Should the Queen get a Nobel Peace Prize for her brand of 'quiet diplomacy?' Two opposing arguments lined up

Arguments for and against the nomination of Queen Elizabeth II for a Nobel Peace Prize have been laid out by Kiwi pro and anti-Monarchy groups.

Speaking this morning on TVNZ 1's Breakfast, Peter Hamilton of New Zealand Republic and Dr Sean Palmer of Monarchy New Zealand expressed their views on putting the Queen forward for the prestigious accolade.

Dr Palmer said she "contributes in a number of ways" to the advancement of peace by creating an environment - in the Commonwealth - where countries can communicate with each other.

"The sort of quiet diplomacy she has engaged with for a very long time," Dr Palmer said.

"She has been able to build relationships between countries ... she doesn't direct, them she doesn't order - them but she builds an environment where they can communicate with each other."

Mr Hamilton said he doesn't think the potential nomination is a "PR stunt" for the monarchy, but that "the Nobel Peace Prize is the wrong way" for the Queen to be recognised.

The deadline for nominations this year passed on February 1 and there are 329 nominees - the winner will be announced in October.

Peter Hamilton of New Zealand Republic and Dr Sean Palmer of Monarchy New Zealand discuss the issue on Breakfast. Source: Breakfast


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Most watched: Hundreds of metres of Greek coastline blanketed by spider webs

This story was first published on Saturday September 23. 

A recent increase in the mosquito population has resulted in perfect conditions for spiders to thrive and multiply. Source: Associated Press

It's not quite the World Wide Web - but the spiders of Aitoliko in Greece have made a good start.

Spurred into overdrive by an explosion in the populations of insects they eat, thousands of little spiders in the western Greek town have shrouded coastal trees, bushes and low vegetation in thick webs.

The sticky white lines extend for a few hundred meters along the shoreline of Aitoliko, built on an artificial island in a salt lagoon near Missolonghi, 250 kilometres west of Athens.

Experts told local media that the numbers of lake flies, a non-biting midge, have rocketed amid humid late summer conditions. Spiders, which fancy the flies, reproduced fast to take full advantage of the feast.

Residents say the extensive spider webs have another benefit: keeping down mosquitoes.


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Most watched: US man who impregnated 10-year-old girl given 160 years behind bars

This story was first published on Saturday September 23.

Nicholas Deon Thrash

An Indiana man has been sentenced to more than 100 years in jail for molesting a 10-year-old girl multiple times leading to her becoming pregnant.

Fox News reports that Nicholas Deon Thrash, 34, of Marion, Indiana was given 160 years in jail with a minimum service of 132 years yesterday.

Last month during his trial Thrash was found guilty of 10 counts of child molestation.

In a testimony his 10-year-old victim testified that she had been molested by Thrash at least 15 times.

The mother of the girl is facing charges of neglect, aiding in child molesting and assisting a criminal over the case.

She reportedly discovered her daughter's pregnancy when the 10-year-old was trying on dresses for a school dance and instructed the girl to say a schoolmate impregnated her.

Prosecutors told Fox News that the girl gave birth to a boy in September 2017 when she was 11-years-old.

Thrash remains in the Grant County Jail.

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'An unbearable smell in the air': NZ's role in the Malaysian plastics dumping ground

Thousands of tonnes of plastic that New Zealand used to send to China for recycling is now going to Malaysia, where illegal factories are burning and dumping the waste they can’t process.

Nita Blake-Persen travelled to Malaysia for Insight to investigate how the lives of local people and the environment are being affected.

As night falls in Malaysia, plumes of toxic smoke begin to waft across the across the town of Jenjarom.

Nearby residents wake to the smell of burning plastic that seeps into their homes – closing the doors and windows doesn’t help.

The smell, and the accompanying headaches and coughing, have become familiar for them in recent months, as more and more illegal plastic recycling factories have popped up in the area.

About an hour’s drive from the capital Kuala Lumpur, the town has been traditionally focused on agriculture, with palm oil plantations lining most roads.

But these days the factories, which recycle thousands of tonnes of waste from countries all around the world, are doing a roaring trade.

They have been multiplying at an alarming rate since China banned plastic imports at the start of the year.

Having previously taken around 50 percent of the world’s waste, the ban has meant many countries have scrambled to find a new market to export their unwanted plastics to.

Malaysia has become a popular alternative for the UK, Australia and New Zealand – New Zealand's exports there tripled in the first six months of this year.

Nearly 40 factories are now operating in the district of Kuala Langat, where Jenjarom is located.

Most are hidden in the Palm Oil plantations, which the factory owners rent because they are cheap and accessible to waterways.

That way they can easily dump the contaminated water they use to clean the filthy plastics before they process them.

In the past two months, several fish and prawn ponds operating nearby have lost all of their stock, and the owners suspect they were poisoned by the toxic wastewater coming from the factories.

The plastic that can't be recycled - either because it's too contaminated or it's just not economical to do so - is either dumped, or burned.

That’s having a devastating effect on the environment, and the health of those living nearby.

'An unbearable smell in the air'

Lay Peng Pua, a chemist, has lived in the area most of her life. She says the factories have been a disaster for Jenjarom.

"Since February of this year we felt very bad and [there's been] an unbearable smell in the air, especially at night and in the morning.

"But we didn't realise... the source until we gradually found there were more and more recycling factories around us, but due to their high fencing design we couldn't see anything."

In July, local authorities visited 38 factories in the Kuala Langat area but found only three had recycling permits.

Fourteen have been shut down but since then, Ms Pua says four have started operating again - one just hours after it was closed.

She says most of the factories are Chinese owned and operated, with many simply moving their business to Malaysia when the ban came into effect.

Once they salvage what they can for recycling, they ship the plastic pellets they produce back to China to be made into new products.

Ms Pua says many local authorities are paid off by the factory owners to ignore their illegal activities, with enforcement virtually non-existent.

She is hopeful a recent change in government will mean more protections for the environment – and a possible ban on plastic imports.

Maria Chin Abdullah was elected as the MP for Petaling Jaya, a large city that runs into Kuala Lumpur, in May’s general election.

The election brought in the first change in government in the country’s 60-year history, and many MPs and senior staffers are still settling in.

Ms Chin Abdullah says they are determined to make plastic pollution a priority – but change won’t happen overnight.

"We may have changed our government but we are working within an old system. And these civil servants are from the past government and they follow the kind of attitude that is left behind

"I'm not surprised there may be allegations of corruption, and it is still continuing. It's just that we have to set-up the policy and then take action on that."

In July, the government suspended the importing licenses of 114 factories as it tried to verify which businesses were operating properly.

But the suspension is reported to have lapsed less than a month later.

Ms Chin Abdullah wants plastic imports banned all together.

She says Malaysia – which has been named the eighth worst country in the world for plastic pollution - is not even able to cope with its own waste.

But she notes that the responsibility does not just fall on Malaysia – and that while New Zealand exporters are willing to sell their plastic overseas, there will always be buyers wanting it – no matter the impact on people’s health or the environment.

Throughout last year New Zealand sent 6300 tonnes of plastic to Malaysia.

Nearly 6000 tonnes have already been exported there so far this year.

New Zealand recyclers who have plastic piles mounting in their yards say they have no choice but to ship it elsewhere.

Flies are buzzing around bales of waste at the Smart Environmental processing plant in Thames, where waste from 16 councils is waiting to be shipped overseas.

The plant’s manager, Layne Sefton, says since China's ban took effect, the price that they can sell their plastic for has plummeted, and they are losing money exporting it - but they have no choice.

Desperate to recoup costs from collecting and sorting the plastic, Mr Sefton says they will sell it to whoever they can - and if they are approached by an overseas buyer they do not ask many questions about where it is going.

Where does it go?

Tracing exactly where New Zealand's plastic goes when it leaves our ports is incredibly difficult.

Recyclers and councils here typically sell the plastics to a broker, who then sells it to factories across Asia for processing.

Waste Management Ltd, one of the largest recyclers in the country, confirmed they sold plastic to Malaysia but did not have details of where it ended up.

Envirowaste, the other major New Zealand recycler, would not tell Insight anything about their exports.

Wellington City Council, which exports just several hundred tonnes of plastic to Malaysia each year for processing, recently travelled there to ensure it was being properly processed. But they appear to be the only council which has done so.

The government appears to have little information about what is going on with plastic waste being sent overseas. The Ministry for the Environment is studying what result China's change in policy has had on the recycling industry, including what is going on with recycling exports. Both local authorities and industry members are involved.

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage says she expects a report in a few weeks.

Nita travelled to Malayasia with assistance from the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

rnz.co.nz

Koo Ze Quan (left) and Tan Siew Hoon stand on a mountain of plastic waste at an illegal factory in Jenjarom, Malaysia. Source: rnz.co.nz


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Comcast beats Fox in auction, bids $55b for Europe's Sky TV

Comcast has emerged as the top bidder for European broadcaster Sky after a rare auction held by British regulators.

After three rounds of secret bidding yesterday and today, Comcast offered the higher price of 17.28 pounds (NZ$33.79) per share for Sky, the equivalent of nearly 30 billion pounds (NZ$55.6 billion). Rival 21st Century Fox offered 15.67 pounds (NZ$30.64) per share.

Sky shareholders must now decide whether to sell their shares to Comcast. Comcast said it hoped to complete the sale by the end of October.

"Sky is a wonderful company with a great platform, tremendous brand and accomplished management team," Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. "This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally."

Britain's regulator, the Takeover Panel, set up the auction to reduce uncertainty for Sky after months of offers and counteroffers from the American media giants. Sky is Europe's largest pay-television operator, with 22.5 million customers in seven countries and popular programming including English Premier League soccer and "Game of Thrones."

Fox owns 39 percent of Sky. It now must decide whether to sell its stake or remain a minority shareholder.

Fox had long been trying to acquire the 61 percent of Sky it doesn't already own. Fox founder Rupert Murdoch's last bid sank amid a 2011 phone-hacking scandal, in which journalists working for Murdoch newspapers were accused of gaining illegal access to the voicemail messages of crime victims, celebrities and members of the royal family.

A bidding war emerged last December, when Comcast made an offer for Fox's entertainment assets, which Walt Disney Co. is in the process of buying for about $71 billion. Comcast eventually dropped out of that contest to focus on its acquisition of Sky.

British regulators organized the auction in part to ensure that Sky's value didn't erode during the long bidding process. The last time such an auction took place was in 2007, when Tata beat out CSN to buy Britain's Corus, creating what at the time was one of the world's top five steelmakers.

FILE -This March 29, 2017 file photo shows a sign outside the Comcast Center in Philadelphia. British regulator says Comcast has won an auction to formally bid for broadcaster Sky, on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Source: Associated Press


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