Sanders and Corbyn: Socialism, Better Late than Never

After years of organisation and ground work, socialism has finally reappeared in western politics. It’s hard not to feel swept up by its arrival, to see it as some sort of homecoming. Though if one is honest, there is the awful feeling that it’s probably too little and 30 years too late. It is sad to say it— at least for me, a socialist at heart — but its appearance now threatens to look like an afterthought. In true last-second desperation, it’s not until the ship is almost sunk that we become ready to try and salvage it. Many now recognise, even some in the mainstream, that our societies and governments need more than an ideological readjustment, they need to be completely dismantled and started anew.

The recent joint surge of Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, while providing a heartening and interesting display, is unlikely to generate any serious change unless paralleled by a revolution of the masses. Our system is too deformed and corrupted to be saved from the inside via political and ideological reshuffling. It needs the applied outside pressure of the collective, and an overwhelming mass-demand for substantial change and system restart.

I lament to say this as many of us have invested vast quantities of time and enthusiasm in grass-roots political efforts in an attempt to open the way for authentic characters like Sanders and Corbyn. We have spent long, illuminated evenings discussing plans and possible actions, hoping to redefine the political system, to remake it to our people-focused specifications. It is only now that many of us realise how truly we have failed.

To offer the only solace available to the weary and no longer youthful, it could be said that we didn’t fail as much as were unable to perceive how broken our system was. We failed to spot the truth of the neoliberal paradigm — the inbuilt impossibility of true democratic change without complete overhaul. Under the sway of capitalism, every idea and effort, like every commodity, has been consumed, reformed, commoditized or discarded. Truth and its pursuit has had little or no lasting effect against the inherent systemic flaws of our political and economic monster-machine. The human-good was always consumed by the system-corrupt.

This is not to say that things can’t change. Indeed they will, one way or another. But it will come down to how able we are to collectively generate wide-spread change rather than from an act of voting into office one progressive voice. Politics has failed to serve the people so now politics must make way for the people.

We know now more than ever the depths of corruption and inequality inherent in our political systems. The corporatocracy owns our governments and the financial sector dominates our collective cognitive-map. Everything has been reduced to garish simulation – from voting and campaigning, right through to lobbying and law change. Fakery has officially won the war of attrition. Politics as a mechanism for change was hijacked long ago by the disingenuous rhetoric of phony plutocratic mouth-pieces. It matters not how they are dressed up – whether as democratic representatives or as tyrants and economic plunderers. The end result has always been the same – the fundamental undermining and destruction of humanitarian democracy.

One only needs look at how the media and political spheres are reacting to the appearance of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn in their respective countries. Corbyn is being attacked from all sources, both inside his party and out. Even his fellow Labour MP’s – some of whom put him forward for the party leadership – are now participating in acts of character assassination, party-betrayal and public ridiculing, with an undertone of fear that his leftist leanings have the power to corrupt the party’s public appeal even further than under Miliband.

This just acts to further highlight how redundant and ineffectual modern politics are and how far we have strayed from the path of true democracy. It is a telling sign indeed for Labour to so quickly and ruthlessly turn on one of their own, especially one who wears his authenticity as honestly as his socialist beliefs. Ironically, he is exactly the kind of leader they need for healing renewal and momentum, but as an indicator of how far they have mutated to the centre, they now see leftism as unappealing and akin to political suicide.

In a way their concerns are valid as Corbyn’s policies and ideology are indeed the enemy of Labour’s political plasticity and empty rhetoric. Though for us on the left we see this equation the other way round. It is the influence of phony politics that are toxic – under their sway, politicians are either reduced to party-line automatons or are destroyed and cast aside.

We live in an age where it’s normal to expect the politicians who represent us, who we vote for, to not actually represent us. We have been conditioned to believe that it is unreasonable to expect our democratic leaders not to lie, manipulate and break promises. This can be particularly highlighted when superimposed over any other activity in our society. Where else would corruptibility be so revered and rewarded? Interestingly I can only think of one other non-criminal profession which is so openly and unapologetically dishonest – the banking and finance sectors.

In the US, Bernie Sanders has been drawing record crowds with his crisp socialist oratory and outspoken attacks on Wall Street and the ruling elite. In a political anomaly of huge proportions, his campaign is being funded by the common-citizen – his average donation is $33.51 and he refuses to take money from billionaires. He even has the support of some of the Occupy movement, a group that could help generate the support of many non-voters and the politically-active young and disenfranchised. While it is refreshing to hear him speak, knowing that he means what he says, it isn’t enough to have votes and campaign money, what he needs is mass-public momentum.

He too is receiving animosity from all sides, with some democrats upset that he is watering down their voter-base and paving the way for a GOP upset. A bigger risk than this is our investment in such campaigns without the necessary mobilisation to back them up. Too many times have the people put all their eggs in one basket only to find out later that the basket had no base. The crisis in Greece reminds us of this unfortunate truth.

It is important to acknowledge that both Sanders and Corbyn have been involved for decades in grass-roots community activism and social change movements. In a way they are the products of the collective spirit and as such they can be seen as the real-deal and thus deserving of some backing. This is further highlighted by the support of many of the trade unions — not an easy feat when you consider how strained or broken these ties have been in recent years.

The issue for both candidates is not just how unlikely it is for them to win, but how unlikely it is for them to be able to deliver on any progressive promises they make. With Obama, we experienced how impotent a president can be when faced with a hostile senate and in the pocket of the financial elite. Sanders has said himself that the necessary and far-reaching changes to be made can only be achieved with a sweeping mass revolution. We have seen it before — what good is one honest man in a house full of thieves?

While it is largely impossible that either will receive the backing of the corporate and plutocratic bosses of their political systems, and so it is unlikely they will win their campaigns, this is not to say that their public appearances do no good. Of course they do. If nothing else they help to remind us all of what is possible when we work as a collective for the common good. The only other consideration then, from a leftist point of view, is to what end do we back such authentic men?

Many in the establishment would be happy to see the number of voters’ continue to decrease, for the less of us that vote, the more surely the elite will stay safely entrenched. While it may seem counter-intuitive to some, many on the left already feel the need to abstain from voting, in protest of a system that is built to fail the people. While it is easy to pessimistically observe that voters have become disillusioned with politics in recent years, rightly feeling that what they do has little lasting effect, this is far from being the full story. There are many who, rather than participate with the current system, are highly active and motivated to start some alternative replacement. How this would look if it came about is still a matter for the collective imagination and if built, will hopefully be by the hand of the people rather than the state.

It has become political folly to harbour expectations, to expect politicians to tell the truth or to keep their promises. Integrity was long ago traded in for marketability, duty, and responsibility for individual gain. It is easy for the old-guard to assume that the young don’t vote due to lazy indifference, but this far from the truth. It can be clearly stated that the young feel disenfranchised and disillusioned by politics, not indifferent to them. So it is with us — the transitional generation — that a shift of focus is required. Socialism, that beautiful and giving ideology, has come too late to be enough in the face of a broken system unless we are all mobilized behind it, with the young as our new and vibrant leaders.

In usual fashion, the articles and arguments come steadily from the mainstream, explaining and analysing the policies and possible effects. Raising the minimum wage in the US to $15, increasing taxes on the rich, regulating the financial sector and honestly dealing with climate change are all picked apart and denounced as economically unviable. Many are correct in their analysis – such policies are not viable under the current system but what the media fails to understand and politicians fail to acknowledge is that if the system cannot provide equality and care for everyonethen we need a new system.

Perhaps the arrival now of two true socialist leaders is a positive sign that the people are becoming more open to a transfer of power. What activists and ground-swellers have always known is that change happens from the collective. We must all be the leaders of change in order for it to be powerful and effective. Perhaps the tides are finally turning in our favour. Let’s not waste this chance.

TPPA – the End of Democratic Sovereignty in New Zealand

After much speculation and insubstantial promises, we now find ourselves inching closer to the final stages of the TPP agreement. The empty rhetoric and political bombast is coming fast and thick, with some key show-downs taking place amidst a general feeling that we’re quickly running out of time to force a withdraw. While there are further protests scheduled and some time left, unless there is mass large-scale revolt, it is hard to feel in any way optimistic that this deal won’t go ahead.

The wild claims of the National government regarding the apparently substantial positive effects that this trade agreement will have, have been made to look suitably flimsy and dishonest by reports that show the damning and definitive evidence to the contrary; when all the facts are assessed, the data points to the true overarching problem – that we are on the verge of a global neoliberal confidence scam that effectively undermines our democratic sovereignty.

The TPPA is hard to take for a multitude of reasons, not least the disempowerment of our democratic rights as citizens, and while it shouldn’t really be a surprise to us that our government supports it – considering our prime minister is a foreign exchange poster-boy and neoliberal devotee, once the head of global foreign exchange for the evil credit-pedlars of Merrill Lynch – our collective rage is valid and more necessary than ever before; for it is much more than just economics, trade agreements or GDP at stake – it is our very lives and the lives of our fellows that will be directly subverted and disenfranchised by this toxic deal. This is information that the media have largely failed to understand – or purposefully ignored – and that politicians should feel they can only disregard at their own peril.

We have so far seen a large amount of public misdirection, accompanied with the usual feint-and-parry between government officials and the press, but little genuine debate or transparency. The National party and their surrounding media groupies have done a good enough job of convincing the average person that this trade agreement will be no different than other more benign precursors, but there are many among the common ranks and ground-swell of the left who have tried to disseminate factual information from the start. It is a shame that many are written off as ‘cranks’ by the mainstream for they have often been the only ones with accurate information. As Jane Kelsey well explained to Mike Hosking recently, we stand on the precipice of the complete corporatocratic usurpation of our country’s ability to rule itself by democratic means. When seen for what it is, it’s not really about trade – it’s about global corporate domination.

So when our elected government states the supposed positives of such an agreement, we would do well to filter such claims through the contrasting evidence. The United States Department of Agriculture has released a report stating that the predicted positive effects of the TPPA on our GDP will be somewhere around 0.01% by 2025 – in other words, almost nothing. Offset that with the probable increase in things like extra pharmaceutical costs of $25 million per year – taken from our health budget – and you’ve got a recipe for economic and societal disaster.

What the TPPA will ultimately equate to – when the rhetoric is disassembled and disregarded – is the forced corporatisation of our country with the real threat of legal enforcement. The most surprising thing in this ongoing political circus is not that National will sign the deal nor that Labour are mostly sympathetic to it also – with some stipulations – but that we the collective are under any illusion that we can stop it democratically without serious activism and prolonged mass-protest. Unfortunately for us, the ship has almost sailed, and as the bristly charlatan Mike Hosking recently said, ‘Time will tell’. Indeed it will Mike, but only in the negatives.

Without the details of the agreement being released, we already know how this will play out. There have been recent examples of the consequences of such binding corporatocratic deals visible on the global stage with both Australia and Germany being sued by Phillip Morris and Vattenfall for passing laws that diminish the chances of predatory corporate profits. These examples are minor compared to what we can expect in the coming years ahead. What we stand to gain as a country is so incomprehensibly minuscule compared to what we stand to lose that it’s almost a completely different conversation, and one that threatens to happen too late to make any real difference to the course of events.

It is comical – tragically so – to even call such a corporate deal a ‘free trade’ agreement for there is no such thing as ‘free trade’ in the neoliberal wasteland of the global free-market economy. Any rhetoric that seeks to dispel our collective concerns as ‘irrelevant’ or unfounded are typically arrogant and, at the heart of it, just childish attempts to pacify us until the ink has dried. Far from irrelevant, our concerns are founded upon our rights as citizens – those who will be most detrimentally effected. It is often the intention of politicians to dissolve serious concerns with flippant misstatements and disinformation but we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be so easily distracted; for if we fail to change our course we will be forced to witness one of the biggest global destructions of national sovereignty ever committed on a non-military scale.

For some further dark-prophesising of what’s in store for little New Zealand, we need only look at the recent events in Greece and see how cruelly economics deals with humanitarian issues. The thing to make clear, above all other considerations, is that neoliberal capitalist economics – and all its monopolising offspring – is designed to operate in only one direction – increased profits for the rich and deeper austerity for the poor. Capitalism indeed is built on the principals of scarcity and inequality, and the only way to ‘make the pie bigger’ in a world of limited resources and credit-spending is to redistribute money from the bottom to the top, something we have been seeing on an ever increasing scale.

This leaves us in an unfortunate position; in a country once praised for its equality and opportunities, we are now seeing the approaching end of progressive solutions. We are facing the beginning of what may be a long and destructive downturn in our quality of life and democratic power, and can expect the looming dark-reality of further economic recession in the years to come. If viewed as just a numbers game, the numbers spell very bad news for all.

With democracy and sovereignty so threatened by economic policy, any reforms we now attempt to make – at this late stage – via democratic measures are doomed to failure. We are caught in an ideological trap without the means to vote our way out – what good is democracy when democracy becomes merely a tool of the plutocratic elite? We as a collective must instead focus our energies towards sweeping system change and intense activism, using every tool available and with the dormant power that can only be found in the collective spirit. We must now stand together and demand that enough is enough. Whatever it takes.

#TPPAWalkAway – The March of Thousands – The Collective Spirit

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In the capital city as the rain held its breath, thousands came out in strength to march against the toxic and undemocratic trade deal of the TPPA. With our brothers and sisters marching simultaneously in many parts of New Zealand, the feeling of collective spirit was infused in our every step and chant, and filled us with common purpose and shared love. Marching together like this, we were reminded that the people are more than observers; we are much greater and more powerful than the callous and cold mechanism of politics.

It is in these times of collective action that we declare our intentions as a country and as a people. It is how we show our masters that we have awoken from our slumber and will now seek the change required for our survival and our growth. It is how we show that we will no longer bow — we will stand. We do this for our children and our children’s children, as much as for ourselves.

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Much has been made already of the ‘protest after the protest,’ and while it was inevitable that the press would use this angle, nothing that can be truthfully reported could detract from the righteousness of our cause. This march, like those around the country, were populated by every type of New Zealander; children marched with their parents, husbands with their wives, Maori with Pakeha – every mix of ethnicity and class, every political ideology, sexual orientation and religious belief. This is what democracy looks like – the shared love and purpose of the people.

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We are entering a new age, one that requires us to think and act differently. The old paradigm is breaking under the weight of its own excess and unsustainability. Power has been monopolised by the elite and made hideous with corruption; consumption has reached its awful zenith — the only way down is down. We need every representative of the people to be not just for the people, but of the people. Bureaucracy must be cast aside and the collective spirit must be embraced and magnified, amplified for all to hear. Our only way to survive what is yet to come is to band together in mass solidarity; the former power of the unions must be restored and increased and, more than this, we must all join in one overarching movement – the movement of the collective.

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There is much that cannot be undone quickly and maybe some that cannot be undone at all; the way forward is riddled with problems, none of which will be easy to solve. Much of the damage has been done while we were asleep in our own lives; the moral imperative – now that we’re awake – falls solely on us, the people. We can no longer place the responsibility of our sovereignty in the hands of our governments or state; they have woefully failed us so now we must stand up and assume all power and governance.

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Let us see these marches as more than just our reaction to a single issue – they should act as a reminder of where our power lies and how we can unleash it. And while it may be dormant still in many of our fellows, it is our responsibility to help them find and access it; for how well we accomplish this together may be the deciding factor in how our future manifests.

Let us not see these marches as an end result or one desperate act – instead let us see them as the catalyst for a continuing and paradigm-shattering movement. This is not the day after the TPPA march – let us call this day 1 of the revolution.

We are democracy — We are everyone.

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Protecting the safety of all workers

With the Health and Safety Reform Bill soon to have its third reading in Parliament, family members of workers killed in the workplace arrived in Wellington yesterday to appear at a Parliamentary hosted event.

Representatives from Labour, NZ First, the Greens and the Maori Party were there to show their support, as were the Council of Trade Unions, who have helped organise both this event and the previous ‘white cross’ vigils that moved across the country.

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All who spoke made clear their frustration and disappointment at a bill that was supposed to deliver significant reform and protection for New Zealand workers, but has been significantly watered-down since its original conception in the wake of the Pike River Mine disaster of 2010.

Parliament’s legislative chamber provided a suitably sombre atmosphere for what was an emotionally charged gathering. Five family members spoke, all struggling to hold back tears when speaking of those they lost, the signs of grief still evident and confronting.

The overwhelming message from the families was of the heavy and corrosive touch of human loss. Sarah Kane, whose brother Michael died after falling and suffering a head injury at work, spoke of her brother’s three children and how they struggled to accept that their father would never come home. Their frequent wonderings of ‘if he had his birthdays in his coffin’ provide a stark reminder of the human cost behind workplace statistics.

Bernie Monk, the father of Pike River miner Michael, held up a book about the disaster showing the photos of the 29 men killed, ‘How can we move on when we have no one to bury?’ He spoke of the promises made to the families after Pike River and said if the bill passed in its current form, there would be ‘no justice, no accountability.’

Capturing the feeling of the event and showing how much Pike River still resonates, he finished by declaring ‘they murdered our men’.

If the mood was sorrowful, the statistics also make for sad and disturbing reading. A full third of workplace deaths since 2010 have been in our agricultural industry; 35% of all workplace deaths happen in small businesses; New Zealand workers are 8 times more likely to die in the workplace than in England.

The current changes to the Health and Safety Reform Bill remove the requirements for small businesses – those with less than 20 employees – to assign an employee health and safety representative when requested by workers. But as the families so succinctly pointed out, their loved ones died working for small businesses, as did the miners at Pike River.

The bill was to have its third reading last night – after this gathering – but was postponed by Workplace Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse due to apparent ‘technical difficulties with minor parties.’ It will be discussed and voted on today in Parliament as will the amendments proposed by Labour and the Greens which, if supported by the Maori Party and United Future, would reinstate the changes, making the requirements applicable for all businesses regardless of size.

It is clear where the families sit on this issue – they want the safety of all workers in New Zealand protected. This is how the memory of those they lost can be best honoured. In their bravery and dedication they help to highlight how the cost of human life is truly measured – without compromise and through definitive action.

Does processed meat cause as much cancer as smoking? WHO knows

If you were left feeling confused by the media coverage of a recent report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), don’t fret, you’re in good company.  

A two-page press release, and Lancet article, from the IARC – an agency of the World Health Organisation – has caused a stir internationally, with everyone from the usually reliable Guardian to underlings like the NZ Herald getting caught up in some sloppy journalism.

The report, based on the accumulated research of over 800 studies, announced that processed meat is deemed ‘carcinogenic to humans’, and now included in a list of known carcinogens that cause cancer. The inclusion of processed meat in this list, which also includes tobacco, asbestos and alcohol, has prompted many to wrongly assume that it is as bad for you as other carcinogens.

These overcooked headlines say it all:

“Avoid bacon and sausages… they’re as bad as cigarettes”

“Processed meats rank alongside smoking as cancer causes – WHO”

“Bacon’s as bad as asbestos? WHO thinks so”

To further complicate matters, the same report deemed red meat to “probably cause cancer”. A statement that was disastrously misunderstood and subsequently reported, by some outlets, with tabloid-esque pageantry.

Cue frantic efforts from the meat industry to restore calm, including manufactured polls like this from Beef Magazine:

A recent beefmagazine.com poll asked BEEF readers, “Do you think WHO has an anti-beef agenda?” With 87 votes so far, 79% of voters said, “Yes, the recently released cancer report saying beef is a carcinogen is bad science.” Another 14% said, “No, the report is accurate.” The remaining 7% aren’t sure.

Some local TV news shows managed to mangle the story even moreso than their peers in print and online media. Radio NZ’s Mediawatch dissected the mess on Sunday, with TV shows 3 NewsSeven Sharp and Story the main perpetrators of some seriously sloppy journalism.

This from 3 News:

“There’s a warning for those who love a classic Kiwi fry-up. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), processed meat like bacon and sausages are as big a cancer threat as cigarettes.”

So was the confusion a failure of the media or the IARC?

The Atlantic went straight for the throat of the IARC and its methods, asking, “Why is the world health organization so bad at communicating cancer risk?” It is, to some degree, a fair assessment. The method of the IARC’s findings is certainly confusing at first glance.

And the Irish Times posted an excellent article, both defending our right to collective confusion – when faced with oblique scientific reports – and suggesting that the media’s pursuit of clickable headlines is partly to blame:

Misuse of information based on statistics is not uncommon. “The headlines are designed to pull out scare-mongering facts,” says Dr Caroline Brophy of the department of maths and statistics at Maynooth University.

The agency’s study was an observational one and showed a tenuous connection between red meat and cancer, she said. But these were correlations rather than proof of causation.

A large factor in how the story was so inaccurately reported concerned this line from IARC’s summary and press release:

“The experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.”

This triggered some significant fireworks, and a fair amount of public outcry by meat-loving people everywhere. The World Health Organisation received enough backlash to release a statement clarifying their position and involvement:

IARC’s review confirms the recommendation in WHO’s 2002 “Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases report, which advised people to moderate consumption of preserved meat to reduce the risk of cancer. The latest IARC review does not ask people to stop eating processed meats but indicates that reducing consumption of these products can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

It could be argued that the problem began, not with IARC’s press release, but with the headline-hunting of the media outlets who first covered it. It’s a common failure that we’re all familiar with – a failure to clarify and verify the facts, albeit under the imposed pressure of embargo-driven rushes.

In Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel’s definitive guide, The Elements of Journalism, this kind of reporting falls under a basic principle of journalism – the discipline of verification.

To quote Kovach and Rosentiel:

In the end, the discipline of verification is what separates journalism from entertainment, propaganda, fiction, or art. Entertainment – or its cousin “infotainment” – focuses on what is most diverting… Journalism alone is focused on the process employed to get what happened down right.

So what did the press release say that the media found so confusing? The report clearly states the agency’s findings, in regards to both red and processed meat:

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After thoroughly reviewing the accumulated scientific literature, a Working Group of 22 experts from 10 countries convened by the IARC Monographs Programme classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect.

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Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.

The use of groups to catagorise carcinogens is somewhat confusing, especially when you consider that group 1 – ‘carcinogenic to humans’ – includes items with a wide variety of risk (Cigarettes are not equal in risk to alcohol, nor is asbestos to processed meat etc). But when you get right down to what was reported and why, the blame for the confusion can surely be laid upon the media and some sloppy journalism.

So what does the report actually tell us?

Arguably, the best coverage came from the Cancer Research UK’s blog, who were one of the few to unpack the science in a way that made sense to laymen. They produced a useful graphic, shown below, which explains the use of catagories, as well as clarifying the point that tripped the media up in the first place – that the ‘catagories represent how likely something is to cause cancer in humans, not how many cancers it causes.’

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So to give a summary of what IARC’s report means, once properly broken down, this from the same article:

The results showed that those who ate the most processed meat had around a 17 per cent higher risk of developing bowel cancer, compared to those who ate the least.

‘17 per cent’ sounds like a fairly big number – but this is a ‘relative’ risk, so let’s put it into perspective, and convert it to absolute numbers. Remember these are all ball-park figures – everyone’s risk will be different as there are many different factors at play.

We know that, out of every 1000 people in the UK, about 61 will develop bowel cancer at some point in their lives. Those who eat the lowest amount of processed meat are likely to have a lower lifetime risk than the rest of the population (about 56 cases per 1000 low meat-eaters).

If this is correct, the WCRF’s analysis suggests that, among 1000 people who eat the most processed meat, you’d expect 66 to develop bowel cancer at some point in their lives – 10 more than the group who eat the least processed meat.

And to provide some scope on the matter, they compare the difference of risk between tobacco and processed meat, by use of another handy graphic (Which theGuardian picked up and used in some great follow up articles, redeeming their earlier sloppiness).

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Interestingly, the Science Media Centre (SMC), released an informative reaction on the same day of IARC’s official press release, offering expert context and scope for media use. Unfortunately, no one picked it up and ran with it. If they had, the headlines may have read very differently.

A Tasty Fun-pack of NZ Animation

There’s some well-timed news this week for lovers of all things animation, with NZ On Screen releasing their ‘animation collection‘ – a tasty fun-pack of iconic and nostalgia-inducing New Zealand made animations.  

The ‘collection’ arrives right on the doorstep of the AnimfxNZ conference at Wellington’ s Embassy Theatre starting this Friday 6 November. (AnimfxNZ is organised by Grow Wellington, part of the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, in association with PikPok and Weta Digital).

The NZ On Screen collection features a diverse range of mediums and styles, with cartoons and CGI trickery included alongside homegrown music videos, stop-motion shorts and DIY weirdness.

As animators were limited to two portfolio entries each, there is a considerable amount of work that didn’t make the final cut, that fact itself highlighting the depth and breadth of talent in New Zealand animation.

Following are favourites picked from the collection by the NewsRoom_Plus team.Click on an image to be directed to the video.

Room that echoes – Peking Man, Music video, 1985

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This classic music video from 80’s new wave band Peking Man, which seemed so futuristic at the time, now looks like it’s being generated through a Commodore 64 video card. Watching it conjures up youthful memories of spiky hair, blue light discos and shoulder pads. Margaret Urlich on vox still sounds great and the computer animation, while basic now, was pretty cool for the time.

Footrot Flats – Film, 1986

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It’s impossible to overlook this excellent film adaption of the classic comic strip. Watching it again now, it still has a powerful effect. Murray Ball’s characters come straight out of our collective New Zealand consciousness; that place where we all feel some deep kinship with the rural folklore of our country. And though many of us who lived through its long reign in the charts might grumble, Dave Dobbyn’s hit soundtrack is still a pop masterpiece.

Bride of Frankenstein – Toy Love, Music Video, 1980

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Truly psychedelic and strange, this groundbreaking video from Chris Knox and Alex Bathgate’s seminal, pre-Tall Dwarfs new wave band, hits like a hurricane of colour and seizure-inducing flashes. Made by Joe Wylie, whose short ‘The Nightwatchman’ is also included in the collection, it includes what NZ On Screen called ‘surgery porn and animated tomato sauce.’ Say no more.

Radio with Pictures – Fane Flaws Opening Titles, Television, 1987

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For many of us who grew up in the 80’s, Radio with Pictures was essential viewing. The show’s host, Karen Hay, became something of a local ‘alternative’ icon, later marrying singer of The Mockers, Andrew Fagan. This opening credit piece by Fane Flaws included music by Peter Dasent, a bandmate from the Jenny Morris-led group, The Crocodiles.

Swinging the Lambeth Walk – Len Lye, Music Video, 1939

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By far the oldest entry, Len Lye’s visual ‘swing jazz’ masterpiece is still an impressive watch. Painting and scratching directly onto film, Lye’s experimental pieces owe more to art than film. That they still resonate now as much as when first produced, speaks volumes of their artistic quality. If you’re looking for the ‘alpha’ piece of this collection, this is it.

Man with Issues – Short film, 2003

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Using a great mixture of black-comedy and story psychodrama, Tom Reilly’s short film manages to pull off a one room claymation piece without any loss of pace. Reminded me of the feel that british satirical puppet-show Spitting Image conjured up.

Goodnight Kiwi – Television, 1981

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It seems almost unbelievable now, but once upon a time this charming piece would signal the end of TV programming for the night. Like many others, I’m sure, I distinctly remember watching it all the way through more times than I can count. There seemed something disrespectful about turning the TV off before the kiwi and his playful cat had reached their bed. ‘Goodnight from Television New Zealand’ seems so quaint now. Though it’s hard not to feel that we’re worse off, especially since ‘goodnight kiwi’s’ ultimate replacement has been late night infomercials and bad movies.

To see the full collection, visit NZ On Screen.