This video says about itself:
Germany sends second batch of Afghan refugees to Kabul
24 January 2017
By Johannes Stern in Germany:
8 March 2018
The incoming grand coalition government is preparing a massive expansion of Bundeswehr (Armed Forces) operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. No sooner had the membership of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) voted for the continuation of the government alliance with the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) than the expansion plans were announced.
On Wednesday the caretaker government decided to increase the previous upper troop limit in Afghanistan by about one-third, and send up to 1,300 soldiers to the central Asian country in future. According to reports, the Bundestag (parliament) should agree to this by the end of March.
By Francis Dubois in France:
After Burkina Faso bombing, France pledges to step up war in Sahel
8 March 2018 …
GSIM [Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims] was created by a merger in March 2017 between several Islamist movements including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine and Al Mourabitoun, which were able to spread across the Sahel region after NATO backed Islamist militias in its 2011 war in Libya to topple Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. This war devastated the oil-rich country and divided it into zones dominated by rival warlords in shifting alliances with on various imperialist powers. Its consequences went on to destabilize the entire Sahel.
Libya now has become an internment zone for countless thousands of refugees who are locked up in European Union-sponsored camps in horrific conditions, tortured or even sold as slaves.
Macron’s reaction makes quite clear that Paris is preparing a new intensification of the war it has been waging across its former colonial empire with conditional assistance from Washington. This region, whose surface is as large as Europe’s, is rich in mineral and energy resources that Paris and the EU consider to be essential to the profits of European transnational corporations. This war policy led to street protests against Macron’s visit in Ouagadougou on November 27, the day before the Abidjan summit announced an intensification of France’s war in the region.
Like the other European powers, Paris sees the militarization of the Sahel was an important way to stop the flood of refugees who want to cross the Mediterranean. In January, the German parliament voted to increase from 350 to 1,000 the number of German soldiers deployed to the region, making Mali the largest foreign deployment of the German army.
This video says about itself:
A long-tailed spider (Ariamnes cylindrogaster, family Theridiidae) moving along a long horizontal non-sticky line between the branches. This species is known to be a spider-hunting spider (araneophagy). I’m not sure if this one was spinning its unique simplistic web to catch other spiders. Eventually, the spider stretched itself as if mimicking a green pine needle hanging in the air. Filmed in the morning (9:23 am – 9:28 am) of early October 2015 in Japan.
Hawaiian stick spiders re-evolve the same three guises every time they island hop
March 8, 2018
We don’t usually expect evolution to be predictable. But Hawaiian stick spiders of the Ariamnes genus have repeatedly evolved the same distinctive forms, known as ecomorphs, on different islands, researchers report on March 8 in the journal Current Biology. Ecomorphs — which look the same and live in the same kinds of habitats, but aren’t as closely related as they appear — are surprisingly rare, and the researchers hope that these newly described ones might help us understand what’s behind this strange evolutionary pattern.
The stick spiders live in the forests of the Hawaiian archipelago, over 2,000 feet above sea level, on the islands of Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, and Hawaii. Although they’re nocturnal arthropods that can’t see well, they’re still brightly and distinctly colored. “You’ve got this dark one that lives in rocks or in bark, a shiny and reflective gold one that lives under leaves, and this one that’s a matte white, completely white, that lives on lichen“, explains Rosemary Gillespie, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.
These different colorings allow the spiders to camouflage themselves against specific similarly colored surfaces in their respective habitats and avoid their major predator, birds called Hawaiian honeycreepers. But what’s remarkable is that as the spiders have moved from one island to the next during their evolutionary history, these same forms have evolved over and over again. This process produces new species that are more closely related to spiders of different forms on the same island than they are to lookalikes from other islands.
And it happens fast — at least in evolutionary time. A dark spider that hops from an old island to a new one can diversify into new species of dark, gold, and white spiders before gold and white spiders from the old island have time to reach the new one. “They arrive on an island, and boom! You get independent evolution to the same set of forms”, Gillespie says.
It’s also important that these forms are the same each time. “They don’t evolve to be orange or striped. There isn’t any additional diversification”, she says. This, she believes, suggests that the Ariamnes spiders have some sort of preprogrammed switch in their DNA that can be quickly turned on to allow them to evolve rapidly into these successful forms. But how that process might work is still unclear.
It hasn’t really been studied, because ecomorphs aren’t common. “Most radiations just don’t do this”, she says. Typical adaptive radiation, like with Darwin’s finches, usually produces a wide diversity of forms. And convergent evolution, where two different species independently evolve the same strategy for fulfilling a certain niche, doesn’t usually happen repeatedly. There are just a few good examples of this kind of fixed pattern of repeated evolution: the Ariamnes spiders, the Hawaiian branch of the Tetragnatha genus of long-jawed spiders, and the Anolis lizards of the Caribbean.
“Now we’re thinking about why it’s only in these kinds of organisms that you get this sort of rapid and repeated evolution,” Gillespie says. While it’s a question she’s still working on, the three lineages do all live in remote locations, have few predators, and rely on their coloring to camouflage them in a very particular habitat. They are also all free living in the vegetation: neither of the two spider groups builds a web, which means that they, like the lizards, are free to move about and find the kind of habitat they require for camouflage. She hopes that examining what these groups have in common will “provide insight into what elements of evolution are predictable, and under which circumstances we expect evolution to be predictable and under which we do not.”
She also hopes that this research will help the world to understand how much Hawaii’s vulnerable forests still have to offer. “Often, I hear people saying, ‘Oh, Hawaii’s so well studied. What else is there to look at?’ But there are all these unknown radiations that are just sitting there, all these weird and wonderful organisms. We need everyone to understand what’s there and how extraordinary it is. And then we need to see what we can do to protect and conserve what still waits to be described.”
By Andre Damon in the USA:
Google admits collaboration with illegal US drone murder program
8 March 2018
In another milestone in the growing integration between the military-intelligence complex and Silicon Valley, Google’s parent company Alphabet has confirmed that it has prosoftware to identify targets used in the illegal US vided government drone murder program.
Since initiating its drone assassination program in 2009, the United States claims to have killed close to 3,000 “combatants” in drone strikes. Internal military documents show that for every one person targeted by a drone strike, nine bystanders are killed, meaning that the true toll of the US military’s airborne terrorism campaign in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq potentially rises to the tens of thousands.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “A program of targeted killing far from any battlefield, without charge or trial, violates the constitutional guarantee of due process. It also violates international law, under which lethal force may be used outside armed conflict zones only as a last resort.”
Google’s complicity with the drone murder program implicates the company in the criminal activities of the US military, sparking outrage among employees after executives admitted the collaboration in an internal memo last week, according to a report by Gizmodo.
Sensitive to both the potential legal ramifications of its actions and to the hostility to America’s criminal wars both inside and outside the company, Google stressed in a statement that its collaboration “is for non-offensive uses only”, saying “the technology flags images for human review.”
But this absurd and unserious pretense, aimed to provide talking points to an uncritical, state-controlled media, is the equivalent of a Mafia getaway driver claiming he is not an accomplice to murder because he did not pull the trigger.
The US government has claimed the right to use drones to assassinate American citizens anywhere in the world, including within the borders of the United States. In 2011, the Obama administration assassinated Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, with a Predator drone strike in Yemen, then murdered his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, in another drone strike two weeks later.
Google’s partnership in such nefarious operations threatens it not only with legal sanction around the world, but also with serious commercial repercussions. The company’s decision to proceed despite these dangers points to the increasingly vital role of military contracts in the business operations of the major technology giants.
The Defense Department spent at least $7.4 billion on artificial intelligence programs last year, and is expected to spend even more this year, with much of that amount flowing to corporations like Alphabet (Google), Amazon, and Nvidia, whose artificial intelligence capacities reportedly outstrip those of in-house Pentagon programs.
Over the past year, Google, Facebook and Twitter have all announced measures to censor the information their services present to users, promoting “authoritative” and “trusted” news outlets over “alternative” viewpoints, which include news outlets that expose and denounce US war crimes. Facebook, which of all the technology companies has been the most unabashed in its determination to censor its platform, has explicitly said it expects user engagement to drop as a result of its demotion of “viral” videos and promotion of “trusted” news sources, such as the New York Times.
As these companies expect some drop-off in consumer demand as they impose increasingly restrictive censorship measures, lucrative defense contracts are a means to pad their bottom line and align their financial interests ever more closely with the war-making and repressive operations of the American state.
The technology giants have moved to impose censorship measures at the same time that the Pentagon has concluded that it has found itself in an “AI arms race,” as the Wall Street Journal put it this month. Facing the rapid economic rise of substantial military powers, such as Russia and China, who are able to develop and implement new technologies without the massive logistical burden of the countless wars, overseas deployments, and destabilization operations engaged in by the United States. US military planners have come to the conclusion that the only way to retain the American military advantage in future conflicts is to integrate Silicon Valley into the warfighting machine.
The Pentagon has devised the so-called “Third offset” strategy to defeat the “pacing threat” from China by focusing on “autonomous learning systems, human-machine collaborative decision-making, assisted human operations, advanced manned-unmanned systems operations,” and “networked autonomous weapons” as the Economist recently put it in the cover story of an issue titled “The next war.”
This strategy revolves around the recruitment of the US private technology sector, which remains the most developed in the world. As the Economist put it, the United States “continues to dominate commercial AI funding and has more firms working in the field than any other country.”
Speaking at a conference last year, Marine Corps Col. Drew Cukor, the head of the so-called “Project Maven” in which Google is a key collaborator, declared the US in the midst of an “AI arms race,” adding, “Many of you will have noted that Eric Schmidt is calling Google an AI company now, not a data company.”
He added, “There is no ‘black box’ that delivers the AI system the government needs… Key elements have to be put together … and the only way to do that is with commercial partners alongside us.”
In order to streamline the reciprocal exchange between the technology giants’ vast computational power, artificial intelligence capabilities, and massive database of sensitive user data and the US military’s virtually limitless budget, the Pentagon has set up a series of partnerships with Silicon Valley. In 2015, the Pentagon set up a private-public funding vehicle known as the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), headquartered just minutes from Google’s main campus in Mountain View, California.
In 2016, the Pentagon set up an entity called the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, aiming to “bring the technological innovation and best practice of Silicon Valley to the US Military,” chaired by none other than former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.
Last fall, Schmidt complained about the reluctance of those working in the technology sector to collaborate with the Pentagon, bemoaning the fact, “There’s a general concern in the tech community of somehow the military-industrial complex using their stuff to kill people incorrectly.”
But beyond leveraging the tech giants’ artificial intelligence capabilities for guiding missiles and selecting victims, the open secret of the Pentagon’s collaboration with Silicon Valley is that, behind the scenes, vast quantities of sensitive, personal user data is likely being funneled to the Pentagon and intelligence agencies for the purposes of surveillance and targeting.
As Lt. Gen. John Shanahan, who is closely involved in Project Maven put it at a conference last year, “On the far end of the scale, you see Google. They don’t tell us what they have, unless anyone from Google wants to whisper in my ear later.”
The integration of companies like Google into what had previously been known as the military-intelligence apparatus is creating a vast system of state repression previously unknown in human history. Preparing for great-power conflict requires, as the Pentagon’s recently-released National Defense Strategy puts it, “the seamless integration of multiple elements of national power—diplomacy, information, economics, finance, intelligence, law enforcement, and military.”
Censorship and surveillance are the linchpin of this emerging military-technology-intelligence nexus. As the United States prepares to wage “hot” wars against “peer” militaries such as Russia and China, the growth of domestic anti-war sentiment will be combatted through the use of mass censorship, aided by artificial intelligence, with political profiling on the basis of social media communications.
Google’s alliance with the military: The ruling class responds to social unrest in America: here.
Google employees are not happy about the company’s work on AI for the Pentagon.
MEET A MAN FORCED TO SPEND $100,000 TO REMOVE A LIE FROM GOOGLE “There’s no humanity or kindness in Google. It’s not about anyone else. It’s all about Google.” [NPR]
This video says about itself:
7 February 2018
New experiments show that dominant male Long-billed Hermits have better spatial memories and sing more consistent songs than less successful males, according to research published in the journal Scientific Reports.
From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA today:
It’s Brains Over Brawn for Male Long-billed Hermits Seeking Mates
In the glitzy world of hummingbirds, one species seems to profit more from mental prowess than physical flamboyance. For male Long-billed Hermits in Costa Rica, having a good spatial memory is a key factor in winning prime display spots. See the full story here.
This video from the USA says about itself:
Barred Owls are opportunistic predators with a diet ranging from rabbits to reptiles. From time to time, the male will even deliver fish and invertebrates (like this crayfish) to his partner in the nest!
Watch live at http://allaboutbirds.org/barredowls
Jim Carpenter, President and CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited, has hosted a camera-equipped owl box in his wooded backyard since 1999. Set more than 30 feet high against the trunk of a pignut hickory tree, this Barred Owl box was first occupied in 2006. Since then, the box has hosted several nests, including successful attempts since 2013.
The camera system was updated in 2013 with an Axis P3364-LVE security camera and microphone mounted to the side of the box and connected to Jim’s house via 200 feet of ethernet cable.
To keep predators like raccoons from investigating the nest, aluminum flashing was wrapped around the tree. An infrared illuminator in the box means you can keep track of the owls’ comings and goings throughout the night (don’t worry—the light is invisible to the owls).
Since the birds aren’t banded, we can’t tell whether this is the same pair as in past years. Although male and female Barred Owls look alike in their plumage, females can be up to a third bigger than males. You can also tell the difference between them by watching their behavior; only the female incubates the eggs and chicks, but the male is responsible for the bulk of the feeding, ferrying prey items to the incubating female, and sharing them with her inside and outside of the box.
Learn more about Barred Owls in our AllAboutBirds Species Guide here.