Fewer or no posts on this blog


Blogging, cartoon

For the next few days, there will be fewer or no posts on this blog.

Don’t despair, I hope to be back soon with stories from a beautiful area!

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Giant catfish babies in Asia


This 6 September 2018 video says about itself:

Searching for Giant Catfish Babies on the Mekong | Nat Geo Wild

Follow National Geographic Explorer and fish biologist Zeb Hogan as he surveys the Mekong for tiny fish babies.

Belgian far-right prepares civil war


This Belgian TV tweet says (translated):

Our TV program shows the two faces of the conservative “Schild & Vrienden“: a right-wing movement with a secret division full of racism, sexism and weapons.

‘Scilt ende Vrient’ (medieval spelling) is a slogan, a battle cry, from medieval Flanders. A watchword: people who did not know it, or, being French people or other foreigners, could not pronounce it properly, were considered to be enemies and were killed.

Dutch daily De Volkskrant writes about Schild & Vrienden today (translated):

In those closed [Schild & Vrienden Facebook] groups no message is rude enough. There is open emulation of Nazism, and extremely sexist and racist jokes are made. There is a picture of a black boy, with the text: ‘This is Mumba, an eight-year-old negro boy. It takes him three hours every day to come to school. With your support of 5 euros we will buy a whip and we will make sure that this lazy nigger pest will be at school within fifteen minutes.’…

And there is a picture of a man chasing a black child on his bike with an automatic weapon in his hand. ‘When you are barbecuing and your charcoal is running away’, says the caption.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

In Belgium, from left to right, people reacted shockedly to a TV report about the ultra-right youth movement Schild & Vrienden. The public prosecutor’s office of East Flanders is conducting an investigation to see whether criminal offenses have been committed.

In the Pano program of the Flemish public broadcaster a picture was sketched of the movement around 25-year-old Dries Van Langenhove. Schild & Vrienden is a paramilitary movement of about 190 core members, which preaches physical and armed preparation for a coming civil war. The leadership encourages the members to get strategic and socially important positions.

The movement has a total of about 900 members, who exchange information in a closed Facebook group. The Facebook page has 14,000 followers. In the closed chat sessions radical, racist and violent statements are exchanged, according to the report.

Schild&Vrienden fuehrer Dries Van Langenhove with gun

“Worrying, disgusting”

Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois of the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) says that he is deeply shocked by the racist and anti-Semitic statements, which he calls disgusting and contrary to the foundations of society.

The right-wing N-VA party is in the Belgian coalition government. They are at least somewhat xenophobic. According to the Volkskrant report, the controversial anti-refugee N-VA immigration minister Theo Francken had Schild&Vrienden members as bodyguards. For the coming local elections in Belgium, at least three Schild&Vrienden members were N-VA candidates. After the bad publicity, they have been sacked or have resigned.

Schild&Vrienden fuehrer Van Langenhove recently was a speaker at a meeting of the Dutch far-right FvD party. Van Langenhove recently spoke to right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban; after Schild&Vrienden firearms practice in Romania.

Party leader Chris Beke of the Christian Democrats warns that this should not be underestimated and that it should not be laughed about. “This is really worrying, not my Flanders”, he says. Minister of Justice Koen Geens says that these people are entitled to free speech, but that it threatens to turn into xenophobia and racism.

Van Langenhove himself is a student representative at the University of Ghent, and four members of his movement have been elected to the Flemish Youth Council. Liberal party chairwoman Gwendolyne Rutten says “that fascism threatens to penetrate into the heart of the university and the Youth Council”.

Prehistoric parasitic wasps discovered


This 6 September 2018 video says about itself:

New Species of Parasitic Wasps Found in Fossil Flies | National Geographic

When scientists scanned 35 million-year-old fly pupae, they discovered a hidden intruder—fossilized parasitic wasps.

Out of 1,510 ancient fly pupae that were discovered at a site in France, 55 housed the parasitic invaders. Several species of parasitic wasp injected their eggs into the pupae as the maggots transformed into flies. The wasps hatched inside the fly pupae and ate the young flies. Scientists identified four new wasp species among the cache of fossils.

Read more here.

Facebook outsources Internet censorship to unskilled underpaid Filipinos


This 16 April 2018 video is the trailer of the film The Cleaners, by Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck.

This 26 May 2018 video from Germany says about itself:

In this documentary preview, filmmakers Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck will present their film THE CLEANERS – Die Digitale Müllabfuhr. THE CLEANERS is a journey into the underground industries of Manila, right at the centre of digital censorship – where the Internet must be “cleansed” of controversial contents. Who controls what we see and what we think?

Translated from an interview with film maker Hans Block in Dutch TV guide VARA Gids, 8-14 September 2018, pp. 18-19:

[The social media corporations don’t talk about who does the censorship work. About how difficult it was for the film makers to talk to the unskilled underpaid Filipino censorship workers:] They are scared, they have signed secrecy contracts. If they do talk, then they get big fines. At one company, even a prison term. …

I think the biggest scandal is the contrast between the influence of the ‘cleaners’ and their work situation. First, these are young people with limited possibilities. They are about 20, usually have never left Manila, they don’t have much education, usually don’t read papers every day, and have views sometimes very different from, eg, Europeans or Americans.

Interviewer: In the film, an ex-‘cleaner’ as an example judges a cartoon by Dutch cartoonist Ruben Oppenheimer. In the cartoon, Turkish President Erdogan penetrates the blue Twitter bird from behind [about Erdogan’s censorship of Twitter]. The cleaner follows the instructions which he got and judges: sexual act, bestiality, so: delete. How can you let a boy at the other side of the world judge about political satire about Turkey?

Hans Block: Exactly. Also, that is my second point: he has very little time for it. Within five or six seconds the cleaners have to decide whether to delete or ignore the content. Because only then they fulfill their production quota; sometimes 25,000 images in a ten-hour night shift. … We [rich countries] used to dump our analogous thrash in the Philippines, now our digital shit as well. …

Interviewer: In Berlin there is a Facebook ‘cleaning’ factory as well. Are circumstances there any better?

Hans Block: Not really. They get three to five days training before their work starts. … I think that Facebook uses that Berlin branch especially for show to the outside world, to show that everything is hunky dory. The bulk of the work, also of YouTube, Twitter and Google by the way, is in Manila.

This 5 May 2018 Canadian TV video says about itself:

‘The Cleaners’ Who Scrub Social Media

Social media platforms say they want to scrub fake news and inappropriate content off their platforms. Find out who’s doing some of the work of actually cleaning it up.

This 9 May 2018 video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Q&A about Facebook secrets with ‘The Cleaners’ director Hans Block

A fantastic, exciting and very topical film about how social media is destroying the world. Two young German filmmakers manage to gain access to one of the better guarded secrets of Facebook.

It is the beginning of a documentary as a thriller, which digs deeper and deeper into the back of the social media and shows how it distorts and affects our world. Directors Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck know how to gain access to the people who have the ungrateful task of determining what may or may not be posted on Facebook.

The whole world is scanned from an anonymous office building in the Philippines. Often without any knowledge of different cultures, history, politics or sex, the cleaners try to apply the protocols as well as possible. For the first time we gain insight into why certain images may or may not be seen. But also how the algorithms used push outrage.

Slowly it becomes clear how Facebook has become a kind of modern version of George Orwell’s 1984. Especially in countries where internet is synonymous with Facebook, the consequences are devastating.

Saving rare hornbills in Indonesia


This 4 September 2018 video says about itself:

Inside the Mission to Save the Rare Helmeted Hornbill From Poachers | National Geographic

What does it take to photograph the helmeted hornbill? Patience. National Geographic photographer Tim Laman teamed up with Rangkong Indonesia and spent months in the field just to get a glimpse of the extremely rare bird.

The helmeted hornbill is one of 57 hornbill species in Africa and Asia. It’s found only in the lowland forests of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and southern Thailand.

The helmeted hornbill stands apart from the other hornbills because its casque—the horny helmet above its beak—is mostly solid with a thick layer of keratin. But that unique trait might also be the birds’ undoing. Softer than ivory and easily carved, hornbill casques are in high demand in Asia, to be fashioned into beads, pendants, and intricate works of art. Illegal poaching has caused this bird to be on the critically endangered list.

LGBTQ no longer illegal in India


Pride demonstrators in Bhopal, India

This AFP photo shows Pride demonstrators in Bhopal city in India.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The Indian Supreme Court has ruled in a historical judgment that sex between people of the same sex is no longer punishable. The verdict is a victory for the LGBT community in the country with nearly 1.3 billion inhabitants.

The supreme court judges scrapped a 157-year-old law that stems from the time of British colonial rule, the so-called section 377 law. In that law it was stated that there was a prison sentence for “unnatural offenses” of up to ten years. Sex between people of the same sex was considered such a violation.

Unanimously

In 2009, the 1861 law had already been deleted by the regional Supreme Court of Delhi, after which sex between people of the same sex was for the first time legal in India. That decision was reversed four years later by the national Supreme Court. It ruled that parliament had to decide whether to abolish or amend the law.

Parliament then returned the case to the judges to make a judgment. The current case was brought before the Supreme Court through a petition of five gay and lesbian people. Because of the law they had the fear that they could be harassed or persecuted by the police at any time. The five judges voted unanimously for the abolition of the law.

“Unconstitutional”

“Any sexual relationship with mutual consent between two adults – gay, straight or lesbian – can not be considered unconstitutional”, Indian chief judge Dipak Misra said when reading the verdict.

INDIA STRIKES DOWN GAY BAN India’s top court has struck down a colonial-era law that makes homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison. [AP]