Venezuela has run out of cash

Francisco Toro writes:

Venezuela has run out of cash. Not metaphorically, mind you: The country literally doesn’t have enough cash to go around.

Two weeks ago, facing an acute shortage of paper money, bank regulators capped cash withdrawals at 10,000 Venezuelan bolivars per day — about $5.25.

As I write this, following an almighty rout on the black market, those same 10,000 bolivars are worth less than half that much: $2.17. (By the time you read this, the real number’s likely lower.)

Stop and think about that: How on earth can a country work when the most cash anyone there is allowed to withdraw from their bank account in a day is two bucks and change?

But they have equality thanks to the wonderful socialism. Everyone is restricted to $2 a day!

There is, certainly, a serious macroeconomic problem underlying the bolivar’s collapse: an enormous, unmanageable fiscal deficit nobody in their right mind would finance. That has led an irresponsible government to create huge amounts of new money out of thin air to cover its spending needs.

Otherwise known as Green Party policy until they backed down.

Even now, with the bolivar trading at 4,600 to the U.S. dollar, Venezuela’s highest-denomination bank note is still the lowly 100-bolivar bill. This summer, it was worth barely a dime. Now, following the latest collapse, the most valuable note in circulation is worth a little more than 2 U.S. cents.

So imagine that anything you buy, you would have to pay for in 2c notes?

In an economy where 30 percent of adults don’t have bank accounts and many transactions are still carried out in cash, you can imagine the kinds of practical difficulties this poses. Paying for even the most trivial of purchases requires carrying around huge, Pablo Escobar-style stacks of bank notes. A Coke, if you can find it, will set you back 1,200 bolivars — 12 of the biggest bills. Lunch at a simple restaurant? At least 40 of those bills. Even a subsidized school lunch costs you at least 20 top-denomination bills. You can see how the numbers get out of hand fast.

Don’t even think about buying a car!
Delis have started using their scales to weigh not only slices of cheese and ham but also the stacks of bank notes needed to pay for them. It’s just quicker that way than counting them one by one. It’s funny, of course, unless you actually have to live this way.
So sad for those living there.

Trump and Taiwan

Stuff reports:

China has lodged a diplomatic protest after US President-elect Donald Trump spoke by phone with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, but blamed the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own for the “petty” move.

The 10-minute telephone call with Taiwan’s leadership was the first by a US president-elect or president since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China”.

China’s Foreign Ministry said it had lodged “stern representations” with what it called the “relevant US side”, urging the careful handling of the Taiwan issue to avoid any unnecessary disturbances in ties.

I guess an upside of a Trump presidency is that when he does something counter to 40 years of foreign policy, no one will know if it was deliberate or just reflects the fact he never reads briefing material and just makes things up on the spot.

On this issue, I’m glad he did take the call from the President of Taiwan. It is wrong to let China dictate who you can or can not talk to.

Speaking earlier, hours after Friday’s telephone call, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointedly blamed Taiwan for the exchange, rather than Trump, a billionaire businessman with little foreign policy experience.

“This is just the Taiwan side engaging in a petty action, and cannot change the ‘one China’ structure already formed by the international community,” Wang said at an academic forum in Beijing, state media reported.

“I believe that it won’t change the longstanding ‘one China’ policy of the United States government.”

A very mild protest. If it had been anyone else China would have probably retaliated in some way. But Trump is so mercurial, they probably don’t want to risk it blowing up.

In comments at the same forum, Wang noted how quickly President Xi Jinping and Trump had spoken by telephone after Trump’s victory, and that Trump had praised China as a great country.

He says that to every leader who rings him!

Something does not add up here

NewstalkZB reports:

National has gained support in the latest opinion poll and is close to 50 per cent while Labour has slumped to its lowest rating in two years.

The just-released Roy Morgan poll gives National 49.5 per cent, up 1.5 points in a month, while Labour has shed 3.5 points and has fallen to 23 per cent.

The Greens have gained three points to reach 14.5 per cent, giving a Labour/Greens alliance 37.5 per cent.

NZ First is down two points to eight per cent.

A Colmar Brunton poll released on Sunday gave Labour 28 per cent.

Labour released its private polling in September in reaction to a Colmar Brunton poll that put the party at 26 per cent, but it doesn’t intend doing that this time.

Why not, if a poll now shows them at 23%?

NZ Newswire understands its private, pre-earthquake polling shows support slightly higher than 28 per cent, with Labour and the Greens almost neck and neck with National.

Would be extraordinary to be neck and neck with Labour on 28% or so.

Here is what the gap is in the last three public polls between National and Labour/Greens:

  • November Roy Morgan +12%
  • November Colmar Brunton +11%
  • October Roy Morgan +10%

But hey if Labour want to celebrate being in the 20s as a winning position, more strength to them.

The Cuban solution to obesity

The Washington Post reports on how Cuba is a model for the world in reducing obesity rates. It was simple:

In the 1980s, thanks to Soviet agricultural support, most Cubans consumed 3000 to 3200 calories a day.

However, when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, Cuban farming struggled to fill the gap. In addition, gas was in such short supply that most public bus routes were eliminated.

Castro responded by declaring a special period (“periodo especial”) that included food rationing, the promotion of small-scale gardens and the distribution of more than 1 million Chinese-made bicycles.

The food shortage was severe enough that per-person calorie consumption dropped to about 2400 calories a day in the 1990s, and typical adults lost about 4.5kg.

At the same time, they had to exercise more by walking or riding bikes instead of taking buses. The number of Cubans meeting exercise guidelines climbed to 80 percent.

What a great model. Have food and fuel shortages and you solve obesity!

Meet an anti-fluoride Councillor

Stuff reports:

Health experts and ‘smarty pants’ scientists have brainwashed the public over fluoride, says a newly elected city councillor who claims she knows better.

Siggi Henry has urged Waikato District Health Board members and fellow councillors to take up the anti-fluoride cause.

Oh dear.

The move comes only weeks after she was elected in a campaign in which she downplayed her strident anti-fluoride views.

Of course she did.

She’s also taking aim at health professionals and scientists, saying she’s more informed on the issue than they are.

I’m sure she is. I am sure she has read every anti-fluoridation website there is.

But Henry has accused the Health Ministry and Waikato DHB of peddling lies and said health officials refuse to address the real cause of tooth decay.

In an email sent to Hamilton Mayor Andrew King and fellow councillors, Henry said Ministry data supporting the fluoridation of water couldn’t be trusted.

“Sadly I have seen this kind of BS for far too many years,” Henry said.

“Tooth decay is not a result of lack of fluoride but a result of too much sugar. And the DHBs, Dave [Macpherson and] Martin [Gallagher] should start addressing that issue.”

She seems to think there can only be one factor in tooth decay. That is like saying that as smoking can cause heart attacks, then obesity can’t be a factor.

The council recommenced fluoridating Hamilton’s water in early 2014, following a referendum in which 66.09 per cent of voters supported a return to fluoridation.

The council has since agreed to provide fluoride-free water at two sites in the city – Taitua Arboretum and Claudelands Park.

Henry said the 2013 referendum outcome was the result of public brainwashing by the DHB.

Did they zap people’s brains?

Wood wins huge

An emphatic victory to Michael Wood in the Mt Roskill by-election with 11,170 votes for him and 4,652 for Parmjeet Parmar.

Wood got a massive 66% of the vote which is basically a landslide. The outcome of the by-election was never in doubt, but the margin is very impressive.

Michael I am sure will be an effective and diligent MP for Mt Roskill. He has worked hard over many years to build up profile, and the hard work paid off.

Of the five advance voting places Wood won three and Parmar two. Amusingly one of those two was the prison vote!

Of the 22 polling places on the day, Wood won 21 of them and Parmar just the one in Epsom. Again a decisive result.

Goff’s proposed visitor levy would not go on tourism infrastructure

The Herald reports:

A visitor levy on hotels and other accommodation will be discussed by Prime Minister John Key and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff tomorrow.

On Monday, Goff proposed a visitor levy costing a few dollars a night at a backpackers to $20 or more at the city’s top hotels.

The levy would apply to Kiwi and overseas visitors and could raise between $20 million and $30 million a year. It would replace ratepayer spending to attract visitors and funding for major events. …

The new mayor also dismissed calls by some in the hotel and tourism industry not to use the visitor levy on marketing and major events, but for funding infrastructure facilities.

Goff said the levy would pay for marketing and major events and free up $20 million to $30 million of ratepayer money to leverage spending on things like easing congestion and providing housing for tourism workers.

This is a naked tax grab. There might be a case for it to fund tourism infrastructure. But Goff wants this to fund stuff already being funded.

Basically under Goff’s proposal, if ATEED did fund a boxing match, then business travellers like me to Auckland would pay for it. Naff off.

A safety over-reach

Stuff reports:

A mother has been left fuming after her son was disqualified from a Lower Hutt athletics tournament for running in bare feet.

Organisers say it was to protect the 10-year-old’s toes from spiked shoes, and to maintain an equal playing field. But the decision has attracted criticism from some of our Olympic running greats. …

Lower Hutt School Sports Association spokesman Neil Sargisson said the rule was there to help protect kids’ feet from spiked shoes because young runners sometimes struggled to stick to their lanes.

So can the LHSA tell us how many kids were getting injured from running in bare feet before their ban? Scores? Dozens? Even one? Or was this a solution looking for a problem?

Sir John Walker, 64, who won gold in the 1500m at the Olympic Games in 1976, said the situation was “political correctness all gone wrong”.

“I ran in bare feet until I was 17 along with hundreds of other kids. Soon the kids of today will be unable to do anything due to the new health and safety rules. I am not a fan of these restrictions.”

Hear hear.

Garner on Labour losing the way

Duncan Garner is brutally honest in a column looking at Labour and Little:

It has been a dreadful end to the year for Andrew Little. …

The latest Roy Morgan political poll has Labour at just 23 per cent, which would give the party just 28 MPs in Parliament. 

This is the second lowest poll result for Labour in the history of the Roy Morgan survey.

And because Labour already holds 27 electorate seats, high-profile MPs such as Jacinda Ardern and David Parker would be looking for new jobs.

If Labour dropped one more per cent, Labour would not even get Andrew Little into Parliament. 

That’s the ultimate embarrassment: when your leader doesn’t make it to Parliament.

Labour’s response seems to be that there is no need to worry as they are actually in the high 20s instead of the mid 20s. Little came to power saying he wanted Labour to be at 40%.

The ‘everyman’ has been ditched in favour of this current mob. This is a narrower Labour Party, the so-called broad church has been given its marching orders.

Shane Jones is gone and desperately seeking Winston Peters and NZ First.

Phil Goff flew one-way to Auckland for another job. Clayton Cosgrove is looking for a new job and some sanity. Former Labour member Nick Leggett is poised to stand for National against his old party.

It seems to me that Labour doesn’t want the ‘everyman’ yet it wants his votes. I think Labour has lost the working bloke to NZ First and National.

They no longer identify with Little and his lightweight mob.

Labour has become a party of identity politics and urban liberals. This is why they have lost power in almost every provincial city in NZ.

I asked a press gallery journalist this week what was wrong with Little. 

She said Little can’t explain anything, he has no charisma, he’s angry and, finally, he’s not John Key. I would add that Little fumbles and bumbles his way through interviews. 

He lacks clarity and throws a few tired slogans at the public, who are likely to have tuned out a long time ago. 

He is utterly uninspiring to most New Zealanders and the polls clearly show that. Who is he? What does he do in his quiet times? What makes him tick? Is he really as unfriendly and remote as the television suggests. 

Ouch. I know one broadcaster who said their favourite guest was Andrew Little as almost without fail he would get angry on air.

It’s clear Ardern and Grant Robertson are holding back and waiting for Little to be done like a dinner at next year’s election before they make their move. 

The question is who will be at the top of the ticket and who will be deputy? And if polls don’t improve will Ardern even make it back?

This year Labour has seriously weakened its brand. And jumping into the quicksand with the Greens was a disaster. 

A whole bunch of Nelson Labour members walked away this week over reports of an electorate deal that would see Labour stand aside for the Greens. Labour has denied any such deal.

Labour’s poor polling is just further confirmation that the party and its MPs are simply failing to reflect public attitudes and sentiments.

A year out from the 2014 election Labour was polling 34 per cent and National 44.5 per cent.

Right now Labour is at 23 and National is on 49.5.

The gap is massive and Key’s reach after eight years is as wide and as strong as ever.

But it seems unconscionable that a clearly proud and historically strong party can be so devoid of invigorating ideas and broad public appeal. 

Their main idea is to adopt the former Alliance’s policy on tertiary education and turn the clock back to the 1970s.

After almost 3000 days in opposition, Labour looks more clueless now than it did at the beginning of that process. That leaves me to ponder this – are they finished as a major political party?

I don’t think so. People said the same of National in 2002. But Garner may be right as Labour is in the 20s in their third term in opposition, not their first. And National had Brash and Key as leaders to act as circuit breakers.

Why Leggett left Labour

Nick Leggett writes in the Dom Post:

I grew up with Labour burned deep into my DNA. Both sides of the family were supporters. Mum worked on Margaret Shields’ campaigns in my infancy, and my parents and grandparents kept their loyalty through the tumultuous eighties. 

Back then, I saw Labour – and only Labour – as the party of reform, hope and progress. 

Sadly for tens of thousands of once loyal supporters, that is not the case today.

The activists, staffers and MPs who control today’s Labour, many ex-Alliance, have become distant from – and, worse, disdainful towards – much of its loyal voting base. They take their heartland for granted and sadly fail to understand the ambitions and challenges of working New Zealanders.

More and more of their caucus have almost no life experience outside politics and unionism.

Earlier this year, Andrew Little stunned a Porirua business person who was one of about a dozen people who turned up to hear his ideas on local economic development, by asking what had been happening in Porirua since the closure of Mitsubishi Motors. Given the plant closed no fewer than 18 years ago, the message was unmistakable: Labour hasn’t a clue what’s going on in communities like ours.  

I’m surprised as many as 12 people turned up!

Like any tribal loyalist, I used to think National Party people had no heart, and didn’t care about the aspirations of communities found in Porirua. But, as mayor for six years, I have seen first hand that National is sincere in its desire to improve the ability of all New Zealanders to get a fair go, earn a good wage and be able to choose how they make their way in life. The party has also delivered on critical infrastructure like Transmission Gully and the Kapiti Expressway against Labour’s vocal, and baffling, opposition.  

A useful reminder that Labour has joined the Greens in opposing almost every new road.

As a social liberal I’d always taken it for granted that Labour was the only party for people like me on issues like marriage equality and abortion rights. But – shock horror – it turns out that National, under John Key, actively welcomes and promotes people with the same views. It simply does a better at job at balancing internal differences and accommodating a broad range of opinions and ideas. 

This is the key. Both social liberals and social conservatives can feel at home in National. Social conservatives in Labour are seen as reprehrensible by most of their peers. And likewise on the economic side you have people at home whose views range from Maurice Williamson to Nick Smith. But in Labour anyone who isn’t a denouncer of neoliberalism is now treated with suspicion.

As New Zealand continues to evolve as an open, multicultural society – while placing at its core respect for the social, cultural and economic contribution of tangata whenua – it is National, not Labour, that has the policies and values that best reflect my own. 

My wife, Emily, who is proud of her Maori, Samoan and Pakeha heritage, is a National Party supporter. As we had our first baby a few months ago, we have talked more and more about the kind of country we want for our son. We want Tane to grow up in a proud, diverse  and confident New Zealand. Diversity – of cultures, beliefs and ideas. Open to the world, trading with our neighbours, and offering more and better opportunities for successive generations. 

Sounds a great future to fight for.

Did they kill 14 because of a Christmas Party

The Herald reports:

The last picture of Syed Farook shows him posing at his office Christmas party with colleagues before he killed 14 of them in San Bernardino.

US ABC News’ investigative team discovered emails between Farook and his Pakistani wife, Tashfeen Malik, which indicate she was upset her Muslim husband was being forced to attend a Christmas gathering.

Not long after Farook was pictured in front of this Christmas tree, he killed 14 colleagues and injured 22 others.

“[Malik] had essentially made the statement in an online account that she didn’t think that a Muslim should have to participate in a non-Muslim holiday or event,” San Bernardino police chief Jarrod Burguan told ABC News.

“That really is one over the very, very few pieces of potential evidence that we have that we can truly point to and say, ‘That probably is a motive in this case’.”

How truly pathetic if that was the motive or even a factor.

Sadly the response of some will be to ban Christmas parties in case anyone else is offended!

Retirements and challenges

The Herald reports:

Wannabe National candidates also had another seat opened for them by MP Chester Borrows’ announcement he will leave politics in 2017.

Chester is one of the loveliest people in politics and is a genuinely good guy. I’ve known him for around 20 years and will be sad to see him go.

There are also challenges mounting in other electorates – the Otago Daily Timeshas reported Simon Flood – a 52-year-old former Merrill Lynch investment fund manager plans to challenge incumbent Todd Barclay.

It is understood Flood was widely expected to get the selection in 2014 but pulled out at the last minute for family reasons.

Barclay’s first term has been blemished by resignations of long-standing staff and reports of disputes. He said he had full support from his party electorate. “There’s obviously a disaffected aspect of former staff members who aren’t too comfortable with change. But I’ve worked hard over the last two years or so and we’ve got a lot to show for it.”

Bill English, Barclay’s predecessor in the seat, refused to endorse either, saying it was up to the party to select a candidate.

However, other colleagues expressed support on Twitter – including Police Minister Judith Collins who tweeted she was “looking forward to supporting @ToddBarclayMP … in Dipton on Friday 4 Xmas” and Maggie Barry who tweeted she had spent time in the “Deep South” and “found him to be a very engaged, diligent and popular local MP”.

It is very unusual for a first term MP to be challenged. I can’t recall this having occurred before. But the National Party has a selection process in the control of local members, not the hierarchy, and anyone can challenge if they get enough support.

While a first term challenge is very rare, a number of MPs entered Parliament through challenging incumbents – such as John Key, John Carter, Judith Collins and Stuart Smith. Also MPs such as Nikki Kaye got in by defeating an incumbent List MP for the candidacy. So this is not unusual in National – except for occurring after one term.

The Guardian on the failure of the centre left

The Guardian writes:

Across the western democracies, the centre of political gravity shifts erratically but inexorably to the right. Britain’s Brexit vote caused a tilt to the right in Theresa May’s cabinet and has been followed by the election of Donald Trump and a Republican Congress in America. This weekend, Austrians may elect a far-right president, while the centre-left Italian government could fall after this Sunday’s constitutional referendum. In France, meanwhile, the centre-right Republican party has now selected the more conservative contender François Fillon as its presidential candidate in the 2017 contest that could end as a head-to-head with the far-right Front National’s Marine Le Pen.

So why is this?

The ability of the centre-right to respond to and shape the world as it is evolving in 2016 contrasts with the inability of the centre-left to make matching responses. This failure is also simultaneously particular to individual countries and shared across borders. France’s left politics provide a textbook example. With occasional exceptions, like Canada and Portugal, the centre-left has struggled to win recent elections on both sides of the Atlantic. France’s left suffers from being part of that more general international difficulty to articulate an alternative that catches the popular mood and from being a particularly acute local example of that failure.

The left seem to offer the same solutions, no matter the situation. Labour’s answer to the future of work in NZ is to turn the clock back 30 years and return to “free” tertiary education.

Big Brother watching in UK

Stuff reports:

In Britain, Big Brother just got bigger.

After months of wrangling, Parliament has passed a contentious new snooping law that gives authorities – from police and spies to food regulators, fire officials and tax inspectors – powers to look at the internet browsing records of everyone in the country.

The law requires telecoms companies to keep records of all users’ web activity for a year, creating databases of personal information that the firms worry could be vulnerable to leaks and hackers.

As I understand it there is no requirement in NZ law for a minimum period. Each ISP will retain records based on their own needs. Those records can be sought by government authorities of course.

Dom Post on three strikes

The Dom Post editorial:

A man who groped a prison guard’s bottom has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

This absurd situation has come about because of a harsh and misguided piece of legislation – the “three-strikes” law passed in 2010.

The law says that anyone who commits three crimes from a long list of 40 must be sentenced to the maximum possible penalty for the final offence.

Raven Casey Campbell is the first person to reach a third strike. His offence was plainly an indecent assault – and one that caused distress and humiliation to his victim. Yet equally plainly, it was far less serious than many crimes that bear the same name, and entirely undeserving of a seven-year jail term.

Three strikes is deliberately about the consequences of repeated offending, not about just the third strike in isolation to the previous two.

Against this, the law’s supporters argue that its escalating warnings deter criminals. In fact, this is hotly disputed. The Court of Appeal calls the evidence for such deterrence “equivocal at best”.

Well a 62% reduction in strike reoffending rates is pretty impressive. That’s hundreds of fewer victims of violent and sexual offending.

A final warning certainly did not deter Campbell from his offensive, brief and highly consequential act.

No but the consequences may deter others and overall the level of second and third strikes is massively below what was the case before the passing of the law.

A great speech from an 11 year old

A very well delivered and reasoned speech by 11 year old Florence Akauola at Mt Hobson Middle School. She spoke on gender stereotypes and some of her points were:

  • “What does it mean to be a girl? Am I defined by the colour pink, a tube of lipgloss and a pair of high heels? Should I pull out a sewing kit, bake some cupcakes and do the washing?”
  • She “loved to play sports, have sword fights and race around the playground”, and dress up as Spiderman and Batman.
  • People tell girls “what a pretty little princess we are”, she said: “You don’t hear people saying, ‘wow, you’re such a strong, smart girl’.”
  • “Does it really matter if little girls play with cars and trucks? Maybe one day she’ll grow up to be an awesome mechanic.
  • “Or what about little boys playing with dolls? At least we know he’ll be a loving and kind dad when he’s older.”
  • “Girl, boy, or other gender, you should be who you want, believe what you want, and love who you want, without being judged criticised or hurtful.”
  • “As for me I know my potential, I know my worth. This little princess will slay the dragon, rescue herself from the tower and definitely go down in history.”

Hollande at 4% approval rating

Le Express reports:

According to a survey conducted among 17 000 people for Le Monde, the head of state reached a new level of unpopularity, recorded since the creation of this investigation.

Between François Hollande and the French distrust is total. Only 4% of respondents declared themselves “satisfied” the action of the President of the Republic, according to a survey published Tuesday by Le Monde. In detail, 3% of respondents said they were “somewhat satisfied” and 1% showed “very satisfied” in this election survey of 17,047 people. 

This makes Donald Trump look wildly popular.

Hollande may be the first ever President of France not to seek a second term.

UPDATE: He has just announced he won’t. He will go down as arguably the worst President in recent history.

Smalley on Labour’s left lurch

Rachel Smalley writes:

Labour and National have increasingly nudged to the Left, and that’s largely the result of Labour’s deal with the Greens. I thought, some time ago, it was a good move – but it’s pulled Labour further to the left, instead of dragging the Greens further towards the centre. And Leggett has echoed the mutterings of many long-term Labour supporters, accusing the party of losing touch with working kiwis.

I suspect National’s centrist position and popularity is now very appealing to Leggett.

And look at the policies that National has effectively snatched out from under the nose of Labour. National will build more affordable homes but crucially, more social housing too. The party’s essentially introduced a capital gains tax — of sorts — on residential properties bought and sold within two years. And in terms of social welfare, last year National upped benefits for families by $25 a week. It’s easy to see why Leggett felt he could transition into a National party that’s positioned itself very much in the centre.

He’ll seek selection in the Porirua seat of Mana, for National. It’s a Labour stronghold but Leggett would have some support there after his time as mayor, but it’s still a bold move. At the moment Kris Faafoi holds the seat for Labour, with a big majority – 8000 or so.

But the greatest loss, I think, is that in losing Leggett the Left lose a potential leader. And they can ill-afford to do that. They lost Shane Jones too, remember. It’s likely he’ll re-emerge flying the flag for New Zealand First.

And Labour needs strong leadership, and to be developing a team of leaders. The party needs depth.

Labour has paid a high price for its agreement with the Greens. It’s allowed itself to move too far to the Left, and in doing so has greatly enhanced National’s appeal. And as we’ve seen with Leggett’s exit to the right, that’s a very high price to pay.

The major impact of the MOU seems to be Labour taking votes off the Greens and National and NZ First taking votes off Labour.

I’ll take a bet with him

Stuff reports:

He’s been called a doomsdayer and worse for good reason: He’s the guy who says all humans will be dead in 10 years. 

And since his arrival in New Zealand for a Hamilton talk about the end of the human species, climate change specialist Guy McPherson has seen hate mail pour into his inbox.

Climate change is real and significantly influenced by human activity, but this guy is a nutter who should be ignored. It is the charlatans like McPherson which lead to so many people thinking there is no issue at all.

The University of Arizona emeritus professor says in 10 years, humans will cease to exist. Abrupt rises in temperature have us on course for the sixth mass extinction – similar to one that happened about 252 million years ago that culminated in the “great dying”.

That event was the worst of the mass extinction events in our planet’s history and saw all complex life cease, leaving microbes and fungi to rule the planet.

“I think we are heading for something like that this time around, too,” McPherson said.

I have a proposition for him. I’ll give him say $1,000 now and if the world is not ended in ten years he (or his estate) has to give me $10,000 in return.


A UK poll on religious freedom and association

This UK poll gave respondents eight scenarios and asked for each of them whether they should be considered grounds for taking someone to court. In all of them only a small minority thought someone should be forced to act against their beliefs – even if t means denying someone goods or services.

In order of support for taking them to court, the scenarios are:

  1. A bakery run by Christians that won’t bake a gay marriage cake 16%
  2. A printing company run by Catholics that won’t produce pro-abortion adverts 15%
  3. A t-shirt company run by lesbians that won’t print anti gay marriage t-shirts 13%
  4. A bakery run by Christians which won’t make a Satanic cake 11%
  5. A Muslim printer who refuses to print cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed 11%
  6. An atheist web designer who won’t design a creationist website 10%
  7. An environmentalist marketing consultant who won’t work for a fracking company 9%
  8. A Muslim film company than won’t make a pornographic film 7%