Native Indian Class Action Lawsuit Scores $680 Million From USDA

North American Native peoples
North American Native peoples -- click to enlarge

On Thursday this week a nationwide class action lawsuit was settled. The historic Keepseagle settlement agreement requires the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to pay $680 million in damages to thousands of Native Americans and to forgive up to $80 million in outstanding farm loan debt.

The Indians filed the Keepseagle class action lawsuit 11 years ago. They alleged that for three decades Native American farmers were denied the opportunity to obtain low-interest rate loans and loan servicing from the USDA. The Indians alleged that this resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in economic losses for Indian farmers. They said that these loans were given instead to their white neighbors.

Native American Indians once inhabited the present United States from Coast to Coast. Today they number 4.9 Million (2008). Apart from language, the differences between Indian tribes is barely perceptible. They were once grouped into eight radically distinct languages, four of which are still in existence today.

Ant Fungus Farmers Hold the Answers for Human Farmers

Weaver Ants farming aphids
Weaver Ants farming aphids, carrying them to different plants to ‘milk’ the aphids of their sugary liquid excretion

With the Earth’s population exploding and nearly every arable acre already cultivated, the future of farming is a looming concern. For inspiration science is looking to the leaf-cutter ant which has mastered single crop agriculture and represents the apex of ant agriculture.

Monoculture crops are the rule in modern agriculture. This is why modern crops are especially vulnerable to disease. A pathogen that can infect one plant will likely be infectious to the rest.

Today the banana industry is being threatened by a fungus known as Tropical Race Four. This infection has resisted every counter-measure and may eventually doom modern bananas altogether.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the latest crisis has hit the Australian Pistachio nut industry. In December 2010 torrential rainfalls created ideal conditions for an outbreak of the moisture-loving anthracnose fungus. Australia’s pistachios originate almost entirely from a single cultivar developed in the early 1980s. Continue reading “Ant Fungus Farmers Hold the Answers for Human Farmers”

New Contender For World’s Hottest Chilli is Hot, Very Hot

Trinidad Scorpion Butch T
The super-hot Trinidad Scorpion Butch T chilli, the latest contender for the title of Worlds Hottest Chilli

Trinidad Scorpion Butch T Chilli. That’s the name of the new contender for the title of the World’s Hottest Chilli. Marcel de Wit, who was involved with developing and growing it had this to say about eating it:

“I had hallucinations, I had to lie down, I couldn’t walk for 20 minutes, dizzy. This chilli was so severe. I will never, ever do it again, I can tell you that.”

The fiery new chilli is rated at an incredible 1,46-million Scoville Heat Units (SHU).

To get an idea of just how hot that is pickers at the town of Morisett, 89km north of Sydney in Australia, must wear gloves and avoid any skin contact due to the acute burning sensation that would result. Workers who boil and mince the chilli into puree for sauces have to wear chemical masks and protective clothing to avoid the fumes. Continue reading “New Contender For World’s Hottest Chilli is Hot, Very Hot”

Jewish Passover and Christian Easter: What Do They Have In Common?

Detail of Da Vinci Last Supper by Giacomo Raffaelli
Detail of Da Vinci Last Supper by Giacomo Raffaelli -- click to enlarge

It is a little known fact that, in the early Eastern Christian churches, the timing of the celebration of Easter was based on the date of the Jewish Passover.

According to ancient records Jesus was crucified just before Passover. The famous last supper was the day before that. While the sacrificial lambs were being slaughtered for Passover, Jesus was undergoing crucifixion and so became the ultimate sacrificial lamb.

In the Jewish tradition Passover is the 8 day observance commemorating the freedom and exodus of the Israelites (Jewish slaves) from Egypt in 1446 BCE during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II (1279 BCE — 1213 BCE) or, according to some scholars Amenhotep II (1436 BCE — 1410 BCE).
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Fantastic Realism Art Work of Russian Artist Boris Indrikov

LEPIDOPTERA. 2001 oil on canvas 50 X 70 cm -- Artist: Boris Indrikov (click to enlarge).

Boris Indrikov is a talented and original artist born in Leningrad in 1967 and now lives and works in Moscow . From 1991 to 1997 he was a book designer and worked as an illustrator for the popular science magazine “Chemistry and Life.”

He has been a member of the Creative Union of Artists of Russia and the UNESCO International Federation of Artists since 1998.

Boris has exhibited works at a number of shows in Russia and abroad. He exhibited at the Moscow Art Fair, Art-Manezh in 2002 and 2003, and Drommar in Nykoping, Sweden in 2004. He currently works in painting, graphic design and small-form plastic. He works mainly in fantastic realism.

Indrikov’s artworks are featured in the Horizon Gallery in the Netherlands and appear in private collections all over the world including in Russia , Sweden , Germany , France , Switzerland , Japan and the United States (5 photos).
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Wild Horses at Sunset on the Bot River Estuary

Wild Horses grazing at sunset
The Bot River Wild Horses grazing at sunset -- Photo: John Bradfield

Today at sunset I strolled down to the “lagoon” otherwise known as the Bot River Estuary. Lo and behold, the wild horses were grazing on the grassy banks in the distance about 200 meters (650 feet) away.

The Bot River Estuary which lies at the edge of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve near Hermanus in the Western Cape of South Africa

Fortunately I had my camera with me and I decided to get nearer and take some photos. As I approached them the three stallions in the herd watched me carefully before deciding that I was not a threat. In the fading light I was able to take a few — uploaded here for your enjoyment (4 photos).

Continue reading “Wild Horses at Sunset on the Bot River Estuary”

South Africa’s Kirstenbosch Exhibit for 2011 Chelsea Flower Show

Designer David Davidson
Designer David Davidson With a Scale Model of the Kirstenbosch Entry -- Photo: Charles O'Leary

A scale model of the Kirstenbosch exhibit which is South Africa’s entry to the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London is seen here on display at Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town. The finished display will cover a 12 x 12 meter (39 x 39 feet) area.

Designers, David Davidson and Raymond Hudson will be exhibiting for the eighteenth time this year. For the past 35 years, the Kirstenbosch-SA Exhibit has won 30 Gold medals, two Silver-Gilt medals and three Silver medals, as well as various special awards for outstanding contributions. The two designers will win a special ‘Gold Prize’ from the Scion shop if they win another Gold Award in this year’s show.

The show will run from the 24th to 27th of May, 2011. All the plants used in the show are indigenous to South Africa. However, because some are annuals, usually flowering in Spring in South Africa, plants will be sourced from Keintzler in Germany. South African plants are a common sight in Europe where their cultivation has become quite commonplace (5 Photos).
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Terry Kobus Hermanus Based South African Artist

White Nguni Bull
White Nguni Bull - Oil on canvas 762 x 1016 -- Artist: Terry Kobus

Local artist Terry Kobus is known for exquisite paintings of South Africa’s indigenous Nguni Cattle. Armed with a camera and his artists sketchbook he rides a mountain bike into remote rural areas where these unique indigenous cattle can be found.

Terry works in oil and on wood and canvas to capture the magic of the grasslands of Zululand, the Drakensberg and the Transkei wild coast.

Terry has exhibited internationally and has a number of works featured in international collections. If you wander down Hermanus’s main street you will find him in his Originals Gallery. He has a working studio there where you can see him at work.

Originals Gallery & Framing – the studio of Overberg Artist Terry Kobus

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Rhino Massacre in South Africa Continues

Black Rhinocerous
Black Rhinocerous (Diceros bicornis) -- Photo: prob1t on Flickr

In South Africa, home to 90% of the world’s population of rhinos, a war against internationally funded rhino poachers is losing ground.

Last year 333 were killed, nearly half of them in the Kruger National Park. The year before that it was 209. The year before that, in 2008, the total jumped to a staggering 83 rhinos from a previous year total of only 17. The accelerating numbers are a real cause for concern. In the first three months of 2011 it’s already reached 81. This is in spite of some rigorous countermeasures.

Well resourced and highly organized crime syndicates are now equipped with helicopters, night vision equipment, high-tech weapons, tranquilizer darts and chain saws. The horns are taken in efficient military-style operations with little regard for the animals and often with gruesome results. Continue reading “Rhino Massacre in South Africa Continues”