Versatile Blogger Award, thanks Joëlle Jean-Baptiste!

Versatile Blogger Award

Joëlle Jean-Baptiste has been so generous to nominate Dear Kitty. Some blog for the Versatile Blogger Award.

Thank you so much, my dear blogger friend! All my best wishes for you!


1-Thank and link back to the person who awarded you.

2- Nominate 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award and include a link to their site (and tell them that you have nominated them).

3-State 7 things about yourself.


1. Where did most visits to my blog come from today so far?

Country Views
United States FlagUnited States 229
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom 107
Canada FlagCanada 33
Netherlands FlagNetherlands 29
Germany FlagGermany 13
Armenia FlagArmenia 13
Greece FlagGreece 10
Australia FlagAustralia 10
India FlagIndia 9
Jamaica FlagJamaica 9
France FlagFrance 9
South Africa FlagSouth Africa 8
Singapore FlagSingapore 7

2. Where did most visits to my blog come from this month?

Top Views by Country for 30 days ending 2013-09-30 (Summarized)

Country Views
United States FlagUnited States 5,759
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom 2,598
Jamaica FlagJamaica 1,065
Canada FlagCanada 798
Netherlands FlagNetherlands 688
Australia FlagAustralia 579
India FlagIndia 436
Germany FlagGermany 406
France FlagFrance 355
Greece FlagGreece 329
Ireland FlagIreland 244
Japan FlagJapan 203
Italy FlagItaly 187
Sweden FlagSweden 168
Armenia FlagArmenia 156
Bahrain FlagBahrain 152
Belgium FlagBelgium 152
Philippines FlagPhilippines 151
South Africa FlagSouth Africa 145
New Zealand FlagNew Zealand 140
Saudi Arabia FlagSaudi Arabia 138
Spain FlagSpain 132
Indonesia FlagIndonesia 116
Malaysia FlagMalaysia 108
Singapore FlagSingapore 105
Turkey FlagTurkey 101

3. Which blog posts attracted most visits today so far?

Title Views
Home page / Archives 76
Poisonous caterpillars infest Spurn Point in England 44
Fukushima farmers harvest poisoned food 16
Cicada, turtles, firecrest and dragonfly in Italian botanical garden 15
Flowers, dragonflies and lizard at Italian botanical garden 13
Zambian lioness Lady Liuwa update 12
Wilders’ supporters’ nazi salutes 12
British cuckoos have crossed the Sahara 11
German spotted eagles’ migration to Africa tracked 11
Guides to spiders, birds, and plants of Israel on the Internet 8
Other posts 403

4. Which blog posts attracted most visits this month?

Top Posts for 30 days ending 2013-09-30 (Summarized)

Title Views
Home page / Archives 2,591
Poisonous caterpillars infest Spurn Point in England 406
Bahraini king’s sexual harassment of Lebanese singer 373
NSA spying causes French smartphone ban 230
Iraq veteran arrested for playing banjo at Syria war protest 164
About 146
Fukushima disaster, Tepco ‘too big to fail’ 120
US women soldiers raped, then persecuted 116
Zambian lioness Lady Liuwa update 113

5. Which blog posts attracted most visits, ever since my blog movered to WordPress in December 2011?

Top Posts for all days ending 2013-09-30 (Summarized)

Title Views
Home page / Archives 45,092
British Thatcher aide accused of child abuse 5,792
Bahraini king’s sexual harassment of Lebanese singer 2,938
About 2,673
After 35 years, wounds of Vietnamese napalm girl Kim Phuc still hurt 2,407
Günter Grass poem on Greece and austerity, English translation 1,724
Boy raped by priest, then castrated 1,686
Zambian lioness Lady Liuwa update 1,615
Poisonous caterpillars infest Spurn Point in England 1,515
Thai women’s escape from Bahraini forced prostitution 1,122
Thatcher’s Downing Street child abuse scandal 1,033
Stop whipping of raped Maldives girl 960
Britain: Tony Blair’s own Watergate scandal 896
Long-tailed tits, owls, and flowers 874
Big new spider species discovery in Sri Lanka 864
Rare night parrot found in Australia 803

6. Most popular topics I have written about lately:

Topic Views
Environment 718
Human rights 665
Economic, social, trade union, etc. 463
Biology 436
Netherlands 431
Crime 407
Peace and war 393
Invertebrates 390
Mammals 387

If you tag your posts effectively, this panel will show you which topics get the most traffic. Snapshot generated from your top posts over the past week.

7. Which search terms brought most visits to my blog this month?

Search Terms for 30 days ending 2013-09-30 (Summarized)

Search Views
poisonous caterpillars 33
iguana 33
new animal species 17
egyptian sarcophagus 16
prostitution in bahrain 12
slavery in the usa 11
artis 10
fossils for sale 10

My fifteen nominees are

1. American Turban

2. 18yearsyoung

3. Pmespeak’s Blog

4. edwincolonpagan

5. Paris: People, Places and Bling!

6. theo and the blog

7. Living Europe

8. Green Living London

9. theINFP

10. Rafael Prado Velasco Architect / Arquitecto

11. Deep Creek Images

12. on the road with Animalcouriers

13. intergenerational

14. Miss Ayo Déle

15. Manchester Flick Chick

Good rhino news from Zimbabwe

This video is called Black Rhino RAGE – Black Rhino ATTACK Male Lion | EXCLUSIVE Footage [Caught in the Act].

Among much bad rhino news … a bit of better news.

From Wildlife Extra:

Signs of recovery for Zimbabwe’s rhinos and plans for major reintroduction into Gonarezhou National Park

20 black rhinos to be reintroduced into Gonarezhou National Park

September 2013. 2013 has been a rather good year so far, as far as Zimbabwe’s rhinos are concerned. Nine animals are believed to have been poached, but there were 44 births (24 black and 20 white rhino) in the Lowveld alone. So overall there is growth in the Zimbabwean rhino population this year with poaching considerably reduced from previous years.

Steady growth

This means, there are now 620 rhinos in Zimbabwe (394 black and 226 white). White rhino have been on a steady rise but the black rhino population had been through a period of decline from mid 2007 through to mid 2009 due to heavy poaching. Translocations to remove rhinos from very vulnerable areas and on-going anti-poaching efforts have created an environment where steady population growth has been achieved over the last four years.

As encouraging and positive as this may sound, the situation is far from normal. Tremendous efforts are required to secure the future for the black Rhino in Zimbabwe and we think strategic rhino re-introductions may be necessary to continue establishing viable wild rhino populations in their natural habitat.

Gonarezhou National Park

Gonarezhou National Park (GNP) is the second largest protected area in Zimbabwe after Hwange National Park, covering an area of 5,053 km2 of the southeast lowveld, sharing an international boundary with Mozambique. GNP, which has been part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) since 2002, lies within the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA). GNP contains many animals of conservation significance, some which are considered rare in Zimbabwe; e.g. pangolin, bat-eared fox, African wild dog, roan antelope and nyala, among the larger mammals.

Rhino became extinct twice!

GNP is probably one of the few protected areas where black rhino went locally extinct twice – first, sometime during the late 1930’s or 1940’s due to sport hunting, poaching and conflict with an expanding agriculture sector and human population. A second extinction occurred when a population of 77 founder rhinos, reintroduced in 1969-71, went locally extinct in 1994 after reaching a population peak in excess of 100 animals. This second extinction was mainly due to poaching and the 1991/92 drought.

Reintroducing black rhinos

Primary objective is to re-introduce founder populations of black (and possibly white rhino) which will be the start of the re-establishment of a free ranging rhino population in the Gonarezhou National Park. The IUCN guidelines demand that a founder population of at least 20 animals is required. As the GNP is a new reintroduction area with relatively high risks involved, it is suggested the first phase be not more than 20 black rhinos.

Intensive protection

After releasing the animals from their bomas they would still be secured by internal fences in order to encourage them to establish their ranges in safe areas, as well as being able to focus security efforts. These fences will be low and of such a nature that they do not inhibit the movements of other animals, including elephants, but will be directly targeted at keeping the rhino inside a safe zone. This kind of fence has been successfully used in North Luangwa, Zambia, to contain relocated rhino. The fence will also create an environment where a ‘no tolerance’ zone for law enforcement effort can be applied. We call this an IPZ, an Intensive Protection Zone.


All reintroduced rhinos will need to be implanted with Very High Frequency (VHF) transmitters so they can be monitored effectively and efficiently, but it is important that the monitoring system is not solely based on the radio transmitters. The transmitters, just like the internal fences, will be a temporary measure only and the long term aim is for a monitoring system based on tracking. The initial monitoring will be done from the air until the animals are settled into their new environment and from then on the tracking will be largely based on ground tracking with only sporadic air tracking. Good monitors with excellent tracking skills will have to be trained to ensure an acceptable level of monitoring expertise in GNP is in place. The transmitters will assist with recovery when an animal breaks out of the fence at the early stages of the project.

600 kilometre2 boma!

The estimated size of the proposed rhino Intensive Protection Zone is approximately 600 km2. The ideal time for a translocation will be in the cooler months of the year (June-August) for the capture and transport of the animals. However, it may be best to release the rhinos somewhat later in the year (October/November) so that they do not experience a prolonged dry season period before the wet season browse flush, while they are still settling into the area.

The proposed GNP IPZ faces 3 significant challenges:

number of rangers
management of the rangers
standard of rangers.

Extra rangers required

The Chipinda Pools sector in the north of GNP covers about 3000 km2 and Mabalauta in the south covers approximately 2000km2. There are currently only 33 rangers available for patrols at Chipinda Pools and 25 rangers for patrols in Mabalauta. However, we will at least need 55 and 45 rangers respectively for Chipinda Pools and Mabalauta. Once this is achieved a total of 25 additional rangers for the IPZ will be adequate to secure the rhinos if all the rangers (including Chipinda Pools and Mabalauta) are of the required standard and managed effectively. It is very important that all the rangers have the same goals and objectives and that is to secure the Gonarezhou National Park and with that a free ranging rhino and elephant population. We need professional rangers who are well trained and motivated. Therefore a careful selection of rangers on Gonarezhou needs to take place well before the reintroduction of the first rhinos.

We know our plans are ambitious and demand a lot of hard work and financial means, but we are convinced it will be worth it. We want to make sure that there is a future for rhinos in Zimbabwe. They should live where they belong, which of course includes Gonarezhou National Park.

‘BP lied about Gulf oil spill’

This video from the USA is called The BP Oil Spill – 3 Years Later.

From Reuters news agency:

BP lied about size of U.S. Gulf oil spill, lawyers tell trial

Mon, 30 Sep 2013 09:01 PM

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS, Sept 30 – In the frantic days after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP lied about how much oil was leaking from its Macondo well and took too long to cap it, plaintiffs’ lawyers said on Monday at the opening of the second phase of the company’s trial.

The British oil company is fighting to hold down fines that could hit $18 billion at the trial, which will determine damages. BP‘s annualized earnings, based on last quarter, are running at about $17 billion.

“BP refused to spend any time or money preparing to stop a deepwater blowout at its source,” said Brian Barr, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, which include people affected by the spill, the U.S. government and Gulf states, and BP’s former contractors.

“BP then made the situation worse,” Barr said. “By lying about the amount of flow from the well.”

The second phase of the trial, expected to last a month, is focused on how much oil spewed from the well and whether efforts to plug it were adequate.

Internal company emails presented at the trial on Monday showed BP saying publicly after the spill in April 2010 that 5,000 barrels of oil a day were leaking into the ocean when it knew up to 100,000 barrels a day could have been leaking.

John Wilson, a professor at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology who was called to testify against the company, said BP’s reliance on unsubstantiated estimates of the size of the leak contributed to poor decisions on how to plug the well. BP took 87 days and several attempts to cap it.

In the costliest scenario the fines under the Clean Water Act could reach $17.6 billion – an amount well beyond the $42 billion BP has so far set aside for clean-up, compensation and damages.

The first phase of the trial, which wrapped up in April, looked at dividing blame among BP and its contractors – Transocean and Halliburton Co – for the disaster that left 11 men dead and huge stretches of sea and coast fouled with oil. Transocean owned the drilling rig and Halliburton did cement work on the well.

The U.S. government says 4.9 million barrels were spilled in the worst offshore disaster in U.S. history. BP says 3.26 million barrels leaked from the well during the nearly three months it took to cap the blowout at the Deepwater Horizon rig. Both those totals include 810,000 barrels that were collected during clean-up that the judge has agreed to exclude.


Judge Carl Barbier said he would not assign penalties for BP until the third phase of the trial, expected early next year.

Under the Clean Water Act, negligence can be punished with a maximum fine of $1,100 for each barrel of oil spilled; a gross negligence verdict carries a potential $4,300 per barrel fine.

If the court judged the spill to have been 4.09 million barrels – the government estimate less oil recovered – the price of negligence could reach $4.5 billion. Gross negligence could run to $17.6 billion.

A Mississippi environmental group called for hefty fines.

“When you drill a well in 5,000 feet of water and you literally have no idea what you do if there’s an accident – to me that’s gross negligence on the face of it,” said David Muth, director of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration program.

BP shares have lost a third of their value since the disaster, as the company hived off $39 billion of assets that generated $5 billion a year in cashflow – or about a fifth of its earning power – before 2010.

The case is In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 10-md-02179.

Cicada, turtles, firecrest, dragonfly in Italian botanical garden

This Italian video is about Hanbury Botanical Gardens in Liguria, Italy. Unfortunately, when we came, we did not hear the music of this video. Also, we did not hear many birds. Maybe because it was not spring?

16 September 2013. After my description of going from the entrance of Hanbury Botanical Gardens in Italy to the sea, now about going back from the sea to the entrance; which is also the exit.

Cicada on Aleppo pine, Italy, 16 September 2013

Close to the sea-coast, a rather noisy and big cicada on a big Pinus halepensis coniferous tree.

Signs indicate that wild boar have digged in some spots in the garden.

We don’t see them. We do see other mammals: two red squirrels play catch me if you can around a big tree.


A short-toed treecreeper climbs up a tree.

A wheatear. A magpie.

Then, one of the two smallest bird species of Europe: a firecrest.

This is a firecrest video. It takes some time for the camera to find this fast-moving little bird 🙂

Brugmansia plants. In South America, their homeland, hummingbirds pollinate them. Here in Italy, Agrius convolvuli moths do so.

Passiflora, Italy, 16 September 2013

A Passiflora flower.

Fungi, Italy, 16 August 2013

A bit further is a part of the garden, exclusively for Australian plants. Are the fungi, growing among them, Australian as well? Apparently not, as these sulphur polypores are European and North American.

Cumberland turtle, top, and red-eared slider, bottom, Italy, 16 September 2013

We arrive at a pond with goldfish. And with quite some Cumberland turtles and red-eared slider turtles.

Emperor dragonfly female, Italy, 16 September 2013

Around a smaller pond below the turtle pond, a big female dragonfly: an emperor dragonfly.

As we walk along the pond near the villa again, a carp between the goldfish.

Aboriginal Australians suffered from Ice Age

This video is called Discovery Channel, Prehistoric Predators of the Past, 1 of 3. What Killed the Mega Beasts part 1.

From Australian Geographic:

Ice Age struck indigenous Australians hard

By: Wes Judd

September 27, 2013

Population numbers plummeted due to harsh conditions at the peak of the last Ice Age, says a new study.

A NEW STUDY HAS revealed how indigenous Australians coped with the last Ice Age, roughly 20,000 years ago.

Researchers say that when the climate cooled dramatically, Aboriginal groups sought refuge in well-watered areas, such as along rivers, and populations were condensed into small habitable areas.

Professor Sean Ulm, lead author of the research at James Cook University in Townsville, says the vast majority of Australia was simply uninhabitable at this time. “Forests disappeared, animals went extinct; major areas of Australia would have been deprived of surface water.”

How humans coped with the last Ice Age

To understand how Aboriginal people responded to the conditions, a team of experts from Australia, England, and Canada used the radiocarbon dates of thousands of archaeological sites to study the distribution of people across the landscape over time.

The findings, published recently in The Journal of Archaeological Science, suggest that about 21,000 years ago, almost all people in modern-day Australia migrated into smaller areas, abandoning as much as 80 per cent of the continent.

“In Lawn Hill Gorge in northwestern Queensland, at the coldest point of the last glacial period, all of the stone, raw materials and food remains are exclusively from the Gorge area,” says Sean. “This indicated very limited or no use of the surrounding broader landscape.”

This massive consolidation had drastic effects on the population as well. “There was likely a birth rate decline of over 60 per cent,” says Alan Williams, a PhD student at the Australian Nation University who worked on the study. “It would have been very ugly.”

Can humans cope with climate change?

Sean says the next step would ideally be to study the resulting cultural shifts, however, this may prove to be difficult given that close to one third of what was Australia at the time of the Ice Age is now underwater. “By 10,000 years ago, sea levels were visibly rising, sometimes on a daily basis,” says Sean.

Extreme changes in the environment continued for thousands of years, and Aboriginal life readjusted in the process. Sean says this makes it unlikely that researchers will ever know the full societal ramifications of the Ice Age.

What the study does reveal, however, is that humans have withstood massive climate change on this continent in the past, and this might prove vital for preparing for future events.

“A lot of the current climate reports that we read about in Australia…their records only go back a couple of hundred years,” says Sean. “That’s a very short time span to base our model for future climate change on.”

Sean adds that, thanks to studies like this, archaeologists may soon have the potential to extend these data sets.

British cuckoos have crossed the Sahara

This video from Britain is called Follow that Cuckoo, BTO Conference 2011.

From Wildlife Extra:

BTO cuckoos all south of the Sahara

Expected all the cuckoos will head to Congo Rainforest

September 2013. With all the BTO Cuckoos south of the Sahara, it is now expected that they will slowly make their way to the Congo Rainforest, where they will spend the winter months.

Livingstone, Chris and Ken are the first Cuckoos to begin heading in this direction, catching up Sussex and Nick who have been in Central African Republic (CAR) and Cameroon, respectively, for several weeks.

Livingstone is currently the furthest south after his recent movements. From Chad, he travelled across the corner of Cameroon, continuing into the CAR by 19 September.

Ken has moved over 975km (600 miles) south-east in the last 10 days, from Nigeria into the Central African Republic (CAR). By the afternoon of 22 September [he] was in the Ouham region in the north-west. Sussex the Cuckoo is also in this area and signals received from Ken’s tag this morning show that he is now only 50km (30 miles) from Sussex’s location.

Chris is also moving south and heading directly towards the region where both Sussex and Ken are currently located. From the Guera region of Chad he travelled south, pausing briefly from the 18 September until at least early evening of 23 September. A single poor quality transmission showed that he has continued south and is now 50km from the border with the Central African Republic (CAR).

Skinner, meanwhile, has backtracked from Nigeria, heading both west and slightly north – not what we would normally expect our Cuckoos to be doing at this time! This has taken him back to Niger. In the last few days, Whortle has recently arrived in the area in Nigeria which Skinner deserted. We aren’t sure what has prompted Skinner’s movement north-west, but if it is poor feeding conditions, we can expect Whortle might also move on from that location shortly. As for Skinner, we will have to wait for further transmissions to see when he may resume his journey in a south or easterly direction. Whortle has now well and truly caught up with the pack.

There is little new to report for Derek and Tor, who are still in Nigeria or for David who is still in Sudan. BB and Waller are still in Chad, as are Chance and Patch who remain near Lake Chad.

Take a look at the blogs and maps at

Fukushima farmers harvest poisoned food

This video says about itself:

Fukushima farmers describe what it’s like to harvest poisoned food

3 Sep 2013

“We won’t eat it ourselves, but we sell it.”

And they are encouraged to do so! And they won’t be able to feed their families if they don’t. It’s a tragedy all around.

Comment by David Bear on this video and its transcript:

“In the agricultural policy managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, it is a priority to dispel the harmful rumor about Fukushima produce.”

The above quote is from within the transcript (below). It clearly demonstrates the International Atomic Energy Agency‘s agenda: to dispel the ‘harmful rumors’ about contaminated agriculture. And here’s how it’s done.

First, you define the level of contamination which is “acceptable” (this is based on the International Council of Radiation Protection [ICRP]; these are the guys who did the radiological studies after Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and 1946 and they created the standards of “acceptable” radiation exposures based on those studies. It is important that you understand this, because DNA wasn’t discovered until 1952 (Watson & Crick) and radiological damage to DNA is much more subtle and happens at much lower levels of exposure. It is also important to understand that the ICRP has so far refused to adjust their “acceptable” limits to include considerations for damage to DNA).

Second, you do some generalized surveys, take the average readings and round them off (round them down to the next lowest number) and define that as the “limit” (this does not take into account actual levels of contamination at any particular location). (Of course, you say that any levels of contamination above that “limit” is a problem which will be studied and addressed.)

Third, you define the ‘perceived problem’ as a ‘rumor.’

Fourth, you back it up by saying that the concentration of contamination (i.e., the ‘rumor’, is below the “acceptable” limits.

And here is the transcript [see link]:

— David Bear

A full transcription of this video is available here.

(Thanks to Lissette Roldan for providing the transcription!)


Ace Hoffman’s current (August 29, 2013) essay on Fukushima is titled: Building Sand Castles in a Rising Tide is here.

This video is Ace Hoffman’s description of spent fuel hazards (~30minutes).

Critics say Japan’s government is engaged in a vast, duplicitous and fruitless campaign to decontaminate Fukushima Prefecture: here.

IN BRITAIN and Europe, we are being poisoned. The hijacking of food and food safety puts us all at risk: here.

Flowers, dragonflies, lizard at Italian botanical garden

This video is called Hanbury garden, Liguria, Italy.

16 September 2013, after 15 September in Liguria, Italy. Today, to the Hanbury Botanical Gardens near Ventimiglia.

As we wait for the bus, goldfinches. A green woodpecker calls.

From the bus, a male pheasant crossing the main road.

We pass the botanical garden entrance.

Hanbury Botanical Gardens, Italy, near the entrance, 16 September 2013

A great tit calls.

In the garden, especially subtropical climate plants. From various countries, but especially from Mexico and South Africa.

Near the entrance, Senecio serpens, a succulent from South Africa.

Kleinia petraea, Italy, 16 September 2013

A bit further, another South African: Kleinia petraea.

Hanbury Botanical Gardens, Italy, 16 September 2013

We went a bit more downhill, closer to the sea.

In a pond near the villa, goldfish. A dragonfly on the bank.

Cyphostemma juttae, Italy, 16 September 2013

Another plant, this time from Namibia: Cyphostemma juttae.

A saguaro cactus from Mexico.

Wall lizard, Italy, 16 September 2013

A bit further, a wall lizard.

Common darter male, Italy, 16 September 2013

And a male common darter dragonfly on a leaf.

We reach the end of the botanical garden: the sea-coast. Stay tuned for a report on the way back through the garden.

Bahrain poverty drives workers to suicide

This video is called Poverty in Bahrain on CNN.

From Al-Monitor:

Poverty, Poor Conditions Drive Gulf Migrant Workers to Suicide

29 September 2013

By: Abdelhadi Khalaf. Translated from As-Safir (Lebanon).

Early this September, the Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS), a Bahrain-based nongovernmental organization (NGO), announced that suicides among foreign workers were up to 60 people this year. This figure does not include failed suicide attempts or those categorized as traffic accidents or work-related injuries.

The MWPS’s spokeswoman said that the increasing number of suicides was mostly linked to poor financial conditions. A number of employers have dismissed foreign workers “as a result of the Bahrain events’ impact on the economic situation overall, not to mention other personal reasons that lead workers to commit suicide.”

Gulf phenomenon

The phenomenon of foreign workers committing suicide is not only limited to Bahrain. It is a notable phenomenon in all Gulf countries and the number of victims is on the rise. Not a day goes by in these countries without a suicide story being reported by media outlets.

Even though there are no official statistics and available figures do not include unregistered cases or cases registered under other categories, one cannot ignore this phenomenon, often overshadowed by the sparkle of the Gulf cities’ night lights.

Individuals who find themselves forced to commit suicide have different stories with different details. Therefore, the circumstances and factors leading them to commit suicide require serious studies. This, in turn, requires academic efforts from Gulf countries and labor exporting countries. However, this needs the approval of the responsible authorities in Gulf countries and their recognition of the seriousness of the matter, knowing that the victims are at the bottom of the social pyramid.

Irresponsible authorities

Gulf countries have changed tremendously during the four decades that followed the oil boom in the 1970s. The most striking features of this change are probably exemplified by two factors. The first is the enormous shift in growth along with the infrastructure development of the region’s countries. The second is the changing demography in all of the region’s countries, whose more than half of their populations are expats. These changes, however, along with their consequences, entail a price that is assumed by some migrant workers.

A suicide attempt is officially deemed a deviant behavior that violates applicable laws, not a cry for help from someone no longer able to escape the situation they are in. Security authorities consider those who fail to commit suicide as criminals and take them to detention centers. After a certain — short or long — detention period, those who have attempted suicide are tried. Courts usually sentence them to leave the country, pay a  fine or go to prison.

Naturally, those who end up in detention centers or prisons do not get the necessary care and therapy. This aggravates the reasons that originally pushed them to commit such desperate attempts. This is why a number of detainees repeat their attempts while in police custody. Media reports show that fear of such fate has recently prompted many to choose fail-proof suicidal means.

Complicit media

Media coverage contributes to the marginalization of both the suicide phenomenon and the reasons behind it. They say that the most important cause behind suicide is “weak religious morals.”

Reports issued by NGOs involved in monitoring the suffering of foreign workers have noted that the media fails to tackle the role of the squalid conditions most expats live in, pushing them to commit suicide.

Media outlets often rush to get scoops, using racist terms and focusing on “something wrong” in the victim’s personality. This approach to the phenomenon of suicide is tightly linked with the trend of “demonization” of foreign workers in the Gulf, a trend that pleases ruling authorities, as it overexposes the “dangers” of Asian labor on the traditions and culture of the Gulf countries.

The vicious cycle of poverty

When migrant workers decide to take their own life in one of the cities of the Gulf, their misery — which started the moment they decided to look for a job in the Gulf region — does not end there. The misery usually starts when these poor workers seek to make enough money to migrate to the Gulf. They need money to pay for the passport and required health certificates, including bribes to be paid to the staff of concerned agencies and commissions to be paid to the labor import agent to provide a work visa, not to mention the price of the ticket itself.

The amount of money that workers need to move from their country to the Gulf differs according to several conditions, making it difficult to generalize. Recent field studies indicate, however, that a worker from Bangladesh pays about $2,700 to move to the Gulf — that is, the average wage they would make in 15 to 18 months. If we add the expenses of their stay, we discover that these workers need more than two years to pay off their debt.

Immigration to the Gulf as a collective investment

Most immigrants come to the Gulf to escape poverty belts in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. In Bangladesh, where the minimum wage is less than $35 a month, and where a third of the population lives below the poverty line, workers need financial assistance to make the necessary money required to work in the Gulf.

Most migrants collect the sums by selling properties or borrowing from family and relatives, which turns the plan into a collective investment involving many family members. In many cases, migrants borrow from moneylenders with high interest rates.

When migrant workers reach Dubai, Doha or other cities, they usually carry with them their dreams and the dreams of their families and relatives. They think that they will quickly get themselves out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

However, many of them soon discover that the Gulf is not the gate to paradise. Some discover that the promised work was a hoax, and that they would have to push and shove and compete with thousands of other foreign workers, who are also looking for a job in every corner of the country.

Some of them discover that they would barely be getting half the amount agreed upon, prompting them to work overtime or look for another job in parallel. Some of them discover that their employer often tricks them when calculating their wages, delays paying them for months or even declares bankruptcy before paying.

The suicide of a metalsmith named Masubathi Maripan

Among those who have committed suicide in the past year is Masubathi Maripan, a worker who came to Bahrain from the Tamil Nadu province in southern India. His story shows hints of the vicious cycle of poverty that claims the lives of migrant workers in the Gulf. It is a cycle where pre- and post-migration factors are intertwined. Maripan worked as a metalsmith for a major construction company whose owner had commercial ties to the prime minister of Bahrain. The company breached its agreement with Maripan and his co-workers and lowered their monthly wage to 45 Bahraini dinars [about $120], instead of the agreed upon monthly wage of 100 dinars [about $265]. After several attempts involving the Indian Embassy and the Ministry of Labor, workers were not able to get their agreed upon wage. They decided to stop working. The construction company filed a lawsuit against the striking workers,and courts ruled in favor of the company. Workers were sentenced to compensate the company for suffered losses. The fines ranged from 400 to 600 dinars [$1,060-1,590]. According to protocol, a decision was issued preventing the workers from leaving the country before paying the fines.

Maripan, along with more than 100 of his Indian co-workers, found themselves unemployed and banned from working for any other employer without the consent of the construction company that was demanding they pay their fines. On top of that, they were barred from traveling without the consent of the company, which had only paid them half of the agreed upon wage from the outset. Maripan saw no way out other than suicide. He was only 33 years old.

The above article was translated from As-Safir Al-Arabi, a special supplement of As-Safir newspaper whose content is provided through a joint venture of As-Safir and Al-Monitor.

Bahraini women hold an anti-regime protest in the village of Jannusan, west of the capital Manama, on September 27, 2013

‘Bahrain’s iron fist’: 95 activists jailed for 808 years in total: here.

Bahrain: Unfair Judgments against Human Rights Activists and Dissidents Over Belonging to the “14 February Coalition”: here.

Bahrain court sentences 50 to prison in mass trial: report.

Bahrain: 50 Shi’a activists sentenced amid torture allegations: here. And here.

Bahrain: Unfair Judgments against Human Rights Activists and Dissidents Over Belonging to the “14 February Coalition”: here.

West’s damning silence over Bahrain: here.

Bahrain: Security Forces Detaining Children. Reports of Beatings, Torture Threats in Detention: here.

FIA presidential candidate David Ward has said that he would set up an investigation about the suitability of Bahrain to host a Grand Prix if he is elected: here.

German spotted eagles’ migration to Africa tracked

This video is called Farewell Estonian Lesser Spotted Eagles 2011.

From Wildlife Extra:

Spotted eagles tracked from Germany on migration to Africa

Spotted eagles fitted with satellite transmitters

September 2013. Twelve Spotted eagles, fitted with GPS transmitters in Germany, are being tracked on their migration to Africa.

Only about 100 pairs of rare Spotted eagles breed in Germany, and this number is declining every year. For years Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) has been fighting to save the last habitats of this elusive bird of prey; buying the land where they breed and protecting its feeding areas. Nevertheless they are threatened whilst on migration, particularly by hunters, and many young birds die before they mature and return to their German breeding grounds.

Help NABU protect the spotted eagle with a donation.

To investigate the migratory behaviour, the 30 gram backpack transmitters were mounted on the back of the spotted eagles; they report regularly the exact position, altitude and speed of the eagles.

Courtesy of Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union.

The article is about lesser spotted eagles.