Saturday, December 04, 2010

GREYMOUTH, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 30: A genera...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Pike River mine one of the most difficult mine safety expert has dealt with...

The Pike River mine is one of the most difficult an Australian mine safety expert has dealt with.
Efforts are continuing to retrieve the bodies of 29 men killed after a series of explosions in the coal mine, about 50km from Greymouth. The first was on November 19.
David Cliff, an Associate Professor at the University of Queensland, is advising on the Pike River operation which is relying on a jet-propelled machine brought in from Australia to extinguish the fire before rescuers can enter the mine.
Operation of the machine - the Gorniczy Agregat Gasniczy (GAG) - will continue throughout the weekend, as will monitoring of gas levels and temperatures.
Tasman district area commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said Prof Cliff had been back at the mine site today.
"He's described the mine as one of the most challenging he's had to deal with in terms of the terrain, isolation and access," Mr Knowles said.
Once the fire is put out, the GAG machine will blow nitrogen down the shaft to try and cool the mine down.
"Clearly the fire must be extinguished before the next steps can happen in making the mine safe to enter," he said.
Acnowledgements: :**:- NZPA

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Gwydir River & Roadbridge at Bingara, NSW, Aus...Image via Wikipedia

Floods isolating towns in southern NSW...

Towns in southern New South Wales have become isolated as floodwaters continue to rise following heavy rain in the area.
State Emergency Service spokesman Phil Campbell says major flooding is expected on the Hume Dam near Albury.
"That'll have significant rural flooding effects and farmers in that area have been asked to lift pumps and equipment to higher ground," he said.
Minor flood warnings have also been issued for the Gwydir River at Gravesend and the town of Mendooran on the Castlereagh River in the state's central west.
Jake Phillips from the weather bureau says a vigorous cold front is currently moving over NSW and damaging winds will gradually develop in the north-east of the state through the night.
"[We're] expecting those winds over the sea to remain very windy [Saturday] up towards gale strengths for most of the day," he said.
Paul Mullins from Tumut Council is readying for more flooding.
"We haven't seen waters like this in decades. At the moment the only way in and out of Tumut is via Talbingo and Cooma," he said.
People on low-lying properties along the Tumut River have also been advised to prepare for flooding and a caravan park at Tumut is being evacuated.
About 30 homes in Holbrook have been evacuated due to rising floodwaters.
Adelong Creek remains high, with the business district of Adelong still under water.
Meanwhile, two CountryLink trains have been evacuated in the state's south-west because of the flooding.
A RailCorp spokesman says a train on its way to Sydney had to stop at Albury while another stopped at Junee because water had inundated train tracks.
Passengers on both trains are staying the night in local accommodation.
Police are also urging people to delay their journeys overnight as all roads in south-western New South Wales are experiencing flooding.
The RTA is urging motorists to delay their journey tonight as numerous roads in south western New South Wales are experiencing flooding with closures on the Hume, Olympic, Sturt and Riverina highways.
Dam threatens residents
Meanwhile, a dam that was threatening to burst near Tumbarumba in southern New South Wales has failed, but authorities say it is not catastrophic.
The Mannus Dam had been leaking from a 10-metre wide and 10-metre deep breach in the wall after water started going over the spillway on Friday night.
An urgent evacuation order was issued to 98 properties downstream.
SES controller James McTavish says it has not been the disaster they feared.
"It would appear that at this stage the Mannus Dam has failed, but rather than a catastrophic failure it was controlled," he said.
"The water is now proceeding down Mannus Creek and will go into the Murray system and we're not expecting it to affect dam levels in the Murray River.
Acknowledgements: MSN News

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

New Zealand's Governor-General Anand Satyanand.Image via Wikipedia Messages of support for the families of kiwi miners lost at Pike River...

GREYMOUTH, NZ — Messages of support for the families of the miners who lost their lives at Pike River are flooding in from all over New Zealand and around the world, including several from international heads of state.

Queen Elizabeth has sent the following message:

”I am deeply saddened by today's news that there is now no hope for the men trapped in the Pike River mine. My heart goes out to the families and friends of these 29 brave miners and to all who have been touched by this national disaster. I send my thanks and deep appreciation to everyone who has worked so hard to attempt a rescue and also to those who will have a part to play in the task of healing the pain that is being felt throughout New Zealand and around the world. At this sad and difficult time my thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Government House has also received a message from Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Prince William, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Durao Barroso and the President of Singapore, SR Nathan.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard released the following statement: “This is tragic news, 29 families have been hoping, praying, waiting to hear good news and now they've heard the most terrible news. Our hearts go out to them and on behalf of the Australian people I give the condolences of this nation.

“This is obviously a community in New Zealand that will now grieve bearing this dreadful loss, we send our best wishes and our best wishes, sympathy and support go to the two Australian families now living with this dreadful and tragic news.”

Prime Minister John Key said New Zealand is a nation in mourning.

"The 29 men whose names and faces we have all come to know, will never walk amongst us again. This is a national tragedy," he said.

"To lose this many brothers at once strikes an agonising blow. Today all New Zealanders grieve for these men.
"To all those who have lost a loved one, New Zealand stands shoulder to shoulder with you. Though we cannot possibly feel this pain as you do, we have you in our hearts and our thoughts."

Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand also expressed his sympathies to the families, friends and colleagues of the men and acknowledged the efforts of those involved in the search and rescue operation.
“Their commitment and dedication will be deeply appreciated. “

Thousands of messages of support and donations have been already been received for the Pike River miners’ families through a service which was started this morning
The text message service is a joint initiative of almost every media company in New Zealand and Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees.

By texting 306 you can make an instant donation of $3 plus send a message of support.

Read more comments and leave your condolence message for the miners and their families below.

Acknowledgements: MSN News
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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Image representing Associated Press as depicte...Image via CrunchBase
FILE - In this March 25, 2010 file photo, a Chinese flag blows in the air below the Google logo outside the Google China headquarters in Beijing. The AP – FILE - In this March 25, 2010 file photo, a Chinese flag blows in the air below the Google logo outside …

BEIJING – Links to the WikiLeaks website were blocked within China on Wednesday amid potentially embarrassing claims made in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables posted to the site.
Attempts to access and were met with a notice saying the connection had been reset. That's the standard response when a website is being blocked by Chinese authorities who exert rigid controls over Internet content.
It wasn't clear when the blocks were imposed, although a vast swath of the Internet is inaccessible behind China's firewall, including social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Human rights and political dissent-themed sites are also routinely banned, although technologically savvy users can easily jump the so-called "Great Firewall" with proxy servers or other alternatives.
WikiLeaks may have been singled out because of some of the assertions made in the leaked cables, including some sent from the U.S. Embassies in Seoul and Beijing focusing on China's ally North Korea.
Those included suggestions that North Korea's communist regime would likely collapse within three years of the death of ruler Kim Jong Il, and that Chinese leaders were prepared to accept South Korea's eventual rule over the entire Korean peninsula.
In one, a Chinese diplomat is quoted describing North Korea as a "spoiled child" for attempting to win U.S. attention with a provocative missile test.
The leaks also claimed that China's Politburo directed a cyber intrusion into Google's computer systems, and expressed concern over attempts by Iranian front companies to obtain Chinese nuclear technology.
China's government has taken a low-key approach to the leaks, with the Foreign Ministry saying it would not comment on specific assertions in the cables.
"China takes note of relevant reports. We hope the U.S. side will properly handle the relevant issue. As for the content of the documents, we do not comment on that," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday.
The Global Times, a provocative tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party mouthpiece Peoples Daily, labeled the disclosure a "nefarious slander against China" on Wednesday.
It also questioned the U.S. government's perceived inability to block the posting of the leaks, saying it raised questions as to whether it had reached some form of tacit understanding with WikiLeaks.
Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Beijing's Renmin University, said Beijing shared Washington's concern about the release of sensitive diplomatic communications. But he said the WikiLeaks' blocking was motivated more by the need to stifle further rumor mongering, rather than suppressing specific revelations.
"The website is blocked because the information is both unprovable and sensitive," Shi said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said that WikiLeaks acted illegally in posting the documents. Officials around the world have said the disclosure jeopardizes national security, diplomats, intelligence assets and relationships between foreign governments.
The massive leaks were "embarrassing" and "awkward," but the consequences for American foreign policy should be limited, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.

Acknowledgements: AP
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark mets Jeffrey Sa...Image via Wikipedia
Green Party MP Keith Locke said the documents would now make it difficult for the Government to justify the presence of the Waihopai base. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New Zealand Green Party MP Keith Locke said the documents would now make it difficult for the Government to justify the presence of the Waihopai base. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark is likely to be among top United Nations officials targeted by the United States in an intelligence-gathering exercise which blurs the line between diplomacy and espionage.
Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks yesterday released a quarter of a million top secret US diplomatic cables to a handful of newspapers. The cables reveal Washington is running a secret intelligence campaign targeted at the leadership of the United Nations.

UK newspaper the Guardian, which received the messages, reported on a "classified directive" issued to US diplomats under US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's name in July last year.

It asks US diplomats to gather information about top UN personnel including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and Britain.
Ms Clark became the head of the UN's Development Programme three months before the directive was issued.

The directive asks for a range of information including material about the personalities and leadership styles of top officials, and technical details about the communications systems they use.

It even asks for passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications and for detailed biometric information on key UN officials.

Specific topics it seeks information on include the "plans, intentions, views, positions, lobbying, and tactics of regional groups, blocs, or coalitions on issues before the General Assembly".

It also requests "plans and intentions of key UN leaders and member states regarding the ongoing operations of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, including force protection in Afghanistan".

In the cable's one specific mention of New Zealand, it asks for "plans, tactics, timetables, and draft proposals for the Eighth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)". The cable asks information showing "whether or under what conditions states would consider withdrawing from the NPT".

The New York Times, which also received the messages, reported the type of information diplomats were now being asked to gather could be used by US electronic eavesdropping organisation the National Security Agency (NSA) for data mining and surveillance operations.

The NSA operates a global electronic communications surveillance system of which the Waihopai base in Marlborough forms a crucial part.

Green Party MP Keith Locke said the documents would now make it difficult for the Government to justify the presence of the base.

"Waihopai's main task is to intercept global communications for the US National Security Agency. The WikiLeaks documents inform us that the US has been blatantly violating international conventions with its detailed spying on UN figures, from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon down."

Mr Locke said some of the documents were proving embarrassing for governments, particularly in the Arab world, "by showing they were more supportive of US foreign policy than they were admitting".
Further details of the 250,000 cables are expected to be revealed over coming days.

And what about New Zealand? Is the US still concerned about its anti-nuclear policy?

Acknowledgements: NZ Herald
By Adam Bennett | Email Adam
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