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World Briefs

Ladyboy lizards use transvestite trickery

Young male lizards in South Africa imitate females to fool aggressive older males into leaving them alone, in an example of transvestism in the natural world, researchers have found.

The lizards not only avoid fights but gain access to females under the nose of their more macho rivals, the South African and Australian researchers discovered. They found that young male Augrabies flat lizards delayed displaying the extravagant coloration of sexually-mature males until they were able to defend themselves adequately.

"Experienced males will chase and bite their young rivals," said associate professor Martin Whiting of Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand. "By delaying the onset of colour to a more convenient period, these males, termed she-males, are making the best of a bad situation."

Australian National University associate professor Scott Keogh said opting to become transvestites for a period offered young males a dual advantage. "They can avoid potentially dangerous bouts with dominant males and still have access to normally inaccessible females," he said.

Obama lifts veil on Bush-era terror methods

President Barack Obama's administration has lifted the veil further on past "war on terror" tactics, releasing Bush-era legal memos and revealing the CIA destroyed 92 controversial interrogation videos.

Hours after Attorney General Eric Holder ruled out the use of water-boarding as an interrogation technique - because it amounted to torture - his Justice Department released nine internal documents from the previous administration, which had given legal grounding to the controversial policies.

In further repudiation of President George W. Bush's anti-terror methods acting US Attorney Lev Dassin formally identified the number of tapes destroyed - a far greater number than the CIA has admitted to.

In an executive order, President Obama has stated that all interrogations conducted at US facilities worldwide should follow the US Army field manual, which bars the use of water-boarding - a form of simulated drowning - and other harsh interrogation techniques.

Giving up SMS for Lent

The bishop of Modena in northern Italy told Catholic youth to give up a popular practice during the holy season of Lent: no text messaging on their mobile phones on Fridays.

No SMS will allow young people to "detox from the virtual world and get back in touch with themselves", Monsignor Benito Cocchi was quoted as saying by La Repubblica yesterday.

Italy ranks second in Europe after Britain for the number of text messages - 50 per month on average - by users of the telefonino - Italian for mobile phone, the newspaper said.

Other bishops picked up Mgr Cocchi's message and urged youth in their dioceses of Bari in the south and Pesaro in central Italy to also stop texting on Fridays.

Achtung, bunny's back in town

Hares, foxes and wild boar are increasingly migrating into Germany's cities, causing havoc and even sometimes endangering humans, a major wildlife organisation said yesterday.

Increased industrialisation and "predatory cultivation" of rural land are luring animals into big cities, where it is easier to find food and shelter, Magnus Herrmann from the Nabu conservation group said.

"Wild boar were the first to make an appearance in cities like Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt. They are incredibly adaptable and can pose a real problem if they become too tame," he said.

Last year, a 72-year-old hunter bled to death on the outskirts of Berlin after a wild boar bit him in the leg, puncturing a major artery. Mr Herrmann said that up to 8,000 boars live in the German capital.

Vaulters crash through ceiling

A group of world-class pole vaulters took a chunk out of a Sydney airport ceiling in an embarrassing mishap while lumping their unwieldy equipment through the terminal, according to reports. The vaulters - Australian pair Paul Burgess and Beijing Olympic champion Steve Hooker and American 2004 Olympic gold medallist Tim Mack - were refused permission to send their 5.2 metre poles via the outsize luggage area. But trouble struck as they carried them through the domestic airport.

Mr Burgess said he "broke the airport" when he got the poles of his training partner Mr Hooker stuck in an escalator. Plaster rained down on Mr Burgess when the poles wedged into the step of the escalator and smashed through the ceiling.

One quick-thinking commuter activated the escalator's emergency stop button to prevent the poles from snapping.

Mr Hooker said the poles were only freed 45 minutes later when a technician reversed the escalator.

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