown faster than first thought while forest planting has dwindled and deforestation has increased, to the point where last year there was no net increase in the forest estate.

While that is mainly a matter of relative prices, with dairy products paying a lot better than forest products, the Government's decision to retain ownership of (or swipe, as the forest owners would say) the forest sink credits have proven seriously counter-productive.

The Greens advocate a "carbon storage payment" to the Kyoto forest owners. It would be less than the value of the carbon credits engendered by those forests, to reflect associated costs borne by the state like measuring the carbon, insurance against fire, pests and diseases, and management of international carbon trading.

Kyoto forests felled and not replanted would incur a corresponding penalty.

Nearly half of national emissions come from the agriculture sector, arising largely from the bodily functions of cattle and sheep.

The Greens say farmers should take responsibility not for total on-farm emissions - a whopping subsidy from the rest of us would continue - but for increases from today's levels.

Increases in stock numbers would require a "carbon offset" in the form, for example, of producing biogas from farm wastes, planting forests on farm land or funding forest planting by others.

They propose a register of offset projects in which farmers could invest if they did not wish to develop projects on their own land.

In the transport sector the Greens propose a raft of measures including:

* Minimum fuel economy standards for imported vehicles

* A requirement that companies selling petrol and diesel source 5 per cent from biofuels by 2010, and higher proportions later as the technology develops.

* Completing the electrification of the North Island's main trunk railway line and then requiring Toll New Zealand to use electric locomotives.

* Spending more on pubic transport.

* Faster broadband to make it easier to work from home.

Unusually for a developed country, electricity generation accounts for only 8 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, reflecting the importance of the hydro-electric system.

But in spite of increased investment in geothermal and wind energy the proportion generated from fossil fuels has been rising by about 1 per cent a year. The Greens want that trend reversed and the objective of a wholly renewable electricity system adopted.

But even if demand growth was halved to about 1 per cent a year that would take until 2040.

And it runs up against the problem that there is limited inter-seasonal storage in the hydro lakes, especially given the variability in rain and snow fall from one year to the next, as the current fears about power shortages this winter attest.

An exception should be made, the Greens concede, for some fossil fuel plants on stand-by for exceptionally dry years.

They like the German policy which gives new renewable sources such as wind farms priority in the system, so that they automatically run when they are available, and command a premium price, albeit one which reduces over time.

They would also cap carbon emissions from the sector, so that new thermal plants could only be built to replace existing ones.

For the residential sector they favour upgrading as soon as possible the building code's requirements on insulation, glazing, water heating and lighting.

Most of these changes would cost money and, as Telecom likes to say about the Kiwi Share, it is hard to compete with free.

So there continues to be a case for putting into the economy a price for "carbon" or the right to emit greenhouse gases, to acknowledge the fact that there are some pretty grave global environmental costs associated with business as usual.

The short-term political and commercial attractiveness of continuing to shovel those costs on to poorer countries and future generations remains. But that cannot last.

Pick what holes you like in the Greens' policy. At least they have one.

Frances Grant: Lost in the wilderness

Since the dust settled on the Commonwealth Games there's a vast gap in the schedules where the lucky country used to be. The parched and struggling The Alice, last seen wandering aimlessly in a desert slot on TV One, came on like the last gasp of the once fertile ground known as the cracker Aussie drama.

Even the tired old McLeod's Daughters is missing in action.

We Kiwis have always found the Aussie shows hot stuff. We watched the likes of the top-rating Blue Heelers and Water Rats till our eyes bubbled. We lapped up the quirky Ocker spirit of SeaChange, and agreed that The Grass is Always Greener.

Now the only Aussies in prime time are the stray Downunder characters on Lost, though that show at times seems oddly in tune with transtasman history.

Forget last night's recap with all its mutterings about fate and coincidence - did the passengers realise their Oceanic aircraft was actually a mumbo-jumbo jet? - and all that nonsense about having to push a button every 108 minutes to save the world.

The silly "project" is a red herring. Anyone who has sat patiently through all those character back-stories will realise that the island is actually a penal colony for television's more troubled character types: the doctor with a saviour complex, wanted murderer, incestuous step-siblings, heroin addict, unwed teenage mother, Iraqi torturer, Texan wide boy, fat guy and now, with the arrival of the rabid Ana-Lucia from the tail section, a bad-ass cop.

But now Ana-Lucia and Jack look set to start some twisted new dynamic, the benefits of new blood are obvious. Perhaps it would perk things up even more if a few wackos from other shows were transported to serve time on the Kafkaesque island.

I'd like to see the psychopathic pharmacist George from Desperate Housewives turn up to take charge of the medical stores, or Edie the blonde nympho arrive to sex things up a bit. Boston Legal's Alzheimer's victim Denny Crane would leave the show's resident Mr Enigma, John Locke, in the shade.

Lost might not have much rhyme or reason but it does encourage us to have faith that things that seem to have disappeared from the face of the Earth are still Out There.

Just unearthed from the time capsule is the ancient phenomenon known as Kiwi kids' drama. Maddigan's Quest was joined at the weekend by newcomer The Lost Children, a tale about a bunch of pioneer kids who survive a shipwreck and have to make their way through a country wracked by land wars.

After just one half-hour episode it's early days, but the kids' wildly fluctuating accents and their spruce appearance after supposedly being washed up on a wild foreign coast were distracting.

And must we have that eerie whistling soundtrack every time a Maori appears on the screen?

Unfortunately, the New Zealand children's drama seems to be suffering from a Rip Van Winkle effect. Perhaps it's that sci-fi and colonial themes were the staple of local kidult drama 30 years ago that makes them seem an odd step backwards, especially after the more contemporary subject matter of the lone Kiwi kidult drama of more recent times, the excellent Being Eve.

The acting, too, is stilted and seems to hark back to a more self-conscious era. Young Kiwis can act amazingly well - look no further than The Piano, Whale Rider and In My Father's Den - so why isn't this translating into television?

These are dangers that make you fear for the fate of the Aussie drama. The more time spent lost in the wilderness, the harder it is to get back up and going.

John Langley: Harsher youth law will solve nothing

New Zealand once again faces a policy shambles in the justice area. The Young Offenders (Serious Crimes) Bill seeks to reduce the age of offenders who can be prosecuted in criminal courts from 14 to 12.

The impact of this would be to remove the jurisdiction of the Youth Court from almost all criminal offences involving young people.

This misguided idea follows hot on the heels of an equally unfortunate piece of public policy which provided for increased sentences for some crimes, based on the false premise that sentence length and offending rates are somehow connected.

As a result, our jails are filled to bursting point and there has been no impact whatsoever on offending rates.

When developing any form of policy, three options - or combinations of them - can be adopted.

The first is to develop policy more or less on public opinion, based on the premise that if most people think something is the case, it must be so.

That is how prison sentences were increased. Several years ago a referendum asked whether or not we wanted longer sentences for some crimes.

More than 90 per cent voted in favour of longer sentences, and most of those people almost certainly did so because they thought it would deter others from offending and the crime rate would fall. Wrong.

Despite all the evidence, despite all the good and bad practice that we could have called on, the policymakers were guided by public opinion - and it has created a mess of monumental proportions.

The second means of developing and implementing policy is based on some form of philosophy or dogma.

For example, neo-conservative groups tend to view human nature and behaviour in pessimistic terms, which leads them to a view that the way to deal with aberrant behaviour is to punish, and punish hard. Some of this stems from biblical examples such as "spare the rod and spoil the child".

The result of this in terms of justice policy is a greater emphasis on punishment than on rehabilitation.

It is not a coincidence that the National Party seems to be very reluctant to revisit its stance on the use of prisons, even in the face of groups such as the Sensible Sentencing Trust, which seem to be more open-minded.

The Young Offenders Bill is an example of the influences of both public opinion and dogma.

It is based on the view that somehow this might be what the public wants in terms of getting tougher on young offenders.

It is also based on the mistaken view that making children appear in an adult court will, by definition, expose them to the same level of punishment as those adults and thus stop others offending.

Neither view is sensible or supported by any semblance of evidence.

No one would seriously suggest that a young person who is about steal a car or burgle a house will think: "I'd better not do this as I might have to appear in the District Court instead of the Youth Court."

When put like this it seems ridiculous. That is because it is ridiculous.

The responses made by people old and young, the stimuli they respond to, and the behaviour in which they engage, are not governed by such reasoning and never have been.

Finally, policy can be determined on the basis of evidence and research.

What we think is obvious is not always so.

Very often, what we witness in terms of offending, both from young people and adults, is influenced by many and varied factors.

To suggest that by simply increasing a sentence length, or reducing an age when children appear in a particular court, will make one iota of difference is nothing short of fantasy.

Worse, it is a waste of our time and money for no other gain than a short-term political expediency.

What is required is to better understand the factors that influence the offending of our children and young people and to address those factors.

There are many common elements. Of the mostly boys and young men who come before the youth justice system very few, if any, would benefit from appearing before the District Court. That is because for the most part they do not need to be kept away from us.

To have them appear before the District Court rather than the Youth Court will remove the options, flexibility and innovation that our system has the potential to deliver.

It will simply result in more of the same: harsher penalties, lock them up sooner and for longer, and for us to beat our chests in a futile display of societal toughness in dealing with those we have failed. It is little short of a disgrace.

There are some young people who do need to be locked up, but only a very small number.

What almost all young offenders need is the exact opposite. They need to come to trust the rest of us. They need to learn stuff. Most of all, they need to know that there is a place for them somewhere in our families, schools, communities and workforce.

The profile for most is depressingly similar.

Many are from very dysfunctional families. Most have lived in many places and attended many schools.

Most have learned not to trust the adults in their lives because they have constantly been let down.

Many have suffered abuse and have been scarred in ways that most of us will never understand.

And, in an overwhelming number of cases, they are barely literate, numerate and have never learned to relate to others in other than destructive ways. None of that is an excuse. It is the starting point.

With the correct interventions, carried out by those who know what they are doing, it is entirely possible to make important changes in the lives of these children and young people.

But those interventions must be determined on the basis of sound evidence and practice, not public prejudice or the blowing of a particular political wind.

Public opinion and political whim are going to play a part.

They always have and it would be unrealistic not to expect that in the future.

But both these influences must be balanced by good research and what we actually know to be the case, not just what we think is the case. The two are not the same.

Unless such a balance is achieved in key areas of justice policy there is little doubt that we will blunder on making the same mistakes we have in this area and wonder why it hasn't worked.

That is what happened when some sentences were increased.

It is exactly what will happen if Ron Mark is successful in having children appear in the adult courts.

We don't have any more time to waste on this kind of legislation. Responses to criminal offending, particularly from young offenders, should be considered and intelligent.

Instead of assuming that tougher is always better, let's start looking for the real cures and bravely pursuing them.

And let's accept the fact that within the youth justice system, for all its faults, there is much greater opportunity to bring about change than anything suggested in this misguided bill.

* Dr John Langley is a member of the Ministerial Independent Advisory Group on Youth Offending.

Talkback: Strategy needed to make sponsorship pay

By John Boyd

Many in business get inundated with requests for sponsorship.

With each colourful, glossy, spiral-bound proposal promising a "fantastic" return on investment it can often be difficult to decide what to support and what not to support.

In the past many sponsorship decisions were based around the specific interests of the managing director (usually sport).

In many cases little was done to leverage the sponsorship - a bit like tipping a large bucket of money down a well.

The key is to put in place a sponsorship strategy that is aligned with the company's direction and helps to reinforce the brand attributes of the company.

And don't be blinded by the promises those seeking sponsorship will make at initial meetings.

There needs to be a very clear understanding of expectations by both parties.

Sponsorships involve a considerable investment - not just the money for the sponsorship but also the additional investment to leverage the sponsorship - so it is important to be able to measure effectiveness of the sponsorship.

This can be via a direct link to sales, through measuring media exposure or conducting research before and after to measure the impact of the sponsorship.

A company that has done this well is Mazda New Zealand. Mazda's sponsorships must fulfil two objectives: to align the brand with an event/organisation that encourages and promotes New Zealand art and culture, and to contribute to the future of young New Zealanders.

In some instances these objectives are fulfilled by supporting existing organisations or events such as the Auckland Philharmonia orchestra.

Another example is Mazda Artworks. This event promotes New Zealand art and artists and all funds raised through art sales are donated to charities which aim to help young New Zealanders.

Mazda has also found that creating its own events or sponsorship vehicles can be a very good use of resources, giving greater control and ability to leverage its investment.

Through its involvement in Mazda Artworks, Mazda saw the need to create a stand-alone event to promote up-and-coming artists, so it founded the Mazda Emerging Artist Award which provides cash prizes totalling $17,500 to fine art students.

In addition, earlier this year the Mazda Foundation was launched. It provides funds three times a year to people involved in projects and activities that have an environmental, cultural or educational focus.

Each of these sponsorships has been carefully chosen or established to achieve the sponsorship objectives. They have been successful in raising brand awareness at a corporate level, as well as at a community level through the involvement of each Mazda dealership.

It is important not to spread the sponsorship dollar too thinly. You cannot please everyone so it is vital that sponsorships are chosen not on a whim, but to fit your sponsorship strategy.

Companies have a role to support activities in the community - it goes with the territory - but they need to apply the same business rules to sponsorship as they do to other parts of their business.

* John Boyd is a director of Donovan Boyd Communications whose clients include Mazda.