Ural owls in Sweden, video

This June 2011 video from Sweden is about Ural owls; both young and adult.


Dictators, Trump attacking arts

This video from the USA says about itself:

This is a documentary from 1993 by David Grubin (written, produced, and directed) about the art exhibit under the Nazi regime of what they considered to be the most corrupting and corrosive examples of what they called ‘Entartete Kunst‘ or ‘Degenerate Art‘.

The exhibit, which opened in July of 1937, was meant to be laughed at and despised. I ran across it in a class on Modernism and Post-Modernism.

The film is not generally available at the time of this writing (other than on VHS). Personally, I could think of no better backdrop for the ideas and pathos of expressionist art than Nazi Germany, shown by a great deal of actual footage (most provided by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art — they had an exhibit of their own based on the event that same year). The music is similarly striking, including Schoenberg, Hindemith, and Wagner. All of the art shown, by the way, is referenced by name in the end credits, which I include.

By Eve L. Ewing in the USA:

Why Authoritarians Attack the Arts

APRIL 6, 2017

In 1937, ascending leaders of the Third Reich hosted two art exhibitions in Munich. One, the “Great German Art Exhibition,” featured art Adolf Hitler deemed acceptable and reflective of an ideal Aryan society: representational, featuring blond people in heroic poses and pastoral landscapes of the German countryside. The other featured what Hitler and his followers referred to as “degenerate art”: work that was modern or abstract, and art produced by people disavowed by Nazis — Jewish people, Communists, or those suspected of being one or the other. The “degenerate art” was presented in chaos and disarray, accompanied by derogatory labels, graffiti and catalog entries describing “the sick brains of those who wielded the brush or pencil”. Hitler and those close to him strictly controlled how artists lived and worked in Nazi Germany, because they understood that art could play a key role in the rise or fall of their dictatorship and the realization of their vision for Germany’s future.

Last month, the Trump administration proposed a national budget that includes the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA operates with a budget of about $150 million a year. As critics have observed, this amount is about 0.004 percent of the federal budget, making the move a fairly inefficient approach to trimming government spending. Many Americans have been protesting the cuts by pointing out the many ways that art enriches our lives — as they should. The arts bring us joy and entertainment; they can offer a reprieve from the trials of life or a way to understand them.

But as Hitler understood, artists play a distinctive role in challenging authoritarianism. Art creates pathways for subversion, for political understanding and solidarity among coalition builders. Art teaches us that lives other than our own have value. Like the proverbial court jester who can openly mock the king in his own court, artists who occupy marginalized social positions can use their art to challenge structures of power in ways that would otherwise be dangerous or impossible.

Authoritarian leaders throughout history have intuited this fact and have acted accordingly. …

When Augusto Pinochet took power in Chile in 1973, muralists were arrested, tortured and exiled. Soon after the coup, the singer and theater artist Víctor Jara was killed, his body riddled with bullets and displayed publicly as a warning to others. In her book “Brazilian Art Under Dictatorship,” Claudia Calirman writes that the museum director Niomar Moniz Sodré Bittencourt had to hide works of art and advise artists to leave Brazil after authorities entered her museum, blocked the exhibition and demanded the work be dismantled because it contained dangerous images like a photograph of a member of the military falling off a motorcycle, which was seen as embarrassing to the police. Such extreme intervention may seem far removed from the United States today, until we consider episodes like the president’s public castigation of the “Hamilton” cast after it issued a fairly tame commentary directed at Mike Pence.

In its last round of grants, the NEA gave $10,000 to a music festival in Oregon to commission a dance performance by people in wheelchairs and dance classes for people who use mobility devices. A cultural center in California received $10,000 to host workshops led by Muslim artists, including a hip-hop artist, a comedian and filmmakers. A chorus in Minnesota was granted $10,000 to create a concert highlighting the experiences of LGBTQ youth, to be performed in St. Paul public schools. Each of these grants supports the voices of the very people the current presidential administration has mocked, dismissed and outright harmed. Young people, queer people, immigrants, and minorities have long used art as a means of dismantling the institutions that would silence us first and kill us later, and the NEA is one of the few wide-reaching institutions that support that work. …

It is imperative that we understand what Trump’s attack on the arts is really about. It’s not about making America a drab and miserable place, nor is it about a belief in austerity or denying resources to communities in need. Much like the disappearance of data from government websites and the exclusion of critical reporters from White House briefings, this move signals something broader and more threatening than the inability of one group of people to do their work. It’s about control. It’s about creating a society where propaganda reigns and dissent is silenced.

We need the arts because they make us full human beings. But we also need the arts as a protective factor against authoritarianism. In saving the arts, we save ourselves from a society where creative production is permissible only insofar as it serves the instruments of power. When the canary in the coal mine goes silent, we should be very afraid — not only because its song was so beautiful, but also because it was the only sign that we still had a chance to see daylight again.

Eve L. Ewing is a sociologist at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and the author of the forthcoming book “Electric Arches.” Follow her on Twitter @eveewing.

Deer kill far more people than sharks

This 6 April 2017 Dutch video is about Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump‘s nominee for Interior Secretary.

The video remarks that each year, only one United States American dies because of sharks. Far more people die because of deer; all because of collisions with cars.

Famous Greek footballer helps refugees

This video is about the Greek national football team unexpectedly winning the 2004 European championship by beating favourites Portugal in the final match.

A big factor in the Greek victory was their goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis. He stopped many dangerous shots by Cristiano Ronaldo and other Portuguese players.

As Dutch daily De Volkskrant reports today, Antonis Nikopolidis now is 46 years old, and still involved in football. He is a trainer for refugees from the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, stuck in Greece because of anti-refugee policies in European countries.

Football helps the refugees cope with their terrible memories of bloody wars, and with their uncertain present.

How a project to help refugee women is making American produce a lot more interesting: here.

Save spoon-billed sandpipers, other wading birds

This 2016 video is about a spoon-billed sandpiper nest in Siberia.

From BirdLife:

5 Apr 2017

“Waterbird’s paradise” shortlisted for World Heritage status

14 coastal sites across the Bohai Gulf and Yellow Sea of China have been added to a list of sites to be considered for future World Heritage status – it’s potentially fantastic news for endangered migratory birds such as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, who depend on these sites’ rich resources to complete their epic journeys

By Alex Dale

It’s the question we’ve all been skirting during our ongoing campaign to #SaveSpoonie – why, exactly, does the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea have that distinctive, spatula-shaped beak – the same charismatic appendage that in no small way has helped bring the plight of this Critically Endangered wader to international prominence?

The answer: er, well, no-one really knows for sure (with less than a thousand Spoonies remaining in the world, chances to extensively observe its behaviour in the wild are less than plentiful). You might think that it would be used in the same manner as the similar-looking, but unrelated Spoonbill family, who use their flattened bills like a sieve, swaying it from side to side to filter out small invertebrates in the water. However, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper has never been seen to do this.

Most likely, as with many waders, the specialised shape of Spoonie’s bill is so it can use it as a tool to forage for food. The leading theory is that it uses it almost like a shovel, upturning the mud to reveal crabs, worms and other invertebrates hidden within.

But the downside of having such specialised feeding habits is this: when you need to make a fuelling stop in the middle of a long journey (such as Spoonie’s epic bi-annual migration between Siberia and south Asia), there are only so many ‘restaurants’ along the way that cater to your tastes.

And if you’re an Asian wading bird, there’s no restaurant more extensive or better-stocked than that of the Yellow Sea. This vast sea, surrounded by and shared between China and the Korean Peninsula, is the largest area of intertidal wetlands on the planet, and its extensive mudflats, sandflats and other costal habitats draw in waterbirds from all around the world faster than a five-star review from the LA Times.

As an example, a sizable population of Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica (Near Threatened) choose this area as their solitary pit-stop during their lengthy journeys between Australasia and Arctic Russia and Alaska. At the time of writing, over 10,000 individuals have already returned to one of the Yellow Sea’s estuaries, Yalu Jiang on the China/North Korea border.

Elsewhere, it’s estimated that as many as 60% of a sub-species of the world’s Red Knot Calidris canutus (Near Threatened) population stop over in the Luannan wetlands of the Bohai Gulf – an area of the Yellow Sea in close proximity to the Chinese capital, Beijing. We could go on: simply, it’s one of the most important areas in the world for migratory waterbirds by almost any metric you wish to use: be it size, numbers, diversity of species or the proportion of these species that are globally threatened with extinction.

But the future of these crucial habitats is currently anything but secure. Popular with humans as well as waders, the Yellow Sea is the most populated coastal area in the world, with an estimated figure of 200 million people and growing. The development needed to accommodate such a dense population of humans has resulted in the loss of critical habitats and feeding areas, with 27 species of waterbirds that frequent the East Asian-Australasian Flyway now threatened with extinction.

However, in a significant step towards the continued recognition and protection of this incredible natural resource, China has added 14 key coastal sites along their share of the Yellow Sea – including the aforementioned Luannan wetlands – to a tentative list of sites to be considered for World Heritage status. It’s the first step in the process of formally nominating these sites for inscription as a UNESCO site, which brings with it the highest form of global protection possible – greatly aiding the conservation of gravely-threatened birds who are dependent on these wetlands, such as Spoonie.

The Republic of Korea, meanwhile, is also making progress on securing World Heritage status for important wetlands in the region, and is very close to nominating several sites on its share of the coast, including Yubu Island, the world’s single most important site for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Together, this network of potential World Heritage sites has the potential to become a “wader’s paradise”.

“On behalf of our partners and collaborators, I would like to congratulate the Government of China on working so hard and so diligently to get these very important sites on to the World Heritage tentative list in such a timely fashion” says Spike Millington, Chief Executive of the East Asian – Australasian Flyway Partnership, an initiative bringing together 35 national governments and non-governmental organizations – including BirdLife International – to work for the conservation of migratory birds.

“The support of EAAFP partners, notably IUCN, BirdLife International, Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and the work of the Paulson Institute, through the Coastal Wetlands Blueprint project, has been instrumental in promoting Yellow Sea intertidal conservation, culminating in this listing” says Millington.

It’s a hugely encouraging development which offers hope that the destruction and degradation that has ravaged the Yellow Sea’s wetlands in recent decades can be halted or even reversed. There’s still a long way to go before the future of these sites are secure, however – and there are many vital sites – such as Binhai New Area, in North China, which is visited by nearly the entire world’s population of the Relict Gull Larus relictus (assessed as Vulnerable) – which are not yet on the tentative list. BirdLife will continue its important advocacy work to ensure these vital areas are properly recognised and protected in the future, but until then, visit our campaign page to find out how you can help ensure that will still be plenty of mudflats left for Spoonie to dig into.

Stop German militarist propaganda on universities

This video says about itself:

Causes of World War 2 | History of Germany & German Militarism

This film (originally titled as ‘Here is Germany’) is a 1945 American propaganda documentary film directed by Frank Capra and produced by the U.S. Office of War Information. It was made to prepare soldiers who had not seen combat to go to Germany for the U.S. occupation after the May 8, 1945 unconditional German surrender. It explains why the Germans started World War 2 and what had to be done to keep them from “doing it again”.

The film gives us a brief history of Germany and German militarism till 1939. It traces the rise of Prussia from Frederick the Great through Bismarck, telling the audience that the Prussian state was organized as an instrument of conquest, dominated first by aristocratic landowners, militarists and state officials, later joined by those big industrialists with ties to the militarists and their Imperial Government. The development of a military-industrial dominated state in the founding of the Prussian-dominated German Empire in 1870 climaxes in the catastrophe of World War 1. The film depicts the Third Reich from this perspective, seeing Nazism as simply a continuation of the aggressive German tradition, promoted by the businesses dependent on government contracts for arms.

By Iason Stolpe in Germany:

Berlin student center halts German army advertising campaign

6 April 2017

The administrative council of the Berlin student center (StuWe) decided at its last meeting on March 9 not to accept any advertising from the German army at any of Berlin’s universities until further notice. A final decision on the matter is to be taken at its next meeting in July.

In the lead-up to the meeting, several student representative bodies at Berlin’s Humboldt University (HU) and Free University (FU) voted in favour of banning advertising from the German army and for military purposes within Berlin university buildings.

The decision was triggered by an advertising campaign for the army’s medical service, which was displayed in the canteen at the HU’s northern campus in November and December. The campus is next to the university’s Charité hospital, meaning that many medical students are regular visitors.

A large section of the student body at the campus opposed the advertisements. The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) at HU subsequently introduced a motion in the student parliament rejecting German army advertising at universities in Berlin, which was adopted by a large majority in November.

The administrative council is the highest decision-making body of the StuWe, which not only operates canteens and student accommodation, but also administers student loans and advisory services for the Berlin student body. Meeting twice a year, the council is composed of 14 members: half of the positions are filled by student representatives from Berlin’s universities and the other half by officials from the Berlin State Senate, university management and the StuWe.

According to participants in the meeting who spoke to the World Socialist Web Site, the student representatives introduced a motion in which they asked how much income the StuWe had obtained from the German army adverts it had displayed. In addition, they cited the decision of HU’s student parliament, which declared, “The student parliament opposes all forms of advertising for the German army at our university and calls on the Berlin Student Center and university management not to permit any advertising for the army on the HU campus.”

In addition, the student representatives made the demand at the meeting that the advertising guidelines for the StuWe be changed to ban in principle all advertising for the army or for military purposes at Berlin’s universities, as had been called for by the HU student parliament and the FU’s general student committee (Asta).

According to information from the business managers, the StuWe secured a profit of just €190 for the advertisements, which were displayed for three weeks. This corresponds to the standard cost of advertising secured by the firm CAMPUSdirekt.

The decision on the second and central demand made by the student representatives, the changing of the advertising guidelines, was postponed until the next meeting of the administrative council by the meeting’s chair–with a reference to the order of business because a written motion had not been submitted in time. The discussion indicated that there was a majority on the Administrative Council in favour of the change.

Reacting to the widespread opposition among students to the army’s advertising, the council pledged not to approve any further advertisements for the army until a final decision on the matter has been made by the Administrative Council in July.

The interim decision by the Administrative Council represents a significant victory for students in Berlin.

The decision amounts to a slap in the face for HU President Sabine Kunst. At a meeting of the academic senate in December, she presumptuously stated she could see no reason why advertisements for the army should be banned at Berlin’s universities. The army was after all an organisation in conformity with the Federal Republic’s constitutional order, she asserted to the students present. She went on to praise the career prospects in the army, which were very wide-ranging, “from trainee medics to teachers, social workers and heaven knows what else.”

At this point, the student parliament at her university had already supported the banning of army advertising by a large majority. This was followed in January and February by other student representative bodies, which expressed themselves no less decisively.

“We call on the Berlin Student Center and those responsible at FU Berlin to change their advertising guidelines going forward so that advertising for the arms industry and military (and therefore also advertising for the army) will not be permitted. […] We support a Free University that is a research and educational establishment of peace,” stated the decision of the FU student parliament on February 2.

This decision was confirmed by the FU Asta in its own press release. Fabian Bennewitz, a member of the university politics department, placed the rearming of the army in the context of the social cuts which have resulted in horrific consequences for the health sector, commenting, “It is particularly cynical for the army to boast [on its advertising placards] about being well armed and equipped with doctors who allegedly do not fight for profits. This only seems credible because the facilities in hospitals like the Charité continue to deteriorate due to a lack of public investment, privatisation and the focus on profit-maximisation in the health sector associated with this.”

In the lead-up to the G20 summit in Hamburg, and three months prior to Germany’s federal election, a new frenzy of nationalism and militarism is gripping the ruling elite. One of the most blatant examples is the latest edition of the magazine Internationale Politik (IP), which is published by the German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP): here.

The reactionary and anti-working class character of the next German government is becoming ever clearer. Last week, the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), Greens and Free Democratic Party (FDP) discussed preserving the debt ceiling, further tax cuts for the rich and new privatisations. Now they are talking about massively increasing military expenditure and the powers of the state at home: here.

Canada integrating universities into its militarist foreign policy: here.

Cornell red-tailed hawk Ezra, RIP

This video from New York state in the USA says about itself:

Selected highlights from time spent with a mated pair of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) living on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York, 2/18/2017. Big Red is the female, Ezra is the male.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA today:

As many members of the cam community already know, the Cornell Hawks cam lost its beloved male Red-tailed Hawk, Ezra, on March 19th. We’d like to thank the cam community for their outpouring of support surrounding the news of Ezra’s death, and we continue to invite everyone to share their thoughts and memories of Ezra in pictures or words in the commenting section of Ezra’s tribute page.

It has been inspiring to learn that so many members of the community have been touched by watching [Ezra’s female mate] Big Red and Ezra raise their chicks on cam over the past 5 years, and it is evident that Ezra will always be remembered as a loyal mate, attentive parent, and true ambassador for raptor education. To celebrate this legacy, the Cornell Lab has been working with colleagues on campus, along with input from the hawk cam community, to provide a commemoration of Ezra’s life. We will be sure to provide updates as these plans come together.

In the meantime, relive the memories from the Red-tailed Hawk cam by watching highlights from previous years. Also, keep current on Big Red’s activities by following the updates from our Birders on the Ground in the News section of the Red-tailed Hawks cam page. Bird Cams would like to say a big thanks to Karel and Cindy Sedlacek and our other BOGs for keeping everyone current on Big Red as we wait to see what the future holds.