Home' Greymouth Star : June 25th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
8 - Thursday, June 25, 2015
United States President Barack
Obama reaffirmed in a phone call
with his French counterpart Francois
commitment to end spying practices
deemed “unacceptable” by its allies.
came after transparency lobby group
Wikileaks revealed yesterday that US
National Security Agency (NSA) had
spied on the last three French presidents.
The latest revelations of espionage
among western allies came after
it emerged the NSA had spied on
Germany and that Germany ’s own BND
intelligence agency had co-operated
with the NSA to spy on officials and
companies elsewhere in Europe.
unequivocally his firm commitment
. . . to end the practices that may have
happened in the past and that are
considered unacceptable among allies,”
the French president ’s office said.
Hollande had earlier held an emergency
meeting of his ministers and army
commanders and the US ambassador
was summoned to the foreign ministry.
“France will not tolerate actions that
threaten its security and the protection
of its interests,” an earlier statement
from the president ’s office said, adding it
was not the first time allegations of US
spying on French interests had surfaced.
A senior French intelligence official
will travel to the US to discuss the matter
and strengthen co-operation between
the two countries, Hollande’s office said.
“ We have to verify that this spying
has finished,” government spokesman
Stephane Le Foll told reporters, adding
that ministers had been told to be careful
when speaking on their cellphones.
While Paris and Washington have
good ties in general, United Nations
Security Council veto-holder France
fiercely maintains its independence on
foreign policy and over the last two years
there have been moments of friction and
irritation on both sides.
Obama’s last-minute decision not to
strike Syrian government positions in
2013. US officials have frequently, in
private, criticised France’s tough stance
in talks over Iran’s nuclear programme.
The revelations were first reported by
French daily Liberation and on news
website Mediapart, which said the NSA
spied on presidents Jacques Chirac,
Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande
during the period of at least 2006 until
According to the documents, Sarkozy
considered restarting Israeli-Palestinian
peace talks without US involvement and
Hollande feared a Greek euro zone exit
back in 2012.
Wikileaks said it would soon publish
more details on the nature of US spying
Le Foll said Paris had not decided
whether to launch legal proceedings as
Germany had done but, amid calls from
some quarters for retaliation, played
down diplomatic consequences.
“In the face of threats that we face and
given the historic ties linking us, we have
to keep a perspective,” he said. “ We’re
not going to break diplomatic ties.”
Germany’s top public prosecutor closed
a year-long probe earlier this month into
the suspected tapping of Chancellor
Angela Merkel’s cellphone by US spies.
Claude Gueant, Sarkozy’s former chief
of staff and one of the reported targets
of the NSA, told RTL radio: “I feel like
trust has been broken. ”
The documents, which included the
cellphone of one of the presidents,
included summaries of conversations
between French officials on the
global financial crisis, the future of
the European Union, ties between
Hollande’s administration and Merkel’s
government. — Reuters
US spied on
US Senate gives nod to TPP trade pact
Barack Obama has scored a major
victory in his battle to include the
United States in the Trans-Pacific
Partnership trade pact with Australia,
New Zealand and nine other Pacific
The US Senate voted 60-38 early
today to grant Obama fast-track
authority for the TPP.
The TPP, which does not include
China, could have been doomed if the
Senate refused to give the president
Fast-track means when the US,
Australia, New Zealand and other
TPP members complete the trade
agreement, the US Congress,
renowned for its dysfunction, will be
forced to take an up or down vote.
It cannot amend or filibuster
the agreement finalised by the 12
To secure the victory Obama
aligned himself with his usual
foes, Republican Party members
in Congress, and against his own
Democratic Party and groups who
supported his election and re-
election, unions and environmental
“ We had plenty of bumps along
the road,” Senate majority leader
Mitch McConnell, a Republican and
frequent Obama antagonist, said.
“ Frankly, a few big potholes too.
“ But we worked across the aisle to
get through all of them.
“That ’s an example of a new
Congress that ’s back to work for the
Despite some leaks, the TPP largely
The TPP is planned between the
US, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei,
Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia,
Mexico, Peru, Singapore
The nations represent 40% of the
world economy. — AAP
The Q ueen might have to move
out of Buckingham Palace for an
extended period under plans being
considered to allow builders to
carry out millions of pounds of
repairs to the crumbling building.
The 300-year-old palace needs
about £150 million ($342 million)
worth of work to fix the roofs
and replace old wiring, ancient
decorating and dated plumbing, a
royal source said.
Although no decision is imminent
as funding has yet to be agreed,
the royals who use the palace as a
London base, including the Queen
and some of her children, might
have to move out as well if that is
the most cost-effective solution.
“It is one of a number of potential
options as we take for ward the
essential maintenance of the
palace,” the royal source said.
You cannot see the cracks from
If she does have to move out,
the Queen has several official
residences to choose from,
including Windsor Castle west
of London, Sandringham House
in Norfolk, Holyrood Palace in
Edinburgh and Balmoral Castle
further north in Scotland.
Buckingham Palace has 775
rooms including 52 royal and guest
bedrooms and 188 bedrooms for
staff. It was bought by King George
III for his wife Q ueen Charlotte
and has ser ved as the official
London residence of Britain’s
monarchs since 1837.
In January 2014, legislators
accused the royal household of
neglecting repairs at the palace,
saying its electrical wiring and
boilers were at least 60 years old
and it had asbestos that needed to
“ We will look carefully at all the
options and the cost implications
before taking any decisions,” a
palace spokeswoman said.
Official figures on Wednesday
showed the 89-year-old Queen,
who will overtake Q ueen Victoria
as Britain’s longest-reigning
monarch in September, spent
£35.7m in the last financial year.
Public funding for the monarch
will increase to almost £43m next
“The Q ueen, the royal family and
the household continue to provide
excellent value for money: at 56p
per person annually,” the Q ueen’s
treasurer Alan Reid, known as the
Keeper of the Privy Purse, said.
Republican campaigners estimate
the annual cost of the monarchy to
the taxpayer to be £334m, taking
into account issues such as security
charges. They say the royal family
should move out of the palace
permanently if they could not
afford its upkeep.
“The Tower of London does well
as a world-class tourist attraction,
paying for its own upkeep,”
Graham Smith, chief executive of
the anti-monarchy group Republic,
said. “ Buckingham Palace would
make a great tourist destination —
if the royals moved out.” — Reuters
Queen may have to leave crumbling Buckingham Palace
Guardsmen stand to attention in front of Buckingham Palace during the State opening of Parliament in central London last month.
Chinese customs have seized about
three billion yuan ($702 million) worth
of smuggled meat, some more than 40
years old and rotting, the official China
Daily said overnight, the latest in a grim
series of food safety scares.
Beijing toughened food safety rules
in April to shake off a reputation for
safety scandals that range from donkey
meat tainted with fox DNA to milk
contaminated with industrial chemical
melamine that killed at least six infants
Chinese authorities have launched
a crackdown on beef and frozen meat
smuggling, in addition to a campaign
last year to stamp out the smuggling of
Authorities had busted 21 criminal
gangs by June, leading to seizures of
more than 100,000 tonnes of smuggled
meat, including chicken wings, beef and
pork, State news agency Xinhua said.
In one bust, police in southern Hunan
province arrested 20 people.
Customs officials found some of
the meat was more than 40 years
old, meaning it dated back to the
1970s. Other parts were rotten
and decomposing, the China Daily
newspaper said. It was not clear if the
seized meat had been destroyed.
“ It was smelly, and I nearly threw up
when I opened the door,” administration
official Zhang Tao told the newspaper.
Industry sources say hundreds of
thousands of tonnes of beef is being
smuggled into China via neighbouring
Hong Kong and Vietnam, from
countries such as Brazil and India, to
sidestep Beijing’s import curbs.
Meat can last for a long time if
continuously frozen, but smuggled
meat is often moved under poor storage
conditions that lead to repeated thawing,
making it eventually go bad. — Reuters
It was a creature so strange that
experts literally could not make
heads nor tails of it.
But scientists said overnight
a new analysis of fossils of
Hallucigenia, so named for
its fantastical appearance, has
given them for the first time a
complete understanding of this
little sea oddball that lived about
508 million years ago.
Hallucigenia is one of the
species emblematic of the
Cambrian Period, a pivotal
juncture in the history of life on
Earth when most major groups
of animals first appeared and
many unusual body designs came
“It is nice to finally know rather
fundamental things such as how
many legs it has, and to know
its head from its tail,” University
of Cambridge palaeontologist
Martin Smith said.
Hallucigenia, whose fossils have
been unearthed in the Burgess
Shale site in the Canadian
Rocky Mountains, belongs to a
primitive group of velvet worms,
animals that still exist today.
Hallucigenia, 10mm to 55mm
long, possessed seven pairs of
nail-like spines protruding
from its back, with an equal
number of pairs of long, flimsy
legs underneath tipped with
claws. There were three pairs of
skinny tentacles toward the head,
perhaps used to process food or
Hallucigenia has long baffled
scientists. In the 1970s, it was
thought its back spikes were legs,
its legs were tentacles along its
back and its head was its tail.
“The head was once thought to
be represented by a large balloon-
like orb at one end of the animal.
We can now show that this orb
was not part of the animal at all,
but a blob of decay fluids that
oozed out of the anus during
decay and burial,” Smith said.
The actual head, the scientists
have now learned after using
sophisticated imaging techniques
on the fossils, is at the end of a
long and slender neck resembling
a hose-like tube. Near the end of
the head were two bean-shaped
“Below the eyes, like an
almighty grin, sits a ring of
teeth,” Smith said.
There was a small mouth
cavity in front of these teeth to
suck food into the throat. Once
there, the food was gripped by
tiny needle-like teeth lining the
throat to speed it to the stomach.
“It would have been quiet
a sight,” said Royal Ontario
Museum paleontologist Jean-
The research appears in the
journal Nature. — Reuters
Weird creature no hallucination
An artist ’s reconstruction of Hallucigenia sparsa. Hallucigenia,
whose fossils have been unearthed in the Burgess Shale site in
the Canadian Rocky Mountains, belongs to a primitive group of
A Saudi television star has earned death
threats for deploying a new weapon against
Islamic State: laughter.
Selfie, a sketch comedy show which debuted
last week on Saudi-owned pan-Arab satellite
channel MBC, has won praise from influential
voices in the Middle East for daring to mock
the hardline militant group.
In one scene, a group of buffoonish holy
warriors at a “girl market ” picks concubines
from a line of chained women abducted from
“Come on guys!” interjects a naive character
played by the show ’s Saudi star, Nasser Al
Qasabi. “ This is forbidden by Islam, these are
“God forgives!” the ringleader snapped back.
As one fighter picks a slave “wife” of a
moustachioed man in a woman’s black robe, a
friend points out the apparent mistake.
“No problem!” the first fighter says. “If he’s an
infidel, he deser ves this!”
Saudi Arabia obser ves a strict form of Sunni
Islam but is fiercely opposed to Islamic State,
the group also known as Isis or Isil which has
seized much of Syria and Iraq and declared a
“c aliphate” to rule over all Muslims.
Al Qasabi says his show ’s message, though
presented in the form of satire, is deadly serious.
He says he has been unfazed by threats he has
received from the militants’ supporters since the
“God is my protector. I’m an artist, and
the artist ’s essential role is to reveal society’s
challenges even if he pays a price,” he said in
an inter view with Saudi-owned al Arabiya TV.
“ Warning the people about Isis is the true jihad,
because we’re fighting them with art not war.”
The militants are known for their own
skilful use of media, filming beheadings and
distributing well-produced war documentaries
that attract foot soldiers to the field and virtual
armies of backers in on-line social networks.
In a typical response from a supporter of the
militants, a Twitter user named Jalabeeb al-
Jizrawi wrote to Al Qasabi: “I swear to god you
will regret what you did, you apostate.”
“The holy warriors will not rest until they cut
your head from your body, in just a few days
hopefully,” he wrote in a post that was retweeted
over 3000 times.
But other media figures in the Middle East
have declared themselves fans.
“For many years, (news networks) al Jazeera
and al Arabiya have aired Isis filth and no one
reacted against it,” Shams, a Kuwaiti singer,
tweeted to her almost half a million followers.
“But in 20 minutes, Selfie gave the Islamic
nation a wake up call,” she said. — Reuters
Saudi satirist faces death
threats for mocking militants
Isis jihadists have threatened “a calamity
for kuffars” over the fasting month of
Ramadan, and released a gruesome video
of unorthodox execution methods.
The chief propagandist for Isis (Islamic
State), Abu Mohammed al-Adnani,
says in a recording that Haditha, west
of Ramadi, will be the next town in
Iraq to fall under Isis’s sway, and incites
more attacks by the group’s followers
worldwide. The attacks should be on
“ kuffars (infidels), crusaders, Shias and
Apostates. Be keen to conquer in this
holy month and to become exposed to
The group is under pressure in north-
east Syria, where Kurdish forces have
pushed it back to 50km north of Raqqa,
but has expanded elsewhere.
One video shows alleged “spies” being
executed by being lowered in a cage into
a pool until they drown. Another group
is lined up kneeling in the desert with
explosives around their necks, which
are then detonated, decapitating them.
A third group is placed in a car, which
is blown up with a rocket-propelled
grenade. — PA
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