So….wholemilk powder prices were down 4% overnight, the first decline since July. Well, boo hoo. Arguably, the last thing New Zealand needs is for the current levels of dairy production to return to profitability anytime soon. Obviously, no one wants the individuals concerned to suffer. But is it really a national disaster when dairy powder prices fall, and remain – at $US2,681 a tonne- below the break even level of circa $US3,000 ? If prices did hit that higher level… it would mean more land being converted to dairy production, more money being poured into irrigation, more damage being done to our rivers and lakes, with more risk incurred to our tourism brand etc etc
With all that in mind, maybe our media should stop treating any slump in dairy prices as if this were a national disaster. As things stand, we’re basing our national income on an industry that’s ravaging our natural environment. Luckily, there are a few recent signs that dairy production (globally and domestically) may be declining.
Reportedly, Fonterra’s milk collection figures are forecast to decline by 3% over the 2016/2017 year…yet on the other hand, our exports to Europe are up as Europe’s own production declines, and demand for dairy imports is still apparently strong in China and Latin America. In sum, are our dairy prices ever going to decline sufficiently to drive out enough farmers to give our lakes and rivers – and parts of the South Island that should never have been irrigated for dairy – some breathing space? Frankly, if today’s crop of dairy farmers are “doing it tough” well….tough.
In recent weeks, the stories of civilian slaughter in Aleppo have been horrific, but the upcoming battle for Mosul could well be even worse.
Mosul is the last major Iraqi city still in the hands of Islamic State. It has been known for months that the Mosul battle will trigger a fresh wave of refugees into areas – eg Iraqi Kurdistan –already straining to cope with people seeking protection. Reportedly, Islamic State is planning to use most of the 1.2 million civilians remaining in Mosul as human shields. There is also talk of IS aiming to detonate a nearby sulphur factory once the fighting begins.
Hamish Bretton-Gordon [ a former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) regiment and Nato’s Rapid Reaction CBRN Battallion] has warned: “Islamic State are making their own mustard gas but I also believe they have access to some of Assad’s undeclared stockpile which could be as much as 100 tonnes”.
He also claims Islamic State have rigged the al-Mishraq sulphur factory, 20km south of Mosul to explode – a move that will lead to the release of hundreds of tonnes of sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide into the atmosphere.
A few weeks ago, October 19 was named by Iraq’s Prime Minister as the likely commencement date of the assault.
Expected to commence in the coming weeks, the battle for the city of 1.2 million people, Iraq’s second-largest, is expected to send up to 1 million people fleeing for safety and help determine the future of America’s bid to contain the spread of violent Muslim extremism in the Middle East….
As in northern Syria, the role of the Kurdish peshmerga forces have politically controversial despite – or maybe because of – their prowess on the battlefield. Turkey is staunchly opposed to any expansion of Kurdish-held territory in either Syria or Iraq. The Sunni, Shia and Turkoman populations in Iraq are also opposed to Kurdish expansionism. Other equally fierce hostilities exist between (a) the largely Sunni population of Mosul, (b) the fundamentalist Sunni forces of Islamic State (c) the Shia militia who have been highly effective in pushing back Islamic State, (d) the US trained Iraqi Army (e) the Iraqi government which is essentially a puppet of Iran etc etc.
Here are some of the permutations, as the Los Angeles Times has been reporting :
Some Iraqi militia and intelligence officials have said they suspect the Kurdish fighting forces, also known peshmerga, will try to engage in a land grab in an attempt to join parts of Nineveh province to a presumptive Kurdish state.
The presence of the Turkish army in the area, over the objections of the Iraqi government, has added to the confusion. The Turks have provided training and weapons to a Sunni militia led by former Mosul Gov. Atheel Nujaifi. Although the militia intends to join the battle against Islamic State, some of the allied factions view it as an enemy.
The U.S., meanwhile, does not want to include the Shiite-dominated factions known as the Popular Mobilization Units, which are accused by the coalition of committing sectarian-driven crimes against Sunni populations in the areas under their control. These concerns have dictated a plan in which both the peshmerga and the Popular Mobilization Units would stay outside the city while the army and special forces engage in street fighting inside Mosul.
But on that last point.. this week, some of the Shia Popular Mobilisation Units appear as likely to fight against the US and its allies, as with them.
Factions of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) are threatening to attack US troops that participate in the battle to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State (IS), but the Iraqi government hopes to smooth things over…
However, many are not convinced. Hassan al-Kaabi, a member of the PMU backing up the Iraqi government forces, rejects the presence of US troops in the battle for Mosul and believes they are not keen to help Iraqis fight terrorism. “I will fight them wherever they are,” he told Al-Monitor. “They are an occupation force that pretends to be assisting us.”
So basically…it sounds like the preparations for the liberation of Mosul are going along swimmingly. What could possibly go wrong?
Hats Off To Fancy Bear
The Russian hackers who have revealed the extent of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) in global sport have done fans a real service. Fans deserve to know when and why some athletes are allowed to take banned drugs (for health reasons) that their sporting rivals are denied on pain of suspension. The need for transparency over-rides the privacy issues involved. Especially when some of the top athletes with TUEs have been somewhat misleading in their prior statements. Hello, Sir Bradley Wiggins. Despite disdaining needles in his 2012 autobiography and dissing drug use, Wiggins has quietly had a TUE for the use of the steroid triamcinolone, the same drug that Lance Armstrong tested positive for at the 1999 Tour de France. Not illegal, but what the Catholics would call a sin of omission.
Nice to see then that New Zealand rower Mahe Drysdale is now calling for utter transparency about TUEs.
It would have been even more impressive if Drysdale had made that call before his TUE was revealed by Fancy Bear.
In the wake of the TUE revelations, the only surprising thing about the overnight reduction in the suspension term imposed on Maria Sharapova – for her use of meldonium for health reasons – is that she wasn’t granted a retrospective TUE and completely exonerated. Sharapova had used meldonium to treat a diagnosed heart flutter for ten years, and the substance became banned – on January 1st, 2016 – only after several other athletes were discovered to be using it at an athletics meeting in Baku last year. Tennis authorities were also found to have been remiss in not sufficiently alerting top players to the meldonium ban.
Sharapova belongs in a quite different category to Lance Armstrong – but mind you, in the light of the Fancy Bear revelations about extent of the TUE system, maybe Armstrong shouldn’t seem quite so bad anymore. A man born before his time, perhaps, as this Irish guy argues.
White Lines…Don’t Do It !
In tennis and in athletics, those white lines are part of the environment in more ways than one. Here’s Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel with the ultimate warning, inducement and morality tale…”Twice as sweet as sugar, twice as good as salt !” Dairy powder, cocaine…don’t do it !