Monthly Archives: February 2004

Speaking Of Snakes…

While I’m at it, let’s post up a couple snake pictures. Several brown tree snakes showed up several times this week, no doubt attracted by the smell of blood and puppies in the house. This one arrived on Thursday night.
This fellow was wrapped around the shower curtain pole in the bathroom where the puppies sleep. Nothing a broomstick and a scuba tank can’t fix though.
Dianne and Fefan inspect the remains
A word to the wise: Don’t get between these females and their pups!

Two Birds Removed From Endangered Species List

Federal officials removed two Guam species from the endangered species list this week. The Guam Mallard (or Nganga) and the Guam Broadbill (or chiguanguan) are now deemed extinct.

The nganga, a duck that lived in wetlands in both Guam and the CNMI was never very numerous. Added to the endangered species list in 1977, the last mallard seen on Guam was in 1967, and the last confirmed sighting in Saipan occurred in 1979. Scientists suspect the loss of the mallard’s habitat caused the nganga’s extinction.

The Guam broadbill was a small flycatcher endemic to Guam. It was last seen in the wild in 1984, the same year it was listed as an endangered species. The likely cause of extinction is the brown tree snake.

When it became apparent both species were threatened in the wild, scientists unsuccessfully attempted captive breeding programs. The only nganga’s captured were three old birds that never mated, and the brown tree snake ate all the female chiguanguan by the time scientists began capturing the birds. They only caught males, which makes sense since the females sat on the nest and fell victim to predation.

A third species, the bridled white-eye is expected to join the mallard and the broadbill on the rolls of extinct species soon. It was last seen over 20 years ago.

So What’s The Answer?

An interesting essay in Saturday’s Guardian: Our most dangerous export, by Amy Chua. Professor Chua presents a compelling case. Instituting universal suffrage on nations long repressed under the boot of oppressive regimes only leads to anarchy. In case after case, once the despots are removed and ‘free elections’ are introduced, long simmering ethnic hatred of the poor minority towards the wealthy, economically advantaged minority flares up and results in a paroxysm of violence. Indonesia 1998: with the ouster of General Suharto, native Indonesians rose up against the minority Chinese shopkeepers. Over 2000 people were dragged from their homes and murdered by vengeful crowds.

When sudden democratisation gives voice to this previously silenced majority, opportunistic demagogues can swiftly marshal animosity into powerful ethno-nationalist movements that can subvert both markets and democracy. That is what happened in Indonesia, Zimbabwe, and most recently Bolivia, where weeks of majority-supported, Amerindian-led protests resulted in the resignation of the pro-US, pro-free-market “gringo” President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. In another variation, recent confiscations by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, of the assets of the “oligarchs” Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky – all well-known in Russia to be Jewish – were facilitated by pervasive anti-semitic resentment among the Russian majority.

And Iraq is the next flashpoint. The Sunni Ba’athists repressed the Shiite majority for decades, and the Kurds in the north are extremely wary of any Arab rule. Already Shiite clerics and demagogues are calling for elections, knowing that universal elections will open the door for a Shiite government, preferably one that resembles neighboring Iran’s hard line theocracy. The only thing uniting the various fronts in Iraq right now is the desire to see the American and British occupying army leave. Once they leave Iraq will slide into ethnic violence and anarchy.

Taking the concept further, Chua argues that the United States is seen as the oppressive minority on the world stage. With only a fraction of the world’s population, the US wields unprecedented economic and military clout on the far poorer nations of the world. This explains while the world was so adamantly set against the US led invasion of Iraq – in spite of compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein was a tyrannical despot torturing and murdering his own people. ‘This opposition to the US was closely bound up with deep feelings of resentment and fear of American power and cynicism about motives.’

So what’s the answer? Were do we go from here? How does Iraq become a multi-ethnic pluralistic democracy, a beacon in the Middle East? Unfortunately Chua is rather vague about what steps need to be taken. She seems to be advocating some form of limited representation, starting with local democratic governments and gradually percolating up to the entire nation. But what government exists to keep the country from slipping into anarchy while this localized democratic tradition is built up? Some form of an American proxy government? Some jury-rigged contraption administered by the UN? Nothing seems workable at this point. Iraqis want their country back, even if anarchy ensues.

She does make a valid point that Western democracies did not adopt universal suffrage for women and minorities instantly. It took decades of work to create a system that gives everyone a seat at the table, while protecting the rights of minorities. Maybe the bloody cycle of revenge and violence is inevitable

Sea Turtles In Crisis

Image lifted from the BBCSome distressing news from the BBC: The population of the Pacific leatherback turtle has plummeted in the last 22 years, and the turtles could be extinct within a decade. Conservancy International announced the plight of the creatures at the 24th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Conservation and Biology. And while the Pacific leatherback is in particularly dire straits, virtually every other species of sea turtle is threatened and on the endangered species list.

Guam hosts nesting sites for several turtle species, specifically hawksbill and green sea turtles, but I’ve never heard of leatherbacks being seen in the waters around the island. While turtles are a protected species, they are quite uncommon on Guam since they are quite a delicacy. Green sea turtle is especially sought after. Just mention turtle to some of my friends and they will start salivating. And hawksbill turtles are sought after for their shell, to make exquisite shell jewelry.

Named for its smooth, leathery skin, the leatherback has graced ocean waters from the tropics to the Arctic since the time of the dinosaurs more than 100 million years ago. But scientists have documented a precipitous decline of the Pacific leatherback in the past two decades. Since 1982, their numbers have dropped from approximately 115,000 reproductive females to fewer than 3,000 remaining today, a decline of 97 percent.

“On land, the canary in the coal mine warns humans of impending environmental danger,” said Roderic Mast, Conservation International Vice President and President of the International Sea Turtle Society. “Sea turtles act as our warning mechanism for the health of the ocean, and what they’re telling us is quite alarming. Their plummeting numbers are, unfortunately, symptomatic of the ocean as a whole.”

The situation is critical, but scientists hope to bring the species back from the brink of extinction. Two particular areas need focused attention:

  • Nesting beaches require stronger protections and more careful management. Uncontrolled beachfront development and the poaching of eggs are threats to their survival. Lights on land present another threat, since turtles confuse them for the moon and walk toward them, leaving them stranded and unable to return to the ocean. Stronger protections to beaches in St. Croix and South Africa, for example, have allowed leatherback populations to begin rebounding.
  • The ocean needs greater levels of protection and the fishing industry needs to employ new and safer techniques. Currently, less than one-half of one percent of the ocean enjoys formal protection. Fishermen targeting fish species often unintentionally kill sea turtles as ‘by-catch.’ Small and inexpensive changes to fishing techniques, such as slightly larger hooks and traps from which sea turtles can escape, can dramatically cut the mortality rate.

Particularly deadly to turtle populations is long-line fishing. Long-lining is a practice in which ships extend up to 145 kilometers of fishing line with as many as 8,000 hooks, many of which unintentionally capture and kill sea turtles instead of their intended targets of fish.

This is terrible. Absolutely terrible. Sea turtles are the most inoffensive creatures I’ve ever encountered. They are slow, graceful grazers of the open sea. The world would be diminished by the loss of these species. Perhaps the challenges of the modern are too great for such an ancient and sublime animal though. Far too often people read something like this, shrug their shoulders and promptly forget all about it. The pressures of everyday life are too great to spare much concern for turtles in a far away place.

I feel no small amount of guilt in this myself, for I have eaten sea turtle several times in my life. But somehow I think the portion of sea turtle caught and eaten by Pacific Islanders is not too blame for this catastrophe. They have fished and hunted these waters for millennia with no adverse affects on the marine ecosystem. It is the modern world, with the development of coastal areas and factory fishing that strip mines the ocean of all life in the name of profits, these are the culprits in this debacle.

But all is not lost. Scientists and conservationists at the conference highlighted several international success stories that demonstrate that well-planned conservation efforts can halt and reverse the decline of the sea turtles.

For example, four Latin American nations, the United Nations Foundation, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and Conservation International’s Global Conservation Fund are investing several million dollars over the next three years to consolidate a marine protected area that stretches from Ecuador to Costa Rica. Let’s hope this can stem the losses to the Pacific leatherback and bring the species back from the brink.

An Apple A Day DOES Keep The Doctor Away

BBC NEWS | Health | Fruit reduces heart disease risk – Yes it really is true: Eating apples and other fibrous fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of heart disease. Eating 10 grams of fiber a day (about three apples) reduces the chance of dying by heart disease by 27% and the chance of suffering a heart attack by 14%. All that fiber cleans out the cholesterol from the body.

Excuse me while I go eat an apple.

Road Construction Mayhem

Everyday I return home to find the road construction has changed in my neighborhood. Lanes switch and rearrange, barriers are put up, pavement is ripped out, gravel is laid out. It is all very confusing, but they really seem to be in a mad dash to finish off the upper sections of the highway construction in Yona. The lower portions of the roadwork, leading down the hill to the Ylig River Bridge are still a mess, but everyday more portions of the highway up by my house are paved. Alleluia, alleluia. I can’t wait for it to be over.

Lenten Season Arrives

Though I wouldn’t exactly call myself a practicing Catholic, some traditions die hard. The faithful observed Ash Wednesday yesterday, and while it has been years since I stepped foot inside a church I still found myself fasting yesterday. And I gave up candy, sweets and snacks too. I’d give up soda, but I already abandoned my Coke dependency at New Year’s. I figure a little hardship is a good thing, and I can certainly cut out egg salad sandwiches and my candy grazing habits at work.

Great Barrier Reef Gone By 2050?

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Australia reef’s days ‘numbered’ – A projected rise in the ocean’s temperature of only 2° Celsius will kill the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland’s Pacific shore. Of course the hulk of the reef will still be there, but the living coral and the fish that depend on it will perish in the warmer waters. Best go see it now, so you can tell your grandchildren you saw the world’s largest and oldest living thing before humans killed it.

Bombs Away!

Some bomber related news today:

  • B-52’s Arrive On Island – Guam received the first of a contingent of B-52 Stratofortress bombers to be permanently stationed on the island. While the planes will continue to be stationed out of North Dakota, a revolving contingent will be continuously maintained on the island. Apparently this is being done to reinforce U.S. forces in the Asia/Pacific theater as ground troops are redeployed to the Middle East. Local leaders are enthusiastic about the pre-positioning because it will mean more jobs and money injected into the island’s economy.
  • WWII B-24 bomber located in Palau – A downed B-24 Liberator bomber was located in the waters off Palau recently. It is assumed that the bomber still contains the remains of the servicemen that perished when the plane was shot down shortly before the U.S. invasion of Palau in September 1944. The POW/MIA Command in Hawaii was notified about the wreck and they are expected to recover the servicemen’s remains.
  • The Last Mission – I never knew this bit of Guam’s WWII history. The Last Mission was took off from Northwest Field on August 14th and bombed Tokyo. The heavy bombardment curtailed a planned military coup to depose Emperor Hirohito before he could surrender to the U.S. invasion. Interesting stuff, but there is not a single marker commemorating this final mission of WWII at Northwest Field. Perhaps the 60th anniversary of Guam’s Liberation is a fitting time to dedicate a memorial to this final act of World War II.

Exciting Day

Well it’s been an exciting day.

My landlady’s yellow lab had her litter of pups today. Spent most of today as a midwife for six adorable little pups; two yellow, two chocolate, two black. She hasn’t whelped another pup in almost four hours, so I suspect it might be over. I am taking a break from the bathroom/maternity ward and I thought I’d post some photos of the litter.

Dianne looks a little worn out in that last photo huh? I hope she doesn’t get to tired with all those puppies around the house in the coming weeks.

Guam News Roundup

Since I was such a slacker last week, I let several major news story slip right by me. I guess I should go ahead and link to the big news stories from Guam for everyone’s perusal.

  1. Politics
    • Gil Shinohara Indicted – Former Gutierrez administration Chief of Staff was indicted on over a dozen charges by federal attorneys. The charges revolve around bilking the FEMA with fraudulent claims after typhoon Paka in 1997, and bank and wire fraud apparently with the complicity of former senator Willy Flores.
    • Carl Gutierrez Pleads Innocent – Carl Gutierrez declared his innocence Friday in the Superior Court, denying that he used $64,000 of government money and labor to construct his pleasure dome along the Uranao cliffline.
    • Cliff Guzman Pleads Innocent – Cliff Guzman pleaded innocent last week to charges that he ordered the government to absorb the cost of numerous private street lights; Carl Gutierrez has yet to enter a plea in this case.
    • Rosie Tainatongo Indicted – Former Department of Administration Director Rosie Tainatongo was indicted last Friday for misuse of government funds to aid in a Liberation Day contestant’s bid to be Liberation Queen.
    • Audit Reveals ‘Enhanced’ Retirement Pay For Elected Official – Public Auditor Doris Brooks released the results of an audit of the Government of Guam Retirement Fund and the bombshell was how an unnamed executive branch official had his retirement pay doubled in a questionable arrangement with the Director of the Retirement Fund, bypassing any oversight by the board of the retirement fund. The former director defended his actions, but it certainly raised eyebrows around the island.
    • Democrats Introduce Wage Hike – In a move designed to stir public comment, Democrats introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage on Guam to $7.50 an hour. Local businesses cried foul instantly, and Republicans accused the Democrats of pandering for votes in an election year.
  2. Environment
    • Deal Reached In Ordot Dump Closure – Well it looks like the progress is actually being made on closing the Ordot Dump. Public Works is researching locations for the new dump and
    • Erosion Control Project Begins At Talofofo Beach Park – For the last few years the beach has been slipping into the sea at Talofofo Beach Park. The erosion increased rapidly following typhoon Pongsona in 2002. By last month, several pavilions and restrooms were on the verge of tumbling into the waves. So the Department of Parks and Recreation finally got moving with a plan to halt the erosion. Giant limestone boulders are being placed along the shore to absorb the waves energy and hopefully halt the deterioration.
    • Scientists To Map Guam’s Water Table – The Guam EPA, USGS and WERI received $400,000 grant to produce a modern three-dimensional map of Guam’s water table. It is hoped this study will lead to better water resource management and prevent salt water encroachment in the priceless fresh water lens that supplies Guam’s fresh water supply.
    • Invasive Species Of Frog Found On Island – Two male coqui frogs were recently found on Guam. The frogs are an invasive species that probably arrived on ornamental plants shipped from Hawaii. While the frogs are not a threat to local wildlife, they do produce an earsplitting racket. In a related story, Guam is relaxing the importation of ornamental plants to the island. I guess we need more exotic animal species sneaking into the island.
    • Still No Archaeologist Working At Ylig Site – Go figure. It’s been almost a year now since ancient Chamorro remains were found at the Ylig Bay end of the Route 4 expansion project and still no archaeologists have excavated the site. The Department of Public Works is hoping some magical fairy archaeologists appear and do the work pro bono. Meanwhile, looters and wild dogs pillage the site. Somebody deserves a prize for this fuck-up.
  3. Other News Of Interest

So I guess a lot happened on Guam the last couple weeks. I’ll try to stay on top of the news in the future.

Recent Media Consumption

Seems like ages since I posted anything about watch I’ve been watching and reading lately, so let’s get that off the plate right now:

  • Movies & Television
    • Logan’s Run – Watched it this afternoon. A fast paced sci-fi adventure, with a dire warning of what could happen in our youth obsessed culture. After watching the entire movie I realized there’s not a single black or oriental person in the cast of hundreds. Hmm. Looks like the future turns out all white.
    • Never Cry Wolf – A great little film, full of beautiful photography and natural vistas. It goes out of its way to paint civilization in a bad light, and sings the praises of the frozen tundra. Watch this movie and write your congressman about protecting the ANWR.
    • 28 Days Later – It bogs down in the last act, but the opening scenes of a desolate, depopulated London are chilling.
    • Pirates Of The Caribbean – Better than I expected. Fun in a cartoony way. But why is this children’s movie well over two hours long? For that matter, why are so many movies so damn long these days? Is there a shortage of editors in Hollywood?
    • Buena Vista Social Club – Okay, but I was pretty bored by the movie documentary. I prefer the album.
    • The Man From Snowy River – This is a great adventure story, with the added pleasure of watching Kirk Douglas chew the scenery in two roles. The roundup at the end of the movie is riveting stuff.
    • Falling Down – Hey, it’s Kirk Douglas’ son Michael going postal on Los Angeles. Pretty grim when I think about it, but I admit I laughed at the situations Michael Douglas keeps getting into – especially the bit on the golf course.
    • The Black Stallion – I loved this movie when I was a kid. I couldn’t get enough of it. Beautiful film, with a lovely score by Carmine Coppola. The best part is when the boy and the horse are marooned on the desert island. Absolutely gorgeous stuff. And you never even notice that nary a word is spoken for over a half hour.
    • Avalon – Good. Not as good as Diner (which I watched about two months ago), but good. America is great, but television stole the soul of our people. I couldn’t agree more. Barry Levinson’s done a good thing with his Baltimore movies.
    • Existenz – An interesting, squishy sci-fi, cyberpunky sort of thing.
    • The Last Temptation Of Christ – It’s a pale shadow of Nikos Kazantzakis novel, but I admire Martin Scorsese for tackling such a sensitive subject. I remember the furor over this film’s release, as the Catholic Church condemned the film and various television evangelists launched a crusade against the defamation of the Gospels, without ever once viewing the film. Reminds me of the current brouhaha over Mel Gibson’s Passion, though this time it is the liberals crying foul and the religious authorities defending the film. Funny how the wheel turns isn’t it?
    • The Great Train Robbery – Fun crime caper adventure. It looked like Sean Connery really was running around on top of a moving train. Gutsy move by a major actor.
    • Children Of A Lesser God – Powerful story. Funny, I’d never seen the movie. I watched the play a few years ago, but this was my first time watching Marlee Matlin and John Hurt together.
  • Books
    • The Third Wave – Alvin Toffler’s groundbreaking work of futurist thought. I read this in high school almost twenty years ago, and it is amazing how much he foresaw has come to pass.
    • Watership Down – Richard Adam’s story of dispossessed rabbits and their struggle to find a safe new home is a good one. I read this when I was a kid and couldn’t resist checking it out of the library a few weeks ago. An high adventure of small scale and great import for us humans.
    • The Temple Of The Golden Pavilion – Mishima’s story of beauty and impotence and the pent up rage of the powerless.
    • Fast Food Nation – Makes me scared to eat at McDonald’s. Eric Schlosser wrote a chilling account of our addiction to fast food, and the environmental, social, economic and health costs it entails.
    • Gai-Jin – Classic work of historical fiction by James Clavell. I just started this yesterday, so not much to say about it yet.

Obviously, I’ve been watching a great deal of movies lately. I guess it’s easier to relax in front of the television after work instead of reading a book.

Ursula Le Guin Q&A

One of my favorite authors, Ursula Le Guin, recently participated in an online Q&A session with readers from Great Britain. The Guardian edited the transcripts and posted them online. Excellent stuff, and some good insight on Le Guin’s thinking and creative process.

And if you are at all interested, check out some of her novels like The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, The Lathe of Heaven or her many Earthsea books. I’d recommend starting with the original trilogy; A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore. These books really moved me when I was a kid. I intend to reread them a little later this year, along with some of Le Guin’s newer stuff.

The Q&A session is fascinating stuff, revealing how she thinks up the stories and what inspires her. I certainly didn’t know that she translated Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and is an avowed Taoist, though I guess it makes sense reading her novels.

Cleland Alert

My good friend and former roommate Craig Cleland was on-island last weekend for a couple days and we hooked up on Saturday night for a little R&R in Tumon Bay. We started at the Outrigger Hotel, grabbed some Vietnamese food at Hoa Mai, sampled the fine Great Deep Brewing Company Beers at Mac & Marti’s, and finished off the night at the ever smoky Tower of London.

Craig laughs at the comedic stylings of our waitress at Hoa Mai II

Craig samples the Scottish red from Great Deep Brewing at Mac & Marti's

We met up again on Sunday for a bbq at another friend’s house, where I drank a great deal of beer. In fact I had a hangover the next day that lasted the entire day (and into the night). It was good to see Craig again, it seems like ages since he lived on Guam. In fact it was almost four years ago that he left island to pursue his fortunes. Funny how time flies.

Good to see you Craig, come back again soon.