Home' Greymouth Star : May 23rd 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
8 - Friday, May 23, 2014
A Russian woman who
smuggled a 50kg lion cub on to
a sleeper train claiming it was a
domestic cat is being questioned
The big cat was exposed after
it began behaving aggressively
early yesterday on a passenger
train heading for the city of
Yekaterinburg, 1400km east of
Moscow, police said.
The lion cub’s female owner
“could not cope with the
situation and it was necessary to
urgently isolate the animal which
was running wild,” police said.
“The lion cub had first been
kept in a cage but then the
woman accompanying it for
some reason let the animal out,”
a police spokesman told the
Interfax news agency.
“ When the animal, which was
being transported without a
muzzle, started behaving wildly,
the woman couldn’t control it.
“She shut it in her sleeper car
and asked the train staff for
The woman faced questioning
on “how she carried a 50kg, nine-
month-old lion registered in
travel documents as ... a domestic
cat,” police said.
Police said they would also
question rail staff who “without
proper checks allowed cargo on
board that was so dangerous for
surrounding people.” — AFP
Lion cub ‘runs wild’ on Russian train
Flies appear to “think” before they act
and, like humans, take longer to make
trickier decisions, a study has found.
Scientists admitted to being surprised
by the discovery, which indicates that
even insects show signs of intelligence.
Gathering information before deciding
on a course of action was previously
thought to be the preser ve of highly
evolved species, such as monkeys and
In a series of tests, the researchers asked
fruit flies to distinguish between ever
closer concentrations of an odour they
were trained to avoid.
When the concentrations were very
different and easy to tell apart, the
flies acted quickly to move to the end
of a chamber furthest away from the
But when they were very close and
difficult to distinguish, the flies took
much longer to make a decision and
made more mistakes.
Instead of responding impulsively,
they seemed to accumulate information,
weighing up what their smell sense was
telling them before committing to a
Professor Gero Miessenbock, from
Oxford University’s Centre for Neural
Circuits and Behaviour, said freedom
of action from automatic impulses is
considered a hallmark of cognition or
“ What our findings show is that fruit
flies have a surprising mental capacity
that has previously been unrecognised,”
The researchers, whose findings appear
in the journal Science, showed that a gene
called FoxP was involved in the decision-
making process in the fly’s brain.
The gene was active in a small set of
around 200 ner ve cells.
Lead author Dr Shamik Das Gupta,
also from Oxford University, said
before a decision is made, brain circuits
collect information like a bucket
“Once the accumulated information
has risen to a certain level, the decision
is triggered,” Das Gupta said.
“ When FoxP is defective, either the
flow of information into the bucket is
reduced to a trickle, or the bucket has
sprung a leak. ”
Flies with a mutation in FoxP took
longer than normal flies to make
decisions when odours were difficult to
Like a human paralysed by a difficult
choice, they became indecisive.
Fruit flies have one FoxP gene, while
humans have four related FoxP genes.
Thailand’s army chief, General Prayuth
Chan-ocha, seized control of the government
in a coup overnight, two days after declaring
martial law, saying the military had to restore
order and push through reforms after six
months of turmoil.
The military declared a 10pm until 5am curfew,
suspended the constitution and detained some
politicians. It later summoned former prime
minister Yingluck Shinawatra and 22 others,
including relatives and ministers in her ousted
Rival protest camps were ordered to disperse
and media censored. There were no reports of
United States Secretary of State John Kerry
said there was no justification for a coup, which
would have “negative implications” for ties.
The US was reviewing its military and other
assistance, “consistent with US law ”.
Thailand is locked in a protracted power
struggle between supporters of ousted former
premier Thaksin Shinawatra and opponents
backed by the royalist establishment that has
polarised the country and battered its economy.
“In order for the situation to return to normal
quickly and for society to love and be at peace
again . . . and to reform the political, economic
and social structure, the military needs to take
control of power,” Prayuth said in a televised
The general made his broadcast after a meeting
to which he had summoned the rival factions,
with the aim of finding a compromise to defuse
But no progress was made and Prayuth wound
up the gathering by announcing he was seizing
power, according to a participant.
The Thai armed forces have a long history of
inter vening in politics — there have been 18
previous successful or attempted coups since
Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in
1932, most recently when Thaksin was deposed
Hundreds of soldiers surrounded the meeting
at Bangkok’s Army Club shortly before the coup
announcement and troops took away Suthep
Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-government
Some political party leaders were also detained,
Prayuth, who has for months been trying to
keep the army out of the political confrontation,
assumed the powers of the prime minister.
Soldiers fired shots into the air to disperse
thousands of pro-government “red shirt”
activists gathered in Bangkok’s western
The military detained one of the leading
activists, a spokesman for the group said, and
the protesters later left peacefully, many of them
in vehicles provided by the military.
The army also ordered television and radio
stations to halt programmes and broadcast its
material, and banned gatherings of more than
five people. It said it would block websites that
spread false information or incited unrest.
The army had declared martial law on Tuesday,
saying it was necessary to prevent violence.
Twenty-eight people have been killed and 700
injured since the anti-government protests
erupted late last year.
“Martial law may have been to test the waters;
the army gave the opposing camps a chance to
negotiate a way out, but I think the endgame
was always the military taking over,” Kan
Yuanyong of the Siam Intelligence Unit think-
“The possibility of conflict is now much
higher,” he said. “ Thaksin will fight back.”
Former telecommunications tycoon Thaksin
has lived in self-imposed exile since 2008 to
avoid a jail term for graft, but commands the
loyalty of legions of poor voters and exerts
a huge influence over politics, most recently
through his sister’s government.
He was not available for comment but a pro-
Thaksin activist in his hometown of Chiang Mai
said there was no immediate plan to protest.
“As of now we will not head to Bangkok, no
plans. We will follow today’s situation closely
first,” Mahawon Kawang said.
Kerry said he was disappointed and concerned
by reports that political leaders had been
detained, and called for their release.
“This act will have negative implications for
the US-Thai relationship, especially for our
relationship with the Thai military,” he said in
The Pentagon said it was reviewing its
military assistance and engagements, including
an ongoing exercise involving about 700 US
Marines and sailors.
Under US law, no foreign aid may flow to a
country whose duly elected head of government
is deposed in a coup, but the language of the law
gives the Obama administration some latitude
in how to interpret it.
There was condemnation from France, the
European Union and the United Nations
human rights office. Japan said the coup was
regrettable and Australian Foreign Minister
Julie Bishop said she was “gravely concerned”.
Bangkok’s streets were largely empty at curfew
time. Some tourists, unaware of the coup,
wondered why the bars were closing early.
In a first round of talks on Wednesday,
Prayuth had called on the two sides to agree
a compromise based on the appointment of
an interim prime minister, political reforms,
and an election. But both sides stuck to their
Last night, after announcing his coup to
the two sides’ representatives, he told them,
“Everyone must sit still,” according to one
participant who declined to be identified.
Leaders of the ruling Puea Thai Party and the
opposition Democrat Party, the Senate leader
and the five-member Election Commission
were in the talks.
Yingluck was forced to step down as premier
by a court two weeks ago, but her caretaker
government limped on.
Thailand’s economy shrank by 2.1% in January-
March from the previous three months, largely
because of the unrest, adding to fears that it is
stumbling into recession.
But weary investors have generally taken
Thailand’s political upheavals in their stride, and
analysts said the impact on markets in South-
east Asia’s second largest economy might not be
The anti-government protesters want to rid
Thailand the influence of Thaksin, who they say
is a corrupt crony capitalist who commandeered
a fragile democracy and used taxpayers’ money
to buy votes with populist giveaways.
They had wanted a “neutral” interim prime
minister to oversee electoral reforms before a
The government said a general election was
the best way for ward. Thaksin or his parties
have won every election since 2001. — Reuters
The United Nations has blacklisted
Boko Haram as an al Qaeda-linked
terror group and imposed sanctions
a month after the group claimed the
kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls
welcomed by Britain and the United
States, came into effect after no
objections were raised by the Security
Council’s 15 members.
The move automatically subjects Boko
Haram to UN sanctions, including an
arms embargo and asset freeze.
The group, which was created 10 years
ago, wants to establish an Islamic state
in mainly-Muslim northern Nigeria. Its
militants have killed several thousand
people in a campaign of violence since
US envoy to the UN Samantha
Power said it was “an important step”
in support of Nigeria’s efforts “to defeat
Boko Haram and hold its murderous
leadership accountable for atrocities”.
“ It is significant step,” Nigerian
ambassador Joy Ogwu told reporters in
anticipation of the move yesterday.
“The important thing is to attack the
problem and that is terrorism.”
Nigeria asked the al Qaeda sanctions
committee to blacklist the armed Islamist
group and impose sanctions.
It remains unclear whether sanctions
will have any real impact on a group
based in an area of Nigeria that operates
on a cash economy. — AFP
Thai soldiers run as they take their positions at the Army Club during a coup where
Thailand’s army chief held a meeting with all rival factions in central Bangkok. Thailand’s
army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha took control of the government in the coup, saying the
army had to restore order and push through reforms, two days after he declared martial law.
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