Home' Greymouth Star : March 14th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Tuesday, March 14, 2017
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uLetters to the editor
1489 - Catherine Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus
and last of the Lusignan dynasty, sells her
kingdom to Venice.
1492 - Queen Isabella orders 150,000
Jews expelled from Spain unless they accept
1558 - Ferdinand I assumes title of Holy
Roman Emperor without being crowned by
1863 - Goulburn, 195km south-west of
Sydney, is proclaimed Australia’s first inland
1864 - Samuel Baker discovers another
source of the Nile in east Africa and names it
Lake Albert Nyanza.
1883 - Death of German philosopher and
economist Karl Mar x in London.
1915 - In World War One, the German
cruiser Dresden is sunk by the Royal Navy in
1932 - George Eastman, American
photographic pioneer who founded
the Kodak company, takes his life.
1938 - Leading Bolshevik Nikolai
Bukharin is executed after being
found guilty of counter-revolutionary
activities and espionage in one of the
most famous Soviet show trials.
1939 - Robert Menzies resigns as
Australia’s attorney-general and deputy leader
of the United Australia Party over its refusal to
adopt a national insurance scheme.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Johann Strauss Snr, Austrian composer
(1804-1849); Victor Emmanuel II, first king
of a united Italy (1820-1878); Umberto I,
King of Italy (1844-1900); Maxim Gorky,
Russian novelist (1868-1936); Albert Einstein,
German-born physicist (1879-1955);
Bill Owen, British actor (1914-
1999); Hank Ketcham, US cartoonist
(1920-2001); Michael Caine,
English actor (1933-); Quincy Jones,
US composer-conductor (1933-);
Rita Tushingham, British actress
(1942-); Billy Crystal, US actor-
comedian (1948-); Prince Albert of Monaco
(1958-); Taylor Hanson, US singer-musician of
Hanson fame (1983-); Jamie Bell, British actor
“The basic tenet of black consciousness is that
the black man must reject all value systems that
seek to make him a foreigner in the country of
his birth and reduce his basic dignity.” — Steve
Biko, South African anti-apartheid activist
“ He was born blind so that God’s works
might be revealed in him.” — John 9:3
The trial in the
biggest theft case
ever alleged on the
West Coast began in
the Greymouth Supreme Court this morning.
A jury of 10 men and two women was
empanelled today to hear the charge against
three Hokitika men that they stole greenstone
to the value of £14,200.
The charge arises from the alleged theft of the
greenstone by the three men from the Arahura
Valley in the vicinity of Olderog Creek. All
three pleaded not guilty.
The case is regarded as something of a test of
mining law. Greenstone (jade) is increasingly
becoming used as a gemstone for trinket and
The Omoto slip, a mile from Greymouth on
main road and rail line outlets, moved about
four feet in places during the night. Mr W J H
Duckworth, resident engineer of the Railways
Department, Greymouth, stressed the situation
was not regarded as dangerous.
Road and rail traffic is passing over the
trouble zone, but extreme caution must be
exercised. Trains have been braking into a crawl
and then they are guided over the line by a
The aftermath of the flooding is still apparent
throughout the province. In Greymouth mud
remains caked against buildings following the
invasion of swirling water.
Road ser vices have now all been restored but
the Ministry of Works does not recommend
the Otira Gorge route to motorists. The road
was narroe in places and there was still heavy
machinery at various points tidying up the
slips and washouts, said resident engineer at
Greymouth Mr H A Grigg.
uFood for thought
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Test of resolve
Trump pushes ahead with Nor th Korea review
aced with a growing test of
resolve for a new United
States president who vowed
while campaigning to get
tough on North Korea,
Donald Trump’s aides are
pressing to complete a strategy review on
how to counter Pyongyang’s missile and
nuc lear threats.
Pyongyang’s latest missile launches and
the assassination in Malaysia of North
Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged
half-brother have added urgency, driving
home the need for Washington to
confront the security challenge.
All options are on the table, ranging
from tighter sanctions aimed at pushing
North Korea back into disarmament
talks, to a return of US nuclear weapons
to South Korea, and even pre-emptive
air strikes on North Korean missile
installations, senior US administration
They added a consensus was forming
around relying for now on increased
economic and diplomatic pressure —
especially by pressing China to do more
to rein in North Korea — while deploying
advanced anti-missile defences in South
Korea and possibly in Japan, as well.
Among the other possibilities, one US
official said, was returning North Korea
to the US list of countries that support
That would be a response to the
suspected use of ner ve gas to kill Kim’s
brother at a Malaysian airport last month.
It would subject Pyongyang — already
heavily sanctioned by the United Nations
and individual States, so far to little effect
— to additional financial sanctions that
were removed when it was taken off the
list in 2008.
For now, US officials consider pre-
emptive military action far too risky,
given the danger of igniting a regional
war and causing massive casualties in
Japan and South Korea and among tens
of thousands of US troops based in both
Such ideas could gain traction, however,
if North Korea proceeds with a threatened
test of an inter-continental ballistic missile
capable of hitting the US. Just before he
took office in January, Trump tweeted:
“ It won’t happen!” when Kim said North
Korea was close to testing an ICBM.
Trump also could opt for escalating cyber
attacks and other covert actions aimed at
undermining the North Korean leadership,
a US government source said.
The review is expected to be completed
by the end of the month, officials said.
Decisions could be held up, however, by
the slow pace at which Trump has been
filling national security jobs.
Trump is known to have little patience
for detailed foreign policy discussions,
but officials said he seemed to have
heeded a warning from his White
House predecessor, Barack Obama, that
North Korea would be the most urgent
international issue he would face — so
much so that he requested intelligence
briefings on the issue.
While officials have stressed the need
to persuade China to do more to pressure
North Korea, Trump’s first concrete
response to North Korea’s missile tests has
been to start installing an advanced anti-
missile defence system in South Korea,
which has incensed Beijing.
Diplomats said the move might
reassure US allies but could backfire by
antagonising China, which regards the
system as a threat, and make it less willing
to step up sanctions on its neighbour.
“ You have to adjust and calibrate all the
options based on the facts on the ground,”
an administration official said, adding
that media reports highlighting military
options were overblown.
“The ability to have sanctions that pack
some punch and are more dynamic than
we have had in the past is going to be
dependent to some extent on Chinese
co-operation,” he said.
Chinese diplomats argue that Beijing is
doing all it can.
Bonnie Glaser at Washington’s Centre
for Strategic and International Studies
said China could close banks that
conduct illicit financial transactions with
North Korea, prosecute front companies
facilitating business, cut off oil exports and
expel North Korean workers.
Glazer said she saw no good military
option. While past talks have failed, she
would not be surprised if Trump wanted
to try diplomacy.
One idea could be to discuss a
freeze in North Korea’s nuclear and
missile programmes, which would fall
short of current demands for nuclear
“ North Korea may insist on being
recognised as a nuclear weapons State as a
precondition, in which case the US would
have to decide whether to make that
concession,” she said.
Evans Revere, a former senior diplomat
who dealt with Korea under President
George W Bush, said Washington should
pressure North Korea with sanctions,
military deployments and covert
“ Doing this would . . . compel the
regime to rethink its course and make
it more likely to return to dialogue and
‘denuclearisation,’ lest it risk collapse,” he
Whether Trump will be willing to
tolerate the level of risk needed to make
such a strategy work remains unclear.
“This is an administration that is more
inclined to be averse to regime change
than previous administrations,” the first
administration official said.
“That ’s from the top down.
“This administration intends to come
up with options based on the cards we are
dealt; not try to change the deck entirely,
which is what regime change is.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA.
Rhinos manipulate balance of sexes in offspring
Rhinoceros are able to modify the sex of
their offspring to keep a healthy balance
of genders and limit severe breeding
competition, a new study has found.
The findings bring new hope the species,
which has critically low numbers, may be
more resilient than originally thought.
Some species of rhino have been driven
to extinction and critical endangerment,
while others are classified as vulnerable or
threatened. Rhinoceros are poached for
their horns, which are often ground up
and used in traditional medicines.
The study was the first to provide
experimental evidence in the wild that
unbalanced population sex ratios can result
in a compensatory response by parents to
“correct ” the imbalance.
“This is called a homeostatic sex
allocation (HSA) response — a biological
theory first proposed in 1930,” Victoria
University of Wellington associate
professor Wayne Linklater, who led the
“HSA has an especially strong effect
when the gender imbalance is very large.
In fact, the further it is from an even-
sex ratio, the stronger the response is by
“Because of the evidence of HSA, we
need not be so concerned about that
misbalance, because parents appear able to
‘correct ’ it when they breed.
“This is good news for what we call
reintroduction biology — the ability to
restore populations of species at new sites
in places where they have been pushed to
extinction,” he said.
The research team examined 24 years
of rhinoceros data, gathered during the
course of 45 reintroductions of the animals
across southern Africa.
The gender correction theory was
outlined in a book in 1930 by statistician
“There have only ever been 14 tests of
the theory, they haven’t been
particularly good ones,” Prof Linklater
The phenomenon was “mysterious” to the
“ We don’t understand exactly how it
works, we don’t understand the physiology,
but there are some leading hypotheses for
how it happens,” he said.
One example was that the more common
sex in a population would be under
constraints to be able to reproduce, due to
the amount of competition, and reactions
would be triggered by this.
“There’s quite likely a physiological
mechanism in there. ”
Examples of physiological mechanisms
that could be triggered by breeding
competition could include the amount of
blood sugar in the female system being
“ We know that blood sugar selects
for or against male or female offspring,
depending on how much there is and
when spikes occur. ”
Another idea was around the fact male
embryos implant later than female, but are
faster to develop.
“ It might be that competition changes
the readiness of the placenta to receive the
embryo. ” So far scientists have assumed
sex ratio is fixed, and have not modelled
anything different, he said.
But if animals were able to “manipulate”
the sex ratio in this way it would have “far-
It was not yet known what species could
possibly gender correct, but “it ’s quite
possible that it’s more common or easier
for some species to do it than others”.
“ It will depend on how susceptible their
reproduction is to influence. ”
Those populations where HSA is
possible will be more resilient. “ Their
small populations will have improved
establishment and greater viability. Such
species will populate habitats faster, and be
less susceptible to random demographic
processes and genetic drift.”
Prof Linklater now plans to do further
research into how an HSA response
works in Australian brush-tail possums.
This includes how competition to breed
triggers the effect and at what point in the
reproductive process the mother is able to
control the sex of her offspring.
“ Possums are ideal subjects for such a
study because their offspring are born into
the marsupial pouch at an extraordinarily
young age — very early in development —
and so can be studied in great detail,” he
said. “Possums are also invasive mammals
in New Zealand. Understanding their
reproductive processes can provide new
ways of managing population numbers.”
Scientists pinpoint mimic part of brain
When we see someone scratching, we
start to feel we have an itch too.
That is because our brains are hard
wired to pick up on socially contagious
behaviours such as itching and yawning,
scientists have discovered.
Researchers have pinpointed the area
of the brain responsible for making us
copy the yawns and scratches of others
and claim that their find proves that such
behaviours are involuntary, the Daily Mail
Scientists found that playing videos of
mice having a scratch caused other mice to
“Itching is highly contagious,’’ said
Dr Zhou-Feng Chen, director of the
Washington University Centre for the
Study of Itch.
“Sometimes even mentioning itching
will make someone scratch.
“Many people thought it was all in the
mind, but our experiments show it is a
hard wired behaviour and is not a form of
For the study, the researchers put a
mouse in an enclosure with a computer
They then played a video that showed
another mouse scratching.
“ Within a few seconds, the mouse in the
enclosure would start scratching, too,’’
Dr Chen said.
“This was very surprising because mice
are known for their poor vision.
“They use smell and touch to explore
areas, so we didn’t know whether a mouse
would notice a video.
“ Not only did it see the video, it could
tell that the mouse in the video was
While the mice were watching their
friends have a scratch, the researchers
monitored their brain activity.
They found that a brain region called the
suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) was highly
active while the mice were watching the
The SCN is a tiny region in the
hypothalamus that controls when animals
fall asleep or wake up.
When the mouse saw other mice
scratching, the brain’s SCN released a
chemical substance called GRP (gastrin-
A previous study by the researchers
found that GRP is a key chemical
transmitter of ‘itch signals’ between the
skin and the spinal cord.
“The mouse doesn’t see another mouse
scratching and then think it might need
to scratch, too,’’ Dr Chen said in the
journal Science. “Instead, its brain begins
sending out itch signals using GRP as a
Dr Chen’s team then used genetic
engineering to block GRP from travelling
from the brain to the spinal cord in some
They found that mice whose GRP
chemicals were blocked did not scratch
when they saw others scratch.
But they started to scratch normally
when they were exposed to itch-inducing
Dr Chen believes the contagious itch
behaviour is something that animals —
and humans — cannot control.
“ It ’s an innate behaviour and an instinct,’’
“ We’ve been able to show that a single
chemical and a single receptor are all
that ’s necessary to mediate this particular
“The next time you scratch or yawn
in response to someone else doing it,
remember it’s really not a choice nor a
psychological response; it’s hard wired into
your brain. — PA
Band rotundas come in all shapes and
sizes and are used for a lot of things in this
Their history in New Zealand is
explored in an exhibition launched
yesterday at the Turnbull Gallery at the
Co-curators Victoria University of
Wellington Associate Professor of
Musicology Samantha O wens and
Alexander Turnbull Library music
curator Dr Michael Brown discovered
rotundas have been used as restaurants,
obser vatories, protest platforms and
venues for royal visits.
The exhibition will include historic and
present-day photos of band rotundas
around the country, along with brass
band recordings and sheet music,
architectural plans, early postcards
featuring rotundas, and curious stories
of band rotundas which Prof Owens
and Dr Brown have uncovered in their
research. — NZ N
History of NZ band rotundas explored
A critically-endangered white rhino.
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