September 5, 2011

Indigenous Peoples Discuss Human Rights with European Parliament

Click here to view the embedded video.

Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala and Colombia met with members of the European Parliament in June where they shared their concerns on human rights violations, labor rights and the impacts of certain projects on the survival and welfare of indigenous communities.

In this video uploaded by Telebraille.tv, Helmut Scholz and Bernd Lange, members of Parliament and Sebastian Jansasoy of the Inga Tribe in Colombia share their opinions on the agreement between the parties involved. The video follows the move of Parliament to send a letter to Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the European Commission about the meetings.

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September 21, 2011

UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya Addresses the UN’s 16th Plenary Meeting

James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples addressed the 16th Plenary Meeting on September 20, 2011.

In his opening remarks Anaya thanked the numerous states and Indigenous Peoples for their support along with thanking the council for electing him to a second three-year term as Special Rapporteur.

Anaya used his time to provide a summary of the events he has been involved with and to address a preliminary assessment of the issue of natural resource extraction on indigenous lands which is part of an ongoing study he is working on.

Before getting started in speaking on reports he addressed for indigenous communities around the world he addressed the supports over the last year from Canada and the United States of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

“Since my last report I welcome the statements of support for the declaration by the governments of Canada and the United States of America which followed similar statements of endorsement by other states that had voted against the declaration or obstained  when the general assembly adopted it in 2007,” Anaya said.

To see Anaya’s full address click here.

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October 10, 2011

Dalai Lama Interview on Tolerance

It was one of those few perfect sunshine days when you can smell the summer, flowers, trees and grass, and feel the warm touch of sunlight on your skin with temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius as you expect in India, when His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama met friends and Tibetans in the park of the Villa Goetzfried in Wiesbaden in Germany.

The introduction was a moving performance by a charming Tibetan woman named Dechen Shak-Dagsay, who is a famous mantra-vocalist from Tibet. Her songs and graceful appearance in original Tibetan dress moved the hearts of the visitors and transported their emotions from Germany to far away Tibet.

Afterwards he arrives. The Dalai Lama welcomes everybody and sits down on a small podium in front of us. There is no distance or aloofness between the Holy Man and the people. You feel his warmth and friendliness directly.

He starts his speech by underlining our own responsibility for our world: “We are the same human beings and share this small blue planet.” Therefore he demands that we forget all differences between religions and nations, find the roots of violence and also decrease the gulf between the poor and the rich. “There is no me and they,” the Dalai Lama said, “the whole world is me.”

In connection with his speech I got the chance for a unique interview with the Dalai Lama about his main ideas: to promote tolerance, learn from different religions and establish close contacts. As The Human Codes of Tolerance and Respect is the most important project of the World Security Network Foundation, I asked him about his experience and proposals.

How can we promote tolerance and respect towards other religions and ethnic minorities, Your Holiness?

I always mention that the concept of one single truth and one religion is itself a contradiction.

But on the level of the individual it is very relevant and can be very helpful. You should keep a single-pointed faith for yourself.

In the reality of different communities and religions with so many people the concept of only one religion is irrelevant.

In reality we have different religions and a concept of one truth seems irrelevant to me.

From the personal point of view everything is relative and one truth for a single person is relevant.

But when you have many people with different values and backgrounds this concept is not convincing as there are many truths and religions – and this is good so.

What can we all as simple human beings do?

We must develop close contacts with others and their traditions.

In India for over 1000 years – besides the home-grown religions – all major religions were established there as well and lived together. Generally they lived together in harmony and friendship for a long time.

One researcher found a Muslim village with a population of 2,000 with only three Hindu families there. But the Hindus had no fear and everybody was very friendly. That is India. Sometimes there are problems as in all populations. That can happen and is understandable.

Basically a spiritual sense of brothers and sisters existed. India kept 1,000 years of religious harmony – why not in other areas in the word?

What can we learn from others?

The more close contacts we have on the personal level the deeper is the understanding and mutual respect. You need close contacts to learn about the values of other religions from each other like Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindu or Buddhists.

The deep understanding of their values develops a basis of mutual respect.

We Buddhists are eager to learn more about mutual respect and the practice of tolerance and compassion.

Some Christian friends have implemented these things already in their religion.

Thus we develop a spiritual brother-and-sisterhood.

When will the situation in Tibet change for the better?

When Mahatma Gandhi and other great leaders started their work nobody gave them any guarantee of success. But they were very determined and full of will-power whatever the obstacles were.

When my Indian friends started their freedom-fight no one knew when freedom

would come – they were determined as well and advised me to follow it.

Nobody knows when things will change but you must keep your determination – that is important.

What impressed me most is that you cannot find intensive missionary thoughts in the Dalai Lama’s speech to conquer people for his Buddhist belief. He is a general missionary for humanity and the good cause of peaceful coexistence, integrating all major religions into global codes of tolerance. For him there is no right or wrong religion.

He stated: “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message: that is love, compassion and forgiveness; the important thing is that they should be part of our daily lives. We can’t say that all religions are the same, different religions have different views and fundamental differences. But it does not matter, as all religions are meant to help in bringing about a better world with better and happier human beings. On this level, I think that through different philosophical explanations and approaches, all religions have the same goal and the same potential.”

For him moral action means not to interfere in the people’s desire for happiness and joy. Everybody must also consider the interests of others. Sensitivity is needed to take care of other people.

He teaches that: “Good fortune arises from spiritual qualities like love or tolerance which make us more happy.”

Also, I like The Dalai Lama’s other ideas:

  • “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
  • “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”
  • “If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”
  • “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
  • “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”
  • “It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them.”
  • “It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.”
  • “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
  • “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness and my philosophy is kindness. This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple.”
  • “Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation-to-nation and human-to-human, but also human to other forms of life.”
  • “With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”

The Dalai Lama grounds humanity in all of us, in our kindness and responsibility as human beings.

Anne Stiens is Vice President Media of the independent global www.worldsecuritynetwork.com, the largest social media in foreign affairs.

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October 14, 2011

Vatican Releases Tantalizing Glimpse into Papal Documents About Columbus

As enigmatic as the Da Vinci Code, the website showcasing fragments of documents from the upcoming exhibit of the Vatican Secret Archives presents the explorer with a sort of puzzle. As the cursor moves over each image, the ones that are available for viewing light up.

Clicking on one of the images will reveal a description of the papal Inter Caetera bull, which granted Spain ownership of the lands “discovered” by Christopher Columbus. The description and image went online on October 12 to coincide with the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the so-called New World.

The exhibition, to run from February through September 2012, will be in the Capitoline Museum in Rome and consist of 100 “original and priceless documents,” according to a Vatican press release. It will aim to explain and describe the papal archives by sharing some of them with the public. The archives span 13 centuries, from the eighth through the 20th, and take up more than 50 miles of shelving in a two-story vault underneath the Vatican Museums.

On August 3, 1492, Columbus and his fleet—the famed Niña, Pinta and the Santa Maria—left Palos, Spain, and sailed west for 69 days, arriving in the New World on September 8. The rest, as they say, is history.

In 1493 the papal document was issued, referring directly to Columbus’s mission and calling him a “man assuredly worthy and of the highest recommendations and fitted for so great an undertaking, ” commissioned as he was by the Spanish monarchs to “make quest for these remote and unknown mainlands and islands, where hitherto no one had sailed, not without the greatest hardships and dangers,” the site says.

“It is part of the history of the colonization of the Americas that gave rise to a series of problems whose consequences would be felt over time,” said Luca Carboni, secretary general of the archives, to The New York Times.


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October 31, 2011

Day of the Dead, Part II: Re-Made in America

The Day of the Dead, primarily a Mexican holiday, has seen its influence spread across the globe. Its origins can be traced back to the indigenous cultures of Mexico as far back as 3,000 years ago.

The Spaniards forced the Aztecs to move their month-long celebration that had been held during what corresponds to August according to their calendar. But although the conquerors put the holiday in line with the Catholic observances of All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2), the indigenous are having the last laugh, as their supposedly pagan ceremonies continue to be celebrated almost exactly as they’d been doing for time immemorial.

As Mexican influence—and Mexicans themselves—have traveled and emigrated, particularly to the United States, they have brought their traditions with them. Moreover, it’s catching on of its own accord.

The U.S. celebrations, too, carry the typical private altars adorned with sugar skulls, marigolds and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. Graves are cleaned and decorated, toys are brought for dead children, and alcohol is often offered to the deceased adults, such as tequila, mescal or pulque.

Celebrations are often humorous, with celebrants recounting funny events and anecdotes about their lost loved ones. People also write short poems, called calaveras (skulls) and mocking epitaphs of friends. The traditions and activities of a Day of the Dead festival can vary dramatically from town to town, state to state, or country to country.

In the United States, Day of the Dead celebrations can be found in areas with Mexican residents, such as Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The All Souls Procession has been going in Tucson since 1990, combining traditional Day of the Dead celebrations with pagan harvest festival traditions. Americans celebrate Day of the Dead in different forms and for different reasons, from Los Angeles to San Francisco, from Missoula to New York City. News organizations from the Associated Press to the Huffington Post to Fox News are picking up on the growing trend of Day of the Dead celebrations in the United States.

In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain, parades and festivals abound, with people gather at cemeteries to pray for their dearly departed at day’s end. Day of the Dead celebrations have spread to Europe and many Asian cultures.

What they all have in common is they all have that original, indigenous root.  Let’s take a look at some of these celebrations:

New Mexico

 Day of the Dead, Part II: Re Made in America

New Mexico has several Day of the Dead events. In Sante Fe, El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe features altars, installations and flat work that honors the dead and provide offerings to the living. It went on display during the Railyard Art Walk this past Friday, October 28th, and will stay on display there until November 2nd. Every October and November in Albuquerque, the National Hispanic Cultural Center joins the New Mexican community in order to celebrate "Día de los Muertos". This year, the Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque will join them with a photograph exhibition in order to preserve this tradition. This sample will show how different Hispanic-American countries live experience such a special day. Several altars will be installed to celebrate "Día de los Muertos". Then on Sunday, November 6, the Marigold Parade & Celebration takes place in Albuquerque.

Port Isabel, Texas

Day of the Dead Port Isabel Texas 615x796 Day of the Dead, Part II: Re Made in America

The Museums of Port Isabel,which is a small town of about 5,000 souls located in the very southern tip of Texas, hosts an annual Day of the Dead Festival. This year it landed on Saturday, October 29, and was held at the Port Isabel Museum, in collaboration with the City of Port Isabel, the Laguna Madre Museum Foundation, the Port Isabel Economic Development Corporation, and the Laguna Madre Art League. There was music, sugar skull candy workshops, altar making, street dancing, and lots of Day of the Dead Altars and artwork on display.

Tucson, Arizona

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The All Souls Procession had its beginnings in 1990 with a ritualistic performance piece created by local artist Susan Johnson, who was grieving the passing of her father. Inspired by Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos holiday, Johnson felt she should honor her father in celebration and creativity. Today, the All Souls Procession includes 20,000 participants who traverse a two-mile long procession in downtown Tucson that ends in the finalizing action of “burning a large urn filled with the hopes, offerings and wishes of the public for those who have passed. Inside the event are myriads of installation art, altars, performers, and creatives of all kinds collaborating for almost half the year to prepare their offerings to this amazing event,” their website states. The All Souls Procession is a celebration and mourning of the lives of loved ones who have passed.

Los Angeles, California

Day of the Dead Los Angeles e1319748880455 Day of the Dead, Part II: Re Made in America

Taking place this past October 22, Dia de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever cemetery was created to provide an authentic venue in which this ancient tradition could be observed, celebrated and preserved. The Day of the Dead in Hollywood was conceived of as a platform which would "synthesize creativity for the means of remembering the departed spirits of our lives," states their website, LadyOftheDead.com.

San Francisco, California

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San Francisco's Annual Day of the Dead celebration! Wednesday, November 2, 2011 in Garfield Park. San Francisco’s Dia de los Muertos is based on the traditional Meso-American holiday dedicated to the ancestors; it honors both death and the cycle of life. In San Francisco, Day of the Dead has been celebrated in the Mission district, where the largest percentage of the city’s Mexican-American residents reside, since the early 1970s. There’s art, music, performances and a walking procession, all done in an effort for participants to contemplate their existence and mortality -- a moment to remember deceased friends and family, and our connections beyond our immediate concerns.

Missoula, Montana

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This past Oct 27 2011, The Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos) Steamroller Print Project continued for its 11th straight year. Started in 2001, the project began as a means to get students, artists, and community to come together in a cooperative event. The project started with students enrolled in printmaking courses at The University of Montana under the direction of professors James Bailey and Elizabeth Dove.

New York City

 Day of the Dead, Part II: Re Made in America

Day of the Dead at Saint Marks Church in the Bowery in the East Village from this past Saturday, October 29 to Wednesday, November 2. The celebration includes recreating a Mexican village churchyard and offers events to honor those who have passed. There are also workshops for all ages, such as altar-building, paper flower making, poetry writing and bread baking. Visitors are encouraged to bring photographs, candles and flowers to adorn the altar in honor of their deceased loved ones, or just drop by and enjoy the experience of this five-day celebration, which also includes musical performances and a traditional dance procession. At the Day of the Dead celebration at the Queens Museum of Art, located in Flushing Meadows’ Corona Park this past Sunday, the Queens Museum of Art celebrated Dia de los Muertos with a drop-in family altar building workshop led by local artist Raul Hurtado. The resulting collaborative piece was displayed in the museum’s lobby throughout the celebration. At 3pm, there was a special dance recital by the Mexican Folkloric Ballet troupe, which will included indigenous folk dances from various regions of the country. Families aslo sampled delicioso pan de muerto (Day of the Dead bread) and Mexican hot chocolate.

Washington, D.C.

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Starting on Sunday, October 30th, and going through to November 23, the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C., will showcase its traditional Day of the Dead Altar, a quintessentially Mexican tradition and one of our most colorful displays of the year. In this photo, Benjamin, 6, walks near an altar assembled for an exhibition of Day of the Dead celebrations in honor of the people who participated in the Mexican Revolution at Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington last year on Halloween. The Day of the Dead is the result of the fusion of indigenous and Spanish cultures and is one of the most important traditional holidays, underscoring the deeply held belief in Mexico that death is strongly tied to life as the fundamental duality of human existence.

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November 1, 2011

Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

Day of the Dead or Dia de Los Muertos began as a Mexican holiday—a mixture of indigenous and Catholic religious beliefs—as a way to honor family members who are no longer among the living. The celebrations are recognized on November 2 following All Saints Day on November 1 and have seen similar celebrations appear around the world. Day of the Dead festivities can be found throughout Central and Latin America, along with areas of Europe and North America.

As with many traditions expanding and mixing with cultures the Day of the Dead festivities vary depending on the country and the groups. Some are more colorful than others, or offer more of a celebration of the life’s that once were, while others use it as a chance to reconnect, to catch up with the deceased loved ones.

Below are images of Day of the Dead celebrations from around the world:


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Some families in Bolivia hire bands or take other forms of music, sing, recite prayers or hire singers to perform during these celebrations. Pictured, women stand around a Ferris wheel during Day of the Dead celebrations at the Villa Ingenio cemetery in El Alto, Bolivia, on November 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

LO RES Natitas Indigenous Bolivian Celebration 1 Sara S 615x345 Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

Though Bolivia’s Day of the Dead isn’t as colorful as celebrations in Mexico, Brazil, and other countries around the world they still celebrate the day. However, Bolivia also has its own special celebration that happens November 8 called Natitas. Every year on November 8 in the city of La Paz, Bolivia people gather at the main cemetery cradling skulls in their arms. These skulls are the natitas, spirits that are seen as members of the family, whose health, good fortune and homes they protect. Their public celebration is a growing tradition in the Aymara Indian and mixed race community of La Paz. (Sara Shahriari)

LO RES Natitas Indigenous Bolivian Celebration 2 Sara S 615x820 Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

Natitas is a celebration where Bolivians fete skulls that guard their homes. It’s a custom deeply rooted in pre-colonial Andean religious practice. Ines Ugarte’s natita is named Choco. Ugarte says Choco was given to her as a gift, and that if no one in her family can take care of him as she ages he will be buried with her. “It’s someone who accompanies me and takes care of me – it’s like having another person in the house,” she says. “I talk with him. He doesn’t answer, but we talk.” (Sara Shahriari)

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The Natitas are given cigarettes, alcohol and beautiful flower crowns each year on November 8, to create a day that pleases these household spirits. Anthropologists say that the ritual use of human remains has been part of indigenous Andean cultures for thousands of years. (Sara Shahriari)


LO RES 03 Brazil AP091102085460 615x374 Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday celebrated by many Brazilians who visit cemeteries and churches. People pay their respects at a cemetery in Sao Jose dos Campos, southeastern Brazil, during "Day of the Dead" celebrations. (Agencia Estado via AP Images)

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People light candles at a cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, southeastern Brazil, during "Day of the Dead" celebrations. (Agencia Estado via AP Images)


LO RES 05 Ecuador AP08110206403 615x411 Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

The Day of the Dead celebration may have started in Mexico but it has spread throughout Central and Latin America as a combination of indigenous and Catholic religion. In Ecuador the day is seen as a time to “catch up” with the ones who are no longer with us but have a life in a different world. In this picture women share "colada morada and guaguas de pan" at the Calderon cemetery, on the outskirts of Quito during Day of the Dead celebrations, November 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

El Salvador

LO RES 06 El SAlvador AP071101031293 615x402 Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

In El Salvador it is customary to place flowers on the tombs of deceased loved ones, along with wreaths of natural or paper flowers, or cypress leaf wreaths for the aroma. Food generally consumed on this day is tamales and sliced pumpkin cooked with brown sugar. A reveler, wearing a mask, attends celebrations of the Day of the Dead in Tonacatepeque, El Salvador, November 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Luis Romero)


LO RES 07 Guatemala AP101031072677 615x410 Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

All indigenous communities in Guatemala have incorporated the Day of the Dead ceremonies into their own traditions, and each adds it’s own color and pageantry to make it their own. A man arrives with flowers to visit a relative's grave during Day of the Dead in Sumpango, Guatemala in 2010. A typical Guatemalan meal on this day is fiambre, a Spanish dish that is a stew made of meat or fish, vegetables, olives and capers. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)


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On November 1 Haiti's Protestants, Catholics and Voodooists celebrate the Day of the Dead. Voodoo traditions mix with other observances as people honor Gede and Baron Samdi, two voodoo deities. (Sipa via AP Images)

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Typical celebrations consist of placing offerings of flowers and food at the base of large crosses decorated and dedicated to the two deities, Gede and Baron Samdi. (Sipa via AP Images)


LO RES 17 Nicaragua AP081102013711 615x410 Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

Extended families convene at cemeteries throughout Nicaragua on the Day of the Dead, a National holiday. Faithful carry a sculpture of Jesus after a mass during celebration of the Day of Dead in the Oriental cemetery in Managua, Nicaragua, November 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

LO RES 18 Nicaragua AP081102014222 615x410 Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

Graves are decorated with colorful floral arrangements to honor those family members no longer among the living. People inflate balloon's before a mass during Day of Dead celebrations at the Oriental cemetery in Managua, November 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)


LO RES 19 Peru AP091101030830 615x422 Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

In Peru, family members prepare the deceased’s favorite meal, and may leave a cigarette out for smokers as part of the indigenous honoring for Day of the Dead. People pose for pictures in front of a grave during celebrations of the Day of the Dead at the Nueva Esperanza cemetery in Villa Maria, Lima, on November 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)

LO RES 20 Peru AP091101030855 615x396 Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

The meal and items left, for Day of the Dead, often are more valuable than what family members are able to afford. A boy plays in front of a grave during celebrations of the Day of the Dead at the Nueva Esperanza cemetery in Villa Maria, Lima, on November 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)


LO RES spain AP04110106765 615x411 Day of the Dead, Part III: Blending Traditions

A man in a wheelchair stops to look at a grave of a family member during the Day of the Dead at a cemetery in Pamplona, northern Spain, on November 1, 2004. Spaniards celebrate the Day of the Dead every year on this day by visiting and placing flowers on the graves of their loved ones. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

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November 9, 2011

Cave Paintings of Leopard-Spotted Horses Were True-to-Life

Prehistoric painters were most likely not taking creative license when they illustrated leopard-spotted horses on the walls of a cave in Pech-Merle, France some 25,000 years ago, reported Science News.

Researchers analyzed the DNA of 31 horses in Europe and Siberia from more than 16,000 years ago. The results reveal the animals likely grew hair in an array of colors and patterns, such as bay, black and polka-dotted. The new findings oppose earlier genetic studies, which suggested horses only came in bay or black before domestication. More elaborate patterns were previously thought to develop due to human-controlled breeding selection.

The new study, published online November 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was lead by Arne Ludwig of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin. Ludwig and colleagues studied 31 horses—of them, fossil DNA proves 18 were bay, seven were black and six carried genetic variants that produce a leopard spotting pattern. Some researchers have speculated that spotted horses may have carried religious or cultural significance to Native peoples.

Horses account for 30 percent of the animals depicted in European cave paintings from this era, reported the Daily Tribune in Bahrain.

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November 30, 2011

Canada Racks Up Fossil Awards in Durban as Rumors of Kyoto Withdrawal Swirl

As rumors swirled about Canada’s potential withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, the nation continued its Fossil Award–winning sweep at the COP17 talks in Durban, South Africa, on November 30 as the Climate Action Network (CAN) handed out its daily dose of anti-kudos to countries that put pollution-causing development ahead of lives.

On opening day, November 29, the northern nation won both second and first place for Environmental Minister Peter Kent’s continued bashing of developing countries as well as his implication that Canada would likely not sign on for an extension of the accord on emissions targets signed in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997.

In an interview with the Canadian Press before leaving for Durban, Kent said that lesser-developed countries must stop “wielding the historical guilty card” in asking for less-stringent emissions targets just because industrial countries historically have created more greenhouse gas emissions than other nations.

Kent further fueled the fire by claiming that “from Canada’s point of view, Kyoto was the biggest mistake the previous Liberal government made,” referring to Canada’s signing of the Kyoto Protocol.

This as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in its annual report to the U.N. talks said that 2011 has been the warmest year on record as far as climate goes.

With debate still raging over the use of bituminous crude from the notorious oil sands of northern Alberta, Canada, it would seem that Kent is hardly one to talk. Even China, one of the alleged major emitters, called on Canada to set a better example vis a vis combatting climate change. A Canadian withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol would hurt the international community’s attempts to mitigate climate change, the deputy head of the Chinese delegation to Durban told the Chinese news agency Xinhua. It would “definitely add to the obstacles in our negotiation,” he said.

At the same time, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other prominent Africans took out an ad in the conference’s daily newsletter ECO with “A Message for Canada during the UN Climate Summit in Durban” that was essentially a petition urging Canada to set a better example on combatting climate change the way it had against Apartheid in the 1980s.

“Canada, you were once considered a leader on global issues like human rights and environmental protection,” the ad said. “Today you’re home to polluting tar sands oil, speeding the dangerous effects of climate change. For us in Africa, climate change is a life and death issue. By dramatically increasing Canada’s global warming pollution, tar sands mining and drilling makes the problem worse, and exposes millions of Africans to more devastating drought and famine today and in the years to come. It’s time to draw the line. We call on Canada to change course and be a leader in clean energy and to support international action to reduce global warming pollution.”

The U.S.’s decision over the Keystone XL pipeline has been postponed until after the 2012 presidential election, and Canada has indicated it will take its oil sands products to Asia if the U.S. does not allow the construction of a 1,700-mile-long pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile several First Nations are set to reiterate their major opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in the wake of a report by the National Resources Defense Council, the sustainable-energy think tank the Pembina Institute, and the marine conservation group the Living Oceans Society saying that the pipeline would risk too much environmental damage to be feasible. Several First Nations of British Columbia will hold a press conference in Vancouver on December 1.

On the day that Kent’s attitude netted Canada’s two opening-day Fossil Awards, third place went to Britain—but only because of its efforts to bring Canada’s tar sands oil into Europe.

“This quotation from Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent, doesn’t even require paraphrasing in typical fossil humour—it is sufficiently outrageous on its own,” CAN said in bestowing those first Fossils.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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December 13, 2011

Merry, Tarry Christmas: Canada Exits Kyoto

It’s official: Canada will not renew its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 when the existing agreement expires, becoming the first country ever to formally withdraw from the accords.

“The Kyoto Protocol does not cover the world’s largest two emitters, United States and China, and therefore cannot work,” Kent said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s now clear that Kyoto is not the path forward to a global solution to climate change. If anything it’s an impediment.”

His announcement came a day after he returned from the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP-17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which adjourned on Sunday December 11.

In being the first country to exit the Protocol—although the U.S. has never joined—Canada earned outright censure from China, Japan and other countries. Under its commitment, Canada was supposed to reduce its greenhouse gases by six percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012, but those emissions by some estimates may be more than 30 percent above that, The Globe and Mail reported.

Indeed, emissions from the Alberta oil sands, which holds the world’s third-largest oil reserves, are going in the wrong direction. With more than 170 billion barrels, by 2025 the 1.5 million barrels produced daily is slated to rise to 3.7 million, the AP said. Currently Canada’s oil sands are its fastest-growing source of emissions.

“It allows us to continue to create jobs and growth in Canada,” Kent told reporters about the withdrawal, according to the AP.

China and Japan called the decision regrettable. China, although it is one of the world’s largest emitters, has less strict requirements because of its status as a developing nation, one of the reasons Canadian leaders think the accords won’t work.

“It is regrettable and flies in the face of the efforts of the international community for Canada to leave the Kyoto Protocol at a time when the Durban meeting, as everyone knows, made important progress by securing a second phase of commitment to the Protocol,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters, according to Reuters.

A last-minute agreement at Durban extended the Kyoto Protocol commitment through 2017, with a sketch of a treaty to include all nations in binding commitments by 2020.

None of this is soon enough for countries like Tuvalu, an island nation in the South Pacific that is already affected by rising sea levels.

“For a vulnerable country like Tuvalu, its an act of sabotage on our future,” Ian Fry, its lead negotiator, told Reuters. “Withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol is a reckless and totally irresponsible act.”

Canada had already come under fire throughout the Durban talks, from censure over its harsh stance on developing nations, emissions and the Protocol, to the tongue-in-cheek but deadly serious Fossil Awards bestowed by the Climate Action Network, of which it won several.

The country is taking heat domestically too, with rising opposition to an expansion of the Alberta oil sands operations as the U.S. postpones its decision on the 1,700-mile-long Keystone XL pipeline that would wend its way to the Gulf of Mexico through environmentally sensitive areas and sacred sites.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comGeminid Forecast: Chance of Fireballs - ICTMN.com.

December 29, 2011

2011’s Memorable Moments From the World

Indigenous issues were constantly bubbling over around the world, whether it was Bolivia’s fight over coca rights or the struggle to keep the Belo Monte dam from happening in Brazil, the effects on Indigenous Peoples were felt around the world and Indian Country Today Media Network is highlighting the memorable issues from 2011.

Our Coca Right

Earlier this year Bolivian President Evo Morales, the first indigenous president the country’s had, vowed to protect his country’s right to chew the coca leaf. The coca leaf is often confused with cocaine and the other negative aspects the illegal drug brings with it and is frowned upon by the United Nations. The fight continued throughout most the year, until July 7 when Morales announced he had withdrawn Bolivia from the U.N. treaty that bans chewing the leaf. The withdrawal would stand until an amendment was made on the treaty.

Dirty Hands a Sign of Guilt

In February an Ecuadorian Judge found oil giant Chevron guilty of polluting an area of the Amazon after 17 years. The landmark decision that came February 14 ordered Chevron to spend $8.6 billion to clean up the mess. Though Chevron appealed and seeing real action could be slow moving the decision marks a historic event.

Homeward Bound

In February, Yale University signed an agreement with the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco to return 5,000 artifacts and remains to the famed citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru after a century of exile in the United States.

Dam You Belo Monte

In June the Brazilian government ignored all challengers, whether in courts or through protests, of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. As the dam that will displace at least 20,000 people and ruin the livelihoods of approximately 40,000 mostly indigenous Brazilians, President Dilma Rousseff was unveiling an anti-poverty program called “Brazil Without Misery.” Oh the irony.

Stepping Out of the Shadows

As only a few countries recognize the existence of Indigenous Peoples in Southern Africa, while many others have been willing to let them fade into the backdrop, a new Indigenous Rights Programme that was announced in July was set up by the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa to benefit the indigenous communities. Only the programme was announced to mixed emotions in the very communities it was created for. Those who aren’t supportive feel the government still needs to do more.

One Small Step for Indigenouskind

In August, the Peruvian government under new President Ollanta Humala took a step in favor of Indigenous Peoples within the country. A law was unanimously approved and then signed by Humala mandates that Native populations must first be consulted for any developments within indigenous territories.

The Road Less Traveled

In September, a heated confrontation took place in Bolivia as police fired tear gas at protestors. The indigenous marchers protesting a road that was to cut through the National Park and Indigenous Territory Isiboro-Secure (TIPNIS) were forced onto buses and told to return to their villages before they were able to reach the end destination on their 350-mile journey—the capital. President Evo Morales condemned the police for firing the tear gas, the marchers were able to continue the march and ultimately the road had been stopped, though tension is still high, before the end of the year.

Making History

In September a Costa Rican indigenous community sued the Costa Rican government successfully to recover territory that had been theirs—a first in Costa Rican history. Federal agencies were ordered to expropriate more than 11,000 acres of land to be returned to the Bribri community of the Kekoldi reservation—an area currently occupied by non-indigenous people.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comAsian Tiger Prawn Poses Threat in Gulf of Mexico - ICTMN.com.
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