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New stats: Food prices still at 13-year high

Welcome along to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 13, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Thanks to our members! Get in touch on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The agenda

  • Food prices remain at 13-year high, costs up 8.3% on 2021.
  • New Zealand could be heading for another wave of Covid-19 cases as we head into the summer months.
  • Hipkins would support law change to allow practice found to be illegal.
blog-oct-13.jpg

New stats: Food prices still at 13-year high

Welcome along to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 13, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Thanks to our members! Get in touch on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The agenda

  • Food prices remain at 13-year high, costs up 8.3% on 2021.
  • New Zealand could be heading for another wave of Covid-19 cases as we head into the summer months.
  • Hipkins would support law change to allow practice found to be illegal.
Oct 13 2022

Right wing lobbyist confirmed as joining Wayne Brown’s ‘interim’ team

Wayne Brown arrives at work for his first full day (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Right wing lobbyist and political commentator Matthew Hooton has been confirmed as a new member of Wayne Brown’s interim team.

Hooton, who has formerly advised short-lived National Party leader Todd Muller, is taking on the role of head of policy and communications. Press releases from Brown’s office have this week come from Hooton’s email address.

Also joining the team – in roles also listed as interim – are Tim Hurdle, as chief of staff, and Jacinda Lean as deputy chief of staff. According to the Herald’s Bernard Orsman, Hurdle was the “mastermind” behind Brown’s successful mayoral run.

“It was a big turnaround for Hurdle, whose role as campaign manager alongside then deputy leader Gerry Brownlee as campaign chair for National at the 2020 election resulted in a different outcome. Labour won by a landslide,” wrote Orsman.

Lean, who is Hurdle’s wife, is a former strategy and governance director for the Tauranga City Council.

Spot Matthew Hooton (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

A New Zealander’s role in Trump-Biden transition detailed in new book

Chris Liddell casts a glance at former Trump aide Steve Bannon (Getty Images)

A New Zealander’s role in helping ensure the peaceful transition from Donald Trump to Joe Biden has been revealed in a new book.

Chris Liddell, who was president Trump’s deputy chief of staff at the time of the Capitol insurrection, is a New Zealand-board businessman. He previously served as chief financial officer of Microsoft.

The Peaceful Transition of Power, a new book by David Marchick, includes details of how Liddell’s position within the White House became important when Trump refused to give up the presidency.

“Chris Liddell became a lifeline for the Biden team, their secret weapon. Except when he had to be there, Liddell began to avoid the Oval Office—fearing Trump would ask him what he was doing,” reads one extract from the book, published by Vanity Fair.

“Ironically, for Liddell, Trump’s obsession with the fiction of a stolen election was a useful distraction— ‘because then I could just get on with doing my job’.”

You can read the extract here or a summation, courtesy of the Herald, here.

Chris Liddell casts a glance at former Trump aide Steve Bannon (Getty Images)

Image of the day: Hasta la Villa

Big Mahi (Photo: Toby Morris)

The image of the day, brought to you by BGMAH1. Toby Morris writes:

Big Mahi (Photo: Toby Morris)

Lots of action in our neighbourhood today, with two big villas getting shifted to make room for development right across the road from our office. Anyone who has visited Auckland in the last year will have seen how many townhouse and apartment developments are under way, but they’re often on empty lots, run down sections or old industrial blocks – it’s not often you see the sacred villas on the move.

Still, we’re into it: here two houses are making way for twelve new ones. Almost like we’re growing up. (And how good is BGMAH1? Excellent plate.)

Introducing The Firehose…

Ever wished you could read a simple list of everything we publish on The Spinoff in date order? Well if you’re a Spinoff member you’re in luck! We’ve just launched The Firehose – no algorithms, no ads, just all of our wonderful content to feast on. Head to thespinoff.co.nz/firehose or find it from your members profile.

Not a member? Join today, there’s no minimum to donate and every contribution exclusively funds our journalism and keeps The Spinoff free for all.

Legs are coming to the metaverse. Soon!

Meta announced the upcoming arrival of lower limbs last night using a video of Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse avatar leaping in front of a cheering crowd.

In potentially shocking news for people who weren’t previously aware that Meta’s metaverse was legless, Mark Zuckerberg’s big Web3 gamble is getting, well, legs.

Meta announced the upcoming arrival of lower limbs last night using a video of Zuckerberg’s metaverse avatar leaping in front of a cheering crowd of other avatars in the metaverse. “Legs are coming soon!” is an objectively ridiculous thing to read and the announcement was met with what’s becoming a fairly consistent skepticism about Meta’s metaverse ambitions.

The metaverse is most simply defined as a virtual world where you can socialise, work and play as an avatar, a digital version of yourself. Meta, the company previously known as Facebook, is investing billions into building its version of a metaverse. Recent use cases for the metaverse, like virtual conference calls, have left people a bit underwhelmed. Looking at a photo of one in action makes the absence of legs shockingly clear.

A legless meeting in the metaverse (Image: Facebook)

Critics of Meta’s plans say they’re unrealistic. This hasn’t been helped by the cartoonish rendering of people’s avatars. Internet commentators say adding legs and feet to avatars is a sign Meta is taking that criticism seriously. Meta’s stock price declined for the first time in its history this year and it has a lot riding on people taking its metaverse seriously.

In his latest newsletter, headlined “Finally, a conference call with legs”, Garbage Day’s Ryan Broderick questions just how expansive Zuckerberg’s vision for the metaverse is when “all he seems capable of imagining with this new technology is a conference call where you can see everyone’s legs”.

You might be asking why avatars haven’t had legs before? Anyone who’s done leg day at the gym will tell you this, but legs are hard work. They are especially hard in a virtual or augmented reality. 

To be in the metaverse, you need to wear an augmented or virtual reality headset. Those headsets only track our upper body and head movements so Meta has no way of knowing what our lower bodies are doing. Zuckerberg said Meta will use predictive AI models to guess what our legs are doing based on our upper-body movements.

It pays to stay curious and who really knows if the metaverse is a case of the emperor wearing no clothes, but at least now, he will have legs.

Food prices remain at 13-year high, costs up 8.3% on 2021

Image: Archi Banal/The Spinoff

The cost of food remains at a 13-year high, with new statistics showing annual prices were up 8.3% in September compared with the same time in 2021.

That’s the same price hike seen in August and comes as living costs and inflation remain sky high.

Stats NZ said grocery prices were the primary contributor to the movement – up 7.7% overall – with fruit and vegetables up 16% on the past year. Meat, poultry and fish prices were up by 6.7%.

“Increasing prices for yoghurt, two-minute noodles, and tomato-based pasta sauce were the largest drivers within grocery food,” consumer prices manager Katrina Dewbery said.

The veges that experienced the biggest jump were capsicums, tomatoes, and broccoli.

The Bulletin: Hipkins would support law change to allow practice found to be illegal

Police minister Chris Hipkins told police at a conference yesterday he would support them challenging a report which condemned the taking of fingerprint data and photographs of youths. The practice was uncovered via RNZ reporting and a report from the Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Privacy Commissioner found it was illegal.

Hipkins said photography was an essential part of intelligence gathering for police. Indigenous data specialist Karaitiana Taiuru said he was shocked. “To me, it’s almost like legislating discrimination against young Māori by the police.”

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.

Covid subvariants could trigger a summer case surge

Illustration: Toby Morris

New Zealand could be heading for another wave of Covid-19 cases as we head into the summer months.

Stuff’s taken a closer look at this week’s numbers, showing that the Wellington region is leading the charge and could be the first to experience the renewed Covid surge.

Monday’s Ministry of Health update showed there were about 11,000 new cases to report nationwide over the past week. Case numbers in Wellington and the Hutt Valley made up about 15% of the national figures, despite the region’s population accounting for about 9% of the country.

Covid-19 modeller Michael Plank, in comments to the Science Media Centre, said new subvariants of the virus were triggering new waves around the world. “Some of these subvariants are already spreading in New Zealand and it’s likely they will trigger a wave here as well. The size of the wave is highly uncertain – it could be on a par with the BA.5 wave we had in July. It could be smaller as we move towards summer and people spend more time outdoors, making it harder for the virus to spread. Or it could be more prolonged if some of faster-growing lineages take hold,” said Plank.

“Our best tools to mitigate it are vaccines and treatments that reduce the risk of severe illness. Many countries including Australia are now deploying updated Omicron vaccines to strengthen and broaden immunity, particularly in high-risk groups.”

There has been no update from the government or health officials on an omicron-specific vaccine rollout, nor of the long-awaited second booster for people not in the most at-risk groups.