Home' Greymouth Star : December 16th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
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bid to unite
overnight its planes had carried out air
strikes to support four rebel groups in
Syria, saying it was working to try to
unite the efforts of the Free Syrian Army
and government troops against Islamic
The General Staff of the Russian army
issued the statement as United States
Secretary of State John Kerry held
closed-door talks with Russian President
Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, with
Syria topping the agenda.
It said over 5000 Syrian opposition
rebels were fighting against Islamic
State in concert with the government
forces of President Bashar al-Assad and
that some rebels were supplying Russia’s
air force with targets for air strikes.
It said it had conducted strikes in
support of a group called Ganim which
it said was part of the Free Syrian
Army, as well as in support of a group
called Desert Lions, another group
called Kalamun, and another called
the Democratic Forces. “ This work
aimed at uniting the efforts of the
government forces and other groups,
which are interested in liberating Syria
from international terrorists, will be
continued,” the statement said.
The Kremlin has sent mixed signals
on the Free Syrian Army with some
government officials saying Russia is
arming them and others denying that.
The FSA itself has denied receiving any
Russian help, complaining that Russia is
continuing to bomb it instead.
The Russian defence ministry said
more than 150 Syrian opposition groups
were helping support the land operation
conducted by the Syrian government
“Actions by the so-called ‘moderate
opposition’ against Islamic State have
assisted the success of the land operation
conducted by Syria’s armed forces,” it
A senior western diplomat who
declined to be named was sceptical of
Russia’s assertions about its collaboration
with the FSA.
“That ’s not reality on the ground,” the
diplomat said. “ The FSA categorically
denies it and it’s pure propaganda to try
and divide the opposition.” — Reuters
No evidence of hidden Nazi train — geologists
No evidence supports the existence
of a Nazi “gold train” loaded with
treasures and buried in Poland at the
end of World War Two, researchers
The experts from
prestigious Academy of Mining
said overnight a tunnel could exist
but there was no sign of a train at a
site near the south-western town of
The story sparked a flurry of global
media interest in September when
two men claimed to have discovered
an armoured Nazi train using
Piotr Koper, a Pole, and German
national Andreas Richter said a
train 98m long lay buried 8m to 9m
They said they believed the contents
were mostly weapon prototypes,
though local legend spoke of artwork,
jewels and gold stolen by the Nazis.
The Nazis made prisoners of war
dig a network of tunnels in the area
and some locals have claimed the
Germans tried to spirit gold away as
Russia’s Red Army closed in.
But academy geology professor
Janusz Madej said his team’s research
had indicated “there is no train on
this site (but) maybe a tunnel”.
While admitting that a geological
sur vey of the area had thrown up
some anomalies, Madej said he was
“100% sure there is no train” based on
magnetic, gravimetric and geo-radar
Koper and Richter insist that
further searches will locate a train
buried deep inside the tunnel.
“ We discovered a tunnel. You can
see clearly the entrance to a tunnel,”
He said his team would prove that
a train exists.
“ I am convinced we are going to
prove its existence. We need a bit
more time . . . we need to excavate,”
he insisted, adding that he and
Richter were prepared to foot the bill
It will ultimately fall to the
Walbrzych town hall to decide
whether excavation should proceed.
Treasures that the Nazis allegedly
stashed away as Soviet forces closed
in reputedly included artwork
stolen from dispossessed Jewish
families and the Amber Room,
which the Germans pillaged from St
Petersburg’s Catherine Palace.
Quite apart from the train legend,
it was at Walbrzych that the Nazis
constructed a huge subterranean
labyrinth over 200ha beneath the
hills of Lower Silesia — including
around the massive Ksiaz Castle.
The huge bunker, which cost the
lives of countless concentration camp
inmates who hewed out the rock,
was supposed to provide shelter from
attack for Hitler’s general staff as well
as store treasures looted from across
The entrances were blown up
to erase all trace of the proposed
hideout. — AFP
Tim Peake, the first British
astronaut to travel to the
International Space Station,
has docked with the orbiting
laboratory with two other
spacemen, to cheers and
excitement back home.
Peake, 43, joins Russian space
veteran Yury Malenchenko and
Tim Kopra of Nasa for a six-month
mission on board the ISS.
Their launch from the Moscow-
operated Baikonur cosmodrome
went according to plan, but
after their six-hour journey the
astronauts docked with the ISS
manually due to a technical glitch,
a spokesman for the Russian space
“The commander switched to
manual control and everything
went well,” the spokesman said.
Queen Elizabeth II’s official
Twitter account retweeted the UK
Space Agency saying, “ We have
liftoff ! @astro_timpeake is on his
way to space! #Good Luck Tim,
the #UK is with you!”
Fire from the boosters of the
Soyuz rocket cut a bright light
through the overcast sky at the
cosmodrome in Kazakhstan as the
spacecraft launched on schedule.
“Don’t Stop Me Now” by the
rock group Queen was blaring in
the Soyuz roughly half an hour
before blast-off as the astronauts
listened to their favourite music in
preparation for the mission.
Former army major Peake — a
European Space Agency flight
engineer — begins a 173-day
mission at the orbiting research
outpost along with Malenchenko
and 52-year-old Kopra.
Malenchenko, who will celebrate
his 54th birthday aboard the ISS
next week, has already logged 641
days in space, while Kopra has
chalked up 58.
Space travel has been one of the
few areas of international
co-operation between Russia and
the West that has not been wrecked
by the Ukraine conflict.
The Soyuz trio will join up
with three astronauts already at
the ISS — Scott Kelly of Nasa
and Russians Sergei Volkov and
Three other astronauts — Nasa’s
Kjell Lindgren, Japan’s Kimiya Yui
and Russia’s Oleg Kononenko —
returned to Earth on Friday.
The ISS space laboratory has
been orbiting the Earth at roughly
28,000kph since 1998. — AFP
Three-man crew docks at space station
PICTURE: Getty Images
European Space Agency mission crew members ESA astronaut Tim Peake, Nasa astronaut Tim Kopra and commander Yuri Malenchenko launch
into space from the Baikonur cosmodrome early today in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz TMA-19M rocket carried the crew to the International Space
Station for a six-month mission, as part of Expedition 46.
A last minute dispute over an apparent
typing error in last weekend’s global
climate deal in Paris was solved “in a small
room” and thanks to trust established
during the talks, French Foreign Minister
Laurent Fabius said overnight.
After two weeks of intense negotiations,
the deal was almost derailed in the final
hours when the more legally binding
word “shall” appeared in one of the
articles in the place of “should”. The last-
minute change in text article 4.4 of the
COP 21 agreement aimed at limiting
global warming by capping CO2
emissions said that developed nations
“shall have economy-wide absolute
emissions reduction targets”, instead of
“should” as written in previous drafts.
“S hall” would have been unacceptable
for the United States because that would
make it a legal requirement, needing
ratification by the Senate, something
considered pretty much impossible by its
“ We made it crystal clear that every
text up until this particular one had a
different wording, so it wasn’t hard for
them to realize that somebody had made
a mistake and accepted responsibility for
it,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said
countries had tried to insist on “shall”, to
ensure that rich countries took the lead.
“Should” is a much less onerous level of
“ Trust was created,” Fabius, who has
been praised for his masterly handling of
the talks, said.
“ It was this trust that got things done.
The text is very complicated and very
long etcetera, and in the last version
of the text, the stenographers made a
typing error. Instead of saying — as in
the two previous versions — that the
parties ‘should’ do this and that, ‘shall. ’
was written. ”
He said South Africa, the leader of the
G77 group of emerging countries told
his colleagues after the error that they
wanted the more binding word kept in.
“I had to come to a small room. I said
trust me. I certify that it is just a typing
error. Let ’s not block this deal for the
human race for that. They told me, Mr
Fabius, we trust you. ” — Reuters
The mystery surrounding three
jumbo jets parked at Malaysia’s Kuala
Lumpur airport for more than a year
may have been solved.
A Malaysian air cargo company
has come for ward saying it owns the
Boeing 747s and that it was shocked
by authorities’ claims that the owner
could not be traced.
Malaysia’s airport operator took
the unusual step last week of posting
photos of the three planes in two
The notice warned owners that
the airport had the right to sell or
dispose of the planes unless they were
collected within 14 days.
Swift Air Cargo said it legally
bought the planes in June and that
it had since been in communication
with Malaysia Airports Holdings
Berhad, which has demanded more
documentation on the purchase.
“ We are dumbfounded and
perplexed by Malaysia Airport ’s move.
Swift is the owner and we definitely
have not forgotten the planes,” Swift’s
lawyer, Syed Amir Syakib Arslan, said.
The Economist reported the aircraft
were originally owned by Flugvik, an
Icelandic plane-leasing firm.
They were then leased to Air Atlanta
Icelandic, which flew them until 2010.
At some point after that the
planes were de-registered, before
passing through a number of owners,
including a Chinese carrier named
Shaanxi Sunshine Cargo, according to
Malaysia Airports said the ownership
claim could not be satisfactorily
verified at this point and it had asked
the owner for more information.
It said the newspaper notice was a
normal legal process for debt recovery.
Syed Amir said Swift had given the
airport operator the sale and purchase
agreement, a legal declaration from
the previous Hong Kong owner of
the planes on the sale as well as other
original supporting documents to
He said Swift was liable for parking
charges only since June and not for
previous dues but it was willing to
negotiate with the airport operator.
“ We were waiting for yet
another meeting to present more
documentation and information as
requested when instead Malaysia
Airports announced to the world that
the owner of the planes was missing,”
Such a move could jeopardise the
reputation of Swift, which is waiting
for a permit from the government to
start operations, he added. — AP
‘Abandoned’ jumbo jets claimed
PICTURE: The Star
Still puzzled by the mystery of MH370, Malaysian airport authorities
had the opposite problem — three Boeing 747 planes left unclaimed at the
country’s main airport.
It may finally have been revealed
why Adelaide’s giant pandas Wang
Wang and Funi have failed to
produce offspring — they just do not
fancy each other.
New research has found the
reproductive rates of giant pandas
living in zoos are substantially
increased when they show a liking for
Communications says breeding
programmes could be improved if
pandas are allowed to choose their
Study author Meghan Martin-
Whintle and her colleagues studied
40 pandas at a conser vation and
research centre in China that were
allowed to freely choose between two
Individual pandas were placed in
the centre of an enclosure and given
visual access to potential mates.
The study revealed both mating
success and cub production were
significantly enhanced when a panda
showed a strong preference for a
particular partner and were enhanced
even more if both pandas shared a
liking for each other.
“Incorporating mating preference
trials into captive panda breeding
programmes could therefore prove to
be a cost-effective and efficient way
to ensure the continued sur vival of
pandas,” the study said.
Wang Wang and Funi were brought
together in Adelaide in 2009, on loan
from China for a decade, with the
aim of producing panda babies.
But so far there has been no pitter
patter of little panda feet, with the
lack of success usually blamed on
the extremely short fertility window
which lasts just 48 hours.
Earlier this year the sensitive subject
of just when a baby could be expected
was raised in federal parliament in a
question from LNP Senator James
“ It is a very personal question —
it ’s not something I’m inclined to
ask a panda about,” the environment
department ’s Stephen O xley replied.
Perhaps the question McGrath
should have asked is did anyone check
if Wang Wang and Funi actually like
each other. — A AP
Pandas don’t mate when they’re not mates
France fires cruise missiles at IS
France used cruise missiles for the first
time against the Islamic State during
strikes in Iraq overnight, the Defence
SCALP long-range missiles were
launched from French fighters based in
the United Arab Emirates and Jordan
as part of a bombing raid that targeted
a command centre, training site and
logistics depot in western Iraq on the
border with Syria.
The missiles were used for the first
time in Libya in 2011 strikes and cost
about 850,000 euros ($1.371 million)
each, according to the French press.
France has stepped up strikes on Islamic
State targets in Syria and Iraq after the
organisation claimed responsibility for
shootings and suicide bombings in Paris
last month that left 130 people dead.
EU unveils new
border force plans
The European Union has unveiled
plans for a new border and coast guard
agency that can inter vene even without
the host country’s consent, saying it has
to restore security threatened by the
The new force will have a “standing
reser ve” of 1500 border guards who can
be quickly deployed, unlike the current
Frontex agency which relies on asking
member States for contributions.
“ We cannot exclude there will still be
exceptional situations where a member
state is for whichever reason unable
to cope with a situation on its own,”
European Commission vice-president
Frans Timmermans said overnight.
“In such rare cases the agency must
be able to quickly step in and assume
the management of that specific part of
the shared external border,” he told the
European Parliament in Strasbourg.
“This is a safety net which, like all
safety nets, we hope will never need to
be used. But it is essential to restore the
credibility of our border management
Nearly a million refugees and migrants
have crossed Europe’s borders in 2015,
mostly people fleeing the war in Syria.
The majority have come to Greece on
the short sea crossing from Turkey.
But with many migrants then trying
to get to Germany, Europe’s passport-
free Schengen area has been under huge
strain, with many states temporarily
bringing back border controls.
EU migration commissioner Dimitris
Avramopoulos said that where Frontex
used to be limited to supporting member
States with border security, the new
agency would go “ beyond” that.
“The border package we are presenting
today will increase security for our
citizens and ensure high standards of
border management,” Avramopoulos
said. — AFP
Angry shepherds storm parliament
Nearly 4000 shepherds stormed
Romania’s parliament overnight, furious
over a new law that limits the number
of dogs they can keep to protect their
One riot officer fired teargas at the
shepherds, some of whom were dressed
in sheepskins and brandishing cowbells.
Several dozen protesters scaled the
walls of the parliamentary palace in
central Bucharest, while others forced
open one of the doors to its courtyard.
A new law recently came into force
stating that herds of sheep can be guarded
by only a single dog in lowlands, and by a
maximum of three in mountainous areas.
The legislation is designed to stop
sheepdogs from scaring away game to
the annoyance of local hunters. The law
also bans the grazing of sheep between
the beginning of December and the end
of April, with fines of up to 35 euros
“ We can’t keep sheep with only one or
two dogs for a whole flock,” Dumitru
Dima, one of the protesting shepherds,
said. “ They also want to fine us if we
leave sheep out on pastureland after
December 6. What are we supposed to
After brief scuffles with the police,
several of the shepherds entered the
parliament to discuss their complaints
with members of the agriculture
commission, while the rest waited
calmly outside to hear the result of the
Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, a
former EU agriculture commissioner,
has promised to work to find a solution
with the shepherds. — AFP
LA authorities fend off flak after
attack threat closes schools
Los Angeles shut more than
1000 public schools today over a
threatened attack with bombs and
assault rifles, sending hundreds of
thousands of students home as city
authorities fended off criticism that
they over reacted to what federal
officials later said was most likely
The federal officials, who asked
not to be identified, echoed an
assessment by New York City police
commissioner William Bratton that
the decision in Los Angeles was an
“o ver-reaction” and that New York
had received a similar threat.
The e-mailed threat, which
authorities said was “routed through
Germany ” but likely more local in
origin, came less than two weeks
after a married couple inspired by
Islamic State killed 14 people and
wounding 22 others at a county
office building in San Bernardino,
“Based on past circumstance, I
could not take the chance,” Los
Angeles school superintendent
Ramon Cortines said at a news
Los Angeles Mayor Eric
Garcetti said he backed the
decision by Cortines, and police
chief Charlie Beck said it should
not be second-guessed in the face
of a threat that was “very specific
to Los Angeles Unified School
Beck said the e-mail mentioned
assault rifles and machine pistols
and implied the use of explosives.
He said that officers would search
all of the district ’s campuses.
But the unprecedented move at
the second-largest public school
system in the United States left
some 643,000 students and their
families scrambling to make last-
minute alternate arrangements and
drew wide criticism.
A law enforcement source said
Los Angeles authorities ordered
the closure to allow a full search of
about 900 public school facilities
without consulting with the
Federal Bureau of Investigation,
which takes the lead on any
potential terrorism investigation.
Some public schools in the city
remained open as did most private
New York’s Bratton said that city’s
school system, the largest in the
United States, had received “almost
exactly the same” threat but deemed
it not credible.
“LA is a huge school system,”
Bratton, who had ser ved as police
chief in Los Angeles, said. “ To
disrupt the daily schedules of half
a million school children, their
parents, day care, buses based on
an anonymous e-mail, without
consultation, if in fact, consultation
did not occur with law enforcement
authorities, I think it was a
Garcetti denied that assertion,
saying that officials had contacted
federal law enforcement officials.
Congressman Brad Sherman, a
Democrat from California, told
CNN the person who sent the
e-mail claimed to be an extremist
Muslim, but said the text of the
message gave reason to doubt that.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
also cited word choices in the note
as a reason that city considered the
threat a probable hoax, saying the
avowed Muslim who wrote it failed
to capitalise “Allah.”
Two federal officials, who asked
not to be identified, also expressed
scepticism. — Reuters
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