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 on: May 26, 2015, 05:55 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
U.N. Court Orders Serbia to Send Seselj back to Cell

by Naharnet Newsdesk 26 May 2015, 13:17

Serbia's justice ministry on Tuesday said it had received an order from a U.N. war crimes court to return the ailing ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj immediately to its detention unit.

Alleged war criminal Seselj, 60, was allowed to travel to Serbia last year for cancer treatment pending a verdict in his case at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, and he underwent emergency surgery earlier this month.

Seselj was accused of leading ethnic Serb volunteers in persecuting Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs during the 1990s wars in Croatia and Bosnia, but he has pleaded not guilty on nine counts, including murder, torture, cruel treatment and wanton destruction of villages.

The justice ministry received the order to return Seselj to The Hague on "Tuesday, May 26 or as soon as possible," a source at the ministry told AFP, requesting anonymity.

He said the request would now be reviewed by the government.

Since his release on humanitarian grounds, Seselj has repeatedly lashed out at the tribunal, vowing not to return for his sentencing or to serve any time, as well as resuming his nationalist rhetoric.

The ICTY subsequently revoked his provisional release in March.

Rasim Ljajic, the minister in charge of cooperation with the U.N. tribunal, said the only way to return Seselj to The Hague on Tuesday would be if he voluntarily surrendered, something the suspect had earlier firmly rejected.

"It is impossible that Seselj can be transferred on May 26. We are obliged by the law (on cooperation with the U.N. court) which sets forth precise deadlines," Ljajic was quoted as saying by the Blic daily.

The minister said that there would a ten to 15 day procedure if Seselj was arrested before he could be extradited.

Seselj voluntarily surrendered to the U.N. court in 2003 and went on trial four years later.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: May 26, 2015, 05:54 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Six Killed in East Ukraine Fighting

by Naharnet Newsdesk 26 May 2015, 14:18

Four pro-Russian rebels, a Ukrainian soldier and one civilian were killed in clashes that broke out over the past 24 hours in violation of a February truce deal, officials said Tuesday.

The civilian died during an artillery fire attack on the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant, which sits on the outskirts of the rebels' de facto capital Donetsk.

A resulting fire at the plant caused a small ammonia leak, Ukraine military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters, without providing further details.

Lysenko said 12 Ukrainian soldiers were also wounded in clashes across the war zone.

The pro-Kiev governor of the separatist province of Lugansk said a soldier died when his military ambulance came under fire near the Russian border. It was not clear whether he was referring to the same serviceman as the one mentioned in Lysenko's daily update.

Rebel authorities said four of their fighters were killed and another three injured in the past day.

Fighting was particularly heavy in Shyrokyne, near the strategic port city of Mariupol, military officials from both sides said.

The 13-month war, sparked by the separatists' rejection of the pro-Western leadership in Kiev, has claimed nearly 6,300 lives and left well over a million people homeless.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: May 26, 2015, 05:50 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Oil company bosses' bonuses linked to $1tn spending on extracting fossil fuels

ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Total and BP pour funding into projects to unlock oil reserves – despite scientists warning they will lead to climate change disaster

Simon Bowers and Harry Davies
Monday 25 May 2015 22.00 BST   

Bosses at the world’s big five oil companies have been showered with bonus payouts linked to a $1tn (£650bn) crescendo of spending on fossil fuel exploration and extraction over nine years, according to Guardian analysis of company reports.

The unprecedented push to bring untapped reserves into production, and to exploit new and undiscovered fields, involves some of the most complex feats of engineering ever attempted. It also reflects how confident Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, Total and BP are that demand will remain high for decades to come.

The big oil groups are pressing ahead with investments despite the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimating that two-thirds of proven fossil fuel reserves will need to remain in the ground to prevent the earth from warming 2C above pre-industrial levels – a proposed temperature limit beyond which scientists warn of spiralling and irreversible climate change.

Multi-billion-dollar capital projects amount to huge, long-term bets by the big five that exorbitant costs associated with unlocking hydrocarbon reserves in some of the most inaccessible locations on the planet can eventually be recouped and converted into profits.

Bonuses for chief executives at all five firms are tied to the achievement of delivery milestones in the construction and deployment of such projects.

Shell’s Ben van Beurden, for example, last year received a pay deal worth $32.2m, including bonuses linked to delivering “a high proportion of flagship projects on time and on budget”. These are thought to include four platforms floating 1,000 metres or more above deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Guinea and South China Sea.

Similarly, BP’s Bob Dudley was awarded a pay deal worth $15.3m, with bonuses linked to seven “major projects”, thought to include Sunrise, a tar sands joint venture in Canada, as well as projects in Angola, Azerbaijan, the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.

The boss of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, was paid $33.1m last year including bonus payouts linked to projects including the first well in the Kara Sea, in the Russian Arctic, and the expansion of the Kearl tar sands operations in northern Alberta, Canada.

The Guardian asked each of the big five about the appropriateness of linking bonuses to capital spending given the looming threat posed by climate change. Shell said pay for Van Beurden “reflects delivery of company strategy, measured by both short-term and long-term targets”.

Chevron said executive rewards were “strongly tied to corporate performance and directly linked to increases in shareholder value”. Exxon Mobil and BP declined to respond, while Total did not answer.

In 2013 the big five collectively spent $165.3bn on so-called “upstream activities” where investment is focused on colossal engineering projects to bring reserves on tap and, to a lesser extent, on exploration. Nine years earlier, the figure had been $70.8bn.

Upstream capital spending edged lower last year, falling to $147.4bn as companies reacted to the surprise fall in the oil price, the first dip in upstream investments in at least nine years. But while the financial press has been full of reports of capital projects being axed or delayed, inflation-adjusted spending for 2014 remained 77% higher than in 2006 and is projected at many companies to continue at historically high levels for years to come.

The combined 2014 upstream capital spending bill for the big five is three and a half times the sum devoted to research and development by the world’s five biggest-spending drug firms. It is also equivalent to more than 14% of the combined stock market value of Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, Total and BP.

On Wednesday, activist shareholders at Chevron, led by campaign group As You Sow, will attend the company’s annual meeting in San Ramon, California, inviting fellow investors to vote in favour of a resolution they have filed calling for Chevron to slash its upstream capital spending and to return the unused cash to shareholders.

The equivalent of one in every five dollars of revenues at Chevron was poured back into capital projects last year, totalling $37.1bn. That compares with just 7% nine years ago. A similar pattern showing a rising proportion of revenues reinvested in upstream capital spending was seen at several firms.

The As You Sow resolution is unlikely to be carried because it is opposed by the Chevron board. In its letter to shareholders ahead of the meeting, directors said the proposal “is based on a flawed, if not dangerous, premise: that stockholders would be best served if Chevron stopped investing in its business”.

They also hinted that Chevron did not believe political leaders convening in Paris in December for a UN climate change summit will do much to interrupt the growing demand for fossil fuels.

“Notwithstanding the intent of nations to do so, the level and pace of global policy action indicates a low likelihood of a global accord to restrict fossil fuel usage to the levels referenced by the proponents [of the resolution].”

Exxon Mobil, which holds its annual meeting on the same day in Dallas, Texas, is similarly expected to persuade its shareholders to vote down a handful of resolutions tabled by activists.

In recent months BP and Shell have agreed to calls from church fund managers and other activists to next year provide “further information” on executive bonuses in the light of international ambitions to shift the world to a low-carbon economy. The activists want this to include a review of those bonuses currently linked to exploration and development of reserves.

Despite the tens of billions of dollars involved, capital spending by the oil industry’s big five is thought to pale next to some of the upstream budgets of state-controlled groups which now dominate the world’s hydrocarbon carbon stores.

Figures analysed by the Guardian from Brazil’s Petrobras and China’s PetroChina show capital spending of $24.2bn and $35.7bn respectively. They have expanded spending from 2006 of $7.33bn and $14.67bn.

The vast majority of the world’s reserves were once controlled by powerful western companies known as the Seven Sisters – businesses that have effectively evolved into what are now known as the big five oil and gas majors. Their domination of global carbon resources, however, has greatly diminished, with the rise of private, state-controlled firms in Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran, Russia and Malaysia.

Asked about its determination to press ahead with large budgets for upstream capital projects, Shell told the Guardian: “Shell and the wider industry go through cycles of investment due to the nature of our projects and the external environment in which we operate.”

BP said: “Affordable, secure energy is essential for economic prosperity and we forecast that global demand for energy is set to grow by nearly 40% by 2035. The IEA’s 450 parts-per-million [CO2 emissions] scenario estimates that by 2040 up to 60% of the fuel mix will still be fossil fuels; investment to develop oil and gas will continue to be needed.”

CEO: Bob Dudley
Reported pay*: $15m

In late 2014, four years after facing intense shareholder resistance over its move into Canada’s vast and environmentally controversial tar sands, operations began at BP’s $2.5bn Sunrise project.

Sunrise is a prize asset for BP and their joint venture partners Husky Energy – a Canadian firm controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing. With estimated reserves of 3.7bn barrels of oil, BP believe Sunrise will provide a “secure and stable” source of energy over the next forty years.

Tar sands developments like Sunrise have attracted deep environmental opposition.

As well as locking in decades of some of the dirtiest fossil fuel production, extraction is an exceptionally carbon intensive process.

The Sunrise project was among seven major project start-ups that helped secure Bob Dudley’s 2014 bonus. Its delivery, however, was less well received by the 1,000 workers in Canada unexpectedly laid off the day first oil was announced in March.

CEO: John Watson
Reported pay*: $26m

The Jack/St Malo project has taken Chevron to one of the deepest and most remote parts of the Gulf of Mexico. After ten years of work and $7.5bn of investment, Chevron finally began pumping oil and gas from their “signature project” in December 2014.

The hulking, purpose-built Jack/St Malo platform sits in ultra-deep waters of over 2,000m – displacing as much water as 350 jumbo jets would – drilling down to reservoirs 6,000 metres beneath the seabed (approximately 14 Empire State Buildings deep).

Chevron believe production at Jack/St Malo will continue over the next 30 years and beyond, but in the short term the project is expected to help the company reach a target to significantly ramp up oil and gas production by 2017.

It also counts towards CEO John Watson’s pay packet, whose performance is measured by the delivery of major projects such as Jack/St Malo.

Exxon Mobil
CEO: Rex Tillerson
Reported pay*: $33m

After months of drilling around the clock through the short Arctic summer, Exxon Mobil and their Russian partners Rosneft struck oil last year. Announcing the major discovery, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said: “This is our united victory.”

The discovery of over 700m barrels of oil came with a hefty price tag – $700m for the single northernmost well in the world – but for Exxon it was ultimately short-lived. Soon after the discovery, the Texas-based company was forced to withdraw from the project thanks to creeping sanctions against Russia.

By leading drilling operations in the icy Kara Sea, Exxon have taken the first steps towards opening up Russia’s Arctic waters as a major new oil and gas frontier. The Kara Sea alone is believed to hold colossal reserves of tens of billions barrels of oil.

Despite withdrawing from the project, the Arctic exploration project is among Exxon’s 2014 results linked to CEO Rex Tillerson’s annual pay award.

CEO: Christophe de Margerie (until October 2014)
Reported pay*: $6m

Production at Kashagan – one of the world’s most expensive and complex oil projects – is on hold. But for a brief period in 2013 the $50bn mega-project in Kazakhstan began pumping oil for the first time after a decade of setbacks and delays.

Total, which is among a consortium of companies behind the Caspian Sea project, is not expecting production to resume until 2017, but Kashagan’s vast reserves are believed to be worth the wait.

With estimated proven reserves of 13bn barrels of oil, Kashagan is one of the largest oil fields in the world – originally anticipated to produce more oil than Libya and with reserves greater than Brazil, according to the EIA.

For Total, the brief spurt of production at Kashagan was a highlight of 2013 and increasing production has been explicitly tied to the chief executive’s pay.

CEO: Ben van Beurden
Reported pay*: $32m

Gumusut-Kakap is a deep-water oil platform off the coast of Malaysia that began pumping oil for the first time in October 2014. The project is among several of Shell’s flagship projects in 2014 tied to Ben van Beurden’s £2.3m bonus.

Viewed from above, the giant platform covers an area of almost two football fields and is among the largest of its kind in Asia. Floating in the South China Sea, the platform has four decks and sits atop potentially vast reserves of as much as 500m barrels of oil.

Eventually Gumusut-Kakap is expected to contribute around 25 per cent of Malaysia’s oil production. The project, according to Shell, is “critical to Malaysia’s long-term energy security”.

* Reported pay is the headline figure given in the annual report for each group. Calculation methodology differs between reporting jurisdictions.

 on: May 26, 2015, 05:45 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
David Cameron takes hit as France and Germany agree closer EU ties

Proposals to be presented at EU summit in June will come as a blow to David Cameron who will table British pre-referendum demands at same meeting

Ian Traynor in Brussels and Frances Perraudin in London
Tuesday 26 May 2015 07.53 BST

Germany and France have forged a pact to integrate the eurozone without reopening the EU’s treaties, in a blow to David Cameron’s referendum campaign.

Sidestepping Britain’s demands to renegotiate the Lisbon treaty and Britain’s place in the EU, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president, François Hollande, have sealed an agreement aimed at fashioning a tighter political union among the single-currency countries while operating within the confines of the existing treaty.

The Franco-German proposals are to be put to an EU summit in Brussels next month, where Cameron is also to unveil his shopping list of changes needed if he is to win support for keeping Britain in the EU.

The Franco-German accord, disclosed by Le Monde newspaper, calls for eurozone reforms in four areas “developed in the framework of the current treaties in the years ahead”.

Cameron has persistently called for a reopening of the treaties to enable the eurozone to integrate more closely while providing the British with a chance to reshape the UK’s relations with the EU and repatriate powers from Brussels.

EU members and senior officials in Brussels have repeatedly voiced their reluctance to reopen the Lisbon treaty – the EU’s fundamental constitutional document. The Franco-German initiative, likely to be endorsed by the 25 June summit, would definitively close the door on treaty renegotiation.

The move from Berlin and Paris came as the UK prime minister prepared to open his negotiations with the French and the Germans on Thursday and Friday.

Cameron faces a busy week on the referendum campaign. On Monday evening, he hosted the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, at Chequers – kicking off a charm offensive in which he will visit five European leaders.

A Downing Street spokesperson said that Cameron gave Juncker a tour of the house and gardens before they dined on a spring salad, followed by pork belly and vegetables and a dessert of lime bavarois.

“The prime minister underlined that the British people are not happy with the status quo and believe that the EU needs to change in order to better address their concerns,” said the spokesperson.

“Mr Juncker reiterated that he wanted to find a fair deal for the UK and would seek to help. They talked through the issue at some length in the spirit of finding solutions to these problems. They agreed that more discussion would be needed, including with other leaders, on the best way forward.”

The former prime minister of Luxembourg will play a subsidiary, if influential, role in the negotiations whose outcome will ultimately be decided by national government leaders.

On Thursday, a day after the state opening of parliament, Cameron will fly around Europe to meet the Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, in Copenhagen, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, in the Hague and Hollande in Paris. The following day he will meet the Polish prime minister, Ewa Kopacz, in Warsaw before going to Berlin to see Merkel. He aims to speak to all other leaders of member states before the June summit.

The Franco-German pact, agreed as the Greek debt crisis comes to a head, was finalised last week on the fringes of the EU summit in Latvia and sent to Juncker at the weekend, Le Monde reported.

The summit in Riga last Friday was Cameron’s first opportunity since re-election to present his ideas to fellow EU leaders. But it appeared that Merkel and Hollande had bigger fish to fry.

Juncker is preparing policy options for the June summit on how to integrate the eurozone fiscally and politically as it struggles to emerge from more than five years of crisis. The Franco-German proposals are likely to settle the direction of policy. They talk of economic, fiscal and social convergence, combining German insistence on monetary stability with French demands for greater investment.

“Additional steps are necessary to examine the political and institutional framework, common instruments and the legal basis” (of the eurozone) by the end of next year, said the document, according to Le Monde.

The following year, 2017, Germany and France have general elections, narrowing the scope for negotiations with Britain.

The Franco-German policy proposal, said Le Monde, “shows that French and German leaders do not have much in common with David Cameron”.

Cameron and Juncker have not had an easy relationship. The UK prime minister opposed Juncker’s appointment as European commission president. After other EU leaders voted overwhelmingly in Juncker’s favour in June last year, Cameron described their decision as a “serious mistake” and a “backroom deal”.

The promise of an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017 was a key element of the Conservative party’s general election manifesto. Cameron has promised to secure a better deal for the UK in the EU before campaigning for Britain’s continued membership.

The EU referendum bill, which will be announced after the Queen’s speech on Wednesday, will make clear that the people eligible to vote will be the same as in general elections, that is adults from the age of 18, Irish and Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK, and British citizens who have lived abroad for less than 15 years.

Downing Street said they did not comment on leaks, but pointed to a statement made by Cameron as he kicked off his timetable for renegotiation at the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga last Friday.

“There will be ups and downs – you’ll hear one day this is possible, the next day something else is impossible,” he said.

“But one thing throughout all of this will be constant and that is my determination to deliver for the British people a reform of the European Union so they get a proper choice in that referendum we hold: an in/out referendum before the end of 2017, that will be constant.”

 on: May 26, 2015, 05:43 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Man who forced French supermarkets to donate food wants to take law global

Arash Derambarsh, a local councillor who kickstarted fight against food waste in his Paris suburb, wants to convince more countries to follow France’s example

Kim Willsher in Paris
Monday 25 May 2015 13.42 BST

A councillor whose campaign against food waste led to a law forcing French supermarkets to donate unwanted food to charity has set his sights on getting similar legislation passed globally.

Arash Derambarsh said it was “scandalous and absurd” that food is wasted and in some cases deliberately spoiled while the homeless, poor and unemployed go hungry.

Derambarsh – a municipal councillor for the “Divers Droit” (diverse right) in Courbevoie, north-west of Paris – persuaded French MPs to adopt the regulation after a petition gained more than 200,000 signatures and celebrity support in just four months.

The amendment was approved as part of a wider law – the Loi Macron – that covers economic activity and equality in France and is expected to be passed by the national assembly on Tuesday, entering the statute books shortly afterwards.

It will bar supermarkets from throwing away food approaching best-before dates and deliberately poisoning products with bleach to stop them being retrieved by people foraging through bins.

Now Derambarsh wants to convince European countries and the wider world to adopt similar bans. “Food is the basis of life, it is an elementary factor in our existence,” he told the Guardian.
Arash Derambarsh with food collection

“I have been insulted and attacked and accused of being naive and idealistic, but I became a local councillor because I wanted to help people. Perhaps it is naive to be concerned about other human beings, but I know what it is like to be hungry.

“When I was a law student living on about €400 a month after I’d paid my rent, I used to have one proper meal a day around 5pm. I’d eat pasta, or potatoes, but it’s hard to study or work if you are hungry and always thinking about where the next meal will come from.”

Derambarsh started his campaign by collecting and distributing unwanted food from his local supermarket. “Every day we’d help around 100 people. Half would be single mothers with several children, pensioners or public workers on low salaries, the other half would be those living on the streets or in shelters,” he said.

Derambarsh is planning to table the issue – via the campaign group ONE, founded by U2 singer Bono – when the United Nations discusses its Millennium development goals to end poverty in September as well as at the G20 economic summit in Turkey in November and the COP21 environment conference in Paris in December.

An estimated 7.1m tonnes of food is binned in France each year – 67% of it by consumers, 15% by restaurants and 11% by shops. The figure for food waste across the EU is 89mtonnes while an estimated 1.3bn tonnes are wasted worldwide.

 on: May 26, 2015, 05:40 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Dog uses trampoline to escape and follow owner to work - video


A clever dog surprised its owner on a train after making a spectacular escape from its kennel by using a trampoline to bounce over a 6ft fence. Owner Thomas McCormack was surprised when his four-year-old pet, Paddy, unexpectedly followed him on his morning commute, only to discover from his neighbours that the dog had been using a trampoline to jump over the fence.

Click to watch:

<iframe src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

 on: May 26, 2015, 05:34 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Australia to import micro wasp to wage war against plague of crazy ants

Scientists hope the Malaysian wasp will severely dent populations of crazy ants, which have been blamed for killing red crabs on Christmas Island

Oliver Milman
Tuesday 26 May 2015 09.18 BST
A diminutive Malaysian wasp is set to be imported to Australia in order to wage war against a plague of destructive crazy ants on Christmas Island.

The tiny wasp, which is just 2mm long, doesn’t sting or build nests but, it is hoped, will severely dent crazy ant populations.

It will do this, scientists believe, by preying upon an insect that produces a sugary substance called honeydew that crazy ants consume.

“By reducing the ants’ food supply, we hope to interrupt their breeding, and potentially stop them from building their devastating super colonies,” said Dr Peter Green, a La Trobe University researcher who is leading the project.

Park Australia, a federal government agency that oversees Australia’s leading national parks, is backing a move to import the micro wasps to Christmas Island this year.

Crazy ants were thought to have originally been brought to the island by south-east Asian traders in sea cargo. A horde of the pests is blamed for killing tens of millions of Christmas Island’s red crabs over the past 20 years. The loss of these crabs has had a negative knock-on impact upon the island’s entire ecosystem.

The importing of species to deal with another destructive species hasn’t always been stunningly successful in Australia. The cane toad was introduced to Queensland in the 1930s in an attempt to eradicate the cane beetle, which damage sugar cane crops. Instead, the toad spread across northern Australia and has been blamed for the decimation of native wildlife.

Australian cane toads meet their match

However, Green said five years of research into the micro wasp show that it will be safe for people, pets and native wildlife.

“Other types of micro wasps are already used extensively for biological control on mainland Australia and overseas, so we know this can be safe and successful,” he said.

“We’ll be monitoring the roll-out carefully and we hope to see results within two to three years.”

Parks Australia, which is waiting for final approval for the plan, said the new approach will be a “lifesaver” for Christmas Island’s wildlife.

Christmas Island is home to a diverse range of species, including 20 types of crab, 28 species of butterfly, 28 species of bird and a handful of scorpions. The wasp will be deployed to aid these animals, pending final government approval.

“Red crabs are the keystone species for Christmas Island, so it’s crucial to protect them,” said Sally Barnes, director of National Parks.

“Until now, our only option has been intensive baiting with fipronil to kill the ants. That means dropping baits from choppers and sending rangers out to bait by hand – a very costly exercise that has to be repeated every few years.

 on: May 26, 2015, 05:30 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Swifts migrate from Beijing to southern Africa without landing

New research uncovers mystery of migration route of bird that spends up to three years in the air after leaving its nest

Emma Graham-Harrison in Beijing
Monday 25 May 2015 17.41 BST

Swifts born in Beijing’s old imperial palaces travel 16,000 miles every year to southern Africa and back again without touching ground, and over a lifetime clock up enough miles to get halfway to the moon.

New research suggests that after they leave their nests for the first time, the birds spend up to three years in the air, eating, drinking and mating on the wing.

They come down to earth only to rear their own chicks, having already made a 16,000-mile round trip to their winter homes at least twice. Over the course of their lives, the average Beijing swift will travel nearly 124,000 miles.

“That this tiny bird – that can fit into a human hand – travels to southern Africa and back every year without landing once, is simply awe-inspiring and proof that the natural world is the greatest source of inspiration there is,” said Terry Townshend, founder of Birding Beijing.

    — Birding Beijing 北京观鸟 (@BirdingBeijing)
    May 24, 2015

    Out of Africa! The Beijing Swift’s Incredible Journey Charted At Last

The birds have been visitors to the Chinese capital for hundreds of years, nesting in its gatehouses and palace eaves. They are so closely associated with the city that a subspecies carries its old English name, the Peking swift or Apus apus pekinensis.

The number of swifts in Beijing has dropped by over half in the last three decades, however, and conservationists are trying to find out more about the birds’ habits. Their largely airborne lives mean they are difficult to study and although their winter and summer bases were well known, their migration route was largely a mystery before this research.

A group of British, Swedish, Chinese and Belgian scientists and bird lovers worked together in a project that began last year with the trapping of 31 birds at a pavilion in the Summer Palace of China’s former rulers. They were fitted with tiny light-sensitive geo-locator devices, then released to make the annual migration.

So loyal are the birds to their nesting grounds in the city that this year the research team was able to trap more than a third of the swifts in the same pavilion and retrieve data about their flight. It showed that when they started their long migration in July, the birds swept north through Mongolia then down to Iran and across to Africa, heading for Namibia and the Western Cape, where they stayed for the winter.

In February they began retracing the same long route back, flying incredibly fast – the swifts have been recorded hitting speeds of more than 110km/h.

“Swifts have a special place in the hearts of Beijingers and their screaming flights at dusk around many of our major landmarks are one of the most enchanting features of our summer,” said Fu Jianping, president of the China Birdwatching Society.

“For years we have waved them goodbye at the end of July not knowing where they go. Thanks to this project, now we do.”

 on: May 26, 2015, 05:28 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Isle of the sea eagle: 'It's our version of the wolf'

Britain’s biggest bird of prey is back from extinction and thriving on Mull. It’s great news for wildlife tourists, but the sheep farmers are yet to be convinced

Patrick Barkham
Monday 25 May 2015 16.47 BST

We are lurching along the loch when the 25 seagulls hanging above our boat suddenly scatter. “It’s coming,” says David Sexton quietly. A dark shape materialises low over the water, gaining on us fast.

With wings like planks and a meat-cleaver for a beak, the white-tailed eagle fixes its eyeballs (twice as large as ours) on the boat. Taking great scoops of air with each flap, it stretches yellow talons to pluck a fish from the water.

Britain’s biggest bird of prey passes three milestones this spring. It is 40 years since a revolutionary reintroduction programme began to return the white-tailed eagle, also known as the sea eagle, to the Scottish Highlands; 30 years since the first chicks fledged; and this year, the number of nesting pairs will exceed 100 for the first time. But for all the celebrations, some people still detest our biggest carnivorous creature.

    If farmers see a sea eagle sat on a lamb, they aren’t going to ask whether it’s actually killed it

The most easily spotted animal pairing on the island of Mull is Mr and Mrs Goretex. Everywhere you go, holidaymakers train their binoculars on the twisting coastline, searching for sea eagles, golden eagles and otters. For David Sexton of the RSPB, the man responsible for managing the complex relationship between people and eagles here, spring is a stressful time. The birds are hatching chicks, vulnerable to late snow, and then he gets an early phone call. “It’s usually, ‘Your eagles are attacking my lambs,’” he sighs. Just that morning, a farmer found an eagle plucking at a dead lamb in a field. “I sympathise completely,” says Sexton. “Farmers are out from 5am until last light and when they see a sea eagle sat on a lamb, they aren’t going to ask whether it’s actually killed it. We’re not used to having a big predator around. It’s our version of the wolf in a way.”

Sexton takes me to Mull’s modest golf course. In the woods beyond is a white-tailed eagle nest the size of a treehouse. “The eagle with the sunlit eye”, as it is called in Gaelic, once flew everywhere from the Isle of Wight to the Shetlands. With its 8ft wingspan and massive nests, it is conspicuous and, unlike the notoriously wary golden eagle, an inquisitive animal. A totemic symbol for neolithic people who buried their dead with white-tailed eagles on Orkney, it was all too easily trapped, poisoned and shot to extinction, the last bird killed in 1918.

Over a decade from 1975, 82 young eagles were brought from Norway and released on the island of Rum. Typically, the eagles did things their way and flew over to Mull, where they began nesting. In 1984, Sexton came to the island to undertake covert nest surveillance. It was so secretive he even had a cover story – he was studying rare red-throated divers. At that point, the reintroduction was in crisis: none had bred successfully in nine years. During his first year, the only breeding pair’s nest failed. “It was a big disappointment. You’re not exactly incubating the eggs yourself but it feels like that,” he says. The next year, the same pair tried again: one chick survived to take its maiden flight. “It was a life-changing moment, really,” says Sexton.

We shelter from a torrential spring shower under some trees, a respectful distance from the eagles’ nest. When I peer through Sexton’s telescope, I’m not sure what is nest and what is bird. Then I realise: the female is half the nest, an enormous mound of mottled brown feathers. Sexton is relieved: “We know she’s OK and she’s sitting on her eggs.”

Augmented by further reintroductions on Wester Ross and Scotland’s east coast, a healthy population of British-born eagles, and a few Norwegian old-timers, now in their thirties, grace the Highlands. The reintroduction has proved a model for others around the globe, such as the Californian condor project, and also provides inspiration for the burgeoning rewilding movement and its ambitious moves to bring back beavers, lynx and even wolves.

But the story of the sea eagles shows that returning large animals to live among people who have no memory of residing alongside big predators is contentious. Mull covers a bigger area than Birmingham and its population is just 2,800. It appears wild and empty and yet human interests – and bird-disturbing bustle – is everywhere: not just sheep farming but forestry, hydro schemes, and the holidaymakers. While most visitors take a boat trip to see the eagles or visit a hide overlooking a nest, several photographers have been prosecuted for disturbing the birds by getting too close to nests.

Mary van Heerden is a member of Mull Eagle Watch. “When I saw my first sea eagle, I was completely hooked,” she says. “It was the size. When it flew over me I could see its eyes quite clearly and could hear the wind in its wings. It made the hairs on the back of my neck go up.” Van Heerden fled Zimbabwe for Mull 11 years ago. “I used to get so homesick. Once I found these eagles, it became a sort of therapy.” She names each bird (Chip and Putt; Seve and Monty) and guards them ferociously. The day before we spoke, she warned off a photographer. “I’m known as Eagle Mary in the village,” she says. “God help anybody who disturbs my birds.”

How much does Mull share Van Heerden’s love for its eagles? “The eagles have done a grand job bringing in visitors,” says David Clowes, who runs a guest house. But postcards of puffins and golden eagles far outnumber images of the reintroduced bird in shops. When I canvass opinion, everyone acknowledges the tourism dividend but several say there are now too many, or worry about the white-tailed eagles’ impact on other inhabitants – hares, golden eagles and farmers.

“Older people are more resistant,” thinks John Clare, a seasonal eagle ranger employed by a partnership between Forestry Commission Scotland, Police Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Mull & Iona Community Trust and the RSPB (which shows the institutional backing for this bird). “I’m great friends with an islander who has lived here all his life. He loves golden eagles but sees white-tailed eagles as interlopers.”

Golden eagles are smaller but more aggressive predators than white-tailed eagles, which often steal prey from other predators – crows, gannets and even otters. Sexton studies leftovers found in white-tailed eagles’ nests: these include everything from hedgehogs to herons, and the occasional lamb. Mull rumours say cat collars are found in nests (“a complete fabrication,” says Sexton – the eagles do snatch feral cats, which does all wildlife a favour). Critics also claim the eagles wipe out eider ducks (mink is the culprit, corrects Sexton) and Irish hares (another misconception, says Sexton: hare numbers have fallen partly because of disease). “Sea eagles get blamed for absolutely everything,” he says.

The fiercest opposition comes from farmers, even though some have holiday cottages and benefit from tourism. Lachlan MacLean farms 1,800 ewes with his brother. “The eagles are here to stay but I was better off before they were here,” he says. On the morning we spoke, two lambs had gone missing. One disappeared from a field where he has a “particular problem” with the eagles. “I’m 99% certain it was a sea eagle. It has a huge impact on your income. Last year I was able to identify 19 lamb carcasses on the ground. That was the ones I found.”

Sexton has never witnessed a white-tailed eagle actually seize a lamb. The birds do swoop in after hooded crows or great black-backed gulls have attacked a lamb and pecked out its eyes but scientific studies in Scotland and Norway have found they rarely take live lambs. Sexton has watched the eagles ignore lambs in favour of apparently more difficult catches. “They seem focused on wild prey – I’ve seen them overfly a whole field of lambs and go for a greylag goose or snatch a rabbit caught by a buzzard.”

Has MacLean ever seen a white-tailed eagle take a lamb? “I’ve not actually seen it but I’ve found a number of lambs with talon marks in them,” he says. And he knows several people who have witnessed a white-tailed eagle “lift” a lamb. Scottish Natural Heritage last year acknowledged that white-tailed eagles do take lambs, and this year is offering financial assistance – up to £5,000 per farmer each year – to help farmers protect flocks from predation. But for MacLean, such sums do not compensate for the stress, and lost bloodlines when lambs are killed. “‘Eagle Island’ has been a huge attraction but now even some of the wildlife folk think there are too many,” he says. “There has to be some form of control on that but if they want to keep folk farming in this part of the world there also has to be proper compensation. We don’t just want to be here providing a food supply for the eagles.”

    Farmers don’t just want to be here providing a food supply for the eagles

For all the conflict, no white-tailed eagles have ever been shot or poisoned on Mull, unlike in Ireland where a similar reintroduction programme is being sabotaged by persecution, with a poisoned female found dead on its nest last month. And Mull’s sheep farmers actually reported two injured eagles to Sexton in recent years – both were rehabilitated and released on to the island with the farmers’ blessing.

I take a trip on Lady Jayne. Its skipper, Martin Keivers, used to cut grass; now he makes a living from taking tourists to see the eagles. His boat bucks along the windy loch and, in the dark woodland beyond our vision, an eagle’s eye is caught by the gathering gulls. The enormous bird bears down on us and, at the last moment, Keivers throws a small dead fish into the water. A dozen holidaymakers’ camera shutters click furiously to catch the eagle’s swoop. “It’s like clay-pigeon shooting while trampolining” says Keivers of the camera skills required. “We’ve had people in tears as the birds come down.” Are the birds an accepted part of the landscape now? “Yes,” Keivers pauses. “Although people don’t want to see them sat on every lamppost.”

 on: May 26, 2015, 03:48 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Skywalker
Hi Rad and group,

Here is my go

Barbara Streisand

With Pluto, Chiron and the Moon all in Leo in the Fourth and Fifth Houses and the South Node of the Moon in the Twelfth House and it´s ruler Neptune in Virgo in the Sixth, She is learning about internal emotional security and may be highly wounded relative to her self image and ability to express herself. She is also extremely sensitive and vulnerable with these symbols, specially relative to her own self worth as she has the Sun and Mercury in Taurus, on top of the Saturn Uranus conjunciton, which is all ruled by Venus in Pisces in the Twelfth House. There is a natural innocence to her that also equals a huge amount of vulnerability with these symbols and as she learns to “come out of her shell” in order to express herself as is desired and shown by the stellium with Pluto in Leo and planets in the Fifth House. She also had to learn to be in the spotlight. This spotlight may of triggered memories of a loss of life due to judgement and persecution as can be seen by the South Node and Venus in conjunction in the twelfth House and Neptune in the Sixth House and also the South Nodes of Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto in the Tenth House. With Pluto in the Fourth House and the South Node in the Twelfth House there can be a hiding signature because of the high degree of sensitivity and a natural fear of being seen or discovered because of past life persecutions. With Saturn/Uranus in the Second House it´s possible she was robbed of her resources or gifts in various ways even to the point of losing her life and in this life with the Sun in the First House in Taurus square Pluto she is learning to stand up and fight for herself by confronting her very own insecurities and by developing inner strength and courage.

Relative to her incident in which she was unable to remember the lyrics to her song, it seems that at the time she was also going thru a very expansive period which would be catapulting her career and this may of uncovered hidden vulnerabilities and sensitivites within her and thus uncovered subconscious fears of being exposed.

To me these fears stem from a fear of judgement and ridicule and of being powerless at the hands of others, which may of been something she experienced in her recent past. The evolutionary intention seems to be for her to uncover deep vulnerabilities within her emotional make up that were effecting her on a subconscious level and thus limiting her expression, and also to humble her.

I Googled her incident with stage fright, which is well documented and it was in 1967 on the 17th of June when she was going to sing for 135.000 people in New York. Interestingly, Mercury was smack on the North Node of Pluto in the Fourth House. This brought awareness of her deep insecurities and that the way forward is to be able to FEEL safe from within.

With the Sun and Mercury square Pluto, Chiron and the Moon in the Fifth House there can also be a huge inner sense of inadequacy and a difficulty in expressing herself because of a potentially negative self image or a difficulty in relating to herself for various reasons. One reason may be a recent gender switch and therefore a difficulty in relating to herself in her new gender and another may be feeling tiny and inadequate as she was born into a very poor family when she may have a very strong sense of special destiny. It´s possible she was in positions of high power and nobility in her Soul history and suddenly was in a very vulnerable situation in which she was tested about the true value of her inner resources in this life time. From looking at her I am reminded of Egypt and the pharaos.

At that time when she experienced her traumatic incident, Saturn in transit was forming an inconjunct to her North Node in Virgo in the Sixth House. She was also humbling herself, her ego, thru the emotional insecurity that she experienced, which created a sense of crisis and led to her having to further develop her inner strength and personal value.  

At that event she had the transiting Sun approaching a square to Neptune in the Sixth House and is the ruler of her South Node in the Twelfth House, adding to the humbling effect by making her feel utterly emotionally vulnerable and lost, with nothing to hold on to.

Thank you

All the best

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