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Britain does not want to escalate tensions with Iran but the United States appears to have other ideas.

There has been no increase in the number of British warships in the region despite a heightened risk to British-flagged vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Instead, the policy appears to be reprioritising tasks for the Royal Navy’s assets already operating out of Bahrain – a frigate and four minehunters – to bolster maritime protection alongside allied navies. A Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship is also there.

Yet simultaneously, the US is seeking to build a coalition to provide military escorts to commercial vessels through the Gulf.

Why is the Strait of Hormuz important and why are tensions rising?

General Mark Milley, the White House’s nominee to be America’s next military chief, said on Thursday: “I think that will be developing over the next couple weeks.”

Britain is waiting to hear about the US plan, but for now appears content with a heightened level of patrolling through the Strait of Hormuz, including intervening to ward off three Iranian patrol boats that attempted to block the passage of a British-flagged tanker on Wednesday.

It may be forced to do more, however, should Iran try again to target a British vessel.

Three Iranian boats tried to stop a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz
The Strait of Hormuz is a vital shipping route for Middle East oil producers

The problem faced by the UK is that its decision last week to allow Royal Marines to help seize a tanker laden with Iranian oil allegedly bound for Syria when it was off the coast of Gibraltar is being seen in the Islamic republic as a significant escalation.

No matter how much Britain would like to keep the detention of the Grace 1 tanker separate from what was already a crisis in the Gulf region, Iran appears not to see such a distinction

Instead it feels within its rights to challenge British-flagged merchant ships passing off its coastline in “retaliation”.

This must all be viewed through the lens of a wider struggle between Iran and the US over a nuclear deal that President Donald Trump has ditched but European allies, including Britain, want to save.

The desire to keep Iran onside with the deal makes increasing a military presence in the Gulf less appealing, as it would be seen as aggressive by Iran.

The US does not have that consideration. In fact, moving an aircraft carrier task group, B-52 bombers and additional military personnel – as it has done – to the region compliments its policy of maximum economic pressure on Tehran as it tries to bring officials back to the negotiating table.

This could mean Washington will struggle to win support from Britain and other European navies for a bespoke new force in the Gulf to provide escorts and surveillance aircraft for commercial ships – unless there is another attack on tankers that can be blamed on Iran.

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Unhatched birds can warn other eggs in nest of danger by vibrating | Science & Tech News



Unhatched baby seabirds can warn each other of impending danger by vibrating within their shells, scientists have discovered.

A study of yellow-legged gull embryos, found they reacted to warning calls from a parent and even passed on the message to siblings who had not heard the call.

The researchers collected gull eggs and divided them into groups of three.

A week before hatching, two of the three eggs in each nest were temporarily removed and exposed to a recording of a predator alarm call.

The noise was delivered four times a day at random intervals for three minutes at a time until hatching.

The third egg from each group remained in the nest in silence.

All three eggs were then reunited and left to hatch.

It was found the embryos responded to the external alarm calls by vibrating more.

This information appeared to be passed on to the third egg which had not been directly exposed to the sounds and it then mimicked the vibrations.

Experts from the Animal Ecology Group at the University of Vigo in Spain discovered all the chicks underwent genetic changes that delayed hatch time.

There was also evidence of increased production of stress hormones which is known to make birds more aware of their surroundings after hatching.

The findings were published in the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution.

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Bali arrests: Shackled Australians facing jail over ‘cocaine use’ | World News



Two Australian men have been paraded in front of the media a week after being arrested in Bali on suspicion of cocaine use and possession.

Indonesian police are preparing to charge the pair and are currently searching for a third suspect after a series of drug raids in the village of Canggu, a popular nightclub area on the island of Bali.

The two men, who have been named as William Cabantong, 35, and David Van Iersel, 38, were led out in front of the media in hand and foot shackles, alongside local drug suspects.

Police acted on a tip-off, and said they found 1.12g of cocaine in the pockets of one of the men, as well as drug equipment including a set of broken scales.

The men bought 2g of cocaine for three million rupiahs (£172), according to police.

The pair have undergone days of interrogation and tests while in prison. Police say a blood test revealed that both Mr Cabantong and Mr Van Iersel were cocaine users.

Denpasar police chief Ruddi Setiawan told reporters: “We advise tourists, locals, and foreigners to come here for a holiday, don’t come to have a drugs party or to use drugs.

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The men are expected to be charged under Indonesian law 112, legislation which covers drug possession. The punishment carries a possible jail term of between four and 12 years, as well as a fine of 800 million rupiah (£45,000).

The men hid their faces as they stood with others arrested on drug charges
The men hid their faces as they stood with others arrested on drug charges

It is understood that both Mr Cabantong and Mr Van Iersel worked as nightclub promoters whilst they lived in Australia before they travelled to Bali.

Indonesia is known for its strong penalties against those who commit drug offences. In 2017, Indonesian President Joko Widodo told police officers to shoot drug traffickers.

He said: “Be firm, especially to foreign drug dealers who enter the country and resist arrest. Shoot them because we indeed are in a narcotics emergency position now.”

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Malaria is caused by parasites which are carried by mosquitoes and spread through their blood-sucking bites.

And scientists have discovered a growing number of cases where the parasite has mutated making it resistant to drugs.

“We discovered (it) had spread aggressively, replacing local malaria parasites, and had become the dominant strain in Vietnam, Laos and northeastern Thailand,” said Roberto Amato, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

Malaria can be successfully treated with medicines if it is caught early enough, but resistance to anti-malarial drugs is growing in many parts of the world, especially in south east Asia.

The first-line treatment for malaria in many parts of Asia in the last decade has been a combination of dihydroartemisinin and piperaquine, also known as DHA-PPQ.

Researchers found in previous work that a strain of malaria had evolved and spread across Cambodia between 2007 and 2013 that was resistant to both drugs.

This latest research, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, found it has crossed borders and tightened its grip.

“The speed at which these resistant malaria parasites have spread in south east Asia is very worrying,” said Olivo Miotto, who co-led the work.

“Other drugs may be effective at the moment but the situation is extremely fragile and this study highlights that urgent action is needed.”

Almost 220 million people were infected with malaria in 2017, according to World Health Organisation estimates, and the disease killed 400,000 of them.

The vast majority of cases and deaths are among babies and children in sub-Saharan Africa.

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