Dutch woodland birds video

This 2 February 2018 video shows Dutch woodland birds in the Veluwe region; like great spotted woodpecker, dunnock, chaffinch and starling.


United States Nunes memo, Russia-bashing distraction from war danger, inequality

This video from the USA says about it itself:

Russiagate is Dangerous, Will Washington Get the Memo?

2 February 2018

The partisan fight over Rep. Devin Nunes’ memo is consuming Washington and even leading prominent liberals to question if Nunes is a Russian agent. Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen of Princeton University says Russiagate has now become “much more than McCarthyism.”

“This discourse is now the norm, on MSNBC, CNN, New York Times… That people who doubt the narrative of what’s loosely called ‘Russiagate’ are somehow acting under the spell of the Kremlin.”

Read more here.

The text of the, meanwhile released, memo by Republican Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, about the 2016 Clinton and Trump presidential campaigns and the FBI is here.

If the United States Democratic party would be a real opposition party, then they would fight Donald Trump for making the rich richer and the poor poorer, for climate denialism, for warmongering, for attacking civil liberties, for his xenophobic attacks on Dreamers and refugees, etc. Instead, the Wall Street Democrats sell out the Dreamers. And they resurrect Cold War-style brinkmanship towards nuclear war, by drowning everything in cries of ‘Russia! Russia!’ They resurrect the Cold War dead body of the battle against ‘godless Communism’ even though the Soviet Union does not exist anymore, the Warsaw pact does not exist anymore, and the Russian government is neither atheist nor communist. Instead of fighting for transparency, Democratic politicians fight to keep the Nunes memo secret, to keep secret services’ activities as secret as possible. While more state secrets always mean more steps on the road to non-accountability and dictatorship.

One might think it is impossible to be further to the right than Trump. But it looks like the Clintonite Wall Street Democratic politicians are trying that really hard, bring too scared to criticize Trump from the left.

The Democrats responded to the prospective release of the Nunes memo with undisguised hysteria, declaring that it threatened national security and was insufficiently deferential to the US intelligence agencies. Now that the memo has been released, the Democrats’ claim that it contains sensitive national security secrets has been exposed as lies: here.

Democrats defend FBI as Republican memo shows anti-Russia campaign built on illegal spying: here.

The announcement Friday by the US Department of Justice that a federal grand jury has returned criminal indictments against 13 Russian citizens and three Russian companies, charging illegal activities in the 2016 US presidential election, has become the occasion for a barrage of war propaganda in the American corporate media: here.

The Russian meddling fraud: Weapons of mass destruction revisited: here.

Cheetahs versus rhino, video

This video from Africa says about itself:

Curious Cheetah cubs take on a Rhino – Natural World: Cheetahs Fast Track To Freedom – BBC Earth

24 January 2018

This Rhino is not having any of these curious Cheetah cubs nonsense.

The world’s fastest land animal, the cheetah, is a successful hunter not only because it is quick, but also because it can hold an incredibly still gaze while pursuing prey. For the first time, researchers have investigated the cheetah’s extraordinary sensory abilities by analyzing the speedy animal’s inner ear, an organ that is essential for maintaining body balance and adapting head posture during movement in most vertebrates: here.

Cheetahs in the Serengeti National Park adopt different strategies while eating to deal with threats from top predators such as lions or hyenas. A new study shows that male cheetahs and single females eat their prey as quickly as possible. Mothers with cubs, on the other hand, watch out for possible threats while their young are eating in order to give them enough time to eat their fill: here.

A million Puerto Ricans still without electricity

This video says about itself:

23 October 2017

Hurricane Maria destroyed the Puerto Rican village of Salinas. Local residents are being housed in a school building. Most people have no electricity, water, or working telephone line. The mayor and the survivors are trying to rebuild the village.

The village of Salinas in Puerto Rico was famous for its beaches and restaurants. It was popular with tourists – until hurricane Maria left the village devastated. A number of people were killed. 90% of the population of Puerto Rico still have no electricity, and about half don’t have running water. In Salinas, residents who’ve lost their homes are being housed in a school. It’s not clear how long they’ll have to stay there. The local phone network and the infrastructure are heavily damaged, so it’s taken aid supplies a long time to reach the area. Reporter Carolina Chimoy travelled to Salinas to meet the mayor and local residents who are trying to rebuild their village.

By Daniel de Vries:

Why are a million Puerto Ricans still in the dark?

2 February 2018

When Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rosselló announced last week his plan to privatize the nation’s largest electric utility, he justified the move as a remedy to the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe being inflicted upon the population. “The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has become a heavy burden on our people, who are now hostage to its poor service and high costs”, he said. “What we know today as [PREPA] does not work and cannot continue to operate like this.”

The present electrical blackout in Puerto Rico is without precedent in modern American history. More than four months after hurricane Maria triggered the collapse of the already failing grid, over 30 percent of residential and commercial customers remain without power—equivalent to approximately a million people. Even where power has been nominally restored, the system remains extremely unstable and subject to outages at any time.

The initial goal set by governor Rosselló of 95 percent restoration by December 15, which even if achieved would have been extraordinarily slow, quietly passed with restoration rates half that. The current assessments expect large scale outages to continue for months into the future.

US Army Corps of Engineers Col. John Lloyd, who is overseeing power restoration for the federal government, recently told PBS Newshour, “I think by the middle of March, end of March, we’re going to see the majority of customers with power.” Governor Rosselló acknowledged some areas may remain off the grid for an additional four months.

The impact on the residents has been devastating, particularly for working class Puerto Ricans, who have discovered through experience the innumerable aspects of modern life that depend on access to power, including health care services, basic sanitation, transportation, communication, education and employment.

Those without power have been thrown back a century, with simple tasks like storing perishable foods, accessing drinking water and maintaining contact with loved ones a daily struggle. Generators and rigged car batteries have become the temporary power suppliers, at least for those who can afford the high cost of gasoline. Hundreds of thousands have simply fled the island, seeking refuge on the mainland, in no small part because of the lack of power and other basic necessities of contemporary life.

The official response to the catastrophe has been a collective shrug. President Trump uttered but a single contemptuous reference to Puerto Rico during his State of the Union address Tuesday, professing love for those still struggling to recover. Trump’s silence has been matched by the Democrats, who refuse to make an issue of the continuing humanitarian crisis, and instead focus their political energies on seeking to damage Trump with an anti-Russia campaign

The US Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency responsible for the re-electrification of the island, has blamed the slow return of service on a supposed shortage of materials and logistical challenges. The damage is extensive; FEMA estimated Hurricane Maria damaged 80 percent of the power grid, which consists of 2400 miles of transmission lines, 30,000 miles of distribution wire and 300 electrical substations.

Nonetheless, the logistical capacity and resources of the US are potentially immense, yet directed elsewhere. Over the past 25 years the American government has organized massive deployments of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and bureaucrats to invade and occupy countries on the other side of the globe. The government’s inability to organize the distribution of equipment and workers just 1,000 miles off the coast of Florida reflect political, rather than technical or logistical, motivations.

These political motivations have come into sharper focus this week with the announcement by Governor Rosselló of the impending privatization of PREPA. The utility is $9 billion in debt, accounting for the largest share of the territory’s $70 billion obligation.

PREPA’s course toward privatization has been long planned. Four of seven Obama appointees to the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, which is granted broad powers to seize public assets and break pension obligations, advocated the utility’s privatization in an article in the Wall Street Journal three months before the hurricane hit. “We believe that only privatization will enable PREPA to attract the investments it needs to lower costs and provide more reliable power throughout the island,” they wrote.

More recently, the board’s general counsel, Jaime El Koury, suggested at a New York Bar Association event last week, that Latin American governments in the 1980s should be used as models for the current debt crisis in Puerto Rico. “In the ’80s Latin America did something about it”, he said. “It was very difficult. It extracted a lot of sacrifice from the population but they did something about it.” El Koury specifically mentioned Chile, which was led by the brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet, who carried out a wave of privatizations following the bloody repression of political opponents.

The situation in Puerto Rico has deteriorated sharply in the past decade, with regards to both the electrical infrastructure and the economy as a whole. The territory’s economy has always been dictated by the needs of US imperialism, which most recently translated into the development of a manufacturing base for pharmaceuticals and other goods. Relatively cheap labor and tax exemptions for US companies generated profits for a time, while much of the population remained poor.

However, by the mid-2000s, with American companies well established at even cheaper offshore locations, the tax exemptions were repealed. Investors responded by simply withdrawing from Puerto Rico. By 2016 investment dropped to 7.9 percent of the island’s GDP from 20.7 percent in 1999. Unemployment reached double the rate as the mainland US. Poverty rates rose to near 50 percent, and a mass exodus ensued.

Faced with a shrinking and impoverished consumer base, increasingly unable to afford what are among the highest electrical rates in the country, PREPA took on more and more debt. The agency deferred its own investments, allowing the generating stations and grid to decay. Over the past five years they reduced the workforce by 30 percent, mainly through attrition.

By the time Maria approached, major outages had become commonplace, including a major three-day outage in September 2016. An independent report to the Puerto Rico Energy Commission published in November 2016 noted that PREPA records show outages at rates five times higher than the norm for the country.

PREPA was deliberately run into the ground, starved of resources, and allowed to mire in corruption. Meanwhile American capital, abstaining from investment in the productive forces of Puerto Rico, instead offered indebtedness, fully conscious that this would lead toward default and set the stage for the looting of public property.

The combined disasters of bankruptcy and Maria have provided the pretext the ruling class has been seeking to implement a wholesale restructuring of social relations to benefit powerful corporate and financial interests. The precedent was set in places like New Orleans following Katrina and Detroit with the municipal bankruptcy, and internationally in countries such as Greece.

The working class needs its own response. The privatization of the electrical system must be stopped and instead brought under the democratic control of the working class. Access to power is a fundamental social right—it should not be a source of profit for the hedge funds and bankers who dictate the course of economic policy and investment. This right can only be asserted as part of a common struggle together with the millions of workers throughout the United States and internationally, independent of all the capitalist political parties, to bring the levers of the economy under the command of the working class.

Facebook becoming censorshipbook and spybook

This video from the USA says about itself:

PBS and Facebook Censor Jill Stein’s Criticism of Hillary Clinton

8 September 2016

YouTuber Matt Orfalea discovered that PBS had censored parts of an interview with Jill Stein where she criticizes Hillary Clinton. Matt then uploaded the video exposing said censorship to Facebook, and they later took down the video, alleging it did not comply with their community’s guidelines.

The problem with Facebook is not just its censorship of feminism. And not just its censorship of paintings, and of photos showing the truth about the Vietnam war. And its censorship helping the regime in Myanmar in its genocide of Rohingya people. And its censorship helping the Erdogan regime in Turkey in its bloody wars against Kurdish people in Turkey itself, in Iraq and in northern Syria.

By Andre Damon in the USA:

From Facebook to Policebook

2 February 2018

On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a notice outlining extraordinary plans by the social media company to monitor all the postings and messages of its users, censor independent journalism, and use artificial intelligence (AI) to report users to the police and intelligence agencies.

Zuckerberg began his post, released in conjunction with the company’s quarterly earnings report, by declaring that 2017 was a “hard year” for Facebook. “The world feels anxious and divided—and that played out on Facebook. We’ve seen abuse on our platform, including interference from nation states, the spread of news that is false, sensational and polarizing, and debate about the utility of social media.” Facebook, he writes, has the responsibility to “amplify the good and prevent harm. That is my personal challenge for 2018.”

In Facebook’s “newspeak”, this means that the company will act aggressively this year to suppress the spread of information online and censor content, under the guise of combatting “fake news” and “Russian meddling”.

The truly ominous implications of this project are outlined in Zuckerberg’s post. Among Facebook’s initiatives, he writes, is “new technology to detect suicidal posts that has helped first responders reach more than 100 people who needed help quickly, and we’ve built AI systems to flag suspicious behavior around elections in real time and remove terrorist content.”

In other words, Facebook has introduced AI systems to collect, monitor and interpret all the information posted on its social media platform. As always, the introduction of such a sweeping system of mass surveillance is justified with seemingly praiseworthy motivations. After all, who could object to measures aimed at stopping suicides or terrorist attacks? The actual purpose of the new systems, however, is very different.

Zuckerberg points to the sweeping scope of the company’s artificial intelligence plans later: “Our goal with AI is to understand the meaning of all the content on Facebook.” Every single post, photo, video, message, comment, reaction and share will be fed into the company’s increasingly powerful computer systems to be analyzed for “harmful” content, and reported to the police and intelligence agencies as deemed necessary.

The real—and sinister—aim of Facebook’s actions is also made clear by the other initiatives that the company is taking. Most significantly, Zuckerberg stressed the company’s determination to make sure that “the information you see on Facebook comes from broadly trusted and high-quality sources, in order to counter misinformation and polarization.”

What are these “broadly trusted” sources? “For example, take the [Rupert Murdoch-owned] Wall Street Journal or New York Times”, wrote the multibillionaire CEO. “Even if you don’t read them or don’t agree with everything they write, most people have confidence that they’re high quality journalism. On the flip side, there are blogs that have intense followings but are not widely trusted beyond their core audience. We will show those publications somewhat less.”

In other words, corporate media sources will be promoted, while other publications, even those that “have intense followings”, will be demoted. As for being “shown somewhat less,” what Zuckerberg means is that they will be blocked from reaching a broader audience. More simply, they will be censored.

In addition to censoring news from alternative sources, Zuckerberg states at the beginning of his post that Facebook is working to “show fewer viral videos” because such content is not “good for people’s well-being and for society.”

The viral videos Zuckerberg is referring to include footage of police violence, social exposures like reporting on last year’s Grenfell Tower inferno that exposed social inequality in London, and documentation of the war crimes carried out by the US military. Any such content will be “demoted,” which Zuckerberg later notes “reduces an article’s traffic by 80 percent.”

Zuckerberg’s central pretense—that Facebook will promote sources that “people have confidence” in—is a fraud. In fact, according to a Gallup poll published last year, Americans’ trust in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” reached its lowest level in poling history, with only 32 percent of participants saying they have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust. At the same time, the use of social media to read news has been growing exponentially, reaching two-thirds of the US population according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.

The growth in the popularity of Facebook and other social media networks was in large measure due to the fact that they allowed their users access to information and viewpoints unavailable through mainstream media outlets. Now, Facebook has reversed course and declared that its intention is to promote the official narrative and block independent news sources that question it.

Facebook, Google, Twitter and other giant social media companies—working closely with intelligence agencies and governments—are seeking to leverage their role as mechanisms of communication to become instruments of censorship and repression. In the process, they are turning one of the most important and liberating technological advances of the 21st century, the growth and expansion of artificial intelligence, into a mechanism for police control and dictatorship.

The fight against Internet censorship is an urgent task facing workers all over the world. The World Socialist Web Site is leading the fight against the greatest threat to free speech since the Second World War. On January 23, it published an open letter calling for an international coalition of socialist, antiwar, left-wing and progressive websites, organizations and activists to fight Internet censorship.

The principles for this coalition are:

• Safeguarding the Internet as a platform for political organization and the free exchange of information, culture and diverse viewpoints, guided by the principle that access to the Internet is a right and must be free and equally available for all.

• Uncompromising insistence on the complete independence of the Internet from control by governments and private corporations.

• Unconditional defense of net neutrality and free, unfettered and equal access to the Internet.

• The banning and illegalization of government and corporate manipulation of search algorithms and procedures, including the use of human evaluators, that restrict and block public visibility of websites.

• Irreconcilable opposition to the use of the Internet and artificial intelligence technologies to carry out surveillance of web users.

• Demanding the end to the persecution of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden and the complete restoration of their personal freedom.

• Advocating the transformation of the corporate Internet monopolies into public utilities, under internationally coordinated democratic control, to provide the highest quality service, not private profit.

• The fight against Internet censorship and the defense of democratic rights cannot be conducted through appeals to capitalist governments and the parties and politicians who serve their interests, but only in uncompromising struggle against them. Moreover, this struggle is international in scope and totally opposed to every form and manifestation of national chauvinism, racism and imperialist militarism. Therefore, those who are truly committed to the defense of democratic rights must direct their efforts to the mobilization of the working class of all countries.

Facebook announces latest step in censorship campaign, prioritizing “local news”: here.

THE FACEBOOK SCANDAL DEEPENS “Disturbing undercover interviews with executives from U.K.-based political research firm Cambridge Analytica have revealed admissions of bribery, entrapment and the use of sex workers to sway political elections around the world, according to an investigative series airing Monday.” U.K. authorities have taken over the investigation into Cambridge Analytica. The blowback is “pummeling” Facebook’s stock. Facebook’s data security chief is also leaving over a dispute on the handling of “Russian ploys.” And turns out it’s harder to delete your Facebook account than you’d think. [HuffPost] [Tweet | Share on Facebook]

Buffaloes save baby elephant from lions

This video from Kruger National Park in South Africa says about itself:

Buffaloes Rescue Baby Elephant from Lions

This is the brave moment a herd of buffaloes runs in to save a helpless elephant calf that is being defeated by a pride of hungry lions!

Hospitality expert Jill Mathews captured the unpredictable turn of events in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, on the 23rd January 2018.

Jill, 63, told LatestSightings.com the full story: “Early on this Tuesday morning, we left Punda Maria camp and headed to the almost-dry Klopperfontein Dam. As soon as we arrived, we saw 2 large bull elephants protecting a small baby elephant. There were also buffalo, zebra & impala trying to find the last remains of moisture from the dam.”

“After a while, we unexpectedly noticed a pride of lions sitting on rocks above the dam. They were very well camouflaged in the shade of some trees. In the pride, there was one lioness alert and keeping watch. Nothing happened for a long time, so we decided to leave the sighting and return later. Usually, when lions hide by a waterhole, their plan is to hunt whatever comes to drink, so we felt sure a kill was being planned.”

“At 17:15 we arrived back at the waterhole, to find the lions still where we left them earlier. We felt a sense of anticipation, knowing that the lions were strategically positioned for an attack on anything that walks too close. But we also felt a bit confused that the animals down at the water already weren’t of interest to the lions. Finally, we were in shock and disbelief as a baby elephant emerged alone & unprotected, from bush to bush. The pride of lions ambushed the baby and pounced!”

“Watching all of this happen, our hearts were pumping! The baby elephant was helpless and we were sitting and wondering where the mother was to come and help the poor baby.

From the waterhole, a group of buffaloes heard the commotion and decided to come and investigate. Buffaloes and lions are eternal enemies in the wild, so when they saw the lions, they weren’t happy. The buffaloes decided they wanted the lions out of there and proceeded to chase them away.”

“One by one, all the lions escaped and the little elephant got up and ran for his life. He ran towards the two bull elephants that were near the dam. The two bull elephants didn’t protect the scared baby elephant, the lions noticed this and closed in & attacked again. This time it was unfortunately behind a bush, out of our sight.”

“The bull elephants released a feeling of deep, raw and heartfelt emotions of loss as they noticed what was happening. My husband and I felt similar heartfelt emotions as the sole witnesses of this sighting.”

“The sighting ended with the large pride of 15-18 lions seizing the baby elephant. We presume that they finally succeeded in killing it…”

“This was extremely rare! We even think it is unrepeatable and was most definitely once in our lifetime!

Leaving this sighting, we would like to give others advice: At any sighting, read the signs that the behavior of the animal portrays and anticipate what is going to happen and be ready to video the entire scene, emotional as it may be. I regret not capturing it all as it was fast-moving and partially obscured by bushes.”

“Lastly, we would like to open a discussion and hear from others regarding answers to the questions of elephant behaviour surrounding this event: Why would this baby have been abandoned? Could it be that the mother was killed by poachers?

Did anyone else hear about /see the sequel to this the following day, as we had to leave and couldn’t return?”