Sumatran Tiger Cubs at Taronga Zoo.  Photo by Rick Stevens

Sumatran Tiger Cubs at Taronga Zoo. Photo by Rick Stevens

TONY THE TIGER:  Thanks for the immediate responses to the petition for Tony the Tiger.  See the recent update on Tony from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (http://www.aldf.org/tony).  Unfortunately Tony remains in his cage while complicated legal battles over him delay attempts to relocate him to an appropriate sanctuary.  Is this case receiving media attention in the US?

I would like the blog to be primarily a notice board for animal welfare and rights issues and I rely on your contributions.  I think we have put the spotlight on some of the more quiet achievers doing great work for animals or the environment, and the blog is now a Directory of many organisations and people.

Like many of you I support many of the campaigns of the ALDF (http://www.aldf.org/), GetUp! (http://www.getup.org.au/), AVAAZ (http://www.avaaz.org/en/), and http://www.change.org/.  Internet activism is huge and will grow in influence and become more targeted.  I remind myself clicking “sign” on a petition and pressing “send” is pretty easy.  I think trying to be informed is a good start, and donations are always a practical contribution.  I’m sure we all wonder how our efforts could be more effective, and I admire people who volunteer and give their time to organisations like BushCare, and visiting imprisoned asylum seekers.

Birds of America, John James Audubon

Birds of America, John James Audubon

AUDUBON:  Two copies (out of only 200) of the first edition of Birds of America by John James Audubon (1785-1851) sold last month at Sotheby’s for $11.5 million, and $7.5 million at Christie’s.  With beautiful life size colour plates, this classic work contains over 700 North American species.

SUMMER HOLIDAYS:  It has been a relaxing time spent mostly with family and friends.  There has been time to read, and to reflect on 2011, and what 2012 may bring.  While many of you are in freezing temperatures, our weather has been erratic and courtesy of La Niña, quite a lot of rainfall and flooding again in the north east, for some the third flood in three years.  I remember how dry, hot and endless summer holidays used to be, and people now seem to go back to work much earlier.  My vegetable garden is a disgrace and was even overgrown before I saw a black snake.

The Year of the Dragon apparently promises to be unpredictable and exciting.  With the EU and the Middle East, anything could happen.  On a positive note, I think the momentum is swinging back to a majority of people (again) accepting that climate change is real and something has to be done about it.  China, the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter (8.88 billion tonnes) is to set a price on carbon but a low $1.55 a tonne, to increase gradually.  It must now be hard to argue that the weather is not changing.  In the Maldives, 14 out of the 200 habitable islands are now uninhabitable.  2012 does carry some pretty dire predictions for the Euro Zone by the World Bank, IMF, and George Soros amongst many others, especially with such seemingly inept leadership.  Many are questioning the calls for austerity measures (made by Germany especially), when it seems people should be encouraged to spend and generate growth and jobs.

Roseate Spoon Bill - Birds of America, John James Audubon

Roseate Spoon Bill - Birds of America, John James Audubon

ARAB WINTER:  In Egypt, what accommodation will the military come to with the winners of their election, the Muslim Brotherhood?  What is known about this very influential and well-funded organisation?  Now in parliament the party will not be able to remain as secretive as it has had to be in the past.  See Stepping out of the shadows by Ruth Pollard (SMH News Review Jan 28-29), an article that illustrates just how little is known about them or what the future may hold.  After the recent soccer riots and deaths, questions are being asked about the failure, deliberate or otherwise, of national security.

SYRIA:  A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald helped me understand the situation in Syria much more clearly, and all the regional repercussions.  I realised it is in some ways a proxy war.  In Every Middle East player has a stake in Syria’s sectarian showdown (SMH Feb 6), Jackson Diehl writes that this is “the most complex, volatile and momentous power struggles in the history of the Middle East”.  The invasion of Iraq upset the delicate regional balance between the  Sunnis and Shiites, and Syria “has precipitated a crucial test of strength between Sunnis and Shiites and between Turkey and Iran.  It has also triggered existential crises for Palestinians, Kurds and the Shiite government of Iraq”.  Syrians are being killed daily while the UN and the Arab League appear impotent, and the Russians and Chinese are recalcitrant and entirely self-interested.  While Syrians are crying out for our help and being murdered, we watch helplessly.

Vafa animal shelter Iran (Behrouz Mehri_AFP_Getty Images)

Vafa animal shelter Iran (Behrouz Mehri_AFP_Getty Images)

Thanks to David for sending this beautiful selection of photographs of Iran from The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/01/a-view-inside-iran/100219/.  It is important to see the human face and everyday lives of Iranians many of whom are held hostage by their government.

The sanctions and rhetoric against Iran – with talk of an Israeli attack against Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facilities as early as April must only stiffen Iran’s resolve to defend themselves with nuclear weapons.  Saudi Arabia was reported to be “shopping in Pakistan for a nuke”.

Sydney Morning Herald correspondent Hamish McDonald wrote very interestingly about returning to Israel after 13 years Life in Israel an ultra-orthodox paradox (SMH 21 Jan News Review) http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/life-in-israel-an-ultraorthodox-paradox-20120120-1qa2k.html.  He questioned if a two-state solution was still possible “Or is all this negotiation and capacity-building simply a prelude to living together, somehow – two nations in one land – on better terms than the status quo, miserable humiliation for the occupied, corrosive for the occupier?”  The best of luck to Fatah and Hamas with their recent reconciliation.

PARALLEL UNIVERSE:  Some times last year I felt I lived in a parallel universe:  Israeli government spokesmen saying new settlements were not an impediment to peace; Osama bin Laden located and assassinated after living for years in a suburb in Pakistan; the bizarre and so unlikely propaganda for the new North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un – described as a “joke” by his brother; the race in Australia to hand over high food producing land to Coal Seam Gas mining or sales to foreign investors; Australia handled the GFC better than any other country, yet the Opposition here say it is the worst government (or PM?) on record.

Iranian Youths during water fights at Water and Fire Park northern Tehran, July 2011. AP Photo/Milad Beheshti

Iranian Youths during water fights at Water and Fire Park northern Tehran, July 2011. AP Photo/Milad Beheshti

SPORT:  Australian cricket has been in crisis, but suddenly there is the emergence of good young fast bowlers, although two have already succumbed to injury.  The visiting Indian team were easily beaten in the Test matches. Tendulkar failed to get his elusive 100th Test century. Several older Australian cricketers (like Ricky Ponting) have had to perform, and have. Records have been broken.  The Australian public has finally warmed to the newish captain Michael Clarke who was Man of the Series and scored 329 not out.

Both tennis and cricket have fast food sponsors.  Their advertisements for their food on TV looked so totally unappetising and unhealthy; hamburgers, and chicken in batter and bacon sizzling in fat.  You are encouraged to relax at home watching sport on TV, eating fattening fast food, drinking Coke (or beer) and we are now urged with frequent interruptions to bet online on every aspect of the unfolding games.

Playing an Inter school tennis match circa 1963 – my style is very old-fashioned!

In Australia in January we have several tennis tournaments building up to the Australian Open in Melbourne.  There were many highlights – like actually being there to see the best players in the world play the semi finals. It was especially thrilling to see Rafa play Federer, and I was surprised at the fanatical support for Federer.  I do have to admit his record is extraordinary, and he is the most graceful player who always makes the game look effortless.  Overall the standard of tennis in the tournament was very high, although too many points were lost by an error, rather than won.  However, as the legend Rod Laver pointed out, returning is so good these days, that shots that would previously have been “winners” are now being returned, in very long rallys.

Any number of girls could have won, and at least six of them have been number one.  Many are attractive and healthy looking and are dressing much better.  Serena Williams made a surprising comment that she “never liked sport or exercising” (knocked out 4th round).  Men dress in a much cooler way these days although the Federer team uniform was a rather naff quasi-military jacket and cap he ( he lost).  Verdasco wore a shocking red and yellow outfit (he lost) and Dolgopolov wore red shorty pyjamas (he lost).

Both lost to Bernard Tomic, Australia’s long awaited new tennis star who has developed into quite an extraordinary player at 19 and has the tennis world fascinated.  One of quite a few players with parent coaches! Murray’s new coach Ivan Lendl seems to have banned Murray’s mother – I couldn’t spot her in the crowd.

Players have a punishing schedule, and many seem to be suffering or recovering from injury.  It is very hot at this time of the year here and most games are played outdoors, and the final was over 5 gruelling hours.  Tennis should not be such an endurance test.  There were several matches where players “found a way to win”.  The mental attitudes and psychological games were fascinating, and players confronting their particular nemesis – Federer failing again against Nadal, and Nadal against Djokovic.

Back home for the final on TV I was very moved to see a parade of the past Australian winners of the Australian Open –including  Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, Frank Sedgeman, Rod Laver, and John Newcombe.  We seemed to dominate world tennis back then.  Azerenka thrashed Sharapova, and Djokovic beat Nada in the longest, and possibly the best final ever. Both winners won $2.3 million.

Taronga Zoo elephants.  Photo by Rick Stevens

Taronga Zoo elephants. Photo by Rick Stevens

AUSTRALIA:  It was quiet over Christmas with the politicians on holidays – there always seems to be less news!  But things hotted up quickly.  The PM was dragged to her car by security from a protest by Aboriginals who were nearby marking the anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy erected on the lawns of Government House 40 years ago.  I think Aborigines are remarkably sanguine under the circumstances about their dispossession and the poverty that so many of them still live with. There is a rare bipartisan approach to Aboriginal affairs so nothing is done.  A report on recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution has just been presented to the government.

Media driven leadership speculation is running hot.  The deposed PM, Foreign Minister Rudd continues to stalk the PM, pretending he isn’t, and helping to destabilise an already unpopular government.  Too many careless and strategic errors cloud what have been major achievements for the government in a hung parliament, and in many ways a good economic record.

CSG:  The rampant mining of coal seam gas is a great issue facing Australia.  Environmental activists who are protesting over Coal Seam Gas are being spied on by the government!  Too many disturbing stories are surfacing from around the world about the effects of the mining techniques on the water aquifers, and other issues including the leaking of contaminated water.  Ultimately it is not suitable as a low emission “bridging fuel” between coal-fired electricity generators and large scale renewable energy. According to a recent American report the amount of greenhouse gases released by unconventional gas drilling exceeds that of oil and coal.

Some of our best agricultural and food producing areas are at risk, and many other properties are being sold to foreign investors at an alarming rate, with all food produced likely to go off shore.

Other recent reports seem to conclude that wind farms do not cause illness.  What does have to be considered with wind turbines as a clean source of energy however, is all the emissions from coal-fired power plants from producing the steel to build the gigantic turbines, and all the cement for the foundations.

Moir SMH 8 February 2012

Moir SMH 8 February 2012

GINA RINEHART:  Australia’s richest person ($20 billion), and possibly soon to be the richest in the world, Gina Rinehart seems to be increasingly throwing her weight around.  In the past it has been reported that Gina has proposed using cheap Asian labour in her mines, that the state of Western Australia secede, and that nuclear bombs be used for mining purposes and creating harbour facilities.  Not surprisingly, she funds climate-change deniers.

In a bizarre spectacle in 2010 she and sundry other mining billionaires protested on the streets against a proposed Super Profits Tax.  On the back of a flatbed ute, Gina shouted “axe the tax”.  Up against a campaign that cost the miners $23 million, the government watered down the Mineral tax, losing billions of dollars.

Now Gina has begun buying into Australian media – 10% of a television channel, and just recently nearly 14% of Fairfax Media which owns my newspaper of choice, the Sydney Morning Herald.

View this the video you were never supposed to see” and see how Gina’s move is most likely part of a strategy to control and influence aspects of the media.

I’ve complained at length about some examples of bias in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian, which in many other regards is a very good newspaper.  Luckily the Fairfax Board in my opinion is known more for its lacklustre performance,and not editorial interference.

BILL GATES:  Leading by great example, Bill and Melinda Gates have donated $US750 million to make up for the shortfall in The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

WHALING:  The anti-whaling vessel the Sea Shepherd and supporters had the first skirmish of the season when 3 men boarded a Japanese vessel in the Southern Ocean.  In a costly exercise they were returned to an Australian vessel, and they did put the whaling issue on the front pages briefly.  All has been quiet since… or for the moment.

Asian Elephants, Taronga Zoo

Asian Elephants, Taronga Zoo

ELEPHANTS:  Recently there was a suggestion that elephants, highly endangered in Africa as we know, be brought to Australia to eat and control the highly flammable introduced gamba grass.  Oddly George Adamson advocated this when we spent time with him in Kenya.  I would imagine there would be problems of immunity to diseases, damage to vegetation and soil, and be scary for an unprepared public, especially if the elephants went feral like the herds of camels and buffaloes.  Other destructive introduced species in Australia include the cane toad, rabbits, foxes, cattle and sheep – and cats.

INDO-ASIA-PACIFIC:  It seems Australia may finally be well positioned in the world with the global focus now on the Asian region.  Obama’s decision to pull out from the Middle East and concentrate on the South East Asian region, is recasting international strategic thinking, although everything these days seem to be all about China!  There will be a small US base in northern Australia.  The Indian Ocean is the oil route to the Asian economies, and the navies in the region including the US, China, India, and not forgetting Iran and the Strait of Hormuz, will be keeping an eye on each other and these vital sea routes.

AMERICA:  A while ago I received an irate email after I had made some complimentary remarks about President Obama. She “wanted her country back”.  What did she want back I wondered, remembering the Bush years – a failure of intelligence over 9/11 and an inability to find Bin Laden, 2 expensive, deadly and unnecessary wars, and the GFC on their watch.  That’s a lot of mess to inherit and to clear up.

John Howard, our fellow conservative PM of the time, rushed to join Bush in Iraq, without even advising Parliament, and subsequently and unnecessarily made Australia a terrorist target.  An Australian passport can now be a liability although now we are to host a small American military base.  A recent letter to the SMH editor said “I returned to Australia at the end of the (John) Howard years.  I found Australia a colder, harder and more selfish society”.

My irate emailer also spoke very disparagingly about the participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  It is a very old-fashioned protest movement, and perhaps some are a little scruffy, but the movement keeps gaining momentum and has certainly entered international consciousness very quickly.  In Ireland, protesters are occupying some of the many empty buildings for community purposes.  In Sydney some protesters got arrested on a rainy night recently allegedly “contravening council notices” in what seems ongoing police harassment.

Income disparity is predicted by some to be the key issue for 2012.

Former venture trader Mitt Romney (worth $250 million) personifies the 1% and that this is an issue in the US election is more evidence of the effectiveness of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  He pays a 14% tax rate and Obama is taxed at 26%.  The concerns of the 99% have been put on the agenda, triggering a sudden feigned concern by politicians for the middle classes. Romney is wooden, insincere and subject to faux pas but the most presentable of a pretty bad lot – and he seems to have been an effective Governor.  I don’t know what he believes in and I suppose it is a relief he is a “moderate”, which seems to be a dirty word in some Republican circles.  Hopefully he will see off Gingrich with his “ethical violations” and a call to an America of the past, not the future, and the “Jesus” candidate Rick Santorum who has just been resurrected.  In Australia most of us seem to accept – reluctantly, that a certain level of taxation is in the national interest, and while the Christian Right is also influential, it is not as powerful as it is in the US.

The tide may be turning for Obama.  There are some encouraging if small signs – like employment figures of the 3 year low of 8.3%.  A trump card could be Hillary Clinton running as Vice-President to Obama, while Joe Biden becomes Secretary of State, as has been suggested.

Birds of America Osprey

Birds of America Osprey

ASSANGE:  Judges have adjourned to consider their judgement about Julian Assange’s extradition to Sweden.  He is soon to be a television host on Russia’s RT network, interviewing “10 key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries… who will be shaping the political agendas of tomorrow”.

MISC STATS:  There are now more urban Chinese than rural;  5 million dogs are put down a year in the US;  $US56.8 billion worldwide sales for McDonald’s from 33,510 restaurants;  US national debt is $15 trillion;  Mexico’s drug trade is worth $38 billion; a 21% increase in drive-by shootings in Sydney’s suburbs.

MAIL:  Susan cheekily asked how my vegetarianism is going.  It was Christmas and the holidays and I’ve eaten everything offered to me!  I haven’t bought any meat except for my cats.  As it has been summer it is lovely eating lots of fruit and salads.  Overall I’ve tried to “graze” rather than eat big meals.  I eat too much bread, drink too much tea, and I don’t have cakes, biscuits or chocolates in the house.

A Lion Called Christian has just shown on Danish television and thanks for the many emails from Denmark – I’m so glad you have enjoyed it. Friends saw the video in their hotel in India last year and emailed “we didn’t know you spoke such good Hindi”!

Family Bush Tucker Dreaming c.1972 Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri

Family Bush Tucker Dreaming c.1972 Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, Courtesy Aboriginal Artists Agency

TJUKURRTJANU Origins of Western Desert Art is a superb exhibition, which I saw just before it finished at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.  These were the first paintings produced in the desert in the early 1970s by Aborigines who brilliantly and effortlessly transferred their traditional designs and creation stories to a new medium of canvas board and acrylic.  Look out for the exhibition in Paris later in the year at the Musee du quai Branly (http://www.quaibranly.fr/en/), running 9 October until 27 January 2013.  Continuing at the NGV until 24th May is Living Water: Contemporary Art of the Far Western Desert, a colourful and comprehensive exhibition which illustrates how many of the desert Aboriginal artists like Ronnie Tjampitjinpa (below) have developed over the decades, in what has been described as one of the great art movements of the last century.

Water Dreaming at Malparingya 2001 Ronnie Tjampitjinpa

Water Dreaming at Malparingya 2001 Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, Courtesy Aboriginal Artists Agency

Perth November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Perth November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

SUMMER:  I have been in Perth and the photograph (above) is of the beach at Scarborough, opposite my hotel.  Tempting as the water looks there have been several recent shark attacks on Perth beaches.  I always say I haven’t been in the sea since seeing Jaws, now many years ago – and it is virtually true.  The Australian native flowers in Perth gardens and parks, and at home in Bundeena, have been especially beautiful and already the temperatures are quite hot.  Apologies to everyone going into winter!

OCCUPY WALL STREET: I was away and missed the most recent Sydney Occupy Wall Street rally.  Responses by the police removing ostensibly peaceful protesters from their sites everywhere are getting more heavy-handed.  There is an attitude “OK you have made your point, now go home”.  Sorry, but I don’t think it is going to work like that. I don’t know if the Sydney group has set up a new camp. Their absence of “leadership” and specific objectives is quite fascinating, and the organic growth of the movement still seems to be gaining momentum. They have certainly made the world – and presumably politicians – take notice.

JULIAN ASSANGE:  Australia does not seem to be assisting this Australian citizen in any way and I imagine Julian will appeal after losing his High Court battle in the UK against his extradition to Sweden.  I’ve been looking up some of the economic and political websites and blogs mentioned at the Occupy rally or by WikiLeaks sympathisers.  Most have been very informative, but some are quite scary.  I try not to be into conspiracy theories but then again I think I’m often very naive.  Fascinating and enigmatic as Julian is, I’ve only read edited sections of his “unauthorised autobiography” in newspapers.

Rafa

RAFA: While Julian may have disowned his autobiography, Rafael Nadal said he hadn’t even read his own “autobiography!  I found it very interesting.  The exceptional natural abilities, mental and physical toughness, and the unavoidable discipline and hard work required to make a sports star.  Then there are other  factors like luck, the other competitors (Federer ahead of him, and Djokovic emerging behind him), and the ever present risk of injury. Rafa is very tough mentally and can exclude all superfluous thoughts – like losing the last point. He is surrounded by a very good team and family. He has an effective if prickly relationship with his coach his Uncle Tony, who has taunted him as a “Mummy’s boy”. Every morning, no matter how late to bed, Rafa is on the court , or in the gym. I’m looking forward to the Australian Open in Melbourne in January – Rafa was injured last year.

TONY THE TIGER:  The victory in his court case has been the best news.  I have been trying to ascertain from the ALDF if he is still in his cage at the Truck Stop, and I fear he is.  What will the “owner” do with Tony, and can he appeal the decision?  Who will decide Tony’s subsequent future?  The ALDF and Dee de Santis will keep us informed hopefully.

Copyright WSPCA

Copyright WSPCA

ANIMAL NEWS: Read WSPA’s latest bear news here.  Also, you can read the new Minding Animals Bulletin #8.

BIPARTISANSHIP:  In Australia we have political bipartisanship only about “hot” and often difficult issues.  Aboriginal issues are often bipartisan, with both parties at the moment supporting an ill conceived and uninvited “intervention” in remote Aboriginal communities some of which are admittedly facing seemingly insurmountable social problems.  It suits both political parties to acquiesce with each other in these failed policies.

Because of our alliance with the US, both parties also agree over war, with our involvement in Afghanistan (and Iraq).  However 72% of Australians want our troops to come home – 32 Australian deaths in Afghanistan, and the last few have been killed by rogue Afghans from troops they have been “mentoring”.

Obama has just whizzed through Australia charming everyone and now we are to have American troops stationed here in a few years in northern Australia. Obama is trying to extricate America from the Middle East, and has committed America to the Asia-Pacific region and its growing economic opportunities.  Does this enhance Australia’s security or make us more of a target?  How will China, who has been keeping the Australian economy afloat, react to this? The move has been interpreted as an attempt to “contain” China, and we have been reminded “Chinese strategic missiles can reach Australia”.

Israel is also a bipartisan issue and our government was one of only 14 countries that recently voted against Palestine’s admission to UNESCO.  Although 107 countries supported Palestinian membership, the move has been described as “detrimental to the peace process”.  What “peace process” one may ask?  The US is now refusing to pay their $60 million contribution to UNESCO. Israel as a punishment is withholding at least $US100 million in tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority and fast-tracking new settlement development.  It was refreshing to hear just how frustrated Obama really is with Netanyahu.

I wish there was a humane bipartisanship in Australia over asylum seekers and refugees rather than the blatant “race to the bottom” playing to the worst and most uncharitable instincts in the Australian population.  There have been yet more recent drownings in an unsafe boat setting off from Indonesia.

Up to 30 Indonesian children, who were possibly unwitting crew members on these “people-smuggler boats”, are languishing in our jails, while our media is hysterical over a 14 year old Australian busted for buying marijuana and boasting about it in Bali.

Bundeena November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Bundeena November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

CLIMATE CHANGE:  Australia’s Clean Energy Bill has passed the Senate.  Al Gore sent a message:

“With this vote, the world has turned a pivotal corner in the collective effort to solve the climate crisis… Today we celebrate.  Tomorrow, we do everything we can to ensure that this legislation is successful.”

Rupert Murdoch has assumed Chairmanship of News Ltd in Australia, and appointed a new CEO.  I was amused to read in his The Australian, that a prominent US physicist and global-warming sceptic in trying to disprove climate scientists were wrong, discovered that they were right – temperatures were rising rapidly.  However, true to form, another report in the newspaper found “an international statesman” who described international carbon trading as “halfway between a fantasy and a fraud”.

The US Department of Energy has calculated the global output of carbon dioxide has jumped by the biggest amount on record, and a draft UN report finds that man-made climate change has boosted the frequency or intensity of floods, cyclones, wildfires, heat waves etc., and this is likely to increase.

As I have previously mentioned, China is acting on climate change and their emissions, but they are also being forced into action because their air is so polluted.  I remember the sky was brown in Shanghai when I was there just before their EXPO in 2010.

Our own inimitable Cardinal Pell says it is “immoral” to spend money attempting to prevent climate change. I would say future generations will say it was “immoral” to do nothing about it.

Bundeena November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Bundeena November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

CSG:  Both coal seam gas and liquefied natural gas are expected to benefit in the short term from the price on carbon, because they generally emit fewer greenhouse gases than coal and at present they are cheaper than solar, wind or geothermal power. There are 4,000 coal seam gas wells sunk in Queensland already, and plans for as many as 40,000 more!  However the technique used (known as “fracking”) apparently caused a small earthquake in the UK recently, and the long term effects on water tables through this process and the use of chemicals etc., are still unknown.

In Queensland, dredging in ports to facilitate CSG export facilities is endangering The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area ecosystem.  You can show your concern by signing this GetUp! petition.

MINING: The Government is still trying to implement a Mining Tax against great opposition from most of the millionaire miners.  Apparently most companies pay as little as 14% taxation, and 83% of the companies are foreign-owned.  Shamefully, Canada is selling vast amounts of asbestos to countries like India for cheap (and possibly life-threatening) housing (Foreign Correspondent 8 Nov ABC).  The Australian Government seems to be about to overturn our ban on uranium sales to India which was based on the fact that India is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  This has been a long running impediment in our relationship with India who, despite what happened in Fukushima, Japan, is aiming at a total of 65 nuclear reactors.

RHINOS: As I have previously blogged African elephants are in an “extinction vortex”.  Africa’s Western Black Rhino, however, has been declared extinct and other sub-species may also be facing extinction. Read more in this LA Times article.

A LION CALLED CHRISTIAN:  I send a copy of the book or DVD of A Lion Called Christian to any children’s hospitals I read about and I received a letter back from one saying that Christian’s story was proving to be effective “distractive therapy” – an expression I hadn’t heard before.  I’m so pleased to think this can sometimes help those children facing often dire medical procedures or futures.

The books are available in digital versions and I have included links below.  I’m sort of  surprised that Christian’s story continues to inspire people – except his life was so exceptional!

iBooks: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/a-lion-called-christian/id437005297?mt=11

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Lion-Called-Christian-ebook/dp/B0038LB3Z4/

Waterstones: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/anthony+bourke/john+rendall/a+lion+called+christian+28ebook29/6449728/

WHSmith: http://www.whsmith.co.uk/CatalogAndSearch/eBooksProductDetails.aspx?productID=KB00104739541

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/A-Lion-Called-Christian/book-OMXKLakmSEyu5TnRXJn31w/page1.html?utm_source=whsmith&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=detailpage

Audley Weir National Park Sydney, November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke

Audley Weir National Park Sydney, November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke

BLOGGING: I finally caught up with the film Julie & Julia which I enjoyed despite Meryl Streep’s no doubt good impersonation of Julia Child’s voice.  I was interested in the blogging – Julie was at it day by day, which I am not, and much more personal.  I don’t want to inflict on you my daily feelings, mood swings and neuroses.  Over a two or three week period what I want to comment on emerges – even if some of it is quite dated by then.  Blogging offers all of us the chance to express what we feel about the world, as many of us feel a certain impotence.  I’ve let you know I’ve had a life after owning a lion when I was young, and had a career in Aboriginal art which I have found fascinating.  In a blog I’m able to talk about other things that I find important or that interest me and I like the way it ends up a sort of diary.

Primarily, however, I hope the blog is a valuable global noticeboard about anyone doing interesting work or campaigning in relation to conservation and animal rights and welfare issues.  This very much also depends on your contributions.  If we together have helped in any way to free Tony the Tiger, for example, I think that is just wonderful.

I get many more emails than “comments” on the blog – perhaps many of you are rather like me and prefer a one-on-one communication, rather than a more public discourse.

MISC STATS: nearly 4000 protesters dead in Syria so far (and thousands of defecting Syrian soldiers joining the protests); 800 million Facebook users; Justin Bieber’s over 2 billion hits on YouTube overtaking Lady Gaga (his voice is breaking); 7 billion people in the world and 30 million millionaires; Chinese artist Ai Weiwei accused of owing $2.27 million in back taxes ( people are throwing money over his wall); 500 have died in the floods in Thailand; George Soros’ accurate prediction that the deal to fix the Eurozone/Greek financial crisis would last between 1 and 30 days – it lasted 4 days (good luck to the new governments in Greece and Italy); Brazil overtakes the UK as the world’s 6th biggest economy; Australia judged the second best country to live in after Norway!

I’m reading and loving The Colony: A History of Early Sydney by Grace Karskens, uncomfortably watching The Slap on TV,  loved k.d.lang’s great voice at her concert, and I was in awe and humbled in the presence of many of Picasso’s own Picassos at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Audley Weir National Park Sydney, November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Audley Weir National Park Sydney, November 2011. Photo by Ace Bourke.

Dickie Minyintiri Kanyalakutjina (Euro tracks)

Telstra Art Award - Kanyalakutjina (Euro tracks) acrylic on canvas by Dickie Minyintiri

ABORIGINAL ART: This painting by 96 year old Dickie Minyintiri has won the 2011 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.  To the initiated clan elders, this painting is a map of their country, especially the waterholes, the tracks of animals, and related ceremonial activities – and much more than we will ever know.  You can view the exhibition online and see the diversity of Aboriginal Art.  It seems Central and Western Desert paintings predominate in this exhibition, but this is often the case.  Isn’t it amazing that such contemporary looking paintings are by people living in remote areas still speaking their own languages and where traditional ceremonies are still strong, although this way of life is under threat.

2011 Telstra Art Award Bobby West Tjupurrula_Untitled

Telstra Art Award - Untitled synthetic polymer paint on linen by Bobby West Tjupurrula

We are going into spring here in Australia and the weather in Sydney has been warm and sunny, but still a little cool at nights.  A magical time of the year.  I feel fine myself, but this is tempered by the bloodshed in the Middle East and the atrocities being uncovered in Libya, and the determination of the Syrian Government to violently repress their people.

UNNERVING:  to discover recently the US and UK government’s cooperation and complicity with Libyan intelligence;  just how cosy Blair was with Gaddafi;  that Blair is a godfather to a child of Rupert Murdoch and worked against further investigation of the phone hacking;  that the Chinese were selling arms to Libya as late as July;  and that Bush’s White House ignored or buried relevant evidence about the connections between the 9/11 hijackers and his Saudi Arabian friends.  As we reflect on the horrific loss of life ten years ago (and the many subsequent military and civilian deaths), let’s try and learn from the inappropriate and failed response of the so called “War on Terror”.

Telstra Art Award - Stone Country natural pigments on bark by Ivan Namirrkki

FOREIGN AID:  At last there seems to be a rethinking of how ineffective some Foreign Aid has been in the past.  Much of it has propped up big man despotic leaders rather than reaching the people who need it.  Of course the Chinese seem to be everywhere and are at least building infrastructure and one hopes the populations will benefit as much as China will.  Obviously droughts cause crops to fail,  but peace and stability is also required to prevent famines.  The colonial carve up in Africa after 1885 is responsible for so many unrealistic and unnatural national borders that many countries have too many disparate tribal groups – a problem facing Libya where three very different rebel groups will now have to work together.  Foreign Aid has also disadvantaged local enterprises in the past.  Now there are initiatives to fund specific projects in villages, overseen by local councils, and for better transparency and accountability, accounts are publicly displayed.

We must not forget the millions suffering with the famine in Africa and I hope given the millions of people effected, donations and aid are getting through as effectively and quickly as possible.  In Haiti for example, of the US$21.1 billion raised for the 2010 earthquake victims only $286 million has been obligated, and many thousands are still living in tents.

You can donate to the UNHCR’s East Africa Famine Appeal at www.unrefugees.org.au.

Charaxes Australis AMS 193/18 original watercolour by Helena Scott

SCOTT SISTERS: Two Australian sisters Helena and Harriet Scott painted between the 1840s and 1860s. Their exhibition Beauty from Nature is at the Australian Museum, Sydney.  The artworks have been drawn from the 100 preliminary botanical drawings and watercolours purchased in 1884.  These sisters were cousins of David Scott Mitchell that I have blogged about previously, and I am proud to say I am also a relation.

SPECIES: Apparently there are an estimated 8.7 million species on earth – 6.5 million distinct forms of life on land, and 2.2 million in the oceans, with 85% yet to be discovered.  Some species of course may vanish before we even know of their existence.  In Australia more than 100 plants and animals have disappeared in the last two centuries, with many critically endangered.  The International Union of Conservation of Nature predicts that 30% of the world’s wildlife will disappear by 2050.  Creating some controversy is the proposal by some scientists to use economics and mathematics to develop analyses of which animals should be saved and which ones should not, and are already prioritising recovery programs.  Read the article Survival of the Cheapest SMH, 11 August 2011.

What can we do, apart from donating?  According to the Sydney Sun Herald:  take rubbish, especially plastic from the beaches;  stop pets hunting wildlife;  grow native plants as a haven for wildlife;  buy furniture timber from sustainable sources;  and eat sustainable seafood.

Chelepteryx Collesi AMS 193/92 original watercolour by Harriet Scott

Unfortunately in our Asian region there is a vast wildlife trade in poaching, smuggling and dealing in protected species and their body parts, much of it for traditional medicines.  Lately there have been reports of tigers being “farmed” in China, like the horrific farming of bears for their bile elsewhere in Asia.  The Global Financial Integrity group using information provided by conservation groups Traffic and the World Wildlife Fund have estimated recently that the illegal trade in wildlife generates up to $US10 billion.

Australia’s live cattle exports have resumed to Indonesia seemingly without any new and effective enforceable safe guards, and questions have been raised about Australian sheep exports to Turkey. Interestingly, after the huge public outcry over the TV footage of the treatment of cattle in the abattoirs in Indonesia, public sentiment then swung to the cattle producers, and the government was then pilloried for the economic damage to the industry caused by the suspension of trade.

Polio Festiva AMS 193/14 original watercolour by Harriet Scott

THE COVE: I finally saw The Cove and it is a devastating documentary.  September marks the beginning of the slaughter of up to 23,000 dolphins and porpoises in Japan.  “Traditional custom” is no longer an excuse.  Apparently many younger Japanese are questioning the harvesting of dolphins and porpoises for captivity and food (which often contains dangerously high mercury levels), and their whaling activities in the Antarctic, and the Japanese media are finally asking questions.  We should all actively oppose and protest.  I hope you will sign this petition.

FAROE ISLANDS: I have once again been sent an email petition to oppose the slaughter of whales and dolphins in the Faroe Islands.  The images and blood in the water was almost unwatchable.  Unfortunately this petition is now closed, but investigate other opportunities to protest.

TARONGA ZOO CAMPAIGN: There are only about 400 Sumatran tigers left in the world primarily because their forests are being cleared for unsustainable farming and forestry, including palm oil plantations. Taronga Zoo supports sustainable palm oil production that does not destroy vital animal habitats.  Zoos are working together to petition for the mandatory labelling of all food products containing palm oil.  You may also want to sign this Don’t Palm Us Off  petition.

Nick Brandt - Elephant Drinking, Amboseli 2007. Courtesy of Source Photographica.

Nick Brandt - Elephant Drinking, Amboseli 2007. Courtesy of Source Photographica.

AGONY AND IVORY: In the August issue of Vanity Fair there is a quite terrifying article charting what could be the extinction of the African elephant.  The demand for ivory, especially from the older “suddenly wealthy” Chinese in the main ivory carving and trading district of Guangzhou is seeing possibly tens of thousands of elephants being slaughtered each year, and a “vortex of extinction” is feared.  Half the poaching in Kenya is happening within 20 miles of one of the five massive Chinese road-building projects.  But ivory is also funding warring rebel groups in Africa, and in Zimbabwe many elephants are being shot by trophy hunting tourists, as well as being killed to provide food for a hungry population.

There are people in China also deeply concerned about the ivory trade and the diminishing elephant numbers, and as we discovered when we visited China, the Chinese Government is much more committed to conservation than I had imagined.

These are most of the people who are mentioned in the VF article that are fighting to save the African elephant:  Amboseli Elephant Research Project;  Kenyan Wildlife Service;  Save the Elephant;  Traffic;  IFAW;  WildAid;  MIKE;  Johnny Rodrigues;  Andrea Turkalo;  and Iain Douglas-Hamilton.  We must help in any way we can and especially stop people buying ivory.

CLIMATE CHANGE: The www.skepticalscience.com website clearly explains the peer-reviewed scientific evidence that rebuts misinformation disseminated by so-called skeptics of climate change.

Robert Manne in an article in the Quarterly Essay, Bad News: Murdoch’s Australian and the Shaping of the Nation analyses The Australian newspaper’s total coverage of climate change including news items and opinion columns, and by a ratio of about four to one, they have opposed action on climate change or “acting alone”.  (Apparently 90 countries are committed to some action).  Their blatantly biased reporting against the Government would be of similar proportions.  It looks like it is about to get very difficult for James Murdoch in the UK very soon.

Coal seam gas exploration in Australia, with tens of thousands of gas wells planned or approved,  is at last being questioned in relation to the damage to the water table and the effect of the chemicals used in the process.  The cost effectiveness of wind farms is also being questioned or reviewed.

MISC STATS: Apple have $76 billion in ready cash (more than the US Government);  in Australia 1% own 20% of the nation’s wealth and in the US it is 1% owning 40%;  BHP Billiton announced a profit of $22.5 billion – and they opposed a mining tax;  deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon increased by 15% in the past 12 months; the Pope’s World Youth Day event in Spain cost €60 million.

Telstra Art Award - Mayilimiriw natural pigments on bark by Nyapanyapa Yunupingu

BUFFET: It was interesting when Warren Buffet recently wrote “While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks.”  With America seemingly on the edge of a double dip recession, with unemployment at 9.1%, 14 million people out of work and zero jobs growth, this just seems incomprehensible.  The wealthy refuse to pay enough tax necessary to maintain infrastructure or support the impoverished, and consequently nearly one in a hundred Americans are imprisoned.  The sophisticated US Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich has recently said that without the tax breaks, the top 1% in America could be contributing $500 billion in the first year alone.  One does have to ask, is there any concept of “national interest”?  Are the conservatives prepared to wreck the country just to reclaim political power which they see as their entitlement?  Exactly the same thing has been happening here in Australia, where a shrill and negative but effective Opposition, aided by shock jocks, has convinced a large section of the population that our current Government – the envy of the world economically, is a catastrophe.  They are contributing to undermining consumer confidence in a time of global financial uncertainty and obstructing necessary reforms like a carbon tax.  I really despair.

DEWEY AND MARLEY: Over the last year or so I’ve looked rather enviously at two books that are always prominently displayed in airport bookshops.  So I thought it was time to read DEWEY The Small Town Cat Who Touched the World (by Vicki Myron), and Marley & Me: life and love with the world’s worst dog (John Grogan).

I was very amused when I was in a book shop thinking of buying Marley’s book and I asked “what is it like?” and the response was “I much preferred the one about the lion – A Lion Called Christian”!  Our book is about an extraordinary animal, indeed an exotic one, but most people can probably relate more easily to stories about an ordinary cat and dog, albeit with strong attractive personalities.  Their books take in the span of their animal’s natural lives, and are autobiographies of the authors.  Our book covers just a few years in our lives, and was written when we were in our early twenties.

Dewey by Vicki Myron

Dewey the cat had great confidence, a certain charisma, and yes, he was very cute.  The book paints a picture of a small rural town in Iowa struggling to remain economically viable.  I’m not sure Dewey turned the town around as implied, but his national and international fame has put it on the map.   “We didn’t want him to be anything more than the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa. And that’s all he wanted too.”  In trying to analyse Dewey’s attraction Myron writes “He found his place.  His passion, his purpose was to make that place, no matter how small and out of the way it may have seemed, a better place for everyone.”  Each day he “never left anyone out or took anyone for granted… and he made everyone feel special.”

Marley & Me by John Grogan

Marley’s book is a little more sophisticated, indeed the author is a writer.  The idea for the book must have come from the response to an article he wrote (with some hesitation) after Marley’s death which unleashed a deluge of over 800 emails and communications from people.  He commented “Animal lovers are a special breed of human, generous of spirit, full of empathy perhaps a little prone to sentimentality, and hearts as big as a cloudless sky.” And I recently read we are apparently 30% less likely to have a stroke.

Marley was, let’s face it, quite mental and very destructive, but apparently he had intuition and empathy, gentleness and a pure heart.  He was completely entwined with his family who just adored him and felt his loss very deeply.  Grogan writes “Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart.  He taught me to appreciate the simple things… about optimism in the face of adversity… friendship and selflessness… unwavering loyalty.”

Marley taught them about unconditional love.

Both writers felt that their animals had the simple qualities that really matter, that many humans have lost sight of.  They were just authentically themselves.  I loved their stories and understand why they have captured so many hearts.  I had a good cry when they died.

Incidentally, I have been told by vets that 12 or 13 are dangerous years in the health of cats and dogs, and if they survive this period can live up to 20. Marley died at 13 and Dewey died at 17.  Lately in Australia there have been some horrific dog attacks on people.  Certain breeds have been targeted and there are suggestions that they be banned. However, this would be circumvented by cross breeding, and experts say it is the socialization of the dog that is important, often requiring work (and vigilance) by the owners.

Koko in Red Dog

RED DOG: See Koko’s superb screen test to play Red Dog!  The film has been doing very well and although I haven’t seen it yet, I know it is a legendary story.

While reading about Marley, Dewey, the elephants, the responses to Christian’s birthday blog, or watching the dolphins in The Cove, someone in every story, no matter which animal, said “They are trying to communicate with us.”  Are we listening?  What do you think they are saying?

 
 

Cartoon by Moir in the Sydney Morning Herald

 

SCHADENFREUDE:  Yes, there is an element of this for many of us towards Rupert Murdoch.  I love Moir’s cartoons – he is one of our best.  Murdoch is the classic example of the 1% owning 40% of the wealth I blogged about last time – those 200 jobs were the first to be sacrificed at the News of the World.  Politicians do his bidding as we know – and I read he encouraged Blair to join the invasion of Iraq.  Hopefully his influence on them will now diminish.  The complicity of the police was particularly shocking, but then, not so surprising.  He owns 70% of the print media in Australia and unashamedly pushes his own right-wing agenda – virtually calling for regime change no less at the moment.  The Government or important issues are not given balanced coverage in his newspapers.  I could give you many examples but that would be boring.  There are some very good journalists working for The Australian, and they must often feel compromised.  Perhaps we readers are also complicit – Rupert’s touch has been identifying what his readers want – gossip.  John Dean, who spent 4 months in prison over his involvement in the Watergate cover-up years ago in the US, says that the scandal will keep running until Murdoch resigns – as President Nixon had to.  He quotes a source that says that money, not ideology, is Murdoch’s prime motivation.  See John Dean’s The Essay,  “Murdoch’s dilemma: himself” Sydney Morning Herald July 23-24.

 

Cartoon by Moir in the Sydney Morning Herald

 

We white Australians have only relatively recently begun to address our real history.  Respected historians such as Henry Reynolds have researched extensively and revealed for the first time the scale of the massacre of Aboriginal people as we took over their land.  The anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner called this in 1974 “the great Australian silence”.  Guess who campaigned in his newspapers seemingly daily for years through a very controversial “historian”, to dispute and minimise the numbers of Aboriginal deaths?  This is why I will never forgive Rupert Murdoch. Click here to sign the AVAAZ petition to end Murdoch’s media monopoly in Australia.

 

Drawing on Memory, Michele Elliot, 1992 (detail)

  

GLOBAL ANIMAL:  I was on a panel recently at this very interesting Global Animal conference at the University of Wollongong.  Human-animal relationships are a fast growing field in animal research, and I suppose Christian is a symbol of that!  In this academic environment I felt like the light relief.  Our YouTube reunion footage with Christian was shown and one participant expressed annoyance at the “disconcerting” Whitney Houston backtrack, and that the “greeting card” sentiments about forwarding the video to “someone you love”, detracted from the human-animal relationship.  I was a little taken aback as people are usually so pleasantly uncritical!  I said I personally get swept along with Whitney’s song “I’ll always love you” (actually written by Dolly Parton), and that I didn’t mind the footage being co-opted as a general message of love. But I acknowledged the point that was being made, and should have replied, “without Whitney and the viral “love” nature of the video, would it have reached so many people, and would I actually be sitting here?” Do see fellow panelist and artist Michele Elliot’s blog –michelelliot.blogspot.com. It is one of the most interesting and elegant ones I have seen. She is one of the growing number of artists who are interested in human-animal relationships. Click here to see her story behind the Tiger image.

 

The Gift, photograph by Michele Elliot 2009

 

CARBON TAX:  Pollution tax! I know I sound like a cracked record…but this saga rolls on here and is still Topic A, and it should be an issue in most countries.  Indeed in many countries the debate has moved on to solutions and the economic opportunities presented.  The Government’s policy was finally released and I respect the Sydney Morning Herald’s economist Ross Gitten’s assessment in his article Gillard’s imperfect carbon plan is just that little bit better.  The price for carbon emissions starts at $23 a tonne, the 500 major polluters will have some incentive to reduce emissions, households will be compensated, and there are billions of dollars for the development of renewable energy sources.  

I thought the tide was beginning to turn in the Government’s favour, although a recent poll gave them only 26% of the primary vote.  Luckily the election is 2 years away. This is the government that got us through the GFC better than any other country in the Western world, but who just can’t sell this achievement.  Today’s headline however was “Big Business has declared war on the Federal Government”.  Like the Republicans at the moment over the US debt ceiling, they seem to view all taxes as against the national interest and a form of wealth redistribution.

 However, a majority of economists back the Government’s economic policies and direction, and at a recent conference 79% backed the Government’s carbon tax over the Opposition’s faux Direct Action plan and 74% also backed the Government’s equally controversial Mining tax. The conservative Opposition just says “no” to everything, and with the support of the Murdoch press, ensure there is no considered debate about many important issues. Not surprisingly, consumer confidence is down.

 

Michael Leunig cartoon, in the Sydney Morning Herald

 

THE GREENS: We would have had a similar carbon emissions scheme by now if the Greens had not blocked the last one.  This is an example of why I have some reservations about them, and I have had mail about both my endorsement and my concerns. I think the Greens vary from country to country, although they obviously share many policies and philosophies.  As we have a hung parliament, and the Greens have the balance of power in the Senate (Upper House) they have considerable bargaining power.  There is now a formal alliance between the Greens and the Government, and they insisted Australia must price carbon, which has led to the PM being accused of breaking an election promise.  This is an on-going and serious credibility problem for her, and many people also dislike her for replacing Kevin Rudd as PM.

The Murdoch press hate the Greens needless to say.  For example, there was a recent article by Andrew McIntyre in The Australian on the commissioned book The Greens: Policies, Reality and Consequences .  He writes “In these (Green) policy formulations there appears to be a profound lack of appreciation or understanding of why our society is the way it is” and that their policies would have “catastrophic unintended consequences for this country”.  As Andrew McIntyre was the editor of the book, how could this be an objective review or article? 

COAL SEAM GAS:  there is rising opposition – on all sides of the political spectrum – to mining for coal seam gas which seems to be rapidly expanding everywhere from the suburbs of our cities to our prime agricultural land.  There seems to have been little research into how the chemicals or methods used are contaminating or damaging the water aquifers and the effect this will have on food production in our increasingly valuable “food bowls”.

CATTLE LIVE EXPORT:  this trade to Indonesia has resumed as suddenly as it was suspended, although no new export permits have yet been issued.  There are new animal welfare requirements, but this does not include stunning before slaughter.

MISC STATS:  South Sudan is the world’s 193rd nation and good luck to them although I don’t know what their economic base is… there is a substantial increase in the number and ferocity of natural disasters – 60 in 1975 and 321 in 2009 with 75 million people affected in 1980, and 250 million in 2007… the Queen cost $48.05 million for the year… 161,653,000 pounds was won by a couple ina lottery in the UK…Sydney is the 6th most expensive city in the world (after Tokyo, Oslo, Osaka/Kobe, Paris, Zurich)… 95% refugee applications in Australia are approved, and make up only 2.5% of our migrant intake.

 

Photograph by Glenn Campbell, Sydney Morning Herald

 

ABORIGINES:  They have been fighting many years for the repatriation of tens of thousands of aboriginal body parts from museums around the world that were ostensibly for “scientific purposes” but were mostly “trophies”. Most of these bones in the photograph were collected in 1948.  They have been in the Smithsonian Institution in the US who have resisted for a decade, like many others, their return.

Aboriginal elder Thomas Amagula said in 2009 “When I hear about the efforts and money the American government (like the Australian government) is spending trying to find and identify the remains of their soldiers who have been lost overseas, I wonder how the Smithsonian Institution can justify its refusal to return all the remains who were taken without our permission.  We think this is very arrogant”.  Aboriginal people are connected to the remains and spirits of their ancestors in ways non- Aboriginal people mostly don’t understand.  R.I.P.

 

Bangarra Dance Theatre at the Sydney Opera House until August 20, then touring nationally

 

Aborigines make up 3.5% of the Australian population, but 25% of the prison population.  But between 1994–2008 Aboriginal employment has risen from 31% to 51%.  School retention rates are increasing, as is home ownership.  There was a depressing program recently on the ABC featuring one of Australia’s richest men “negotiating” with a remote Aboriginal community to mine iron ore and which would spoil areas of their sacred and beautiful country. Billionaire Twiggy Forrest didn’t want to pay them too much as it would be bad for them! “Mining welfare”!!!   It showed the uneven playing field for aboriginal claimants, the inequity of the Native Title Act, and Twiggy has dangerously divided the Aboriginal community.  Another wealthy 1% person showing his largesse… see the ABC Four Corners program Iron and Dust.

HORN OF AFRICA:  It certainly looks like a horn which is ironic given the shrinking number of rhinos. More than 10 million people from southern Somalia are under threat by the lack of rainfall, failure of crops and the doubling of food prices.  The Dadaab Refugee camp in Kenya is expecting 10,000 new refugees each month.  It is now designated a “famine” and we can donate through:  savethechildren.org.au; UNHCR’s unrefugees.org.au:  Medicins Sans Frontieres msf.org.au or various other agencies.

In South Africa, although whites are only 9% of the population, they own 55% of the land.  With 50% of young black South Africans unemployed and very slow progress in people’s standard of living, it is not surprising, but scary, that leaders are emerging who are calling for the resumption of this land, without compensation, Mugabe-style.

WORRIED ABOUT:  the Bank of America’s share price… the US National Debt ceiling being $14.3 trillion and if it will be increased in time… the  strategy of the EU for the support of countries like Greece who according to one recent commentator “cooked the books” to gain entry originally…the secret sale by Germany of 200 tanks to Saudia Arabia despite their action against protesters in Bahrain, and the proposed new law to jail anyone criticizing the King…and Egypt not allowing international monitoring of their election later in the year.

MAIL:  Thanks for your emails… Fabienne is going to let us know more about the Bali Villa Kitty and how we may support the cats in Bali…WSPA emailed that generous donations have funded the first stage of the Bali Dogs Vaccination Program aimed at the eradication of rabies with 210,000 dogs in 4,126 villages treated… click here to watch this beautiful video about penguins sent by Hélène… I’ve been very interested in your own family histories and stories… and thanks Barb Heath for reading  back through my blogs and your comments… many of you are helping  the blog  become a good resource and directory of so many people and bodies genuinely concerned about animal welfare and the world we live in, and I thank you.

Our thoughts are with the people of Norway.

 

Michael Leunig cartoon, Sydney Morning Herald