Good San Francisco bird news


This video from the USA is called Welcome to the Pacific Flyway.

By Melissa Mayntz, About.com Guide in the USA:

San Francisco Getting Darker for Birds

September 1, 2013

Fall migration is dangerous for birds as they get disoriented by city lights and suffer from window collisions, but San Francisco has pledged to get a bit darker and help out migrants. According to the San Francisco Examiner, most of the city-owned buildings greater than five stories tall have agreed to turn off their lights as part of the Lights Out for Birds program, and because of the city’s hilly topography, shorter buildings and private residences are also being encouraged to participate.

More than 250 species of birds use the Pacific Flyway and travel through the Bay Area, and window collisions are just one of the threats migrating birds face, but one of the most significant. Does your city or town take steps to protect migrating birds? Learn how you can help!

Stop Pakistani civilian drone deaths


By Alyssa Figueroa, on AlterNet in the USA:

November 14, 2012

On Drone Warfare, Pakistani Man: “We Are The People Who Do Not Matter”

(L-R) Samina Sundas, Medea Benjamin, Dianne Budd and Toby Blome discuss CODEPINK's recent delegation to Pakistan
(L-R) Samina Sundas, Medea Benjamin, Dianne Budd and Toby Blome discuss CODEPINK‘s recent delegation to Pakistan.

“We are the people who do not matter; our voices cannot be heard over here,” one Pakistani man told Dianne Budd. “We are lucky for you to be here, and we want everyone to come fearlessly here.”

Budd is a member of CODEPINK, an anti-war organization that recently led a delegation of 34 activists on a trip to Pakistan in October. Last night, the organization hosted a report back in San Francisco to discuss their experiences in a country devastated by U.S. killer drones and our continued military intervention.

“People there feel so unseen and unheard,” Budd said.

This is perhaps because people haven’t made a real effort to see or hear them. According to CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin, tribal areas in Pakistan have been off limits to foreigners for ten years. And so when CODEPINK’s delegation arrived, despite threats to their lives, hundreds of people had surrounded them, staring — “almost as if we were animals in a zoo,” Benjamin said. “They were so amazed to see Americans who had come there, especially Americans who had come there to denounce the drones. And everyone wanted to touch us, take their picture with us, just interact with us.”

Members of CODEPINK’s delegation spoke continuously about the hospitality they received, and how they were greeted so warmly by the Pakistanis they visited. Benjamin recalled that when the delegation got on stage at a rally, people immediately chanted: “Welcome! Welcome! We want peace! We want peace!”

Benjamin said, “It was so beautiful just to look out there and feel that people are so open to a loving and compassionate message, they want to hear that from Americans. They want really desperately to know that there are Americans who care about their lives.”

Which may not seem like the case as our drones continue to wreak havoc on their lives. As Benjamin said, our drones hover above their skies. Families are scared to go out as well as stay home. They are afraid of sending their children to school, to go to weddings and funerals, which are often drone targets. There is also fear of holding community meetings to talk about these issues because one of their community meetings was once attacked by a drone — killing 42 of the most respected leaders in the community. The drones have also increased depression and suicide throughout the country.

“What is happening in Pakistan is totally unlike the Pakistan I grew up in,” said Samina Sundas, founder and Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice Foundation.

Meanwhile, secrecy continues to surround the drone program and its effectiveness in killing militants. There is an estimate of about 2,600 – 3,400 people killed via drone in Pakistan — only two percent of which were on the U.S. government’s high-value target list. Most of the rest go unnamed and unacknowledged by the U.S. government.

The media, however, reports drones are constantly killing militants, mainly because Obama re-defined the term “militant” to mean every man of military age. In addition, CODEPINK activist Toby Blome said that while in Pakistan, she learned that some militants’ names are used multiple times in news reports to justify drone use. One Pakistani told her a militant’s name was used three times in the media, and exclaimed, “How many times can one man die?”

Still, as Benjamin noted, whether or not drones are “effective” in their mission looks past the fact that our military interventions do not create peace or stability. Pakistani people are living a life of fear under our drones as well as under the Taliban and its rising numbers. Benjamin added, “We see most people join the Taliban not out of ideology but out of despair and revenge.”

San Francisco porpoises back after sixty years


From National Public Radio in the USA:

60 Years After Leaving, Porpoises Again Play In SF Bay

by Lauren Sommer

December 28, 2011 from KQED

Something that has been missing from San Francisco Bay since World War II appears to be making a comeback: Harbor porpoises are showing up in growing numbers, and researchers are trying to understand why they’re returning.

The walkway across the Golden Gate Bridge is almost always packed with people taking photos. But Bill Keener isn’t here for snapshots of the stunning views. He’s aiming his massive telephoto lens at a dark shape in the water 200 feet below.

“There’s a porpoise right there, coming very, very close,” he says. “Here’s a mother and calf coming straight at us.” Keener is with Golden Gate Cetacean Research, a nonprofit group focused on studying local porpoises, whales and dolphins.

Harbor porpoises have dark gray backs, and they’re about 5 feet long — smaller than most of their dolphin relatives. Keener spots one turned on its side and spinning.

The porpoises, feeding in the middle of a busy shipping lane, spin as they go after schools of herring and anchovies. Seeing this behavior is huge for Keener because harbor porpoises are notoriously shy in the open ocean. But the fact that they’re here at all is what’s most remarkable.

Keener and his colleagues have identified 250 porpoises with their photos by looking for unique scars on the animals. When the team first started working on the bridge, the patrol officers took notice.

“We’re staring down at the water for hours,” Keener says. “They start getting worried about us. But they know us now; they know what we’re doing.”

Porpoises In Decline

The big question, though, is why harbor porpoises disappeared in the first place. Keener says the bay has always been porpoise habitat. Sightings were common until the 1930s.

“We don’t really have reports from around World War II, and there were a lot of things going on during World War II that could have caused [the decline],” he says.

San Francisco Bay became a wartime port. It was a major ship-building center. One newsreel reported that 14 warships at one time sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. And the Navy strung a seven-mile-long net underwater across the opening of the bay to keep out Japanese submarines. Hundreds of mines were planted in the waters outside the Golden Gate.

Keener says all of this certainly would have disturbed the porpoises. But there’s a bigger change that may have driven them away: water quality.

The bay waters today are a far cry from those of the 1950s and ’60s. As the region boomed, so did water pollution. Keener says raw sewage used to flow right into the bay.

“I remember coming across the Bay Bridge when I was very young, and it would just smell,” Keener says. “It would stink.”

Rediscovering The Bay

After the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, the bay’s water quality began to improve. But it took time for the food web to come back. San Francisco State University whale researcher Jonathan Stern says maybe the porpoises had to rediscover the bay.

“Over 60 years, we’re talking about a number of generations of porpoises,” Stern says. “So it’s quite likely that San Francisco Bay as a habitat was out of the institutional memory.”

Stern and Keener glide over the bay waters in a 22-foot boat, slowing down as they pass under the bridge.

“There’s porpoises between us and the south tower at 200 yards,” Stern says. Keener and Stern have a special permit to approach the porpoises. They wait, listening for them to surface.

“I just heard one here,” Keener says. “Here’s a cow-calf pair close to the boat, and we’ll hear this puff. The old-time sailors used to call them puffing pigs. That’s the exhalation.”

The porpoises seem calm around boats in the bay, which Stern says will let researchers study their life cycle and social structure.

“It’s one of those very few good-news environmental stories. And it’s in our backyard. It gives one hope,” Stern says.

It also gives researchers a chance to study how porpoises will react to the America’s Cup race, which comes to the Bay Area in two years.