Laos: Still Clearing American Bombs

Un effing believable

“Women are on the frontline of the effort to find and destroy millions of unexploded cluster bombs which are still claiming lives decades after being dropped on Laos.

The US dropped up to 260 million cluster bombs on Laos during the Vietnam War – the equivalent of one bombing mission every eight minutes, for nine years.

It left Laos as the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world.”

ABC News

Cambodia: Protests Erupt in Phnom Penh

Another note to travelers ( see earlier posts). Know where you are traveling and to whom your money is going.

Clashes between security forces and Cambodian opposition supporters in Phnom Penh have left nearly 60 people injured.

The violence occurred early Tuesday when Mu Sochua, an elected member of parliament from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, led hundreds of supporters to Freedom Park, which has been closed to rallies since January.

A group of security guards moved to beat back the protesters when they tried to hang a banner on the razor wire barring entry to the park.

The protesters, however, fought back and about 40 security guards were injured in the ensuing violence. According to witnesses, some were stripped of their uniforms while others were beaten with flags.


South East Asia Travel Tips

These notes from responsibletravel dot com are about Myanmar/Burma but could well be applied most anywhere, especially the neighbors in South East Asia.

“Tourism must tread very carefully in Burma;’s 2 minute travel guide ( explains why:

It does not bode well for tourism that it values highly the places where it has had the least impact. Burma is essentially an untouched, tourism clean slate and care must be taken to ensure the industry sets out on the right, sensitive and responsible foot.

Burma still has a non-democratically elected government and human rights abuses continue. Tourists and tourism organisations should be aware and do all they can to ensure they are supporting the military junta as little as possible, but as all locally run guesthouses and restaurants etc pay taxes it is impossible not to fund the government in some way. Extra care therefore must be taken to ensure as much tourism money as possible ends up in local hands.

Bad tourism practises will take hold quickly if unchecked. Already Kayan women, famed for their elongated neck, are migrating to popular Inle Lake to earn a living from tourism, where they are photographed in a form of human zoo.

Even the most seasoned traveller will need to remind themselves that they are in a country unused to Western tourists, and the impact of an incorrectly calculated tip, a bare shoulder or refusal of food will be much greater than Burma’s more tourism-weary neighbours.

It may be depicted as a pristine wilderness but deforestation is a huge problem in Burma. Responsibly run tourism projects can offer a sustainable alternative to logging and poaching. It is important these are set up carefully and are well supported.

Read more:

Thailand: Still Knotted by the Past

Traveler Awareness Bulletin:

Very interesting article on Thailand’s Great Depression revolution and how it has shaped the stumbling forward, most recently in the recent coup

“In many ways, the crisis that has convulsed Thailand for much of the past decade dates back to the turbulent period of the 1932 revolution that abolished the absolute monarchy and set out to establish democracy in the country and can be understood as part of a long, historical struggle between civilian politicians and royalist elites for primacy – a theme explored in the recently released book “Good Coup” Gone Bad, a collection of essays on the 2006 military coup, currently not available for purchase in Thailand.”

“Thailand cannot move forward until it has dealt with its past. As in 1932, the advance towards a meaningful democracy once again faces resistance from entrenched royalist elites. Today, however, the struggle is not only between aristocratic and “commoner” elites but has been nationalized to include all levels of a deeply divided society. Like the coup of 2006, the recent military takeover has deepened Thailand’s crisis instead of resolving it. This is unsurprising because neither were genuine attempts to break the impasse but were instead measures for the royalists to regain the upper hand.”

From The Diplomat

Myanmar: Journos to Jail

From NYT

“Myanmar took a giant step away from democracy last week when a court sentenced five journalists to 10 years in prison with hard labor for reporting news that the government did not The journalists were charged with threatening national security. Their conviction followed reporting in the weekly news journal Unity in January on the military’s seizure of farmland for construction of a chemical weapons facility.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. State Department’s top human rights official on Wednesday accused Myanmar authorities of resorting to police state tactics after five journalists from a weekly magazine got 10 years of hard labor for a disputed story about a weapons factory.


Women Religious x 2

The Church of England voted to allow women bishops in its ranks:

The House of Bishops recorded 37 votes in favor, two against, and one abstention; the House of Clergy had 162 in favor, 25 against, and four abstentions; and in the House of Laity there were 152 in favor, 45 against, and five abstentions.

This came 18 months after a similar vote was defeated.

Quiet rejoicing in many quarters, though not among those who believe the Bible commands male leadership.

Many women interpret the Bible as Fletcher once did. According to a BBC report, more than 2,000 women within the Church of England signed a petition against the change.

Explaining why she would be voting against the legislation, lay member Sarah Finch said during Monday’s debate, “The pattern for church life that we find in scripture points to a God-given male leadership.”

 What will happen when a Bibletist refuses to serve under a female, as was made possible in the compromise ruling, will be interesting to watch.


And similar tides are rising among Mormon women.  Here Cadence Woodland, a lifelong Mormon, whose faith was punctured by revelations of Mormon contributing to a California anti-gay-marriage ballot proposition, lays out the latest:

LAST month, Kate Kelly, a feminist Mormon lawyer who had called on the Mormon Church to open the priesthood to women, was excommunicated on the charge of apostasy. John P. Dehlin, who runs a popular podcast on hot-button church issues and has loudly advocated for the church to welcome gay men and lesbians, also was threatened with expulsion. Other Mormons have faced sanctions for participating in online forums questioning the church’s positions on these and other matters.

My faith, not just in the good will of church leadership but in the central message of Mormonism, has crumbled. In December, I stopped attending services. I have no plans to return.

The church will continue to lose members like me until it realizes that messages about diversity and inclusion are hollow when excommunication and censorship are the responses to dissent. While the church invests in missionary work, especially overseas, an unwelcoming posture is likely to hinder its growth.  NY Times: Woodland

Maybe there are similar pushes out there in other mainstream faiths… Jews, Catholics, Russian Orthodox, Sunni Muslim, Shite Muslim, Buddhist, Therevada and Mahayan… goodness the future seems a long way….

China Signals 30% of Car Fleet to be Non (less) Fossil Fuel

China’s official news agency reported that at least 30 percent of government cars that will be newly purchased will be electric cars or “new energy vehicles.”

“New energy vehicles” include plug-in hybrid cars, fuel cell-powered cars and solar-powered cars.

Tech Times

If true, and done, good.  How about throwing down the challenge glove China?  We won’t accept number 2.! Anyone else who promises 31% we’ll go to 32%.  A race to the top, instead of the bottom!  What a concept.

What about a World Cup, alternative fuel vehicles competing?

Invasives to Kill Invasives?

Anyone who has had a wild ride down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon knows the story.  Even while taking advantage of their shade, and taking photos of the lovely blooms,  boaters cuss the tamarisk (aka salt cedar).

It’s an invader from the Middle East — well actually, it was invited– which puts down deep roots, sucks up scarce water, brings salt up with the water and redistributes it on the surface; it crowds out native vegetation and thereby changes the local ecology: some bugs go, others come; some birds disappear, others appear, and thrive.  On the whole, the river-rap goes, they’d be better gone.  From time to time ruined roots can be seen, the results of acids, fire, shovel and hoe.  Come back again in a few years, like as not, new shoots will be rising out of the river-bank sand to begin again.

Spring flowers on a salt cedar. Photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Spring flowers on a salt cedar.
Photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Now more money is being poured in, and a potentially risky gamble made: bring in the tamarisk beetle, its natural enemy.

In this corner of America known for its vast landscapes, rugged mountains and deep river canyons, signs of the havoc created by the minuscule tamarisk beetle are everywhere.

For miles along the banks of the Colorado River, hundreds of once hardy tamarisk trees — also known as salt cedars — are gray and withered. Their parched branches look like victims of fire or drought.

But this is not the story of beloved trees being ravaged by an invasive pest — quite the opposite. Farmers, ranchers and the water authorities here are eager to get rid of the tamarisk trees, which are not native to Arizona and which they say suck too much water.  NY Times: Belson

Problem is that the project could be chasing the wrong solution, and bringing on new problems along the way.

Advocates of removing the tamarisk claim that a mature tree can consume more than 200 gallons of water a day. That has tantalized farmers and utilities in search of cheap, plentiful water.

… There is little proof, though, that removing the tamarisk will increase the amount of available water. And if thirstier trees replace it, there could be even less water.

And of course, introducing species to help out with a wee problem here has time and again created another big one over there.

What will the tamarisk beetle feed on once their preferred food dips below population sustainability?

Well, “they are likely to feed on other trees.”

Some of the cleared areas have been replanted with native growths of cottonwood and willow, apparently very beautiful, and beckoning.  But, as far as I can read, no measure of water saved or water lost has been done.  It’s not like cottonwood are little-sippers, for example.

I hope the eradication is going forward slowly and thoughtfully, measuring and watching for the might-have-been-predicted unpredictable consequences.

As Melissa Sevigny has said,  “The tough thing is to turn it around and look at ourselves as the ones who have taken too much from these landscapes. It’s so much easier to point fingers.”

Burma Burns

The Buddhist led attacks on Myanmar Muslims has expanded beyond the initial targets of Royhinga, coastal people with imputed and real connections to Bangladesh.  Last week, mobs went after Chinese Muslims in the 2nd largest city, Mandalay.

Two men died.  Died ugly.

 The body of the Muslim man was identifiable by his wife only by a distinctive blemish on one of his toes.

More deaths were prevented by the intervention of a Buddhist monk, urging the club-wielding young men to go home.

A Buddhist monk, Galonni Sayadaw, approached the roving bands of young Buddhist men and urged them to return to their homes. The monk also publicly exhorted the chief of police, who as in previous bouts of religious unrest did not immediately intervene, to disperse the crowds.

In an interesting insight, a few are claiming, this is not simply spontaneous violence, or even something directed by the hate mongering  monk, Wirathu and his 969 movement.

Tin Tin Kyaw (centre) cries near the body of her husband Soe Min, a 51-year-old man who was killed in the riot, at a mosque in Mandalay. Photo: Reuters

Tin Tin Kyaw (centre) cries near the body of her husband Soe Min, a 51-year-old man who was killed in the riot, at a mosque in Mandalay. Photo: Reuters

David Scott Mathieson, an analyst with Human Rights Watch in Myanmar, wrote after the Mandalay riots that it appeared that the “violence was not just an organic eruption of communal resentment” and noted that it may have been linked to a planned visit to Mandalay on Sunday by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader. Burmese analysts have speculated that the violence might be associated with efforts to slow her ascension in politics and ultimately derail her attempts to become president.

NY Times: Fuller

Who/Where are the Race Haters?

Interesting data pulled from hate sites on the web

The percentage of Stormfront’s target audience that joins is actually higher in areas with more minorities [than in those, such as Idaho, where there are few]. This is particularly true when you look at Stormfront’s members who are 18 and younger and therefore do not themselves choose where they live.

Among this age group, California, a state with one of the largest minority populations, has a membership rate 25 percent higher than the national average.

And Jews, but a few percentage points, are more hated than Blacks.  See graphic