Hard News by Russell Brown

And now ... radio spam!

Unacceptable uses of technology department: if you have a modern, RDS-enabled car radio, the ZM Network can - and does - force it to retune to ZM whenever the station broadcasts a traffic update. Yes, they have ways of making you listen.

AUT's Andrew Dubber deals with RDS abuse in his weblog this week, in response to a reader query. "Is it my stereo or is ZM actually Satan?" asks a puzzled punter. "ZM is not Satan," advises Dubber. "They are merely carrying out his work."

The "feature" can be turned off if you have the patience to RTFM. If you don't, write angry letters to the programme director and sales manager, or get used to radio-spam.

Staying with the media - and this week's bout of TV politics - John Drinnan felt I ought to have got in touch with him after relaying Tony Holden's description of his column about the ructions at TVNZ as "flawed and inaccurate". Fair enough, although I did think it was clear enough that the opinion was Holden's own. Anyway, for the record: Drinnan stands by his story.

So who's more desperate? Winston Peters? Or Tony Ryall? Those foreigners make such great political footballs, don't they?

The ruling this week by the highest court in the US state of Massachusetts that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the state constitution has American conservatives up in arms and is apparently likely to become an election issue next year, perhaps even overtaking the familiar bickering about abortion.

Although gay-rights groups are celebrating, the decision hands a big electoral stick to the Republicans: from London, Bush has already pledged to work "to do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage." Expect to hear a lot about this from Bush next year, especially if Iraq and the economy go poorly.

The US dollar slumped again this week, leaving our dollar much more highly valued against the greenback than exporters want it. But apparently they're still running a "strong dollar policy". Huh?

The White House wants a new UN resolution to back its new Iraq exit strategy. This might not actually be too hard, given that the great new plan is very similar to the European proposal that US officials dismissed out of hand earlier this year …

And so to tonight's play off for third and fourth place in the World Cup: a dazzling performance against an under-strength French side might ease the pain a little, but the weather does not look promising. I'm not sure if I'll watch the final at all this weekend, but I have decided that I want Australia to win. Two reasons: if England wins, Murdoch will use that to screw down the Sanzar nations in the forthcoming sports-rights haggling. And the horrible English press will be insufferable if their side wins.

It has been interesting - and pleasing - to see a general determination her to take the World Cup loss in stride, rather than collapse into a national funk, the way people did when our athletes failed to win an unspecified number of medals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Perhaps we have moved on from that sort of thing, and we have other things to feel good about.