WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A pod of 74 pilot whales stranded themselves on a remote northern New Zealand beach — the second time in a month that a mass beaching has happened in the region, officials said Wednesday.

Twenty-five of the animals were already dead when officials arrived at Spirits Bay beach, Department of Conservation area manager Jonathan Maxwell said. In addition to the 49 still alive and stuck on the beach, another 50 were spotted just offshore, he said.

”We need as many volunteers as possible, as it will be at least until tomorrow (Thursday) before we can look at refloating them, which means caring for them over the next two days,” he said.

Volunteers from Far North Whale Rescue, conservation officials and the local Maori community were preparing to stay at the beach overnight to help keep the whales alive, Maxwell said. They would have to battle a strong swell and high winds in an effort to refloat the animals Thursday.

In mid-August at nearby Karikari Beach, a pod of 58 pilot whales stranded. Despite hundreds of helpers fighting to save them, just nine were eventually floated off the beach and returned to the sea.

A pod of 101 pilot whales stranded on the same beach in 2007.

New Zealand has one of the world’s highest rates of whale strandings, mainly during their migrations to and from Antarctic waters, one of which begins around September.

Since 1840, the Department of Conservation has recorded more than 5,000 strandings of whales and dolphins around the New Zealand coast. Scientists have not been able to determine why whales become stranded.


A new gene, New Delhi metallo-ß-lactamase (NDM-1), has emerged, allowing bacteria to become resistant to virtually every known antibiotic, according to an article published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Experts fear that NDM-1 could jump to other strains of bacteria that are already resistant to many antibiotics, ultimately producing infections that could spread from person to person and be almost impossible to treat.

Until recently, NDM-1 was believed to have been restricted to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But 37 patients from the UK have now found to be carriers, most of them after visiting the subcontinent for medical procedures.
An international group of researchers – which has identified one strain of bacteria that is so resistant it is, in effect, untreatable – found similar infections in the US, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands.

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran is sending aid ships to blockaded Gaza, state radio said on Monday — a move likely to be considered provocative by Israel which accuses Tehran of arming the Palestinian enclave’s Islamist rulers, Hamas.

One ship left port on Sunday and another will depart by Friday, loaded with food, construction material and toys, the report said. “Until the end of (Israel’s) Gaza blockade, Iran will continue to ship aid,” said an official at Iran’s Society for the Defense of the Palestinian Nation.

Iran has sent aid to the coastal territory in the past via Egypt. It was not immediately clear if the latest shipments would do the same, or try to dock in Gaza itself.

In January 2009, an Israeli warship approached an Iranian aid boat heading for the Mediterranean territory and told it to leave the area, 70 km (45 miles) from Gaza. The ship went on to Egypt, which borders Gaza, but was refused permission to unload.

WEST AFRICA has become an attractive trade route for Latin America’s cocaine smugglers in recent years. On June 8th two tonnes (2000kg) of the stuff (with an estimated street value of over $1 billion) were seized in the Gambia. While cocaine use in America has fallen by 50% over the last two decades, some European countries have seen consumption rates double or triple. Aided by its corruptible police and flimsy money-laundering laws, up to 150 tonnes of cocaine are estimated to pass through the region a year. In 2006 36% of the cocaine carriers caught in one network of European airports had come from west Africa. In 2008 this had dropped to 17%. Whether this reflects a drop in trade or the traffickers’ increasing skill in avoiding capture is unclear.

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