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Feb 23, 2019, 01:52 PM
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 21 
 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:33 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Millions of forest-dwelling indigenous people in India to be evicted

Critics say ‘disastrous’ supreme court ruling is ‘mass eviction in name of conservation’

Amrit Dhillon in New Delhi
Guardian
Fri 22 Feb 2019 09.46 GMT

Millions will be evicted in India after the supreme court ruled that indigenous people illegally living on forest land should move.

Campaigners for the rights of tribal and forest-dwelling people have called the court’s decision on Wednesday “an unprecedented disaster,” and “the biggest mass eviction in the name of conservation, ever”.

The ruling came in response to petitions filed by various wildlife conservation groups, which wanted the court to declare the 2006 Forest Rights Act invalid. The act gives forest dwelling people the right to their ancestral lands, including those in specially “protected” areas that contain sanctuaries and wildlife parks to conserve wild life. The groups told the court that “tribal” people in 17 states had encroached illegally on these protected areas, jeopardising efforts to protect wildlife and forests.

The conservation groups said state governments should see if families could prove their claim under the act and, if they could, they should be allowed to live and work on the land. If they failed to prove their claim, they should be evicted by the state government.

The supreme court has ordered the 17 state governments – where claims were considered by special committees – to act on about 1.1m claims now rejected as bogus and evict the families. Depending on the size of the families, more than 1m claims could translate to about 5-7 million people being evicted by 27 July.

Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, said: “This judgment is a death sentence for millions of tribal people in India, land theft on an epic scale and a monumental injustice. It will lead to wholesale misery, impoverishment, disease and death, an urgent humanitarian crisis, and it will do nothing to save the forests which these tribespeople have protected for generations.”

Groups campaigning for the tribal people – among the poorest, most neglected and marginalised of India’s communities – say that many of them would not have understood the need to produce the relevant documents proving their right to the land to the assessing committees.

That claim has been rejected by wildlife groups who said that, given that millions of claims were filed on this issue (of which about 1.2m were accepted), there was widespread grassroots awareness of the need to stake their claim and how to do it.

For wildlife protection groups, the issue is of India’s forests being relentlessly eroded by humans encroaching on animal habitats. There have been innumerable cases of villagers illegally living on protected forests meant exclusively for animals.

Debi Goenka, the head of the Conservation Action Trust, said that human rights activists and other groups who opposed the court order seemed to think that India could live without its forests.

He said: “What they don’t realise is that, barring two, all of India’s rivers are forest-dependent. Satellite imagery has shown tribal encroachments into protected forests. Can a country survive without forests? If they think India can survive without forests and without water, so be it.”

The issue is expected to become more heated in the coming weeks. Wildlife groups insist that all the court has done is tell state governments to recover forest land from people who made bogus claims which, after due process, were rejected. Those with genuine claims will be given title deeds to the land.

On the other side of the debate are politicians such as the Communist party leader, Brinda Karat, who has written to the prime minister, Narendra Modi, in protest against the court’s decision. She said: “It will be highly unjust to … traditional forest dwellers if an ordinance is not passed immediately to protect them from eviction … It will be a virtual declaration of war.”

 22 
 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:30 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Venezuela crisis threatens disease epidemic across continent - experts

Collapse of Venezuela’s healthcare system could fuel spread of malaria and other diseases across region

Sarah Boseley Health editor and Emma Graham-Harrison in Tumeremo
Guardian
22 Feb 2019 23.30 GMT

Experts have warned of an epidemic of diseases such as malaria and dengue on an unprecedented scale in Latin America following the collapse of the healthcare system in Venezuela.

Continent-wide public health gains of the last 18 years could be undone if Venezuela does not accept help to control the spreading outbreaks of malaria, Zika, dengue and other illnesses that are afflicting its people, experts have warned in a report published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Venezuela was once a regional leader in malaria control, but as healthcare has collapsed there has been a mass departure of trained medics, the report says, creating a public emergency “of hemispheric concern”.

“These diseases have already extended into neighbouring Brazil and Colombia, and with increasing air travel and human migration, most of the Latin American and Caribbean region (as well as some US cities hosting the Venezuelan diaspora, including Miami and Houston) is at heightened risk for disease re-emergence,” says the paper.

The lead author, Dr Martin Llewellyn, based at the University of Glasgow, has called for global action. “The re-emergence of diseases such as malaria in Venezuela has set in place an epidemic of unprecedented proportions, not only in the country but across the whole region,” he said.

“Based on the data we have collected we would urge national, regional and global authorities to take immediate action to address these worsening epidemics and prevent their expansion beyond Venezuelan borders.”

He said that the figures were probably an underestimate because the Venezuelan government had shut down the institution responsible for collecting data for the World Health Organization.

“Venezuelan clinicians involved in this study have also been threatened with jail, while laboratories have been robbed by militias, hard drives removed from computers, microscopes and other medical equipment smashed,” he said.

Malaria cases, in a country certified to have eradicated the disease in 1961, rose by 359% between 2010-15, from 29,736 to 136,402. They surged 71% from 2016-17, to 411,586, because of a decline in mosquito control and a shortage of antimalarial drugs.

The epidemic has been supercharged by the rise of illegal mining in the jungle near the southern border with Brazil, where reservoirs of the disease survived despite its official elimination nationwide.

Venezuelans had flocked to the area in recent years to dig and pan for gold in wildcat mines, as the economy collapsed and hyperinflation eroded salaries for professionals and workers.

Stagnant water in pits and unsanitary camps provided a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos, and malaria was soon endemic at many of the mines. Some miners and their families have endured dozens of bouts of the disease.

One woman working near the town of Tumeremo said her four-year-old had already had 13 bouts of malaria. After the last one, doctors warned her: “You have to choose – your daughter or the mine.” She moved to a different pit, but the family cannot afford to leave the area.

The transitory nature of mining work means the area’s problems have gradually affected vast swathes of the country, as infected workers took the disease home with their gold, reintroducing malaria to areas where it had been eradicated.

“I’ve never been to the mines,” said David Guevara, a 39-year-old builder queuing for malaria treatment in the industrial port of Ciudad Guyana, nearly 125 miles (200km) from the nearest mining camps.

It is his second episode of the disease. “There are no controls [on malaria] now,” he said. “And it’s the children who are paying for this.”

There was rarely any malaria in the city before 2015, but now the government clinic where he is seeking medical help is always busy.

“It’s an epidemic here now. It’s a lie that you have to go to the mines to get it,” said Marina Gutierrez, a 25-year-old who has had eight bouts of malaria over the last year and was at the clinic to seek help for her daughter. “She had only just finished treatment two weeks ago. She got rid of it and then it came back.”

Geraldine Flores blames a serious case of malaria for her son’s premature birth. She went into labour with Yelbi Josue after she came down with the disease when she was seven months’ pregnant and working at the mines.

Chagas disease, one of the leading causes of heart failure in Latin America, may be resurgent, says the review. Dengue has risen more than fivefold between 2010-16. Six increasingly large epidemics were recorded between 2007 -16, compared with four in the previous 16 years.

Chikungunya and Zika outbreaks have epidemic potential, say the authors. There were an estimated 2 million suspected chikungunya cases in 2014, more than 12 times the official estimate.

“We call on the members of the Organisation of American States and other international political bodies to apply more pressure to the Venezuelan government to accept the humanitarian assistance offered by the international community in order to strengthen the buckling health system.

“Without such efforts, the public health gains achieved over the past 18 years could soon be reversed,” said Llewellyn.

Additional reporting by Clavel Rangel

 23 
 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:28 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

World's largest bee, missing for 38 years, found in Indonesia

Biologists discover single female Wallace’s giant bee inside a termites’ nest in a tree

Patrick Barkham
Guardian
22 Feb 2019 14.00 GMT

As long as an adult thumb, with jaws like a stag beetle and four times larger than a honeybee, Wallace’s giant bee is not exactly inconspicuous.

But after going missing, feared extinct, for 38 years, the world’s largest bee has been rediscovered on the Indonesian islands of the North Moluccas.

A search team of North American and Australian biologists found a single female Wallace’s giant bee (Megachile pluto) living inside a termites’ nest in a tree, more than two metres off the ground.

“It was absolutely breathtaking to see this ‘flying bulldog’ of an insect that we weren’t sure existed any more,” said Clay Bolt, a specialist photographer who obtained the first images of the species alive. “To actually see how beautiful and big the species is in life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible.”

The giant bee – the female can measure nearly 4cm in length – first became known to science in 1858 when the British explorer and naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace discovered it on the tropical Indonesian island of Bacan. He described the female bee as “a large, black wasp-like insect, with immense jaws like a stag beetle”.

Despite its size, the bee remained elusive, with almost nothing known about the female’s secretive life cycle involving making nests of tree resin inside active arboreal termite mounds.

The bee was not seen again by scientists until 1981, when Adam Messer, an American entomologist, rediscovered it on three Indonesian islands. He observed how the bee used its giant mandibles to gather resin and wood for its termite-proof nests.

Search teams failed to find the bee again, but the rediscovery of a sole female raises hopes that the region’s forests still harbour this species.

The bee’s habitat is threatened by massive deforestation for agriculture in Indonesia, and its size and rarity make it a target for collectors. There is, at present, no legal protection concerning trading of Wallace’s giant bee.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb8LYU279S4

Robin Moore, a conservation biologist with Global Wildlife Conservation, which runs a programme called The Search for Lost Species, said: “We know that putting the news out about this rediscovery could seem like a big risk given the demand, but the reality is that unscrupulous collectors already know that the bee is out there.”

Moore said it was vital that conservationists made the Indonesian government aware of the bee and took steps to protect the species and its habitat. “By making the bee a world-famous flagship for conservation we are confident that the species has a brighter future than if we just let it quietly be collected into oblivion,” he said.

 24 
 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:22 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Plastics reach remote pristine environments, scientists say

Birds’ eggs in High Arctic contain chemical additives used in plastics

Ian Sample Science editor
Guardian
22 Feb 2019 22.00 GMT

Scientists have warned about the impact of plastic pollution in the most pristine corners of the world after discovering chemical additives in birds’ eggs in the High Arctic.

Eggs laid by northern fulmars on Prince Leopold Island in the Canadian Arctic tested positive for hormone-disrupting phthalates, a family of chemicals that are added to plastics to keep them flexible. It is the first time the additives have been found in Arctic birds’ eggs.

The contaminants are thought to have leached from plastic debris that the birds ingested while hunting for fish, squid and shrimp in the Lancaster Sound at the entrance to the Northwest Passage. The birds spend most of their lives feeding at sea, returning to their nests only to breed.

Northern fulmars have an oily fluid in their stomachs, which they projectile-vomit at invaders that threaten their nests. Scientists believe the phthalates found their way into the fluid, and from there passed into the bloodstream and the eggs that females were producing.

Jennifer Provencher at the Canadian Wildlife Service said it was worrying to find the additives in the eggs of birds in such a pristine environment. The northern fulmars in the Arctic tend to come across far less plastic than other birds.

Provencher’s tests revealed that mothers passed on a cocktail of contaminants to their unborn chicks. “It’s really tragic,” she said at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC. “That bird, from the very beginning of its development, will have those contaminants inside it.”

She analysed the yolk and albumin of five northern fulmar eggs collected on Prince Leopold Island and found that one tested positive for phthalates. The chemicals disrupt hormones, or the endocrine system, and have been linked to birth defects, fertility problems and a host of metabolic diseases. Many phthalates have been banned in children’s toys on safety grounds.

More work is needed to confirm whether the additives cause any harm. “We know that these chemicals are often endocrine disruptors, and we know that they can interrupt hormonal development and cause deformations. But whether they actually cause any harm in the eggs is something we don’t know,” Provencher said.

Further tests found traces of other plastic contaminants in northern fulmar and black-legged kittiwake eggs collected from the same nesting sites. Eggs from both birds tested positive for SDPAs and BZT-UVs, which are added to plastics to stop them degrading and losing their colour in sunlight, respectively.
The week in plastic - in pictures

The scientists now want to look for plastic contaminants in the eggs of other bird populations that ingest more plastic debris. “We need to look at whether they have the same chemicals, higher levels of chemicals, and additional chemicals,” said Provencher. “The recognition that at least some of these contaminants are going into eggs really opens the door for all these other questions we should be asking in areas of much higher plastic concentrations.”

Northern fulmars are large, albatross-like birds that soar low over the waves in search of food. More than half a million breeding pairs nest on the cliffs of Britain, with most on the Scottish coastline and Northern Isles.

Because northern fulmars can live for 40 years or more, the birds have been exposed to significant plastic debris in the seas for only a few generations. That meant the birds had not had time to adapt to the changing environment, Provencher said.

Alex Bond, a conservation biologist who studies seabirds and marine debris at the Natural History Museum in London, said: “It’s another example of the often invisible impacts that plastics can have on wildlife. It may not be enough to result in mortality, but it’s certainly not a positive thing, and combined with the pressures from other contaminants – from plastics and from the birds’ prey – contributes to the increased threats that many of the world’s seabirds are facing.”

Lyndsey Dodds, the head of UK marine policy at WWF, said: “Our throwaway culture is strangling the natural world with plastic, choking our oceans and harming our wildlife; 90% of the world’s sea birds have fragments of plastic in their stomach, and now we are hearing even their eggs are not immune from the plastic plague. We need to take urgent action globally and at home to eliminate plastics from nature by 2030.”

 25 
 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:21 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
The real ‘Jaws’: Great white shark’s genetic secrets revealed

Reuters
2/22/2019

The great white shark, one of the most fearsome predators in the world’s oceans in both fact and fiction, is a formidable creature — right down to its genes.

Scientists on Monday said they have decoded the genome of Earth’s largest predatory fish, detecting numerous genetic traits that help explain its remarkable evolutionary success, including molecular adaptations to enhance wound healing as well as genomic stability such as DNA repair and DNA damage tolerance.

The great white shark, whose scientific name is Carcharodon carcharias, boasts a very large genome, 1-1/2 times bigger than the human genome.

In theory, large genomes with a lot of repeated DNA, like this shark possesses, and its large body size should promote a high incidence of genome instability, with much more DNA and many more cells seemingly vulnerable as targets for damage through an accumulation of routine mutations.

Just the opposite seems to be the case for this shark, thanks to adaptations in genes involved in preserving genome integrity.

“This knowledge, in addition to providing understanding into how sharks work at their most fundamental level — their genes — may also be useful in downstream applications to human medicine to combat cancers and age-related diseases that result from genome instability,” said Mahmood Shivji, director of the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center and Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

This species, star of the 1975 Hollywood blockbuster “Jaws” and its multiple sequels, roams the world’s oceans, primarily in cool coastal waters.

Gray with a white underbelly and torpedo-shaped body, it can reach 20 feet (6 meters) long, weigh 7,000 pounds (3.18 tonnes) and dive to nearly 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) deep. It uses its mouthful of large, serrated teeth to rip into prey including fish, seals and dolphins, swallowing mouth-sized chunks of flesh whole.

Sharks are an evolutionary success story, thriving for more than 400 million years. Our species appeared roughly 300,000 years ago.

The great white shark also displayed genetic adaptations in several genes that play fundamental roles in wound healing. For example, a key gene involved in producing a major component of blood clots was found to have undergone adaptations.

“These adaptations and enrichments of essential wound-healing genes may underlie the ability of sharks to heal from wounds so efficiently,” said Cornell University’s Michael Stanhope, co-leader of the research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler

 26 
 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:19 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Trump's Wall Threatens 93 Endangered Species

Center for Biological Diversity
2/22/2019

President Trump's border wall threatens 93 endangered and threatened species, including jaguars, ocelots, Mexican gray wolves and cactus ferruginous pygmy owls, according to a new study by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The study also found that 25 threatened or endangered species have designated "critical habitat" on the border, including more than 2 million acres within 50 miles of the border.

"Trump's border wall is a disaster for people and wildlife alike," Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. "It could drive magnificent species like the jaguar and ocelot to extinction in the United States."

The new study identified all threatened, endangered and "candidate" species (those being considered for protection) that have ranges near or crossing the border. These include 57 endangered species, 24 threatened species, 10 species under consideration for protection and two species of concern, golden and bald eagles. Construction of Trump's 1,200-mile wall—along with related infrastructure and enforcement—will have far-reaching consequences for wildlife, including cutting off migration corridors, reducing genetic diversity, destroying habitat and adding vehicles, noise and lights to vast stretches of the wild borderlands.

"The border wall won't be effective at stopping people seeking a better life from getting to this country, but it will destroy habitat and divide wildlife populations," Greenwald said. "Building a wall across the entirety of the border would cause massive damage to one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America and would be a boondoggle of the highest order."

The sections of border wall that have already been built have had a range of negative effects on wildlife, including direct destruction of thousands of acres of habitat, indirect impacts from noise and light pollution, and division of cross-border wildlife populations like bighorn sheep and jaguars. The border wall would cut through the Cabeza Prieta, Buenos Aires and several other national wildlife refuges, along with Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Big Bend National Park and many other natural areas that, besides acting as corridors for wildlife, are national treasures.

Designated critical habitat for 25 species potentially affected by Trump's border wall and associated infrastructure and enforcement. Center for Biological Diversity

Last month the Center for Biological Diversity and Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, sued the Trump administration over the proposed border wall and other border security measures, calling on federal agencies to conduct an in-depth investigation of the proposal's environmental impacts.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, is the first targeting the Trump administration's plan to vastly expand and militarize the U.S.-Mexico border, including construction of a "great wall."

 27 
 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Earth-born methanogen bacteria species could survive in Mars’ crust, new study shows

ZME
2/22/2019

University of Arkansas researchers showed that certain species of methane-producing bacteria can survive the conditions on Mars pretty easily. Considering this result, they find it “hard to believe” that simple life isn’t present on some alien planets — as long as it has access to liquid water.

Simple organisms called methanogens could survive in the harsh conditions close to the surface of Mars and in its deeper soils, recent research suggests. The conclusion is particularly exciting as methane — a byproduct of these organisms’ activity — has been detected in the atmosphere of Mars. The gas is often closely linked to biological activity on Earth.

Living under pressure

Although dwarfed in output by Earth’s biosphere, there are non-organic sources of this gas such as volcanic eruptions. So scientists don’t yet know what to make of the methane on Mars. But its presence does lend weight to the theory that there is life on the red planet despite its rocky soil, thin atmosphere, and limited supply of liquid water. In these conditions, complex life doesn’t stand a chance. Hardy, simple life, however, does.

    “We consider methanogens ideal candidates for possible life on Mars because they are anaerobic, and non-photosynthetic, meaning that they could exist in the subsurface,” said Rebecca Mickol, a Ph.D. candidate at the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Science. “Just a few millimeters of Martian regolith is enough to protect the organisms from the dangerous UV and cosmic radiation that hits the surface.”

    “Additionally, methane has been detected in the Martian atmosphere, via multiple space-based and ground-based sources, including the Martian rover, Curiosity. Although these findings are still controversial, the presence of methane on Mars is particularly exciting because most methane on Earth is biological in origin.”

Last year, Mickol and her team tested how well four species of methanogens could survive in the low-pressure conditions of a subsurface liquid aquifer on Mars using the planetary simulator at the University’s W.M. Keck Laboratory. The bugs performed unexpectedly well — all four cultures survived the exposure between 3 to 21 days. Given how prolific life is back here on Earth, thriving in unbelievably hostile conditions, it’s probable we’ll find it in harsh conditions elsewhere in the universe, Mickol says.

    “The prevalence of life on Earth, in all kinds of ‘extreme’ environments, and the fact that life arose fairly early on in Earth’s history, makes it hard to believe there isn’t some sort of microscopic life on the other planets and moons in our solar system,” she said.

Pradeep Kumar, an assistant professor in the Physics Department, wanted to see how the methanogens could fare much deeper into Mars’ crust. He and his team tested one methanogenic species that passed Mickol’s tests, Methanothermobacter wolfeii, in a hydrostatic chamber kept at 55 degrees Celsius (131 Fahrenheit), and progressively pressurized up to 1,200 times the surface level, with pH levels varied from 4.96 to 9.13 (7.0 pH level is neutral; anything below that is acidic, and anything above is alkaline). The temperature was selected as it is the “optimal growth” interval for the species. A martian geophysical model suggests that this temperature should correspond to a depth of about 30km — for which the team selected the pressure and pH values.

M. wolfeii survived through all pressure and pH levels. In an acidic environment, its growth rate actually increased with pressure. For neutral and alkaline conditions, growth rate initially increased with pressure, then dropped as it grew.

    “Given the discovery of methane in Martian atmosphere, our study raises an exciting possibility of methanogenic archaea to be a viable organism that can survive and possibly thrive in the subsurface conditions of Mars,” Kumar said.

It’s not conclusive proof that life exists on Mars — the only way to find out is to go there and dig around. But it does add to a growing body of research suggesting that even Earth-born life can survive in space. So the odds of finding alien life look better and better by the second.

The full paper “Survivability and growth kinetics of methanogenic archaea at various pHs and pressures: Implications for deep subsurface life on Mars” has been published in the journal Planetary and Space Science.

 28 
 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:12 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

‘The pope ignored them’: Alleged abuse of deaf children on two continents points to Vatican failings

By Anthony Faiola , Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli
WA Post
2/22/2019

LUJAN DE CUYO, Argentina — When investigators swept in and raided the religious Antonio Provolo Institute for the Deaf, they uncovered one of the worst cases yet among the global abuse scandals plaguing the Catholic Church: a place of silent torment where prosecutors say pedophiles preyed on the most isolated and submissive children.

The scope of the alleged abuse was vast. Charges are pending against 13 suspects; a 14th person pleaded guilty to sexual abuse, including rape, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The case of the accused ringleader — an octogenarian Italian priest named Nicola Corradi — is set to go before a judge next month.

Corradi was spiritual director of the school and had a decades-long career spanning two continents. And so his arrest in late 2016 raised an immediate question: Did the Catholic Church have any sense that he could be a danger to children?

The answer, according to a Washington Post investigation that included a review of court and church documents, private letters, and dozens of interviews in Argentina and Italy, is that church officials up to and including Pope Francis were warned repeatedly and directly about a group of alleged predators that included Corradi.

Yet they took no apparent action against him.

“I want Pope Francis to come here, I want him to explain how this happened, how they knew this and did nothing,” a 24-year-old alumna of the Provolo Institute said, using sign language as her hands shook in rage. She and her 22-year-old brother, who requested anonymity to share their experiences as minors, are among at least 14 former students who say they were victims of abuse at the now-shuttered boarding school in the shadow of the Andes.

Vulnerable to the extreme, the deaf students tended to come from poor families that fervently believed in the sanctity of the church. Prosecutors say the children were fondled, raped, sometimes tied up and, in one instance, forced to wear a diaper to hide the bleeding. All the while, their limited ability to communicate complicated their ability to tell others what was happening to them. Students at the school were smacked if they used sign language. One of the few hand gestures used by the priests, victims say, was an index figure to lips — a demand for silence.

“They were the perfect victims,” said Gustavo Stroppiana, the chief prosecutor in the case.

And yet they may not have been the first. Corradi, now 83 and under house arrest, is also under investigation for sexual crimes at a sister school in Argentina where he worked from 1970 to 1994. And alumni of a related school in Italy, where Corradi served earlier, identified him as being among a number of priests who carried out systematic abuse over five decades. The schools were all founded and staffed by priests from the Company of Mary for the Education of the Deaf, a small Catholic congregation that answers to the Vatican.

The Italian victims’ efforts to sound the alarm to church authorities began in 2008 and included mailing a list of accused priests to Francis in 2014 and physically handing him the list in 2015.

It was not the church, however, but Argentine law enforcement that cut off Corradi’s access to children when it shut down the Provolo school in Lujan. Argentine prosecutors say the church has not fully cooperated with their investigation.

'The church has not been victim-centered': Women speak about sex abuse in Catholic Church

Ahead of a Vatican summit on sex abuse, activists fighting to stop the phenomenon in the Roman Catholic Church spoke Feb. 19 in Rome. (Reuters)

As Francis prepares to host a historic bishops’ summit this week to address clerical sexual abuse, the lapses in the case — affecting the pope’s home country of Argentina and the home country of the Roman Catholic Church — illustrate the still-present failures of the church to fix a system that has allowed priests to continue to abuse children long after they were first accused.

Corradi’s lawyer declined multiple interview requests for this article and did not respond to emails seeking to speak with the priest. Attempts to reach Corradi through his family were unsuccessful. The Vatican declined to comment on a detailed list of questions.

But Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the abuse-tracking site BishopAccountability.org, said the Provolo case “is truly emblematic.”

“The church failed them abysmally. The pope ignored them, the police responded,” she said. “It’s a clear example of the tragedy that keeps playing out.”

Local church authorities are skeptical

As in Argentina, deaf students from the Provolo schools in Verona, Italy, kept their experiences of sexual abuse to themselves for years. But after they started opening up, they worked from bottom to top to inform the Catholic church, according to letters and other documents. They wrote to the local bishop in 2008. Soon after, they provided a list of accused priests and religious figures to the local diocese. By 2011, a list of names was with the Vatican. By 2015, a list was in the hands of the pope.

The rumblings started with Dario Laiti, a former student who came forward in 2006 after noticing a new children’s facility in the town and worrying that abuse might be happening there, as well.

“I was the first,” said Laiti, who for years had made excuses when his wife asked why he hadn’t wanted children.

Soon, more than a dozen other former students were telling their stories, using an improvised mix of sign language and limited speech. Their accounts ranged in time between the 1950s and 1980s. As adults, they had become woodcutters, delivery men, factory workers. Some were unemployed. Few had sustained relationships. One of their schoolmates had committed suicide.

One student, Alda Franchetto, said she had tried to confide in her parents years earlier — running away from the school as a 13-year-old in a burst of euphoria and explaining to them what was happening to her there. Her parents, she said, didn’t believe her and returned her to the institute.

“They said, ‘You need this to learn how to speak and write,’ ” Franchetto said.

By the time the adult former students started reporting their abuse, it was too late to press criminal charges. But it was not too late for accountability through the church. They wrote to the local bishop in 2008, informing him of their claims. Soon after, at the request of a journalist from the Italian news magazine L’Espresso, 15 former students took another step: writing sworn statements describing sodomization, forced masturbation and other forms of abuse. The statements named 24 priests and other faculty members, including Corradi. The student association said dozens of others had experienced abuse but did not want to come forward publicly.

The bishop, Giuseppe Zenti, was dismissive. In a news conference, he called the allegations “a hoax, a lie, and nothing more,” and he noted the association for former students was involved in a property dispute with the Provolo Institute. The former students filed defamation charges against Zenti and included their statements as part of the lawsuit — essentially handing the names of the accused priests to the diocese.

The case caught the notice of the Vatican, which in 2010 asked Zenti to look more deeply into the claims, according to church letters. The local diocese brought in a retired judge, Mario Sannite, to investigate.

“That’s how I found myself in the middle of this story,” Sannite said.

Sannite became the on-the-ground representative of the Holy See, asked to relay his findings — and his analysis — to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In December 2010 and January 2011, Sannite interviewed 17 former students from Provolo, with the help of a sign-language interpreter. He said the accounts were harrowing, and he later wrote that there was no reason to doubt the “majority” of the accusations. In the report sent to the Vatican, though, Sannite wrote that he had doubts about one former student, the only one who happened to name Corradi as an abuser — even though some of the others interviewed had overlapped with Corradi’s time at the school.

Gianni Bisoli, a then-62-year-old ski instructor, accused 30 religious figures and other Provolo faculty members of abusing him — a number far beyond the others. And his allegations were particularly explosive; one of those he accused was Giuseppe Carraro, the bishop of Verona in the 1960s and 1970s, who after his death was on the path to canonization.

“Bisoli’s statements were likely deemed quite dangerous,” said Paolo Tacchi Venturi, a lawyer who at the time was representing the victims.

With the help of a sign-language interpreter and Tacchi Venturi, Bisoli spoke with Sannite for 12 hours, over the course of three days, according to records. Others who were in the room told The Post that Bisoli described the abuse in detail.

In interviews with The Post, Bisoli recounted that he was abused by Corradi several times, including once when he had been corralled along with two other children into a bathroom reserved for priests. In that instance, Bisoli said, he was ordered against a wall by Corradi and two other religious figures. Bisoli remembered Corradi sodomizing him with his finger.

Sannite assessed that Bisoli was certainly a victim of abuse. But in the report he wrote, which was sent through Verona’s diocese to the Vatican, the former judge said it was implausible that Bisoli could have been abused by so many — that the institute he described was akin to an “infernal circle.” Sannite noted that some of Bisoli’s dates did not match, and some of the accused did not appear to be at the institute in the years Bisoli described. Sannite also offered another theory: that Bisoli “repackaged his overflowing allegations by drawing from the collection of his own experiences as a homosexual” adult.

In an interview at his home last month, Sannite read from the report, though he did not share a copy with The Post. When asked why a gay man might be less likely to accurately describe abuse, Sannite said, “It’s not as if I can say there are differences.” Then he asked why he was being asked such a question. Later, Sannite wrote in an email that he did not mean to draw a connection between Bisoli’s credibility and his sexuality.

Bisoli, in an interview, said it was “offensive” and a “provocation” that anybody’s sexuality in adulthood might figure into an assessment.

Following church guidelines, Zenti wrote a letter to accompany the report to the Vatican, according to the Diocese of Verona, which declined to share it with The Post. But Zenti remained skeptical about the claims and said in 2017 testimony — conducted as part of a separate lawsuit — that even a word like sodomization would be “hard to convey for a deaf-mute.” The bishop also reported hearing a theory that the Veronese victims were behind the claims in Argentina, as well, perhaps as a way to “gain possession of the nice properties of the institute in those places.”

Based on the investigation in Verona, the Vatican punished only one priest, Eligio Piccoli, who was ordered to a life of prayer and penance away from minors. Three other priests were given admonitions — essentially warnings that the Vatican was watching future behavior.

This photo from 1960 shows Nicola Corradi (left), lay brother Luigi Spinelli and student Maurizio Grotto at the Provolo Insitute’s summer camp in San Zeno di Montagna, Italy. Corradi and Spinelli were among the alleged abusers listed in a letter to Pope Francis. Grotto was recognized by the Vatican as a victim of abuse at the school. (Courtesy of the Associazione Sordi Provolo)

A church official in Verona said the allegations against Corradi were not looked at closely in large part because of the assessment about Bisoli. “We acted on the broad premise that Bisoli wasn’t deemed reliable,” Monsignor Giampietro Mazzoni said. “In this case, perhaps, making a mistake — since we didn’t know then what would later happen in Argentina.”

One of the other former students who Bisoli said was in the priests-only bathroom, Maurizio Grotto, has offered conflicting accounts of what happened. He told Sannite he was not abused by Corradi and said in an interview with The Post that he was. Another former Provolo student, Franchetto, said in an interview that she was molested by Corradi but had tried for years, “as a measure of self-defense,” to forget his face. She did not tell the Vatican investigator about her experiences. The president of the association representing the Italian victims, Giorgio Dalla Bernardina, said he knows of other Corradi victims who have been unwilling to speak publicly.

Lawyers involved in the case and experts on clerical abuse say the church failed to examine whether the pattern of abuse in Italy was playing out at the overseas Provolo locations where Italian priests had been sent. Some dioceses in the United States report abuse accusations to law enforcement no matter what — even if the accused priest is deceased or if the statute of limitations has expired — and suspend priests from ministry as accusations are being investigated. The Diocese of Verona said it did not contact law enforcement.

Tacchi Venturi, the lawyer who had represented the victims during the hearing, said the Vatican made one other error — a “logic contradiction” — by acknowledging that Bisoli was abused but not looking into who might have abused him.

“If you say he suffered abuses, and you believe he was a victim, and he says he was abused by people, then you hear them all,” Tacchi Venturi said, noting that the task was easier because only some of the accused were still alive. “You go on and interrogate all of them.”

Pope Francis asks the victims to pray for him

The Italian victims believed that if anybody could better handle abuse cases, it was Francis, who was selected as leader of the church in 2013 — two years after the Verona inquiry — and who announced the creation of a new commission on child protection. The former Provolo students wrote to Francis in late 2013, giving a broad timeline of their case. They said they didn’t hear anything back. In 2014, according to postal receipts, they tried again, with more direct language — mailing to the pontiff’s Vatican address a list of the 14 alleged abusers they felt had gone largely unpunished. They received no response from Francis or others in the Vatican.

So, in October 2015, 20 people from Verona — most of them victims of abuse — boarded a train to Rome. They had no certainty of meeting the pope, but they targeted a day the Vatican was recognizing people with disabilities. And indeed, after Francis held Mass at St. Peter’s Square, a Vatican official invited two of the people from Verona to a small event with the pontiff. Paola Lodi Rizzini and Giuseppe Consiglio took their place near the stage of Paul VI Audience Hall holding a letter — later reviewed by The Post — listing the same 14 names.

Consiglio, now 29, was the youngest of the victims from Verona. He’d attended school in the late 1990s, and he had come forward in 2012 — after the Vatican’s investigation. But he was upset with the Vatican’s response. He said he wanted the Vatican to “open its eyes” and “close the schools.” He told The Post that his own childhood had unraveled because of abuse. He said he was raped hundreds of times by a priest who was “rough” but careful not to get Consiglio’s blood on his cassock. Consiglio tried to jump out a school window when he was 12 but was stopped by a nun. He was treated with antipsychotics. Into his adulthood, he lived at home, with few friends. He was so terrified of being locked into rooms that he hoarded his family’s keys.

Then, inside the Vatican, he was eye to eye with Francis.

Lodi Rizzini recalls speaking first and telling the pontiff they were there representing a victims’ group from Verona.

“I said, ‘Giuseppe is a victim of sexual abuse, and he has a letter from all victims,’ ” Lodi Rizzini said.

Consiglio handed Francis the envelope. A Vatican photographer documented the moment.

The letter inside appealed to the pontiff by saying the church’s behavior in their case was “absolutely not aligned with the zero tolerance of Pope Francis.” It said the church had let priests and other religious figures who had abused them go on to live “normal lives.”

Then a paragraph listed 14 priests and lay brothers that the victims believed were still alive. The list included Consiglio’s own alleged abuser, a handful of figures who had not been punished in Italy and four said to be in Argentina — including Corradi.

Lodi Rizzini and Consiglio remember Francis receiving the letter and handing it off to a deputy without opening it. Photos show Francis blessing both Lodi Rizzini and Consiglio by touching them on the head. Both of them remember Francis, before walking away, saying, “Pray for me.”

People involved in the case say the former students’ plea did not appear to prompt the church to take a closer look at any of the named priests.

Four months later, in February 2016, a letter arrived in Verona from one of Francis’s close lieutenants, then-Bishop Angelo Becciu, who held a key position in the Secretariat of State. Becciu wrote that His Holiness “welcomed with lively participation what you wanted to confide in Him.”

“He wishes to remind you,” the letter continued, “of what the Holy See has done and keeps on doing with unwavering commitment on clerical sexual abuses, operating in support of the victims’ tragedies and to prevent the sad phenomenon.”

Law enforcement responds

In the early 1960s, the Provolo Institute in Verona dismissed one priest and another faculty member for “moral inadequacy,” church officials say. But there is no evidence, according to church records, that the Company of Mary knew of the allegations against Corradi when it transferred him from Italy to Argentina in 1970. Even if something had been known, “I doubt there would have been an explicit mention in the archive,” said Mazzoni, the chief judicial figure in the Diocese of Verona.

In Argentina, Corradi initially taught at a Provolo Institute for the Deaf in La Plata, a provincial city an hour’s drive from the belle époque buildings of Buenos Aires. Following the disclosures of widespread abuse in Lujan de Cuyo in 2016, La Plata authorities launched an investigation that has uncovered allegations of sexual abuse and mistreatment, dating back to the 1980s, against at least five men who worked at the school, including Corradi and another Italian cleric.

The other Italian — Elisio Pirmati — was also named by Verona students in the letters sent to the pope. Maria Corfield, the prosecutor in the La Plata case, said Pirmati has returned to Italy and is living in retirement at the Verona Provolo — which is no longer active as an institute for the deaf but rents space to another school. Efforts by The Post to contact him were unsuccessful.

Thus far, Corradi has been accused of sexual abuse by two alumni of the school in La Plata. Prosecutors received a report of another alleged Corradi victim who killed himself as an adult. While in total 10 alleged victims from the La Plata school have come forward, Corfield said she has spoken to other apparent victims who have resisted getting involved.

“They say they have families now and don't want to explain,” she said.

Lisandro Borelli, now 40, entered the La Plata Provolo as a student in 1989 after becoming clinically deaf due to severe beatings from his parents. In an interview, he recalled Corradi placing him on his knee and fondling his genitals during lessons when the priest would also insert fingers into his mouth to try to teach him how to pronounce words.

Once, he said, he was punished at the school by being locked in a cage for two days without food. In a separate incident, he said he was thrown down a staircase in an act of intimidation after catching a priest at the school raping his roommate.

“When we found out this started in Italy, we were surprised,” Borelli said in sign language. “Now I think about it and say, was this happening at other Provolo institutes?”

In 1994, Corradi’s religious congregation sent him to set up a new Provolo Institute in western Argentina. The school — a sprawling brick compound surrounded by high walls that served as both a boarding and day school for dozens of deaf children — opened in 1998, with Corradi as spiritual director.

In the fluorescent-lit halls lined with polished tiles, Corradi first lured one boy to his room when he was around 7 years old, according to the alleged victim, who today is a shy and delicate 22-year-old. In an interview with The Post, the man recalled his confusion as Corradi undressed him, followed by the searing pain of rape. Afterward, Corradi gave him a toy — a small blue pickup truck. “I couldn't look him in the eye,” the man said, using sign language. “It scared me. It disgusted me.”

He said he was raped regularly for the next five years. He recalled that during the ordeals, he would stare at a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus not far from Corradi’s bed. He said he could see Corradi speaking words he could not hear or understand.

The school did not teach sign language — instead embracing a methodology that sought to teach deaf children to read and speak like the hearing. That system, prosecutors say, was also ideal for hiding abuse. Abused pupils say they learned sign language in secret from older students, but even that was of little help.

The 22-year-old man and his sister — the 24-year-old who wanted Francis to come to Argentina and see what happened there, and who said she was raped as a child by another Provolo employee — came from a poor family whose parents had limited knowledge of sign language.

“We didn’t want to go to school, but our parents were convinced it was the best for us,” said the sister. “So we were mistreated at home. We were hit because our parents just thought we didn’t want to go to school.”

Prosecutors say that as spiritual director of the school, Corradi not only took part in abuses, but facilitated access to children for other sexual predators working at the school.

Prosecutors and victims allege that under Corradi’s direction, a Japanese nun, Kosaka Kumiko, would groom the most docile children. She would touch them, and have them touch themselves and each other. Kumiko has maintained her innocence in court.

Also among the alleged abusers in Lujan is a deaf and mentally challenged man, now in his 40s, who prosecutors say had been abandoned as a child at the Provolo Institute in La Plata. They say the man told other victims he had been abused by Corradi there. And when Corradi made him a gardener at the new Provolo school in Lujan, the man is alleged to have begun to abuse other children.

The worst cases of abuse documented by prosecutors at Lujan occurred between 2004 and 2009. During those years, Francis served as Cardinal Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, a diocese some 700 miles southeast of Lujan de Cuyo, and would not have been accountable for actions at the school. However, the allegations in Argentina of abuse and corruption of minors stretch beyond when the church was warned and well after the Italian victims sought to alert Francis directly in 2013. The most recent incident involving Corradi is alleged to have involved the distribution of pornography to children in 2013. Other suspects also allegedly touched students inappropriately in 2015 and 2016.

The church’s inaction allowed the alleged abusers to remain in daily contact with children — until a distraught former student went to Argentine authorities.

The rail-thin 27-year-old, who, like other victims, spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she had been raped by an Argentine priest who served under Corradi. In an interview, she said that for years she considered killing herself — even writing a suicide note to her parents before standing on a bluff by a river and weighing whether to jump.

“I felt like water, as if I was nothing,” she said in sign language in her lawyer’s office in Mendoza, Argentina. “I wanted to kill myself, but I had to keep living with it, every year.”

A friend, she said, convinced her that what she and other victims really needed was justice. So, in November 2016, she walked into a state center for people with disabilities and requested a sign-language interpreter. They would later go together to the state parliament, where, on Nov. 24, 2016, they met with a state senator who sounded the alarm.

Rapidly acting on her testimony, prosecutors raided the school two days later — finding pornography and letters that implicated one of Corradi’s associates, Father Horacio Corbacho, a 58-year-old Argentine priest. In court filings, one sexually suggestive letter, apparently written by someone familiar with the abuse, asks Corbacho “how much more silence can you ask of a deaf mute?”

Jorge Bordon, Corradi’s 62-year-old driver, last year pleaded guilty to 11 counts of abuse. His confession effectively implicated some of the other defendants, though Corbacho, Kumiko and others have denied the accusations. Corradi — under house arrest at an undisclosed location in Argentina and facing six counts of aggravated abuse — has yet to enter a plea.

The Rev. Alberto Germán Bochatey, a bishop appointed by the pope to oversee the Provolo schools in the aftermath of the scandal, said Corradi believes himself to be innocent.

“He feels destroyed,” said Bochatey, who last met with Corradi two months ago. “He built that school.”

After Argentine authorities shut down the Lujan school in November 2016, the Vatican appointed two priests to conduct an internal investigation that is still ongoing. Prosecutors say church officials in Argentina have declined their request to share the findings.

Bochatey, who is not involved in the investigation, denied a lack of church cooperation. He said he received a request for the report and replied in a letter to prosecutors that it needed to be submitted directly to the Vatican. He said he did not forward the request. Stroppiana, the prosecutor, said he has no recollection of receiving a response from Bochatey or any other church authorities.

Bochatey blamed prosecutors and victims’ lawyers for overstating the scope of the allegations. He suggested Freemasons — members of a fraternal order known for secret rituals and community service that the Catholic Church has long viewed as antagonists — were somehow behind the accusations, although he acknowledged the church had no “proof.”

“We think the Masonic order was behind it,” he said. “We cannot understand why [the accusations] are so direct and intense. They try to build a big case that [it was a] house of horrors, 40 or 50 cases, but there are little more than 10.”

He added, “I spoke with many parents who said their kids were happy. They didn’t want their school to close.” He continued, “I think something happened, but not the way they’re trying to show.”

He defended the school’s approach to teaching the deaf, saying the point was for them to read and speak. Perhaps some teachers had been too strict, he said.

“Maybe sometimes a teacher did wrong,” he said.

The church, he said, has not only been forced to close the school in Lujan but also sell the land it sits on.

“We’re paying expensively for our mistake,” he said.

Harlan and Pitrelli reported from Verona, Italy. Rachelle Krygier in Caracas, Venezuela, and Natalio Cosoy, in Buenos Aires, contributed to this report. 

 29 
 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
'We can't end FGM without talking to men' – in pictures

Members of the Adventure Youth Group, based in Bungoma county, Kenya, are working to end FGM and child marriage in their area

More than 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation and about 3 million more are at risk every year. Africa has the highest numbers, but its young people are fighting back

Photographs by the Girl Generation
Guardian
2/22/2019

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2019/feb/19/young-people-hold-the-power-the-movement-against-fgm-in-pictures

 30 
 on: Feb 22, 2019, 05:03 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Trump EPA OKs 'Emergency' to Dump Bee-Killing Pesticide on 16 Million Acres

Center for Biological Diversity
2/22/2019

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported last week that in 2018 it issued so-called "emergency" approvals to spray sulfoxaflor—an insecticide the agency considers "very highly toxic" to bees—on more than 16 million acres of crops known to attract bees.

Of the 18 states where the approvals were granted for sorghum and cotton crops, 12 have been given the approvals for at least four consecutive years for the same "emergency."

Last year the EPA's Office of the Inspector General released a report finding that the agency's practice of routinely granting "emergency" approval for pesticides across millions of acres does not effectively measure risks to human health or the environment.

"Spraying 16 million acres of bee-attractive crops with a bee-killing pesticide in a time of global insect decline is beyond the pale, even for the Trump administration," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "The EPA is routinely misusing the 'emergency' process to get sulfoxaflor approved because it's too toxic to make it through normal pesticide reviews."

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, the EPA has the authority to approve temporary emergency uses of pesticides, even those not officially approved, if the agency determines it is needed to prevent the spread of an unexpected outbreak of crop-damaging insects, for example. But the provision has been widely abused.

That widespread abuse was chronicled in the Center for Biological Diversity's recent report, Poisonous Process: How the EPA's Chronic Misuse of 'Emergency' Pesticide Exemptions Increases Risks to Wildlife. The report concludes that emergency exemptions for sulfoxaflor are essentially a backdoor authorization allowing for its ongoing use on millions of acres of crops where exposure to pollinators through contaminated pollen is high. In fact, the so-called "emergencies" cited are routine and foreseeable occurrences.

Previously, in response to a lawsuit by beekeepers, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the EPA's original registration of sulfoxaflor in 2015. The EPA's new 2016 registration for sulfoxaflor—purportedly designed to ensure essentially no exposure to bees—excluded crops like cotton and sorghum that are attractive to bees.

A compilation of federal register notices indicates that sulfoxaflor was approved on 16.2 million acres of cotton and sorghum crops in 2018 on an emergency basis. Emergency approvals were granted in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

"The EPA is far too eager to find loopholes to approve harmful pesticides when it should be focusing on keeping people and wildlife safe from those pesticides," said Donley. "The routine abuse of emergency exemptions has to stop."

A recent study published in Nature found that sulfoxaflor exposure at low doses had severe consequences for bumblebee reproductive success. The authors cautioned against the EPA's current trajectory of replacing older neonicotinoids with nearly identical insecticides like sulfoxaflor.

A major study published earlier this month found that more than 41 percent of the world's insect species are on the fast track to extinction, and that a "serious reduction in pesticide usage" is key to preventing their extinction.

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