Friday, 29 February 2008

Huckebee explains why he's not dropping out

Republican presidential nominee hopeful Mike Huckabee is planning to stay in the US primary race, despite the huge delegate lead held by Senator John McCain.

A candidate needs 1,191 delegates to win the Republican nomination... McCain currently has a little over 1,000, while Huckabee is a ways back on just over 250.

While Huckabee says the nomination isn't guaranteed until the Republican convention in September, media commentators say he has virtually no chance of winning.

Even if Huckabee managed a clean sweep of the remaining delegates, he'd still fall short of the numbers needed for the GOP nomination.

But the former Arkansas governor showed that he's got a sense of humour, with a tongue-in-cheek appearance on NBC variety show, Saturday Night Live. (It was the first new SNL show since the writers' strike forced it off air last November)...

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Sandra Oxenryd - Superhero
^ David Jordan - Sun Goes Down ]

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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

ACTion tipped as Douglas returns to party

ACT founder Sir Roger Douglas is returning to the political party, after leaving in 2001 over disagreements with leader Rodney Hide's style and policy direction.

Douglas has been revealed as a guest speaker at ACT's party conference next month, and is planning to take a more active role in the party during election year. His return seems to have been spurred on by National's strong polling, along with its steady drift to the left under leader John Key.

ACT suffered from being squeezed to "the right" in 2004-05 when former Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash took over as leader of the National Party. After winning 8 Parliamentary seats at the first MMP election in 1996, the ACT party slumped to just 2 seats in 2005.

New leader Rodney Hide upset the pundits (and a rogue Colmar Brunton poll) to win the Auckland seat of Epsom, but concern over wasted votes if ACT failed to break the 5% threshold or win a seat saw some supporters switch to other parties.

ACT New Zealand was left with just 2 MPs - Rodney Hide and Heather Roy - although some in the party saw the result as a chance to rebuild in a fresh direction, as many of the old "conservatives" left the party to join National.

A regional board member, Andrew Fulford, quit ACT in 2006, complaining that the party was dominated by its "libertarian faction". (For many in the party though, this was the whole point, and was seen as one of the positives to have come from the upheaval).

Rodney Hide admits having Douglas speaking to the faithful isn't enough, and that "we need a change of policies" and "That's Sir Roger's forte".

While that might signal a return to ambitious financial policies like a low flat personal tax rate, it will be interesting to see whether it also means a shift away from the more "libertarian" policies or ideals. (ACT rebranded itself as "The Liberal Party" in 2004, but the description "liberal" is often misunderstood in New Zealand).

Roger Douglas formed political lobby group the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers in 1993, after leaving Parliament following a falling out with Labour's leaders and opting not to stand for Parliament in 1990.

The group went on to became the political party ACT New Zealand two years later, after the country voted to switch to ditch the "first past the post" voting system, in favour of MMP. Douglas initially led the party, but stepped down in favour of Richard Prebble before ACT competed in the first MMP election.

Roger Douglas (ACT founder), Rodney Hide (ACT leader),
and Richard Prebble (former ACT leader)
(Original photo from Renascent Exegete blog)

As Labour Party Finance Minister, Douglas was responsible for rescuing New Zealand's economy, following years of neglect and arrogant mismanagement by National under (Sir) Robert Muldoon.

Roger Douglas made substantial and urgently-needed changes to New Zealand's former colonial economic system, including slashing inefficient subsidies and trade tariffs, and privatising public assets.

His policies were dubbed "Rogernomics", and also featured a major tax reform programme. Under Douglas (and Lange), Labour halved the top personal tax rate from a ridiculous 66% to a more moderate 33% (later bumped back up to 39% by socialist Labour Finance Minister Michael Cullen).

The company tax rate was slashed from 48% to 33%, while a new "Goods and services tax" (GST) was introduced (initially 10%, increased to 12.5% in 1989). (And despite the various tax rate reductions, the Government's tax take actually quickly went up).

* NZ Herald: Sir Roger makes his peace with Act

* 3 News: Douglas to return to Act party (Video)
[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ E-Type & The Poodles - Line of Fire (Melodifestivalen 2008)
^ Basshunter feat. DJ Mental Theo - Now You're Gone ]

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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Jimmy Kimmel's Celebrity response to Matt Damon and Silver Silverman

American late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has upped the ante in his long-running "fued" with Hollywood star Matt Damon. Kimmel often mentioned Kimmel at the end of his show, with a fake apology for "running out of time".

Kimmel's comedian girlfriend Sarah Silverman recently shot a surprise music video for his 40th birthday celebration show, revealing that she was actually "f***ing Matt Damon" ;-)

Now Kimmel has gone one better, shooting his own music video in response, where he admits that's he's "being intimate" with Damon's film star buddy, Ben Affleck.

Drafting in Affleck for the gag is clever enough, but Kimmel has gone a hundred steps better, persuading a star-studded lineup of Hollywood stars and singers to join in a massed "We are the World" style singalong.

Keep a look out for Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford, Cameron Diaz, Joan Jett, Macy Gray, Robin Williams, Pete Wentz, Lance Bass, Huey Lewis, Christina Applegate, Dominic Monaghan, Meatloaf, Josh Groban, and more familiar faces in this clip...

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Friday, 22 February 2008

Police attempt raid on TV3's Campbell Live

Police raided the news offices of TV3 in Auckland this afternoon, after current affairs programme Campbell Live screened an 'interview' last night with a man who claimed to have stolen the war medals from Waiouru.

Police executed a search warrant against the company, seeking information on the identity of the man. TV3 later admitted the interview which played on Campbell Live was actually staged using an actor, who re-voiced responses by the original subject in studio to questions by host John Campbell. (The original interview was conducted in the field using a dictaphone).

Head of News and Current Affairs at TV3, Mark Jennings, met with three Police officers this afternoon, along with John Campbell and the company representatives.

Police confiscated two tapes relating to the broadcast. However TV3 says that after the initial interview between John Campbell and the mystery man, the answers were transcribed from the dictaphone, the original tape was destroyed. Campbell was the only person who met with the man, and wasn't prepared to describe him to police.
United Future party leader Peter Dunne called on police to force TV3 to give up all the information they had on the "mastermind of the theft". However, Jennings claims the broadcaster doesn't know the identity of the man, and would not reveal that information even if it did.

96 war medals (including 9 Victoria Crosses) were stolen from the Waiouru Army Museum last December. They were returned to Police last Friday, after Auckland lawyer Chris Comeskey brokered a deal.

* 3 News: Full interview of 3 News head Mark Jennings discussing police investigation
* NZ Herald: TV3: Police not far from knocking on thief's door
* Campbell Live: Man who claims to be medal thief apologises to nation

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Thursday, 21 February 2008

Otago Uni Toga Parade '08

Tuesday night saw the annual "Toga Parade" of First Year Otago University students along the main street of Dunedin. Fine weather saw around 2,000 students join in the fun, about double last year's turnout.

Police lead off the 2008 Otago University Toga Parade
The increase in the number of toga-wearers was also helped by OUSA moving the Inter-Hall Sports Day to the afternoon, meaning students didn't spend the entire Tuesday afternoon drinking, and were still coherent enough to march through town in the early evening ;-)

Bed sheets from the city's student halls and hostels were converted into a variety of toga styles, and it was good to see an abundance of laurel-wearers this year (the leafy head-dress).

There was also a marked increase in the number of spectators and egg-throwers/water bombers along the route from the Dental school to the Octagon, which resulted in a bit of carnage and a much quicker parade as the first years tried to dodge the flying bombs...

Hayward Hall's chariots were hot targets for egg-throwers

Keeping an eagle eye out for egg/water bombers

Dunedin's George Street becomes a Warzone

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Otago Toga Parade (Part 2)

Swords and Shields were popular props this year

The Toga Parade heads into Dunedin's Octagon

2,000 Toga wearers try to squeeze into the Regent Theatre

A few guys decided "baby chic" was more fun than Togas

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Queenstown's World Monopoly bid slipping

Queenstown's bid to secure a place on the upcoming "World Edition" Monopoly game board is looking shaky, with the town slipping out of the Top 20 with just a week of voting to go.

The popular South Island resort town had previously been as high as 12th on the leaderboard, in the online global vote being run by games company Hasbro.

Board game fans around the world can vote at the international Monopoly website, although New Zealanders are being encouraged to register and vote through (which also puts kiwi voters in the draw to win a trip to one of the nominated cities.)

Hasbro are looking to find the "22 greatest cities in the world", which will be included on the first-ever "Monopoly Here & Now: World Edition" game board, due for release before Christmas.

Voting began in late January, and continues through until February 29. People can vote once a day for their favourite "city" or cities, which also include Riga (Latvia), Jerusalem (Israel), New York (USA), and Dubai (United Arab Emirates).

The top 20 places will be confirmed after voting ends, with other cities (including Auckland) set to compete in a "wildcard vote" for the last two spots on the board.

Queenstown tourism bosses are keen to secure a spot on the new game board, with Hasbro estimating over 100 million people will play the new Monopoly World Edition in the next five years.

Meanwhile, the world's most popular board game Monopoly could be hitting a movie screen near you in the next few years.

Hasbro has signed a multi-year deal with Universal Pictures to produce a series of feature films based on their well-known games like Monopoly, Battleship, and Candy Land. The first movie from the deal is due for release around 2010.

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Monday, 18 February 2008

Test Cricket to screen on Regional TV

Auckland-based satellite channel Stratos Television has been given permission by Sky TV to broadcast live free-to-air international Test cricket next month.

Stratos will screen the second and third cricket tests between the Black Caps and England in mid-March, thanks to a deal with Sky Television.

Straos is the satellite off-shoot of community broadcaster Triangle Television, and broadcasts on Freeview Channel 21 (and Sky Channel 89)

Triangle's Auckland and Wellington UHF community stations will also simulcast the test matches (although Triangle Auckland will only simulcast the weekday action).

Other regional stations around the country (including Christchurch's CTV and Dunedin's Channel 9) are also being offered the opportunity to simulcast the Stratos test cricket coverage.

It is not clear whether Sky TV is offering the test cricket coverage free of charge to Stratos and the other regional tv broadcasters, or whether there is a charge of some sort attached to the deal.

The 2nd test between New Zealand's Black Caps and England will be played in Wellington from Thursday March 13, while the 3rd test is scheduled for Napier from Saturday March 22.

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Sunday, 17 February 2008

NZ slammed for Olympic free speech ban

Kiwiblog's David Farrar notes that the usually Labour-loving Sunday Star Times must be pretty angry, given today's editorial about the NZ Government's attempts to keep China happy by backing free speech restrictions for the country's athletes.

"The Chinese Olympics are an attempt by an odious political regime to buy global respectability. They are as political as Hitler's Games in 1936...

It is not the athletes who are being treated as political pawns. It is lickspittle governments like Cosgrove's.

Everyone knows the Clark government will do almost anything to get its free-trade deal with China."
Government sports minister Clayton Cosgrove is backing the decision to ban New Zealand's Olympic athletes from expressing personal views during this year's games in Beijing.

The NZ Olympic Committee is attempting to back-pedal from claims that it is requiring athletes to "not make statements, demonstrate (whether verbally, or by any act or omission) regarding political, religious or racial matters".

Perhaps not surprisingly given the country's current coalition regime, New Zealand is apparently one of the few western nations trying to "prevent their Olympic athletes from commenting on what they might see, hear or think".

Even Green MP Keith Locke showed a rare streak of common sense this week, noting "Our Olympic officials should not be imitating the Chinese regime by muzzling Kiwi athletes who might be disturbed by some of what they see in China," Locke said.

Swimmer Dean Kent is aiming to qualify for his third Olympics, and believes people should worry about what's going on at home, rather than political issues in Beijing.

But Olympic silver medallist runner Dick Quax says the only interests being protected by the NZOC were those of the Chinese Government. Quax said he was able to freely speak out about the All Blacks tour of South Africa in 1976, along with teammates John Walker and Rod Dixon.
"The idea you can put blanket coverage on an athlete on speaking their mind is a bit naive," said Mr Quax, "and really they should be watering it down a bit."
Actress Mia Farrow has publicly labelled the Beijing Olympics "the genocide games", while Hollywood Director Stephen Spielberg announced earlier this week that he was pulling out as "artistic adviser" for the Beijing Olympics opening and closing ceremonies.

His decision was a protest at China's support (by way of money and guns) for the Sudanese government, which is accused of human rights abuses in Darfur.

When the International Olympic Committee chose China as host nation seven years ago, officials hoped it would encourage the communist country to promote improvements in human rights... That hasn't happened.
Getting the full story is still difficult... China's state-run media has little freedom, and China is regarded as the world's "leading jailer of journalists". Missionaries and religious groups are also on the hit-list of China's atheist communist Government.

And if China's free speech and human rights histories weren't enough to turn people off the Beijing games, competitors are being advised to "arrive late and leave early to avoid hot, polluted air", and many countries are supplying their athletes with breathing masks.

Some Olympic events could be postponed, and some top international athletes are considering boycotting the Beijing games altogether.

* Sunday Star Times: EDITORIAL: Beijing circus hits town

* Stuff: Richard Boock - NZ wins the gagging gold
* NZ Herald: Olympian: Forget China, focus on NZ

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Friday, 15 February 2008

Matt Damon shares Sarah Silverman's sense of humour

I know this one has been kicking around the web for a while, but I got reminded of it yesteday and thought I'd post it for anyone who managed to miss it.

Late-night US talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has had a long-running feud/gag with Bourne film star Matt Damon, and recently his girlfriend Sarah Silverman joined in on the fun.

The saga started when Kimmel used to regularly close his ABC show by "apologising" to Matt Damon that they'd run out of time. (In actual fact, the actor wasn't scheduled to appear on the show).

In September 2006, Damon did finally make a guest appearance on the late-night talk show, to loud applause. However when Damon sat down after a length introduction by Jimmy Kimmel, the host apologised and said he had to end the show because he was out of time...

Damon turned red, and started a bleep-ridden tirade at Kimmel, before storming off the set. The stunt was planned, but Damon's convincing acting left many fans believing he was truly p*ssed!

Kimmel's girlfiend, comedian Sarah Silverman decided to help Damon "get his own back", by shooting a surprise music video to play on Kimmel's 40th birthday celebration show, in which the pair revealed they were "in an intimate relationship" ;-)

* Sarah Silverman "I'm F*cking Matt Damon" on Jimmy Kimmel...

* Check out the other videos in this long-running gag at YouTube, including Matt Damon getting ignored by Kimmel's sidekick Guillermo at a red carpet event, and a trailer for the movie The Bourne Ultimatum, in which Damon loses his starring status to Guillermo...

* People: Behind Matt Damon's Raunchy Payback to Jimmy Kimmel

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Wednesday, 13 February 2008

An Irishman gets into a car...

Actually there's no punchline to that, but a senior Irish politician has suggested his country switch to driving on the right-hand side of the road, in a bid to reduce accidents by forgetful foreigners.

Tens of thousands of people have moved to Ireland over the past decade, as the country enjoys massive economic growth. Many of the new immigrants come from countries in Eastern Europe, where they are used to driving on the right hand side of the road.

Low cost air links has also helped Ireland become a popular tourist destination for visitors from Europe and the United States. But difficulty in adjusting to driving on the left has caused a number of accidents on Irish roads.

Senior Irish politician Donie Cassidy says while most of Europe switched to the right many decades ago, Sweden managed to change sides of the road (to the left) later than other countries with no major problems.

Here in New Zealand, a number of recent road accidents have been blamed on foreign tourists forgetting to drive on the left-hand side of the road. Most rental companies do inform tourists of New Zealand's road rules, and have reminder stickers inside vehicles.

While most of the world drives on the right, New Zealand has retained the left-hand driving rule along with many other former British colonies like India and Australia, but also Japan.

The habit apparently dates back to the Middle Ages, when people wanted to make sure any strangers passed on the right, making it easy to go for your sword if they proved unfriendly ;-)

And here's a few Irish car jokes, just in case you were disappointed not to find a punchline to this post's title...
* Did you hear about the Irishman who drove his car into a river to dip his headlights?


* Did you hear about the Irishman who locked his keys in the car?
- Took him eight hours to get his family out.


* A cop pulls him over."So," says the cop to the driver, Where have ya been?"

"Why, I've been to the pub of course," Slurs the drunk.

"Well," says the cop, "it looks like you've had quite a few to drink this evening."

"I did all right," the drunk says with a smile.

"Did you know," says the cop, standing straight and folding his arms across his chest, "that a few intersections back, your wife fell out of your car?"

"Oh, thank heavens," sighs the drunk. "For a minute there, I thought I'd gone deaf."

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National's Katherine Rich to quit Politics

National front-bench MP Katherine Rich has rocked the party with her decision to resign from her Education portfolio, and quit politics altogether at the next election.

The forty year old mother of two says she's been thinking about her future over the summer, and has decided it's time to move on to new challenges, and the responsibilities of bringing up her two young children.

Rich entered Parliament in the 1999 election as a Dunedin-based list MP for the National Party. She has moved up the ranks of the party, and was ranked at #8 at the last election on National's party list.

The Australian-born MP is one of a handful of "social liberals" in the party, providing a positive balance to National's more traditional hard-line conservatives.

She had also succeeded in building a good profile for the party in Dunedin, a traditional Labour-stronghold which had been ignored by National for years under FPP.

She told National leader John Key of her decision last week, and still believes the party is in good heart to win this year's election.

National's senior whip Anne Tolley will take over as Education spokeswoman, and will move onto the front bench. Former school principal Allan Peachy will be the party's deputy education spokesman.

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Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Freight Train Demolishes Historic Dunedin Footbridge

Malfunctioning equipment is being blamed for causing a Tranz Rail freight train to crash into a historic pedestrian overbridge in Dunedin.

The top of a freight container smashed through the historic wooden and metal bridge above Dunedin's Railway Station, causing it to come crashing down onto the train tracks.

A 17 year old woman visiting from Australia was walking along one end of the bridge, and was shaken off in the impact.

She was able to grab hold of hand rails as she fell beside the neighbouring skate park, and was taken to hospital with minor injuries. Luckily noone was in the centre of the bridge when it collapsed.

The accident happened at around 5pm this evening in Dunedin, as the single engine and wagon were travelling into the city's central railway station.

Police say the container being carried by the wagon had been collapsed to fit under the footbridge, but the equipment somehow malfunctioned, causing part of the container to lift up.

The footbridge over Dunedin Railway Station to Thomas Burns street is used by hundreds of central city workers, who park their cars around the wharf area.

It was extensively rebuilt by the city council a few years ago, retaining the original historic look. It seems Tranz Rail may have to foot the bill this time for a replacement overbridge.

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Monday, 11 February 2008

On the hunt for Osama Bin Laden

The man who put his life in danger by going on a month-long diet of nutritious McDonald's fast food has turned his attention to the world's "Most Wanted Man".

For his debut film Super Size Me, documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonalds three time a day. For his followup project, he decided to go on the hunt for the terrorists' #1 pin-up boy, in his upcoming movie "Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?"

After some initial combat training, Spurlock donned a towel and headed off to the Middle East to find the world's most famous towelhead, Osama Muhammad Bin Laden (not to be confused with that Barack Hussein Obama guy, who is trying to win the Democratic Presidential nomination.)

Spurlock shot around 800 hours of footage in his quest, exploring "every nook and cranny of the Middle East" as he searched for the reclusive Al-Qaeda leader.

The documentary film is co-written, produced, directed by and stars Morgan Spurlock. It debuted last month at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, and is expected to be released in cinemas in the (US) spring.

Trailer for "Where in the world is Osama Bin Laden?"...

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Friday, 8 February 2008

Somali woman "Hijacks" Air NZ Plane

33 year-old Somali woman, Asha ali Abdille, has been charged with hijacking and 3 counts of assault, after attacking two pilots and a passenger, during an Air New Zealand Link flight from Blenheim to Christchurch this morning.

The small Air NZ/Eagle Air Jetstream J32 plane had just 7 passengers onboard, and has no barrier between the two rows of passengers and the cockpit.

Pilots sent out an emergency call at 7.40am after the woman (seated in seat 1A) attacked one of the pilots with a knife, slashing his hand.

It's alleged the woman also claimed there were two bombs on board and threatened to blow up the plane, which she wanted to be diverted to Australia (somehow I doubt one of those "baby" turboprop planes would have actually made it that far ;-)

The woman was initially subdued with the help of other passengers, but late in the flight tried seizing the plane's steering controls.

The two pilots managed to maintain control and safely land the plane, when they were taken to Christchurch hospital. One had severe cuts to his hand, the other an injured foot. It's believed a passenger also suffered knife injuries.

An armed offenders squad stormed the plane, handcuffing the woman at gunpoint and dragging the large woman off the plane. Police and an army bomb disposal team searched the aircraft and luggage for bombs, and evacuated Christchurch Airport.

The woman's behaviour disrupted the travel plans of thousands of travellers around the country, with 2,000 passengers delayed at Christchurch Airport, with inbound flights diverted to Dunedin and other airports until late morning.

The Government and aviation agencies will now review security procedures at regional airports, including the policy of only security screening planes carrying over 90 passengers.

* 3 News - Video: Somali woman charged with hijacking Air New Zealand flight

* Stuff: Mid-air bomb threat, stabbing drama

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NZ Brick throwers attack Green Party

Protest action group People Power NZ have turned their attention to the Green Party, in their latest brick throwing mission.

The group say last night's attack on the Green's electorate office in Sandringham was part of its "ongoing citizens initiated active protest against the passing of the Electoral Finance Act."

While the Green Party are not in formal coalition with Labour, they are a "support partner" of the Government, with minor ministerial responsibilities and policy concessions.

The protesters described the Green Party as "a loose association of jaded Marxists long past their use by date", and said it was time for them to be "consigned to the dustbin of political oblivion come the 2008 Election."

People Power NZ noted that the Government and media have tried to ignore their recent activities, and that they have not yet heard from the Electoral Commission about their official website.

The group have announced plans for their next "direct protest action", on Thursday 28th February.

* Official website: People Power (New Zealand)

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Thursday, 7 February 2008

State TV admits paid content an online flop

State broadcaster TVNZ is abandoning its attempt to sell premium video contact on the web, through its online portal 'TVNZ OnDemand'.

Company spokesman Jason Paris acknowledged the ad-supported free video streams of programmes had outnumbered paid downloads (which also include copy protection) by "many thousands to one".

TVNZ OnDemand was launched early last year in a blaze of publicity. Internet surfers could view "Premium content" video on the site, which included recent episodes of shows like Shortland Street and Eating Media Lunch.

The website used a currency called "PlayPoints", which could be purchased in blocks from a minimum of $10. A regular half-hour show cost $2 to download, but contained digital rights management which meant the video clips "expired" after 7 days.

The broadcaster will now look to expand its advertising-support video content, including offering the service on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 video game consoles, as well as on mobile phones.

Currently the OnDemand portal streams about 200,000 TV shows a month. Around 70% of the content is new material, with the remaining 30% coming from State TV's archives.

TVNZ is now renegotiating deals with local and overseas content providers (including Disney/Touchstone), to move from paid downloads to ad-supported. Anti-piracy measures will be dropped at the same time.

Jason Paris, TVNZ's head of emerging business, said the company's business model needed to change for the service to make money.

Advertisers apparently pay 15c each time their commercial is featured around a programme, but TVNZ says it is left with just 2c after delivery costs and agency fees are taken off.

* NZ Herald: TVNZ surrenders to video pirates
[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Alcazar - We Keep On Rockin'
^ Duran Duran - Nite Runner ]

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It must be Election Year...

Self-proclaimed socialist Finance Minister Michael Cullen has announced plans to cut personal taxes over three years, if Labour is re-elected. Speaking to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce this afternoon, he acknowledged it was time for tax cuts.

Cullen said Labour would phase in tax cuts over a three year period, with the possibility of further cuts beyond that. However, he downplayed expectations that the tax cuts would be substantial.

However, some commentators are questioning whether Cullen can be trusted to deliver on his promises. His previous election-year offer of tax cuts (in the infamous "chewing gum budget") was subsequently cancelled, along with the promise to future-proof income tax thresholds against inflation.

In 2000, when Labour introduced the tax tax rate of 39%, the party promised it would apply to just the top 5% of taxpayers. However, over 12% of New Zealand workers are now paying that top tax rate.

Financial blogger Sheryl Sutherland says Cullen has collected an extra $1.7 billion from taxpayers. The bulk has come from 150,000 people who have moved into the top tax bracket. She calculates to restore the 39c tax rate to the top 5% of taxpayers (as originally promised), the threshold needs to be increased to $79,000.

Last year, the Centre for Independent Studies found that real taxes for many kiwis (taking into account inflation) have increased by 22.6% since 2000.

Their research revealed someone on the average wage of $36,000 in 2000, would now need to be earning $43,000 to maintain an equivalent income. Unfortunately, they are instead payng an extra $2,400 a year in taxes because of Labour's refusal to honour its original promise.

THEY SAID IT... A few memorable quotes from our honest and dependable leaders...
* “Tax cuts are a path to inequality... They are the promises of a visionless and intellectually bankrupt people” – Helen Clark, Labour Party conference 2000

* “People who advocate large tax cuts off the back of large surpluses should be taken out and quietly drowned” – Michael Cullen, February 2006

* “$8.5 million surplus and still no tax cuts? So? What’s the connection between the two? None, right!” – Michael Cullen to TV One's Guyon Espiner, September 2006

* “We just don't believe in tax cuts - it's against our fundamental philosophy - after all we are socialists and proud of it.” — Michael Cullen
* Hat tip: Whale Oil

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NZ Environment Court bans Swedish trendsetters

The Environment Court has banned famous Swedish furniture business Ikea from opening a store in Auckland. The popular international retailers sells low-priced designer-style furniture, homeware and accessories.

The Swedish franchise has 273 stores in 36 countries, and has expanded outside its original European base to operate in North America, Asia, and Australia.

But in a ruling by the Environment Court, Ikea has been specifically banned from being a tenant in the new shopping centre in Redwood, because the Court believes it would create traffic chaos...
"Ikea stores are known to have high traffic-generating characteristics... Accordingly, they have been specifically excluded from allowable retail activities in this consent."
The key to Ikea's popular low price/high quality approach is that many of its products have to be assembled by customers (which many see as half the fun!) The full range in Ikea's catalogue is around 12,000 products.

Developer of the new Mt Wellington project, Tony Gapes, says he understands Ikea has been looking in New Zealand for quite a while, but doesn't think they could afford the rents at either his Auckland site, or the recently developed Sylvia Park.

The nearest Ikea for New Zealanders at the moment seems to be the Homebush branch in Sydney ;-(

* NZ Herald: Ikea not coming - because they'd be too popular
* Ikea Australia website

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Tuesday, 5 February 2008

So Long, and thanks for all the Tennis

Sitting Dunedin South MP David Benson-Pope will likely spend the next few months looking for a new career, after losing the 2008 Labour Party nomination to local PR woman Clare Curran over the weekend.
Quelle demage.

Curran, an elected Labour Party official, has been involved with the union movements in both Australia and New Zealand in recent years. She currently runs a small public relations/communications business in Dunedin with her partner.

However, Clare Curran is more well known to the general public as the "woman who was awarded an uncontested contract with the Environment Ministry", at the request of Labour MP David Parker (Climate Change minister). She was also described by his Private Secretary as Parker's "right-hand woman".

TV3's coverage of the Dunedin selection result was rather ominous... "The coffin lid is closing on the political career of David Benson-Pope"...

Benson-Pope said after the 2005 election campaign that he thought media coverage of him was "way over the top", and that reporters and interviewers at both TV One and TV3 were "downright rude really".

DBP has been the Labour MP for Dunedin South for almost nine years, following a period as a Labour Dunedin city councillor. His de-selection follows a long run of embarrassing sagas, including Tennis-gate, Nightie-gate, Panty-gate, and Setchell-gate.

He eventually lost the backing of his Popular and competent Prime Minister, for his habit of being unable to tell the truth... As one commentator put it, "less for what he had done, than for his repeated inability to simply say what he had done".

As a comment on the Labour-funded blog The Standard noted last year...
Dunedin South is a rock-solid Labour seat. It’s hugely important organisationally: the LEC has one of the largest memberships–at around 200, around 5% of Labour’s entire membership–and is asset-rich.

Benson-Pope’s electorate office is leased by the LEC to Parliamentary Services. It’s a cash cow to the Party.

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Sunday, 3 February 2008

'Improv Everywhere' Freeze Grand Central

I wish I lived in New York City... The Improv Everywhere crew stage such brilliant public stunts. They organised the recent "No Pants" subway ride in Manhattan and in other US cities.

In their latest mission, over 200 "agents" brought the world's largest train station to a sudden halt... freezing en masse in the main area of Grand Central Station.

The improv actors stopped in mid-action, and froze in place for a solid five minutes, baffling New York commuters and tourists alike...

* Photos and more info at Improv Everywhere: Frozen Grand Central

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