Syria: David Cameron pledges to redouble efforts for settlement

Syrian troops celebrate as they take control of the village of Haydariyah
on Monday (AFP)

The British and French originally wanted stronger backing for pro-western
rebels so as to marginalise jihadist elements which might emerge dominant if
Mr Assad fell.

Now Mr Cameron believes the rebels need to be strengthened just to prevent Mr
Assad winning an outright victory.

“There will be no political progress unless the opposition is able to
withstand the onslaught and put pressure on Assad,” he said, at a press
conference with Mr Obama.

He confirmed a doubling of aid to the rebels to £20 million, including the
supply of armoured cars, body armour and generators, and £30 million more in
humanitarian aid, bringing the total so far to £170 million. He said Britain
would continue to push for changes in the EU arms embargo.

John Kerry, left, and Sergei Lavrov holding a joint press conference in
Moscow last week (AFP)

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, believes he has secured a major
breakthrough in winning Russian support for a peace conference, based on the
Geneva proposals for a transitional government. However, whether Mr Assad
remains a part of that “transitional” government continues to be a
major dividing line.

George Sabra, acting leader of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, said
it would consult its Middle Eastern supporters, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and
Qatar, before deciding whether to take part.

The Arab League said that the Syrian government had sent a proposed list of
representatives to Moscow.

Rebels on the ground say they will accept no deal short of Mr Assad’s removal.
Turkey would also be hard pressed to accept his survival, blaming him for
the car bombing in the border town of Reyhanli which killed 46 people on
Saturday.


Firefighters and police inspect the area scene of the explosions in Reyhanli
(EPA)

Officials believe the same group was responsible as carried out two massacres
near the Syrian town of Baniyas earlier this month. Photographs posted
online showed the bodies of large numbers of children.

They have identified a former Marxist terrorist group based in Turkey led by
Mihrac Ural, an ethnic Arab living in Syria close to the Assad regime.

An Alawite, he was filmed calling for Baniyas to be “cleaned” of
Sunnis.

Four Turkish national members of his group are said to be among those arrested
for the bombing.

The most gruesome video to emerge, though, shows a rebel militia leader from
Homs, Khaled al-Hamad, or “Abu Saqqar”, cutting the heart and
liver out of a corpse.

Abu Saqqar’s men split off from a mainstream rebel brigade and have been
accused of other atrocities, including shelling Shia villages in Lebanon.

He is seen shouting: “I swear to God we will eat your hearts, Alawite
soldiers of Bashar the dog.” He then puts the organs to his mouth.

The war’s death toll is estimated at more than 80,000. Mr Cameron said
something had to be done to stop the current “trajectory” into
extremist violence.

“Syria’s history is being written in the blood of her people, and it is
happening on our watch,” he said. “The world urgently needs to
come together to bring the killing to an end.”

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Astronaut Chris Hadfield returns to Earth

In his last Tweet before heading into the hatch, he took a photograph of a new
dawn on Earth.

Spaceflight finale: To some this may look like a sunset. But it’s a new
dawn from @Cmdr_Hadfield

Little-known before he set off, Cmdr Hadfield, who is married with three
children, used his time orbiting Earth to upload video diaries, songs and
photos to Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Reddit in an effort to boost
interest in space exploration and help introduce it to a new generation.

He celebrated his final hours on board the space station to record his take on
David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.

The music video shows Cmdr Hadfield floating inside the space station while
playing his guitar.

As he sings “Here I am sitting in a tin can far above the world,”
the Earth can be seen glowing outside the space station’s windows.

At one point he sings “And I’m floating in a most peculiar way”
while in mid-air.

It is believed to be the first music video filmed in space.

Bowie himself replied with the tweet: “Hallo spaceboy.”

He is the first Canadian to command the space station and its six staff. His
time onboard included an unexpected space walk to fix a coolant leak. On
Sunday he handed over control to Russian Pavel Vinogradov.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield handed over command of the
International Space Station to Russia’s Pavel Vinogradov on Sunday, ahead of
his expedition team’s return to Earth.

While
he may have built up a cult following, the main job over the five months was
to fly the space station itself – a network of capsules and solar arrays

that make it bigger than a Boeing 747.

They must ensure the space station runs smoothly and stays in the correct
orbit, while also making small adjustments should it be threatened by a
piece of passing space junk. They must also ensure all the life support
systems and cooling arrays are in good working order.

Primarily, however, the crew of Expedition 35, as they are known, have been
taking advantage of the space stations microgravity environment to carry out
new research.

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Drunk tourist charges elephant in South Africa

It is unclear when the incident occurred.

Wild animals in the five-million acre park sometimes attack visitors and
elephants have been known to overturn the cars of sightseers.

The park’s officials were not immediately reachable for comment, although
wildlife advocates called for charges to be brought against the tourist.

Source: AFP

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Sydney city council to spend record $1.9bn



THE City of Sydney will spend almost $2 billion over the next decade on building projects in an attempt to boost the city’s international reputation.


The council said on Tuesday it would spend a record $1.9 billion on capital works in the next 10 years.

It also announced a $100 million operational surplus for its draft 2013/14 budget.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the plan was possible because of good planning and “prudent investment”.

“Over a number of years we’ve built a healthy bottom line for our global city and villages,” Ms Moore said in a statement.

“Now we want to invest those funds to strengthen Sydney’s international reputation as a leading global city – renowned for its lifestyle, economy, tourism, sustainability, open space and cultural life.”

Major infrastructure works will include a $400 million upgrade of Green Square, $180 million for new footpaths and roads, and $100 million to improve parks.

The council says $220 million will be spent on connecting laneways and light rail in order to transform George Street.

It says $200 million will be spent by June 2014.

Ms Moore said the City of Sydney was spending money on capital works rather than “wasting money” on changing council boundaries.

“The city should continue our investment in long term infrastructure, beautiful parks and open space, affordable housing and high quality services for residents, businesses and visitors,” she said.

The draft 2013/14 budget and corporate plan will be on public exhibition until June 12.

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Police to target Daft Punk fans



POLICE are warning Daft Punk fans of a crackdown on alcohol-related crime at the French electro-pop duo’s album launch in the state’s north west.


The acclaimed French duo will launch their new album Random Access Memories via live streaming on Friday at Wee Waa Showgrounds, coinciding with the Wee Waa Show.

Four thousand tickets to the album release were sold in 13 minutes when they went on sale, even though the duo is not expected to appear in person.

In a statement, police warned they would be clamping down on “anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related crime” at the event.

Officers said they would also be cracking down on underage drinking, drink-driving and drug-related offences, as well as enforcing acceptable crowd behaviour.

“There will be no hesitation in taking action for alcohol-and-drug-related offences,” Superintendent Jenny Hayes said.

Police said they had launched an operation, codenamed Hadrian, to ensure the safety and security of music fans and locals at the event.

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Men flee Gold Coast boat blaze



TWO men have been forced to flee a burning boat after it caught alight off the Gold Coast.


Around 6.10pm (AEST) on Monday, police say they received a report of the fire onboard a 52-foot vessel, around four nautical miles off Mermaid Beach.

Two men on board escaped the boat in a dinghy before activating an emergency beacon and flares.

The vessel was fully engulfed by fire when water police arrived.

Officers helped the two men back to shore, where a 63-year-old man was taken to Gold Coast Hospital with smoke inhalation.

Authorities tried to recover the boat, but it later sunk at sea.

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Men flee Gold Coast boat blaze



TWO men have been forced to flee a burning boat after it caught alight off the Gold Coast.


Around 6.10pm (AEST) on Monday, police say they received a report of the fire onboard a 52-foot vessel, around four nautical miles off Mermaid Beach.

Two men on board escaped the boat in a dinghy before activating an emergency beacon and flares.

The vessel was fully engulfed by fire when water police arrived.

Officers helped the two men back to shore, where a 63-year-old man was taken to Gold Coast Hospital with smoke inhalation.

Authorities tried to recover the boat, but it later sunk at sea.

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NAPLAN testing begins across Australia



NATIONAL literacy and numeracy tests begin across Australia on Tuesday for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9.


The NSW Board of Studies said primary school children would sit four tests covering numeracy, reading, writing and language conventions – spelling, language and grammar – while high school students would sit five tests, including two tests in numeracy.

Tests begin on Tuesday and would continue on Wednesday and Thursday.

Results and student reports would not be available until September.

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Aussie doctors in brain breakthrough

brain

Aussie researchers have discovered that other parts of the brain take over to compensate for when the area controlling memory and learning is damaged, shedding light on how the brain repairs itself.
Source: Supplied



A TRIO of Australian and American scientists have made a discovery that could radically change the understanding of how the brain repairs itself.


They have shown that other parts of the brain take over to compensate for lost function if there is damage to the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

These parts are often far from the damaged site.

The research could lead to important advances in the treatment of accident and stroke victims, as well as those living with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Until now, we’ve been trying to figure out how to stimulate repair within the hippocampus. Now we can see other structures stepping in, and whole new brain circuits coming into being,” said Dr Bryce Vissel from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

“It’s truly exciting.”

Dr Vissel played a key role in helping to identify the brain pathways and structures involved after two US scientists made a surprising discovery that rats are able to learn new tasks after damage to the hippocampus.

Dr Vissel’s team worked with Dr Moriel Zelikowsky and Dr Michael Fanselow to identify the exact regions of the brain that take over.

Their breakthrough is published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the Academy of Science (PNAS), the journal of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Dr Fanselow says all complex behaviours involve multiple parts of the brain, with one region’s message affecting how another region will respond.

“The brain is heavily interconnected.”

He says once scientists understand why one pathway is chosen over another, they will be able to encourage pathways to take over when they need to, especially in the case of brain damage.

“I expect the brain probably has to be trained through experience.

“Behaviour creates molecular changes in the brain. We can try to facilitate those changes through behaviour and drug therapy.

“Future treatments are not going to be all behavioural or all pharmacological, but a combination of both,” he says.

“It’s probable that the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers are already compensating for damage and this discovery has significant potential for extending that compensation,” Dr Vissel said.

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Land that’s, literally, cheaper than chips

Richmond Shire Mayor John Wharton is hoping to attract new residents to the shire

JOIN US: Richmond Shire Mayor John Wharton is hoping to attract new residents to the shire. Picture: Tim Marsden
Source: The Courier-Mail



FOR $1, you can buy a slice of sunburnt country in outback Queensland. Richmond, population 827, in the state’s northwest, has put up four 800sq m town blocks in a “buck for a block” ballot.


Richmond, population 827, in the state’s northwest, has put up four 800sq m town blocks in a “buck for a block” ballot.

Each $1 site offers uncluttered views of a sun-drenched landscape stretching to the horizon.

“These blocks are, literally, cheaper than a packet of chips,” local grazier and Mayor John Wharton said. “It would be like winning the Gold Lotto.”

The land ballot is part of a ploy to buck the trend of country towns in decline.


View Larger Map

More than 3000 have registered interest in the ballot for the end of June where the only condition is a letter of credit from a bank to build within two years.

“It is a sign of the economy,” said Cr Wharton.

“It shows how tough times are, and how much people hanker for a simpler life out of the rat race.”

It is the second time the tiny township, midway between the mining outpost of Mount Isa and seaside Townsville, has opened up new town blocks under a $1 “land grab” raffle in the isolated corner of Queensland, 1600km northwest of Brisbane.

In 2008, four lucky bidders put down a dollar and snared a slice of rural bliss out of 300 applicants and 30 in the final ballot.

“It is not a gimmick,” said the mayor.

“Out here our motto is: Live and let live.

“We need a vet, a plumber, a panel beater, and we need more young families to reinvigorate our community.”

The classic outback bush town is best known for beef cattle, a dinosaur museum, and friendly country hospitality.

It has two pubs, two service stations, a general store, a state school and a town lake to cool down in when temperatures soar above the 40C mark in summer.

An average one-acre block in town sells for about $25,000.

 

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