US fossil find of biggest flying seabird

Fossilised bird bones uncovered in the US state of South Carolina represent the largest flying bird in history, with a wingspan of 6.

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4 metres, according to a study.

The Pelagornis sandersi’s wings were twice as long as the biggest modern-day seabird, the royal albatross, said the research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published on Monday.

Coupled with its long beak and sharp bony teeth, the enormous wings likely helped the bird master long periods of gliding over water in search of seafood some 25 to 28 million years ago.

However, the bird might have needed some help getting airborne, given that its wings were simply too long to flap easily from the ground.

Scientists believe it may have made a running start downhill, or used air gusts – much like a hang glider – to make its way aloft.

Once in the air, study author Dan Ksepka of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina, said the bird could probably soar for miles without ever flapping its wings.

“That’s important in the ocean, where food is patchy,” Ksepka said.

P. sandersi lived after the dinosaurs became extinct but before the first humans are known to have inhabited North America.

The bird’s wing and leg bones along with its complete skull were first discovered in 1983 near Charleston, South Carolina, during excavation work for a new international airport.

“The upper wing bone alone was longer than my arm,” said Ksepka, recalling that a backhoe was called in to help unearth the bones.

The bone measurements suggest that the bird’s wingspan was between 6.06 and 7.38 metres, according to the PNAS article.

The fossils of the P. sandersi shed light on the flying ability of a remarkable bird, but also raise new questions about the group of bony toothed seabirds known as pelagornithids, which disappeared some 2.5 million years ago.

These ancient birds were “remarkably efficient flyers” that were found across all seven continents, making “the cause of their ultimate extinction all of the more mysterious”, said the study.

Business confidence lifts in June

Australian firms have shrugged off the sharp slide in consumer sentiment since the federal budget, with business confidence increasing in the past month.

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The closely-watched National Australia Bank monthly business survey shows sentiment improved in June despite fears the budget will see consumers reluctant to open their wallets.

Consumer sentiment dived to its lowest level in three years in the wake of the May budget but businesses have remained relatively upbeat.

The NAB survey shows business sentiment lifted one point to an index level of eight; a reading above zero indicates optimists outnumber pessimists.

Meanwhile, Business conditions moved into positive territory during June, lifting three points to an index level of two during the month, according to the survey.

The rise in sentiment coincided with a sharp lift in job advertisements, with ANZ’s job ads survey on Monday showing a 4.3 per cent increase in ads during June.

NAB chief economist Alan Oster said the increase in confidence was unexpected and showed businesses continued to expect an improvement in trading conditions.

“Firms still appear to have shrugged off the negative consumer reaction to the Federal budget,” he said.

“Business confidence has remained resilient for the better part of a year despite below average business conditions.”

The NAB survey showed confidence was strongest in the construction industry, which has been spurred on by strong growth in residential building approvals, while the mining sector also recorded a surprise improvement in confidence, despite difficult conditions.

Why ISIL militia may be sputtering

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, the militia that has overrun much of northern and western Iraq in recent days, may be on the brink of sputtering out.

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Exhibit A: This past Sunday, the first day of Ramadan, the leader of ISIL, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared himself the “caliph” — the holy leader — of a new Islamic state and ordered all Muslims, not just in the region but worldwide, to pay obeisance to him and to no other Muslim leader.

Only a small fraction of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims have the slightest interest in recreating the caliphate of the seventh century, and many of those who do have someone else in mind as caliph.

Some may take this as a sign of his movement’s growing strength and confidence. But if the history of grandiose caliph-wannabes is consulted (and Juan Cole has assembled the wild chronicle), it resembles more a sign of delusion and desperation.

Only a small fraction of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims have the slightest interest in recreating the caliphate of the seventh century, and many of those who do have someone else in mind as caliph. Some of these dissidents live in the ISIL leader’s neighborhood, not least the followers of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of al-Qaida.

And so we are seeing the deepening of a fissure within Sunni radicalism — a split has been growing rancorous for some time.

American troops had this same problem during the early occupation: They would clear a town of bad guys and move on to the next town — at which point the bad guys would come back. Strategists referred to this as a failure to “clear and hold.” ISIL is clearing, but they’re not holding.

The most obvious sign of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s pretentiousness is that the ground his men have overrun hardly constitutes a nation-state. He hasn’t set up a government, collected taxes, provided services, created institutions, or done any of the other things that real states routinely do all over the planet.

Another sign: Baghdadi has plundered certain Iraqi cities, but it can’t be said that he’s conquered them. By all accounts, ISIL troops marauding through Iraq number fewer than 10,000. This is not enough to storm Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah — and leave behind enough men in each place to control the terrain. American troops had this same problem during the early occupation: They would clear a town of bad guys and move on to the next town — at which point the bad guys would come back. Strategists referred to this as a failure to “clear and hold.” ISIL is clearing, but they’re not holding.

In its first few days, the ISIL onslaught met no resistance. The Iraqi army — in Mosul, an entire division of American-trained soldiers — simply fled, leaving behind their uniforms, weapons, and vehicles. But this wholesale surrender had little to do with the military prowess or spiritual appeal of ISIL. In a paper published today by Caerus Associates, Yasir Abbas and Dan Trombly conclude — mainly from interviews with Iraqi soldiers and other insiders — that much of the Iraqi army had been crumbling for the past two years, as a result of corruption, lax maintenance, and the subsequent corrosion of morale.

Even so, once ISIL “cleared” Mosul and the other towns of Iraqi security forces, its armed men moved on. They left things in the hands of local Sunnis — mainly Baathists, officers from Saddam Hussein’s disbanded army, who consented to this alliance-of-convenience with ISIL because they shared its goal of overthrowing Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s Shiite prime minister. But most of these Baathists are secular; they don’t share their tactical partners’ devotion to sharia law, much less Baghdadi’s demand to obey him as the one and only Muslim leader. Deborah Amos recently reported on NPR that many Christians, including the archbishop of the Chaldean church, have returned to Mosul after initially fleeing to Kurdistan, in part because the ISIL militiamen who scared them away are for the most part gone.

 Meanwhile, on a strictly military level, it’s worth noting that the maps showing who’s winning where in Iraq have hardly changed since the initial ISIL thrust. In Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, ISIL isn’t even the lead fighting force.

Meanwhile, on a strictly military level, it’s worth noting that the maps showing who’s winning where in Iraq have hardly changed since the initial ISIL thrust.

Amos says that at least 15 separate groups now control Mosul: In ISIL areas, people can’t smoke; in other areas they can. For the moment, all of them are united in their opposition to Maliki’s sectarian rule. Once that changes, whether because ISIL and its allies take the capital or because a new more conciliatory government comes to power, these enormous disagreements will come to the fore — and it’s not at all clear that the caliph’s followers will triumph.

Meanwhile, on a strictly military level, it’s worth noting that the maps showing who’s winning where in Iraq have hardly changed since the initial ISIL thrust. In Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, ISIL isn’t even the lead fighting force. And as ISIL and its allies darted southward toward the Shiite-dominant capital of Baghdad, Iraq’s security forces started putting up a fight; they were defending their homes, their sectarian solidarity, their state — and they got serious. They were joined by Shiite militias and Iran’s Quds special forces. Meanwhile, in the Sunni strongholds of western Iraq, ISIL positions have been bombed by Syrian air forces. Russia is now offering Iraq advanced combat jets (whether any Iraqi pilots know how to fly them is another matter). And of course, 300 American “advisers” are setting up a “joint operations center” to collect and coordinate vast amounts of intelligence — from drone and satellite imagery, cellphone and email intercepts, and on-the-ground reconnaissance. All of this can prove very helpful to the anti-ISIL fight (which let’s hope does not include — certainly it doesn’t have to include — U.S. armed forces directly).

None of this is to argue that ISIL (which now calls itself simply IS, for Islamic State) poses no threat. Thanks in part to its rampage in Mosul, where it seized many weapons and robbed several banks, the group may be the most well-armed and well-funded Islamist militia in the world. But that doesn’t mean that it’s on the verge of forming a state, much less a global caliphate — nor that it can’t be defeated by anything but a fresh deployment of American troops and pilots.

The Middle East’s politics are getting very strange, but the strangeness isn’t likely to include a caliphate.

The potential coalition against ISIL — the entities with a very strong interest in seeing its fighters crushed — include Iran, Syria, Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (albeit ambivalently), Shiite Iraq, and even (once Maliki leaves office one way or the other) much of Sunni Iraq. If Baghdadi’s men cross into Jordan, the Israelis say they’ll enter the fight, too. The Middle East’s politics are getting very strange, but the strangeness isn’t likely to include a caliphate.

Kaplan is the author of “The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War” and “1959: The Year Everything Changed.”

100 gather in protest against Japanese PM Abe’s visit to Australia

Prime Minster Abe is on a three-day visit in Australia, the first visit by a Japanese prime minister since 2002.

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In an address to the House of Representatives he paid tribute to the ties between the two countries.

“Our countries both love peace. We value freedom and democracy,” he said.

The speech is only the third speech Mr Abe has delivered in English as prime minister.

Outside Parliament, a group of between 100 and 150 people gathered in a protest against Abe’s visit.

The protesters cited concerns over historical grievances relating to WWII and planned changes to the country’s constitution.

Japan’s government recently announced it was changing its post-war pacifist constitution to enable the country’s military to come to the aid of an ally under attack.

“Australia selectively forgot the crimes Japanese conducted to Australian war prisoners,” one protester said on social networking site Weibo.

Another said: “While older generation of Australians still hold some conflicting feeling against Japan – given they had attacked Darwin – the younger ones don’t know much.”

“Same complicating as Australian’s feeling to Chinese, on one side is red communism and on the other side is our mining boom…Mr Abbott, it is complicating to play seesaw!”

Most of the protesters have historic grievances with Japan, relating to WWII @SBSNews pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/M7wWmbNH54

— Shalailah Medhora (@shalailah) July 8, 2014

Some Australian protesters also unhappy with proposed changes to Japan’s constitution @SBSNews pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/s0m3Ygozr4

— Shalailah Medhora (@shalailah) July 8, 2014

A group of around 100-150 Chinese and Korean protesters gather outside Parli against Japanese PM’s visit @SBSNews pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/mmAYQBMpFY

— Shalailah Medhora (@shalailah) July 8, 2014Shinzo Abe tells parliament of peace vow

Mr Abe has told Australian parliament Japan will never again follow the path of aggression and war.

“When we Japanese started out again after the Second World War, we thought long and hard over what had happened in the past and came to make a vow for peace,” he told MPs and senators.

“We Japanese have followed this path until the present day.

 

“We will never let the horrors of the past century’s history repeat themselves.”

Mr Abe said that vow was still fully alive today and would never change.

 

“I stand here in the Australian legislative chamber to state this vow to you, solemnly and proudly.”

Mr Abe paid tribute to the fathers and grandfathers who fought in places such as Kokoda and Sandakan.

“How many young Australians with bright futures to come lost

their lives?”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Mr Abe’s speech was a historic occasion for Australia.

 

He said Australia had a special relationship with Japan based on common values and shared interests.

Mr Abbott and Mr Abe will sign an Australia-Japan free trade agreement later on Tuesday.

– with AAP

Legal battle for Clippers underway

The legal battle over the $US2 billion ($A2.

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1 billion) sale of the Los Angeles Clippers finally got underway Monday after lawyers for owner Donald Sterling lost a bid to move the case to federal court.

A federal judge rejected Sterling’s motion.

In the afternoon, Sterling was called to the witness stand in Los Angeles County Superior Court but he wasn’t there, prompting yet another delay.

Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly, has struck a deal to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer after her husband’s racist remarks to a girlfriend were publicised and the NBA moved to oust him as team owner.

The non-jury trial will determine whether Shelly Sterling had authority under terms of a family trust to unilaterally negotiate the deal.

She had two doctors examine her 80-year-old husband and they declared him mentally incapacitated and unable to act as an administrator of the Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers.

The court must find that Sterling’s wife acted in accordance with the trust and that the deal still applies – even though the trust has since been revoked by Donald Sterling – for the sale to proceed.

In seeking a move to federal court last week, Sterling’s attorneys argued that their client was induced to undergo mental examination under false pretences and that his private, personal medical records were given to his wife’s “handpicked” doctors in violation of federal medical privacy laws.

His wife’s lawyers claim Donald Sterling’s legal manoeuvres were just a tactic to run out the clock on the Clippers sale.

NBA owners are scheduled to vote on the deal on July 15. It’s also the day that Ballmer’s offer is set to expire – and there is no deal without the judge’s approval of the sale.

If the sale isn’t completed by September 15, the league said it could seize the team and put it up for auction.

Aussie gardeners win at Hampton

A team of Australian gardeners have created history by claiming Best in Show honours at the prestigious Hampton Court Flower Show in London.

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The Essence of Australia display which features more than 50 native plants was also awarded a gold medal at the Royal Horticultural Society event.

Its designer, Chelsea Flower Show veteran, Melbourne’s Jim Fogarty was humbled my the win.

“I’m genuinely surprised. It’s a very Australian garden and I wasn’t sure whether the British would take to it or whether it would be too confronting,” he told AAP on Monday.

Tying in the garden landscapes of Victoria and the Northern Territory, the exhibit is peppered with red gravel and eucalyptus, while a timber-clad structure at the back of the garden echoes iconic rock formations such as Uluru.

A winding serpent-shaped deck inspired by the Aboriginal Dreamtime story of the Rainbow Serpent is a favourite for the designer.

“The story of the serpent was closely linked to horticulture,” he said.

“When the serpent was angry it rained, and when it rained there were new plants.

“I think our history and culture is fascinating, and I wanted to use a style of contemporary gardening that tells the story of our own indigenous culture,” he said.

Sustainability was also a key feature of the display presented by the Royal Botanics Gardens Melbourne.

“Not one thing was shipped here, every plant was sourced from Europe and everything will be resourced and donated at the end,” Mr Fogarty said.

It’s now the second time an Australian has taken out top honours at a prestigious gardening event in the UK after Wes Fleming’s team won Best in Show at the Chelsea Flower Show last year.

The RHS Hampton Court Flower Show opens to the public on Tuesday.

Meats: a health hierarchy

By James Hamblin

This article was originally published by The Atlantic ahead of US Independence Day.

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In case you’ve not yet purchased your weekend meat, here is a pretty harrowing/empowering case for choosing chicken instead of beef when you can.

About a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. First, here’s the hierarchy of meats (well, proteins) in terms of impact on the environment:

Bringing lamb into human mouths involves a superfluity of greenhouse gas. Lamb isn’t a major player in U.S. meat markets, but the runner-up, beef, is huge.

Farming cattle produces about four times as much greenhouse gas as does poultry or fish. If livestock are basically just converters of grain to meat, cattle and their four stomachs might be the work of Rube Goldberg—cool, but not every light switch needs to involve dominoes. Here’s how beef compares to chicken:

 

July is the pinnacle of the U.S. meat obsession, because of the cookouts, with all the burgers, steaks, meat fights, meat helmets, etc. Americans lead the world in meat consumption at 260 pounds per year (Europeans eat 190 pounds, and world-wide the average is more like 93 pounds). It feels normal to just have meat around all the time everywhere, but for most of history, meat has been incredibly hard to get; precious and prohibitively expensive. But when was the last time you even thought to call your meat precious?

Diane Rehm hosted a patriotically apropos discussion on her radio show this week, in which experts called for the U.S. to be global leaders in assuaging climate change—with our meat choices. Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group (which conducted the studies that created these charts), said, “If every American stopped eating beef tomorrow—which I don’t expect—and started eating chicken instead, that would be the equivalent of taking 26 million cars off the road.”

“If every American stopped eating beef tomorrow and ate chicken instead, that would be the equivalent of taking 26 million cars off the road.”

Even if their projection is off by a few million, that’s a lot of cars. It’s also probably more manageable for people to substitute chicken for beef than it is to, say, change how they power their homes or how they get to work. Those just feel like bigger concessions. At the current rate, Faber said, meat and milk production are forecast to double by 2050. 

More than half the water and grain consumed in the U.S. are consumed by the beef industry. “If we took half the land that we’re now using to produce corn and beans to feed animals, and instead dedicated that to produce food for people right now,” Faber said, “we could feed an additional 2 billion people.”

“If China chooses to eat meat at the rates we do,” said Michael Pollan, professor of science and environmental journalism at Berkeley, during the same discussion, “we’re going to have an enormous problem because the resources that it takes are just too great.”

Pollan and Faber say American meat-heavy diets are spreading around the world. By 2050 there will be 9.6 billion humans. At current rates, there will be 3 billion more meat eaters—double what we have now. Massive expanses of forests will need to be cleared to create pastures to raise the animals, and to grow the grain to feed them. Managing their waste will become an even bigger problem, with methane emanating from “waste lagoons” and nitrous oxide from fertilizer.

“I think meat has always been an important part of the human diet. The problem is we eat too much of it.”

So, in celebrating Independence Day, nothing could be less American than eating beef. Or, well, that’s overstatement. If you think Americans are generally wasteful and inconsiderate, maybe eating beef is the most American thing you can do. I just want there to be a superlative in there.

Jude Capper is a livestock sustainability consultant in Bozeman, Montana, who rounded out the discussion with some industry perspective. Capper noted that, pound for pound, chickens and pigs actually use more human-edible feed than cows.

“We looked at the life-cycle impacts of beef, chicken, turkey, all of these meats,” Faber countered, “and the feed impacts, the methane emissions—it’s very clear that beef is far worse for the climate then many of the other alternatives.”

 

And then there’s the question of hormones. Capper said, “As a mother of a baby, obviously, I’m incredibly concerned about my daughter’s upbringing and growth and health. But if we look at one individual eight-ounce steak that’s from an animal given hormones—that does absolutely have estrogen in it—but the average female would have to eat over 3,000 pounds of beef every single day to get the same amount of estrogen as she does in one teeny tiny birth control pill.” 

“That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned about hormones,” Capper said, “We should all be concerned about everything in our food. But we have to put it into context. Whether it’s an apple, tofu, cabbage, or beef. It all contains hormones.”

“I agree we should be concerned with hormones in the food supply and in plastics and everything else,” Pollan said. “But why add to the burden? There are hormones in lots of things and we have this mystery on our hands, which is why girls enter puberty now at a much younger age than they once did. Here is the case of a completely unnecessary addition of hormones, however small, to the food supply.”

Pollan’s long-standing argument has been that truly sustainable agriculture will involve animals, but in small numbers and on farms, not feed lots. Plants feed the animals, animals fertilize the plants, and it’s a closed nutrient loop.

Also, a whole other concern (Emergency? That’s probably legit) inseparable from any discussion of the health effects industrial farming: 80 percent of antibiotics are being used in animals, cattle and chicken alike.

“I don’t argue for a vegetarian utopia,” Pollan said later. “I think meat has always been an important part of the human diet, and it’s very nutritious food. I think the problem is we eat too much of it.”

I argue against even the pairing of the words vegetarian and utopia. Choosing chicken instead of beef whenever you’re on the fence, though, feels less draconian than trying to give up meat altogether, or convincing 50 neighbors to install solar panels, or growing in-vitro meat in your lab.

This article was originally published on The Atlantic. Click here to view the original. © All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

Yes, there is "wood pulp" in your food. No, you shouldn’t worry about it.

On June 30, Quartz’s Devin Cohen alerted the world that “There is a secret ingredient in your burger: wood pulp.

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” Having perused the ingredients lists of McDonald’s, Burger King’s, and other fast food chains’ menu items, Cohen noticed that many of them contained cellulose, a dietary fiber that is sometimes derived from wood. Cohen called cellulose’s spread on fast-food menus “stealthy” and described the fiber as “difficult to avoid.” Why you should want to avoid cellulose, on the other hand, Cohen didn’t say, other than to note that cellulose has “no nutritional value” and that “some studies suggest that microcrystalline cellulose may have adverse effects on cholesterol.”

Very quickly, the story spread. “Is there wood pulp in your burger or taco?” asked the L.A. Times’ Jenn Harris. “McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell And More Have Wood Pulp In Food,” announced the International Business Times. Upworthy imitatorRYOT took things to the next level by asking readers to take action, declaring, “Fast food loaded with wood sucks, especially since it’s part of the reason one in three American children are obese.”

This media meme, catching on like wildfire burning up so much delicious wood pulp, is not only alarmist but 100 percent misleading. The causes of childhood obesity are multiple and complex, but I’m pretty sure cellulose isn’t one of them: It’s pure fiber, so it contains no calories. Cellulose is a natural component of all plants’ cell walls and is therefore in contained in every fruit or vegetable you might care to eat.* As Refinery 29’s Sara Coughlin put it in a rare sane response to the “wood pulp” hysteria, “Made up of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon, cellulose is actually the most abundant organic compound on earth.”

It’s certainly possible that unusually high doses of isolated cellulose, like those given to rats in the study Cohen links to, could have adverse effects, but there is no reason to think that the small amount of cellulose contained in a McDonald’s hamburger is any worse for you than the small amount of cellulose contained in a carrot. In fact, given the fact that it’s a non-caloric plant-based fiber, it’s probably much better for you than most of the other ingredients in a Big Mac. After all, one of the things that almost certainly does increase cholesterol is more well known: hamburgers.

But the fact that “wood pulp” is benign and possibly even beneficial as a dietary additive isn’t the only thing that makes the recent scourge of articles odd. Cohen and his many aggregators make it sound as though powdered cellulose is another one of those gross ingredients that fast-food chains sneak into their menu items, like pink slime. But cellulose isn’t just in fast food—it’s in a huge proportion of packaged foods. Manufacturers put it in ice cream, bread, cheese, and salad dressing, among aisles full of other grocery store items. And the reasons for this are not so nefarious: Cellulose has the ability to thicken foods, prevent clumping, and improve creaminess without affecting flavor much. It seems weird to focus solely on fast-food chains as a culprit of sneaking it into our diets when most Americans probably get more dietary cellulose from Stop & Shop than Taco Bell.

This is not to say that fast food chains shouldn’t be more transparent about the additives and fillers they put in their food, as Taco Bell recently was when it postedan FAQ on its website about the ingredients in its taco meat. Nor is it to say that concern about food additives is never warranted. But if anything McDonald’s shouldn’t be using less plant-based fillers in its burgers—it should use more.

This article was orginally published by Slate © 2014.

Trio cleared of Vic vampire gigolo murder

Three men have been acquitted of murdering self-professed vampire prostitute Shane Chartres-Abbott, who was gunned down outside his Melbourne home.

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Mr Chartres-Abbott, 28, was shot dead in front of his pregnant girlfriend in 2003 while on trial for the alleged rape of a female client.

The woman’s former boyfriend Mark Adrian Perry, 46, and two other men, Warren Shea, 42, and Evangelos Goussis, 46, pleaded not guilty to his murder.

A Victorian Supreme Court jury returned not guilty verdicts for all three men on Tuesday following their two-month trial.

During the trial the jury heard Mr Chartres-Abbott told his alleged victim he was a vampire who needed to drink blood to survive, and he was “older than the city of Melbourne”.

The woman he allegedly raped was found unconscious in a hotel room with cuts and bite marks covering her body and part of her tongue missing.

Mr Chartres-Abbott was heading to his rape trial with his pregnant partner and her father when he was killed outside his Reservoir home in June 2003.

In the trial’s key piece of evidence, jurors heard from a man who cannot be named, who claimed he shot Mr Chartres-Abbott to even the score for the alleged rape.

The man said Shea came to him and told him of Mr Chartres-Abbott’s alleged crime and that he subsequently shot the sex worker for Shea.

Prosecutor Andrew Tinney SC told the trial Perry was enraged about the attack on his ex-girlfriend and set the hit in motion by contacting his friend Shea.

“The murder was carried out for perhaps the oldest and most powerful reason – vengeance,” he said.

Mr Tinney argued that even though none of Perry, Shea or Goussis pulled the trigger, they were part of a joint criminal enterprise that led to Mr Chartres-Abbott’s death.

“Each is as guilty of the murder of Shane Chartres-Abbott as the man who pulled the trigger,” he said.

Barristers for each of Perry, Shea and Goussis said the man who cannot be named was a liar, and their clients had nothing to do with the death.

Supporters of the men cheered as the verdicts were delivered and applauded the jury members as they left the court room.

The trio was found not guilty of both murder and the alternative charge of manslaughter.

Goussis wept and mouthed his thanks to the jury while holding his hand over his heart.

He is serving a minimum 30-year prison sentence for the murders of gangland figures Lewis Moran and Lewis Caine, but the verdicts left Perry and Shea free to walk from court.

Both men tried to avoid the waiting media outside court and made no comments to reporters.

Perry was arrested in Perth last year and extradited to Melbourne after disappearing in 2007 when he learned he was being investigated for the killing of the male prostitute.

Swiss national anthem contest gets more than 200 entries

Lukas Niederberger, director of the Swiss Society for Public Good, said that 215 entries had submitted to replace “The Swiss Psalm”, which critics liken to a weather forecast crossed with a religious hymn, given its repeated references to God and Alpine vistas.

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The song has only been the country’s official anthem since 1981, when it replaced another anthem set, rather confusingly, to the tune of Britain’s “God Save The Queen”.

   

Niederberger said a total of 129 entries for a new anthem were received in German — the majority language in the nation of eight million people — and 69 in its second tongue, French.

   

Italian-speakers, the third-largest group in Switzerland, submitted seven, while 10 were written in the country’s fourth official langue, Rumantsch, used by only a few thousand Swiss.

   

A jury made up of politicians, musicians, journalists and members of yodel clubs, choirs and sports associations will be tasked with picking the 10 best entries, which will be posted online next year so that the public can pick their top three.

   

The most popular three will be performed at a national music festival in September 2015, when spectators and television viewers will vote for a winner.

   

That could pave the way for a referendum on the issue in a country renowned for its direct democracy.

   

Ditching one anthem in favour of another usually only happens after revolutions or other major social upheavals, none of which applies to peaceful, stable Switzerland.

   

The current anthem was penned in 1841, setting a poem on piety and Alpine beauty to music composed by a priest.

   

It was written in German, with versions reflecting cultural differences later added in French, Italian, and Rumantsch.

   

The competition rules required the current tune to be respected, albeit with room for artistic licence.

   

Songwriters had to draw on the preamble to Switzerland’s updated constitution — approved by the public in a 1999 referendum — which refers to freedom, democracy, solidarity, openness to the world and responsibility towards future generations.