Home' Greymouth Star : April 28th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
Friday, April 28, 2017 - 9
Drone downed near border
Israeli warplanes struck a weapons
supply hub operated by Lebanese group
Hizbollah near Damascus airport early
today, targeting arms sent from Iran in
commercial and military cargo aircraft,
Syrian rebel and regional intelligence
The Israeli military said later that one of
its Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries
intercepted a target over the Golan
Heights that Israeli media described as
an unmanned drone. It was the second
Israeli interception of a target coming
from Syria in the past few weeks.
Video carried on Arab television and
shared on social media showed the pre-
dawn air strikes caused a fire around
the airport east of the Syrian capital,
suggesting fuel sources or weapons
containing explosives were hit.
Syrian State media said Israeli missiles
hit a military position south-west of the
airport, but did not mention arms or fuel.
It said “Israeli aggression” had caused
explosions and some material losses, but
did not expand on the damage.
In a sign of the heightened tensions
surrounding a conflict that has already
caught up regional and international
powers, Damascus’s ally Russia criticised
the Israeli strike and said Syrian
sovereignty should be respected.
Israel does not usually comment on
action it takes in Syria. But Intelligence
Minister Israel Katz, speaking to Army
Radio from the United States, appeared
to confirm involvement.
“The incident in Syria corresponds
completely with Israel’s policy to act to
prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced
weapons via Syria to Hizbollah,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
had “said that whenever we receive
intelligence that indicates an intention to
transfer advanced weapons to Hizbollah,
we will act ”, he added.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said:
“ We can’t comment on such reports.”
Two senior rebel sources in the
Damascus area, citing monitors in the
eastern outskirts of the capital, said
there were five strikes on an ammunition
depot used by Iran-backed militias.
Lebanon’s al-Manar television, which
is affiliated with Hizbollah, said early
indications were that the strikes targeted
warehouses and fuel tanks. It said there
were no casualties.
President Bashar al-Assad is backed
in Syria’s six-year-old civil war by
Russia, Iran and regional Shi’ite Muslim
militias. These include Hizbollah, a close
ally of Tehran and enemy of Israel, which
describes the group as the biggest threat
it faces on its borders. The two fought a
month-long war in 2006.
In comments in an inter view with
Venezuelan television carried by the
Syrian State news agency SANA, Assad
said Israel was supporting terrorists with
military strikes in Syria, but he made
no direct mention of the latest attack.
SANA did not say when the inter view
Syrian military defectors familiar with
the functioning of the airport during the
war said it plays a major role as a conduit
for arms from Tehran.
Alongside military planes, a number of
commercial cargo aircraft fly from Iran
to resupply arms to Hizbollah and other
groups, passing through Iraqi air space,
the defectors said.
As well as weapons, hundreds of Shi’ite
militia fighters from Iraq and Iran have
been flown to Damascus international
airport, they said.
Intelligence sources put their numbers
at 10,000 to 20,000 and say they play a
significant role in military campaigns
launched by the Syrian army. — Reuters
Better beer after barley DNA code cracked
Brace yourselves, beer lovers, a
better brew is on the way now that
a team of international scientists,
including researchers from Western
Australia, have cracked the genetic
code of barley.
Murdoch University professor
Chengdao Li, who led the WA-based
group, said the findings would be used
to modify crops so they can adapt to
climate change, avoid disease and
yield better beer.
He says the work took 10 years
to complete because the genetics of
barley was incredibly complex, equal
to about twice the size of the human
“Australia is the largest malted
barley exporter, so we can use the
science to enhance competitiveness
in the international market,” he said
“ We identified key genes that help
the brewing — fermenting genes —
and will continue studies in how to
improve these genes to make better
beer.” By mapping two of the grain’s
seven chromosomes, Professor Li
said researchers will be able to “tell
the barley what to do”, including
being tolerant to drought and heat.
It will take about five to eight years
to improve beer using genetically
modified crops, he added.
WA produces the most malting
barley in Australia, with exports from
the state in 2014-15 valued at close
to $1 billion.
WA’s Department of Agriculture
and Food was also involved in the
research and is already using the
genetic information to target blue
discolouration in some strains of
About 60% of the barley exported
from WA is sent to China and the
Middle East as grain to feed to
livestock, and 40% is used as malt for
In a global context, Australia makes
up over 40% of the world’s malting
barley and about 20% of barley used
A bumper crop last year saw
Australia surpass the EU as the
world’s biggest exporter of barley for
2016-17, but this is expected to be a
Rice was the first crop to be cracked
by scientists, which Li said was about
12 times less complicated than barley.
He said the international team,
which also included scientists
from China, the Czech Republic,
Denmark, Finland, Germany,
Sweden, Switzerland, the United
States and the United Kingdom,
would have a beer to celebrate.
British experts will carry out tests
to try to determine how a rare copy
of the United States Declaration of
Independence found its way to an
archive in southern England.
The handwritten manuscript,
only the second such parchment
in existence, had been stored
for more than 60 years in a
strong-room among kilometres
of documents in the West
Sussex Record Office, until its
significance was revealed by
Har vard University researchers,
Danielle Allen and Emily Sneff.
Other copies and printed versions
of the declaration exist, but the
only other ceremonial parchment
is the Matlack Declaration, which
dates from 1776 and is kept behind
glass at the National Archives in
“This document in a way raises
more questions than it answers,”
archivist Wendy Walker said at
the record office in Chichester, a
small city not far from England’s
“How did it get to Sussex, how
did it end up here? Behind all those
questions are the questions of when
was it made, where was it made,
and why was it made and who was
it made for?” she said.
Measuring 60cm by 76cm, the
Sussex Declaration, as the Har vard
team have called it, is thought
to date to the 1780s and most
likely was written in New York or
The researchers believe the
parchment was originally owned
by Charles Lennox, the third Duke
of Richmond, who was known
as the “radical D uke” because he
supported the American colonists
during the American Revolutionary
The Sussex version also differs
from all other 18th century versions
of the declaration in that the list
of signatories was not grouped by
States. The researchers say that
suggests it was commissioned by
James Wilson, a Founding Father
of the United States who supported
a federal constitution.
Walker said the parchment would
now go to the British Library for
further scientific tests on the ink
and the parchment, which has been
nibbled at the edges by mice, to try
to determine who actually owns it.
“They will do hyperspectral
imaging, which is looking at the
document to see things which the
naked eye can’t see, so there’ll be a
whole series of tests and forensic
examination being done on it over
the summer, hopefully to give us a
few more answers,” she said.
The Sussex office, which houses
12.8km of archives dating back
1200 years in a modern building
near the centre of Chichester, knew
the parchment had been held in its
collection for decades but had not
realised how rare it was.
“ It ’s been known about for a
while. It’s on our on-line catalogue
and we published a book about it in
1976,” Walker said. “ We knew we
had it, we knew what it was, but we
didn’t have the knowledge that they
have brought to it in terms of the
connection with the original.”
It was among a mass of
documents given to the record
office by Leslie Holden, a lawyer
who worked for a local firm called
Rapers in 1956.
It is believed that a Rapers senior
partner told Holden to dispose of
documents belonging to the Dukes
of Richmond, whose family home
is the nearby Goodwood Estate.
As an amateur historian, Holden
handed them over to the record
office, including the declaration
“ We know who the depositor
was. What we’re trying to find out,
I think, is the history behind that,
what happened before it came
here,” Walker said.
“ When you first open it up and
you look at it, it looks just like any
other late 18th century, early 19th
century title deeds, of which there
are thousands in the strongroom.
Of course when you start to read it,
you realise it’s something special. ”
For the time being the parchment,
which has been valued and insured
for a sum Walker declined to
disclose, remains under lock and
key in the record office.
While its emergence in a quiet
corner of England might have
caused some surprise, Walker said
there were longstanding links
between Sussex and America, most
notably Thomas Paine, another
of the US Founding Fathers, and
George Washington, the first US
president, whose ancestors lived in
“The connections are there and I
think it is really interesting to see
this latest bit in the puzzle and how
that fits in,” she said. — Reuters
Declaration of Independence UK puzzle
West Sussex County archivist Wendy Walker with a rare handwritten copy of the United States Declaration of Independence at the West Sussex
Record Office in Chichester, south England.
United Airlines has a reached a
settlement for an undisclosed sum with
the passenger who was dragged from
a Chicago flight earlier this month in
an incident that sparked international
Dr David Dao, a 69-year-old
admitted to hospital after Chicago
aviation police dragged him from the
plane to make space for four crew
members on the flight from the city’s
O’Hare International Airport to
Thomas Demetrio, a lawyer for Dao,
said United took full responsibility for
what happened on Flight 3411, without
attempting to blame others. — AAP
Chinese military apologises for mocked picture
China’s Defence Ministry
apologised overnight for allowing
a badly photoshopped picture of
navy ships and fighter aircraft
to appear on its social media
accounts over the weekend, after
hundreds of people poured scorn
on the image.
The picture, which appeared
on the ministry’s Weibo and We
Chat accounts on Sunday to mark
the navy ’s 68th birthday, showed
fighters over the country’s first
aircraft carrier, with two other
warships in the background
along with two ghostly looking
Internet users were quick
to point out though the two
warships were probably United
States vessels, that one of the
aircraft shown was a Russian
MIG-35 and that the three other
fighter aircraft were land-based
J-10s rather than the carrier-
The image was also mocked for
looking cheap and unprofessional.
Speaking at a monthly news
briefing, ministry spokesman
Yang Yujun admitted that the
image was “not meticulous” and
that it had been criticised by
“The carelessness was with the
editor, the responsibility is on the
shoulders of the leadership,” Yang
said, adding he was “sincerely
Neither the image nor the
critical comments would be
removed as they could ser ve as a
warning, Yang said.
Users of Weibo, China’s
answer to Twitter, had expressed
amazement that the military,
which is normally so sensitive
about its image, had allowed the
picture to appear.
“Those propaganda guys are
weak in the head. They need to
go after them for not doing their
job,” one Weibo user wrote.
The mocked picture of Chinese naval vessels and fighter aircraft.
Pope Francis flies to Cairo tonight, less
than a month after church bombings
killed 45 people in two Egyptian cities
as part of a concerted campaign by
Islamist militants to rid the Middle East
Home to some of the faith’s earliest
churches, the region’s
communities have been in decline for
decades, but wars this century in Iraq
and Syria, and the emergence of Islamic
State have put their future in doubt.
Pope Francis said this week he hoped
his visit could be a “consolation and . . .
encouragement to all Christians in the
Middle East ”. He also wants to improve
dialogue with Islam.
“The Pope is very conscious of the
fact that the Middle East may lose its
entire Christian presence,” Nina Shea,
the head of the Centre for Religious
Freedom at the Washington-based
Hudson Institute think tank, said.
“These are ancient communities that
have their roots in the earliest Church.
They aren’t grafted on, or the result of
western evangelisation. They are unique
and they are being lost,” she said.
The largest exodus has been in Iraq,
where Christians were caught up in
the sectarian violence that wracked the
nation following the United States-
led invasion in 2003 and then actively
persecuted as Islamic State grew in
power from 2014.
No precise figures exist, but Shea said
Christian numbers had fallen from 1.5
million in 2003 to between 100,000 and
200,000 today. Others say up to 400,000
may still live there, but many have lost
their homes and been displaced.
As Islamic State, also known as Daesh,
started to seize towns and cities across
Iraq, they ordered Christians who fell
into their clutches to convert, pay a tax
or face death.
Those Christians who could, fled abroad
or to Kurdish-held areas in the north.
They appear highly reluctant to return
to their old homes even as Iraqi forces
gradually retake lost territory, including
large swathes of the city of Mosul.
Christianity spread through the
Middle East during the first century,
overtaking pagan Eastern cults and co-
existing with older faiths, like Judaism
and Zoroastrianism. Although Islam
gained predominance in the region from
the 7th century, many Muslim rulers
allowed Christians freedom of worship.
Centuries of status quo frayed with
the collapse of the Ottoman Empire
in World War One. At the time,
Christians made up some 15% of the
regional population, but the figure now
stands below 4%, according to the Pew
The figures vary from country to
country. While Saudi Arabia officially
has no Christian nationals, up to 40%
of Lebanon’s population is Christian,
according to the US Central Intelligence
Lower birth rates among Christians by
comparison with Muslims has helped
lower the overall ratio. Economic
emigration has also played a part, with
western countries traditionally more
willing to welcome in Christians than
There are more Christians from
Jerusalem living in Australia than there
are Christians left in the Holy City,
according to Palestinian data, with the
Palestinians saying Israeli occupation
has convinced many local Christians to
While Christian migration from the
Israeli-occupied West Bank has been
a constant trickle, it has turned into a
flood in nearby Syria, torn apart by six
years of civil war.
From a population of some 1.25 million
in 2011, fewer than 500,000 remain
today, according to ADF International,
a Vienna-based group which promotes
As in Iraq, the minority group has
been persecuted by Islamic State, which
has publicly executed Christian men
and sold Christian women into slavery.
Even in areas still under control of
President Bashar al-Assad, the mood is
Egypt ’s Copts make up some 10% of
the country’s 92 million people, by far
the largest Christian minority in the
Middle East. But despite having roots
that date back to the Roman Empire,
they feel marginalised and persecuted.
Islamic State, which is battling President
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has declared war on
the ner vous Coptic community, hoping
to destabilise the Arab-world’s most
populous nation. — Reuters
Pope heads to Egypt as Christians under pressure
London terror plot foiled
Security ser vices have foiled an
attempt to bring more terror to the heart
of London’s Westminster.
Police swooped on a man carrying a bag
of knives in Whitehall early today and
arrested him on suspicion of planning a
It is understood the arrest of the
27-year-old suspect was “ intelligence-
led” and was made as part of a joint
operation being carried out by MI5 and
The circumstances of the swoop would
suggest the suspect may have been under
some form of sur veillance prior to his
The bearded man, described as “very
calm” by a witness, was carrying a
rucksack containing at least three knives
when he was detained yards from the
scene of last month’s attack by Khalid
The Metropolitan Police said he was
arrested “following a stop and search as
part of an ongoing operation”, and was
held by armed officers from the specialist
Scotland Yard said the man was
arrested on suspicion of possession of an
offensive weapon and preparing an act of
“Knives have been recovered from him.
“He is being detained under the
Terrorism Act and is in custody in a
south London police station. ”
Counter-terrorism detectives were
continuing their investigation, but there
was no immediate known threat.
Dressed in dark clothing, the suspect
was wrestled to the ground on a traffic
island, close entrance to Downing Street.
Handcuffed, with his arms behind his
back, one of his hands appeared to be
wrapped up in a bandage as four officers
stood next to him.
Images from the scene showed
three knives on the ground close to
a brown rucksack, and an officer in
forensic overalls could be seen taking
photographs of the knives.
The suspect was detained at the scene
for several minutes within view of
journalists and passers by before he was
eventually taken away in a police vehicle.
Prime Minister Theresa May was
away from No 10 on a campaign visit
at the time of the incident, which did
not disrupt work in Downing Street, a
spokeswoman said. — PA
A convicted possum torturer is
facing possible jail time after he
allegedly breached the conditions
of his probation.
Hunter Lawrence Jonasen and
another 17-year-old man ran
over a possum on Christmas Day
in 2015 and uploaded footage of
its suffering to Snapchat.
Jonasen pleaded guilty to
animal cruelty in the Brisbane
Magistrates’ Court in May 2016
and was sentenced to a one-year
He is now facing the possibility
of being given a harsher
punishment over the sickening
attack after being charged with
assault occasioning bodily harm.
Jonasen will front Holland Park
Magistrates’ Court today.
The maximum penalty for
animal cruelty in Q ueensland is
three years in prison and a fine of
$220,000. — A AP
Jail possible for possum torture
Police revive ‘dead’ woman
A French woman was reportedly
brought back to life after paramedics
declared her dead.
The 49-year-old, who suffered from
anorexia, was found by her 18-year-old
daughter at a property in Paris’s 13th
Police say that they were called to the
scene believing the woman to be the
victim of cardiac arrest.
Declared dead at 6.10pm, the death
certificate was signed pending a final
An hour later, police who were
conducting a routine check to establish
cause of death when they noticed
“movements in her belly” and a pulse in
her jugular vein.
Police, who worked on the patient
for approximately 30 minutes, took
turns to perform a cardiac massage
under the advice of members of the fire
department, who helped over the phone.
The heart of the patient set off again
“on a cruising rhythm,” police said,
“This is a resurrection after Easter,” area
mayor Jerome Coumet told L e Parisien.
The officers will be honoured for their
The woman remains in recovery at
Necker Hospital. — EF E
China overnight passed a revised
mapping law to bolster understanding of
its territorial claims and to create hefty
new penalties to “intimidate” foreigners
who carry out sur veying work without
permission, lawmakers said.
China’s National People Congress
Standing Committee, a top law-making
body, passed a revised version of China’s
sur veying and mapping law intended
to safeguard the security of China’s
geographic information, lawmakers said
President Xi Jinping has overseen a
raft of new legislature in the name of
safeguarding China’s national security by
upgrading and adding to already broad
laws governing State secrets and security.
Laws include placing management of
foreign non-governmental organisations
under the security ministry and a
businesses store important business data
in China among others.
Overseas critics say that these laws
give the state extensive powers to shut
foreign companies out of sectors deemed
“critical” or to crack down on dissent at
The revision to the mapping law aims to
raise understanding of China’s national
territory education and promotion
among the Chinese people, He Shaoren,
head spokesman for the NPC standing
committee, said, according to the official
China News ser vice.
When asked about maps that
“ incorrectly draw
boundaries” by labelling Taiwan a
country or not recognising China’s
claims in the South China Sea, He said:
“These problems objectively damage the
completeness of our national territory. ”
China claims almost all the South
China Sea and regards neighbouring
self-ruled Taiwan as a breakaway
The new law increases oversight of
on-line mapping ser vices to clarify that
anyone who publishes or distributes
national maps must do so in line with
relevant national mapping standards, He
said. — Reuters
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