Unjustly convicted boxer ‘Hurricane’ Carter dies


This music video is called Bob Dylan – Hurricane (original). The lyrics are here.

From the Canadian Press:

‘Hurricane’ Carter dies at 76

April 20, 2014 / 8:04 am

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the former American boxer imprisoned nearly 20 years for three murders before the convictions were overturned, has died at his home in Toronto.

Media reports say he was battling prostate cancer.

The Hurricane‘s autobiography, “The Sixteenth Round,” was published in 1975 it helped raise awareness for his case. Also in 1975 Bob Dylan wrote the song ‘Hurricane’ based on the book.

According to CTV, Carter was arrested in 1966, along with acquaintance John Artis, for a triple shooting in New Jersey. His conviction was quashed in 1985, with the help of a group of Canadians who fought to keep his case in the spotlight.

Eventually, Carter moved to Toronto, where he helped to form the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted. He served as the association’s executive director from 1993 to 2004.

in 1999 Norman Jewison made the movie ‘The Hurricane’, Denzel Washington played the lead role.

See also here.

On race, the US is not as improved as some would have us believe. Despite the legacy of civil rights, some doors remain firmly closed. And across the US, schools are resegregating: here.

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Stop damaging marmoset monkeys’ brains, campaigners say


This video from South Africa is called International Primate Rescue (1 of 4): Playing with Marmosets.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Halt ‘disturbing’ medical tests on monkeys, campaigners urge

Monday 7th April 2014

Cure Parkinson’s Trust sponsors experiments pumping primate brains full of harmful drugs

Animal welfare activists have begged a British charity to stop “profoundly disturbing” experiments on monkeys’ brains for medical research into Parkinson’s disease.

Campaign organisation Animal Aid issued a statement today denouncing the Cure Parkinson’s Trust for sponsoring Canadian scientists to inject monkeys with brain-damaging drugs.

“The vast majority of the British public do not want their money being used to fund profoundly disturbing experiments on animals,” said Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler.

In papers published in the Journal of Neuroscience and Public Library of Science ONE between 2011 and 2012, the testing was described as injecting marmoset monkeys with the chemical MPTP, which mimics Parkinson’s by killing brain cells.

The animals were then given differing doses of L-Dopa — a Parkinson’s treatment drug — to monitor its side effects.

Cure Parkinson’s Trust was named in the media as a supporter of the tests.

“We are calling on charities like the Cure Parkinson’s Trust to focus solely on productive non-animal research,” added Mr Tyler.

Animal Aid argues that the recurrent use of the same animals was equally disgraceful, given that — according to the Home Office’s measurement of animal tests — the suffering induced to the marmoset monkeys was “severe.”

Mr Tyler claimed that the British public’s money was ultimately being used to torture the animals.

In Britain, as in Europe, it is illegal to re-use animals for experiments on the “severe” threshold of pain, distress or lasting harm.

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Bears find mates through wildlife crossings


This video from Canada is called The Alberta Story: Banff Wildlife Crossing.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife crossings help bears find mates

February 2014: The wildlife crossings of the Trans-Canada Highway have helped bears safely cross the road and find mates on the other side of the road, research shows.

Roads connect human populations across vast distances but they can have an adverse effect on the populations of wildlife for as well as being possible victims of traffic accidents. Noisy traffic can also deter animals from approaching busy highways and groups can become isolated and fragmented with little chance for genetic mixing.

To counteract this fragmenting effect wildlife underpasses and overpasses have been built along major roads including the Trans-Canada Highway, Canada’s primary east-west transportation route. The highway runs through Banff, Canada’s oldest national park which is home to an array of wildlife, including two species of bear.

The researchers studied 20 of the 25 bear crossings along the Trans-Canada Highway using hair-snagging traps.

Through collecting thousands of hair samples over their three year study the team were able to identify hundred of bears including 15 grizzlies and 17 black bears who crossed, sometimes frequently, the Trans-Canada Highway. They found that bear populations were not isolated on either side of the road and that male and female bears from both species were using crossings to successful migrate, breed and carry genes over the road.

The team behind this study say young bears may be learning to use the crossings from their mothers.

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Band plays YMCA at Sochi Olympic skating


This video from the Winter Olympics in Canada says about itself:

Dutch speed skating band Kleintje Pils during the Men’s 500m in Vancouver 2010.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Musical protest by Kleintje Pils

Saturday, February 15, 2014 15:21

The Dutch brass band Kleintje Pils ["Small Beer"] has played the song YMCA in Sochi during a break while the ice was cleaned during the 1,500 meter speed skating. This was intended as a protest against the anti-LGBTQ law in Russia.

“We too know the terrible images of anti-gay hatred in Russia and other countries,” said the Oompah band. “We cannot be silent about that.” The song, a 1970s hit by the Village People, is associated with the gay movement.

Kleintje Pils has had contact with Victor Willis, the composer of YMCA. “He wrote it to connect people with each other and that is also what Kleintje Pils stands for,” says the band.

A Dutch radio interview with the band about this is here.

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Smith’s longspurs, world’s most loving birds?


This video from Alaska says about itself:

5 Sep 2013

© 2013 Jared Hughey
All Rights Reserved

The Smith’s Longspur (Calcarius pictus), one of the least studied songbirds in North America, breeds on the arctic tundra and has become a species of conservation concern. I spent the summer working as a field technician for Heather Craig, a Master’s student at University of Alaska Fairbanks who is studying the breeding ecology of this polygynandrous species in the foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska.

From eNature blog in the USA:

The Smith’s Longspur May Be Nature’s Champion Lover

Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 by eNature

Are you the type that has an insatiable appetite for lusty affairs?

Do you seek the same qualities in a partner?

Then you’ll probably enjoy the story of the Smith’s Longspur. This bird’s 70’s swinging style is enough to make even Hugh Hefner blush.

Small like a sparrow, the Smith’s Longspur spends its summers in Alaska and Canada and its winters in the Midwest and the South, often congregating in open fields.

In terms of range, then, it’s a lot like some other species. What sets the Smith’s Longspur apart is its astonishing libido.

At the peak of the spring mating season, the typical Smith’s Longspur copulates more than 350 times a week. The females solicit these encounters, and the males cooperate roughly half the time. Otherwise the creatures are resting and refueling.

You can always plan eNature’s Mating Game to find what creature you most resemble in love.

John James Audubon named the Smith’s Longspur after his friend Gideon B. Smith.

More about the Smith’s Longspur is here.

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Canadian Cambrian fossils discovery


This video from Canada says about itself:

4 July 2012

Associate Curator, Jean-Bernard Caron presents an overview of the fossil collection from the Burgess Shale, B.C., highlighting a number of specimens.

From the London Free Press in Canada:

‘Epic’ new fossil site found in B.C. national park

QMI Agency

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 10:30:33 EST AM

Researchers hit the “motherload” when they discovered a new fossil site in a B.C. national park.

In 2012, Canadian, U.S., and Swedish researchers made the discovery of a new Burgess Shale fossil site in Kootenay National Park, just 42 km away from what is hailed the world’s most important fossil site, located in Yoho National Park.

“We were already aware of the presence of some Burgess Shale fossils in Kootenay National Park. We had a hunch that if we followed the formation along the mountain topography into new areas with the right rock types, maybe, just maybe, we would get lucky — though we never in our wildest dreams thought we’d track down a motherload like this,” geologist Robert Gaines of Pomona College in California said in a release Tuesday.

In a paper published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers said the area and its fossils will help scientists better understand the sudden explosion of animal life during the Cambrian Period.

The study’s lead author, Jean-Bernard Caron of the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto, called the discovery “an epic sequel to a research story that began at the turn of the previous century.”

In more than 100 years of research, about 200 animal species have been identified at the original Burgess Shale discovery in Yoho National Park.

In just 15 days of field collecting, 50 animal species were unearthed at the new Kootenay National Park site.

The team will go back to the park this summer in the hopes of discovering new species.

See also here.

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Edward Snowden and journalists threatened


This video is called New German TV Snowden Interview.

By Patrick Martin:

US threats mount against journalists, Snowden

6 February 2014

Congressional leaders and representatives of the US military-intelligence apparatus have stepped up their threats against Edward Snowden and the journalists who have worked with him to expose massive illegal spying by the National Security Agency (NSA).

At a hearing Tuesday of the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, repeatedly suggested that journalists who received leaked NSA documents from Snowden and wrote articles about them were guilty of criminal acts.

These statements follow published death threats against Snowden from unnamed military and intelligence officials and demands from the Obama administration that he plead guilty and turn himself in.

Rogers engaged his main witness at Tuesday’s hearing, FBI Director James Comey, in a lengthy exchange over whether an unnamed journalist would be guilty of “fencing stolen material” if he published articles based on the Snowden revelations. Because reporters are paid for their work, Rogers suggested, they were engaged in selling stolen material for profit. He posed the question to Comey, “If I’m hocking stolen classified material that I’m not legally in possession of for personal gain and profit, is that not a crime?”

Comey was more cautious in his public utterances, agreeing that a journalist who sold stolen jewelry was guilty of a crime, but suggesting stolen documents might not be as clear a case. “I think that’s a harder question because it involves a news-gathering function,” he said. It “could have First Amendment implications,” he added. [Emphasis added].

However, Comey did not rule out prosecution. Rogers continued, “So if I’m a newspaper reporter for—fill in the blank—and I sell stolen material, is that legal because I’m a newspaper reporter?”

Comey eventually declared, after being pressed by Rogers, “I don’t want to talk about the case in particular because it’s an active investigation of ours.”

Rogers then asked, “It’s an active investigation for accomplices brokering in stolen information?” Comey replied, “We are looking at the totality of the circumstances around the theft and promulgation.”

After the hearing, Rogers made it clear that one of the journalists he had in mind was Glenn Greenwald, the former Guardian reporter who has written numerous articles on the NSA based on his access to the trove of documents taken by Snowden. “For personal gain, he’s now selling his access to information, that’s how they’re terming it,” Rogers claimed. “A thief selling stolen material is a thief.”

Rogers also said, referring to Snowden himself, “I can tell you from a whole series of classified meetings, the folks who do this for a living believe he is under the influence of the Russians.”

The obvious conclusion of the exchange between Rogers and Comey is that the Obama administration is considering criminal charges against Greenwald, as well as filmmaker Laura Poitras and Washington Post contributor Barton Gellman, who also have access to the Snowden documents and have reported on them.

Greenwald strongly defended his actions and the actions of his fellow journalists in interviews and Twitter postings after the House committee hearing. “There’s something that has become pretty sick about DC political culture if the idea of prosecuting journalists is now this mainstream,” he said on Twitter. “The main value in bandying about theories of prosecuting journalists is the hope that it will bolster the climate of fear for journalism.”

No journalist has ever been prosecuted in the United States on the claim that receiving unauthorized information was akin to receipt of stolen goods. Greenwald added, “What they’re trying to do is to remove it from the realm of journalism so that they can then criminalize it.”

The McCarthy-style threats against journalists by Rogers came amid mounting threats against Snowden and his allies by top military-intelligence officials.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, speaking at another hearing Tuesday, referred to the journalists who have extensively reported on the NSA as “accomplices” of Snowden, a term suggesting co-conspirators in a criminal enterprise. This comment followed Clapper’s testimony the previous week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he denounced Snowden as the architect of the “most damaging theft of intelligence information in our history.”

Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who commands the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Matt Olsen, chief of the National Counterterrorism Center, claimed that Snowden’s revelations had resulted in changes in how Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups conduct their communications activities.

“What we’ve seen in the last six to eight months is an awareness by these groups…of our ability to monitor communications and specific instances where they’ve changed the ways in which they communicate to avoid being surveilled,” Olsen said.

This is both unprovable and likely bogus, since the vast bulk of the Snowden revelations concern US government spying on ordinary citizens of the United States and other countries to accumulate a gigantic database of all the communications linking all individuals throughout the world. This has nothing to do with fighting terrorism and everything to do with profiling the population politically and preparing the military-intelligence apparatus to suppress movements from below that would threaten the profits and property of the financial aristocracy.

The Senate Intelligence Committee hearing coincided with the release of a 27-page report, “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community,” filed annually with Congress by the director of national intelligence (DNI). This year’s report for the first time cites internal leaks as a major danger to US national security and actually ranks such leaks ahead of terrorism as a threat.

“Trusted insiders with the intent to do harm can exploit their access to compromise vast amounts of sensitive and classified information as part of a personal ideology or at the direction of a foreign government,” the report warns. “The unauthorized disclosure of this information to state adversaries, non-state activists or other entities will continue to pose a critical threat.”

The DNI report now lists terrorism only third in its list of threats. Top billing is given to the danger of cyberattacks, with Russia, China, Iran and North Korea cited as the main concerns. This list gives a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes discussions in the Pentagon, CIA and State Department, where there is increasing focus on the prospect of direct military conflict with Russia and China, countries with the second- and third-largest nuclear arsenals after the United States.

The ranking of Snowden-type leakers ahead of terrorism as a threat has the most ominous implications. Terrorism has been used as the justification for an unprecedented assertion of presidential power to order the killing of American citizens without trial or any other judicial process. Obama has acknowledged giving the first such order, which was carried out in 2011 when a CIA-fired drone missile killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Islamic cleric living in Yemen.

If Snowden is an even bigger threat, as the DNI report suggests, what is to stop the “commander in chief” from ordering his assassination? In the course of the past month, there have been increasingly bloodthirsty declarations from NSA operatives and congressional Republicans advocating such an operation.

The White House has not joined in the open discussion of killing Snowden, but Obama’s style in such matters has been to act first and talk about it later.

Canada’s Conservative government and its intelligence agencies are vigorously defending the state’s arrogation of the power to spy on Canadians’ electronic communications: here.

The latest Snowden-related revelation is that Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) proactively targeted the communications infrastructure used by the online activist collective known as Anonymous: here.

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