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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Culture can be a weapon

What a novel idea!

From Time Magazine
Italy’s Renzi vows to fight terrorism threat with culture

James Politi in Rome

Matteo Renzi has come up with what may seem a uniquely Italian solution to
the security threat gripping Europe: to fight terrorism with culture.

The 40-year old Italian prime minister on Tuesday laid out plans for €2bn in
new spending in response to the November 13 attacks in Paris, amid growing
concerns that Italy could be a terrorist target. While €1bn would be used
for security and defence purposes, another €1bn would pay for cultural

This includes more money for disenfranchised neighbourhoods on the outskirts
of big cities, where there are often clashes between Italians and
immigrants, but also a €500 bonus for every 18-year old to spend at
theatres, concerts and museums. The idea, according to Mr Renzi, is to
reinforce their sense of being guardians of Italy’s vast cultural heritage.

“What happened in Paris signalled a step-up in the cultural battle that we
are living,” Mr Renzi said at a speech at the Capitoline Museum in Rome.
“They imagine terror, we answer with culture. They destroy statues, we love
art. They destroy books, we are the country of libraries.”

Mr Renzi is due to meet François Hollande, French president, in Paris on
Thursday, and Joe Biden, US vice-president, on Friday, to discuss the
response to the terror attacks. “An international coalition requires respect
for international law and a strategic vision for the future of the affected
territories,” he said.

A poll released by Piepoli this week showed that 60 per cent of Italians are
against joining France and Russia in pursuing military action against Isis
in Syria.

Yes, I know that the famous ruin (pictured) is not a library!  But I thought it might be a comment ....

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Downunder

The United States is getting a lot of bad press about the world, so it feels good to publish this uplifting story.

The United States ambassador to New Zealand put on a Thanksgiving lunch for Wellington's homeless.

It's a day that many of Wellington's most vulnerable are unlikely to forget.

About 200 homeless people, social housing tenants, and beneficiaries packed into Wesley Church Hall, in Taranaki St, for the 10th annual Thanksgiving lunch, put on by the United States embassy and supported by Wellington homelessness charity DCM.

They were served roast turkey with all the trimmings, pumpkin pie and icecream, and were treated to a performance by DCM's ukulele band, who played the US national anthem for the first time.

United States ambassador Mark Gilbert and wife Nancy with Pieter Nolle at the embassy's Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday.

United States ambassador Mark Gilbert and wife Nancy with Pieter Nolle at the embassy's Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday.

But it was the opportunity to gather with friends and family for which most of them were thankful.
"They cherish the memory of just being under the same roof and having a meal together, and that memory will last for a week at least," Bill Te Awa said, who attended the meal last year as well.

"I'm hoping to get seconds, that would be the best part."

Jon Schrader and first-time attender Christine Fisher.
Jon Schrader and first-time attender Christine Fisher.

Christine Fisher, a newcomer to Wellington, said the meal was an example of the great things organisations did in the city to help people feel safe and welcome.

The lunch recipients were served by DCM workers and US embassy staff, including ambassador Mark Gilbert, wife Nancy and daughters Dani and Liz.

"It's a special time for us. It's the one time of the year that we always try and get together as a family," the ambassador said.

Dressed for the occasion, from left Marina Groen, Bernadette I and Terry Joseph.
Dressed for the occasion, from left Marina Groen, Bernadette I and Terry Joseph.

"Today's been a wonderful experience. We are fortunate that we have been very blessed and, for those who have maybe not been that fortunate, to be able to spend the day, to serve them and make sure they're well fed is a huge honour and privilege."

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Christmas Island is in the news, right now, and for the worst of reasons.

It is being used by the Australian government as a detention center for non-Australians who have served time for various crimes during their years in the country, but are now considered not worthy of residency.  They are held pending deportation.

Yet no one is told that it is one of the world's natural treasures, an island with a history as colorful as its wildlife.  They don't even know where it is -- that it is much closer to Java than Australia, for instance.

So, I decided to tell you about one of the most interesting places I have ever visited.


Let's start with the story of its discovery ....

And then it was forgotten, until .... 

The creation of a national park

First, Christmas Island was devastated.

Then it was saved, to preserve its unique character, and become a naturalist's paradise.

It is a story of greed and heroism.


The colorful land life of Christmas Island

Sea birds of Christmas Island

More of the amazing wildlife of this remarkable place

The Christmas Island Crab

Two kinds of crabs, and an amazing journey of endurance, love, and life

Not only are these "robber" crabs remarkably large, but they are wonderfully colored, in a rainbow of patches and designs.  No two are the same.

 And then there are the blue crabs, and the marvelous red crabs. They feed on seeds and leaves, which they drag down into their burrows.  Because of their constant foraging, the forest on Christmas Island is different.  There is hardly any undergrowth, so that walking through the bush is like walking through the ruins of a medieval cathedral.

But there is much more to the story of the red crabs of Christmas Island.  Their annual migration is one of the wonders of nature.