Phuket Media Watch: Bishop quits; Hybrid sharks; Volcano activity; Face failures


– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Catholic bishop in California quits after admitting he fathered two kids
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles on Wednesday announced that one of its Catholic bishops has resigned after acknowledging he fathered two children in the past.

Gabino Zavala, 60, resigned under the code of canon law which allows bishops to retire earlier than the standard age of 75 if they are sick or unfit for office. He served as the auxiliary bishop for the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, which covers East Los Angeles through the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys.

“I have some sad and difficult information to share with you,” the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, said in a letter. “Bishop Gabino Zavala informed me in early December that he is the father of two minor teenage children, who live with their mother in another state.”

Gomez added: “Bishop Zavala also told me that he submitted his resignation to the Holy Father in Rome, which was accepted. Since that time, he has not been in ministry and will be living privately.”

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles said it has reached out to the mother and the children to provide spiritual care as well as funding to assist the children with college costs. “The family’s identity is not known to the public, and I wish to respect their right to privacy,” Gomez said. “Let us pray for all those impacted by this situation and for each other as we reflect on this letter.”

Roman Catholic priests must take a vow of celibacy when they are ordained. The celibacy requirement often discourages many men from priesthood.

Report: Scientists find world’s first hybrid shark off Australia

Phuket Gazette / News Wires

Phuket: Marine biologists in Australia have spotted the world’s first hybrid sharks off the country’s coast, local media reported yesterday.

In a sign of adaptation to climate change, scientists have found 57 hybrid sharks – a cross between the Australian black-tip shark and the common black-tip, which are related but genetically different species – off the Australian east coast.

Dr. Jennifer Ovenden of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries told Australia’s ABC News that the mating between these two species is unprecedented as hybridization between sharks had never been seen in the wild anywhere in the world.

“Species with the smaller body can hybridize with the species with the larger body, allowing that tropical species to move further south,” Ovenden told the media outlet. “We are thinking that it will provide the sharks with a mechanism to adapt to future environmental change.”

While the larger common black-tip shark swims in the colder waters of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, the smaller Australian black-tip is usually found in warmer seas, but the 57 hybrid sharks were found in a 2,000-kilometer (1,243-mile) stretch of the east coast.

Scientists are now planning to look for more cases of hybridization in other waters such as Australia’s western and northern coasts. Interbreeding and the resulting hybridization has been seen in the animal kingdom in birds, some fishes, and other cases, but it had been unknown among sharks.

Black-tip reef sharks (carcharhinus melanopterus) are commonly found when diving off Phuket’s east coast and is often confused with the blacktip shark, Carcharhinus lim.

Hundreds evacuate as activity rises at Indonesia’s Mount Lewotolok

Phuket Gazette / News Wires

Hundreds of people living near a volcano in the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara were evacuated on yesterday because of increased volcanic activity, the Antara news agency reported.

About 500 people residing near Mount Lewotolok in Lembata district abandoned their homes amid the volcano’s mounting activity. “Most of them left for the nearest city, Lewoleba,” said Lembata Deputy District Chief Viktor Mado Watun, as quoted by Antara. “All related government officials will soon hold a coordination meeting to deal with the latest situation.”

“Black smoke columns are coming out of the mountain’s crater, the air is filled with the smell of sulfur while rumbling sounds are heard around the mountain,” he added.

Residents decided to leave due to the increasing activity of Mount Lewotolok over the past few days, even though the government has not yet announced an evacuation plan. Viktor said ten villages are likely to be affected and suffer material losses if the volcano erupts.

On January 2, the country’s Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) raised the alert level at the volcano to level 3. The center uses a warning system with four levels of alerts, with level 1 being the lowest and level 4 being the highest.

Dozens of active volcanoes in Indonesia are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, known for frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

One of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes is Mount Merapi, which is located on the island of Java near Jogjakarta, the country’s second-most visited area after Bali. In 2010, more than 300 people were killed in a series of eruptions between October and November which also displaced over 300,000 people.

Finnish presidential candidate fails to recognize Russian, British leaders

Phuket Gazette / News Wires

A Finnish politician who is participating in this month’s presidential election has failed to recognize the faces of several international figures, including the Russian president and the Prime Minister of Britain.

Several top presidential candidates were shown 20 photos by a local newspaper and asked to name the persons in them. Surprisingly, Green League candidate Pekka Haavisto was unable to recognize Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

To make matters worse, Haavisto and fellow presidential candidates Eva Biaudet (Swedish People’s Party), Paavo Arhinmäki (Left Alliance) and Sari Essayah (Christian Democrats) all failed to recognize Andrus Ansip, who has served as prime minister of neighboring Estonia since 2005.

According to the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, the four were also unable to recognize Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. They did, however, recognize U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The presidential elections in Finland are scheduled to be held on January 22. Incumbent President Tarja Halonen is ineligible to run for re-election, having served the maximum two terms of six years each.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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