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Al-Qaeda leader killed

AN AL-QAEDA leader believed to have been the organisation’s number three has been killed in a drone strike in north-west Pakistan.The raid was part of a growing bombing campaign by the US against al-Qaeda and Taliban figures in tribal areas of Pakistan.The US media has reported that the man killed was the al-Qaeda number three, Abu Yahya al-Libi, who escaped from a US-run prison in Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2005.A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the man killed was an ”upper-tier” figure in the al-Qaeda network.The operation did not target al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden or his Egyptian deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, officials said.The drone attack comes as the US Administration prepares to send 30,000 reinforcements to neighbouring Afghanistan to try to turn the tide against a growing Taliban insurgency, which uses sanctuaries in Pakistan.The US official’s account came after Pakistani security and intelligence officials reported a missile strike from a US drone killed three suspected militants in the northwest tribal belt early on Tuesday.The attack targeted a car in Aspalga village, 12 kilometres south-east of Miranshah, the main town of the restive North Waziristan district bordering Afghanistan, officials said.North Waziristan neighbours South Waziristan, where Pakistan has been focusing its most ambitious offensive yet against home-grown Taliban militants, deploying about 30,000 troops into the region from October 17.The US air campaign employs unmanned Predator and larger Reaper drones armed with precision-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles to target al-Qaeda leaders.Officials privately say the campaign has successfully taken out some prominent figures and the director of the CIA has defended the attacks as ”the only game in town” when it comes to targeting al-Qaeda and its allies.Islamabad publicly criticises the targeted assassinations but quietly co-operates with the operations, analysts say.US Senator Dianne Feinstein let slip at a congressional hearing earlier this year that Islamabad allows the use of an air base on Pakistani soil for the drones.Islamabad is under increasing Western pressure to not only target Taliban groups attacking Pakistan, but also al-Qaeda-linked fighters and militants who cross the border and target foreign troops in Afghanistan.Washington and London have also pressed Pakistan to capture bin Laden – believed to be in the Afghan-Pakistan border area – but the authorities deny he is on their soil.Meanwhile, President Barack Obama said in an interview that Pakistan must co-operate more fully with the US to help wipe out al-Qaeda.
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We flex our lobbying muscle in fight for forests

I AWOKE this morning believing that this would be an important day in Copenhagen for the intact natural forests of the world.After three frantic days of intense closed-door discussions, a new draft text is to be produced for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.The shape of a final agreement on the future of the lungs of the Earth – the great forests of Brazil, the Congo, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea – will emerge more clearly.I’ve been working intensively on forest issues in a new climate agreement with the Wilderness Society for a year. We bring our knowledge, campaigning skills and lobbying muscle to bear on the fate of carbon-rich natural ecosystems in both developed and developing countries.Deforestation is responsible for 20 per cent of global greenhouse-gas emissions and without tackling this, we have no chance of holding temperature rise below 2 degrees and avoiding dangerous climate change.Arriving in the chill morning at the conference centre, the numbers have swollen. People from all corners of the Earth converge in their fabulous array of traditional dress, spill through the concourse and chatter intently in myriad languages.First I chair the daily meeting of the Ecosystems Climate Alliance, which work on forests, peatlands and wetlands, indigenous rights and forest governance. We share information, devise strategies, allocate responsibilities for the day.We’ll need to react fast to the new text, analysing, writing it up and using all methods to communicate rapidly our views to the negotiators and to the world. US President Barack Obama has made a speech using the words ”protect forests” and ”avoid deforestation” while supporting Brazil and Norway’s fund idea. It is encouraging.I’m asked to help formulate and quickly email some text into the closed meeting to resolve an impasse on wording to block funding conversion of native forests to plantations.As I am finishing this job, a US colleague asks for help. Would I compose some talking points for a media conference? I outline that there are sticking points on assigning percentage figures to the goals, and on protecting indigenous rights and intact forests.Then it transpires that a second stream of the forest negotiations has hit turbulence. The agenda is now in disarray. In the media conference, the PNG negotiator is on the platform, receiving phone calls regarding the impasse.When the blockage is overcome, it is apparent that meetings will go well into the night. It will be morning before the text is seen so we might as well have dinner and sleep.Mid-meal, the message comes. We have a leaked copy of new text now under debate in the no-access night session. I’ll be working late after all, to get the jump with an analysis and a message about what it means for the world’s forests before breakfast tomorrow.Peg Putt, the former leader of the Tasmanian Greens, is representing the Wilderness Society in Copenhagen.
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Protest puts pressure on summit to produce a deal

A PLANETARY chain of protests headed by a mass rally in Copenhagen yesterday cranked up the heat on problem-plagued talks to build a pact to roll back climate change.The centre of the Danish capital was in virtual lockdown, with thousands of police deployed or on standby ahead of a six-kilometre march that would take green and anti-capitalist demonstrators to the UN conference venue.”All week we have heard a string of excuses from northern countries to make adequate reparations for the ecological crisis that they have caused,” said activist Lidy Nacpil of the Philippines, from a group called the Jubilee South Coalition.”We are taking to the streets to demand that the ecological debt is repaid to the people of the south.”Within the Bella Centre congress hall, Nobel prizewinner Archbishop Desmond Tutu was to lead children in creating ”a sea of candles” representing a call from generations imperilled by climate change.From Australia to the Arctic circle, protesters readied banners and chants, urging the 12-day marathon to meet the threat posed by man’s meddling with the climate system.Scientists say rising concentrations of greenhouse gases – mainly the invisible by-product of burning oil, gas and coal – are trapping solar heat, warming the earth’s surface and disrupting weather patterns.If these emissions fail to peak less than a decade from now, the world is doomed to more vicious droughts, flood, rising seas and storms, spelling hunger, homelessness and disease for millions, the experts say.If all goes well, the 194-nation conference under the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will wrap up on Friday with a historic deal sealed by more than 110 heads of state and government. It would commit major economies to actions that would curb their carbon emissions and set up a financial machine to generate hundreds of billions in dollars for poor countries most exposed to the ravages of climate change.But since the start of the talks on Monday, progress has been negligible and the mood soured by finger-pointing.A draft blueprint, presented on Friday, ran into problems almost immediately among the three main groups of players – developing countries, emerging giant economies and the United States.Poorer countries lashed the blueprint for failing to spell out commitments on finance while the US complained it failed to bind China and other high-population, fast-growing economies to tough pledges on emissions.Conference chairwoman Connie Hedegaard scheduled an informal meeting with environment ministers yesterday in the first of what is likely to be a gruelling effort to break the deadlock.Those rostered to attend include US President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Premier Wen Jiabao of China, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan and the heads of the European Union.
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Our million-dollar babies

PARENTS may well regard their children as priceless but new research has put a dollar value on bringing up babies in Australia.Raising the average family from the cradle to when they leave home will set parents back $1,028,000, the research has found, and this could be an underestimate if other factors are used to calculate the cost of child rearing, such as lost wages.Social researcher Mark McCrindle added the essential costs such as food, clothing and housing with other expenses that he says parents usually outlay on their children – such as toys, holidays, eating out, sport, private education and household furniture and equipment that are used just by children.Previous calculations of child-rearing had assumed children left home and became independent at age 21, Mr McCrindle said, but his study found this was out of date.”In today’s Australian families, the majority of young people stay in the parental home and rely on their parents for some of their expenses until their mid-20s,” he said.The average family had 2.7 children and parents were having babies later than their parents did. The parents were also more likely to both have an income, creating ”the most financially endowed generation of children ever”.”Parents have more money per child and spend more per child than their parents did,” Mr McCrindle said. About 30 per cent of primary students and 40 per cent of high schoolers were at non-government schools. Most parents spent more than $100 a year on toys a child – a quarter spent more than $500.Mr McCrindle found that the cost of education, including private schooling and tutors, was $95,000. But a separate breakdown of the amount that parents spend on a child’s education, done by the Australian Scholarships Group and including everything from textbooks to uniforms, internet access and incidentals, found that sending a child to a public school in Sydney cost $123,353. For private schools that could blow out to more than $450,000.The group’s general manager, Warwick James, said many parents did not realise how much schooling cost.Another significant cost of child-rearing was lost wages, usually the mother’s.Research published in 2004 found that women of ”middling education” who had one child missed out on about 30 per cent, or $247,000, of their potential lifetime earnings. That increased to more than 50 per cent, or $420,000, if they had three children, the report authors, Trevor Breusch and Edith Gray, from the Australian National University, found.”More highly educated women lose less proportionally than the less educated, although their dollar amounts of forgone earnings are higher,” they said.An expert in measuring the lifetime costs of raising children, Paul Henman, director of the social policy unit at the University of Queensland, said parents’ income was the biggest factor in determining these costs.
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Is it reigning cats or dogs?

THE claws are out after an international study comparing dogs and cats confirmed that the former has earned the moniker of man’s best friend. Canines and felines were put to the test in 11 categories (and dogeries!), with dogs winning “by a whisker”.The pet showdown, which New Scientist magazine compiled from scientific journals, declared tractability (or manageability), bonding and understanding gave dogs their “superior vocabulary and eagerness to engage”.Pooches collected bonus points for being an older species â?? historically speaking â?? and for problem solving and being all-rounders.Cats scored highly for having almost twice as many brain cells and a greater population.They also won in vocalisation and for having better senses: a more acute nose, superior night vision and a higher auditory range than the average dog.The study also found cat food had a smaller ecological pawprint.But Associate Professor Paul McGreevy from the University of Sydney’s faculty of veterinary science said the calculations were questionable. The “best in show” title was best left up to the individual.”It depends on what sort of an interaction you are looking for,” said Dr McGreevy, author of A Modern Dog’s Life. Humans and dogs may have a more profound relationship because their interactions were not confined to the home. “Plenty of people travel with dogs, go to work with dogs, and exercise with dogs,” he said.Bradley Trevor Greive, author of Why Dogs Are Better Than Cats, said it was like comparing a polar bear with a flamingo: “People think cats are a low-cost, low-effort equivalent of a dog but they’re entirely different and because of that we have these huge problems with so many dumped pets.”Bambi Edwards, who has been breeding cats at Cronulla for 30 years, said cats were perfect for the elderly: “The more time you give a cat the more you get out. Cats are very intelligent . . . they respond to their owner’s voice and footsteps.”Margaret and Rob Walden, from Sydney’s northern beaches, who have three Rhodesian ridgebacks, said a home without dogs lacked life. â??I show them, take them on holidays, walk them and they’re happy when you come home,” Mrs Walden said.The pet subjectsSMARTSWinner: Cats. A cat’s brain mass compared with its body mass is much bigger than that of the average dog, according to New Scientist. Cats have 300 million neuron cells in the brain, compared with a dog’s 160 million.HISTORYWinner:Dogs. Evidence suggests cats have been around for 9500 years, whiledogs have been traced back to between 16,000 and 135,000 years ago.FELLOWSHIPWinner:Dogs. “By nature, cats are loners,” the study said. Yet dogs havedescended from pack animals. “Give a four-month-old puppy the choiceand it will choose a human companion over a dog.”MASS APPEALWinner:Cats. In the top 10 cat-owning countries there are almost 204 millioncats, while in the top 10 dog-owning countries there are fewer than 173million pooches.UNDERSTANDINGWinner: Dogs.”Dogs can follow human pointing gestures such as an outstretched fingeror nod of the head to find food,” the study said. The “superiorvocabulary” of a dog and “eagerness to engage with its owner” also madethem winners.PROBLEM SOLVINGWinner: Dogs.They favour a collaborative approach. Being guide dogs for the blindand their ability to step in and solve problems for their masters arelisted as positives.VOCALISATIONWinner:Cats. This is supported by a study this year which reveals that catscan use their “crooning to ensnare us . . . they produce a sound thatbrings out our nurturing side”.TRACTABILITYWinner: Dogs.Findingit easy to learn and obey rules makes dogs the winners here. They”learn the same way as human infants . . . with the dog attending tocues such as eye contact, gesture and vocalisation”, the study said.SUPER SENSESWinner:Cats. The average cat with its 200 million smell receptors has a moreacute nose than a dog. Cats can also see in light levels six timeslower than we can, while dogs can only see five. A cat’s auditory rangeof 45 to 64,000 hertz is also greater than a dog’s 67 to 45,000 hertz.ECO-FRIENDLINESSWinner: Cats. The average cat requires 0.15 hectares of land a year to keep it fed, while a medium-sized dog needs 0.84 hectares.UTILITYWinner:Dogs. They are the clear winner here, owing to their ability to hunt,herd and guard. They are used to detect drugs and bombs with theirnoses, race for sport and pull sleds. They also have health and socialbenefits for owners by needing to be walked.
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