Scientists find toxic fungus near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

One of the world's deadliest fungi has been discovered in Australia's far north for the first time -- thousands of miles from its native habitat in the mountains of Japan and Korea. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2019

Scientists find toxic fungus near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

  • The Fire Coral fungus was found near Cairns in the northern state of Queensland
  • “If found, the fungus should not be touched, and definitely not eaten,” an expert said

MELBOURNE: A highly poisonous fungus, with toxins that can be absorbed through the skin, has been identified for the first time in the rain forest near the Great Barrier Reef, Australian scientists said on Thursday.
The Fire Coral fungus, which is better known in South Korea and Japan as being among the world’s most poisonous mushrooms, was found near Cairns in the northern state of Queensland, scientists from James Cook University said.
“If found, the fungus should not be touched, and definitely not eaten,” said Matt Barrett, an expert on fungi at the university’s Australian Tropical Herbarium.
“Of the hundred or so toxic mushrooms that are known to researchers, this is the only one in which the toxins can be absorbed through the skin.”
If eaten, the distinctive red fungus causes a horrifying array of symptoms: stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and numbness are followed over hours or days by the skin peeling off the hands and feet, and the shrinking of the brain, he added.
It was most likely that the fungus occurred naturally in Cairns, although instances have also been reported from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Barrett said in a statement.
“The fact that we can find such a distinctive and medically important fungus like Poison Fire Coral right in our backyard shows we have much to learn about fungi in northern Australia,” he added.

Taliban say cease-fire, reduced violence after peace deal

Updated 32 min 27 sec ago

Taliban say cease-fire, reduced violence after peace deal

  • US, Taliban are discussing details for signing the peace agreement, Taliban spokesperson says
  • Dialogue aimed at ending decades-old conflict in Afghanistan 

ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban’s spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said on Monday that a cease-fire with the US and its NATO allies would be declared after the signing of the peace agreement, in order to resolve the protracted conflict in Afghanistan through a negotiated settlement.

“Everything – cease-fire, with all of the foreign troops, and an intra-Afghan dialogue are mentioned in the deal,” he said when questioned about the US’ repeated calls for a reduction in violence as a condition for the agreement.

Speaking to Arab News from Qatar – prior to the resumption of the peace talks which had entered its third day on Monday – Shaheen said that both the Taliban and Washington have already initiated the deal and were discussing the date of signing and other details.

“No date has been decided yet for the signing of the agreement. It could be signed any time, even today or after a week, but there is no decision yet,” he said.

Both groups restarted their formal peace negotiations on Saturday, the first such initiative of its kind after US President Donald Trump called off the talks in early September.

Trump’s decision followed the deaths of 12 people, including a US soldier, in a Taliban-induced bomb attack in Kabul.

The peace talks, which began last year, are aimed at striking a deal with the Taliban to end a decades-old conflict in Afghanistan which has now entered its 18th year. 

This would involve the withdrawal of US and foreign troops from the country in exchange for the insurgents’ guarantee of a cease-fire and that they would not use Afghanistan to launch attacks on other countries.

The Taliban and the US had finalized the peace agreement in August – at the conclusion of the ninth round of talks –but the signing of the deal was blocked after Trump’s abrupt decision to call off the negotiations.

“Peace agreement has already been finalized. There is nothing in the agreement to be amended as both sides have agreed upon on the draft. It has been initiated,” Shaheen said in an audio clip, adding that copies of the draft were with the Qatari government, the US and the Taliban.

Talking about prisoners' release, he said they would be freed in phases with the first group to be released before the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue.

“We will talk to all Afghan sides, including the Kabul administration, after the signing of the peace agreement with the US. The Kabul administration will be a party to the formal intra-Afghan negotiations. We will talk to everyone,” he said, adding that the intra-Afghan talks will start 10 days or two weeks after the deal is inked.

Earlier, Shaheen had told Arab News that the foreign ministers of 23 countries, officials from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the UN, and representatives from regional and neighboring countries would be attending the ceremony for the signing of the peace deal in Qatar, where the Taliban have their political headquarters.