Archive for February, 2016

Leap Year time to propose marriage

February 29, 2016

Hugh Paxton’s Blog wishes to draw your attention to today’s date. A Leap Year. Single women may propose marriage!

Hugh

Tigers: Myanmar Maneater shot

February 29, 2016

Hugh Paxton’s Blog was chatting to the director of a national park in India about tiger conservation over bowls of soup and the conversation was, of course, intriguing. Man-eating tigers popped up gently disguised as “Human wildlife conflict”. This is an issue wherever people cohabit territory near to, or occupied by, potentially dangerous non-human species. Tigers do kill people. To pretend otherwise would be naïve. This chap had the unenviable task of appeasing the families of four people killed by the same tiger. I won’t name him, or the Tiger Reserve but he said one thing that appealed to me. “As a conservationist I was glad it killed two of my men because there is no public fuss.” I got what he was saying immediately. If a soldier is killed it is socially acceptable and merits few lines, if a fireman dies of burns it is a tragedy but that’s his or her job, if a war journalist gets beheaded obviously the media starts to feel heroic about their profession and squawks but that is wafer thin in terms of moral courage. This Indian man weighed the odds of conservation, the importance of the goal, and although he felt distressed by the two deaths, felt relieved they had not been civilians. Or, Gawd help us, foreign tourists! The other two probably shouldn’t have been where they were. Poachers? Encroachers?

We discussed a lot more but that’s between us.

Shortly afterwards I got the attached pictures from Chang. He’d successfully made it to Myanmar/Burma to get a passport and a tiger had just killed two of his local villagers. This puts Chang in a quandary. He’s spent four years in my employ and is what I would describe as an animal lover. He rescues everything. Quite often it survives. He knows that my beloved wife and I are very keen on tiger conservation and here he is involved in a man eating tiger hunt. I saw the pictures of one of the victims (I’m sparing you that but anybody in the medical profession wouldn’t be disturbed). He’d just been swiped by a heavy paw and it had scooped a load out of his back. In this case the tiger needed shooting. The paramilitaries and villagers did it. A tiger’s a cat. It comes back and pound for pound, muscle for muscle, it is the most dangerous cat on the planet, a solitary, nearly invisible hunter. Imagine a leopard. But twice the size. The key element in this particular conflict is ensuring that it doesn’t happen again. Quite how Chang and I are going to arrange that may take a bit of thinking! But the tiger’s body is now in a shrine and will remain there for three days. This is partially to stop it reappearing as a were-tiger (a prevalent fear in SE Asia) and partially to sort things out spiritually. In Chang’s case it will also be all about making sure the tiger gets burned and no bits are taken for sale on the black market.

I’ll post a few more lively photos of tigers in my next blog!

Cheers!

Hugh

From: Chang Htoo [mailto:chang19814@gmail.com]
To: Hugh Paxton
Subject:

tiger killed two guys close our village.

If in doubt read the signs: Hospital making sure everyone knows they don’t follow the law😀

February 29, 2016

Hugh Paxton’s Blog thanks Sarah Sekhran for this contribution.

An honest Indian hospital!

Great stuff Sarah! Keep em coming!

Hugh

Astrology, Celestial rhythyms and a new Black Hole in the Jaipur Observatory of Mararajah Jai Sing II

February 29, 2016

Hugh Paxton’s Blog recommends the following to anybody visiting Jaipur. And anybody interested in Indian astrology. Or astronomy. Or travelling I India with a 12 year-old-daughter.

We begin!

(AD 1719) Maharajah Jai Singh II, annoyed by a pointless and heated discussion on astronomical calculations in the court of the Mughal emperor, Muhammad Singh, decided to educate everybody in the kingdom regarding astronomy.

“He then initiated an ambitious programme of observing celestial bodies with instruments of brass, constructed according to the Persian-Arabic school of astronomy.”*

While sitting in his Amber Place overlooking the dry and dusty hills of Jaipur he decided that he knew better. I’d like to think he hurled both his Persian-Arab astronomers over a cliff along with their brass and inaccuracies while twirling his Mughal moustache and dismissing his eunuchs and nine wives with an impatient flourish. But if he did there is no mention made of that.

He sourced local materials (bronze, clay, mortar) and then sent emissaries on exceptionally long journeys. Of interest was the late Turkish royal astronomer, Ulugh Beg of 15th century Samarkand, the then epitome of astronomical science. Greece, also of interest (the Maharaja stuck to Pisces, Gemini etc.), the British of particular fascination especially Newton (who could not be interested in Newton?), and there in Islam, in discrete but thinking Lebanon and Syrian households untroubled by the current vulgar hatreds and bestial imbecilities, there was more to learn.

What I really like about this whole thing is.everything! How good does this get! A Mughal Maharajah sending forth scholars by camel, horse, ship, on foot from his Amber Palace and when they all get back (assuming they haven’t been shot, fallen in love and decided to stay somewhere else, been offered a better job etc.) he decides to improve on everything and get it right!

Which he did. And here in Jaipur (and in four other cities) his massive sculptured instruments are still telling the time in a way Rolex can never hope to aspire to. World Heritage Site status has justifiably been bestowed!

So, yes, five of these grandiose planetariums exist (one in poor shape).

Delhi: “The Samrat Yantra is the most striking.It consists of an equinoctial dial – a triangular gnomon with the hypotenuse parallel to the earth’s axis. On either side of the gnomon is a quadrant of a circle parallel to the plane of the equator.The Sundial is used to measure the declination and other related coordinates of various celestial bodies.”

And so on. And so forth!

(AD 2016 – last week).

While visiting and marveling at the vision, curiosity, energy, and obstinacy of the late Jai Singh I also felt complete admiration for the man. He didn’t just build a series of fantastic but accurate observatories, he also envisioned the perfect city, built that, too. And forts. And palaces. All a bit scruffy now, over populated with swarms of domestic tourists taking selfies and foreign tourists succumbing to the temptation. But the tour guides of the astronomical areas take this endeavor seriously.

Which my beloved daughter didn’t. Thank Gawd he didn’t notice this yawn! Erin, Midi, myself – enthralled. Annabel, well who can blame her? A bunch of boring grownups milling around in the baking sun blathering about the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn and Greenwich Observatory and Jaipur Mean Time and angles of 27 degrees and fate and human destiny intertwined with forces incomprehensible and beyond control and precision mathematics and…who gives a damn fa chrissakes! “I’d rather be watching Teen Wolf! At least that’s realistic!”

The yawn was caught accidentally by my beloved wife. Glad it was. A new Black Hole might upset the celestial alignments! And I’d hate to see my daughter impaled on a 300 year old astrolabe by an angry contemporary Indian astrologer!

Hugh

*With thanks to the Rajasthan Tourism people. Check
http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in Jantar Mantar. Get a govt guide. If you don’t you will have absolutely no idea what is going on. Expect him to be interesting and interested. Expect no patience. “Joking for later. Photos for later. Please jolly well listen.” And why not? There is mention made of a son et lumiere, a sound and light show conducted after dark. Well worth a look. If you value your life, make jokes later and don’t start snoring!

WAR, HORROR,DOOM AND NATURE RAPE! FW: Governments Set Stage for Action on Environmental Aspects of Humanitarian Crises and Risks to Human Health

February 29, 2016

Hugh Paxton’s Blog suggests you skip the rather conservative UNEP title and lackluster intro and head straight for the stats. This is the nub. This is why nature conservation, particularly biodiversity conservation, is critical!

Biodiversity conservation is, as you might have noticed, my personal priority! But not to the exclusion of all else. As Stella, one valued blog contributor, noted, being concerned about one issue does not mean disinterest in others. This ‘I would rather save one child than a tiger’ mentality gets right up my nose. Humanitarian issues, cessation of warfare, suppression of criminality, extirpation of traffic (in people, wildlife, timber, corals etc.) family planning (less people – we have more than enough), health (for more people), clean water, futures for our properly planned number of children, happiness for those currently alive…these are all important to me.

In the following you will see many other equally crucial priorities noted. All can be, and must be, addressed in a holistic fashion. Big job? Of course! Big stakes? The biggest! Don’t take them all on at once by yourself! That’s my wife’s job! But, if you can, make your own slice of our planet a better place. I’d start with biodiversity conservation! But that’s me!

Read on!

Hugh

From: Tanawan Sarabuddhi [mailto:tanawan.sarabuddhi@unep.org] On Behalf Of UNEP Asia Pacific Regional News

Governments Set Stage for Action on Environmental Aspects of Humanitarian Crises and Risks to Human Health

Gathering in Lead-up to Second UN Environment Assembly Marks Progress on Implementing Environmental Dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Nairobi, 19 February 2016 – Governments and other key actors today set the stage for key decisions on the implementation of the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including addressing the environmental aspects of global humanitarian crises and human health risks.

On the final day of a week-long Open Ended Meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), environment ministers, high-level government delegates and representatives of major groups set an ambitious agenda for the second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2), which will be held at UNEP’s Nairobi headquarters from May 23 to 27.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “At the United Nations Environment Assembly, every nation has a seat at the table. Since its first meeting in 2014, UNEA has become the world’s de facto Parliament for the Environment.

“When Ministers gather here in Nairobi in May for UNEA-2, the decisions they take will again set the global environmental agenda. Keeping the global environment under review through science and policy dialogue enables governments to build the international agreements that will result in improvements for both the environment and human development.”

UNEA-2 embodies the new understanding of the environment as a global issue central to a better, more-just future for all. The unprecedented level of engagement at this week’s gathering shows just how seriously the world is taking the issue. Over 400 people attended the meeting, including 14 ministers and over 120 Member State delegations, plus 29 representatives from international organizations and 41 from Major Groups and Stakeholders.

Two of the key focal issues under discussion—humanitarian crises and human health—highlight just how important a healthy, well-managed environment is to wellbeing and security of people and planet.

A wealth of statistics and research point to strong links between the use of natural resources and conflict, including:

· Since 1990, 18 conflicts have been at least partially financed by the exploitation of natural resources;

· Over the last 60 years, at least 40 per cent of all intrastate conflicts have had a link to natural resources, be it minerals, timber, oil, land or water;

· A country with a 25 per cent share of natural resources in Gross Domestic Product has a 23 per cent probability of a civil conflict;

· Over 90 per cent of major armed conflicts between 1950 and 2000 occurred within countries containing biodiversity hotspots, and more than 80 per cent directly within hotspot areas.

Equally, research by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others shows that a poorly-managed environment leads to human health issues, which have wide-ranging negative impacts on sustainable development:

· 23 per cent of all premature deaths around the world can be attributed to environmental factors. Among children, that figure rises to 36 per cent;

· Almost 7 million people die annually from exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution from power generation, cookstoves, transportation, industrial furnaces, wildfires and other causes;

· Exposure to lead can result in learning disabilities, increased antisocial behaviour, reduced fertility and increased risk of renal and cardiovascular disease later in life. A recent study showed that childhood exposure to lead creates economic losses of $977 billion dollars a year through lowering intellectual ability in low- and middle-income countries.

One specific area of health and environment focus at the meeting was how to address lead in batteries. UNEP, through the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, has been heavily involved in the near complete phase out of lead in petrol, and is working to eradicate its use in paint.

However, batteries remain large consumers of lead, rising from 65 per cent of all lead use in 1992 to over 80 per cent in 2011, due largely to rapid motorization in emerging economies. Poorly recycled lead batteries can cause contamination—as happened in Senegal in early 2008, when 35 people died from lead poisoning as the result of informal recycling of lead batteries.

At the meeting, Member States demonstrated they are ready to deliver on the promises of the 2030 Agenda by agreeing firm and collective action on environmental challenges, such as the above, at UNEA-2.

In a closing statement, the delegates made key commitments, including:

· Taking coordinated and accelerated action at all levels to implement the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda;

· Supporting the development of a new sustainable and equitable economic model that aims to eradicate poverty;

· Addressing the environmental dimension of the world’s current humanitarian crises, including the root causes of conflict and displacement and the damage done to the environment through the illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources in conflict-affected areas;

· Accelerating efforts to implement the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10 YFP);

· Strengthening UNEP at a regional level and calling on the organization to expand new partnerships—including with the private sector—to mobilize resources to implement the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda.

Mr. Steiner also announced that UNEA-2 will be enriched by 26 side events, 8 exhibitions, 2 symposia (on financing sustainable development and the environmental dimension of humanitarian crises) and 1 business dialogue, ensuring that the global community will come together to find collective solutions to challenges affecting the whole planet.

For more information, please contact:

Shereen Zorba, Head of News and Media, UNEP, +254 788 526 000, unepnewsdesk

Countries Agree on Actions to Protect Sharks

February 29, 2016

Of interest. Perhaps next time I walk up Playa Grande beach in Costa Rica looking for leatherback turtle nests I won’t stumble across a vast stinking pile of shark guts hacked out of fish caught illegally and hastily butchered on shore behind a rocky outcrop screen before being hauled away in a refrigerated van through the dry tropical forests of Guanacaste for the capital, San Jose.

In retrospect the scene made little common or economic sense.

A lot of the discarded viscera consisted of shark livers – of some value, surely? They looked like obscene jellyfish.

The black vultures were assembled but diffident. Too fat to fly. I guess the sharks were killed for steaks and fins.

Hugh

From: Tanawan Sarabuddhi [mailto:tanawan.sarabuddhi@unep.org] On Behalf Of UNEP Asia Pacific Regional News
Sent: Tuesday, February 23, 2016 9:19 AM
Subject: ountries Agree on Actions to Protect Sharks

Countries Agree on Actions to Protect Sharks

Governments, international shark experts and conservation organizations agree on measures to conserve the world’s sharks and rays at a United Nations–backed meeting in Costa Rica

San José, Costa Rica, 19 February 2016 – Close to 40 governments agreed this week to enhance protection for additional migratory shark and ray species and to a set of new conservation priorities.

At the Second Meeting of the Signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks (Sharks MOU), which ended in Costa Rica’s capital Friday, 39 countries and the European Union agreed to grant protection to an additional 22 species of sharks and rays.

“The oceans’ top predators help maintain the balance of marine ecosystems. Ensuring their survival is a global public interest that requires concerted, cooperative action by governments, fisheries, local communities, conservation organizations, scientists and the general public. As the meeting in Costa Rica has confirmed, the CMS Sharks MOU is providing the framework for this essential collaboration”, said Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).

The 22 species listed by governments in Costa Rica, include five species of sawfish, three of thresher shark, nine species of mobula ray, the Reef Manta Ray, the Giant Manta Ray the Silky Shark, the Great Hammerhead and the Scalloped Hammerhead.

This decision significantly increases the number of shark and ray species protected under the Sharks MOU, which now includes all species of the two most threatened groups – sawfishes and threshers.

Sharks are highly vulnerable to overexploitation as they grow slowly, mature late and produce very few offspring. The rapid and largely unregulated increase in target fisheries and bycatch has depleted many populations of sharks and rays worldwide, with 100 million sharks estimated as being killed every year.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List criteria (IUCN Red List), as many as a quarter of the more than 1,000 known species of sharks, rays and closely related chimaera are in danger of extinction, and only 23 per cent of species are categorized as Least Concern – the lowest rate of all vertebrates.

In a special address to the meeting earlier in the week, Costa Rican President, Luis Guillermo Solís made a strong appeal for sustainable fisheries management, saying that a balance needed to be found between conservation and sustainable use and between conservationists and fishing communities.

In his speech, President Solís also underlined the importance of reliable data and research as a basis for good policy decisions on the national, regional and international level, highlighting the need to manage natural resources wisely.

“When carefully managed, healthy shark and ray populations can support sustainable fisheries and ecotourism operations that provide food security and income for coastal communities, and products for export markets; taken together, these can be more valuable than fisheries alone”, said marine scientist and international shark expert Sarah Fowler in her address to the meeting.

“Overfishing and habitat modification and loss have been shown to affect populations of sharks and rays. The agreements reached at the 2nd Meeting of the Sharks MOU call upon countries to increase their efforts in improving our understanding of migratory shark and ray populations”, said John Carlson, the Chair of the Advisory Committee to the Sharks MOU.

Other Key Decisions of Sharks MOU Meeting

– Adoption of a revised Conservation Plan and Programme of Work for the next three years (2016-2018) aiming to strengthen research, monitoring and data collection to better understand shark populations and fisheries. Governments will also strengthen their cooperation with international bodies to ensure the protection of critical shark habitats.

– Decision to establish the Conservation Working Group, composed of world-renowned experts on shark fisheries, population ecology, socio-economics, trade, traceability, governance, taxonomy, life history and geographic range of the species. Within the next three years, the Working Group will develop a strategy for cooperation with fisheries-related bodies and organizations.

– Portugal signed the Sharks MOU, increasing its membership to 40.

– Seven nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Project Aware, the Shark Trust, Sharks Advocates International, Manta Trust and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) became official coordinating partners of the Sharks MOU.

– A group of international conservation organizations launched a new ten-year strategy outlining global priorities for conserving sharks and rays.

About Sharks MOU

The Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks (Sharks MOU) was signed in 2010 under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). Through its Conservation Plan, the MOU aims to improve our understanding of migratory sharks and rays, ensure the sustainability of fisheries, protect critical habitats and migration corridors, increase public awareness and participation, and enhance international cooperation. Twenty-nine species of sharks and rays are now listed on its Annex.

About CMS

An environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats. CMS brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range. CMS is also known as the Bonn Convention – from the place where it was signed in 1979.

For more information, please contact:

Florian Keil, Coordinator of the Common Information Management, Communication and Outreach Team of the UNEP/CMS and UNEP/AEWA Secretariats, +49 (0)228 815 2451, florian.keil

Veronika Lenarz, Public Information, UNEP/CMS Secretariat, +49 (0)228 815 2409, vlenarz

Michal Szymanski, UNEP News & Media, +254 715 876 185, unepnewsdesk

Brittany and myth – what could be more enticing? A new post on Anilbalan’s Ghost Cities Blog: Baie de Trepasses ‘The Bay of the Departed’

February 28, 2016

Hugh Paxton’s Blog rates this latest post from Anilbalan as part of his Ghost Cities blog outstanding! Nothing new here. They always are!

Cheers!

Hugh

ghostcities posted: "The westernmost tip of the Brittany coast, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, is alive with legends of the sea. Mythical creatures, giants, imps, naiads and sages – each associated with a detail of the sea that explains the violence and the beauty of th"

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New post on Ghost Cities

The Bay of the Departed

by ghostcities

The westernmost tip of the Brittany coast, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, is alive with legends of the sea. Mythical creatures, giants, imps, naiads and sages – each associated with a detail of the sea that explains the violence and the beauty of the coastline. The stories are often harsh and, to modern ears, cruel. Men and women destined to live out the same sacrifices for all of time, retribution for crimes committed by earlier generations or as an attempt to appease the angry sea. One part of Brittany that is today more famous for its surfing and its seafood is the Baie de Trepasses – the Bay of the Departed – but in ancient times it was said to have always been a portal into death. Here, the way of life still follows the steady tread of the century before and the century before that, a timelessness that recalls the telling and retelling of old folk tales. One of the more famous stories inspired by Breton folklore is that of the Ankou: a fisherman called by name in the deep of the night by God or the Devil to transport dead souls to the portal of the beyond on the shore of a distant land.

Read more of this post

ghostcities | February 21, 2016 at 2:00 am | Tags: Ankou, Brittany | Categories: Folklore, History, Legend, Mythology | URL: http://wp.me/p1Pozr-r2

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Invitation for cocktail reception – live performance and mixed media artworks

February 19, 2016

They are giving cocktails! This can’t be a bad idea!

Hugh

From: Indian Cultural Centre Bangkok [mailto:dokbua.iccbkk@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, February 19, 2016 1:09 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: Invitation for cocktail reception – live performance and mixed media artworks

Greetings from Indian Cultural Centre!

Indian Cultural Centre would like to cordially invite you to a cocktail reception for "Samsara" – live performance and mixed media artworks on February 25th at 6:30 p.m. at YenakArt Villa, 69 Soi Prasat Suk, Yen Akat Road, Kwaeng Chongnonsee, Khet Yannawa, Bangkok 10120 Thailand.

RSVP: Please confirm if you and your partner will be able to attend.

Tel : 02 261 5301

Email : iccbangkok<a href="mailto:1

About the artist –

Sejal Surendra Sood is a performance artist who uses her canvases to explore the meditative nature of dance and the very movement that underwrites it, breaking it into transformational and reflective experiences. Her exhibitions are experiential and not just a static viewing of either the canvases or the dance. A self taught painter, Sejal reflects on ‘movement’ and its serialised narrative and how intrinsic it is to creation itself yet so much of it goes unnoticed. The world is in constant motion, but in all that motion there is space for reflection and Sejal seeks to capture that essence in her art. With a degree in Mathematics from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sejal finds that both mathematics and the arts in conjunction offer her the chance to communicate ideas about life.

She first went on to pursue art and dance in New York before making her way east to Mumbai via Hong Kong and now Bangkok to explore different forms of dance, which inspire both her visual and performance art. Over the years she has exhibited at the Sofitel So Bangkok, Salwa Zeidan Gallery, Think Design Festival, Vikhroli Skin, Warp 54 and ICC Bangkok and performed as a dancer, at the UN ESCAP Bangkok, Lincoln Center, Manhattan Center, Harvard Arts First Festival, Konark Dance Festival, Fantasy Ganesha Art Gallery, Thailand’s International Dance Festival.

Warm regards,

मालती राओ वाडापल्ली

Malathi Rao Vadapalli

Director, Indian Cultural Centre

Embassy of India, Bangkok

निदेशिका, भारतीय सांस्कृतिक केंद्र

भारतकाराजदूतावास, बेंकाक

23 Floor Lake Rajada 193/101

Rajadapisek Road, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110

Tuesday – Saturday, 10.00 am – 6.30 pm

Mob: 089501 7088

Website: www.iccbangkok.org

Please visit our Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Indian-Cultural-Centre-Bangkok/378906022230203

and "LIKE" it for regular information

Mozzie holocaust

February 19, 2016

Khun Mee has just killed at least 300 mozzies in the last five minutes using the electric tennis bat, Chang killed 50 this morning or so this morning as well. I’ve exterminated many. I’m not sure where they come from. We have the fattest geckoes in town. And after all this mozzie slaughter one has just survived and bitten me on the eyelid.

I find this highly annoying!

Hugh

American Idiots

February 18, 2016

Green Day American Idiot!

Quite appropriate. And not a bad song! Red necks aren’t an issue.

The ghastly problem every fucking idiot American politician faces is that they have to make a speech that appeals to a domestic audience then it is broadcast world wide. When somebody says “I am standing in the only place in the world where people work and can advance. AMERICA!!!!” I feel like throwing up. I know what they are doing. Lots of people take these extraordinary insults seriously.

Hugh


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