Big London Grenfell commemoration


London Grenfell Tower disaster commemoration

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 16 June 2018 15,000-strong Grenfell anniversary march

15,000 workers and youth took part in an emotional silent march through west London on Thursday evening to mark the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower inferno that claimed 72 lives and injured many others.

The march was headed by young people with the banner Grenfell Youth Know the Truth! – Justice is Coming’ and there were large numbers of youth on the march. As well as Justice4Grenfell and Grenfell United banners, there were ones from Barnet Unison, Camden Unison and University College Hospital Unison, and Barnet Teachers Association.

There was an Islington Labour Party banner and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow home secretary Dianne Abbot joined the march. Wearing green sashes, they signed the Memorial Wall with the phrase, ‘We are all together’. London Mayor Sadiq Khan also joined the march.

One dramatic banner with an image of the flaming tower read ‘Real Criminals wear suits14-6-2017’.

As well as placards demanding Justice for Grenfell, there were home-made placards shaped as hearts and one with the slogan ‘Theresa May free bungee jump, no strings attached’.

The silent march passed a firefighters guard of honour at Ladbroke Grove and many stopped to shake hands with firefighters lining the road, and giving them big hugs.

News Line spoke to several of the participants as they gathered by the memorial wall before the march. Unison member Rodney Johnson, a support worker from Greenford, said: ‘I came to pay my respects to the dead and honour those who are grieving and are affected by it. ‘Also it’s my birthday today, so rather then spending the day celebrating me, I’d rather be spending the day celebrating those who come out to remember Grenfell.

‘It’s sad that it has happened. Somebody ought to be blamed but I don’t know the full facts of everything to say who it should be. ‘The way the community has come together, it shows whatever our backgrounds, we are human. ‘We all have the same desire to survive and live safely, be free.’

Personal trainer J.P. Smith, 24, said: ‘I grew up on Latimer Road. ‘A lot of my close friends and family lost relatives in the Grenfell Tower. ‘We’re all here pulling together to support one another. The government is not doing enough to support us. ‘That is why we are here fighting to make sure something is done.

‘The trade unions should be doing a lot more. They should be checking on the families. I agree they should call a general strike to bring this government down. ‘We need people in government that are going to do things for ordinary people.’

Safia Bendibaj from Camden, a customer service manager for a skin care company, said: ‘I’m here to support everyone that has been affected. ‘I lost a friend, Yasim El-Wahabi, and his family in Grenfell. So I’m here to honour his memory today. It was a tragedy that has affected the community as a whole.

‘It’s appalling that nobody has taken responsibility and that the victims have still not been rehoused – that is disgusting. ‘It reflects the lack of compassion this borough has for its residents. ‘The unions should take action to get this government out. Before that we need to hold the people responsible to account.

‘They should respect basic human rights and rehouse the victims. ‘Also, they have only just covered up the burnt-out tower because they knew there would be press coverage one year on. ‘The community has had to sit there and look at the burnt tower for a whole year, that is disgusting.’

Anne Elliot from Latimer Road was with her family: ‘We’re here to fight for justice. We lost a friend.’

Rigerta Ahmetaf from Meaningful Education said: ‘We’ve been providing mental health and emotional support for the victims for the past year. ‘I just feel it’s awful that a year on people are still not housed. ‘There needs to be more support and faster action to debrief the disruption and trauma caused to individuals.’

Former campaign coordination for Justice4Grenfell Sue Caro told News Line: ‘I see Grenfell as being emblematic of everything that’s wrong with the country and what the Tories have done.

‘The unions should take action, any decent human being should take action.’ Emma Bradley said: ‘I’m local and have come on the silent march to support the families and bereaved. ‘Someone has to be accountable for the work that was done that made it a death trap.

‘Hopefully, we’ll be able to move forward with lessons to be learned from this tragedy so it never happens again. ‘It should never have happened in the first place. The trade unions should take action to bring the Tories down. We want a government that people can trust. ‘The corporates have the power, the people need better representation from central government.’

Laura, a young mum from Latimer Road, said: ‘This should never have happened in the first place. It’s cost so many people’s lives; it’s devastating. I’m here for the people who lost their lives and to remember them. ‘People are angry because so many who lived in the tower are still in bed and breakfasts. ‘For the past year, I’ve seen the community do more than anybody else.’

Clare Finburgh, UCU member and lecturer at Goldsmith’s College, said: ‘I’m here to remember who lost their lives and a community who has been bereft. ‘There’s anger and shock at the injustice that is obviously perpetrated against the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. ‘Grenfell Tower is a product of lowering taxes to high earners and cutting spending on public services. You can see the criminality of that policy. I consider what happened to be social murder.’

School youth Shaqs Harrak, 15, added: ‘I’m here to pay my respects. I had close friends, family and friends who lived in the tower. They passed away. ‘I’m very upset and completely blame the government. The trade unions should strike and bring the government down. The workers and the community should run the country, not the rich.’

Battersea firefighter, FBU member Ricky Nuttal said: ‘Red Watch attended the Grenfell fire.

‘It means a lot to firefighters to be on the march today and getting the support from the local community. ‘It means a lot that we’re here to support them. It’s a very emotional day – it should be, after what’s happened.’

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Donald Trump’s unwelcome visit to Britain


This February 2017 video from Texas in the USA says about itself:

Anti-Trump protesters gather near The Galleria on Feb. 3 to protest Trump’s executive orders and immigration policies.

Video by The Signal reporter Edwin Vega.

By Chris Nineham in Britain:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Now it’s serious: Why taking on Trump matters

AFTER two false alarms, this time he is coming. We shouldn’t underestimate what an important political moment this is.

Donald Trump has been a disaster for the US people. He has slashed social security and Medicare, ramped up the military budget, cut taxes for the rich, hounded immigrants and re-energised the politics of white supremacy.

He is threatening abortion rights, tearing up environmental regulation and a whole spectrum of anti-discrimination policies. He is dragging the country backwards.

But Trump has had a terrible international impact too. He has pulled out of the Paris climate change agreement, the only one going.

He has escalated militarily in the Middle East and Afghanistan, ramped up Nato’s presence in eastern Europe, scrapped the Iran nuclear deal, provocatively declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and generally brought a crazed, confrontational approach to foreign policy that raises eyebrows even among neocons.

You know things are bad when a defence secretary widely known as “Mad Dog” Mattis is playing a restraining role in the White House.

Two things are particularly worrying about Trump’s foreign policy. One, it appears to be driven largely by domestic concerns to keep his hard right evangelical Christian constituency on board.

Second, in Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, Trump has now managed to pull together a foreign policy team that is as extreme as he is.

All this at a time when the US is facing challenges to its global dominance. With Trump at the helm the risk of big power war is greater than at any time for decades.

More generally, the presence of such an open racist and xenophobe in the White House has helped legitimate far-right ideas and movements around the world. Trump is a hero to the growing number of Islamophobic and fascist leaders and movements in Europe and beyond.

It is a badge of pride that Trump has pulled out of two previous visits to Britain. He has admitted this was because he feared being confronted by protesters.

Now that he is coming we need to deliver the biggest possible turnout. Large numbers on the streets of London will send a signal around the world that millions regard him and his policies with utter contempt and that it is possible to mobilise on a mass scale against him. If we stop Trump coming to London, that will be a victory in itself.

But there are other domestic reasons why the protests matter. Above all they give us a chance to turn up the heat on Theresa May’s government at a time when it is desperately weak and when the left feels too quiet.

May has backed Trump in most of his misadventures. She joined in the recent, pointless gesture-bombing of Syria and is aiding and abetting the US-backed Saudi war in Yemen. She is supporting his call for increased military spending in Nato.

At home, her government’s attitude to immigrants may not be promoted with Trumpian flourish, but it shares many essentials.

May and Trump have similar hellish visions of a low-wage, low-tax, privatised future too. On both counts May is deeply unpopular.

The anti-Trump demo is an opportunity for everyone who opposes austerity and racist immigration policies to take a stand.

Finally, a big anti-Trump turnout will be a great response to those trying to organise an anti-Muslim far-right in Britain. It is our chance to express solidarity with the Muslim communities in Britain and show that the majority reject the Islamophobic politics of hate.

Preparations for the protests are going well. The two biggest groups that organised against Trump last time he threatened to come are now collaborating as Together Against Trump.

This means there are a huge range of trade unions, campaigns, community groups, politicians and celebrities behind the call for a national demonstration assembling at the BBC at 2pm on Friday July 13 and other protests during his time in Britain.

New groups keep getting in touch wanting to organise feeder marches and blocs including a Stop Trump party, with some of the world’s biggest DJs, that is feeding into the march on Friday July 13.

Given the level of contempt for Trump and everything he stands for in Britain, we should be looking at very big and lively protests. That depends on what each of us does from now to get the word out.

We have just over a month. Let’s give Trump a reception he won’t forget and the world can’t ignore.

Chris Nineham is vice-chair of the Stop the War Coalition.

Birds of China, bye bye! 9 april


This video says about itself:

Birds filmed in China at Dongzhai National Nature Reserve and Baiyun Station, named Zhanglou. April/ May 2014.

After 8 April 2018 came our last day in China: 9 April.

Bye bye, all beautiful birds!

Our plane departed from Chengdu airport.

Argentina-Iceland 1-1, celebration with birds


This 2015 video is about birds in Iceland.

This 2015 video is called 1000 reasons to visit Argentina. Birding in Argentina.

To celebrate today’s World Cup football match Argentina-Iceland, these videos. One bird video for each country, as they both made one goal.

This video is called Argentina vs Iceland 1-1 All Goals & Highlights 16/06/2018.

This is a surprisingly good result for small country Iceland against Argentina, one of the favourites. The Icelandic goalie stopped a penalty by Argentine star player Lionel Messi.

The coach of Iceland is part-time coach, part dentist on the Vestmannaeyjar islands.

Vestmannaeyjar means ‘islands of the Irish people’. As the original inhabitants of the archipelago were ‘maroon‘ Irish runaway slaves.

British mammals in danger


This 2016 video is called A celebration of British mammals.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Friday, June 15, 2018

British mammals are in imminent danger

One in five of our nearly 60 species of British mammals are in danger of extinction

Just last month, in this column, I reported on the severe threat to one of our most attractive native mammals — the hedgehog.

Fifty years ago there were 32 million hedgehogs in Britain and about a million motor vehicles. Today we are down to nearly half a million hedgehogs but well over 32 million vehicles squashing hedgehogs on our streets.

This week’s headlines alert us to threats to mammal numbers but before we look at these let us remind ourselves of some basic mammalian numbers.

Never forget one of the commonest British mammals is us — human beings — we come in many colours, sizes and shapes but we are all the same species and there are probably some 65 million of us. Even Michael Gove is one.

An even more frightening fact might be that most numerous among wild mammals is the common or brown rat with an estimated population of 82 million-plus — four rats for every three humans.

The house mouse is the second most common mammal at 76 million. Other small rodents like the field vole (75 million), common shrew

not a rodent, but an eulipotyphlan, like hedgehogs

(75 million), wood mouse (41 million) make up more of the list before we reach rabbits (40 million) and moles (36 million).

The bank vole (30 million), pigmy shrew (10 million) and grey squirrel (7 million) finish off the top 10 British wild mammals.

A new report from the Mammal Society reveals the hedgehog is just one of a dozen wild mammals on a newly created Red List structure of threatened species.

Along with the hedgehog is the black rat, which may already be extinct except for some isolated colonies on remote Scottish islands and some large British ports including London and Liverpool.

The mouse eared bat, one of 18 species of flying mammals that make up almost a quarter of our mammalian species, is down to just one elderly male specimen.

The red squirrel, the wildcat and water vole are among other species all facing severe threats to their survival.

The Mammal Society and Natural England study say that almost one in five British mammals is at risk of extinction within 10 years.

Factors such as climate change, loss of habitat, use of pesticides and disease are to blame but the report was far more positive in its statistics on the otter, pine marten, polecat and badger, which have all seen their populations and geographical range expand.

Deer, as I have reported recently have record population levels.

This report is the first really comprehensive review of the population of our British mammals for 20 years. It examined more than 1.5m individual biological records of 58 species of terrestrial mammal. Marine mammals such as seals, whales and dolphins will need to wait for their own survey.

The highest international threat category is Critically Endangered. Three British species were given this status: the wildcat, the greater mouse-eared bat and the black rat.

The slightly less urgent Endangered List includes the red squirrel, the beaver, water vole and that single love-lorn mouse-eared bat.

The third threat category is Vulnerable. You will find the hedgehog, the hazel dormouse, Orkney vole, serotine bat and barbastelle bat on this list.

According to Professor Fiona Mathews, chair of the Mammal Society: “This is the first time anyone has looked across all wild species for about 20 years.

“We are living in a country that’s changing enormously — we’re building new homes, new roads, new railways, agriculture’s changing — so it’s really important we have up to date information so we can plan how we’re going to conserve British wildlife.

“This is happening on our own doorstep so it falls upon all of us to try and do what we can to ensure that our threatened species do not go the way of the lynx, wolf and bear and disappear from our shores forever.”

More positively some species reported increases in numbers. These included the otter, pine marten, polecat and badger along with red and roe deer.

Also said to be doing well are the greater and lesser horseshoe bat, and wild boar.

Carnivores, for example polecats and pine martens, seem to be bouncing back. That is because they’re not being persecuted and hunted by landowners, shoots and greedy gamekeepers in the way that they were so often in the past.

Other species like the grey long-eared bat or the dormouse need quite specialised habitat. As this is lost to agriculture or development such as new high speed railway routes population numbers plummet.

Even one of our commonest mammals, the rabbit — actually not a native species at all but brought here by the Romans for food — is declining due to deliberately introduced killer diseases.

We must ensure that our children grow up watching hedgehogs, rabbits and squirrels in our public parks and gardens.

We also need to make sure that there will be no weakening of the laws that protect our most precious nature sites and under-threat species after Brexit.

We need to make sure green spaces are really places where nature can flourish — and particularly mammal friendly.

We need rough countryside rather than well manicured parks, lawns and flowerbeds. We need to avoid our wild animals being squeezed into ever-more fragmented patches of natural habitat.

Join Frosty’s campaign for untidy nature. Mr Gove and his Environment Ministry need to be persuaded to find ways in which we can make sure that the biodiversity of British wildlife is made an important factor in planning decisions.

How spiders fly


This 1977 music video is called Flyin’ Spiderz – City Boy.

The Flyin’ Spiderz were a Dutch punk rock band.

However, there are also real flying spiders.

This 2015 video says about itself:

Flying Spiders: See Them in Action | National Geographic

Some say that flying is just falling with style. But for the Selenops spider it’s an important defense mechanism. Researchers recently discovered that this arachnid is able to flip itself over and steer quickly back to the safety of its home base when it needs to elude an approaching predator.

From PLOS:

Flying spiders sense meteorological conditions, use nanoscale fibers to float on the wind

The crab spider spins out tens of fine silk fibers for its aerial dispersal

June 14, 2018

Spiders take flight on the smallest of breezes by first sensing the wind, and then spinning out dozens of nanoscale fibers up to seven meters long, according to a study publishing June 14 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Moonsung Cho, Ingo Rechenberg, Peter Neubauer, and Christoph Fahrenson at the Technische Universität in Berlin. The study provides an unprecedentedly detailed look at the “ballooning” behavior that allows certain spiders to travel on the wind for hundreds of kilometers.

Many kinds of spiders engage in ballooning, either to disperse from their birth site, to search for food or mates, or to find new sites for colonization. While most ballooning spiders are juveniles or small adults, under 3 millimeters in length, some larger adults also balloon. Although the behavior has been studied before, these authors are the first to make detailed measurements of both the sensing behavior and the silk fibers that are used to catch the wind.

Through a combination of field observations and wind tunnel experiments, they found that large crab spiders (Xysticus species), about 5 mm long and weighing up to 25 milligrams, actively evaluated wind conditions by repeatedly raising one or both front legs and orienting to the wind direction. At wind speeds under 3.0 m/sec (7 mph), with relatively light updrafts, the spiders spun out multiple ballooning silks averaging 3 meters long, before releasing themselves from a separate silk line anchoring them to the blade of grass from which they launched. A single spider released up to 60 fibers, most of them as thin as 200 nanometers. These fibers differed from a drag line, which has been known as a ballooning line, and were produced by a separate silk gland.

This video says about itself:

3 April 2018

An Observational Study of Ballooning in Large Spiders: Nanoscale Multi-Fibres Enable Large Spiders’ Soaring Flight

The PLOS article continues:

The authors concluded that ballooning spiders actively sense wind characteristics and launch only when the wind speed and updraft are within relatively narrow ranges, increasing the odds of a productive flight. According to the fluid dynamic calculations the authors performed using their wind tunnel data, the spider relies on updrafts that form in the light winds into which they launch, further ensuring a successful flight.

“The pre-flight behaviors we observed suggest that crab spiders are evaluating meteorological conditions before their takeoff,” Cho said. “Ballooning is likely not just a random launch into the wind, but one that occurs when conditions most favor a productive journey.”

The aerodynamic capabilities of spiders have intrigued scientists for hundreds of years. Scientists have attributed the flying behavior of these wingless arthropods to ‘ballooning’, where spiders can be carried thousands of miles by releasing trails of silk that propel them up and out on the wind. However, the fact that ballooning has been observed when there is no wind to speak of, when skies are overcast and even in rainy conditions, raises the question: how do spiders take off with low levels of aerodynamic drag? Here.