Archbishop dismissed for sexual abuse

This video is called Vatican tribunal convicts former envoy of sex abuse.

From Associated Press:

Jozef Wesolowski, Vatican Ex-Ambassador, Convicted Of Sex Abuse

By Nicole Winfield

Posted: 06/27/2014 9:26 am EDT Updated: 2 hours ago

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican‘s former ambassador to the Dominican Republic has been convicted by a church tribunal of sex abuse and has been defrocked, the first such sentence handed down against a top papal representative.

The Vatican said Friday that Monsignor Jozef Wesolowski was found guilty by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in recent days, and sentenced to the harshest penalty possible against a cleric: laicization, meaning he can no longer perform priestly duties or present himself as a priest.

Wesolowski has two months to appeal. He also faces other charges by the criminal tribunal of Vatican City, since as a papal diplomat he is a citizen of the tiny city state.

The Holy See recalled the Polish-born Wesolowski on Aug. 21, 2013, and relieved him of his job after the archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez, told Pope Francis about rumors that Wesolowski had sexually abused teenage boys in the Dominican Republic.

Dominican authorities subsequently opened an investigation, but haven’t charged him. Poland, too, opened an investigation into Wesolowski and a friend and fellow Polish priest.

Wesolowski is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be investigated for alleged sex abuse, and his case raised questions about whether the Vatican, by removing him from Dominican jurisdiction, was protecting him and placing its own investigations ahead of that of authorities in the Caribbean nation.

The Vatican has never said how Wesolowski responded to the charges and hasn’t provided any contact information for his lawyer.

The case is particularly problematic for the Vatican since Wesolowski was a representative of the pope, accused of grave crimes that the Holy See has previously sought to distance itself from by blaming the worldwide sex abuse scandal on wayward priests and their bishops who failed to discipline them, not Vatican officials.

The case has also been delicate because Wesolowski was both ordained a priest and bishop by his Polish countryman and former pope, St. John Paul II.

Lyme disease ticks discovery, 15 million years old

This video is called The amber fossils secret – Dominican Republic.

From LiveScience:

Ancient Lyme Disease Bacteria Found in 15-Million-Year-Old Tick Fossils

By Megan Gannon, News Editor | May 30, 2014 05:18pm ET

The oldest known evidence of Lyme disease may lie in ticks that were entombed in amber at least 15 million years ago, scientists announced.

The researchers investigated four fossilized ticks that had been trapped in chunks of amber found in the Dominican Republic. Inside the ticks’ bodies, the scientists saw a large population of cells that looked like the squiggly shaped spirochete cells of the Borrelia genus — a type of bacteria that causes Lyme disease today.

Bacteria, which arose on the planet 3.6 billion years ago, rarely survive in the fossil record. But amber, the hardened resin from oozing trees, can preserve soft tissues and microscopic cells that would otherwise degrade over time. In recent years, scientists have discovered the 100-million-year-old gut microbes of a termite and 40-million-year-old sperm from an insect-like springtail, both trapped in amber. [Photos: Ancient Life Trapped in Amber]

The newfound bacteria species was dubbed Palaeoborrelia dominicana. The findings suggest illnesses like Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases may have been plaguing animals long before humans ever walked Earth.

Today, ticks are more significant disease-carrying insects

They are arachnids, not insects

than mosquitos in the United States, Europe and Asia, said entomologist George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus at Oregon State University, lead author of the study detailed in the journal Historical Biology last month.

“They can carry bacteria that cause a wide range of diseases, affect many different animal species, and often are not even understood or recognized by doctors,” Poinar said in a statement. “It’s likely that many ailments in human history for which doctors had no explanation have been caused by tick-borne disease.”

Lyme disease, for example, wasn’t formally recognized until the 1970s even though it affects thousands of people each year. In 2009, there were 30,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Humans acquire the disease when bitten by ticks that carry Borrelia bacteria. But because it has symptoms that overlap with many other disorders — including rash, aches, fatigue and fever — Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed.

The oldest documented case of Lyme disease in humans comes from the famous 5,300-year-old ice mummy dubbed Ötzi, discovered in the Eastern Alps about 20 years ago. In a 2012 study detailed in the journal Nature Communications, scientists said they found genetic material for the Borrelia bacteriain the iceman.

“Before he was frozen in the glacier, the iceman was probably already in misery from Lyme disease,” Poinar said. “He had a lot of health problems and was really a mess.”

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Endangered black-capped petrels, new study

This video says about itself:

12 January 2012

The Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) is an endangered species. These are the very first chick photos obtained in Haiti.

From Clemson University in the USA:

Researchers help track mysterious, endangered ‘little devil’

May 1, 2014

Clemson University’s South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit joined with Grupo Jaragua and the American Bird Conservancy to lead the first-ever effort to track via satellite the black-capped petrel, an endangered North Atlantic seabird known for its haunting call and mysterious nighttime habits.

There are only 13 known breeding colonies and an estimated 600 to 2,000 breeding pairs, all located in the remote areas of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The birds, which come to land only to breed, are known in their home range as “daiblotin” or “little devil” because of their eerie call and the sound produced by air moving over their wings during nocturnal flights.

Researchers recently affixed small solar-powered satellite transmitters to three birds raising chicks in the isolated mountains along the border region of Haiti and Dominican Republic.

The three birds have now headed out to sea in search of food. Their travels can be followed at black-capped petrel journeys.

Black-capped petrels are known to visit waters off the U.S. East Coast and have been seen in the Southeast as far north as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

“We are already seeing unique, real-time data that is adding to our understanding of the ecology of this species,” said Patrick Jodice, leader of the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and professor in Clemson’s School of Agricultural, Forest and Environmental Sciences. “The satellite transmitters are allowing us to document 24-hour flights of 400 to 500 miles, and they are foraging in parts of the southern Caribbean Sea that were somewhat unexpected.”

Black-capped petrel nests are under threat by Haitian communities dependent on land for farming and wood for cooking. The species is also believed to be threatened by losses from collisions with power lines and communications towers, wildfires and invasive predators, such as rats and cats.

Data from the satellite transmitters will deepen scientists’ understanding of the birds’ ecology at sea and help determine how best to improve the species’ conservation status.

“This is a pioneering effort for this species that will yield unique information about the petrels’ travel routes and foraging locations while breeding, the rate at which the birds feed their chicks over the course of the breeding season and, we hope, their dispersal following breeding,” Jodice said.

The South Carolina Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit is is supported by the U.S. Geological Survey, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Clemson University and the Wildlife Management Institute.

The satellite tagging project is supported by American Bird Conservancy, Mohamed bin Zayed Fund for Species Conservation, Cary and David Paynter through the H. Smith Richardson Jr. Charitable Lead Annuity Trust, Jeff Russinow, South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Stuart and Lynn White.

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Dominican Republic mangrove conservation news

From BirdLife:

Laguna de Oviedo’s community mangroves

Fri, Aug 23, 2013

Grupo Jaragua (BirdLife in the Dominican Republic) has just successfully finished their 18-month site-project entitled Mangroves in Laguna de Oviedo: conservation status and reforestation in areas used by local communities. The project focused on improving the conservation of mangrove ecosystems in Jaragua National Park (JNP) through monitoring, reforestation and awareness activities with the participation of local communities. Grupo Jaragua found that while there is no direct exploitation of mangroves around Laguna de Oviedo, a number of small-scale impacts were identified that could compromise JNP´s mangrove ecosystems in the long-term. The project was part of a small grant scheme, funded by the MacArthur Foundation that has supported and built the capacity for locally-based mangrove conservation and education/awareness in the Insular Caribbean.


Red mangroves in laguna de Oviedo. © Amelia Mateo

Red mangroves in laguna de Oviedo. © Amelia Mateo

Laguna de Oviedo is a hyper-saline lagoon located on the north-east side of Jaragua National Park – an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, and part of the unique Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve. At 28,000 ha, Laguna de Oviedo is the largest saltwater lake within the park. This wetland supports mangrove forests (c. 1,573 ha) that provide critical habitat for a number of nesting waterbirds such as the Caribbean Flamingos Phoenicopterus ruber, Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja, White Ibis Eudocimus albus, Brown Pelican Pelicanus occidentalis, Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens and Least Tern Sternula antillarum.

The mangroves and adjacent mud flats are also used as feeding, roosting and stop-over grounds by migratory birds including Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes, Solitary Sandpiper T. solitaria, Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla, Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus and Prothonotary Warbler Protonotaria citrea. The Vulnerable West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea and Near Threatened White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala – two species restricted to the Caribbean – rely on the mangroves of Laguna de Oviedo during important parts of their life cycle.

“Residents from the surrounding community of El Cajuil have long used this wetland´s mangrove resources for food, fuel wood and other extractive purposes”, said Mildred Dawaira Méndez, Project Coordinator. “Also, impacts by tropical storms and hurricanes on the lagoon´s natural ecosystems (including mangrove areas) have been reported by local folk. Furthermore, there is an increasing presence and usage of fast-growing, non-native invasive plants, such as Neem Tree Azadirachta indica for shade”, continued Méndez.

The values of mangroves were highlighted during World Wetlands Day 2013. © Grupo Jaragua

The values of mangroves were highlighted during World Wetlands Day 2013. © Grupo Jaragua

In order to improve the conservation status of Laguna de Oviedo´s mangroves – and contribute to the overall conservation of mangrove ecosystems in JNP – Grupo Jaragua implemented the project Mangroves in Laguna de Oviedo: conservation status and reforestation in areas used by local communities. Since 2011, they have: carried out a mangrove ecosystem health assessment; implemented bird and site monitoring through the use of the IBA monitoring framework; raised local awareness about the importance of mangroves during environmental celebrations (including the World Bird Festival and World Wetlands Day); and planted buttonwood mangroves. All project activities were conducted with the participation of Local Conservation Groups and communities.

Main project achievements:
Mangrove monitoring

Community-based mangrove monitoring. © Grupo Jaragua

  • Four permanently marked vegetation study plots were established on site, on the banks of Laguna de Oviedo.
  • Water salinity and tree girth were measured, and Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates taken.
  • Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa), black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and buttonwood mangrove (Conocarpus erectus) were all found to be present, with red and black mangroves dominating.
  • Seed collection was undertaken by the Local Conservation Group Voluntarios Comunitarios de Jaragua.
  • Seeds were germinated in community plant nurseries. Unfortunately, many were attacked by insect larva and free ranging chickens. A better protected hatchery was more successful in the second year.
  • IBA monitoring was conducted during two consecutive years by local field ornithologist with participation from local youths.
  • Multiple mangrove awareness educational activities were undertaken (e.g. talks, birdwatching trips, drawing contests, production of mangrove related educational materials, poster exhibition, mural painting and mangrove tree planting near the lagoon). These activities were carried out during World Wetlands Day, Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival, World Bird Festival and International Migratory Bird Day celebrations.
  • Project achievements were communicated and disseminate through traditional (i.e. television programs) and new media (e.g. social networks).
  • Awareness of the importance of mangroves and mangrove conservation issues was increased through a range of communication, outreach materials, and news stories
  • Information was shared through a website:

Throughout the project, Grupo Jaragua worked closely with Voluntarios Comunitarios de Jaragua (Local Conservation Group) and local eco-guides from the communities of El Cajuil and Oviedo. The communities of Juancho, La Colonia, Tres Charcos and Manuel Goya have also benefitted through the project´s educational and awareness activities. All seven communities surround Jaragua National Park.

Key findings

Mangrove cattle paddocks

Clandestine cattle owners utilize mangrove wood to construct rudimentary paddocks. © Laura Perdomo

Grupo Jaragua found that while there is no direct exploitation of mangroves around Laguna de Oviedo, a number of small-scale impacts were identified that could compromise JNP´s mangrove ecosystems in the long-term.

These impacts include:

  • Overgrazing by free-ranging cattle (i.e. cows, goats, horses, donkeys) accompanied by seasonal cutting of mangrove roots to construct rudimentary cattle paddocks.
  • Sporadic exploitation and/or hunting of waterbirds, their fledglings or eggs.
  • Seasonal harvest of land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi) in mangrove areas.
  • Non-degradable solid waste accumulation (of local and non-local origin brought by the sea).
  • Some mangrove areas north of the lagoon (located within protected area limits) have recently been cleared with the intention of illegal land appropriation and subsequent sale from the park.

Lessons learned

“This project was implemented with local community members, identified and trained during years of community engagement by Grupo Jaragua”, said Mildred Dawaira Méndez. “This pre-existing relationship and trust greatly facilitated local involvement around the theme of mangroves and allowed for successful achievement of all planned activities. Awareness raising activities (especially planting mangroves!) were very popular and helped generate interest in this project as well as opportunities to learn more about preserving natural resources”, concluded Méndez.

The Mangroves in Laguna de Oviedo project was carried out by Grupo Jaragua as part of the Mangrove Alliance: BirdLife’s three-year initiative supporting and building the capacity of locally-based mangrove conservation and education/awareness activities in the Insular Caribbean. It was made possible thanks to the generous support from the MacArthur Foundation.

Grupo Jaragua wins the Dominican Republic’s largest private sector environmental award: here.

Fossil and living fly discoveries in Dominican Republic

This video is called amber fossilsDominican Republic.

From the University of Manchester in England:

Scientist names new fly species after the professor who has supported his work

August 9, 2013

A Professor from The University of Manchester has had his name immortalised as a new species of fly.

Professor Richard Preziosi, from the Faculty of Life Sciences, said he was delighted with the unusual tribute from researcher Dr Dave Penney.

It follows his continued support of Dr Penney’s unfunded research into amber rocks which he has been investigating for around 20 years.

Dr Penney discovered the new species of fly, which he has named Proceroplatus preziosii, on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, after finding a fossil in 16 million-year-old amber from the Dominican Republic. His findings were confirmed by Dr Neal Evenhuis, of the Bishop Museum in Hawaii, who is the leading world expert on this group. The species is a tiny gnat just a few millimetres long belonging to the Keroplatidae family.

Professor Preziosi said: “I am delighted and honoured to have this newly discovered species named after me. It has been a real privilege to be able to support Dr Penney’s research and to be associated with his discoveries of this unique aspect of biodiversity.”

Dr Penney, who has previously discovered approximately 40 new species of insects and spiders and has had two species named after him, said: “The fossil represents the first record of Keroplatidae from the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. It led us to predict the presence of these flies in the living fauna on the island. After a study we found the species living there.

“I wanted to thank Professor Preziosi, who has supported me throughout my research career at Manchester, and thought this would be a novel way to do this!”

The discovery is published in the journal Zootaxa.

‘Pro-life’ laws killing women, Ireland, USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

Danielle and Robb share their story of how a restrictive Nebraska law impacted their family.

From the blog of Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund in the USA:

Savita’s Death Was Not an Isolated Incident

Posted: 11/19/2012 5:19 pm

By now news of Savita Halappanavar’s senseless death has traveled around the world, drawing attention to Ireland‘s near-total ban on abortion and the horrific consequences of such policies. This is not a stand-alone case. Every 90 seconds a woman dies from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, totaling more than 350,000 deaths worldwide each year. Nearly all of these deaths occur in developing countries, where access to modern medical care is scarce.

What makes Savita’s story so shocking is that she died in a modern hospital in a developed European country. We health advocates spend a lot of time and energy fighting for the kind of access Savita (almost) had. Hers was a planned pregnancy. She herself was a medical professional, a dentist, who recognized the warning signs of pregnancy complications. When she felt severe pains, she and her husband didn’t have to travel far to reach a clean, modern hospital where her health problems were quickly diagnosed. And when she learned that she was miscarrying and that her life was in danger, she asked her doctor about her options and requested that her pregnancy be ended before it killed her.

Lack of access to medical care did not kill Savita — politics did.

The slow and painful death Ireland’s abortion ban forced Savita to endure, and forced her husband to witness, brings to mind another tragic story. Earlier this year, doctors in the Dominican Republic refused chemotherapy to a 16-year-old cancer patient because she was pregnant.

Think this couldn’t happen in the United States? Think again.

In Nebraska, Danielle Deaver experienced complications in the 22nd week of her pregnancy. Her water broke and doctors informed her that there was not enough amniotic fluid for her daughter to survive. Devastated, Danielle wanted to end the pregnancy, but her state’s ban on safe and legal abortion after 20 weeks gestation prevented her from doing so. Instead, Danielle was forced to continue her pregnancy and deliver a baby that died moments after birth.

Danielle, the young woman in the Dominican Republic and Savita show us what happens when politicians get between women and their doctors. Right now in Ohio, legislators are considering a bill that would impose similar restrictions on women in Ohio as those currently faced by women in Ireland. It would ban safe and legal abortion very early in pregnancy — even before some women know they are pregnant.

Savita and Danielle represent some of the most extreme outcomes of harmful policies, but by no means the full extent. Women across the country and around the world suffer in myriad ways because of politics that deny women the ability to make their own health care decisions.

They face challenges ranging from mental anguish after becoming pregnant from a sexual assault, to the judgment and shame created by bad policies, to the health consequences of complicated pregnancies, both intended and unintended.

The best way to honor the life and courage of Savita and women like her is to make sure no woman dies again in these circumstances. We need to ensure that laws and policies give women the ability to make decisions about whether to end a pregnancy, choose adoption, or raise a child.

It’s time we let politicians know that we will no longer allow politics to interfere with women’s health. We have enough work ensuring that women and families can access quality medical care. Let’s leave the personal decisions up to them and their doctors.

Follow Cecile Richards on Twitter:

Before Savita, Irish anti-abortion rules already caused women’s deaths: here.

A pregnant, suicidal rape victim fought Ireland’s new abortion law. The law won. Anti-abortion activists claim that legal restrictions are in the best interests of women, but they never are. The Guardian view on Ireland’s abortion law: no choice at all: here.

Save Latin American forests

This video is about vinaceous-breasted Amazon parrots.

From BirdLife:

Agreements that seek to protect 474 hectares of threatened forests in Argentina, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic are signed

Thu, Sep 13, 2012

During the 2012 BirdLife Americas Partnership Meeting three agreements were signed for land acquisition in key IBAs in Argentina, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic. These purchases, made possible through the support of the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation, are part of BirdLife’s Forests of Hope program, and have the goal of securing at least 474 hectares of forest and contributing to the conservation of 72 species of global concern.

In Argentina, the BirdLife Partner Aves Argentinas will acquire 100 hectares in the buffer zone of Cruce Caballero Provincial Park (IBA AR122), the last remnant of primary forest in Argentina with the Critically Endangered Parana Pine (Araucaria angustifolia). A total of 314 bird species has been recorded at the site, of which 74 are endemic to the Atlantic Forest and 20 are of global conservation concern. This area is of particular importance to the Vinaceous-breasted Amazon (Amazona vinacea), an Endangered species, and the Vulnerable Helmeted Woodpecker (Dryocopus galeatus). The populations of threatened birds in the Park are dwindling due to isolation and edge effects, as a result of neighboring areas being cleared for agricultural purposes. Once purchased, the new reserve areas will be co-managed by a local conservation group and the Argentinian National Parks Authority.

Guyra Paraguay signs land purchase agreements.

In Paraguay, San Rafael Forest (IBA PY046) is the largest remnant of Atlantic Forest remaining in the country. Despite having been declared a protected area in 1992, all the land is privately owned and its effective protection is widely recognized as the top national conservation priority. San Rafael is home to 12 globally threatened bird species and 67 Atlantic Forest endemics (the highest diversity of any site in Paraguay).

Building a Foundation for Vinaceous Amazon Parrot Conservation in Paraguay: here.

Small mammals rapidly become extinct in small forest fragments: here.

Save the black-capped petrel

This video says about itself:

The Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) is an endangered species. These are the very first chick photos obtained in Haiti. For more info:

From BirdLife:

Black-capped Petrel may warrant protection under the endangered species act

Wed, Jun 20, 2012

A nocturnal seabird, the black-capped petrel, may warrant federal protection as a threatened or endangered species.

Endangered means the species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range; threatened means the species is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

The black-capped petrel is found in North America and the Caribbean, and is known by several common names: “black-capped petrel,” “capped petrel,” and “West Indian petrel” in North America and on English-speaking islands. In the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the bird is known as “diablotín” (little devil). In Cuba, the bird also is referred to as “bruja” (witch).

This decision, commonly known as a 90-day finding, is based on scientific information about the species presented by WildEarth Guardians in a petition to list the species and designate critical habitat, as well as information found in Service files at the time the petition was received. The Service will now conduct a thorough status review of the species to determine whether the species warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act (Act).

“This finding does not mean that the Service has decided it is appropriate to list the black-capped petrel,” said Edwin Muñiz, Field Supervisor for the Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office. “The 90-day finding is the first step in a process that triggers a more thorough review of all the biological information available.”

”We are encouraging the public to submit any relevant information about the black-capped petrel and its habitat to us for consideration in the comprehensive review,” Muñiz said.

The black-capped petrel has a grey-brown back and wings, with a white nape and rump. The seabird’s underparts are mainly white apart from a black cap and some dark underwing markings. It picks food items such as squid from the ocean surface. The seabird nests in colonies on islands and are found at sea when not breeding.

Currently, there are only 13 known breeding colonies and an estimated 600 to 2,000 breeding pairs. While historically the black-capped petrel had breeding colonies throughout the Caribbean region, current breeding populations are known only on the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and possibly Dominica and Martinique. The non-breeding range of the black-capped petrel is along the coast between North Carolina and Florida.

The black-capped petrel faces many potential threats to its continued existence, including human encroachment, deforestation, agricultural modification, offshore oil exploration and development, overuse from subsistence hunting, predation by introduced species, pollution, mercury bioaccumulation and inadequate regulatory mechanisms.

Predation by introduced species, such as Indian mongoose, Virginia opossum, feral cats, dogs, pigs, and rats also contributed to the decline and possible elimination of the species from multiple locations in the West Indies. Pollution, bioaccumulation of heavy metals, and oil spills potentially threaten the existence of the petrel as researchers have noted that the species has a mercury concentration seven to nine times higher than other similar seabirds.

Additionally, impacts specific to the black-capped petrels could include changes in habitat suitability, loss of nesting burrows washed out by rain or flooding, increased petrel strandings inland during storm events, and increased risk from animal-borne disease.

North Atlantic Seabirds – Multimedia Identification Guide to Pterodroma Petrels: here.