German minister’s plagiarism again

This video from Germany is about Annette Schavan of the Christian Democratic Union in Germany, the CDU; about the plagiarism scandal of Minister Schavan.

From the New York Times in the USA:

University Revokes German Official’s Doctorate


Published: February 5, 2013

BERLIN — A German university has moved to strip the country’s education minister of her academic title after ruling that she plagiarized parts of her doctoral dissertation some 30 years ago.

A body of scholars at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf voted late Tuesday to revoke the doctorate of Education Minister Annette Schavan, a leading member of the governing Christian Democrats and a close confidante of Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to a statement made available on the university’s Web site.

The case against Ms. Schavan represented the second time a member of Ms. Merkel’s cabinet had had such problems with long-ago academic work. In 2011 Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a leading member of the Bavarian-based Christian Social Union, the sister party of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats, left politics after it was revealed that he plagiarized parts of his dissertation.

Ms. Schavan was an outspoken critic of Mr. Guttenberg’s academic failings at the time.

Bruno Bleckmann, a dean at the university, said Ms. Schavan’s failure to attribute certain information properly had “resulted in the general conviction of the faculty council that the former doctoral student systematically and deliberately faked a mental performance throughout the entire dissertation that was in reality not her own.”

Ms. Schavan has long denied she copied other scholars’ work in her thesis, and a statement released by her lawyer shortly after the university announced its decision said she would appeal the ruling. Since accusations of plagiarism were first raised against Ms. Schavan by an anonymous blogger last year, the minister has enjoyed the wide support of her fellow Christian Democrats, including Ms. Merkel. …

Nevertheless, the episode stands as an embarrassing political setback for Ms. Merkel before federal elections in September. “It’s not just about my Ph.D., but my integrity,” Ms. Schavan, who assumed office in 2005, told Germany’s Südwest Presse last month.

The second time, after Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, for a member of Ms. Merkel’s cabinet.

Meanwhile, a prominent member of Merkel’s government’s FDP coalition partner party resigned in a plagriarism scandal as well.

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Saudi Arabia birdwatching

By Robert Tovey:

Feb 05, 2013

On Thursday, after visiting the Kararah lake area, our birding party doubled back away towards Riyadh on the Mecca road before turning off north west. This was on route 505 according to the map but route 902 according to the road sign.

This is an occupational hazard in Saudi Arabia, road sign numbers and map numbers often don’t agree.

The aim was to use a road (route 505) on the plain which ran parallel with the Tuwaiq escarpment and to come off this road from time to time to visit the foothills of the escarpment.

Desert lark

Desert lark

In the back of my mind was the possibility that we might finally see two of my nemesis birds – and hooded wheatear. Both have been reported as rare around the escarpment but not reported at all in other parts of central Saudi Arabia.

Egyptian vulture is relatively common in the west and hooded wheatear in the far north west of the country but both are very rare near Riyadh.

We chose to come off the main road and head to the escarpment at Dhurma and we found an excellent side road to do so.

100 metres before the slope we had to get out and walk down a shallow wadi because the road came to an end.

It didn’t look that promising at first, only desert lark and white crowned wheatear to see.

White crowned wheatear

White crowned wheatear

We noticed three dead camels which in retrospective were a clue to what happened later. At the time I didn’t think it was anything special because the whole frontage of the escarpment on the plain was scattered with camel herds and presumably the occasional carcass.

Three dead camels. Photo taken by George Darley-Doran

Three dead camels. Photo taken by George Darley-Doran

We stopped, watched and listened once we were close to the slopes. We could hear and see white spectacled bulbul (a.k.a ) and then we noticed a wave or two of birds of prey flying in various directions above the escarpment. The time was about 11 am and the air had warmed up making flying easier for these types of bird.

Adult steppe eagle


We were given an aerial display by four or five steppe eagle. A fan tailed raven also made an appearance.

Three steppe eagle of varying ages

However, I spotted a single unknown bird which returned a few minutes later as part of a group of three.

Griffon vulture

Almost unbelievably they were all griffon vulture. We came in search of Egyptian vulture and in return we saw the much less likely griffon vulture. Unfortunately, the pictures are poor as they flew high and fast but have nevertheless been verified by an expert.

Second picture of Griffon vulture

Second picture of Griffon vulture

Griffon vulture hold wide territories but we also can’t rule out that they were all wintering birds. The map in the Helms guide for the Middle East does show them reaching the western side of the Tuwaiq escarpment in places as the eastern limit of their residential range. However, what I also know is they have been very rarely recorded around Riyadh.

I am pretty sure the dead carcasses seen and presumably others in the plain next to the escarpment are important factors in why we found the vultures.

Resting steppe eagle at "the edge of the world"

Resting steppe eagle at “the edge of the world”

The rest of the day was an anti-climax. We drove on into more desolate areas but with little reward.

It had been a speculative day that is to say one where we drive into new areas with no known previous birding and so not knowing what to expect. It turned out to be worth the eight hours of relatively low key activity for the 15 minutes of great excitement.

On the way back and near sunset we stopped off on the top of the escarpment at the place known as “the edge of the world” A lone steppe eagle was perched on a pylon to greet us.

A list of Thursday’s birds has been compiled by Lou Regensmorter:

Eurasian Griffon Vulture (new to my Saudi list and species number 261) teppe Eagle Desert Lark Common Kestrel Pale Crag Martin Laughing Dove Scrub Warbler Eurasian Collared Dove Asian Namaqua Dove Pallid Swift Hoopoe White-crowned Wheatear Little Green Bee-eater Blackstart House Sparrow Fan-tailed Raven Spanish Sparrow White-spectacled Bulbul Tawny Pipit Greater Hoopoe Lark

Rob Tovey

About Robert Tovey

Dr is a scientist by training and more recently an English teacher. His profession allows him to travel to some of the more difficult-to-get-to places and stay there for years if his inclination takes him. He is a keen bird watcher, blogger and amateur photographer. He has worked in Azerbaijan and Libya and is currently in Saudi Arabia. Rob also has a base in Bulgaria so overall is becoming a bit of birding specialist in very general terms where East meets West.

North American amphibians, video

This video from Canada says about itself:

Attention Amphibian Lovers:

Have you see our latest video, “Expedition Biodiversity: Life on the Rocks” yet? If you love amphibians you will definitely want to check out North America’s fantastic diversity of frogs, toads, salamanders and newts!

Fifty governments in global torture

This video from the USA says about itself:

Sep 29, 2006

Based on incorrect information, Canadian ‘renditions’ victim Mahar Arar was kidnapped by U.S. authorities and sent to Syria to be tortured. Arar explains why he told the torturers the lies they wanted to hear.

By Joshua Hersh in the USA:

Extraordinary Rendition Report Finds More Than 50 Nations Involved In Global Torture Scheme

Posted: 02/04/2013 11:14 pm EST  |  Updated: 02/05/2013 11:24 am EST

WASHINGTON — The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which suspects were quietly moved to secret prisons abroad and often tortured, involved the participation of more than 50 nations, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Open Society Foundations.

The OSF report, which offers the first wholesale public accounting of the top-secret program, puts the number of governments that either hosted CIA “black sites,” interrogated or tortured prisoners sent by the U.S., or otherwise collaborated in the program at 54. The report also identifies by name 136 prisoners who were at some point subjected to extraordinary rendition.

The number of nations and the names of those detained provide a stark tally of a program that was expanded widely — critics say recklessly — by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has been heavily condemned in the years since. In December, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, condemned the CIA’s detention and interrogation efforts as “terrible mistakes.”

Although Bush administration officials said they never intentionally sent terrorism suspects abroad in order to be tortured, the countries where the prisoners seemed to end up — Egypt, Libya and Syria, among others — were known to utilize coercive interrogation techniques.

Extraordinary rendition was also a factor in one of the greatest intelligence blunders of the Bush years. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan national and top al Qaeda operative who was detained in Pakistan in late 2001, was later sent by the U.S. to Egypt. There, under the threat of torture, he alleged that Saddam Hussein had trained al Qaeda in biological and chemical warfare. He later withdrew the claim, but not before the U.S. invaded Iraq in part based on his faulty testimony.

When he came into office, President Barack Obama pledged to end the U.S. government’s use of torture and issued an executive order closing the CIA’s secret prisons around the world.

But Obama did not fully end the practice of rendition, which permits the U.S. to circumvent any due process obligations for terrorism suspects. Instead, the administration said it was relying on the less certain “diplomatic assurances” of host countries that they would not torture suspects sent to them for pretrial detention.

This decision, the OSF report concludes, was tantamount to continuing the program, since in the absence of any public accounting, it was impossible to measure the accuracy of those “assurances.”

Without any public government records to read, Amrit Singh, the OSF’s top legal analyst for national security and counterterrorism and the new report’s author, turned to news reports, the investigations of a global network of human rights organizations, and the proceedings of a handful of foreign courts that have investigated their own countries’ practices.

What Singh saw was a hasty global effort, spearheaded by the United States in the months after 9/11, to bypass longstanding legal structures in order to confront the emerging threat of international terrorism.

Singh condemned the consequences of that effort in the report’s introduction. “By enlisting the participation of dozens of foreign governments in these violations, the United States further undermined longstanding human rights protections enshrined in international law — including, in particular, the norm against torture,” she wrote.

“Responsibility for this damage does not lie solely with the United States,” Singh added, “but also with the numerous foreign governments without whose participation secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations could not have been carried out.”

The list of those nations includes a range of American allies (Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany) and familiar Middle Eastern partners in the messy fight against radical Islam (Jordan, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates). Their alleged levels of participation vary widely, from countries like Poland, which agreed to host CIA black-site prisons, to nations like Portugal and Finland, which merely allowed their airspace and airports to be used for rendition flights.

A few of the nations involved, such as Australia and Sweden, have begun a process of public accounting and compensation for their roles in the process. Others, including Italy and Macedonia, have recently become embroiled in trials of local officials and CIA agents in absentia over their actions.

This story has been updated with links to the Open Society Foundations report, released Tuesday.

See also here.

Baby turtles in winter, video

This video from Canada says about itself:

Where Do Baby Turtles Spend the Winter? (video)

Turtles lay their eggs on land by digging a hole in dirt or sand and then covering the nest. Many species nest over several weeks during spring and summer. Understanding the ecology and life cycles of reptiles and amphibians is critical for wildlife management programs that emphasize natural biodiversity.

“The great outdoors is the foundation of all life on Earth, including yours.”

Episode 6 of a year-long 24 episode education-outreach video series starring Whit Gibbons (Herpetologist and Author), produced in cooperation with The Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy.

This series features “fascinating facts and helpful conservation tips” for everyone “from homeowners to professional land and wildlife managers.”

Wolf hunting in Sweden

This video is called PBS Nature 2007 In the Valley of the Wolves.

From Wildlife Extra:

Sweden hunts more wolves ‘to help genetic diversity

Wolf hunting in Europe

  • Radio collared wolves being killed in Spain by local authorities
  • WWF President number 2 – Let’s kill more wolves because we want to kill the elk
  • Sweden culls 27 wolves – Brings conservation credentials into question

Wolves in Europe being targeted again
February 2012. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has authorized the hunting of 16 wolves in what conservationists have described as a surprising U-turn.

According to WWF Sweden “It is a surprising decision that was not included in the management plan for wolves published as recently as last summer.

“This will constitute a complete U-turn compared from what Sweden’s Environmental Protection Agency said a few weeks ago when they announced that the hunt would not be allowed. Since no new scientific information has emerged, this U-turn is a mystery, says Håkan Wirtén, Secretary General of WWF.

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has announced permission for “selective and targeted hunt of inbred wolves as a step towards reducing inbreeding and having a sustainable, healthy wolf population. A selective and targeted hunt is the only method that can reduce the level of inbreeding in the short term,” it said. Wildlife Extra questions how hunting solves an inbreeding problem. If the problem is bad, the wolves won’t thrive due to a lack of genetic diversity. There are currently no plans to bring wolves in from Finland or Russia, another way to boost the genetic diversity.

Wolves in Sweden
Estimates made in 2012 put the number of wolves in Sweden at around 270 in about 30 packs. Swedish wolves are almost all descended from 2 pairs that moved into Sweden some 30 years ago, and pro-hunting groups claim that some wolves need to be shot to improve the genetic diversity.

Moose hunting
More cynical observers point out that, as advocated by the King of Sweden recently, hunters don’t like competing with wolves for moose and other animals that they like to kill. Farmers also have an issue as the wolves do take some sheep, and in the north the reindeer herders have issues with the wolves too.

Sweden’s parliament voted to resume a licensed wolf hunt in 2010 after a 46-year hiatus, allowing 27 wolves to be killed. In January 2011, the European Commission reprimanded the Scandinavian country for its wolf hunt.

Radio collared wolves being killed in Spain by local authorities: here.

Indian women’s anti rape demonstration

This video from India says about itself:

Mar 14, 2011

Vice President of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, Subhashini Ali speaks on the occasion of 100 years since the declaration of “International Women’s Day” on 8th March 1911.

And this video from India says about itself:

Jan 31, 2013

In a debate moderated by TIMES NOW’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, panelists — Justice (Retd) Mukul Mudgal, Former Chief Justice Punjab and Haryana High Court; Malvika Rajkotia, Senior Advocate; Ranjana KumariDirector, Centre for Social Research; Soli Sorabjee, Former Attorney General; Subhashini Ali, President, All India Democratic Women’s Association; Poornima Advani, Former Chairperson, NCW and Kavita Srivastava, National Secretary, PUCL — discuss whether the nature and severity of crime should determine whether an accused can be termed as juvenile.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Women demand better rape law

Monday 04 February 2013

by Our Foreign Desk

Hundreds of women called on the Indian government today to scrap a shoddy sexual violence law passed last week and replace it with a better one.

The law was passed by India’s cabinet on Friday and signed by the president on Sunday.

Demonstrators outside parliament said that it only followed a few of the recommendations made by a government panel set up after the fatal gang-rape of a New Delhi woman in December.

The new law increases jail terms for rape from the current seven to 10 years to a maximum of 20.

It also permits the death penalty in extreme cases of rape that result in death or leave the victim in a coma.

It makes voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women criminal offences.

Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said that the government decided to bring in the new law through an ordinance immediately, though it will have to be approved by parliament within six months.

“The government wants to assure everyone that before it is tabled in parliament, we will hold consultations with all political parties,” said Mr Chidambaram.

But the protesters damned the new law as a smokescreen as it ignores marital rape and sexual violence against women by soldiers.

It also doesn’t bar politicians facing rape charges from elections.

“The government should have spent time on drafting a comprehensive Bill and brought it to parliament with candour and sincerity,” said Maimoona Mullah of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.