‘Accurate’ claims that Russia meddled to help Trump beat Clinton

After reviewing intelligence reports a US Senate committee says that findings that Russia ramped up attempts to interfere in the US election in 2016 and helped Donald Trump win were accurate.

Intel Committee Releases Unclassified Summary of Initial Findings on 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment

Today, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released the Committee’s unclassified summary of its initial findings on the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russian activities in the 2016 U.S. elections.

The Committee finds that the overall judgments issued in the ICA were well-supported and the tradecraft was strong. The course of the Committee’s investigation has shown that the Russian cyber operations were more extensive than the hack of the Democratic National Committee and continued well through the 2016 election.

Chairman Burr

“The Committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions. The Committee continues its investigation and I am hopeful that this instalment of the Committee’s work will soon be followed by additional summaries providing the American people with clarity around Russia’s activities regarding U.S. elections.”

Vice Chairman Warner

“Our investigation thoroughly reviewed all aspects of the January 2017 ICA, which assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign to target our presidential election and to destabilize our democratic institutions. As numerous intelligence and national security officials in the Trump administration have since unanimously re-affirmed, the ICA findings were accurate and on point.  The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.  While our investigation remains ongoing, we have to learn from 2016 and do more to protect ourselves from attacks in 2018 and beyond.”

Investigations like this are for finding out what happened and try to prevent future interference.

Fox News – Findings that Russia meddled to help Trump beat Clinton were ‘accurate and on point’: Senate intel panel

The FBI’s and CIA’s “analytical disagreement” with the NSA over whether Russia sought to bolster the Trump presidential campaign was “reasonable,” the report also said.

While the FBI and CIA had “high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin aspired to help Trump’s election chances by denigrating opponent Hillary Clinton, the NSA had only “moderate confidence” in that assessment, according to the January 2017 analysis.

The disagreement among agencies “was reasonable, transparent, and openly debated among the agencies and analysts, with analysts, managers and agency heads on both sides of the confidence level articulately justifying their positions,” the Senate intelligence committee’s findings said.

This further confirms what is fairly widely accepted – that Russia meddled in the election trying to help Trump.

Trump is due to meet with Vladimir Putin next month.

2016 party donations

Stuff has details of party donations for 2016: National tops donations with almost $2m given to the party in 2016

The total donations disclosed for 2016 were:

  • National: $1,943,324
  • Greens: $860,746
  • Labour: $563,915
  • Conservatives: $139,450
  • ACT: $108,730
  • NZ First: $54,946
  • Maori Party: $42,237
  • United Future: Nil
  • Mana: Nil

National and Greens are doing well, Labour is still lagging badly. Labour are doing more to try to get small donations after building contact lists, but that didn’t show up much in last year’s totals.

How does this compare to donations in 2013, the year before the last election?

  • National: $1,037,537
  • Greens: $386,711
  • Labour: $486,506
  • Conservatives: $197,570
  • ACT: $138,840
  • NZ First: $3,050
  • Maori Party: $74,409
  • United Future: Nil
  • Mana: 28,374

So National and Greens are well ahead, while Labour is up a bit but their fundraising last term was woeful. They have a lot of work to do this year.

Inflation up, no one cares

The latest Consumer Price Index is out today for the December quarter and it shows that inflation is on the rise – and no one really seems to care about it.

The quarterly rise was 0.3%, which gives an annual rate of 1.3%, the first time it has been in the target range for two years. This is still quite low.

The consumers price index (CPI) inflation rate was 1.3 percent in the year to the December 2016 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today.

“This is the first time in over two years that price increases for household purchases have been over 1 percent”, prices senior manager Jason Attewell said. “Household price inflation is up from a historical low of 0.1 percent for the December 2015 year”.

Prices for tradable goods and services were 0.1 percent lower in the year to December 2016. Despite higher quarterly prices, petrol and international airfares were cheaper than a year ago. Non-tradable goods and services showed a 2.4 percent increase, influenced by housing-related price increases.

Housing-related prices continued to increase, up 3.3 percent in the December 2016 year. Prices increased for newly built houses excluding land (up 6.5 percent) and for housing rentals (up 2.0 percent).

“Housing-related prices in Auckland increased more than the national average, with new houses up 8.2 percent and rents up 3.2 percent from a year earlier,” Mr Attewell said.


Quarterly prices rise 0.4 percent

The CPI rose 0.4 percent in the December 2016 quarter, following a 0.3 percent rise in the September 2016 quarter. After adjusting for seasonal effects, the CPI was up 0.7 percent.

“Higher prices for petrol, air fares, and new house builds were partly offset by lower prices for food and furniture,” Mr Attewell said.

Petrol prices made the largest upward contribution for the quarter, up 4.1 percent. The average price of a litre of 91 octane petrol in the December 2016 quarter was $1.82, up from $1.75 in the September quarter.

Food prices fell 1.2 percent in the latest quarter, with seasonally lower fruit and vegetable prices being partly offset by higher prices for dairy products.

Temperature record for third straight year

Reports keep coming out of record world temperatures.

NY Times: Earth Sets a Temperature Record for the Third Straight Year

Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

The Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization.

In 2015 and 2016, the planetary warming was intensified by the weather pattern known as El Niño, in which the Pacific Ocean released a huge burst of energy and water vapor into the atmosphere.

But the bigger factor in setting the records was the long-term trend of rising temperature, which scientists say is being driven by increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

“A single warm year is something of a curiosity,” said Deke Arndt, chief of global climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s really the trend, and the fact that we’re punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we’re undergoing big changes.”

I doubt that every year will set a new record, but the trend is upwards.

Scientists expect that the early months of 2017 will continue to show levels of warming beyond the norm, but likely not at the level of 2016 because a strong El Niño weather pattern is now subsiding.


Are there any other scientific temperature records that show anything different?

2016 warmest on record in NZ

NIWA has released it’s Annual Climate Summary 2016  which shows that the New Zealand climate in 2016 was the warmest on record.

Annual temperatures were above average (0.51°C to 1.20°C above the annual average) throughout the country, with very few locations observing near average temperatures (within 0.5°C of the annual average) or lower.  The year 2016 was the warmest on record for New Zealand, based on NIWA’s seven-station series which begins in 1909.

El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-positive conditions were present at the beginning of the year, although the strong El Niño event weakened rapidly from February, and ENSO-neutral conditions prevailed by May.


Temperature-wise, 2016 as a whole was above average (0.51°C to 1.20°C above the annual average) throughout the country.

These temperature anomalies were especially high in Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Whanganui, Manawatu, Kapiti Coast, Wellington, West Coast, Otago and Southland.

Near average temperatures (within 0.5°C of the annual average) were observed in only a few locations including parts of Tasman and south Otago, Timaru and Oamaru.

No locations observed below average temperatures (0.51°C to 1.20°C below the annual average).

The first seven months of the year from January to July were remarkably warm, with the nation-wide average temperature higher than average for each month, respectively.

The three warmest months in 2016 in terms of the seven-station temperature series were February (2.2°C above average), May (2.1°C above average) and June (1.6°C above average).  Notably, these months were New Zealand’s warmest May, second-warmest February and third-warmest June on record.

August (0.5°C below average) and December (0.3°C below average) were the only two months in 2016 when New Zealand’s nation-wide average temperature was cooler than average.

The nation-wide average temperature for 2016 was 13.4°C (0.8°C above the 1981–2010 annual average), using NIWA’s seven-station temperature series which begins in 1909.  2016 was the warmest year since 1909, based on this seven-station series, and surpassed New Zealand’s previous warmest year on record which occurred in 1998.

This shows that most of the record warmth was February to June.


Download the 2016 New Zealand Annual Climate Summary [PDF 1.66MB]

2016 confirmed as warmest on record

As expected 2016 has been confirmed as the warmest year on record, 1.3 degrees warmer than prior to the Industrial Revolution.

RNZ: 2016 officially the warmest year on record

Last year was the hottest on record by a wide margin, with temperatures creeping close to a ceiling set by almost 200 nations for limiting global warming, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The data are the first of the New Year to confirm many projections that 2016 will exceed 2015 as the warmest since reliable records began in the 19th century, it said in a report.

The Arctic was the region showing the sharpest rise in temperatures, while many other areas of the globe, including parts of Africa and Asia, also suffered unusual heat, it said.

A few parts of South America and Antarctica were cooler than normal.

Global surface temperatures in 2016 averaged 14.8°C, or 1.3° higher than estimated before the Industrial Revolution ushered in wide use of fossil fuels, the EU body said.

Temperatures last year broke a 2015 record by almost 0.2°, the climate change service said, boosted by a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and by a natural El Nino weather event in the Pacific Ocean, which releases heat to the atmosphere.

In February 2016 alone, temperatures were 1.5° above pre-industrial times, the study said.

That’s overall world measurements.

Temperatures so far in 2017 here in southern New Zealand at least seem to be well shy of the highs, it’s been one of the coolest starts to a year I can remember. It’s not unusual to get a few cooler changes at this time of year but there seems to have been more than usual.

Of course rising worldwide temperatures will increase turbulence which could result in more cold air being dragged up from Antarctica.

Earthquake record in 2016

Earthuakes were prominent in news in 2016 and for good reason – not only was there on of the biggest recorded earthquakes in New Zealand history, there were a record number of earthquakes recorded.

Number of earthquakes:

  • about 20,000 on average per year
  • 29,000 recorded in 2011 (a bad year in Christchurch)
  • 38,828 earthquakes recorded in 2016

This is a big jump but it’s not really surprising given the chain reaction across multiple faults in the North Canterbury shakes last year.

Most of those were recorded by sensitive instruments and wouldn’t have been felt, but there were still quite a few that shook enough to be noticed.

  • 7.0 or more – 2 (7.8 and 7.1)

Geonet: 2016 in review: The Groundbreaker

The M.7.8 Kaikoura earthquake will not go into the global history book of earthquakes because of its magnitude; the Ring of Fire regularly gets that size and much larger earthquakes. What makes it unique is two things: how it ruptured across the faults through the North Canterbury and Marlborough Fault areas and the slow-slip earthquakes triggered by M7.8.

  • 6.0-6.9 – 10
  • 5.0-5.9 – 122

Geonet Facts and Stats:

Frequency of New Zealand Earthquakes (1960 to 2015)
Magnitude Annual Average Minimum Maximum “Rule of Thumb”
4.0 – 4.9 451 184 1,343 1 per day
5.0 – 5.9 51 19 127 4 per month
6.0 – 6.9 2.7 0 9 5 per 2 years
7.0 – 7.9 0.4 0 2 1 per 2.5 years
8.0 or over 0 0 0 1 per century*
* Based on geological investigations and historical record of earthquakes.

So there were significantly more than average in 2016.

There have been many images of the many fault lines, land slips and broken land.

The latest images were taken from planes by Land Information New Zealand (Linz) and the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), and are  here.

Stuff has some before and after slide views in Before and after the Kaikoura quake: images show colossal damage.


Your NZ in 2016

Your NZ had another very good year in 2016, with good growth in clicks/readership (up 40%), in visitor numbers (up 19%) and in comments (up 184%).

The increase in the number of comments is especially pleasing because that means there is more participation here, which is one of the core objectives. Thanks to nearly everyone who has contributed and keeps contributing, you are the vitality of Your NZ.

It has taken time and perseverance but Your NZ is now established as a niche in the New Zealand blogosphere. This shows how we have grown:


That growth is unlikely to continue unless something major changes, things were levelling off in the second half of the year, but I’m happy with this, things are manageable at the current level. I still have to juggle my time with a few other things, this is basically a hobby.

There’s no pressure to perform and compete, we don’t need to attract media attention to advance agendas, we don’t serve any political party, we don’t need to attract clicks to generate advertising revenue.

All we have to do is whatever we like, we can post and discuss what we want no matter who it might promote or annoy.

We fly under the media radar and I’m happy with that. There’s some sneering and attempts to discredit from other blogs, that’s petty and futile. I don’t see this as a competition, it’s not a fight for survival of the fittest or dirtiest. I post about other blogs and encourage comments on and links to other media and blogs because I see social media as a fantastic forum of many parts rather than empire building.

What about 2017?  We may keep chugging along much as we are, but I’m always open to ideas and suggestions, and I keep an eye out for opportunities to do something more or different.

This will be the first election year since major growth so that could crank things up – or not, blogs tend to be niches amongst the big public forums like Facebook, Reddit and Twitter and that’s likely to continue.

As always suggestions are welcome.

Green MPs “a really busy and positive year”

The Green Party have good reasons to be fairly happy with their year.

James Shaw has settled in as co-leader after Russel Norman’s exit in 2015, they secured a Memorandum of Understanding with Labour, there’s been no major embarrassments or stuff ups, John Key stepped down, they gained a second new mid-term MP (Barry Coates), and two more MPs indicated they would step down next year making room for more fresh faces (if they at least maintain current levels of support).

The loss of one of their most respected MPs, Kevin Hague is a negative but not a major considering how everything else has gone for them.

Metiria Turei reflects on 2016 and looks ahead in Well, THAT happened: reflecting on 2016 and beyond:

2016 for our MPs

Green MPs have actually had a really busy and positive year working on the nation’s most pressing issues: poverty and inequality, housing, climate action, inclusive education, safe drinking water and clean rivers to name a few. We’ve been talking with people up and down the country, promoting legislation, setting out the solutions, and, where possible, working with other parties in Parliament to achieve progress.

They have done as much as could be expected from Opposition, and have been visibly more active on policies and issues than NZ First and probably Labour most of the time. The are far more organised and persistent in social media.

2016 for us and Labour

In May, the Green Party signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Labour. It’s the first time political parties have reached such an agreement before an election, and means we get to have a conversation with New Zealanders about why we are working to change the government.

We worked constructively with Labour on the Homelessness Inquiry and early in 2017 you’ll see us working together on a range of other issues.

The Greens got what they wanted with the MoU and are happy with it, but it’s yet to be seen whether it will help their cause. They are very reliant on Labour to get into Government and are keen to do what they can to make that happen – but they also want to increase their share of the party vote relative to Labour to give them more leverage.

2016 for me

For me, this year has been one of consolidating my work on housing and inequality because I am determined to do all that I can to ensure that families have the resources they need to nurture their babies.

We need mothers educated, healthy, and secure so that they can shape the future of our nation. It will be women that determine the fate of our country next year, make no mistake.

I don’t know how that will work, there are about as many male voters as there are female.

So, I’ll be spending the summer resting and getting ready for a busy 2017. I want to spend time doing craft, reading, walking my dogs and connecting with my whānau so that next year I can run hard with the Greens to change the government.

‘Change the government’ has been repeated a lot by the Greens and Labour already, trying to get voters thinking about it being time for a change.

Turei is well supported and respected amongst her own. It’s yet to be seen whether she can appeal to a wider constituency so that Greens grow their vote (they failed to do that last election) and so that Andrew Little and Turei (plus James Shaw) look like a viable alternative to run the country.

If Little continues to try to appeal more to the left than the centre Greens and Labour may end up competing for the same votes – unless they can find the formula for inspiring current non-voters to back them, a strategy that failed last campaign.

But with Bill English taking over from Key next year’s election is wide open.

Greens thought they had their best shot in 2014 and that didn’t work out for them. They get to have another go – and it may be Turei’s last shot at making it into government.

Arctic Report Card 2016

NOAA (the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) have released their 2016 Arctic Report Card, and it isn’t flash.

Persistent warming trend and loss of sea ice are triggering extensive Arctic changes.

Observations in 2016 showed a continuation of long-term Arctic warming trends which reveals the interdependency of physical and biological Arctic systems, contributing to a growing recognition that the Arctic is an integral part of the globe, and increasing the need for comprehensive communication of Arctic change to diverse user audiences.


  • The average surface air temperature for the year ending September 2016 is by far the highest since 1900, and new monthly record highs were recorded for January, February, October and November 2016.
  • After only modest changes from 2013-2015, minimum sea ice extent at the end of summer 2016 tied with 2007 for the second lowest in the satellite record, which started in 1979.
  • Spring snow cover extent in the North American Arctic was the lowest in the satellite record, which started in 1967.
  • In 37 years of Greenland ice sheet observations, only one year had earlier onset of spring melting than 2016.
  • The Arctic Ocean is especially prone to ocean acidification, due to water temperatures that are colder than those further south.  The short Arctic food chain leaves Arctic marine ecosystems vulnerable to ocean acidification events.
  • Thawing permafrost releases carbon into the atmosphere, whereas greening tundra absorbs atmospheric carbon.  Overall, tundra is presently releasing net carbon into the atmosphere.
  • Small Arctic mammals, such as shrews, and their parasites, serve as indicators for present and historical environmental variability. Newly acquired parasites indicate northward shifts of sub-Arctic species and increases in Arctic biodiversity.