New BBC wildlife film

This video says about itself:

Earth: One Amazing Day – BBC Earth

25 July 2017

From BBC Earth Films, the studio that brought you Earth, comes the long-awaited sequel – Earth: One Amazing Day, an astonishing journey revealing the awesome power of the natural world, narrated by the Oscar-winning American movie icon, Robert Redford.


Trump administration spies on opponents’ phones

This video from the USA says about itself:

Trump Administration Cracking Protesters‘ Phones

29 July 2017

The feds are breaking into peaceful protesters‘ phones and stealing their data. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, the hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

“Officials seized Trump protesterscell phones, cracked their passwords, and are now attempting to use the contents to convict them of conspiracy to riot at the presidential inauguration.

Prosecutors have indicted over 200 people on felony riot charges for protests in Washington, D.C. on January 20 that broke windows and damaged vehicles. Some defendants face up to 75 years in prison, despite little evidence against them. But a new court filing reveals that investigators have been able to crack into at least eight defendants’ locked cell phones.

Now prosecutors want to use the internet history, communications, and pictures they extracted from the phones as evidence against the defendants in court.

Evidence against the defendants has been scant from the moment of their arrest. As demonstrators, journalists, and observers marched through the city, D.C. police officers channelled hundreds of people into a narrow, blockaded corner, where they carried out mass arrests of everyone in the area. Some of those people, including a journalist and two allegedly peaceful protesters, are now suing for wrongful arrest.”

Read more here.

Red-breasted merganser video

This is a red-breasted merganser video.


Saving refugees from drowning, a crime?

This Associated Press video says about itself:

NGOs help rescue migrants in Mediterranean

(3 Feb 2017) The number of migrants risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean sea surged on Friday … an NGO operating in the area said.

Doctors Without Borders said in a tweet that their rescue boat north of the Libyan coast was operating over capacity and holding 720 migrants after five rescues.

The Aquarius was receiving assistance from a another vessel operated by Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish NGO, that rescued 222 migrants, including one baby and two children, from two boats on Friday.

There were more boats in the sea, said the Proactiva Open Arms spokeswoman Laura Lanuza.

The migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, were being transferred to an Italian port in Sicily, Lanuza said.

By Marianne Arens:

European Union and Italy step up pressure on organisations assisting refugees

29 July 2017

On July 25, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti (Democratic Party) ordered representatives of nine non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in the rescue of refugees to attend a meeting at his ministry. There they were called upon to sign a “Code of Conduct,” restricting their activities in the Mediterranean Sea.

As the WSWS noted two weeks ago, the new code violates “existing law”: “On the high seas international maritime law prevails, which obligatorily demands the rescue of people in distress … this is precisely what the ‘Code of Conduct’ is designed to prevent the NGOs and their rescue boats from undertaking.”

Should NGOs fail to sign the sinister, illegal code, Italy has threatened to close its ports to their ships. This is the latest disgraceful attempt by Italian authorities to rein in the activities of voluntary aid organisations and thereby reduce the number of migrants arriving from Africa. They want to restrict the NGOs and drive them out of the Mediterranean—or at least transform them into reliable adjuncts of the European Union (EU) Frontex operation and the Italian coast guard.

The migrant flight route across the Mediterranean is extremely dangerous. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), as of July 23, 2,361 people had either died or gone missing in 2017, while some 95,000 migrants had reached Italy by sea. The dead include an estimated 300 children.

Without the NGOs, the number of drowned and missing people would be considerably higher. Currently more than 40 percent of refugees rescued at sea owe their lives to organisations such as Sea-Watch, Sea-Eye, MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station), Jugend Rettet (Rescuing Youth), Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, SOS Méditerranée, Proactiva Open Arms, etc.

“We are just in mid-July,” noted Timon Marszalek, the director of SOS Méditerranée Germany, “and we’ve saved as many people in the Mediterranean as we did last year. In view of the failure of the European Union, the intervention of civilian organisations like our own is indispensable to prevent the deaths of thousands of people.”

Marszalek pointed to one recent incident on July 11, in which a baby was born during a rescue operation. Mother and child were still connected by an umbilical cord when they were brought on board the Aquarius. This was the fifth birth at sea on this one rescue ship alone. “What would have happened if our team had not been there on time?” the SOS Méditerranée official asked. Such examples also show how desperate people must be to take to sea.

The “Code of Conduct” that NGOs are now being required to sign by the government of Paolo Gentiloni (Democratic Party) is a crude and deliberate attempt to sabotage rescue efforts. It establishes harsh guidelines and demands that refugees be transported directly to the Italian mainland instead of being transferred to larger ships belonging to the coast guard, merchant marine or navy. This forces the small NGO ships to undertake longer journeys and restricts their presence in the most dangerous waters where their work is most necessary.

Ruben Neugebauer of Sea-Watch told Deutschlandfunk (German radio): “What they want to achieve is obvious: they are trying to keep ships out of the danger zone because we undermine the concept of dying on Europe’s borders.”

NGOs are also forbidden to enter Libyan territorial waters, even if refugees’ lives are at stake. They must look on as people drown, without being able to intervene. NGOs must also accept Italian police accompanying their vessels to track down smugglers among the refugees. This can only lead to a worsening of relations between the rescue teams and refugees.

The “Code of Conduct” is not merely the work of the Italian authorities. It was agreed upon at a meeting of EU ministers in Tallinn, Estonia in early July. At that meeting German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière repeated his slanderous claim that NGOs were working with so-called people smugglers.

German newspapers have also run articles accusing NGOs of collaboration with smugglers. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung claimed, for example, that the rescue organisations were “involuntarily becoming an important element in the smugglers’ strategies.”

The Berliner Zeitung scandalously asserted that the NGOs’ role was not rescuing those in need at sea, but rather “assisting refugees and the transfer of emigrants.” The newspaper referred disapprovingly to Sea-Watch, based in Berlin. That organisation, which has not signed the “Code of Conduct,” rightly argues that there is already an International Law of the Sea, which obliges every boat owner to assist in sea rescue when necessary.

The Berliner Zeitung complains, however, that while it is “self-evident” that shipwrecked persons be saved, “this does not answer the question as to where to land those rescued. Sea-Watch 2 does not return the stranded to Libya, but brings them all to Europe.”

This slanderous article and the steps taken by the various EU interior ministers against the NGOs reveal there is a concerted campaign to drive private organisations out of the seas along the Libyan coast.

This campaign is bound up with unprecedented military deployment taking place in the Mediterranean off the North African coast. Taking part in the operation, which has been ongoing since June 2015 under the innocuous name of “Operation Sophia” (formerly known as Eunavfor [European Union Naval Force] Med), are the navies of Germany, Italy, Great Britain and other European countries.

On the same day the NGOs were summoned to the Italian Interior Ministry, the EU decided to extend the “Sophia” mission to the end of 2018. Officially, the remit of the operation is to combat “smuggler criminality on the Mediterranean” and thus prevent deaths at sea. In fact, the combined navies are responsible for just 8 percent of sea rescue operations.

In reality, mission “Sophia” is an important part of Europe’s plans for imperialist intervention in Africa. The Great Powers regard Africa as a strategically crucial area, with huge oil and natural gas deposits and other resources. With the war against Libya in 2011 and the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the new colonial “scramble for Africa” entered a new phase.

For the past six years the imperialist powers have been trying to install a new, reliable and loyal regime in Libya, which is key for access to Africa as a whole. This explains the background of a third important meeting in Paris on July 25: the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, invited the two main rivals in the Libyan civil war, Fayez al-Sarraj, the unelected head of the Western-backed Libyan Presidential Council, and Khalifa Hafter, [unelected] head of the so-called Libyan National Army and an “asset” of the CIA since the 1980s. The two men subsequently agreed to suspend their armed struggle and hold parliamentary elections in the spring of 2018. On Wednesday, Sarraj visited Italian government officials in Rome.

The EU has committed itself to continue financing the Libyan coast guard and equipping it with weapons. The European Union is supporting an organisation notorious for trafficking in human beings, torture and murder. At the request of the EU, the Libyan coast guard forces refugees into Libyan prisons, where around 300,000 people are currently being held under appalling conditions.

For their part, NGOs must decide whether or not to cooperate with the Italian government and sign the “Code of Conduct.” The NGOs rely on private donations and young volunteers. Their efforts demonstrate a widespread willingness to assist and defend refugees.

This readiness was confirmed a few weeks ago in a poll carried out by the European Broadcasting Agency. Almost 1 million young people between the ages of 18 and 35 were interviewed. Nearly three quarters (72 percent) said they were willing to actively support immigrants. Some 78 percent of respondents in Germany said they noticed growing nationalism, and considered it a bad thing. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of young people in Germany and the overwhelming majority of young people surveyed said they were not ready to fight in a war.

The poll demonstrates the abyss between the vast majority of the population and establishment politics. Millions of workers and young people express their solidarity with the refugees and are ready to help them, while the political elite and governments are permitting thousands to drown in the Mediterranean.


Australian octopus on land

This video says about itself:

Extraordinary Octopus Takes To Land – The Hunt – BBC Earth

23 July 2017

Octopuses are marine animals that live and breath underwater, so at low tide one would expect them to be imprisoned in rock pools. This extraordinary species found in Northern Australia is like no other octopus, and land is no obstacle when hunting for crabs.


Japan’s nazi-friendly war minister resigns

Pictures from Japanese neo-Nazi Kazunari Yamada’s website show him posing with Shinzo Abe’s internal affairs minister, Sanae Takaichi, and his party’s then policy chief, Tomomi Inada

These pictures from Japanese neo-nazi leader Kazunari Yamada’s website show him posing with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s internal affairs minister, Sanae Takaichi, and Abe’s party’s then policy chief, Tomomi Inadalater minister of war … sorry for forgetting to use the euphemism ‘defence’ … of Japan.

The latest news is that Ms Inada has resigned as war minister. Not because of her nazi scandal, but because of other scandals.

By Ben McGrath:

Japan’s defense minister resigns in wake of scandal

29 July 2017

Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada resigned Friday, ostensibly for her role in the cover-up of Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) documents damaging to the Abe government’s militarist agenda. Her departure is an attempt to prevent further falls in public support for the government and Abe’s plans to force through pro-war constitutional revisions by 2020.

The cover-up involved daily logs that revealed Japanese troops participating in a so-called peacekeeping operation in South Sudan were at risk of being pulled into a military conflict in July 2016. One of the five legal requirements for the Japanese military to take part in such a mission is that a ceasefire agreement be in place, a condition that the GSDF daily logs clearly showed had been violated.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga painted Inada’s resignation as an attempt to take responsibility for the cover-up, rather than being forced out in a planned cabinet reshuffle on August 3. Suga apologized for the scandal as well and claimed the government “will work hard to win back the public’s trust.”

A close ally of the prime minister, Inada is known for her nationalist and militarist views and regular visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, a symbol of Japanese militarism. The shrine is where those who died in Japan’s wars, primarily World War II, are symbolically interred, including 14 class-A war criminals.

Inada has largely been a liability during her tenure in office. She was appointed defense minister last August as Abe pushed his cabinet even further to the right. A Jiji news agency survey earlier this month found support for Abe’s cabinet had fallen to 29.9 percent, with many people citing a lack of trust in the government.

At a press conference yesterday, Inada revealed more behind her decision to step down. She stated: “Not only has the log controversy highlighted inappropriate handling of information disclosure, but the fact that there were numerous instances of what appeared to be information leakage from within our organization [that] has risked eroding public trust in our governance system.”

In other words, her de facto removal is not so much due to her role in a cover-up, but in allowing it to go public.

The scandal began last September when journalist Yujin Fuse made an information disclosure request to see the GSDF daily logs from South Sudan for July, the month fighting broke out between government and rebel troops. The Japanese soldiers were taking part in the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), supposedly aiding construction projects in the oil-rich African country.

The government initially claimed in December that the logs had been discarded, but then announced on February 7 that a wider search had uncovered the documents in digital form at the Joint Staff office, which oversees the GSDF, the Air SDF, and Maritime SDF, the formal names for Japan’s military branches.

The logs contained reports such as, “Fierce gun fighting at five, six o’clock (reference to direction) of the camp,” and “Fierce fighting involving tanks and trench mortars.” They also contained a map of the GSDF camp and a red area adjacent with the words, “Fighting broke out.”

In total, 300 people were killed in the conflict and 36,000 were displaced in July last year. Abe’s government pulled the GSDF troops out of South Sudan in May, but denied that the decision was related to unstable military conditions.

At the time of the fighting, the government downplayed what was happening in South Sudan. On top of securing access to oil and minerals, the [South] Sudan deployment provided Abe’s government with the pretext for employing its new security legislation that allows SDF troops to take part in battles alongside allied countries, ostensibly by coming to their defense. Last November, the cabinet formally authorized the SDF to operate under the laws, which were passed in September 2015 and enacted the following March.

By March this year, however, Japan’s state-run broadcaster NHK reported that the GSDF also had digital copies of the logs and had met in February to decide what to do with them, opting to delete them in order to preserve the lie that only the Joint Staff had the documents.

Defense Minister Inada appeared before the Diet’s Lower House Security Committee that month to point fingers at GSDF figures for the cover-up and claimed to have no knowledge of what had transpired. She assigned the in-house Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance to investigate.

This month, however, it was revealed that Inada had been present at the meeting in February and was well aware that the digital logs existed and were being deleted. Yet the Inspector General’s Office cleared Inada of wrong-doing.

That whitewash became untenable on July 25. Fuji News Network reported that it had a two-page memo from an anonymous senior Defense Ministry official, showing that Inada had been present at a February 13 meeting to discuss the cover-up. It quoted a conversation between Inada and Lieutenant General Goro Yuasa, who reportedly said: “We have only confirmed we don’t have the paper (version of the log). But (electronic) data does exist.”

Inada responded, according to the note, by asking: “What should I say in answering [questions] tomorrow?” Two days after that meeting, Inada allegedly endorsed the decision to prevent the public from learning that the GSDF also had retained the daily logs, leading to their deletion.

Only weeks ago, Prime Minister Abe rejected calls for Inada’s dismissal after she angered voters by urging them to back the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidate in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections in order to “support” the SDF. The opposition to her comments reflected broader anti-war sentiment in Japan and hostility to the Abe government’s agenda of remilitarization.

The main opposition Democratic Party (DP), sensing an opportunity to score political points, attacked Inada on July 19, saying she “has repeatedly given false responses in the Diet and it is very egregious.” It called on Abe to dismiss her.

The leaks from within the Defense Ministry reveal an internal conflict over how to push forward with the remilitarization plans in the face of popular opposition. Sections of the ruling LDP have been critical of Abe’s proposed revisions to the constitution, demanding he adopt an even more right-wing, pro-war position. This includes Shigeru Ishiba who is considering challenging Abe for the LDP presidency in next year’s leadership vote.


Three small frog species discovered in Peru

This video says about itself:

7 March 2017

In the Pui Pui Protected Forest, Peruvian Andes, researchers discovered a new species of terrestrial-breeding frog. The species was named Pristimantis attenboroughi, Attenborough’s Rubber Frog, in honour of Sir David Attenborough.

And now, more relatives of this frog have been discovered in that area.

From the University of Michigan in the USA:

Three species of tiny frogs discovered in Peruvian Andes

July 27, 2017

A University of Michigan ecologist and his colleagues have discovered three more frog species in the Peruvian Andes, raising to five the total number of new frog species the group has found in a remote protected forest since 2012.

The three newly found species live in the mountain forests and Andean grasslands of the Pui Pui Protected Forest in central Peru. They are described in a study to be published online July 27 in the journal Zootaxa. All three species measure an inch or less in length, from snout to vent.

“Our team has now described five new species of frogs from this region, with several more to come in the near future,” said Rudolf von May, a postdoctoral researcher in the Rabosky Lab at the U-M Museum of Zoology and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Other team members are in Illinois, the Czech Republic and Peru.

“These discoveries demonstrate the need for further scientific exploration of such Andean habitats,” he said. “While the Pui Pui Protected Forest was established in 1985, virtually no biological surveys were conducted in the park for nearly three decades, and the potential for additional discoveries is enormous.”

The three new frog species belong to the genus Pristimantis, the most diverse genus of frogs in the tropical Andes. With nearly 500 species, they are part of the family Craugastoridae, commonly known as land-breeding or terrestrial-breeding frogs.

While most frogs lay eggs in water, terrestrial-breeding frogs use a specialized reproductive mode called direct development: A clutch of embryos hatches directly into froglets; there are no free-living tadpoles. This allows the group to exploit a wide variety of habitats, as long as those locations contain sufficient moisture.

Terrestrial-breeding frogs appear to have undergone an evolutionary radiation at high elevations in Peru, as many species resemble one another and have similar life histories. A so-called adaptive radiation occurs when a single ancestral group produces many descendant species adapted to different habitats and ways of life.

The Zootaxa paper names and describes the three newly discovered frog species and presents supporting morphological and phylogenetic evidence. The first author of the paper is Edgar Lehr of Illinois Wesleyan University.

The frog species bear the name of the Pui Pui park, the mountain-forest habitat in the park, and a naturalist-explorer. They are:

The Pui Pui Rubber Frog, Pristimantis puipui, known from a single site near Laguna Sinchón, which marks the approximate center of the Pui Pui Protected Forest, at an elevation of 12,762 feet above sea level. The species name is derived from the Quechua words “pui pui” meaning “eyes of water,” a reference to the many lakes of the Pui Pui Protected Forest.

The Hill Dweller Rubber Frog, Pristimantis bounides, known from two sites at elevations of 10,991 feet and 11,362 feet. The species name “bounides” is derived from the Greek noun “bounos,” which means “dweller of the hills” and refers to the habitat of the mountain forests where this frog was found.

The Humboldt’s Rubber Frog, Pristimantis humboldti, known from a single site at 10,886 feet. The species name is the patronym of the German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, who traveled the New World between 1799 and 1804 and whose ideas changed our understanding of the world.

Earlier this year, the researchers described two other new species of Peruvian frogs, Pristimantis ashaninka and Pristimantis attenboroughi. The first was named after the Ashaninka, a group of indigenous people from the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon, some of whom live near Pui Pui. The second species was named after BBC naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough.

Future papers by the group will describe five more newly discovered species from Pui Pui: three frogs and two lizards.

The Pui Pui Protected Forest covers 150,000 acres and includes dozens of lakes and streams that feed several rivers in the upper Amazon River watershed. About 70 percent of the protected forest is covered by Andean grasslands, and about 30 percent is cloud forest.

“Our findings suggest that the Pui Pui Protected Forest houses unique biological communities containing species found nowhere else,” Lehr said. “One reason for this is that the area has a steep topographic gradient including a broad array of habitats and local microclimates that contribute to high amphibian species diversity.”

Von May and Lehr first discussed the possibility of exploring the Pui Pui in 2003. In early 2012, Lehr received funding from the National Geographic Society to survey the area, and they carried out the first expeditions that year.

Two other herpetologists joined subsequent trips: Jiri Moravec of the National History Museum in Prague, Czech Republic and Juan Carlos Cusi of the Museum of Natural History of Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, Peru.

Altogether, the team spent nearly three months in the field between 2012 and 2014, in a region where mountains taller than 13,000 feet are common.

“Our team worked with local guides and park rangers,” von May said. “The equipment, food and camping supplies used in the expeditions were carried by horses and mules.”

Most of the frogs were discovered by searching through moss and grass and under rocks, small bushes and other vegetation. In some cases, the researchers found frogs after hearing the males calling during light afternoon or evening rains.

Given that the newly discovered frog species live in the Pui Pui Protected Forest, much of their habitat is formally protected. However, amphibians worldwide face multiple threats — including habitat loss, the deadly chytrid skin fungus and climate change — and Andean amphibians are no exception.

In the Peruvian Andes, habitat loss is currently the main threat. Of special concern are forest clearcuttings and humanmade fires used to expand agricultural crops and grazing areas for livestock.

Worldwide, the number of known amphibian species continues to rise due to new discoveries and now stands at nearly 7,700.