Dung heaps are rhinos’ Facebook


PARIS (AFP):- Rhinos signal gender, age, and sexual availability in their poo, said a study Wednesday which suggested mammals may use communal dung heaps as social networking sites.It is well known that animals communicate via chemical messages transmitted in urine - think of dogs marking their territory - but the data-transmitting role of dung, another waste product, has been unclear. A trio of scientists from South Africa and Germany extracted air from around dung pats of free-roaming white rhinos in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal, then analysed the scent in the lab. The team recreated the signature dung smell of territorial males and of females in heat, then spread the synthetic odours around the park to mimic fresh poo deposits. As expected, free-roaming territorial males, which are solitary, displayed different behaviours in response to distinct smells. When the odour was that of an intruder bull, the males revisited the dung pile often to keep close tabs on the movements of a potential territorial rival, sometimes assuming a “vigilance posture”. Faced with the female-mimicking smell, the males spent a lot more time sniffing the odour advertising sexual readiness.

The results suggested that dung smells “do transmit key information,” the researchers wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

This included the depositor’s age, sex, and for females, whether or not they are in heat.

“This is a vital step towards understanding why many mammals use communal defecation sites” called middens, said a Royal Society media summary.

“It is likely that such sites are used in the same way we use social networking - to ‘read’ the posts of others in their network and to leave posts for others.”

The white or square-lipped rhinoceros is the largest species - the second largest land mammal after the elephant.

It grazes on short grasses, is extremely short-sighted and relies heavily on smells for information on its surroundings.



China makes war with Japan six years longer

BEIJING (AFP): China has ordered all schools to teach pupils that its 20th-century war with Japan lasted 14 years rather than eight, the education ministry said Wednesday, to “strengthen patriotic education”. Chinese textbooks currently date the “Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression” to July 7, 1937 and the Marco Polo Bridge Incident which heralded Japan’s full-scale invasion. But new guidelines call for all curriculum materials at schools and universities across the country to push back the start to the Mukden Incident of September 18, 1931, after which Tokyo’s forces occupied Manchuria in northeastern China. The initial years of Japanese regional occupation and the wider later struggle were “parts of the same whole”, the ministry said, adding that the change was intended to “strengthen patriotic education”. Beijing in 2015 commemorated the 70th anniversary of Japan’s Second World War defeat with a spectacular military parade in Beijing, with state media barely mentioning the roles of other allies or the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Course materials must all “fully reflect how the Chinese Communist Party was a tower of strength during the war” and “highlight how the Chinese people were not afraid of ferocious adversity”, the ministry said.

Speaking at a regular press briefing Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said the change would help younger generations remember their past.

“I want to emphasise that to change this is not to carry forward hatred,” he said.



Thrill seekers rescued from Australian rollercoaster


SYDNEY (AFP): Twenty young thrill seekers were rescued Wednesday from an Australian rollercoaster ride after it broke down, just months after four people died at a nearby theme park. Emergency crews were called to Movie World on the Gold Coast after the Arkham Asylum ride malfunctioned, although no-one was injured. The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said 20 people were stranded in their seats 20 metres (65 feet) off the ground, some for 90 minutes, in stifling heat. Queensland Ambulance Service official Paul Young said none of the trapped passengers, mostly teenagers, needed medical treatment. “They all looked a bit flushed and a bit hot as you would imagine, sitting in the sun,” he told reporters. “They were in happy spirits, they were laughing and having a bit of a giggle about it.” Warner Bros. Movie World said in a statement there had been “a mechanical issue with the chain” of the rollercoaster. “Due to the time required to reset the mechanical issue, we have engaged the Queensland Fire Brigade to assist with the evacuation process,” it said.“Our team and the fire brigade regularly train for this type of evacuation.” The drama came just weeks after the nearby Dreamworld tourist attraction reopened following a rigorous safety review over the deaths of four people when rafts on the Thunder River Rapids ride collided on October 25.

Dreamworld owner Ardent Leisure has announced that the ride would be demolished and a permanent memorial to the victims erected.




Less salty diets would save millions of lives

PARIS (AFP): Reducing salt intake worldwide by only ten percent could save millions of lives, a study reported Wednesday. Government-led public service campaigns could massively cut mortality and disability caused by salt-triggered heart attacks and strokes for just over 10 US cents a year per person, researchers calculated. Even without including healthcare savings, “we found that a government supported, national policy to reduce population sodium intake by 10 percent over 10 years would be cost effective,” the authors concluded in the medical journal BMJ. Most adults exceed the recommended maximum salt levels of 2 grammes per day, resulting in 1.65 million deaths from heart disease every year, according to the World Health Organization. Research has shown that national policies to curb salt consumption can reduce the number of people affected by high blood pressure and heart disease.

But few countries around the world have assessed the costs of implementing such programmes.

A team of researchers led by Dariush Mozaffarian from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy calculated what it would cost to put in place a “soft regulation” strategy - in coordination with industry - for 183 nations.

They took into account age and sex distributions in each country in estimating both the costs and health effects.

They also tallied the number the number of years lost to poor health that could be averted - a measure called DALYs (disability-adjusted life years) - with a salt-reduced diet.

The study concluded that cutting salt intake over a decade would avoid about 5.8 million DALYs every year, at an average per person cost of $1.13 over the 10-year period.

The cost for each year of healthy life gained was roughly the same as what is currently spent on drugs used to prevent cardiovascular disease, they noted.





Moby offers services to Trump - for tax returns

NEW YORK (AFP): Moby has said he is ready to DJ in Washington for Donald Trump’s inauguration - if the incoming president releases his tax returns. The electronic artist said a booking agent sounded him out about spinning for one of the inaugural balls - a highly unusual request considering Moby’s well-known leftist politics. But Moby, a supporter of Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton and outspoken animal rights activist, sensed an opportunity. “Hahahaha, really? I guess I’d DJ at an inaugural ball if as payment Trump released his tax returns,” Moby wrote on Instagram. Trump, a billionaire real estate developer, broke longstanding precedent in US presidential elections by refusing to release his tax returns to the public. Even in the unlikely event that Trump takes up Moby’s offer, he will probably not like the songs. Moby shared with Billboard magazine a proposed playlist for an inaugural ball full of political anthems, including Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” Neil Young’s “Ohio” and The Clash’s “I’m So Bored with the USA.” Moby penned an impassioned open letter in Billboard after the election, calling Trump “a racist and a misogynist” who “will be the worst president our country has ever, ever seen.”

 Trump has struggled to find prominent entertainers for his inauguration, although inaugural balls are organized by outside groups.