New white-eye bird discovered in Solomon Islands

Vanikoro white-eye, middleFrom BirdLife:

Darwin’s finches: Part Two


The discovery of a new bird to science in a distant archipelago is providing evidence of how, in the absence of competitors, unique species can evolve rapidly to fill empty niches. But the archipelago is not the Galapagos, and the bird is not one of Darwin’s finches.

In the year of the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, a paper in the leading scientific journal, Ibis, describing a new bird species in the Solomon Islands, has reinforced evidence that white-eyes evolve new species faster than any other known bird family –including Galapagos finches.

The new species has been named Vanikoro White-eye Zosterops gibbsi. The formal description was published in Ibis by Dr Guy Dutson of Birds Australia (BirdLife in Australia), who led a recent expedition to the island of Vanikoro to gather evidence about the bird. Its scientific name gibbsi is in honour of the first person to see the species – David Gibbs.

Vanikoro White-eye differs from other family members by having a distinctively shaped bill; along with different leg and eye-ring colours.

Vanikoro is a small island in the south-west Pacific, in the Solomon Islands archipelago. The rugged volcanic island with steep, forest-covered hills was visited by Jules D’Urville in 1829 – six years prior to The Beagle landing in the Galapagos – who collected specimens of Vanikoro Flycatcher Myiagra vanikorensis and Uniform Swiftlet Collocalia vanikorensis.

“Genetic research has shown that white-eyes evolve new species faster than any known bird family,” said Guy Dutson. “Islands only 3 km apart in the Solomons have their own white-eye species, and the Solomon Islands alone have 13 species of white-eye.

“Like Darwin’s finches, these birds have evolved unique beak structures and feeding behaviours in the absence of competitors”, Dr Dutson added.

White-eyes are small sociable birds of tropical forests. As their common name implies, many have a conspicuous ring of tiny white feathers around their eyes. The Vanikoro White-eye differs from the geographically closest white-eye, the Santa Cruz White-eye Z. sanctaecrucis, by having a longer bill, and different leg and eye-ring colour.

Vanikoro White-eyes are found in forest habitats, mostly above 350 m, and feed on insects and small fruits. “Vanikoro White-eyes were abundant towards the summit of the highest mountain”, noted Dr Dutson, who observed an active nest during his expedition. “Up to three adults fed chicks at a single nest, suggesting cooperative breeding, which has only been documented in two other white-eye species”.


Pope ‘admits error’ on Holocaust denier

Williamson and the Shoah and Pope Benedict XVI, cartoon

From British daily The Independent:

Pope ‘admits error’ in Holocaust row

By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Pope Benedict XVI has sent a letter to Roman Catholic bishops around the globe saying the Vatican made “mistakes” in its handling of the recent lifting of the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying cleric, it is reported.

The Vatican press office confirmed a letter would be released today, but gave no details on what it says about British-born Bishop Richard Williamson.

Benedict’s lifting of the Williamson excommunication drew widespread criticism because of the bishop’s appearance in a January interview during which he denied that 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis. He told Swedish TV about 200,000 or 300,000 were murdered but none were gassed.

The Rome newspaper Il Foglio said the pope writes that the Vatican should have been aware of the statements, which were being carried on the Internet. Benedict also faults the Vatican for not explaining its actions on Williamson in a “sufficiently clear” way, the conservative-leaning daily said.

According to the ANSA news agency, Benedict defends himself by saying that the overlapping of the rehabilitation of Williamson and the interview was “unpredictable.” …

The bid to explain the case comes only a few days after Benedict confirmed that he would visit Israel in May as part of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Vatican-Jewish relations already were complicated by the church’s defense of World War II Pope Pius XII, whom Benedict has hailed as a “great” churchman. Some Jewish groups and others say Pius didn’t do enough try to stop the Holocaust during World War II, while the Holy See insists he used quiet diplomacy to try to help Jews. …

Williamson’s case sparked outrage among Jewish groups and in Israel as well as among Catholic bishops in Germany.

Bowing to criticism by Jewish groups, historians and others, the Vatican demanded on 4 February that Williamson “absolutely and unequivocally distance himself” from his Holocaust denial.

Last month, he apologized for the “hurt” that his remarks caused, but he didn’t recant what he said. The Vatican called that apology inadequate.

After the furor, Williamson was ordered to leave Argentina, where he had been living, and returned to his native Britain.

State prosecutors in Germany have opened an investigation into whether Williamson broke German laws against Holocaust denial.

Pope will lay wreath at Holocaust museum but many Israelis still angry over Vatican’s war record: here.

Pontiff criticised for not apologising for Catholic church’s conduct during the second world war: here.

AIDS activists accused the Pope of spreading “blatant falsehoods” on Wednesday after he claimed that condoms are worsening Africa’s devastating HIV epidemic: here.

Iraqi shoe-thrower gets three years in jail

This video is called Iraqi Shoe Thrower on Trial.

From British daily The Guardian:

Iraqi shoe-thrower sentenced to three years in jail

Journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi had pleaded not guilty to charge of aggression against George Bush

* Michael Howard in Erbil

* Thursday 12 March 2009

The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at George Bush, gaining instant hero status in much of the Arab world, has been sentenced to three years in prison, his defence lawyer said today.

Muntazer al-Zaidi, 30, who worked for the al-Baghdadiya television channel, had earlier pleaded not guilty and said his actions had been a “natural response to the occupation”.

He was given the three-year sentence for assaulting a foreign head of state during an offcial visit.

After the verdict was announced, his relatives erupted in anger, shouting that the decision was unjust and unfair.

Zaidi denied charges of aggression against a foreign head of state as his trial resumed after a three-week hiatus.

Under a Saddam Hussein-era law, he could have faced up to 15 years in prison. …

The trial took place at the central criminal court in Baghdad’s Green Zone, which is normally reserved for terrorism cases.

Several Iraqi politicians had attended the first session, seeing it as a test of the country’s post-Saddam judiciary.

In that session, Zaidi, draped in an Iraqi flag, told the court how his anger had boiled over as he watched Bush “smiling that icy smile” while standing next to the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

Bush spoke of “progress” in Iraq since 2003 and the leaders having dinner together.

“I thought about what the achievements were – killing about a million Iraqis,” Zaidi said. “I saw only Bush and it was like something black in my eyes.”

The journalist took off his shoes and threw them at Bush, who ducked behind a lectern. …

Prior to the start of the trial, Zaidi claimed he had been beaten and tortured while in custody.

See also here. And here. And here. And here. And here.

This is a cartoon from British daily The Independent.

Zaidi trial cartoon

Bush shoe protestor says worldwide fame has still left him a poor man: here.

Australia: Hunter Valley activist Pete Gray gained notoriety on October 25 for throwing shoes at former prime minister John Howard on ABC’s political talk show, Q&A: here.

United States, British, rendition and torture

This video from the USA says about itself:

Stop the torture. Stop the torture flights.

A protest picket outside the headquarters of Jeppesen Dataplan in San Jose, CA. Jeppesen handles the flight logistics for the CIA’s torture flights.

By Robert Stevens:

United Nations condemns US, Britain and other states over rendition

12 March 2009

A report issued by the United Nations Human Rights Council this week strongly condemns the United States, Britain and other states for breaching basic human rights and international law.

The document, drafted for the UN General Assembly by Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinen, indicts the US specifically for numerous violations of international law, including the use of torture.

It goes on to state, however, that Washington could not have carried out these crimes without the aid of numerous allies. The help extended to it, moreover, has had the effect of “corrupting the institutional culture of the legal and institutional systems” of many additional countries. And, in some instances, states have used the war on terror to switch from ordinary law enforcement to the use of special intelligence agencies so as to circumvent democratic safeguards.

The British government is seeking to cover up its role in the illegal “extraordinary rendition”—kidnappings and torture—programme run by the United States: here.

Brazilian support for raped pregnant girl

This video is called Horrific Brazil Rape Story.

From CNN in the USA:

BRASILIA, Brazil — A doctor excommunicated by the Catholic Church for performing an abortion on a 9-year-old rape victim received a standing ovation during a national convention on women’s health, according to a local media report.

The response came during the opening ceremony of an event hosted by Brazilian Minister of Health Jose Gomes Temporao.

The newspaper O Povo reported that Temporao called on the audience to acknowledge the “brilliant” work done by a medical team in the abortion, performed in Brazil’s northeastern city of Recife.

The girl was pregnant with twins after being raped, allegedly by her stepfather, police were quoted in media reports as saying. The abuse had gone on since the girl was 6, authorities said.

Argentine rape victim, 14, denied abortion: here.

Capitalism and rape: here.