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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

William and Kate to take to the water in New Zealand

Posted: 10 Apr 2014 05:39 PM PDT

AUCKLAND, April 11, 2014 (AFP) - Prince William and wife Catherine plan to test their sea legs Friday racing America's Cup yachts against one another on Auckland Harbour on day five of their New Zealand tour.

The royal couple will visit Team New Zealand's harbourside headquarters then, weather permitting, take to the water on rival America's Cup boats.

William told Prime Minister John Key at a function on Thursday night that both he and Kate were looking to gain bragging rights over each other in their nautical showdown.

"It will be a competition... a bit of healthy competition," he said.

Team NZ chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge said the race was expected to take about two hours.

"They're free to pretty much do what they want, we haven't been given any restrictions," he told 3News.

"We're hoping to start the boats and then we'll hand the wheel over to them, give them a little bit of tuition and let them do it themselves... I think everyone will have a good time."

The royals will be hoping for a better performance than Team NZ produced when they lost the America's Cup final to US rivals Oracle in San Francisco last year.

The team were up 8-1, needing just one more race to claim victory, before collapsing spectacularly and losing 9-8 in what has been described as the greatest choke in sporting history.

The royals will also meet New Zealand air force personnel Friday at a base just outside Auckland and go on a brief walkabout in New Zealand's largest city, as well as cross the harbour in an amphibious vessel.

Lobby group Republic New Zealand said that while the royals are on the water it plans to send a plane above Auckland trailing a banner reading "Time for a New Zealand head of state".

"Having the UK supply us with a head of state no longer works for New Zealand, we need our own head of state," the group said in a statement.

Baby Prince George is travelling with his parents on the three-week tour of New Zealand and Australia but remains at their Wellington base with recently appointed Spanish nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo. - AFP

Japan kills 251 minke whales

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

TOKYO: Japan killed 251 minke whales during the 2014 Antarctic hunt, in what is expected to be the last "research whaling" mission in the Southern Ocean after an international court ruling.

According to data released by Japan's Fisheries Agency on Tuesday, the catch was more than double last year's tally of 103 minke whales, but much smaller than the target of 935.

The whalers caught no fin whales during the hunt, which ran between Jan 3 and March 13, the agency said.

Japan is a signatory to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which bans commercial hunting, but has insisted its operation was research – even though it acknowledged the meat from the animals ended up on dinner tables.

Militant environmentalist group Sea Shepherd has annually sent its vessels to the Southern Ocean to confront the whalers, and has in the past taken credit for the vastly-reduced catch.

The United Nations' International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled last week that the programme was a commercial hunt disguised as science, vindicating claims by opponents, notably Australia.

In the wake of the verdict, Japan said it was cancelling the annual Antarctic mission for the first time in more than a quarter of a century.

Japan has another research whaling programme that operates in the northwestern Pacific.

This hunt, which is not affected by the court ruling, operates two excursions a year, in coastal waters and offshore, from early summer through autumn.

Last year's whaling in the area netted 58 minke whales in coastal waters and 132 mammals – including minke, sei and sperm whales – offshore.

Analysts say Japan will likely have to review this programme in the Pacific in light of the UN court ruling.

Japanese fishermen also catch a small number of whales in coastal waters under an IWC provision allowing for small-scale "indigenous whaling". — AFP

Extra-terrestrial tweets up links Tokyo with space

Posted: 10 Apr 2014 10:48 PM PDT

Tokyo (AFP) - An unusual "Tweet-up" -- a meeting of people who know each other on Twitter -- involving an ambassador, an astronaut and a prime minister has taken place on a video-link between Japan and the International Space Station.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy chatted with the Japanese commander of the ISS, Koichi Wakata, as he circled the Earth hundreds of miles up.

The three, who are all active on the micro-blogging site, talked on Thursday evening about daily life aboard the station, while Kennedy and Wakata traded compliments on their activities in the blogosphere.

"It's an honour to be able to speak with you," Kennedy, the only surviving daughter of assassinated US president John F. Kennedy said.

"Congratulations Commander Wakata on being the first Japanese commander of the space station and I am glad that we follow each other on Twitter," Kennedy said.

"Ambassador Kennedy, it's quite an honour that you follow my tweets," Wakata replied.

Wakata who was flanked by fellow space-farers from Russia and the US, battled with zero-gravity to grab the microphone and make himself heard back on Earth as Abe addressed him.

"You are the first Asian to become commander of the ISS," the Japanese PM said. "Are there days when you think that it is hard work?"

Wakata, a practised diplomat as well as an astronaut said the multi-national crew was an effective unit.

"I think we really work well as a team," he said. "But we are more than just crew mates, qualities from all the countries we represent complete each other and we can communicate perfectly," he added.

The conversation took place hours after a a Russian cargo ship docked with the ISS, bringing the crew crucial supplies and water.

Earlier this month NASA announced that it was cutting space cooperation with Russia -- except over the ISS -- because of Moscow's actions in Ukraine, including the takeover of Crimea last month.

NASA has been wholly reliant on Russia for delivering astronauts to the space station since the US retired its space shuttles in 2011.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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