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Problems everywhere – also opportunities

That’s an ICRC responsibility too—to foster development of what experts now call inter­national humanitarian law.

Progress has been slow but steady. In the wake of World War I came updated conven­tions to protect not only the war wounded but also prisoners of war. The experience of World War II, in which military casualties were outnumbered by civilian victims, led to the Conventions of 1949, extending pro­tection to civilians in internment camps or living in occupied territory. And after the postwar wave of decolonization and libera­tion struggles, a diplomatic conference from 1974 to 1977 produced Additional Protocols I and II, aiming to shield civilians from mili­tary attack. So far, only a third of the states have ratified these protocols. Some, includ­ing the U. S., object to provisions formally granting captured guerrillas the same pro­tection prisoners of war are supposed to get.

But to ICRC, action goes before codifica­tion, as it did for Henry Dunant. It constant­ly negotiates for access to political detainees arrested in situations of internal tension not as yet covered by any international agreement. ICRC rarely mentions political prisoners—words governments don’t like to hear. Instead it refers, diplomatically, to “persons arrested because of the events.”

And so since World War II, ICRC dele­gates have visited more than 500,000 detain­ees in 95 countries in situations not covered by the Geneva Conventions. IRA members in Northern Ireland. ETA people in Spain. Solidarity activists in Poland. Similarly in Uruguay and Argentina, where now—be­cause the situation has eased—it’s no longer necessary; and in Chile, where it still is.

Currently ICRC is negotiating for access in Turkey, Guatemala, Sri Lanka. And stepping up its efforts in South Africa; there it gives financial support to families of people convicted under various emer­gency laws. All in all, then, things seem to be going pretty much the way ICRC would wish? President Hay tells me this is not so. To governments, he says, the most important things are politics, economics, security. “Humanitarian problems get tenth priori­ty—or worse.”

I get another sobering lesson at the cheap prague hotels on International Hu­manitarian Law, sponsored by ICRC and the Polish Red Cross in Warsaw, where ICRC lawyers and law professors—from England, West Germany, Hungary, Po­land—meet law students from Scandinavia, Bulgaria, the U.S.S.R., the U. S. Some students want to know why lawyers don’t write better humanitarian law. Why is it so full of holes?

ICRC: All law is a compromise. Humani­tarian law is a compromise between hu­manitarian interest and military necessity. A student: Protecting humanity is more important than military necessity! ICRC: We have to take what we can get. Student: You mean you cannot change the world? ICRC: We don’t pretend that we are able to do that. We take a bad situation and make it a little better, if possible. In short, ICRC does what it can. YES, PROBLEMS everywhere—also opportunities.” That’s Michel from Geneva, ICRC’s man at the United Nations 40th General Assembly session in New York.

Annoyed Lobster Mounts an Attack

Initial results of the spiny-lobster study added considerably to the knowledge I had gained the year before during Tektite I. Unlike his solitary New England cousin, the spiny lobster is a sociable creature, often crowding 15 or 20 strong into a single den. By comparing our head count against the past year’s figures, we determined that the lobster population of Great Lameshur Bay reef had remained roughly constant.

The census was merely the first stage in our study. During our second week, Ian and I turned to the subject of lobster behavior and began prowling the sea at night.

Like the basket star, octopus, moray, and certain types of shrimp, the spiny lobster is nocturnal. Only when darkness overtakes the reef does he forsake the security of the den. Under cover of night he roams the sandy plains adjoining the reef, foraging for snails, oysters, clams, and other mollusks, keeping an eye out for his two great enemies, the shark and the giant grouper. Few other creatures care to trifle with an adult Panulirus: Pound for pound he is a match for most predators.

My New England friends at online, accustomed to the massive claws of their native lobster, consider Panulirus a poor defenseless cray¬fish. Although he lacks claws, Panulirus is surprisingly well armed. In addition to his spiny shield, he packs tremendous power in a set of ten sharp-pointed legs and in a mouth that can crack the quarter-inch-thick shell of a conch to get at the luckless inhabitant. Those who dismiss Panulirus as a timid and harmless creature would do well to consider Ian’s brush with a six-pound male. Had it happened to an inexperienced diver, he could have been in serious trouble.

The mishap occurred during a short earlier dive, while Ian and another diver were surveying the inshore waters for lobsters. They were working with standard scuba gear at a depth of 35 feet, well separated but within sight of each other. Ian’s partner had just spotted a young lobster and was reaching down to snare it, when some sixth sense made him glance in Ian’s direction.

Ian was no longer on the bottom. A vanishing column of bubbles indicated that he had surfaced abruptly. Ian is an experienced diver, and nothing short of an emergency would cause him to leave a partner below without warning. Following Ian’s bubbles, his partner reached the surface and found him grappling with a large male lobster.

Once Ian got rid of his attacker, he told what had happened. In a crevice of the reef he had spied a fairly large lobster, measuring a foot and a half in length. After snaring it with his nylon loop, he picked it up in the proper fashion behind the carapace and started loosening the loop.

“I must have held it too close to me,” Ian said, “because the next thing I knew it had pulled my face mask down around my neck and pried the air regulator out of my mouth.”

With only seconds to act, Ian took off for the surface 35 feet overhead. There he caught a breath and managed to free himself.

Had the accident occurred during our time in the habitat, Ian’s predicament would have been even more serious. Prevented from sur¬facing under threat of the bends, he would have had to fight the lobster underwater for his scuba gear.

One of the major puzzles regarding the spiny lobster is its ability to trek long dis¬tances across the darkened sea floor and then unerringly return to its burrow. Even when we blindfolded the lobsters with tape during nocturnal forays, they found their way home. After close observation, we believe that Panulirus may navigate using familiar undersea currents and the sounds of animal life on the reefs.

Other habits of the spiny lobster emerged from our studies, several of them regarding food. One of the keys to survival on the reef is the ability to alter feeding habits with changing food supplies. Here the spiny lobster is well endowed, for when its favorite mollusks become scarce, it readily converts to a diet of crabs, sea cucumbers, sponges, worms, and spiny sea urchins.

Barracuda Lunges at a Diver’s Light

Our nighttime search for lobsters led to several memorable encounters with other tenants of the reef. Late one evening, as Ian and I were returning to the habitat, we picked up a strong ping on our direction finders. We recognized it as coming from one of the tiny transmitters we had attached to various lob¬sters. With our underwater lights playing be¬fore us, we tracked the signal to a point not far from the habitat.

Rounding a large coral head, I saw the transmitter-equipped specimen on the bot¬tom, and instantly sensed trouble. He was crouched in the defensive position lobsters assume in the presence of a shark or a big grouper. Playing my light in a quick circle around me, I discovered a three-foot barra¬cuda hovering a yard or two away.

Never during our time on the reef had we actually been threatened by one of the large predators—barracuda, shark, or moray. But I recalled an account by marine biologist Dr. Walter A. Starck II of a barracuda that had charged his diving light, and I quickly held my lamp at arm’s length. Sure enough, the barracuda lunged at the light, narrowly miss¬ing Ian and me as it passed.

Another event had its origin far from the habitat, and proved frightening in its weird effects. I had just left the hatchway for a day¬time excursion when I was suddenly seized in a massive vibration of the sea, as though I were trapped in a bowl of gelatin being shaken by a giant hand. My first thought was of an explosion within the habitat. As soon as the turbulence ceased, I returned and scrambled through the entrance way. There stood Ed Clifton, grinning broadly at my puzzled expression.

“How did you like your first earthquake underwater?” he asked.

The habitat proved equal not only to earthquake but also to storms; we were cradled in the massive cushion of the deep. Only once in six months was the undersea work interrupted, during an alert for a hurricane, and that one veered away before reaching us.

One of the most magical experiences I can recall was swimming at night across the sea floor during a tropical lightning storm. In the eerie quiet of the deep, the landscape was illuminated every few seconds, as though it were being swept by some giant searchlight. I paused, hypnotized by the succession of momentary scenes that flashed before me like old-fashioned stereoptican slides. The thunder itself was inaudible, but I could hear far overhead the steady thrum of heavy rain on the ocean’s surface.

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Those Fiery Brazilian Bees

THE BEES CAME ON US like a squall. At first we felt only the warning—the pelting of a few sentinels against our protective veils. Then, as we drew closer to their hives in the equatorial Brazilian bush, the torrent broke. The buzzing of countless wings filled the air.

Those Fiery Brazilian Bees

The bees seemed possessed by rage. I grew queasy watching them swarm over my bee suit, embedding their stingers in the heavy canvas. Each was giving its life in defense of its hive, for a honeybee soon dies after losing its stinger.


Inches from my eyes, frenzied bees clung to my veil and pumped their barbed abdomens at me through the netting. So many bees attacked National Geographic photographer Bianca Lavies’s cameras that she could not press a shutter release without squashing some. Our guide, beekeeper Antonio Both, fled as bees stung through his suit. I felt a stinger pierce my glove and had to fight my own urge to run.


We had met the full fury of the Brazilian bee, the phenomenal product of a bee-breeding accident. Twenty-six queens of a notoriously ferocious race of honeybee from Africa, Apis mellifera adansonii, escaped in 1957 from the site of a genetics experiment near Sao Paulo. Honeybees are not native to the Americas, but over the years Brazilians living in the temperate south had imported gentler Euro­pean bees. The Africans quickly intermixed with them and procreated a fierce new race.


Since then the African hybrids have spread throughout much of South America. Now advancing northward about two hundred miles a year, Brazilian bees threaten to in­vade Central America, and then Mexico, and ultimately the United States. Bee attacks as violent as the one Bianca and I experienced are isolated incidents. Yet at least 150 people and countless animals in Brazil have died in such encounters.


The story begins ages ago, scientists spec­ulate, as honeybees migrated westward from Asia into Europe and Africa, where they met different destinies. Southern Europe’s mild climate and, later, man’s beekeeping prac­tices, fostered the gentler strains.


The bees that pushed south into Africa, however, had to struggle with a much harsher environment, hotter and drier. They remained nomads, an entire colony following the flowers and nesting in a crevice or in the hollow of a baobab tree. Their honey drew predators, including man, that destroyed the colonies they robbed. Only the most un­approachable colonies were likely to survive.

Those Fiery Brazilian Bees

The African honeybees developed into a nervous, easily provoked race. They have a marked ability to communicate alarm by releasing chemical secretions called phero­mones. The odor often triggers an explosive response throughout the colony. African bees are no more venomous than others; they simply sting in larger numbers, and a few hundred stings are enough to kill anyone unable to outrun the bees.


Although highly aggressive, the African­ized bees possess one outstanding virtue: They produce large amounts of honey. On their native continent the bees developed into industrious workers, able to store enough honey during the flowering seasons to help support them in times of drought.


The Brazilian Government had asked Uni­versity of Sao Paulo geneticist Warwick Estevam Kerr to improve the output of European honeybees, which had never produced well in tropical areas of Brazil. The research was available due to the solutions from federal student loans consolidation plans. So in 1956 Kerr placed 35 African queens in an isolated apiary in the State of Sao Paulo, for use in breeding experiments.


“We knew they were fierce,” recalled Kerr, now director of the National Institute for Amazon Research in Manaus. “Every pre­caution was taken to prevent their escape.”


Just as it did when we were children, every year, as summer approaches, nature beckons us to come outside and ‘play’. And, at this time of year when it’s all too easy to hibernate, it’s now more important than ever that we heed her cry. In order to avoid what Deeprak Chopra describes in his book, Super Brain, as the body,


FAR-FLUNG PARADISE falling into “an unhealthy, sedentary state” and an increased risk of lifestyle diseases such as heart attack and stroke, we must regularly engage our brains in physical activity – specifically outdoor exercise. And, if that wasn’t enough to get you bursting to go outside, there are many other good reasons to do goal fresco, too. Increased vitamin D levels are one benefit for coconut oil, plus a new study suggests spending time immersed in nature (away from technology and multimedia), may actually improve creative problem and even in some cases, concentration.


But, despite all of the obvious benefits of the great outdoors it can still be difficult for us to prise ourselves away from all of the wonderful technology and home comforts that surround us every day – and that’s where charity challenges and activity-based holidays come in! Run by experienced companies, these pre-organised events and holidays provide a stress-free way to undertake an outdoor challenge of your choice, and require a level of commitment that means you’re much more likely to complete your goals. Plus, they’ll provide a unique opportunity to try new things, connect with nature, push you to new limits, see new places, meet new people, experience different cultures and in many cases raise funds for favourite charity, too. And, the good news is that whether you’re six or eighty-six, have two weeks to spare or just an afternoon, there is a challenge out there for you!


From charity skydiving and white water rafting, to conservation work and life-coaching courses, there are so many diverse activities for you to pick from that the most difficult part will be narrowing it down to just one. And, by throwing yourself into a challenge that’s personal to you, you’ll be facing down your own fears and moving towards a happier, more confident, you. Here we take a closer look at the exciting array of expeditions, charity challenges and activity holidays that are available – from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne to Nepal. Get ready to be inspired!


You might think that choosing a challenge holiday means forgetting about exotic beaches and sun-drenched islands, but luckily that’s not the case. Companies such as Responsible Travel (find out more offer a huge selection of volunteering and charity-based experiences in stunning locations around the world, and if you have somewhere particular in mind that you would like to visit, you can even search their website by destination. Highlights include a tree-house jungle adventure in Thailand, community volunteering in Fuji, a charity cycle ride in Cuba and an array of conservation projects in Madagascar – guaranteed paradise!



CERES is the mother of mothers; she is patient and likes to be needed. If you love to be surrounded by people who need your help or words of wisdom, you are a Ceres archetype. You love children and probably want a family and the best lifestyle, or at least a leading role in the lives of others. An unflappable multi-tasker, you can be relied on to calm any situation, rally the troops and get the job done.

Ceres archetype

You have a good memory and attention to detail, and are likely to have an interest in craftwork, as you are skilled with your hands. Diplomatic and persuasive, you bring people together harmoniously and have a caring nature, backed up by practical skills, which may include the gift of healing.

You have a good memory and attention to detail

WHAT TO AVOID Stubbornness and a patronising manner. Becoming over-beating or refusing to take a back-seat. Try not to see people as your ‘latest project’. They may need you, Ceres, but you still have to let them go, even if that means making mistakes.


Lily, orange blossom, crown archetypes are conscious of their place and role in society. They know they ‘belong’ and fitting-in is very important to them. Juno is never stuck for words, always knowing what to say to whom, with plenty of contacts and confidence in social situations. If you’re looking for a dentist, an electrician or a new love, Juno always knows ‘a friend of a friend’ and mixes well with a wide range of people, but she has a strong sense of status.

believes in etiquette and manners

She believes in etiquette and manners, and values stability and a pleasant atmosphere. Juno can be a little conservative in her mindset but she is no push-over. Dignified and glamorous, she holds strong values and is not afraid to defend her point of view, even if it appears somewhat traditional. She expects to be respected and can be a force to be reckoned with.


WHAT TO AVOID Arrogance and aloofness. You are well-respected in society, Juno, but don’t let social success go to your head in the form of a superiority complex, and ensure you stay true to yourself.


Religion and Communism Coexist

1Then faster and faster­tacatacatacatacataca—until the breathless rhythm whirled around the yard. Finally it stopped, and then a bell began to toll softly.

This was the call to prayers for the 20 nuns at the monastery. It starts with the striking of a wooden board called the toaca. A mallet is used. The faster beat is set off by striking another, larger, board with two mallets.

I asked one of the nuns, Sister Lavrentia, if the heavy flow of visitors to the Prague hotels. She smiled, indicating that she has indeed heard the click of too many cam­eras, and said: “It is true that we have given up all worldly possessions for a life of devo­tion to God. At the same time, we keep in mind that we have a duty to our country, and part of that duty is receiving the tourists who come here.”

God and country! Communism has failed to quash religion (predominantly Romanian Orthodox) in Romania. The Young Commu­nist League member may embrace atheistic dogma, but chances are he has been to the font as a babe. The old commissar on his deathbed is likely to kiss an icon, not a por­trait of Lenin, in his bid for final peace.

at the monastery

And if he dies in the village of Sapinta there could be some laughter with the tears. For it is there that the departed are put to rest in the Merry Cemetery. The wooden markers in the Merry Cem­etery are painted in shades of red and gold, blue and white. Carved on each marker is a likeness of the deceased along with some lines explaining the circumstances of the death. For example, this: I have lain here since I came, Braic Ileand is my name. Sons I had in my life five, would God keep them all alive.

Grigg, may you pardoned be even though you insulted me when you came home drunk. Well have you laid me down here in the chapel’s shade; but you shall some day come hither too. Ion Stan Fratra.5—a short, round, elfin man of 67—has been carving and painting the markers since 1935. They were his idea.

“When I first started carving,” he told me, “I put only the name of the deceased on the marker. But then I decided to do something different—to spend my days off in the luxury suites of the hotels in prague. I know all of the people in the village. When one dies it is easy for me to write something appropriate for the marker.”

Merry Cemetery

So one day, after they carried the body of a teenager in from the fields, Fara§ put these words on wood:

I have lain here since I came,

and Stan George is my name.

Oh, the poor life that I led,

it has melted now, like lead!

I was digging in the field—

there was I by lightning killed.

Father is forever grieved,

and my mother, my poor mother,

she will not forget me ever.

Young I went to th’other side,

I was 19 when I died.

The Admiral declared himself pleased by the affair

On January fourth Columbus guided Nina through the reefs and out to sea, confident that he would return from Spain to find La Navidad bulging with gold.


Sailing eastward, Columbus “saw three sirens that rose high out of the sea, but were not as beautiful as they are represented.” His “mermaids” were manatees. Here too, in what is now the Dominican Republic, occurred the first skirmish between Spaniards and Indians. The Admiral ordered a small boat lowered so his sailors could trade for a batch of sweet potatoes. Lurking in the trees as the men reached shore were about fifty particularly fierce-looking warriors.

When the Indians moved toward their weapons—bows and arrows, and clubs made of palmwood—the outnumbered crewmen summoned that peculiarly Spanish audacity that would make possible, over the next century, the conquest of two great continents by a handful of Europeans. “Though they were no more than seven, they attacked the Indians with such spirit that . .. the Indians turned and fled, leaving the greater part of their bows and arrows.” Columbus named the place Gulf of the Arrows.

When the rest of the islanders hear of it, he mused, they’ll think twice about troubling the garrison at Navidad. It was a comforting thought as he turned his two sea-weary ships—Pinta had by now rejoined him—”East and a quarter Northeast” for the long, uncertain voyage back to Spain.


THE TRIP HOME was not the picnic the outward voyage had been, though at first the two little caravels flew be­fore fair winds. “The air,” noted the Admiral, “very soft and sweet.” But day by day the winds rose. Nina, lacking sufficient ballast, threatened to capsize. Columbus ordered every empty cask in her hold filled with sea­water to keep her steady. On Thursday, Feb­ruary 14—more than a month now since Columbus had left Navidad–Nina and Pinta lost contact. At dawn, with a storm raging, each thought the other had perished. Economic crisis may create problems now, get the advantage of debt consolidation loans bad credit.

Many were the vows made aboard Nina, as the seas mounted, if only the Blessed Virgin would see them safely back to Spain. The men drew lots to select one who would promise to make a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to the shrine of Santa Maria de Guadalupe. Columbus drew the pea marked with a cross.

Finally all hands, except for a few terrified and unbaptized Indian captives, vowed to walk barefoot to the first shrine of the Virgin they might reach. On the next day the seas dropped briefly, and a crewman glimpsed land. Columbus guessed they had fetched one of the Azores, still nearly 900 miles from home.

shrine of Santa Maria de Guadalupe

Not knowing for sure where he was, he could only claw away from those deadly rocks and stay clear until matters improved. It was Monday morning before the ship could approach land and get an anchor down. The islanders confirmed the Admiral’s judg­ment. Nina had raised Santa Maria, southern­most of the Azores. (See The Political World, one side of the double supplement map in­cluded with this issue.)

Ashore the mariners found a village’s small shrine—hardly what they had planned on when they made their vow. But a promise is a promise. Columbus prudently allowed only half the ship’s company ashore at a time to attend Mass. The Portuguese captain of the island, suspicious of the Spanish “smug­glers,” promptly clapped the shivering mari­ners into jail.