Chernobyl tourism. No, I’m not kidding

Dark tourism is on the rise, with perhaps the best example of such a phenomenon being the ever-increasing interest in Chernobyl as a holiday destination.

April 26, 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the explosion, which was one of the worst nuclear accidents that the world has ever seen.

In recent years, visits to the nuclear explosion site have increased exponentially, with Kiev-based tour company, SoloEast, estimating that it takes approximately 10,000 tourists there each year.

Wow. ¬†30 years already. ¬† Read more »

Schoolchildren pick “Chinese” as the language to learn

Really? ¬† They don’t choose to learn Swiss or Brazilian?

early half of Kiwis who want schoolchildren to learn a foreign language pick Chinese as the language to learn, according to a survey.

Eight in 10 New Zealanders told researchers for an Asia New Zealand Foundation study that schoolchildren should learn languages other than English. Nearly half of those, or 49 per cent, said students should learn Mandarin.

However, the report found a “considerable gap” between the respondents’ preferences and the numbers of language learners in secondary schools.

Just 4218 secondary school students were enrolled to learn Chinese last year, a distant fourth in foreign languages behind French (20,478), Japanese (11,888) and Spanish (11,573).

The survey found some New Zealanders were opposed to schools teaching Chinese, which researchers said stemmed from their belief that Chinese migrants should learn English rather than New Zealanders learn their language. Read more »

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Mental Health Break

No. No. No. And never.

[A]¬†White House review of America’s hostage policy is making the recommendation that the U.S. government look the other way if families want to make a ransom payment to terror groups to free their loved ones — thereby changing the long-standing rule that the federal government does not allow anyone to negotiate with terrorists.

But those White House officials say that the change has been requested in the wake of murdered hostage James Foley at the hands of ISIS. Foley’s family say they were threatened with prosecution by an unnamed White House official when they suggested paying a ransom to free their son. An allegation other families have made as well.

The most recent hostage fatality was Warren Weinstein who was accidentally killed in a U.S. drone strike against al Qaeda. His family did attempt a $250,000 ransom, but was unsuccessful in buying Weinstein’s release.

One senior White House official commented on these recommendations: “There will be absolutely zero chance of any family member of an American held hostage overseas ever facing jail themselves, or even the threat of prosecution, for trying to free their loved ones.”

This is one of these situations where you can have two positions at the same time.  On the one hand, paying ransoms will simply increase the amount of kidnappings and hostage takings.  It will turn into a business, and international travellers will be hit hard.

Never. ¬†Ever. ¬† Do not pay ransom. ¬†¬† Read more »

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Map of the Day

Sponsored by What Power Crisis, click here for this week’s Solar Deal


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X-Factor Green Co-Penis marches on

The PM’s hair pulling and Gallipoli really have broadsided the Green Taliban’s plans to get some good news about their party into the media.

Here are some media bites to let you know how their individual races towards achieving co-penis status is going.

Gareth Hughes says the Green Party’s ready for a new generation in to be leaders in parliament.

Mr Hughes doesn’t agree with naysayers who think he’s too young.

“Some people, very few are judging me on my looks and what are being described as boyish good looks.

“But the fact is I’m in my third term of Parliament now, I’ve been an MP for five years – I’ve had significant wins over the course of the time.”

On the defensive. ¬†Explaining is losing. ¬†Don’t address your weak points, emphasise your strengths. ¬† Score: ¬†1/10. ¬† Co-penis chance: ¬†17% Read more »

Sign of the Day

Sponsored by Web2PrintDownUnder – Private sale signs, from $55

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In Jamaica (via Tipline)

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Auckland Council finally gets one right, but probably by accident

Simon Collins has run dry of faux poor people to pimp. ¬†But he’s getting stuck into Auckland Council for voting against a living wage initiative.

Auckland Council staff have told a local board that it cannot pay the “living wage” to its swimming pool attendants because it would set a precedent for other council workers.

The Albert-Eden Local Board resolved in February and again last week that a new contractor at the Mt Albert Aquatic Centre should be required to pay all staff at least the living wage, defined by unions and community groups as $19.25 an hour.

But Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town has overruled the board and told its chairman, Peter Haynes, that the living wage would be “inconsistent with the governing body’s policy position”.

“I acknowledge that we are dealing with one contract for a local facility but the implications of requiring a living wage, even in one contract, will have ramifications beyond your local board’s area of responsibility and would have untenable consequences for me as the employer of council staff,” he said.

It’s really funny how Auckland Council’s financial¬†management is driven by the need for more money for trains as opposed to a ideological opposition to a living wage. ¬† Read more »

Photo Of The Day

Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images

Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images

Emergency rescue workers carry a victim on a stretcher after Dharara tower collapsed in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 25, 2015.

Freelance photographer Omar Havana was at home in Kathmandu when an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale hit central Nepal.

‚ÄúEverything started moving and my wife and I could [barely] stand,‚ÄĚ Havana tells TIME. ‚ÄúI live in a six-floor house, so we ran downstairs as the building started to crack. It was very scary‚ÄĒpeople were running, shouting and crying. It was awful.‚ÄĚ

Read more »

And we think we have dud judges here

I didn’t cover this story at the time: ¬†a lesbian¬†couple in the US created a stink because the bakery refused to make a “same-sex” wedding cake. ¬† It’s one of those manufactured outrage situations. ¬†A bit like pulling a ponytail, in a sense.

But now the whole thing has gone up several notches on the ‘you-gotta-be-kidding-me-ometer’

A judge in Oregon has concluded that the bakery owners who refused, for religious reasons, to make a cake for a gay wedding should be forced to pay [US]$135,000 in fines.

“[T]he forum concludes that $75,000 and $60,000, are appropriate awards to compensate [the gay couple] for the emotional suffering they experienced,” wrote Alan McCullough, a judge for Oregon‚Äôs Bureau of Labor and Industries.

The owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Aaron and Melissa Klein, who have seven children, say the exorbitant fine could force them into bankruptcy.

This decision even makes Graham McCready look like a legal scholar. Read more »