Coconuts: Facts, History and Science

In one ellipsoid or ovoid that looks odd from the outside, the coconut (the fruit of the palm Cocos nucifera) provides food, potable water, ingredients for a rope, and a shell that can become charcoal. In a pinch, it floats if you need assistance with that.

Legend says that the mutiny of the Bounty (an ostensibly true story turned into a Marlon Brando movie) was caused by Captain Bligh’s punishment of sailors who stole coconuts from the ship’s kitchen. Kenneth Olsen, a plant evolutionary biologist, who researched the DNA of more than 1,300 coconuts from all over the planet, found that there were definitely two types of coconuts.

Because the coconut was grown in two different areas; namely, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific basins, Olsen could trace prehistoric trade routes as well as the progression that colonized the Americas.

Bee Gunn, now of the Australian National University in Australia, was a part of Olsen’s team.

It was discovered that there are actually two forms of coconut, known as niu kafa and niu vai, which are Samoan names. The former is oblong and triangular with a large fibrous husk. The niu vai form is rounded and it is in that type is found when it is not ripe.

“Quite often the niu vai fruit are brightly colored when they’re unripe, either bright green, or bright yellow. Sometimes they’re a beautiful gold with reddish tones,” according to Olsen.

It was when DNA was introduced that things really got interesting.

Gunn and Olsen procured a National Geographic Society grant that allowed Gunn to collect coconut DNA in regions of the western Indian Ocean for which there was no data. The snippets of tissues from leaves in the center of the coconut tree’s crown were sent home to be analyzed.

Long story shortened, Gunn and Olsen’s efforts allowed them to “fingerprint’ the coconut,” Olsen said.

The most definitive finding of the new DNA data is that the Pacific and Indian Ocean coconuts are genetically different.

“About a third of the total genetic diversity can be partitioned between two groups that correspond to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean,” Olsen stated.

“That’s a very high level of differentiation within a single species and provides pretty conclusive evidence that there were two origins of cultivation of the coconut,” he continued.

In the Indian Ocean the likely cultivation center was the southern edge of India, including the Laccadives, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

In the Pacific, however, coconuts were generated in island Southeast Asia in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia and may have shown up on the continent, too.

“At least we have it easier than scientists who study animal domestication,” Olsen commented. “So much of being a domesticated animal is being tame, and behavioral traits aren’t preserved in the archeological record.”

There was one interesting exception to the general split in the Pacific/Indian Ocean groups. That was found in the western Indian Ocean, specifically the Comoros Islands and Madagascar where Gunn had collected. These coconuts are a genetic mixture of the Indian and Pacific Ocean types.

Olsen and his colleagues believe the Pacific coconuts were introduced to the Indian Ocean a couple of thousand years ago by ancient Austronesians establishing trade routes connecting Southeast Asia to Madagascar and coastal east Africa.

Today’s residents of the Madagascar highlands are descendants of the ancient Austronesians, Olsen shared.

Europeans ultimately took the Indian Ocean coconut to the New World while the Portuguese took it to the Western Africa coast. That is why the coconuts that you find today in Florida today are the Indian ocean type, according to Olsen, which is why they likely have the niu kafa form.

Pacific Ocean coconuts seem to have come in during there in pre-Columbian times by ancient Austronesians. Ultimately, the Spanish brought coconuts to the Pacific coast of Mexico from the Philippines. This is why, Olsen says, you find Pacific type coconuts on the Pacific coast of Central America and Indian type coconuts on the Atlantic coast.

“The big surprise was that there was so much genetic differentiation clearly correlated with geography, even though humans have been moving coconut around for so long,” Olsen concluded.

Interested in sampling some coconut water? Check out H2coco’s range of Coconut Water available for delivery or in supermarkets.

Increasing Demand for Watermelon

In Orlando, Florida, United States (US), exists the National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) which has a website that says it has one role:  “to increase consumer demand for watermelon through promotion, research, and educational programs.”

Since 1989 when it was founded, this nonprofit group, comprised of shippers and growers, has developed marketing programs to support even better watermelon sales in supermarkets throughout the US and Canada.  NWPB also works to bring forth sales venues for watermelon in the United Kingdom (UK) as well as Japan.

The website quotes Executive Director Mark Arney, who stated, “Retail produce buyers are the gatekeepers who make key decisions regarding how watermelon is sold, displayed and advertised to consumers. We provide these buyers with key information and promotional programs to help the industry move more watermelon.”

Their marketing promotions show a significant presence on radio, television, and in magazines and newspapers.  This is not a “hard sell,” in its way, as watermelon is such a healthy, refreshing, versatile fruit. Thanks in part to its board of directors’ efforts, watermelon is not only for picnics anymore.  It is on consumers’ shopping lists enjoyed year-round and is included in a  wide range of desserts, drinks and other recipes.

In Australia one emerging company is H2melon which offers Watermelon Juice in portable sizes available to buy online and in major supermarkets.

Growers support the NWPB through assessments paid by growers, shippers and importers of watermelon in the United States.

The website features a lot of information about watermelons–how to pick and grow them and so on and has a lot of information about watermelon for healthy kids and coloring pages, word searches and so on.

National: Jetstar to Charge Adults Traveling with Babies on Domestic Flights

Jetstar has introduced a new fee for adults with babies on domestic flights, and increased the infant charge for international travels.

Adults carrying children under two years old must now pay an extra $30 on domestic flights, and $50 on Trans-Tasman and international flights.

Jetstar’s infant fee matches Tigerair’s $30 fee for having babies sitting on a guardian’s lap. Qantas and Virgin Australia do not charge a fee for babies on domestic flights yet.

A Jetstar spokesman said the fee covers up to four oversized infant items such as strollers, highchairs, prams or portable cots.

“Like other oversized items, there is additional manual handling and equipment required for oversized infant items like prams,” he said.

“We know that fees and charges can be unpopular, but giving customers choice and charging each customer for what they actually need helps us to offer the lowest possible fares, every day.”

The New Budget 2017: Are Drug Tests OK?

Last night, the Liberal government announced its new 2017-18 budget for Australia, affecting millions of Australians over the country.

There have been criticisms of Turnbull’s Government and its decisions over the newly announced drug tests for Australians on welfare. Background checks are often a mandatory condition with most job applications in Australia, but is it morally right to initiate drug tests at random as part of a legal requirement?

Jacqui Lambie has welcomed the new drug tests for welfare recipients, but she said politicians should do the same. “It is about time politicians led by example and both on the Senate side and the House of Reps, there should be random drug testing as you come through the doors.”

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce defended the decision, saying to the ABC that “you can’t go to work if you are smashed or drugged out.”

International: Fyre Festival Hit with $100 Million Class Action Lawsuit

Daniel Jung, one of the attendees of the “disastrous” Fyre Festival, has launched a $US100 million lawsuit at the event organisers for fraud, misrepresentation and breach of contract.

The class action suit, filed in the US District Court, names festival co-founders Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule along with Fyre Media.

Jung’s suit alleges that organisers went ahead with promoting the event and selling tickets when they knew “their festival was dangerously under-equipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance”. It also alleges that organisers warned performers and celebrities not to come due to unsuitable conditions.

The suit also protests the “substandard accommodations”, “wild animals” in and around the festival area, and misleading marketing among others.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, McFarland said he and Ja Rule were “a little naïve in thinking for the first time we could do this ourselves”.

“There will be make-up dates, May 2018 in the U.S., free for everybody who signed up for this festival. We will donate $1.50 [per ticket] to the Bahamian Red Cross,” said McFarland. “The one change we will make is we will not try to do it ourselves.”

 

Ja Rule also said he was “heartbroken” and promised that every attendee will be refunded.

On Sunday, the Fyre Festival sent an apology email to attendees, including a link for refund. The form in the link also has an option to receive 2018 VIP passes in place of the refund.

International: Mike Pence Pledges US Commitment to the EU

US Vice President Mike Pence said the country “remains committed” to the European Union in a visit to Brussels, following President Donald Trump’s vocal criticism of the organisation.

“It is my privilege on behalf of President Trump to express the strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the European Union,” Pence told reporters.

“Whatever our differences, our two continents share the same heritage, the same values and above all the same purpose, to promote peace and prosperity through freedom, democracy and the rule of law, and to those objectives we will remain committed.”

The statement contrasted Trump’s previous comments about the EU, which the president described as “basically a vehicle for Germany”. Trump has also been a vocal Brexit supporter, saying the UK was “so smart in getting out”, and that “others will leave” as well.

Pence also addressed concerns over the new administration’s commitment to NATO defence pact, which Trump recently described as “obsolete”. While the US maintained “unwavering” support for the alliance, Pence said NATO members still had to meet the 2 per cent defence spending target as soon as possible.

“America will do our part, but Europe’s defence requires Europe’s commitment as well as ours,” said Pence. “The president expects real progress by the end of 2017… the patience of the American people will not endure forever.”

The Morality Behind Background Checks

Background checks have always been a questionable and ethical procedure. There have been debates on whether or not a person’s criminal record should be an important requirement or a deal breaker for a potential employee. A person’s history can be a difficult quality to overlook but it is important to know your rights when applying for a federal police check.

  • What is a national police check? A national police check outlines an individual’s record of any criminal activity in Australia. Australian citizens and residents will usually need a check as a requirement. According to Seek, “it is a government service provided to either an individual or organisation for employment, voluntary work and occupation-related licensing or registration purposes.”
  • Why do employers need a police check? To reduce the risk of theft, fraud or other criminal activity performed by a potential new employee. With community services and industries where employees are working with children, the elderly or other vulnerable communities, police checks are vital for an organisation to rule out employing people who are past offenders.
  • Know your rights. Nothing happens without your consent regardless of whether you need a check for police investigation or prosecution purposes.
    During the procedure, you will need to confirm and sign a consensual form in order to release your criminal history for employment purposes.Seek says “In addition, if you’re asked in an interview whether you have a criminal record, according to the Human Rights Commission, you are not required to volunteer any information, unless there’s a requirement under legislation to do so. In this case, you would have to disclose your record.”

This article was sourced from: https://www.seek.com.au/career-advice/why-companies-require-police-checks-what-are-your-rights

National: Actor Shot Dead in a Bliss n Eso Music Video Filming

An actor was shot dead in Brisbane’s CBD during a music video filming on Monday.

Actor and stuntman Johann Ofner was shot in the chest during the filming of hip hop group Bliss n Eso’s new music video for the song “Friend Like You” at Brooklyn Standard bar.

Ofner received immediate treatment from paramedics and police, but died at the scene.

Detective Inspector Tom Armitt said the use of real firearms in the filming would be central to the investigation.

“A scene was being conducted in which the actors were using firearms,” he said. “As a result of the use of those firearms one of the actors has received a wound to the chest and subsequently died from his injuries… how they occurred that is part of our investigation.”

Bliss n Eso confirmed that the filming was for their music video.

“The band were not on site at the time. The video production crew and our team are currently working with the police in their investigation and we are unable to provide further comment at this time.”

Zoe Angus, director of creative workers’ union the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance said the incident underlined the importance of industry compliance to workplace safety.

“This tragedy is a stark reminder that the screen industry is inherently dangerous and of the need for total vigilance about workplace safety at all times on set,” she said.

“This is a wake-up call for those safety guidelines to be reviewed and extended into — for example — online productions, music videos, the whole other raft of screen production sector.”

National: Pauline Hanson’s ‘Racist’ Maiden Speech Condemned

Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech has caused furore over its ‘racist’ message.

During her first speech in parliament on September 14, Hanson called for a ban on building mosques, wearing the burqa, and Muslim immigration.

Below are some of the speech’s excerpts:

Muslims want to see sharia law introduced in Australia. This law is a totalitarian civil code which prescribes harsh feudal rules imposed on everything, firstly for Muslims, later for everyone. As long as Islam is considered a religion, sharia conflicts with our secular state.

Islam cannot have a significant presence in Australia if we are to live in an open, secular and cohesive society. Never before in Australia’s history have we seen civil unrest and terror associated with a so-called religion, or from followers of that faith. We have seen the destruction that it is causing around the world.

If we do not make changes now, there will be no hope in the future. Have no doubt that we will be living under sharia law and treated as second-class citizens with second-class rights if we keep heading down the path with the attitude, ‘She’ll be right, mate.’

Therefore, I call for stopping further Muslim immigration and banning the burqa, as they have done in many countries around the world.

The Greens parliament members walked out on the speech. “We walked out of the chamber during Pauline Hanson’s first speech to this Parliament because we stand with the millions of Australians who choose to walk away from negativity and racism,” said Greens leader, Richard di Natale in a statement.

“We are sending a very strong message that we stand with the majority of Australians who value cultural diversity, respect, and tolerance.”

“I think it’s just ugly hate speech,” said musician Jimmy Barnes on ABC’s Q&A last night, describing Hanson’s maiden speech as “fanning the flames of extremism”.

A number of media outlets, such as ABC and SBS, have also pointed out the factual errors in Hanson’s speech, with the Courier-Mail saying the speech was “more fiction than fact”.

National: Labor Senator Stephen Conroy Retires

Labor’s Victoria senator Stephen Conroy has announced his resignation from politics, only months after being re-elected at the July 2 election.

“You should always go out on top…it must be time to say farewell,” Conroy states in his tabled speech. “It has been a great privilege to serve as a senator for Victoria, as leader and deputy leader of the Labor Party in the Senate and as a cabinet minister in two Labor governments.”

Conroy mentions his daughter, Isabella in the speech. “When you resent being in Canberra because you are missing your daughter’s soccer training it is time to retire from the Federal Parliament,” the statement reads. “It’s time for me to hang up my boots as Captain of the Parliamentary Soccer team and spend more time teaching Isabella soccer tricks.”

Conroy’s decision caught his party colleagues by surprise. “I’ve only just heard of these reports so I’ll be having more discussions during the day,” Labor’s federal deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek said on Friday. Labor MP for Corio, Richard Marles told ABC he was also surprised by the decision, but said, “Steve was always going to do this in his own way and on his own terms.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten thanked Conroy for his “tireless contribution” to the party and the country. “In his twenty years as a senator, Stephen has relished every challenge put to him…” states Shorten. “He goes with my goodwill, my best wishes and my thanks for his service.”

Conroy has previously served as Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity.