Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"The Greater Akashic System" – July 15, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) (Subjects: Lightworkers, Intent, To meet God, Past lives, Universe/Galaxy, Earth, Pleiadians, Souls Reincarnate, Invention: Measure Quantum state in 3D, Recalibrates, Multi-Dimensional/Divine, Akashic System to change to new system, Before religion changed the system, DNA, Old system react to Karma, New system react to intent now for next life, Animals (around humans) reincarnate again, This Animal want to come back to the same human, Akashic Inheritance, Reincarnate as Family, Other Planets, Global Unity … etc.)

Question: Dear Kryon: I live in Spain. I am sorry if I will ask you a question you might have already answered, but the translations of your books are very slow and I might not have gathered all information you have already given. I am quite concerned about abandoned animals. It seems that many people buy animals for their children and as soon as they grow, they set them out somewhere. Recently I had the occasion to see a small kitten in the middle of the street. I did not immediately react, since I could have stopped and taken it, without getting out of the car. So, I went on and at the first occasion I could turn, I went back to see if I could take the kitten, but it was to late, somebody had already killed it. This happened some month ago, but I still feel very sorry for that kitten. I just would like to know, what kind of entity are these animals and how does this fit in our world. Are these entities which choose this kind of life, like we do choose our kind of Human life? I see so many abandoned animals and every time I see one, my heart aches... I would like to know more about them.

Answer: Dear one, indeed the answer has been given, but let us give it again so you all understand. Animals are here on earth for three (3) reasons.

(1) The balance of biological life. . . the circle of energy that is needed for you to exist in what you call "nature."

(2) To be harvested. Yes, it's true. Many exist for your sustenance, and this is appropriate. It is a harmony between Human and animal, and always has. Remember the buffalo that willingly came into the indigenous tribes to be sacrificed when called? These are stories that you should examine again. The inappropriateness of today's culture is how these precious creatures are treated. Did you know that if there was an honoring ceremony at their death, they would nourish you better? Did you know that there is ceremony that could benefit all of humanity in this way. Perhaps it's time you saw it.

(3) To be loved and to love. For many cultures, animals serve as surrogate children, loved and taken care of. It gives Humans a chance to show compassion when they need it, and to have unconditional love when they need it. This is extremely important to many, and provides balance and centering for many.

Do animals know all this? At a basic level, they do. Not in the way you "know," but in a cellular awareness they understand that they are here in service to planet earth. If you honor them in all three instances, then balance will be the result. Your feelings about their treatment is important. Temper your reactions with the spiritual logic of their appropriateness and their service to humanity. Honor them in all three cases.

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle
American zoologist played by Sigourney Weaver in the film Gorillas in the Mist would have been 82 on Thursday (16 January 2014)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Rains hamper Sri Lanka mudslide tragedy search effort

Yahoo – AFP, Ishara Kodikara, 30 Oct 2014

A road damaged after a landslide caused by heavy monsoon rains in Koslanda
village in central Sri Lanka on October 30, 2014 (AFP Photo/Ishara S. Kodikara)

Koslanda (Sri Lanka) (AFP) - Heavy rains disrupted a massive search Thursday for scores of people feared buried in a landslide on a Sri Lankan tea estate, further dimming prospects of finding anyone alive.

An estimated 100 people are still listed as missing, according to the national Disaster Management Centre (DMC), a day after dozens of tin-roofed homes were buried under tonnes of mud, with only a handful of bodies recovered so far.

Hundreds of troops suspended their work with rains threatening more mudslides at the plantation in central Sri Lanka.

A government-run relief camp at Poonagalla
 on October 30, 2014 after a deadly landslide
 on a Sri Lankan tea estate that buried
scores of tin-roofed homes under tonnes
of mud (AFP Photo/Ishara S. Kodikara)
"We are suspending the search operation because it is not safe to work in this rain," the region's top military officer, Major General Mano Perera, told reporters.

"We hope to start work tomorrow morning if the weather improves."

Perera said they failed to find any survivors or bodies from the disaster site on Thursday. He did not hold out much hope of finding survivors as the site was covered in tonnes of mud.

"There were no concrete structures which could have acted as air traps for victims to survive," he added.

Shop keeper Vevaratnam Marathamuttu said he ran when tonnes of earth came crashing down the hill on Wednesday morning, fearing there had been an explosion.

"I thought it was some sort of a bomb blast and fled from my shop," Marathamuttu said. "I saved my life because I ran away."

Truck driver Sinniah Yogarajan, 48, said there was "no point in my living" after five members of his family along with his friends were buried in the disaster.

"The entire neighbourhood has vanished. Now there is a river of mud where our houses once stood," Yogarajan told AFP at a nearby school where survivors were sheltering.

"The soldiers are trying their best but every time they scoop out some of the mud the hole then just gets filled up again with more mud."

There had been fears of an even higher toll when officials initially said that up to 300 people were unaccounted for.

But the government's disaster management minister said most of those who were classified as missing were later found at work, with the DMC saying at least 227 people survived because they were out of their homes when the tragedy struck.

Some 75 children were already at their school nearby when their homes were buried, officials said, adding that they were checking on reports that at least two children had lost both parents.

Fears of more landslides

President Mahinda Rajapakse visited the disaster area in Koslanda on Thursday, speaking with survivors sheltering at two schools. He later inspected the Meeriyabedda tea plantation, which bore the full brunt of the mudslide.

During the day, soldiers were seen clearing debris from the mud, as curious onlookers as well as survivors whose relatives were missing gathered at the site despite appeals to stay away.

Sri Lankan residents watch search and rescue operations at the site of a landslide
 caused by heavy monsoon rains in Koslanda village in central Sri Lanka on
October 30, 2014 (AFP Photo/Ishara S. Kodikara)

Labourer Arumugam Thyagarajah, 28, said his six-year-old daughter was washed away in the mudslide as she walked with her older brother to school.

At least 1,200 people from nearby tea plantations have also been evacuated from their homes amid fears that ongoing rains could lead to more mudslides, officials said adding that more people were expected at relief centres.

Sri Lanka's picturesque hill region is famed for producing Ceylon tea, and has become a major tourist attraction with visitors able to stay on the plantations.

The number of homes destroyed was revised down to 63 on Thursday from 150 given earlier by the DMC.

"We had difficulty communicating with our officers and sometimes rumours were reported to us as facts," the Colombo-based DMC spokesman Sarath Kumara told AFP.

An office where village records were maintained was also destroyed in the disaster, causing problems for the authorities in compiling reliable casualty figures.

Sri Lanka, a tropical island at the foot of India, is prone to weather-related disasters -- especially during the monsoon season when the rains are often welcomed by farmers.

If the death toll does reach three figures, the disaster would be the country's worst since the December 2004 tsunami when 31,000 people died.

Related Article:


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Antibiotics may help animals spread salmonella

Yahoo – AFP, 21 Oct 2014

Giving animals antibiotics may make them sicker and could lead some to spread even
more salmonella than they would have otherwise, US researchers experimenting
on mice said (AFP Photo/Jean-Francois Monier)

Washington (AFP) - Giving animals antibiotics may make them sicker and could lead some to spread even more salmonella than they would have otherwise, US researchers experimenting on mice said.

The findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences could point to a new concern over feeding healthy livestock low doses of antibiotics to help them grow and stave off common illnesses, a practice that critics say may fuel drug-resistant superbugs.

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine gave oral antibiotics to mice infected with Salmonella typhimurium, a bacteria which can cause food poisoning.

A small minority, known as "superspreaders" because they had been shedding high amounts of salmonella in their feces for weeks, remained healthy. It appears neither the antibiotic or the illness had much effect on them.

"The rest of the mice got sicker instead of better and, oddly, started shedding like superspreaders," the university said in a statement describing the research.

A previous Stanford study found that giving non-superspreader mice an oral antibiotic led to a rapid increase in salmonella shed in their feces.

This study showed that giving streptomycin, an antibiotic, to salmonella-infected mice, led most of them to begin shedding high levels of the pathogen in both their gut and their feces.

Most of the treated mice also appeared sicker after the antibiotics.

"They lost weight, had ruffled fur and hunched up the in corners of their cages," said Denise Monack, associate professor of microbiology and immunology and the study's senior author.

"They also began to shed much larger quantities of bacteria."

The same thing happened when the mice were given another antibiotic, neomycin, suggesting that the medicine had the opposite of its intended effect.

"If this holds true for livestock as well -- and I think it will -- it would have obvious public health implications," Monack said.

"We need to think about the possibility that we're not only selecting for antibiotic-resistant microbes, but also impairing the health of our livestock and increasing the spread of contagious pathogens among them and us."


Related Article:


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stranded trekkers in storm-hit Nepal region 'safe'

Yahoo – AFP, October 18, 2014

Stranded trekkers in storm-hit region safe: Nepal official

Kathmandu (AFP) - All trekkers left stranded by a major snowstorm in Nepal's Himalayas are safe, officials said Saturday, with the focus now shifting to the recovery of bodies four days after the disaster killed at least 32 people.

Nepalese army choppers circled the upper reaches of the popular Annapurna Circuit trekking region to locate bodies, while officials flew in a team of experts from Kathmandu to assist with retrieval.

Tuesday's unseasonal storm, which hit at the height of the trekking season triggering avalanches, caught hikers unaware on their way up to an exposed high mountain pass, and killed at least 17 tourists.

"We understand that all remaining trekkers in the region are safe," said Binay Acharya of the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN), an industry body organising rescue efforts.

"We have not received any further calls for rescue or for information about stranded people," Acharya told AFP.

Emergency workers have so far rescued 385 people from the affected area, according to police.

"Since Wednesday, we have rescued 385 people, including 180 foreigners," said police official Harikrishna KC.

Rescuers Friday recovered the body of a Nepalese porter, taking the death toll to 32, including 24 hikers, guides and porters on the trekking circuit, three yak herders as well as five climbers on a mountain in the area.

Thousands of people head to the Annapurna Circuit every October, when weather conditions are usually clear.

However, the region has seen unusually heavy snowfall this week sparked by Cyclone Hudhud, which slammed into India's east coast Sunday.

The disaster prompted Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to announce plans to set up a weather warning system across the mountainous country, which relies heavily on tourism revenues from climbing and trekking.

The Annapurna Circuit is particularly popular among tourists, and has come to be known as the "apple pie" trek for the food served at the small lodges, known as teahouses, that line the route.

The snowstorm is one of Nepal's worst trekking disasters since 1995 when a huge avalanche struck the camp of a Japanese trekking group in the Mount Everest region, killing 42 people including 13 Japanese.

The Himalayan nation has suffered multiple avalanches this year, with 16 guides killed in April in the deadliest accident to hit Mount Everest, forcing an unprecedented shutdown of the world's highest peak.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

National panda park planned for Sichuan

Want China Times, Xinhua 2014-10-14

Two giant pandas play at a panda reserve in Sichuan, July 7.
(Photo/CNS)

A national park devoted to giant panda conservation could be the best way to protect the species, at least Southwest China's Sichuan provincial forestry department said on Saturday.

Yao Sidan, head of the department, put forward the idea of a national park for giant pandas in a provincial environmental plan released Friday.

A repackaging of current natural reserves, forestry and wetland parks in western Sichuan, the national park would be a major innovation in the protection of the endangered species, Yao said.

The plan calls for the giant panda habitat to be no less than 26.5 million mu (1.77 million hectares), and be established by 2020.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Indonesia Seeks Asean Help to Tackle Haze Woes

Reaching Out: An adviser to President Yudhoyono says countries such as Singapore and Malaysia now have ‘legal ground’ to help

Jakarta Globe, Tunggadewa Mattangkilang & Vento Saudale, Oct 13, 2014

Residents cross the road amid haze in Banjar, South Kalimantan on Oct. 6, 2014.
(Antara Photo/Murdy Herry Hermawan)

Balikpapan/Jakarta. Indonesia is inviting its Southeast Asian neighbors to help tackle forest fires and haze that are once again plaguing Sumatra and Kalimantan, following its ratification last month of a regional agreement allowing transboundary cooperation on haze pollution.

Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency, or BNPB, reported more than 500 fire hot spots in Sumatra and Kalimantan over the weekend, causing haze that forced at least four airports to shut down and sent air pollution indices to hazardous levels in several regions.

Agus Purnomo, an adviser to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on climate change, said that with the House of Representatives finally ratifying last month the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, countries like Singapore and Malaysia, which are often affected by the haze, could now actively take part in measures to tackle the problem.

“The agreement makes it easier for our neighbors to help us tackle fires and haze. They now have a legal ground to help,” Agus told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.

Parties to the agreement, signed in 2002, are required to cooperate in measures to mitigate transboundary haze pollution, as well as to respond promptly to “a request for relevant information sought by a state or states that are or may be affected” by such pollution in order to minimize the impacts.

The second part in particular has been a sensitive issue for Indonesia, which is why it was the last Asean member state to ratify the agreement, despite being the prime generator of haze from forest fires in Southeast Asia.

The BNPB said 153 hot spots were detected on Sumatra by satellites as of 5 a.m. on Sunday, with 144 in South Sumatra province alone.

Kalimantan, which barely reported any major fire and haze events last year, had a recorded 357 hot spots on Saturday, according to satellite imagery. Most of the hot spots were concentrated in Central Kalimantan (220), followed by South Kalimantan (61), East Kalimantan (50) and West Kalimantan (26).

Haze in Jambi, Sumatra on Oct. 10, 2014.
(Antara PhotoWahdi Septiawan)
BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Sunday that the numbers from Sumatra were not yet complete because another satellite had yet to make a pass over the region on Sunday afternoon.

“So the figure may be bigger,” he said.

The BNPB had not yet updated the data by press time on Sunday night.

Thick haze forced the temporary closure of Sultan Aji Muhammad Sulaiman Airport in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, on Saturday.

“We had to close down the airport because of the haze, the visibility was less than a kilometer. The minimum visibility for aviation is 1.5 kilometers,” airport spokesman Awaluddin told the Globe.

Awaluddin said five flights were delayed and six flights were diverted to Hassanudin Airport in Makassar, South Sulawesi.

“This is the first time we’ve had to delay flights and divert planes since the haze first hit Balikpapan,” he said. The airport, previously known as Sepinggan, resumed operation later in the day.

On Sunday, four other airports were shut down, this time in Sumatra: Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru, Riau; Hang Nadim Airport in Batam, Riau Islands; Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Airport in Palembang, South Sumatra; and Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin Airport in Jambi.

“The arrival schedules have been delayed, as currently the visibility is only 500 meters,” Baiquni Sudrajat, a spokesman for Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport, told Detik.com on Sunday.

The haze affected most flights to and from Pekanbaru on Sunday.

“Because the arriving planes were delayed, the planes departing from this airport are also delayed,” Baiquni said.

Air quality also plunged in several regions worst hit by fire-induced haze, including Libo village in the Riau capital of Pekanbaru, where the Pollutant Standard Index reached 399, above the minimum hazardous level of 300.

Air quality is considered “good” for a PSI reading of between 0 and 50, “moderate” for PSI between 51-100, “unhealthy” for 101-200, “very unhealthy” for 201-300 and “dangerous” for a PSI more than 300.

“In Rumbai, the index reached 251; in Minas it was 176; in Duri the index was 136; in Dumai 148…” Sutopo said, citing PSI indices in a number of regions in Riau.

The Balikpapan Health Office, meanwhile, reported that more than 2,000 people had been diagnosed with upper-respiratory tract infections due to the haze. By comparison 1,300 people were recorded with the same diagnosis in September.

Sutopo said his office was working with local authorities on various fire-fighting efforts, including on the ground and through aerial water drops.

The haze problem has re-emerged just six months after the Riau provincial administration lifted the emergency status imposed after last year’s haze, which was one of the worst cases in the country in decades. The fires, burning more frequently, are attributed largely to the slash-and-burn clearing of forests by farmers to open up land for oil palm plantations.

Authorities in Kalimantan, which has not been as badly hit as Sumatra, have also blamed plantation companies for the fires. A spokesman for the East Kalimantan Police said police were investigating the fires.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sumba powers up with renewables

Indonesian island hopes to spark green power revolution.

The Star – AFP, Angela Dewan, May 26, 2014

Catch the wind: Villagers erect a windmill on a field of small wind turbines
in Kamanggih, Sumba island, East Nusa Tenggara. — AFP

AN Indonesian family of farmers eat cobs of corn outside their hut under the glow of a light bulb, as the women weave and young men play with mobile phones.

Until two years ago, most people in Kamanggih village on the island of Sumba had no power at all. Now 300 homes have access to 24-hour electricity produced by a small hydroelectric generator in the river nearby.

“We have been using the river for water our whole lives, but we never knew it could give us electricity,” Adriana Lawa Djati said, as 1980s American pop songs drifted from a cassette player inside.

While Indonesia struggles to fuel its fast-growing economy, Sumba is harnessing power from the sun, wind, rivers and even pig dung in a bid to go 100% renewable by 2025.

The ambitious project, called the “Iconic Island“, was started by Dutch development organisation Hivos and is now part of the national government’s strategy to almost double renewables in its energy mix over the next 10 years.

Sumba, in central Indonesia, is an impoverished island of mostly subsistence farmers and fishermen. Access to power has made a huge difference to people like Djati.

“Since we started using electricity, so much has changed. The kids can study at night, I can weave baskets and mats for longer, and sell more at the market” she said.

While only around 30% of Sumba’s 650,000 people have been hooked up to the power grid, more than 50% of electricity used now on the island comes from renewable sources, government data show.

Hivos field co-ordinator Adrianus Lagur hoped the project would be replicated by other islands in the same province of East Nusa Tenggara, one of the country’s poorest.

Indonesia is one of the region’s most poorly electrified nation, partly because it sprawls over 17,000 islands of which more than 6,000 are inhabited.

Despite enjoying economic growth of around 6% annually in recent years, Indonesia is so short of energy that it rolls out scheduled power cuts that cripple entire cities and sometimes parts of the capital.

To keep up with growth, Indonesia is planning to boost its electricity capacity by 60 gigawatts over a 10-year period to 2022. Twenty percent of that is to come from renewable sources.

“Indonesia has been a net importer of oil for years, and our oil reserves are limited, so renewables are an important part of our energy security,” said Mochamad Sofyan, renewable energy chief of state electricity company PLN.

Hefty electricity and fuel subsidies have been a serious burden on the state budget.

But small-scale infrastructure, like mini hydroelectric generators and small wind turbines that power Sumba are not enough to close the national energy gap, even if they were built on all Indonesia’s islands.

Massive hydropower and geothermal projects, which use renewable energy extracted from underground pockets of heat, are needed to really tackle the nationwide problem, said Sofyan.

Indonesia, one of the world’s most seismically active countries, also has the biggest reserves of geothermal, often near its many volcanoes and tectonic plate boundaries. It is considered one of the cleanest forms of energy available.

But geothermal is largely untapped as legislation to open up exploration moves slowly and the industry is bound in red tape.

Sofyan said there is also concern that Sumba’s target to be powered 100% by renewable energy is unrealistic.

“In the long term, we see Sumba still relying somewhat on diesel generators. It will be powered predominantly by renewables, but I don’t think it will be able to switch off the grid,” Sofyan said.

Hivos admits its goal is ambitious, saying it is “inspirational and political” rather than technical but the NGO believes the target may be achievable even in the long term.

Nonetheless the Sumbanese are reaping the benefits of the green energy sources already available, which have lifted a considerable financial burden for many due to reduced costs for wood and oil.

Elisabeth Hadi Rendi, 60, in the town of Waingapu, has been farming pigs since 1975, but it was only two years ago when Hivos visited her home that she came to understand the power of porcine poo. Pigs are commonly kept in Sumba, a predominantly Christian island in Muslim-majority Indonesia.

Each day Rendi shovels dung from the pig pens and churns it in a well, after which it is funnelled to a tank and converted into methane gas. It has saved her household around six million rupiah (RM1,680) in two years, a significant sum for a typical Sumbanese family.

“We also make fertiliser from the waste to use in our garden, where we grow vegetables,” said Rendi. “We eat the vegetables and feed some to the pigs too, which will become biogas again, so the energy literally goes round and round.” — AFP



Trail of Putin's Siberian tiger picked up in Heilongjiang

Want China Times, Xinhua 2014-10-11

Vladimir Putin speaks at an international investment forum in Moscow, Oct. 3.
(File photo/Xinhua)

Clues that may lead to the whereabouts of a tiger that has allegedly roamed into China after being set free by Russian president Vladimir Putin were spotted in northeastern China's Heilongjiang province, said local forestry authorities.

Hair, feces and tracks possibly left by the tiger were discovered in areas where the beast is suspected to have traveled in the vast forest area of the Lesser Hinggan Mountain, according to Zhang Shusen, an official with the provincial forestry industry bureau.

Further investigation will determine whether the findings belong to Kuzya, who was released into the wild along with two other Siberian tigers by Putin in May, Zhang said.

He added that tiger experts arrived in the area to facilitate tracking, locating and protecting the animal.

The official said the bureau was informed by Russia on Friday that the big cat, tagged with a tracking device, had left Heilongjiang's Luobei region where it was previously observed and moved to the northwestern part of the Lesser Hinggan Mountain.

For the tiger's safety, Kuzya's precise location will not be disclosed to the public, Zhang said.

Fewer than 500 Siberian tigers remain in the wild, mainly in eastern Russia, northeastern China and northern parts of the Korean peninsula. China puts its own number of wild Siberian tigers between 18 and 22, mostly living in the border areas.

Related Article:


Friday, October 10, 2014

Cancer tumours destroyed by berry found in Queensland rainforest

Drug derived from the fruit of the blushwood tree kills cancerous tumours long-term in animals in 70% of cases

theguardian.com, Melissa Davey, Wednesday 8 October 2014

Berries on the blushwood tree, a plant only found in specific areas of the Atherton
 Tablelands in tropical north Queensland. Photograph: QIMR Berghofer Medical
Research Institute

Scientists have managed to destroy cancerous tumours by using an experimental drug derived from the seeds of a fruit found in north Queensland rainforests.

The drug, called EBC-46, was produced by extracting a compound from the berry of the blushwood tree, a plant only found in specific areas of the Atherton Tablelands.

A single injection of the drug directly into melanoma models in the laboratory, as well as into cancers of the head, neck and colon in animals, destroyed the tumours long-term in more than 70% of cases, the study’s lead author, Dr Glen Boyle, said.

“In preclinical trials we injected it into our models and within five minutes, you see a purpling of the area that looks like a bruise,” Boyle, from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute said.

“About 24 hours later, the tumour area goes black, a couple of days later you see a scab, and at around the 1.5 week mark, the scab falls off, leaving clean skin with no tumour there. The speed certainly surprised me.”

Researchers believe the drug triggers a cellular response which cuts off the blood supply to the tumour by opening it up.

“That’s why we see a bruise-like situation forming in the tumour,” Boyle said. “This seems to lead to an activation of the body’s own immune system which then comes in and cleans up the mess.”

It has been used by veterinarians in about 300 cases of cancer in companion animals including dogs, cats and horses.

There was no evidence EBC-46 would be effective to treat cancers that had spread to other parts of the body, known as metastatic cancers, Boyle said.

The drug is being developed as a human and veterinary pharmaceutical through QBiotics, a subsidiary of the company which discovered the drug, called EcoBiotics. The company is also examining the potential for a blushwood plantation.

Ethical approval was recently granted for phase 1 human clinical trials, but even if those proved successful, it was unlikely the drug would replace conventional chemotherapy treatment, Boyle said.

“Chemotherapy is still used because it is very effective for a lot of people,” he said. “But EBC-46 could perhaps be used in people who, for some reason, chemotherapy doesn’t work [for], or for elderly patients whose body can’t sustain another round of chemotherapy treatment.”

The preclinical trial was funded by QIMR Berghofer and the National Health and Medical Research Council and the results were published in the journal PLOS One.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dayak Iban People Won’t Give Up Fight for Ancestral Lands

Wild West: Original inhabitants of fertile West Kalimantan lands face uphill battle against those intent on clearing forest areas, but activists say prospect of new president renews hope of a solution for the disputes between indigenous peoples, companies and local governments

Jakarta Globe, Basten Gokkon, Oct 06, 2014

Part of the 15,000 hectares of land originally owned by the indigenous Dayak Iban
people, which has been turned into a palm oil plantation. (JG Photo/Basten Gokkon)

Pontianak. For the Dayak Iban tribe of West Kalimantan’s Bengkayang district, the dense virgin forest here near the Indonesian border with Malaysia has been the center of life for generations.

“The ancestral forest is rich with natural resources,” Momonus, 42, the chief of the Dayak Iban village of Semunying Jaya tells the Jakarta Globe during a trek through the forest.

“The graveyards of our ancestors are there, as are our places of worship.”

Semunying Jaya is a seven-hour drive, with no stops, from Pontianak, the provincial capital. The nearest center of commerce, the Seluas traditional market, is two hours away, along a dirt track with no streetlights.

So remote is this village of some 50 households that using a satellite dish is the only way to catch television broadcasts — and those with a cellphone get text reminders that they are roaming on Malaysian carrier Digicom’s frequency.

Uninvited guests

Like many indigenous groups, the Dayak Iban didn’t traditionally subscribe to the notion of land ownership. The forest and everything within it was there to be used, and when the need arose they would move to another part of it.

When their nomadic wanderings came to an end and they finally settled in what would become Semunying Jaya village, they assumed that they would continue to have access to the 18,000 or so hectares of forest from which they had subsisted for decades.

Limited access to education and zero awareness of land laws meant they never thought to formalize their claim to the land.

So it came as a bitter shock to the Dayak Iban when its rich forests were suddenly beset by wave upon wave of outsiders seeking to exploit it. First came Yamaker Kalbar Jaya, a company belonging to the armed forces, which began logging the area in 1987.

Then from 1998 to 2000, the government appointed state-owned logger Perum Perhutani to reforest the area — only to see it continue cutting down valuable trees and sell them for timber across the border.

In 2000, Lundu Sawmill, a Malaysian company based in Sarawak state, illegally logged timber in Semunying Jaya, which ignited protests from the indigenous people, who fought back by seizing two bulldozers.

Two years later, the Indonesian company Agung Perkasa obtained a permit to develop an oil palm plantation in the area. But by 2004 it still hadn’t planted any oil palms. Instead, it was illegally felling trees and selling the timber in Malaysia. Its permit was subsequently revoked and awarded to another company, Ledo Lestari, a year later.

Momonus at a landmark in the Dayak Iban’s
customary forest. (JG Photo/Basten Gokkon)
Conflicts

If the villagers thought that the arrival of a bona fide plantation company — a unit of the Duta Palma Nusantara group controlled by Surya Darmadi, one of the top 150 wealthiest individuals in Indonesia — would be an improvement from the illegal loggers, they were to be deeply disappointed.

Ledo Lestari had a concession to develop 20,000 hectares of plantation, and duly razed 15,000 of the Dayak Iban’s 18,000 hectares of ancestral forest to plant oil palms. Four months after its arrival, the villagers’ rubber farms were destroyed by the company to build a road.

The community protested and imposed a fine against the company for violating its traditional laws, having successfully employed the same tactic against Yamaker back in 1987.

But Ledo didn’t flinch, offering nothing in the way of compensation, even after the villagers escalated their protest by seizing one of the company’s motorcycles.

“During the protests, we received many curses and threats from the company’s hired thugs,” Momonus says. “They threatened to kidnap us, and set bounties on our heads of Rp 50 million to Rp 75 million [$4,100 to $6,160].”

With Ledo showing no sign of wanting to resolve the conflict, the community seized an excavator and eight chainsaws in an attempt to stop the forest clearance, and invited the company manager to discuss the matter.

The response was one they hadn’t expected: Momonus and another village elder, Jamaludin, were arrested by the police on charges of extortion. After nine days in jail, they were released due to lack of evidence.

“When I was in jail, the company offered Rp 1 billion [$82,000] to each family on condition that we all give up our land,” Momonus said.

Ledo was in 2006 refused a right of cultivation, or HGU, the final permit required of commercial oil palm planters, because of the ongoing conflict with the local community. It reapplied in 2011 and the process is pending. It currently continues to operate on a plantation permit, or IUP, and land concession permit.

Sufferings

Momonus says the Dayak Iban community is justified in its stand against the plantation company.

“Our land was taken away from us without our knowing about it. Our rubber farms were cleared without any discussion. Even our graves and sanctuaries were cleared, almost as though our identity was being erased,” he says.

Ever since the forest was razed, he says, the water in the rivers around the village have become contaminated, and the villagers now resort to collecting rainwater.

There has also been a dire social impact on the community, with unemployment rising after villagers lost their rubber farms, and children dropping out of school to work — some of them in Malaysia — in order to supplement the family’s income, Momonus says.

Tensions have also arisen as some members of the community take jobs with Ledo, giving up their land in exchange for a house measuring four by five meters, with no electricity or plumbing.

“What we want is for the company to leave and to give us back our 15,000 hectares of land. We’ve had enough,” Momonus says. “For now, what we can really fight for is the 1,420 hectares of ancestral forest still standing because there was already a ruling about that from the local government in 2010. We just need help to make it happen.”

“We also want our sufferings in Semunying Jaya village to be heard by the new government,” he adds.

The graveyard in Semunying Jaya with palm
trees planted on it without the people’s consent.
(JG Photo/Basten Gokkon)
Overlapping regulations

The conflict in Semuning Jaya is one of a litany of near-identical tales of plantation, logging or mining operations muscling in on land long inhabited by indigenous groups. Of the 6,000 complaints of rights violations lodged with the National Commission for Human Rights, or Komnas HAM, a fifth relate to land disputes.

Rights activists and the dispossessed have called on the incoming administration of President-elect Joko Widodo to do more to resolve the disputes between indigenous peoples, companies and local governments.

“What needs to be done first by the new government is to issue a presidential decree enforcing the Constitutional Court’s ruling,” says Abdon Nababan, the secretary general of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago, or AMAN.

The ruling he refers to is a landmark 2012 verdict striking a clause from the 1999 Forestry Law and effectively handing ownership of indigenous lands from the state to the indigenous groups themselves.

Since then, however, the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has done little to enforce the ruling by issuing new supporting regulations to reflect the change.

“SBY promised [to issue a president decree] since a year ago, but he still hasn’t done it, even now when his term is almost up. If Joko issues the ruling, that will be a groundbreaking step,” Abdon says.

He adds that the new administration should also work on revising overlapping regulations and laws related to ownership of indigenous land and the presence of indigenous people across the archipelago.

“Overlapping regulations let people cherry-pick which law to use to support their personal interests. This way, the strongest party will always win,” Abdon says. “That’s why so many indigenous people lose their cases in court because they never have enough resources to go through the legal process.”

Hope for new government

Land conflicts have raged for decades, with the government continuing to hand companies concessions to hundreds of thousands of hectares of land inhabited by indigenous people.

The dispossessed communities have had limited courses of redress, and conflicts between them and the security forces, often in the pay of the concession holders, have resulted in numerous deaths and arrests.

Sandrayati Moniaga, a commissioner at Komnas HAM, says the new government must make a real effort to resolve the disputes, and warns of “nationwide destruction” if the state continues to ignore the issue.

“This has reached a crucial point. A systematic solution is non-negotiable,” says Sandrayati, noting that Komnas HAM recently filed a preliminary report to Joko’s transition team about rights violations allegedly committed against indigenous groups.

She adds the new government can use its first year in office to compile all the cases, and resolve them gradually over the following years.

Activists have also praised Joko’s plan to create a national commission focusing on Indonesia’s 70 million indigenous people, who make up roughly 29 percent of the country’s 240 million inhabitants.

Joko and Vice President-elect Jusuf Kalla have committed to creating an independent and permanent national commission to work on regulations and forming institutions that will oversee matters related to the recognition, honoring, protection and empowerment of indigenous peoples, according to Abdon.

“The commission can operate directly under the president’s watch,” he says.

Sandrayati says the national commission for indigenous people, which should also have regional chapters across the country, can provide security and certainty for the tenure of indigenous lands, eventually providing fair solutions to all stakeholders involved in the disputes.

“If all is worked out well, the indigenous people’s rights will be protected and investors can stop worrying about disputes that may disrupt their business,” she says.

Abdon adds that businesses and indigenous people should be able to live and work alongside one another, as long as they can find a mutually beneficial common ground, including but not limited to drawing up a legal rental agreement between all stakeholders protected by the state, without stripping the indigenous people of their right to the land.

“For instance, the companies can pay a royalty to the people for the duration of the contract. And once the contract ends, the companies have to return the land back to them,” he says.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

US Reduces Indonesian Debt in Exchange for Wildlife Protection

Jakarta Globe – AFP, Oct 04, 2014

A pangolin is held in a private zoo on the outskirts of Kandang town in Aceh, Sumatra,
 where animals are displayed for visitors and buyers on on June 9, 2013. (AFP Photo/
Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program/Paul Hilton)

The United States has struck a deal to reduce Indonesia’s debts in exchange for Jakarta pledging about $12 million for programs to protect endangered species and their habitats on Sumatra island, conservationists said Friday.

The move adds to a similar agreement in 2009, under which the Indonesian government pledged $30 million for increased protection of Sumatra’s forests, said NGO Conservation International, which helped broker the deal.

The agreement, which was inked this week, will provide additional funds for environmental groups to improve programmes aimed at protecting the Sumatran low-land rainforests as well as efforts to increase populations of threatened animals.

The forests of Sumatra, a huge island in western Indonesia, are one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and are home to critically endangered Sumatran rhinos and tigers.

“The debt-for-nature swap will benefit critical ecosystems in Sumatra through increasing conservation efforts,” Conservation International said in a statement.

“The United States is proud to partner with the government of Indonesia and the NGO sector to help protect and preserve the diverse wildlife that exists on Sumatra,” said Kristen Bauer, charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Jakarta.

Under the agreement, the Indonesian government will pay about $12 million over seven years into a trust that will issue grants for the conservation efforts, Conservation International said.

The US government contributed most of the money for the debt swap, while Conservation International also gave some.

Agence France-Presse

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dutch food policy needs rethink on dairy and meat: WRR

DutchNews.nl, Friday 03 October 2014

The Netherlands is one of the world's biggest exporters of dairy products

The government needs to intervene to ensure people eat less meat, salt, sugar and fat, according to the influential scientific council for government policy (WRR) in a new report.

The WRR advises the government on ‘future developments of great public interest’ and focuses on sustainable food production in its latest report, the Volkskrant reports on Friday.

The organisation says despite the importance of agricultural exports to the Dutch economy, the Netherlands should produce less dairy and meat products. The Netherlands should also develop official policy toward food, rather than toward agriculture, the council says.

Production

The current approach, with the focus on production, has been very successful and led to an abundant supply of good, cheap food. However, natural resources are being depleted and agricultural land is become exhausted, the council warns.

In addition, the shortage of water and phosphates and a manure surplus are all having an impact on biodiversity. At the same time, obesity is an increasing problem internationally, as is the increase in resistant bacteria in factory farming.

Sustainability

To counteract the effects of current farming policy, we need to eat less meat and dairy products and grow food more sustainably, the WRR says in its recommendations. Fat, sugar and salt in food should be reduced and the current plethora of labeling be reduced to just two.

‘Production and consumption in the Netherlands are contributing to the global ecological problem,’ the council states. Dairy products and meat have a ‘disproportional impact’ and it would be good for both the environment and human health to produce and consume less, the council says.

The Netherlands no longer has an agricultural ministry and its work is now done by the economic affairs department, the Volkskrant points out. Deputy economic affairs minister Sharon Dijksma said in a reaction the report is an ‘important’ document which ‘asks the right questions’.

Related Articles:

You’re Doing Dairy Wrong: Dutch Farmers

Halve meat consumption, scientists urge rich world

Study: Alarming rise in obesity



(13) Question: Dear Kryon, I’m very concerned about the obesity epidemic, particularly in the U.S. Around me I see people getting bigger and more unhealthy, all for the sake of convenience and saving time. You mentioned at one point a famine, and I suspect the famine won’t be from a lack of food, but from an abundance of food that has no nutritional value.

I wonder how we can honor the Earth by eating nothing that comes straight from it? Of course this involves caring for the lands and oceans as part of a bigger issue and making that connection, too. Is this what it will finally take for people to switch to a healthier way of living?

Its amazing how detached people are from the food they eat. We don’t even honor our digestive processes, the way we combine foods. Whatever happened to nutrition? Atkins is no solution; there is no balance in it. Gastric bypass is all about quantity reduction, not quality increase. When will people make the direct connection between what/how they eat and their health? Is a change in diet and lifestyle part of the upcoming shift?

Answer: The shift has little to do with it. It’s a culture-specific problem and has to do with consciousness of health. Go study the cultures on your planet that have very few overweight Humans. Start with the Japanese. They have some of the same western work ethics and live in very sophisticated industrial-based environments. Yet they aren’t overweight. It’s about the core food groups and the combination of them.


(39) Question: Dear Kryon: I've noticed how many children are developing severe allergies to foods (my daughter included). When I've researched this, it seems that most of the allergies are essentially to seeds, grains, legumes, eggs, and dairy. I've noticed that these foods all hold the potential for life, or in the case of dairy, are essentially used to sustain the first stages of life in an animal's baby. My feeling is that because we're not releasing the life force within these foods (that is, sprouting, etc.), they're becoming harmful to us. I would like your impressions of this.

Answer: For thousands of years, these foods have worked for humanity. In these cases you speak about, the main culprit continues to be the way in which these foods are collected and processed. You won't find these allergies in third-world countries, and you won't find them within the children who work on farms, where they eat the foods directly. There will eventually have to come a day when you relax some of your efficiency attributes and go back to the way food was meant to be collected and eaten. And yes... there are effects from how the dairy animals are treated, too. Going back to some basics will help, and so will eliminating some of the procedures that supposedly create a "safer food." These procedures have instead made them begin to look like foreign food to the Human body.


(15) Question: Dear Kryon, please help us understand the increase of allergies. What can we do to heal this phenomenon?

Answer: Reduce the steps in your food chain, which are adding chemistry to fresh food.