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Community highlights: copycats and cafés

Do you have your niches you don’t stray from on The Conversation? You’re missing a lot of discussion. That’s why we’ve pulled together some interesting comments from around the site. Broaden your horizons: there’s a whole wide world of TC out there.

Some of the bird world’s mimicry superstars. Clockwise from top left: superb lyrebird; silvereye; satin bowerbird; Australian magpie; mistletoebird; brown thornbill. Alex Maisey; Justin Welbergen; Johan Larson; Leo/Flickr; David Cook/Filckr; Patrick/Flickr

Heard any interesting bird calls recently? Anastasia Dalziell and Justin Welbergen explained how some birds mimic other sounds – including those of humans and other animals – for their own benefit.

Richard Jordan commented, dampening some enthusiasm for the lyrebird, arguably the best known avian mimic.

I would make the point that many anecdotes about the calls of the Superb Lyrebird have no substance. Evidence for the mimicry of artificial sounds by the species is mostly (if not all) from birds which have been raised in captivity. The bird reproducing the sound of a camera shutter in “Life of Birds’ was in Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria and the chain-saw mimic was raised in Adelaide Zoo. A pity that Sir David Attenborough did not make that point.

It is also of interest that lyrebirds (and possibly other bird species demonstrating mimicry) seem to learn the calls from other lyrebirds, as well as from the models they mimic. I studied the calls of the lyrebird population in Tasmania, which was introduced there from Victoria in the middle of the last century. There was evidence of remnants of calls of male Eastern Whipbirds (which do not occur in Victoria) over 60 years after the Superb Lyrebird was taken to Tasmania. Mind you, most calls were mimicry of Tasmanian birds by that stage.

Don’t let that get you down – the article includes a recording of a wild owl that sounds like a rattlesnake.

Lazar Stankov attempted to enter the mind of a militant extremist, arguing that three psychological qualities help someone become radicalisde: nastiness, grudge and excuse. Reader Jeff Payne wondered what this framework would mean for other acts of violence.

Think about the features the author identifies; nastiness, grudge, excuse. These would apply, I would think, to any violent actor no matter what they believed in or what they do. I’ve known a few police in my time and they would fit into these categories. Think about the local pub thug, he would fit into these categories as well. Any violent actor would address these categories.

So anybody violent actor could have been identified but the problem here is that we are talking about ‘terrorism’. Police aren’t terrorists. If they shoot someone then it might be a crime but not terror. The local thug is not a ‘terrorist’. He might do violent acts every day but he is no terrorist. The farmer you observe is not a ‘terrorist’. Sartre argued that terrorism was an act of the dispossessed. Our government, for example, does not do terrorist acts against other states, it just invades them (Iraq, Afghanistan).

My point, and it is the same as yours only more long winded, is that by definition certain people are understood to do terrorist acts. If the U.S blew up a bus tomorrow using a drone it is not terrorism. If a Muslim shot a kid tomorrow it would be terrorism. This is why we get the same old tropes thrown around. It is because context is everything. The left, quite some time ago now, and Muslims are cast in this light not by the acts they do or the attitudes they have but because of the way these acts are interpreted.

Mick Tsikas/AAP

Planning your weekend? Trying to decide where you’ll dine and drink? There have been "rumblings” over weekend penalty rates and their affect on an establishment’s profitability.

Dan Woodman weighed in on the debate, suggesting people work a Sunday before calling for rates to be cut. In the comments, Ben Marshall offered another reason: rent.

On the Sunshine Coast we hear complaints re. penalty rates from employers, who are often operating, and apparently barely profiting on 3% margins.

My sympathy for their plight ends when I hear them attacking their most valuable assets - their workers - and hear only resounding silence when they choose to ignore another significant cost - leasing premises.

The costs of rent is a real factor, as those who speculate on the property market hold out for excessive rents based on the boom times, and refuse to lower them during the current recession.

Many premises remain empty for extended periods as owners would rather decline lower offers and receive nothing which they can then use to offset to their tax bills. They don’t care about what both tactics - empty shops and high rents - do to local economies, and I think it’s about time small businesspeople started attacking this greed rather than their workers. So should councils and other community groups.

As an ex-shift worker, I can certainly confirm working lates, nights, very early mornings and weekends has its own set of costs, and wages should acknowledge that, especially for those already on the minimum wage.

So spare a thought for the people serving you when are you’re out and about this weekend. Alternatively, stay home and comment on The Conversation. Both are good options.

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