Racist superstitious Italian politician kills protected snake


This 2013 video is called Italian Jewish groups slam Italian politician over racist slurs aimed at African-Italian minister.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Italy’s Deputy Senate Speaker who compared country’s first black minister to an ‘orang-utan’ claims he is ‘cursed’ by African spirits after spell of bad luck

The senior politician who caused outrage by comparing Italy’s first black minister to an orang-utan, now claims he is under siege from vengeful African spirits.

Deputy Senate Speaker Roberto Calderoli invited national and international opprobrium last summer when he said the then Integration Minister, Congolese-born Cécile Kyenge, resembled an ape. He issued only a mealy-mouthed apology, however, and has refused to resign.

Roberto Calderoli is a member of the racist party Lega Nord (Northern League); allies of Marine Le Pen‘s National Front in France and Geert Wilders‘ PVV party in the Netherlands.

In November, he took legal advice when it became clear he was to stand trial in Brescia, charged with defamation aggravated by racial discrimination. The trial is ongoing.

But today it has emerged that he is also taking mystical advice, after claiming video evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo shows that Ms Kyenge’s father, a tribal leader, has put a “macumba” – an African curse – on him as punishment for the insult.

After a series of misfortunes since the “orang-utan” comment – six surgical interventions (two live-saving), the death of his mother, fractured bones and, just last week, the discovery of a 6ft snake in the kitchen of his house in Bergamo, northern Italy – Mr Calderoli is in no doubt about the magical nature of the threat, and has consulted a mystic.

He said that after the video emerged and he suffered the series of health scares, two friends gave him a lucky charm supposed to possess mystical healing properties. “Two days later, it broke in two by itself,” said Mr Calderoli. “A wizard

Maybe the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan?

has told me that there are terrible forces acting against me.” …

Now, in addition to battling ill health, anti-racism campaigners, the courts and tribal relations, Mr Calderoli is facing demands from animal rights activists that he be prosecuted for killing the snake, which they say was a non-venomous, protected species.

Following Mr Calderoli’s comments against Ms Kyenge, racist protesters threw bananas at her during a public appearance. Ms Kyenge had been calling for legislation to automatically grant citizenship to the children of legal immigrants who are born in Italy.

Wall lizard on Texel island


This is a wall lizard video from Italy.

Translated from Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands:

Lizard discovered on Texel – 26-08-14

There are no lizards on Texel. So, Texel man Hans van Garderen looked surprised when he found one in his home in Den Burg town. The animal was missing part of his tail, but looked healthy overall. He sent pictures of his special discovery to Ecomare biologist Pierre Bonnet. To find out which type it was precisely, Bonnet asked experts in the field of reptiles. According to RAVON staff member Annemarie van Diepenbeek it’s probably a young wall lizard.

Stony environment

Wall lizards are found in rocky environments in France and neighboring countries in southern Europe. In the Netherlands this species lives in one place, in Maastricht. Texel is not a suitable habitat for a wall lizard. They love a stony environment and not all that sand! Sand lizards do live on Terschelling and Vlieland, and on Terschelling, also the viviparous lizard. These species would also be able to live on Texel, but then you would expect them in the dunes, not in a house in Den Burg!

Alone or more of them

To find out whether this is a lone adventurer or whether there might be a population living on the island, Pierre advised Hans to also look in the garden. Among the stones he turned were there plenty of smooth newts, but no lizards. How the wall lizard came to Den Burg is unknown. It was probably taken along by people accidentally. Maybe it hitched a ride from a French campsite.

Two new moth species discovered in the Netherlands


This is an Aedia leucomelas video from Italy.

The Dutch Butterfly Foundation reports today discoveries of two moth species, new for the Netherlands.

One of these is Aedia leucomelas. An individual of this species was found in 1987 near Urmond village, and landed in a butterfly and moth collection. Only now researcher Rob de Vos discovered that moth was this south European and Asian species, which had never been recorded in the Netherlands before.

On 20 July this year, in Friesland province, there was nightly moth research. Over 110 macro moth species were counted. Among them was an Eucarta virgo. This east European and Asian species was new for the Netherlands as well.

New Italian football boss accused of racism and sexism


This video says about itself:

Controversial Carlo Tavecchio Wins Election

12 August 2014

Carlo Tavecchio has been elected the president of Italy’s football federation, less than a month after making a racist remark about African players.

After a self-styled fascist as Italian football boss in Sunderland in England, now a somewhat similar case from Italy itself.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Football: Italy elect racist to lead governing body

Tuesday 12th August 2014

Carlo Tavecchio appointed Italian Football Federation president

Carlo Tavecchio, the candidate at the centre of a racism controversy, has been elected as the new president of the Italian Football Federation.

The 71-year-old beat former AC Milan player Demetrio Albertini after three rounds of voting in Rome, the governing body announced through its official Twitter account yesterday afternoon.

Tavecchio drew heavy criticism last month for making an allegedly racist comment about “eating bananas” during an address to a summer assembly of Italy’s amateur leagues and was also accused of sexism in an interview back in 2009.

But despite the fact Serie A clubs including Fiorentina and Sampdoria withdrew their backing in the weeks leading up to the elective assembly, Tavecchio was confirmed as Giancarlo Abete’s successor at the FIGC when polling 63.33 per cent of the third-round votes after the first two rounds proved inconclusive.

He polled 60.20 per cent to Albertini’s 35.46 per cent in the first round, which had required a quorum of 75 per cent, and had 63.18 per cent of the votes to his opponent’s 34.07 per cent in a second round requiring a quorum of 66 per cent.

The delegation was comprised of 278 representatives from Serie A, Serie B, the Lega Pro, the Amateur League, the Players’ Association, the Coaches’ Association and the Referees’ Association.

The Lega Pro, which represents 60 third and fourth division teams, last week said nearly all of its members would back Tavecchio, who had been vice-president of the FIGC since 2009.

The campaign against his candidacy began when he made an allegedly racist comment when using a fictional example to try to make a point about the number of foreign players in the Italian leagues.

Quoted in La Repubblica, Tavecchio said: “England identifies the players coming in and, if they are professional, they are allowed to play.

“Here, on the other hand, let’s say there’s (fictional player) Opti Poba, who has come here, who previously was eating bananas and now is a first-team player for Lazio.

“In England he has to demonstrate his CV and his pedigree.”

He subsequently apologised but Fifa has since asked the FIGC to conduct an investigation into the comments and to report its findings back to the world governing body.

He has a string of criminal convictions to his name and was recently at the centre of a racism and sexism storm in Italy, but – quite remarkably – Carlo Tavecchio is the new president of the FIGC: here.

See also here.

ITALIAN football prosecutors won’t take any action against new federation president Carlo Tavecchio over allegedly racist comments he made: here.

African penguin language, new research, videos


This video is called African Penguins go for a swim – Mountain of the Sea – BBC.

From Salon.com:

Thursday, July 31, 2014 05:12 PM +0200

How to talk to African penguins, in 6 simple videos

Researchers identified distinct calls used to express loneliness, anger, hunger and ecstasy

Lindsay Abrams

After 104 days of careful observation, researchers at the University of Turin, in Italy, think they’ve finally figured out what African penguins are “talking” about. Based on the sounds and behaviors of a colony of 48 captive penguins at the Zoom Torino zoo, the team identified six distinct vocalizations used by adults and juveniles to express just about everything that needs saying: from loneliness, to anger, to mutually experienced ecstasy.

“Vocal communication allows us to understand the many different aspects of the biology of this species,” lead author Livio Favaro explained to the Guardian. “Penguins have less sophisticated vocal mechanisms compared to song birds, but they have very sophisticated mechanisms to encode information in songs.”

The findings, written up in the journal PLOS ONE, are accompanied by a set of videos illustrating the calls. Watch them a few times, and you, too, can become fluent in the endangered species‘ language.

Contact calls are emitted by individual penguins when out of sight from their colony or partner:

The agonistic call is often emitted during fights or as a warning for other penguins to stay away. The birds stand up and stretch their necks out toward the target of their aggression:

In the ecstatic display song, the longest and loudest of African penguin calls, the birds spread their feet, stretch their neck and face upward and hold their wings out horizontally to advertise their availability to potential mates. It kind of sounds like a donkey, the researchers note, which is how the African penguin earned the nickname “jackass”:

The mutual ecstatic song is sung when mates finally get together. Partners, the researchers observed, “often emitted this call simultaneously, overlapping in a duet” — and are known to make the sound when others attempt to intrude on their twosome:

Begging moans, a newly described call, are only emitted by juveniles, and only until they’re either fed, or their parents go away:

The youngest of penguins, those under 3 months old, will emit long series of these high-pitched begging peeps for minutes on end until their parents regurgitate some food for them:

All penguin species are continuing to be at risk from habitat degradation and loss a new study finds: here.

Starling murmurations, new research


This video is about a starling murmuration in Britain.

From Science:

How bird flocks are like liquid helium

By Marcus Woo

27 July 2014 1:00 pm

A flock of starlings flies as one, a spectacular display in which each bird flits about as if in a well-choreographed dance. Everyone seems to know exactly when and where to turn. Now, for the first time, researchers have measured how that knowledge moves through the flock—a behavior that mirrors certain quantum phenomena of liquid helium.

“This is one of the first studies that gets to the details of how groups move in unison,” says David Sumpter of Uppsala University in Sweden, who was not part of the study.

The remarkable accord with which starling flocks fly has long puzzled researchers and bird watchers alike. In the 1930s, the ornithologist Edmund Selous even suggested that the birds cooperate via telepathy. Researchers have since turned to more scientifically sound ideas, using mathematical models.

In the 1990s, physicist Tamás Vicsek of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest came up with one of the more successful models, which is based on the principle that each bird flies in the same direction as its neighbors. If a bird angles right, the ones next to it will turn to stay aligned. Although this model reproduces many features well—how a flock swiftly aligns itself from a random arrangement, for example—a team of researchers from Italy and Argentina has now discovered that it doesn’t accurately describe in detail how flocks turn.

In their new study, the team, led by physicists Andrea Cavagna and Asja Jelic of the Institute for Complex Systems in Rome, used high-speed cameras to film starlings—which are common in Rome and form spectacular flocks—flying near a local train station. Using tracking software on the recorded video, the team could pinpoint when and where individuals decide to turn, information that enabled them to follow how the decision sweeps through the flock. The tracking data showed that the message to turn started from a handful of birds and swept through the flock at a constant speed between 20 and 40 meters per second. That means that for a group of 400 birds, it takes just a little more than a half-second for the whole flock to turn.

“It’s a real tour de force of measurement,” says Sriram Ramaswamy of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences in Hyderabad, India, who wasn’t part of the research.

The fact that the information telling each bird to turn moves at a constant speed contradicts the Vicsek model, Cavagna says. That model predicts that the information dissipates, he explains. If it were correct, not all the birds would get the message to turn in time, and the flock wouldn’t be able to fly as one.

The team proposes that instead of copying the direction in which a neighbor flies, a bird copies how sharply a neighbor turns. The researchers derived a mathematical description of how a turn moves through the flock. They assumed each bird had a property called spin, similar to the spins of elementary particles in physics. By matching one another’s spin, the birds conserved the total spin of the flock. As a result of that conservation, the equations showed that the information telling birds to change direction travels through the flock at a constant speed—exactly as the researchers observed. It’s this constant speed that enables everyone to turn in near-unison, the team reports online today in Nature Physics.

The new model also predicts that information travels faster if the flock is well aligned—something else the team observed, Cavagna says. Other models don’t predict or explain that relationship. “This could be the evolutionary drive to have an ordered flock,” he says, because the birds would be able to maneuver more rapidly and elude potential predators, among other things.

Interestingly, Cavagna adds, the new model is mathematically identical to the equations that describe superfluid helium. When helium is cooled close to absolute zero, it becomes a liquid with no viscosity at all, as dictated by the laws of quantum physics. Every atom in the superfluid is in the same quantum state, exhibiting a cohesion that’s mathematically similar to a starling flock.

The similarities are an example of how deep principles in physics and math apply to many physical systems, Cavagna says. Indeed, the theory could apply to other types of group behavior, such as fish schools or assemblages of moving cells, Sumpter says.

Other models, such as the Vicsek model or others that treat the flock as a sort of fluid, probably still describe flock behavior over longer time and length scales, Ramaswamy says. But it’s notable that the new model, which is still based on relatively simple principles, can accurately reproduce behavior at shorter scales. “I think that’s cool,” he says. “That’s an achievement, really.”

Sumpter agrees. “It’s kind of reassuring we don’t need to think about the telepathic explanation,” he says.

See also here.