Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Bandicoot, the lesser-known Australian marsupial.

When I arrived in Australia in 1954, I knew all about Australia’s best known marsupial, the kangaroo, but had no idea that there were other marsupials equally interesting in their own way. I discovered this only when I cut sugar cane in Mossman in far North Queensland. - Werner

Once upon a time sugarcane fires lit the skies in Queensland, Australia, throughout the cane-cutting season. The cane was burnt to remove the dry leaves to make cutting easier, especially when the cane was still cut by hand. Today, this practice has been discontinued, and mechanical harvesters have replaced the manual cane cutter. To watch a cane fire, was a sight to behold, especially with the wind behind it, thirty-meter high flames were nothing unusual. Unfortunately, this spectacle also had a more ominous side to it. Many small animals, which found food and shelter in the cane fell victim to the fire if they were not fast enough to escape. 
They were predominately snakes, rats and bandicoots.The latter is the animal I’m writing about.

It is highly likely, I guess, that very few people outside Australia have heard about this marsupial, the cousin of our better known and national icon, the Kangaroo - and much less ever seen one. Seeing them is not easy, because they are nocturnal and start to come out at dusk from their hiding places in search of food. The diet of the Bandicoot is, in the main, insects, grubs and worms, but they also eat some roots, fungi, and berries when in season. They move over the ground sniffling and snuffling as they go, and find insects by smelling them. They also have the ability to detect worms and grubs under the soil and quickly dig down with their narrow front feet. The front feet have three toes with long curving claws, so the holes they dig are narrow and pointed at the bottom, and the narrow snout fits neatly into the hole to get the worm or grub at the bottom of the hole. They live a solitary life, nest alone and spend the day hidden in a nest, hollow log or just under bushes.

The only time females tolerate the company of males is when in season, solely to mate. After that event the male is no longer welcome.
The lifespan of a bandicoot is only about three years. When females are about three months old they start breeding, and this will be a continuous process from then on, to the end of their days. They are still suckling their young in the pouch while the next litter grows in the womb.

I can vividly remember when I first encountered this small, but interesting marsupial - mistakenly taking it for an oversized rat.
I was cutting sugarcane in Mossman in far North Queensland in the late 1950s, when we burnt off a paddock of sugarcane which was adjacent to a field that lay fallow in the late afternoon. As the fire raged, a drama took place on the ground, as well as in the air. I exclaimed! “Look at all those big rats escaping the fire!” My Boss smiled, “Those big ones are not rats. They are bandicoots.”

“They are what?”
I asked. This was my very first introduction to the word and the animal it represents. However, I have since learnt more about this animal as well as encountering them many times. Of course, for many bandicoots and rats that escaped the inferno into the fallow field and wrongly thinking it was their lucky break – unfortunately it wasn’t. A lot of them fell prey to the many hawks that circled above, eager for a meal. The hawks literally had a field day with gourmet food. I couldn’t help thinking of the English proverb, in reverse order, “From the fire into the frying pan” - it is indeed a cruel world out there. 

Bandicoot is the common name for any of 23 species of marsupials found inAustralia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. The Bandicoot ranges in length from 15 to 56 cm (6" to 22") depending on the species. They look something like a cross between a rat and a rabbit. The colour of the fur ranges from grey, to brown and golden brown. I was told by cane-farmers that the early European settlers called them bandicoots because they look like a pig-rat, or pandi-kokku of southern India, and the name has stuck. For the members of the group which have long rabbit-like ears, we use the name the aborigines gave them - bilby.

I will restrict myself in this story to the bandicoot I’m familiar with, the short-nosed northern brown bandicoot (Isodon macrourus) that is heavier built, has a shorter nose and smaller ears than the long-nosed one (Perameles nasuta) that is lighter built and has longer ears.
See picture above.) The long-nosed bandicoots live in areas that are more open and grassy, while the short-nosed prefers more wooded areas. Fully grown, they are about 250 mm (10") long.

As coastal cities are expanding, and bushland is lost, the bandicoot is squeezed out of their habitat. I was fortunate enough to live for many years, not among the gum trees, as the well-known Australian folk song goes, but among the bandicoots in North Queensland. They are generally considered useful little critters especially in sugarcane where they dig for the very damaging cane grub.

We lived for seven years at a place called White Rock, just south of Cairns.
(Now renamed “Mt. Sheridan”) We had tall mountains as a backdrop, and our house was adjacent to a little creek, and surrounded by bush and sugarcane. It was the ideal habitat of bandicoots - and many less desirable creatures. We had the pleasure of getting acquainted with one that for a long time came at dusk to the bottom of our steps, and the kids fed it with small bits of meat. This was very unusual, to come so close to humans, as they are normally very shy.

We found, as intriguing as this little marsupial was, it also had a downside, if one lived in a country area. Wherever, there were bandicoots, there were always snakes around, as bandicoots are part of their food chain. But a more worrisome aspect was, they carried the deadly scrub tick, which dropped off their host onto the lawn after it had its fill of blood. From there, it could get onto domestic animals such as dogs and cats with dire consequences. It is said that bandicoots are immune to the tick poison. We lost two dogs to tick paralysis, despite the vet administrating a very expensive antivenin, which was fairly new in the 1960s. Besides being extremely expensive, the death resulting from tick poisoning is an agonising one.

At night-time, we always knew when bandicoots were paying us a visit. Their squeaky grunts could be heard all night
. And if males fought with each other, there were prolonged squeaky grunts. In the morning, I would find to my chagrin, their instantly recognizable visiting cards that they left behind - the numerous holes in the lawn, which could prove very annoying to any proud owner of a well-groomed lawn.

Lets delve a bit deeper into the inner workings of this interesting little marsupial.
Bandicoots have the shortest known pregnancy of any mammal - only twelve and a half days. The half-day has some significance. The female mates at night and the young are born in the daytime in the security of the nest. As with all marsupials, their young are very small and undeveloped, with no fur and unable to see, yet they are still able to find their way into the pouch. In the case of the bandicoot, the young are only about one centimetre long. But one of the most interesting aspects is that the pouch of the bandicoot opens backwards, and inside the pouch are eight teats and there are usually three or four young.
By comparison, the Kangaroo, which has only one young, has two teats and the pouch opens upwards. Each newborn bandicoot attaches itself to one of the small teats in the pouch, which then swells, ensuring that the young stay there. I pondered for long time, as to why the pouch would open backwards, and came to
the following conclusion. The bandicoot digs holes with their shorter front legs in search of food, and if the pouch opened the other way, it would fill up with soil and smother the young.

What do you think? I’m convinced that the designer of the bandicoot was wearing his thinking cap when he invented this fascinating little animal.
My thought for today. - Werner
We have more to learn from animal than animals have to learn from us.
Anthony Douglas Williams

Monday, April 11, 2016

A non-polluting car motor.

How often do we yearn for owning a car that would run on anything else than petrol or diesel? The good news is, a friend, Eddie Haring (See Picture) converted an existing car motor that runs on compressed air. Is this perhaps the answer to cleaner and more affordable motoring? When Plato said: “Necessity is the mother of invention”, he certainly didn’t think of exorbitant petrol prices, as the car hadn’t been invented then, but it certainly would apply today and a car motor that runs on air would certainly be a necessity.

A personal note.
Eddie Haring was born in Germany and is an aircraft engineer (retired). He worked in this capacity in Germany and Papua New Guinea. Eddie also built his own yacht and travelled for 12 years around the world with his lovely wife Ute, and their three children.

Eddie got 2 Suzuki motor blocks, an “Alto” and a “Swift” and converted them to run on compressed air.
(Patented in Australia) Eddie gave me a motor running demonstration of the “Alto engine on a test stand” and I was amazed and very much impressed by what I witnessed.

No radiator is needed and no starter motor for the „Alto“.
The engine runs very quiet and the exhaust feels cold. This motor is environmentally friendly as clean air goes in and clean air goes out!  Air-pollution is avoided!

Eddie is hoping that a car manufacturer or somebody takes up this concept and develops it further. And hopefully we will get a car that will run on air, and doesn’t pollute, which would make us independent from oil producing countries.

  • This invention can be applied to any existing car motor!
  • No conventional air-conditioning equipment is needed, or cooling water, or a radiator.
  • Neither is a starter motor required on a 3 cylinder engine. Compressed air will be refilled into lightweight carbon-fibre cylinders by solar panels via an electric driven compressor.
This invention can be applied to cars (any existing car motor can be remodeled in a short time if eventually a kit form is supplied). This concept would also be excellent for farm equipment, like tractors, spray and harvesting machinery, Mining-machinery, Buses, trucks etc…

Organic farming is improved as farm equipment/tractors/spray machinery does not emit toxic diesel-emissions or fumes!

 It took many years to develop car-motors as we know them today and equally, air-driven motor development will need time to become a reality and be economically viable.
Contact e-mail: Eddie Haring,
My thought for today. – Werner
The secret to success is to start from scratch and keep on scratching. Dennis Green

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Muslim dilemma and their conflict with Western Culture.

Have you ever wondered why we have problems with Muslims? If you read the following by Danish Psychologist you wouldn’t wonder anymore. He said in March 2009, “Integration of Muslims in Western Societies is not possible.” Unquote.
In short, they have a problem with our Western Culture, and we have a problem with theirs, which they want to impose on us. The question begs, why do they want to go to a Christian country? There is perhaps an ulterior motive to simply breed us out, and live on Welfare. For those people who have a problem with our Australian culture and are averse to assimilate, I have a simple message. “Just go away and find another country that is compatible with your culture, we don’t want you here”. - Werner

An interview by Felix Struening.
Danish integration problems with Muslims became public worldwide in 2006 when the newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Exactly two years later riots broke out again because of the reprint of the Mohammed cartoons by all major Danish newspapers. Currently 70% of the prison population in the Copenhagen youth prison consists of young men of Muslim heritage. Is this recent violence and general violent tendency among Muslims solely coincidental, or is there a direct connection?

In February 2009, Nicolai Sennels, a Danish psychologist published a book entitled “Among criminal Muslims”. A psychologist’s experience from Copenhagen. In his book, Nicolai Sennels shares a psychological perspective of this Muslim Culture, its relationship to anger, handling emotions and its religion. He based his research on hundreds of hours of therapy with 150 young Muslims in the Copenhagen youth jail. EuropeNews interviewed the author about his book and its consequences on integration of Muslims in Europe. Picture: Nicolai Sennels

: Nicolai Sennels, how did you get the idea to write a book about criminal Muslims in Denmark?

Sennels: I got the idea in February 2008 during a conference on integration in Copenhagen, where I was invited as the first and only psychologist working in a Copenhagen youth prison. My speech at the conference was about the fact, that foreigners’ culture plays a significant role concerning integration, crime and religious extremism. I emphasized, that people from a Muslim culture find it difficult, if not impossible, to create a successful life in Denmark. This statement was met with great resistance from Danish politicians and also my own boss from the youth prison. I was quite surprised since I thought that my point is obvious: some cultures fit better into Western societies than others. All of Europe is currently struggling to integrate Muslims but this endeavour seems to be impossible. According to the Danish police and the Danish Bureau of Statistics more than 70% of all crimes in the Danish capital are committed by Muslims. Our national bank recently published a report stating that a Muslim foreigner costs more than 2 million Danish Kroner (300,000 Euros) in federal social assistance on average, caused by the low participation in the work force.

On top of this, we have to add many additional types of social welfare that unemployed people can receive in our country: expenses in connection with interpreters, special classes in school – 64% of school children with Muslim parents cannot read and write Danish properly after 10 years in a Danish school – social work, extra police etc. My statement resulted in a legal injunction, a kind of professional punishment, which stated, that if I ever repeat this, I could be fired. According to the Copenhagen authorities it is apparently permitted to state that the serious problems among Muslims are caused by poverty, the media, the police, the Danes, politicians, etc. But two things are definitely not allowed: 1) discussing the significance of culture and 2) our foreigners own responsibility for their integration in our societies. Unfortunately many very powerful politicians lack a clear understanding of the psychological aspect of culture and the influence it has on integration.

EuropeNews: What were the reactions in Denmark?

Sennels: The book was received with a great amount of attention, already before the book was officially published on February 24 2009. It was on the front page of one of the biggest national newspapers in Denmark, and I was on the radio and TV participating in debates with politicians and other experts on the subject. The first publication of the book was sold out after three weeks. Since then, there have been some big changes in Danish integration policy, which seems to have been influenced by the book and the attention it got. From my personal point of view, the widespread attention shows that my statement is true: there is simply a great need for a deeper understanding of how Muslims’culture influences their chances for integration. The very famous politician, Naser Khader, who is Muslim and the author of the bestseller “Honor and Shame”, wrote a review of my book and stated that it should be “obligatory reading for students, social workers and teachers.” Jyllands-Posten, the brave newspaper that first published the Mohammed cartoons, calls the book “an original piece of pioneer work”.

EuropeNews: Let’s have a closer look at the book. You talk about four myths of integration. The first one concerns the difference between the cultures of immigrants.

Sennels: What I discovered during my work at the youth prison was that people of Muslim heritage have other needs for social work than Danes or people of non-Muslim cultures. These different needs require more attention, and psychologists need to do more research on these topics in order to be able to create effective social politics. I completely agree with my critics that personal and social problems can lead to anti-social behaviour among both Westerners and Muslims. However, there is still extremely disproportional anti-social and anti-democratic behaviour among Muslims. The Danish Bureau of Statistics published a report (1 and 2) stating that Muslim countries take the first eight places on the top 10-list of criminals’ country of origin. Denmark is number nine on this list.

So that means, we have to treat Muslim and non-Muslim immigrants in a different way?

Sennels: Seen from a psychological and also humanistic perspective, it is very clear that people from different cultures have different needs when they have or create problems.
My own experience is that Muslims don’t understand our Western way of trying to handle conflicts through dialogue. They are raised in a culture with very clear outer authorities and consequences. Western tradition using compromise and inner reflection as primary means of handling outer and inner conflicts is seen as weak in the Muslim culture. To a great extent they simply don’t understand this softer and more humanistic way of handling social affairs. In the context of social work and politics this means that they need more borders and stronger consequences to be able to adjust their behaviour.

EuropeNews: That leads us directly to the second myth: it is often said, that the criminality of immigrants is caused by social problems, not by their cultural background. In your book you disagree and point to the religion of the Muslims as a source of criminality.

Sennels: Well, I would rephrase it as “Muslim culture” instead of “religion” because there are a lot of Muslims who don’t know what is written in the Quran and who don’t visit the mosques. But they are strongly influenced on a cultural level. And there we see that especially anger is much more accepted in the Muslim culture. One example: in Western culture and also in other non-Muslim cultures, like in Asia, you see aggression and a sudden explosion of anger as something you’ll regret afterwards, something you are ashamed of. It is completely opposite in the Muslim culture. If somebody steps on your honour – what I as a psychologist would call self confidence – you are simply expected to show aggression and often also verbal or physical revenge. So, aggression gives you a low status in our cultures, but a high status in the Muslim culture. There is however another and much deeper reason for the wide spread anti-social behaviour in Muslim communities and their strong aversion against integration – namely, the very strong identification that Muslims have with belonging to the Muslim culture.

My encounter with the Muslim culture has been a meeting with an exceedingly strong and very proud culture. This is certainly something that can ensure an ancient culture’s survival through changing times – Islam and the Muslim culture are excellent examples of this. A strong and proud culture unfortunately also makes the culture’s members almost unable to adapt to other values. In Germany, only 12% of their 3.5 million Muslims see themselves as more German than Muslim; in France and Denmark, only 14% of the Muslim populations respectively see themselves more as French or Danish than Muslim. Research among Muslims living in Denmark also shows that 50% of the 1st- and 2nd-generation immigrants are against free speech and 11% would like to see the Danish constitution exchanged with the Sharia law (more numbers from this research can be found in the printed issue of the newspaper). These high percentages are of course frightening, but especially disturbing is the fact that there are no differences of opinion on this topic among Muslims who are born and raised in Muslim countries and the opinion of their children who are born and raised in Danish society. When it comes to identity among Muslims, nationality does not count at all in comparison with culture and religion. The consequence is a powerful and growing opposition to Western culture and values in Muslim ghettos throughout Copenhagen and other major European cities.

As you already pointed out, a lot of Muslims have a strong connection to their religious identity. The third myth you dismantle in your book is about the percentage of extremist’s and fundamentalists among Muslims. It’s often presumed that this percentage is relatively small. What is your experience?

Sennels: People hope that most Muslims are modern and accept Western values. My experience is different, and this has been proven by the statistics in Europe that I just quoted. In February 2008, we had some deadly serious riots by young Muslims in Denmark. Those riots were partly a reaction to the great focus by the Danish police on the steeply rising crime rates in Muslim areas. The other reason was the reprinting of the Mohammed cartoons in all Danish newspapers. This reprinting was an act of solidarity with the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, whose life was, and still is, seriously threatened. In these riots, we saw Muslims who don’t practice the Islamic religion in their daily lives standing up for their culture and religion in a very aggressive way. Copenhagen was smoking for an entire week due to several hundred of fires, and the police and firemen trying to calm the situation down were also attacked. A big part of the rioters ended up in the prison where I worked, and I therefore I had the chance to talk with them. Almost all of them were Muslims, and they all claimed that what they have done – starting fires, attacking the police etc. – was justified since Danish society, through its pressure on integration and through reprinting the Mohammed cartoons, has proven itself to be racist and against Islam and Muslim culture. The few Danish people among the rioters were completely different. Their explanation of their actions was predominately a search for adventure or excitement.

EuropeNews: The fourth myth is that poverty among immigrants leads to their bad social situation. In your book, you tell us that the opposite is true.
Sennels: You can formulate this important question like this: Do people get social problems because they are poor, or do they become poor because they create social problems? My experience is that the very low focus on supporting one’s children in school and on one’s own education and the lack of motivation for creating a professional career is a crucial factor for the poverty, which many Muslims experience in both our societies and in Muslim countries. On top of it, one fourth of all young male Muslims in Denmark have a criminal record. Poor reading skills, a strong aversion against authorities and a criminal record simply make it very difficult for you to get a well paying job. It is anti-social behaviour that makes you poor. Not the other way around.

Unfortunately many politicians see poverty as the main cause of integration problems. I think this is a horrible and one-dimensional view of poor people and of people in general. The idea that people’s behaviour is decided by the amount of money they have on their bank accounts every month is an exceedingly limited view. I myself, as a psychologist who graduated from the humanities department of the University of Copenhagen, would say that people have many more and stronger factors in their lives than money, which influence their behaviour and way of thinking.

EuropeNews: What is the conclusion on your research? Is the integration of people of Muslim heritage into Western societies possible?
I would say that the optimists, the people who say that integration is possible, carry a very great responsibility. There is a very great risk that they are selling us hope, a dream that has no foundation in reality. This means that they will be the ones who are responsible for Europe looking away from and not addressing its problems until it is too late. There is simply no research in Europe that supports the optimists’ view. On the contrary, all the research that we have on integration of Muslims in Western societies shows that we are continuing to head in the wrong direction. So I don’t know how these optimists come to their conclusion. Maybe it is a vain and childish hope that everything will turn out well, just like in the fairy tales. Or maybe it is a pseudo-Darwinistic idea that everything will develop in a positive direction.

One thing is for sure: they don’t base their judgments on facts.
Of course there are exceptions but for the largest part integration to the necessary degree of Muslims is not possible. Clever and compassionate people are working all over Europe on the problem, and they have spent billions of Euros on the project, yet, the problems still continue to grow. The psychological explanation is actually simple. The Muslim and the Western cultures are fundamentally very different. This means Muslims need to undergo very big changes in their identity and values to be able to accept the values of Western societies. Changing basic structures in one’s personality is a very demanding psychological and emotional process. Apparently very few Muslims feel motivated to do so. I only know a few who managed, but I also know that it was a long and exhausting struggle on an inner level for them and that they often pay a high personal price on the outer level because their Muslim friends and families despise and/or disown them for leaving their culture.

EuropeNews: But what we are going to do with the Muslims, who are already here?

Sennels: I see two possibilities. Firstly, we should immediately stop all immigration of people from Muslim countries to Europe until we have proven that integration of Muslims is possible. Secondly, we should help Muslims who don’t want to or are not able to integrate in our Western societies to build a new and meaningful life in a society they understand and that understands them. This means to assist them in starting a new life in a Muslim country. We actually have the  economic means to do this. As I mentioned previously, the Danish National Bank calculated, that every immigrant from Muslim countries costs 300,000 euros on average. With this money, we could help these people to live a happy life in a Muslim country without having to integrate in a society they don’t understand and therefore cannot accept.

Having enough money to support one’s family and live in a country where one feels at home with the surrounding culture would be a great step forward in the quality of their lives.
And we should help them achieve this. Not only the individual Muslim, but also European societies will benefit. Muslims emigrating from Europe to Muslim countries will function as ambassadors for more free and democratic societies: due to their experience from living in a democracy with real human rights and their knowledge of the social systems in Europe, they will take very important ideas and values with them. In this way they can do what hopefully most of them dream of, i.e. help their Muslim brothers and sisters in their home countries by changing the poor conditions and from which they moved away from initially
Nicolai Sennels, 33 years old, is a psychologist and has worked for theCopenhagen authorities for several years. From 2005 to 2008 he worked at the S√łnderbro youth prison in Copenhagen.
More reading about this subject.
Denmark's Muslin dilemma.
Australian angst about Islam . .

My thought for today.
- Werner
We all live under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon. Konrad Adenauer