Downy woodpecker in the USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

23 September 2017

Male Downy Woodpecker quickly working an Oak tree – they don’t hold still for long! The smallest North American woodpecker is a precious little bird and just the day before the largest North American woodpecker was in the Backyard – see here. After Hurricane Irma the woodpeckers in general seem to be much more active.

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Anthony Lamar Smith killed in St Louis, killer scot free


This 22 September 2017 video from Missouri in the USA says about itself:

“That verdict was a travesty”

Watch: St. Louis workers denounce acquittal of killer cop, crackdown on protests

By Genevieve Leigh and George Gallanis reporting from St. Louis

23 September 2017

Protests in St. Louis against the acquittal of Jason Stockley, the police officer who shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith on camera in 2011, have now entered their second week. Police in riot gear have arrested hundreds of mostly peaceful protesters and journalists in what amounts to a military-style lockdown of the city using pepper spray and tear gas.

WSWS reporters spoke with protesters and St. Louis workers about the verdict and the suppression of protests by the police.

By Niles Niemuth in the USA, 23 September 2017:

The 2011 killing of Anthony Lamar Smith by St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was an open-and-shut case of police murder.

Smith was a 24-year-old African-American who was driving away from police after they burst in on what they claim was a drug deal. Stockley, who is white, was recorded on a dashboard camera saying, “I’m going to kill this motherfucker, don’t you know it.” Less than 45 seconds later, his partner Brian Bianchi rammed their police SUV into Smith’s car. Video of the incident shows that Smith remained in the car and made no attempt to flee.

Stockley jumped out of the SUV and shot Smith five times. Forensic evidence revealed that Stockley fired the “kill shot” from six inches away. The officer then returned to his vehicle, rummaged through a duffel bag and returned to Smith’s car to plant a throwaway gun on the dead victim. Tests showed the gun had only Stockley’s DNA on it.

In addition to his police-issued handgun, Stockley was carrying his personal AK-47 in violation of official department protocol.

Trump’s nuclear war threat


This 20 September 2017 video is about United States President Donald Trump‘s threat of nuclear war about Korea.

It features part of speeches by Trump and by Adolf Hitler‘s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

In the wake of President Trump’s bellicose and menacing speech at the United Nations this week, the war of words between the US and North Korea has intensified, heightening the danger of catastrophic military conflict: here.

Will French ortolan bunting eating stop at last?


This is an ortolan bunting video from France.

From BirdLife:

22 Sep 2017

In France, the Ortolan Bunting may soon be finally off the menu

The French Ministry of Ecology, Nicolas Hulot has committed to ending the large-scale trapping of Ortolan Bunting, which takes place to meet demand for a cruel dish where the songbird is blinded, plumpened and drowned in brandy. It’s a practice that has driven population declines of up to 84% in Europe since 1980.

By Alex Dale

Ortolan is a dish savoured with an almost ritualistic relish. Custom dictates that the diner eats the bird while wearing a napkin over their head; this, it is said, is to ensure the rich aromas do not escape while the gourmand chews the bird, bones and all, a process that lasts for several minutes. Pragmatically, the ritual may also have arisen because eating it is a messy business indeed. Or, others might say, out of shame. Because the process of delivering the Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana from perch to palate is a gruesome affair indeed.

The cruelty begins in the field, where around 30,000 Ortolan Buntings are captured every year during the autumn migration, as their flightpath from eastern Europe to west Africa takes them across France – and in particular Landes, a poaching hotspot in the south-west of France. Here, songbirds are trapped in huge numbers, either in nets, or, in Provence, by getting snared by glue smeared on the branches of their favoured trees. BirdLife estimates around 500,000 protected passerines are illegally caught every year in France. Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs and Brambling Fringilla montifringilla are also targets for poachers, and many other species, such as European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis become collateral victims in the annual slaughter.

Many birds meet their end here in the field – but the fate awaiting the Ortolan Bunting is even worse. Under the guise of tradition, the tiny birds are blinded (to disrupt their feeding habits) and kept in tiny cages, where they are force-fed to increase their fat reserves, before being drowned in brandy, roasted and served.

While the Ortolan Bunting is listed as Least Concern by BirdLife because of its vast range (it can be found throughout Europe and Central Asia), the tales of the Passenger Pigeon Ectopistes migratorius and Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola should guard conservationists against complacency. Indeed, no other European passerine has declined as rapidly in recent years, with an overall decline of 84% since 1980 – this, despite hunting of the species being forbidden by French law since 1999, when it became a protected species. However, because the Ortolan dish is considered a cultural tradition, authorities are often keen to turn a blind eye to the activities of poachers.

For the past 10 years, LPO (BirdLife in France) has been fighting this illegal practice on the ground, and also in the air, where alongside CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter), they have been identifying trapping sites and releasing the birds, before alerting the authorities. Until recently, LPO’s interventions were the only way to identify and prosecute the poachers, who operated with the blessing of local elected officials and hunting officials, and who claimed that the state “tolerated” these practices. Indeed the authorities wouldn’t file charges for installations of 30 traps or less.

However, the tide is turning. For the last two years, France’s national agency for hunting and wildlife (ONCFS) has been conducting inspections, which has strengthened LPO’s work and raised hopes that cases against hunters will be pursued instead of shelved. LPO has repeatedly provided the European Commission with evidence that the French government has done little to combat the capturing and killing of wild birds in their country, and in December 2016, the European Commission announced that it was taking France to the EU Court of Justice for failing to address violations of the EU’s Birds Directive – with a potential fine running into millions of euros.

And then, the news that would be music to songbirds’ ears. On 8th August 2017, with a tweet and a press release, the French ministry of ecology, Nicolas Hulot, stated his intentions to put a definitive end to the poaching of Ortolan Bunting in the Landes. In the statement, Hulot says: “Preserving biodiversity is essential to the future of our humanity, and it is the protection of a natural heritage that we have received as a legacy and that we must pass on to future generations for ethical as well as scientific reasons.”

“The practice of poaching Ortolans is illegal, it must stop….it poses a significant risk to the survival of the species, while the natural environment of this bird is threatened by climate change and urbanization which destroys its habitat”

Hulot’s announcement came as LPO was busy readying its tour of the Landes department to denounce the poaching of France’s songbirds, which is underway as you read this. “LPO has been struggling for years against trapping and every types of illegal killing of birds in France” says Bernard Deceuninck, Head of International & Overseas Service, LPO. “We have won a major battle against bird crime, but we still have a lot to do because the Birds Directive need a proper implementation on the field, including stricter controls of every types of so called ‘traditional’ hunting and trapping.”

Nonetheless, Hulot’s announcement represents a big step for bird conservation in France. LPO expects that the state must eventually put an end to the non-selective trapping of all birds, but that the government is beginning the crackdown with the Ortolan Bunting should leave a sweet taste in the mouth of conservationists worldwide.

London Grenfell Tower disaster damages mental health


London, England: Grenfell survivors and local residents outside Kensington & Chelsea Council Town Hall demanding the resignation of the council

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 23 September 2017

GRENFELL INFERNO! – unprecedented trauma

THE GRENFELL Tower disaster triggered a mental health crisis of an ‘unprecedented’ scale, a leading doctor has said 100 days on from the fire.

NHS data shows 457 adults have been flagged as being in ‘urgent need’ of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, while 39 children are also receiving specialist mental health care.

Survivors and nearby witnesses of the June 14 inferno, which left so many dead, are considered to have a 50% chance of developing the disorder, according to health service modelling. Those mentally scarred by the tragedy report suffering from flashbacks and sleeplessness, which can be triggered by the sight of the tower’s wreckage, clinicians say.

Dr Alastair Bailey, the clinical psychological lead at the NHS Grenfell Tower Trauma Service, said the impact of the fire is unlike anything seen before by the health service. He said: ‘It is unprecedented, I don’t think we have experienced anything like it. We had similar events that have been large-scale, traumatic events that have occurred in the UK.

‘We think about the London bombings, the terror attack in Tunisia which affected British nationals and other events over the years, but nothing has affected a community like this for a number of years.

‘Similar events have occurred that have affected one community, things like the Hillsborough football disaster, the Aberfan disaster in Wales, similar in that they affected one community a number of years ago.

‘In terms of a trauma response, managing an NHS response to trauma, we are using ideas and protocols and procedures that were developed after London bombings and other similar events, which are quite different.’

A staff of around 170 mental health workers, soon to be more than 200, have been tasked with supporting the west London community, holding specialist surgeries and knocking on doors to ensure support is given to those affected.

Currently, 201 patients are receiving treatment from mental health services in the area and eight people have completed treatment, said the Central and North West London NHS Trust (CNWL). But, with more than 150 families from Grenfell Tower or Grenfell Walk still in hotels, many people grappling with trauma are reluctant to begin receiving treatment. CNWL, the main service responding to the disaster, said 20% of patients referred to them decline further treatment, often citing their living arrangements as the problem.

As the neighbourhood marks another grim milestone since the country’s most costly tragedy in a generation, just five households left destitute by the blaze have found permanent accommodation.

New crustacean discovery in Dutch Zeeland


Caprella equilibra, photo by Brian Prins

This photo by Brian Prins shows a crustacean species, new for the Netherlands: Caprella equilibra.

Its size is only four millimeter.

It was found near Borssele in Zeeland province.