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Posts Tagged ‘Australia

Panel calls for protecting world’s largest boreal forest

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At least half of Canada’s 1.4 billion acre boreal forest, the largest remaining intact wilderness on Earth, must be protected to maintain the area’s current wildlife and ecological systems, according to a report by an international panel of 23 experts.

The report, published by the International Boreal Conservation Science Panel, was released July 22, the same day that panel members made recommendations to protect Canada’s vast wild lands at a symposium at the International Congress for Conservation Biology…

The goal is to protect these ecosystems before oil, gas, mining and lumber companies develop areas and extract natural resources, which often fragment and degrade previously pristine land, said Jeff Wells…associate scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and panel member.

“Elsewhere, [conservationists] are trying to stem the losses by protecting little pieces of land, or by restoring remnants to what they used to be,” by spending large amounts of money after development has already begun, said Wells, who is science adviser to Pew’s international boreal conservation campaign.

The new guidelines for conserving such large natural areas far exceed the previous science-based standard of protecting 10 percent to 12 percent of land to maintain wildlife. New science, including computer models that calculate the minimum amount of land necessary to support many species and their interactions, led to the revised guidelines, Wells said.

The report recommends that members of some 600 aboriginal communities in Canada should lead decisions and play major roles in planning where and how to conserve land. In this way, Canada can take their lead from Australia, where 58 Indigenous Protected Areas cover more than 120 million acres – an area larger than California – and employ close to 700 indigenous people in a ranger program. Such programs combine Western science while bringing in indigenous knowledge about hunting areas, sacred sites, key conservation areas and suggestions for economic development…

The hope is that conservation strategies in Canada and Australia’s outback will provide models for conservation in other parts of the world, said Wells. There have also been discussions of future conferences that might include strategies for conserving Siberian forests, the Amazon rainforest and the Congo basin, which account for other large pristine tracts of wilderness…

Bravo. I hadn’t realized that the Pew Foundation had established segments as specialized as the protection of boreal lands. Wow. Time for me to spend more time studying their mission in addition to the superb polling and research most political writers examine.

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Written by Ed Campbell

August 4, 2013 at 8:00 am

Bland Aussies want to link up with Dull and Boring

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An Australian county called Bland hopes to link up with Dull in Perthshire and the tiny Scottish village’s official US twin, Boring in Oregon – in an attempt to create a triumvirate of tedium called Dull, Boring and Bland.

Even though residents of Bland in New South Wales are fed up with people ridiculing them, they want to cash in on humorous publicity by joining with the pair…

It was named after William Bland, whose life was anything but. The London-born son of an obstetrician was transported as a convict to Van Diemen’s Land in 1814 after killing a sailor in a duel in Bombay.

He was later pardoned, became a pillar of colonial life and founded the Australian Medical Association.

There must be a few extra jots of humor in a doctor’s association founded by someone convicted of manslaughter.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 3, 2013 at 8:00 am

Posted in Culture, Humor

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Oops of the day!

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Did the demolition come in under budget?

Written by Ed Campbell

May 13, 2013 at 8:00 am

Pic of the Day

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Click to enlargeREUTERS/Will Burgess

A woman approaches an artwork called “Big Chook”, made of fibreglass and high gloss epoxy marine paint, on Tamarama Beach in Sydney, Australia.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 26, 2013 at 8:00 am

Scientists clone extinct frog

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Artist’s impression of the gastric-brooding frogArtwork: Peter Schouten

Australian scientists have successfully revived and reactivated the genome of an extinct frog. The “Lazarus Project” team implanted cell nuclei from tissues collected in the 1970s and kept in a conventional deep freezer for 40 years into donor eggs from a distantly-related frog. Some of the eggs spontaneously began to divide and grow to early embryo stage with tests confirming the dividing cells contained genetic material from the extinct frog.

The extinct frog in question is the Rheobatrachus silus, one of only two species of gastric-brooding frogs, or Platypus frogs, native to Queensland, Australia. Both species became extinct in the mid-1980s and were unique amongst frog species for the way in which they incubated their offspring. After the eggs were fertilized by the male, the female would then swallow the eggs until they hatched. The tadpoles would then develop in the female’s stomach for at least six weeks – during which time the female would not eat – before being regurgitated and raised in shallow water.

With the aim of bringing the frog back from extinction, the Lazarus Project team took fresh donor eggs from the Great Barred Frog, another Australian ground-swelling frog that is distantly related to the gastric-brooding frog. The scientists inactivated the egg nuclei from the donor eggs and replaced them with dead nuclei from the extinct frog in a technique known as somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which was the basis for the cloning of Dolly the sheep and, more recently, 581 clones from one “donor” mouse.

Although none of the embryos survived longer than a few days, the work is encouraging for others looking to clone a variety of currently-extinct animals, such as the woolly mammoth, dodo, Cuban red macaw and New Zealand’s giant moa.

We are watching Lazarus arise from the dead, step by exciting step,” says the leader of the Lazarus Project team, Professor Mike Archer, of the University of New South Wales, Sydney…“We’re increasingly confident that the hurdles ahead are technological and not biological and that we will succeed. Importantly, we’ve demonstrated already the great promise this technology has as a conservation tool when hundreds of the world’s amphibian species are in catastrophic decline.”

Bravo! So far, the anti-science crowd haven’t latched onto this research to be focal point in any of their morality plays.Though, that’s less likely in Oz than our neck of the prairie, anyway.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 19, 2013 at 2:00 am

I went after guns. Obama can, too. So says the former Conservative Prime Minister of Australia.

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It is for Americans and their elected representatives to determine the right response to President Obama’s proposals on gun control. I wouldn’t presume to lecture Americans on the subject. I can, however, describe what I, as prime minister of Australia, did to curb gun violence following a horrific massacre 17 years ago in the hope that it will contribute constructively to the debate in the United States.

I was elected prime minister in early 1996, leading a center-right coalition. Virtually every nonurban electoral district in the country — where gun ownership was higher than elsewhere — sent a member of my coalition to Parliament.

Six weeks later, on April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant, a psychologically disturbed man, used a semiautomatic Armalite rifle and a semiautomatic SKS assault weapon to kill 35 people in a murderous rampage in Port Arthur, Tasmania.

After this wanton slaughter, I knew that I had to use the authority of my office to curb the possession and use of the type of weapons that killed 35 innocent people. I also knew it wouldn’t be easy…

Because Australia is a federation of states, the national government has no control over gun ownership, sale or use, beyond controlling imports. Given our decentralized system of government, I could reduce the number of dangerous firearms only by persuading the states to enact uniform laws totally prohibiting the ownership, possession and sale of all automatic and semiautomatic weapons while the national government banned the importation of such weapons.

To make this plan work, there had to be a federally financed gun buyback scheme. Ultimately, the cost of the buyback was met by a special one-off tax imposed on all Australians. This required new legislation and was widely accepted across the political spectrum. Almost 700,000 guns were bought back and destroyed — the equivalent of 40 million guns in the United States.

City dwellers supported our plan, but there was strong resistance by some in rural Australia. Many farmers resented being told to surrender weapons they had used safely all of their lives. Penalizing decent, law-abiding citizens because of the criminal behavior of others seemed unfair. Many of them had been lifelong supporters of my coalition and felt bewildered and betrayed by these new laws. I understood their misgivings. Yet I felt there was no alternative…

For a time, it seemed that certain states might refuse to enact the ban. But I made clear that my government was willing to hold a nationwide referendum to alter the Australian Constitution and give the federal government constitutional power over guns. Such a referendum would have been expensive and divisive, but it would have passed. And all state governments knew this.

In the end, we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons. And today, there is a wide consensus that our 1996 reforms not only reduced the gun-related homicide rate, but also the suicide rate.

In the 18 years before the 1996 reforms, Australia suffered 13 gun massacres — each with more than four victims — causing a total of 102 deaths. There has not been a single massacre in that category since 1996.

But, this is America. We haven’t a habit of letting facts get in the way of political ideology. It will take mass support in every state for any level of reform to gun law.

What passes for conservatism in many other nations still allows for educated opinions. Today’s generation of Republican misleaders got position and power on the basis of religious fundamentalism and bigotry. They may be a dying breed; but they couldn’t care less about how anyone else dies.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 22, 2013 at 8:00 am

Amateur prospector finds massive 5.5 kg gold nugget

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An amateur Australian prospector who hadn’t had much luck searching for gold has struck it rich, unearthing a nugget heavier than a newborn baby and worth more than $300,000.

The anonymous prospector discovered the 5.5 kg nugget near the country town of Ballarat and in an area known as the “Golden Triangle” due to its rich veins which sparked a gold rush in the 1850s.

The find came to light on Wednesday when the man walked into the Ballarat Mining Exchange Gold Shop and told owner Cordell Kent: “Mate, I found a good one”. He then revealed the nugget, adding that he had weighed it on the bathroom scales at home…

The Y-shaped nugget, 22 centimeters long and 14 centimeters wide, was found by the prospector using an Australian-made gold detector.

“The intrinsic gold value is about $301,100, but because it’s a natural raw specimen and they’re extremely rare it’s got a value far in excess of that,” Kent said…

Kent said the find was likely to create a new, mini gold rush. “It’s given a lot of prospectors great hope that there still are great pieces out there,” said Kent.

Let’s go!

Written by Ed Campbell

January 20, 2013 at 2:00 am

Ancient Indian visitors to Australia may have brought dingoes

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A new study of DNA has found that Indian people may have come to Australia around 4000 years ago, an event possibly linked to the first appearance of the dingo.

Australia was first populated around 40,000 years ago and it was once thought Aboriginal Australians had limited contact with the outside world until the arrival of Europeans.

However, an international research team examining genotyping data from Aboriginal Australians, New Guineans, island Southeast Asians and Indians found ancient association between Australia, New Guinea, and the Mamanwa group from the Philippines.

“We also detect a signal indicative of substantial gene flow between the Indian populations and Australia well before European contact, contrary to the prevailing view that there was no contact between Australia and the rest of the world. We estimate this gene flow to have occurred during the Holocene, 4,230 years ago,” the researchers said…

“This is also approximately when changes in tool technology, food processing, and the dingo appear in the Australian archaeological record, suggesting that these may be related to the migration from India…”

Professor Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide, said the research team’s discovery of “a previously unsuspected episode of gene flow with populations from mainland India, estimated to take place around 4,200 years ago… coincides with significant changes in the Aboriginal archaeological record, around 4000 to 5000 years ago.”

It does not necessarily indicate direct contact with mainland India. For example it could be via populations elsewhere whose original source was mainland India,” said Professor Cooper, who was not involved in the research…

“Australian people were, for tens of thousands of years, a part of the human population of the world exchanging both genes and cultural information with their neighbours.”

Our species has always been carriers of that awesome trait – curiosity. We always want to know what’s around the next bend in the road, over the next hill.

Thanks, Honeyman

Written by Ed Campbell

January 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm

HIV mutation opens another pathway to halt AIDS

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Queensland researchers believe they’ve hit upon a “light switch” protein within the HIV virus, which can be flicked off to stop it developing into full-blown AIDS…

“This has the possibility – not to eliminate the virus – but hopefully to allow us to reconstitute a human immune system that is resistant to HIV,” Associate Professor David Harrich said.

He said they experimented on a normal protein usually used by the HIV virus to replicate itself in human cells and mutated it to create the “Nullbasic” protein.

We now have a very potent protein that can stop HIV from growing in cells,” he said…“Instead of being an activator of HIV, it’s an inhibitor of HIV…”

“The reason we got so encouraged was because of just how well this protein worked in the cell culture, so we’re fairly convinced the animal model study will be successful,” he said.

With animal then human trials predicted to take five to 10 years, Associate Professor Harrich said the ultimate goal would be to develop a gene therapy treatment – similar to therapies provided to people with cancer – that would replace current regimes of antiretroviral drugs.

“With a single therapy that you would have long-lasting protection from the virus and could lead a drug-free life,” he said.

Step by step the longest march can be won.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 16, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Speaking of the weather in Australia…

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Australia’s “dome of heat” has become so intense that the temperatures are rising off the charts – literally. The air mass over the inland is still heating up – it hasn’t peaked

The Bureau of Meteorology’s interactive weather forecasting chart has added new colours – deep purple and pink – to extend its previous temperature range that had been capped at 50 degrees C.

The range now extends to 54 degrees C – well above the all-time record temperature of 50.7 degrees reached on January 2, 1960 at Oodnadatta Airport in South Australia – and, perhaps worryingly, the forecast outlook is starting to deploy the new colours…

While recent days have seen Australian temperature maps displaying maximums ranging from 40 degrees to 48 degrees – depicted in the colour scheme as burnt orange to black – both Sunday and Monday are now showing regions likely to hit 50 degrees or more, coloured purple…

“The air mass over the inland is still heating up – it hasn’t peaked,” Dr David Jones said.

Australia’s first six days of 2013 were all among the hottest 20 days on record in terms of average maximums, with January 7 and today likely to add to the list of peaks. That would make it four of the top 10 in a little over a week…

Phew!

Written by Ed Campbell

January 9, 2013 at 8:00 pm

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