The week that was 14 - 20 May | The Jackal

20 May 2011

The week that was 14 - 20 May

This week, the ACC admitted it has been rejecting too many claimants seeking elective surgery. The acknowledgement by ACC officials comes after an internal review of elective surgery decision-making. Patients, lawyers and advocates were angry at the new approach, which had led to many injury claimants being turned down because of age-related degeneration.

The report revealed a sharp increase rate of ACC decisions refusing to pay for surgery being overturned in review hearings: 44 per cent in the nine months to March, compared with 36 per cent in the last financial year, and 30 per cent in 2008/09. The report says ACC needs to apply extra expertise, particularly in complex cases, before finally deciding to refuse surgery. President of the Orthopaedic Association, Associate Professor Gary Hooper, said surgeons were increasingly frustrated at having to appeal for funding of patients' surgery, "even when they apparently met the criteria and were clearly in urgent need".

A new report suggests that some 1.3 billion metric tons of food in the world is lost (on the production side of the food supply chain) or wasted (on the consumption side) each year. That's about one-third of total edibles produced for humans.
It's not the only jarring statistic in the study conducted by the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, on behalf of the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Consumers in industrialized nations waste nearly 222 million tons of food each year, virtually the equivalent of sub-Saharan Africa's total net food production (230 million tonnes). And in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as South and Southeast Asia, individual consumers waste between 6-11 kg annually, while consumers in Europe and North America discard more than eight times as much: between 95-115 kg.

During the Shell annual general assembly (AGM) in The Hague this week, Friends of the Earth International presented an “erratum” to Shell’s 2010 annual report. In this spoof “erratum”, which was distributed among shareholders, Shell 'admits' that it is “causing a lot of unwanted and unnecessary damage” in its global oil-gas- and biofuels operations. The company also states that Shell “has learnt from these mistakes” and pledges to take “full responsibility to prevent and mitigate costs for the environment and people affected by our operations”.

The erratum (PDF) published by Friends of the Earth International highlights 12 cases from 5 different continents. It displays climate and other environmental impacts from Shell’s oil and gas operations, but also shows the involvement of Shell in the violation of human rights and labour irregularities, such as those resulting from Shell’s joint venture with Brazilian biofuel producer Cosan S.A., which has been linked to slave labour and violations of labour rights.

Furthermore, the report lists cases of corruption and interference with politicianss in order to ensure business profits. The erratum, which should serve as a wake up call for Shell's shareholders and board, is backed up by an in-depth report about the 12 cases involving life threatening pollution, bribery, slavery and violation of national and international laws.

NATO helicopters from Afghanistan intruded into northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, wounding two soldiers, officials said, prompting a protest from the military already seething over the secret U.S. operation to kill Osama bin Laden. The Pakistani Army said it had lodged a "strong protest" and sought a flag meeting with NATO commanders over the incursion in Pakistan's North Waziristan near the Afghan border, which has been repeatedly targeted by U.S. drone aircraft as a hub of al Qaeda linked militants.

A Western military official in Kabul, however, said two NATO helicopters supporting a base in eastern Afghanistan had returned fire after being attacked from Pakistan, but declined to say whether they had crossed into Pakistani airspace. A senior Pakistani security official said NATO has lodged its own complaint with Pakistan, accusing its forces of "unprovoked firing." Western military officials in Kabul had no immediate comment about the possible complaint. The incident is certain to weigh on relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have been pushed almost to the breaking point after the May 2 raid on Abbottabad that killed bin Laden, with Pakistan's parliament condemning the operation as a violation of the nation's sovereignty.

Donald Trump has announced that he will not be running for presidency in 2012, saying "running for public office cannot be done half-heartedly." On Monday, Trump said he could win the presidential race but added that through his “unofficial” campaigning, he has realized that business was his “greatest passion."

In recent months, the real estate mogul and host of the reality television program Celebrity Apprentice had questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in the US. The questioning of Obama's place of birth boosted Trump to the top tier of candidates. Eventually, the US president released his certificate, and Trump took credit for forcing Obama's hand. Analysts believe if Trump ran for presidency, he would have to make significant disclosures about his financial interests and business activities.

Millions of people demonstrated in more than 50 cities across Spain this week. They demanded “Real democracy” and were dissatisfied with the countries politicians and bankers. "They call it a democracy and it is not”, said Juan Luis S├ínchez summing up the general sentiment. “This is a crises, the poorest pay while the rich ones and bankers keep on winning millions.” He said. This was a statement repeated by many of the protesters to the sound of drums and fanfare.

The peaceful protesters were comprised of young and old alike all demanding real democracy, which the Government had promised but not delivered, especially to the poor. The protest was organised using social media networks and the turnout was larger than expected.  They yelled slogans and held banners with; The Politicians Lie, the Bankers Steal, the Rich ones Laugh, Real Democracy Already and This is not the Democracy that we deserve written on them. The protests have gone largely unreported elsewhere in the world with many of those that attended complaining about the absence of the media during the large gatherings.

It was reported this week that twenty MPs have interests in at least four properties each, and one MP has money in a set of ruins in France. The Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament (PDF), reavealed as part of the annual register of MPs financial interests, shows eight MPs have interests in at least six properties. These MPs include John Key, Amy Adams, Gerry Brownlee, Hillary Calvert, Aaron Gilmore, Chris Tremain and Paul Hutchinson. Cam Calder, a National list MP, declared he is involved in restoring a ruin in Gers, France. The biggest investor is Chris Tremain, National MP for Napier, who has interests in 15 investment properties. Outgoing National MP Georgina Te Heu Heu has interests in dozens of properties held in common with many thousands of other Maori owners.

The average dairy farmer pays less tax than a couple on the pension. Despite the dairy industry being 40 per cent larger than the entire utilities sector and two-thirds the size of the construction sector, IRD figures showed the agricultural sector, including forestry and fishing, paid $319m in tax in 2009. Compared with $486m from mining. Inland Revenue Department figures provided to Labour revenue spokesman Stuart Nash show that, in the latest full year for which figures were available, the average tax paid by dairy farms was $1506 a year, despite an average Fonterra payout understood to be well over $500,000. The figures also show that more than half of the farmers reported a loss for the 2009 year and 2635 reported trading income of between $1 and $20,000.
The information was made available just prior to the Government delivering one of the tightest Budgets in recent years, which cuts into middle-class family benefits and KiwiSaver subsidies. As a co-operative, Federated Farmers pays out profits to its farmer shareholders, who are liable for tax. Figures complied by the Parliamentary Library show that, from May 2007 to January 2011, Fonterra earned $1.86 billion before tax, on turnover of $61.6b. It reported after-tax profit of $1.88b after receiving net tax credits of $28m – equivalent to a tax rate of negative 1.5 per cent. Farmers did not pay tax on their capital profits when they sold farms. But Mr Nash said he was not signalling a move to a capital gains tax.

Tax paid by the 17,244 dairy farms in 2009: $26m

Tax paid by the agricultural, forestry and aquaculture sector: $319m

Tax paid by individuals through PAYE and source deductions: $23b

Total government tax take: $54.7b

Tax credit paid to Fonterra over 3 1/2 years: $28m

Average annual tax paid by 17,244 dairy farms in 2009: $1508

Tax paid by an unemployed beneficiary aged over 25: $1229

Eight New York residents are suing China and its biggest search engine company, accusing Baidu of conspiring with the government to censor pro-democracy content. The lawsuit claims violations of the US constitution, and according to the plaintiffs' lawyer, is the first of its type. In an unorthodox move, it names not only a company but also the Chinese government as defendants. The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday, more than a year after Google declared it would no longer censor search results in China, and rerouted internet users to its Hong Kong website.