China, March 10, 2016 -China Daily
NANNING – A primary teacher has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by a court in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region for the sexual assault of several girls under his care.
Fangchenggang Intermediate People’s Court upheld the verdict of the first trial held last year, sentencing the teacher, Su, to 10 years imprisonment for abusing several girls in his class at a city primary school from October 2014 to January 2015. The defendant had appealed on grounds of lack of intent.
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The court rejected his appeal, saying the sentence was fair and based on sufficient evidence.
Cases of child sexual abuse by teachers have become increasingly commonly reported in China. The All-China Women’s Federation has called for changes to laws and regulations on child protection help vulnerable minors. The federation also wants educational institutions to teach children to recognize, avoid and report sexual assaults.
According to the Foundation of China Culture and Arts for Children, only 300 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2015. Assailants in 70 percent of reported cases were known to their victims, suggesting a strong need to make children aware of the danger and to learn how to protect themselves.
Figaro, the Toolmaking Cockatoo
NOV. 21, 2016 – The New York Times
The Goffin’s cockatoo is a smart bird, so smart it has been compared to a 3-year-old human.
But even for this species, a bird named Figaro stands out for his creativity with tools.
Hand-raised at the Veterinary University of Vienna, the male bird was trying to play with a pebble that fell outside his aviary onto a wooden beam about four years ago. First he used a piece of bamboo to try to rake the stone back in.
Impressed, scientists in the university Goffin’s lab, which specializes in testing the thinking abilities of the birds, put a cashew nut where the pebble had been. Figaro extended his beak through the wire mesh to bite a splinter off the wooden beam. He used the splinter to fish the cashew in, a fairly difficult process because he had to work the splinter through the mesh and position it at the right angle.
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In later trials, Figaro made his tools much more quickly, and also picked a bamboo twig from the bottom of the aviary and trimmed it to make a similar tool.
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Cockatoos don’t do anything like this in nature, as far as anyone knows. They don’t use tools. They don’t even build nests, so they are not used to manipulating sticks. And they have curved bills, unlike the straight beaks of crows and jays that make manipulating tools a bit easier. Blue jays have been observed creating tools from newspaper to pull food pellets to them.
Alice M.I. Auersperg, a researcher at the Veterinary University of Vienna who studies cognition in animals, and her colleagues reported those first accomplishments by Figaro in 2012. Since then, they have continued to test Figaro and other birds in the lab that were able to learn tool use or tool making, sometimes both, by watching Figaro.
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Most recently, Dr. Auersperg and colleagues report in the journal Biology Letters, the scientists tested four cockatoos to see if they could adapt their skills to different materials. The birds had different skill sets when they started. Figaro had already mastered larch wood and a bamboo twig. Another bird, Pipin, had only mastered tool use.
The results made two things clear. First, these birds can transfer a skill to a completely different material. Both Figaro and Dolittle were able to make tools not only out of larch wood and twigs, but out of cardboard, which required a fairly complicated biting procedure to cut out a tool of the right length and width. Think of a toddler trying to master that task with kiddie scissors.
But the tests also showed clear variations in the abilities of different birds. Pipin seemed to have something against larch wood, but was able to trim a twig, as were all of the birds.
That was the only triumph for Pipin, whereas Kiwi could do twigs and larch wood, but not cardboard.
The birds were also offered beeswax, which none of them could turn into the equivalent of a stick.
Dr. Auersperg may look into individual differences in future research. For now, she says, the cockatoos have shown that their general level of intelligence, which perhaps evolved because they ate some foods in the wild that had to be extracted from hard shells, can be put to use in making and using tools in ways not seen in nature.
She did say that the birds are so intelligent and complex in their behaviors that keeping them as pets is quite demanding. You might even compare it to dealing with a 3-year-old — for 40 years or more. That’s how long the cockatoo can live.