Tag Archives: prize

Defender of dwindling forests in Cambodia wins Goldman Prize

The latest crackdown on illegal logging in Cambodia is “just a game” and big timber traders are winning, says Leng Ouch, a former government official who has spent two decades helping poor villagers fight poaching of precious tropical forests.

Leng’s tenacious and perilous crusade to stop illegal logging and stop land concessions from forcing Cambodians out of their homes has won him a Goldman Environmental Prize, which honors grassroots environmental activism.

The award follows recent announcements that Cambodian authorities plan to expand protected areas of the Southeast Asian country’s forests by about a third. Long-ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen, whom many consider a backer of the biggest logging group, Try Pheap, recently said he had authorized rocket attacks on illegal loggers.

But Leng and other critics say reports of raids and other high-profile shows of force against illegal loggers belie the lack of arrests or prosecutions of those cutting and trading in illegal timber.

Asked if the crackdown is for real, he said, “It’s just a game.”

“Nobody was arrested. The media was set up,” Leng said during an interview. “The Ministry of the Environment doesn’t care. They never go inside the jungle to patrol or arrest illegal loggers.”

Much of the timber trade is protected by military units that profit from deals with the loggers, and the stakes of fighting it can be deadly. At least five deaths in Cambodia have been linked to illegal logging since 2007, including that of Leng’s fellow environmentalist Chut Wutthy, who was fatally shot in 2012 while showing journalists a logging camp in the southwest’s Koh Kong province.

It’s a risk shared with other environmental crusaders defying powerful companies and government backers around the world. Honduran indigenous leader and environmentalist Berta Caceres, a winner of a 2015 Goldman Prize, was killed by assailants who broke into her home last month. She had received death threats from police, soldiers and local landowners for her efforts to block construction of a dam.

Leng said he accepts the risks as part of his mission.

“I don’t expect the government to allow me to live long,” he said.

Leng wins $175,000 for this year’s Goldman Prize, as do five other winners.


The other winners

  • Zuzana Caputova, a lawyer who led a campaign to shut down a toxic waste dump in Slovakia.
  • Maxima Acuna, a Peruvian farmer fighting major mining companies’ efforts to take her land for a gold and copper mine.
  • Destiny Watford, a Baltimore, Maryland, student who helped prevent construction of a trash incinerator in her area.
  • Edward Loure, a Tanzanian communal land rights leader.
  • Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera, who campaigned to create a nature peserve in Puerto Rico to protect endangered leatherback sea turtles.

Leng travels into the forest armed only with a camera and a GPS locator, tracking illegal loggers. At times he works undercover by cooking for loggers, hauling cargo on docks or posing as a tourist.

Showing determination early on, Leng excelled in his studies in mostly rural Takeo province. When his village chief denied him a permit to travel to Phnom Penh to take university exams, he says he hid on a sugar cane train to get to the city. After studying law, he was assigned to the Foreign Ministry, and later to the Ministry of Planning. Drawn into politics, he moved to a nongovernmental organization and began investigating illegal logging.

Marcus Hardtke, a German environmentalist who lives in Cambodia, says the prize is well-deserved.

“Ouch Leng is one of a handful of people fighting to stop forest destruction in Cambodia,” Hardtke said. “It is up to activists like Leng and affected local communities to make a stand against the short-sighted, greed-driven policies of the Phnom Penh elite. They are doing just that, often at great personal risk.”

Lately, Leng’s attention has focused on a conflict between local villagers and a Chinese company that is developing a massive resort on a choice swath of coastland near the Thai border in Koh Kong province.

Residents complain they were forced off their land and lost their main livelihood of fishing when they were relocated inland after the government granted a 99-year land lease to China’s Tianjin Union Development Group Co., which has built a golf resort and plans a yacht club, casino, villas and other luxury facilities.

“Before, those people could earn $2,500 a year, or about $100 a night fishing. Now they cannot fish because the Chinese company grabbed everything. They have nothing to eat,” Leng said.

The United Nations says land rights conflicts have become Cambodia’s No. 1 human rights issue. Land concessions have forced villagers to make way for plantations and other projects. Meant to promote development, such arrangements often have left communities worse off, critics say.

They’ve also accelerated the loss of precious, diverse forests of increasingly rare tropical timber, as loggers push ever deeper into protected areas and also clear-cut land of less valuable wood that is sometimes sold as fuel for factories.

Cambodia remained heavily forested until relatively recently, thanks in part to lingering battles with Khmer Rouge guerrillas and massive use of land mines during the Vietnam War.

As the economy opened in the early 1990s, investment from China poured in. Forest cover dropped to 48 percent in 2014 from 57 percent in 2010 and 73 percent in 1990, a loss of nearly 3 million hectares of tropical forest. Rosewood, known as “hongmu” in Chinese, is especially prized, and loggers can get $5,000 for a cubic meter of the brightly-hued timber.

Leng, who chairs the Cambodia Human Rights Task Forces organization, says the Goldman Prize money will help support forest patrols and community-level efforts to combat illegal logging.

Like many in Cambodia, he views the government’s record with skepticism.

“The poverty-reduction policy of the government seems to be just to kill the poor people,” Leng said.

“Their ‘master plan’ to improve living standards is set up very well and looks very beautiful. To provide jobs with fair competition and construction of schools, roads, bridges. … To provide land for the people and conserve their houses,” he said. But he added that such talk is generally not put into practice by private companies or the government.

Still, Leng believes he is making headway in convincing the public to resist the loss of their livelihoods and homes.

“Many political parties, government officials, students and monks are involved in forest issues,” Leng said. “The revolution will come from the land and from the forest.”

Odd-book title winner: ‘Too Naked for the Nazis’

“Too Naked for the Nazis,” the story of a music-hall act that outraged authorities in Hitler’s Germany, has won an award for the year’s odd-book title.

Organizers of the Diagram Prize said that Alan Stafford’s cultural-history tome gained almost a quarter of votes cast, narrowly beating “Reading From Behind: A Cultural History Of The Anus.”

The prize, founded in 1978, is run by the British trade magazine The Bookseller and decided by online voting. Its rules say the books must be serious and their titles not merely a gimmick.

Odd-book title finalists

Other finalists this year included cult-film study “Transvestite Vampire Biker Nuns From Outer Space” and photo book “Soviet Bus Stops.”

odd-book title winner
“Too Naked for the Nazis,” the story of a music-hall act that outraged authorities in Hitler’s Germany, has won an award for the year’s odd-book title.

Previous winners include “Bombproof Your Horse,” “Living With Crazy Buttocks” and “Highlights in the History of Concrete.”



Rush Limbaugh wins children’s book award

Rush Limbaugh has won a children’s book prize designed to be chosen by kids themselves. But that doesn’t mean all of his voters were young people.

Last week, Limbaugh received the Children’s Choice Book Award for author of the year, defeating such superstars as Veronica Roth, Rick Riordan and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” writer Jeff Kinney, the winner in 2012 and 2013. The conservative commentator won for “Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims,” a book that landed high on the best-seller lists of Amazon.com and other outlets despite limited mainstream coverage.

From the moment Limbaugh’s nomination was announced, in March, conservatives were delighted, liberals angered and others simply puzzled — emotions only amplified by Limbaugh’s victory, which raised his book from No. 71 on Amazon the day before to the top 10 last Thursday.

Nominees are selected by the most objective method possible, sales, while the winners are supposedly picked by kids, who vote online. But executive director Robin Adelson of the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader, nonprofit organizations that co-founded the awards seven years ago, acknowledged that adults could easily vote and vote multiple times, a problem not uncommon for Internet competitions.

“Every one of our finalists gets fake votes every year,” Adelson told The Associated Press. “We like to think that’s the enthusiasm of adults who love children’s books.”

Adelson cited three ways that people can vote: a widget that can be embedded in such popular kids’ websites as www.poptropica.com, a link on the awards website (http://ccbookawards.com) that allows individuals to vote and a link on the awards site that allows teachers, librarians and others to submit bulk votes on behalf of their institution.

Adelson said she doubted that parents or other grown-ups were voting through Poptropica, but acknowledged the awards site was more likely to be manipulated. An individual voter can vote multiple times and does not need to provide a verifiable email address or proof of his or her age. Bulk voters are required to submit a verifiable email, but there is no guarantee that a given teacher or librarian is really expressing the wishes of others.

“We send emails and make phone calls. A lot of manual labor goes into verifying (bulk voters),” Adelson said. “Do we catch them all? Of course not.”

Limbaugh has touted his nomination on his radio show and on his website, www.rushlimbaugh.com . Adelson said Limbaugh initially enjoyed a wide lead, but that voting tightened considerably in the final weeks and the outcome was “fair and close.”

“It’s not as if he received millions of votes and everybody else and received 10,” she said. “It was far, far closer.”

Adelson said total votes this year only increased modestly, from 1.1 million to 1.2 million, and added that voting has generally gone up each year. She emphasized the awards have no mission beyond encouraging kids to read.

“We’ve received some hate mail,” she said. “We’ve been accused of endorsing Rush Limbaugh and supporting Rush Limbaugh. We endorse and support children.”

Finalists named for LGBT book awards

The Lambda Literary Foundation has announced the finalists for its literary prizes.

Books from major mainstream publishers and from academic presses, from both long-established and new LGBT publishers, as well as from emerging publish-on-demand technologies, make up the 119 finalists for the Lammys.

The awards, now in their 24th year, celebrate achievement in writing. Winners will be announced at a June 4 ceremony in New York at the CUNY Graduate Center.  

More than 90 booksellers, book reviewers, librarians, authors, previous Lammy winners and finalists volunteered hours of reading time, critical thinking and discussion to select the finalists.

“The Lambda Literary Awards would not be possible without the time, energy, and intelligence of our volunteer judges who put countless hours of reading into selecting our finalists,” said Lambda executive director Tony Valenzuela. “Because of their hard work, this day is a celebration of our finalists, whose outstanding books extend the fabric of our literature and enrich our community. Congratulations to these talented authors on their tremendous achievement.”

The finalists are:

Lesbian Debut Fiction

“The Girls Club,” by Sally Bellerose, Bywater Books; 
 “Megume and the Trees,” by Sarah Toshiko Hasu, Megami Press
; “My Sister Chaos,” by Lara Fergus, Spinifex Press
; “Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation,” by Christine Stark, Modern History Press; “
Zipper Mouth,” by Laurie Weeks, The Feminist Press at CUNY.

Lesbian General Fiction

“The Dirt Chronicles,” by Kristyn Dunnion, Arsenal Pulp Press; “The Necessity of Certain Behaviors,” by Shannon Cain, University of Pittsburgh Press; “Six Metres of Pavement,” by Farzana Doctor, Dundurn Press; “When She Woke,” by Hillary Jordan, Algonquin Books; “Wingshooters,” by Nina Revoyr, Akashic Books.

Lesbian Memoir/Biography

“How to Get a Girl Pregnant,” by Karleen Pendleton Jimenez, Tightrope Books; “Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep, and Enough Wool to Save the Planet,” by Catherine Friend, Da Capo Press/Lifelong Books; “Small Fires: Essays,” by Julie Marie Wade, Sarabande; “Taking My Life,” by Jane Rule, Talonbooks; “When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love & Revolution,” by Jeanne Córdova, Spinsters Ink.

Lesbian Mystery

“Dying to Live,” by Kim Baldwin & Xenia Alexiou, Bold Strokes; “Hostage Moon,” by AJ Quinn, Bold Strokes; “Rainey Nights: A Rainey Bell Thriller,” by R.E. Bradshaw, R.E. Bradshaw Books; “Retirement Plan,” by Martha Miller, Bold Strokes; “Trick of the Dark,” by Val McDermid, Bywater Books.

Lesbian Poetry

“15 Ways to Stay Alive,” by Daphne Gottlieb, Manic D Press; “Discipline,” by Dawn Lundy Martin, Nightboat Books; “Love Cake,” by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, TSAR Publications; “Milk and Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry,” edited by Julie R. Enszer, A Midsummer Night’s Press; “The Stranger Dissolves,” by Christina Hutchins, Sixteen Rivers Press.

Lesbian Romance

“For Me and My Gal,” by Robbi McCoy, Bella Books; “Ghosts of Winter,” by Rebecca S. Buck, Bold Strokes; “Rescue Me,” by Julie Cannon, Bold Strokes; “Storms,” by Gerri Hill, Bella Books; “Taken by Surprise,” by Kenna White, Bella Books.

Lesbian Erotica

“The Collectors,” by Lesley Gowan, Bold Strokes; “Lesbian Cops: Erotic Investigations,” edited by Sacchi Green, Cleis Press; “A Ride to Remember & Other Erotic Tales,” by Sacchi Green, Lethe Press; “Story of L,” by Debra Hyde, Ravenous Romance.

Gay Debut Fiction

“98 Wounds,” by Justin Chin, Manic D Press; “Dirty One,” by Michael Graves, Chelsea Station Editions; “Have You Seen Me,” by Katherine Scott Nelson, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography; “Mitko,” by Garth Greenwell, Miami University Press; “
Quarantine: Stories,” by Rahul Mehta, Harper Perennial.

Gay General Fiction

“The Empty Family,” by Colm Tóibín, Scribner; “The Great Night,” by Chris Adrian, Farrar, Straus & Giroux; “Leche,” by R. Zamora Linmark, Coffee House Press; “The Stranger’s Child,” by Alan Hollinghurst, Alfred A.Knopf; “The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov,” by Paul Russell, Cleis Press.

Gay Memoir/Biography

“Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo,” by Michael Schiavi, University of Wisconsin Press; “For the Ferryman: A Personal History,” by Charles Silverstein, Chelsea Station Editions; “Halsted Plays Himself,” by William E. Jones, Semiotext(e); “If You Knew Then What I Know Now,” by Ryan Van Meter, Sarabande Books; “The Jack Bank:  A Memoir of a South African Childhood,” by Glen Retief, St. Martin’s Press.

Gay Mystery

“The Affair of the Porcelain Dog,” by Jess Faraday, Bold Strokes; “Blue’s Bayou,” by David Lennon, Blue Spike Publishing; “Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries,” by Marshall Thornton, Torquere Press   ; “Malabarista,” by Garry Ryan, NeWest Press   ; “Red White Black and Blue,” by Richard Stevenson, MLR Press.

Gay Poetry

“Dear Prudence: New and Selected Poems,” by David Trinidad, Turtle Point Press; “Double Shadow: Poems,” by Carl Phillips, Farrar, Straus & Giroux; “A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos, edited by David Trinidad, Nightboat Books; “Kintsugi,” by Thomas Meyer, Flood Editions; “The Other Poems,” by Paul Legault, Fence Books.

Gay Romance

“Every Time I Think of You,” by Jim Provenzano, CreateSpace/Myrmidude Press; “Settling the Score,” by Eden Winters, Torquere Press; “Something Like Summer,” by Jay Bell, Jay Bell Books; “Split,” by Mel Bossa, Bold Strokes; “Tinseltown,” by Barry Brennessel, MLR Press.

Gay Erotica

“All Together,” by Dirk Vanden, iloveyoudivine Alerotica; “Backwoods,” by Natty Soltesz, Rebel Satori Press; “Best Gay Erotica 2012, edited by Richard Labonte, Cleis Press; “George Platt Lynes: The Male Nudes, edited by Steven Haas, Rizzoli New York; “History’s Passions: Stories of Sex Before Stonewall, edited by Richard Labonte, Bold Strokes.

Transgender Fiction

“The Book of Broken Hymns,” by Rafe Posey, Flying Rabbit; “The Butterfly and the Flame,” by  Dana De Young, iUniverse; “I am J,” by Cris Beam, Little, Brown Books for Children; “Static,” by L.A. Witt, Amber Allure/Amber Quill Press; “Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica, edited by Tristan Taormina, Cleis Press.

Transgender Nonfiction  

“Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex,” edited by Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith, AK Press; “Letters For My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect, edited by Megan M. Rohrer and Zander Keig, Wilgefortis Press; “Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law,” by Dean Spade, South End Press; “Re-Dressing America’s Frontier Past,” by Peter Boag, University of California Press; “Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels,” by Justin Vivian Bond, The Feminist Press at CUNY.

Bisexual Fiction

“Boyfriends With Girlfriends,” by Alex Sanchez, Simon & Schuster; “The Correspondence Artist,” by Barbara Browning, Two Dollar Radio; “Have You Seen Me,” by Katherine Scott Nelson, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography; “Triptych,” by J.M. Frey, Dragon Moon Press; “The Two Krishnas,” by Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla, Magnus Books.

Bisexual Nonfiction

“Big Sex Little Death: A Memoir,” by Susie Bright, Seal Press; “Bisexuality and Queer Theory: Intersections, Connections and Challenges, edited by Jonathan Alexander & Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, Routledge; “The Horizontal Poet,” by Jan Steckel, Zeitgeist Press; “Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature,” edited by Qwo-Li Driskill, Daniel Heath Justice, Deborah Miranda, and Lisa Tatonetti, University of Arizona Press; “Surviving Steven: A True Story,” by Ven Rey, Ven Rey.

LGBT Anthology  

“Ambientes: New Queer Latino Writing,” edited by Lazaro Lima & Felice Picano, University of Wisconsin Press; “The Fire in Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries,” edited by Mark Thompson, White Crane Books/Lethe Press; “Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader,” edited by Michael Hames-García and Ernesto Javier Martínez, Duke University Press; “Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme,” edited by Ivan E. Coyote & Zena Sharman, Arsenal Pulp Press;
”Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature,” edited by Qwo-Li Driskill, Daniel Heath Justice, Deborah Miranda, and Lisa Tatonetti, University of Arizona Press.

LGBT Children’s/Young Adult

“Gemini Bites,” by Patrick Ryan, Scholastic; “Huntress,” by Malinda Lo, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; “I am J,” by Cris Beam, Little, Brown Books for Children; “PINK,” by Lili Wilkinson, HarperCollins; “Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy,” by Bil Wright, Simon & Schuster.

LGBT Drama

“Letters to the End of the World,” by Anton Dudley, Playscripts, Inc.; “A Menopausal Gentleman: The Solo Performances of Peggy Shaw,” by Peggy Shaw, University of Michigan Press; “Secrets of the Trade,” by Jonathan Tolins, Samuel French, Inc.; “The Temperamentals,” by Jon Marans, Chelsea Station Editions; “The Zero Hour,” by Madeleine George, Samuel French, Inc.


LGBT Nonfiction

“Gay in America: Portraits by Scott Pasfield,” by Scott Pasfield, “Welcome Books
God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality,” by Jay Michaelson, Beacon Press
The H.D. Book,” by Robert Duncan, University of California Press;
”A Queer History of the United States,” by Michael Bronski, Beacon Press;
”Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories,” by Wanda M. Corn and Tirza True Latimer, University of California Press.


“The German,” by Lee Thomas, Lethe Press. “Paradise Tales: and Other Stories,” by Geoff Ryman, Small Beer Press
Static,” by L.A. Witt, Amber Allure/Amber Quill Press; “Steam-powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories,” edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft, Torquere Press, “Triptych,” by J.M. Frey, Dragon Moon Press.

LGBT Studies

“Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex,” edited by Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith, AK Press; “Freedom with Violence: Race, Sexuality, and the US State,” by Chandan Reddy, Duke University Press;
”Sister Arts: The Erotics of Lesbian Landscapes,” by Lisa L. Moore, University of Minnesota Press;
”Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality,” by Margot Weiss, Duke University Press; “¡Venceremos?: The Erotics of Black Self-making in Cuba,” by Jafari S. Allen, Duke University Press.

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