Gouldian finches in Australia

This video says about itself:

The Most Colorful Finch – Did You Know Birding?

17 June 2018

Gouldian Finches are small birds that are very colorful. There used to be hundreds of thousands of these finches but today only roughly 2500 exist in the wild. Conservation efforts may help them though!


Trump’s war on children continues

This video from the USA says about itself:

From Separating Families to Jailing Asylum Seekers, Trump Admin Accused of Criminalizing Migration

5 July 2018

The Department of Health and Human Services still has not disclosed how many migrant children they are holding who have been separated from their parents at the border. Last week, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said 2,047 separated minors were still in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. But the department has refused to give updated numbers, even though the Trump administration is facing a July 10 court-imposed deadline to reunite all separated children under the age of 5 with their parents.

Meanwhile, CNN is reporting the Department of Homeland Security has been taking DNA samples of immigrant children. Immigration officials have reportedly been swabbing DNA from the cheeks of children as young as 2 months old, without consent, ostensibly in a bid to later reunite children with their parents. Rights groups have condemned the move, saying it could allow the federal government to track young immigrants for the rest of their lives. We speak with Linda Rivas, executive director and lead attorney of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, an organization working with asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

By Alec Andersen in the USA:

US war on immigrants continues

Trump using separated children to force “voluntary” deportations

5 July 2018

A new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) document released by NBC News Monday has exposed the cynical effort by the Trump administration to use a court-ordered “family reunification” process to force immigrant parents with separated children into signing a document agreeing to deportation back to their country of origin.

The new policy comes in response to a court order handed down last week compelling the Department of Homeland Security and its anti-immigrant apparatus to reunite the more than 2,300 children separated from their parents under Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy to detain and prosecute all people caught crossing into the United States without official documents.

The document, titled “Separated Parent’s Removal Form”, states that it is intended for “detained alien parents with administratively final orders of removal who are class members in the Ms. L. v. I.C.E. lawsuit”, referring to a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of separated parents in the US District Court for the Southern District of California.

Families attempting to have migrant children held by the federal government released into their custody face a major uphill battle. A report published by the New York Times on Sunday exposes not just the steep financial costs imposed on would-be sponsors, but also the labyrinthine bureaucratic system they are expected to negotiate before acquiring guardianship of the children: here.

Trump administration rescinds right of detained immigrants to in-person court appearances in New York City: here.

New wasp species discovery in Amazon

A new wasp species unknown to science differs from other parasitoid wasps due to its massive stinger. The new species named Clistopyga crassicaudata was discovered in the western Amazonia. Credit: Kari Kaunisto

From the University of Turku in Finland:

New wasp species with a giant stinger discovered in Amazonia

July 5, 2018

Researchers from the University of Turku, Finland have discovered a new wasp species in the Amazon which has an exceptionally large stinger that surprised even the scientists. The new insect, which is found in the extremely diverse transitional zone between the Andes and the Amazonian lowland rainforest, uses its stinger both for laying eggs and injecting venom.

Researchers from the Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku, Finland, have in the recent years found and described several new animal species from all over the world — especially from Amazonia. Many of these animals are unusual in their characteristics and habits. In their latest study, the scientists, in collaboration with colleagues from Colombia, Spain and Venezuela, discovered several wasp species unknown to science from the Amazon which were described and named in the latest issue of the journal Zootaxa.

“The stinger of the new parasitoid wasp called Clistopyga crassicaudata is not only long but also very wide, in comparison with the size of the species. I have studied tropical parasitoid wasps for a long time but I have never seen anything like it. The stinger looks like a fierce weapon”, says Professor in Biodiversity Research Ilari E. Sääksjärvi from the University of Turku.

The species was discovered among the insect specimens collected in the extremely diverse transitional zone between the Andes and the Amazonian lowland rainforest. The newly described wasp is different to other known species due to its enormous stinger.

“All female wasps, such as bees and hornets, have a stinger for injecting venom or laying eggs. The parasitoid wasps usually have a long ovipositor for laying eggs which is handy for reaching the host animals living inside a tree, for instance. With the ovipositor, the egg is placed either on or inside the host, and, as it also works as a stinger, the female wasp can inject venom into [the] host in order to paralyse it”, explains Professor Sääksjärvi.

The newly described parasitoid species belong to the rare Clistopyga genus that specialises in laying their eggs into spiders or spider egg-sacs. The wasps seek out spiders living in nests and paralyse them with a quick venom injection. Then the female wasp lays its eggs on the spider and the hatching larva eats the paralysed spider as well as the possible spider eggs or hatchlings.

“We do not know for sure which spider this wasp species prefers. A couple of years ago I described the elaborate and fascinating habits of the Clistopyga parasitoid wasp together with Doctoral Candidate Niclas Fritzén from the Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku. The insect we were studying at the time could use its stinger as an intricate felting needle and handily close the spider’s web nest trapping the paralysed inhabitant within. The giant stinger of the current species is very likely a highly sophisticated tool as well, but unfortunately we can only guess at its purpose,” says Professor Sääksjärvi.

The research group of the Biodiversity Unit is currently applying for funding for new field studies, the purpose of which is to look for more Clistopyga parasitoid wasps in the rainforests of western Amazon. The goal is to describe the habits of the peculiar wasp species and to decipher their evolutionary history.

“The new species unknown to science also help in conserving the endangered rainforests. Beautiful and exciting species with strange habits catch people’s attention and highlight the importance of maintaining vulnerable ecosystems”, says Professor Sääksjärvi.

Trump, and Trump blimp, in London

See also here.

The Trump Baby blimp, which hovered over protests in London during the president’s visit, is coming to America.

‘THIS DECISION MUST BE REVERSED NOW’ The U.S. Army has begun discharging immigrants who enlisted in the military with promises that their service would lead to U.S. citizenship, according to a report by The Associated Press. [HuffPost]

EX-FOX EXEC SHINE LANDS TRUMP COMMUNICATIONS GIG Bill Shine, the former Fox News co-president who was forced out of the job over his handling of sexual harassment claims at the network, has been named the White House deputy chief of staff for communications. [HuffPost]

MOCKING ME TOO Trump mocked the Me Too movement while ranting about Elizabeth Warren’s heritage during a Thursday night rally in Montana. [HuffPost]

The phenomenon of Trump effigies. KEITH FLETT writes on the traditions of political protests, groans, and dummies: here.

Basketball and peace in Korea

This 5 July 2018 video says about itself:

North And South Korea Court Peace With Basketball Diplomacy In Pyongyang | NBC News [USA]

Two teams drawing on a mix of players from North and South Korea met in an exhibition game in Pyongyang.

From daily The Morning Star in Korea:

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

North and South Korea prepare for joint basketball games

DOZENS of South Korean basketball players arrived in North Korea’s capital today for a series of games the two Koreas hope will foster a spirit of detente generated by the recent North-South summit meetings.

The 50 players arrived in Pyongyang on two military aircraft.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung Gyon headed the delegation, which included 20 government officials and support staff and dozens of South Korean reporters.

North Korea’s Deputy Sports Minister Won Kil U led the North’s welcoming party.

The South Korean male and female basketball players are expected to play four matches with North Koreans tomorrow and Thursday. It was not clear whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would attend any of the games, but he did make a prominent appearance at a concert put on by South Korean musicians in Pyongyang earlier this year.

The exchanges are the latest result of a diplomatic outreach to the South that Kim announced during his annual New Year’s speech. That led to the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February and two summits with South Korean President Moon Jae In.

Kim has also had three summits with China’s leader and met US President Donald Trump last month in Singapore.

Cho, the South Korean unification minister, said he felt “deeply moved” upon arrival because he could sense the change in relations in the past few months.

Basketball diplomacy has something of a history in North Korea.

Basketball made international headlines from Pyongyang when former NBA player Dennis Rodman arranged a game there in 2014 for Kim’s birthday.

South Korea’s Hyundai company built a basketball stadium in Pyongyang during the “Sunshine Period” of engagement between the North and South and a joint game was played there in 2003.

Two rounds of inter-Korean basketball games were held before that, in 1999.

TWO KOREAS BEGIN MOVING LAND MINES Troops from North Korea and South Korea began removing some land mines along their heavily fortified border, as part of a pact to reduce tension. [Reuters]

South Korea announced last weekend that the UN Security Council had finally granted an exemption from sanctions for its plans to work with North Korea on a joint survey as the first step towards reconnecting rail and road links between the two Koreas severed during the Korean War of 1950–53. While the US did not use its veto in the UN Security Council to block its ally, the Trump administration is increasingly dissatisfied with moves by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to foster closer relations with North Korea prior to a deal on its denuclearisation. Washington effectively delayed the planned survey in August, and again last month, by declaring that it could violate UN sanctions: here.