Promo emails in middle of Mother of All Hacking Attacks
What was Spark thinking when on Sunday it released to its Xtra email subscribers a promo message from its entertainment operation Lightbox?
The emergency over the global WannaCry hack was sounded at 2030 hrs on the Friday just before. This should have conveyed the message to the entertainment subsidiary that this was most definitely not the time to start a mass promo over email –especially over your own circuits. And have given the unit plenty of time to intercept any such planned scheme. Several days, in fact.
But out the customised marketing email went out on Sunday......by which time the rest of the world was convulsed by the new intruder emergency which this time demanded pay-off for unfreezing users’ computer data.
The Lightbox marketing invitation was ironically entitled “Laugh, cry and escape this Mother’s Day.”
Many Xtra users are unaware that Lightbox is a Spark product.
The email greeted the Xtra customer by their first name and continued-
“This Mother’s Day make a cup of tea, grab the comfiest chair in the house and settle in for some entertaining television.
"Laugh and cry with other people’s families in Better Things, Life Unexpected, Outrageous Fortune and everyone’s favourite and colourful Modern Family.
Don’t forget the biscuits!”
Meanwhile MSC Newswire has received an explanation from Spark over our report of the scam email over Xtra demanding passwords that used in its subject line these words: “Dear Xtra Spark Email User “
Spark notes that the email address rogers.com is a Canadian telco –making very hard for spam filters to detect and block this. This is a very common attack vector for scam emails, because they are more likely to get past filters and into your inbox. Such emails “phishing” emails, because they are fishing for information and- the goal of this email is to get you to respond with personal or sensitive information so they can steal from you or defraud you.
Incident Points up Danger of Microsoft Windows Standardisation, Dependence.
The failure of the global extortion cyber attack to get a foothold in New Zealand vindicates the value of the continuous system upgrades that from the outset of the information technology era has been a characteristic of the institutional information technology scene here, notably that of governmental services.
The ransomware attack, as it is known, notably attacked Britain’s National Health Service. Here it penetrated especially the service-to-patient delivery systems in health trusts. Services affected include picture archiving communication systems for x-ray images, pathology test results, phone and bleep systems and patient administration systems.
Institutional systems upgrades have long been considered to be conducted at twice the frequency in New Zealand as in the United Kingdom.
In addition to the routine and enforced upgrade of distributed systems here is the long-standing centralised structure of New Zealand health services.
Healthcare it can be clearly seen now is a natural target for computer-freezing extortion malware just because if someone’s life depends on something such as an operating theatre functioning or not functioning then there will be a greater readiness to pay the ransom to restore the computer systems driving it.
The disturbing aspect of this most recent attack is that the various ransom demands have been payable via bitcoin, the virtual liquid money technique. This means that the ransom payments are to a substantial extent untraceable,
All the indications so far lead to the cyber extortion attack being targeted on Microsoft systems that are no longer in fact officially supported by Microsoft. The pressures on Britain’s National Health Service continues to lead to budget cuts of which information technology savings have been foremost, leaving a large proportion of legacy systems vulnerable.
The freezing of targeted systems so that users cannot in fact use them ramps up the cyber war notably in the demand for the untraceable bitcoin ransom payments.
New Zealand’s reliance on the overwhelming global standard Microsoft Windows means that there are few grounds for complacency.
Internationally this latest attack has renewed the call for operating system diversity such as into independent operating systems especially in the open source sphere, notably Unix and Linux.
On this occasion Russia has not been blamed for the cyber attack and indeed is a victim of it probably because of its very large proportion of legacy systems vulnerable to precisely this type of hack.
Indeed Russian resident and fugitive CIA sleuth Edward Snowden has rounded on the popularly-supposed originator of the cyber implant, the United States National Security Agency. The NSA points out Snowden should have alerted its allies to its systems-paralysing device, especially at the time that it suspected, knew, that it had been filched.
This in turn leads to the supposition that in fact the cyber-sharing Five Eyes alliance, an English speaking union which includes New Zealand, had in fact been notified of the piratage and had taken steps to avoid it.
This does not explain though how Five Eyes signals intelligence-sharing member the UK got such a bad hit?
In turn this can be explained by the signals intelligence community failing to identify the vulnerability of Britain’s once admired but now ramshackle and sprawling public health system and also to comprehend how it would present such a tempting target to the pirated and now modified interference penetration weapon.
The quick response to the attack in the United Kingdom is substantially credited to a lone cyber security buff who got into the back of it, and discovered a sink-hole which now acted as a decoy into which the systems crippling onrush dumped itself and was smothered and drowned.
This could well be a part of the story.
But it is unlikely to be the full story. Which should also encompass the notion that with the systems paralysing genie out of the bottle, and still assuming that it had its genesis in a national security agency, that someone quickly produced an antidote to it.
| From the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk || Sunday 14 May 2017 |||
MSC Newswire has taken up with Spark how a counterfeit email seemingly from Spark itself and with the subject line title "Dear Xtra Spark Email User” had been able in fact to make the transit of Spark’s own security-enhanced messaging service.
The issue was taken up with Spark in the morning of Monday May 8. No response had been received by the close of the business day on Thursday May 11.
Astonishingly while MSC Newswire was talking to the Spark official and referring online on their mailbox to this counterfeit email unwanted pop-ups appeared (see screen grab top of this story.)
Here is the email. Note the subject line:--
Dear Xtra Spark Email User
This message is to all Xtra Spark Email Service Users. This is a notice and update to our valuable customer’s that a malware was recently detected in your account system so we have implement Anti-Malware software removes and virus free. As a result of that our Internet Tech Support is currently re-upgrading and verifying your email system networking center to identify and delete all email accounts registered unduly. This will enable us increase storage capacities for existing users and create more space for registration of new webmail future users.
To finish and fix your email account system service problem as it’s always up to date, and stops viruses before they reach your email account reply with the following details to upgrade and secure your email account for best internet service supply.
Warning! Failure to reply with the above information will rendered your webmail account temporarily suspended by technical service admin.
The pop up on the user's online Xtra mailbox was peddling a variety of services.We contacted via a given pop-up phone number the service advertised. It was from an organisation calling itself Financial Services Complaints Ltd.
The person answering the phone said that they were called Jan and confirmed that they were in the business of pay-day loans. Jan said the firm was based in Takapuna.
This state of affairs follows Spark’s bringing “home” its Xtra email service which was previously run in association with Yahoo. The association soured when Yahoo was the target of international and well publicised email hacks.
Spark’s core security work was undertaken by a third party specialist security company in New Zealand.
Spark has been hunkered down since its Xtra changeover which has been characterised by individual Xtra users having trouble migrating themselves onto the new all-New Zealand service.
Meanwhile MSC Newswire has questioned one of the spyware scammers making a pest of themselves with New Zealand internet users.
The scam spyware presentation said that it was in a position to rid the internet-user's computer of a variety of incriminating material that was now deposited on the user’s computer.
The telephone number 09 8010 177 was identified and was rung back.
The individual at the other end of the line identified themselves as “Tony” and said that they were based in California, and claimed to be legitimate.
Indicates need to distinguish between what is known and what is hoped for
The two newspaper companies always gave the appearance of being confident that they could win over to their way of thinking the Commerce Commission?They made the mistake, so evident now, of believing in their own assumption to the effect that the Commerce Commission would see the merger positively.
What were the contrary signals from the Commission that they missed?The Commerce Commission’s point of view in its rejection of the first draft of the merger proposal turned on several doctrinal, ideological, words that indicated that it was not for turning.
What were these words?Democracy, plurality and above all, diversity.
Why diversity?The loaded word runs through the Commission’s deliberations in a now clearly visible thread. It means that people considerations carry clear priority over any competing considerations in this case those of efficiency, economy of scale and so on.......
Why did the two companies go to the Commerce Commission in the first place? Would it not have been more effective to have simply concocted a new structure with a holding company?The Wellington and Auckland based companies had their hearts set on a single merged New Zealand company with a consolidated balance sheet and all that goes with it such as just one management structure.
Until quite recently the two companies worked closely together with a cooperative news pool and joint advertising sales promotion – why didn’t they just carry on as a de facto cooperative?This cooperative structure began to dissolve when the two newspaper groups came into play during the stock market bubble. The old proprietorial families moved away and were replaced by professional managers.
Where and when did they lose the plot?In their search of their competitive edge they opted for going it alone and thus they acted independently now in terms of their own evolving individual web sites and also in acquisitions. They dissolved their news gathering and dissemination cooperative, the New Zealand Press Association. Also abandoned now were certain geographic areas in which they had long agreed not to compete with one another.
Did they underestimate what the internet was going to do to them?At first the internet looked even promising. There were new personalities, celebrities that people wanted to read about. Covering the internet brought in the coveted younger demographic. Let’s look back. When television arrived in New Zealand the newspapers actually benefitted, and the Sunday papers were now launched to satisfy the interest in the new world of television
What happened with the internet?The internet instead now ushered in the era of disintermediation which is still accelerating all around us. People want to deal direct, sweep away the middle operator, the mainstream media, which had hitherto controlled the gateway to news coverage. You want an event covered?You go to Facebook. You want something known – there’s Twitter. You have an opinion? Then you start a blog. You have a range of points you want to air? Start your own website.
There are also any amount, at least 50, broadcasting channels available now. Plenty of competition you would think?The Commerce Commission took a narrower view of this scene than the newspaper managements jointly appeared to appreciate. The Commerce Commision’s verdict centred on most of the nation’s daily newspapers being held in a single set of corporate hands, and the perception thereof.
The daily newspapers published by the two groups are often considered to say the same thing about the same things anyway?The Commission concerned itself with the perception. In this case the perception of most of the dailies being controlled by just the one proprietor. It was now at the first decision that there was introduced the notion that New Zealand if the merger went through would convey a similar perception as that of China in that the press in China is controlled by just the one entity, the Communist Party. The signal was clear. It was not picked up.
The Commission’s second and seemingly last veto was delivered at the very start of International Free Press Day. Was this symbolic?Perhaps – and just because in this attenuated affair so much can be viewed as turning on symbols and perceptions.
What happens now?The two newspaper groups, the ones based in Auckland and Wellington must wash their minds of further approaches, appeals, to constituted authority including now the judiciary, and they must do so primarily on the grounds of sidestepping any further distractions. The danger of a strategic assumption, in this case that the Commerce Commission would approve the merger, is just that it is so enticing just because it makes the transition from supposition to reality. The wish becomes the fact.
In practical terms, this means....?The two groups will have to rearrange themselves around a new corporate structure and one that stops just short of a unified balance sheet. The daily newspaper business, an extremely marginal one, is riddled with intensive and in-built administration procedures especially on the subscriber and circulation side where there are stop-starts that can only be automated up to a certain point. They must now merge these departments. They must merge too their printeries.
They will have to be more radical than that, given their falling circulations?They will have to adopt a new business model and my feeling is that they will develop a franchise model which has already been experimented with by at least one rural newspaper management buyout. Print is relatively strong in the provinces. A franchise move will allow the two groups to develop their centralised services and will dilute the liability also of their substantial staff contingencies.
What about the hedge funds and such like said to be lurking in the middle distance?The two newspaper groups began to go heavily into play in the 80s bubble and will have been stripped by now of hard asset value i.e. real estate. So they are unlikely to be a target for speculators.
We keep hearing about the Auckland and Wellington-based groups. But what about the third proprietor, the one in Dunedin?The Smith family who control the Otago Daily Times group kept it within the family. They are a force to be reckoned with and in the affair under discussion remain the dog that did not bark. Or, if it did, was not heard by anyone. They remain in an envious competitive situation notably now dominating the high value tourist region centred on Queenstown.
What would you recommend that the two beleaguered would-be North Island-based suitors NOT do?Cut the frequency of any of their dailies to let us say three issues a week. The disruptive force of the internet and everything that came with it was to break the newspaper-reading habit. This custom so dominant until just so recently can only be further disrupted by meddling with the frequency of established daily titles.
One has this impression, somehow, of unfinished business. Was anything held back by any one of the parties involved?The episode was characterised by candour. It was just that the two parties looked at the same thing, the merger scheme, and each saw something that was quite different.
Your full hindsight?The two groups should have pulled back after the first round when the Commission’s viewpoint was made clear. They should have done so issuing high-minded yet truthful communiques about the severity of their position, and their continuing determination to better the lot of the public at large. In the event they appeared resentful and so their task in formulating a virtual amalgamation will be harder than before.
Overseas scammers have stepped up their assault on domestic New Zealand internet users in a two-fold pincer movement. The first pincer is a series of telephone calls that seek to alert the user of the perils that they face from the existence on their computers of unwanted bugs of various descriptions.
This is run in harness now with the placement on the computer of an actual bug that talks back to the user and alerts them to the existence on their computer of viruses in the spyware category that have turned up on the target’s computer the existence of pornography of the most diabolical description.
The threat amounts to--- “you’ll be in trouble if you are caught with this.”
This is then bracketed by more telephone calls that are always from an international 0909 prefix number or 0988. The 0909 prefix is that of Ireland while the 0988 number is a “spoofed” prefix used by telemarketeers to avoid detection.
Computer service houses say that this new concerted campaign has caused immense distress among their more elderly users who are unaware of the measures that such scammers will go to in order to be paid to “fix” the “problem.”
The racket last reached a crescendo two years ago and in recent weeks has again been in ramp up mode in New Zealand.
The objective of the racket is to get the user to open up access to their machine via a series of set-piece instructions which allows the racketeer to secure access as and when required over the longer term to the domestic computer.
The landline-driven racket operates on the assumption that any household that still operates a landline will also be the home of an internet-linked computer and which will therefore run Microsoft applications.
The phone callers stick to their routine even if the recipient explains that they do not have a computer in the first place.
The racket operators are human and are trained to deal with objections including those of the most hostile nature.
Their task is to keep the householder talking with a view to eliciting information that may be useful later on, and which will ideally convince the target to follow their instructions.
The post-prefix numbers are scramble encrypted which means that householders who ring back are greeted by an invalid beep-beep-beep signal.
The cold callers always claim to represent Microsoft or be Microsoft “certified” technicians.
The racket is itself two-fold with the target being persuaded to transfer money to the imposters in order to have the viral infection eliminated and/or to get the access to the user’s bank pass codes.
The racketeers will seek to have “fee” money remitted them via an independent wire transfer service which from their point of view makes the transaction harder to trace, and from the target’s point of view means it can never be recovered.
The addition of the sequestration of the talking spyware into household computers with its vocalised threats introduces a new and heightened level of intensity in the racket.
Netsafe should be a first port of call from those under harassment from the racketeers -0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
Meanwhile scareware, , as the malware implants are known, and quite recently upgraded to the talk-back delivery, has become increasingly applied by the international criminal gangs behind these rackets.
The scam follows a common pattern. A pop-up shows what appears to be a security scan that falsely detects dangerous or illegal files or programs. In some cases, the bogus warnings say there is porn on your computer. The malicious software may even display pornographic images on the screen. And those pop-up warnings won’t stop until your click the button that says “register now” or “remove all threats.”
Those who do that wind up on a site run by the cyberthieves. It says you need to buy their antivirus program — which is fake — to fix the security problems.
Engineering Students Must Rub Shoulders with their Workforce
Canterbury University’s dining firewall between its students and its campus site construction force personnel represents the most valuable control experiment into the causes and effects of the nation’s quality control and productivity problems which is the separate development of management and those who actually do the work.
Canterbury University in the middle of the last century was a crucible of engineering science, notably seismic science.
A series of earthquakes which coincidentally began in Christchurch demonstrated that the post World War 2 surge in seismic technology has somehow tapered off and that there has been for quite a few years a chasm between theory and practice
In other words the gap between what is taught and assimilated in degree courses and what is actually installed, notably in buildings.
Many point to the problem having its roots in the cultural void between those who emerge from a university background and those who emerge from a technical and hands-on apprentice background.
So why did the university with its large investment in engineering degree courses allow to be discarded the opportunity in the form of shared canteen facilities for its undergraduates to rub shoulders with the very people responsible for realising the very plans that they are being educated to produce?
This alarm appears to have been sounded over this bizarre, contradictory, yet indicative situation by the canteen operators themselves. They saw an immense volume of their potential income being diverted from their established canteens and being diverted into segregated mobile worker-only canteens
The students and their tutors appeared to have accepted the discarding of an opportunity to rub shoulders with these technical implementers of the theory for which they sought academic degrees.
The existence was referred to of individual identification markings, beyond that of high-viz, on each construction worker’s attire.
The matter was left to dangle. Yet it is hard not to draw the conclusion that such identification was/is in place so that should any nuisance be created, then the source can readily be pin-pointed.
The proportion of females who are part of the university construction force remains to be specified.
No mention was made of Canterbury University’s ample law faculty. Should any such occasion arise for such litigation then such an in-house resource might similarly use the doubtless horrifying experience to enhance the practical experience of its many students?
We are left though with the impression of the academics and with their refined sensibilities and their discomfort while dining of being quite literally within coo-eee of people who actually work and do so in the classical sense propounded by mathematical philosophers of “moving material in relation to the surface of the Earth.”
The university canteen operators did not appear to be worried about any mud or such debris brought into their premises by the university construction workforce.
The university is well-known for its extensive academic arts faculties and again an opportunity has been passed over for its students to study at close hand the people whose wealth-generating skills lie at the base of their hoped-for subsequent incomes.
The incident might well become the subject of a thesis, perhaps a doctoral one? This would emerge from Canterbury University’s Sociology faculty – and shared perhaps by its Psychology Department too?
Canterbury University’s Anthropology Department meanwhile may find the matter of interest in regarding to the disquieting emergence of hierarchies that is introducing under official guise these unnecessary and damaging ruptures in society?
Ones that impede the information exchange between the academics and the applied practical people who implement their plans.
| from the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk | Sunday 30 April 2017 |||
As its future hangs in the balance a veteran EU trouble shooter weighs up the Union, past and present. Five questions now for Michael Lake.........
Looking back between the 1975 referendum, the one which saw the UK joining the EU, and now Brexit, what went right? What went wrong?
What went right? Where do I start? Seventy years of peace, democracy and stability in western Europe after France and Germany had been at war with each other three times during the previous 70 years, usually dragging others into their fighting, notably Britain twice. Also the achievement of common policies which run more or less successfully today on international trade and remember that the EU is the world’s biggest trading bloc by far. It has acted in agriculture (sometimes too protectionist), and over the years in several other areas where it is more effective to act together than alone such as in climate change and the environment generally, energy policy, consumer rights, social policy especially in workers’ rights, and in the 35 chapters of the body of EU law.
There is the single market of 500 million consumers, which Mrs Theresa May seems to want Britain to leave. There is expansion of the EU to 28 members (soon to be 27) by including those countries recently released from 40-50 years of Soviet rule. Then there is the EU’s status as a community of law.
What went wrong? Time and forgetfulness, and younger generations decade by decade who have taken it for granted and are unaware of its benefits. Too much regulation, certainly. Although what happened was that the EU regulations replaced national regulations in order to make a level playing field for trade. So the aggregate of regulations in this area has not changed much. A newish one is that such regulations forbid state aid for industries. State aid is a subsidy and thus unfair. It’s like doping. It is allowed in special circumstances such as in restructuring major basic industries like steel and coal which are now almost irrelevant anyway, but which require concomitant efficiencies, such as down-sizing and major investment.
Generally speaking, the EU has always had trouble communicating with the public, largely because it can be highly technical and very diverse, and because national media tend to concentrate on national stories, thus undermining the more general overview of Europe working on a daily basis. Britain is particularly bad at this and over 40 years the coverage has been on a win/lose basis. In fact Britain has won most of its disputes by far, whether they actually got to the European Court of Justice or not.
The European Parliament which has a far closer hands-on role in governance on EU matters than ordinary British MPs have on British affairs is nevertheless remote from ordinary people partly because constituencies are too big and the media coverage has always been scant. But the European Parliament has the power of co-decision on most things with the Council of (national) Ministers. It can vote against and thus wreck a Brexit deal with the UK.
You became the European Union’s ambassador to Turkey and as such point man for a policy to integrate Turkey into the EU. In the light of developments over the past year, how do you view this policy now?
I was EU ambassador in Turkey and then, as you know, in Hungary. Here I was locally in charge of monitoring Hungary’s “accession” or membership process covering the 35 chapters I referred to in your previous question.
I was also closely involved earlier with Turkey joining the EU customs union, the only country to be in the customs union without full membership. This had a huge effect in Turkey such as when. the first department stores opened, and the expansion of trade offered consumers better quality at more competitive prices. Turkey relies on the EU market for more than 50% of its exports. Turkey no longer qualifies for membership and would be blocked because of its moving away from the pillars of democracy such as freedom of expression, a free media, and an independent judiciary.
It still does meet the requirement for pluralistic elections. Erdogan is now in charge of a bitterly divided country which is not what he intended. He expected to win by 60 per cent. Turkey’s candidacy for membership has not yet been revoked. But if Erdogan goes ahead and reintroduces the death penalty it would be revoked by the EU. This would be highly unpopular amid large swathes of the Turkish population who are pro-EU and highly sophisticated.
The recent referendum was so close as to create a new situation - Erdogan not only lost in his home city, Istanbul, but in his own constituency, Fatih, which is very conservative and rife with burkhas. Watch this space...Meanwhile it’s a tragedy, but in spite of Erdogan’s dictatorial rule the country remains a very important member of Nato and largely western values on the edge of a region in turmoil. There is no appetite to cut Turkey off.
Many believe that the United States was behind the expansion of the EU. To what extent was/is this true?The United States has always, and now, even under a revised Trump II, been strongly in favour of the EU for the democratic and economic values it represents. The EU and the US are each other’s biggest trading partner. I have never heard of the US specifically interfering in EU policies except once which happened to be in my own case. This was when the US ambassador in Turkey came to me and said that the White House wanted to know how they could help get the fractious European Parliament to endorse Turkey’s membership of the customs union?
I told him how this could in fact be done. He followed my advice. Tony Blair and ( Spain’s premier) Felipe Gonzales personally gave instructions to their delegations which comprised the biggest political group in the European Parliament and the deed was done.
There was, however, a case where the US may have taken a discreet lead and must indeed have agreed. At the G-7 summit in Paris in 1988, which I attended along with the seven other G7 summits in which I participated, the EU for the first time ever was given a role in eastern Europe and thus the Soviet bloc which hitherto had been the sole policy preserve of Nato
As Poland and Hungary, and indeed even East Germany, were showing signs of relaxing under the Soviet governance of Gorbachev there was a role for the EU in economic and social development (including more openness) of the bloc. The US strongly supported the enlargement of the EU from 15 to 27 in 2005 for strategic reasons. We have to remember too that the US has many, many citizens whose families hail from central and eastern Europe.
How do you gauge the success or otherwise of the Euro currency?The adoption of the Euro has been a boon to ease transactions without exchange rate costs across most of Europe. Anyone travelling on the Continent or involved in cross-border trading, whether in goods or finance, realises this immediately. But the system lacks a unifying authority, such as a Federal Reserve Bank, able to take decisions and able to issue eurobonds. The issue of a federal Europe is still controversial, but there is still widespread reluctance to go further towards further union that the EU has done with the Treaty of Lisbon. So when the banking crisis hit the world in 2008 the euro system was unable to cope properly because it was still subject to a national decisions. The European Central Bank has coped by effectively printing money but this is ultimately not sustainable. This instability in the euro zone remains. And it has exacerbated a prosperity gap between the richer northern Europe and the poorer southern, Mediterranean countries
If you were asked for advice on the EU by anyone in the New Zealand diplomatic-trade sphere, what counsel would you proffer?Quite simply I would say this. Take any opportunity at all seriously and go for it. The EU should be seen as the land of opportunity from a national point of view and on an individual level, a career-enhancing prospect.
| From the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk || Tuesday 25 April 2017 |||
President of UK Football Foundation now takes Five Questions.....
Lord Pendry is familiar in New Zealand within sporting circles. He retains too a constant guardian-angel like role over the nation, most recently when in the House of Lords he challenged the Government over the need to control the validity of labelling for Manuka honey. He was for many years the Labour Member of Parliament for Stalybridge and Hyde. In 2000, he was appointed member of the Privy Council on the recommendation of Tony Blair. After the 2001 election he was elevated to the peerage as Baron Pendry of Stalybridge. An institution within the English speaking realm’s greatest institution, the Palace of Westminster, boxing buff Lord Pendry (above) has just seen published his autobiography, Taking It On The Chin (see below).
You began your career as an engineer. How important is a manufacturing-production base for a developed economy such as Britain’s or New Zealand’s for that matter?Although the service industries are increasingly the norm in Britain, manufacturing continues apace; the UK is currently the world's ninth largest industrial nation. I think it is important that the Government does more to support UK manufacturing industries despite fierce competition from other countries. The recent crisis with steel production in South Wales is a case in point.
As a British Member of Parliament you knew the Blair family, from Tony’s father-in-law, who lived in your constituency, and you were widely credited with opening the path to Westminster for Tony. His legacy?Yes, I introduced Tony Blair into mainstream parliamentary politics in 1982 when, following my introduction, he unsuccessfully fought a by-election before gaining a safe seat in the North East constituency of Sedgefield. In my view, Tony was an outstanding Prime Minister who achieved much, especially bringing peace to Northern Ireland, but many other good measures also—regretfully he will be remembered by many for his support of the Iraq invasion.
Your constant advocacy for sport is well-known. How important in the age of video games is organised sport for school age boys and girls?Sport within society is of great importance to both the health and morale of its people but also in its importance to the economy of countries like the UK and New Zealand. Sport is also a great leveller in terms of gender, religion and race, bringing together the best in humankind. In order to address the negative effects of children playing video games, it is important that sport facilities are provided and participation in sport is encouraged. A good example of an organisation in the UK which invests in local sport facilities is the Football Foundation, of which I am President; with funding from the Government, the FA and the Premier League, the foundation funds multiple projects across the UK which provide new and refurbished grassroots sports facilities, improving the quality and experience of playing sport at the grassroots level. Formed in 2000 they have supported projects worth more than £1.3 billion.
One sport you most definitely do not approve of is fox-hunting?Certainly I do not approve not only of fox hunting but of cruelty to animals per se. Fox hunting is now illegal in the UK but there is evidence to suggest that hunts continue to take place. The argument that fox hunting is about curbing the number of foxes in the wild—a form of pest control—does not stand up because there is strong evidence to show that foxes have been captured and bred by hunters purely to be used in hunts.
You have on several occasions registered your disapproval of hereditary ascendancy to your own House of Lords?I do not believe that because a person achieved greatness in his lifetime that should also necessarily be reflected in the shape of a family member years later, who may not be worthy of the honour himself. We have in the House of Lords many examples of such people not worthy of the honour which had been bestowed upon their ancestor. Fortunately some do make a notable contribution to the workings of Parliament. In truth, now the number of hereditary peers is limited to 92 so some progress has been made in the right direction.
Reinforces New Zealand connections with doomed Atlantic Liner
New Zealand’s connection to the world’s most famous shipwreck the Titanic has become reinforced with the entry by Ocean Gate into the passenger tour business starting next year with scheduled dive tours to the wreck.
Ocean Gate is organised by Stockton Rush (pictured above) who is part of the family of the late Stockton Rush 11 who invented the high end terrestrial tourist business in New Zealand.
United States oilman Stockton Rush 11 developed Takaro Lodge in the South Island southern lakes district as a conservation and tourist centre for the rich.
The problem for the Lodge was that Mr Rush’s development coincided with the Labour government of Prime Ministers Norman Kirk and Wallace Rowling.
At this time the Labour government was anxious to be seen to be returning to its working class roots.
The publicity surrounding Takaro Lodge and especially its bathroom fittings which were said to be gold plated, along with the moneyed celebrities who stayed there meant that the Lodge became a target for government-inspired obstacles.
The current Stockton Rush is similarly in the premium tourist business, though this time of an undersea nature, and based in the United States.
Round dive costs have been calculated on an inflation adjusted formula relating to a first class trans-Atlantic berth on the Titanic itself (pictured below), this being in the region of NZ$150,000.
A qualified aerospace engineer and commercial pilot, Mr Rush is supervising the construction of his passenger dive craft known as Cyclops 2.
The Rush family’s tourist-based connection with New Zealand and the Titanic supplements the better known one of film magnate James Cameron and New Zealand.
It was Mr Cameron’s film, coincidentally financed by Rupert Murdoch, a continuing New Zealand omnipresence, that re-ignited the curiosity about the disaster and its causes and effects.
Subsequently New Zealand relatives have been discovered of Frederick Fleet the crows nest look out who first sounded the alarm about the imminence of the iceberg.
Mr Fleet later testified at the court of inquiry that the absence of any binoculars at his post meant that his warning came too late.
Meanwhile the Stockton Rush of Takaro Lodge fame an imposing-looking man who resembled the actor James Garner died at the age of 69 in 2000.
Mr Cameron with his numerous projects with New Zealander Peter Jackson resides in the Wairarapa Valley in which he has established a health foods grocery.
Lookout Frederick Fleet died in 1965.
| From the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk || Tuesday 18 April 2017 |||
BNZ parent National Australia Bank is major force in introducing Islamic banking
Rugbyman Sonny Williams made it clear that he was no longer going to prance around pitches attired in kit promoting usury.
Rugby officials instantly kicked for touch. They heaped upon themselves sackcloth and ashes.
All Black branding sponsor Bank of New Zealand kept quiet.
It might have been viewed though as another publicity opportunity.
BNZ parent National Australia Bank is a major force in opening up Australasia to Islamic investors from the Gulf and Southeast Asia that seek to adhere to religious principles such as bans on interest and gambling.
If the BNZ had applied islamic banking principles in taking a share of ownership in the assets in which it had invested its clients’ money, it might still be owned in New Zealand.
Instead it charged interest on its loans. This was reinforced by seeking to impose penalties when the borrowers failed to pay their interest.
Interest and penalties are both taboo under islamic financing.
Islamic banking turns on joint risk-sharing as opposed to risk-transfer, which islamics describe as usury.
Islamic mortgages centre on the bank taking the responsibility of purchasing a property and then re-selling it to the buyer. This arrangement enables the buyer to repay the bank in installments in which process the bank receives also its profit.
This arrangement is designed to ensure that the bank takes its share of the risk, in this case owning the building, and recovering its profit, the installment payments, while shouldering its continued share of the risk.
The point being that at no stage is interest (usury) levied.
Nobody gets paid for renting out money. Islamic banking embraces risk-sharing as opposed to risk-transfer.
Islamic banking principles though continue to underpin Occidental merchant banking in which the bank takes on the risk of a venture by taking on ownership.
Money as money must not be used to make more money.
So why did islamic financing become sidelined by the Western model which centres on the diametric opposite practice of using money to make money via the charging of interest?
The problem was that the degree of concensus required to arrive at a common valuation of the asset to be financed and thus the proportion of risk involved began to become increasingly cumbersome in the face of the standardised model developed in the Occident.
In Europe charging a cut and dried level of interest regardless of the success of the asset or otherwise became so much easier to implement.
Curiously, the other two Abrahamist/book religions, Judaism and Christianity, have at one stage or another shaken from their shoes the dust of usury and tested instead the risk-balancing islamic system..
But the standardisation of administration and thus the efficiency inherent in the Western technique in the end compensated for its own drawback in which the advantages are seen to be weighted in favour of the lender, the bank.
It is said that Williams was converted in the French port of Toulon nearly 10 years ago while he was a local team member.
Toulon’s cathedral was once a mosque.
Pressure will now be being brought onto the athlete to lead by example.
The issue has so far been viewed exclusively in moral and/or sports gear outfitting terms.
It should also be seen, as perhaps Williams intends, as the start of a wider evaluation of islamic finance.
One such source of interest might be from those who have enlisted in class actions against banks over the bank infliction on them of penalties.
Islamic finance principals hold that penalties may not be levied.
Instead failures to perform to the original agreement require that donations be made to charities – and not to the bank.
| From The MSCNewsWire reporters' desk || Friday 14 April 2017 |||