As part of Investigate's growing move online, we're opening up much more material to view via our main portal www.investigatemagazine.com and the associated RSS feeds to our archives. To read any of these stories, visit http://www.thebriefingroom.com or follow the specific story links below.
THE COMING KIWI DOLLAR CRASH
Mr. Watanabe is a well-paid, middle-ranking executive in a foodstuffs distribution business in Nagoya with a lot of disposable income. Like most of his compatriots and unlike most New Zealanders, he’s a saver who likes to invest some of his money in liquid assets such as bank deposits, Bank of Japan bonds and other conventional instruments. Trouble is, for the last four years, it’s hardly been worth Mr. Watanabe’s while to put his spare cash into his own country’s banks. Interest rates on deposit accounts are low and the Bank of Japan, alone among the big central banks, has paid practically nothing on its bonds. Its governors have their reasons, as we see later, but the Bank of Japan’s zero-rate policy left Mr. Watanabe and millions of other thrifty Japanese with a problem. Namely, how to get a decent return.
A big part of their solution, as NZ finance minister Michael Cullen knows only too well, was to buy New Zealand dollars in what we call uridashi – or ‘bargain basement’– bonds. It’s known as the yen carry trade. By borrowing yen at a paltry rate of around 0.30 per cent and buying kiwis paying around seven per cent, Mr. Watanabe and his fellow retail investors are clocking up a handsome 6.7 per cent return before transaction costs. Read more here...
CAMILLE PAGLIA, DEFENDER OF THE WEST
Dr. Paglia, a professor at Philadelphia's University of the Arts who made her name in 1990 with the publication of "Sexual Personae," is no conservative - in fact, she's an atheist libertarian Democrat who extols the virtues of pagan sexuality. But she's downright Kirkian in her contempt for the egalitarian instinct and in her roaring disgust at modernity's disinterest in, or even contempt for, Western tradition.
And she holds her own tribe - American humanities professors - chiefly responsible.
"I remain concerned about the compulsive denigration of the West and the reductiveness so many leading academics in the humanities have toward their own tradition," she tells me. "They reduce it all to the lowest common denominator of racism, imperialism, sexism and homophobia. That's an extremely small-minded way of looking at culture and a betrayal of the career mission of these educators, whose job is to educate students in our culture." Read more here...
AUGUST ISSUE BOOK REVIEWS
Michael Morrissey reviews 'Infidel': Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born woman who rose to be a member of
the Dutch parliament and became world famous (in the case of Islam, world-notorious) for her scripting of a short film that showed the words of the Quran on a woman's body. The intention of the film was to criticise the treatment of Muslim women. It was anticipated the film would create a furore but on its initial release nothing happened.
However, in 2004, a Muslim assassin murdered the film's maker, Theo Van Gogh, who also happened to be a descendant of the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh. His dying words were, “Can't we talk about it?” A letter pinned to Van Gogh's chest promised that Hirsi Ali would be killed next. So far, thanks to the protection of the Dutch and American governments, she has managed to survive. Read more here...
THE GREAT SOUTH BASIN
Once upon a time, in the tradition of all the best legends, there was a land that we now call New Zealand. Only, back then, it didn’t have a name and it looked and sounded very, very different from the way it currently does. A land of lush jungles and grasslands, peppered by volcanoes but no Southern Alps, ancient New Zealand was also much bigger than the current version.
Residents of modern New Plymouth, for example, who currently step off the footpath virtually into the sea, would have faced a long walk to the beach back then – something in the region of 140 kilometres further west. It was a dangerous walk, Jurassic Park-style velociraptors lurked behind pretty much every second bush, and dragonflies practically the size of small dogs would have made the journey interesting as well. Read more here...
MEDIA INTRUSION INTO PRIVATE LIVES OF PUBLIC FIGURES
How far should the media go into the lives of public figures?
A few days ago Investigate Online posted a restricted access story on its website making fresh and serious allegations about Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope. The story was published online because its content is R18 in nature, and by requiring a credit card purchase for a nominal one dollar fee children can be prevented from accessing it.
The decision to publish the story was not taken lightly, nor was it taken because of any prurient interest in the subject matter. Our journalistic colleagues in Washington, London or Sydney would make exactly the same call – on the grounds that a Minister’s private life becomes public when he makes it relevant.
The full reasons are contained in the online edition, but what follows is a summary of the international debate on media ethics, and how far it is appropriate to go when investigating public figures seeking public office. Read more here...
UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN
For the record, we decided to go to Tuscany months before "Under the Tuscan Sun" opened in movie theaters. Why not go to a small Italian town and hang out for two weeks - no itineraries, no museum must-sees, no plans? Nicholas and I had both already done the manic "if it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium" kind of European vacation. But was two weeks of nothing except reading, eating, walking and writing, with a man who had just become my roommate, a recipe for romance or disaster?
On a whim I checked out a website for house rentals, and sent an e-mail asking for availability of small homes or apartments in the autumn. We got a reply that, indeed, Benincasa, a two-person apartment in Montepulciano, was available and would we like to reserve it?
Six months later we were standing in front of a 16th century palazzo, its door adorned with a bust of the original owner, Gian Gastone de Medici, last male heir of the Medici family. Read more here...
AND THEY CALLED IT PUPPY LOVE - the Donny Osmond interview
It was Wellington, 1973. There was only one TV channel, it was black and white and in our home it beamed in on an old (even then) Bell TV set with an iconic late 50’s US design and a rotating dial numbered 1 to 12 that acted as a channel selector, provided you could find a spanner to wrench it with. With only one channel, programmes rated through the roof, all of them. And in kids TV that season, it didn’t get much bigger than Lost in Space and the Osmonds TV cartoon series.
If it wasn’t enough watching the cartoon Donny being chased by hordes of screaming cartoon chicks across the screen, you could get a dose of the real Donny later in the evening when the weekly dose of the Osmonds live screened for older audiences.
In other words, the first Donster was inescapable and – being a child superstar – held out by parents everywhere to their kids: “See, look what he’s achieved, and he’s just a few years older than you”, mine would say as they read my lackluster school reports. I remind Osmond of this down the phone line to his Utah home, and he bursts out laughing. Read more here...