River dolphin, thought extinct, ‘spotted’ in China


This video is from the BBC: A scientific expedition in China searching for the Yangtze River Dolphin has said they are now functionally extinct.

From New Scientist:

Rare river dolphin ‘spotted’ in China

* 12:42 30 August 2007

* Catherine Brahic

A rare dolphin, thought to be extinct, may have been sighted swimming in the Yangtze River in China. But scientists fear that even if the sighting of the Baiji, or Yangtze river dolphin, is confirmed it may be too late to bring the species back from the dead.

“I have the horrible sensation that I will watch it die all over again,” says Samuel Turvey of the Zoological Society in London, UK.

Turvey was part of a six-week survey which sought in vain to find the last remnants of the Baiji population in November and December 2006. In August 2007, he and his team published the survey’s results: not a single dolphin was seen during the six weeks, and the species was probably extinct (see Yangtze river dolphin is almost certainly extinct). Listen to the Baiji‘s whistle here.

Now, a video shot on 19 August has emerged in which a large white Baiji-like animal is seen swimming in a section of the Yangtze river known to have been a Baiji hotspot. The video was shot by a Chinese man and eventually made its way to the Institute of Hydrobiology in Wuhan, China, where biologists have confirmed that the animal in the film may be a Baiji.

Breeding hope

Turvey, who has seen sections of the film, says it is impossible to say for sure as the video is of poor quality and was shot from a great distance. “I’m worried that we may get into a grey area. Like when Bigfoot film appears on film somewhere, but it is never verifiable,” he told New Scientist.

According to an online translation of the account given by the man who shot the film, the animal was seen jumping out of the water. Baiji do not jump out of the water, says Turvey, and neither do their relatives, finless porpoise. He says both species do arch their back when they surface to breathe, which could have been mistaken for a jump; and the account may have been poorly translated.

The scientists at the Institute of Hydrobiology will be heading out to the area where the film was shot within the next few weeks to conduct further surveys. If Baiji are found, Turvey hopes they will become the founding members of a breeding programme in an effort to restore the species.

There have been examples of bird species being brought back from the brink of extinction. In the 1980s, the last population of just five Chatham Island Robins, was restored from a single breeding pair.

Turvey and his colleagues have long been advocating the creation of a breeding programme for the Baiji. “Over the past few decades nothing was done when we knew there were still Baiji around,” says Turvey, “so if there are a few Baiji left now, the conservation society really has to do something.”

Endangered species – Learn more about the conservation battle in our comprehensive special report.

See also here.

South American river dolphins: here.

More endangered species: here.

Mass murders during military dictatorship in Brazil


This video by John Pilger is called War on democracy – Countries attacked in Latin America.

Is George Bush Restarting Latin America’s ‘Dirty Wars‘? See here.

The ghost of Pinochet, by John Pilger: see here.

From Al Jazeera:

Brazil reveals military killings

The Brazilian president has called for a deadline to be set to uncover the fate of hundreds of people who disappeared during the country’s military government.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made the demand following the publication of a book detailing the repression of hundreds of dissidents now missing, presumably killed, from 1964 to 1985.

The book cites 475 cases of people who were killed or disappeared during military rule, including seven Argentines.

Silva said the murder, rape and torture of alleged subversives remained an open wound for Brazil and Brazilians had “the just and sacred right” to bury their loved ones.

The president is a former union leader who was arrested and jailed in the 1980s by military rulers for leading an illegal labour strike.

He warned Brazilians not to expect prosecution of members of the military government as they are protected by a 1979 amnesty.

He also did not promise to open the era’s secret military archives, which families of victims believe could reveal the location of the remains of 140 “disappeared” opponents of the government, according to the National Human Rights Secretariat.

Demanding answers

“[I want] to bury my son, to know what happened to him”

Elzita Santa Cruz, mother of victim

The government’s 500-page book, “The Right to Memory and the Truth,” took 11 years to prepare and was released on the 28th anniversary of the 1979 Amnesty Law, which pardoned all Brazilians – civilian and military – for alleged crimes committed under army rule.

See also here.

Brazil this week marks the 50th anniversary of the April 1, 1964, military coup that subjected Latin America’s largest country to 21 years of brutal dictatorship: here.

Disapperances during dictatorship in Argentina: here.

Prisons in Argentina: here.

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Australian politicians attack artistic freedom


This video from Australia is called John Howard – Australia’s “Greatest” PM?

The Australian conservative Daily Telegraph writes that most of its readers

are also disgusted by the bin Laden holograph and a statue of the Virgin Mary shrouded by a Muslim burqa.

[Prime Minister] Mr Howard said the pieces were insulting and lacked any artistic merit.

“The choice of such artwork is gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians,” he said.

The burqa is certainly not universal Muslim dress, but linked to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area. Historically, the Virgin Mary has been most often depicted in European clothes, which have as little to do with Palestine two thousand years ago as Afghan burqas. Well, I never heard Mr ´art expert´ Howard about any of those, maybe because he has never seen them.

In fact, Howard is also violating the seperation of religion and state, implying that the Christian religion should be treated by the government as more worthy of ´protection´than other religions like Islam.

Last night Queensland lawyer [and artist] Ms [Priscilla] Bracks told The Daily Telegraph her double portrait was not meant to compare Jesus with bin Laden, but was a commentary on the way the terror leader was treated in the media.

She was concerned bin Laden would be unintentionally glorified in years to come. …

Sydney artist Luke Sullivan, who created the Virgin Mary piece entitled The Fourth Secret of Fatima, said his work was not meant to be controversial but provocative.

“It poses the question of what’s the future of religion,” Sullivan said. “They (religions) are hegemonic in their nature. They can be all-encompassing and powerful.”

See also here.

Rare plant discovered on Vlieland in the Netherlands


This is is a Dutch video on Vlieland island.

This is a German video on Vlieland.

From AgriMedia in the Netherlands:

On Vlieland [island] the spotted rockrose has been found, a plant which is nearly extinct in the Netherlands. In 2007, in the dunes of Vlieland, over fifty specimens of this plant have been found. Now, it is the only place in the Netherlands for the spotted rockrose. …

According to Floron, the decline of the spotted rockrose is caused by fertilizer and acidification problems in the dunes.

USA: Mark Fiore animation on health care and Katrina


This video from the USA is about George W. Bush and Hurricane Katrina.

The new animation by Mark Fiore, “The Doctor Is In”, has just been posted to the Internet.

It is here.

Its subject are health care problems in the USA (see also here), after the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Housing in New Orleans post Katrina: here.

Two years after Katrina: here.

And here.

Health care in the USA, it is easier to get a cosmetic than an anti cancer treatment, see here.