Today is Tuesday March 15th, 2022. Kia ora.
It’s hard to be cheerful today. It’s a bit cooler, and drizzly. The war in Ukraine is still brutal and bloody. The US should do more! Admiral (Retd) Stavridis (Supremo) says the Russian troops are acting as terrorists, not an army. Many voices, many retired generals (who are closer to the end of their life than the beginning, although I’m sure most if not all have children and grandchildren), are advocating more help for Zelensky, that the Ukrainians operate their own no-fly zone, that the Polish jets be delivered to the Ukrainians; furthermore, they don’t think that Putin will use nuclear weapons, and they think that the US and NATO should take more direct actions to reduce the violence against Ukrainians, and further impair Putin’s not-so-great armed forces. But, strange and unthinkable things have happened already in this war, so who knows what may happen in future?
Of course, there are diverse voices. Some say Biden’s not doing enough, some say he shouldn’t signal what he’s doing; we’ve been told that some moves may be secret until they’re done. Others say it shouldn’t be an either /or decision, to go straight to MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction): there are steps one can take along the way. I am having so much trouble with my computer this morning. I picked up new reading glasses yesterday, and I’m in a world of semi-blindness and double vision. I know I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself, but it’s hard not to! I’ve been reading the prophet Zechariah, and he talks about a plague, and about an attack that has been interpreted as a nuclear attack, although I suppose it could be a chemical attack (Zechariah 14:12). I can’t find the plague reference now, but there is an earthquake and evidence of climate change, and general bewilderment. Scary stuff. I try to feel positive about the potential outcome of this war: Putin’s military weakness, Ukrainian bravery, the willingness of most countries (except the UK) to take refugees in and be kind to them; but Putin has demonstrated many times that he has no respect for human life.
US intelligence has gathered that Russia is seeking arms and assistance from China! This is extremely interesting. It shows not only that Putin needs help, but also that US intelligence is surprisingly good. A really interesting question would be how does Russia pay? I’d let Russia and China argue over the payment issue – what currency, and when? So far, no one has raised this issue, to my knowledge.
In New Zealand, the Labour Government announced yesterday that fuel prices and road user tax will reduce, and also transport fares will be halved for 3 months. This is a welcome announcement to counter inflation as seen in the rising cost of fuel. The price of fuel should drop by about 25%. I am surprised that this is not seen as major news. National does not react until the next day to say that the Finance Minister is “addicted to spending”. This reaction seems to be more newsworthy than the original announcement. JD claims that reporters have, as usual, screwed up the numbers, and the price of oil should be about 25 cents less; by the way, the oil price dropped last night too. Actually, it was me that got it wrong – the reporter said the cost of fuel would reduce by about 8% or 25 cents. My bad.
Meanwhile, in China, they’re still pursuing a “covid zero” policy. How quaint! New Zealand was pursuing a covid-zero policy until late last year. We did feel quite protected with the four-level stages. We’d gotten used to it! Many public activities did not take place until we were at level 1. Now, it’s a new world. The UK’s Guardian reports that In China a province of 24 million people have been put into lockdown as China tries to contain an outbreak of 1,437 cases. Omicron, it seems, is getting the better of them. Hong Kong is still in a really bad way. The coronavirus ain’t finished with us yet!
Before we have lunch I walk up to the local supermarket. There is still no hand-sanitiser in the container by the entrance! There aren’t many people there, and there aren’t too many gaps on the shelves. I buy coffee beans (there are plenty), dishwasher detergent, and croissants for lunch. They have Hot Cross Buns for sale featuring their new one – Gooey Peanut Butter Choc Cross Buns. I don’t buy any yet. I am puzzled by the inclusion of peanut butter. Last year it was chocolate, I think. Some people find the crosses offensive.
A new LRB arrives today – I seem to have missed the last one. It has a very interesting article about Dissolution of the Monasteries during the time of King Henry VIII. Actually, it’s about two new books, but takes the opportunity, in its lovely way, of widely exploring the topic. There is an article about crime investigation (or lack thereof) in India, and a review of a biography of King George V, which is also very interesting. I do wonder at times how these guys survive: you have to have some highly specialised interests to get the most out of this periodical.
We feel very badly affected by Covid 19 here. My grandchildren are still home from school, not because they have Covid 19, but because so many of their friends do. At Hōhepa in Napier, my daughter and her house mates are being kept at home for their health and safety; thank goodness it’s such a nice home in a semi-rural area. I’m doing it hard, and goodness, I don’t have much to complain about. Metlink are cancelling services because of illness; JD went to the local bank, but even though the internet said they were still open, albeit with their very limited days and hours, they weren’t actually open, due to sickness. Federated Farmers say Fonterra should get out of Russia; goodness, I didn’t even know they were in Russia! Oh, and Simon Bridges, a former National Party leader, is retiring from politics. This will cause a by-election in the Tauranga electorate. Sickness has caused a reduction in TVNZ’s news services, and affected three super rugby teams.
Today’s 1 pm Covid 19 report is as follows: there are 21,616 new cases, and there have been a further two deaths; there are 960 people in hospital, with 22 in Intensive care. The deaths are of a man and a woman, both in their 70’s, one in the Capital and Coast DHB and one in the Southern DHB area. The new community cases were in Northland (708), Auckland (6085), Waikato (2062), Bay of Plenty (1424), Lakes (633), Hawke’s Bay (1111), MidCentral (888), Whanganui (276), Taranaki (510), Tairāwhiti (446), Wairarapa (229), Capital and Coast (1584), Hutt Valley (987), Nelson Marlborough (524), Canterbury (2642), South Canterbury (217), Southern (1238), West Coast (43); and nine in unknown locations. Evidently the BA2 variant of omicron has become dominant in New Zealand. It’s even more infectious than BA1, but this may actually be a good thing, says Dr Bloomfield.
I am listening to podcasts again. Some are recognising the Russian invasion of Ukraine as representing a seismic shift in terms of the world’s security. There are different thoughts about what this may mean, for different countries. The US tend to say that the US (under President Reagan) won the Cold War. That is just so incredibly annoying. Others are explaining Russia’s moves in terms of Germany’s reaction to the Versailles Treaty that they signed at the end of World War I; this is seen in terms of the difficult time Russia had in the early 1990’s after the end of communism and the USSR. This might have represented a hopeful moment for the West; not so much for what became the Russian Federation. Putin has changed everything, and although most people if not all saw this conflict coming, given the build up of Russian troops on the Ukraine border. Despite Donald Trump, the cooperation of the US, NATO and the EU is remarkable.
It’s now Wednesday March 16th.
This morning I got up early (for me) and went to hymn singing. It was lovely, as always, especially so since we sang “How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds”, and “Glorious things of Thee are spoken”, sung to the tune Austria composed by Josef Haydn. Afterwards I bought scones for morning tea from the café, but I had to wait to enter, it was so busy. While I was in there, people kept coming in! I felt a tad uncomfortable there. On the way there, we waited for a train from Johnsonville. I couldn’t see any passengers on it.
The Dompost was interesting this morning. Luxon has said he will cut three taxes, meanwhile Prime Minister Ardern has cut fuel tax, and now Labour is accused of being spendthrift. There was a letter to the paper from someone who visited Wellington recently, and found many things closed. Jacinda should do something! Well, she can’t, actually. Some outlets have closed because people don’t come, they’re too sick, or they’re a close contact, or they’re scared of getting sick. That’s not Prime Minister Ardern’s fault. Her government has protected us very well. If extra money were given to hospitality outlets, or any shops, surely Auckland and many other places would cry foul. and it wouldn’t make more people come. We’ve all been affected by the coronavirus. We’ve all had to make changes in out lives. As it goes on, we get older, and most things become more expensive.
There’s another problem on Prime Minister Ardern’s plate: the price of houses is falling! Dear me, many of us are relieved. When they were rising, there was a chorus of “Why doesn’t the government do something?” On balance, it’s a good thing if houses become more affordable. Many of us are buying and selling on a falling market; there’ll be more relief than dismay, I think.
The Hon. Chris Hipkins has tested positive for Covid 19, as has Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris. In Wellington, the hospital is having difficulty with increased demand and sick staff. It’s reported that 15 percent of staff are off work at Wellington Hospital, 16 percent in Porirua and 8 percent in the Hutt Valley. I have just learnt that someone who attended church last Sunday has tested positive for Covid 19. Oh dear, it gets closer and closer.
Today’s Covid 19 report is the worst yet, there have been 24 deaths. There are reportedly 19,542 community cases of Covid 19, although some expert thinks the numbers of cases in Auckland and Northland could be much higher than stated. There are 971 people in hospital, and 22 of these are in Intensive Care. Of the 24 deaths, 8 died on Tuesday (that would be yesterday). 16 died in the last 3 weeks, but have now been publicly reported. These were notified to the Ministry of Health in the last 24 hours, as per the new standard around counting deaths due to Covid 19. Whatever the reason, it’s still a shockingly high number. Of the 24, eight people died at aged residential care facilities., bringing the death total to 141. It’s reported that of the 24 deaths reported on Wednesday, three died in Northland, seven in Auckland, seven in Waikato, two in the Bay of Plenty, two in MidCentral and two in Wairarapa. One was aged in their 40s, one in their 50s, four in their 60s, three in their 70s, eight in their 80s and six in their 90s. Eleven were women and twelve were men.
It’s reported that there are new community cases in Northland (661), Auckland (5318), Waikato (1834), Bay of Plenty (1347), Lakes (584), Hawke’s Bay (1049), MidCentral (802), Whanganui (231), Taranaki (663), Tairāwhiti (370), Wairarapa (208), Capital and Coast (1308), Hutt Valley (780), Nelson Marlborough (487), Canterbury (2385), South Canterbury (184), Southern (1203), West Coast (30); and seven were in unknown locations. Just 2.6% were detected via PCR tests. Of the Rat test results reported in the last 24 hours, 71% were positive. Hawkes Bay and Wellington are still being very hard hit.
Apparently, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand’s border will open to vaccinated Australian tourists from 11.59pm on April 12, and tourists from visa-waiver countries such as the United States and UK from 11.59pm on May 1. Come here if you dare! I gather skiing operators are getting excited.
Apparently Nicola Willis, Luxon’s sidekick, is to be the National Party’s money honey (finance spokesperson). The Penthouse sent me their weekly email sating what’s new on their screens, special offers, and suchlike. They warned, however, that they’re affected by sickness, and will post limited hours on the front door each week. I guess I won’t be going there for a bit, then. And it seems British sanctions are hitting Roman Abramovich harder than cynics may have expected.
I’ll briefly summarise my thoughts on the conflict in Ukraine. European leaders from Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic travelled by train to Kyiv to meet with President Zelensky and offer him support, in an act of extraordinary bravery. A Russian news anchor apologised on live TV for telling lies about the invasion and about Ukrainians. There are fears that Russia will default on its debt. Meanwhile, Russians are bombing Ukrainian cities like there’s no tomorrow, even bombing the ruins as civilians try to escape. Today there are thought to be 3 million refugees. And still the brave Ukrainians resist, and are reportedly attacking and destroying Russian equipment. Who’s “winning”? Who knows. It is so sad to see those beautiful cities destroyed and those lives ruined. And by the way, the only time I’ve ever seen Putin or Lavrov smile was in photos with – you’ve guessed it – Donald Trump.
That’s it for now. Slava Ukraine! Ngā mihi.