Home' Greymouth Star : February 21st 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, February 21, 2017 - 7
They come from Hell, are tens of
thousands of years old and scientists
have not seen anything quite like
of microbes has been discovered
trapped in crystal in a volcanically-
heated Mexican cave system where
temperatures reach 60degC.
Some of them had been there for
60,000 years, shut off from light or
oxygen and obtaining energy from
Attempts to classify the bugs
showed 90% could not be matched
with any other micro-organisms
catalogued in available databases.
They were also highly diverse,
including about 100 different strains
made up both of bacteria and other
microbes known as archaea.
Five cave chambers, ranging from
the size of an average room to a
cathedral-like cavern, were explored
at the Naica mine in Chihuahua.
The microbes were contained in
small water-filled pockets within
the sparkling white crystals, some of
which were five metres long and a
Dr Penelope Boston, director
of Nasa’s Astrobiology Institute,
who led the first expedition in 2008,
says “the deepest part we accessed
was a place called Hell, very
evocatively”. That chamber is at the
“It was a transformative experience
. . . it really felt strange,” Dr Boston
“It was a very hard environment to
work in but tear-inducingly beautiful.
It’s like being inside a geode.”
To protect them from the heat and
allow them to breathe, the scientists
wore all-covering “space suits”.
Experiments conducted in situ so
see if the weird bugs could be cultured
were partly successful.
“ Much to my surprise we got the
things to grow,” said Dr Boston,
who was speaking at the American
Association for the Advancement
of Science annual meeting in
“ It was laborious. We lost some of
them — that ’s just the game. They ’ve
got needs we can’t fulfill. That part of
it was really like zoo keeping.”
She said the bugs were as different
to known micro-organisms as
humans and fungi.
“They ’re really showing us what
our kind of life can do in terms of
“These guys are living in an
environment where there’s not
organic food as we understand it.
“They ’re an example, at very high
temperatures, of organisms making
their living essentially by munching
down inorganic minerals and
compounds. This is maybe the deep
history of our life here. ”
The bugs may be a taste of what to
expect if alien microbes are found
on Mars or Jupiter’s moon Europa,
which has a global ice-covered ocean.
‘Hell’ microbes found in Mexican caves
v On-line news
Worldwide study confirms people
spend an average of 40 minutes a
day reading a newspaper, compared
to just 30 seconds of on-line news.
Professor Neil Thurman | Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Donald Trump’s war on the
media is exposing a deep rift in
the Republican Party.
The president ’s loyalists are
eagerly joining his crusade
against so-called “fake news”, but
others on the conser vative side of
American politics have recoiled
at what they see as authoritarian-
style rhetoric from the White
Senator John McCain, who
was the Republican presidential
nominee in 2008, is one of
those worried Republicans. He
issued a stark warning during
an inter view with NBC’s Chuck
Todd at the weekend.
“I hate the press. I hate you
especially,” McCain joked. “ But
the fact is we need you. We need
a free press. We must have it. It’s
“If you want to preser ve —
I’m very serious now — if you
want to preser ve democracy as
we know it, you have to have a
free and many times adversarial
press. Without it, I am afraid
that we would lose so much of
our individual liberties over time.
“That ’s how dictators get
started. They get started by
suppressing the free press. In
other words, a consolidation of
power. When you look at history,
the first thing that dictators do
is shut down the press. I ’m not
saying that President Trump
is trying to be a dictator. I’m
just saying we need to learn the
lessons of history.”
McCain is no friend of the
president. They have been
the early weeks of Trump’s
presidential campaign, when he
impugned McCain’s reputation
as a hero of the Vietnam War.
“He’s not a war hero. He
was a war hero because he was
captured. I like people who
weren’t captured,” Trump said.
McCain, who ser ved as a navy
pilot in Vietnam, spent five years
in a prison camp after being
shot down. He was repeatedly
tortured, but refused to accept
a deal that would have seen
him released before his fellow
When Trump was called out for
his comments he doubled down,
calling McCain “yet another
all-talk, no-action politician
who spends too much time on
television and not enough time
doing his job”.
It is not a one-way street
though. McCain has emerged as
one of Mr Trump’s chief critics,
slapping him down on issues
such as torture, foreign policy
and the bungled military raid
that led to the death of a Navy
The continuing feud between
the pair is symptomatic of
Republicans still are with
Trump. Other politicians, such
as Senators Lindsay Graham
and Marco Rubio, have openly
criticised the president, and
called for an investigation into
Russia’s interference in last year’s
commentators are also worried.
For example, David Frum’s cover
story for March’s issue of The
Atlantic is one long warning
about the dangers of Trump’s
“More than any other president
in US history since at least
the time of Andrew Jackson,
Donald Trump seeks to subvert”
the institutions that protect
democracy, Frum wrote.
“By all early indications, the
Trump presidency will corrode
public integrity and the rule of
law, and also do untold damage
to American global leadership,
democratic norms around the
world. The damage has already
Trump’s supporters, however,
are not buying it. They believe
the media — and politicians like
McCain — are the problem.
“It was McCain up to his old
tricks. Ingratiating himself to
the anti-Trump press by playing
its champion, in a bid to be
the media’s darling,” American
“ What stands out here is the
hypocrisy of his claims. He’s
suddenly concerned about press
freedoms and dictators? Where
was McCain when President
Obama was systematically
violating press freedoms every
which way to Tuesday?”
Senator Rand Paul, another
of Mr McCain’s Republican
colleagues in Congress, said
America is “very lucky John
McCain is not in charge”.
“John McCain has been wrong
on just about everything over
the last four decades,” Paul told
ABC News. “I don’t agree with
his analysis and applying that
to the president. I haven’t seen
any legislation coming for ward
that wants to limit the press. I
see President Trump expressing
his opinion, rather forceful in
his own — you know, his own
Drudge Report, a pro-Trump
site, called McCain a “ bitter
man who lost his White House
chance”. Breitbart News, whose
former chairman Steve Bannon is
now Trump’s top adviser, gloated
that the media had taken the
president ’s bait by “sputtering”
about his “fake news” claims.
There has been extensive
coverage of Trump’s comments,
particularly in the aftermath of
his press conference last week,
which left several prominent
journalists openly frustrated.
“It was a wild press conference,”
CNN anchor Jake Tapper said.
“ It was an airing of grievances. It
was Festivus. It was complaints
about the media. And one point
he said the leaks are real but the
news is fake, which doesn’t make
any sense whatsoever. He said
things that were not true.
“ It was unhinged, it was wild,
and I can’t believe that there
are Republicans who don’t
understand that might play well
with the 44% of the population
who voted for the president, but
a lot of Americans are going to
watch that press conference and
think, ‘That guy is not focused on
me, I don’t even know what he’s
Over at Fox News, anchor
Shepard Smith joined the rant-
“It’s crazy what we’re watching
every day. It’s absolutely crazy.
He keeps repeating ridiculous
throwaway lines that are not
true at all, and sort of avoiding
the issue of Russia as if we’re
fools for asking the question.
Really? Your opposition was
hacked, and the Russians were
responsible for it, and your
people were on the phone with
Russia on the same day it was
happening, and we’re fools for
asking the questions? No sir,”
“ We demand to know the
answer to this question. You
owe this to the American
people. Your supporters will
support you either way. If your
people were on the phone, what
were they saying? We have a
right to know, we absolutely
do. That you call us fake news
and put us down like children
for asking these questions on
behalf of the American people
is inconsequential. The people
deser ve that answer.
“President Trump, if you’re
watching, you legitimately won
the presidency. Now get to
work, and stop whining about
overblown? Was McCain
exaggerating when he claimed
this is “how dictators start”? Or
is Trump truly going too far?
Whatever the answers, the
schism in American politics,
which extends to Trump’s own
party, is not healing; it is growing
wider. That seems to suit the
president just fine.
— ne ws.com.au
Trump splits party
Some 27 letters written in
urine by Polish women inmates
to report on gruesome medical
experiments performed on them
by Nazi concentration camp
doctors have been given to a
small museum in Poland to be
The letters, which informed
the world about the deadly
experiments made on 74 women
at the Ravensbrueck camp
in 1943-44, were apparently
normal notes to families but with
invisible messages between the
lines and in the margins.
Donated by the family of
Krystyna Czyz-Wilgat, who
wrote several of them, some
letters are in poor condition
and it is not clear if the “Under
the Clock” Martyr Museum in
Lublin, in eastern Poland, will put
them on public display.
The messages, which had to get
past censors, were written with a
thin wooden stick. D ue to an acid
reaction with the paper, the urine
soon lost its colour and became
invisible. To read the hidden
message, recipients had to heat up
In the first letter the women
sent was a clue that following
letters would have secret messages
written in urine.
Thanks to the secret messages,
the list of 74 women subjected to
the medical experiments — such
as being injected with gangrene
to test new drugs — eventually
became public knowledge.
“Even though there were broad
reports about the Auschwitz
camp, on Ravensbrueck there was
little information released,” the
curator of the Lublin museum,
Barbara Oratowska, said.
“Only those female Poles were
the ones who conveyed this
information. That is why these
letters are such valuable material
and historic evidence.”
Thanks to the letters, the
experiments in Ravensbrueck
were known abroad before the
end of the war in 1945.
After Germany ’s defeat, 20
doctors from several camps were
tried as war criminals by a United
States military court in the first
of the post-war Nuremberg trials.
Seven received death sentences
and seven others got long prison
Between 1939 and 1945, about
130,000 women prisoners passed
through the Ravensbrueck camp,
which was about 80km north
of Berlin. A third of them were
Polish. — Reuters
Concentration camp letters in urine given to museum
A letter with urine encryption from the women’s concentration camp in Ravensbrueck, written by one
of the prisoners, at the Martyr Museum in Lublin, Poland.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib
Razak said overnight his government ’s
investigation of the killing of the North
Korean leader’s half-brother, Kim Jong
Nam, will be “objective”, as tension rose
between the countries.
Earlier, Malaysia said it had recalled its
envoy from Pyongyang and summoned
North Korea’s ambassador in Kuala
Lumpur, who again cast doubt on the
impartiality of Malaysia’s investigation
into the murder and said the victim was
not Kim Jong Nam.
“ We have no reason why we want to do
something to paint North Korea in a bad
light, but we will be objective,” Najib said
in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
CCTV footage appeared to show
Kim Jong Nam being attacked at Kuala
Lumpur International Airport on
Monday last week by a woman, who
is believed to have wiped a fast-acting
poison on his face.
Kim Jong Nam, 46, who had been
living in the Chinese territory of Macau
under Beijing’s protection, had spoken
out publicly against his family’s dynastic
control of isolated, nuc lear-armed North
South Korean legislators last week cited
their spy agency as saying the young and
unpredictable North Korean leader, Kim
Jong Un, had issued a “standing order”
for his half-brother’s assassination, and
there had been a failed attempt in 2012.
Malaysian police are hunting four
North Koreans who fled from the
country on the day of the attack, having
already detained one North Korean man,
a Vietnamese woman, an Indonesian
woman, and a Malaysian man.
At least three of the wanted North
Koreans caught an Emirates flight to
Dubai from Jakarta late on the day of
the attack, an immigration official in
Malaysia’s Star newspaper reported
that all four had returned to North
North Korea had sought to prevent
Malaysia from conducting a post-
mortem examination, insisting the
body be handed over. Its envoy in Kuala
Lumpur accused Malaysian authorities
of “delaying” the release of the body.
“At the moment we cannot trust the
investigation by the Malaysian police,”
ambassador Kang Chol told reporters
after talks at the foreign ministry.
He said the embassy had only
identified the victim as Kim Chol, based
on the passport found on the dead man,
and suggested a joint investigation
with Malaysian authorities. Kim Jong
Nam had been caught using fake travel
documents in the past.
Malaysia’s foreign ministry announced
the withdrawal “for consultations” of its
ambassador in North Korea and said
the body would be handed over to the
next of kin, although none had come
Malaysia’s health minister said autopsy
results could be released tomorrow.
Malaysia is one of the few countries
that maintains ties with the reclusive
State and the dispute could further
isolate impoverished North Korea.
South Korea, acutely sensitive to events
in its volatile neighbour, convened a
meeting of its National Security Council.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn told
the meeting that it was nearly certain
that North Korea was behind the killing.
“The murder carried out in public at an
international airport of a third country
is an unforgivable and inhumane
criminal act and clearly demonstrates
the recklessness and brutality of the
North Korean regime that will spare no
avenues when it comes to perpetuating
itself,” Hwang said.
South Korean and US officials had
earlier said the killing was probably
carried out by North Korean agents.
There is speculation that China’s
patience with North Korea could be
tested by the killing because Kim had
been living in Macau, where he was
headed when he was attacked.
China said on Saturday it had
suspended coal imports from North
Korea, a vital source of revenue.
China is seen to be irritated by North
Korea’s repeated aggressive behaviour,
including two nuclear tests since early
2016 and a February 12 intermediate-
range ballistic missile launch, the latest
in a series of missile tests. — Reuters
United States President Donald Trump
today named Lieutenant-General H R
McMaster as his national security adviser.
He will replace Lieutenant-General
Michael Flynn, who was fired after three
weeks and three days in the job.
A general with the United States
Army, McMaster ser ved in Iraq and
Afghanistan, where he worked on a
government anti-corruption drive.
Trump’s first choice, retired Vice-
Admiral Robert Har ward, turned down
the role, citing “personal reasons”.
Flynn stepped down after misleading
Vice-President Mike Pence over his
conversations with Russia’s ambassador
to the US.
Keith Kellogg, who took over as
acting national security adviser after
the resignation, will now ser ve as the
National Security Council chief of staff.
McMaster is known for expressing his
views — Time magazine named him as
one of its 100 most influential people
in the world in 2014, saying he “might
be the 21st century army’s pre-eminent
warrior-thinker”. — A AP
Trump names national security adviser
Russia’s UN envoy dies
Russia’s combative ambassador to the
United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died
suddenly in New York early today after
being taken ill at work, the Russian
Foreign Ministry said.
The ministry gave no details on the
circumstances of his death but offered
condolences to his relatives and said the
diplomat had died one day before his
It declined to comment on reports that
Churkin had been taken to a hospital
shortly before his death.
A United States government official,
said Churkin had died of an apparent
A federal law enforcement official, also
speaking on condition of anonymity,
said that there appeared to be nothing
unusual about the ambassador’s death.
The New York Post quoted unnamed
sources as saying Churkin had been
rushed to a Manhattan hospital from
the Russian embassy after falling ill with
a cardiac condition.
President Vladimir Putin was deeply
upset by the news and had greatly
valued Churkin’s professionalism and
diplomatic talent, Russian news agencies
quoted the Kremlin as saying.
Churkin was a pugnacious defender
of Russian policy, notably its intensive
bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo
last year to crush rebels opposed to
President Bashar al-Assad.
When then-US envoy to the UN,
Samantha Power, accused Syria, Russia
and Iran last year of bearing responsibility
for atrocities there, Churkin said she was
forgetting the US’s own track record in
the Middle East.
Condolences poured in from his
US counterparts in the Obama
administration. His occasional foe,
former US ambassador Power, described
Churkin as a “diplomatic maestro and
deeply caring man who did all he could
to bridge US-Russian differences.”
In his last inter view, given to the state-
funded Russia Today earlier this month,
Churkin argued that the United Nations
was ever more essential for resolving
conflicts around the world.
“ I think the UN continues to be an
indispensable mechanism,” he said.
“ Without the UN, we would be acting
all on our own.” — Reuters
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