Edward Snowden wins Right Livelihood Award


This 15 September 2014 video is called Edward Snowden‘s Speech on Moment of Truth.

From the site of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation (also known as ‘alternative Nobel Prize‘):

2014-09-24

RLA 2014 Laureates Announced

Today the Right Livelihood Award Foundation announced the 2014 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award: Edward Snowden (USA) and Alan Rusbridger (UK) receive a joint Honorary Award. Three more awards go to Asma Jahangir (Pakistan), Basil Fernando / Asian Human Rights Commission (Hong Kong, China), and Bill McKibben / 350.org (USA).

“This year’s Right Livelihood Laureates are stemming the tide of the most dangerous global trends. With this year’s Awards, we want to send a message of urgent warning that these trends – illegal mass surveillance of ordinary citizens, the violation of human and civil rights, violent manifestations of religious fundamentalism, and the decline of the planet’s life-supporting systems – are very much upon us already. If they are allowed to continue, and reinforce each other, they have the power to undermine the basis of civilised societies.

But the Laureates also demonstrate that the choice is entirely in our hands: by courageous acts of civil disobedience in the public interest, through principled and undeterred journalism, by upholding the rule of law and documenting each violation of it, and by building social movements to resist the destruction of our natural environment, we can turn the tide and build our common future on the principles of freedom, justice, and respect for the Earth.”

Ever since 1980, this prize is awarded in the Swedish parliament.

PRIVACY TIPS FROM EDWARD SNOWDEN Say goodbye to Google, Facebook and Dropbox. [TechCrunch]

SNOWDEN’S FIRST EMAILS Edward Snowden started disclosing information by sending an email to filmmaker Laura Poitras. His first email started with, “At this stage I can offer nothing more than my word. I am a senior government employee in the intelligence community. I hope you understand that contacting you is extremely high risk and you are willing to agree to the following precautions before I share more. This will not be a waste of your time.” [Wired]

Wild boar smell truffles, not acorns


This is a wild boar video, recorded in winter in Sweden.

Translated from Roelof Kleis in the Netherlands:

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Wild boar have a good nose for truffles. But not for acorns, says PhD student Lennart Suselbeek of Wageningen University. Looking for acorns they search randomly, according to research into how wild boar search for hidden acorns.

Suselbeek comes to that conclusion based on experiments in the lab and in nature. The aim of the study was to determine whether wild boar have influence on the way that wood mice hide acorns. Wild boars, like mice, love acorns. So they are competitors. But when it comes to defending its stock, the mouse is no match for the boar. It must be smart. They cannot be smart by hiding everything at the same place, but by making many different small stock sheds. So, risk spreading.

Foreign mercenaries in Ukraine war


This video from Sweden says about itself:

Neo-Nazi march in Stockholm and counter-demonstration

22 September 2013

Eight people were detained Saturday, as a march by the Neo-Nazi “Party of the Swedes” was confronted by co-demonstrators. Some 200 supporters took part in the march by the “Party of the Swedes”, which is the current name of the former National Socialist Front. The march started at Stockholm’s Humegården Park and then tried continue to Högtorget Square.

This nazi “Party of the Swedes” is the party of Mikael Skillt, now an officer on the side of the Kiev government in the bloody war in Ukraine.

As this blog blogged earlier, the Dutch nazis of the Nederlandse Volksunie have sympathy for, and contacts with, the Azov Battalion in the armed forces of the Ukrainian government in Kiev. A unit with as its symbol the wolfsangel, known from German and Dutch nazis during World War II.

The BBC wrote about this (para-)military unit:

16 July 2014, Last updated at 12:43 GMT

Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden

By Dina Newman, BBC News

The appearance of far-right activists, both foreign and home-grown, among the Ukrainian volunteers fighting in east Ukraine is causing unease.

Mikael Skillt is a Swedish sniper, with seven years’ experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. He is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. …

In a telephone conversation from an undisclosed location, Mr Skillt told me more about his duties: “I have at least three purposes in the Azov Battalion: I am a commander of a small reconnaissance unit, I am also a sniper, and sometimes I work as a special coordinator for clearing houses and going into civilian areas.”

As to his political views, Mr Skillt prefers to call himself a nationalist, but in fact his views are typical of a neo-Nazi.

“It’s all about how you see it,” he says. “I would be an idiot if I said I did not want to see survival of white people. After World War Two, the victors wrote their history. They decided that it’s always a bad thing to say I am white and I am proud.”

Mr Skillt believes races should not mix. He says the Jews are not white and should not mix with white people. …

He says his comrades do not discuss politics much, though some of them may be “national socialists” and may wear swastikas. On the other hand, “there is even one liberal, though I don’t know how he got there”, he adds, with a smile in his voice. …

The key figures in the Azov Battalion are its commander, Andriy Biletsky, and his deputy, Ihor Mosiychuk.

Andriy Biletsky is also the leader of a Ukrainian organisation called the Social National Assembly. Its aims are stated in one of their online publications:

“to prepare Ukraine for further expansion and to struggle for the liberation of the entire White Race from the domination of the internationalist speculative capital”

“to punish severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts that lead to the extinction of the white man”

This, according to experts, is a typical neo-Nazi narrative.

‘Foreign journalists’

The Azov Battalion was formed and armed by Ukraine’s interior ministry. A ministerial adviser, Anton Gerashchenko, got angry when I asked him if the battalion had any neo-Nazi links through the Social National Assembly. …

Mr Gerashchenko was adamant, however, that there were no foreign citizens fighting in the Azov Battalion.

“There are foreign journalists, from Sweden, Spain and Italy, who have come to report on the heroic achievements of the fighters in their struggle against terrorism,” he said.

He insisted he had never heard of Mikael Skillt, the Swedish sniper.

Also about the Azov battalion; Fausto Biloslavo mentions:

Gaston Besson, a former French paratrooper who helps oversee the battalion’s foreign cohort. “We are anti-communist, but the spirit is the same as that of the International Brigades that fought [against Fascism] in Spain in the thirties.”

More like the Spanish Legion, the Tercios, Franco’s pro-fascist foreign legion in the Spanish civil war.

Many of the Azov Battalion members describe themselves as ultra-right Ukrainian nationalists. They proudly wear symbols and use slogans associated with neo-Nazis, such as black t-shirts with the Celtic cross. Football ultras have also joined the ranks of the battalion, which was founded by the National Social Assembly, a confederation of ultra-nationalist organizations … This far-right ideology is what continues to draw like-minded activists from Sweden, Italy, France, Canada and even Russia.

For an Italian citizen in the Azov Battalion, 53-year-old Francesco F., the fight in Ukraine has given him a sense of purpose. “On the Maidan barricades I was like ET, finding ‘home’ on the side of Ukrainian nationalists”, said Francesco, who during the 1970s and 80s was affiliated with the National Vanguard ultra-right movement in Italy. “After the annexation of the Crimea and the explosion of the Eastern part of the country, I could not abandon them [Ukrainians] to face the Russian threat alone. That’s why I chose to enlist and fight.”

On their way to shooting practice and maneuvers, fighters paid homage to their Italian comrade Francesco F. by singing a hymn honoring Mussolini. Francesco, whom everybody calls “Don,” or “uncle,” fights under the nom de guerre Stan.

Francesco was sitting next to Severin, a 20 year-old Swedish volunteer who has a tattoo on his bodybuilder-like biceps with the inscription “son of Odin.” A pounding nationalist rock song called “Death to the Enemy” played from a mobile phone, and battalion members took turns insulting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s manhood.

At the firing range, a Swedish instructor offered training on urban warfare. The man, who did not want to be identified, was dressed in black, shaved, lean, and muscular. “I came to train you in the most difficult tactics, urban warfare.” He harangued the battalion with the attitude of an officer. “I will show you how to break into a building, take it and, if you are lucky, get out of it alive.”

Mikael Skillt is perhaps the most well-known foreign fighter of the battalion. This Swedish sniper, with seven years’ experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard, was a member of the neo-Nazi Svenskarnas party in Sweden.

The Azov battalion is not the only Kiev military unit including foreign mercenaries. According to Ukrainian paper Kyiv Post, Semyon Semenchenko, commander of the Donbas battalion, is Russian; and

And moves to strengthen the force have not been confined to Ukraine.

Many volunteers come from Belarus, Georgia, Russia and even Spain.

From corporate media and ruling politicians in NATO countries, these days one hears much about the danger that ISIS fighters, returning from Syria, might commit violence in their countries of origin. Prime Minister David Cameron of Great Britain even uses this as a pretext for attacking civil liberties, not only of (ex-)ISIS fighters, but of all airline passengers and of people in general.

What, however, will happen if fascists like Mikael Skillt or Fabio F. return from Ukraine to Sweden, Italy, or other NATO countries, with nearly learned military skills and used to ‘solve’ issues by violence? What will happen if they meet a non-white person; or a person whom they, rightly or wrongly, perceive to be Jewish? or Russian? or Leftist? or gay or lesbian?

You don’t hear David Cameron or similar politicians about that.

Good red-backed shrike news


This is a video of a red-backed shrike (and whinchats) in Sweden.

Translated from the Dutch ARK conservationists:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

In the nature areas of ARK Natuurontwikkeling in Three Countries Park near Vaals village this year no less than five red-backed shrike couples nested, a substantial part of the Limburg province population. In 2011 the first pair was discovered and then we already expected that there would be more. Apparently the grazed rough nature is attractive for this rare bird. Development of the Nature Network Netherlands appears to deliver exceptional results here.

Red-backed shrike on Ameland island: here.

Coots in France studied


This video is about Eurasian coots in Sweden.

From Ringing & Migration, Volume 29, Issue 1, 2014:

Common but poorly known: information derived from 32 years of ringing Coot Fulica atra in the Camargue, southern France

Abstract

Rallidae are common and widespread, yet relatively poorly studied. We analysed the ringing data from more than 8,000 Common Coot Fulica atra, accumulated between 1950 and 1982 in Camargue, southern France, in terms of the dynamics of their biometrics throughout the year, migratory pathways and annual survival rate. Mean monthly body mass and wing length indicate seasonal differences, with birds captured in autumn and winter being heavier and larger than those captured in spring and summer.

The temporal and spatial distribution across Europe of more than 950 ring recoveries indicates a mixing of sedentary and migratory birds. Capture–recapture analysis indicated lower annual survival rates during the year after ringing, and greater survival rates in adults and in males. Mean survival rate across sex and age classes greater than one year after ringing was 55%. This is somewhat lower than found by other studies, and may be influenced by Coot hunting in the Camargue, especially during the years of this study.

Prehistoric meteor shower and evolution of life discovery


This video is called Late Ordovician Mass Extinction (Ordovician – Silurian).

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Scientists discover fragment of ‘missing link’ asteroid that led to explosion of life on Earth

James Vincent

Thursday 03 July 2014

Scientists in Sweden have discovered a never-before seen class of meteorite that could be the ‘missing link’ between a gigantic collision in the asteroid belt 470 million years ago and the subsequent explosion of diverse life forms here on Earth.

Although it’s usually thought that meteorite impacts are disastrous for species on Earth (the classic example is the colossal impact thought to have killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago) there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that these events can also be beneficial to the overall diversity on the planet.

It’s thought that just such an impact – or rather, a string of them – dramatically boosted biodiversity on the planet during the Ordovician Period some 470 million years ago. It’s believed that a collision of two asteroids (or possibly an asteroid and a comet) out in space caused a shower of meteors to rain down on Earth.

Over time fragments of this meteor shower have been found around the planet and dated to 470 million years ago – but until now scientists had not found any evidence of the ‘killer’ asteroid that started this chain of events.

During the Ordovician Period most life on Earth was found in the ocean, with jawless fish, molluscs and insect-like arthropods making up the bulk of the species roll-call. However, a study from 2008 showed that the planet went through a “major phase of biodiversification” at this time shortly after “the largest documented asteroid breakup event during the past few billion years”.

The evidence for this breakup comes from the abundance of L-chondrite meteorites – the second most common meteorite type – fragments of which first started appearing on Earth around 470 million years ago.

“Something we didn’t really know about before was flying around and crashed into the L-chondrites,” said Gary Huss, co-author of the study that analysed the sample (published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters). This newly-discovered fragment is thought to be that very object – the mysterious ‘bullet’.

The composition of the fragment differs from known meteorite samples and its exposure age – the length of time it sailed through space – places it at the ‘scene of the crime’ when meteors rained down on the planet during the Ordovician Period.

“It’s a very, very strange and unusual find,” Birger Schmitz, the lead author of the study, told Live Science. “I think [it] adds to the understanding that the meteorites that come down on Earth today may not be entirely representative of what is out there.”

It’s not clear exactly why the Ordovician meteor shower led to a greater variety of life on the plane although some more far-fetched theories suggest that life itself was ‘seeded’ by organisms hitching a ride on asteroids.

A more likely explanation is that the impact craters caused by the collisions provided perfect test-beds for developing life. When meteorites hit the surface of the planet they scooped out bubbling pools of minerals and nutrients that served – in Carl Zimmer’s words – as “natural beakers that synthesized new chemicals essential for life”. However, even this is still just a theory – and the impacts might have also fostered life by creating new habitats, like restructured shorelines.

If further geochemical tests on the newly discovered fragment confirm its suspected origins then scientists will have pinned down another piece of the solar system’s history – but figuring out what happened closer to home might be more difficult still.