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The Andean Condor is in Trouble. The Reasons are Known, and Preventable

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(wer-al zwowe)

BY SIMEON TEGEL / GlobalPost

LIMA, Peru — Another day, another endangered species, or so it seems.

The Andean condor could be next. The iconic giant scavenger is a national symbol of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, but it is disappearing in parts of the region. 

According to the Red List of Threatened Species, the conservationists’ bible, there are an estimated 10,000 of the birds left in the wild.

Yet things are not as simple as that.

“The problem is no one really knows,” says Robert Wallace, who heads the Wildlife Conservation Society’s operations in Bolivia.

“It is very hard with animals that cover such large distances and inhabit such inaccessible terrain. The condors you see in one place today and 300 miles away tomorrow could easily be the same animals.”

What is known is that populations in Argentina and Chile, mainly Patagonia, are relatively healthy, while there are thought to be just a handful left in Ecuador and Colombia. Venezuela probably now has no resident condors left.

In Peru, one forthcoming study puts the minimum number at just 250. Meanwhile, Jessica Galvez-Durand, head of sustainable wildlife management for the Peruvian government, says that there are “fewer than 2,500.”

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Peruvian Congress Rejects Civil Unions Bill

Legislation that would have granted same-sex couples in Peru the right to enter into lawful civil unions was rejected Tuesday by the Peruvian Congress' Justice and Human Rights Committee. The bill was sponsored by the country's first out gay congressman Carlos Bruce. 

The bill failed with 7 votes against, 4 in favor, and 2 abstentions.

Peruvian Times reports:

BruceAfter a three-hour debate, seven members of the Congressional Justice and Human Rights Committee voted against the legislation; four voted in favor and two abstained, according to RPP Noticias.

“We have defended the natural family, as enshrined and recognized in our Peruvian Constitution,” said Congressman Julio Rosas, of the opposition, right-wing Fuerza Popular party. “This is supported by the large majority of our Peruvian society.”

Carlos Tubino, another Fuerza Popular lawmaker, called the vote a victory for Peru. “Today, the people of Peru have won,” he said.

The debate over the legislation heated up in the days leading to the vote, with opponents and supporters holding separate protests. The legislation, proposed by lawmaker Carlos Bruce, faced stiff opposition in a conservative country where the Catholic Church still plays a strong role in public and private life.

Monsignor Luis Bambarén, Bishop emeritus of Chimbote, told Peruvian media that he strongly opposed the legislation, and called Bruce a “maricon,” Spanish for “faggot.”

“Congressman Carlos Bruce is making a fool of himself with all of this, appearing – excuse me for the term –  like a faggot in the middle of everything,” said Bambaren. “He himself has said he is gay. Gay is not the Peruvian word, the word is faggot.”

Bruce called Bambarén's comments "typical of homophobia" and expressed his hope that Bambarén would apologize for his remarks.

Bruce remained optimistic about the bill's long-term prospects even in the face of its defeat in committee yesterday. Said Bruce, 

“Today, you have seen which lawmakers are backwards, those that want to deny the rights of others, who feel superior and consider that there are Peruvians of a second class,” Bruce said after the vote. “We are on the right side of history, and we are sure that this is going to be approved.”


Sponsor of Peru's Civil Union Bill Becomes Country's First Out Gay Congressman: 'I am Proud'

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Congressman Carlos Bruce came out of the closet in an interview with Peruvian newspaper El Comercio on Sunday, saying, “Yes, I am gay and I am proud to belong to this group of people who are so valuable to Perú."

The Washington Blade reports:

Bruce — a member of the centrist Possible Perú Alliance who represents Lima, the Peruvian capital — told the newspaper his two sons support his decision to come out. The congressman also reiterated his criticisms of Lima Archbishop Juan Luís Cipriani who opposes the civil unions bill.

“He does not respond with ideas, only with personal attacks,” Bruce told El Comercio. “I am sure that he is homophobic. He should be more tolerant. There are leaders from the evangelical church who support the bill.”

Bruce’s announcement comes as lawmakers in the South American country continue to debate his measure. It also coincides with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia that LGBT advocates in Perú and dozens of other countries commemorated.

Here is the announcement in Peruvian media.


Scientists Baffled by Mysterious, Tiny Structures in Amazon: PHOTOS

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There's something fun about scientists being completely stumped--it's a little reminder that, despite everything we humans have figured out about our world, the Earth is far more diverse and mysterious than we can imagine.  One such enigma has cropped up this week in South America, as WIRED explains:

Something in the Peruvian Amazon is making weird, intricate structures that resemble white picket fences surrounding an Isengard-like spire.

No one has any idea who the mysterious craftsbug (fungus? spider?) is, or what the structure is even used for, excepting the fence part, which almost makes sense. Nobody, not even the scientists. We asked.

Troy Alexander, a graduate student at Georgia Tech, spotted the first of these structures on June 7. The little, seemingly woven fence was parked on the underside of a blue tarp near the Tambopata Research Center, in southeastern Peru. He later spotted three more of the bizarre enclosures on tree trunks in the jungle.

Photos of the mysterious structures were first posted to Reddit's "What's this bug?" section 10 days ago, and biologist Phil Torres, who works in the Tambopata area, tweeted a link to the photos last week.

WIRED reached out to a smattering of scientists to ask for hypotheses about the structures' origins and got back...well, not many answers:

“I have no idea what made it, or even what it is,” said William Eberhard, an entomologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

“I’ve seen the photo, but have no idea what animal might be responsible,” echoed Norm Platnick, curator emeritus of spiders at the American Museum of Natural History.

“I don’t know what it is,” said arachnologist Linda Rayor, of Cornell University. “My guess is something like a lacewing, but I don’t really know.”

Towleroad scientists--anyone have a theory as to what these tiny towers might be?

Check out some more photos of the formations, AFTER THE JUMP...

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In Peru, Drag Is A Contact Sport: VIDEO

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This year's Miss Gay San Juan drag pageant also doubled as a UFC match when the runner-up decided to throw down with the newly crowned queen. The video below shows plenty of hair pulling, high-heel kicks and dagger-stares a-go-go.

RuPaul was wrong. In some parts of the world, drag is a contact sport.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Outspoken Marriage Equality Ally Scott Fujita Retires from New Orleans Saints: PHOTOS

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NFL linebacker and Super Bowl champ Scott Fujita, who has been speaking out since 2009 for marriage equality and has appeared in videos for Americans for Marriage Equality, among others, retired from the New Orleans Saints yesterday, making the announcement with photos from Peru he posted to Twitter.

FujitaESPN reports:

Linebacker Scott Fujita signed a one-day contract with the New Orleans Saints on Monday and then announced his retirement after 11 seasons in the NFL. Fujita signed his contract in Machu Picchu, which is located in the Andes Mountains in Peru. He's there with former Saints teammate Steve Gleason, who is battling Lou Gehrig's Disease.

In a statement from the team, Fujita said he couldn't think of a better place to be to announce his retirement.

"What better place to reach the end of the road than here at 10,000 feet above sea level, in the Peruvian Andes overlooking Machu Picchu with my dear friend Steve Gleason?"

Said Fujita in a NYT column earlier this year:

I support marriage equality for so many reasons: my father’s experience in an internment camp and the racial intolerance his family experienced during and after the war, the gay friends I have who are really not all that different from me, and also because of a story I read a few years back about a woman who was denied the right to visit her partner of 15 years when she was stuck in a hospital bed...

...Believe it or not, conversations about issues like gay marriage take place in locker rooms every day. In many respects, the football locker room is a microcosm of society. While there is certainly an element of bravado in our sport, football players are not the meatheads many think we are. For some of my friends who raise personal objections to marriage equality, they still recognize the importance of being accepting. And many of them also recognize that regardless of what they choose to believe or practice at home or at their church, that doesn’t give them the right to discriminate.

Fujita


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