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Thai woman accused of murdering 12 friends in cyanide poisonings

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Thai police say they have arrested a woman suspected of killing 12 of her friends and acquaintances by poisoning them with cyanide.

Sararat Rangsiwuthaporn was arrested in Bangkok on Tuesday following recent inquiries into a friend’s death.

The victim’s family had raised suspicions after she died on a trip with Sararat earlier this month.

Following inquiries, police this week said they believed Sararat had killed 11 others, including an ex-boyfriend.

Police allege she killed for financial reasons. Sararat has denied all the charges. Thai authorities have denied her bail.

Two weeks ago, she had travelled with her friend to Ratchaburi province, west of Bangkok, where they had taken part in a Buddhist protection ritual at a river, police said.

Shortly after, her friend Siriporn Khanwong collapsed and died on the riverbank.

Traces of cyanide were found in her body during the autopsy, police said. Her phone, money and bags were also missing when she was found.

Authorities said the other alleged victims had died in a similar way, but did not disclose further information. The murders began in 2020, they said.

They also didn’t identify all of the victims, but named Sararat’s former partner, as well as two female police officers, among the dead.

Thai police have also questioned Sararat’s partner- a senior police officer in Ratchaburi province, where her friend died. The pair have recently split, Thai media reported.

Police said Sararat knew all of the victims and she may have been motivated by financial reasons.

One friend, who police believe was targeted, had loaned her 250,000 baht (£5,900; $7,300) police said. The woman had vomited and fainted after having lunch with Sararat but survived.

Relatives of victims had also reported missing jewellery and cash, police said.

But the families had not suspected foul play at the time, officers said, indicating that evidence gathering could be a challenge. Some bodies had also been cremated, police said.

Cyanide can be detected in corpses several months after death, if a lethal amount was used.

The poison starves the body’s cells of oxygen, which can induce heart attacks. Early symptoms include dizziness, shortness of breath, and vomiting.

Its use in Thailand is heavily regulated and those found to have unauthorised access face up two years in jail.

(BBC News)

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Australian scientists discover ancient ‘echidnapus’

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Scientists have discovered a bizarre creature dubbed the “echidnapus” which they believe roamed Australia in prehistoric times.

Fossilised pieces of the animal’s jaw bone were found in opal fields in northern New South Wales, alongside evidence of several other ancient and now extinct monotreme species.

Officially named Opalios splendens, the new species has been nicknamed for its resemblance to the platypus and echidna – which are the only egg-laying mammals in the world today.

The team behind the research say it indicates that Australia once had an “age of monotremes” – in which the incredibly rare order of animals were abundant and dominant.

“It’s like discovering a whole new civilisation,” lead author Professor Tim Flannery said.

The array of fossils were found about 25 years ago by palaeontologist Elizabeth Smith and her daughter Clytie while they were going through the discards of an opal mine.

They donated the specimens – estimated to be about 100 million years old – to the Australian Museum, where they sat forgotten in a drawer until about two years ago.

Prof Flannery, a mammalogist, says he stumbled across them and immediately knew they were from ancient monotremes.

Some of the bones belonged to the already-discovered Steropodon galmani, a shorter, stumpier and toothier ancestor of the platypus.

But the other fragments were unfamiliar. From them, Dr Flannery and his team discovered evidence of three species previously unknown to science, findings which were published in Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology on Monday.

The critters had combinations of features never seen before – in living or fossil monotremes, said Director of the Australian Museum Research Institute Professor Kris Helgen, who also worked on the paper.

“[The Opalios splendens’s] overall anatomy is probably quite like the platypus, but with features of the jaw and snout a bit more like an echidna,” Prof Helgen said.

All opal fossils are rare – monotreme ones even more so – but these specimens are “a revelation”, says Ms Smith.

They take the total number of monotreme species known to have once lived at Lightning Ridge – which was in ancient times a cold, wet forest bordering a vast inland sea – to six.

“They show the world that long before Australia became the land of pouched mammals, marsupials, this was a land of furry egg-layers – monotremes,” Ms Smith says.

“It seems that 100 million years ago, there were more monotremes at Lightning Ridge than anywhere else on earth, past or present.”

Other experts say it is too early to say whether Australia once hosted a multitude of monotremes and that further exploration is needed.

“It may have been at least as diverse as the later Australian marsupial fauna… but I would need more evidence,” Flinders University palaeontologist Rod Wells told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The study’s authors hope their paper will encourage more funding for more targeted digs in the region, to support their findings.

(BBC News)

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China appoints new vice minister to MFA

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Hua Chunying has been appointed as vice-minister of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to the China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

Ms. Hua has been serving as spokeswoman of the Chinese MFA ministry since 2012.

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Hundreds feared dead after landslide flattens remote PNG village

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Hundreds are feared dead after a massive landslide levelled dozens of homes and buried families alive in a remote village in northern Papua New Guinea early on Friday, a resident said.

More than 50 homes, many with people still asleep inside, were buried when the landslide hit Kaokalam village around 3 a.m., villager Ninga Role told Reuters by phone. The death toll was nearly 300, among them his brother and cousin, he said.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp and other local media reported that more than 100 people had been killed.

One man who turned back to try and save his two children was buried along with his extended family, Role said.

Social media footage posted by Role showed people clambering over rocks, uprooted trees and mounds of dirt searching for survivors. Women could be heard weeping in the background.

“It’s very impossible, the area covered by the landslide is large and there are rocks and trees everywhere,” Role said.

“It’s very difficult to get them out.”

The village is in Enga province, about 600 km (370 miles) north of the capital, Port Moresby.

Prime Minister James Marape said in a statement he was yet to be fully briefed, but that authorities were responding to the disaster.

“We are sending in disaster officials, PNG Defence Force, and the Department of Works and Highways to meet provincial and district officials in Enga and also start relief work, recovery of bodies, and reconstruction of infrastructure,” Marape said.

“I will release further information as I am fully briefed on the scale of destruction and loss of lives.”

PNG police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The landslide hit a section of highway near the Porgera gold mine, operated by Barrick Gold through Barrick Niugini Ltd, its joint venture with China’s Zijin Mining.

“The extent of the damage is still being assessed, so it is too early to know the impact, if any, on the operations of the Porgera Gold Mine, which is 100 km away,” a spokesperson for Barrick Gold said.

Porgera currently has sufficient fuel on-site to operate normally for 40 days and other critical supplies for longer, the spokesperson added.

(Reuters)

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