Saudi-US-UK-French war crimes in Yemen, Amnesty says


The aftermath of a bombing raid by the Saudi regime on Yemen. Amnesty International say Saudi weapons that killed civilians were supplied by the US, UK and France

From daily News Line in Britain:

US, UK & France ‘complicit in possible Saudi war crimes’ – Amnesty

27th September 2019

A NEW report by Amnesty International reveals that precision-guided bombs made by the United States have been used in Saudi-led deadly airstrikes against civilians in Yemen, saying that the US, the UK and France, which provide arms to the Riyadh regime, are complicit in ‘serious violations of international law, including possible war crimes’ committed by the kingdom during the war.

In a just-released report, the UK-based rights group said that the ordnance, manufactured by US company Raytheon, were used in a June airstrike on Yemen’s south western province of Ta’izz that killed six people, including three children.

‘It is unfathomable and unconscionable that the USA continues to feed the conveyor belt of arms flowing into Yemen’s devastating conflict,’ said Rasha Mohamed, Amnesty’s Yemen researcher.

The Amnesty International report reveals that precision-guided bombs made by the United States have been used in Saudi-led deadly airstrikes against civilians in Yemen, saying that the US, the UK and France, which provide arms to the Riyadh regime, are complicit with the violations of international law and possible war crimes committed by the kingdom during the war.

The UK-based rights group said that the ordnance, manufactured by US company Raytheon, were used in a June airstrike on Yemen’s province of Ta’izz that killed civilians.

The rights group analysed photographs of the remnants of the weapon dug out from the site of the strike by family members, concluding that the bomb that hit a residential building was a US-made 500 pound (230kg) GBU-12 Paveway II.

Mohamed lashed out at the US, the UK and France for supplying arms to the Saudi-led coalition, holding them accountable for ‘human rights violations’ and ‘possible war crimes’ in Yemen.

A United Nations panel of experts has uncovered parts of British-made weapons at the site of a Saudi-led strike in the Yemeni capital.

‘Despite the slew of evidence that the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition has time and again committed serious violations of international law, including possible war crimes, the USA and other arms-supplying countries such as the UK and France remain unmoved by the pain and chaos their arms are wreaking on the civilian population,’ Mohamed said.

‘Intentionally directing attacks against civilians or civilian objects, disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks that kill or injure civilians are war crimes,’ she added.

She said that the Western trio ‘share responsibility for these violations,’ by ‘knowingly’ supplying arms to the Saudi-led coalition.

‘Arms-supplying states cannot bury their heads in the sand and pretend they do not know of the risks associated with arms transfers to parties to this conflict who have been systematically violating international humanitarian law,’ she said.

Saving pine savannas in South Carolina, USA


This August 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Southeast Pine Savanna Restoration and Management for Northern Bobwhites

Technical video providing an in-depth explanation of managing southern yellow pine timber for grassland bird habitat.

From the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the USA:

Scientists connected fragments of pine savanna and new species keep showing up

September 26, 2019

Summary: By connecting small, restored patches of savanna to one another via habitat corridors at an experimental landscape within the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, a nearly 20-year-long study has shown an annual increase in the number of plant species within fragments over time, and a drop in the number of species disappearing from them entirely.

Before Europeans arrived in America, longleaf pine savannas sprawled across 90 million acres from present-day Florida to Texas and Virginia. Today, thanks to human impacts, less than 3 percent of that acreage remains and what’s left exists in fragmented patches largely isolated from one another.

Yet, hundreds of plant and animals species rely on these savannas, from understory grasses and the gopher tortoise, to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

Habitat fragmentation is a major threat to biodiversity — not just in longleaf pine savannas, but in habitats across the planet. A new study published this week [Sept. 27, 2019] in Science demonstrates a hopeful new strategy in efforts to conserve plant and animal species confronting fragmented and shrinking habitats globally.

By connecting small, restored patches of savanna to one another via habitat corridors at an experimental landscape within the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, the nearly 20-year-long study has shown an annual increase in the number of plant species within fragments over time, and a drop in the number of species disappearing from them entirely.

“We know that habitat fragmentation and loss is the number one driver of species extinctions in the U.S. and across the globe,” says study lead author, Ellen Damschen, professor of integrative biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “We need conservation solutions that can protect existing species and restore lost habitat.”

She and co-author John Orrock, also a professor of integrative biology at UW-Madison, compare the findings to an unexpected realm: finance. The research team was surprised to find an annual increase of five percent in the number of new species arriving, or colonizing, corridor-connected longleaf pine fragments, and an annual drop of two percent in the number of species going extinct.

“Like compound interest in a bank, the number of species increases at a constant rate each year, resulting in a much larger bottom line over time in habitats that are connected by a corridor than those that are not,” Damschen says.

Over the 18-year study period, that equated to an average of 24 additional species in each connected fragment relative to the study’s control fragments, which were not connected by corridors. Each fragment is about the size of two football fields, and the corridors that connect them span roughly 500-by-80 feet each.

“Like any good, long-term investment, it builds over time,” Orrock says. Neither he nor Damschen, nor the research team, expected to discover an annual rate of increase with no signs of slowing.

The long-term conservation and restoration study, which is still ongoing, is rare in the ecological world, in part because the study controls for the area and the connectedness of fragmented habitats. Most studies have examined habitat size alone.

“From a biodiversity standpoint, we know habitat area is important,” says Damschen. “But we also need to be thinking about the network of remaining habitat and how to reconnect small parcels.”

Because, Orrock adds, “it’s not always possible to make more habitat, so connecting existing habitat is another tool in the conservation toolbox.”

The study is also unique in its longevity, which has been possible thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Long Term Research in Environmental Biology program. Most ecological studies span just one-to-five years, or the lifecycle of a typical research grant, but the findings show that meaningful results take time to accumulate.

“The power of this long-term study is that small differences in species accumulation rates have a big impact over the long term,” said Betsy von Holle, program director at the NSF. “This has major implications for restoration and conservation science.”

The study has also relied on collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service-Savannah River, under the authority of the Department of Energy-Savannah River Operations Office, where fragments and corridors are being restored to longleaf pine savanna. Longleaf pine habitat has contracted since colonial times, as trees were exploited for timber, tar and turpentine, and lost to urbanization.

“As land managers,” says Forest Manager DeVela Clark, of the U.S. Forest Service-Savannah River, “we incorporate these long-term studies into our daily work of savanna restoration. Ellen and the research team share our appreciation that research and restoration require a long-term perspective.”

There are now also efforts underway in Virginia, the northern edge of the species’ historic range, to restore longleaf pine savannas, led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Division of Natural Heritage. The UW-Madison-led study provides results that come at a key moment for conservation decisions.

“It’s a race against time when it comes to restoring plant biodiversity, especially in the face of accelerating climate change and landscape fragmentation,” says Brian van Eerden, director of TNC’s Virginia Pinelands Program. “We need the best available science from long-term, large-scale studies like this to inform how to connect and manage our conserved lands to ensure the native species have the best chances to survive and thrive.”

Habitat restoration is now a key priority across the globe. Earlier this year, the United Nations declared 2021 through 2030 the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, with the hope of eliminating excess, heat-trapping greenhouse gases; improving food security and freshwater supplies; and protecting critical human and animal habitats.

“Doing experiments on the consequences of habitat loss and fragmentation at realistic scales is incredibly difficult because when you look at a real landscape, so many things are happening simultaneously,” says Damschen. “You need a strong experiment that isolates those independent factors — such as size, connectedness, the proximity to a habitat edge — at a scale relevant for conservation, and over a meaningful timescale.

“We have had that opportunity for the past 20 years.”

Californian worm species with three sexes discovery


This April 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Mono Lake is a striking blue oasis in the eastern California surrounded by desert peaks, volcanoes, and the Sierra Nevada. Strange tufa tower formations and saline waters lie at the edge of mountain streams and snow-capped mountains. Millions of birds, trillions of brine shrimp, and countless alkali flies contribute to one of the most productive lake ecosystems on the planet.

In 1941, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power began the Mono Lake Storydiverting water from Mono Lake’s tributary streams, sending it 350 miles south to meet the growing water demands of Los Angeles. Deprived of its freshwater sources, the lake dropped 45 vertical feet. Its salinity doubled and the ecosystem approached collapse.

Researchers, students, bird freaks, and an engaged public took notice and formed the Mono Lake Committee. Sixteen Years later, this dedicated grassroots movement altered history by protecting Mono Lake, securing new water solutions for Los Angeles, and transforming water law in California. The Mono Lake Story is about changing values and balancing those values against difficult odds. It’s about how a small and dedicated group of individuals, trying to do the right thing, can grow into an effective coalition of organizations, agencies, and public support that triumph over fundamental environmental challenges.

The Mono Lake story is a rare environmental success that can inspire and inform the environmental challenges of our time.

From the California Institute of Technology in the USA:

Otherworldly worms with three sexes discovered in Mono Lake

Eight species of nematode discovered in the lake’s harsh conditions

September 26, 2019

Summary: The extreme environment of Mono Lake was thought to only house two species of animals — until now.

Caltech scientists have discovered a new species of worm thriving in the extreme environment of Mono Lake. This new species, temporarily dubbed Auanema sp., has three different sexes, can survive 500 times the lethal human dose of arsenic, and carries its young inside its body like a kangaroo.

Mono Lake, located in the Eastern Sierras of California, is three times as salty as the ocean and has an alkaline pH of 10. Before this study, only two other species (other than bacteria and algae) were known to live in the lake — brine shrimp and diving flies. In this new work, the team discovered eight more species, all belonging to a class of microscopic worms called nematodes, thriving in and around Mono Lake.

The work was done primarily in the laboratory of Paul Sternberg, Bren Professor of Biology. A paper describing the research appears online on September 26 in the journal Current Biology.

The Sternberg laboratory has had a long interest in nematodes, particularly Caenorhabditis elegans, which uses only 300 neurons to exhibit complex behaviors, such as sleeping, learning, smelling, and moving. That simplicity makes it a useful model organism with which to study fundamental neuroscience questions. Importantly, C. elegans can easily thrive in the laboratory under normal room temperatures and pressures.

As nematodes are considered the most abundant type of animal on the planet, former Sternberg lab graduate students Pei-Yin Shih (PhD ’19) and James Siho Lee (PhD ’19) thought they might find them in the harsh environment of Mono Lake. The eight species they found are diverse, ranging from benign microbe-grazers to parasites and predators. Importantly, all are resilient to the arsenic-laden conditions in the lake and are thus considered extremophiles — organisms that thrive in conditions unsuitable for most life forms.

When comparing the new Auanema species to sister species in the same genus, the researchers found that the similar species also demonstrated high arsenic resistance, even though they do not live in environments with high arsenic levels. In another surprising discovery, Auanema sp. itself was found to be able to thrive in the laboratory under normal, non-extreme conditions. Only a few known extremophiles in the world can be studied in a laboratory setting.

This suggests that nematodes may have a genetic predisposition for resiliency and flexibility in adapting to harsh and benign environments alike.

“Extremophiles can teach us so much about innovative strategies for dealing with stress,” says Shih. “Our study shows we still have much to learn about how these 1000-celled animals have mastered survival in extreme environments.”

The researchers plan to determine if there are particular biochemical and genetic factors that enable nematodes’ success and to sequence the genome of Auanema sp. to look for genes that may enable arsenic resistance. Arsenic-contaminated drinking water is a major global health concern; understanding how eukaryotes like nematodes deal with arsenic will help answer questions about how the toxin moves through and affects cells and bodies.

But beyond human health, studying extreme species like the nematodes of Mono Lake contributes to a bigger, global picture of the planet, says Lee.

“It’s tremendously important that we appreciate and develop a curiosity for biodiversity,” he adds, noting that the team had to receive special permits for their field work at the lake. “The next innovation for biotechnology could be out there in the wild. A new biodegradable sunscreen, for example, was discovered from extremophilic bacteria and algae. We have to protect and responsibly utilize wildlife.”

The paper is titled, “Newly Identified Nematodes from Mono Lake Exhibit Extreme Arsenic Resistance.” Shih and Lee are co-first authors on the study; Shih is now a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University and Lee is now a postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University. In addition to Shih, Lee, and Sternberg, other co-authors are Ryoji Shinya of Meiji University in Japan, Natsumi Kanzaki of the Kansai Research Center in Japan, Andre Pires da Silva of the University of Warwick in the UK, former Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow student Jean Marie Badroos now of UC Berkeley, and Elizabeth Goetz and Amir Sapir of the University of Haifa in Israel. Funding was provided by the Amgen Scholars Program, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Indigenous peoples’ music and biology


This 2016 video says about itself:

One of the best experiences in Bolivia is an Amazon jungle tour in Madidi National Park. There are not many places on earth where you’ll find such a large number and diversity of animals and plants.

With eco-tourism you support the local communities and your visit only has a limited impact on the rainforest. Which is why we stayed at the Madidi Jungle Ecolodge, a fantastic experience.

From the University of Helsinki in Finland:

Music is essential for the transmission of ethnobiological knowledge

September 26, 2019

Summary: Songs are a storehouse for ethnobiological knowledge and a means to construct, maintain and mobilize peoples’ relations with their local environments.

Music has been a long-standing focus of scientific inquiry. For instance, since the 1850s, the evolutionary function of music has been a subject of keen debate. More recently, ground-breaking work from multiple scientific disciplines is unveiling the universal power of music. It is central in supporting expressions of emotion that transcend cultural divides and it has the ability to foster communication with non-human life forms.

Scientific research shows that ethnobiological knowledge is transmitted through song, and how music has the power to express and enforce the intricate relationships among humans, other beings, and their ecosystems.

“For many Indigenous communities, the land and the songs associated with it are intimately connected. Music can trace Indigenous Peoples’ experiences and relationships to the lands in which they have historically lived,” says Dr. Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki.

Dr. Fernández-Llamazares has been co-editing a special issue in the Journal of Ethnobiology that celebrates the place of song in maintaining, sharing and enhancing ethnobiological knowledge. “This special issue is a heartfelt compilation of nine articles from different corners of the world and features rich accounts of Indigenous Peoples’ time-honoured music-making traditions, ranging from women’s totemic songs relating to wild seeds in Central Australia, improvisational singing traditions in north-eastern Siberia or the use of turtle shell rattles in the United States.”

Besides writing the Introduction to the special issue, Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares has also co-authored one of the papers, which looks at hunting songs from the Tsimane’ hunter-gatherers of Bolivian Amazonia. “Since 2012 I have been working among the Tsimane’ people in the depths of the Amazon rainforest and I have always been fascinated by the breadth and depth of their ancient songs. During these years, I have been able to compile much information on the social and ecological contexts in which songs are performed and transmitted,” he explains. “Our research shows that music is a timeless prism for looking at human-wildlife relations in all their complexities and magnificence.”

The special issue shows that music is an essential constituent of the diversity of life on Earth, which is genuinely enshrined in the concept of biocultural diversity. The idea of biocultural diversity emerges from the observation that biological and cultural diversity are deeply intertwined, possibly co-evolved and threatened by the same driving forces. “Just as the biosphere is being degraded, so too is the ethnosphere, most probably at a far greater rate,” adds Fernández-Llamazares.

The papers compiled highlight that many traditional music-making systems are being eroded primarily due to changes associated with globalization. “While traditional music is certainly under risk of attrition in many corners of the world, the extent to which traditional songs continue to be honoured and celebrated attests to their incredible resilience. We hope that we can help to support revitalization efforts for simultaneously safeguarding musical heritage, ethnobiological knowledge and biocultural diversity at large,” he reflects.

Dutch government deports Afghan refugee to war


This 2015 Associated Press video says about itself:

Report criticises US for failing to investigate Afghan civilian deaths

The US failed to properly investigate civilian killings, including possible war crimes, which occurred during its military operations in Afghanistan, the international rights group Amnesty International claimed on Monday.

A toughly-worded report by the group focused on 10 incidents between 2009 and 2013 that it said saw 140 civilians killed during US military operations.

Amnesty said the vast majority of family members it interviewed said they had never been interviewed by US military investigators.

Most of the incidents involved airstrikes and night raids carried out by US forces.

Both tactics have sparked heated criticism from Afghan civilians and the government who say the US doesn’t take enough care to prevent civilian deaths.

Two of the cases – one in Paktia province in 2010 and another in Wardak province from November 2012 to February 2013 – involved “abundant and compelling evidence of war crimes,” the report said.

Nicola Duckworth from Amnesty International told a news conference in Kabul that they needed to “ensure that justice and accountability were obtained with the victims now and they are not simply issues that are confined as a legacy of past.”

Qand Agha, a former detainee,claimed that US special forces had killed people in front of his very eyes.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

An Afghan asylum seeker who has worked as an interpreter for the United States army for thirteen years is in danger of being deported by the Netherlands to Afghanistan. Pro-refugee organisation Vluchtelingenwerk wants the man to stay here because he would be in great danger in Afghanistan; he is in the crosshairs of the Taliban and ISIS.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) acknowledges that the man worked as an interpreter for foreign troops in Afghanistan, but that is not enough to be allowed to stay in the Netherlands. “The IND asks for something more. You have to prove that you are being searched for specifically and that is of course very difficult,” says Jan van der Werff of Vluchtelingenwerk.

Secretive CIA-funded militia accused of war crimes in Afghanistan: here.

Dutch government jails teenager who lived in the Netherlands all his life for deportation: here.