Batumi, Georgia, big birds of prey migration


This video from Georgia says about itself:

Honey Buzzard migration, Batumi 2013-09-03

A short film of migrating Honey Buzzards in Batumi. The bottleneck of Batumi is probably one of the best places to be if you wanna see a lot of migrating raptors. In early september, the peak time of honey buzzards occurs and thousands of Honey Buzzards migrate.

As this blog noted, bird migration counters in the Netherlands considered yesterday, 27 August 2014, a good day, including 451 honey buzzards.

However, there are always other days, better than good days.

Today, 28 August, in Saghalvasho near Batumi, in Georgia, 81,666 honey buzzards were counted!

Other species there today: black stork 5. White stork 20. Black kite 246. Marsh harrier 64. Pallid harrier 1. Montagu’s harrier 288. Booted eagle 3. European roller 108.

Dutch government’s cruelty against ill 6-year-old refugee girl


This video from the USA is called Targeting Cancer: The Story of Leukemia.

Renata, © EO/De Vijfde Dag

Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant:

Teeven again under fire after disputed deportation of dying Renata

By: Maartje Bakker – 02/08/13, 06:00

State Secretary of Immigration Teeven is again under fire because medical care to an asylum seeker has failed. When 6-year-old Renata from Georgia stayed first in a refugee center, later in a prison, the medical staff did not notice that she was suffering from leukemia.

There was no access to the GP, while there were serious indications of a serious illness

CDA MP Eddy Hijum

Opposition parties in the House of Commons wonder whether deporting Renata’s family was considered more important than proper health care. Renata Agamiryan, in the weeks before she was deported, had fever and nosebleeds and showed signs of anemia: all symptoms of leukemia. Nevertheless the doctor’s assistant in the refugee center did not send her to a doctor.

When Renata’s parents brought the girl on their own initiative to a GP, the doctor prescribed a blood test. Although the parents of Renata repeatedly insisted on that test, it was not done in the next week. The dying Renata was put on a plane to Poland.

Once deported, she was found to suffer from acute leukemia. At the Binnenhof [Dutch parliament] the story evokes memories of the Russian asylum seeker Alexander Dolmatov. While in prison, he also did not get the medical care which he needed. Nurses neglected to warn doctors about the suicidal tendencies of the Russian. Dolmatov hanged himself.

“No more indifference”

In the debate on Dolmatov’s death Teeven, Secretary of Immigration promised that in the future government personnel would act more humanely when dealing with asylum seekers – so, no more indifference. This was for the PvdA

the junior partner party in the coalition government with Teeven’s VVD party

a condition to keep supporting Teeven as Secretary.

CDA MP Eddy van Hijum doubts whether Teeven can live up to his words. In the case of Renata ‘Teeven can say that there should be attention for the human dimension in dealing with asylum seekers. But I do not have the impression that this is happening.” According to Van Hijum the government failed on three occasions. “There was no access to the GP, while there were serious indications of a serious illness. The medical information was not transferred from the asylum seekers center to the prison. And there has been no medical test prior to deportation, while that should be usual.”

Also D66 and SP parties will ask Teeven questions. “It’s like Dolmatov. You feel guilty – this should not be true in the Netherlands” says Sharon Gesthuizen (SP). Gerard Schouw (D66): “The aim of deporting someone seems to have prevailed here above careful assessment of the symptoms of illness.”

Also translated from De Volkskrant:

Renata’s disease has a cure rate of 90 percent, provided that it is detected early. Things are not going well with Renata now. Her fate now depends on a second round of chemotherapy in the hospital in Poland.

Renata Agamiryan’s name sounds Armenian. The president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, preaches bigotry against the ethnically Armenian minority in his country. This is probably the background of why Renata’s family had to flee to the Netherlands.

Human evolution, from vegetarians to omnivores


This video is called CARTA: Bipedalism and Human Origins-Comparative Anatomy from Australopithecus to Gorillas.

From the BBC:

4 June 2013 Last updated at 07:03 GMT

Human ancestors‘ diet changed 3.5 million years ago

By Melissa Hogenboom, Science reporter, BBC News

A new analysis of early human teeth from extinct fossils has found that they expanded their diets about 3.5 million years ago to include grasses and possibly animals.

Before this, humanlike creatures – or hominins – ate a forest-based diett similar to modern gorillas and chimps.

Researchers analysed fossilised tooth enamel of 11 species of hominins and other primates found in East Africa.

The findings appear in four papers published in PNAS journal.

Like chimpanzees today, many of our early human ancestors lived in forests and ate a diet of leaves and fruits from trees, shrubs and herbs.

But scientists have now found that this changed 3.5 million years ago in the species Australopithecus afarensis and Kenyanthropus platyops.

Their diet included grasses, sedges, and possibly animals that ate such plants. They also tended to live in the open savannahs of Africa.

The new studies show that they not only lived there, but began to consume progressively more foods from the savannahs.

Researchers looked at samples from 175 hominins of 11 species, ranging from 1.4 to 4.1 million years old.

Their diet was analysed from the chemical make up of their teeth, identifying the carbon isotopes within them.

The ratios of different types of carbon atoms, or isotopes, in fossils can give clues to what a fossil creature ate because different foods have different carbon isotope signatures.

“What we have is chemical information on what our ancestors ate, which in simpler terms is like a piece of food item stuck between their teeth and preserved for millions of years,” said Dr Zeresenay Alemseged, from the California Academy of Sciences, co-author on two of the papers.

“Because feeding is the most important factor determining an organism’s physiology, behaviour and its interaction with the environment, these finds will give us new insight into the evolutionary mechanisms that shaped our evolution.”

It is not yet clear whether the change in diet included animals, but “the possible diets of some of our hominin kin” has been considerably narrowed down, Dr Matt Sponheimer, lead author of another of the papers, told BBC News.

A new habitat

“We now have good evidence that some early hominins began using plant foods that are not used in abundance by living African apes today, and this probably led to a major change in the way they used the landscape.

“One consequence could be that the dietary expansion led to a habitat expansion, as they could travel to more open habitats more efficiently.

“We know that many early hominins lived in areas that would not have readily supported chimpanzees with their strong preference for forest fruits. It could also be argued that this dietary expansion was a key element in hominin diversification.”

The study has also answered, at least in part, what researchers have long been speculating – how so many large species of primate managed to co-exist.

“They were not competing for the same foods,” said Prof Thure Cerling from the University of Utah, who led one of the research papers.

‘The modern human’

“All these species who were once in the human lineage, ventured out into this new world of foods 3.5 million years ago, but we don’t yet understand why that is.”

As well as looking at non-human primates, the researchers analysed fossils from other animals from the same era and did not find any evidence of a change in diet.

This combined research highlights a “step towards becoming the modern human”, said Dr Jonathan Wynn from the University of South Florida, who led the analysis of Australopithecus afarensis.

“Exploring new environments and testing new foods, ultimately might be correlated with further changes in human history.”

These four complementary studies give a persuasive account of shifts in dietary niche in East African hominins, Dr Louise Humphrey from the Natural History Museum in London, told BBC news.

Australopithecus

Australopithecus was the ape-man ancestor of humans and walked upright
As many as nine different species may have existed two-four million years ago in Africa
The males were up to twice the size of the females. However, even the largest male was quite short compared to modern humans, at only 150cm tall
The species with hefty jaws and massive faces – known as robust australopithecines – are believed by many scientists to belong in a separate genus, Paranthropus

Source: BBC Nature

Multiple studies of carbon isotopes in fossil hominin teeth from southern and eastern Africa document the change from woodland to grassland diet which marked a major step in the evolution of early humans: here.

A newly discovered skull, some 1.8 million years old, has rekindled debate over the identity of humanity’s ancient ancestors. Uncovered at the Dmanisi site in the Caucasus in Georgia, “Skull 5″ represents the most complete jaw and cranium from a turning point in early human history: here. And here.

Medea, opera in London


This video is about the opera Medea, playing in London, England.

By Anna Chen in Britain:

Medea

Coliseum, London WC2

Tuesday 12 March 2013

An ENO version of Medea ignores its subversive possibilities as a vision of imperial plunder and betrayal

It’s curious how many operas feature women who are outcasts in some way.

Carmen, Turandot, Violetta in La Traviata and Cho Cho San in Madam Butterfly transgress social norms and have to be punished for it.

ENO presents the first British production of Marc-Antoine Charpentier‘s 17th-century French baroque opera Medea, which has perhaps the ballsiest tragic outcast heroine of them all, bringing intellect and magical powers to the mix.

The action opens in the sanctuary of Corinth after Medea (mezzo-soprano Susan Connelly), princess of Colchis, has helped Jason (Jeffrey Francis) steal the golden fleece in order to restore him to his rightful place as king of Iolcos. She has betrayed her father, killed her own brother and escaped with Jason, bearing him two sons.

Having thus burnt her bridges spectacularly, she is in turn betrayed by the ambitious Jason who falls for Creusa, daughter of King Creon of Corinth.

Thomas Corneille‘s libretto echoes Euripides’s play of the Jason myth, which painted Medea as an archetypal woman scorned, her white-hot fury destroying not only her love rival but also her own sons in order to punish an errant husband.

Its misogynistic message – that powerful women are a devilish disturbance in the cosmic balance – demands questioning.

Coming from the edge of the ancient Hellenic world in what is now modern Georgia, where Asia and “barbarism” begin, Medea would have been a dark-skinned “other” compared to the fair Corinthians.

Mistrusted for the very powers that fulfil Jason’s ambitions and then, as a shamed, humiliated and displaced queen with nowhere to go, her sons would have been no better than slaves. Was killing them an act of mad revenge or one of mercy when all was lost?

The only hint of the latter is in the line buried in Euripides: “If I hesitate now someone else will murder them more cruelly.” Medea’s dilemma is fascinating and beyond any mere domestic upset.

It is therefore a pity that ENO’s production ignores those dramatic possibilities, sticking to the cliche of wrathful harpy aided by the demons of jealousy and vengeance.

Having timidly distilled conflict into blonde versus brunette, the designers stick Medea in a dowdy knee-length skirt suit with white tights that undermine her transformation into a supernatural force. This is a queen of somewhere very dark, not a bank manager.

Played by awesome house-shaking bass Brindley Sharratt, Creon’s fascist impulses (“We must silence all discontent”) are linked to his depraved incestuous desire for Creusa.

But, although the setting is updated to World War II, by failing to subvert the traditional reading of Medea’s motivations, this production misses the chance to do something exciting and different with a murderous tale of imperialist conquest, theft and betrayal.

Runs until March 16. Box office: (0207) 845-9300.

Antigone, Lysistrata and Medea: Feminism in Classical Greece: here.

Georgian president’s anti-Armenian prejudice


This video from when Mikheil Saakashvili still had dictatorial power in Georgia, is called The police tortured prisoners in Georgia.

Mikheil Saakashvili, contrary to his former colleague Mubarak of Egypt, is still president of Georgia.

Even though his party lost the parliamentary elections. Indignation among Georgian voters about horrible sexual torture of prisoners was so big, that even Saakashvili’s electoral fraud could not help him to win.

Saakashvili has a record of stirring up hatred against South Ossetians and Abkhazians. He started a bloody war to reconquer South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He counted on his chum George W Bush in the White House in the USA to help him in that war. However, not even George W Bush was that crazy to go all the way to a nuclear world war against Russia. Saakashvili lost the war. The war which cost the impoverished Georgian people many dead, many wounded and much money.

If Saakashvili was not stirring up hatred against South Ossetians or Abkhazians, then he was stirring up hatred against gay people, or against opposition party supporters.

Or he was stirring up hatred against Armenians. Unfortunately, not was, but is.

From the Civil.ge site in Georgia:

Armenian Church in Georgia ‘Condemns’ Saakashvili’s Statement on Chakhalyan

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 27 Jan.’13 / 18:57

President Saakashvili’s “incorrect” statements on the release of Vahagn Chakhalyan, an activist from Georgia’s pre-dominantly ethnic Armenian populated region, who was serving a prison term for charges related to weapons, armed hooliganism and acts against public order, are contributing to “dissemination of anti-Armenian sentiments,” Armenian Church in Georgia said in a statement on January 26.

Chakhalyan was released on January 24 as a result of a broad amnesty passed by the Georgian Parliament late last year after serving four and half years of his ten-year prison term.

President Saakashvili condemned release of Chakhalyan and described him as “the enemy of the Georgian state”. He said that Chakhalyan was released upon the request of head of the Armenian Apostolic Church Karekin II to Georgian PM Bidzina Ivanishvili; he also said that PM Ivanishvili “committed a grave misconduct” by allowing Chakhalyan’s release and added that the PM did so in order “to please” Russia.

UNM [Saakashvili's party] secretary general Vano Merabishvili, who was the interior minister when Chakhalyan was arrested, also condemned Chakhalyan’s release and described him as “a symbol of struggle against the Georgian statehood”, “inspirer of separatism in Javakheti”, “emissary of Russian military intelligence” and “major enemy of the Georgian statehood in Javakheti”.

The Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia released a statement on January 26 saying that it “condemns” remarks of this kind by the President and other UNM leaders.

With such statements, it said, the President and former interior minister acknowledged that “there actually was no justice when UNM was in power”.

“If Chakhalyan was really a separatist and an agent, why was not he convicted under relevant articles of the criminal code? There is one explanation to this paradox: the previous authorities used the justice system against their political opponents,” the statement reads.

“Moreover, President Saakashvili allowed himself to mention the name of His Holiness, Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, saying that Vahagn Chakhalyan was released upon His Holiness’ request. We would like to highlight that this request was based on humanistic beliefs and had originated from Chakhalyan’s parents’ appeal which could not have remained without the attention of the Spiritual Pastor of All Armenians,” the statement reads, adding that Chakhalyan was released because the law on amnesty applied to him.

It called on politicians “not to use for their short-term political objectives issues, which directly concern peace and calmness in our multiethnic homeland, as well as relationship between our brotherly people of Georgia and Armenia.”

“We are convinced that despite all political or other circumstances, our nations will continue strengthening and deepening good-neighborly and fraternal relations. Ethnically Armenian citizens of Georgia were and will continue to be devoted sons of Georgia,” the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia said.

Chakhalyan, who was with one of the Akhalkalaki-based groups which staged several protest rallies in 2005 against withdrawal of the Russian military base from Akhalkalaki and which was calling for an autonomy for the Javakheti region, was arrested in July, 2008 and initially charged with illegal keeping of weapons; later more charges were added involving hooliganism, acts against public order and resisting officials for incidents dating back for 2005 and 2006 including the one when protesters stormed a court chamber and a building of the Tbilisi State University’s local branch in Akhalkalaki. His supporters condemned Chakhalyan’s arrest and consequent conviction as politically motivated.