Saturday, September 30, 2006

Film on Christian children's camp

Not sure what to make of this. I'm all for kids praying as they don't have the hangups we adults do. This idea of terrorists for God doesn't sit well. Jesus instructed his people to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us. Is this lady encouraging that? I don't know. I probably should see the film before I make a judgement. But I am concerned that it will bring Christianity into disrepute, yet again...

Film on Christian children's camp has cross to bear - World -

TWO-YEAR-OLD Ivy's grandfather had serious eye problems, diagnosed as a detached retina. He had surgery, but despite doctors saying the procedure went well, his eyes did not improve.

One day, after a visit to Ivy, he left. When his granddaughter realised he was gone, she ran after him down the street. "Grandpa! Grandpa! Wait I have to do something," she yelled.

He knelt down and said: "What do you have to do?"

"I have to kiss your eyes," she said, and with that she removed his glasses and kissed each one of his eyes and said, "Jesus", then put his glasses back on.

Within a week, grandpa's eyes were totally healed and he was able to go back to work.

This story, and many more like it, are on Becky Fischer's website under the title "Peewee Prophets".

Fischer runs an organisation called Kids in Ministry. She is the central character in a new documentary which raises uncomfortable questions about religious education and politics in the United States.

Jesus Camp is the story of three children, Rachel, now 10, Levi, now 13, and Tory, now 11, and the summer camp they attended last year.

Becky Fischer enlists a group of children as young as six as Christian soldiers in the service of God, as they weep, speak in tongues, collapse and writhe on the floor and find the power of enlightenment.

At one stage Fischer warns the children against Harry Potter. Warlocks, she says sternly, are enemies of God. If Harry Potter had been around in the time of the Old Testament, he would have been put to death.

She frequently uses war terminology, but says it is about a spiritual warfare, not one with guns and other weapons.

On her website, she answers her own questions, such as "Are you raising up Christian terrorists or another Hitler Youth Movement?" and "You are charismatic. Do you represent all evangelical Christians?"

She says: "Christians do believe they are in a cultural war for the lives and souls of people worldwide, and particularly for the minds and hearts of our children and youth."

In the US, the film has been rated PG-13, which means it is recommended that the three children should not see themselves on film. Perhaps the film classification board was concerned about young people being impressionable. The three young stars of the documentary, who attend the camp, are all from evangelical homes in Missouri.


Thai army jittery as it moves to quell unrest

Strange events in a peaceful area of Thailand. Looks like someone might be stirring up trouble over the coup. I hope this does not spread and cause more than just a few burnt buildings. Thailand needs to move on... get a new interim government installed and prepare for its new constitution and general elections.

Thai army jittery as it moves to quell unrest - World -

AS INVESTIGATORS pick through the embers at five smouldering schools in central Thailand, the military coup leaders have tightened restrictions on community radio stations to ensure their message is the only one rural Thailand receives.

The army is unsettled by the co-ordinated attack on five remote schools in a sleepy, conservative farming province five hours' drive north of Bangkok with no history of political unrest.

The pragmatic locals know trouble when they see it. With soldiers looking on, the villagers laid flowers amid the still smoking ruins of Baan Chantima school, in Moo 3 village on Thursday, and cursed those who brought politics to their doors.

Initially, the military blamed tensions between teachers, but this has been quickly dismissed. The most likely scenario - an unsettling conclusion for the generals - is that the schools represent the first aggressive opposition to the coup on September 19.

The military has called in Bangkok's Central Institute for Forensic Science to co-ordinate with forensic police. A third army investigation is also under way.

"It is a challenge to the coup people and it is a stronghold for [deposed leader Thaksin Shinawatra's party] Thai Rak Thai," said one man at burnt-out Baan Chantima school who did not wish to be named.

There were more valuable targets to the north, he said on Thursday, such as the heavily armed 3rd Army Command at Phitsanulok, and oilwells. "Perhaps the event took place here because no one would expect it."

It seems an odd place to start a counter-revolution. Kampang Phet province is a Thaksin stronghold, but the rice and sugar-cane growing province is better known for its bird flu outbreaks than revolutionary activity.


Baan Chantima school was one of five schools in three districts torched by arsonists. In each case a wooden school building was targeted and the concrete buildings left alone. Two were completely gutted and three partially burnt.

Burning schools are a familiar sight in southern Thailand but are unheard of in central and northern Thailand. "It has never happened before in the nine years I have lived here," said Piyarat Wongmanee, 36, who teaches sixth grade at Baan Chantima.

"Personally, I don't feel like it's the same as the south. It's very peaceful here, nothing like this has ever happened before."

Police Lieutenant-General Somchai Chalermsooksant, the deputy director of the forensic institute, said these attacks were different from the south. "In the south they use branches, tie it with soaked cloth, light it and throw."

The villagers in this remote district now have one thing in common with the south: soldiers on their streets who say they are there to reassure locals that they are still safe.

"Soldiers never visit this place, this is more a police dominance area," one villager said. "People trust the police more than the military here."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Hair Trade !!

I've never thought about hair being a commodity to be traded at any significant level... but apparently it is. I wonder what several tons of the stuff looks like??

Hair Trade Expands into Bangladesh (Burma/Arakan News)
Hair traders from Arakan State have turned to Bangladesh markets to buy hair from local Bangladeshis for cheaper prices since hair has become a rare commodity in Arakan State, following the exporting of several tons of hair to China a few years back, a local trader reports.

"We are now purchasing several tons of hair from local Bangladesh traders with cheaper prices, but the quality is very poor and very different than hair from Burma," said a hair trader.

In Bangladesh, Arakanese traders can by a kilogram of hair for TK 1,300, and a mung, which is 40 kilograms, for TK 5,200. Strands of hair are TK 2,700 per kilogram and TK 18,000 per mung.

In the hair markets of Rangoon and Mandalay, a viss, or 2.5 kilograms, is 60,000 kyat, while the highest quality hair is priced around 155,000 kyat. After purchase, hair traders from Burma send the hair to the Chinese markets of Yunnan Province.

The land down under going under

Now this is something weird... It's what Oz would look like if seas were to rise 300 metres due to global warming. Yikes, my home town is well and truly drowned, as is Sydney and a lot of my favourite places.

I find it rather telling to see something like this and realise that this could be where we're heading if the global warming trend doesn't slow down/stop. It might not be in my lifetime but it would be in someone's lifetime. Not a nice thought... especially given that the whole earth would experience similar drownings of the land. What would this mean for all the people in the world at that time? Where would they fit? It'd be pretty crowded, I guess.

The land down under going under - National -

IT IS Australia as we have never seen it before - a dry brown land transformed into an archipelago of disparate islands.

The six images, a fusion of art and science, portray what would happen if sea levels rose by up to 500 metres and the waters inundated the lower-lying regions.

The series is part of an exhibition, Australia from Space, created by a US geographer, Stephen Young, based on images of the continent captured by astronauts and orbiting satellites.

Professor Young, of Salem State College, near Boston, said remote sensing could now reveal extraordinary details about the land, oceans, atmosphere, ice caps and cities.

The starting point of his vision of Australia gradually disappearing was radar information from the space shuttle. Using the map of the rise and fall of the landscape this provided, he calculated how the continent would appear after each additional sea level rise of 100 metres. During the last ice age, about 20,000 years ago, sea levels were 100 metres lower than today.

Extreme global warming might eventually lead to another rise of 100 metres, he said. "And on a longer geological time scale the indundations shown are not out of the realm of possibility."

But his intention in producing the set of images - one of 80 in the exhibition - was not to warn of the dangers of climate change. "The piece was created purely for the beauty of seeing Australia in a different way."

Professor Young began using satellite imagery for his research on changes in vegetation more than a decade ago. "I would often come across truly awe-inspiring images of the Earth."

He hung some on his office walls, and found they were very popular with students. Since 1998 his images of landforms, weather patterns, pollution, oceans and bushfires have been shown in galleries around the world to try to inspire "a sense of wonder and curiosity" about the planet.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its last report predicted sea levels would rise by between nine centimetres and 88 centimetres by 2100.

The two-day exhibition, a collaboration with the NSW Geographical Society, opens today at the University of NSW.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The best breads in town at Kasem's store in Chiang Mai

The best breads in town at Kasem's store in Chiang Mai
Originally uploaded by bhojman.

Kasem's store was just about the very first store in Chiang Mai that started to cater to tastes of foreigners. They have the best breads! They even have really good bagels... not the soft cakey fluffy things you sometimes find being passed off as bagels... but the nice dense variety. Mmmmm are they ever good, and especially slathered in butter and vegemite!

Harbour bridge

P7317570, originally uploaded by bhojman.

It's not often I'm a passenger and able to take photos... but I had a great time one day with a friend and captured this view crossing Sydney's harbour bridge.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thai coup leaders claim endorsement by king

If true that the King has endorsed the new government then things will continue to be calm here.

For the first time today I saw a military presence in Chiang Mai. They seemed to be guarding a school, and had lots of children peering into the interior of a troop cariier. Some Thais were taking photos of the soldiers who were holding their weapons in a vigilant yet relaxed manner.

Life goes on here as usual!

Coup leaders claim endorsement by king - World -

The leaders of Thailand's coup claim that the king has endorsed their new military government, effectively sealing the deal on the most peaceful coup in Thai history.

In the 48 hours since the tanks rolled onto the streets of Bangkok and deposed caretaker prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, not one shot has been reported.

A spokesman for army chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin and other generals in a so-called "Council for Democratic Reform" announced on national television overnight that King Bhumibol Adulyadej had endorsed their actions by royal proclamation.

Mr Thaksin may still have a large supporter base outside Bangkok, but the king receives an almost spiritual reverence from all Thais so if His Majesty thinks it is the best way forward, Thais will follow.

Now that the military has royal backing, the chances of a counter coup appear to have evaporated.


Classic photo of a bloodless coup!

Coups in Thailand tend to be fairly bloodless. The worst that occurred since I've been here was in 1992 when the then Thai leader Suchinda sought to crush a popular uprising against his illegal leadership which he gained through a coup the year before. In that 1992 event there were only 50 "official" deaths though many hundreds of people disappeared forever.

This one has been bloodless and I pray continues to be so. Here's a great photo that says it all... not fear but perhaps a sense of adventure and certainly an event to be celebrated and photographed for posterity.

Ousted and out of touch, PM says he won't give in - World -

THAILAND's caretaker prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has not relinquished his powers and is not seeking asylum following the bloodless military coup in his country, his advisers said last night. ...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Muslim animosity strange: Howard

I have to say that I agree with John Howard. The angry reaction of Muslims seems so out of all proportionate to the so called offence. It's almost as if they are looking for ways to pick a fight and to then justify a war. It's madness.

I don't know what the Pope thinks about the Muslims but he is entitled to say whatever he feels is appropriate to the situation. What was the context of the quote? It was a scholarly lecture, for crying out loud! Why is it that the Mulims, and especially the militants are so insecure about themselves and their religion.

They bash Christians. They bash Jews. They probably bash others as well... But do these rise up in anger and fury? Not at all. We might not like the things they call us but they have a right to free speech just as I do.

My freedom of speech does need to be tempered with love, and not driven by hatred. I don't hate Muslims. Those I know are wonderful people and I'm delighted to know them and to count them as friends.

There seems to be something very perverse afoot in the world today. It does not feel good. It's divisive and foments hatred and violence. It's time to stop it before whatever it is takes over the world to all of our destruction.

Muslim animosity strange: Howard - World -

THE Islamic world's angry reaction to comments by Pope Benedict was disproportionate, strange and disappointing, the Prime Minister, John Howard, said last night.

"We should take a deep breath on these things and all have a sense of proportion. We seem to be living in a world where people have no sense of proportion," he told the ABC's Lateline program. "OK, they don't like what was said. I'm sure the Pope was not intending to attack Islam. He's expressed his regrets, and I think we should really move on."

As shadowy threats against the Pope and Christianity multiplied, the Vatican dispatched diplomats to capitals of Muslim states to contain anger. Police patrols were increased around hundreds of churches and mosques in many Western countries.

Despite a personal and public apology from Benedict on Sunday, protests continued on Monday in the Muslim world. Governments everywhere recalled that the row early this year over Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad flared unexpectedly into violence around the world.

In in some countries, conciliatory voices were emerging, but many Muslims said they remained dissatisfied with Benedict's statement because he said he was "deeply sorry" for the outrage his speech provoked but did not apologise for the remarks themselves.

In his speech last week to academics at Germany's University of Regensburg, where Benedict was a theology professor in the 1970s, the Pope quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who regarded some of the prophet Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman".

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, alleged the Pope's speech was part of a "crusade against Islam" launched by the US President, George Bush. On the sidelines of a United Nations meeting in New York, Mr Bush told the Malaysian Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, that Benedict's apology was sincere.

Mr Badawi agreed but cautioned the Pope to avoid making further divisive statements. "I think we can accept it, and we hope there are no more statements that can anger the Muslims," Mr Badawi said.

The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, expressed respect for Benedict and acknowledged the pontiff had "modified" his remarks. But Morocco's King Mohammed sent a letter to the Vatican to protest against the comments.

Angry protests continued on Monday in India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Iraq. Most of the demonstrations have remained fairly small. Guards have been posted at Christian churches in Egypt and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where several were firebombed.

Websites linked with Muslim extremists have posted a batch of threats against the Pope and the Vatican. In Britain, police visited clergy in the London area and were asked to contact their local stations urgently to discuss security.

An Italian nun was shot and killed on Sunday in Somalia after a radical cleric there condemned the Pope's speech. An Italian diplomat and his wife were killed on Monday in Morocco - a country that recalled its ambassador to the Holy See in protest - but Italian officials said the case appeared to be a robbery gone wrong.

The Pope is next expected to address pilgrims during his weekly audience at St Peter's Square tomorrow. The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano published the Pope's expression of regret on its front page Monday in Italian, French, English and - highlighted in the centre - Arabic. Vatican officials confirmed that plans for Benedict's trip to Turkey, scheduled for late November, remained on track.

The Turkish commentator Selcuk Gultasli said the words of regret from the Vatican were encouraging, and Muslims who compared the Pope to Hitler or who attacked churches and shot at nuns were an embarrassment. The chasm between the Islamic world and the West was larger than ever.

Coup in Thailand!!

Well, it's finally happened! The army have taken control of Thailand in a bloodless and shotless coup... I was here for one in Sept 1985 when I first came, then for another kerfuffle a few years later and here I am again. There's obviously been a lot of dissatisfaction with Thaksin's stubbornness in holding onto power.

The TV here is only broadcasting the King's song. The Thai papers on the internet are not accessible. Schools are closed as are banks and the stock exchange. However, mobile phone networks are still working okay. And, so is the internet... for which I am extremely grateful.

The military who've taken control are wearing a yellow ribbon in honour of the king... and hopefully this means they really have Thailand's welfare at heart. Must away to do other things today.

God bless Thailand's king Bhumipol!

Coup: Thai army in control - World -

The Thai army took control of Bangkok without a shot being fired, dismissed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, revoked the constitution and promised a swift return to democracy after political reforms.

A government spokesman at the United Nations with Thaksin telephoned a Thai television station to announce a state of emergency in an apparent attempt to head off the coup. He said the army could not succeed and "we're in control".

But tanks and troops took over Government House in Thailand's first coup in 15 years and a coup spokesman said the army and police were in control of the capital and surrounding provinces.

Armoured vehicles and soldiers took up position on many street corners, but life in most of Bangkok continued much as usual with traffic moving through rain drenched streets and the airport operating normally.

The seizure would be temporary and power "returned to the people" soon, retired Lieutenant-General Prapart Sakuntanak said on all Thai television channels.

Foreign news channels, including CNN and the BBC, were cut off.

The army told all soldiers to report to base and banned unauthorised troop movements, suggesting the military leadership was worried that Thaksin loyalists in the armed forces might attempt a counter-coup.

Prapart said the armed forces and police had set up a body to decide on political reforms, ousting billionaire telecoms tycoon Thaksin in the midst of a political crisis stemming from accusations he had subverted Thailand's 74-year-old democracy.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Lines in the sand repost...

Maybe it would be good to be reminded of an Oliphant cartoon which I posted September 3. This is what's at issue with all the jumping up and down the Muslims do whenever anyone says or does anything to which they take exception. The non-Muslim world is being forced to keep taking steps backwards. If we're not careful there'll come a time when our backs are up against the wall and there's no where to go.

The Pope politcally incorrect... good on him!

The Pope spoke... and, the Muslim world is all stirred up, the fires probably fanned by the same people who fanned the flames after the Danish cartoons.

Why can't he say what he said? If the comments had been about Jews or Chtistians there'd be no reaction whatever. The whole business of politcal correctness is a bunch of hogs wash based on lies. There may have been some value to it once but the whole thing has run amok... and free speech is being curtailed. Even comedians are having to watch what they say!

This has a rather nasty resemblance to what happened during the nazi era. No one stood up to Hitler and all his posturing. The West kept drawing a line in the sand... and Hitler kept moving forward. It has a similar feel now. Then we had WW2! Where are we heading now?

I've come across some interesting work by Pierre Rehov who has been documenting the suicide bombers, trying to understand why they do what they do and why their families are so proud of them and their "sacrifice". Check out the July 27, 2005 Interview with Pierre Rehov, documentary filmmaker, on psychology behind suicide bombings. Also, his website on the Middle East Documentaries that he's made. He has some chilling insights.

I hope the Pope stands his ground!

Malaysia demands apology - World -
Malaysia's prime minister has demanded Pope Benedict XVI apologise and withdraw his recent remarks about Muslim holy war, the national news agency reported today.

"The Pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created,'' the Bernama news agency quoted Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as saying. ``The Vatican must now take full responsibility over the matter and carry out the necessary steps to rectify the mistake.''

Muslims from across the world deplored remarks made by Pope Benedict on Islam and many of them said the Catholic leader should apologise in person to dispel the impression he had joined a campaign against their religion.

Influential Turkish legislator Salih Kapusuz fired back today, saying the Pope would go down in history ``in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini.''

``He has the dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages,'' Kapusuz said.

Pakistan's legislature condemned Benedict, as did Lebanon's top Shi'ite cleric. "We demand that he apologises personally, and not through (Vatican) sources, to all Muslims for such a wrong interpretation," said Beirut-based Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.
In Gaza, angry Palestinians marched through the streets. "This is another Crusader war against the Arab and Muslim world," said Hamas official Ismail Radwan as he addressed some 5,000 chanting demonstrators.

And in Cairo, Egyptian demonstrators chanted, ``Down with the Pope!''

In Britain, the head of the Muslim Council urged Benedict to ``speak with responsibility and repudiate the Byzantine emperor's views.''

And in Iraq, warring Shi'ites and Sunnis paused from slaughtering each other to condemn the Pope. "This is the second time such an offence has been give before Ramadan," said Sheikh Salah al-Ubeidi, one of the aides to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, referring to last year's publication of cartoons in a Danish paper sparking violent Muslim protests around the world.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world's largest group of political Islamists, demanded an apology from the Pope and called on the governments of Islamic countries to break relations with the Vatican if he does not make one.

The Sheikh of al-Azhar, one of the Sunni Muslim world's most prestigious seats of religious studies, said: "The Azhar asserts that these statements indicate clear ignorance of Islam.

"They attribute to Islam what it does not contain," the sheikh, Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, said in a statement on MENA.

Muslim leaders in New York demanded the Pope apologise.

``He is declaring war by his words,'' said Imam Kadhim Mohamad at the Ahlul Bayt Mosque on Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn. ``He should either apologise or at least prove to the people that what he says is true. Otherwise, he should say nothing.''


Friday, September 15, 2006

Call for frequent flyers to skip airport checks

I reckon something like this could be very helpful for those of us who find ourselves to be frequent flyers. I get soooo tired of standing in line waiting to be checked... and then rechecked at the next place... and then rechecked again at the next place. It's not just the standing in line... it's the frustration of feeling that we're all guilty until proven innocent.

There really has to be a better way. I don't know if the suggestion in the following article is the best way to go, but at least it's a starting point for looking for more effecient ways of dealing with ecurity in air travel.

Call for frequent flyers to skip airport checks - National -

FREQUENT-FLYER benefits could extend to passengers being fast-tracked through aviation security, if the head of Sydney Airport gets his way.

Max Moore-Wilton yesterday outlined a two-tier system for airline passengers: one for those known to airlines as regular and safe passengers, and those who are unknown to airlines.

"I see no reason why regular flyers should be treated as if it's the first time they've been to an airport," said Mr Moore-Wilton, chairman of Sydney Airport Corporation.

He said that within two years a frequent flyer's booking could be tested against a database of personal information - if the Federal Government and overseas authorities give the go-ahead.

"When you went to the airport, there'd be a line for known travellers. You wouldn't have to take off your belt or your shoes.

"This is not about profiling Muslims: it's about people opting in to saying you can assess risk."

Mr Moore-Wilton said his cost-cutting and time-saving proposal was akin to random breath testing. "You don't stop everyone, because you know most have not had too much to drink," he said. "We treat everyone as if they're a potential terrorist. It's dumb."

He acknowledged his views might be seen as contrary to Australian sensitivities about discriminatory treatment. "That's a particularly old-fashioned view. We see differentiation in every part of society."

A spokesman for the Transport Minister, Warren Truss, said the proposition had been informally discussed and would be further considered as part of the "constant review of aviation security".

Addressing the Focus on Business conference in Canberra, Mr Moore-Wilton said it was questionable whether the tripling of security costs at Sydney Airport - to $48 million a year - or the $US5 billion annual increase in global aviation security since September 11, 2001 were value for money.

He said balance was needed between security screening and "the relatively free flow of people".

Otherwise, he said, widespread chaos resulted, as it did in Britain with the recent in-flight ban on liquids and gels. "Passengers were standing in line for hours," Mr Moore-Wilton said. "Thousands of bags missed flights … and hundreds of flights were cancelled.

"This is not to say that it is not legitimate to meet the public expectations about security. However, the financial impacts, the assessed risk and the effectiveness of the introduced measures all need to be carefully considered."

He said airport security was "least efficient" in the area of human involvement. "Security is relatively low paid, with relatively low skills. That will have to change to interface with increasingly sophisticated technology."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lost, twice!!

Some people don't seem to learn from their mistakes... or so it seems with this guy in Central Australia!

He gets himself lost, not once but twice... and in the same area. The heat must have addled his brain!

Lost British tourist found a second time - Breaking News - National - Breaking News
A 50-year-old British tourist missing in bush north of Alice Springs has been found by searchers for the second time in a week.

The man sparked a major air and ground search last Tuesday after he called police on his mobile phone and told them he was lost.

He said he had gone walking on tracks near the Old Telegraph Station on Sunday, September 3 and had become disorientated.

He was eventually found and taken to hospital suffering sunburn and dehydration.

Tuesday at about 12.40pm (CST) the man called police from his mobile phone to say he was lost again in roughly the same area.

He had gone walking around the Old Telegraph Station again and had been lost since Friday.

Police mounted an air and ground search and found him five hours later, about 4.6km north-east of the Telegraph Station.

The tourist - again suffering dehydration - was taken to hospital and is undergoing medical assessment.

© 2006 AAP

More landgrabbing in Burma

The ordinary people in Burma continue to suffer to whims of those in charge. Paddy fields belong to someone, they're not just land laying around waiting to be grabbed by military or civil servants.

The usual role of the military and civil servants is to protect the citizens of the country, not to take advantage of them.

It's time for this sort of behaviour to stop and care about the country and all its people!

Land grabbing for Burma new capital (Democratic Voice of Burma)
A Burmese civil servant admitted that the ruling military government’s plan to make the new administrative capital Kyappyay Naypyidaw populated by allocating 8000 plots of land for new buildings, involved confiscation of lands from local farmers living between Pyinmna and Lewe.
“Yes. There is a plan to allocate plots of land measuring 80x80, 100x100, 120x120 (feet?). The price has not been fixed. They haven’t said it yet,” the civil servant from the capital’s municipal department said. “There are 4000 plots on the way to Lewe and 4000 plots to be created at the areas adjoining the army and civilian lands. Application forms are not sold, but you could apply for them at Naypyidaw Municipal (office).”
When asked who originally owned the lands, the civil servant said: “There are various kinds in this matter. They are paddy fields of the villages. Some of them are paddy fields. I don’t know about that”.
But when asked how many acres of paddy fields had been confiscated, the civil servant refused to answer the question.
According to a local resident in nearby Pyinmana, the majority of the people are neither interested in the government’s project nor applying for the plots.

'Rat's disease' in Thailand's North

I've never heard of leptospirosis or of 'rat's disease'. It does not sound at all pleasant.

There are quite a few mysterious ailments that seem to be connected with tropical areas. Apparently a person can have this particular disease and not show any symptoms... my question in that case is, 'Is it still causing liver and spleen damage?'

'Rat's disease' takes 31 lives in the North (Bangkok Post : General news)
Leptospirosis, also known as "rat's disease," has killed 31 and infected thousands of villagers in flood-hit areas of the North, a senior health official said yesterday.

Disease Control Department chief Thawat Sundarajarn said the disease is spreading in flooded areas of Nan Province, and over 1,400 cases have already been reported in Muang, Pua, Ta Wang Pa and Wiang Sa districts.

"The leptospirosis outbreak is more severe this year due to the long inundation period and a high fatality rate in the North," he said.

The disease is an infection caused by rat urine which contaminates water and wet river banks. The bacteria in the urine does not survive for long in dry conditions and the disease is mostly found in tropical areas such as Thailand, India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and countries in Latin America.

The epidemic is usually at its peak during the rainy season between August and September and can occur in areas struck by natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes. Humans can contract the disease by either coming into contact with an infected rat or its urine. Dogs, cats, cows and buffaloes can also be carriers of the disease, Dr Thawat said.

Symptoms of the flu-like disease are high fever, muscle pain and red eyes, which eventually leads to liver and spleen failure if left untreated.

Around 350,000-500,000 leptospirosis cases are recorded around the world each year.

In Thailand, where at least 2,000 people get infected each year, most cases are reported in the northeastern and northern provinces. So far, there were more than 13,000 suspected cases in Nan province alone this year, said Dr Thawat.

The country's most severe outbreak of leptospirosis occurred back in 1999 with 14,285 infections and 362 fatalities.

As a precaution, Dr Thawat said people in flooded areas should avoid walking barefoot on damp and wet ground. "You should immediately see a doctor if your foot gets infected in the floods for urgent diagnosis and treatment," he said.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A man of passion on his eternal journey

Steve Irwin, 1962-2006

Steve Irwin (SMH Obituary)

Celebrating the life of Steve Irwin, the following obituary appeared in today's Sydney Morning Herald.

Steve was a passionate man who lived a passionate life and remained true to the ideals he espoused.

May God give comfort to his wife, Terri, and the children, Bindi and Bob, as well as all his close friends and colleagues at Australia Zoo and around the world.

Wildlife warrior took his passion to the world - Obituaries -
Steve Irwin, 1962-2006

Stephen Robert Irwin, killed by a stingray off the Great Barrier Reef last Monday, knew throughout the last decade of his life, when he enjoyed superstardom, that two things were true: he was one miscalculation away from doom; and if such a thing happened, detractors would say: "It was only a matter of time."

But he amounted to far more than that. If he did offend some traditional naturalists - and critics like Germaine Greer - he brought an awareness of wildlife to living rooms throughout the world and imbued in his listeners a respect for all creatures, even those they had been taught to revile.

Born in Essendon, in Melbourne's north-west, Irwin was destined to grow up, as were his sisters Joy and Mandy, in what was from outward appearances a normal family. His father, Bob, was a plumber and his mother, Lyn, a maternity nurse. Irwin loved sport and barracked for the Essendon Bombers in the AFL. The family took holidays and explored parks and creeks. But it was the couple's private passion, wildlife, that instilled itself in the young Steve, who was also to learn quickly that some of those beloved creatures did not necessarily appreciate the attention. When he was four, a cockatoo bit him badly on the nose.

For his sixth birthday, Irwin asked for a snake and his father, an amateur herpetologist, thought that was fair enough. While other children watched The Flintstones, Steve Irwin was catching mice for Fred, a 2.6 metre python.

At seven, he was following his father into the bush, trying to catch snakes as his father did, and barely surviving an attack by a brown snake. Once, having batted poorly in a cricket match, Irwin went looking for lizards, found a red-bellied black snake and thought the best place to transport it home on the bus was in the driver's esky. The driver was not impressed.

In 1970, following their dream, the family moved to Queensland's Sunshine Coast and founded the Beerwah Reptile Park. Lyn filled the house with injured and orphaned native animals, turning her nursing skills to bottle-feeding joeys in home-made pouches that swung from kitchen chairs. Bob taught his son to catch animals being exhibited, including crocodiles. Steve initially helped his father who "jumped" the crocodile. The boy would use his weight to pin the reptile down while his father blindfolded it. Then when Steve was nine, they reversed roles, when the boy jumped a one-metre "freshie".

After completing his schooling at Caloundra State High, Irwin joined the Queensland Government's program of trapping and relocating rogue crocodiles in the state's north. Taking his best friend, a dog called Chilli, a small boat, ropes and nets to trap the crocodiles too big to jump, he worked alone for months on end. He relocated many crocodiles to the property at Beerwah, including Acco, the 1000-kilogram "saltie" that had feasted on cattle for 20 years.

In 1991, Irwin's parents handed over to him the running of the wildlife park and he changed its name to Australia Zoo. He also began the Channel Ten documentary series, Totally Wild, which is still running. The same year he met John Stainton, who was to become his great mate and financial partner. The following year he met Terri Raines, a vet from Oregon who had a keen interest in American wildlife rehabilitation. She asked him whether he had a girlfriend, he said he did and whistled for his Staffordshire bull terrier cross, Sui. Eight months later Steve and Terri married, and invited a camera crew on their honeymoon to film the rescue of a crocodile.

In 1996, with Stainton's backing, Irwin became host of The Crocodile Hunter series, co-starring with Terri and using the services of Sui, and it thrust him into public awareness. He and his wife made more than 100 wildlife documentaries. He appeared to be showing off, almost to be taunting the crocodiles and snakes. He was often bitten, but he had a sense of humour.

Cherrie Bottger, now an executive with Channel Ten, said the first time she went with a crew to produce a segment for Totally Wild at Australia Zoo, she exhibited a phobia about snakes. The idea of a wildlife film producer having such problems sent Irwin into fits of laughter. "But he always made me feel comfortable and instructed the staff to keep the snakes away from me," she said.

Irwin certainly took risks, pushed the boundaries of safety for what he believed in. Terri Irwin once said: "People tune in because they want to see this guy die or get badly hurt. But instead they get a message about wildlife, and they get to see a guy who says, 'Isn't a rattlesnake beautiful?' Who else says that?" And who will now? What Steve Irwin saw as ordinary, most of us would call extraordinary. What Steve saw as awesome was the beauty of creatures others fear - or misunderstand. And Steve devoted his life to conveying his sense of awe to the rest of the world.

Irwin was never inclined to be cautious, or to spare himself. Trevor Long, the marine science director for Sea World, said he was once with Irwin on a boat, catching turtles for the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. Disregarding questions about his safety, Irwin dived and badly fractured a finger. Coming up, he said it was only dislocated and gave it a yank. "You could see the wave of pain go across his face." Long said. "But Steve said, 'I will strap it up', and he did and continued catching turtles for the rest of the day."

Irwin's first child was Bindi Sui, named after Irwin's favourite crocodile, Bindi, and Sui. She was born on July 24, 1998. By 1999, through cable TV series, some 200 million viewers - many of whom were in the US - had been drawn into his private enthusiasm. He had become the new Paul Hogan, the archetypal Australian "good bloke", the de facto ambassador for all that was best in his country.

The environmentalist, Dr David Suzuki, said: "Most academic environmentalists speak as if they have a pole up their behind but Steve Irwin vulgarised environmental issues in the best possible way and so popularised them to the extreme. The environmental world benefited enormously from Steve Irwin because he not only identified threatened species but hugged and kissed them, making the viewers want to save them as well."

Those who preferred the academic refinement of David Attenborough hardly warmed to Irwin, and his detractors had plenty to work on. A son, Robert Clarence, born on December 1 , 2003, was little more than a month old - too weak even to hold up his head - when Irwin took him in one arm into a crocodile pen. With the other arm, Irwin dangled a chicken carcass over the gaping mouth of a large crocodile.

Irwin, with his wife's support, said Bob was in no danger and that each of their children was going to be taught to be "croc savvy". But Irwin barely escaped a charge of child endangerment.

Irwin worked tirelessly to raise public awareness of conservation issues and bought expanses of land in several countries as part of his dream to extend the family legacy with protected parklands around the globe.

He found himself in a further spot of bother when he was filmed too close to Antarctic wildlife. That probably was the problem: he wanted to get too near.

But in April he launched his own conservation organisation, Wildlife Warriors. Its executive director, Michael Hornby, said: "We are now even more committed than ever to carry on what Steve started. Our charter includes buying land, when funds become available, and we will continue the education process he started so well."

At the time of his death, Irwin was shooting material to be used in Bindi Sui's wildlife documentary series for kids. Bindi had been brought up well. Irwin remarked with some pride on Enough Rope, Andrew Denton's ABC TV show, that she had received "her first snakebite". Obviously her father's daughter, she said at age eight that she harboured an ambition to run Australia Zoo.

Malcolm Brown and Wendy Anderson

Forced relocation and land grabbing in central Burma

The iniquitous behaviour of the Burmese military continues. Now they are trying to grab land that does not belong to them... and to force the relocation of those who are the legitimate landowners.

Do they have no conscience at all?

Forced relocation and land grabbing in central Burma (Democratic Voice of Burma)
The authorities of Meikhtila Township in central Burma and regional military officers have ordered local residents of 200 households to move their homes within 21 days from 25 September, on the pain of being prosecuted for encroaching on army-owned lands.

The order was issued on 25 August with the signature of Khin Maung Soe, the township chief administrator, and it was the second time the ‘notice letter’ was issued, a local resident told DVB.

“The ward authority members came to give us that letter, but people from the ward couldn’t accept it. Last time, we accepted it. This time, we told them that we could not accept their letter and sent them back.”

He added that the first notice letter only told residents to move out but they are very incensed by the second as it includes the threats of forced relocation and prosecution. Residents have decided to stay put and local Buddhist monks volunteered to protect them and intercede for them.

The army claims that the land belongs to nearby army-owned textile factory and accused the residents of being squatters. The residents insisted that their land doesn’t belong to the army as they can prove they bought the land with contracts long before the army built the factory.

A similar attempt of land grabbing was made by an army officer some years ago at the same place, but he was told to give up his claim by his superiors after some investigations.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

RIGHTS-BURMA: Ethnic Minorities Starved, Denied Medical Care

The disgraceful behaviour of the Burmese leadership and the military continues. And the suffering of the minority groups escalates. So many have been internally displaced that the numbers border on the unimaginable. Yet, life does go on and the spirit of those on the receiving end has not been broken. Fear abounds but the desire for life and freedom has not been quenched.

RIGHTS-BURMA: Ethnic Minorities Starved, Denied Medical Care
To be a health worker along Burma's eastern borders, home to the Karen and Karenni ethnic communities, is to court death, injury or imprisonment, say doctors working in the area.

Even midwives have not been spared. One in her mid-50s was arrested and tortured, they add.

Such abuse by Burma's military regime on health workers are only part of a grim picture in the border areas that have been laid waste by the junta's policy of crippling the health and food distribution systems where the ethnic minorities live.

This continuing abuse has created a humanitarian crisis that places the Karen and Karenni victims on par with, or even worse than, victims in war-ravaged African countries like Rwanda, Somalia and Sierra Leone, say the doctors who are leading relief efforts inside Burma.

''Maternal mortality rates are higher than in Rwanda,'' Dr. Mahn Mahn said at a news conference here earlier this week. ''The internally displaced people in eastern Burma face a chronic humanitarian crisis.''

''Pregnant women cannot access obstetric emergency services. They cannot even have blood transfusions,'' added Dr. Cynthia Maung. ''Health workers cannot carry medicines to help communities. They cannot be identified as health workers. It is very dangerous for them.''

The doctors who are part of a novel health care service -- the Backpack Health Worker Team (BPHWT) -- made these comments at the launch of the first ever report on the health of internally displaced people (IDPs) in eastern Burma, where Rangoon's troops are locked in a decades-old battle with ethnic rebel groups.

The maternal mortality rates (MMR) among the IDPs is between 1,000 - 1,200 deaths to 100,000 live births, states the 81-page 'Chronic Emergency: Health and Human Rights in Eastern Burma.' The MMR rates in Somalia, by contrast, is 1,100 deaths for every 100,000 live births, is 990 deaths in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and 1,400 deaths in Rwanda.

Read on...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Parts of ancient wall in Chiang Mai collapse

After a long silence, I'm getting back to blogging... I've been away from Chiang Mai for a couple of months and have just returned. The wet season is well under way and lots of rain has fallen here in the north of Thailand.

The result? Chiang Mai is falling apart! The rain seems to be seeping down into the cracks of some of the ancient structures of the old city causing them to fall apart. Chang Puek gate (white elephant gate) is the latest victim.

Parts of ancient wall in Chiang Mai collapse (Bangkok Post)
Parts of the 700-year-old wall in downtown Chiang Mai collapsed yesterday after heavy downpours. The ancient Chang Phuak Gate, or Gate of the White Elephant, partially collapsed. It forms part of a long ancient wall in the centre of Chiang Mai, surrounded by a moat.
Officials expect further damage to the wall because more cracks have been found. Persistent heavy rain is thought to have seeped through the cracks, weakening the wall's foundations.

The ancient wall dates back to 1276, during the reign of King Mang Rai.

Chiang Mai mayor Boonlert Buranapakorn said officials were preparing to restore the wall.

He also told officials to prevent further damage to other ancient structures in the city, including almost a dozen run-down pagodas. Torrential rain earlier brought down a 505-year-old pagoda in Chiang Mai municipality. Heavy rain has lashed Chiang Mai in the past few weeks. ...