Indonesian birds face

extinction due to pet trade JAKARTA (AFP): Thirteen species of Indonesian birds, including the country’s symbolic Javan Hawk-eagle, are at serious risk of extinction mainly due to the pet trade, a wildlife watchdog warned Wednesday. The vast Indonesian archipelago is home to a dizzying array of birds and keeping them as pets has long been part of the national culture, with birdcages a common sight outside homes and shops across the country. However increasing demand for some species as pets has led to dramatic population declines, wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC warned in a new study.

“This is a multi-million-dollar industry, there’s a huge criminal element and many people are profiting illegally from this business,” Chris Shepherd, TRAFFIC’s director for Southeast Asia and a co-author of the study, told AFP.

Huge demand for songbirds in Indonesia has also put bird species in other countries such as Malaysia and Thailand in danger, Shepherd said.

The Javan Hawk-eagle is Indonesia’s national bird and the inspiration for the Garuda, the mythical winged creature that adorns the country’s coat of arms.

Other species at risk of extinction include the Silvery Woodpigeon, Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Scarlet-breasted Lorikeet, Javan Green Magpie, Black-winged Myna, Bali Myna, Straw-headed Bulbul, Javan White-eye, Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush, Sumatran Laughingthrush and Java Sparrow.

The Helmeted Hornbill is also at risk but unlike the others, is not kept as a pet. Thousands are being illegally killed and traded for their unique “casques” - a solid lump of fibrous protein that runs along the top of the bill and onto the skull.

It is used as a substitute for elephant ivory, to meet demand in China, according to TRAFFIC.

It is illegal to hunt birds in the wild in Indonesia and sell them as pets but critics say the law is often flouted, and major bird markets in cities still operate freely.

Shepherd said that government efforts to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade too often focused on endangered species such as orangutans, tigers and elephants, and did not do enough to protect birds.

The TRAFFIC report called for a range of solutions to tackle the problem, including better law enforcement and public awareness campaigns.

Bidders fail to reach minimums for two rare US coins

NEW YORK (Reuters): Two legendary US coins, one of them more than 200 years old, that were on the auction block in New York City did not sell after bidders failed to reach minimum reserved prices, according to Sotheby’s. A bid of $10,575,000, the most ever offered for a coin, was placed by phone for an 1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar, but it failed to reach the consignor’s reserve price, Sotheby’s auction house said in a statement. A phone bid of $7,285,000 was placed on an extremely rare 1822 half eagle, but it also failed to reach the consignor’s reserve price, Sotheby’s said.  The pieces were highlights of the fourth coin auction series of the D. Brent Pogue Collection, which is working in collaboration with the auction house and Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

Some 61 coins from the Pogue Collection, which in recent years has become the most valuable auction series in history, were sold for more than $16.7 million during the auction at Sotheby’s headquarters in New York.

The collection focused on non-machine manufactured currency made from 1793 to the 1830s, said David Tripp, Sotheby’s worldwide senior numismatic consultant.

“All the coins in the Pogue collection were struck and produced in these early years when things were really handmade and so there are all sorts of peculiarities,” Tripp told Reuters TV.

The 1804 Silver Dollar, originally owned by the Sultan of Muscat in 1835 and then by the Childs Family Collection for more than 50 years, was purchased by D. Brent Pogue in 1999 for $4 million.

One of the five most valuable coins in the world, the silver dollar features blue and gold tones and a portrait of America’s Lady Liberty staring skyward, with stars bordering the coin’s edges.

It is in such good condition that it has been given a Proof-68 grade by the Professional Coin Grading Service. That is one of the highest standards on the PCGS grading scale.

The Pogue Collection acquired the 1822 Half Eagle coin in 1982 from the Eliasberg Collection. Before that, the coin was unobtainable for decades.

Tuesday’s auction marked only the second time in over a century that collectors have a chance to compete for the rare amber-colored coin, which also features Lady Liberty, this time donning a cape with “LIBERTY” printed on its side.

Diagnosis app scoops Africa health prize

DAKAR (AFP): An app that allows rural doctors to seek advice remotely from experts have won Africa’s first prize recognising new technology that boosts health on the continent. The award’s main sponsor, French international public radio station RFI, said the 15,000-euro ($16,700) grant had been awarded in Dakar to Cheick Oumar Bagayoko, “a young Malian doctor and computer engineer”. Bagayoko’s app Bogou beat more than 650 other candidates from francophone African countries for a prize that has also won support from tech giants such as Microsoft, Facebook and Orange. The winning app is a “tele-expertise tool available via a computer connected to the Internet”, RFI said in a statement. “Bougou allows doctors working in remote areas to ask for advice from specialists from a distance.”

Doctors can post details of a patient’s problem to specialists logged into the secure app.

RFI said the prize was designed to “support the development of innovative digital services that facilitate access to information and health services in Africa”.

Trump golf course wants to build climate change wall

DUBLIN (AFP): An Irish golf course owned by Donald Trump, a climate change denier, has put in a planning application for a sea wall to protect against coastal erosion, citing changing weather as the reason. The US Republican presidential hopeful’s Irish holding company TIGL Ireland Enterprises submitted the application earlier this month to build a £7.6 million (10.0 million euro, $11.2 million) rock barrier saying that storms had swept away sand dunes. “The evidence for increased storm activity associated with climate change suggests that the erosion will accelerate,” read the application by Doonbeg golf course in western Ireland, obtained by AFP on Wednesday. The billionaire New York property tycoon bought the venue on the Atlantic coast in 2013 - one of a string of golf courses he owns in Britain and Ireland.

The proposed sea barrier would be 2.8 kilometres (1.7 miles) long and three to four metres high. A decision on the application is expected by July 6.

Trump has made no secret of his views, telling CNN last year: “I’m not a believer in climate change.” He added in the interview: “It’s always weather. And frankly, it’s been that way for so long, and honestly, weather changes. “You have storms and you have rain and you have beautiful days.”

Microsoft to end smartphone manufacturing

HELSINKI (AFP): Microsoft announced Wednesday it would let go up to 1,850 employees and a Finnish union called it the end of the company’s smartphone manufacturing business, bought from Finnish telecom equipment maker Nokia. “Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday announced plans to streamline the company’s smartphone hardware business, which will impact up to 1,850 jobs,” it said in a statement, adding 1,350 of those jobs would be eliminated in Finland where its smartphones have been designed. The other 500 jobs will be cut “globally”. Microsoft’s chief shop steward in Finland, Kalle Kiili, told AFP the decision means Microsoft will no longer design or manufacture phones. Microsoft “will not be manufacturing (phone) devices, at least for the time being. It will do software, however,” Kiili said.

Microsoft said the move would result in “an impairment and restructuring charge of approximately $950 million” (852.6 million euros) for the company.

The decision means Microsoft scraps what was left in Finland of Nokia’s former glory as the world’s former top mobile phone maker.

Nokia was the world’s leading mobile phone maker from 1998 until 2011 when it bet on Microsoft’s Windows mobile platform which proved to be a flop.

The Finnish company sold its unprofitable handset unit in 2014 for some $7.2 billion to Microsoft, which is closing the entire unit.

Nearly 2.4 million Windows Phones were sold in the latest quarter, around 0.7 percent market share overall. That’s a decrease from the 2.5 percent market share of Windows Phone during the first quarter of 2015, according to the US-based analyst group, Gartner Inc.

A week ago Microsoft announced the sale of its feature phone business for $350 million (310.5 million euros) to a new Finnish company HMD Global and its Taiwanese partner, FIH Mobile of FoxConn Technology Group, which will jointly begin manufacturing handsets and tablets under the Nokia brand again.

Microsoft had called up all its employees in Finland to hear the news which Kiili said left the crowd “silent”. “We had rumours that something would happen but not that everything would go,” he described.

Employees at Microsoft Oy, a separate Microsoft sales subsidiary based in Espoo, Finland, would not be affected by the job cuts.

Thai forager who found $6m pill stash ‘gave them away’ to pals

BANGKOK (AFP): A Thai man who says he found 700,000 methamphetamine pills - with a street value of nearly $6 million - in a bush, drove the local price of the drug down after handing them out to his friends for free, police said Wednesday.

Prachaub Kanpecth, who normally collects rubbish and forest honey, was charged Tuesday with possession and intent to supply after police caught him with 500,000 meth tablets, known as yaba or “crazy drug”, at his home in central Ayutthaya province. The 41-year-old told officers he found the tablets after watching a group of men in a pick-up truck leave a large package in some shrubbery along the road, district police said.  Police opened an investigation after a glut of tablets flooded the local market - going for an unusually cheap $3. Yaba pills normally cost around $8 each.

But by the time he was arrested on Tuesday, Prahuab had already given away 200,000 tablets, said police, who are still investigating the case.

“He claimed he has been giving [the pills] to his friends who needed money or who wanted to money to pay back debts,” Suriya Yoopeat, a police commander in Uthai district, told AFP. “As of now we don’t have any other evidence or witnesses to contradict his testimony,” the officer said.

Seizures of meth have surged across the Asia-Pacific region in recent years. Much of the regional drug manufacturing takes place in the Golden Triangle, a remote border region where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet.