Algae paved way for animals: Aust study

Traces of algae found in ancient rocks from central Australia have helped scientists unlock the mystery of how animals first appeared on earth.


Scientists have been puzzled for decades about what allowed animals to evolve, with several theories based on rising oxygen levels in the ocean being a key factor.

However, researchers from the Australian National University believe it was actually the spread of algae as a food source 650 million years ago that dramatically changed the earth’s ecosystem and paved the way for animals – and ultimately humans – to roam the land and seas.

“These organisms revolutionised the base of the food web and without it we wouldn’t be here today,” says lead researcher Associate Professor Jochen Brocks.

The ANU scientists’ theory has links to a dramatic event from about 700 million years ago known as Snowball Earth, when the world was completely frozen for more than 50 million years.

Once global temperatures began rising and the ice started to thaw, glaciers ground mountain rocks into nutrient-rich powders that were washed into oceans.

Dr Brocks said the “overkill” of nutrients in the ocean changed the earth’s microsystems forever, with the microscopic bacteria that had dominated the waterways until then suddenly being outnumbered by much larger and complex algae organisms.

“These large and nutritious organisms … provided the burst of energy required for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where increasingly large and complex animals, including humans, could thrive on earth,” he said.

By examining ancient sedimentary rock found near Alice Springs and dating back to the Snowball Earth event, Dr Brocks and his team found molecules of bacteria and algae.

Co-lead researcher Dr Amber Jarrett said traces of phosphorus, a key mineral nutrient, were also found, which the scientists believe helped the algae “go wild” after the Snowball Earth era.

Dr Jarrett said the rocks revealed that the concentration of algae molecules increased dramatically after Snowball Earth ended.

She said their finding was extremely significant because of how since the 1950s scientists had been linking the evolution of animals with rising oxygen levels in the ocean.

“To a degree we do need oxygen, but we also need to eat,” Dr Jarrett said

The findings by the ANU team were published in the journal Nature on Thursday.

Manchester attack ‘hero’ in court for ‘theft from victims’

Chris Parker, 33, was interviewed by British media in the aftermath of the attack in which 22 people were killed, saying he had been begging outside the concert arena when the bomb went off.


A tearful Parker told the Press Association news agency at the time: “I heard a bang and within a split second I saw a white flash, then smoke and then I heard screaming.”

“It knocked me to the floor and then I got up and instead of running away my gut instinct was to run back and try and help,” he said.

“There was people lying on the floor everywhere,” he recounted, adding that a woman had died in his arms and he had come to the rescue of a little girl whose mother had been killed.

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But Greater Manchester Police have accused him of stealing from the victims.

The police said Parker “has been charged with two counts of theft”, and at his preliminary hearing on Wednesday, prosecutors said he stole a purse, containing bank cards, from a grandmother.

Pauline Healey, whose 14-year-old granddaughter was killed in the blast set off by suicide bomber Salman Abedi, was injured in the attack. Her daughter was also seriously wounded.

Parker is also accused of stealing a mobile phone from a teenage girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, at the scene of the explosion.

Prosecutor Ben Southam said Parker had provided “some limited assistance” to injured people but “equally” took the opportunity to steal from them.

0:00 Turnbull and Shorten at Manchester memorial Share Turnbull and Shorten at Manchester memorial

Parker denied the charges.

His story had touched hearts amid national mourning following the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.

A crowdfunding campaign for Parker raised more than £50,000 (55,000 euros, $64,000), though the money was never handed over to him.

One donor even offered to house Parker temporarily, and his estranged mother had contacted her local newspaper after the bombing, asking her son to make contact.

The bomb went off just after the end of a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande, a teen and pre-teen favourite.

Manchester Arena producers said Wednesday that they would re-open on September 9 for the first time since the attack, with a charity concert that will include Noel Gallagher from the Manchester band Oasis.

James Allen, general manager of the arena, said: “May’s events will never be forgotten, but they will not stop us — or Mancunian music fans — from coming together to enjoy live music.”

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Former Bush presidents condemn bigotry as Trump disbands councils

Donald Trump found himself in the eye of a political storm after his stunning remarks on the unrest in Charlottesville, which sparked unease within his own camp and could mark a turning point in his already chaotic presidency.


His assessment that there was “blame on both sides” for the deadly melee sparked a rare comment on current affairs from his two Republican predecessors, George Bush and George W. Bush, who called on Americans to “reject racial bigotry… in all its forms.”

Without naming the 45th president, the 41st and 43rd leaders of the United States cited Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, in reminding Americans that all citizens are “created equal.”

0:00 Trump says both sides to blame for violence Share Trump says both sides to blame for violence

The violent fracas in the Virginia college town began Saturday when a rally by white supremacists over the removal of a Confederate statue turned violent, as they clashed with counter-protesters.

It ended in tragedy when a 20-year-old suspected Nazi sympathiser, James Fields, plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, leaving one woman dead and 19 others injured.

Trump’s defiant statements on Tuesday, delivered in a caustic way at Trump Tower and immediately hailed by a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan for their “courage,” left many lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, speechless.

0:00 Democrat leaders unified in message against hatred Share Democrat leaders unified in message against hatred

The Republican billionaire seemed to have crossed a red line with his statements, just over 200 days into his presidency.

Many observers were left with the impression that the unscripted Trump of Tuesday was the real Trump — rather than the man who delivered a more measured statement from the White House on Monday in which he firmly denounced “racist violence.”

‘He has to fix this’ 

In a clear sign of embarrassment, Republican lawmakers did not line up to defend the real estate mogul-turned-president, as they have repeatedly done since he took office in January. Those who did speak criticized him.

“In Charlottesville, the blame lays squarely on the KKK and white supremacists,” the leader of the Republican National Committee, Ronna Romney McDaniel, told ABC News.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a regular Trump critic, said many Republicans would “fight back against the idea that the party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world.”

“He has to fix this and Republicans have to speak out. Plain and simple,” Ohio governor John Kasich, who battled Trump for the Republican presidential nomination last year, told NBC’s “Today” show.

David Axelrod, a former top aide to Barack Obama, said: “Why are we surprised that a @POTUS, who began his campaign with appeals to bigotry, would give comfort to bigots?”


Trump’s remarks — made at an impromptu press conference that was expected to focus on infrastructure reforms — put the white supremacists and counter-demonstrators on equal moral ground.

“I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump said, as his new chief of staff, former Marine general John Kelly, stood rigidly near him and looked uncomfortable.

“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now,” Trump continued.

“What about the alt-left that came charging… at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? (…) There are two sides to a story.”

He also said there were “very fine people, on both sides.”

His remarks had led several top business executives to resign from White House advisory panels. On Wednesday, Trump simply dissolved the forums.

“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” he tweeted.

US President Donald J. Trump speaks during a meeting with CEOs of manufacturing companies, Feb 2017.AAP

Obama tweet makes history 

Trump had suffered a first wave of indignation immediately after Saturday’s events, when critics said his comments were too vague and did not go far enough to denounce neo-Nazis and KKK members at the Charlottesville rally.

Obama, his predecessor, had reacted by tweeting a quote from Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion.”

The tweet is now the most “liked” ever sent on the social network, Twitter said Wednesday.

In an editorial, The New York Times said Trump’s behavior “has become distressingly unsurprising.”

“Washington politicians had hoped the recent appointment of John Kelly, a retired Marine general, as his chief of staff would instill some discipline in his chaotic administration,” the paper said.

“But the root of the problem is not the personnel; it is the man at the top.”

In St Louis, where he was mounting a competitive comeback, even chess legend Garry Kasparov weighed in, saying: “My family & I were forced out of one home by ethnic violence and another by political persecution. America must both fight hate & stay free.”

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Justice Minister Michael Keenan denies UK citizenship report

Turnbull Government cabinet minister Michael Keenan has rubbished a media report questioning whether he may be a UK dual citizen.



“I renounced my citizenship in 2004 before entering Parliament,” Mr Keenan wrote on Twitter just after 6am on Thursday.  

“I am an Australian citizen and I do not hold citizenship of any other country. Fairfax is aware of this, yet in a cheap grab for a headline they have ignored this. I have to wonder why they’re not pursuing Labor with such vigour,” he wrote.

1/3 I am an Australian citizen and I do not hold citizenship of

any other country. Fairfax is aware of this, yet in a cheap grab #auspol

— Michael Keenan MP (@MichaelKeenanMP) August 16, 20172/3 …for a headline they have ignored this.

I have to wonder why they’re not pursuing Labor with such

vigour. #auspol

— Michael Keenan MP (@MichaelKeenanMP) August 16, 20173/3 I renounced my citizenship in 2004 before entering

Parliament. #auspol

— Michael Keenan MP (@MichaelKeenanMP) August 16, 2017

Fairfax Media reported the Justice Minister may be a British citizen by descent thanks to his father Peter, who was born in England in 1943 and emigrated to Australia, where he married. 

The dual citizenship scandal sweeping through Canberra has now seen five politicians referred to the High Court, including deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce. 

Section 44 of the Constitution prohibits parliamentarians from holding dual citizenship. 

Along with the Barnaby Joyce case, the High Court is considering the cases of two resigned Greens senators – Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters – as well as LNP Senator Matt Canavan and One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, who are both remaining in their jobs until the cases have been heard.

The High Court has set down a directions hearing next Thursday for Mr Joyce, Mr Canavan and Mr Roberts.

Ministers rally around Keenan, saying documents not needed

Immigration minister Peter Dutton said current “hype” around the dual citizenship “sideshow” in Canberra was to blame for the Fairfax Media article on Mr Keenan.

“I think there’s a lot of hype around this and frankly I think it’s overdone,” Mr Dutton said.

Asked if Mr Keenan should publically release his UK citizenship renunciation documents, Mr Dutton said he had “dealt with that matter”.

“Michael Keenan’s been very clear about his status.”

Treasurer Scott Morrison also defended his colleague and did not respond to questions from reporters on whether the justice minister should release documentary evidence.

“I think Michael’s dealt with the matter this morning. He actually dealt with it a long time ago. So the government is getting on with our business,” Mr Morrison said. 


Highly likely Australian terrorist Khaled Sharrouf is dead: Dutton

It’s highly likely Australia’s most notorious terrorist has been killed in Syria along with his two sons, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says.


“I can only confirm that there is a high likelihood, high level of certainty in terms of the death of Khaled Sharrouf,” Mr Dutton told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

There are reports that Sharrouf died in an US air strike while driving in Raqqa with sons Abdullah, 12, and Zarqawi, 11, on August 11.

Mr Dutton described the foreign fighter as a “despicable human being”.

“If he has been killed in Syria then frankly that is something I would welcome,” he said.

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The minister said nobody would want to see the death of any Australian children, but Sharrouf took his sons into a warzone.

“They’ve poisoned their minds,” he said.

“If they’ve been killed along with their father that is regrettable in terms of the children but that is a decision that was made by the parents.”

Terrorism expert Greg Barton believes the likely death of Sharrouf further confirms Islamic State is “finished”.

“It is further news that the allure and myth of the so-called romantic jihadi fighting for a utopian state has been punctured,” he told the Nine Network.

The Deakin University professor said everyone would feel for the Sharrouf children.

“Is the tragic part of the news. Sharrouf himself was a thuggish nobody, his life meant nothing, his death meant nothing either,” Prof Barton said.

“He really wasn’t a mastermind or even a recruiter. He was just a sick lost boy.”

Prof Barton says it was likely Australian intelligence was involved in the strike.

“They would have been tracking communications,” he said.