Israeli anti-Wilders demonstration

This video is called Islamophobia – Nobody should suffer in silence.

On 5 December, there was a demonstration in Israel against visiting Dutch xenophobic politician Geert Wilders.

WikiLeaks confirms Fatah sought Israeli-US support for attack on Hamas: here.

Former Israeli soldiers who have testified against army abuses have for the first time given up their anonymity, to make their voices all the harder to ignore. Donald Macintyre gets an exclusive preview of a powerful new book: here.

JERUSALEM — Former President Moshe Katsav was convicted Thursday of raping an employee when he was a Cabinet minister, the most serious criminal charges ever brought against a high-ranking official in Israel and a case that shocked the nation: here.

Pale-bellied brent geese in the Netherlands

This is a video of a pale-bellied brent goose on the Dutch coast, with a “normal” brent goose, a turnstone, and a few oystercatchers. The video is from 23 December 2009, Ter Heijde (Westland local authority).

From the Dutch ornithologists of SOVON:

Another pale-bellied brent geese influx on its way?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

During the recent relatively severe winters, strikingly many pale-bellied brent geese were observed in our country. In total over 500. The first signs of a new influx are already there, as evidenced by the observation of a ringed pale-bellied brent goose on the beach of Westland (Zuid-Holland province); that bird is by now almost 21 years old.

Pale-bellied brent geese are no longer considered to be a subspecies of the more well known brent goose; they are considered to be a real species in their own right.

The Westland ringed bird had been seen before in the Netherlands last winter, and in the 1990s.

Pale-bellied and ‘normal’ brent goose photos are here.

Another ex-brent goose subspecies, now considered to be a species, the black brant goose, is also in the Netherlands now.

WikiLeaks founder arrested

This video from the USA is called Was Julian Assange Of WikiLeaks Set Up?

Julian Assange was arrested today in England.

London, England: Today Westminster Magistrate’s Court meet 13:30: here.

A sarcastic reaction by Unites States feminist Naomi Wolf: here.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was refused bail today at City of Westminster magistrates’ court where he appeared after being arrested over allegations of sexual assault: here.

Is The Times [owned by Rupert Murdoch, Australian like Julian Assange, but a lot richer and pro-war] ‘helping terrorists’ to attack WikiLeaks? Here.

The 9 Weirdest Things About the WikiLeaks Story: here.

This video from Britain says about itself:

A drawing on the politics of embarrassment. At the time of writing, large scale digital denial of service attacks, perhaps organised by the Americans, are attempting to restrict the ability of the Wikileaks organisation to publish the leaked material.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Assange reveals Miliband weapons
Tuesday 07 December 2010
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That the Chagossians were evicted from their homes on the island of Diego Garcia and were blocked from returning by the UK government to make way for a US/UK military base is bad enough.

However the Wikileaks revelations that David Miliband – then foreign secretary – was complicit in storing cluster munitions on the base is shocking if unsurprising.

Equally disturbing is the exposure that the military and Foreign Office strenuously opposed a treaty to ban cluster munitions, although Gordon Brown did eventually sign up.

WikiLeaks Is Winning the Info War So Far: here.

Indonesian giant stork fossil discovery

This video is called Africa’s Birds: Ground Hornbill & Marabou Stork.

From the BBC:

Giant fossil bird found on ‘hobbit’ island of Flores

By Emma Brennand
Earth News reporter

A giant marabou stork has been discovered on an island once home to human-like ‘hobbits‘.

Fossils of the bird were discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores, a place previously famed for the discovery of Homo floresiensis, a small hominin species closely related to modern humans.

The stork may have been capable of hunting and eating juvenile members of this hominin species, say researchers who made the discovery, though there is no direct evidence the birds did so.

The finding, reported in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, also helps explain how prehistoric wildlife adapted to living on islands.

Tall and heavy

The new species of giant stork, named Leptoptilos robustus, stood 1.8m tall and weighed up to 16kg researchers estimate, making it taller and much heavier than living stork species.

Palaeontologist Hanneke Meijer of the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden, the Netherlands, made the discovery with colleague Dr Rokus Due of the National Center for Archaeology in Jakarta, Indonesia.

They found fossilised fragments of four leg bones in the Liang Bua caves on the island of Flores.

The bones, thought to be belong to a single stork, are between 20,000 to 50,000 years old, having been found in sediments dating to that age.

The giant bird is the latest extreme-sized species to be discovered once living on the island, which was home to dwarf elephants, giant rats and out-sized lizards, as well as humans of small stature.

“I noticed the giant stork bones for the first time in Jakarta, as they stood out from the rest of the smaller bird bones. Finding large birds of prey is common on islands, but I wasn’t expecting to find a giant marabou stork,” Dr Meijer told the BBC.

No wing bones were found, but the researchers suspect the giant stork rarely, if at all, took flight.

Instead, the size and weight of its leg bones, and the thickness of the bone walls, suggest that the now extinct stork was so heavy that it lived most of its life on the ground.

It is thought to have evolved from flying storks that colonised the relatively isolated island.

“Flores has never been connected to mainland Asia and has always been isolated from surrounding islands. This isolation has played a key role in shaping the evolution of the Flores fauna,” says Dr Meijer.

Many species on the islands evolved into either giants or dwarfs.

This phenomenon is known as the ‘island factor’, and is thought to have been triggered by few mammalian predators being on the island. That led to abundant prey species becoming smaller, and other predators becoming larger.

“Larger mammals, such as elephants and primates, show a distinct decrease in size, whereas the smaller mammals such as rodents, and birds, have increased in size,” explains Dr Meijer.

Among the giants evolved the giant stork, and the giant rat, Papagomys armandvillei, as well as Komodo dragons, the largest surviving species of lizard.

Dwarf species included the dwarfed elephant, Stegodon florensis insularis, and the human species , popularly known as the ‘hobbit’ H. floresiensis.

Indeed, the remains of the giant stork were found in the same section of cave as the remains of H. floresiensis.

Discovered in 2004, H. floresiensis is thought to be a new human-like species standing just 1m tall, which survived until 12,000 to 8,000 years ago.

It is thought to be descended from a prehistoric species of human – perhaps H. erectus – which reached island South-East Asia more than a million years ago.

“The status of this human contemporary has been subject of intense debate since its discovery,” says Dr Meijer. “But in my opinion, the associated fauna is crucial in understanding the evolution of H. floresiensis.”

The distinct difference in size between the 1.8 m-tall giant stork L. robustus and 1m-tall the tiny hominin H. floresiensis raises some interesting questions.

Would the hominin have eaten the giant stork?

Direct evidence of H. floresiensis ‘s diet is hard to come by, but it is suspected of hunting animals on the island for meat.

However, modern marabou storks mainly eat carrion, but they do take fish, frogs, and small mammals and birds.

So would the giant stork eaten the hominin?

“Whether or not this animal may have eaten hobbits is speculative: there is no evidence for that,” Dr Meijer told the BBC.

“But can not be excluded either.”

The giant storks towered over the hobbits.

More importantly, juvenile hobbits were no bigger than giant rats that existed on the island, which themselves may have fallen prey to the giant stork, she adds.

As yet is it unclear why the giant stork, and the pygmy elephants and hobbit hominins, went extinct.

“But we have several clues,” says Dr Meijer.

“All the bones of the giant marabou as well as those of the pygmy elephants and the hobbits are found below a thick layer of volcanic ash,” suggesting a recent volcanic eruption.

“Second, the giant marabou and its contemporaries go extinct right before modern humans appear at the cave.”

Around 15,000 years ago, the climate of Flores went from dry to being wetter, and a combination of any of these factors may have been enough to drive species on the islands to extinction.

See also here.

By reconstructing the brains of extinct birds, researchers could shed light on when birds evolved into creatures of flight: here.