Is COVID19 a biological reality check for planet Earth?

In 1800, there was about 1 billion people world wide. The next billion was reached in 1927. 3 billion was attained in about 1960, and since then the population has increased by about 83 million per year or about a billion more every 13 years. As of July 2018 there was about 7.5 billion people world wide.

For the current population to be sustainable, there is about 1.8 hectares of land available for resource development. However 329 million Americans use about 9.7 hectares each.

That is not sustainable environmentally, biologically or otherwise. But what really makes me curious is whether COVID19 signifies a sort of tipping point where the level of pollution and environmental degradation has reached a point where some kind biological reaction has taken place, enabling a illness that has the ability to evolve and vary its behaviour.

Could factors such as poor sanitation and hygiene, plus poor living conditions have contributed to create a biological environment where germs that then get spread from person to person have created something? In conjunction with human overpopulation, a worsening physical environment and poor management of waste is it possible that a second threshhold where a sort of correction in the (lack of) biological equilibrium could occur?

And that COVID19 or a future variation of it is that correction?

In the west common illnesses such as measles, mumps and rubella have been largely eradicated. Hospitals are suitably sterile and staff are well trained and resourced. The very basic yet fundamental practice of washing ones hands is well drummed into medical practitioners and nurses. But in third world countries like Africa where the water supply is heavily polluted, the infrastructure poorly maintained and the population not educated to know what is safe and what is not greatly increases the probability of disease. In the tropical regions stagnant water bodies are suitable breeding grounds for mosquito larvae, which aids the spread of malaria and other diseases. COVID19 started in China, but has been rapidly spread around the world so that New Zealand now has 20 causes,

Another – politicized – reason for supporting this theory is that research has definitively concluded that COVID19 is natural in origin. Contrary to the conspiracy theory that some are expounding, it was not manufactured in a laboratory. It will undermine the alleged reports that Chinese authorities are pushing the line that America manufactured this in a lab.

Political donations issues highlight need to change the law

Over the last few months, questions have been raised about how New Zealand First has handled political donations with regards to the Electoral Finance Act. That has been referred to the Police, who promptly sent it to the Serious Fraud Office. It has led to the Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges and his Deputy Paula Bennett both saying that the Government needs to stand down New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters as happened in 2008.

A couple of days ago it emerged National had received two significant donations of $100,000 which had to be declared but are alleged to have been broken into substantially smaller chunks to avoid disclosure laws. Now former Member of Parliament, Member for Howick Jami-Lee Ross has been charged along with three Chinese nationals by the Serious Fraud Office over them.

Mr Ross was hospitalized in 2018 following a mental break down during which time he levelled damaging allegations against the National Party. They after it was revealed that National might not have declared a significant donation from one of the three Chinese nationals, Zhang Yikun. Mr Ross was expelled from the National Party and became an independent whilst continuing to hold the seat of Howick, but as an independent M.P.

These two cases, separate as they are, highlight clearly the need for decisive action on the subject of electoral finance law. Is the Act, which was passed in 2006 following revelations nearly every party in Parliament misused money in the 2005 and had to pay it back, no longer working? If so, what needs to be changed?

These questions and others about our E.F.A. will be asked by more people as we approach the 2020 General Election. With confidence in politicians and the system that elects them to office falling, being seen to want positive changes that make the Act fairer and more accountable to the New Zealand public, is not so much a “good idea” any more as it is essential. Minister of Justice Andrew Little appeared to realize when he told New Zealand that he might bypass the Justice Committee in order to get changes through the House before the 2020 General Election.

The Electoral Commission says that parties must report immediate donations and/or loans in excess of $30,000.

Parties may keep up to $1,500 of any anonymous donation, and up to $1,500 of any donation from an overseas person.

If an anonymous donor gives more than that, the party must pass the extra amount to us within 20 working days. If an overseas person gives more than that, the party must return the extra amount to them or, if that isn’t possible, to us within 20 working days.

However, a party can keep more of an anonymous donation if it is a ‘donation protected from disclosure’. These are payments that we make to the party on behalf of donors that want to remain anonymous. Between two successive elections, parties can receive up to $307,610 in donations protected from disclosure. If a donation will take a party over their limit, we will return the excess to the donor.

Along with the two donation issues mentioned above, there is also concern that China is trying to buy influence in New Zealand politics by getting Members of Parliament involved with Chinese Communist Party activities. At some of these events, I have little doubt that donations are being talked about in a broad sense.

Is the effect of the Coronavirus over rated?

After watching the increasingly gloomy media coverage, for the last couple of weeks, I have a few thoughts on the coronavirus outbreak.
On one hand I can see why there is a lot of concern about it. Coronavirus appears to transmit more easily than SARS (2002) or Swine Flu (2009)did, but is that really a testament to its characteristics, or the fact that airlines go to a lot more places in 2020 than they did in 2009? For example in New Zealand Chinese airlines did not fly to Christchurch until a few years ago. China Southern did not start flying into Auckland until 2011, when three flights a week were introduced, which had ramped up to 14 flights a week by the end of 2014. Then Cathay Pacific announced flights from Hong Kong to Auckland would start in 2016 using the then brand new Airbus A350 and more recently into Christchurch. For New Zealand’s part, Air New Zealand started flying into Shanghai from Auckland.
On the other hand, measles send over 140,000 people to their graves each year and no one seems to be making a big kick and stink about it. In 2018, 140,000 people or a bit more than the combined populations of Hastings and Napier put together were killed worldwide.The outbreak in Samoa last year showed that New Zealand should be focussing considerably more on helping our Pacific neighbours who lack the resources, the financial ability and the staffing to do the necessary work.
Similarly the influenza is more lethal than coronavirus. In the 2018-19 season in the U.S. alone between 34,000 and 57,000 people were killed; 500,000 hospitalized and millions made sick. And that was just the United States. Around the world, influenza kills 250,000-500,000 people each year. To put that into perspective, the upper end of that range is nearly everyone living in the Wellington Region. Like the measles, it does not seem to get the same level of coverage one might
In New Zealand the Chinese Consul General in Auckland has criticized the reaction of the New Zealand Government, saying it is excessive and is biased. The Consul General said that events such as Japan Day, which has been left in limbo by organizers worried about potentially spreading the disease, should go ahead.
Unfortunately there have been incidents of racism displayed towards Chinese people, visitors or otherwise. Taxi drivers have refused to pick up Chinese people; e-mails have been sent to the parents of Chinese students saying New Zealand does not want “your disgusting virus spreaders” in their children’s classes. Without doubt, there has probably been an increase in that kind of attitude, and I can only say sorry to those Chinese who have suffered such abuse.
Perhaps the most affected sector is probably the tourism sector, which would be expecting in any Chinese New Year period to have a big surge in business. From rental car companies, to accommodation suppliers all would have been looking forward to the business transactions that come with hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists going in every direction across the planet on holiday. With flights from China now suspended for the immediate future much of that business has suddenly vanished.
Whilst it is sad for all of these people, the Chinese Government has not helped anyone – or themselves – by threatening the media outlets who dared to comment on the systemic under reporting by Chinese officials of coronavirus cases. In what could only be described as an attempt to cover up a growing crisis, they censored articles suggesting Wuhan health officials were being economic with the truth.
With behaviour like that, little wonder people are on edge.

The Xinjiang problem that western nations must acknowledge

Xinjiang (Sinkiang) in northwest China is a high altitude area with mountain ranges and deserts. It is populated by Uighur Muslims, but also by Tibetan Xibe, Russians, Mongols, Han and other ethnicities. It has a population of about 26 million and is an autonomous region.

Unfortunately Xinjiang is being afflicted by Chinese state sanctioned human rights abuses that can draw comparisons with certain past regimes. The Chinese Government has marked the Uighur people down as a national security threat, which threatens the security of the Chinese Peoples Republic. With the utmost contempt for human rights, the Government has imprisoned over 1 million Uighur, or roughly equivalent to the population of the entire South Island in camps that are officially called retraining centres, but which bare the hall marks of concentration camps – grim, inhumane places characterized by rape, torture, murder, state sanctioned brain washing.

Where have we heard that before?

But there is more and it concerns us and our consumerist appetite. Xinjiang has significant cotton factories that are allegedly using slave labour. I cannot tell you what human rights abuses along the lines of slave labour have been alleged, but one can imagine those allegations are pretty damning and would bring China’s questionable human reputation into further disrepute. It would be lowering it to the level of the likes of Joseph Stalin and his notorious gulag system.

In order to hide the fact that somewhere between 800,000 and 2 million people have disappeared into these camps, China is relocating thousands of ethnic Han from other parts of the country into Xinjiang. It has clamped down massively on media access being granted and getting petrol from a service station or even sugar from a supermarket requires identification.

But how many western nations know about this and acknowledge that Xinjiang has been turned into one vast prison camp, never mind taking action against Chinese authorities? Many western nations actually do know of and acknowledge that China is conducting massive large scale human rights abuses in Xinjiang province. The United States and United Kingdom have both considered how to deny Chinese companies the ability to purchase western software and other products that might be used to expand the capability of the giant state security apparatus operating in Xinjiang.

New Zealand is also aware of what is happening in Xinjiang. The Government in July was one of 22 foreign nations to call on the Chinese government to stop the repression. But without doubt, our continued opposition to this will have its challenges. As the Government looks for new ways to express its concern, it will be aware of Beijing’s capacity for an angry response. It is an interesting and tricky tightrope to walk if one thinks about this. China is New Zealand’s largest trading partner.

I support New Zealand trying to find new ways to show its concern. As we go forward towards the 2020 election I hope New Zealanders think about how we want to be viewed by the world on this. I would not want to think that we are complicit in the abuses that are going on in Xinjiang province by way of the products we purchase. I would hope that New Zealanders ask their Government irrespective of who is in office at the end of next year to remember economic prosperity cannot come at the expense of human rights.


New Zealand should be challenging Chinese propaganda

The line “Anyone who offends China, no matter how remote, must be exterminated” might sound like something from a movie or a computer game. Except that it is not. It is a line from a Chinese propaganda film that has been made with New Zealand Government assistance.

It is not an acceptable use of taxpayer money to be funding Chinese propaganda films. Whilst the Chinese Government did not directly make the film, a state owned company called Bona was responsible for its production. The film qualified for N.Z.$243,000 in a rebate on the  $1.2 million spent in New Zealand making it.

Propaganda is not necessarily accurate as Xinhua News Agency would have found out recently. A few days ago it broadcast that New Zealand was softening up on its official stance relating to the telecommunications 5G upgrade that is meant to be happening. Not so, as the New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service came out strongly and said nothing had changed.

Huawei, a company suspected to have Chinese Government influence and a significant supplier of cellphone technology in New Zealand – I have a Huawei device myself, had been in line to install a 5G network here. Since concerns over whether telecommunications giant Huawei’s potential to compromise the New Zealand telecommunications system popped up, a hard line has been taken against the Chinese company, which was black listed by the Australian and United States Governments.

When pro-democracy protests broke out in Hong Kong five months ago, pro-Beijing Chinese students in Auckland tore down posters. When they escalated in August pro-China students angrily confronted Hong Kong Chinese over their support for the protesters. “Traitors”, “anti-Chinese”, “rioters”, among other allegations were hurled. Considerably more serious was a physical confrontation where a Hong Kong student was pushed to the ground. The Chinese Government Consul General in Auckland congratulated the pro-Beijing students for their strong response. It also attacked New Zealand media for showing bias and portraying China in a negative light.

I and several others responded to criticism published by way of a letter to the Editor of The Press of the Hong Kong protests by pointing out that Beijing’s version of “the law”, where arbitrary detention, unfair trials and executions, are the norm, were hardly fair. No counter reply was received, but I do not imagine our allegations went down well.

And then there is Xinjiang, a Chinese province near Tibet, which has been virtually locked down because its large Muslim population are accusing Beijing of grave human rights abuses. Camps with the consistency of gulags are alleged to have been set up. Amnesty International has been documenting abuses that have gone on there. Massive numbers of Uighur Muslims have been detained arbitrarily, and allegations of torture, slave labour and other activities that are contrary to universal human rights have been logged. China denies everything and says that it is a western beat up – which fails to explain why one person who has lost a relative in a round-up says nothing inflammable can be brought in Xinjiang, the internet is down.

So, if this is not Chinese propaganda, why are they so antsy about western journalists going to have a look? Why are pro-Beijing students resorting to knocking people over?