Singapore fruit bats suffer from environmental degradation

This July 2018 video is called Lesser short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus brachyotis).

From the National University of Singapore:

Even resilient common species are not immune to environmental crisis

Measures of genetic diversity of a fruit bat common in Singapore decreased 30-fold over the last 90 years

December 18, 2019

A recent study by scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) revealed that the current biodiversity crisis may be much broader than widely assumed, and may affect even species thought to be common and tolerant of fragmentation and habitat loss.

Specifically, the research team found that the effective population size and genetic diversity of a common fruit bat species — the Sunda fruit bat (Cynopterus brachyotis) — that was believed to remain widely unaffected by urbanisation, has shrunk significantly over the last 90 years. By comparing historic DNA from museum samples collected in 1931 and modern samples collected in 2011 and 2012, the NUS team found a nearly 30-fold reduction in effective population size and corresponding levels of decline in genetic diversity estimates.

“This bat species carries a genomic signature of a steep breakdown in population-genetic diversity. The extreme bottleneck event that led to a reduction in genetic diversity happened some time in the early Anthropocene (around the 1940s) when humans’ impact on this planet became dominant,” explained first author Dr Balaji Chattopadhyay, who recently finished a postdoctoral fellowship at the NUS Department of Biological Sciences at the Faculty of Science.

Understanding the decline in population-genetic diversity of the Sunda fruit bat

An effective pollinator and seed disperser, Cynopterus brachyotis represents an important keystone bat species in Singapore’s ecosystem. This bat species is also widely distributed in human-dominated landscapes across tropical Southeast Asia.

In order to understand the effects of human-mediated changes such as urbanisation on the evolutionary trajectory of Singapore’s population of Cynopterus brachyotis, the NUS team reconstructed and compared diverse models of historic demography. The researchers sequenced and examined over 634 million DNA reads of Cynopterus brachyotis genome and generated multiple datasets for the study.

Their findings suggest that Singapore’s Cynopterus brachyotis population underwent a continuous decline that started approximately 195 generations ago (i.e. 1,600 years ago), and experienced a recent genetic bottleneck — or a sharp reduction in population size — nine generations ago, roughly in 1940. Genetic bottlenecks increase the vulnerability of a species to unpredictable events and can accelerate extinction of small populations. While bottlenecks following human interference have been documented in many endangered species, this study suggests that even common human commensals may not be immune to the effects of bottlenecks.

“Cynopterus brachyotis is a generalist fruit bat that tolerates urbanised settings. As such, it is an unlikely victim of habitat degradation and fragmentation. The unexpected loss in genetic diversity in this common species, largely due to urbanisation and human-mediated changes, indicates that the modern environmental crisis can generate adverse silent effects that only become apparent much later, when the impact of low genetic diversity may take hold in a population,” explained Assistant Professor Frank Rheindt from the NUS Department of Biological Sciences, leader of the laboratory group that conducted the study.

“This phenomenon has been characterised as extinction debt, when actual extinction occurs with a time lag, long after the critical damage was done. Hence, an increased understanding of baseline levels and rates of loss of genetic diversity across organismic groups like Cynopterus brachyotis bats and habitats may, in the future, become imperative for informed conservation action,” he added.

This research was conducted in collaboration with the National Parks Board (NParks) Singapore which supported the sampling of contemporaneous populations of the bats. The findings were published in the journal Current Biology on 16 December 2019.

“Our research also underscores the importance of strong museum collections facilitating the DNA-sampling of time series. More global support is needed for modern cryo-collections, which are generally under-funded,” said Asst Prof Rheindt.

Asst Prof Rheindt is looking to extend the research by investigating multiple other animal species in Singapore and Southeast Asia to better characterise extinction risk.

Wild animals of Singapore, video

This 14 March 2019 video says about itself:

The Wild Animals of Singapore | Wild Cities | BBC Earth

Hannah Stitfall explores the Botanic Gardens of Singapore, where animals like monitor lizards, otters and rare birds have found a new home.

Straw-headed bulbul endangered in Asia

This video says about itself:

5 March 2011

A pair of Straw-headed Bulbuls engaged in a rhythmic & melodious duet. The repeated song in this clip is short unlike other longer melodious calls usually heard. Perhaps those are for attracting attention, while this one is a song for each other – the birds are obviously quite comfortable on their perch, one bird is busy preening itself, breaking the routine periodically to join the other in the song. This went on for a few minutes; the birds flew off only when I started moving closer, hoping for a better capture.

From BirdLife:

23 Feb 2017

The tiny corner of Asia where an Endangered songbird is thriving

Trapping for the songbird trade has almost proved the ‘last straw’ for the Straw-headed Bulbul, now extinct across much of its range. But a new study has discovered that on a tiny Singaporean island, the bird is bucking global trends.

By Alex Dale

The Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus perhaps isn’t much to look at (at least compared to some other birds of South East Asia), but no-one can deny it has a great set of lungs.

Check out its song in the video above.

But unfortunately, it’s this same rich, powerful melody which is threatening to silence the species forever. As we reported during our 2016 Red List coverage, keeping songbirds as pets is an integral part of South-East Asian culture. In Indonesia in particular, streets are lined with chirping cages, and songbird contests are big business.

But as the streets grow louder, forests are falling silent. The widespread trapping of wild songbirds to meet demand for local bird markets, is driving many species endemic to the area towards extinction – with the prized Straw-headed Bulbul one of the more badly affected.

“Across much of Southeast Asia, the Straw-headed Bulbul has been relentlessly trapped from the wild to be later sold in the bird markets of Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia,” says Yong Ding Li from The Australian National University. “The bird has gone extinct from Thailand and most parts of Indonesia where it used to be found, including the whole island of Java. Its populations have also collapsed across Malaysia.”

Hunted to extinction in Thailand and large parts of Indonesia, the Straw-headed Bulbul is in danger of disappearing forever

However, there is one small haven where the Straw-headed Bulbul’s presence isn’t just stable, but actually growing louder: Singapore.

This is according to findings from a recent study led by Ding Li, and published in the journal Bird Conservation International. The study saw authors from The Australian National University and Nature Society (BirdLife in Singapore) gather data from more than 15 years of the Annual Bird Census, a yearly bird survey organised by Nature Society.

The result was an encouraging discovery: wild populations of the Straw-headed Bulbul have steadily risen in Singapore over that time period, and the country is now something of a global stronghold. Indeed, Singapore might now harbour more Straw-headed Bulbuls than anywhere else on the planet.

The increases were not noted on mainland Singapore, however, where populations merely remained stable – although given the Straw-headed Bulbul’s plight elsewhere, even this is a big win. Rather, the increases were documented on the small island of Pulau Ubin, situated north-east of mainland Singapore, and one of the country’s last remaining rural areas. Here, the species’ population increased by nearly 4% a year.

The tiny nation of Singapore may now hold over a third of the world’s Straw-headed Bulbul population

At a conservative estimate (some areas of western Singapore could not be comprehensively surveyed due to limited access), Singapore is today home to at least 200 individuals. Furthermore, new sites have been discovered very recently. With global estimates ranging from 600-1,700 individuals, and trending downwards, Singapore could be harbouring over a third of the world’s remaining Straw-headed Bulbuls.

On mainland Singapore, the bulbul persists in pockets of woodland such as Bukit Brown cemetery and Khatib Bongsu, both of which aren’t part of the current reserve network.

“More should be done to protect such places which are currently outside the existing reserve network,” said co-author Dr Ho Hua Chew from the Nature Society (Singapore), who is also vice-chair of its conservation committee. “Other biodiversity could also benefit from the conservation actions targeting the bulbul.”

he study offers further evidence of the value of citizen science. Without the hard work of volunteers, conservationists on the island would lack the data to determine which habitats are most vital for rare species such as the Straw-headed Bulbul, which has declined so dramatically in recent years that BirdLife uplisted its threat status from Vulnerable to Endangered in the 2016 Red List.

“Citizen science efforts to monitor wild bird populations in Singapore, including the Straw-headed Bulbul, have been led by the Nature Society’s Bird Group since 1986,” says co-author Lim Kim Seng, coordinator of the Annual Bird Census. “On a predetermined morning, scores of enthusiastic members will sacrifice sleep to be out in the wild at their assigned sites, counting birds for the census. Over the last two decades, these censuses have allowed us to track population trends of threatened species such as the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul.”

So while Thailand and parts of Indonesia may already have had their last Straw, at least in one small corner of Southeast Asia, the Straw-headed Bulbul can still be heard loud and proud.

The article “Significance of the globally threatened Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) populations in Singapore: a last straw for the species?” published in Bird Conservation International is available to download for free until 9th March 2017.

Singaporeans, eat Fukushima nuclear food, Japanese government demands

This video from the USA says about itself:

Say NO to Radioactive Food from Japan – BLOCK Fast Track TPP

30 April 2015

Keep Radioactive FOOD OUT of US! BLOCK Fast Track TPP:

Beginning: Pt 1 – Mary Beth Brangan – Secret Trade Deals and Food Safety Don’t Mix. Fukushima Fallout Awareness Network (

After similar Japanese government pressure on Taiwan … and on China … and on Korea … all in the name of ‘free trade‘, favouring corporate profits over people’s health … now this.

From AFP news agency:

Japan presses Singapore to ease restrictions on Fukushima imports

Jan 10, 2016, 03.56 PM IST

TOKYO: Japan pressed Singapore to ease its ban on Fukushima food imports, following the European Union‘s move to relax restrictions on imports from the area, according to media reports on Sunday.

Japanese agriculture minister Hiroshi Moriyama said the Asian financial hub would take “proactive” steps to meet Tokyo’s request, after holding talks with Singapore’s minister for national development, reported Jiji Press.

On Saturday the EU began easing restrictions on Japanese food imports imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Under the previous rule, the EU required all food products, excluding alcohol, from Fukushima prefecture to come with radiation inspection certification.

The EU continues to restrict the importation of items such as rice, mushrooms and some fishery products, however.

Singapore has banned imports of certain Fukushima products since 2011.

Struggling Fukushima fishermen hold 1st New Year’s ceremony in 5 years — The Asahi Shimbun: here.

Researchers: No doubt cleanup at Fukushima nuclear plant contaminated rice crops in 2013 — The Asahi Shimbun: here.

Peregrine falcon dustbath at Singapore building

This video is called Peregrine Falcon checking out a new condo, July 2015, Singapore.

From the Bird Ecology Study Group in Singapore about this:

In July 2015 Wong Weng Fai photographed a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) having a dust-bath on the balcony floor of a yet to be completed apartment in a high-rise building.

Many birds keep their feathers in good condition by taking dust-bath LINK. They lie on the dusty ground and moves vigorously about to get the dirt particles onto their feathers. This helps to get rid of ectoparasites as well as stale secretions from their oil glands.

In the case of this falcon, it found a quiet spot in this uncompleted high-rise building.

The presence of sand particles as a result of building activities and the absence of workers in the unit made this an ideal site for its “bath’. It would not be long before the building would be completed and no opportunity for the peregrine to return. Maybe the photographer would then have an opportunity to document other birds taking shower baths?

Other methods of keeping their feathers in top condition include water bath LINK, preening LINK and anting LINK.

Butterfly of the Month in Singapore, July 2015

This video is called Moulting of a Pandita sinope caterpillar to the 4th instar.

From the Butterflies of Singapore blog:

Butterfly of the Month – July 2015

The Colonel (Pandita sinope sinope)

We have just edged past the halfway mark of the year 2015. A relatively quiet month so far, compared to the more tumultuous preceding months. The summer heat is upon us as Singapore‘s outdoor ambient temperatures move into the 30’s – and made worse by the high humidity. On my short business trip to Delhi and Ranchi in India at the end of last month, I experienced even higher temperatures, although fortunately, the monsoon rains have just started there.

ButterflyCircle members had an enjoyable weekend at the Festival of Biodiversity 2015 at the end of June. More forthcoming community projects with NParks are on the cards, with the NParks Butterfly Count project in September. A challenging project, considering that it involves the general community and sightings of butterfly species in urban parks have to be recorded and counted. Unlike birds, sighting and identifying butterflies requires a bit more experience and training. It will be a good platform to learn how best to deal with field surveys with beginners. …

Let’s leave the worldly woes for awhile as we introduce our Butterfly of the Month for July 2015 – the Colonel (Pandita sinope sinope). This Nymphalidae is one of many species in the family that has been christened with military names. In my article on this blog some time back, I gave some possible reasons how this came to be.

The Colonel is a mid-sized orange butterfly that may be considered moderately rare. However, it is quite local in distribution and often observed in the vicinity of its caterpillar host plants. Sporting an average wingspan of about 50mm, it is not an unusually large butterfly, and may be confused, when in flight, with several other orange-coloured butterflies.

The Colonel is a bright orange above, with the fore and hindwing bases shaded with brown streaks. The outer half of both the fore and hindwings is a prominent brown post-discal band and three dark submarginal lines. The underside is similarly marked, but lighter, with the basal wing area a greenish-grey.

The butterfly is skittish and active and flies with rapid beats of its wings and glides in a manner that is quite consistent with many related species in the sub-family Limenitidinae. Often it may be encountered at the ripened fruits of the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum), on which it feeds greedily. In the early morning hours, it may be encountered gliding amongst the shrubbery and settling to sunbathe with its wings fully opened.

It is a forest butterfly, and rarely observed in urban parks and gardens. At times, it takes on a territorial behaviour, returning repeatedly to a few favourite perches after flying around to explore its environment. When feeding, it also tends to move its wings often and is very alert. Any threatening movement by an observer will quickly spook it off to the treetops.

The complete life history of the Colonel can be found on this blog article. The host plant on which the species has been successfully bred in Singapore is Uncaria. It has also been bred in Malaysia on another plant – Nauclea subdita also from the Rubiaceae family.

Brown land crab back in Singapore after 77 years

A female brown land crab specimen was found in a drain on St John's Island in Singapore by a Tropical Marine Science Institute scientist. PHOTO: COMPREHENSIVE MARINE BIODIVERSITY SURVEY

From the Straits Times in Singapore:

Land crab sighted in Singapore after seven decades

July 18, 2015, 5:00 am SGT

Return of brown land crab last seen in 1938 linked to efforts to protect the environment

Carolyn Khew

After an absence of over 70 years, the brown land crab has clawed its way back onto our shores.

A female specimen – about 10cm from pincer to pincer – was spotted earlier this month sitting on a mound of leaf litter in a small drain on St John’s Island.

The last time this crab was seen here was in 1938, in Paya Lebar, said crab expert Peter Ng.

“It has never been seen since, and is regarded as locally extinct,” said Professor Ng, chief of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore (NUS). “So to see the crab again on St John’s Island is wonderful. The crab has either been hiding there for decades, or has returned to Singapore after a long hiatus! The important thing is, it is no longer extinct.”

Also known by its scientific name Discoplax hirtipes, the crab has a wide distribution in South-east Asia and the western Pacific. It comes from the same family as the Christmas Island red crab.

Prof Ng said the brown land crab lives in coastal habitats, digging burrows under rocks and vegetation, but can sometimes be found many kilometres inland. However, he added, they reproduce by releasing larvae into the open sea. This is different from freshwater crabs, which have large eggs and hatch into miniature versions of the adult.

Assistant Professor Darren Yeo from the NUS department of biological sciences said that as the species frequents coastal areas and needs to return to the sea to spawn, its appearance after more than 70 years shows that efforts to protect coastal and marine environments are worthwhile.

“This also reminds us that species thought to be locally extinct but still occurring in the surrounding region may possibly have a chance to make a return,” he said.

As the crab was an “incidental find”, the first thing to do would be to see if this was a one-off record or if there are more on St John’s Island, or other parts of Singapore, he said. “We should probably also consider if this ‘re-discovery’ could be attributed to increased sampling effort or increased general awareness of our local fauna and of unusual sightings, and missing it previously was because the persisting or surviving population was very small and in isolated areas.”

Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) senior research fellow Tan Koh Siang, who made the find, said the crab had attracted the curiosity of many TMSI staff, who had taken photos of it. “We collected the crab by coaxing it into a paper bag and sent (Prof Ng) a photograph on e-mail,” said Dr Tan.

He added: “I did what any zoologist would have done on seeing something out of the blue!”

The crab was featured recently at the opening of the new Sisters’ Islands Marine Park Public Gallery, and has since been returned to the museum.

TMSI deputy director Serena Teo said: “This is an important taxonomic record. Prof Ng and his team may also want to examine it more closely and take DNA samples to check.”

Vaccine against malaria discovery?

This video from the American Museum of Natural History in the USA is called Science Bulletins: Malaria Vaccine Passes First Clinical Tests.

From Wildlife Extra:

Scientists discover potential vaccine for malaria

December 2013: An effective vaccine against malaria could be developed in the next five years thanks to a new discovery.

Scientists from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have discovered a key process during the invasion of the blood cell by the Malaria parasite, and more importantly, found a way to block this invasion.

With this new knowledge, NTU is looking to collaborate with the industry on a vaccine against Malaria which can be developed within the next five years if accelerated by vaccine development companies, says lead scientist Professor Peter Preiser.

According to the World Health Organisation, about 3.3 billion people – half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria. This mosquito-borne disease causes fever and headache and in serious cases, can cause a patient to go into a coma or result in death. The disease infected about 219 million people in 2010, and kills around 860,000 people worldwide annually.

“If there can be a low-cost vaccine which is effective in rendering the parasite harmless, then millions of lives can be saved and this will also benefit the economy by millions of dollars each year,” says Prof Preiser.

Low-cost is the crucial point about a potential anti-malaria vaccine.

There is a risk of production of the vaccine being monopolized by some profit-hungry and power-hungry Big Pharma corporation. Then, there will be the distinct risk that, instead of making the vaccine affordable for poor people, corporate fat cats, who did not participate at all in the scientific work at Nanyang Technological University, in some rich country will concentrate on having World Trade Organisation bureaucrats persecute generic production in poor countries aimed at making it affordable.

“What we have identified is a region of the Malaria parasite which it uses to attach to a healthy blood cell then pushes itself into the cell. To prevent this invasion, we developed antibodies which can interfere with this invasion process.”

The patented discovery also opens the doors to new drug targets, which will allow scientists to develop more methods to interfere and disrupt the parasite’s act of invasion.

Some U.S. troops haunted by anti-malaria drug’s drastic side effects: here.

Nazi Scientists May Have Plotted Malaria Mosquito Warfare: here.

March 2014: The first hard evidence has been found that instances of malaria appear at higher elevations during warmer years and recede back down to lower altitudes when temperatures cool: here.

THE White House has pledged that the CIA will no longer use vaccination programmes as cover for spying operations: here.

WHERE MAJOR RELIGIONS STAND ON VACCINES “Grabenstein found that only two religious groups ― Christian Scientists and the Dutch Reformed Church ― have demonstrated a precedent of widely rejecting vaccinations, but even these are not explicitly laid out in their doctrine.” [HuffPost]

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Indonesia, Australia, more spying scandals

This 2014 video is called Australia Looks To Jail Journalists, Approve Spying.

By Mike Head in Australia:

Indonesia maintains suspended relations with Australia as spying allegations widen

27 November 2013

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last night delayed any resumption of military, police and intelligence cooperation with Australia, while holding out the prospect of restored relations if a formal code of conduct, including intelligence-sharing, is signed between the two neighbours.

Yudhoyono’s move came amid sharply rising strategic tensions across the region, triggered by the aggressive US “pivot” to Asia that is directed against China, and further evidence of extensive US-Australian spying operations throughout the region.

After a top-level ministerial meeting yesterday, the Indonesian president made two closely connected announcements. The first was that the week-long standoff with Australia over leaked US documents—showing that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) monitored phone calls made by Yudhoyono, his wife and inner circle in 2009—would continue until Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed a detailed protocol on bilateral relations. Yudhoyono’s second announcement was to call in the ambassadors of Singapore and South Korea to explain further leaked US documents that showed the two countries were directly involved in the US and Australian electronic surveillance network operating in Indonesia and throughout Asia.

Like the revelations of Australian phone-tapping against Yudhoyono and his associates, the latest documents came from US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden. Published in Australia’s Fairfax Media on Monday, a top-secret NSA map detailed the role of Singapore’s spy agency in tapping Internet traffic moving through the city-state, which includes most of Indonesia’s telecommunications, as well as Malaysia’s.

According to the documents, South Korea was involved in a similar US-led operation against China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as part of a global web designed to enable Washington and its “Five Eyes” partners—the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand—to trace “anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Like Indonesia, the Malaysian government summoned Singapore’s ambassador to explain the revelations. This is another sign of the intensifying fallout from Snowden’s exposures of the vast US-orchestrated global surveillance network. Both Malaysia and Indonesia are critical to the Obama administration’s preparations for war against China, which include cutting off key maritime “choke points,” such as the Malacca Strait, through which much of China’s trade passes.

The Indonesian president’s statements yesterday came in response to a formal letter from the Australian prime minister, personally delivered to Jakarta last Saturday by former army chief Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy. The correspondence between Abbott and Yudhoyono have not been publicly released. At last night’s televised media conference from the presidential palace, Yudhoyono refused to specify whether Abbott had apologised for the spying.

“The Australian PM has agreed to, and is supportive of, my proposal to reorganise our bilateral cooperation, including intelligence exchanges, by drafting a clear and just protocol and code of conduct,” the president said. “Only after that [will] bilateral cooperation, which evidently benefits the two of us, resume. [These] include military and police cooperation.”

Under pressure from nationalist elements within the Indonesian elite, and facing public hostility to the extensive Australian eavesdropping, Yudhoyono issued a call for calm. “The government will responsibly and seriously deal with this, but we need to stay rational and not become reckless,” the president said. “The Australian PM has made a commitment that Australia will not do anything in the future that will harm or upset Indonesia. That is a very important point.”

According to a poll published by Kompas, Indonesia’s biggest selling national daily, of people in 12 cities across the archipelago, 89 percent supported Australia being given a “harsh warning,” while 39 percent wanted further cuts to diplomatic ties.

Yudhoyono remained cautious about finalising a deal with Canberra. “After the two parties reach a ‘mutual understanding’ and a ‘mutual agreement’, I do hope that this can be followed with a comprehensive discussion on the establishment of the protocol and code of ethics,” he said. “Nevertheless, there are still some things, in my opinion, a few things that need clarification by Australia.”

The Indonesian president said he would personally check the draft protocol and code to ensure they fulfilled Indonesia’s interests. “I hope that … the position and response from Indonesia will also get a constructive response from the Australian prime minister and the government he leads.”

Yudhoyono set no timeline for the negotiations, though his foreign affairs adviser later said that the talks could take one or two months. A presidential spokesman said that Indonesia’s ambassador to Australia, who was withdrawn last week, would remain in Jakarta until the negotiations were concluded.

When the spy scandal erupted last week, Jakarta suspended several critical programs, including military, intelligence and police cooperation, and joint operations in support of Canberra’s reactionary policy of stopping refugees arriving in Australia. National Police chief General Sutarman said on Monday that asylum seekers would now be free to sail to Australia. Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan raised the stakes yesterday by suggesting that Indonesia could look elsewhere for live cattle, beef, wheat and other food imports.

Like other governments throughout the region, the Yudhoyono administration has sought to balance between Washington’s military might and Beijing’s growing economic clout. China is Indonesia’s second largest trading partner, with two-way trade valued at $66 billion, compared to $15 billion with Australia. Online defence journal Jane’s Defence Weekly reported yesterday that China has offered to build a network of coastal radars for Indonesia along some of China’s vital shipping routes, including sites in Lombok, the Sunda Strait, western Borneo and the southwest coast of Sulawesi.

Yesterday, as Yudhoyono was preparing his response to Abbott’s letter, the Australian government underlined its commitment to the US by echoing Washington’s belligerent response to China’s declaration of an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called in China’s ambassador to express concerns at Beijing’s announcement, describing it as “unhelpful in light of current regional tensions.”

These developments underscore the rising regional tensions that lie at the heart of the Indonesian standoff over Australian-US spying. The Indonesian ruling elites are deeply concerned that their interests will be trampled on as the US ramps up its military and intelligence build-up against China.

Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’: here.

US Navy admirals in bribery, prostitution scandal

This video from the Philippines says about itself:

Glenn Marine suspension

24 November 2012

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) suspended on Friday the operation of a Malaysian company over alleged dumping into the sea of hazardous wastes collected from US ships that joined military exercises in the Philippines recently.

SBMA chairman Roberto Garcia said, however, that there is no evidence that toxic, hazardous or domestic waste have been dumped in the waters of Subic Bay.

He said, though, that they are closely coordinating with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in determining possible violation of Glenn Defense Marine Asia relating to the absence of permit, the manner of discharge and other possible violation of the Philippine environmental laws.

The PCG earlier dismissed reports on the alleged dumping of wastes.

But Senator Chiz Escudero said earlier that if proven that Glenn Defense Marine Asia had indeed dumped toxic wastes it hauled from USS Emory Land into the open sea, the company can be made liable for violating Republic Act 9275, or The Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, stressed, however, that Glenn Defense indeed violated existing environmental laws in its waste dumping activity.

She said it is clear that the company violated the Clean Water Act even if it dumped US Navy waste materials on the high seas because it is still covered by the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

“I can see some infraction there,” she said.

Legarda also noted that the waste dumped by the company was toxic because it exceeded the toxicity level set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the company has no capacity to treat waste before it was dumped into the open seas.

Retired admiral Mateo Mayuga, who is chairman of Glenn Defense Marine Asia Philippines, earlier insisted that they were not under the jurisdiction of any local authority, but under the jurisdiction of the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission (VFACOM).

The US embassy and the VFACOM, however, denied this.

Mayuga was also questioned why he did not secure any permit from the PCG to dump waste in Subic Bay, but he said he was not aware they had to request a permit for this.

Legarda also hit him for saying that they were hauling treated water from USS Emory Land, even if the captain of the vessel said they have no treatment facility on board the ship.

Mayuga said they assume that the waste they were hauling was pretreated already.

Aside from its operation, the membership of Glenn Defense on the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce was also suspended.

By Alex Lantier:

US Navy intelligence chiefs suspended as bribery scandal spreads

12 November 2013

Two US Navy admirals were suspended last week in a spreading bribery scandal involving a Singapore-based defense contractor that services US Navy vessels in the Pacific Ocean.

Director of Naval Intelligence Vice Admiral Ted Branch and Navy Director of Intelligence Operations Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless were placed on leave Friday and their access to classified material suspended. They are under investigation for their ties to defense contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia, whose CEO Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis was arrested in September in a sting operation in San Diego. Francis was charged with bribing Navy officers into giving him classified information with cash, favors, and prostitutes.

Francis reportedly asked US officers to steer US warships towards ports with lax oversight, where Glenn Defense Marine Asia could overcharge the Navy for services such as providing tugboats, fuel, sewage disposal, and portside security—netting millions of dollars. He also obtained inside information on the US Navy’s initial investigations into Glenn Defense Marine Asia, which started in 2005, helping him evade charges.

The suspension of Branch and Loveless comes amid deep turmoil in the top ranks of the American military. Only a month ago, the Obama administration announced the sacking of high-ranking Air Force and Navy officials inside the US nuclear command, in what military officials acknowledged was an unprecedented crisis of the US nuclear forces. (See: “Shakeup continues in US nuclear command”)

Now, the top ranks of the US Navy and a broad layer of high-ranking officers in the US Pacific Fleet—the force at the heart of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia,” aimed at containing China—are being roiled by another scandal.

US Navy sources said they believed more Navy officers would come under suspicion in the affair. Yesterday, US Navy spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said: “We are going to let the facts take us where they may. We certainly expect that other naval officers, and perhaps even some Navy civilians, will be implicated.”

Glenn Defense Marine Asia has long-standing ties to the US Navy, having serviced US warships in the Pacific for a quarter century. It did $200 million in business with the US Navy in 2011.

As such, Leonard Francis developed contacts among a broad swathe of commanders, captains, and admirals who could now be under suspicion. The Washington Post noted that “Francis and his company were familiar faces to Navy brass, including the commanders of most vessels in the Pacific.”

Several such high-ranking officers are already facing charges. Two US officers, Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Supervisory Special Agent John Bertrand Beliveau, were arrested at the same time as Francis. They allegedly provided classified information in exchange for free travel, luxury accommodations, and prostitutes. All three face five years in prison.

Misiewicz, a former destroyer commander who was directing operations of the Japan-based US Seventh Fleet, reportedly e-mailed Francis classified schedules of US warship movements. Misiewicz helped “work Francis’ business plan,” according to the Singapore Straits Times, in exchange for prostitutes and free travel around Asia.

In one case, he helped divert the aircraft carrier USS George Washington from Singapore to Port Klang, Malaysia, where Leonard had arranged to prepare fake invoices to submit to the US Navy.

Beliveau faces charges of tipping off Leonard about the US Navy’s investigation of him, having downloaded documents from NCIS internal databases about investigations into Glenn Defense Marine Asia that he was not working on.

Another senior logistics officer for the Seventh Fleet, Commander Jose Sanchez, was charged last week with accepting prostitutes, luxury travel, and over $100,000 in cash from Francis in exchanged for classified information about US warship movements.

Scandal Widens Over Contracts for Navy Work: here.

On Thursday, military contractor Leonard Glenn Francis pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of fraud and bribery for his role in a scheme intended to fleece the US Navy out of tens millions of dollars. Francis must forfeit $35 million in funds obtained by the firm and faces up to 25 years imprisonment for his role. Including Francis, five naval officials and two other contractors have been indicted for their part in the affair: here.

THE NAVY INTELLIGENCE CHIEF WHO CAN’T SEE INTELLIGENCE “For more than two years, the Navy’s intelligence chief has been stuck with a major handicap: He’s not allowed to know any secrets. Vice Adm. Ted ‘Twig’ Branch has been barred from reading, seeing or hearing classified information since November 2013, when the Navy learned from the Justice Department that his name had surfaced in a giant corruption investigation involving a foreign defense contractor and scores of Navy personnel.” [WaPo]

The second collision in just over two months involving a US guided-missile destroyer and a large commercial vessel points to a crisis of morale and preparedness within the American navy and military as a whole: here.

The August 21 collision between the Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, near Singapore, is the fourth such collision this year involving a major vessel of the US Seventh Fleet, which conducts operations in the Pacific and Indian oceans: here.

THE NAVY RECOVERED THE REMAINS OF 10 SAILORS Missing after the USS John McCain collision. And military experts believe training shortfalls, sleep deprivation and the strain on the Navy’s fleet could be to blame for the rash of collisions this year. [Reuters]

The corruption scandal of Navy admirals has widened.