‘Dutch government, stop jailing refugee children’


This video from Lebanon is called Syrian refugee children speak out.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Migrant children do not belong in cells”

Update: Friday, May 23, 2014, 12:11

The incarceration of asylum seekers is a violation of human rights and especially children do not belong in jails. This says High Commissioner Muižnieks of the Council of Europe, after a visit to the Netherlands.

He says that children should never be put into a cell or a detention centre. Muizniks talked to a fourteen-year-old girl from Syria, who is in the detention center at Schiphol Airport.

According to Muizniks, children can be treated better without impeding the government’s ability to control the flow of migrants. He also believes that refugees should not be made to live on the streets with no food, if returning them fails.

Hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America have been transported from southern Texas to a makeshift detention center set up by the US Border Patrol in Nogales, Arizona. The number of children held at the center, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, was expected to rise to more than 1,000 by the end of the weekend: here.

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United States war veterans’ bad health care


This video from the USA says about itself:

23 April 2014

40 veterans on secret waiting list died. CNN confirms up to 1,600 veterans forced to wait for months for doctor visits.

By Eric London in the USA:

VA scandal in US exposes disastrous state of veteran health care

19 May 2014

A series of recent leaks exposing the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as complicit in denying treatment to and causing the deaths of veterans at a medical center in Phoenix, Arizona have developed into a significant political crisis for the Obama administration.

So far, the affair has claimed the career of Undersecretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Petzel and has prompted calls for the resignation of VA Secretary and former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, who was forced under pressure to testify before Congress last Thursday.

Republicans are exploiting the scandal for their own purposes, attempting to posture as defenders of veterans. “We should all be ashamed,” Republican Senator John McCain, a leading supporter of every significant military operation carried out by the United States, said in a radio address over the weekend.

In fact, the revelations over the treatment of veterans are a damning indictment of the Obama administration and the entire political establishment, exposing the cynical character of the constant militarist drum-beating carried out in the name of “supporting the troops.” The American ruling class treats ordinary soldiers as so much cannon fodder, to be discarded after they have served their purpose.

The current scandal developed after a series of exposures made by present and former employees of the VA detailed the procedure by which the department denies healthcare to veterans and then covers-up these actions by means of a complex book-cooking scheme.

On April 30, Dr. Sam Foote, a retired doctor at the Phoenix VA medical center, revealed the existence of a “scheme” which was “deliberately put in place to avoid the VA’s own internal rules.” In an interview with CNN, Foote explained that VA administrators “developed the secret waiting list” that is used by the VA to cover up for the fact that roughly 40 veterans have died after waiting for treatment for months or years.

In the following weeks, further whistle-blowers from medical centers in Texas and Colorado stepped forward and made similar allegations regarding VA wrongdoing.

According to an April 2010 memorandum filed by lower-level VA officials to their higher-ups, practices employed by the agency include:

* canceling appointments when patients do not check-in 15 minutes early and thereby forcing patients who show up on-time or minutes early to reschedule appointments for weeks in the future.

* sending confirmation emails to patients, and if the patient does not respond, the VA “reserves the right” to cancel the appointment.

* scheduling patient appointments, canceling them, and entering the appointment into records as “cancelled by patient” instead of “cancelled by clinic” so that patients are sent to the bottom of the waitlist instead of being given preferential treatment.

* scheduling appointments with patients during times that the patients have stated they are unavailable, thereby forcing the patients to cancel and moving them to the back of the waiting list.

* scheduling appointments for a patient without notifying them and thereby “creat[ing] a very high likelihood that the patient will no-show which allows for another rebooking with a restarted wait time.”

* canceling and then re-establishing appointments on the same day in order to give the appearance that the patient’s wait time is minimal.

On top of the complex schedule-manipulation tactics, the VA also falls back on a more simple method for covering-up treatment denial. Dr. Katherine Mitchell, a VA doctor, recently disclosed that VA officials were caught shredding documents that detail wrongdoing.

The Obama administration has responded by denying the existence of wrongdoing and scrambling to minimize the scandal. Shinseki told the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on May 15 in conditional terms that “if these allegations are true” and “if they are substantiated,” then “they are completely unacceptable” and “timely action will be taken.”

Shinseki and Obama both issued choreographed statements in recent days stating that they were “mad as hell” (Shinseki) and “madder than hell” (Obama). Despite the feigned anger, nothing will be done to improve health care for veterans. After all, had it not been for a series of whistle-blowers at a widening series of VA medical centers, the executive branch would have continued to ignore the issue outright as they have been doing for years.

This is typified by the pro-forma statement issued by the White House last week, which read: “America has a sacred trust with the men and women who have served our country in uniform and he [Obama] is committed to doing all we can to ensure our veterans have access to timely, quality health care.”

But the unfolding crisis makes clear that the American ruling class is not, in fact, moved by a desire to “honor” military veterans except with condescending jingoist verbiage. Not only are veterans regularly denied the care they need, but the recent leaks reveal that the VA carries out a well-oiled cover-up to keep this fact a secret.

Deteriorating health care for veterans is not a new phenomenon, and poor living conditions amongst veterans are widespread. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that roughly 60,000 veterans are homeless on a given night, with 1.4 million at risk of homelessness.

Mental health issues are also widespread among veterans. A VA study released in 2012 showed that a US veteran kills him or herself every 80 minutes. There are more soldier suicides in a single year than soldiers killed-in-action during the entire “global war on terror.” Government-sponsored suicide hotlines receive hundreds of thousands of calls each year.

The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular have produced over 1 million wounded veterans who have been processed by the VA system.

To the American ruling class, the millions of surviving soldiers who have already served their purpose in the military operations of US imperialism cost more when they are alive than when they are dead.

Here’s everything you need to know about the VA scandal along with a timeline. And CNN asks why no one has been fired. [CNN]

“A growing number of lawmakers are calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation following a report that found widespread problems of delayed treatment at a Phoenix, Arizona, veterans hospital.” The report in question is damning. [HuffPost]

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Aruba, Bonaire bats travel to Venezuela


This video says about itself:

Lesser long-nosed bats at hummingbird feeder

8 okt. 2009

Bats on Hummingbird feeder in southern AZ. in early October

Lesser Long-nosed bats (Leptonycteris curasoae). A species that feeds on the nectar. They migrate up from northern Mexico and arrive in south-central Arizona when columnar cactus begin flowering in late spring. The bats drink the nectar and then eat the fruit of saguaros while moving east across southern Arizona. During late summer and early fall the lesser longed-nosed bats reach southeast Arizona where their primary food source becomes agaves and urban hummingbird feeders. Lesser long-nosed bats are federally listed as an endangered species in both the U.S. and Mexico

From the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) on 10 May 2014:

Exactly one year ago, researchers from STINAPA Bonaire‘s Natural and Historic Resources Unit recaptured a Long-nosed Bat (Leptonycteris curasoae) on Bonaire originally tagged on Curaçao, confirming that this species migrates between the islands. Over the last year, Aruba was added to the list when bats ringed on Bonaire were recaptured on Aruba. These recaptures demonstrated that there is a meta-population of Long-nosed Bats moving between all three islands. Thanks to ongoing monitoring of this nocturnal flying mammal by a team of dedicated researchers, we now know that these bats migrate as far as Venezuela.

In March 2014, three Long-nosed Bats tagged on Aruba and one on Bonaire were recaptured in Venezuela by a team of scientists, led by Dr. Jafet Nassar from the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC). The recaptures took place close to the city of Coro in the state of Falcón in mainland Venezuela. This was the ‘missing piece of the puzzle’ of the migratory and long-distance movements of these amazing creatures. This exciting discovery is the product of more than five years of monitoring by STINAPA Bonaire, CARMABI, Fundacion Parke Nacional Arikok (united in the Bat Conservation Program of the ABC Islands – PPRABC) and the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research. During this time, more than 6,000 individual bats were captured and tagged.

The Long-nosed Bat has an important ecological role on the ABC islands as a key pollinator species for several species of columnar cacti. This discovery adds to our understanding of mammalian ecology and the population dynamics of this keystone species and could have significant implications for the management and conservation of bat populations on the Dutch Caribbean islands and abroad.

PPRABC is a member of RELCOM – The Latin American and Caribbean Network for Bat Conservation.

Bats take a bite out of Ozzy Osbourne’s building plans. The Black Sabbath singer, who once bit the head off a bat, sees his plans to convert a barn on his Buckinghamshire estate quashed after council finds evidence of his winged nemeses: here.

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Sochi Olympics, homophobia and snow


Democracy Now! in the USA says about this video today:

“Celebration Capitalism & the Olympics”: Global Protests Mark Opening of Sochi Games

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent more than $50 billion on the Winter Games in Sochi, making this the most expensive Olympics in history. In the lead-up to the games, Russia has faced worldwide criticism and calls for boycotts, especially after it passed a law in June banning the spread of so-called “gay propaganda” to children. With the games just two days away, we host a roundtable with four guests: Dave Zirin, sports columnist for The Nation magazine and author of “Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down”; Samantha Retrosi, a luge athlete who competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics; historian and former U.S. Olympic soccer player, Jules Boykoff, who is author of “Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games“; and Helen Lenskyj, author of several books on the Olympics, including “Gender Politics and the Olympic Industry” and the forthcoming book, “Sexual Diversity and the Sochi 2014 Olympics: No More Rainbows.”

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

DAVE ZIRIN: Second, I had a flashback this morning to getting a call from Amy in 2010, when she was detained at the Canadian border, going across for a different event, and the Vancouver Olympics were happening. Do you remember that?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, I do.

DAVE ZIRIN: And they said to Amy, they said, “Are you here to talk about the Olympics?” And Amy said, “I am now.” And it’s just to point out that these issues we’re talking about are at every Olympics, and there’s no doubt that they’re getting amplified in Russia, partially because of the conflicts between the United States and Russia, but it’s also true that what’s happening in Russia is particularly bad, even by Olympic standards.

And that leads, really, to your question. I mean, the U.S. delegation involves three openly LGBT athletes—Billie Jean King, Caitlin Cahow, Brian Boitano—and then gold medalist Bonnie Blair. Now, what’s so interesting about this is that this is the first time since 2000 that nobody from the president or the vice president’s family has been part of the delegation. This is very clearly a thumb in the eye to Vladimir Putin by President Barack Obama. And I’m sure there a lot of people in the LGBT community and amongst allies who are happy that this is happening. It’s a strong stance for LGBT rights.

But I think people should also be very wary of it, for two reasons. First of all, we have a lot of problems in this country with regards to LGBT rights. I mean, for example, there are 29 states in this country you can still fire someone on the basis of their sexuality, and in eight states in this country there are what are called “no promo homo” laws, which are very similar to the Russian laws, where you cannot propagate homosexuality or anything of the sort. So, that’s the first thing. So it’s like we have to clean our own house.

The second thing, which is really important, is the only question that matters is: Will LGBT athletes in Russia be better or worse off after the cameras have gone home? And by sending over the delegation, one of the things that does is that it allows the IOC—and, by the way, they’re already doing this—and Putin to present the LGBT movement in Russia as a tool of the United States, and it actually opens them up for further repression.

AMY GOODMAN: Legendary tennis star Billie Jean King recently appeared on CBS This Morning and talked about going to Russia as a member of the official U.S. delegation, about the origins of Olympic Rule number 50, which bars athletes from engaging in any type of political demonstration at the games.

BILLIE JEAN KING: It probably came from the fact when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their arms about civil rights, human rights, back in ’68, I think the rule [inaudible] was written after that, Rule 50.

VINITA NAIR: Because it bans all political demonstration.

BILLIE JEAN KING: It bans—they’re not supposed to protest or demonstrate. And if they do, they can have their medals stripped, and they can be sent home. But I also think people—some of the athletes will probably have their say.

The full transcript is here.

Winter Olympics 2014: Norway’s Health Minister to take his husband to Paralympics: here.

A People’s History of LGBTI Olympians: here.

The President of the Sochi Olympic Committee has just confirmed that the two wild orcas captured by White Sphere will not be displayed during the Sochi Olympics: here.

Everything you wanted to know about that hideously anti-gay law passed in Arizona last night: here.

Former Bush strategist equates Arizona’s anti-gay Christians to Islamic terrorists: here.

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Roadrunner feeds chick, video


This video from the USA says about itself:

Roadrunner feeding chick

1 April 2013

One of the parents brings in a zebra-tailed lizard, jumps into the nest, and before the other parent leaves, a chick is fed. The chick isn’t much bigger than the lizard, but it is swallowed. The time taken is about twice the length of this edited video. Tucson, Arizona.

From the NestWatch eNewsletter in the USA, December 2013, about this:

Elusive Roadrunner Captured on Film

Earlier this month, Doris Evans of Tucson, Arizona, submitted a photo of a Greater Roadrunner at the nest, with five chicks. This was the first photo of a roadrunner nest to have been submitted to NestWatch, so we thought we’d share! Doris says that to observe and photograph a pair of nesting Greater Roadrunners from her own yard “was an amazing experience.” She watched the pair building the nest, incubating the eggs, and raising five young.

Roadrunners often situate their nest in a thorny bush, small tree, or cactus 3–10′ high. The nest is usually located near the center of the thorny plant, and is well concealed. Among the more typical nest materials you might expect (twigs, grasses, feathers, and mesquite pods), you might also find snakeskin or dried cow manure.

Old nests are sometimes reused for a winter roost, something most cup-nesting birds don’t do. Another unusual thing about roadrunners is that both parents incubate the eggs. Males and females both develop a brood patch (a wrinkly patch of bare skin on the abdomen) that is used to transfer heat to eggs. The male takes the night shift because, unlike the female, his body temperature will remain constant all night, rather than drop to conserve precious energy.

Speaking of energy, the roadrunner diet is truly cosmopolitan. A startling variety of foods are taken, including some venomous species. Lizards (including horned lizards), snakes (even rattlesnakes), insects, spiders, scorpions, birds, bird eggs, and pet food are all fair game. To fully appreciate their dietary gusto, watch the video that Doris captured of the parents feeding a zebra-tailed lizard to a nestling that is scarcely bigger than the prey.

If you live in the southwestern United States, you might find a roadrunner nest by looking carefully in your thorny shrubs and cacti this winter. Occasionally, they will reuse a nest the next breeding season. Check out more of Doris’ photos to get your “search image,” and then go out and see what you find!

Emus dance tango, video


This video from the USA says about itself:

3 Dec 2013

The Emus and Sexy Sexy Sniper the Ostrich dance the tango against their greatest enemy: The weasel ball. Who will prevail?

By Sarah Laskow in the USA:

We can’t stop watching these emus freak out about a ball

The makers of this video seem to think they needed to improve on reality by intimating that the emu was dancing the tango with this battery-powered ball. But it’s not necessary to pretend that. It’s amusing enough to watch the emus go: Ball. Ball? Ball! Ball? OMG ball!

These emus are part of the crew at Camels & Friends, farm animals who live in Arizona.

California condors and lead ammunition


This is a California condor video from the USA.

From Wildlife Extra:

Lead ammunition banned in California and reduced in Arizona to protect condors

Arizona hunters reduce lead ammunition voluntarily

October 2013. Hunters in Arizona have proved their commitment to wildlife conservation by voluntarily working to reduce the amount of lead exposure to endangered California condors, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department is encouraging all hunters to join the effort this fall.

85-90% of hunters using non-lead ammunition

In the last six years, 85 to 90 percent of hunters in Arizona’s condor range have voluntarily either used non-lead ammunition during their hunts or, if they used lead ammunition, they removed the gut piles from the field.

California bans lead ammunition

California just chose a different approach to help conserve that state’s condor population. California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on Oct. 11 mandating that hunters statewide must use non-lead ammunition.

“Every state needs to take an approach that takes into consideration its own unique needs. In Arizona, we feel strongly that a voluntary approach works better than a mandated measure while still upholding the agreements that were originally promised when the condor reintroduction program was established,” says Allen Zufelt, Arizona Game and Fish’s condor program coordinator. “Achieving between 85 and 90 percent voluntary participation is a clear demonstration of hunters’ commitment to condor management, and they deserve to be recognized.”

Utah

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, which coordinates condor management with Arizona Game and Fish, has also recently implemented a lead reduction program in southern Utah. As the condor population has become more established, the birds have increased their foraging area and now use southern Utah heavily during the fall hunting season. These two complimentary programs should greatly benefit condors.

Lead poisoning a key factor in condor mortality

Lead poisoning has been identified as the leading cause of diagnosed death in endangered condors and the main obstacle to a self-sustaining population in Arizona and southern Utah. Studies suggest that lead shot and bullet fragments found in animal carcasses and gut piles are the most likely source of lead exposure. Many hunters do not realize that the carcass or gut pile they leave in the field usually contains lead bullet fragments. Gut piles from animals harvested with non-lead ammunition provide an important food source for the condors and should be left in the field.

The deaths of two California condors found last month in water tanks used by Kern County firefighters have state wildlife officials working on a way to keep the large, endangered birds out of the tanks: here.

It may not have a huge impact on hunting, but ‘green’ bullets could help reduce the rates of lead poisoning in groundwater and animals: here.