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Australia

Brace yourself for an overload of "oohs" and "aahs" from the softer touches among us.

Adelaide Zoo has announced five adorable meerkat pups were born in the early hours of July 24 — the first meerkats born at the zoo in seven years — weighing just 100 grams each.

They spent their first weeks of life in their burrow under the care of parents Miney and Swazi, and have only just started venturing outside.

"Miney and Swazi are doting first-time parents, tending to the pups' every need and taking turns at sentry duty guarding their burrow," Adelaide Zoo meerkat keeper Jenna Hollamby said.

The sex of the pups will be confirmed when they are eight weeks old, at which point they will also receive vaccinations.

Despite their cuteness, however, meerkats are known to be aggressive and highly territorial so keep adoring fingers well away. abc.net.au
A jury has begun its deliberations over a former Auckland youth group leader facing sex charges against two underage females.

Samuel Patrick Dockary, 23, claimed one of the complainants was "keen as a jellybean" and also instigated some of the sexual activity the pair took part in.

However, despite admitting kissing and taking part in oral sex, he denied having sex with either complainant.

The evidence in the trial was wrapped up in the Hamilton District Court this morning after seven days, with Judge Kim Saunders delivering her summing up for the jury.

In his interview with police, Dockary accepted the contact did hurt the complainant but the pair were in love and he immediately stopped what he was doing.

However, he denied a claim by one of the women that he said he was "breaking her in". nzherald.co.nz
Australia's healthcare system has been ranked among the best in the developed world by a team of American researchers who have ranked their own country's system the worst.

They concluded the United Kingdom's National Health Service was the best system overall, followed by Australia, then the Netherlands, with Norway and New Zealand sharing fourth place.

Comparing Australia and the other countries to their homeland, the authors said: "The US performs relatively poorly on population health outcomes, such as infant mortality and life expectancy at age 60."

The publication of the study's conclusions have come as US President Donald Trump puts pressure on Republican senators to repeal his predecessor Barack Obama's healthcare reforms.

Speaking over the weekend, Mr Trump said his reforms would make America's healthcare system work better, even though two senators from the President's own party have declared they cannot vote for it. abc.net.au
Vatican police have raided a cardinal's apartment where a drug-fuelled homosexual orgy was taking place.

Police entered an apartment at the former palace of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (or Holy Office) last month not far from the Vatican City.

The occupant of the apartment is alleged to be a priest who serves as a secretary to cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, the head of the Pontifical Council for Legislative texts and a personal adviser to the Pope.

According to the paper, neighbours became suspicious before complaining about irregular behaviour of those coming and going at the apartment.

When police showed up at the apartment, they reportedly found drugs and a group of men engaged in sexual activity.

Critics blame the Pope's choice of personnel: cardinal George Pell, appointed to clean up the Vatican's murky finances, has taken a leave of absence to defend himself against sex abuse charges in Australia. nzherald.co.nz
Christianity is still the most common religion (52% of Australians identified as any of the Christian denominations) but has been declining in popularity in Australia for the past 50 years – in 1966, 88% of Australians identified as Christian and by 1991 it was 74%.

Catholicism is the largest Christian grouping, accounting for almost a quarter (22.6%) of the Australian population.

Islam (2.6%) and Buddhism (2.4%) were the next most common religions reported.

Hinduism had the most significant growth from 2006 to 2016 (from 1.3% to 1.9%) driven by immigration from South Asia.

The most religious state was New South Wales where 66% of people reported a religious affiliation, and the lowest proportion of people (53%) with a religious affiliation was in Tasmania.

  buzzfeed.com
Power crews are working to restore electricity to tens of thousands of homes after a massive power blackout in Sydney's west this afternoon.

Some 60,000 homes and businesses across Sydney's west lost electricity about 4:00pm when the power outage occurred, blacking out suburbs including Campsie, Ashfield and Earlwood.

The Transport Management Centre (TMC) said the outage had affected up to 100 sets of traffic lights in the blacked out area.

"People really need to take extreme care and follow directions of police manning key intersections in these areas," the TMC's Bronwyn Martin said.

Crews had to battle through Sydney's infamous peak-hour traffic before they were able to start repairs.

Ausgrid said it had so far restored power to about 15,000 customers abc.net.au
A day-care owner who amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune by making false claims for government benefits has been jailed for at least four years.

But Melissa Jade Higgins, 29, has filed a notice of intention to appeal and sought bail immediately after her sentence was delivered in the Downing Centre District Court on Friday.

Judge Donna Woodburne adjourned her decision on bail to hear further submissions next week.

In delivering her sentence, Judge Woodburne said Higgins was motivated by greed when she deliberately and repeatedly abused a government scheme designed to help vulnerable children.

Judge Woodburne said a term of imprisonment was the only appropriate sentence, noting the "great injustice" Higgins had committed against all genuine welfare recipients to enrich herself. smh.com.au
A plane has performed an emergency landing at Perth Domestic Airport this morning.

The Skippers Aviation aircraft carrying 50 passengers departed Perth Airport for Leinster in the Goldfields at 6.35am but the pilot reported engine issues shortly after take-off.

Flightradar24 shows the aircraft only flew as far as Bullsbrook before heading back to the airport.

Emergency crews including firefighters were called to the airport and the plane landed safely and without incident at 6.55am. thewest.com.au
The warm weather means more motorcycles will be on the road but Vancouver police are issuing their yearly warning about excessive noise.

Police say noise from motorcycles is a common complaint and are reminding bikers they could be fined if officers think it’s too loud.

A recent B.C. Supreme Court decision means officers no longer need to use a decibel metre to measure exhaust noise.

If they think it’s too loud they can hand riders a $109 ticket on the spot. globalnews.ca