Australia takes tough line on female circumcision

Australia takes tough line on female circumcisionSydney - Female circumcision is called female genital mutilation (FGM) in Australia and it's a crime.

Those performing it face a possible seven-year prison term and those who don't report it risk a stiff fine.

In Sydney's outer suburb of Auburn, there's a specialist FGM clinic that has been in operation for over 10 years and sees around 40 women a year.

The typical patient is in her 20s, is about to wed, and was operated on by a village midwife in an African or Middle Eastern country when she was young.

Out they go, jobs good and bad

Out they go, jobs good and badSydney - Getting a good job nowadays doesn't mean you are more likely to stay in employment in these recessionary times.

Research in Australia shows that the common perception that the low-paid have the least job security is a myth.

The Melbourne Institute of Applied Research found that rates of redundancy are "statistically insignificant" when the highly paid are compared with those at the bottom of the scale.

Australia ups Afghan troop commitment

Australia ups Afghan troop commitmentSydney  - Australia on Wednesday answered a call from the US White House and pledged to increase its military personnel in Afghanistan from 1,100 to 1,550.

However, it may be disappointing for US President Barack Obama, who phoned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last week, that most of those newly deployed will be there to help build bridges, guard installations or train the Afghan National Army rather than fight the Taliban militants.

Stress gives reef fish wonky ears

Sydney, April 28 : A new Australian study has suggested that reef fish, which are stressing about environmental changes, are creating irregular offspring that have wonky ears.

According to a report by ABC News, the study shows a clear link between mothers producing the stress hormone cortisol, and the development of asymmetrical ears in the offspring of the common coral reef fish, Pomacentrus amboinensis.

Most animals produce the hormone cortisol as a response to stress. Reef fish typically produce it in response to an encounter with a predator.

"Cortisol is needed for development," said study lead author Dr Monica Gagliano of James Cook University in Townsville.

Australia warns of travel to Mexico

Australia warns of travel to MexicoSydney  - Australians were warned against travel to Mexico Tuesday as doctors were monitoring the health of 20 people who returned from the Americas with flu-like symptoms.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon stressed that there had been no confirmed case of swine flu in Australia.

Roxon has ordered the captains of aircraft arriving from the Americas to report to quarantine officers any passengers they suspect of having influenza.

In Queensland, Premier Anna Bligh activated the state's pandemic plan after 12 people were checked for swine flu.

Pope mocker goes free in Australia

Pope Benedict xviSydney - Australian police have given up trying to prosecute civil libertarian Ian Bryce for driving around Sydney in a fake pope-mobile during the real pope's visit in July for World Youth Day. Charges were dropped Monday after the police case collapsed for a fourth time. A Sydney judge dismissed the case.

"It was against the pope's claims to have supernatural authority and all the harm he's doing in the world in banning condoms and trying to avoid family planning," Bryce said.