Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Political leaders can change our opinions

I have been a regular participant in the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS) for many years. Their website describes NZAVS as a

20-year longitudinal national study of social attitudes, personality and health outcomes of more than 60,000 New Zealanders. The study is broad-ranging and includes researchers from a number of New Zealand universities, including the University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, the University of Canterbury, the University of Otago, and Massey University. The NZAVS extends our understanding of how New Zealanders’ life circumstances, attitudes, values, and beliefs change over time. The study is university-based, not-for-profit and independent of political or corporate funding.

A recent NZAVS newsletter included the headline “Political leaders can change our opinions” which I found intriguing. My first thought was that politicians typically try to determine the opinions of potential voters, particularly in Aotearoa New Zealand, where the differences between the centre right and centre left are very small and there are very few issues that polarise  public opinion.

But then I thought about Trump and wondered how much his opinions and those of his supporters influence each other.  Research shows that the positions taken by political leaders and political parties can have an important impact on peoples’ preferences, even on issues that are supposed to reflect personal preferences. The newsletter reports:

How much can our own attitudes be affected by our political leaders?

In 2015, then-leaders of National and Labour publicly expressed their personal opinions on whether the New Zealand flag should be changed, with John Key (National) arguing New Zealanders should choose a new flag, and Andrew Little (Labour) arguing New Zealanders should keep the current flag. We measured public support for changing the flag both before and after these opinions were published in the media.

Overall, 30.5% of National party supporters and 27.5% of Labour party supporters changed their original opinion to match their party leaders. This research provides a rare real-time example of politicians’ influence on public opinion.

To learn more, read the article from the Association of Psychological Science

Although the research was conducted only on Kiwis, I wonder to what degree the same effect occurs in other countries. Anyone care to comment?


Just for the record, I’ve wanted a flag change since before I was old enough to vote, and I still hold that opinion. If Australia changes their’s before we do, then I might consider it a less pressing issue, but one still worth pursuing.

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Five years already?

I’m not the most regular, proficient or prolific blogger, but I’m surprised that today marks the 5th anniversary of Another Spectrum. When I started this blog, my intent was to use it as a platform for discussing  the autism spectrum (hence the blog title) and migraine with occasional detours into other topics. But it my life is more than these two conditions, and it seems that it is the same with my blogging interests.

I wonder what interests I’ll blog about over the next five years?


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Update Aoteraroa 22nd May 2019

As selection of Aotearoa New Zealand news items I found interesting…

Member of Parliament is provided with security escort

Sigh. Even in our relatively liberal multicultural society and perhaps because of the Christchurch massacre, white extremists seem to be more confident about expressing themselves more openly, while still hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.

Green MP (Member of Parliament) Golriz Ghahraman is being provided with a security escort any time she leave Parliament due to the nature of of online comments about her. Comments go so far as to discuss lynching. I don’t know what security is provided to legislators in other countries, but here the only other polititian to have a security escort is the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Read more (Reuters)…

Surge in Australians pondering move to New Zealand after election

There has been a spike in interest among Australians in moving to New Zealand since the Australian elections.

Immigration New Zealand says four times the usual number of Australians visited its website and information site New Zealand Now on Sunday, the day after the Liberal coalition’s surprise win.

Expressions of interest in moving to New Zealand were 25 times higher than the week before.

But as the video on the linked article suggests, there may be other reasons why Aussies want to move here 🙂

Read more (Stuff)…

What if NZ movies and TV actually included all New Zealanders?

Migration plays an important role in shaping Aotearoa New Zealand society. New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, is now “more diverse than London“, and one in four New Zealanders have come from elsewhere.

[The above link to Statistics NZ is broken at time of publication. Instead, refer to this news release]

The large number of arrivals from across the Pacific region has given Auckland the largest Pacific Islander population of any city in the world. Almost one-quarter of Auckland’s population is now classified as Asian. This itself is a catch-all term for a wide range of peoples and cultures covering half of humanity.

But while diversity in New Zealand is greater than ever, there is a gap between the society we see around us and what is reflected on screen.

Read more (NZ Herald)…

New Zealand-led research could change the way doctors treat asthma

New Zealand-led research on asthma treatment is being called a “game changer” for stopping mild asthmatics from having severe attacks, an author of the study says.

The four-country study conducted by the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It involved 675 people who had been taking medication to relieve their symptoms, and divided them into three groups: one just using a reliever inhaler when they had symptom, one using preventer and reliever inhalers and one using a combined preventer-reliever inhaler only when they had symptoms.

Study co-author Richard Beasley said the third group had half the risk of a severe attack compared to using the reliever inhaler alone.

Read more (TVNZ News)…

 


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MLK on spiritually moribund religion

Sometimes a quote jumps out at me, and in a few words, states what I struggle to convey in several pages. This is one of them:

“It has been my conviction ever since reading Rauschenbusch that any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that scar the soul, is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried.”

Martin Luther King Jr Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958)


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“You and mum help make this happen”

These were the words my daughter used to accompany a video clip sent to me via WhatsApp earlier today. To me they are very humbling words indeed. This is not because in any way we were directly involved in facilitating “this” to happen, although perhaps there is an indirect link in that we provided child care and dog sitting services at times to enable her to make “this” happen.

Instead I would like to think that what she is showing appreciation for is in regards to the values we encouraged her to develop, and which she expresses – participation in “this” being but one example. I’m uncomfortable using the word “proud” for my part in her development because it can be used in ways that are closer to boasting, and I don’t want to imply that our daughter is who she is simply because we as her parents made her that way.

I’m convinced that the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is accurate, and as parents, we are just one of the many influences that have played out in our children’s and grandchildren’s lives. And even in saying that, we have to acknowledge that we too are products of the environment in which we developed, including parents, whānau, and the wider community. So I cannot claim be the originator of any of the values my offspring hold dear. At best, I’ve been a conduit, and perhaps, only in a very small way, an enabler.

I acknowledge that I have often fallen short as a parent, and it has been my children who have shown me how to be a better parent and human being, and for that I will be forever grateful. And yet our daughter takes a moment to say “You and mum help make this happen”. I can’t find a word or phrase that describes my reaction to her statement, but I hope the sentiments are clear enough from what I have written here.


As to the “this” referred to above, I have been contemplating whether or not to identify the occasion. My reason is that I’m somewhat anonymous on this blog. Although there’s enough information available for anyone to discover my real identity if they had a mind to, it would take a small amount of work to do so. And the possibility of someone who knows me stumbling across this blog is extremely small.

Experience during my formative years taught me to be cautious about how I expressed myself, and I learnt the hard way that there are boundaries (which I still can’t always recognise) that can’t be crossed without very unpleasant consequences. Although I believe our society is far more tolerant and liberal today, the caution within me remains. The relative anonymity provided by this blog allows me to express views that I would be reluctant to share in the “real world”.

But in light of the fact that “this” is a public expression opposing the very thing that makes me so cautious, I cannot help but feel duty-bound to share it here, even at the risk of making my identity easier to discover. I could perhaps not mention that our daughter identifies herself by name and role in one of the Facebook video clips linked to below, but I want to publicly acknowledge that one of my greatest teachers about life has been my daughter, which is why I find her statement humbling.

“This” refers to a local street party declaring that bullying is not acceptable. It is never “character building”. Its only function is to cause harm.

   


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I am definitely getting old(er)

I guess the sentiment expressed in the title of this post is self-evident – at least for now, as I don’t believe anyone has been able to reverse time. I turned 70 nearly a week ago, but that is not what reminded me that I’m getting old(er).  It was something much more mundane that made me realise the truth in the title.

I’m one of those people who embrace wild weather. It’s more than a simple adrenaline rush, although that’s certainly a part of it. The wilder the weather, the more I feel an integral part of it; the more I feel alive. It’s wonderful. But not yesterday.

Yesterday was one of those days my wife detests. It was around 7°C (13°F) cooler than the day before, there was on and off rain ranging from showers to downpours, and the wind was approaching gale force at times – some of our trees gave the impression they were bowing to Tāwhirimātea (the god of weather).

I thought it would be a good opportunity to get reunited with the elements and went outside with the expectation of experiencing the euphoria that usually arrives within moments of feeling the forces of nature. Nothing happened.

I stood there bracing myself in the wind and all I felt was damp moisture-laden air blowing into every opening in my clothing. It was unpleasant.

I waited. Then waited some more, all the time getting more cold by the minute. Finally I decided that getting cold without the usual perks was somewhat senseless, and returned to the warmth of inside.

I accept that earthquakes seldom live up to their potential and I’m unlikely to experience a roller coaster style ride more than once or twice a decade, so I don’t sense disappointment when 99% of them go out with a whimper instead of a bang. But the weather is different. Inclement weather always give me a lift proportional to its ferocity. Until yesterday.

I don’t know when anticipation has been followed by such a let down. For me it doesn’t happen very often, but never before has weather such as we experienced yesterday been a catalyst. I can only put it down to the effects of ageing.

The last occasion of such disappointment was a number of years ago on a cruise ship. The cruise line has a reputation for the high quality of its cuisine, so when I saw that one of the deserts on the evening menu was pavlova, I didn’t hesitate in ordering it. Two Aussies who shared the table with us commented that I was brave, or foolish in about equal measure, but I replied that based on the reputation of the cruise line I should be in for a treat.

For those who don’t know, pavlova is our national dessert and we’ll whisk one up for any every occasion. Australia has taken such a liking to our dessert, that they now claim it as their own, although every Kiwi knows the Aussies are mistaken. They, too, know a real pavlova when they see one. The other passengers at the table didn’t have a clue what a pavlova was. Neither did the chef.

The moment the dish was placed in front of me, one of the Aussies quipped “I warned ya!”, and it was very obvious that I should have heeded their earlier caution. What lay in front of me was obviously a meringue – a very large one, about 15cm (6 inches) in diameter and around 4cm (1.5 inches) high at its highest point – and just as obvious, it most certainly was not a pavlova.

I can tell you right now, smothering a meringue with a thick layer of whipped cream and  topping it with a few strawberries and a slice of kiwifruit does not a pavlova make. I think the disappointment on my face was obvious as all the dinners at the table, apart from the two Aussies and the wife, wanted to know what was wrong.

The similarity between a meringue and a pavlova is only skin deep. Literally. A meringue is typically crisp and crunchy throughout, or sometimes hollow in the centre, and I would describe a meringue as being dry. In contrast, a pavlova has a thin crisp and crunchy outer shell, but the inside is soft, moist , fluffy and slightly marshmallow-like. The density is almost like fine foam and should be just firm enough to support the weight of a spoon, but can be cut by the spoon with the merest application of pressure. In the mouth, the centre melts with light tongue pressure. The outer shell is thin and fragile and it’s rare to find a pavlova that doesn’t appear to be broken to some extent. A perfectly intact shell is a good indication that it is too thick.

I didn’t have the heart to tell the waiter what I thought of the dessert, as my wife had returned three fish dishes during the meal due to them being overcooked. Two days later, my wife had words with the head chef with regards to overcooked fish, but that’s perhaps a story for another day.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons

 


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How to Stop the Next Christchurch Massacre

An opinion piece written by Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister, has been published in the NYT and a number of other publications (I have included to content of the opinion piece after my “two cents worth”).

Already I see assertions that the U.N. has a hidden agenda to shut down free speech in order to bring in some new oppressive world order – that order depending on where on the political spectrum the “pundit” stands – and that Jacinda is a willing or inadvertent pawn in the conspiracy. It’s also amazing to see the number of people on various platforms who seem to believe that the Christchurch atrocity was staged by the government or the U.N (or some other boogieman) in order to make people more accepting of restrictions imposed by those in authority. But I digress.

The planned Christchurch Conference has already been criticised because it doesn’t propose any specific solution to the use of social media as a tool to promote terrorism. They miss the point. The whole purpose of the conference is to bring about a round table discussion involving all interested parties on what should be done and how it might be implemented to reduce or eliminate social media being a tool of the terrorists.

Our Prime Minister, along with the rest of the country have determined that “prayers and platitudes” are not the answer, and sitting on our hands will not make the threat of terrorism by social media go away. There’s a high chance that the conference will not achieve the desired outcome, but unless those with the “power” to affect an outcome sit down together and discuss it, “prayers and platitudes” will be all we have to look forward to.

Here is the opinion piece:

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — At 1:40 p.m. on Friday, March 15, a gunman entered a mosque in the city of Christchurch and shot dead 41 people as they worshiped.

He then drove for six minutes to another mosque where, at 1:52 p.m., he entered and took the lives of another seven worshipers in just three minutes. Three more people died of their injuries after the attack.

For New Zealand this was an unprecedented act of terror. It shattered our small country on what was otherwise an ordinary Friday afternoon. I was on my way to visit a new school, people were preparing for the weekend, and Kiwi Muslims were answering their call to prayer. Fifty men, women and children were killed that day. Thirty-nine others were injured; one died in the hospital weeks later, and some will never recover.

This attack was part of a horrifying new trend that seems to be spreading around the world: It was designed to be broadcast on the internet.

The entire event was live-streamed — for 16 minutes and 55 seconds — by the terrorist on social media. Original footage of the live stream was viewed some 4,000 times before being removed from Facebook. Within the first 24 hours, 1.5 million copies of the video had been taken down from the platform. There was one upload per second to YouTube in the first 24 hours.

The scale of this horrific video’s reach was staggering. Many people report seeing it autoplay on their social media feeds and not realizing what it was — after all, how could something so heinous be so available? I use and manage my social media just like anyone else. I know the reach of this video was vast, because I too inadvertently saw it.

We can quantify the reach of this act of terror online, but we cannot quantify its impact. What we do know is that in the first week and a half after the attack, 8,000 people who saw it called mental health support lines here in New Zealand.

My job in the immediate aftermath was to ensure the safety of all New Zealanders and to provide whatever assistance and comfort I could to those affected. The world grieved with us. The outpouring of sorrow and support from New Zealanders and from around the globe was immense. But we didn’t just want grief; we wanted action.

Our first move was to pass a law banning the military-style semiautomatic guns the terrorist used. That was the tangible weapon.

But the terrorist’s other weapon was live-streaming the attack on social media to spread his hateful vision and inspire fear. He wanted his chilling beliefs and actions to attract attention, and he chose social media as his tool.

We need to address this, too, to ensure that a terrorist attack like this never happens anywhere else. That is why I am leading, with President Emmanuel Macron of France, a gathering in Paris on Wednesday not just for politicians and heads of state but also the leaders of technology companies. We may have our differences, but none of us wants to see digital platforms used for terrorism.

Our aim may not be simple, but it is clearly focused: to end terrorist and violent extremist content online. This can succeed only if we collaborate.

Numerous world leaders have committed to going to Paris, and the tech industry says it is open to working more closely with us on this issue — and I hope they do. This is not about undermining or limiting freedom of speech. It is about these companies and how they operate.

I use Facebook, Instagram and occasionally Twitter. There’s no denying the power they have and the value they can provide. I’ll never forget a few days after the March 15 attack a group of high school students telling me how they had used social media to organize and gather in a public park in Christchurch to support their school friends who had been affected by the massacre.

Social media connects people. And so we must ensure that in our attempts to prevent harm that we do not compromise the integral pillar of society that is freedom of expression.

But that right does not include the freedom to broadcast mass murder.

And so, New Zealand will present a call to action in the name of Christchurch, asking both nations and private corporations to make changes to prevent the posting of terrorist content online, to ensure its efficient and fast removal and to prevent the use of live-streaming as a tool for broadcasting terrorist attacks. We also hope to see more investment in research into technology that can help address these issues.

The Christchurch call to action will build on work already being undertaken around the world by other international organizations. It will be a voluntary framework that commits signatories to counter the drivers of terrorism and put in place specific measures to prevent the uploading of terrorist content.

A terrorist attack like the one in Christchurch could happen again unless we change. New Zealand could reform its gun laws, and we did. We can tackle racism and discrimination, which we must. We can review our security and intelligence settings, and we are. But we can’t fix the proliferation of violent content online by ourselves. We need to ensure that an attack like this never happens again in our country or anywhere else.


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Update Aotearoa 11th May 2019

Recent newsworthy items of interest to me:

Australia’s most trusted politician is…

With just over one week to go before voters make their way to polling stations across the country to have their say in the federal election, a new poll has revealed just how much Aussies actually trust leading politicians.

Surprisingly, the results revealed that the politician who is held in the highest regard by Australian voters isn’t even an Aussie, as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern came out on top. With a score of 77, Ardern emerged as the most dependable elected representative, with respondents also marking her the highest when it comes to ‘integrity’.

Read more (Starts at 60 Writers)

New Zealand fish stocks healthy and sustainable

Verified for another year – New Zealand fish stocks healthy and sustainable.

Research has again shown that New Zealand’s fish stocks are in great shape, thanks to a world-leading management system. The annual Fish Stock Status Report from Fisheries New Zealand confirms that 95 percent of all fish landed in New Zealand is from stocks that are sustainable and healthy. Fisheries New Zealand has verified the status of 169 fish stocks and found 142 stocks with no sustainability issues and 27 stocks that need to be rebuilt.

Read more (Scoop Business)

Auckland sweet shop owners jailed for exploiting workers

The owners of an Auckland confectionary shop have been jailed for worker exploitation.

Mohammed Atiqul Islam faced 20 charges in total, and was on Friday sentenced to four years and five months in prison. Those charges included 10 for exploitation, two for aiding and abetting a person to breach visa conditions, five for providing false and misleading information to an immigration officer, and two for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Read more (Newshub)

2019 Register of members’ interests published

Every year, Parliament publishes a summary of MPs’ interests, including certain assets, debts, and gifts they have received.

This summary is known as the Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament. The 2019 Register was presented to the House this week by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Rt Hon Trevor Mallard. It covers the period from 1 February 2018 to 31 January 2019.

Read more (New Zealand Parliament)

NZ introduces groundbreaking zero carbon bill, including targets for agricultural methane

New Zealand’s long-awaited zero carbon bill will create sweeping changes to the management of emissions, setting a global benchmark with ambitious reduction targets for all major greenhouse gases.

The bill includes two separate targets – one for the long-lived greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, and another target specifically for biogenic methane, produced by livestock and landfill waste.

Read more (Sciblogs)