Pittsburgh playwrights pen furry musical, invite Anthrocon attendees to observe reading

Friday, July 6, 2007

When Pittsburgh lyricist Bill Medica and musician JC Carter saw the influx of furries for the first Anthrocon in their city, they were mystified. But as they observed Anthrocon 2006, their thoughts on furries changed.

“They’re not afraid to be themselves,” said Carter. “When they left, the magic left.”

“They were such a force,” added Medica.

Inspired by their experience, they decided to write a play entitled Furry Tales. It is the story of four friends: BlueWolf22, MisoKitty2, HuggyBunny and Gorillanator. They met online and agree to meet at a furry convention. As it turns out, BlueWolf22 is an imposter, sent by an online magazine called “everythingawful.com” (an obvious play on Something Awful, a site frowned on by the sub-culture for their coverage) in an effort to get some steamy content on the debauchery that supposedly permeates the furry fandom. However, BlueWolf’s opinions change, and he discovers he is a peer to his new furry friends.

Wikipedia describes furry fandom as “a fandom distinguished by its enjoyment of anthropomorphic, often humanoid, animal characters. Examples of anthropomorphism in the furry fandom include the attribution of human intelligence, facial expressions, and sometimes anatomy, speech, bipedalism, and the wearing of clothes.”

The world’s largest furry convention, Anthrocon takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania each July. Its focus is on furries: fictional anthropomorphized animal characters in art and literature.

The first staged reading of Furry Tales will occur on July 5, 2007, on the first day of festivities for Anthrocon 2007, at the CLO Cabaret. Medica and Carter planned it for July 5 in the hopes that furries attending Anthrocon will provide input for improving the final product. The Chairman of Anthrocon Dr. Samuel Conway has been invited to the reading, and he has confirmed plans to attend.

Tickets may be reserved online for $15 each plus a service charge of at least $7.50 from Pittsburgh Cultural District.

In related news, Anthrocon has selected local no-kill animal shelter Animal Friends as its 2007 charity. The shelter will benefit from the proceeds of Anthrocon’s annual charity auction, which raised $5,845 for the Western Pennsylvania National Wild Animal Orphanage last year (the charity’s total revenue was $8,400). Representatives of the charity will also be available as in the dealers room.

 

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US nationals arrested for alleged abduction of Haitian children

Monday, February 1, 2010

Haitian police yesterday arrested ten United States nationals, five men and five women, over the alleged abduction of 33 children. The nationals tried to cross with the children, aged between two months and twelve years, into the Dominican Republic, but were halted at the border.

The group belongs to the two-month-old New Life Children’s Refuge charity, with some members from Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, and others from Texas and Kansas. Their claimed intention was to move the quake victims to a temporary orphanage being set up in a hotel-resort in the neighbouring Dominican Republic. Police said the Americans did not have any paperwork or permissions to remove the children from the country. Haiti’s government has imposed new restrictions on adoptions due to concerns about child trafficking during the post-disaster confusion.

The detainees are being held near the capital, Port-au-Prince, and maintain their arrest was a mistake. Laura Silsby, the group’s spokeswoman, insisted on the group acting in good faith and they paid no money for the children. She defended the lack of any authority from Haitian officials, “I was going to come back here to do the paperwork,” asserting that Haitian pastor Jean Sanbil, of the Sharing Jesus Ministries, allowed them to move the children. She claimed, “[w]e had permission from the Dominican Republic government to bring the children to an orphanage that we have there.”

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive disagreed strongly with group’s actions; “[w]e did not arrest Americans, we arrested kidnappers.” Social Affairs minister, Yves Christallin, told Agence France-Presse that it was “abduction, not an adoption”. He continued, “what is important for us in Haiti is that a child needs to have authorisation from this ministry to leave the country”. He stressed, “[t]his is totally illegal, […] these people did not have that authorization.”

Kent Page, a spokesman for UNICEF in Haiti, also weighed in today saying, “[y]ou can’t just go and take a child out of a country – no matter what country you are in.”

The NCLR group planned to take around 100 children to the Dominican Republic. According to their mission statement, the Baptists‘ intent was to “find healing, hope, joy and new life in Christ” for the Roman Catholic children “as well as opportunities for adoption into a loving Christian family.” To that end they partnered with New Life Adoption Foundation to “help facilitate adoptions and provide grants to subsidize the cost of adoption for loving Christian parents who would otherwise not be able to afford to adopt.” They envisioned building an orphanage at Villa Magante on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, with facilities for the children, and lodging and amenities for “adopting parents to stay while fulfilling requirement for 60?90 day visit as well as Christian volunteers/vacationing families.”

The children have been transferred to an SOS Children’s village in Santo, to the north of the capital. The site has a medical facility run by the Dominican Red Cross. Staff reported the children were “in a very bad emotional state” and that a small baby had to be temporarily taken to the main hospital. Some children told staff they actually have parents, and a twelve year old said she and her family had believed the New Life Children’s Refuge group wanted to take her to a boarding school in the Dominican Republic. Later, three people arrived at the SOS Children’s village claiming to be relatives of five of the children. They said, “the woman who took the children to DR” told them she organised summer camps in the neighbouring country; they declared they did not intent to permanently part with their children.

Amarick Louis, Haiti’s justice secretary, told the Associated Press that a commission would decide today if the group would go before a judge. Senior Pastor Clint Henry of the Central Valley Baptist Church told reporters New Life Children’s Refuge, and the Haiti mission, are separate from the 25-year-old church. He noted that members of the church were confronted with negative feedback after the arrest of the NLCR group. His congregation prayed for the arrested members of their church during services on Sunday.

 

Leasing Vs. Buying Your Farm Equipment

Owning your own farm is like running a small store or business. There are a lot of important decisions that need to be made to ensure everything runs properly, and almost all of the responsibility lies only in your choices. If you make a decision, you are forced to deal with the benefits – or the consequences.

If you own a small farm, or even a big one, you are no stranger to hard work. Running a farm takes a lot of strength and the willingness to keep a consistent schedule as well as ensure everything is running properly. If livestock are a part of your farm, you have to keep their well being in mind also.

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When it comes to your farm, there are many things you have to worry about, but your financials regarding your farm equipment shouldn’t be one of them. The differences between leasing and buying your farm equipment can be what you need to keep your pockets from being drained.

Buying Pros

Buying your farm equipment has many of its own advantages that will prove to be beneficial during your time of owning a farm. If your farm has turned into a lifestyle as well as a career, buying your farm equipment can provide you with some benefits that leasing cannot.

* Owning your own equipment can allow you to use it as often as you’d like. In some cases, leasing the equipment may require you to only use the item for a certain amount of hours

* Because owned equipment has its own asset value, you can use it if necessary as collateral against other loans.

* Owned equipment can increase the asset value on the balance sheet

* You can update your own equipment when and how you see fit

* Owning your own equipment will allow you to replace the equipment or sell it if you no longer need it or want to buy something newer

Leasing Pros

Leasing farm equipment can also be a great way to prevent yourself from going over your budget, as well as give you some relief if you aren’t sure of whether or not your farm will be a permanent option for you.

* A lease payment has the ability to count towards a producer’s asset-to-debt ratio, instead of the entire cost of the machine

* Leasing your equipment is a great tax deduction. Almost 100% of your lease can be deducted from your taxes

* If you’re unsure of whether or not you will be permanently farming, leasing the equipment will allow you to pay for only what you need

* Leased equipment will be less liability on the balance sheet

* The ability to exchange and upgrade your equipment without having to worry about selling it is always prevalent. If a new and updated piece of machinery is released, you can speak with the company about changing equipment

* The upfront costs of leasing the equipment are much cheaper than buying the machinery

Cons of Buying and Leasing

While there are many advantages to both leasing and purchasing, both options have a small amount of cons, which can solely depend on what you want as a farmer.

Choosing to lease your equipment may seem like a cheaper option, but there are some disadvantages you may face. The number of hours you are allowed to use your machine can be limited and you will be penalized for using more. Though your annual payments are less when leasing, once the lease is over, you do not have a piece of equipment to show for it.

Purchasing has its own disadvantages as well. If the machinery is damaged or stops working, you are responsible for finding out what the problem is as well as repairing it on your own. If you choose to go a different way with your farmBusiness Management Articles, it is also your responsibility to sell your machinery.

It doesn’t matter which route you choose to take. Buying or leasing farm equipment is a great way to keep your farm in tip-top shape and make your duties a little easier.

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Psychology of Relationships-Does Conflict Affect Men More Than Women?

Men and women react differently to many situations in life. Getting over and dealing with conflict in a relationship is no different. The psychological differences between men and women may help us understand why we react differently. If you are married or in a relationship there will be arguments at various times. Conflict does not have to be life changing but what does make it harder to deal with is if the two partner’s ways of dealing with conflict don’t mesh well. Marriage counseling is one way to deal with conflict resolution solutions, and even those not married will sometimes go to relationship counselors for help. What you hopefully will get out of relationship counseling is the ability to understand how your partner thinks when dealing with arguments.

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The National Institute of Mental Health at one point funded a huge social study that displayed how most couples who had been together for only a few months and were between the ages of 18 and 21 would avoid being dependant on their partner and also avoided too much intimacy (which might result in dependence). This group also showed signs of anxiety when faced with rejection or abandonment, although there were different degrees of anxiety levels. Those who were more personally secure within themselves had lower levels of stress, which is to be expected. The more secure and independent you are with yourself the less abandonment will affect you. Others reacted differently to the tests as well, depending on how they naturally handled anxiety and thoughts on abandonment.

The fascinating results of the test were what it showed the differences to be in men and women. Researches in relationship psychology, through the testing of the subjects found that the psychological reaction to relationship conflict was different in men than women. The reaction is men was much more noticeable. For men the major reaction was increased visible anxiety. The only women that showed real changes were the ones who were the type to avoid bad situations that might cause emotional pain.

For the majority of women in the test it was shown that they wanted a resolution to the conflict as quickly as possible. They showed an increased level of cortisol (our stress hormone) when the argument began and during the argument but the level dropped off more quickly than it did in men. The women were more than likely to be the guiders of the relationship conflict toward a resolution. Psychology shows them, in this case, to be the more active person working to resolve conflict. This over all reduced their stress quicker.

Of course this meant that the men in the test showed up to be more passive when it came to relationship conflict. The evidence proved that they also want the relationship conflict to end quickly but they hesitated in confronting it head on, seeking to avoid it as long as possible. The men who had more secure female partners showed less anxiety, but for some reason the females who had male partners that were secure showed no change in their anxiety levels during relationship conflict.

If you are going to seek relationship advice from a marriage counselor or psychologist they are going to help you understand how and why men and women react differently to situations. The above example shows that psychological research can help you deal with conflict better and understand why relationship conflicts are sometimes hard to figure out.

 

Why You Need A PR Agency

Public Relations, or PR, means managing the public’s perception of a company or organization. A PR Agency is responsible for bolstering their image through positive exposure to target markets. Simply put, it makes everybody become fond of your company. 

An online PR Agency provides a set of social media activities that is equipped to influence internet users using online mediums. This includes websites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter. An offline PR Agency, on the other hand, is almost exactly the same except that the avenue used is more traditional such as radio, TV and newspaper. 

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For companies to flourish and gain attention from their target markets, they need a good PR to help promote their products and services. For larger companies, they have an in-house PR team who handles all public relations for them. However, most companies do not have a PR specialist or team so they hire an offline or online PR Agency whenever it needs to attract public attention.

With a PR Agency, it is easier to influence how people view your company and turn this to your advantage.

–          A PR Agency can create news about a company or what it offers. They can formulate a stirring news story that will have everybody talking about it.

–          A PR Agency can also provide a medium where customers can interact with each other and your company, such as in forums. Customers can ask questions and give feedback on a product or service and from there, you can learn a lot about how you can maintain or improve what your company offers.

–          A PR Agency can boost your ranking in search engines through keyword and content optimization. This will certainly promote heavier traffic to your site.

–          They can also help monitor the web for competitors, new strategies and issues spreading online. They can track what the public is saying about you or your company. With ready information, you can easily counteract or prepare to take action when problems or issues arise.

If your business is new, then it is all the more important to get a PR Agency to give you the positive exposure you need. As a start-up, chances are you don’t have a lot of budget, so you may want to just do the whole thing on your own. You can create blogs and news stories to get people to know about you and your company. However, when things are doing great in the business, you should start thinking about hiring a professional PR Agency. They can do wonders for you and your business in ways only they know how.

Many companies have already utilized PR agencies because they know it is the right thing to do. It can certainly impact the business by being able to reach out to a bigger market. If you haven’t taken advantage of this opportunity yet, then it is high time that you do. Truly, a large part of a company’s success is due to strong PR.

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Egyptian treasures found in ancient tomb

Friday, March 13, 2009

A team of archaeologists excavating an Ancient Egyptian tomb have discovered golden jewelry in a recently-discovered lower chamber at the Valley of the Kings burial site in Luxor, Egypt.

Two golden rings and five golden earrings were found in the tomb of Djehuty, an 18th-dynasty official of Queen Hatshepsut, and were probably the property of Djehuty or his family.

The discovery was announced by Farouk Hosni, Egypt’s current Minister of Culture.

Djehuty was overseer of the treasury and overseer of works for the Queen. Hatshepsut reigned approximately 1479–1458 BCE. Djehuty was responsible for managing the huge amounts of precious goods brought in from Egypt’s military expedition to Punt in the Horn of Africa and the vast building projects of Hatshepsut which have made the female pharaoh one of the most-remembered of any from ancient Egypt.

Djehuty died after Hatshepsut did, sometime during the reign of Thutmosis III. Both Hatshepsut’s and Thutmosis’s names are recorded on the tomb. In a fashion typical of ancient Egyptian rivalries, Hatshepsut’s name was partly obscured on the monument over the tomb sometime after the queen’s death.

The team, led by José Manuel Galán of the National Research Center (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIC), in Madrid, Spain, had been excavating the tomb, designated TT11 and located in the necropolis of Dra’ Abu el-Naga’, since 2002. While much of Djehuty’s funerary equipment was lost to fire in antiquity, the lower chamber of his tomb was concealed at the end of a three-meter shaft and discovered at the end of 2008.

A superficial description of the tomb itself was recorded almost two hundred years ago by 19th-century French Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion, rubble blocking the entrance hindered excavation until the 21st century. In that time, emphasis in Egyptology has changed from the cataloging of treasures to the investigation of ancient culture, life and religion.

Since excavation began, Djehuty’s tomb has yielded a number of surprises. It was discovered that the tomb was re-used repeatedly up to and during the Greco-Roman period. There is an unusual face-on depiction of pharaoh Thutmosis III hunting ducks, and the mummy of a young, bejewelled, as-yet unidentified woman.

In 2007, 44 preserved bunches of flowers thought to be from Djehuty’s funeral were found in the site. In their 8th season of excavation, which ended on February 22, 2009, the team also found considerable evidence that below Djehuty’s tomb is a network of burial sites from the 11th dynasty, four thousand years old.

The lower chamber also displays passages from the Egyptian funerary text the Book of the Dead on its walls and a colorful mural of the goddess Nut, an embodiment of the heavens, on the ceiling. The names of Djehuty and his parents were also intact in the second chamber; the names were defaced in the previously-known first chamber of the tomb, which had also been looted.

According to a press release from Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Djehuty’s tomb is only the fifth known decorated burial chamber of the 18th dynasty. An additional unusual feature of the tomb is that its upper chamber is decorated in relief, rather than simply paint. When the excavation is completed, Dr Galán’s team plans to open the site to the public as the carved stoneworks will not be destroyed by tourists’ activities as paint would.

The identification of Djehuty is a complicated one, as a number of officials of the 18th dynasty bore the name, including a general and several governors. The name itself is an alternate transliteration of the name of the Egyptian god usually written in English as Thoth.

 

Bluetongue disease appears in UK for the first time

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The first ever case of Bluetongue disease has been reported in the UK. The case involves a cow at a farm near Ipswich, Suffolk.

Bluetongue affects ruminants such as sheep and cows, but is not known to affect humans. It is sometimes fatal, depending on the animals affected, and presently has no treatment. The disease was prevalent in Africa for many years and had since migrated to European nations such as France and Germany, causing officials had feared a UK outbreak in the UK follows recent outbreaks of the disease on the European continent in nations such as France and Germany.

Experts such as microbiology professor Hugh Pennington of Aberdeen University had suspected the disease would eventually spread to the UK.

 

500 stranded melon-headed whales rescued in Philippine bay

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Philippine fishermen, volunteers and authorities with dozens of fishing boats have joined hands in guiding back to sea about 500 disorientated melon-headed whales that were stranded in the shallow waters near the mouth of Manila Bay delta in the Bataan Peninsula.

The gentle mammals were first spotted swimming back and forth and straying very dangerously close (about a mile or 1.6 kilometers) to the shores of the coastal towns of Pilar, Orion and Abucay 135 kilometers northwest of Manila at around at around 4:00 am on Tuesday, said Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commodore Luis Tuazon and Bataan Governor Enrique Garcia Jr.

The Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said its has responded to the reported mass “stranding” of whales off Pilar coastal waters in the province of Bataan where the famous and historic Corregidor Island is located.

Using dozens of fishing boats with machines shut down and bare hands, more than 100 village fishermen and volunteers along with BFAR, local police and Philippine Coast Guard personnel have joined the massive rescue. With great difficulty, the emergency team has waded into the chest-deep water, clapping their hands and hitting the surface to guide and drive the whales farther away from the coastal shore to deeper waters.

“The mammals were at first thought to have been dolphins, but experts then identified them as melon-headed whales,” local veterinarian Mariel Flores said. “This type of whale can be easily mistaken for dolphins because of their size and their teeth, which resemble those of dolphins. The mammals have ears that are sensitive to large changes in pressure underwater,” she added.

This type of [melon-headed] whale can be easily mistaken for dolphins because of their size and their teeth, which resemble those of dolphins. If their eardrums are damaged they become disorientated and they float up to the surface.

“It looked like they never wanted to leave. They looked sad,” said Rodolfo Joson, a village councilor. Joson and his son, Joey, a fisherman like him, have rushed home at about 4 a.m. to report the pod sighting. “It was still dark when we waded into the water. The whales were about 200 meters from the shore. The water was up to my neck. We first checked their conditions by playing with them. They did not repel us or leave. They were making hooting sounds,” Joson explained the mass beaching. “It seemed they were running away from waters that they didn’t like. Dolphins are happy and strong creatures. They raced with ships,” he added.

A post-mortem examination has revealed that four dead whales found beached farther up north in Abucay, Bataan, include two adult females, one of which was pregnant, while the other gave birth to a calf that also died, said Dr. Lemnuel Aragones of Ocean Adventure in Subic Freeport who did the necropsy at the Bataan fisheries office in Balanga City.

This is the first time that such large numbers of dolphins had been stranded in the Philippines. “We are trying to come up with a possible explanation to this unusual occurrence. It could be that the dolphins had lost their bearings and inadvertently ended up on the shallow portion of the coast unable to extricate themselves,” said Dr Lemuel Aragones, Associate Professor at the UP Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology.

Dr Aragones, who holds a PhD on Tropical Environmental Studies (Marine Ecology) from Australia’s James Cook University, explained that “the melon-headed whales of the dolphin family have sophisticated navigation systems that operate on a principle similar to sonar instruments used in submarines. Like humans, dolphins also follow a ‘leader’ of their pod. It is possible that the leader of this dolphin [pod] had somehow lost its way. In turn, the leader’s acoustic system, which serves as its guidance system, might have been impaired,” the marine expert elaborated.

Dr Aragones said “BFAR, UPIESM, and the Ocean Adventure Marine Park in Subic started the Philippine Marine Mammals Stranding Network (PMMSN) in 2005 as a response to cetacean strandings or beachings.” She cited the PMMSN training received by BFAR officers in Bataan during Tuesday’s mass beaching. She has asked the government to release funds for marine mammal studies.

The two adults had damaged eardrums, Alberto Venturina, the provincial veterinarian, said. “Dolphins with injured eardrums become disoriented, cannot dive for food and are too weak to swim and just flow with the current. If it’s a sick leader, the animal needs to be identified and taken out of sight of the rest of the pod so the healthy dolphins could be prodded back to sea,” he added.”The two animals were identified as melon-headed dolphins, weighing about 250 to 300 kilograms (550 to 660 pounds),” explained Venturina, adding “the third dolphin was only a month old and measured barely a meter long. Its gender had not yet been determined.”

According to Nelson Bien, head of the Fisheries Resource and Management Division of BFAR Region III, a necropsy by BFAR, the provincial veterinarian, and veterinarians from the Ocean Adventure in Subic Freeport has traced the cause of their death to drowning.

The marine doctors have determined that the marine mammals might have drowned after failing to extricate themselves from the fishing nets or “baklad,” explained Dr. Mundita Lim, director of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). “There were no injuries to their ears, like visible lesions, but the possibility of an acoustic problem or trauma is still there,” Dr Lim explained, saying, “more tests, like analysis of tissue samples and MRI tests will have to be done to see if there were other injuries to the animals not visible externally.”

They are sending tissue samples to the University of Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna for analysis. “If it was something like climate change, then it would be a bigger environmental problem,” Lim added.

A fourth and pregnant one was also found dead in the village of Tortugas in the town of Balanga, Bataan, said Bien, saying they were investigating the incident and would conduct a “water quality and water parameter test” to determine why the dolphins beached to shallow waters. The condition of melon-headed whale found at Talisay River and taken to Ocean Adventure in Subic Freeport has improved amid forced feeding and treatment of its 2 wounds, said Nilo Ramoso, Biologist III, Pawikan Conservation Project.

Dr. Westly Rosario, BFAR Center chief in Dagupan City, has reported that BFAR personnel were also investigating a “problem in the water, probably chemical pollution,” to explain why the dolphins beached and sought shelter in the shallow waters. The dolphins have faced the same direction and their blowholes above water, they seemed to be avoiding something. “The dolphins were behaving in the same way, they have the same action. People were trying to drive them back into the sea but they refused. There could be chemical pollution somewhere which they were avoiding,” Rosario explained.

Dolphins’ disorientation is sometimes caused by the changes in earth’s magnetic field “that cause the dolphins’ navigational mechanisms to go haywire,” Dr. Edgardo Gomez, professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, said, adding that “it could also be chemicals in the water that affected the dolphins, although this should be proven by water tests.” Philippine marine biologist Rizza Salinas said a possible cause for the stranding of large pods of distressed whales is that there could have been illegal dynamite fishing in the area.

“This is very strange. What is also unusual is they appeared disoriented. I am on my way to Bataan on board BFAR’s patrol vessel. We will look into the situation. Our patrol boats are also on their way to the area. We are also getting experts on stranding,” said BFAR director Malcolm Sarmiento Jr. Sarmiento, explaining that the highest number of stranded dolphins recorded by the BFAR was only 20 to 30. “It’s something unusual. It’s the first time that such a large pod has entered Manila Bay, and is acting strangely,” Sarmiento added.

“Most strandings are caused by seaquakes, heat wave or disturbances at sea. Such disturbances affect the pressure underwater, which subsequently affects the dolphins’ eardrums and sense of balance, leading to their “disorientation.” The creatures then will avoid diving in deeper parts of the ocean and will swim to shallow areas. They came from the north and were headed towards the South China Sea,” Sarmiento explained, adding that the unusual occurrence may have also been caused when the pod could have been following a sick or injured leader.

Sarmiento has appealed to the public not to inflict harm on the dolphins, which are considered threatened species. “Please do not harm the dolphins because they are already endangered. The authorities should also prevent the people who want to inflict harm on the creatures. They should be arrested, if needed.” Melon-head dolphins are considered threatened species — meaning they are likely to become endangered in the future.

“At around 12 noon, the dolphins were finally guided to the open seas, but residents in Hermosa near Mariveles were surprised to see the dolphins near their shoreline, but around 4:30 pm, all the dolphins have left the shoreline and swam towards into deeper waters,” said Governor Garcia.

“The dolphins swam parallel back to Abucay, Hermosa, and Manila Bay before they were eventually herded farther offshore. There are theories that this phenomenon was a result of the Monday night lunar eclipse. The Fisheries Bureau will know after their tests,” Garcia added.

Having suspected the dolphins’ habitat must have been disrupted, forcing them to flee and seek refuge in shallow waters, Senate of the Philippines Majority Leader, Juan Miguel Zubiri on Tuesday asked experts to probe the cause of the sudden appearance of more than 300 electra dolphins near the shores of Pilar town in Bataan province Tuesday morning.

Senator Zubiri wanted the experts to examine the possibility that an earthquake study, involving an undersea experiment using blasting in the South China Sea by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (L-DEO) – a collaborator of Columbia University – caused the abnormal behavior of the small whales.

Citing an International Union for Conservation of Nature research concluding that the melon-headed whales may have been distracted by the South China Sea study, forcing the dolphins to wander in the shallow waters, Senator Zubiri said that “the earthquake study is a sea floor investigation project in the exclusive economic zone that includes Taiwan, China, Japan and the Philippines for its earthquake research. On top of saving stranded dolphins, we should find the cause for the tragedy in order to avoid them in the future and to be prepared when it occurs again,” he explained.

But according to Erlinton Olavare, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) science research specialist, “no significant event was recorded by their stations in Bolinao, Sta. Cruz and Lubag, near Pilar at the time the dolphins were stranded Tuesday.”

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Jose L. Atienza, Jr. said Bataan Gov. Enrique “Tet” Garcia on Wednesday confirmed there was dynamite fishing in his province. “I asked him [Garcia] and he confirmed it. He also said he was battling this illegal activity,” said Atienza. “The causes of the acoustic trauma could have been sound waves caused by dynamite fishing or sounds emitted by passing ships or seaquakes,” Gov. Garcia said.

“Dolphins are a ‘cohesive’ group and that they follow where their leader takes them. If the leader of the dolphins was sick, then the animal could have committed a “navigational error” and led the rest of the group to shore,” said the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).

“The pod of melon-headed whales (dolphins) on Manila Bay were injured by a rather nasty group of more than 120 undersea earthquakes. The swarm started with a small magnitude-4.5 event on December 21, 2008. Things got red-hot on January 3, 2009 when a magnitude-7.6 event erupted near the water’s edge on Papua Island in Indonesia, 700 miles southeast of Davao City in Mindanao. The 7.6 magnitude quake was followed by more than 120 major aftershocks each one capable by itself of inflicting injury on a pod of dolphins,” said Capt. David Williams, a retired marine mammal researcher, a commercial sea captain for 40 years and active whale conservationist.

Capt. Williams explained that whales and dolphins have small air sacs (pterygoid sinuses) that surround each inner ear and help then sense sound direction underwater. A damaged pterygoid air sac results in the loosing of echonavigation and echolocation. “In summary, my Seaquake Theory indicates that barotrauma, as a result of exposure to potent earthquake-induced changes in ambient pressure, solves the centuries-old mystery of why whales and dolphins mass-strand on beaches around the world,” Capt. Williams concluded.

An explosive blast and explosive decompression create a pressure wave that can induce barotrauma. The difference in pressure between internal organs and the outer surface of the body causes injuries to internal organs that contain gas, such as the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and ear.

According to the Natural History Museum experts, whale and dolphins can become confused, mis-read the Earth’s magnetic fields, fear certain sounds and get lost. Since 1913, it has investigated all strandings, more than 11,000 so far, and it runs the UK Whale and Dolphin Stranding Scheme.

New Zealand‘s Project Jonah has claimed that the largest recorded beach stranding was in 1918 when 1,000 pilot whales were stranded on New Zealand’s Chatham Islands.

The last mass beaching in the Philippines was in 1956 when around 12 sperm whales were stranded in a coastal area in Capiz, amid at least 10 yearly strandings that happened in the country involving only one or two animals that were either sick or dying.

Last January this year, Filipino fishermen have also rescued an endangered sea cow. The fishermen aided the beached sea cow to the deep sea, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

The Melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra; many-toothed blackfish and electra dolphin) is a cetacean of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae). As small members of the dolphingroup, it is closely related to the Pygmy Killer Whale and Pilot Whale, and collectively these dolphin species are known by the common name blackfish.

The tender mammal can grow up to 2.7 meters (9 feet) and weigh as much as 210 kilograms (460pounds). With black triangular “mask” on its face, it appears dark gray to black in color, has no discernible beak and its head is shaped like a rounded melon, thus the name. Its primary diet is squid and fish. The Melon-headed whale lives well off-shore in all the world’s tropical and sub-tropical oceans.

At the northern fringes of its range it may also be found in the warm currents of temperate waters. Ordinarily, however, it is found beyond the continental shelf between 20° S and 20° N. The Melon-headed whale is widespread throughout the world’s tropical waters, although not often seen by humans on account of its preference for deep water. It has been found in Ireland, Hawaii and Cebu, in the Philippines.

As social species, they are covered by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 in the United States. In July 2004, between 150 and 200 melon-headed whales occupied the shallow waters of Kauai island in Hawaii for over 28 hours, after which, they were rescued and guided to deeper water. This incident may have been related to nearby United States Navy sonar exercise.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which includes the melon-headed whales in its Red List of threatened species said that the number of whales involved in mass stranding had increased in the last 30 years.

“The melon-headed whales are likely to be “vulnerable” to loud sounds, such as those generated by navy sonar and seismic exploration. Evidence from stranded whales also has indicated that they may have died after swallowing plastic items. It has been predicted that the whales will be affected by global climate change, but the impact is still unclear,” the IUCN explained.

 

Payment pending; Canadian recording industry set for six billion penalties?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A report published last week in the Toronto Star by Professor Michael Geist of Canada’s University of Ottawa claims a copyright case under the Class Proceedings Act of 1992 may see the country’s largest players in the music industry facing upwards of C$6 billion in penalties.

The case is being led by the family and estate of the late jazz musician Chet Baker; moving to take legal action against four major labels in the country, and their parent companies. The dispute centres around unpaid royalties and licensing fees for use of Baker’s music, and hundreds of thousands of other works. The suit was initially filed in August last year, but amended and reissued on October 6, two months later. At that point both the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) and Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors (SODRAC) were also named defendants.

January this year SODRAC and CMRRA switch sides, joining Baker et al. as plaintiffs against Sony BMG Music, EMI Music Canada, Universal Music Canada and Warner Music Canada. David A. Basskin, President and CEO of CMRRA, with a professional law background, stated in a sworn affidavit that his organisation made numerous attempts over the last 20 years to reduce what is known as the “pending list”, a list of works not correctly licensed for reproduction; a list of copyright infringements in the eyes of the Baker legal team.

The theoretical principle of the list is to allow timely commercial release while rights and apportionment of monies due are resolved. Basskin complains that it is “economically infeasible to implement the systems that would be needed to resolve the issues internally”. And, “[…] for their part, the record labels have generally been unwilling to take the steps that, in the view of CMRRA, would help to resolve the problem.”

The Baker action demands that the four named major labels pay for and submit to an independent audit of their books, “including the contents of the ‘Pending Lists'”. Seeking an assessment of gains made by the record companies in “failure or refusal to compensate the class members for their musical works”, additional demands are for either damages and profits per the law applicable in a class action, or statutory damages per the Copyright Act for copyright infringement.

[…] for their part, the record labels have generally been unwilling to take the steps that, in the view of CMRRA, would help to resolve the problem.

This forms the basis for Professor Geist’s six billion dollar calculation along with Basskin’s sworn testimony that the pending lists cover over 300,000 items; with each item counted as an infringement, the minimum statutory damages per case are CA$500, the maximum $20,000.

Basskin’s affidavit on behalf of CMRRA goes into detail on the history leading up to the current situation and class action lawsuit; a previous compulsory license scheme, with poor recordkeeping requirements, and which, had a decline in real terms to one of the lowest fees in the world, was eventually abolished and the mechanical license system introduced. The CMRRA went on to become a significant representative of music publishers and copyright holders, and the pending list an instrument to deal with situations where mechanical rights were as-yet not completely negotiated. Basskin’s affidavit claiming the list grew and circumstances worsened as time progressed.

The Mechanical Licensing Agreement (MLA) between the “majors'” industry body, an attached exhibit to the affidavit, is set to expire December 31, 2012; this is between CMRRA and the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA). With the original MLA expiring at end September 1990, CMRRA negotiated more detailed terms and a “code of conduct”. Subsequent agreements were drawn up in 1998, 2004, 2006, and 2008.

Basskin asserts that the named record company defendants are the “major” labels in Canada and states they “are also responsible for creating, maintaining and administering the so-called “Pending Lists” that are the subject of the current litigation”; that, specific to publishing, divisions of the four represent the “‘major’ music publishers active in Canada”. Yet the number of music publishers they represent has decreased over time due to consolidation and defection from the CRIA.

Geist summarizes the record company strategy as “exploit now, pay later if at all”. This despite the CMRRA and SODRAC being required to give lists of all collections they represented to record labels, and for record labels to supply copies of material being released to permit assessment of content that either group may represent interested parties for. Where actual Mechanical License Agreements are in place, Basskin implies their terms are particularly broad and preclude any party exercising their legal right to decline to license.

Specific to the current Mechanical Licensing Agreement (MLA) between the CMRRA and the CRIA; a “label is required to provide an updated cumulative Pending List to CMRRA with each quarterly payment of royalties under the MLA.” The CMRRA is required to review the list and collect where appropriate royalties and interest due. Basskin describes his first encounter with pending lists, having never heard of them before 1989, thus:

[…I]n the early years of my tenure, CRMMA received Pending Lists from the record labels in the form of paper printouts of information. The information contained on these lists varied from record label to record label, [… i]n fact, within a few days after my arrival at CMRRA, I recall my predecessor, Paul Berry, directing my attention to a large stack of paper, about two feet high. and informing me that it was PolyGram’s most recent Pending List. Prior to that introduction I had never heard of Pending Lists.

Alain Lauzon, General Manager of Canada’s Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (SODRAC) submitted his followup affidavit January 28, 2009 to be attached to the case and identify the society as a plaintiff. As such, he up-front states “I have knowledge of the matters set out herein.” Lauzon, a qualified Chartered Accountant with an IT specialisation, joined SODRAC in 2002 with “over 20 years of business experience.” He is responsible for “negotiation and administration of industry-wide agreements for the licensing of music reproduction and distribution”; licensing of radio and online music services use is within his remit.

Lauzon makes it clear that Baker’s estate, other rightsholders enjoined to the case, SODRAC, and CMRRA, have reached an agreed settlement; they wish to move forward with a class proceeding against the four main members of the CRIA. He requests that the court recognise this in relation to the initially accepted case from August 2008.

The responsibility to obtain mechanical licenses for recordings manufactured and/or released in Canada falls with the Canadian labels by law, by industry custom, and by contractual agreement.

The preamble of the affidavit continues to express strong agreement with that of David Basskin from CMRRA. Lauzon concurs regarding growing use of “pending lists” and that “[…] record labels have generally been unwilling to take the steps that would help to resolve the Pending List problem.”

With his background as an authority, Lauzon states with confidence that SODRAC represents “approximately 10 to 15% of all musical works that are reproduced on sound recordings sold in Canada.” For Quebec the figure is more than 50%.

Lauzon agrees that the four named record company defendants are the “major” labels in Canada, and that smaller independent labels will usually work with them or an independent distribution company; and Basskin’s statement that “[t]he responsibility to obtain mechanical licenses for recordings manufactured and/or released in Canada falls with the Canadian labels by law, by industry custom, and by contractual agreement.”

Wikinews attempted to contact people at the four named defendant CRIA-member record labels. The recipient of an email that Wikinews sent to Warner Brothers Canada forwarded our initial correspondence to Hogarth PR; the other three majors failed to respond in a timely fashion. Don Hogarth responded to Wikinewsie Brian McNeil, and, without addressing any of the submitted questions, recommended a blog entry by Barry Sookman as, what he claimed is, a more accurate representation of the facts of the case.

I am aware of another viewpoint that provides a reasonably deep explanation of the facts, at www.barrysookman.com. If you check the bio on his site, you’ll see that he is very qualified to speak on these issues. This may answer some of your questions. I hope that helps.

Sookman is a lobbyist at the Canadian Parliament who works in the employ of the the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA). Hogarth gave no indication or disclosure of this; his direction to the blog is to a posting with numerous factual inaccuracies, misdirecting statements, or possibly even lies; if not lies, Sookman is undoubtedly not careful or “very qualified” in the way he speaks on the issue.

Sookman’s blog post opens with a blast at Professor Geist: “his attacks use exaggeration, misleading information and half truths to achieve his obvious ends”. Sookman attempts to dismiss any newsworthiness in Geist’s article;

[… A]s if something new has happened with the case. In fact, the case was started in August 2008 (not October 2008 as asserted by Prof. Geist). It also hasn’t only been going on “for the past year”, as he claims. Chet Baker isn’t “about to add a new claim to fame”. Despite having started over a year and a half ago, the class action case hasn’t even been certified yet. So why the fervour to publicise the case now?
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Should the court use admitted unpaid amounts, or maximum statutory damages – as the record industry normally seeks against filesharers?
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As the extracted [see right] stamp, date, and signature, shows, the court accepted amendments to the case and its submission, as Professor Geist asserts, on October 6. The previously mentioned submissions by the heads of CMRRA and SODRAC were indeed actions within the past year; that of SODRAC’s Alain Louzon being January 28 this year.

Sookman continues his attack on Professor Geist, omitting that the reverse appears the case; analysis of his blog’s sitemap reveals he wrote a 44-page attack on Professor Geist in February 2008, accusing him of manipulating the media and using influence on Facebook to oppose copyright reform favourable to the CRIA. In the more current post he states:

Prof. Geist tries to taint the recording industry as blatant copyright infringers, without ever delving into the industry wide accepted custom for clearing mechanical rights. The pending list system, which has been around for decades, represents an agreed upon industry wide consensus that songwriters, music publishers (who represent songwriters) and the recording industry use and rely on to ensure that music gets released and to the market efficiently and the proper copyright owners get compensated.

This characterisation of the pending list only matches court records in that it “has been around for decades”. CMRRA’s Basskin, a lawyer and industry insider, goes into great detail on the major labels resisting twenty years of collective societies fighting, and failing, to negotiate a situation where the labels take adequate measures to mechanically license works and pay due fees, royalties, and accrued interest.

What Sookman clearly overlooks is that, without factoring in any interest amounts, the dollar value of the pending list is increasing, as shown with the following two tables for mid-2008.

As is clear, there is an increase of C$1,101,987.83 in a three-month period. Should this rate of increase in the value of the pending list continue and Sony’s unvalued pending list be factored in, the CRIA’s four major labels will have an outstanding debt of at least C$73 million by end-2012 when the association’s Mechanical Licensing Agreement runs out.