Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
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Not everyone’s fooled on the economy

Thu, 28 Jul 2011

The state of the economy is less than confusing than many think. The indicators are all looking up.

Even the Reserve Bank, which adopted a highly cautionary approach by holding official interest rates at 2.5%, admits the economy is expanding more rapidly than it expected.

It is almost certain to reinstate sooner rather later all or most of the 0.5% “insurance” cut it applied in March. This, I suspect, will be too late to keep a lid on inflation, the bank’s main purpose.

Apart from political sources, much of the confusion is generated from overseas and the focus on argy-bargy in Washington DC. But this fuss could stop at any minute, once the posturing leads to a decision, and markets will rebound strongly.

But what won’t disappear is the problem of rising American debt and deficits. The Republicans are right: spending cuts should be the primary driver of the budget.

President Obama is stubborn and doesn’t want to be outmanoeuvred or concede on some of his tax proposals.

Back home, the first Fairfax Media-Research International poll on election issues shows New Zealanders are not fooled by the economic bad-mouthing. National has come out trumps with its emphasis on economic management.

Other leading issues are inflation and the cost of living; the state of education and health; law and order. The sale of state assets and tax – the two issues Labour is emphasising – are ranked much lower.

In addition, some MMP fiddles are likely to give National an even stronger grip on the electorate map, possibly cutting Labour out of but all but a handful of seats. MMP proponents will argue otherwise, but a National landslide in electorate seats will be much more than a moral victory.

Murdoch: What comes next?
Rupert Murdoch isn’t leaving the question of what happens next at News Corporation to chance. It must be remembered this is no ordinary joint stock company.

Mr Murdoch and his interests control 39.7% of the voting shares – there are many more non-voting ones – and that ownership cannot easily be taken away from him.

Previous attempts to loosen his grip has been attempted and failed, the last being a legal action by Amalgamated Bank and some pension funs to unwind a deal where News paid $US673 to daughter Elisabeth’s Shine Group.

Bloomberg reports that major shareholders are being polled on succession plans, independence of the board, the dual-class share structure and corporate governance, These shareholders are unlikely to be ignorant of the Murdoch way and know any attempt to “corporatise” News away from its mogul status will make it far less interesting.

The Economist has praised these features in the guise of an obituary that concludes he should step aside, while the less objective Mark Kellner in the Washington Times is a fan of mogul-ism on grounds it is the only way to run unprofitable newspapers.

The reality of Nordic noir
Scandinavian crime fiction – whether in book or cinematic form – was a hot property long before anyone had heard of Anders Behring Breivik.

Times of India journalist Malini Nair has noted the parallels between the real-life mass murderer of socialist youth and the fictional villains that have made Nordic noir so fashionable.

Norwegian Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series (The Redeemer, The Snowman, The Leopard) has a violent, trigger happy vigilante cop with a mission to “eliminate” the “human detritus:”

"Unfortunately we live in a country that is so rich at the moment that the politicians compete with each other to be the most open handed. We've become so soft and nice that no one dares take the responsibility for doing unpleasant things any more.”

Pers Wahloo and Maj Sjowall’s novels have villainous stereotypes that are neo-Nazi, anti-immigrant and misogynist, while similar charactersturn up in Henning Menkell’s thrillers.

The best known of all, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo and the rest of the Millennium trilogy, have Nazi sympathists who are prone to using torture, while Breivik is said to be a fan of The Killing, an acclaimed Danish TV crime series.

Meanwhile, as Breivik’s fate is decided, the clutch of right-wing European parties that share some of his political proclivities – if not his method of delivery – are on the backfoot.

Spiegel Online has a roundup but it also suggests any attempt to link them and their concerns with a Norwegian loner are doomed to fail.

Key and the Kiwi crusaders
It may be coincidence but Prime Minister John Key’s recent brief swing through Tinseltown was accompanied by glowing write-ups in the Wall Street Journal on two Hollywood Kiwis last weekend.

Director Lee Tamahori was described as “a poet of on-screen violence”  for his new film, The Devil’s Double, about the stand-in for Saddam Hussein’s depraved son, Uday. In a Q&A, Tamahori says he tackles the subject as a gangster film:

"The Hussein family almost mirrored the Corleones [of Godfather fame] and that's how I framed it in the film. You've got Saddam as Don Corleone. You've got an out-of-control Sonny who is never going to get the power (in Uday) and Qusay, the younger son, is the Michael of the piece."

Tamahori reveals the film became so violent that torture scenes were cut down so it could be R-rated for US cinemas. Tamahori is asked about his work on The Sopranos (the epidode where Richie gets out of jail), Once Were Warriors and the James Bond series (Die Another Day).

A couple of days later, Kiwi stuntwoman Zoe Bell tells all in a profile about the tricks of her trade – “Fighting and falling in high heels.” She has doubled for Sharon Stone, Uma Thurman (in Kill Bill) and, of course, Lucy Lawless in Xena. In Catwoman, Bell tumbled 22-storeys in a spinning fall that took several takes.

She next appears in Gossip Girl and two features slated for next year – Hansel & Gretel: Witchhunters and The Baytown Disco.

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Not everyone’s fooled on the economy