Hendra virus battle continues

A new study on African bats provides a vital clue for unravelling the mysteries in Australia's battle with the deadly Hendra virus.

The study focused on an isolated colony of straw-coloured fruit bats on islands off the west coast of central Africa. By capturing the bats and collecting blood samples, scientists discovered these animals have antibodies that can neutralise deadly viruses known in Australia and Asia.

The paper was published 12 January, in the journal PLoS ONE, and is a collaboration of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge, the Zoological Society of London and the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

Hendra virus in Australia and Nipah virus in Asia are carried by fruit bats and sporadically "spill over" into people with tragic consequences. The findings of the new study are significant as they yield valuable insights for our understanding of how these viruses persist in bat populations.

Cambridge PhD student Alison Peel explains, "Hendra and Nipah viruses cause fatal infections in humans, but we currently understand very little about how the viruses are transmitted from bats to other animals or people. To understand what the risk factors for these 'spill-overs' are, it is crucial to understand how viruses are maintained in bat populations. The ability to study these viruses within an isolated bat colony has given us new insight into these processes."

It was previously believed that these viruses were maintained in large interconnected populations of bats, so that if the virus dies out in one colony, it would be reintroduced when bats from different colonies interact. The new study indicates that a closely related virus is able to persist in a very small and isolated population of bats. This is the first time this has been documented in a natural wild population, casting doubt on current theories.

Peel added, "Although Hendra and Nipah viruses are relatively new to science, it appears that bats have lived and evolved with them over a very long time. We hope that by gaining a better understanding of this relationship, we may then be able to understand why it is only within the last 20 years that spill-over to humans has occurred."

Sonic for Aussies Only

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog, JWT Sydney and SEGA have launched a multiplatform campaign based around an augmented reality app that can be used in conjunction with out-of-home, TV, magazines, online banners and websites. The campaign has launched exclusively in Australia and the Sonic Vision app is only available in the Australian iTunes store.

The 'Sonic Vision - Catch the Blue Blur' iPhone app allows fans to capture Sonic in the real world by locating augmented reality markers around the country using built-in maps and GPS.

To catch Sonic, players can point their iPhone at a poster and a gold ring appears on screen. Sonic speeds past onscreen and players have to respond quickly to capture him. The markers also appear on websites, banners, in magazines and on TV.

SEGA is also distributing Augmented Reality Markers to bloggers and gaming websites encouraging them to be part of the campaign by voluntarily embedding the markers within their pages to attract Sonic Vision players.

Fans can also submit their points to a leaderboard and follow the progress of other players, win Sonic prizes and share their scores on Facebook.
 "JWT has recognised the rising prominence of mobile amongst gamers and created an experience that is a fitting celebration of a gaming icon like Sonic the Hedgehog," said SEGA marketing manager Neroli Baird.

The campaign also coincides with the much anticipated release of Sonic Generations for Nintendo DS, PS3, Xbox 360  PC. Sonic Generations delivers the definitive gaming experience for Sonic fans new and old and is considered the ultimate celebration of 20 Years of Sonic gaming.

Who are Australians

Who are Australians ? How do Australians see themselves? How are we as a nation, culture and society, perceived by others?

 Australia is a product of a unique blend of established traditions and new influences. The country’s original inhabitants, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, are the custodians of one of the world’s oldest continuing cultural traditions. They have been living in Australia for at least 40 000 years and possibly up to 60 000 years.

Australians like to think that we are a proud egalitarian nation, built on the backs of convicts, immigrants and farmers. We value hard work and mate ship and believe in a fair go. Sure, the tall poppy syndrome is alive and well, and we can cut somebody down very quickly, we have a habit of dumbing it down or veering towards mediocrity, in order to protect equality among all Australians.

There is a over-humility in people in Australia, where people can sometimes forget about making their own lives good, because we are trying so hard to make our community's life better.

We school our children with vocational training, and the Outcomes Based Education ethic, we create people who really do grow up, with the ability to think critically, and to approach life from the standpoint of generalists.
As adults the way we discuss  national issues is really impressive. Comparing the discourse we have here, to what they have in the USA and other countries around the world, is like comparing day with night. Back there in Kansas, every passionate discussion is formed in an artificial political way. Over here, in Australia, caring is a prime directive and we know how to discuss and understand the systems which are involved in the national issue which is the topic that day.

We invite immigrants to Australia, from all around the world, no matter what political or religious persuasion, they are allowed to engage in  prevailing social  political conversations and can contribute to debates and decisions which face us. As much as we love this country, none of us would pretend that we have "perfection" we are all living in a continuous experiment, hopefully refining our society for the better as we go.

Everyone is expected to uphold the principles and shared values that support the Australian way of life. These include:
  • respect for equal worth, dignity and freedom of the individual
  • freedom of speech and association
  • freedom of religion and a secular government
  • support for parliamentary democracy and the rule of law
  • equality under the law
  • equality of men and women
  • equality of opportunity
  • peacefulness
  • a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces tolerance, mutual respect, and compassion for those in need. 
  • Australia also holds firmly to the belief that no one should be disadvantaged on the basis of their country of birth, cultural heritage, language, gender or religious belief.

Australian SAS Special Air Service Regiment

The Special Air Service Regiment, officially abbreviated SASR but commonly known as the SAS, is a special forces unit of the Australian Army.

The Australian Special Air Service was established on 25 July 1957 as the 1st Special Air Service Company.

Only 16% of applicants will pass the SASR selection course.

Since their beginnings in 1964, the SASR has lost more men in training than in combat due to the nature of their training regime

SASR Squadrons rotated through Vietnam on one year long deployments until the last Squadron was withdrawn in October 1971. During its time in Vietnam the Regiment was extremely successful in the reconnaissance role. To their enemies, members of the regiment were known as the 'phantoms of the jungle' due to their field craft.

The Australian and New Zealand SAS killed at least 492 and as many as 598 and losing only two men killed in action and three fatalities from friendly fire.

The Listen Out Dates

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