Baby boom: the endangered wildlife revival at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat

This photo taken on July 6, 2022 shows a gibbon eating fruit in a tree in the forest at Angkor Park in Siem Reap province. (AFP)
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Updated 02 August 2022

Baby boom: the endangered wildlife revival at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat

  • Globally, gibbons are one of the most threatened families of primates, while the pileated gibbon is listed as endangered

SIEM REAP, Cambodia: The melodic songs from families of endangered monkeys ring out over the jungle near Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple complex — a sign of ecological rejuvenation decades after hunting decimated wildlife at the site.
The first pair of rare pileated gibbons were released in 2013 as part of a joint program between conservation group Wildlife Alliance, the forestry administration and the Apsara Authority — a government agency that manages the 12th-century ruins.
The gibbon duo, named Baray and Saranick, were born from parents rescued from the wildlife trade and produced offspring a year later.
“We have now released four different pairs of gibbons within the Angkor forest and they have gone on to breed and now seven babies have been born,” Wildlife Alliance rescue and care program director Nick Marx told AFP.
“We are restoring Cambodia’s natural heritage back into their most beautiful cultural heritage.”
Globally, gibbons are one of the most threatened families of primates, while the pileated gibbon is listed as endangered.
Marx says his team rescues some 2,000 animals a year and many more will soon call the Angkor jungle home.
There are hopes that once the baby gibbons reach sexual maturity in about five to eight years, they will also pair up and mate.
“What we are hoping for the future is to create a sustainable population of the animals... that we released here within the amazing Angkor forest,” Marx said.
Cambodian authorities have hailed the gibbon baby boom that began in 2014.
“This means a big victory for our project,” Chou Radina from the Apsara Authority said, adding that as well as gibbons, tourists could now see great hornbills flying over Angkor Wat.
The program has released more than 40 other animals and birds including silvered langurs, muntjac deers, smooth-coated otters, leopard cats, civets, wreathed hornbills, and green peafowl.
All were rescued from traffickers, donated or born in captivity at the Phnom Tamao wildlife sanctuary near Phnom Penh.
The Angkor Archaeological Park — which contains the ruins of various capitals of the Khmer Empire, dating from the ninth to 15th centuries — has some of the oldest rainforest in Cambodia.
It is also the kingdom’s most popular tourist destination.
Since Angkor Wat became a world heritage site in 1992, its jungle, which covers more than 6,500 hectares, has benefited from increased legal and physical protections.
There are hopes that wildlife sightings will also spark interest in local and foreign tourists and boost conservation education efforts.
Rampant poaching, habitat loss from logging, agriculture and dam building has stripped much wildlife from Cambodian rainforests.
Last year, authorities removed 61,000 snare traps, environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said, adding that the government had launched a campaign to discourage hunting and eating of wildlife meat.
But widespread poverty even before the pandemic left many households without much choice but to continue hunting so their families could eat protein.
Animals are also hunted for traditional medicine and to be kept as pets.
According to Global Forest Watch, from 2001-2021 Cambodia lost 2.6 million hectares of tree cover, a 30 percent decrease since 2000.
Commercial interests are trumping protection efforts in some quarters — the Phnom Tamao zoo and wildlife rescue center is under threat from a shadowy rezoning development plan, Marx said.
Back at Siem Reap — the gateway city to Angkor Wat — villager Moeurn Sarin shops at the market for bananas, watermelon, rambutan and fish to feed the pileated gibbon families and otters.
“We are happy to conserve these animals,” the 64-year-old said, adding he likes to watch the gibbons’ tree swinging antics.
“In the future, these animals will have babies for the young generation to see.”


History-making Arooj Aftab becomes first Pakistani artist to perform at Grammys

Updated 06 February 2023

History-making Arooj Aftab becomes first Pakistani artist to perform at Grammys

  • Arooj Aftab performs "Udhero Na" with singer Anoushka Shankar
  • Last year, she became the first Pakistani to bag a Grammy award

ISLAMABAD: Arooj Aftab made history on Sunday when she became the first Pakistani artist to perform at the prestigious Grammy awards in Los Angeles, when the singer teamed up with British-American artist Anoushka Shankar to perform their song "Udhero Na." 

The Brooklyn-based vocalist became the first Pakistani artist to win a Grammy award when she bagged the Best Global Performance award for her song "Mohabbat" in April 2022. 

In November last year, the critically acclaimed "Udhero Na" received a Grammy nomination for the same category. Aftab earlier said she wrote the song when she was 15 years old. She recorded it with Shankar, who was nominated this year in the Best Global Music Performance and Best Global Music Album categories. 

"Soundcheck, it's todayyy, live.grammy.com," Aftab wrote along with a picture she shared on her Instagram Stories. She can be seen performing live on the Grammys stage as Shankar strums a sitar beside her. 

The 37-year-old, who has lived in New York for some 15 years, has been steadily gaining global attention for her work that fuses ancient Sufi traditions with inflections of folk, jazz and minimalism.

Born to Pakistani parents in Saudi Arabia, Aftab spent her teenage years in Lahore before relocating to Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music to study musical production and engineering.

She released her third studio album “Vulture Prince” to critical acclaim, and gained even more attention after former US president Barack Obama included the track “Mohabbat” on his 2021 summer favorites list.


Cristiano Ronaldo’s high-tech platform Footlab to launch in Saudi Arabia

Updated 06 February 2023

Cristiano Ronaldo’s high-tech platform Footlab to launch in Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi entertainment company Confrontation Entertainment has signed an exclusive franchise agreement with Footlab
  • At the platform, players can train, compete and keep track of their real-time performance data in a digital ecosystem

Saudi entertainment company Confrontation Entertainment has signed an exclusive franchise agreement with Footlab, a partnership by Cristiano Ronaldo and Rui Costa.

Footlab, a cooperation between the Portuguese football legends through Ronaldo’s tech company 7EGEND, started from an idea to bring to life a blend of e-gaming, real-life football and technology. It is headquartered in Lisbon, Portugal, and opened in 2018.

At the platform, players can train, compete and keep track of their real-time performance data within different stations in the park, which are all connected in a digital ecosystem.

Footlab was designed with the next generation of football players in mind, providing players and trainers with the tools they need to measure and track performance in real time and use that information to create personalized development.

The technology behind it was developed in-house by Sports Scientists, a team of software and hardware engineers, UX designers, AI and data experts, to deliver the world’s leading football data-driven experience.

Luis Parafita, Footlab world CEO, expressed his gratitude for entering the Saudi market through this agreement. “Sports is an integral component of Saudi Arabia’s transformative Vision 2030, and we are thankful for the unconditional support of our partners and the perfect timing to launch Footlab in all (of the) Kingdom, having Cristiano here and world attention for what lies ahead.”

“Footlab aspires to change the game in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he pointed out, “with elite facilities and coaching staff dedicated to the analysis and development of players, empowering teams and groups of friends with challenges, to test and improve their cognitive, physical and technical skills.”

Ahmed Madani, Confrontation Entertainment CEO, said the growth of the sports and entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia made this an ideal time to introduce innovative projects such as Footlab in the market.

He said this partnership was aligned with the Quality of Life Program, one of the Saudi Vision 2030 realization projects “which encourages the private sector to contribute to the development of the entertainment and sports sector, by offering an abundance of new experiences that contribute to raising the quality of life.”


Housebound Jordanian football fan a social media star

Updated 05 February 2023

Housebound Jordanian football fan a social media star

  • Abu Nawas’ Facebook page offering analysis of European football leagues matches has cultivated 243,000 followers
  • The 27-year-old was born with brittle bone disease, that has meant he rarely leaves his home

ZARQA: Having spent most of his life housebound due to a medical condition, Jordanian Amer Abu Nawas’s love of football has propelled him to social media stardom.
Offering analysis of matches from the leading European football leagues to almost a quarter of a million followers, his Facebook page — “HouseAnalyzer” in Arabic — has grown into what he describes as a “big family.”
The 27-year-old was born with osteogenesis, or brittle bone disease, a genetic condition hindering normal bone growth that has meant he rarely leaves his home in Zarqa, 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Jordan’s capital Amman.
“It is true that I have never played football in my life, and have never attended any match, but for me football is everything,” Abu Nawas told AFP.
With no schools in the country catering to his needs, Abu Nawas grew up spending much of his time watching football matches, analizing the teams and playing football video games.
“This always made me feel like it is taking me from this world to a different one,” he said.
His relatives noticed his passion and encouraged him to publish his match analyzes online.
In 2017, he launched his Facebook account, which now counts more than 243,000 followers.


Filmed on a phone in his bedroom, Abu Nawas’s videos usually feature him wearing a football jersey, excitedly commenting on matches and news from the world of football.
Discussing leagues from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, he sometimes uses a football pitch-shaped board to explain tactical nuances.
One of Abu Nawas’s latest videos reached more than 1.4 million viewers and he has started posting on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.
He said he was grateful for modern technology allowing him to connect with so many people.
“From this room, from this small place isolated from the world, I was able to cross these walls, reach people, communicate with them, create content, and become what I am today,” he said.
He expressed sadness at sometimes seeing people attack each other in comments to his posts, and said his relationship with his followers was “like a family.”
“This family is growing day by day, and I hope it will reach as many followers as possible,” he added.
Abu Nawas’s own family do their best to provide him with a comfortable life.
He is the youngest of three brothers and his father is a doctor and his mother a pharmacist.
Inside his room are shelves with a PlayStation, a computer and plastic baskets keeping items he might need.
On his bed are phones, remote controls, headphones and a long stick used to reach distant items.


“He has his own world, in a room with a temperature of 27 degrees to avoid cold and pneumonia. He can operate anything using the remote control,” his father Yussef told AFP.
He said his son has friends who occasionally visit.
“When he feels bad, they take him out for a tour in a minibus,” he said.
Abu Nawas lamented that in Jordan “nobody cares” about people with diseases like his, and said he wished he had had the opportunity to attend school.
“The conditions for people with special needs are catastrophic,” he said.
“I could not learn because there are no special schools for people like me.”
Last year, the organizers of the football World Cup invited him to attend the tournament in Qatar.
But due to travel difficulties linked to his condition, he arrived late and missed the matches he was scheduled to attend.
Even so, Abu Nawas said it was “the best 10 days of my life.”
“I know my condition, I learned to be content, and I will remain so,” he said.
“Disability need not be an obstacle to success.”


Daughter charged after mom’s body found in Chicago freezer

Updated 03 February 2023

Daughter charged after mom’s body found in Chicago freezer

CHICAGO: A Chicago woman has been accused of keeping her mother’s dead body in a freezer for nearly two years while living in a nearby apartment.
Eva Bratcher, 69, appeared in court Thursday on charges of concealing her 96-year-old mother’s death and possessing a fraudulent identification card.
Regina Michalski’s body was discovered this week in a freezer in the garage near the apartment they had shared, police said. Investigators believe she died in March 2021. The cause won’t be determined until the body is thawed.
The allegations are “very disturbing,” Judge David Kelly said in setting a $20,000 bond for Bratcher.
Kelly turned down a defense lawyer’s request for a lower bond to get Bratcher out of jail.
She has past convictions for forgery, and investigators said they were trying to determine if Bratcher was collecting her late mother’s Social Security benefits, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Bratcher’s daughter, who lives in Kentucky, asked police to check the home after losing contact with her grandmother.
“What could go wrong? Apparently, everything,” Sabrina Watson said.


‘Dances with Wolves’ actor arrested over sex trafficking and abuse raps

Updated 02 February 2023

‘Dances with Wolves’ actor arrested over sex trafficking and abuse raps

  • Police report says Nathan Chasing Horse is accused of leading a cult and sexually abusing women followers
  • He was also accused of instructing his wives to 'shoot it out' with police, and 'take suicide pills' as a last resort

LAS VEGAS: Nathan Chasing Horse trained his wives to use firearms, instructing them to “shoot it out” with police officers if they ever tried to “break their family apart,” according to records obtained by The Associated Press. If that failed, the wives were to take “suicide pills.”
The abuse that authorities said spanned two decades led Tuesday to the arrest of Chasing Horse following a monthslong investigation by Las Vegas police. He was taken into custody as he left the home he shares with his five wives in North Las Vegas. SWAT officers were seen outside the two-story home in the evening as detectives searched the property.
Known for his role as the young Sioux tribe member Smiles a Lot in the Oscar-winning Kevin Costner film “Dances With Wolves,” Chasing Horse gained a reputation among tribes across the United States and in Canada as a so-called medicine man who performed healing ceremonies. But police said he abused his position, physically and sexually assaulting Indigenous girls and women, taking underage wives and leading a cult.
Chasing Horse, 46, will be charged with at least two counts of sex trafficking and one count each of sexual assault of a child younger than 16, child abuse or neglect and sexual assault, according to court records. Authorities have not said when he will be formally charged.
He was booked before midnight into Clark County’s jail, where he remained held without bail on the sexual assault charges as he awaits his first court appearance, expected Thursday in North Las Vegas. There was no lawyer listed in court records for Chasing Horse who could comment on his behalf, and Las Vegas police said he was “unable” to give a jailhouse interview Wednesday.
According to a 50-page search warrant obtained by the AP, Chasing Horse is believed to be the leader of a cult known as The Circle.
At least two women told police that Chasing Horse had shown his wives a stash of “small white pills” that he called “suicide pills” sometime in 2019 or 2020, years before his arrest.
The women were instructed to “take a pill to kill themselves in the event he dies or law enforcement tries to break their family apart,” according to the warrant.
One of Chasing Horse’s former wives also told police that she believed his current wives would “carry out the instructions” to take the pills and open fire on law enforcement if officers came to the home to arrest Chasing Horse.
Police noted in the warrant that Chasing Horse was believed to have long rifles and handguns inside his home, including a loaded rifle in the home’s entry way, and a handgun in his vehicle.
Las Vegas police said in the document they have identified at least six sexual assault victims, some who were as young as 14 when they say they were abused, and traced the sexual allegations against Chasing Horse to the early 2000s in multiple states, including Nevada, where he has lived for about a decade, and South Dakota and Montana.
“Nathan Chasing Horse used spiritual traditions and their belief system as a tool to sexually assault young girls on numerous occasions,” detectives wrote in the warrant, adding that his followers referred to him as “Medicine Man” or “Holy Person” because they believed he could communicate with higher beings.
One of Chasing Horse’s wives was offered to him as a “gift” when she was 15, according to police, while another became a wife after turning 16.
Chasing Horse also is accused of recording sexual assaults and arranging sex with the victims for other men who paid him.
He was arrested nearly a decade after he was banished from the Fort Peck Reservation in Poplar, Montana, amid allegations of human trafficking.
Fort Peck tribal leaders had voted 7-0 to ban Chasing Horse from stepping foot again on the reservation, citing the trafficking allegations in addition to accusations of drug dealing, spiritual abuse and intimidation of tribal members, Indian County Today reported.
State attorneys general and lawmakers around the US are looking into creating specialized units to handle cases involving Native American women.
In South Dakota, where police said Chasing Horse committed some of his crimes, the attorney general’s office has put a new focus on crimes against Native American people, including human trafficking and killings.
Chasing Horse was born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, which is home to the Sicangu Sioux, one of the seven tribes of the Lakota nation.

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