Monday, 31 March 2008

Courts & Ngai Tahu send family to jail

A very good piece tonight on TV3's 60 Minutes, about West Coast helicopter pilots David Saxton and his son Morgan Saxton, who were both sentenced to over 2 years in jail for "stealing" greenstone.

The pair were accused by the corporate arm of South Island tribe "Ngai Tahu" and the South Westland runanga "Makaawhio" of stealing $800,000 worth of greenstone, which Maori call "pounamu" (the defence insists that value is greatly exaggerated).

In court, a judge (clearly keen to be seen as "politically correct") sentenced veteran helicopter pilot David Saxton to 2 years and 9 months in jail, and his son Morgan Saxton to 2 years and 6 months.

They were ordered to pay $300,000 to Ngai Tahu for the "stolen stone", compensation which the corporate tribe "kindly agreed to accept, as that was what the Saxton family could manage".

Ngai Tahu were able to add weight to their claim through their use of "victim impact statements" (?!?)... Apparently some "runanga" were distressed at seeing David Saxton handing out small green pendants in court, as well as seeing "photos of pounamu boulders sliced up and ready to be hauled out by helicopter".

The mainstream media swallowed the prosecution's line in February, with some seriously dodgy reporting. David Saxton says he wasn't mining the greenstone in secret, and the defence claimed he had customary rights to take greenstone from South Westland's Cascade Plateau over a six year period.

Judge Gary MacAskill decided the father and son had no right to take tonnes of the greenstone, which the Crown says is under the ownership of Ngai Tahu as part of the claims settlement act. Justice was certainly not done that day, and many in Westland and in the helicopter community are bitterly upset about it.

* 60 Minutes: Jailhouse Rock

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Saturday, 29 March 2008

Telecom deny competition forces price difference

Bad news this week for the many thousands of New Zealanders waiting to "get naked". I'm not referring to public streaking, but to the delay in the long-awaited "Naked DSL", which essentially means people can ditch their old fashioned home phoneline.

From May, Telecom is raising line rentals by just under 3%. The company's standard line rental in Christchurch and most of Wellington will rise to $37.05... while the rest of the country will see a rise to $44.85 a month. (Add another $2.70 a month for the wiring maintenance fee.)

The cheaper price just happens to be in the areas of Christchurch and Wellington which are served by Telecom's only genuine fixed-line competitor at the moment... cable company TelstraClear.

However, Telecom has denied the $7.80 a month difference in price is due to competition in those cities, but rather because of the cheaper cost of infrastructure because of the larger populations. Yeh right.

I barely use my home landline... it certainly doesn't justify the $45-odd a month I have to pay to keep the old phoneline, when all I really want is a fast broadband connection.
Unfortunately, the rollout of Naked DSL services around New Zealand is taking a lot longer than some expected. Ihug (now owned by Vodafone) have been trialling their "unbundling" by installing their boxes in 5 Auckland exchanges, but a more widespread nationwide rollout is some time off.

Slingshot and WorldxChange are both offering various forms of naked DSL, with broadband plans combined with VoIP technology and bundled phone call packages. The NZ Herald's tech writer Peter Griffin has done a good review of the current state of the market, and the benefits or otherwise...

* NZ Herald: The pros and cons of getting naked

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Friday, 21 March 2008

"Nappy-headed hos" tops non-PC list

Describing a women's basketball team as "Nappy-headed hos" cost US radio host Don Imus his job, but has won him the #1 "politically incorrect turn of phrase" for 2007, in a survey by the Global Language Monitor.

The New York-based "shock jock" was fired from his popular morning radio program last April by CBS Radio after using the phrase "Nappy-headed hos" to describe the Rutgers University women's basketball team. (He now has a new show on New York's WABC-AM).

A popular children's book author also made the Top 10...

Lindsey Gardiner was asked by her publishers to change a fire-breathing dragon in her children's book "Who Wants a Dragon", because of fears she could be sued under health and safety regulations! ?!?

"Ho-Ho-Ho" made #2 on the annual list, after a company in Sydney suggested last Christmas that prospective Santas change their traditional greeting to "Ha-Ha-Ha", to avoid offending women.

The #3 phrase for 2007 was "Carbon Footprint Stomping", which refers to people who drive "gas-guzzling Hummers and fly private jets", considered politically incorrect in these modern "green" times.

* A selection of great "politically incorrect" t-shirts from T-Shirt Hell...

* NZ Herald: Most politically incorrect phrase of 2007 named

[ Right now I'm listening to:

^ Morena - Vodka
^ Linda Bengtzing - Hur svårt kan det va ]

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Thursday, 20 March 2008

Key reveals his real stripes; No ACTion planned

John Key has reminded voters that his National Party has a very different tint to that of the party's last 17 years.

The National leader held a special press conference this afternoon to distance himself from potential coalition partner ACT, following the return of Sir Roger Douglas.
Key said National would not be able to work with ACT, if the party pursued the philosophies of (ACT co-founder) Sir Roger. Mr Key claimed National "was running a moderate and pragmatic agenda."
"We are not going to be held hostage running a radical right-wing agenda. That is not why I came into politics. It is not what I am campaigning for. It is not what I stand for."
Douglas announced a visionary plan which would allow the Government to slash $5 billion in spending. ACT would introduce education scholarships (or vouchers) for all children, dump the welfare-in-drag Working for Families scheme, and allow hospital wards to be rented out to private practice.
Tax cuts are another major push by the party... Under ACT, taxpayers would pay no tax on the first $20,000 of their income (increasing to $40,000?), while tax thresholds would be adjusted to take into account wage growth since 1999. Cullen's top tax rate of 39c would be also cut to 33c.

Sir Roger took the opportunity to comment on the performance of Michael Cullen, saying Labour's current Finance Minister will go down as "one of the poorer finance ministers in the past 50 years."

ACT leader Rodney Hide said the party was releasing policies early, because neither Labour nor National were promising any change...
"John Key's approach to the election is me-too, so what you get is more of the same."
Meanwhile, some enthusiastic junior members of ACT were frowned upon for their membership sign-up methods. The Auckland University branch of ACT on Campus sold party pills for $1 each last month, as part of an Orientation membership promotion. ;-)
Rodney Hide said he wasn't going to start telling adults how to live their lives (ACT was one of the parties that voted against Jim Anderton's Party Pill Ban). However, he did admit that it wasn't the most appropriate way to sign up new party members.

* Stuff: Nats say no to Sir Roger
* NZ Herald: Key dismisses Douglas' proposed national agenda

* NZ Herald: Douglas' plan to to rejuvenate NZ

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Franks aims for return to Beehive as a Nat

Former ACT Party MP Stephen Franks is hoping to return to Parliament in this year's general election, but this time wearing National's colours.

Franks was last night selected as the National Party's candidate for the competitive seat of Wellington Central. He'll face off against former Labour staffer Grant Robertson, ACT's deputy leader Heather Roy, and Sue Kedgley for the Greens.

Stephen Franks probably fits much better with National than with his former party ACT, given his social conservative tendencies. The Dom Post's short story is revealing...
As for his switch from ACT to National, Mr Franks said the parties shared many of the same values. However, he liked the fact that he could be more practical now and spend less time arguing for rigid goals.
That sounds like a Nat ;-) "More practical" tends to mean "more compromising", happy to go with theoretical populist stances, and less willing to stand up for your own beliefs and ideals.

That said, he is an excellent lawyer with a great understanding of law and order, and has learnt how to break down ideas and policies into simple to understand concepts. It will be interesting to see where Messers Key and English rank him on National's list...

* Stuff: Nats choose Franks for Wellington Central

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Sunday, 16 March 2008

Quality Movies. Here. Now. Awesome.

Okay, now these guys just have to be under consideration for Labour's upcoming election campaign... I'm sure they'll be looking for some "hip" and "up to date" videos and website designs to help them win over the "yoof vote"...

My recommendation to Labour (and I'm not even being paid commission to write this!)... Hire Fred & Sharon Now!! Where else could you get such Slick editing, Enthusiastic and persuasive voiceovers, Classy backdrops, and Modern digital animation to rival Weta Workshop?! ;-)

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Charlotte Perrelli - Hero
^ BWO - Lay Your Love On Me ]

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Saturday, 15 March 2008

Douglas urges change to halt Aussie exodus

The return of Sir Roger Douglas to the ACT Party was confirmed today, with the announcement the former Labour Party Finance Minister will stand as both a List and an electorate candidate this election.

Party leader Rodney Hide welcomed Sir Roger back to the fold, and says he wants to see him high on the party list. (Just don't bring back those stuffy old conservatives into the fold as well... I think ACT have managed to palm off Stephen Franks onto the National Party?...)

Douglas told ACT's national conference that "New Zealand is now Australia's poor cousin". He's alarmed at the growing number of New Zealanders leaving for Australia, and the increasing disparity in incomes between the two countries. It was revealed more than 400,000 Kiwis have left the country since Helen Clark came to power.

Meanwhile, Michael Cullen has managed to halve the growth in labour productivity, with a massive increase in state bureaucrats and red-tape. He dubbed the current Labour-led Government the "Growthbusters", saying New Zealand's growth had been sacrificed time and again at the "altar of political self-interest".

Douglas encouraged the party he helped found to return to its roots, especially as National moves closer to the centre with Labour. He was given a standing ovation at the end of his address this afternoon.

The party is aiming to increase its vote to 6-8% this election. ACT wants to cap government spending and force politicians to live within their means. The party also wants to cap top tax rates at 20% for both workers and businesses.

ACT's education policy will see all children offered a scholarship, to spend at the school of their choice... whether that's a state school, independent, integrated, or kura kaupapa.

It's the sort of system that has been running very successfully for years in the likes of Sweden, Denmark and Holland. (Currently the NZ Government spends around $8,000 a year for each state high school student, and $5,500 for primary school students).

Rodney Hide warned the conference that a change in Government this year isn't enough if people want a turnaround in the country's fortunes. He said ACT was the only party "with the guts to adopt bold new policies to ensure real change".

* Stuff: Douglas back for ACT
* ACT Party: ACT to bring our children home

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Friday, 14 March 2008

An impromptu Musical in a Food Court

The gang from Improv Everywhere have been at it again... The public improvisational crew that brought you "Frozen Grand Central" and "No Pants 2K8 Subway Ride" have been working on some musical magic.

This one comes from LA, where 16 agents created a spontaneous musical in a food court. The singers wore wireless microphones, with their voices and the pre-recorded music being played over the mall's PA system.

Cameras were hidden behind two-way mirrors and other concealed structures...

If you're not familiar with Improv Everywhere you should definitely check out their website, and their many clips there and on YouTube (they've complete over 70 different "missions" over the past six years in New York.

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Thursday, 13 March 2008

Ian Wishart investigates power-hungry PM

As rumours gain momentum about a possible leadership challenge to New Zealand's "Popular and Competent Prime Minister", investigative journalist Ian Wishart is preparing to release an "explosive new book" which will go behind the life of Hillin Cluck.

"Absolute Power: The Helen Clark Years" is described as "The Most Explosive Political Biography Ever Released in New Zealand".

Hopefully that means more revelations than the "scandals" uncovered in Nicky Hager's over-hyped book "The Hollow Men" (Business leaders support and help fund the National Party?! Quelle Surprise)

Publishers claim Labour's Electoral Finance Act passed last Christmas has a clause that could let the Government ban the book, to shut down political criticism in election year.

Investigate says Ian Wishart "could face possible arrest and prosecution under the anti-free speech portions of the controversial new law - specifically a clause that covers political books". A firm publication date hasn't been announced, but pre-orders are now being taken online.

Wishart also examines the likely outcome of Labour's looming leadership crises in the latest issue of Investigate Magazine...
"Prime Minister Helen Clark is facing the fight of her political life as a string of bad poll results and bad press put her leadership within Labour on the line."

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Auckland City Council retains Airport, rejects Rail

Auckland City Councillors have voted against selling the council's 12.75% shareholding in Auckland International Airport, and have also voted to reject the Canadian Pension Plan's restructuring proposal.

Nearby Manukau City Council has also rejected the deal, but infrastructure investment company Infratil has supported the partial takeover bid, after the pension fund announced it would restrict its voting rights to 24.9%.

Auckland Mayor John Banks says the council doesn't see any advantages in supporting the proposal. However he expects the council to be a "more proactive shareholder", and is calling for the board of AIA to "substantially lift their game".

There was a 45 minute disruption during last night's meeting, when veteran nutter protester Penny Bright and former Mayoral candidate Lisa Prager refused to leave the council chambers during the discussion of "confidential matters".

Meanwhile, John Banks has dismissed calls by over 10,000 Aucklanders for a rail link between the city and the airport. Bizarrely Mayor Banks has rejected the idea as "25 years too early"!?!? "I'm not in the business of bouncing dead cats," he said.

A petition signed by 10,431 people has won support from some on the Auckland Regional Council, with chairman Mike Lee correctly noting "Until there is a rail link from the airport to the central business district, Auckland will not be an international-class city."

NZ Herald graphic showing proposed Auckland rail links

Banks has got more than a few screws loose if he seriously thinks the idea of a rail link to Auckland airport is "too early"... If anything, it's already about 30 years overdue!

While many Aucklanders may try to convince themselves otherwise, the lack of decent rail services will confine Auckland to "also-ran" status in world terms. Regular commuter rail services are an integral part of most growing major cities in the world.

Auckland councils should be backing and supporting new and improved rail links, including investigating working with private enterprise on the urgent need for rail services between the airport and Auckland's CBD (see Heathrow Express, Stansted Express, Gatwick Express, etc)...

I know there are arguments that the economics of rail don't stack up in Auckland, but as the city's population continues to grow there must come a time when some forward-thinking people can come up with a way of making it work?

Part of the problem is that the driving habits of Aucklanders have become so ingrained over many many years. Try living in a proper major international city for a year and see how rail can work. Auckland is ghetto... all the problems of a major city, very few of the benefits.

* NZ Herald: Pressure grows for trains from airport to downtown

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Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Bassett warns of desperate Labour tricks

A number of New Zealand blogs have picked up on an article written by Dr Michael Bassett, about the "whatever it takes" mentality adopted by the Labour Party in their desperate bid to stay in power. Bassett was a cabinet minister (Health and Local Govt) in the reformist Labour Government of the mid 80's.

Bassett talks about his former Labour cabinet colleagues from 1984-90 period, including Helen Clark, Michael Cullen, and Phil Goff, and how they have abandoned their earlier principles.
In order to rescue the debt-burdened country we had inherited we sold several key assets and paid the money off against debt, thus leaving the government with a smaller interest bill each year. That meant more was available for public investment in health and education...

Helen Clark was then Deputy Prime Minister. She and the rest of us also voted for the establishment of airport companies from the publicly-owned airfields. We all knew at the time that what the Labour government was doing was correct, and in the best long-term interests of the country.

We made those decisions in election year, consciously knowing that not everyone agreed. Once upon a time, Cullen Clark and Goff possessed guts and were driven by principles; they were capable of making the correct decision, not pandering to the views of those who couldn't come to grips with what was in the country's best interests. No longer.
In last week's Herald on Sunday, Bill Ralston pointed out the hypocracy of Cullen's government trying to kill the Canadian Pension Plan's bid for one of our (privately owned) "strategic assets", while at the same time encouraging the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (aka the Cullen Fund) to buy up strategic assets from around the world.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog reports that the NZ Superannuation fund currently owns assets in over 50 countries, including a couple of international airports.

Michael Bassett is scathing of Labour's habit of sinking the "value of privately-held shares in public companies if they perceive any short term political advantage for themselves". He doesn't mince words as he warns this year's election campaign will be one of the dirtiest Labour has even run...
Ministers are playing on the economic and political ignorance of voters. The New Zealand Herald this morning rightly labels them guilty of "xenophobia".

Whipping up a populist storm against foreign control is an old political game. The fascists did it in the 1920s, the Nazis in the 1930s. Anti-Semitism and racism are linked to this kind of selective opposition to concepts that people don't understand, and therefore instinctively oppose. This government is guilty of the worst kind of political cynicism.

There are times these days when the modern Labour Party seems beneath contempt. Be warned. There is worse to come. Because of the opinion polls, ministers are desperate and will do anything to hold on to office. "Whatever it takes".
Strong words. Some blog commentators have suggested that Bassett should do more than just sitting behind a keyboard, and perhaps even give Rodney Hide a hand this year... Could he join Ruth Richardson and Roger Douglas on the ACT Party's wish-list for high-profile candidates this election?...

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Thursday, 6 March 2008

National gets something right

I was shocked and frustrated to read this week that the Labour-led minority coalition Government is trying to buy back Toll NZ's rail and ferry business.

It's been reported that Cullen's crazy crowd offered Toll Holdings up to $500 million for the New Zealand railways, but thankfully that offer was rejected by the Aussies.

But after National leader John Key's silly misstep about whether National would have let an overseas pension plan invest money in a New Zealand company (Auckland Airport), it was good to see Deputy leader Bill English come out strongly against Labour's latest barmy idea...
Mr English said the last thing New Zealand wanted was the Government to own the rail company.

“We certainly wouldn’t be buying Toll. The worst thing for our railway network would be for the Government to take it over using the OnTrack company, (the State-owned enterprise which runs the rail tracks) which is chaired by the Labour Party president Mike Williams,” Mr English said.
English says governments had a bad record on operating rail companies, and he didn't believe the current Labour-led one would be any better. He said if the purchase was completed, then a National government would get out of the business as quickly as possible.

And as English rightly points out, a renationalised railway company would see a return to strikes on the ferries over school holidays, along with a return to "featherbedding" (the Union practice of requiring an employer to hire more workers than is necessary for a particular job).

* NBR: English: We might re-sell Toll
* Hat tip: Kiwiblog

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Hone Harawira tries to dictate Maori Party stance

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira has appeared on 3 News tonight, insisting his party won't be going near the National Party in any post-election deals if it sticks to its long-term position of abolishing the Maori electorate seats.

It's unclear whether his comments were sanctioned by Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia or Pita Sharples, or by the party's board including president Whatarangi Winiata. Harawira (like his Mom) is known to be much further to the "left" than his parliamentary colleagues.

LFRF understands that some in the Maori Party are personally open to the idea of getting rid of the race-based seats, however they also do accept that the idea would probably not be palettable to many of their supporters at this stage.

The issue of Maori-only seats in the New Zealand parliament has been a contentious one since the country voted to move to the proportional MMP electoral system.

In the mid-80s, the Royal Commission on the Electoral System concluded that Maori would achieve better political representation through a proportional party-list system. The commission recommended that if MMP was adopted in New Zealand, the Maori seats should be abolished.

Maori parliamentary seats were created back in 1867 when many Maori were still based in rural areas, and the seats had tribal boundaries.

Former Labour MP Dr Michael Bassett wrote a good column on the arguments for and against Maori seats back in 2003.

He noted that "today, with 86% of Maori living away from their iwi bases, electorates with tribal boundaries and distant history are hard to defend. Moreover, racially-based voting has a whiff about it."

Bassett correctly points out that separate representation isn't necessary for Maori representation, especially under MMP. All the mainstream political parties feature people who identify as Maori on their party lists. At the 2005 election, a total of 21 Maori MPs were elected... 17.3% of Parliament (while making up 14.7% of the population).

(Indeed, the parliamentary quota of "Maori lesbian trade unionists" jumped significantly this week, with the swearing in of Labour MP Louisa Wall, who replaces Anne Hartley, one of the many Labour Party MPs doing a quick runner before the election).

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US towns vote to Arrest Bush & Cheney

A small group of impatient voters in the United States are keen to get rid of George Dubya Bush and his offsider... and they don't want to have to wait until the election.

Voters in the Vermont towns of Brattleboro (pop. 12,000) and Marlboro (1,000) voted this week to arrest President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for "crimes against the Constitution".

Lawmakers in the two towns passed symbolic but non-binding resolutions to impeach Bush and Cheney, and to end the war in Iraq. The measures approved in Brattleboro and Marlboro call for the indictment of Bush and Cheney, and seek to have police arrest them if they ever come to town.

George Dubya has never visited the State of Vermont, which is known for taking liberal positions on national political issues.

* Reuters: Vermont towns vote to arrest Bush and Cheney

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Saturday, 1 March 2008

Captain Sensible says migrants using NZ as a 'Transit Lounge'

Ah, Peter Dunne's a funny old character. Leader of the United Future political party, which has swallowed up more minor parties than Benson-Pope has swallowed tennis balls (Future New Zealand, Advance New Zealand, Ethnic Minority Party, New Zealand Conservative Party, Outdoor Recreation Party and WIN Party).

Dunne likes to promote himself as "common sense", and does occasionally come out with the odd sensible thing, despite having propped up the Labour-led minority Government for the last few terms.

This week he has hit the headlines, over his claims that New Zealand is being used "as a giant transit lounge by immigrants who come here, gain citizenship and then go to Australia" (a situation no doubt accelerated by dissatisfaction with the Clark-led Government).

Figures released by Dunne showed almost 30% of New Zealand migrants to Australia over the last 7 years were actually born overseas.
"It's a serious concern that many migrants to New Zealand are coming here to gain their citizenship, but then choosing to leave for the greener pastures of Australia," he said.

"We rely heavily on overseas migrants to bolster and fill the gaps in our workforce... If we are losing large numbers of skilled migrants to Australia, then our economy is in big trouble."
Dunne says the Labour Party have been in denial for a long time about the pace of the exodus. National says it's been warning for two years that the exodus to Australia is a serious threat to the economy.

In January 2008 alone, 5017 New Zealand citizens left for Australia on a permanent or long term basis, but just less than 800 came back... which works out to a net loss of 4,222.

The increasingly busy departure gates have probably been accelerated by the likes of generous tax cuts and strong growth in Australia, against the arrogant Scrooge-like policies of Finance Minister Michael Cullen, and a massive increase in wasteful spending on Government departments and the State sector.

* Stuff: NZ 'giant transit lounge' for migrants to Oz

* Stuff: Record numbers head to Australia

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Global Cooling trumps "Global Warming"

I'm sure this news will take a very long time to filter through to the so-called "mainstream media", but hard scientific evidence has now confirmed suspicions that the earth is actually now experiencing "Global Cooling".

The last 12 months have seen a drop in temperatures around the world, possibly wiping out a century of warming...
China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snow cover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began.

Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile -- the list goes on and on.
Previously the argument for a cooling planet has been limited to anecdotal evidence, but the world's main 'temperature tracking' organisations have released new data revealing global temperatures dropped sharply over the past year...

Graph showing world temperatures 1988-2008
(Original data: UK's Hadley Climate Research Unit; Graphic: Watt's Up With That)

In fact, all four temperature monitoring agencies (HadCRUT, RSS, UAH, and GISS) found the period from Jan '07 - Jan '08 had "the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down".

As this article at Daily Tech points out, Cold weather is a lot more damaging to humans, animals, and plants than hot weather is...

"Historically, the warm periods such as the Medieval Climate Optimum were beneficial for civilization. Corresponding cooling events such as the Little Ice Age, though, were uniformly bad news."

Last year it was reported that more than 500 international scientists have published evidence "refuting the current man-made global warming scare", which blames humans as the primary cause of global temperature increases since 1850.

A major study revealed that levels of carbon dioxide (C02) were largely irrelevant to global warming, despite what the UN's scientists have been spinning to the world.

A growing number of scientists who disagree with the "official party line" claim reduced solar activity is a "much larger driver of climate change than man-made greenhouse gases."

* DailyTech: Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling

* WorldNetDaily: 500 scientists refute global warming dangers

* Watt's Up With That?: January 2008 - 4 sources say “globally cooler” in the past 12 months

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