Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Tale of Two Cities

Originally uploaded by Sydney Weasel
As Sydney played guests to professional protestors who opposed the wonderful news of climate change agreement by the world's largest polluter, Sydney's South West, Fairfield, played host to a new generation of talent with WestXPress2.
* Man beaten for admiring a car
* Pavarotti funeral
* Two brit troops killed in fight with Taliban
* Beattie asked to quit
* Research shows two year olds have better developed cognitive ability than chimps.


Anonymous said...

Two UK troops, 30 Taliban killed
TWO British soldiers and more than 30 Taliban guerillas were killed in separate incidents in southern Afghanistan, the British and US military said.

In another incident in the same restive southern province of Helmand on Saturday, an Afghan employee of a US security firm was killed and three others were wounded in a suicide bomb attack, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday.

The British soldiers were killed while taking part in a pre-dawn operation on Saturday to disrupt the Taliban in Helmand when their patrol came under attack, Britain's Ministry of Defence said.

Two other British troops were seriously wounded and several insurgents were killed, it added.

Afghan and US-led coalition forces backed by air strikes meanwhile killed more than 30 Taliban fighters in a separate clash in Helmand on Saturday, and destroyed a large cache of weaponry, the US military said.

"Afghan and Coalition forces found large weapons caches in three buildings and smaller caches in other buildings. The caches included rockets, anti-tank rockets, and an improvised explosive device, all of which were destroyed by a coalition airstrike," it said.

"During the course of operations, the combined force also returned small-arms fire and employed precision munitions on locations where suspected militants were hiding. Forces estimate more than 30 suspected militants were killed in the engagement."

There were no independent accounts of how many people were killed or what happened. The Taliban were not immediately available for comment.

The US-led military says coalition forces have killed hundreds of Taliban militants in a spree of confrontations in recent weeks. The Taliban have admitted some losses, but say Afghan and foreign troops vastly exaggerate enemy death tolls.

More than 7000 people have been killed during the past 19 months in Afghanistan, the bloodiest period since the resurgent Taliban's overthrow in 2001

Anonymous said...

Man beaten after admiring car
A 30-year-old man is lucky to be alive after he and his wife were assaulted by up to six occupants of a Hummer vehicle as they stood admiring it in inner-Melbourne early today.

Police said the man and his 32-year-old wife were admiring a silver-coloured Hummer - a large, US-style four-wheel drive - outside Kings car park on Flinders Lane, between Spencer and King streets, about 5.30am (AEST) when they were set upon.

The man said "I love your car" before he was attacked by up to six people, with at least one brandishing a metal bar.

"The victim was severely beaten and left unconscious," Detective Senior Constable Brett Hampson said.

He was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital with sever head injuries and blood loss.

The victim's wife was also taken to hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

"We're very concerned about this assault. It was unprovoked and severe and extremely brutal," Det Sen Const Hampson said.

"The male's very lucky to still be alive."

Det Sen Const Hampson said the couple had been out drinking and were returning to their car with a friend when they were attacked.

Police are investigating whether a red sports car, which left the car park at the same time as the Hummer without rendering assistance, was also involved.

They say they are confident the Hummer - whose design is based on the US army's Humvee vehicle - will be found.

"It's a very distinctive car and we'll be very confident that we'll locate these people that have assaulted this male in such a bad way," Det Sen Const Hampson said.

The driver of the Hummer is described as being aged in his 30s, of Caucasian appearance, and was wearing dark jeans, a black T-shirt and had a tattoo of a cross on his right forearm.

A second offender was of Asian appearance and wearing a green T-shirt.

The silver Hummer had the word "Hummer" written down the side of it in dark writing, police said.

Anonymous said...

Top politicians, stars attend Pavarotti funeral
THOUSANDS of mourners led by top political figures and stars of the entertainment world attended the funeral of opera legend Luciano Pavarotti at Modena in Italy today.

About 800 family, friends and special guests packed Modena Cathedral for a mass for the venerated tenor, who died on Thursday aged 71.

Among those present were Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, U2 rock star Bono and Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli.

Pavarotti's second wife Nicoletta Mantovani sat in front of the white maple coffin, which was covered in sunflowers. Nearby were his three daughters from his first marriage.

Thousands more watched the ceremony on two giant screens set up in the main square outside.

Pavarotti's recordings were played to the waiting crowds before the mass, which started with an “Ave Maria” taken from Giuseppe Verdi's “Otello” and sung by the Bulgarian soprano Raina Kabaivandska.

The blind Italian singer Andrea Bocelli performed Mozart's “Ave Verum Corpus”.

In a special message read at the mass, Pope Benedict XVI called Pavarotti “a great artist who through his extraordinary talent for interpretation honoured the divine gift of music”.

Prodi said in a eulogy that Pavarotti “made music an instrument of life and against war” and called him an “impassioned ambassador for Italy”.

More than 100,000 people had filed past Pavarotti's coffin in the cathedral in the two days before the service.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was among those to pay last respects yesterday.

“I wanted to testify personally to the emotion and the recognition of all Italians for the man who carried his voice and the purest image of our country throughout the world,” he said.

The funeral ceremony, covered by about 450 accredited journalists, was broadcast live on Italian television.

Recordings of Puccini's “Nessun Dorma” by Pavarotti were to be played as a tribute before European Championship football matches later today, pitting Italy against France and England against Israel.

Pavarotti made the aria a new global hit when he sang it at the 1990 World Cup finals, helping to widen classical opera's appeal to the masses.

Pavarotti died at his villa near Modena after a long battle with cancer of the pancreas. He underwent major surgery for the illness in July 2006 and was hospitalised again for three weeks in August.

Tributes came from around the world for Pavarotti, including by his partners in the Three Tenors opera supergroup, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.

“I always admired the God-given glory of his voice – that unmistakable special timbre from the bottom up to the very top of the tenor range,” said Domingo.

Carreras added: “The best memories are the ones in intimacy. ... We have to remember him as the great artist he was, a man with such a wonderful charismatic personality.”

Pavarotti broke into the opera world when he won a competition in 1961.

He sang “Nessun Dorma” during his last major performance, at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Turin in February 2006.

To the shock of some classical music purists, the larger-than-life singer extended his appeal far beyond the operatic world, collaborating with pop stars such as Sting, U2 and even the Spice Girls.

Anonymous said...

Wife wants Beattie to quit politics
IN the strongest sign yet that Peter Beattie will not contest the next election, his wife Heather has confirmed she is urging him to quit politics.

"I really don't want him to run (for re-election in 2009)," she said.

"I have let him know that I feel it's time – time for us to spend more (time) together and also with our children.

"It's time for someone else to have a go and time for him to take a break."

While the 54-year-old Premier hinted at retirement at the Labor state conference in July – when he anointed his deputy, Anna Bligh, as the state's "next premier" – Heather Beattie has previously remained tight-lipped about her husband's political future.

But now she says health and personal reasons have prompted her to make a public call for her husband's retirement.

"Since I retired myself earlier this year, I am so much happier," she said.

Dr Beattie, 53, resigned in June from her position as Associate Professor of Nursing at the University of Queensland.

"There is so much less stress in my life and I would like that for Peter.

"When I see him, I see a very tired man – bags under his eyes, he's put on weight and, to me, he just looks exhausted.

"I want him to spend more time with the children (Larissa and twins Denis and Matthew). They're great kids, on the brink of entering adulthood, and it would be nice for their father to see that transition.

"He missed most of their high-school years and I don't want him to wake up and suddenly they're 27 years old and living in London."

Dr Beattie also said she missed her husband, who recently told The Sunday Mail that he sleeps just five hours a night because of the time demands of public office.

"On the very few occasions when we do spend a weekend together, we might go to lunch or see a movie. I feel very happy to have him there and have that sense of companionship, and I say to him on those occasions, 'See, this is what it could be like.'

"I am not complaining, I understand that there are many, many families where one or both parents works very hard and for very long hours. There are plenty of people doing the same thing we are, but politics is so relentless, it's all day, every day and it's a job that you can never really separate from your personal life."

But Dr Beattie concedes the final decision on retirement rests with her husband, who was re-elected as Premier one year ago yesterday and has spent 18 years in elected office.

"We always had a pact that when one of us said 'that's it', it would be the end. I haven't actually said that, but I've certainly let him know how I feel.

"If he were to say to me, 'No, I'm going to have one more shot', I would be very disappointed.

"I would reiterate my thoughts and put my argument forward again, but I also understand he has to feel it's right, that he's ready to go and that he's done all he set out to do." But while urging her husband to retire from politics, Dr Beattie concedes she can't really see her husband pottering about the garden.

"I think he needs a real break, then to come back refreshed and do something else – whether it be in private enterprise or perhaps some sort of charity work."

One thing is for certain though, should her husband retire from politics, Dr Beattie's dream is to go on a "proper" holiday.

"We both love walking and I would really love us to go on a walking tour," she said.

"My dream would be for us to walk the Pilgrim Trails in Spain. There's a whole series of them, I think they're about 1200km long and I've been told you can do it all in about eight weeks. That would be wonderful."

And, by sending the strongest signal yet that the Beattie era may be coming to a close, it seems likely Heather Beattie might get her wish.

Anonymous said...

Shock: kids smarter than chimps
By Will Dunham
IN another case of researchers reporting the bleeding obvious, European scientists have found that children are smarter than chimpanzees.

A unique study comparing the abilities of human toddlers to chimpanzees and orang-utans found that two-year-old children have social learning skills superior to the apes, the researchers said.

In one social learning test, a researcher showed the children and apes how to pop open a plastic tube to get food or a toy contained inside. The children observed and imitated the solution.

Chimpanzees and orang-utans, however, tried to smash open the tube or yank out the contents with their teeth.

European scientists gave a battery of cognitive tests lasting three to five hours separately to 105 2-year-old children, 106 chimpanzees and 32 orang-utans over two weeks.

"Using these multiple tests allows us to pinpoint where are the similarities and where are the differences," researcher Josep Call of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany said.

The researchers believe their findings provide insight into the evolution of human cognition.

People's brains are three times larger than those of the closest primate relatives.

"This is the first time that anything like this has been done," said Max Planck Institute researcher Esther Herrmann.

Chimpanzees and orang-utans are among the great apes. Chimps are considered the closest genetic relatives to people, with orangutans a bit more distantly related.

The researchers found that the children were far more advanced than the chimps and orang-utans in understanding nonverbal communications, copying another person's solution to a problem and understanding the intentions of others.

The apes were closer to the toddlers in some other tests like those measuring "physical cognitive skills" involving things like quantities and causality, the researchers found.

"Young human children who had been walking and talking for about one year, but who were still several years away from literacy and formal schooling, performed at basically an equivalent level to chimpanzees on tasks of physical cognition, but far outstripped both chimpanzees and orang-utans on tasks of social cognition," they wrote in the journal Science.

"We may thus think of two-year-old children's cognitive development in the physical domain as still basically equivalent to that of the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees some six million years ago ... but their social cognition as already well down the species-specific path."

The apes performed the tests in animal sanctuaries in Africa and Indonesia.

In another study in the same journal, other researchers said they showed that apes and monkeys do possess skills like figuring out the intentions of others. They studied cotton-top tamarins, rhesus macaques and chimpanzees.