Ziebell relishing AFL captaincy at Roos

Jack Ziebell took over as North Melbourne captain at a fraught time, given the massive amount of experience that left the AFL club at the end of last season.

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But Ziebell says the only part of being skipper that bothers him so far is their 0-2 start to the season.

And the Kangaroos face another major test when they host the GWS Giants on Saturday in Hobart.

North are a transformed team after the departures of Brent Harvey, Michael Firrito, Drew Petrie, Nick Dal Santo and Daniel Wells.

But Ziebell said on Friday the new-look Kangaroos have the right attitude.

“The group we have … is very easy to lead,” he said.

“They’re very eager to learn, the effort they show on the weekend is second to none.”

Ziebell said it also helped that his predecessor Andrew Swallow had stayed in the leadership group.

And there is still plenty of experience at Arden St, such as Jarrad Waite, Shaun Higgins, Jamie Macmillan and Robbie Tarrant.

“They have some sway in our group and we’re really leaning on those guys to make sure they’re upholding what we expect from our footy club,” Ziebell said.

Ziebell will play his 150th game this Saturday, while Giants co-captain Phil Davis reaches the 100 milestone.

They came through the 2008 draft, with Ziebell going to North at pick No.9 and Davis joining Adelaide one selection later.

Davis later went to GWS and has reached his milestone after a succession of injuries.

Ziebell feels his career has gone quickly.

“I remember starting at the footy club probably nine years ago and listening to a couple of the older guys say ‘mate, make sure you enjoy it, because it goes bloody quick’,” he said.

“You sit there and laugh at them.

“But you blink and you’re nine years in and 150 games now.”

Ziebell feels he is now reaching his prime as an AFL player.

“It’s been a bit of a journey to get to this point, but I’m fully-confident in my body and everything like that, the way I’m playing, and hopefully I’m going to improve a whole lot more as well,” he said.

“So I think my best footy is definitely ahead of me.”

Ziebell also has backed himself and the rest of the North midfield to match the Giants.

“We’re more than capable of matching it with any midfield in the competition, which is exciting,” he said.

The forecast is for rain in Hobart – which drew an “oh, shit” from Ziebell under his breath as he thought it was going to be sunny.

“We love Tassie, Tassie’s awesome – we’ve had a pretty strong record down there,” he quickly added.

“If the weather comes in fairly average, I think that will suit us.”

This is now unofficially the Josh Kelly Cup, given the revelation that North are dangling a monster nine-year offer in front of the Giants midfielder.

“I might say it’s nice and sunny down here in Melbourne and all that sort of stuff,” Ziebell said.

Adidas to mass produce 3D-printed shoe

Adidas has launched a new sneaker with a 3D-printed sole that it plans to mass produce next year, part of a broader push by the German sportswear firm to react faster to changing fashions and create more customised products.

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Adidas already lets people customise the colour and pattern of shoes ordered online but new 3D printing methods will make small production runs, limited edition shoes and even soles designed to fit an individual’s weight and gait economical.

Rivals Nike, Under Armour and New Balance have also been experimenting with 3D printing but have so far only used the technique to make prototypes, soles tailored for sponsored athletes and a handful of high-priced novelty shoes.

That’s because traditional 3D printers are slower, more expensive and often create an inferior product than the injection moulds for plastic that are currently used to produce hundreds of millions of shoes each year, mostly in Asia.

However, Adidas says its new partnership with Silicon Valley start-up Carbon allows it to overcome many of those difficulties to produce a sole that can rival one made by an injection mould, and at a speed and price that allow for mass production.

“This is a milestone not only for us as a company but also for the industry,” said Gerd Manz, Adidas head of technology innovation, announcing the launch of its new “Futurecraft 4D” shoe.

“We’ve cracked some of the boundaries.”

Carbon, financed by venture firms such as Sequoia Capital as well as funds set up by General Electric and Alphabet’s Google, has pioneered a technique that prints with light-sensitive polymer resin that is then baked for strength.

Standard 3D printers build up products with layers of plastic powder, a method used by Hewlett Packard which is working with Nike and says its newest machines work 10 times faster and at half the cost than earlier models.

Adidas hopes to sell 5,000 pairs of its “Futurecraft 4D” this year, and 100,000 next year as Carbon cuts the time it takes to print a sole from the current hour and a half to as low as 20 minutes per sole.

The shoes will sell at an unspecified premium price but Adidas plans to lower the cost as the technology develops.

Syria chemical attack: UN Security Council voting delayed

Western countries have blamed President Bashar al-Assad’s armed forces for Tuesday’s attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in a rebel-held area of northern Syria hit by government air strikes.

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Syria’s government has denied responsibility.

The United States, Britain and France proposed a draft resolution on Tuesday to condemn the attack and press Syria to cooperate with international investigators. Russia said the text was unacceptable and proposed a rival draft. 

The elected 10 members of the 15-member council proposed a third draft resolution, based on the text by Western powers, on Thursday evening in a bid to reach consensus. 

“U.N. Security Council will no longer vote on the (resolution) on Syria this evening. Consultations among Council members are ongoing,” British diplomat Stephen Hickey posted on Twitter. 

In February, Syrian ally Russia, backed by China, cast its seventh veto to protect Assad’s government from council action, blocking a bid by Western powers to impose sanctions over accusations of chemical weapons attacks. China has vetoed six resolutions on Syria. 

A Security Council resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, Britain, France, Russia or China to pass.

“Efforts continue to reach unity on a strong (Security Council) resolution w/ strong condemnation, immediate independent investigation & accountability,” Swedish diplomat Carl Skau posted on Twitter. 

An ‘appropriate response’

The US Thursday threatened Syria with military action as President Donald Trump warned ‘something should happen’ following a suspected chemical attack that left at least 86 dead and provoked global outrage.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson vowed an “appropriate response” to the attack in Khan Sheikhun in rebel-held Idlib province, whose victims included 27 children.

Trump has signaled a startling about-turn towards President Bashar al-Assad, who many in the international community hold responsible for Tuesday’s horrific events.

“What Assad did is terrible. What happened in Syria is truly one of the egregious crimes,” the US leader said Thursday. “I guess he’s running things, so I guess something should happen.”

Trump’s comments came as Tillerson — who like him was in Florida to welcome China’s Xi Jinping — called explicitly for “a political process that would lead to Assad leaving” and said his future role in the country was “uncertain.”

Watch: Rex Tillerson on the US’ response

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It remained unclear whether Assad’s main ally Russia would resort to its veto power to block the draft resolution presented to the UN, which was slightly revised following negotiations over the past two days.

Britain, France and the United States are backing the draft which demands a full investigation of the incident, which Turkey believes exposed victims to the nerve agent sarin.

The US Ambassador Nikki Haley has warned that Washington could take unilateral action if the world body fails to respond to the serious allegations of chemical weapons use.

A US official said the Pentagon is presenting the White House with a range of possible military options, including cruise missile or air strikes on Assad’s air fields in a bid to ground his air force — but that no decisions had been taken. 

Any such military action brings enormous risks, as strikes could be subject to skirting Russian air defenses. Moscow also has advisors on the ground in Syria.

Russia at UN warns US over possible military action in Syria

Russia warned the United States on Thursday that there could be “negative consequences” if Washington takes military action against Syria.

“All responsibility if military action occurs will be on the shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful tragic enterprise,” Russian Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told reporters following a closed-door Security Council meeting on Syria.

‘Scandal’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday it was a scandal that the United Nations Security Council did not pass a resolution condemning a suspected chemical attack in Syria this week which killed at least 70 people.

“It was a barbaric attack that must be cleared up. The use of chemical weapons is a war crime,” Merkel told a news conference in eastern Germany, adding there were some indications it was carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

“It is a scandal that no U.N. Security Council resolution materialized and those who opposed it must consider what responsibility they bear,” she said. She declined to interpret U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments that the attack went “beyond a red line”.

Watch: Angela Merkel lambasts the UN for not passing a resolution condemning the attack

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‘Terrible responsibility’

The UN children’s agency UNICEF says at least 546 people were wounded in the suspected chemical attack.

More than 30 people were transferred across the border into Turkey for treatment, and Ankara said a preliminary probe found a link between these injuries and sarin.

If confirmed to be a chemical attack, this would be among the worst such incidents in Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 320,000 people since it began in March 2011.

The draft UN resolution backs a probe by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and demands Syria provide information on its operations.

The OPCW said Thursday it has opened an “ongoing investigation” and has “initiated contact with the Syrian authorities.”

Russia has previously used its veto seven times to shield Syria at the UN.

France warned Moscow it would face a “terrible responsibility in front of history” if it did so once more.

Syria officially relinquished its chemical arsenal and signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013 to avert military action after it was accused of an attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds.

But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use since.

Watch: Idlib surgeon gathers evidence of the ‘chemical’ attack

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Russia, Syria hit back as pressure builds over ‘chemical attack’

Britain, France and the United States have pressed for a vote on a UN Security Council resolution to investigate dozens of civilian deaths in a northwestern Syria town, which Turkey said it suspected were the result of exposure to nerve agent sarin.

At least 86 people were killed early Tuesday in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun, and dozens more treated for convulsions, breathing problems and foaming at the mouth.

World powers have pointed the finger at the government of Bashar al-Assad, but Foreign Minister Walid Muallem repeated the regime’s denial Thursday.

“The Syrian army has not, did not and will not use this kind of weapons — not just against our own people, but even against the terrorists that attack our civilians with their mortar rounds,” he said.

WATCH: Father describes horror of Idlib attack

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Russia also stood by its longtime ally, with President Vladimir Putin warning against a rush to judgement.

Putin underlined “the unacceptability of making unfounded accusations against anyone before a thorough and impartial international investigation is carried out”.

More than 30 people were transferred across the border into Turkey for treatment following the incident, and Ankara said a preliminary probe found “a link between these injuries and the use of chemical weapons”.

“According to the results of the initial analysis, the findings suggest the injured were exposed to a chemical substance (sarin),” its health ministry said.

After an emergency session of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Western diplomats are expected to push for a vote as early as Thursday on a resolution demanding an investigation into the incident.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the resolution, presented by Britain, France and the United States, remained a priority.

But “it’s difficult because up to now every time we have presented a resolution, there has been a veto by Russia and sometimes by China,” he added.

Geert Cappelaere, Middle East director at the UN children’s agency UNICEF, said at least 27 children were killed and 546 wounded in the suspected attack.

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If confirmed as an attack, it would be among the worst incidents of chemical weapons use in Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 320,000 people since it began in March 2011.

It has also prompted an about-face from US President Donald Trump, who in 2013 urged then-president Barack Obama not to intervene against Assad after a major suspected chemical attack.

Senior US officials had also recently suggested it was no longer a priority that Assad be removed from power.

Trump described the alleged attack as an “affront to humanity” and warned it had changed his view of Assad.

“It crossed a lot of lines for me,” he said, alluding to Obama’s failure to enforce his own 2013 “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

As she held up pictures of lifeless children at the UN on Wednesday, US ambassador Nikki Haley warned of unilateral action if the UN failed “in its duty to act collectively”.

The draft UN resolution backs a probe by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and demands Syria provide information on its operations.

The OPCW said Thursday it has opened an “ongoing investigation” into the suspected chemical attack, and has “initiated contact with the Syrian authorities” as part of the probe.

WATCH: Father mourns twins killed in Idlib attack

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Earlier, Muallem said such an investigation “must guarantee that it is not politicised, that it has broad geographic representation and that it is launched from Damascus, not Turkey”.

Britain, France and the United States asked the Security Council to hold a vote later Thursday on the resolution, diplomats said.

But it remained unclear whether Russia would support the measure, which was slightly revised after negotiations in the past two days.

Russia has previously used its veto seven times to shield Syria.

France warned Russia it would face a “terrible responsibility in front of history” if it vetoed it.

Turkey said Russia’s support of the Syrian regime was “utterly wrong”, in Ankara’s most bitter recent attack on Moscow after a dramatic warming of ties in recent months.

Syria officially relinquished its chemical arsenal and signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013 to avert military action after it was accused of an attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds.

But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use since.

Analysts said it was unclear whether the Trump administration would follow through with its threats of action.

“We have no precedent to use to assess whether the Trump administration’s words yesterday were bluster or a representation of genuine threat,” said Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute.

“Trump… was exposed to the horrific footage that we all saw and quite clearly that had a transformative effect on him.

“Now we need to wait to see whether that transforms into real policy shifts or not.”

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I was too young for Origin decider: Pearce

If anyone knows how hot the State of Origin cauldron will be for Queensland rookie Cameron Munster next Wednesday night, it’s the most maligned halfback for NSW.

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Munster is poised to become the first playmaker to debut in a State of Origin series decider since a 19-year-old Mitchell Pearce was thrust into that pressure-cooker environment in game three of the 2008 series.

Pearce ended up missing a tackle on Johnathan Thurston that resulted in the series-winning try for Billy Slater.

It was the start of a Blues career that has been forever under scrutiny as the Maroons extended their dominance in the interstate arena.

A decade on and Pearce concedes that, in hindsight, he wasn’t ready for his 2008 call-up.

“I was too young,” Pearce said.

“I remember, I was a bit different. I was 19 so I didn’t think too much at that stage. It’s probably less pressure back then because you haven’t been a part of a series and all the rest of it.”

However Pearce believes 22-year-old Munster will be far more comfortable, thanks to the close presence of influential Melbourne teammates.

The Storm’s star playmaking trio of Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith will all be alongside the man asked to wear the jumper of injured champion Thurston.

It is arguably the most celebrated jumper in Origin, also following in the footsteps of Maroons legends Wally Lewis and Darren Lockyer.

“If we’re talking about Munster, he’s a great player and I think he’d be really comfortable around their spine that they’ve got there,” Pearce said.

“Obviously Johnathan Thurston’s one of the greatest of all time so he brings a whole other dimension to their team. I don’t think they’ll be changing too much.”

Pearce, who is the Blues’ second-most experienced Origin player with 17 games, again finds himself under pressure to deliver the Blues a series win in his seventh year in the arena.

However the 28-year-old insists he’s grown accustomed to the hot seat.

“I’m pretty relaxed right now. There’s always pressure. We’re here to prepare as a winning team and go out there and do our best to win the series for NSW,” he said.

‘He is an American hero’: Joey Chestnut downs 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes

He certainly stretched that limit on Tuesday, downing 72 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes at the annual wiener-eating contest on New York’s Coney Island, a tradition that marks every Independence Day holiday in the United States.

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Chestnut won the competition for the 10th time and improved on the speed-eating tally he posted last summer.

In the 2016 edition of the eat-fest at the Nathan’s Famous beachside hot dog stand — it began way back in 1916 — Chestnut wolfed down 70 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes to win the title.

His personal record — and the world record — is 73.5 dogs and buns in 10 minutes, but that came during a qualifying round rather than an actual contest. 

After Tuesday’s victory, organizer George Shea praised Chestnut as if he were a warrior returning from a distant battlefield.

“He is an American hero. He stands as a representative of freedom, of the American ideal,” said Shea to the 30,000 people who turned out to watch the competition.

Chestnut spoke of himself in more measured language. 

“I am just a goofy dude who likes to eat. I am a lucky guy, to travel around the world and eat and make people smile,” he told reporters.

And Chestnut — who began eating competitively in 2005 in an asparagus-munching contest — does in fact want to get better for next year.

“I need to work on my condition so I don’t sweat as much, because it slowed me down. I’ll figure it out. I’ll make my body work better. I have to figure out my body so I can push it to the absolute limit,” said Chestnut.

America is famously fat, with obesity affected some one in three adults. So the hot dog contest is perhaps not a great example of healthy habits.

Nor is it easy to watch.

The rules allow the 18 competitors to soak their hot dogs and buns in water to make them easier to choke them down. Using their fingers, they slammed the frankfurters back into their mouths and leaned their heads back to help the food ooze its way south.

Besides the 30,000 on hand to watch the event, many more took in the spectacle on TV. Sports network ESPN carried it live for the 11th straight year.

The event is overseen by a federation called Major League Eating, which holds about 80 such competitions each year in a season that runs from February to September. There are separate bouts for men and women.

Tuesday’s female winner was Miki Sudo, who ate 41 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.

Pregnant drinking linked to youth deaths

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder remains a major problem in WA’s Kimberley region and is a driver of the mental health problems that lead to youth suicide, a coronial inquest in to 13 suicides among Aboriginal young people has heard.

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The inquest is examining a cluster of 13 deaths of Aboriginal youths in Western Australia’s far north between November 2012 and March last year, including five children aged between 10 and 13, two of whom were sisters.

While all of the young people had been exposed to trauma and physical abuse, there were strong links between the behavioural and developmental problems they showed in the community and FASD, which is the result of a mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

As well as facial and other physical abnormalities, FASD has been linked to brain and behavioural issues including cognitive, communication, executive functioning, impulse control and other problems.

Paediatrician James Fitzpatrick and clinical neuropsychologist Carmela Pestell told the inquest about their research that had found alarming levels of heavy drinking among pregnant women in WA’s far north, with more than half surveyed drinking at dangerous levels.

At least one in three young people in detention in WA had FASD and were in the bottom three per cent for cognitive function, according to a study of mostly Aboriginal male youths.

The problem of drinking during pregnancy was described as a general problem around Australia that affected various ethnic and socio-economic groups.

However the remoteness of Kimberley indigenous communities and lack of “scaffolding and structural” support services led to a greater risk that youths in those areas would not be treated for or diagnosed with FASD, leading to problems and possibly suicide, the inquest heard.

“Sadly I think FASD is one of the most potent drivers of mental health problems that lead to suicide in places like the Kimberley,” said paediatrician James Fitzpatrick, an expert on the condition who says no amount of alcohol in pregnancy is safe.

“One of my great fears is that I will sitting here in 20 years talking about the same problems and solutions, that this is another in a long line of inquiries into this issue.”

Just last week Dr Fitzpatrick said eight out of nine children tested in the Kimberley were diagnosed with FASD, including a boy aged less than 10 who witnessed his own mother take her life and is “verbalising this intent” about himself.

Dr Fitzpatrick described FASD as Australia’s most common preventable cause of disability but it was not on the the National Disability Insurance Agency’s list of recognised disabilities, preventing Medicare access to some support services.

He said there were solutions and the federal-funded “Making FASD history” project he had run in the Fitzroy Valley for six years in collaboration with families, doctors and teachers had reduced alcohol use in pregnancy by 65 per cent to 15 per cent and he would be expanding it.

Bangladesh ends search for survivors as factory blast toll hits 13

Dozens of workers were inside the factory on the outskirts of Dhaka when the boiler exploded on Monday evening, causing a section of the six-storey building to collapse.

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It was unclear what caused the explosion, which occurred during maintenance work on the boiler at a time when most of the factory’s 5,000 workers were off for the Eid holidays.

Authorities called off the nearly 22-hour-long search after rescuers found two more bodies in a toilet next to the destroyed boiler room, bringing the death toll to 13.

“Our fire fighters have completed searching the entire section of the debris,” local administrator Mahmud Hasan told AFP.

The government said it had formed a committee to investigate the explosion, the latest disaster to strike the country’s $30-billion garment industry.

The plant in the Gazipur industrial district is owned by manufacturer Multifabs, which makes clothing for brands including Littlewoods and Aldi according to its website.

The collapse of the nine-storey Rana Plaza factory complex in April 2013 in which more than 1,100 people were killed was seen as a wake-up call for the industry, which supplies clothing for major brands all over the world.

In the wake of the disaster, authorities pledged to improve working conditions at factories but accidents are still commonplace.

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Only a few hundred of the country’s 4,500 textile factories have been certified as safe and last year a fire at a factory just miles from Rana Plaza claimed 34 lives.

A survey this year by global charity Action Aid of more than 1,400 Rana Plana survivors found nearly half were still jobless while roughly 31 percent were too traumatised to work.

There have also been demands for an increase in the basic monthly wage of $68 for the country’s four million garment workers, most of whom are young women.

One of the injured workers receiving treatment at nearby hospitals blamed the factory authorities for not replacing the boiler despite the fact that it was allegedly “beeping danger signals continuously”.

Worker Harunur Rashid told Bangla daily Prothom Alo that the boiler’s safety bulb was beeping danger lights but the device’s operators assured them there was nothing to worry about.

“Within ten minutes after we returned to work, the boiler exploded. It’s absolutely the authorities’ negligence,” he said.

Mesba Faruqui, the operations director of the factory, said the operators were doing maintenance duty as the factory was meant to open on Tuesday after the long Eid holidays.

“If the accident had happened today, God forbid, there might have been many more casualties,” he told AFP.

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Common weedkiller could make cane toads deadlier

Cane toads could become even more deadly because of their exposure to a common weedkiller.

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Scientists in Hungary have found that when toad tadpoles come into contact with the widely used weedkiller Glyphogan, their bodies produce more of the toxic chemicals they use to ward off predators.

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The scientists say their findings, published by ‘The Royal Society’ on Wednesday, are particularly relevant to Australia’s cane toad population which they fear could become even more toxic given they live in a wide variety of habitats that are exposed to pollutants and pesticides.

“Our results indicate that pesticide pollution might exacerbate the problem of invasive toxic species,” study author Veronika Bokony, of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences said.

“For example, in Australia, the survival of native tadpoles is reduced by poisoning from ingestion of toxic cane toad eggs, and predators suffer drastic mortality due to ingesting or mouthing cane toads.”

The scientists tested the effects of the glyphosate-based weedkiller Glyphogan on large batches of common tadpoles in a laboratory and a pond at an experiment station near Budapest.

All the tadpoles produced significantly more amounts of bufadienolides – the toxic steroids used by toads, fireflies, some snakes and plants to poison or deter predators – after being exposed to Glyphogan for between nine days and three weeks.

The scientists said that if toads become more toxic, their predators may switch to other more palatable prey, posing an even greater threat to other animals.

Cane toads store toxins containing bufadienolides in glands on their shoulders, using them to deliver a poisonous blast that can cause heart convulsions or death for predators.

The cane toads have had a huge impact on native animals since arriving from Hawaii in 1935 and spreading across most of northern Australia.

Northern quoll populations were devastated by the toad, whose poison also has been known to kill freshwater crocodiles, snakes and goannas.

Cane toad expert professor Rick Shine, of the University of Sydney, says the new research adds to a growing body of evidence showing how toads develop their defensive chemical “weapons” in reaction to their experiences.

But he says while weedkiller can increase the amount of poison in a toad, it might not necessarily mean the cane toad will have an even greater ecological impact in Australia.

“Most native predators in areas where cane toads live have already learned that toads are deadly, and don’t eat them – or can tolerate the poison, and thus are not at risk no matter how much the toad ramps up its poison content,” he said.

The Hungarian scientists have called for more studies to be done on how environmental contaminants like weedkillers affect the chemical defences in bufadienolides.

Arab nations: we have Qatar’s response

Four Arab nations say they have received Qatar’s response to their demands for ending a diplomatic crisis gripping the Persian Gulf, just before a planned meeting in Cairo.

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Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday they would respond “in a timely manner”.

The countries did not elaborate on what steps they could take, though credit rating agency Moody’s warned it had changed Qatar’s economic outlook to negative over the turmoil.

The countries cut ties to the FIFA 2022 World Cup host in early June over its alleged support for extremist groups and ties with Iran.

Qatar denies supporting extremists and has defended its warm relations with Iran.

The nations issued a 13-point list of demands on June 22, giving Qatar 10 days to comply.

They later extended the deadline to Wednesday at the request of Kuwait, which has acted as a mediator.

Foreign ministers from the four Arab countries will meet in Cairo later on Wednesday to discuss their next move.

Qatar has called the demands, which include shutting down its al-Jazeera satellite news network, expelling Turkish military forces based in the country and paying restitution, as an affront to its sovereignty.

Earlier, in a move that could affect Australia, Qatar announced plans for a steep rise in liquefied natural gas (LNG) production, suggesting it is ready for a protracted dispute with its Gulf neighbours.

State-owned Qatar Petroleum announced plans to raise LNG capacity by 30 per cent.

The immediate effect of the increase will be to worsen a glut on the LNG market, where Australia, the US and Russia vie.

Reddit user sorry for Trump-CNN clip

A Reddit user has apologised for a doctored video in which US President Donald Trump assaults a man whose head is replaced with the CNN logo, saying the video is “a prank, nothing more”.

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“The meme was created purely as satire. It was not meant to be a call to violence against CNN or any other news affiliation,” user HanAssholeSolo said on Tuesday in a 700-word post on the US-based discussion website.

The user claimed credit for making an initial version of the video.

“I had no idea anyone would take it and put sound to it and then have it put up on the President’s Twitter feed,” the user said.

The user also apologised other for other posts “that were racist, bigoted, and anti-Semitic”.

A post shared on social media believed to be from the same user showed a collection of CNN personality photos, each highlighted with the Star of David, with the words: “Something strange about CNN … can’t quite put my finger on it.”

“I am in no way this kind of person. I love and accept people of all walks of life and have done so for my entire life,” the user wrote in the apology note, saying the actions were “trolling … to get a reaction”.

The user asked others who trolled to “consider your words and actions” and said he or she would no longer post “hurtful or hateful things in jest online”.

Trump’s retweeted the video on Sunday with the hashtags “#FraudNewsCNN” and “#FNN”.

The president has branded the media as “the enemy of the American people”, taking particular aim at CNN.

CNN accused Trump of engaging in “juvenile behaviour far below the dignity of his office”.

Hospitals pull back on antibiotic use

Antibiotic use in Australian hospitals has taken a dip, with medical experts saying the move will help in the fight against superbugs.

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The amount of antibiotics given to hospital patients to treat infections or reduce the risk of them developing fell by more than seven per cent between 2011 and 2015, a report released by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care shows.

The report by the National Antimicrobial Utilisation Surveillance Program found that 916.4 daily doses of antibiotics were given to patients for every 1,000 occupied bed days in hospital in 2015 – a two per cent drop on the previous year and 7.6 per cent lower than in 2011.

The commission’s senior medical advisor Professor John Turnidge said the report indicates hospitals have taken steps to ensure that more patients receive the most appropriate antibiotic treatment.

“Appropriate use of antibiotics will help considerably in slowing the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Australians are among the biggest users of antibiotics in the world despite experts here and around the globe warning that excessive or unnecessary use helps more bacteria become resistant to the drugs.

The report found Australia has a higher use of antibiotics in hospitals than Sweden and the Netherlands.

Twenty antibacterials, including amoxicillin and azithromycin, accounted for 93 per cent of antibiotics used in Australian hospitals in 2015.

The use of “highly reserved” antibacterials considered to be the last line of defence when treating bacterial infections was found to be low.

The World Health Organisation has called the rise of antibiotic resistance a global crisis.

Many common infections including pneumonia have become harder to treat because the over-use of antibiotics has made them ineffective at fighting certain types of bacteria.

Last month, an emergency summit of 300 infectious diseases experts called for a national body to be set up in Australia to co-ordinate the fight against the spread of superbugs, which they described as a major patient safety issue.

They want a central authority to co-ordinate areas such as infection control, surveillance and the use of antibiotics.

‘We need to talk about sex’: Robot experts on the growing market for ‘sex tech’

Move over blow-up dolls, the sex robots are here.

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Artificial intelligence is making its way into the global sex market, bringing with it a revolution in robotic “sex tech” designed to offer sexual gratification with a near-human touch.

In a report on the growing market in sex robots, the Foundation for Responsible Robotics says rapidly advancing technologies have already led to the creation of “android love dolls” capable of performing 50 automated sexual positions.

They can be customised down to their shape and hair colour and can cost between $US5000 and $US15,000 ($A6566 to $A19,698).

The increasingly lifelike robots raise complex issues that should be considered by policymakers and the public, the report says, including whether use of such devices should be encouraged in sexual therapy clinics, for sex offenders or for people with disabilities.

Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield in Britain, says it is difficult to predict how far or fast the market will grow or what its effect on societies might be.

“Will these robotic dolls be niche? Or will they change societal norms and become widespread?,” he asked at a news briefing on Tuesday.

“How would (sex with a robot) equate to a truly human intimate relationship?”

The report looks at some of the most contentious issues, asking academics, members of the public and the sex industry for their views on whether, for example, sex robots might be helpful in reducing sexual crimes.

It found “major disagreement” on this question, with some arguing that having sex with a robot would reduce attackers’ desires to harm fellow humans, and others arguing that allowing people to live out their darkest fantasies with robots would have a pernicious effect on societal norms.

On the issue of “meaningful” relationships, the report says that with current AI technology, and even in the foreseeable future, no human-to-robot feelings will ever be mutual.

“The best robots could do is fake it,” it said.

“Robots cannot feel love.”

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Australians detained on Christmas Island ‘by mistake’

The government has admitted two Australian citizens were sent to the detention facility on Christmas Island within recent months by mistake.

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According to a statement from the Department of Immigration and Border protection, the pair had their visas cancelled under section 501 of the Migration Act.

Under the Act, non-citizens visas will be automatically cancelled if they have received a prison sentence of at least 12 months within Australia, or have been found guilty of a crime involving the sexual abuse of a child.

The department adds that “after it was identified that each individual held dual Australian citizenship, arrangements were immediately made for their release from immigration detention”.

The Guardian Australia is reporting the men, born in New Zealand, hold dual Australian citizenship.

Principal solicitor of the National Justice Project, Professor George Newhouse, said it’s “a shocking state of affairs”.

“We have a situation where Australian citizens can be wrongfully detained on the whim, on the decision of a bureaucrat or a government minister,” he said.

Professor Newhouse said he believes the reasons these cases occur is because the system is “unaccountable”, where “you don’t need to be taken before a judge or a court” for visa decisions.

“Mistakes happen when you cut corners and you take away due process,” he said.

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Australian citizen Cornelia Rau was held by authorities for 10 months from 2004-2005, later receiving more than $2 million in compensation.

Prior to this, in 2001, Vivian Solon was wrongfully deported to the Philippines, with Australian authorities believing she was an illegal immigrant. Despite the government realising its error in 2003, it did not come to light until 2005.

A 2005 inquiry conducted by former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer found the department breached its own guidelines regarding dealing with detainees, and slammed its treatment of Ms Rau as “demonstrably inadequate”.

More than 200 cases of alleged wrongful deportation were referred to the then-Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone for review.

But Professor Newhouse said things have changed since the investigation.

“The government’s policies have just got harder, and they’ve eroded the protections recommended by Mick Palmer,” he said, accusing the Australian Border Force of having a so-called “cowboy culture”.

According to the Australian Financial Review, current Border Force head, Roman Quaedvlieg, is on extended leave after an external investigation over his personal behaviour.

The government recently proposed reforms to citizenship, including changing the English language test and introducing a “values” test.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who already has the power to veto decisions on visas by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, also wants his powers extended further.

Professor Newhouse said the minister wants to be “judge, jury and executioner”.

He warned that the situation could get worse.

“We live in a country where Australian citizens can be taken prisoner by their own government, when they’ve committed no offence, and done nothing wrong,” he said.

– with wires

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