Bats have different accents
It’s not just people who have different accents, but bats as well develop dialects depending on where they live, which can help identify and protect different species, Australian scientists said. Researcher Brad Law of the Forest Science Centre found that bats living in the forests along the east coast of the state of New South Wales had different calls. He said scientists had long suspected bats had distinctive regional calls — as studies have shown with some other animals — but this was the first time it had been proven in the field. Law said the different calls of about 30 bat species were used to develop a system so that scientists could identify the various bats along the coast, assess their numbers and protect them.
Quake-rattled kiwi hatches
An endangered kiwi that survived a buffeting in its egg during this month’s Christchurch earthquake has hatched safely, in a boost to conservation efforts, officials said yesterday. Named Rickter, after the scale of the magnitude 7.0 quake, the chick hatched on Sunday at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch. The ground-dwelling kiwi, the avian symbol of the country, is threatened by a host of introduced predators, including rats, cats, dogs, ferrets and possums. Department of Conservation spokesman Rory Newsam said there were fewer than 70,000 kiwis left in the wild and the rowi, the sub-species to which Rickter belongs, numbered only 300. Newsam said Rickter’s egg rolled around in its incubator during the Sept. 4 earthquake but rubber matting prevented any damage.
Minister apologizes to POWs
The foreign minister has apologized to former World War II prisoners of war (POW) who are visiting from the US and says they were treated inhumanely. The six POWs and relatives of two who died who were in Tokyo yesterday are the first group of US POWs to visit with government sponsorship. The group’s leader, 90-year-old Lester Tenney, said he welcomed the government’s apology, but still seeks recognition from the private companies that used prisoners in their mines and factories, often under brutal conditions.
Team to probe panda death
Beijing will send a team to Japan this week to probe the death of a giant panda on loan to a Japanese zoo and could seek US$500,000 in compensation for the loss, state press said yesterday. Kou Kou died on Thursday of cardiac arrest after failing to recover from an anaesthetic at the Oji Zoo in the western port city of Kobe. Veterinarians had sedated the 14-year-old male as part of a program to impregnate his partner Tan Tan, and were seeking to extract semen from the male panda when he died. Beijing’s forestry administration has called on the Japanese zoo to seal up the corpse of the animal and will dispatch a team to Japan to investigate the case, state media said.
Small quakes rattles island
A magnitude 5.7 earthquake struck off northern areas of the country yesterday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. There were no immediate reports of damage and no tsunami warning. The tremor hit at 2:48pm, at a depth of 60km in waters between the main island of Honshu and the northern island of Hokkaido, the agency said.
Military drugs claim probed
Military police are investigating claims that servicemen may have trafficked heroin out of Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said on Sunday. An inquiry has been launched into what officials termed “unsubstantiated” allegations that service personnel had bought the drug and used military aircraft to transport it out of the war-torn country. Troops at airports in Camp Bastion and Kandahar are under investigation and security has been tightened with additional sniffer dogs brought in as part of the crackdown. She added that if any troops were found to have smuggled illegal narcotics they would “feel the full weight of the law.”
US health workers arrested
Police have arrested four health workers from the US on suspicion of dispensing AIDS drugs without a license, the US embassy said on Sunday. An embassy statement said the four members of a Christian volunteer health service from the California-based Allen Temple AIDS ministry were arrested in Harare on Friday and were expected to appear in court yesterday. “They operated from two clinics, one in Mutoko and one in Harare, where they worked primarily with AIDS orphans and HIV positive patients for the past decade,” the embassy said.
TUC to oppose public cuts
Union leaders are warning the government that plans for deep cuts in public spending will be met by a wave of strikes and demonstrations. The country’s main union federation, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), was due to call for coordinated resistance yesterday during its annual conference in Manchester. The government says departments must slash spending by up to 25 percent in a bid to reduce the £155 billion (US$240 billion) deficit. It is due to announce details of the cuts next month. The unions say more than 200,000 jobs are at risk and claim the cuts will devastate police forces, schools and other public services. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the cuts “will do irreparable economic and social damage.”
Train crashes into digger
A high-speed train traveling from Stockholm to Malmo smashed into a backhoe on Sunday, injuring 16 people, including one seriously TT news agency reported. Three train cars were damaged in the collision, the exact circumstances of which were not clear, said Ostergotland region police spokesman Michael Skoog. Some 250 people were traveling on the train when it crossed an area where repairs were being conducted on the line and hit the backhoe, the spokesman said.
Bomb suspect unknown
Police are still trying to establish the identity of the suspect in a Copenhagen hotel bombing, 48 hours after having arrested him, a spokesman admitted on Sunday. Investigators say the man speaks at least three languages but is refusing to say who he is. In court on Saturday he said he could recall neither his name nor his age. The suspect, who received the help of a French interpreter during his court appearance, was also charged with possession of a firearm before being remanded into custody. The accused, on crutches, with the lower part of one leg missing, denied the charges. The suspect, who was arrested in a park near the hotel soon after Friday’s blast, spoke English, French and German, but not Arabic, said Svend Foldager, the police inspector leading the investigation.
Congress sparks protest
Hundreds of protesters demonstrated on the streets of Montreal on Sunday, calling for an end to “dirty, risky” oil exploration ahead of a global gathering of energy experts. A dozen protesters covered in molasses staged a “Black Tide Beach Party,” while dozens of others carried banners that read: “Too dirty, too risky, go beyond oil.” A blond baby boy smeared in brown sticky molasses wailed in his activist father’s arms, while protesters used megaphones to slam the provincial Quebec government of Jean Charest for inviting oil companies to the five-day World Energy Congress at the sprawling Palais de Congres. About 5,000 participants from industry, government and academia were expected to attend the conference, scheduled to officially open on Sunday evening. The event was expected to tackle global energy issues, such as improving access to energy in the world’s poorer regions and the role of new technologies in ensuring a sustainable energy future.
Suspects, weapons seized
Intelligence agents have apprehended three suspected members of a Colombian paramilitary group, including a police officer, from a town near the countries’ shared border and seized a weapons cache, President Hugo Chavez’s government announced on Sunday. The suspects were nabbed last week during a sting operation in Rubio, a quaint town located about 50km from Venezuela’s border with Colombia, a government statement said. They are being questioned by prosecutors. The suspects — Luis Arfilio Salcedo Fernandez, a state police officer, Rivera Ardila Enadir, the officer’s wife, and Albarracin Romero Enadir — are alleged members of a Colombian paramilitary group known as “The Black Eagles,” which operates in several states along the border, the statement said.
Corruption policy to change
President Barack Obama’s top aides have concluded they need to refrain from promoting US-style corruption fighting in Afghanistan because of the rift it has caused with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Washington Post reported late on Sunday. Citing unnamed US civilian and military officials, the newspaper said Obama’s top national security advisers will meet with him to discuss the problem this week. The advisers do not yet agree on the contours of a new approach, the report said, but there is a growing consensus that key corruption cases against people in Karzai’s government should be resolved with face-saving compromises behind closed doors, the paper reported. “The current approach is not tenable,” the Post quoted an official as saying. “What will we get out of it? We’ll arrest a few mid-level Afghans, but we’ll lose our ability to operate there and achieve our principal goals.”
US to sell arms to Saudis
In the US’ largest arms deal ever, the administration of President Barack Obama is ready to notify Congress of plans to offer US$60 billion in advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. The newspaper said the administration was also in talks with the kingdom about potential naval and missile-defense upgrades. The administration sees the sale as part of a broader policy aimed at shoring up Arab allies against Iran, the report said. The US$60 billion in fighter jets and helicopters is the top-line amount requested by the Saudis, even though the kingdom is likely to commit initially to buying only about half that amount, the paper said.