Common whitethroat singing in Sweden, video


This video is about a common whitethroat singing in Sweden.

Rupert Murdoch’s Times promotes Islamophobia


This 21 August 2013 video from the USA says about itself:

Rupert Murdoch Takes On Muslims

Rupert Murdoch provoked backlash on Twitter Monday after he tweeted a controversial message about Muslims. He backed Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, who had told the [Rupert Murdoch-owned] Times of London that multiculturalism has “had its day, and it’s time to move on.”

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Investigation called for over false stories about Muslims in the Times

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

EVIDENCE indicates that the Times newspaper has a potentially Islamophobic editorial process that led to a “litany of falsehoods” being published about Muslims, a media reform group has said.

The newspaper’s coverage of three “scandals” involving Muslims were found to have not happened as reported, according to an analysis by two journalists part of the Media Reform Coalition (MRC).

Andrew Norfolk, the newspaper’s chief investigative reporter, had “sacrificed basic journalistic standards” in order to get the stories published, the MRC report published today said.

Two journalists, Hacked Off co-founder Brian Cathcart and Press Gang editor Paddy French, found there was omission or minimisation of “facts that would have led readers to question central elements of what was being alleged” and using quotes out of context.

Mr Norfolk alleged in August 2017 that Tower Hamlets council placed a white, five-year-old Christian girl with Muslim foster carers who were alleged to have behaved like bullies and bigots, presenting this as a breach of the council’s duty to find appropriate placements.

Relevant and credible authorities agree that the claims against the carers were unfounded, the report says.

In July 2018, Mr Norfolk accused the now shut down human rights charity Just Yorkshire of publishing a report about Rotherham Labour MP Sarah Champion

author of an anti-Muslim article in another Murdoch publication, in the Sun

that was so critical that it provoked death threats against her. The Times has since admitted there was no evidence that the report led to threats.

In November 2018, Mr Norfolk accused Rotherham council of encouraging a British Pakistani rapist to request legal rights to visits to his son and to have a role in his upbringing.

All official bodies now agree that the council followed court rules that apply to local authorities requiring it to notify the father of care proceedings, but that it provided no encouragement for him to participate, the report says.

The report also accuses the Times of “resisting complaints and criticisms in defiance of the evidence” and failing to make meaningful corrections.

MRC chair Natalie French called for an independent investigation into the Times’s coverage so the public can know “how such a blatant lapse of professional standards occurred and what will be done to prevent it happening again.”

Dr Shazad Amin, CEO of the Muslim Engagement and Development organisation, said: “We need an urgent independent inquiry to ascertain whether this is part of a wider problem of systematic anti-Muslim bias at this paper and whether journalistic standards are being compromised in the pursuit of sensationalist and negative stories about Muslims.”

The Times has been contacted for comment.

USA: VIRGINIA GOP-ER SMEARS MUSLIM OPPONENT Democrat Qasim Rashid is running for the Virginia state Senate on issues like criminal justice, education funding and health care. But because he is also Muslim, his opponent, not surprisingly, is trying to tie him to “Islamic terrorism.” [HuffPost]

Donald Trump’s United States concentration camps


This 22 June 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won’t Apologize for Calling ICE Detention Centers Concentration Camps

REPRESENTATIVE ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, Democrat-New York, fired back on Thursday at House Republican Leader Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican-California, who had demanded that she apologize for her use of the term “concentration camps”.

Read the full story by Nicholas Ballasy for The Intercept.

By Eric London in the USA:

No to concentration camps in America!

26 June 2019

Along the US-Mexico border and in immigrant concentration camps within the United States, the Trump administration is committing crimes so depraved and sadistic that they have stained every branch of government, both parties and the entire political establishment with the mark of infamy. Hundreds of millions of people around the world are sickened by the rot at the core of American capitalism.

Recent reports of conditions at detention facilities housing thousands of immigrant children expose systematic dehumanization and violence against children who have been torn from the arms of their parents and relatives.

Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier, a pediatrician who visited concentration camps in Texas last week, told ABC News that the jails are akin to “torture facilities”, and that children are forced to endure “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water or adequate food.”

A group of attorneys visiting detention centers in Texas last week witnessed rooms full of children without toothbrushes, diapers, sleeping pads or adequate food or water. Many children are sick with influenza and left untreated.

Guards have forced older children to look after babies and denied the children the right to wash their hands or wash baby bottles. Children defecate near where they eat and are denied access to soap. Dr. Servier said the conditions are “tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease.”

One lawyer saw guards get furious at children and take away sleeping pads because they lost a lice comb. A recent lawsuit revealed that guards refer to immigrants as “tonks” because of the sound a heavy metal flashlight makes when guards beat immigrants on the head. Agents in South Texas are turning away donations of diapers, soap and toys made by concerned local residents. Six children have died in custody in recent months.

The latest individual victims of the government’s war on immigrants are Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, a 25-year-old father, and his daughter, Valeria, who was 23 months old when the two drowned in the Rio Grande as the girl’s mother, Tania Vanessa, watched in helpless horror from the shore.

Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramirez and Valeria, dead in the Rio Grande river [Credit: Julia Le Duc]

The family decided to cross the river after US authorities barred them from applying for asylum from their native El Salvador at the port of entry between Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Tamaulipas in Mexico.

The image of Óscar and Valeria’s lifeless bodies recalls a passage from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, when Eliza, a runaway slave followed by slave catchers, clasps her child to her body and leaps between pieces of floating ice to cross the Ohio River and to freedom:

With wild cries and desperate energy she leaped to another and still another cake; stumbling—leaping—slipping—springing upwards again! Her shoes are gone—her stockings cut from her feet—while blood marked every step…

Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold more copies than any novel in the 19th century, and the country was transformed by what it learned of the horrors of slavery. Opposition to the crimes committed to uphold that “peculiar institution” generated the social power that fueled the revolutionary overthrow of slavery through the military conquest of the slavocracy in the Civil War. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.”

The reports of deaths at the border and the brutalization of detained immigrant children have similarly shocked Americans, as they learn what is really happening in their country. Yesterday, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner John Sanders was unexpectedly forced to step down due to popular outrage over the reports. Nevertheless, CBP brazenly sent hundreds of children back to the most notorious facility in Clint, Texas yesterday.

Events themselves are revealing the complicity of the entire political and media establishment in paving the way for such crimes and exposing the bipartisan web of lies used to justify the assault on immigrants. NBC’s Chuck Todd joined forces with extreme reactionaries like Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney in claiming there are no “child concentration camps” in the US, only “resettlement centers” for “illegal unaccompanied minors”.

The New York Times and Washington Post have published editorials attacking Democrats for not handing over money to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and CBP quickly enough. On Monday, the Post specifically denounced some House Democrats for “using the hashtags #NotOneDollar and #CloseTheCamps” and for thinking the bill “will help advance the administration’s immigration and detention policies. Such thinking is irresponsible.”

The Democratic Party is collaborating with the Trump administration to fund the American Gestapo and facilitate the crackdown. More than anything else, the Democrats are terrified that growing popular opposition to the fascistic brutalization of immigrants will explode in the form of mass protests, strikes and school walkouts.

It is this fear of opposition from below that led Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to plead with Trump last weekend to postpone plans for mass military-style raids across 10 cities to round up thousands of immigrants. On Saturday, within hours of the planned sweep, Trump postponed the raids for two weeks and demanded that the Democrats pass legislation limiting the right to asylum and funding the anti-immigration machine. …

Pelosi and other Democrats claim the funding is necessary for “humanitarian” reasons, as if anyone believes that Trump and the American Gestapo have anything to do with humanitarianism or that their mistreatment of immigrants is due to lack of funds. By voting to hand Trump the $4.5 billion he requested, the Democrats have provided the Trump administration with the resources to arrest thousands more people. …

The increasingly violent character of the ruling class attack on immigrants is a warning to all workers. Trump is appealing to fascistic elements, especially within ICE and CBP, who are capable of greater acts of violence, including on a mass scale. With the acquiescence of the Democratic Party, Trump hopes to distract workers from the disastrous pro-corporate policies of his administration by using immigrant workers as a scapegoat for rising levels of social inequality and misery.

The urgent threat to the safety of immigrants requires the mobilization of the working class. The Socialist Equality Party calls for workers and students to organize protests, strikes and demonstrations in defense of immigrants and against the threat of dictatorship.

The SEP calls for the formation of defense committees in working-class neighborhoods, at schools and at workplaces to safeguard immigrants and mobilize the working class against the bipartisan assault on democratic rights. The worst crimes of the 20th century must never be allowed to take place again. History will judge those who fail to act.

About 40 soldiers invaded the campus of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) firing live ammunition and tear gas into a crowd of hundreds of student protesters, leaving 20 injured. The five wounded by bullets are in “stable” condition, according to hospital authorities. The operation follows the killing of four demonstrators and maiming of dozens with gunfire last week. Videos have shown armed squads snatching protesters, and the body of a young doctor was found after he participated in protests earlier this month: here.

TRUMP’S HORRIFIC ASYLUM POLICIES BLASTED A coalition of American asylum officers urged a federal court to block the Trump administration from returning some migrants seeking refuge in the U.S. to Mexico, saying the policy was “contrary to the moral fabric of our Nation.” [HuffPost]

PARENTS OF DEAD GIRL ‘HOPED FOR BETTER LIFE’ The parents of a 6-year-old girl who died of heat stroke this month while trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border are speaking up about the “desperate” choice they made to seek asylum in America. [HuffPost]

US Border Patrol agents joke about immigrant deaths in secret Facebook group with 9,500 members: here.

Octopuses and their arms, new research


This 26 June 2019 video is called How do the arms of the giant Pacific octopus make decisions?

From the American Geophysical Union in the USA:

How octopus arms make decisions

June 25, 2019

Researchers studying the behavior and neuroscience of octopuses have long suspected that the animals’ arms may have minds of their own.

A new model being presented in Bellevue, Washington State, is the first attempt at a comprehensive representation of information flow between the octopus’s suckers, arms and brain, based on previous research in octopus neuroscience and behavior, and new video observations conducted in the lab.

The new research supports previous findings that octopus’ suckers can initiate action in response to information they acquire from their environment, coordinating with neighboring suckers along the arm. The arms then process sensory and motor information, and muster collective action in the peripheral nervous system, without waiting on commands from the brain.

The result is a bottom-up, or arm-up, decision mechanism rather than the brain-down mechanism typical of vertebrates, like humans, according to Dominic Sivitilli, a graduate student in behavioral neuroscience and astrobiology at the University of Washington in Seattle who will present the new research Wednesday at the 2019 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon 2019).

The researchers ultimately want to use their model to understand how decisions made locally in the arms fit into the context of complex behaviors like hunting, which also require direction from the brain.

“One of the big picture questions we have is just how a distributed nervous system would work, especially when it’s trying to do something complicated, like move through fluid and find food on a complex ocean floor. There are a lot of open questions about how these nodes in the nervous system are connected to each other,” said David Gire, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington and Sivitilli’s advisor for the project.

Long an inspiration for science-fictional, tentacled aliens from outer space, the octopus may be as alien an intelligence as we can meet on Earth, Sivitilli said. He believes understanding how the octopus perceives its world is as close as we can come to preparing to meet intelligent life beyond our planet.

“It’s an alternative model for intelligence,” Sivitilli said. “It gives us an understanding as to the diversity of cognition in the world, and perhaps the universe.”

The octopus exhibits many similar behaviors to vertebrates, like humans, but its nervous system architecture is fundamentally different, because it evolved after vertebrates and invertebrates parted evolutionary ways, more than 500 million years ago.

Vertebrates arranged their central nervous system in a cord up the backbone, leading to highly centralized processing in the brain. Cephalopods, like the octopus, evolved multiple concentrations of neurons called ganglia, arranged in a distributed network throughout the body. Some of these ganglia grew more dominant, evolving into a brain, but the underlying distributed architecture persists in the octopus’s arms, and throughout its body.

“The octopus’ arms have a neural ring that bypasses the brain, and so the arms can send information to each other without the brain being aware of it,” Sivitilli said. “So while the brain isn’t quite sure where the arms are in space, the arms know where each other are and this allows the arms to coordinate during actions like crawling locomotion.”

Of the octopus’ 500 million neurons, more than 350 million are in its eight arms. The arms need all that processing power to manage incoming sensory information, to move and to keep track of their position in space. Processing information in the arms allows the octopus to think and react faster, like parallel processors in computers.

Sivitilli works with the largest octopus in the world, the Giant Pacific octopus, as well as the smaller East Pacific red, or ruby, octopus. Both species are native to Puget Sound off Seattle’s coast and the Salish Sea, and have learning and problem-solving capabilities analogous to those studied in crows, parrots and primates.

To entertain the octopuses and study their movements, Sivitilli and his colleagues gave the octopuses interesting, new objects to investigate, like cinder blocks, textured rocks, Legos and elaborate mazes with food inside. His research group is looking for patterns that reveal how the octopus’ nervous system delegates among the arms as the animal approaches a task or reacts to new stimuli, looking for clues to which movements are directed by the brain and which are managed from the arms.

Sivitilli employed a camera and a computer program to observe the octopus as it explored objects in its tank and looked for food. The program quantifies movements of the arms, tracking how the arms work together in synchrony, suggesting direction from the brain, or asynchronously, suggesting independent decision-making in each appendage.

“You’re seeing a lot of little decisions being made by these distributed ganglia, just by watching the arm move, so one of the first things we’re doing is trying to break down what that movement actually looks like, from a computational perspective,” Gire said. “What we’re looking at, more than what’s been looked at in the past, is how sensory information is being integrated in this network while the animal is making complicated decisions.”

Saving South American river turtles


This 2015 video says about itself:

The giant South American river turtle is not as abundant as it once was in some areas, but conservation methods—including patrols of nesting beaches by armed guards—help Brazil maintain a healthy population. Here turtles interacting with one another underwater are observed, for what could be the first time.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Conservation efforts for giant South American river turtles have protected 147,000 females

The paper surveyed 85 conservation projects that protect the ‘charapa’ in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins

June 25, 2019

By analyzing records in countries of the Amazon and Orinoco basins — which include Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador — a paper published today in Oryx — The International Journal of Conservation, categorized 85 past and present initiatives or projects that work to preserve the South American River Turtle, or charapa (Podocnemis expansa), a critically endangered species. These projects are protecting more than 147,000 female turtles across the basin, an unprecedented figure.

The paper “On the future of the giant South American river turtle, Podocnemis expansa” was drafted by 29 Latin American researchers and scientists, including WCS’s German Forero Medina, Camila R. Ferrara, and Camila K. Fagundes, Ruben Cueva, and Brian D. Horne. The collaboration stems from a 2014 workshop held in Balbina, Brazil in which park rangers, indigenous people, and conservationists from the six countries provided information on their work to protect the charapa. The efforts discussed in that continental meeting and subsequent study reveal the serious commitment of public and private entities to conserve the species.

The charapa is considered the largest river turtle in South America. It inhabits the tributaries of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins, and is an important cultural symbol for many communities in the region. It also has great ecological importance for ecosystems, as it helps transport fruits and seeds along the rivers and serves as prey for birds, catfish, foxes, jaguars, alligators, and water dogs. In the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of turtles spawned on beaches throughout the continent.

Despite their local importance and past abundance, turtle populations are still threatened by the hunting and collection of adults and juveniles, looting of nests, the illegal trafficking of hatchlings to be used as pets, and the use of inappropriate fishing gear which can harm or kill individuals. In addition, broader degradation of their habitat is contributing to their decline.

Germán Forero, Scientific Director with WCS Colombia and lead author, called for the creation of a protection network for the charapa — a regional monitoring program that would link technical information and lessons learned among all the projects in the six countries. He noted the importance of communities in this future network.

“The participation of local communities that live with the charapa is essential to protecting them,” said Forero. “They live side by side with the turtles and are interested in controlling or preventing the commercialization of eggs or meat to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the species as a food source and important part of their culture.”

Camila Ferrara, co-author and researcher with WCS Brazil, added that the formation of this network would be extraordinary, because it would allow stakeholders to design and assess methodologies for management and conservation of the species, from its gestation and protection of nesting beaches to population monitoring.

In Brazil, the charapa is not considered critically endangered, but a near-threatened species. Ferrara explains that although Brazil is home to important populations of the species, the turtle is still the second most consumed vertebrate group in the Amazon, surpassing even some fish. Therefore, she believes that the network should focus their efforts on strengthening environmental education in Brazil to ensure the sustainability of the reptile’s consumption.

Ferrara said: “We are seeing positive results as work progresses, as communities are expressing greater interest in working with turtles. We have seen a decrease in the consumption of eggs, an important achievement that we must replicate throughout the continent.”

The paper highlights the importance of the monitoring conducted by the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), which provides the only way to assess the trends of populations over time and thus is valuable information for decision-making on the species.

In Colombia, initiatives are working to protect at least two large populations, one in the Caquetá River in the Amazon basin and another in the Meta River in the Orinoco basin. In both areas, local communities are committed to protecting the nesting females at beaches, and these programs are expected to receive continued support over time.

Going forward, the proposed network plans to develop a platform that can serve as an observatory of the species, tracking population trends across the basin over time to prioritize intervention sites and ensure the long term conservation of the species.

This paper reviews a diversity of initiatives that seek to recover these turtle populations. Rick Hudson, President of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), believes that interest in protecting the charapa in South America comes at an opportune moment, as there are still robust populations of river turtles to protect; this is not the case in Asia, where many of turtle species have gone extinct.

Hudson said: “The lesson is clear: protect the habitat and large nesting aggregations of river turtles now and avoid crisis management in the future. This paper makes a strong case for improving levels of protection while there is still time.”