Govt edges towards Syria mission

The government appears to be edging towards expanding the role of the RAAF's air task group in the Middle East to include bombing terror group Islamic State inside Syria.Currently Australian F/A-18 Hornet aircraft conduct air strikes inside Iraq right up to the border with Syria but don't intrude into Syrian air space.Prime Minister Tony Abbott said IS was just as evil and dangerous on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border."That's why I can understand why there is some interest on the part of our partners in Australian airstrikes," he told reporters in Canberra.Mr Abbott said the government had so far received no formal request from the US to extend air combat missions and had made no decision.Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said Australia's aim was to destroy Daesh and that was…
Read More

Vic man jailed for murder, dumping body

A Victorian drug addict who shot a man in the back of the head, stole drugs from his car and dumped his body in an abandoned gold mine will spend at least 20 years behind bars.Ricky Lee Ganly was missing for about eight months before his decomposed body and car were found in the flooded Avoca Lead Dredging Site early last year.He had been shot at close range with a cut-back rifle by Maryborough man Jesse Willis, 30, who later lied and said he killed the 48-year-old in self-defence.Willis claimed Mr Ganly stood over him, cut him with a scissors, and demanded Willis give him a gun after the pair had scored drugs and driven to Avoca.He claimed he later grabbed the gun and fired the shot as Mr Ganly…
Read More

Huge blasts at Chinese port kill 44, firefighters missing

At least 520 people were injured, more than 60 of them seriously, the Tianjin government said on its Weibo microblog, and the People's Daily newspaper said four fires were still burning. Wednesday night's blasts, so large that they were seen by satellites in space, sent shockwaves through apartment blocks kilometres away in the port city of 15 million people. Internet videos showed fireballs shooting into the sky and the US Geological Survey registered the blasts as seismic events.Vast areas of the port - the 10th largest in the world - were devastated, crumpled shipping containers were thrown around like match sticks, hundreds of new cars were torched and port buildings left as burnt-out shells, Reuters witnesses said."I was sleeping when our windows and doors suddenly shook as we heard explosions outside.…
Read More

Finance News Update, what you need to know

WORLD FINANCE UPDATE:The Australian dollar has become the best performing currency overnight and is now targeting 73 US cents after surprisingly positive growth data.At 0700 AEDT on Thursday, the local unit was trading at 72.96 US cents, up from 72.40 cents on Wednesday.And the Australian share market looks set to open higher as the recent recovery in oil prices and a batch of positive economic data from Australia to the US calms fears of a global economic slowdown.At 0645 AEDT on Thursday, the share price index futures contract was up 15 points at 5.029.ELSEWHERE:WASHINGTON - US businesses added a healthy 214,000 jobs last month, another sign that the US job market remains resilient despite economic weakness overseas and tumult in financial markets.WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve says the economy was…
Read More

Greece to help 150,000 stranded migrants

Greece is preparing to help as many as 150,000 stranded migrants as international pressure on Balkan countries led to Macedonia briefly opening its border for just a few hundred refugees."In my opinion, we have to consider the border closed," Greek Migration Minister Ioannis Mouzalas said."And for as long as the border crossing is closed, and until the European relocation and resettlement system is up and running, these people will stay in our country for some time."At the moment, about 30,000 refugees and other migrants are stranded in Greece, with 10,000 at the Idomeni border crossing to Macedonia.On Wednesday, hundreds of more people continued to arrive at two official camps by the border that are so full that thousands have set up tents in surrounding fields.Greek police helped one man who…
Read More

Button hails ‘biggest improvement’ in 14 months

"I would say that it's the biggest improvement I have felt with the power unit over the last 14 months," said the 2009 world champion after the session at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya."The improvements are good but we are still a long way off the other guys and you can see that in the speed traps," added the Briton. "But you can definitely feel the difference on the initial part of the straight."Former champions McLaren have not won a race since 2012 and endured their worst season in 2015, the first year of a new partnership with Honda whose V6 turbo hybrid engine was no match for Mercedes or Ferrari.Button said the Japanese manufacturer had made big improvements in the hybrid energy systems that cost the team heavily last year."We…
Read More

Woods says feeling better, no timetable for return

"As I announced last week, I am starting to feel a lot better," Woods said on his website. "I have been chipping and putting at home, and recently started hitting nine-irons. That's been so nice."The big thing right now is trying to get stronger and more flexible. Sitting out as long as I did, some weakening occurred, and I have a lot of work ahead of me."Woods, who has slipped in recent years due to injuries and mastering of a new swing, thought he was back to form after tying for 10th at the Wyndham Championship in August, following a dismal season in which he missed three cuts in the majors.But three weeks later he had a second microdiscectomy surgery to alleviate pressure on a disc in his lower back,…
Read More

Aussie track sprinters edged out by 0.001s

Australia have missed the medal rounds in the men's team sprint by the barest of margins, after being edged from the final four by one thousandth of a second on the opening day of the cycling world championships in London.The Australian trio of Nathan Hart, Matthew Glaetzer and Patrick Constable were upbeat despite the heart-breakingly close call to deny them a shot at a bronze medal on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT).The threesome notched a time of 43.497 seconds to triumph over Great Britain in their heat and put themselves in the mix for a medal shot with two heats to go.But they could only watch as Germany narrowly eclipsed their time by 0.001 seconds - before both New Zealand, who posted the fastest qualifying time of 43.096 seconds, and France did…
Read More

Why I don’t label people as racists

In 1977, we were the first wave of Vietnamese to hit suburban Sydney. My hair was the first thing the kids at school noticed. Thick, wiry, unencumbered by products, my plume fanned out like a black lacquered miso bowl turned upside down. It was a source of tactile intrigue; just about everyone in my class had a go at patting that bowl. Eventually most of the primary school had a go.Once the novelty wore off, it was my eyes. Ordinary to me, but apparently they slanted - “socket head”, “slant eye”, “slanty eye”, “ching chong”, “slap head” – I bore the painful slurs and queer looks daily for the first few months.Not content with patting my head, commenting on my eyes, now they wanted me to talk. The first questions…
Read More

Blacktown Council votes against name change

Following a two-hour debate on Wednesday night, the council voted along party lines to reject further actions to change its name.Last year, several councillors suggested the name should be amended to either, West Sydney City Council, Western Sydney Council or Fairwater Council.A bloc of Liberal councillors campaigned for months that a name change would modernise the council's image and change historic racist connotations of the name.But several Labor councillors, led by Mayor Stephen Bali, argued that with a population of 340,000 people and growing at a rate of 7,000 per year, there was no need for revitalisation.RelatedBali put the following motion to council on Wednesday: "Given the results of the community consultation showed that the majority feedback from residents was that they did not want to rename the Blacktown Local Government…
Read More

US struggles with Arabic reports on Syria truce violations

During Wednesday's daily briefing, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said "There were some language issues". "We're working to correct those, obviously, because it's important that we have Arabic speakers that were able to field incoming calls."While parts of Syria are described as unusually calm since the cessation of hostilities began on Saturday, rebels say that government forces backed by Russian air strikes have continued offensives in strategic areas in northwestern Syria.The US- and Russian-backed halt to the violence aims to provide breathing space so that peace talks can resume between the rebels and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the nearly five-year-long civil war in which more than 250,000 people have died.RelatedSyria Direct, whose website describes itself as a non-profit journalism organization that covers Syria and trains aspiring Syrian and US journalists, published a story saying it called the hotline only to find an American struggling…
Read More

Fungus fossil oldest of any land organism

The fossils do not look like much - tiny fragments of a fungus shorter than a single hair's width - but they possess the unique distinction of being the oldest-known remnants of any land-dwelling organism on earth.A study published on Wednesday described microfossils of a subterranean fungus named Tortotubus that was an early landlubber at a time when life was largely confined to the seas, including samples from Libya and Chad that were 440 to 445 million years old.The fossils represented the root-like filaments that fungi use to extract nutrients from soil. Tortotubus possessed a cord-like structure similar to some modern fungi. It was unclear whether it produced mushrooms.Tortotubus helped set the stage for complex land plants and later animals by triggering the process of rot and soil formation."By building…
Read More

The five most addictive substances on Earth – and what they do to your brain

Eric Bowman, University of St AndrewsFrom the points of view different researchers, the potential for a drug to be addictive can be judged in terms of the harm it causes, the street value of the drug, the extent to which the drug activates the brain’s dopamine system, how pleasurable people report the drug to be, the degree to which the drug causes withdrawal symptoms, and how easily a person trying the drug will become hooked.There are other facets to measuring the addictive potential of a drug, too, and there are even researchers who argue that no drug is always addictive. Given the varied view of researchers, then, one way of ranking addictive drugs is to ask expert panels. In 2007, David Nutt and his colleagues asked addiction experts to do…
Read More