‘Shell helps Myanmar Rohingya genocide’

This 28 August 2018 United States TV video says about itself:

This Is Where The Rohingya Genocide Happened (HBO)

On Monday, a UN fact-finding mission released a damning report that accused Myanmar security forces of genocide, saying that the military “kill[ed] indiscriminately, gang rap[ed] women, assault[ed] children, and burn[ed] entire villages”.

This is the most serious charge the UN can make against a government.

It’s unclear, however, what the new report means for the estimated one million refugees living in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

These camps became the world’s largest settlement of its kind less than a year ago, when Myanmar’s military launched a brutal crackdown that forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee northern Rakhine state in a matter of weeks.

The UN, Myanmar and Bangladesh had previously agreed that the Rohingya would eventually be returned to their homes. But until their safety is guaranteed and long-term peace is assured, it’s unlikely they will be able to go back.

Myanmar authorities have denied almost all accusations, refusing to cooperate with international investigators and human rights organizations. The UN team behind Monday’s report, as well the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, have all been barred from entering the country at all.

So, not only Facebook corporation helping the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

UN wants sanctions against Myanmar corporations, including Shell

The United Nations wants the international community to stop doing business with 147 Myanmar corporations associated with the country’s military regime. Sanctions should also be imposed against those companies.

In a research report, the UN mission of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Myanmar writes that 45 Myanmar companies have supported the military regime with at least 10 million dollars. According to the organization, the corporations could know that the money would be used by the military to carry out human rights violations against the Muslim Rohingya minority in the Rakhine region between 2011 and 2018. This involves, among other things, building a border wall and infrastructure projects on the land of Rohingya.

Many of the companies mentioned have foreign business partners, including in the Netherlands. “Companies run the risk of contributing to human rights violations or at least financially supporting the military regime,” the UN said.

Shell is a partner

Although only a few foreign business partners are mentioned by name in the report, the UN states that there are many more partners. One of them is the Dutch oil corporation Shell, according to research by the NOS.

Shell has concluded an agreement with Max Energy Myanmar in July 2017 for the supply of gas stations. The relevant press release (.pdf) states that Shell pumps must be installed throughout the country within three years. U Zaw Zaw, chairman of parent company Max Myanmar, said at the time: “I am proud that we have concluded this agreement with Shell“. It is not known how much money was involved in the deal.

A month after the agreement, in August 2017, the military regime increased the persecution of Rohingya and 700,000 people were driven to neighboring Bangladesh. A new border wall to be built was to prevent them from coming back. In the research report, the UN specifically links two companies to finance the wall; one is Max Myanmar.

1.5 million for border wall

According to the UN, Chairman of the Board U Zaw Zaw transferred money in September and October for the construction of the border wall. In September it amounted to more than 975,000 dollars, in October to 654,000 dollars. In November he went to the border himself, the media reported at the time.

According to the UN, the company knew that their support would be used for “inhuman acts”. For that reason, the organization wants criminal prosecution to be brought against managers for involvement in crimes against humanity.

Civil liberties in Myanmar under attack

This 9 September 2017 video is called Rallies worldwide to protest violence against Rohingya in Myanmar.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

MYANMAR: About 200 people marched in Yangon yesterday as 400 civil society groups issued a statement against government plans to more easily charge demonstrators with crimes and impose longer sentences.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s administration wants to increase the maximum jail time for organisers of unapproved protests from six months to three years.

Top UN official says it’s ‘not safe’ for Rohingya refugees to return to Myanmar: here.

Rohingya genocide in Myanmar

This 13 November 2017 video is called The Myanmar genocide and the campaign of erasing the entire Rohingya population.

THIS AP INVESTIGATION OF THE MYANMAR MILITARY RAPES OF ROHINGYA WOMEN IS A HORRIFYING MUST-READ “The soldiers arrived, as they often did, long after sunset. It was June, and the newlyweds were asleep in their home, surrounded by the fields of wheat they farmed in western Myanmar. Without warning, seven soldiers burst into the house and charged into their bedroom.” [AP]

THE ACTUAL ROHINGYA DEATH TOLL IS 22 TIMES HIGHER THAN OFFICIAL ESTIMATE According to Doctors Without Borders, thousands more have died than the government admits. [HuffPost]

A report based on surveys by the medical relief organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), has provided the first detailed study of the horrific scale of killings by military, police and Buddhist nationalist thugs of the Rohingya population in Burma’s Rakhine state: here.

Reuters journalists have been charged in Myanmar after reporting on the Rohingya crisis.

Suu Kyi’s state visit to Australia prompts protests over her response to the Rohingya tragedy: here.

Facebook helps Rohingya genocide in Myanmar

This video says about itself:

11 September 2017

The United Nations has described the reported atrocities [against] the Rohingya Muslim minority community in Myanmar as nothing short of ethnic cleansing.

Rohingya villages in Myanmar are either burned to the ground or are still in flames.

Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan reports from Balukhali Camp in Bangladesh, where the large numbers of refugees arriving daily are putting a strain on resources.

According to Dutch NOS TV today, Facebook corporation has decided to block messages by the Rohingya ARSA rebels from Myanmar (Burma). These rebels arose in reaction to the oppression and violence by the Myanmar dictatorship against the Rohingya national minority.

Facebook claims ARSA are ‘terrorists‘.

The NOS writes (translated):

Facebook and Twitter are widely used in Myanmar for dissemination of information, also by the army. As far as known, messages by the army and government are not banned by Facebook.

Apparently, according to the Facebook censors, governments cannot be terrorist … except, maybe, governments which the United States government hates and may want to start a ‘humanitarian’ regime change war against.

However, the Myanmar government and armed forces are not in that category, Rohingya genocide or no Rohingya genocide. Burmese armed forces work closely with NATO armed forces, like the German Bundeswehr. The police militarization in Ferguson, USA sets the precedent for militarised police in Myanmar.

Jeremy Corbyn calls on Aung San Suu Kyi to end Burma’s violence against Rohingya Muslims. Labour leader to use keynote speech to highlight plight of Muslim minority, saying they have ‘suffered for too long’: here.

The Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has deployed security forces along India’s northeastern borders to prevent thousands of Rohingya refugees entering the country. The Rohingya are fleeing ongoing military violence in Myanmar (Burma). New Delhi also plans to expel around 40,000 Rohingya already in India: here.

Burma: Pogroms continue against Rohingya Muslims: here.

UN: MYANMAR MILITARY SHOULD FACE GENOCIDE CHARGES Top Myanmar military leaders should be prosecuted for genocide against Rohingya Muslims, UN investigators said Monday. In a damning report, the investigators said the situation in Myanmar should be referred to the International Criminal Court. [AP]

Stop Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, Londoners say

This video from London, England says about itself:

Rohingya genocide protest London 9/9/2017

Please show support to stop the ethnic cleansing taking place in Burma.

By Steve Sweeney in Britain:

London protests at brutal killings

Monday 11th September 2017

THOUSANDS gathered in London at the weekend to condemn the killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

On Saturday hundreds gathered at Downing Street as they urged the government to intervene and stop the slaughter of the country’s persecuted minority.

They urged the British government to speak out and blasted the mainstream media for its silence over the killing of thousands of Muslims.

Protesters demanded that Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi be stripped of her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, accusing her of being complicit in the atrocities.

Muslims make up around 4 per cent of mainly Buddhist Myanmar, with around 1.1 million Rohingya living in the Rakhine area of the country. They are denied citizenship and have been persecuted for decades.

Thousands have been killed following an offensive by Myanmar’s army, which started in August, and around 65,000 are believed to have crossed the border into Bangladesh as refugees.

Earlier this week 157 MPs called on Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to suspend training of the Myanmar military amid reports of beheadings and children being shot.

While Britain does not deliver combat training it educates soldiers in “democracy, leadership and the English language” at a cost of £305,000 last year.

A separate demonstration took place on Sunday at the Myanmar embassy.

Organiser Raja Sikander Khan alleged that what was happening was “total genocide.” He also criticised the UN, which is reported to have stopped aid deliveries because of security fears.

Mr Khan accused sectarian Buddhists in Rakhine of “killing and torturing innocent women and children.”

“We want to show the international community that we are united on this issue and that we totally condemn what is happening there,” he said.

UN: ‘TEXTBOOK EXAMPLE OF ETHNIC CLEANSING’ IN MYANMAR RIGHT NOW “The top U.N. human rights official on Monday denounced Myanmar’s ‘brutal security operation’ against Muslim Rohingyas in Rakhine state which he said was ‘clearly disproportionate’ to insurgent attacks carried out last month.” [Reuters]

The plight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing the Burmese military’s rampage in the western state of Rakhine is a devastating exposure of the fraud of human rights imperialism practiced by the US and its allies and their chief political asset in Burma (Myanmar)—Aung San Suu Kyi: here.

Amid a growing international outcry, Burmese political leader Aung San Suu Kyi defended the military’s murdering and pillaging of the country’s Rohingya minority in a televised address on Tuesday. She offered empty condemnations of human rights violations, in order to obscure and justify the systematic ethnic cleansing underway by the army: here.

Burmese dictatorship’s genocide of Rohingya people

This 1 September 2017 Times of India video says about itself:

Rohingya women, children die in desperate boat escape from Myanmar

A group Rohingyas from Myanmar were found washed up on the shores of Shah Porir Dwip island in Bangladesh.

By John Roberts:

Over the last week, the Burmese (Myanmar) government led by Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi has fully collaborated with the military’s “clearance operations” against the Rohingya Muslim population of northwestern Rakhine state.

According to UN officials, since the ethnic cleansing campaign began on August 25, supposedly in response to attacks on security forces, nearly 90,000 Rohingya refugees have fled, driven out by the military’s scorched earth policy and widespread killings.

On Monday, another 20,000 refugees were massed on the border with Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government has ordered all refugees be turned back. However, as one border guard told Agence France Presse, the sheer numbers made it impossible to stop the influx. “It’s bigger than the last time,” he said.

As of Monday, the UN estimated that 87,000 new refugees had fled, bringing the total to 150,000 since October. The previous “clearance” operations that began in October and lasted for five months were in response to earlier, smaller attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

A catastrophic situation is now developing in the refugee camps. The overall numbers in Bangladesh have risen to more than 400,000.

As in October, the military, in league with Burmese nationalist thugs, exploited the ARSA attacks as the pretext for unleashing pre-planned pogroms. The army has been building up its forces in the area since at least early August. Its aim is to completely drive the Rohingya out of Burma, where many families have lived for generations.

Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) have backed the military at every step. On Monday, the media revealed that President U Htin Yyaw, who was appointed by Suu Kyi and the NLD, granted military chief General Min Aung Hlaing’s “request” to declare the whole region “a military operational area.”

At the border police headquarters in Kyee Kan Pyin, Major Ko Soe said the operational area covered Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships as well as Taungpoletwe and Myinlut sub-townships. U Htin even backdated the decree to August 25, thus legitimising the crimes already carried out.

Major Soe said the president’s decision ensured “decisive actions can be taken against terrorist organisations in clearance operations.” As of Saturday, 11,700 non-Muslim “ethnic residents” also have been driven out of the area, which has been sealed off to the media and non-government organisations.

The army only admitted the destruction of 2,700 homes after the US-based Human Rights Watch accessed satellite images that showed 10 villages and towns had been torched in Rohingya areas parallel to a 100-kilometre stretch of coastline. HRW said the area was five times larger than that torched by security forces last October to November, when 1,500 dwellings were destroyed.

At a military ceremony last Friday, General Hlaing said 11 police and two soldiers, as well as 16 civilians and officials, had been killed and eight bridges and 2,700 homes had been destroyed. An August 31 army statement said there were 90 clashes between the security forces and the ARSA in late August, in which 370 alleged militants had been killed.

Suu Kyi and the military blame the death and destruction on the primitively-armed militia of ARSA, which announced its existence last October. Burmese security officials claim the group began recruiting six months earlier. The group has been isolated by the Bangladesh government’s offer to assist the Burmese in cracking down on the insurgents.

The NLD and the military are both deeply imbued with anti-Rohingya chauvinism that brands the Rohingya as illegal “Bengali” immigrants. They are treated as non-citizens with no basic democratic rights.

At Friday’s ceremony, General Hlaing denounced the “Bengalis” for having fought with the British military in 1942. This must never happen again, he said, and the army would defend Burmese sovereignty.

Hlaing’s reference to the “Bengalis” in 1942 points to the reactionary roots of Burmese nationalism. Whereas some Muslim Rohingya were recruited by the British colonial authorities into its military forces, a layer of Burmese nationalists collaborated with Japan after it falsely promised to grant independence.

Japan’s colonial regime formed the Burma Independence Army (BIA), which fought the British alongside the Japanese military. Among its recruits were the “Thirty Comrades,” who included Suu Kyi’s father Aung San and Ne Win, who went on to found the Burmese army after the end of World War II. Ne Win led the military dictatorship from 1962 to 1988.

When the BIA forces entered Burma with the Japanese army, they were particularly brutal in attacking ethnic minorities they defined as British collaborators. Many were killed. At one point, the Japanese had to rein in some BIA militias from attacking ethnic groups.

These are the traditions invoked by Genereal Hlaing. He said the Bengali “problem” was “a long-standing one which has become an unfinished job.” The obvious implication is that the time has come to finish the job through brutal ethnic cleansing.

That is exactly what Rohingya refugees describe.

Jalal Ahmed, 60, entered Bangladesh last Friday among a group of 3,000. He told Reuters the army arrived with 200 people and set fire to the whole village. Other specific reports of beheadings and shootings in the fields and villages have been made to the aid agency, Fortify Rights.

Reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last February, based on hundreds of interviews at different refugee centres, provided further evidence. Many Rohingya, particularly adult males aged 17-45, simply disappeared. Satellite images raised the probability of large-scale killings and abuses that constitute crimes against humanity.

UN officials called for an inquiry into the Burmese military’s activities, including in 2012 and 2014, but the Suu Kyi government refused to cooperate.

The scale of the latest “clearance operations” led to formal protests by Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan. Indonesian President Joko Widodo sent Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi to Burma and Bangladesh. There have been demonstrations and protests outside Burmese embassies internationally.

Western nations, however, while critical of the military’s activities, have refused to condemn Suu Kyi and her government. British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, for instance, described her “as one of the most inspiring figures of our age” and urged her to use her “remarkable qualities” to end the violence.

These comments were made with full knowledge of Suu Kyi’s collaboration with the military pogroms, to obscure the responsibility of her imperialist backers for what is now taking place.

The Suu Kyi-led government is in large part the creation of the European Union and the United States. London, Brussels and Washington promoted her as a “democratic icon” and endorsed her alliance with the military junta in 2011.

The Western imperialist opposition to the Burmese military had nothing to do with its crimes and abuses of democratic rights but was bound up with its orientation to Beijing. Once the junta opened Burma to Western investment and reoriented its foreign policy, US and European concerns about “human rights” were quickly shelved.

During a visit to Burma (Myanmar) this week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi explicitly endorsed the ongoing military repression of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s northwestern Rakhine state. His government and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina are both moving to forcibly deport thousands of poverty-stricken Rohingya refugees: here.

Dinosaur age baby bird discovered in amber

This video says about itself:

Stunning fossil reveals prehistoric baby bird caught in amber

9 June 2017

Amber hunters in Burma dug up a remarkably complete bird hatchling that dates to the time of the dinosaurs. The bird’s side, almost half of its body, was dipped in tree sap, which hardened around the neck bones, claws, a wing and its toothed jaws.

Scientists identified the animal as a member of the extinct group called enantiornithes, and published their discovery in the journal Gondwana Research this week.

The chick died young and fell into a pool of sap. It died halfway through its first feather molt, suggesting that the animal broke out of its egg just a few days before it perished. Its life began in the moist tropics beneath conifer trees. It ended near a puddle of conifer gunk, called resin, which fossilized into amber. Burmese diggers uncovered the amber 99 million years later.

Enantiornithines are close relatives to modern birds, and in general, they would have looked very similar. However, this group of birds still had teeth and claws on their wings,” said Ryan McKellar, a paleontologist at Canada’s Royal Saskatchewan Museum. This animal lived during the Cretaceous Period, which came to a cataclysmic close 65.5 million years ago and took the non-bird dinosaurs with it.

The enantiornithes, due to their distinct hip and ankle bones, may have flown differently than modern birds. But they were capable fliers. (If you are wondering whether this bird relative was more bird or winged dinosaur, well, consider it both: Birds are avian dinosaurs, after all.)

Entombed in amber were details as fine as the hatchling’s eyelid and the outer opening of its ear. The resin recorded no sign of a struggle. “The hatchling may have been dead by the time it entered” the resin pool, McKellar said. “One of the leg bones has been dragged away from its natural position, suggesting that the corpse may have been scavenged before it was covered by the next flow of resin.”

Evidence suggests that enantiornithes received little in the way of parental care, unlike more doting modern birds. The ancient chicks, born on the ground, had to scamper into trees to avoid being eaten. Scampering enantiornithes got stuck in resin fairly frequently, McKellar said, though this fossil is far more comprehensive than typical specimens.

Its 99-million-year-old claws appear almost as detailed as chicken feet you’d find in a supermarket. The foot, presumed at first to be a lizard‘s by the amber miner who found it, was covered in golden scales and just under an inch long. “The preserved skin surface allows us to observe the feet in great detail,” McKellar said.

The resin trapped one of the bird’s wings as well. Despite its young age, the animal already had brown flight feathers on its wings. McKellar said it also had “a sparse coat of fluffy pale or white feathers across most of its belly, legs, and tail.”

McKellar and his colleagues probed the fossil using several types of imaging technology, including light microscopes and X-ray micro-CT scanning. The researchers discovered that the feathers on the enantiornithes’ wings were quite similar to modern bird feathers. But its tail and legs were covered by what McKellar described as tufts similar to “proto-feathers” or “dino-fuzz.”

Recent amber discoveries offer strikingly detailed, if orange-tinted, windows into ancient worlds. Sap trapped not only birds but lizards, bugs and bits of non-bird dinosaurs, too. In December, McKellar and his colleagues announced they’d found a dinosaur tail trapped in amber also excavated from a mine in Burma (also known as Myanmar).

But amber containing dino DNA, as popularized by “Jurassic Park” and its ancient mosquitoes swollen with dinosaur blood, appears to remain in the realm of science fiction. “Unfortunately, DNA seems to be ‘off the menu’ for specimens such as this one,” McKellar said. “To the best of our current understanding, DNA has a half-life of around 500 years and cannot be recovered in meaningful quantities from amber pieces that are more than a few million years old.”

From LiveScience:

100-Million-Year-Old Amber Holds Tiny, Feathery Chick

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer

June 9, 2017 11:20am ET

Much of the body of a wee Cretaceous-era chick was preserved in incredible detail in a piece of Burmese amber, and bears “unusual plumage,” according to the researchers who described the unique find in a new study.

Excavated from a mine in what is now northern Myanmar, the precious lump of fossilized tree sap is estimated to be about 98 million years old, and holds the most complete specimen to date representing a group of extinct toothed birds called enantiornithines (eh-nan-tee-or-NITH’-eh-neez), which died out at the end of the Cretaceous period (about 145 million to 65.5 million years ago).

Body proportions and plumage development in the tiny specimen indicated that it was very young, while details in the feathers’ structures and distribution highlighted some of the key differences between these ancient avians and modern-day birds, the scientists wrote in the study. [See Stunning Photos of the Cretaceous Chick in Amber]

Though scientists had previously found specimens of this bird group in amber, the new find included features never seen before, such as the ear opening, the eyelid and skin on the feet.

Its body measured about 2.4 inches (6 centimeters) in length, from the tip of its beak to the end of the truncated tail. The scientists used micro-CT scans and digital 3D reconstruction to further analyze the specimen — processes that took nearly a year to complete, study co-author Jingmai O’Connor, a professor with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told Live Science in an email.

The amber chunk — which measured around 3.4 inches (8.6 cm) long, 1.2 inches (3 cm) wide and 2.2 inches (5.7 cm) thick— had been divided down the middle into two pieces. Unfortunately, this cut sliced through the specimen’s skull, damaging some of the bones and relegating the chick’s beak to one amber fragment and the braincase and neck to the other, the researchers reported.

Even so, the body was near-complete, with the amber containing the tiny bird’s head and neck, part of its wings, feet and tail; and plenty of soft tissue and attached feathers. The bird was undergoing its first molt when it became caught in the sticky tree sap; there was only a light covering of plumage on its body. But it already had a full set of flight feathers on its wings, suggesting that birds in this group were highly independent from an early age, the study authors wrote.

In recent years, amber fossils have revealed fascinating glimpses of life from many millions of years ago — from ant-termite warfare and a daddy longlegs’ long-lasting erection to a spider attacking prey in its web and a bug that jumped out of its skin.

And when it comes to birds, fossils’ exceptional preservation of plumage helps paleontologists understand the diversity of feathers and the role they played for early avians, O’Connor said in the email.

“Feathers can never be well understood in normal fossils,” O’Connor said. “But in amber, we get crystal-clear views of what primitive feathers were like, and they reveal all sorts of bizarre morphologies,” she said.

The findings were published online June 6 in the journal Gondwana Research.

Good spoon-billed sandpiper news from Myanmar

This video says about itself:

Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Calidris pygmaea) Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

1 January 2013

This small and undeniably attractive wader has caught the imagination of the world, it stands as a symbol of the fight against the continued and unabated destruction of the flyways of the world.

It is critically endangered and it is thought that less than 200 pairs of these birds remain.

From BirdLife:

5 June 2017

Safe at last: Spoonie’s winter wonderland becomes Ramsar site

Following tireless work from BirdLife Partner BANCA, Myanmar’s Government has designated part of the Gulf of Mottama a Ramsar Site – affording this vast wetland, an important wintering site for globally threatened waders, protection against the threat of over-fishing.

By Alex Dale

Picture it in your mind’s eye: a wild, untamed stretch of coast, where rapid, powerful waves lash at the endless mud flats, constantly resculpting and refreshing the shoreline.

Imagine, too, tidal flats that teem with life, as fish and invertebrates alike feast on the sediments and nutrients that flow into the coastal waters via three major rivers. What you’re picturing is the Gulf of Mottama – a giant, funnel-shaped estuary in Myanmar, and one of the most important wintering sites for migratory waterbirds in Asia.

So rich are the pickings at the Gulf of Mottama that one out of every two Spoonies recommend it – Spoonie, of course, being the colloquial name for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea, a Critically Endangered wader that has been hit hard by habitat loss across its wintering grounds. Here in the Gulf of Mottama, up to 180-220 Spoonies are estimated to arrive every winter – around half the global population of this scarce bird, cementing the area’s status as an area of outstanding conservational value.

And yet, until very recently, the Gulf of Mottama’s future was far from secure. Despite its importance for threatened migratory waders such as Spoonie, Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris and Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer, and its recognition by BirdLife as an IBA Danger Important Bird & Biodiversity Area (IBA), the Gulf received no formal protection status, and this has led to its resources being drained at an alarming rate.

The biggest threat to this valuable ecosystem is over-fishing. The numbers of fish in its waters have plummeted over the last decade, largely as a result of illegal fishers using nets that indiscriminately trap fish of all sizes and varieties – including juveniles. Bird hunting, too, has been a problem in recent years, but it is difficult to effectively control these threats in areas that do not benefit from government protection.

Recognising the Gulf of Mottama’s importance, BANCA (BirdLife in Myanmar) has been working to preserve this crucial wetland for many years. In addition to boots-on-the-ground conservation – such as shorebird monitoring, patrolling and  saving Spoonies from hunters – BANCA also played a key role in lobbying the Myanmar Government to recognise the Gulf of Mottama as a Ramsar site, under the terms of the Ramsar Convention – an international treaty which guides countries in offering formal protection for wetlands of global importance.

Over half a decade’s worth of tireless pressure finally paid off on May 10 World Migratory Bird Day, 2017, when a 45,000 hectare stretch of the Gulf was officially designated Myanmar’s fourth Ramsar site – and the first to be situated outside of a legally protected area. The area’s new status will aid BANCA, and other local conservation groups, in properly controlling threats such as hunting and over-fishing, which are put at risk not only the continued existence of several globally threatened wading birds, but also the livelihood of local communities who depend on this productive estuary, and its inhabitants, for food and water purification (worms, molluscs and crustaceans are known to remove pollutants from water).

There’s global benefits, too: since mudflats are important carbon sinks, they help mitigate the effects of climate change – making the Gulf of Mottama’s ascension to Ramsar status very timely indeed, given other recent worldwide news.

“The Gulf of Mottama is one of the most outstanding sites on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway for migratory waterbirds”, says Mike Crosby, BirdLife International’s Senior Conservation Officer for the Asia Region. “Its designation as a Ramsar site is a major step forward in its conservation”.

Find out how you can help us protect the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and other globally threatened waders, here.

Spoon-billed sandpiper update from Siberia, 29 June 2017: here.

Feathered dinosaur’s tail discovery in Myanmar

This video says about itself:

Dinosaur’s Feathered Tail Found Remarkably Preserved in Amber | National Geographic

8 December 2016

An extraordinarily well-preserved dinosaur tail, with a fluffy covering of feathers, lies trapped within a piece of amber. The animal it belonged to would have lived about 99 million years ago. Researchers from China and Canada identify it as a juvenile of some type of coelurosaur, a group that includes birdlike dinosaur species that walked on two legs. But because the bones of the tail are flexible and not fused as in a bird’s tail, the specimen must be a terrestrial dinosaur rather than an actual bird. Lida Xing, first author of the study announcing the discovery, found the amber for sale in a northern Myanmar (Burma) market.

From Smithsonian.com in the USA:

This 99-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Tail Trapped in Amber Hints at Feather Evolution

The rare specimen provides new insights into how feathers came to be

By Danny Lewis

December 8, 2016 12:37PM

Once thought to to be scaly-skinned beasts, many dinosaurs likely sported fantastical feathers and fuzz. Though early ancestors of birds, many pieces of their evolutionary timeline remain unclear. But a recent find could fill in some of these gaps: the tip of a fuzzy young dino’s tail encased in amber.

In 2015, Lida Xing, a researcher from the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, was wandering through an amber market in Myanmar when he came across the specimen on sale at a stall. The people who had dug it out of a mine had thought that the fossilized tree resin contained a piece of some sort of plant and were trying to sell it to be made into jewelry. But Xing suspected that the hunk of ancient tree resin could contain a fragment from an animal and brought it to his lab for further study.

His investment paid off.

What looked like a plant turned out to be a tip of a tail covered in simple, downy feather. But it’s unclear exactly what kind of creature it belonged to. Researchers took a closer look at the amber piece using CT scans and realized that it belonged to a true dinosaur, not an ancient bird. The researchers detailed their find in a study published in the journal Current Biology.

“We can be sure of the source because the vertebrae are not fused into a rod or pygostyle as in modern birds and their closest relatives,” Ryan McKellar, a researcher at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and co-author of the study says in a statement. “Instead, the tail is long and flexible, with keels of feathers running down each side.”

Without the rest of the skeleton, it’s unclear exactly what kind of dinosaur this tail belonged to, though it was likely a juvenile coelurosaur, a creature closely related to birds that typically had some kind of feathers. And what’s most intriguing about this 99-million-year-old fossil are the feathers. In the past, most information on dinosaur feathers has come from two-dimensional impressions left in stone or feathers that weren’t attached to the rest of the remains.

This fossil could help settle a debate over how feathers evolved in the first place, says Matthew Carrano, curator of Dinosauria at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

See also here.

Earthquakes in Italy and Myanmar, natural and political disasters

This 24 August 2016 video is called Survivor rescued from rubble after Italy earthquake – BBC News.

By Marianne Arens:

Devastating earthquake hits Italy

25 August 2016

At least 200 people died after an earthquake struck Italy early Wednesday morning. The earthquake lasted only twenty seconds, but it destroyed an entire region. Hundreds of people are still missing. Thousands were injured and tens of thousands have been left homeless.

The number of casualties could be much higher than reported so far, since many mountain villages are so remote that their destroyed roads can only be reached with difficulty and with the help of heavy equipment.

The earthquake measured 6.2 on the Richter scale and was felt in the capital city of Rome. Its epicentre was in the mountainous region bordered by Lazio, Abruzzi, Marche and Umbria. There were eight aftershocks before midday on Wednesday in an approximately 100-kilometre-long strip on the western flank of Abruzzi.

The region in the south of Perugia affected by the earthquake reaches to the northeast up to Ascoli and to the southwest almost all the way to Rieti. In all of the towns in this area numerous houses, churches, streets, bridges and fortifications have been destroyed.

The powerful earthquake surprised people in their sleep shortly before 4 am on Wednesday. The early morning light revealed a horrific sight in the villages and cities in the region. Entire families were buried under the rubble and entire city centres were wiped out. “Not a single house has been left habitable. We need a tent city for the entire population,” the mayor of Accumoli reported at midday. “Half of our area no longer exists. The people are buried under the rubble,” said the mayor of Amatrice.

The city centre of Amatrice has been completely destroyed. The church clock stopped at 3:36 am. The hospital is damaged. Doctors, caregivers and nurses are improvising patient care outdoors, including everything from emergency room services to hospital wards. Severely injured people in the outskirts of town were laid out on the street and had to wait in the heat for hours before ambulances picked them up. People all over Italy have been asked to donate blood; their eagerness to help has been overwhelming.

Scarcely a single house in Accumoli remains habitable. There are mountains of rubble everywhere, bizarre jumbles of household appliances, water pipes, wrecked cars, beams and roofing tiles. These are interspersed with grotesquely broken walls and buildings. With their bare hands, aid personnel struggled to unearth survivors, who gained their attention with shrieks and half-smothered calls for help. Ambulances cannot get through the debris. Instead, people are lifted on stretchers over the fields of rubble and passed from man to man. Damaged electric, gas and water lines are making the rescue work more difficult and dangerous.

The authorities are asking people to remain outdoors and refrain from re-entering their houses. However, there are not enough safe emergency accommodations for everyone. A spokesperson for the National Civil Defence said on television on Wednesday that aid operations were not initiated until several hours after the earthquake, much later than they should have been. There is still not enough of anything. Too few ambulances, helicopters, and emergency centres are available. In spite of the hundreds of volunteer helpers, there are not enough well-equipped rescue teams with search dogs and search devices to locate and save survivors trapped under the rubble.

However, the earthquake did not come as a surprise.

Italy has frequent earthquakes, often with devastating repercussions. They are caused by the juncture of two tectonic plates, which run along the Apennines Mountains. The meeting of the plates produces tensions that are repeatedly eased through severe earthquakes. The experience of recent years has made it clear that the danger of such earthquakes has not abated over time. In particular, there was the case of the catastrophic earthquake in L’Aquila in 2009, which left over 300 people dead.

Much about this most recent earthquake is reminiscent of the 2009 earthquake. That earthquake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale and took 309 lives, including many children and youth. Sixty-seven thousand people became homeless.

At that time, thousands of scientists all over the world signed an open letter in which they called on the Italian government to drastically improve its earthquake prevention. To this day, no serious measures have been implemented to this end. Instead, six seismologists were given prison sentences because they had not warned the population about the coming earthquake.

The geophysicists defended themselves by referring to earthquake maps and guidelines for quake-resistant construction that had been in the possession of the government for a long time. On paper, there are strict building requirements that hold for all seismic risk areas, but things are much different in practice.

Of course there are many very old historical buildings that cannot meet the requirements. However, the collapse of new buildings and the extensive damage to hospitals, schools and state agencies clearly indicate the use of shoddy building practices and materials. Private profit and corruption prevent the implementation of effective prevention.

National civil protection is also totally inadequate. While the government is spending billions on war preparations against Libya, it has no money for an appropriate number of rescue units, emergency stations and other necessary precautions.

The earthquake in L’Aquila seven years ago already made it clear that the buildings that were built in the last part of the twentieth century, beginning in the 1970s, did not conform with earthquake protection guidelines at all. They were built with too little steel and concrete and put together with bad cement. Nothing about this situation has changed since that catastrophe.

More than 8,000 uprooted people still live in the outskirts of L’Aquila in so-called “new towns.” The provisional wooden lodgings that were quickly built after the earthquake in 2009 are now themselves so dilapidated that they are no longer livable.

Death toll in Italian earthquake climbs to more than 250: here.

Two weeks after the earthquake, it is becoming increasingly clear that this was a man-made disaster, brought about by corruption, negligence and irresponsibility on the part of the government: here.

Yet another earthquake shook central Italy on the evening of October 26. Two major tremors reading 5.4 and 6.1 on the Richter scale and over a hundred aftershocks affected the entire region of Marche and could also be felt in Rome. Because people were still awake and immediately ran outdoors, the only person who died as a consequence of the earthquake was an elderly man who had a heart attack: here.

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake in central Myanmar on Wednesday killed four people and damaged dozens of ancient structures dotting the plains of Bagan: here.