20 October 2006


BerlinBear avatar Quite by chance, I visited my own blog today for the first time in ages and discovered that it had been three months to the day since my last post. That is truly pathetic and is a new record. Nice. And, umm, sorry.

In case you hadn't noticed, I am not blogging at the moment. The reasons for that are several, but principal among them are the twin facts that a) in recent months I have been working on my thesis with renewed vigour and commitment, and b) I have just moved to a new city (see updated sidebar) and started a new job. Those two things combined mean that my plate right now is more than full and some non-essentials, including blogging, have had to be culled ruthlessly.

However, it is absolutely 100% my intention to return to blogging regularly at some (not entirely distant) future point, so the ether need not fear that it has lost the BerlinBear forever. I will, as they say in California and Austria, be back. Just not in the next couple of months.

In the meantime, I offer for your enjoyment, a new update on bears in the news. My heart does not bleed for this guy:

Man forced to pay $1500 after killing bear.


Anway, I'll be back at some stage. In the meantime, there are plenty of other blogs to read. Admittedly, not many which combine New Zealand in the news with Bears in the news, but you have to take it as it comes.



20 July 2006

New Zealand in the news

BerlinBear avatarWell, news from New Zealand has made the BBC News website once again, and as usual it's an odd and faintly embarrassing story. It seems that's the only way we ever break international headlines.

In any case, it turns out that a police officer in Auckland was working a second job to tide her over some financial difficulties. That's not the problem, as secondary work is allowed in the New Zealand Police service, subject to approval. The problem is that this particular officer's secondary job was ... as a prostitute. This, according to a police spokesperson, is "inappropriate and incompatible with policing."

Fair enough, I suppose, except that prostitution is legal in New Zealand. So it's not like she was moonlighting as a drug dealer or a hit-woman. However, she has been allowed to keep her job as a police officer all the same, which is a good thing if you ask me.

What I would be really very interested to know, is how this came to light. You can bet she didn't just randomly bring it up in a promotion interview, right? So, which of her superior officers accidentally found himself one of her customers? And how appropriate and compatible with policing is that?

Full story here [BBC] and here [Stuff.co.nz].

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03 June 2006

Creative sentencing

BerlinBear avatarHere's a criminal sentence you will not see every day: 15 days of gardening. No, really.

A British man who overstayed his visa in Zambia, has been found guilty and sentenced to 15 days of gardening at the Zambian immigration department. During that time, he will be required to mow the lawn and tend the flowers. Interesting option. Perhaps this is something that the Americans should consider for the 'illegals' from Mexico that we keep hearing complaints about. If the numbers being bandied about are anywhere near realistic, the USA would soon have the best gardens on the planet. Worth considering?

BBC News has the full story.

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24 May 2006


[Hat-tip: Cufflinks]

15 May 2006

New Zealand not for sale

BerlinBear avatarI don't know how I missed this when the news broke a few days ago, but in case you missed it too, it's official, New Zealand is not for sale.

Last week, some unnamed Aussie larrikin listed New Zealand for sale on Australian EBay. Habloodyha. The starting price, apparently, was 1 cent. Cheeky blighter. Still, on the plus side, there were 22 bids and the price had gone up to $2,300 by the time it was pulled by EBay Australia.

Like all ridiculous and vaguely embarrassing news stories involving New Zealand, this one was picked up by just about every news outlet under the sun.

Thankfully, most of them just regurgitated the AP newswire story word for word, meaning they didn't report what New Zealand's ridiculous and very embarrassing foreign minister, Winston Peters, had to say on the matter. You had to go to a New Zealand site to get his insightful input:
I don't think it's fun. I think that kind of nonsensical stupidity, I'll leave to the tabloid media.
If you're at all familiar with Winston Peters and his populist, uncomfortably nationalist politics, you'll know just how funny that is. For well over a decade, good old Winnie has made "nonsensical stupidity" one of the maintstays of his political career. Sadly, the voters of Tauranga, have lapped it up and re-elected him time and time again, allowing him to remain a blot on New Zealand's political landscape for far, far too long. As for the decision to appoint him as foriegn minister, well ...

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Bears in the news

BerlinBear avatarGee, it's been a while. Let me make it up to you with a joke.

What do you call a grizzly bear crossed with a polar bear?

Actually, it's not a joke at all. You call it Ursus maritimus horribilis. And then, if you're a nasty hunter, you kill it, even though it's the only bear of its kind ever found anywhere. Bastard.
Call it a grolar or possibly a pizzly: either way the bear shot by American hunter Jim Martell last month has startled experts. DNA tests of the bear, shot in the Northwest Territories of Canada, showed last week it was a hybrid of polar bear and a grizzly - perhaps the first ever seen in the wild.

'It's a total surprise,' said Roger Kuptana, the local guide who aided Martell on his hunt, for which he paid $50,000 (£26,388). As for its scientific name, researchers have proposed Ursus maritimus horribilis, from Ursus maritimus (polar bear) and Ursus arctos horribilis (grizzly bear).

Source: The Observer.

I would post a picture, but it's way too disturbing, and the "hunter" looks way too smug and pleased with himself for me to put it on my blog. If you must, the picture is here. [Hat-tip: tengrrl]


26 April 2006


BerlinBear avatarIt's twenty years today since the Chernobyl disaster, the world's worst civil nuclear accident. My, how time flies. I remember the news reports and the concern, even in far-flung New Zealand, as if it were, well, less than twenty years ago.

As you would expect, the world's media are full of retrospectives, commentaries and reports about Chernobyl. Here are a few interesting ones:

The BBC website today devotes an entire "In depth" section to Chernobyl, including an interesting On this day retrospective and a number of Where are they now?-type victims' stories. I also found the Q&A section on Chernobyl very informative.

The English website of the German current affairs magazing Der Spiegel also has interesting coverage. The media roundup column "The World from Berlin" offers a concise and handy run-down on what the German newspapers are saying about Chernobyl today, while Lessons Forgotten looks at Ukrainian plans to go nuclear once more and build 14 new nuclear reactors. Finally, "Accident or Catastrophe" appealed to my linguistic geekiness, in examining the different terms used in different countries to describe what went on at Chernobyl.

Deutsche Welle's English website also dedicates an entire DW-World Special section to Chernobyl, which includes informative Flash presentations of the chronology of the disaster and the nuclear fallout from it. Included in that section is an opinion piece entitled Chernobyl: an Insidious Legacy, which considers the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, in particular the political fallout from it.

Of course, there are literally thousands of other articles out there covering this subject today, but those are a selection of the pieces I found the most interesting and informative. If you've got any others to recommend, please feel free to post a link in the comments.

An anniversary like this one, especially against the backdrop of recent developments in Iran, obviously gives one pause to consider nuclear power, its pros and cons, its dangers and benefits. This is a topic I've given a lot of thought to, especially in recent years. Which is not to say that I have reached what I would consider a definitive stance on the issue.

In fact, my opinion on nuclear power has evolved considerably over the course of the past few years, from one of absolute and vehement opposition, to one of considerable concern but nevertheless the recognition that in some circumstances it may be a necessary evil, and even the lesser or two (or more) evils. In short, I would have to say I've developed into a bit of a nuclear agnostic. But that is a topic for another post, or a series of posts. Perhaps one day not too far hence I'll get around to it. No promises though.

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25 April 2006


BerlinBear avatarToday, 25th April, is ANZAC Day, the day on which Australians and New Zealanders commemmorate the disastrous failure of the Gallipoli landings on this day in 1915, as well as remembering and honouring all those whose have served and fallen in war. It's a day of solemn remembrance, and a day of recognition of the futility of war.

Last year on this day I was in Berlin and attended an ANZAC Day memorial service, which I reported on in detail here. This year, as I am currently in Trier, there is no service I can attend, so I will just have to recognize the day in my own personal way. For this post, I'm going to let the words of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the commander of the Turkish troops at Gallipoli, who went on to become the founder of modern Turkey, do the talking for me. I find these words very moving and poignant. They give me goose pimples every time.

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives...
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours ...

You, the Mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears;
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they
Have become our sons as well.

Kemal Atatürk, 1934