264 American bird species, video


This video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA says about itself:

Fast Forward Through a 264-Species Birding Big Day

Apr 3, 2013

On April 27, 2012, the expert birders on Team Sapsucker recorded 264 species in 24 hours—a pace of 11 new species every hour of the day, including before dawn and after sunset. This video condenses those 24 hours into 4 minutes. Watch as the birds flash by.

Note: Video shows 236 of the 264 species seen. These photos were not taken during the Big Day.

Big Day is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s largest conservation fundraiser of the year.

Remember Martin Luther King


This video from the USA is called I HAVE A DREAM… MARTIN LUTHER KING – August 23 1963.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Shadows of a hero’s death

Thursday 04 April 2013

Fifty-five years ago Martin Luther King, widely regarded as the most important leader of the US civil rights movement, was shot dead.

FBI intelligence chief and deputy director William C Sullivan – termed the only liberal ever to have risen to high rank in the FBI – led the investigation into the assassination. He believed there was a conspiracy to murder King.

In his autobiography, published after his death, Sullivan wrote: “I was convinced that James Earl Ray killed Martin Luther King, but I doubt if he acted alone.

“Someone, I feel sure, taught Ray how to get a false Canadian passport, how to get out of the country and how to travel to Europe, because he would never have managed it alone.”

The FBI would have been happy for the assassin to live out his time in Britain. Director J Edgar Hoover had repeatedly clashed with Sullivan over the latter’s concern for violations of civil rights laws in the segregated southern states. Hoover felt the FBI should be worrying about communists, not racists.

But to the bureau’s annoyance the Canadian Mounted Police brought James Earl Ray home to face justice.

Martin Luther King was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 15 1929. Both his father and grandfather were preachers who had been actively involved in the early civil rights movement.

King graduated in 1948 and entered the baptist ministry. At college he heard a lecture on Mahatma Gandhi and the non-violent civil disobedience campaign that he used successfully against British rule in India.

King studied the ideas of Gandhi and eventually became convinced that the same methods could be employed by blacks in the United States.

In December 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. Parks was arrested and King and his comrades helped organise protests against bus segregation.

For 13 months 17,000 black people in Montgomery, Alabama, boycotted public buses. The boycott ended in victory in December 1956.

King told the story of the successful boycott in his book Stride Toward Freedom. The book spelt out his views on non-violence and direct action. It was to have considerable influence on the civil rights movement.

In Greensboro, North Carolina, a small group of black students inspired by King’s book decided to take action themselves.

They sat-in at the segregated restaurant of their local Woolworth’s store. In the days that followed they were joined by other black students until they occupied all the seats in the restaurant.

They were abused and physically assaulted but following King’s inspiration they did not fight back.

King’s non-violent strategy spread to black students all over the deep south. This included the activities of the Freedom Riders in their campaign against segregated transport.

Within six months these sit-ins had ended restaurant and lunch-counter segregation in more than two dozen key southern cities.

Student sit-ins were also successful busting segregation in public parks, swimming pools, theatres, churches, libraries, museums and beaches.

King travelled the country making speeches and inspiring people to become involved in the civil rights movement. As well as advocating non-violent student sit-ins, King also urged economic boycotts.

Not all actions were instantly successful. At lunch counters in Birmingham, Alabama, police turned dogs and fire hoses on the demonstrators. King and large number of his supporters, including schoolchildren, were arrested and jailed.

This music video is called Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam. The song is about the repression against the civil rights movement.

King always stressed the importance of registering to vote. He argued that once all African Americans had the vote they would become an important political force.

In the deep south considerable pressure was put on blacks not to vote by organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

King’s radical ideas convinced Robert Kennedy that he was closely associated with the Communist Party USA and he asked Hoover to get the FBI to dig the dirt on King.

But King was going from strength to strength. He organised the hugely successful march on Washington for jobs and freedom. As the final speaker he made his famous “I have a dream” speech and was cheered to the heavens by a crowd of 400,000.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act made racial discrimination in public places such as theatres, restaurants and hotels illegal.

This video is called Selma – Montgomery March, 1965 – p1.

Part #2 is here.

King now concentrated on achieving a federal voting rights law. In March 1965 he organised a protest march across Alabama from Selma to Montgomery. The marchers were attacked by state troopers with truncheons and tear gas.

Although opposed by racist politicians from the deep south, the Voting Rights Act was passed by huge majority.

On April 3 1967 King made a speech where he outlined the reasons why he was opposed to the Vietnam war.

This video is called Martin Luther King, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam”.

Many on the left thought that King should challenge Lyndon B Johnson for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. King rejected this idea.

But Hoover sent the wiretaps of King’s private conversations about him becoming a candidate to Johnson. Johnson and Hoover decided something drastic needed to be done.

Hoover believed that “King was an instrument of the Communist Party” and posed “a serious threat to the security of the country.”

In June 1967 Hoover had a meeting to discuss concerns that King might unseat Johnson. Hoover said he thought a final solution was necessary. King must be silenced.

King was in Memphis on April 3 the next year to prepare for a non-violent march as part of an important and long-running industrial dispute. Previous marches had turned violent due to government and FBI provocation.

That night King made his “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech.

This video is called Martin Luther King’s Last Speech: “I Have Been To The Mountaintop”.

It ended with the following prophetic words: “Well, I don’t know what will happen now – we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.”

After the tumultuous meeting King retired to the Lorraine Motel. He stood on the balcony of the motel and a shot rang out. Martin Luther King Jnr was dead. Hoover’s wish had been granted.

Two months later James Earl Ray was arrested in London and extradited to the United States.

He pleaded guilty to King’s murder and was sent to jail for 99 years.

People close to King were convinced that the government was behind the assassination. King’s great comrade Ralph Abernathy claimed that he had been killed “by someone trained or hired by the FBI and acting under orders from J Edgar Hoover.”

But as the famous Ballad of Joe Hill tells us it “takes more than guns to kill a man.”

This music video is called Paul Robeson, “Joe Hill”.

Despite that FBI bullet the memory of Martin Luther King Jnr lives on in the past political victories of black US citizens and his inspiration will ignite new struggles and new achievements for years to come.

See-through fish discovered in Amazon


TOP: Dead Cyanogaster noctivaga specimen — the fish was difficult to capture alive due to its small size, according to the authors. BOTTOM: Live blue-bellied night wanderer. Photo courtesy of George Mattox et al (2013)

From mongabay.com:

Scientists describe new species of see-through fish from the Amazon

April 03, 2013

Scientists have documented an entirely new genus of fish from a river in the Amazon rainforest.

The fish, dubbed Cyanogaster noctivaga or the blue-bellied night wanderer, is described in the journal Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters. The species may have gone undiscovered in one of the Amazon’s most studied tributaries — the Rio Negro — because it is nocturnal, tiny and transparent. With a maximum length of 17 mm, it is one of the smallest known vertebrates, measuring only 7 mm more than the world’s tiniest fish.

“It is a strange little animal, completely transparent with an otherwise unique color pattern,” said study co-author Ralf Britz, an ichthyologist at London’s Natural History Museum.

Another reason the night-active Cyanogaster noctivaga may have been undetected is its habitat: the highly acidic blackwater of the Rio Negro. The river is so dark due to dissolved tannins that it is often likened to a cup of well-brewed black tea.

Interestingly, the world’s smallest freshwater fish, Paedocypris progenetica lives in similar conditions in southeast Asia.

“The Rio Negro in Brazil, like the Asian peat swamp forests, has acidic blackwaters and like the peat swamps, it harbors a large number of miniature species,” Britz explained in a press release. “Small size seems to be favored in mineral-poor water and Cyanogaster is another example of this rule.”

The authors placed the species in its own genus after they determined the fish has a unique arrangement of teeth relative to others in the tetra family.

“All other members of the subfamily Stevardiinae and actually most members of the family Characidae have a different number and arrangement of teeth,” Britz said. So this helps to demonstrate that our little ‘bluebelly’ is something quite different, a new genus.”

CITATION: Mattox, G.M.T., Britz, R., Toledo-Piza, M. & Marinho, M.M.F (2013). Cyanogaster noctivaga, a remarkable new genus and species of miniature fish from the Rio Negro, Amazon basin (Ostariophysi: Characidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 297-318.

NATO kills Afghan police and civilians


This video is called Why You Should Care: NATO killing Afghan civilians.

From AFP news agency:

04 April 2013 – 10H48

NATO air strike ‘kills Afghan police, civilians’

A NATO air strike killed four Afghan police and two civilians on Thursday, Afghan officials said.

A spokesman for the US-led NATO force in Kabul told AFP that the military was checking the information.

The attack happened after Taliban insurgents attacked a local police post in eastern Ghazni province before dawn and NATO planes were called in to support the officers under attack.

“The NATO planes went there to assist the police, but the post was bombed and four police were killed. Two civilians present were also killed,” Fazul Ahmad Tolwak, chief of Ghazni’s Deh Yak district, told AFP.

Ghazni provincial administration spokesman Fazul Sabawoon confirmed the incident and gave a similar account.

The issue of civilian casualties in coalition operations is highly sensitive in Afghanistan, where the United States and its NATO allies have been fighting the Taliban for 11 years.

In the past they have provoked harsh criticism from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is due to step down at elections next year, which coincide with the scheduled withdrawal of an estimated 100,000 foreign combat troops.

Last week Afghan officials said four civilians, including a child, were killed in a two-day raid against Taliban insurgents by Afghan and international forces in the province of Logar, south of the capital Kabul.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said it was also investigating those accusations.

After an air strike killed 10 civilians, mostly women and children, in February, Karzai banned Afghan security forces from calling in NATO air strikes.

However it is unclear whether the ban has been enforced and many operations are jointly run by NATO and Afghan forces.

Canadian Conservatives censor scientists


This video is called Censorship in Canada: Harper Muzzles Scientists.

By Carl Bronski in Canada:

Canada’s government suppresses scientific reporting

4 April 2013

Amidst charges that the Conservative government has instituted measures to restrict federal government scientists from sharing their findings and opinions with journalists and, hence, the general public, Canada’s Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, advised this week that her office will investigate.

In February, Democracy Watch and the University of Victoria Law Clinic lodged a complaint with Legault alleging that the government has breached the Access to Information Act by instituting a “policy forcing scientists to jump through hoops before speaking with the media.”

The complainants allege that the government systematically manipulates and suppresses the release of scientific information by not allowing federally-employed scientists to speak freely to the media, selecting which media requests can be answered, and crafting scripted responses from the government’s communications representatives to be mouthed by scientists during any permitted interviews or presentations. Moreover, on those few occasions when federal scientists are allowed to speak at media events, the government seeks to intimidate them by having them accompanied by communications “watch-dogs” and requiring civil servants to record any public statements that they may make.

Democracy Watch and the University of Victoria Law Clinic provided Legault with a series of alarming examples to buttress their case against the government. Many of the cases cited involved scientists investigating environmental issues associated with global warming, fishery depletion, and radiation proliferation, around which there was increased public concern after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown in Japan. Scientists were ordered to refrain from speaking to the media and requests by the media for access to scientific experts were routinely refused until long after journalists’ deadlines had passed.

The gag order on the country’s scientific community coincides with an increasing government assault on science as a whole.

In its 2012-13 and 2013-14 budgets, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government outlined a massive program of social spending cuts that will see federal discretionary spending reduced by $9 billion in the 2013-14 fiscal year and by almost $60 billion over the next five years. While virtually all programs are impacted, the government has made scientific and environmental research programs a special target.

As a result of the government’s new “streamlined” environmental review process, 3,000 scheduled environmental assessments have been cancelled. Research stations in Canada’s national parks are closing or have had their funding reduced. Sixty Environment Canada scientists are losing their jobs and one hundred scientists at the Canada Research Council (CRC) are being axed. The cuts at the CRC are part of a government-ordered refocusing of its mandate. Basic research projects are being discouraged and de-funded in favor of commercially applicable research.

World renowned programs, such as the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in Ontario are slated to close. Located in the Ontario wilderness, the ELA, which consists of 58 lakes and a laboratory, provides a unique environment for testing the impact of chemicals in a natural environment. It has provided critical data for the study of acid rain and the impact of chemical fertilizers on marine life.

Reduced regulatory oversight provisions in Harper’s budgets are also taking their toll. A team of Environment Canada technicians—the only group in the country capable of monitoring cancer causing smokestack emissions—has been disbanded. In addition, a leading-edge ozone depletion station in the Yukon will soon be closed and a project to monitor and study the impact of oil spills has been cancelled.

Since taking office in 2006, the Harper government, as part of its overall agenda of promoting big business and business profits at the expense of working people, has consistently sought to weaken environmental protection and oversight. Already in 2008 it abolished the post of National Science Advisor.

As part of its push to make Canada an “energy super-power” through rapid expansion of oil production from the Alberta tar sands, Harper and his government have sought to downplay, if not outright dismiss, concerns about climate change.

Canada was the first country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. More recently, it has curtailed the public inquiry into the Gateway Pipeline project to move tar sands bitumen to the Pacific coast, smeared environmental groups opposed to the development of the tar sands as “radical” and “un-Canadian,” and threatened them with the loss of their charitable tax status.

Last week, Harper’s Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, announced that Canada was withdrawing from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification—a body that seeks to ameliorate the drought conditions associated with the phenomenon of global warming.

Echoing the rhetoric of the American right, Harper long dismissed the research on global warming as “tentative and contradictory” and branded the (failed) attempt to curtail greenhouse gasses under the Kyoto Protocol a “socialist scheme”.

The Harper government’s aversion to scientific reporting extends far beyond opposition to environmental regulation. In 2010 Harper cancelled the long-form reporting requirement during the decennial national census. Information gleaned from the long-form census had long served as a scientific tool for those pressing for the maintenance and expansion of public services.

There is another aspect to the Conservatives’ method. The attack on objective science and the free movement of scientific thought in general is part of a wider promotion of ignorance and social reaction.

Harper, an evangelical Christian, and his Conservatives have not dared to mount a frontal attack on women’s right to abortion, because they know it would be electoral suicide. But they are seeking to promote a socially conservative and religious obscurantist agenda by other means. The Harper government’s assault on science is a centerpiece of that project and dove-tails with changes in funding policies for all manner of government and non-governmental agencies.

Monies provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to religious non-profit organizations increased by 42 percent between 2005 and 2010. Over the same time period, secular NGOs received only a 5 percent increase. And to guarantee a more direct link in future between the government’s predatory foreign policy and CIDA, that organization will soon be subsumed under the Department of Foreign Affairs. Christian universities and colleges have enjoyed a massive influx of government funds over the past several years.

Recently, the Harper government—even as it curtails the democratic rights of striking workers via back-to-work laws, organizes state violence against social and environmental activists (G20), and covers up vote suppression tactics—announced with much fanfare, the creation of a new Office of Religious Freedom with generous funding.

The attack on science, in lock-step with the state promotion of religious obscurantism receives a significant amount of support from within the political and media establishment because the promotion of these ideologies is a principal means by which the ruling elite is seeking to build a base of support for its antidemocratic, militarist and right-wing economic and geo-political agenda.

Canadian scientists fight back against censorship: here. And here.

Canadian officials should be ashamed for attacking scientists: here.

Canada: 90% of government scientists feel they can’t speak freely: union survey: here.

Canadian Federal government scientists muzzled by media policies, report suggests: here.

Dog, cat meat in Spanish meatballs?


This January 2013 video is about food fraud in the USA.

After the horse meat scandals … translated from ANP news agency in the Netherlands:

Maybe dog meat in Spanish meatballs

04/04/13, 06:20

Spanish corporations may have processed dog and cat meat into animal feed and meatballs. This writes daily De Telegraaf. The Guardia Civil, the Spanish police which is investigating the case, thinks there is also a link to a recently defunct meat wholesaler from Amsterdam.

Last year Olga Costa, owner of a shelter for abandoned dogs, alarmed the Guardia Civil after multiple complaints about a company in the northern town of Pontevedra.

“That company, for a reasonable fee, removed deceased pets from people’s homes,” says Costa. “If the owners of such an animal wanted to say goodbye for the last time, then they were impolitely told No entry.”

A few days after the animals were picked up, they were nowhere to be found. Also owners of missing dogs and cats who wanted to come and see whether their pets were among the carcasses, were told to go away.

The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) thinks that today they will ask their Spanish colleagues for clarification.

Has DOG meat been found in our food? New takeaway horror after experts discover ‘mystery meat’ in a lamb curry: here.

Jay, blackbird, siskin still on balcony


Today, it still feels wintry. Mainly because of the cold wind. The weather is expected to get more spring-like next week.

A siskin is still at the balcony. Maybe waiting for real spring weather before migrating.

This is a siskin video.

A blackbird feeding; until a jay drove it away from the apple.