Monthly Archives: August 2013

U.N. Experts Depart Syria, Cross Into Lebanon

Thanks;Associated Press Aug. 31, 2013&Time World

(BEIRUT) — U.N. chemical weapons experts have left Syria and crossed into neighboring Lebanon.

An Associated Press crew saw the U.N. personnel cross into Lebanon from Syria through the country’s Masnaa border crossing early Saturday.

The team on Friday carried out a fourth and final day of inspection as they sought to determine precisely what happened in the Aug. 21 alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus.

The team took samples from victims for examination in laboratories in Europe.

WHALE SHARK STUDIES

Vaniceseasonal's Blog

Thanks;Dr. Rachel Graham of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Emma Hickerson of NOAA’s

Tracked Whale Shark Confirms Connectivity

August 19, 2009–Tracked whale shark confirms connectivity between the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and the northwestern Gulf of Mexico

Establishing marine protected areas is considered a means of stemming the decline in marine species and the habitats they need to survive. However, the biological connectivity of these areas, often created in isolation and located rather far apart, has not generally been considered or demonstrated across man-made boundaries.

As the world’s largest fish, whale sharks are known to be long distance migrators, linking ocean basins together in the course of their travels. One particular whale shark has now been found to link the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in the Western Caribbean with the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.

20130831-092235.jpg
In 2008, the Wildlife Conservation Society, working with local partners CONANP in Mexico, tagged a female whale shark…

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WHALE SHARK STUDIES

Thanks;Dr. Rachel Graham of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Emma Hickerson of NOAA’s

Tracked Whale Shark Confirms Connectivity

August 19, 2009–Tracked whale shark confirms connectivity between the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and the northwestern Gulf of Mexico

Establishing marine protected areas is considered a means of stemming the decline in marine species and the habitats they need to survive. However, the biological connectivity of these areas, often created in isolation and located rather far apart, has not generally been considered or demonstrated across man-made boundaries.

As the world’s largest fish, whale sharks are known to be long distance migrators, linking ocean basins together in the course of their travels. One particular whale shark has now been found to link the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in the Western Caribbean with the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.

20130831-092235.jpg
In 2008, the Wildlife Conservation Society, working with local partners CONANP in Mexico, tagged a female whale shark with a coded acoustic tag in an area near Holbox and Isla Contoy on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula (where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea).

Recent data shows that in November 2008 this whale shark swam by a passive acoustic receiver located at Bright Bank, a coral capped salt dome located 14 miles east of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and approximately 100 miles south of Louisiana.

20130831-092411.jpg
WHALE SHARK STUDIES

Tracked Whale Shark Confirms Connectivity

August 19, 2009–Tracked whale shark confirms connectivity between the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and the northwestern Gulf of Mexico

Establishing marine protected areas is considered a means of stemming the decline in marine species and the habitats they need to survive. However, the biological connectivity of these areas, often created in isolation and located rather far apart, has not generally been considered or demonstrated across man-made boundaries.

As the world’s largest fish, whale sharks are known to be long distance migrators, linking ocean basins together in the course of their travels. One particular whale shark has now been found to link the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in the Western Caribbean with the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.

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In 2008, the Wildlife Conservation Society, working with local partners CONANP in Mexico, tagged a female whale shark with a coded acoustic tag in an area near Holbox and Isla Contoy on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula (where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea).

Recent data shows that in November 2008 this whale shark swam by a passive acoustic receiver located at Bright Bank, a coral capped salt dome located 14 miles east of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and approximately 100 miles south of Louisiana.

Although researchers Dr. Rachel Graham of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Emma Hickerson of NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary have long suspected connectivity between the two coral reef sites, the recently recorded movement confirms the linkage and potential importance of underwater features to large planktivorous fish.

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Expanding the acoustic array to additional banks and increasing the number of large megafauna tagged is an objective shared by Graham and Hickerson as part of a broad international megafauna tracking project called Marine Meganet. This will likely reveal additional links between these two distant coral reef habitats.

The sanctuary, which is currently reviewing its management plan, is considering requests to add nine additional banks to the sanctuary, including Bright Bank.

For more information about Dr. Graham’s work tagging manta rays and whale sharks, please visit her Elasmobranch Research page on our web site.

To learn more about the sanctuary’s involvement with acoustic tagging, please visit our Manta Ray Research page.

Click here to view video footage of whale sharks and other sharks within the sanctuary.

For further information, please contact the sanctuary Research Coordinator.

Top Japanese developer investing in three Asean countries

Thanks;Somluck Srimalee
The Nation
Publication Date : 30-08-2013

Mitsui Fudosan Residential Company is confident in the continued growth of the Asean economies and is expanding into Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia this year after first investing in Singapore 40 years ago.

“We are confident that Asean countries’ economies will still grow, especially the Asean-5 countries – Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines – by the targeted 5 per cent next year. Although they are facing low growth in the second half of this year, it is a short-term situation,” group chairman and chief executive officer Kiyotaka Fujibayashi said.

The group early this year invested more than 10 billion baht (US$312 million) in residential and retail projects in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

In Thailand, Mitsui Fudosan set up a joint-venture (JV) firm with Ananda Development, Ananda MF Asia, with registered capital of 900 million baht. The Japanese company holds a 49-per cent stake in the JV, 49 per cent is held by Ananda Development, and the rest by minor shareholders.

Ananda MF Asia has set aside an investment budget of 1.8 billion baht, half from the company’s capital and the rest borrowed from the major shareholders, to develop Ideo Q Rama 4, a condominium project worth 6.5 billion baht near the Sam Yan MRT station. The project will open to presales in the fourth quarter, and plans to be complete and transferred to customer in 2016 at a starting price of 2.89 million baht per unit. A project loan from Bangkok Bank has already been approved.

“We also plan to develop an average of two residential projects worth Bt10 billion a year by way of our joint-venture firm,” Fujibayashi said.

Ananda MF Asia is also interested in developing office and retail projects in the future.

In Malaysia and Indonesia, the group is also investing through joint ventures with local partners to develop the both residential and retail projects, Fujibayashi said.

Mitsui Fudosan Residential is a leader in the Japanese property market. The group recorded total sales this fiscal year (April 2012-March 2013) worth 466 billion baht.

It develops and transfers to customers 5,000 to 6,000 residential units a year.

Ananda Development president and CEO Chanond Ruangkritya said the JV firm would focus on large residential projects worth more than 5 billion baht, while Ananda Development itself would continue to develop condominium projects worth up to 3 billion baht.

“To expand our investment into larger projects, we needed a partner to reduce our business risk for the long term,” he said.

Ananda Development plans to launch nine new condominium projects worth 10 billion baht in the current second half, two of which opened last week worth 3.2 billion baht.

It will deliver 10.2 billion baht worth of homes to its customers this half, including 1.02 billion baht worth in the current quarter. The remaining 9.2 billion baht worth will be booked as revenue in the fourth quarter. This will result in a net profit for the full year, he said.

Ananda Development recorded revenue of 1.9 billion baht and a net loss of 91.3 million baht in the first half.

US$1 = 37.02 baht

U.S. second-quarter growth revised up to 2.5%

Aug. 29, 2013, 8:30 a.m. EDT

Thanks;Jeffry Bartash

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – The U.S. economy grew at a 2.5% annual rate in the second quarter instead of 1.7% as previously estimated, largely because of an improved trade picture, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected gross domestic product to be revised up to 2.3%, mainly because of a smaller U.S. trade gap. Even faster growth in exports and a somewhat slower increase in imports largely accounted for the bump in GDP. Companies also restocked warehouse shelves a bit faster than previously believed. In another positive sign, underlying demand for U.S.-produced goods and services rose at a 1.9% pace in the second quarter instead of 1.3%, though that increase reflected higher exports. And businesses sharply boosted investment in structures. Most other aspects of the GDP report, however, were little changed. Consumer spending, the linchpin of the U.S. economy, was unchanged at 1.8% growth. Government spending fell 0.9% instead of 0.4%. Inflation as measured by the PCE index, meanwhile, was flat overall, and it rose just 0.8% excluding food and energy. Disposable personal income, or the money people have left over after taxes, climbed 3.2% instead of 3.4% as originally reported. The GDP report will be refined through one further update in the next month.

I’m not suffering for food or drink. I’m suffering to return to Syria’

THANKS;John Vandiver

Published: August 23, 2013

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KILIS, Turkey — Doaa, a 17-year-old Syrian high school student, is one of the newcomers taking harbor outside the sprawling refugee camp in this Turkish border town bulging with those left homeless by Syria’s unrelenting civil war.

Her village, about 25 miles across the border, was the scene of heavy Syrian tank shelling just a few days ago, forcing her family to evacuate.

“I’m not suffering for food or drink. I’m suffering to return to Syria,” said Doaa, who did not provide her last name. “People are dying every day. And the children are suffering most. They’ve lost their childhood.”

There are about 300,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey and 50,000 or so reside in Kilis. About 15,000 of those live in Kilis’ two refugee camps. But with those facilities full, many others are scattered around the border city, finding shelter where they can.

This is a place where moods swing wildly, reverberating between rage and boredom. Scuffles between frustrated teenagers break out. Old men pass the time under shady trees, the only escape from a blistering sun. When asked about their day-to-day life, many shrug.

“This life is so boring,” said Abdo Fadel, a 75-year-old refugee who says his village was plundered then burned to the ground by the Syrian army two years ago. Since then, he’s been at the main refugee camp in Kilis.

Fadel becomes agitated, however, when talk turns to Syria’s future and the West’s lack of military support for the country’s rebel army force. The opposition fighters — a troubling mix of pro-democracy rebels known as the Syrian Free Army and foreign Islamic militants — are engaged in a virtual stalemate with the regime of strongman Bashar al-Assad. Many refugees say they feel abandoned by the West, which has been leery of wading into the war or providing substantial supplies of weapons for fear they could fall into the wrong hands.

Some take the U.S. aversion as tacit support for Assad.

“Now America is an enemy because it is on the side of the enemy,” said Fadel, the father of five daughters and 11 sons, some of whom have taken up arms with opposition fighters.

Initially, Fadel said he hoped the U.S. would lend a muscular hand, much like the U.S. and NATO did in Libya when a no-fly zone enabled rebels to wage a successful military campaign against dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Today, Fadel says he’s soured on the West for its unwillingness to support the Syrian rebel army in the same way. Like many others here, he wants what the U.S. and its allies have been reluctant to offer: a no-fly zone that would ground Syrian fighter jets. Or even better: heavy weapons so that rebels can shoot down the planes themselves, he said.

Such feelings are likely to only intensify, particularly after new accusations that Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons. Anti-regime activists say Assad’s forces Wednesday deployed chemical weapons outside of Damascus, killing more than 1,000 people. Syria has denied the claim.

If those allegations are proven, it could pressure a reluctant West to become more involved in the conflict. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Thursday said if such allegations prove true, a “reaction of force” would be required, though he told CNN affiliate BFM-TV that “force” would not include boots on the ground.

“If the U.N. Security Council cannot do it, decisions will be made otherwise,” Fabius told the network.

But there is little sign that the U.S. is prepared to intervene in a complex civil war where the battlefield is filled with Assad’s army, a loosely organized Free Syria Army, and a host of Islamic militant groups, some with ties to al-Qaida.

Some, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have said the U.S. should take a tougher stance, such as enforcing a no-fly zone. However, it’s the messy strategic picture in Syria, with no clear allies on the ground, that has given the Obama administration pause.

“Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an Aug. 19 letter to Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., which was obtained by The Associated Press. “It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not.”

Outside Kilis’ main refugee camp, opinions vary about why the West has stayed largely on the sidelines in the conflict. Some people say concerns about weapons falling into the hands of extremists is an excuse for inaction. Some even deny the existence of foreign fighters in Syria.

Doaa, the Syrian high school student, says America has turned a blind eye to chemical weapon use by the Syrian military.

“A ‘red line’ was crossed, but nothing happens,” she said, referring to an early statement by President Barack Obama warning that the use of chemical weapons by Syria would have consequences.

“America talks of democracy. Where is this democracy?” added Fadel, who scoffed at offerings of humanitarian aid, of which he is a beneficiary. “We don’t need food. We can eat grass. We need weapons.”

“I think they want the two sides to just fight and kill each other,” said Fayad Sheghri, 33, a former member of the Syrian army who defected two years ago to join rebel fighters.

Sheghri, who says he left Assad’s army during the early stages of the civil war after witnessing the indiscriminate killing of civilians by other soldiers, has been at the refugee camp in Kilis for one year, teaching math at a school inside the guarded camp.

On occasion, he returns to Syria.

“I go back and fight with them when necessary,” he said.

Other refugees say that the U.S. hesitation is understandable.

“A no-fly zone, that would be good for the Syrian people. Anti-aircraft weapons are needed,” said Ahmed, who didn’t give his last name because of security concerns. “But what can America do? It’s a great state, but it has its own internal affairs to concern itself with. America can’t do everything for all the people.”

Still, Ahmed, 32, said the U.S. should take Syrian rebel leaders at their word when they say they will not let weapons slip into the hands of foreign fighters, who have flooded the country.

“In the beginning these foreign people were welcomed by the Syrians. They came saying they were there to help,” he said. But it was an alliance forged out of opportunism, not a shared vision for Syria, he said.

However, over time many people grew fearful of the foreigners, who came brandishing a strict form of Islam that’s foreign to many in Syria, he said. “I don’t think those foreigners are welcome anymore,” said Ahmed, adding that the U.S. should do a trial run by supplying a limited number of weapons to test whether the rebel fighters can be trusted.

Meanwhile, life in the Turkish camp is dull, but secure, he said. Turkey provides a stipend of 55 Turkish lira (about $27) every 15 days for each person in his family. Ahmed, who has a wife, 2-year-old daughter and five unmarried sisters to support, said he gets by.

“When we left Syria, I carried my daughter through the mountains to escape the fighting,” he said. “She was 3 days old.”

Now, he’s trying to obtain passports so he can move his family to Europe. A demonstrator during the initial uprising in Syria, he hopes his name isn’t on a government list somewhere, which would make getting a passport not only impossible but dangerous.

“I’m trying to get out,” he said. “We’d like to go to Sweden. I hear they are good to refugees there.”

Hagel Meets Asian Defense Leaders as Syria Simmers

Vaniceseasonal's Blog

Thanks;ROBERT BURNS 2 hours ago /AP

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BANDER SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is opening two days of talks with Asian defense leaders in Brunei, pushing for closer military ties even as the world is focused on Syria.

Hagel was consulting by phone with administration officials and with allied defense chiefs, and he raised the Syria crisis in a one-on-one meeting Wednesday with his South Korean counterpart. Officials said the two agreed that the purported chemical weapons attack on civilians last week in Syria was a matter of deep concern.

Japan’s defense minister thanked Hagel for taking the time to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference amid the Syria crisis.

Hagel told a British television interviewer on Tuesday that U.S. forces were “ready to go” should President Barack Obama order a military strike on Syria.

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Hagel Meets Asian Defense Leaders as Syria Simmers

Thanks;ROBERT BURNS 2 hours ago /AP

Image

BANDER SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is opening two days of talks with Asian defense leaders in Brunei, pushing for closer military ties even as the world is focused on Syria.

Hagel was consulting by phone with administration officials and with allied defense chiefs, and he raised the Syria crisis in a one-on-one meeting Wednesday with his South Korean counterpart. Officials said the two agreed that the purported chemical weapons attack on civilians last week in Syria was a matter of deep concern.

Japan’s defense minister thanked Hagel for taking the time to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference amid the Syria crisis.

Hagel told a British television interviewer on Tuesday that U.S. forces were “ready to go” should President Barack Obama order a military strike on Syria.

In Fiji, Machete-Wielding Locals Spook Tourists and Investors

World

A DJ by the name of Bar’el Wachtel (who, full disclosure, is a friend of mine) gave up a dream job spinning tunes at a luxury resort in the Maldives and moved to Fiji to set up a beautifully sybaritic hangout that he called Cloud 9. Part tiki-themed floating restaurant and part buoyant day club, Club 9 is a large designer pontoon moored in the gin-clear waters of a tropical lagoon not far from the tourist hub of Nadi on Viti Levu, the largest of Fiji’s 322 sun-kissed islands. Better yet, it floats only 800 m from Cloudbreak, the reef break described by surfing deity Kelly Slater as “the best wave on earth.”

Cloud 9 proved a hit with surfers when it launched in June in time for the Volcom Fiji Pro, Cloudbreak’s annual surfing contest. Since then, its patrons have hailed predominantly from the…

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Towards a Eurasian Soil Partnership for food security and sustainable development

until 15th September 2013 total contributions: 11

Dear Colleagues,
Welcome to the Online Consultation “Towards a Eurasian Soil Partnership for food security and sustainable development”, which will be held 26th August to 15th September 2013, in both Russian and English.
This three-week online consultation is initiated by the Eurasian Center for Food Security (ECFS) in collaboration with FAO’s Global Soil Partnership (GSP), FAO’s Global Forum for Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum) and the World Bank.
The ECFS was established by the Government of the Russian Federation at Moscow State University as a follow up to the commitment made by G8 leaders, known as the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, to implement measures to improve world food security.
The Global Soil Partnership, a recent mechanism established by FAO aiming at consolidating joint efforts of partners interested in the preservation, conservation and rehabilitation of soils as a finite natural resource, foundation of ecosystem services and food production. It was a long-awaited step, because for many decades the importance of soils for human well-being was underestimated. The perception that soils are everywhere makes us overlook the fact that it is a non-renewable resource on a human time-scale.
This E-consultation is inviting to contribute to the development of a joint platform of the Eurasian Soil Partnership (EASP) for food security under the framework of the Global Soil Partnership. The GSP is designed to be implemented through regional and/or sub-regional partnerships of regional nature, based on common language, culture, physical location or other considerations. The priorities of each region regarding soil resources depend on its own specific geographical, socioeconomic, and cultural peculiarities that make it unique in the world.
The discussion is meant to engage in a constructive dialogue everyone interested in soil resources and its different uses and applications, and will contribute to: a) the development of a joint platform for the establishment of the regional Eurasian Soil Partnership for food security, b) to the identification of priorities on soil resources for portraying potential actions towards the sustainable management of soils in the Eurasian region that could be implemented by researchers, decision-makers, private sector, NGOs and other stakeholders.
For a brief overview on the current status on the implementation of the GSP and the perspectives for the EASP, we suggest to consult the background paper:
Towards a Eurasian Soil Partnership for food security and sustainable development
The discussion should consider the following main issues:
Healthy soils greatly contribute to the sustainable production of nutritious food.
Food security in Eurasia region is closely connected to the status of soil health.
The soil-water-energy nexus should be considered when designing any intervention. Soil should be part of an interdisciplinary setting under the food security and sustainable development agenda.
A regional trans-boundary mechanism that allows interaction and partnership towards the sustainable management of soils is required.
In order to stimulate and enrich this discussion, we propose the following guiding questions:
Are land degradation and climate change limiting factors to food security in the Eurasian region, especially in Central Asia? How will these issues be addressed from the soil dimension?
How a sub-regional soil partnership should be structured in order to ensure food security and sustainable development using an example of Central Asia?
What particular items related to soil management and conservation should be included in the agenda of the Eurasian Soil Partnership?
The outcomes of the consultation will serve as the basis for the discussion at an International Conference to be organized by the ECFS in autumn 2013. The results will also feed into the process for the development of the Plans of Action for the GSP pillars, which is facilitated by the GSP Secretariat, and to the successful creation of the community of practice of the ECFS in the Eurasian region.
We wish to thank you in advance for actively participating in this consultation and believe that your participation and comments will prove to be very valuable and that both you and your organization will benefit from the online-interaction with other experts in the region.
We look forward to an interesting and rich discussion.

Pavel Krasilnikov –Head of Land Resources Department (ECFS)

Ronald Vargas – Global Soil Partnership Secretariat (FAO)