Zimbabwe park owner charged over illegal hunt

HARARE (Reuters): The game park owner accused of letting an American tourist illegally hunt and kill a lion on his property in Zimbabwe has been charged in connection with the killing and released on bail in Hwange, his lawyer said. The killing of Cecil, a 13-year-old, rare, black-maned lion and a popular tourist attraction, caused global consternation and triggered a major backlash against Africa’s multi-million dollar hunting industry. Honest Ndlovu owns the game park into which Cecil was lured from the adjacent Hwange National Park and shot with a bow and arrow by American dentist Walter Palmer. A copy of the charge sheet seen by Reuters said Ndlovu was charged with permitting “a person who is not ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe to hunt the said animal which was not on the hunting quota.” His lawyer Tonderai Mukuku said Ndlovu denies the charge and was set free on $200 bail. He will return to court on Sept 18. The same Hwange court last week postponed until Sept. 28 the trial of local hunter Theo Bronkhorst.

Bronkhorst, who acted as Palmer’s guide, is accused of failing to prevent Palmer from killing Cecil, who had been fitted with a GPS collar as part of an Oxford University study, and was a favourite with tourists visiting Hwange park. Zimbabwe wants Palmer, 55, extradited from the United States to face trial.

Rare Philippine eagle shot dead

MANILA (AFP): A rare giant Philippine eagle has been shot dead two months after being released back into the wild following treatment for another shooting, in a blow to efforts to save the species from extinction, conservationists said Wednesday. The raptor’s remains were found on a forest floor last weekend with a gunshot wound on its right breast, three years after it was rescued and treated, the Philippine Eagle Foundation said. It was the 30th to be found dead or wounded out of an estimated population of just 400 pairs in the wild, which reside mainly on the large southern island of Mindanao, its executive director Joseph Salvador said. “Unfortunately, one person with a gun thinks he can shoot anything,”

Salvador told AFP, adding no one has been arrested in the latest incident. “The potential to teach people the importance of the eagles to wildlife and biodiversity has been compromised.” Famed for its elongated nape feathers that form into a shaggy crest, the Philippine eagle, one of the world’s largest, grows up to a metre (3.3 feet) long with a two-metre wingspan.

The Swiss-based International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the species as “critically endangered”, due to the depletion of its tropical rainforest habitat and hunting. Philippine eagles kill macaques and other smaller animals for food and need vast tracts of forest as hunting grounds, routinely driving away rivals from their territory.

Gunshots accounted for nine out of every 10 Philippine eagle casualties recorded by the foundation over seven years. The latest bird to be killed had been rescued as a juvenile three years ago and treated for superficial gunshot wounds. Returned to the wild in Mindanao’s Mount Hamiguitan reserve two months ago, the eagle’s carcass was tracked about a kilometre (half a mile) away from where it was released, after a fitted radio transmitter indicated the bird had stopped moving.

Killing critically endangered Philippine species is punishable by up to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to one million pesos ($21,600). Salvador said the foundation would press charges once the eagle’s killer was found. Guarding the bird, also called the “monkey-eating eagle”, is compounded by inadequate forest rangers, with just six assigned to the vast Hamiguitan range, Salvador said.

Google launches Wi-Fi router for home use

Silicon Valley (Reuters): Google Inc launched a Wi-Fi router on Tuesday, the latest move in the company’s efforts to get ready for the connected home and draw more users to its services. The cylinder-shaped router, named OnHub, can be pre-ordered for $199.99 at online retailers including the Google Store, Amazon.com Inc and Walmart.com. The router comes with in-built antennas that will scan the airwaves to spot the fastest connection, Google said in a blog post. With the router, users will be able to prioritize a device so that they can get the fastest Internet speeds for data-heavy activities such as downloading content or streaming a movie. The router can be hooked up with Google’s On app, available on Android and iOS, to run network checks and keep track of bandwidth use among other things.

Google said OnHub automatically updates with new features and the latest security upgrades, just like the company’s Android OS and Chrome browser. The router is being manufactured by network company TP-LINK, Google said, hinting that ASUS could be the second manufacturing partner for the product.

The product launch comes days after Google restructured itself by creating Alphabet Inc, a holding company to pool its many subsidiaries and separate the core web advertising business from newer ventures like driverless cars. Making products for the smart home is one such venture.

Google last year bought Nest, a smart thermostat maker, for $3.2 billion, aiming to lead the way on how household devices link to each other and to electricity grids. The global market for “Internet of Things”, the concept of connecting household devices to the Internet, will nearly triple to $1.7 trillion by 2020, research firm International Data Corp said in June. Technology firms including Intel Corp, Cisco Systems, Samsung Electronics and telecom giants Vodafone and Verizon are betting heavily on Internet device-connected homes for future revenue and profit. Google has also been working on providing faster Internet with its Google Fiber service in some US cities. It also aims to expand the reach of the Internet through Project Loon, under which it is floating balloons 20 kilometers above the Earth’s surface to beam Internet connection to rural and remote areas.

Queen Elizabeth shows no sign of stepping aside

LONDON (Reuters): After 63 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth next month becomes Britain’s longest-ruling monarch but there is little prospect of her stepping aside, as other ageing European crowned heads have done, in favour of her son, Charles. Those close to Elizabeth - who on Sept. 9 takes the long-service record from her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria - say the 89-year-old has no intention of succumbing to the European fashion for abdication. That means Prince Charles, 66, already a record-holder himself as Britain’s longest-serving heir apparent, will have to wait longer still until he becomes king. “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family,” Elizabeth said in a 21st birthday broadcast to the nation in 1947. The milestone of overtaking Victoria has already prompted speculation as to whether Elizabeth might step aside. When asked if abdication were a possibility, a senior palace source told Reuters: “Life means life.” The religious overtones to a British coronation are deeply symbolic for Elizabeth, who as queen is Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

“The queen won’t abdicate, she must not abdicate, there’s absolutely no reason for her to abdicate and indeed constitutionally and religiously she cannot abdicate: she is an anointed queen,” royal historian Hugo Vickers told Reuters. Margaret Rhodes, the queen’s cousin and a friend since childhood, believes she will never break her commitment to the nation. “The vows that she made on coronation day are something so deep and so special that she would not consider not continuing to fulfil those vows until the day she dies.”

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Rhodes told the BBC in 2006.

The abdication in 1936 of the queen’s uncle Edward VIII - for reasons of love rather than old age - proved traumatic enough, plunging the monarchy into a constitutional crisis that put her reluctant father on the throne. In the Netherlands and Spain, long-standing monarchs have in recent years given up their thrones saying they needed to pass on the mantle to a younger generation.

The Dutch Queen Beatrix announced shortly before her 75th birthday in January 2013 that she would abdicate in favour of her son Willem-Alexander. “I am not stepping down because the tasks of the function are too great, but out of the conviction that the responsibilities of our country should be passed on to a new generation,” she said.

In June last year, Spain’s once popular King Juan Carlos abdicated at the age of 76 in favour of his son Felipe after a series of corruption scandals in the royal family. “A new generation is quite rightly demanding to take the lead role,” he said. In Britain, though, there is little demand for Elizabeth to go, nor any clamour for Charles to be king.

If anything, the opposite may be true. Charles, who has been groomed from birth to one day be king, is less popular than his mother: In a poll in April, 53 percent said they liked him compared to 77 percent who liked the Queen. Only 19 percent of Britons wanted a republic, compared to 70 percent who supported the monarchy.

Even keen republicans such as Labour member of parliament Paul Flynn say the monarchy is safe while Elizabeth remains on the throne but question its future under Charles. “This one, I’ve come to terms with, it will be delayed for little while. It is questionable whether the most likely end of the monarchy will come with Charles,” Flynn told Reuters.

In contrast to the strict political neutrality observed by Elizabeth, Charles has spoken out about issues from the destruction of historical buildings to organic farming and Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Ukraine. Critics said letters Charles had written to ministers, some of which were published in May against the wishes of the government and royal family, showed a desire to meddle in everything from the supply of equipment for British troops fighting in Iraq to the fate of the Patagonian Toothfish.

Supporters said the letters showed Charles was speaking up on issues Britons cared about. Professor Philip Murphy, Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and an expert on the monarchy, said Charles’s view of himself as a “spokesperson for the common man” was dangerous.

“The public may not tolerate that for very long and certainly political leaders might not,” he told Reuters. Some commentators have suggested that only serious illness could prompt Elizabeth to hand over to Charles, particularly if she were to lose her 94-year-old husband Prince Philip, although even then a regency is thought more likely. “I don’t think abdication is entirely off the cards,” royal biographer Robert Lacey told Reuters.

Some, like Flynn, suggest on the death of the queen there should not only be a referendum on the monarchy but also on whether the crown should pass to Charles’s son Prince William, who is 33. “I think it would be a popular choice to have a referendum on skipping a generation,” said Flynn who dismissed the current system for head of state as “first past the bed post”.

Prince William and Prince Harry, the children of Charles and Princess Diana, his first wife who died in a Paris car crash in 1997, are the most popular members of the family, liked by 79 percent of the British public. Murphy said for many Britons, there were plenty of more pressing concerns than reform of the monarchy. “There’s a sense of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.

As it stands, republicans or those wanting constitutional change, will have a long wait. Asked in 2012 whether the queen should abdicate or if the throne should skip a generation, Prime Minister David Cameron replied: “I think both those things are out of the question.”