Save Tasmania’s rainforests


This video says about itself:

Tasmanian Eucalypt Forest Giants

21 Sep 2011

Paradise at the End of the World – This is an extract, featuring Pepper Bush Adventures’ Craig Williams, from a DVD produced showcasing some of Tasmania’s premier features. Craig takes the film crew in to Tasmania’s north east forests visiting the “White Knights”, the tallest white gum trees in the world at Evercreech Forest Reserve as well as visiting the virgin oldgrowth forest at Tombstone Creek Forest Reserve to view the mountain ash eucalypts, the world’s tallest flowering tree species.

From Rainforest Portal:

Action Alert: Old-Growth Forests in Tasmania‘s World Heritage Area Again Threatened

Only a year ago together Ecological Internet and you participated in successful protests to end industrial clearcut logging in 170,000 hectares of Tasmania, Australia’s old-growth temperate rainforests; as vital intact ecosystems including Butlers Gorge; and the Florentine, Weld and Styx valleys, were added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Now Australia’s ecologically challenged federal government – led by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who famously stated “climate change is crap” – is reneging on these commitments, in an unprecedented move pushing to remove 74,000 hectares from World Heritage Area protection. We need your help to once again call on the Australian government to honor their international obligations and protect Tasmania’s World Heritage old-growth temperate rainforests from industrial destruction. Tasmanian, Australian, and global ecosystem sustainability depend upon doing so.

By Forests.org, a project of Ecological Internet – February 8, 2014

You can send a message here.

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Australian government censorship about torture


This video from Australia says about itself:

Australia deports Tamil torture victim back to Sri Lanka

2 Aug 2012

On July 26, Tamil refugee Dayan Anthony (formerly known as “Mr X” in Australia in an attempt to protect his identity from Sri Lankan authorities), was deported from Australia. He was handed over to the Sri Lankan intelligence forces – who had held Mr Anthony in custody for years, and had tortured him.

After 16 hours in custody, paraded in front of the media by his captors, he recanted all allegations of torture – despite suffering in Australia from post-traumtic stress found to be from torture, and having suffered a broken back as a result of torture.

Melbourne refugee activists and the Tamil community outline the horror of the Australian government sending a torture victim back to their oppressor – and the battle against such deportations. Get involved with http://rac-vic.org or the refugee action group in your state.

By Mike Head in Australia:

Witch-hunt against Australian ABC escalates over refugee torture allegations

8 February 2014

As evidence continues to emerge indicating that the Australian navy may have assaulted refugees, deliberately causing burns, during operations to force them back to Indonesia, the government is intensifying its witch-hunt of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) for reporting the accusations.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday demanded that the ABC apologise for broadcasting video footage of the refugees’ badly burned hands and for suggesting that the injuries supported the allegations initially made by asylum seekers to Indonesian police last month. Abbott accused the ABC for its reporting “in ways that were extremely damaging to the professionalism of our military personnel.”

Defence Minister David Johnston went further yesterday, saying he was “absolutely sick to the stomach that this iconic Australian news agency would attack the navy in the way that it has.” Describing naval personnel as “heroes,” he called for an inquiry into the ABC. At the same time he reiterated the government’s refusal to investigate the mounting evidence. In an extraordinary outburst pointing to the xenophobic nature of the government’s campaign, Johnston told the Australian newspaper that the refugees making the complaints were not “even Australian” and were “desperate people.”

The government’s campaign is aimed at defending its “Operation Sovereign Borders” policy, which is in blatant violation of refugees’ right under international law to flee persecution and oppression. More broadly, Abbott and his colleagues are attempting to bully and threaten anyone who dares call into question the use of the military to trample over fundamental legal and democratic rights.

According to the Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan, the Abbott government has “internalised several lessons” from the October 2001 “children overboard” scandal, in which the previous Liberal-National government of John Howard was exposed, by leaks from sailors themselves, after it falsely claimed that refugees had thrown children into the ocean to force the navy to rescue them. The truth was that the navy, under the government’s order, had fired shots toward their boat, which sank the following day, throwing its passengers into the water (see: “Australian navy opens fire on refugee boat”).

The “children overboard” accusations, which were fully backed by the Labor Party, became a turning point in the demonisation of refugees in the lead-up to the 2001 federal election. However the lies unravelled after the election, severely discrediting Howard’s government. Sheridan said the main political lesson drawn by the Liberal Party was that “everybody started leaking” to the media—a practice that had to stop.

Backed by the corporate media, the government is creating an atmosphere of wartime-like censorship in which any criticism of the military is to be forbidden.

The government’s threats to the ABC have been directly facilitated by figures within the broadcaster itself, most notably Paul Barry, the presenter of ABC TV’s “Media Watch” program. On Monday night, Barry proclaimed that the ABC had “got it wrong” and “over-reached” by “essentially endorsing the allegations of Navy mistreatment.”

Barry’s pronouncement reflects the rightward evolution of a layer of erstwhile liberals, who previously opposed the harsh treatment of refugees. They fell into line with the previous former Gillard Labor government which cynically justified its ramped-up “border protection” regime as a humanitarian policy to prevent people dying while trying to reach Australia’s shores. Now these elements are lurching further to the right.

Barry previously acquired something of a reputation for exposing the machinations of the corporate media, writing books on former media proprietors, Alan Bond and James Packer. Now he has aligned himself with a witch-hunt orchestrated by the same forces.

Fairfax Media, a traditional small “l” liberal platform, also weighed in. A Sydney Morning Herald editorial on January 30 declared that “the ABC’s handling of the ‘burnt hands’ claims was at times boosterish” and “damaged Australia’s reputation in the region.”

Likewise, opposition leader Bill Shorten rushed to declare that the Labor Party supports the military, while criticising the government for making the navy’s job “tougher” by keeping its operations secret. Greens spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young took a similar line, complaining that the government’s secrecy was “tarnishing the navy’s reputation.”

The ABC already functions as a reliable conduit for the Australian corporate and political establishment. It initially declined to report the complaints of burns and torture, which first surfaced on Indonesian news sites on January 7, and were published by Agence France Presse the next day. It was only then that the ABC felt compelled to report them—accompanied by vehement denials by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison of any wrongdoing.

The ABC’s supposed “overreach” occurred on January 22, when it published video footage that it noted “appears to back asylum seekers’ claims of mistreatment by the Australian Navy.”

Following Barry’s “Media Watch” verdict, ABC managing director Mark Scott issued a grovelling statement, saying: “We regret if our reporting led anyone to mistakenly assume that the ABC supported the asylum seekers’ claims.” Head of ABC news content Gaven Morris issued an edict to staff, warning them not to “embellish” or add “any flourish” to claims of mistreatment by “Australian border protection forces.”

None of this satisfied the government or the Murdoch press, which want nothing less than the reduction of the ABC to a pure propaganda outfit, giving unquestioned backing to the military. When Abbott was asked whether the controversy had been ended with the ABC’s statement, he replied: “I wonder why sorry seems to be the hardest word for them.”

The government’s opposition to any investigation of the alleged crimes carried out by the Australian military underscores its readiness to abrogate the most basic democratic and legal rights. Behind a blanket of secrecy, what is happening in the waters off the Australian coast is that some of the most vulnerable members of the international working class are being subjected to military detention, physically abused and dumped at sea in flimsy craft.

This is a warning of the kind of reactionary political atmosphere and methods that the government and the entire media and political establishment are preparing against the working class as a whole. There is not one rule for asylum seekers and another for working people at home.

It is no accident that the other supposed “crime” committed by the ABC was to publish former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s documents. They reveal not just US-backed spying on the people and governments throughout the Asia-Pacific region, but also the police-state surveillance being carried out domestically, with the US and Australian intelligence networks monitoring the phones and social media activity of millions of people.

The Abbott government is drawing up far-reaching budget cuts to social spending and supporting sweeping attacks on jobs, wages and conditions. The brutal treatment of refugees is a warning of the methods that will be used in the future against the resistance of workers and youth to these attacks on living standards.

The author also recommends:

Australian government joins international witch-hunt of Edward Snowden
[3 February 2014]

In an interview with Sydney Morning Herald journalist Michael Bachelard published yesterday, Sudanese refugee Yousif Ibrahim Fasher provided a further eye-witness account detailing Australian naval personnel physically assaulting and punishing asylum seekers who were attempting to reach Australia by boat: here.

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Rare blue whales near New Zealand


This video is called BBC Planet Earth (Blue whale).

From the New Zealand Herald:

Giants of the sea: Blue whales spotted in NZ

11:51 AM Monday Feb 3, 2014

Rare blue whales have been spotted off the coast of the North Island by NIWA scientists.

The whales, the world’s largest animal, remain one of the planet’s most elusive creatures.

They were intensively hunted in the Southern Hemisphere during the whaling era, dramatically reducing their numbers.

The creatures were spotted by scientists on a research expedition in the South Taranaki Bight led by NIWA marine ecologist Dr Leigh Torres.

The group is aiming to collect data to increase understanding of the blue whale population in the region. The team has observed nearly 50 blue whales in the past week.

“It is very exciting to see these whales and start the process of collecting important data on this undescribed population and poorly understood foraging habitat,” Dr Torres said.

“In addition to finding the whales, we were able to detect their prey visually on the surface and at-depth using hydro-acoustics.”

Dr Torres last year published a scientific paper that discussed the possibility of a blue whale foraging ground in the Bight.

Her research showed the presence of blue whales in the area was greater than expected. An increase in reported sightings was also linked to a prominent upwelling system that generates large clouds of plankton – perfect for blue whales to feed on.

It was previously thought the whales were only travelling through New Zealand waters while migrating.

Blue whales need to eat vast amounts of plankton to support their energy demands. But there are just four confirmed blue whale foraging grounds in the Southern Hemisphere outside of Antarctic waters,” Dr Torres said.

Pygmy blue whales migrating from Perth to Indonesia: here.

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Big pro-shark demonstrations in Australia


This video is called SAVE OUR SHARKS! Massive Protest On Australian Beach After Government Calls For Shark Cull.

From AFP news agency today:

Thousands rally against shark cull in Australia

1 hour ago

Thousands of people rallied across Australia Saturday against a controversial shark culling policy designed to prevent attacks, saying killing the marine animals was the not the answer.

The controversial policy to catch and kill sharks off popular west coast beaches was given the green light last month after six fatal attacks in the past two years.

It is aimed at reducing the risks to water users and allows baited drum lines with hooks designed to capture large sharks to be set one kilometre (0.62 miles) offshore at busy Western Australian beaches for a trial period until April 30.

Any shark longer than three metres (10 feet) snagged by the lines and deemed to be a threat—including great white, bull and tiger sharks—will be destroyed, with the first casualty reported last week.

The move has angered conservationists and rallies were held at sites around the country, including at least 2,000 people at Manly Beach in Sydney and 6,000 expected at Cottesloe Beach in Perth.

Opponents claim the trial flies in the face of international obligations to protect the great white shark.

Anthony Joyce, who was attacked by a shark off a Sydney beach last October, once shared the Western Australian government’s views on culling the animals, but after doing extensive research he now disagrees.

“The amount of sharks they are going to kill is going to make no difference in the scheme of things,” he told reporters at Manly.

After speaking with shark experts and marine biologists, he now believes greater government support for marine biology programmes and shark education in schools is the way to go.

Another protestor in Manly, Katherine Cook, said she was outraged at the shark killings.

“I’m really angry and incensed that we can’t co-exist with anything,” she said.

“We are going into their (sharks) environment. Why can’t we co-exist?”

At Cottesloe, a female activist chained herself to a fisheries boat to prevent it leaving to set and monitor baited hooks off the coast, the ABC reported.

While sharks are common in Australian waters, deadly attacks are rare, with only one of the average 15 incidents a year typically proving fatal.

In first 3 weeks of West Australia shark cull, majority of sharks caught were still undersized: here.

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NSA scandal continues with attacks on Snowden


This video from the USA is called CIA Analyst Discusses the Assassination of Edward Snowden.

In congressional hearings Wednesday, senior US government officials continued their defense of unconstitutional data collection programs and escalated the attack on former National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden: here.

By Patrick O’Connor in Australia:

Australian PM denounces Edward Snowden as a “traitor”

31 January 2014

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has joined the slander campaign against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, declaring him a “traitor” who “betrayed his country.”

Abbott’s remarks on Wednesday came after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop issued a speech in Washington last week accusing Snowden of “unprecedented treachery” and “shamefully betraying his nation while skulking in Russia” (see: “Australian foreign minister slanders Edward Snowden”).

Abbott and Bishop have intervened as part of a coordinated campaign against the former NSA contractor that followed President Barack Obama’s speech on January 17 defending the US intelligence agencies’ global operations. Numerous US congress members also appeared in the media to accuse Snowden of being a Russian agent and traitor.

No other government internationally has denounced Snowden in the terms employed by the Abbott government.

For his courageous stand in exposing the illegal operations of the NSA against the people of the US and the world, Snowden has been charged by the US Department of Justice with theft of government property and unauthorised release of intelligence and “national defence” information.

The Australian government is openly flouting both diplomatic norms and basic legal precepts in its accusations of “treason” against the whistleblower. Its stance underscores Canberra’s role as Washington’s junior partner, complicit in many of the crimes committed by US imperialism around the world. The Australian intelligence agencies, as part of the US-led “Five Eyes” network, are culpable in the NSA’s extraordinary international spy apparatus exposed by Snowden.

The Abbott government remains enraged by the NSA whistleblower’s exposure of Australian spying on the mobile phones of the Indonesian president and his wife, reported by the Guardian and the publicly owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) last November. This provoked a diplomatic rift between Canberra and Jakarta that remains unresolved. Several media reports have indicated that further Snowden leaks will likely reveal other such espionage operations carried out throughout the Asian region.

The prime minister’s accusations against Snowden were made in the course of a McCarthy-style attack on the ABC.

“A lot of people feel at the moment that the ABC instinctively takes everyone’s side but Australia’s,” Abbott declared in an interview on a right-wing “shock jock” radio program. Referring to the revelations of monitoring Indonesian leaders, he stated: “I was very worried and concerned a few months back when the ABC seemed to delight in broadcasting allegations by a traitor. This gentlemen Snowden, or this individual Snowden, who has betrayed his country and in the process has badly, badly damaged other countries that are friends of the United States. And of course the ABC didn’t just report what he said, they took the lead in advertising what he said.”

Abbott added that “it dismays Australians when the national broadcaster appears to take everyone’s side but our own” and that he wanted the ABC to have “at least some basic affection for our home team, so to speak.” By “our side,” Abbott is referring to the Australian ruling elites and their predatory interests, not to the millions of people in Australia and worldwide who applauded Snowden’s stance in exposing the NSA’s massive international spying operation on the world’s population.

This demand for a more “patriotic” ABC is, in part, aimed at preventing the publication in Australia of more Snowdon stories like the Indonesian phone-tapping exposé. Much of the rest of the Australian press—especially the Murdoch media, which controls 70 percent of the country’s newspaper market—denounced the ABC for partnering with the Guardian to release the story.

The Australian ran an editorial insisting that the public broadcaster ought to have suppressed the NSA documents—because they “were classified top secret because they were considered important for the nation’s security” and “anyone with the most perfunctory understanding of international affairs would have realised at first glance that making these documents public would severely damage relations between Indonesia and Australia and thereby, inevitably, doing harm to both countries.”

More broadly, Abbott aims to convert the ABC into an unalloyed propaganda mouthpiece for the government.

During Wednesday’s radio interview, the prime minister complained that the broadcaster aired allegations raised by asylum seekers earlier this month that Australian navy personnel who forcibly returned their vessel to Indonesia had punched them and forced them to put their hands on red-hot engine parts. Indonesian police are investigating the reports.

The Australian government and the navy have flatly denied the allegations, while refusing to conduct an inquiry. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison declared that no investigation was required because he had “been given assurances about their conduct and I believe those assurances because I believe in those individuals.” Morrison added: “The Australian government is not going to put up with people sledging the Australian navy.”

Abbott weighed in, declaring that “you shouldn’t leap to be critical of your own country, and you certainly ought to be prepared to give the Australian navy and its hardworking personnel the benefit of the doubt.”

The prime minister’s remarks about the ABC again exposed divisions within the government. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whom Abbott ousted as Liberal Party leader in 2009, declared that the ABC was accountable to its board of directors, not the government. “What’s the alternative?” he asked. “The [ABC] editor-in-chief becomes the prime minister? Politicians, whether prime ministers or communications ministers, will often be unhappy with the ABC … but you can’t tell them what to write.”

Turnbull’s stance reflects concern within ruling circles that Abbott’s strident demand for some kind of nationalistic censorship regime could backfire, triggering opposition among ordinary people. Moreover, the communications minister and others in the government recognise that accusations the ABC is a “left-wing” institution are absurd, and appreciate the services rendered to the ruling elite by the national broadcaster.

Despite Turnbull’s statement differentiating himself from Abbott, the day after the PM’s attack on Snowden and the ABC, Turnbull announced an “efficiency study” into the broadcaster, aimed at “reducing expenses.” The review will likely be followed by sharp funding cuts in the upcoming May budget, including job losses and the abolition of existing services. The government is also reportedly considering axing the ABC’s $223 million contract providing the Australian Network Asian broadcasting service.

The government’s opposition to any investigation of alleged crimes carried out by Australian military and intelligence personnel, like its denunciation of Edward Snowden, underscores its utter disregard for democratic and legal norms. Working hand in hand with Washington, Canberra is promoting militarism and preparing for war in the Asia-Pacific.

Australian government joins international witch hunt of Edward Snowden: here.

Guardian reveals threats of imprisonment and closure over Snowden leaks: here.

By appointing Admiral Michael Rogers to head the NSA, President Obama will further entrench and expand the unconstitutional police state apparatus: here.

With the government’s full support, the Communication Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)—the Canadian partner and counterpart of the US National Security Agency (NSA)—has illegally arrogated the power to spy on Canadians: here.

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Good seabird news from Mauritius


This video from Australia is called White-tailed tropic bird release; long trip [from Frankston to Pambula]; how far will you go?

From Wildlife Extra:

Success in Mauritius’ attempts to save seabird breeding populations on its islands

January 2014: Moves to protect breeding seabirds on the Mauritian offshore islands, especially Round Island and Serpent Island, are gaining momentum. These islands play an important role in supporting some of the largest breeding colonies in the Indian Ocean and an ongoing project to halt declines in numbers is showing signs of success.

The Mauritius Wildlife Foundation (MWF), the representatives of BirdLife in Mauritius, started a Seabird Translocation Project in 2009, with the aim of restoring a lost seabird community on Ile aux Aigrettes and to learn as much as possible about the birds in the process. Translocations are a major tool in ensuring the survival of threatened species worldwide.

With the project now in its third season, 280 seabirds of five different species have been released to new, safe sites with help from the National Coast Guard and the National Parks and Conservation Service. In 2013 releases of 17 common noddies and 21 sooty terns ran smoothly, with all but a single bird fledging successfully. Harvested nestlings were translocated from Serpent Island to a cordoned off area on Ile aux Aigrettes. The birds were fed twice a day on communal feed trays after the initial weeks of individual hand-feeding, and they remained around the release site for some weeks after fledging, returning to the island to be fed for a time before gradually spending extended periods out at sea.

This is the first time, as far as is known, that these species have been translocated or hand-reared in any numbers, so any information gained during this trial is of great importance. The mix of different seabird species shows diverse behavioural, nesting and feeding requirements. Information on fledging times, growth and provisioning rates, and also fledgling survival, is adding to scientists’ current knowledge on seabirds.

There have also been recent helicopter transfers of around 30 tropicbirds from Round Island to Ile aux Aigrettes. Nestlings were harvested around two to three weeks before fledging and were hand-reared on a diet of fish, squid and octopus. White-tailed tropicbirds have been seen flying frequently over the island, and wedge-tailed shearwaters have been heard calling near release sites. These are all encouraging signs, and MWF hopes to find returning birds on the island over the coming seasons. These translocations demonstrate MWF’s long-term commitment to seabird and island restoration and will lay the groundwork for more challenging seabird restoration work in the future, such as the establishment of some rarer seabirds, including the Round Island petrel and the red-footed booby.

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