Good brent geese news


This video from Scotland is called Brent Geese – Branta bernicla.

Translated from the Dutch SOVON ornithologists:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Brent geese seem to return with quite a lot of youngsters this fall. This indicates a good breeding season on the tundra of northern Siberia. In wintering areas annually people look how many young geese will come with their parents. The geese benefited from the lemming peak at the Taymir peninsula.

Sample counts by geese counters provisionally provide an image that the brent geese had an excellent breeding success. The counters see youngster rates between 25 and 35 percent: pretty high for the brent goose. For example, there are families with five young ones, so, large families. In October, a lot of brent geese arrive in the coastal areas of Western Europe, such as the Wadden Sea. They come from the tundras of Taymir and elsewhere along the Siberian coast.

Czars not good at stopping epidemics


This video says about itself:

Marlene Dietrich as Catherine II ['the Great', czarina of Russia]

The Scarlet Empress‘, 1934. Directed by Josef von Sternberg.

From Mother Jones in the USA:

Would Any of the Actual Czars Have Stopped Ebola?

No.

By Tim Murphy

Fri Oct. 17, 2014 11:03 AM EDT

We need an Ebola czar, apparently. It “may make sense,” President Barack Obama announced on Thursday night. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) agreed, calling on the administration to appoint someone like Colin Powell to manage the response to the deadly virus in the United States—five years after pushing legislation that would have prohibited the White House from appointing such czars. If it’s a czar they want, it’s a czar they must have. By Friday morning, we’d seen the white smoke: the President tapped Ron Klain, Vice President Joe Biden‘s former chief of staff, to head the response.

But are czars any better than anyone else at responding to and containing outbreaks of infectious disease? If history is a guide, probably not:

Ivan the Terrible

Ivan the Terrible: Kind of incompetent, as the name suggests. When the bubonic plague killed 10,000 people in the city of Novgorod, triggering civil unrest, Ivan responded by sending his vicious secret police, the Oprichniki, to burn down the town and kill the inhabitants. Yikes.

Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great: Although more popular than Ivan and largely successful in her aim of expanding the empire’s land holdings, Russia’s greatest czar was helpless in the face of the plague of 1771. Dissatisfaction with Catherine’s handling of the outbreak, which killed more people in Moscow than the Black Death, resulted in the Moscow Plague Riot of 1771, during which time protesters assassinated an archbishop in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Peter the Great

Peter the Great: A real can-do spirit—just look at that mustache! When his soldiers contracted plague during a campaign in the Baltic, Peter ordered them to fall back and then took aggressive measures to prevent a full-fledged outbreak. “Unlike earlier outbreaks, when no medical assistance had been provided, Peter took a more active view and sent Dr. Christian Wiel to supervise anti-plague measures,” wrote John T. Alexander, in his comprehensive study, Bubonic Plague in Early Modern Russia: Public Health and Urban Disaster. Historians credit Peter with nationalizing the response to disease outbreaks and investing new resources in medical institutions. But that didn’t stop the disease from spreading east.

Nicholas II

Nicholas II: Nicholas is known mostly for being deposed during the Russian Revolution, but before he was executed he also proved himself largely incapable of responding to a string of cholera epidemics in the city of Saratov, even after a similar outbreak in the city during the Crimean War less than two decades earlier. The historian Charlotte Henze noted “huge gaps between the legislation of public health measures and their actual implementation.”

“Ebola Czar” an expert on Washington, not medicine: here.

Russia, the new nazi Germany?


This video is called Hitler’s Holocaust 2 of 6 The Decision.

By Owen Jones in daily The Guardian in Britain:

David Cameron and the cynicism of comparing Putin to Hitler

Vladimir Putin is responsible for some awful human rights abuses in Ukraine, but Cameron drawing parallels to Hitler is a cheap, politically motivated shot

Wednesday 3 September 2014 11.35 BST

Oh, here we go. The west’s escalating showdown with Vladimir Putin has led to Adolf Hitler being invoked. According to David Cameron, the west risks “repeating the mistakes made in Munich in ‘38”, making it clear the role he sees the Russian leader as assuming. Putin was able to flatten Chechnya at the beginning of the century without such inflammatory comparisons – Tony Blair even cheered him on – but it was only a matter of time before western leaders began flinging Nazi comparisons around in the Ukraine crisis.

The west comparing its latest enemy number to the German Fuhrer has been a standard tactic for decades. When Egypt’s General Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal in 1956, Britain’s prime minister, Anthony Eden, compared him to Hitler, while Labour’s Hugh Gaitskell opted for a comparison with Benito Mussolini. Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic was the Hitler of the late 1990s, and the US dabbled with describing former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in these terms too. On the eve of the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein was repeatedly compared to Hitler, with Donald Rumsfeld even casting George W Bush in the role of Winston Churchill. The media abounded with such parallels in the build-up to the Iraq disaster, with one Telegraph article headlined “Appeasement won’t stop Saddam any more than Hitler” and even suggesting Iraq could bomb Southampton. On either sides of his rapprochement with the west, Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi faced the Hitler treatment, too.

In and of themselves, these comparisons are self-evidently ludicrous. Hitler was a racist totalitarian dictator who presided over the world’s only attempt at industrialised genocides of entire peoples, killing tens of millions in the process. It is possible to regard foreign leaders as deeply unpleasant and abusive of basic human rights without believing they are Hitler. There is plenty of space between “democracy that respects human rights” and “genocidal totalitarian regime with ambitions to conquer much of the world”. Cameron’s comparison will undoubtedly fuel anti-western sentiment among the Russian population: after all, the Soviet Union was absolutely instrumental in the defeat of Nazism, suffering well over 20 million fatalities. In the case of Russia, comparisons to Hitler could hardly be more insulting.

But the propaganda purpose is clear. Hitler is the most despised leader in history; everybody rational agrees that intervening was the right thing to do in that case. Those who demanded his appeasement are utterly discredited by history, and therefore it is highly effective to regard opponents of current western wars as the same dangerously naive, inadvertent friends of tyrants that can only be defeated. It is obvious in hindsight that the appeasers were wrong; their inheritors will one day be seen in just the same way after they have inflicted similar damage, or so the narrative goes.

There is no doubting the pernicious role of Putin. Pro-Russian rebels in the so-called Dontesk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic have been found to be arbitrarily detaining civilians and subjecting them to torture and other terrible mistreatment. Terrible human rights abuses have been committed by such rebels.

But let’s not pretend Ukraine’s government are champions of human rights either. According to Human Rights Watch, they have been using “indiscriminate rockets in populated areas” in violation of international humanitarian law. There have been unlawful, indiscriminate attacks by both government and rebels in Luhansk, and Ukraine’s government has shelled civilians in Dontesk, too. Amnesty International has similarly damned pro-Kiev vigilantes in eastern Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians have fled for the Russian border.

War between the west and Russia is clearly unthinkable, and only a negotiated settlement involving all parties in Ukraine can provide lasting peace. The ceasefire announced by Ukraine and Russia is promising, and needs to be supported to ensure that it lasts. Let’s resist the Hitler comparisons, which intend simply to shut down any reasoned discussion, to demonise all those who are not hawks, and to ratchet up tension. Soon enough, though, western leaders will settle on a new enemy number one, and the Hitler comparisons will begin all over again.

Also from The Guardian today:

Far from keeping the peace, Nato is a threat to it

It was the prospect of Ukraine being drawn into the western military alliance that triggered conflict in the first place

Don’t escalate Ukraine war, United States intelligence veterans say


This video about the Iraq war and the USA says about itself:

WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception

8 March 2013

Directed by MediaChannel Editor-in-Chief, Danny Schechter

This documentary is about the media itself, viewed as a weapon system: Weapons of Mass Deception. Those weapons drove a media war, a war that many now believe perverted freedom of the press in order to manipulate public support for a real war.

Rather than challenging official assertions, most media outlets, used patriotism as a promotional tool, pandered to unjustified fears and nationalist sentiment, extolled the brilliance of military technology, and uncritically trumpeted the Bush administration’s “product.”

From remembering the Maine to the Gulf of Tonkin and now ten years after smoking guns and mushroom clouds, what have we learned?

From Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity in the USA:

Don’t get fooled again on Ukraine

Wednesday 3rd September 2014

In an open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, veteran US intelligence professionals urge her not to be swayed by dodgy evidence into backing conflict with Russia

We are long-time veterans of US intelligence.

We take the unusual step of writing this open letter to you to ensure that you have an opportunity to be briefed on our views prior to the Nato summit on September 4-5.

You need to know, for example, that accusations of a major Russian “invasion” of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the “intelligence” seems to be of the same dubious, politically “fixed” kind used 12 years ago to “justify” the US-led attack on Iraq.

We saw no credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq then — we see no credible evidence of a Russian invasion now.

Twelve years ago, former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, mindful of the flimsiness of the evidence on Iraqi WMD, refused to join in the attack on Iraq.

In our view, you should be appropriately suspicious of charges made by the US State Department and Nato officials alleging a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

President Barack Obama tried earlier this week to cool the rhetoric of his own senior diplomats and the corporate media, when he publicly described recent activity in the Ukraine, as “a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now … it’s not really a shift.”

Obama, however, has only tenuous control over the policymakers in his administration — who, sadly, lack much sense of history, know little of war and substitute anti-Russian invective for a policy.

One year ago, hawkish State Department officials and their friends in the media very nearly got Mr Obama to launch a major attack on Syria based, once again, on “intelligence” that was dubious at best.

Largely because of the growing prominence of, and apparent reliance on, intelligence we believe to be spurious, we think the possibility of hostilities escalating beyond the borders of Ukraine has increased significantly over the past several days.

More important, we believe that this likelihood can be avoided, depending on the degree of judicious skepticism you and other European leaders bring to the Nato summit.

Hopefully, your advisers have reminded you of Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s chequered record for credibility. It appears to us that Rasmussen’s speeches continue to be drafted by Washington.

This was abundantly clear on the day before the US-led invasion of Iraq when, as Danish prime minister, he told his Parliament: “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. This is not something we just believe. We know.”

Photos can be worth a thousand words — they can also deceive. We have considerable experience collecting, analysing and reporting on all kinds of satellite and other imagery, as well as other kinds of intelligence.

Suffice it to say that the images released by Nato on August 28 provide a very flimsy basis on which to charge Russia with invading Ukraine.

Sadly, they bear a strong resemblance to the images shown by Colin Powell at the UN on February 5 2003 that, likewise, proved nothing.

That same day, we warned President Bush that our former colleague analysts were “increasingly distressed at the politicisation of intelligence” and told him flatly: “Powell’s presentation does not come close” to justifying war.

We urged Bush to “widen the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

Consider Iraq today. Worse than catastrophic.

Although President Vladimir Putin has until now shown considerable reserve on the conflict in the Ukraine, it behooves us to remember that Russia, too, can “shock and awe.”

In our view, if there is the slightest chance of that kind of thing eventually happening to Europe because of Ukraine, sober-minded leaders need to think this through very carefully.

If the photos that Nato and the US have released represent the best available “proof” of an invasion from Russia, our suspicions increase that a major effort is under way to fortify arguments for the Nato summit to approve actions that Russia is sure to regard as provocative.

Caveat emptor is an expression with which you are no doubt familiar. Suffice it to add that one should be very cautious regarding what Rasmussen, or even Secretary of State John Kerry, are peddling.

We trust that your advisers have kept you informed regarding the crisis in Ukraine from the beginning of 2014, and how the possibility that Ukraine would become a member of Nato is anathema to the Kremlin.

According to a February 1 2008 cable (published by WikiLeaks) from the US embassy in Moscow to secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, US ambassador William Burns was called in by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who explained Russia’s strong opposition to Nato membership for Ukraine.

Lavrov warned pointedly of “fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.”

Burns gave his cable the unusual title “Nyet Means Nyet: Russia’s Nato Enlargement Red Lines,” and sent it off to Washington with immediate precedence. Two months later, at their summit in Bucharest, Nato leaders issued a formal declaration that “Georgia and Ukraine will be in Nato.”

Just last week, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk used his Facebook page to claim that, with the approval of parliament that he has requested, the path to Nato membership is open.

Yatsenyuk, of course, was Washington’s favourite pick to become prime minister after the February 22 coup d’etat in Kiev.

“Yats is the guy,” said Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland a few weeks before the coup, in an intercepted telephone conversation with US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. You may recall that this is the same conversation in which Nuland said: “f*ck the EU.”

The conventional wisdom promoted by Kiev just a few weeks ago was that Ukrainian forces had the upper hand in fighting the anti-coup federalists in south-eastern Ukraine, in what was largely portrayed as a mop-up operation.

But that picture of the offensive originated almost solely from official government sources in Kiev.

There were very few reports coming from the ground in south-eastern Ukraine.

There was one, however, quoting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, that raised doubt about the reliability of the government’s portrayal.

According to the “press service of the President of Ukraine” on August 18, Poroshenko called for a “regrouping of Ukrainian military units involved in the operation of power in the east of the country,” adding, “we need to consider a new military operation in the new circumstances.”

At about this time, sources on the ground began to report a string of successful attacks by the anti-coup federalists against government forces.

According to these sources, it was the government army that was starting to take heavy casualties and lose ground, largely because of ineptitude and poor leadership.

Ten days later, as they became encircled and/or retreated, a ready-made excuse for this was to be found in the “Russian invasion.”

That is precisely when the fuzzy photos were released by Nato and reporters like the New York Times’ Michael Gordon were set loose to spread the word that “the Russians are coming.” (Michael Gordon was one of the most egregious propagandists promoting the war on Iraq).

The anti-coup federalists in southeastern Ukraine enjoy considerable local support, partly as a result of government artillery strikes on major population centres.

And we believe that Russian support probably has been pouring across the border and includes, significantly, excellent battlefield intelligence.

But it is far from clear that this support includes tanks and artillery at this point — mostly because the federalists have been better led and surprisingly successful in pinning down government forces.

At the same time, we have little doubt that, if and when the federalists need them, the Russian tanks will come. This is precisely why the situation demands a concerted effort for a ceasefire, which you know Kiev has so far been delaying.

What is to be done at this point?

In our view, Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk need to be told flat-out that membership of Nato is not on the cards — and that Nato has no intention of waging a proxy war with Russia — and especially not in support of the rag-tag army of Ukraine.

Other members of Nato need to be told the same thing.

This memorandum from the steering group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity first appeared on www.coleenroley.com.

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Wednesday that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin are in agreement on a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, but the statement was ambiguous and a top rebel figure said no cease-fire was possible without Ukraine withdrawing its forces: here.

UKRAINE RETRACTS ‘CEASE-FIRE’ LANGUAGE “The office of President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine said Wednesday that he and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had a similar understanding about what was needed to achieve a cease-fire in southeastern Ukraine, but it retracted a statement it had made earlier in the day that said the two men had agreed to a ‘lasting cease-fire.’ The initial statement, posted on the presidential website, went too far in describing the results of a telephone call between the two leaders as having reached a cease-fire, said a spokesman, noting that a revised version would be posted shortly.” The news, which comes just as President Obama is landing in the Baltics, is doing wonders for the markets despite an undercurrent of uncertainty. [NYT]

German President Gauck threatens Russia with war: here.

Red Cross accuses Ukrainian government of stopping humanitarian aid


Luhansk near Russian-Ukrainian border

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Red Cross: Kiev slows down transport

Update: Thursday August 21 2014, 12:09

According to the Red Cross, Ukraine slows down the relief transport of Russian supplies to the inhabitants of the besieged city Luhansk. The inspection of the cargo of the trucks by the Red Cross, about which agreements are made with Ukraine, still has not been possible.

The Red Cross hopes that the inspection will take place later today. According to a spokesperson the delay is caused by “Ukrainian decisions adopted at the last minute.”

The safety of the convoy is now guaranteed. On that condition, the Red Cross wanted to accompany the trucks.

Grey whale calves born near Russia


This video about western gray whales is called The Last 130.

From the International Fund for Animal Welfare:

Gray Whale Research Team marks eight new calves so far

By: Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova

Posted: Wed, 08/20/2014

This update on the western gray whale (WGW) expedition was filed on behalf of the team by IFAW Russia staff member Anna Filippova. –MV

The total number of new calves for 2014 is now up to eight.

Even though the first half of August has not yielded many good observation days over the past several years, we have already enjoyed many working days at sea this month.

On August 1, we photographed our sixth mother-calf pair of this season. The mother was known from previous years and has been seen with calves off Piltun before.

On August 3, we went far north of our camp and sighted three mother-calf pairs (two of whom we had already seen a few times in July).

The third pair, number seven for the season, was pleasant news for us when we recognized the mother: a female born in 2004 and observed in previous years but never with calves.

Giving her age, it is assumed to be her first calf.

After seven hours at sea, a very thick fog came in very fast; we could hear whales breathing around our boat but were unable to see them.

August 6 was especially productive: We identified 31 gray whales with seven different mother-calf pairs among them. One of the pairs was new for this season, bringing our total to eight.

–The WGW Expedition Team

The western gray whale (WGW) expedition is a team of scientists from Russia and the USA that have been returning every summer since 1995 to Sakhalin Island (in the Sea of Okhotsk near Piltun Bay) to monitor and research western gray whales. Annually since 2000 IFAW has supported this research program that collects population data through photo-identification and genetic analysis of skin tissue biopsy samples. Information about population condition is very important to understanding the impact and influence of oil industry on the WGW population, and is key to IFAW’s WGW campaign.