Home' Greymouth Star : February 25th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1308 - Edward II is enthroned as King of
1723 - Death of Sir Christopher Wren,
English architect and designer.
1836 - American inventor Samuel Colt
patents his revolver.
1841 - Explorer Edward John Eyre leaves
Fowlers Bay in South Australia on an
overland trip around the Great Australian
1899 - Death in France of Paul Julius Reuter,
German founder of the international news
agency that bears his name.
1956 - Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev
goes before Communist Party congress in
Moscow and denounces late dictator
1964 - Cassius Clay (Muhammad
Ali) becomes world heavyweight
boxing champion for the first time by
knocking out Sonny Liston in Miami.
1972 - Soviet Union’s Luna 20
spacecraft returns to earth with
samples of the moon’s surface.
President Kenneth Kaunda announces his
cabinet ’s decision to impose a one-party state
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
General Jose de San Martin, hero of
Argentine independence (1778-1850); Pierre
Auguste Renoir, French artist (1841-1919);
Enrico Caruso, Italian opera singer (1873-
1921); Dame Myra Hess, English pianist
(1890-1965); Sally Jessy Raphael, US talk show
host (1935-); Tom Courtenay, English actor
(1937-); Herb Elliott, Australian
Olympic champion athlete (1938-);
Peewee Wilson, Australian musician
(1940-); David Puttnam, British film
producer (1941-); George Harrison,
English singer and Beatle member
(1943-2001); Tea L eoni, US actress
(1966-); Nova Peris-Kneebone,
Australian athlete (1971-); Benji
Marshall, New Zealand rugby league footballer
(1985-); James and Oliver Phelps, British
actors who played the Weasley twins in the
Harry Potter films (1986-).
“ Hero-worship is strongest where there is
least regard for human freedom. ” — Herbert
Spencer, British philosopher (1820-1903).
“Therefore encourage one another and build
up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
— 1 Thessalonians 5.11
dealing effect of
natural gas on the
was emphasised by the Canadian High
Commissioner to New Zealand, Mr K J
Burbridge in Greymouth last night. “Natural
gas in Canada pretty well put coalmining
out of business,” he told members of the
Greymouth Chamber of Commerce, Westland
District Progress League and Composite Coal
Committee in a comprehensive address on the
economic and industrial growth of Canada.
Mr Burbridge explained, however, that
coal had never been an important industry
in Canada. He said that cheaper coal could
be obtained from the Pennsylvanian fields in
America than from Canadian mines. He said
there were one or two areas where mines were
still working but these were subsidised by the
government in order not to put men out of
Mr H E Clarke, the current deputy chief
engineer of the Wairarapa Catchment Board,
has been appointed chief engineer of the
Westland Catchment Board. He replaces Mr
J A Macdonald who completes his duties with
the board today.
A married man with three children, Mr
Clarke will take up his new duties on May 24.
Dave McKenzie, the 5ft 3in 21-year-old
Christchurch marathon champion, has a
knee injury, an injury which could prejudice
his chances of participating in the national
marathon at Dunedin on March 13. The
injury occurred on Saturday when McKenzie
was on one of his regular long runs over the
undulating Coast Road.
Dr B M Dallas found that McKenzie had
strained a ligament. He has given the athlete a
cortisone injection in the meantime.
uFood for thought
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Fighter sale big boost for France
he arms deal that eluded
France for 20 years, its first
foreign order for the Rafale
combat aircraft, came
with an evening phone
call crowning weeks of
diplomacy carried out with unusual speed
Egypt’s decision to buy 24 of the
Dassault Aviation fighters follows failures
by successive French governments to sell
the plane and leapfrogs three years of
inconclusive talks for a 126-plane contract
By giving the green light via his defence
minister this month, Egyptian President
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has boosted a defence
project that is barely ticking over in a half-
empty production hall.
“It isn’t the deal we were expecting but it
won’t do any harm to the Rafale to have an
export order under its belt. It gives France
a little more breathing space,” Douglas
Barrie, a senior fellow at London-based
think tank IISS, said.
Diplomats say the deal suits both
Cairo and Paris geopolitically with both
particularly invested in the fight against
jihadist groups in North Africa.
Sisi has been looking to upgrade Egypt’s
military hardware over fears Islamist
militias in neighbouring Libya could take
control and directly threaten Egypt.
“Egypt needs planes quickly,”
Patricia Adam, president of the French
parliament ’s defence committee, said.
“ You just need to take a look at what ’s
happening at its border. They are especially
worried by what ’s happening in Libya.”
France has urgently been looking for an
export buyer to prevent Rafale production
lines from going cold after the military
slowed deliveries due to budget problems.
Negotiations began in September after
France’s defence minister Jean-Yves
Le Drian visited Cairo, hoping at best
to interest Egyptian authorities in the
modernisation of its existing Mirage 2000
The phlegmatic Breton politician, a long-
time ally of French President Francois
Hollande, had been actively courting
potential Rafale buyers. But Egypt was not
on the list of prospects containing India,
Qatar, Malaysia and Kuwait.
“On the Rafale, when Sisi told Le Drian
he was interested it came as a complete
surprise,” said a French diplomat.
Talks were kept to a tight circle, but in a
television inter view during a visit to Paris
in November, Sisi hinted at the condition
for striking new deals: financing support.
“ Will France better understand our
economic situation or not? We shall see,”
he told France 24.
Diplomats say talks took a signifi cant
step for ward on the sidelines of the
inauguration of Saudi King Salman last
month, where Sisi told Hollande he
wanted to move ahead quickly.
France said over half the purchase price
would be financed by French banks with a
State-backed Coface guarantee.
The rest must be paid by Egypt but
French media report this will be funded in
part by at least one Gulf State.
Libya is split between militias loyal to an
which Egypt and United Arab Emirates
support, and those allied to a rival
government based in Tripoli that includes
Islamist groups, and which has been
backed by Turkey and Qatar.
The UAE sees Egypt ’s leadership as a
firewall against militants and has given
Cairo financial and military support,
western and Arab diplomats say.
Saudi Arabia is sympathetic to Egyptian
and UAE involvement in Libya but is not
believed to have played any direct role.
While Sisi has been widely criticised
for human rights violations and quashing
opposition to his government, France has
taken a relatively pragmatic approach to
the new presidency.
It considers Cairo’s new leader as a
legitimate interlocutor who can ensure
regional stability. Amnesty International
has urged France not to sell arms to Sisi’s
Once a top recipient of United States
military aid, Egypt lost most of its
$1.3 billion a year package after the 2011
popular uprising that toppled former
President Hosni Mubarak.
With the Rafale deal, Egypt, which
sidelined Paris under the Muslim
Brotherhood, is almost certain to be
France’s biggest arms client this year.
Whether that translates into a “snowball”
of more Rafale sales, as Dassault Aviation
hopes, was undoubtedly debated at last
week’s Aero India air show ahead of a
visit to France by Indian Prime Minister
Narendra Modi in April.
“The deal may help break the logjam
vis a vis other customers since they are
now on notice that if they want to have
the Rafale they may have to wait for it,”
Francois Heisbourg, special adviser at the
Strategic Research Foundation, who was
involved in the Mirage 2000 sale to Egypt
in 1982-83, said.
Others warn it could slow, rather than
speed up, an Indian deal that seems
deadlocked over requests for French
“ You get the impression this tells you
that Dassault and the French government
don’t believe the Indian deal will get
signed any time soon,” Francis Tusa, editor
of Defence Analysis, said.
“ Dassault have been playing hard ball
from day one. Now they have got another
customer that will tide them over to the
resumption of French domestic purchases
with none of the risks of the Indian
contract. It places the ball in India’s court.”
A Rafale fighter is seen on the assembly line in the factory of French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation in Merignac near Bordeaux, south-western France.
Research finds mum’s germs shape who we are
Eye colour, hair colour, height and
weight — the list of traits passed down
from one generation to the next is long.
It is almost an old saw: Half our genes
come from mum, half from dad. Before
we even knew what genes were, we
understood the basic principle of heredity,
thanks to Gregor Mendel’s experiments
with peas in the mid-1800s. Now, 150
years later, scientists at the Washington
University School of Medicine in St Louis
say the old arithmetic no longer adds up.
Turns out our pot bellies or propensity
to fly off the handle may have nothing
to do with our parents’ genes and instead
everything to do with maternal bacteria.
Yep, germs. The DNA of microbes carried
by the mother during pregnancy can be
passed on to offspring, according to mouse
studies published on-line this month in
the journal Nature.
“ We have kept bacteria on one side of a
line separating the factors that shape our
development — the environmental side of
that line, not the genetic line,” co-author
Herbert W Virgin IV told ScienceDaily.
“But our results show bacteria stepping
over the line. This suggests we may need
to substantially expand our thinking
about their contributions, and perhaps the
contributions of other microorganisms, to
genetics and heredity. ”
Bacteria, both on the skin and deep in
the gut, is about as fundamental to human
life as blood, with the majority of it being
beneficial. Far smaller than human cells,
bacteria is also abundant. Each of us has
10 times the amount of bacteria as human
As is often the case in science, the
discovery of the Washington University
scientists was prompted by unrelated
research. Virgin, the head of the
department of pathology and Thaddeus
Stappenbeck, a professor of pathology and
immunology, were studying inflammatory
bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s and
About half their mice had low levels of
IgA, a gut antibody linked to these bowel
conditions, and half had high levels. When
they were bred, the mothers with low
levels of the antibody produced offspring
with low levels.
Investigating further, the researchers
learned that a little understood bacterium,
Sutterella, was likely responsible for
spreading the low antibody levels. In other
words, the mice weren’t just passing on
their own DNA, but the DNA of the
germ Sutterella as well, resulting in low
levels of the gut antibody IgA.
In the short term, Stappenbeck said,
the implications for all experiments
using genetically engineered mice are
“profound,” since this now explains a
persistent problem in those experiments:
mice offspring that appear with
inexplicable new traits.
The implications for humans are
potentially monumental, though as yet
One tantalising tid-bit: In 2012
researchers at Columbia University’s
Mailman School of Public Health
reported that children with autism and
gastrointestinal problems had high levels
of Sutterella in their intestines.
— Washington Post
The DNA of microbes carried by the mother during pregnancy can be passed on to
Sheep or goat? China’s recent lunar new
year has stirred a debate over which zodiac
creature is the correct one — but Chinese
folklorists dismiss the fixation on animals
as missing the point.
Traditional astrology in China attaches
different animal signs to each lunar year in
a cycle of 12 years.
The symbol for the new year starting on
February 19 is the “yang”, which can refer
to any member of the caprinae subfamily
— or even beyond — depending on what
additional Chinese character it is paired
For example, a goat is a “mountain yang”,
a sheep is a “soft yang” and a Mongolian
gazelle is a “yellow yang”.
Both goats and sheep appear in Chinese
new year paintings, paper-cuts and other
Folklorists say it does not matter
which one is used since the zodiac sign
was chosen for the Chinese character’s
auspicious connotation rather than
the specific animal — at least in the
“This ‘yang’ is fictional. It does not refer
to any specific kind (of sheep or goat),”
Zhao Shu, a researcher with the Beijing
Research Institute of Culture and History,
“ Yang” is a component of the written
Chinese character “xiang”, which
means auspiciousness, and the two were
interchangeable in ancient Chinese,
It is also a part of the character “shan”,
which counts kindness and benevolence as
among its meanings.
“Therefore ‘yang’ is a symbol of . . .
blessing and fortune and represents
good things,” Yin Hubin, an ethnology
researcher with the China Academy of
Social Sciences, a government think-tank,
“ It is connected to the original
implication of the Chinese character as
an ideogram and reflects the world view
of the Chinese people in primitive times,”
That said, the zodiac sign is being
shunned by some Chinese parents-to-
be, with expectant mothers scheduling
Caesarean sections to give birth before the
current year of the horse ends, according
to media reports.
The rush apparently stems from a
Chinese superstition held by some that
nine out of 10 sheep will be unhappy
in life — a belief Yin dismissed as
More frequently, the animal plays a
positive role in Chinese folklore, experts
A fable that can be traced back to more
than 1500 years ago depicts five goats
carrying crops in their mouth to save
people suffering from years of drought in
The southern boom town, today the
capital of Guangdong province and
dubbed the City of Goats, has enjoyed
timely wind and rain ever since, according
to the story.
While the loose concept of “yang”
comes naturally to Chinese people, in the
west the term can often be a source of
frustration for those seeking an equivalent
in their own language.
A Google search suggests that in
English, “year of the sheep” is the most
In French, however, the reverse is true,
with convention and an over whelming
Google ratio in favour of “chevre”, or
Zhao thinks the translation is “open to
“S heep, goat, Mongolian gazelle —
whatever is fine. This is the fun of Chinese
characters,” he said.
But some scholars argue goat is a better
option for the traditional Han Chinese
holiday, as it is a more commonly kept
farm animal for the dominant ethnic
group in China, according to the official
Xinhua news agency.
Many Chinese people appear to be
unfazed by the debate.
“The year of the yang, 2015, is neither
a sheep nor a goat. It is a beautiful and
elegant milk yang!
“Abundant milk, clothes and food. It
will be a halcyon year,” wrote one user
on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of
Eschewing the lexical debate, some users
have simply opted for the animal that
they see as possessing their own favoured
“In the year of the yang, I want to be
a strong-willed and energetic goat, not
a weak sheep,” another Sina Weibo user
wrote. — AFP
Chinese Year of the Sheep — or goat
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