Ogiek stake claim for the Mau forest after victory at African court

Ogiek are steadfast on their unceded forest homeland.
Members of the Ogiek community during a meeting when they presented their memorandum on February 6, 2019 to the members of the task force on implementation of the African Court's decision on the Ogiek community's land rights in the Mau forest issued against the government of Kenya in 2017. [Photo: Harun Wathari]

By Kennedy Gachuhi - SM - 07. Feb 2019

The Ogiek have demanded the return of the Mau forest land to the community.

The community is laying claim to more than 21 forest blocs and the Maasai Mau Trust Land that makes up the Mau Complex saying it is their ancestral land.

The demands were tabled yesterday in Nakuru when representatives of the community met a taskforce on the implementation of the African Court’s ruling on the Ogiek land rights in the Mau forest.

In May 2017, the African Court ruled that the Government had infringed on the Ogiek community rights. The Arusha-based court ruled that the Mau had been part of the community’s ancestral land for decades.

The ruling arose from a case filed in 2006, in which the Ogiek complained that Kenya Forest Service (KFS) officials issued them with notices to vacate the forest without factoring in how this would affect their lives.

Did you know the Zika virus is patented? (Guess who owns it…)

Zika Virus - causing microcephali in babies - is a potentially deadly biological weapon.

(Natural News) The World Health Organization (WHO) dubbed the Zika virus a global health emergency on Feb. 1, 2016 without detailing much about the disease. In fact, most of the public do not know that it is patented.

Zika, which is an often sexually transmitted virus, has existed for many years, and is marketed by two companies: Middlesex, United Kingdom-based cell and microbiology cultures provider LGC Standards Ltd. and Manassas, Virginia-based reference microorganisms provider American Type Culture Collection (ATCC).

Now comes the question of who owns the patent of the Zika virus.

The scientists tracing thousands of fluorinated chemicals in our environment

Some fire-fighting foams, such as these poured onto an oil-depot fire in the United Kingdom, spray fluorinated chemicals into the environment.Credit: Stefan Rousseau/AFP/Getty

Researchers are struggling to assess the dangers of nondegradable compounds used in clothes, foams and food wrappings.

By XiaoZhi Lim (*) - NATURE - 06. February 2019

A few times every year, Christopher Higgins’s laboratory in Golden, Colorado, receives a special delivery in the mail. Inside an ice-box, Higgins finds several vials, each holding up to 250 millilitres of water collected from boreholes near US military bases. The water looks unremarkable, but it is contaminated with synthetic compounds called fluorochemicals, which have been generating increasing concern around the world. This class of chemical has shown up in worrying concentrations in rivers, soils and people’s bloodstreams from Europe to Australia. Some of the oldest compounds have been studied and banned, but new, mystery types are appearing all the time. Higgins’ team, at the Colorado School of Mines, is one of several environmental-chemistry labs being funded by the US Department of Defense to work out the chemicals’ structures. “I think they are one of the most complex groups of pollutants out there,” he says.

The fluorochemicals story used to be simple. In the 1930s, the chemical industry created surfactant compounds with a unique ability to repel both grease and water, because their carbon chains were swaddled in fluorine atoms. Within 30 years, they were everywhere: in non-stick pans, raincoats, food wrappings, fire-fighting foams and all kinds of stain-proof coatings. Chemists would later call this fluorinated family ‘per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances’, or PFASs. Their carbon–fluorine bonds are among the strongest known in nature — so the molecules don’t degrade.

New UN deal with data mining firm Palantir raises protection concerns

Spydata OverLord and MyLady of Poverty paired - Josh Harris with Enrica Porcari - Photo Credit: Ben Parker/IRIN

Critics say it could put ‘highly sensitive’ data about millions of food aid recipients at risk

By Ben Parker - IRIN - 5 February 2019

CIA-linked software firm Palantir will help the UN’s World Food Programme analyse its data in a new partnership worth $45 million, both organisations announced Tuesday, drawing immediate flak from privacy and data protection activists.

The California-based contractor, best known for its work in intelligence and immigration enforcement, will provide software and expertise to the UN’s food relief agency over five years to help WFP pool its enormous amounts of data and find cost-saving efficiencies.

The Crisis of Social Media

Internet freedom declined in most countries as surveillance increased.

What was once a liberating technology has become a conduit for surveillance and electoral manipulation.

By Adrian Shahbaz, Allie Funk - 04. February 2019

Internet freedom is increasingly imperiled by the tools and tactics of digital authoritarianism, which have spread rapidly around the globe. Repressive regimes, elected incumbents with authoritarian ambitions, and unscrupulous partisan operatives have exploited the unregulated spaces of social media platforms, converting them into instruments for political distortion and societal control. While social media have at times served as a level playing field for civic discussion, they are now tilting dangerously toward illiberalism, exposing citizens to an unprecedented crackdown on their fundamental freedoms. Moreover, a startling variety of governments are deploying advanced tools to identify and monitor users on an immense scale. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2019.

Mass-murderers invaded from Europe an killed 56 million Indigenous People. the genocide had also a most severe impact on the climate.

February 2019

When Europeans arrived in the Americas, they caused so much death and disease that it changed the global climate, a new study finds.

European settlers killed 56 million Indigenous People over about 100 years in South, Central and North America, causing large swaths of farmland to be abandoned and reforested, researchers at University College London, or UCL, estimate. The increase in trees and vegetation across an area the size of France resulted in a massive decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, according to the study.

Monsanto’s “Malicious Conduct” & “Complete Manipulation of Science” Regarding Roundup® Finally Exposed By Attorney Brent Wisner

Glyphosate plus wetting agent in Monsanto's Roundup form a chemical weapon.

By Catherine J. Frompovich

One of the most intrepid GMO science researchers for over twenty years, Jeffrey Smith, of the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), interviewed Attorney Brent Wisner, the genius lead lawyer who apparently overwhelmed the legal system by finally getting Monsanto’s Papers, which documented “malicious conduct by a corporation” and “complete manipulation of science,” according to him during his representation of Mr. Dewayne Johnson in the Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto lawsuit.

Jeffrey Smith and IRT produced a stunning repertoire of short video clips of his interview with Mr. Wisner, which are nothing less than stunning information regarding the fraud, concealment and scientific manipulation corporations use to get CDC/FDA/USDA/EPA approval(s) and / or licenses.

At the link below, you can access these riveting interviews:

Billionaire Musk releases all Tesla patents to help save Earth

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Shanghai's Mayor Ying Yong attend the Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory groundbreaking ceremony in Shanghai, China Jan. 7, 2019. Aly Song, Reuters

By AFP  - 01. February 2019

SAN FRANCISCO - Elon Musk announced Thursday he had released all of the electric carmaker Tesla's patents, as part of an effort to fight climate change.

In a blog post, the colorful billionaire founder of Tesla promised the company "will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology."

It was a remarkable move in an industry where the smallest idea or seed of invention is carefully guarded to protect its monetary value. 

And it in fact came on the same day US prosecutors charged a Chinese national with stealing secrets from Apple's self-driving vehicle project.

"Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport," Musk said. "If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal."

Indigenous languages and cultural diversity in the era of digital media

Meaning and sounds are often derived from the inseparable relationship between people and places.

With just a few words, we might make the world a richer place. Photo by Adam Fossier on Unsplash

Like many others, my family name is an amalgam of two or more parts. The joining of two words, two clans, through a simple hyphen, evokes past tales of love and marriage, as well as feuds and blurred identities. Names and words borrowed from other cultures tell a vivid human story. The travel writer V.S. Naipaul attributes the origins of his surname to forebears living in the vicinity of ‘Nepal’ who left the sub-continent and eventually settled in the colorful melting pot that is the Caribbean. People, like names and languages are forever on the move.

As we start 2019, the United Nations is embarking on a series of events to launch the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

The year is expected to celebrate the tremendous wealth of indigenous languages, as well as their changing position in the digital interconnected world of today. A major lesson from indigenous people’s movements is that many place-based concepts cannot easily be translated from one language, or location, to another.

Investigating claims of political corruption and a scramble for mineral wealth endangering the Caucasian leopard.

Lake Sevan holds almost 25 percent of Armenia's fresh water supply and is at risk of contamination due to the Amulsar mining project [Glenn Ellis/Al Jazeera]

In 2018 a new government came to power in Armenia, amid widespread optimism that its leader Nikol Pashinyan would end decades of corruption and economic and industrial mismanagement.

But now his administration faces a major dilemma - whether to proceed with a hugely divisive, multi-billion dollar mining project at Amulsar in the mountainous south of the country.

Its backers say it could bring Armenia benefits in the form of foreign investment and jobs. But ranged against it is an increasingly effective coalition of activists and protesters who warn that the project will cause enormous environmental damage and further endanger one of the world's rarest and most beautiful animal species - the Caucasian Leopard.

People and Power sent filmmakers Glenn Ellis and Viktoryia Kolchyna to find out more.

WATCH: Armenia: Mining Out the Leopard

Source: Al Jazeera

Mining vs the environment: The battle over Armenia's Amulsar gold mine

Why are Armenians fighting over the controversial Amulsar gold mining project and how does it affect the country's new government?

By  - 

A four-hour drive south of Yerevan, Armenia's bustling capital, takes you to the remote Vayots Dzor province, a rugged mountainous region whose inhabitants are proving to be every bit as tough as their environment.

For the last six months, environmental activists and locals from adjacent villages and Jermuk, the only notable town for kilometres around, have been laying siege to a gold mine here, preventing the owners, Anglo-American firm Lydian International, from getting in and working the project up to full production.

It is now mid-winter, and at an altitude of 10,000 feet, millions of dollars' worth of trucks and machinery sit idle and frozen around the spectacular snowy summit of a mountain called Amulsar.

This is where gold was discovered 10 years ago, and we are the first journalists granted access to the site since the blockade began.

Before leaving Yerevan we'd met with Hayk Aloyan, Lydian Armenia's managing director. He was eager to explain the mine's significance and why the company want to develop it.

"During the last 14 years we have invested about $500m," he said. "This project is very important for the economy of Armenia. We designed it in a way to be environmentally safe ... there are no issues with water, no issues with the health of the community."

He then spelled out what the blockade was costing Lydian, "It's been about $100,000 [a day], but now it's more because we lost key people, professionals. We had to terminate 1,270 contracts."

That seems to matter little to the mine's opponents who have been running the blockade via a network of small camps around the mountain. At any moment, they say they can call on some 6,000 people if needed - quite a claim given the remoteness of the location.

A temporary hut set up by activists and members of the public alike, participating in blockading the Amulsar mining project [Glenn Ellis/Al Jazeera]

 

We arrived to see one group just as they were opening a bottle of sparkling Armenian wine. Mkrtchyan Knyaz, a grizzled bear of a man, was celebrating his birthday.

"I am turning 60 years today," he told us, gesturing to the peak behind him, "and I'm ready to spend another 60 years supporting Amulsar. We will not allow her to be exploited."

Gagik Margaryan, a veteran from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, explained why he had come to the blockade.

"Our community mostly does farming, agriculture and gardening, and we all know perfectly well we can't carry on if the mine starts to work."

There were others here too, we discovered; tourist industry workers and villagers simply fearful that their lives will change if the mine goes into production. But all of them seem hardy and committed, determined to fight to the end.

Our community mostly does farming, agriculture and gardening, and we all know perfectly well we can't carry on if the mine starts to work.

GAGIK MARGARYAN, A NAGORNO-KARABAKH VETERAN

A long history of environmental disasters

Hostility to mining in Armenia is perhaps understandable.

The country has a long history of environmental disasters relating to the industry come-and-go projects that, its detractors told us, had enriched a few but from which little or no benefits trickled down to local communities other than some transitory employment.

Instead, time after time, they have been left with land contaminated by toxic mine residue - left over heavy metals and poisons such as lead and arsenic. In a country so dependent on agriculture, this kind of pollution has become a critical and very controversial issue.

According to Gagik Avagyan of the Moscow Carnegie Centre, "Armenia has got only problems because of these mines. There are hugely corrupt scams, huge crimes. Like most developing countries only the elite have been profiting."

Irina Ghaplanyan, Armenia's First Deputy Minister of Nature Protection, agrees saying: "Lax legislation and very low fines on pollution led to an explosion of the mining industry … it's my personal belief and opinion that the mining sector is not good for Armenia."

Ghaplanyan is part of a new generation of politicians swept to office during the velvet revolution last summer when journalist-turned-politician, Nikol Pashinyan, began a long march to the capital from the west of the country, promising to end the endemic corruption and economic mismanagement that has dogged Armenia for decades.

Armenian opposition supporters walk on the street after Nikol Pashinyan announced a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience in Yerevan, in May 2018. [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

 

By the time he reached Yerevan his support had grown to many hundreds of thousands.

The country came to a standstill as peaceful protesters defied ominous threats from the authorities and, incredibly, Pashinyan was eventually able to assume the role of prime minister without a shot being fired.

He consolidated this in a snap election in December 2018 when he won over 70 percent of the vote and a mandate for change.

Environment first?

Now, among the many pressing issues on his desk, is the question of what to do about the Amulsar mine.

Backed by the previous administration, it is currently on hold while Pashinyan ponders whether to let it go ahead. That is not a straightforward question.

For all the dreadful environmental problems mining has brought Armenia in the past, the country's battered economy is in dire need of the foreign investment and jobs that, properly run and managed, the industry could bring in.

Nevertheless, in the wake of the velvet revolution - and drawing inspiration directly from it - the protesters at Amulsar began their blockade in the hope the new government would take notice.

A few days before December's poll, Pashinyan travelled to the region to speak to the protesters and, though still outwardly noncommittal about what decision he will take, he dropped some reassuring clues when he told them he would always put the country's environment first.

He made similar hints during a speech at his next stop, at the spa town of Jermuk, which is just 9 miles from the mine site. The remarks were warmly received; this is Armenia's Baden-Baden and famous for its mineral water, sold all over the Caucuses.

Should any toxic discharge from the mine contaminate these precious aquifers, locals say it would be a catastrophe for the town.

The Amulsar gold mine is one of the most controversial projects in recent years in Armenia [Glenn Ellis/Al Jazeera]

 

Others told us there is an even bigger potential threat from the mine, that it could have a serious negative effect on Lake Sevan, the largest body of water in the whole of the Caucasus, holding some 25 percent of Armenia's fresh water.

It was to this extraordinary place we headed next. We had arranged to meet Levon Hkopyan, captain of a Soviet-era research vessel that monitors the lake.

"I was born on its banks," he told us. "Since my youth, I've been proud of the lake and I am still proud that I work on it, and live next to it. But we must do our best to keep it clean, transparent - to keep it the way it's always been. In my childhood, I drank this water. We drank it and washed with it at home. So there is no life for us without the lake."

At an altitude of 6,000 feet, Lake Sevan is a unique biosphere that attracts scientists from around the world. But Sevan is connected to the nearby Kechut reservoir by a tunnel which has been used since communist times to regulate the water level of the lake. In turn the Kechut reservoir is less than three miles (1.61km) from Amulsar.

There is no life for us without the lake.

LEVON HKOPYAN, CAPTAIN OF A RESEARCH VESSEL THAT MONITORS THE LAKE

Inevitably there's concern about whether any toxic discharge from the mine could also threaten Lake Sevan.

Artur Grigoryan, Armenia's Mining Inspectorate chief, admitted to being worried about the risk.

"Based on current documentation, no one really knows." he told us.

'The last biggest cat of Europe'

There was one last place to go. The remote and breathtakingly beautiful mountain ranges of the Southern Caucasus provides refuge for several endangered animal species. These include the world's rarest big cat, the Caucasian Leopard, of which there are only thought to be 10 left in Armenia.

Alexander Malkhasyan, a specialist at the World Wildlife Fund, probably knows as much about this beautiful if reclusive predator as anyone, having spent much of the last two decades charting its fight for survival.

He agreed to take us to a secluded spot high in the mountains used by the leopard.

"Now we're at the area with rocks and canyons which are essential for the habitat of leopards. There are a lot of wild goats here that are the main prey of leopards," he told us.

As he spoke he surveyed the rugged landscape through his binoculars. "Moreover there are badgers, hares, beech martens, a lot of rock ptarmigans, partridges here. That's the landscape which is inherent for leopards in Armenia."

Malkhasyan set up a trail camera and we left. It has been 19 years since he has actually seen a leopard but his cameras have captured pictures of the animal on several occasions, which gives some grounds for optimism.

It's been 19 years since wildlife specialist Alexander Malkhasyan, has actually seen a Caucasian leopard [Glenn Ellis/Al Jazeera]

 

When we returned to Yerevan we met with Malkhayan's boss, Karen Manvelyan, Head of WWF Armenia.

He showed us a map and explained that there are only two migratory corridors for the leopard in Armenia and that the Amulsar mine is slap bang in the middle of one of them.

"It comes from this area and goes like this," he said, tracing the route with his finger, "and you see mountains here - it's very important for migration of leopard and Amulsar connects both these ranges. This leopard is the last biggest cat of Europe and we should protect it."

From farming community protesters determined to protect their way of life, to people concerned about the potential of water contamination, to environmentalists desperate to preserve the unique habitat of one of the world's most endangered species (let alone government ministers openly critical about the damage caused by past industrial pollution), it doesn't seem like the vast mining project at Amulsar has many fans in Armenia.

But the lure of foreign investment is bound to be strong in a country whose battered economy is in dire need of a boost. Which way Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan will go, is an intriguing but as-yet unanswered question.

The mountain ranges of the Southern Caucasus provide refuge for several endangered animal species [Glenn Ellis/Al Jazeera]

 

 

How eavesdropping on elephants is keeping them safe

Africa's corrupted pro-ivory bloc gets stronger, wants to ease restrictions

Again Elephant killings for ivory on the horizon!
By Alok Gupta - CGTN - 31. January 2019
 

‍Several African countries are defying global wildlife conservation efforts and collectively asking for an easing of international ivory trade regulations, triggering fears of large-scale poaching of elephants. 

In a proposal submitted early this month to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – a wildlife trade regulator – Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe urged the removal of clauses restricting them from selling their ivory stockpile. They also want to trade live elephants.

Zambia has proposed to downgrade the elephant protection status to pave the way to sell its ivory stockpile. In order to carry out unrestricted international trade of white rhino horns, Eswatini is demanding a set of exemptions.

Saudi Arabia: 10 Reasons Why Women Flee

Women flee for their bare lives.

Rampant Discrimination, Abuse under the MbS Regime

By HRW - 30. January 2019 - Video

(Beirut) – Rahaf Mohammed, the Saudi woman who managed to successfully flee her allegedly abusive family, has shed new light on the countless women trapped under the abusive male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch said today. Women face systematic discrimination and are left exposed to domestic violence under the male guardianship system and have few places to turn when they face abuse, leading some women to undertake dangerous escape attempts to flee the country.

How can we make agriculture greener?

Wildflowers in agricultural landscapes have become extremely rare.

By Karin Jäger - 30. January 2019

Cornflowers or potatoes? Wildflowers are disappearing due to increased fertilization in agricultural areas. An otherwise conventional farmer in Germany is testing organic farming methods — with varying success.

Hanging on a gate is a sign reading: "Potatoes — healthy and delicious." The slogan, to which the word "rare" could justifiably be added, is in line with Cornel Lindemann-Berk's philosophy of quality over quantity. "We don't have enough rain in the summer," he tells DW. "And since we don't want to water them, we've turned this weakness into a strength."

Bolsonaro Wants to Plunder the Amazon. Don't Let Him.

Right-wing financed new president of Brazil is key to the international sell-out of the natural ressources of the people of Brazil, who have hardly any defences against this para-military governance.

The Brazilian president's pro-business agenda will be a test of American companies' commitment to the environment.

By Leila Salazar-López The New York Times - January 29, 2019

The rise of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has put the environment and human rights in peril. His promises to open the Amazon for business could result in huge deforestation and the release of vast greenhouse-gas emissions. His threats to slash fundamental environmental and indigenous rights standards that help keep the Amazon standing are a threat to climate stability.

Mr. Bolsonaro, however, wouldn't be the only one to blame for devastating the Amazon. Companies that accept his invitation to reap profit from Amazon destruction, and the financial institutions that provide the capital, will also bear great responsibility. And those poised to benefit from Mr. Bolsonaro's reckless policies include American companies and financial institutions.

- says chief of African-American NGO

Kaddu Sebunya at the site of the world's largest burning of ivory in Kenya in 2016 (Photo: AWF)

By

The head of a major African organisation tasked with protecting wildlife has said China's own rapid development model should not be replicated on the continent.

Speaking to EUobserver in an interview last week in Brussels, Kaddu Sebunya, CEO of the Nairobi-based African Wildlife Foundation, said China's model for Africa would be "a catastrophe in terms of environment".

"China is now paying the price, luckily that they have come to that realisation and perhaps not too late and they are fixing things," he said.

Sebunya was referencing coal-polluting plants in China, which Beijing says is now shutting down. He was also referring to renewed efforts by China to restore its protected wetlands.

China and Africa since 2015 have been working on intensifying the production of energy and natural resources throughout the continent. Last year, at a summit the two sides agreed to figure out ways to make it more green.