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Rising ecological crimes, poaching pose challenges

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New Delhi, June 5 : With eco crimes like ivory smuggling, illegal logging and toxic waste touching record high of $258 billion globally, discovery of 40 dead tiger cubs in Thailand’s famed tiger temple and with more tigers poached in the first five months of 2016 in India than in the entire 2015, makes the “Fight Against Illegal Trade in Wildlife” a perfect theme for this World Environment Day on Sunday, June 5.

“The amount of money lost due to environmental crimes is 10,000 times greater than the amount of money spent by international agencies on combating it — just $20-30 million,” says a report by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol.

“Go Wild for Life”, says this year’s theme — and the crime syndicate has already turned towards “the wild”. Eco criminals are flush with money, and the laws are not strong enough to stop such crimes.

According to forest officials and wildlife conservators who stand as the first barrier between poachers and wildlife traffickers, the demand as well as rates for animal parts and specimens has increased over last year.

“One kilogram of rare pangolin scales would fetch a poacher around Rs 9,000-10,000 till last December; now it fetches them between Rs.18,000-20,000,” Vikram Singh Parihar, a forest officer of Madhya Pradesh, told IANS.

India in April this year hosted the ‘Third Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation’, which failed to set a stronger mandate before the world to protect the endangered species. India, at the same time, also failed to focus on other species, many of which are on the verge of extinction.

According to wildlife experts, pangolin, sea-horse, sea urchin, North Ring and Red Crown turtles, ghariyal, Gangetic sharks, Fishing Cat and Clouded Leopard are some of the species which might go extinct in a few years — given the pace at which they are being targeted.

Wildlife experts and investigators, like Debbie Banks of Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), have their hopes focused on the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties – CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) — which is to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in September — to force governments around the world to stop the “licensed victimisation” of wildlife species, like lion and tigers.

“We hope that China would be asked to disclose its stockpiles of tiger bones, which no one has access to,” Debbie Banks told IANS in a conversation.

Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has several times stressed on stiffening the penalties for eco-crimes.

As per a joint report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol, with an estimated ‘black revenue’ of $258 billion, the illegal environment trade or “Environmental Crimes” has outstripped the illegal trade in small arms.

“International criminal gangs and militant groups profit from the plunder of Earth’s resources,” a UNEP statement released on World Environment Day said.

The UNEP-Interpol report adds that environmental crime has notched an annual growth of 5-7 per cent. This is 1.9 to 3.9 times higher than Global Economic Growth, says the International Monetary Fund.

Crimes like trafficking hazardous waste, poaching and logging cost the world economy between some $91-258 billion in 2015, which was 26 per cent higher than previous estimates, while it stood at $70-213 billion in 2014.

According to government records, which experts claim widely under-report, about 3,622 cases of wildlife crime were reported in India in the last three years. A group of elephant poachers was arrested last year from Kerala with 18 elephant carcasses and 538 kg of ivory. Most of the poachers, however, go free.

“The biggest issue is sustaining prosecution and investigation efforts when it comes to wildlife crimes. Poachers arrested with tiger bones and hides get away with bail for a mere Rs 400 to 500. That is the problem we need to deal with to stop all this,” Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of wildlife conservation organisation Wildlife SOS, told IANS.

Meanwhile, the wildlife organisation Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) on Saturday discovered the rare ‘Eurasian Otter’ in Madhya Pradesh.

The fascinating discovery was made by camera trapping over a vast area of 5,800 sq. km. in extremely rugged terrain of the Satpura hills and the Kanha-Pench corridor in Madhya Pradesh done by the forest department in collaboration with WCT.

Hope appears to be returning, but the question of how to protect this newly discovered species in the backdrop of existing laws remains ambiguous.

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Male sex hormones may help treat breast cancer: Study

While endocrine therapy is standard-of-care for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, resistance to these drugs is the major cause of breast cancer mortality.

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Sydney : Researchers have found new evidence about the positive role of androgens, commonly thought of as male sex hormones but also found at lower levels in women, in breast cancer treatment.

In normal breast development, estrogen stimulates and androgen inhibits growth at puberty and throughout adult life.

Abnormal estrogen activity is responsible for the majority of breast cancers, but the role of androgen activity in this disease has been controversial.

The new research published in the journal Nature Medicine showed that androgens have potential for treatment of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer.

A cancer is called estrogen receptor positive if it has receptors for estrogen, according to Breastcancer.org.

Using cell-line and patient-derived models, the global team, including researchers at the University of Adelaide and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia, demonstrated that androgen receptor activation by natural androgen or a new androgenic drug had potent anti-tumour activity in all estrogen receptor positive breast cancers, even those resistant to current standard-of-care treatments.

In contrast, androgen receptor inhibitors had no effect.

“This work has immediate implications for women with metastatic estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, including those resistant to current forms of endocrine therapy,” said lead researcher Theresa Hickey, Associate Professor at the University of Adelaide.

“We provide compelling new experimental evidence that androgen receptor stimulating drugs can be more effective than existing (e.g. Tamoxifen) or new (e.g. Palbociclib) standard-of-care treatments and, in the case of the latter, can be combined to enhance growth inhibition,” said Wayne Tilley, Director of the Dame Roma Mitchell Cancer Research Laboratories, Adelaide Medical School, University of Adelaide.

Androgens were historically used to treat breast cancer, but knowledge of hormone receptors in breast tissue was rudimentary at the time and the treatment’s efficacy misunderstood.

Androgen therapy was discontinued due to virilising side effects and the advent of anti-estrogenic endocrine therapies.

While endocrine therapy is standard-of-care for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, resistance to these drugs is the major cause of breast cancer mortality.

“The new insights from this study should clarify the widespread confusion over the role of the androgen receptor in estrogen receptor driven breast cancer,” said Elgene Lim, a breast oncologist and Head of the Connie Johnson Breast Cancer Research Lab at the Garvan Institute.

“Given the efficacy of this treatment strategy at multiple stages of disease in our study, we hope to translate these findings into clinical trials as a new class of endocrine therapy for breast cancer.”

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Elizabeth Olsen: Nepotism creates fear that you don’t deserve the work you get

The actress added that she “always had this need to prove myself to everyone around me that I work really hard”, adding: “I couldn’t walk in a room without everyone already having an opinion.”

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Elizabeth Olsen

Los Angeles, Jan 19 : Hollywood star Elizabeth Olsen says she once thought of changing her surname and distance herself from the success of her family because it was insanity growing up in the spotlight.

“It was insanity. There were times when my sisters would always be spotted and I would be in the car with them and it would really freak me out. It has helped me navigate how I want to approach my career,” said the actress, whose older sisters are Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen.

The actress added that she “always had this need to prove myself to everyone around me that I work really hard”, adding: “I couldn’t walk in a room without everyone already having an opinion.”

Elizabeth opened up om the fears of nepotism.

“The thing about nepotism is the fear that you don’t earn or deserve the work. There was even a part of me when I was a little girl that thought if I’m gonna be an actress I’m going to go by Elizabeth Chase, which is my middle name. And then, once I started working, I was like, ‘I love my family, I like my name, I love my sisters. Why would I be so ashamed of that?’ It’s fine now,” she said.

The actress said fame has made her more of a homebody.

“Fame has also made me someone who is more of a homebody than maybe I would like to be but I know where not to go. If I could do whatever I wanted for the day, I’d start with the gym, then I’d go to the grocery store, because it’s my favourite thing,” Elizabeth told The Sun.

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Bill Gates is America’s biggest farmland owner

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates owns the largest chunk of private farmland in the US across 18 states, a new report has revealed.

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San Francisco: Bill and Melinda Gates amassed 242,000 acres of land in the US, with the largest holdings in Louisiana (69,071 acres), Arkansas (47,927 acres) and Nebraska (20,588 acres), according to The Land report.

Bill Gates also owns a stake in more than 24,800 acres of transitional land outside of Phoenix.

Research indicated that the lands across the US is held by Cascade Investment LLC, Gates’ private investment vehicle.

“Gates also backs online used-car seller Vroom through Cascade as well as the Canadian National Railway Company,” Geek Wire reported.

According to the Tri-City Herald, a 14,500-acre swath of choice Eastern Washington farmland in the Horse Heaven Hills in Benton County has just traded hands for almost $171 million – part of Gates’ holdings.

It is unclear why Gates has invested so heavily in farmland, but it could be connected to climate change.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched a new nonprofit group a year ago, focused on helping small-scale farmers in developing countries with the tools and innovations they’ll need to deal with the effects of climate change.

Bill Gates is currently at the third spot on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a net worth of $132 billion.

But even with his big new agricultural holdings, Gates still doesn’t rank in the Top 100 private landowners overall in the US, considering owners of land of all types.

The list is topped by Liberty Media’s John Malone, with 2.2 million acres of ranches and forests. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos makes that list at No. 25 with 420,000 acres.

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