Rare white whale ‘Migaloo’ sighted off Australia

SYDNEY, AFP: An extremely rare white humpback whale was Tuesday spotted off the Australian coast as he migrates towards warmer tropical waters to mate. The albino is widely believed to be Migaloo, the world’s best-known all-white humpback who has built up a loyal following in Australia since first being sighted in 1991. Migaloo is an Aboriginal word meaning “whitefella”. He was seen and photographed off Byron Bay on Australia’s east coast, heading north on his annual migration from Antarctica to warmer waters in Queensland state. “I cried. I screamed ‘You gorgeous whale, thank you for being here for us today’,” Alison Reid, who saw Migaloo on a whale watching cruise, told national radio.

“He’s amazing. It was just an incredible sight, it was so unreal.”

Oskar Peterson, who runs the Australian-based White Whale Research Centre, said a study by Southern Cross University in 2004, which managed to get skin samples from the whale, had shown Migaloo was male. He was now believed to be around 30 years old.

The whale is expected to gradually make his way as far north as Cooktown in the Australian tropics before the return trip to Antarctica later in the year.

Australia’s east coast humpback population has been brought back from the brink of extinction following the halting of whaling in the early 1960s. However, there are believed to be only two or three white humpbacks in the world.



Chinese army bans Hong Kong’s Pokemon players from barracks

HONG KONG, (AFP): The Chinese army garrisoned in Hong Kong has warned people searching for Pikachu and other virtual monsters to stay off their premises, as Pokemon Go mania sweeps the smartphone-obsessed city. The gaming app landed Monday in Hong Kong and saw residents more glued to their phones than ever, searching for the cyber creatures in locations ranging from shopping malls to the government headquarters. The app uses satellite locations, graphics and camera capabilities to overlay cartoon monsters on real-world settings, challenging players to capture and train them for battles. But the city’s enthusiasm to “catch ‘em all” has prompted warnings from government departments and even the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to stay off their property.

The game has prompted increasing concern worldwide over safety, with reports of players straying into restricted areas, being injured or becoming crime victims.

A PLA spokesman said the city’s barracks were closed zones.

“Military barracks are restricted areas under Hong Kong law. Without the authorisation of the commanding officer, no one is allowed to enter the restricted areas,” he told AFP.

Police also warned residents to be careful when playing the game.

“When you are capturing monsters, stay alert to your surroundings,” said a police video posted on Facebook.

“Police report rooms are for people in need of police services, players are not allowed to play the game there, be a smart player!”

A sign at a construction site also forbade players to enter the area to catch Pokemon.

In Indonesia a French player was stopped and questioned for several hours after the app led him into a military base.

On the other side of the world, two youngsters were so preoccupied with catching the cartoon monsters that they wandered across the US-Canada border.

Some Pokemon Go players were even robbed after being lured to isolated locations in hopes of catching the virtual creatures, according to US reports. Other distracted players have been blamed for causing traffic accidents.

But the tales of woe and stern warnings have not stopped Hong Kongers becoming hooked on the game after eagerly awaiting its release for weeks, following its launch in Australia on July 6.

Dozens clustered in the city’s parks and office buildings Tuesday, all trying to catch the virtual monsters.

The app has now been launched in more than 40 countries including the US, Japan and much of Europe. Japanese video game company Nintendo started the mythical creature franchise 20 years ago.



Amazon to test delivery drones in Britain

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP): Amazon announced Monday plans to test delivery drone technology in Britain, as the US online commerce giant tries to advance the idea safely. The partnership aims to understand how drones can be used safely and reliably, and identify the regulations to put in place, it said in a statement. Amazon got British approval for three new types of tests: flying drones that are no longer within sight of their operators in rural and suburban areas; having one person operate several highly automated drones; and testing devices to make the drones able to identify and avoid obstacles. Last month, the US Federal Aviation Administration unveiled long-awaited new rules that clear the way for small, commercial drones to operate across US airspace.

Under the FAA’s rules, drone operators will be allowed to fly commercial craft weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kilograms) during daylight hours, provided they can maintain a clear view of the drone at all times.

While that effectively precludes the sort of robo-delivery services being developed by Amazon and other major vendors, the new rules will nonetheless ensure drones become increasingly commonplace in the skies.

The White House cites industry estimates suggesting drones could generate more than $82 billion for the US economy over the coming decade, creating some 100,000 jobs.




Human tests start on controversial Brazil cancer pill

SAO PAULO (AFP): Human testing started Monday in Brazil on a controversial anti-cancer medicine that has been distributed in the country for years without having gone through proper trials. The drug, a synthetic phosphoethanolamine known widely as “the cancer pill,” was beginning testing with 10 patients at the Sao Paulo Cancer Institute, the Sao Paulo state health department said. None of those taking part in the trial are being treated with any other drugs, a statement said. If no serious side effects are noted, the trial will then be expanded to up to 1,000 people. The pill was created by Sao Paulo University professor Gilberto Orivaldo Chierice in the 1990s. Despite claims of a miracle cure, there has been little evidence of its efficacy. Chierice’s drug was not tested but after entering into use in one Sao Paulo hospital word rapidly spread, boosting demand, until Sao Paulo University’s chemistry institute was making 50,000 capsules a month without any government oversight.

Distribution was halted in 2014 amid growing doubts in the scientific community about the safety. But in April, president Dilma Rousseff — who was just about to be suspended from her post in an impeachment trial — signed a law legalizing the substance.

Shortly after the Supreme Court overruled her and said the medicine’s distribution would depend on it going through proper testing.



Huge dinosaur footprint found in Bolivia

LA PAZ (AFP): A huge dinosaur footprint measuring 1.2 meters (nearly four feet) in diameter has been discovered in Bolivia, a researcher said Monday. The dinosaur, from the Abelisaurid family, would have left the track some 80 million years ago, said the local paleontologist who found it, Omar Medina. He made the find in southeast Bolivia, a hotbed of dinosaur fossils. “It’s one of the largest prints ever found” in the South American country, he told AFP. He estimated the dinosaur that left it, a carnivorous biped, would have been about 15 meters tall. Huge dinosaur prints measuring up to two meters across have also been found in France and Argentina.