Monday, 6 October 2008

A Place in the Auvergne, Monday, 6th October 2008



I had a nightmare last night, and this is rare. I was in Munich, something went wrong, I can't remember what. I woke up, my head in intense pain, rocking on the side of the bed.

I leave today for The Shop, just the week when the colours of The Valley will change a shade of yellow to golden brown. I have my usual regrets and anxieties.

Autumn's passage and the onset of winter is announced by meeting the brother and sister on the lane leading to the school bus this morning, bringing their horses down from the mountain to the autumn pasture and winter fields below our house. Most of the blackberries are shrivelled and gone, a few rest, but when I see the end of the summer estive of these hardy mountain horses, I know that on my return it will be time to think of putting on the snow tires.

I'm worried about many things, mundane, complex, ancient. I'm worried our pigs will be too cold and that is the least of those worries.

The shooting season is open and chasseurs and poachers are about. There is an allocation for our commune of 57 deer to be shot this year, but already the word is that there are fewer this year; why no one can say. Do they hide from something we do not know about or has the year taken its toll already?

One in four mammals facing extinction
By James Kanter
Monday, October 6, 2008
BARCELONA: An "extinction crisis" is under way with one in four mammals in danger of disappearing forever because of habitat loss, hunting and climate change, a leading global conservation body warned Monday.
"Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions," said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an international network of campaign groups, governments, scientists and other experts. She called the findings "a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live."
Among 188 mammals in the highest threat category - those critically endangered - was the Iberian lynx, which has a population of between 84 and 143 adults and has continued to decline due to a shortage of its primary prey, the European rabbit, which has fallen victim to disease and over-hunting.
The findings on mammals were presented at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona and they form part of a so-called Red List of Threatened Species issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Red List is issued annually, but the research on mammals was the most detailed study done by the group in more than a decade.
Other mammals cited by experts included the fishing cat, found in Southeast Asia. The cat has moved to the second most threatened category, endangered, from vulnerable, because of habitat loss in wetlands. The Caspian seal also was moved to the endangered category from vulnerable. The population of the seal had declined by 90 percent over the past 100 years.
"What we've found is that one in four mammals are truly in peril but these assessments were done largely without accounting for the potential impacts of climate change," said Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation programs at the Zoological Society of London.
"If we continue emitting greenhouse gases at the current rate, we're looking at 40 percent loss of biodiversity by the end of the century," said Baillie, referring to the potential extinction of all species.
Jan Schipper, director of the global mammal assessment for International Union for Conservation of Nature and for Conservation International, an environmental group, said it was hard to draw a direct comparison with the findings on mammals from 1996, when they were last surveyed in similar detail. The number of species identified had in many cases risen, others had been discovered and the criteria used to assess species had been changed to make them more broadly applicable across all animals and plants. But he gave a mostly bleak assessment.
"Although five percent of mammals are recovering, what we observe are rates of habitat loss and hunting in Southeast Asia, Central Africa, and Central and South America that are so serious that the overall rate of decline has steadily increased during the past decade," Schipper said. The conservation group said that amphibians also were facing an extinction crisis, with 32 percent either threatened or extinct.
Holdridge's toad, found only in Costa Rica, was moved to the extinct category. It previously was critically endangered but has not been seen since 1986 despite intensive surveys.
The Cuban crocodile was moved to the critically endangered category from endangered because of population declines as a result of illicit hunting for its meat and its skin, used in clothing. Among species on the list for the first time were Indian tarantulas, highly prized by collectors and threatened by the international pet trade. Spiders also face habitat loss due to new roads and settlements.
Experts said there had been progress in some areas since their last assessment.
The African elephant, for example, had been removed from the vulnerable list and was now "near threatened" although its status varied depending on location. The group said increases in the population of the elephants in southern and eastern Africa were big enough to outweigh any decreases that may be taking place elsewhere.
One new reptile assessed this year was the La Palma giant lizard, which is found on one of the Canary Islands. Experts thought the lizard had become extinct. But it was rediscovered last year and now is listed as critically endangered.

Pope says financial crisis shows money an illusion
Monday, October 6, 2008
VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict said on Monday that the global financial crisis showed that faith in God trumped a lifetime spent pursuing material wealth.
"We see it now in the collapse of the great banks that money disappears, it's nothing," the Pontiff said.
The global financial turmoil, the worst since the Great Depression, has wiped away hundreds of billions of euros (dollars) in shareholder wealth and felled banking institutions that just months ago seemed untouchable.
The pontiff, using a biblical metaphor, said people who ignored the word of God to pursue wealth had effectively built their homes on sand instead of on a solid foundation of faith.
It was a possible reference to the collapse of the U.S. housing market, which triggered the financial crisis.
"Whoever builds his life on this reality, on material things, on success ... builds (his house) on sand. Only the word of God is the foundation of all reality," he said.
(Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Sami Aboudi)

In debt, man kills himself and his family
By Rebecca Cathcart
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
LOS ANGELES: In a suicide note, Karthik Rajaram wrote that he had considered killing only himself because of his financial troubles, but decided to take his family with him.
Rajaram, 45, shot his wife, three sons and mother-in-law in their bedrooms during the weekend, the police said, then shot himself. The police found him on Monday on the floor of a bedroom his youngest sons shared, close to their bodies.
On Tuesday, friends and colleagues said they were stunned to learn of the killings and unaware of the family's financial problems. The police said that in one of his two suicide notes, Rajaram said he was "broke," having lost the majority of his assets in the plummeting stock market. The police said he had been planning the killings for weeks.
Rajaram in 1999 registered a private holding company, SKGL LLC, in Nevada to manage his family's assets, said his lawyer, Christopher Grobl of Las Vegas, and renewed the company's license last December.
Grobl said he had overseen nonfinancial filings for the company and did not know its worth. Rajaram had been unemployed for several months, the police said.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he worked for Sony Pictures in Los Angeles. He then took a job in the Century City office of the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, said Greg Robinson, a former colleague there.
Robinson said he became friends with Rajaram and hired him in 2003 to work at Azur Partners, a management consulting firm Robinson co-founded. But Rajaram proved unreliable at work, he said, and Robinson fired him 10 months later.
"He was extremely bright and capable but emotionally unstable," Robinson said. "We suspected that there was more going on in his life, deeper issues."
A 2001 article in The Daily Telegraph of London said Rajaram had earned about £875,000, or $1.2 million, after a voluntary liquidation of NanoUniverse, a company he had founded. His initial investment was £12,500, The Telegraph said.
Robinson said that Rajaram had been involved in various business ventures after that, but that the men had not spoken since 2005.
"I wish he'd called me - I would have helped him," Robinson said, adding: "He was not a violent person. This is very hard to fathom."
Indira Parthasarathy, 72, who was friends with Rajaram's wife, Subasri, 39, and her mother, Indra Ramasehan, 69, said the couple's three sons were standout students. Two of them, Ganesha, 12, and Arjuna, 7, attended schools near the family's home.
The eldest son, Krishna, 19, was in his second year at the University of California, Los Angeles, taking business and economics classes. He had a full scholarship, said Claudia Luther, a university spokeswoman.
Victor Bhattacharjee, 22, who was president of the South Asian fraternity Delta Phi Beta when Krishna Rajaram pledged last year, said his friend seemed close to his family, going home every weekend.
"He definitely respected his father; he made that obvious," Bhattacharjee said. "He mentioned that his father always knew the right thing to do."
Detective Humberto Fajardo of the Los Angeles Police Department said Rajaram had written two suicide notes, one addressed to the police and one to two friends. In them, he described losing his money in the stock market. He wrote that he had "broken down emotionally, physically and financially," Fajardo said.
On Monday morning, a family friend went to the home after Subasri Rajaram had missed her usual ride to work at a medical billing company. The friend called the police after finding the house uncharacteristically quiet, with both cars in the driveway and newspapers on the doorstep.

Quake hits China a day after one in Kyrgyzstan
Monday, October 6, 2008
BEIJING: An earthquake struck western China on Monday, a day after another leveled a village in Kyrgyzstan. Scores of people died and hundreds of houses collapsed in the quakes, officials said.
The earthquake Monday jolted Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, killing 30 people, the official Xinhua press agency said. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake measured 6.6 and struck at 4:30 p.m.
Xinhua said hundreds of houses had collapsed near the epicenter, about 80 kilometers, or 50 miles, west of Lhasa. Rescuers were trying to reach people still trapped under rubble, the agency said.
The earthquake Sunday rocked Kyrgyzstan, leveling a remote mountain village and killing about 70 people, officials said.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake measured 6.6 and struck at around 10 p.m. Sunday in the Osh region in the south of the former Soviet republic. It flattened Nura, a town of about 960 residents and 400 houses near the Chinese border.
"The picture we saw was frightening," the emergency situations minister, Kamchybek Tashiyev, said. "The village of Nura is fully destroyed, 100 percent."
Casualties were being transported by helicopter from the isolated village to Osh, a city 200 kilometers away.
President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, who is scheduled to arrive in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday for a summit meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a grouping of former Soviet republics, expressed his condolences and promised to provide assistance to the stricken area.
Kyrgyzstan hosts a Russian air base and a NATO base used for supply operations in Afghanistan. In 2005, President Askar Akayev was deposed in a popular uprising and replaced by Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Central Asia is prone to earthquakes. On May 12 an quake measuring 7.9 devastated a swath of Sichuan Province, just east of Tibet, killing 70,000 people and leaving five million homeless.
The quake Monday was centered in Dangxiong County, the Chinese State Seismological Bureau said. The county has a population of about 42,000, mostly herdsmen.
A Xinhua reporter in Lhasa said shops remained open and that there was no panic in the streets.
Quake shakes central Afghanistan
Monday, October 6, 2008
KABUL: A strong earthquake measuring 5.9 struck central Afghanistan Monday but there were no immediate reports of any casualties.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said on its website the quake's magnitude was 5.9 and its epicentre was at a depth of 10 km (6 miles) and 70 km (45 miles) southeast of the capital, Kabul. The quake occurred at about 3.26 am local time.
Thousands of people were killed by earthquakes in northern Badakhshan province in the late 1990s.
On March 25, 2002, at least 1,500 people were killed when a series of quakes of between magnitude 5 and 6 struck northern Baghlan province in the Hindu Kush mountains, destroying the district capital of Nahrin.
(Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Valerie Lee)
Quakes hit China's remote west
Monday, October 6, 2008
BEIJING: Strong earthquakes hit China's remote western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet on Monday, after a weekend quake in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan killed up to 70 people and levelled a village.
The quake in Tibet was a magnitude 6.6 tremor that hit at 4.30 pm local time (0830 GMT) around 80 km (50 miles) west of the regional capital Lhasa, the U.S. Geological Survey said on its website (http:/
Residents in the city said they had felt the quake, but there was no visible damage. Closer to the epicentre, in the county of Qushui, buildings shook and windows rattled but a hospital official said there were no reports of any injuries.
It was followed around 15 minutes later by a 5.1 magnitude shock in a similar area.
Just after midnight local time a magnitude 5.7 quake hit an area near China's western border with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, about 20 minutes after a stronger quake that struck nearby in Kyrgyzstan


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