Killing migratory birds in olive groves stopped


This 10-hour video is about birds singing in an olive grove.

By Iván Ramírez, Senior Head of Conservation of BirdLife, 2 October 2020:

I am convinced that most of the rather complex and long-standing planetary problems of our age can be solved by looking onto our food plates. Let me explain why.

Europe produces a lot of olive oil, and when I say a lot I mean 70% of the world’s market. We use it to cook of course, but also in hand and body lotions, as a food preservative, and even fuel…to some extent, we could say that olive oil runs through our European veins. But olive oil is much more than a commodity, it is also inherently linked to our culture, to our landscapes and to our way of life. I am pretty sure that I am not alone when I say that to me, thinking about olives and olive oil means thinking of warm sunsets, of quiet slopes where sheep or goats thrive, and of blue skies dotted with bee-eaters, black-winged kites and imperial eagles.

The problem… as always…is that human greed often destroys those images.

It all started in Andalucia, Spain, in 2018 with a picture and a small, quite hidden, report. The report was the first to link intensive olive oil production, mechanical night-harvesting and wild bird deaths. The figures were shocking: more than 100 dead birds per hectare, but then an extrapolation formula was applied to the entire Andalusian olive grove, yielding the horrendous figure of 2.6 million dead birds per year.

The images of dozens of dead Blackcaps Silvia atricapilla, Thrushes Turdus philomelos or Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs among freshly picked olives did the rest. Soon enough bird lovers, environmentalists, foodies and consumers around the world turned on their supermarkets, on their politicians and farmers, and on us at BirdLife International demanding answers and solutions. There was also a smaller but significant movement, and that was of those who advocated for an immediate and radical boycott of olive oil products… something that, far from favoring sustainable agriculture, would mean a death sentence to hundreds of small farmers already struggling with COVID related crisis and globalization.

Complex as it was, the BirdLife family quickly understood migrant birds could not bear another threat on top of their already dangerous migratory routes. Our partners SEO / BirdLife (Spain) and SPEA (Portugal) worked with us to convey a simple message:

The impact is real and needs to be tackled. Yes, but not all olive oil comes from intensive agriculture nor is mechanically collected at night. Plus, we are working alongside the olive producers to find synergies and promote sustainable olive production. Want to see an example, check the extraordinary work done by EU-funded project LIFE Olivares vivos.

Three years later, our efforts and international coordination have managed to turn this story around. Both Spain and Portugal analyzed the real impact of this method (with observed mortality ranging from 30 to 100 birds per hectare).

Then in March 2020, following evidence and our international pressure, the nocturnal harvesting of olives in olive groves was banned throughout the Spanish and Portuguese fields. This has been a massive success for the conservation and sustainable food movements.

Let me say this loud and clear: Buying and using European olive oil is safe for our birds.

As a European and a fan of olive oil, I can’t help but celebrate this excellent news.

As a biologist, so often used to recounting the hardships related to the loss of European biodiversity, I am exultant to be able to share this news with all of you.

As Director of Conservation for BirdLife International, I have to tell you that we still have important things to accomplish. The threat of intensive agriculture, whether olive groves or not, continues to be the destruction of biodiversity and birds. Years and years of ill given EU funds favoring production over biodiversity have degraded our fields and reinforced the deeply flawed concept of quantity over quality. This is undoubtedly the final battle, the battle for which we continue to ask for your support every day, because we are convinced that what we have on our plate must be not only tasty for us humans, but fair to all the living creatures that live with us.

German ‘moderate’ right helps far right again


This 6 February 2020 video from Germany says about itself:

Germany’s far-right AfD sparks election scandal | DW News

A scandal over the involvement of the far-right in a normally obscure regional election in the eastern state of Thuringia has shaken German politics to the core. The extremist Alternative for Germany, or AfD party helped install a premier, Thomas Kemmerich, from a mainstream party, the business-friendly FDP. He beat Bodo Ramelow, the incumbent candidate from the socialist party Die Linke. Kemmerich has now been forced to stand down after widespread condemnation. The affair is seen as having broken a taboo which has kept the far-right out of government.

By Martin Nowak in Germany today:

Germany’s parliamentary parties elect far-right AfD candidate to Gera city council

The latest developments in the east German city of Gera underline the sharp turn to the right by the ruling class. Last Thursday, a retired doctor and member of the far-right, racist Alternative for Germany (AfD), Reinhard Etzrodt, was elected chairman of the city council in the third-largest city in the state of Thuringia. His appointment was the first time in post-war history that a far-right candidate filled such a post. Etzrodt received 23 of 40 votes cast, although the AfD has just 12 seats on the city council. This means the right-wing extremist was elevated into office with the support of Germany’s mainstream political parties.

Etzrodt is a leading representative of the “Wing” faction of the AfD in Thuringia led by the Björn Höcke wing and has links to neo-Nazis and far-right terror groups. According to media reports, he took part in the “Thügida” demo in Gera in June 2015. The far-right march was organised by members of the fascist German Democratic Party (NPD) and the “Europe-Action” movement, which has since dissolved. Former cadre of the core cell of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) and activists of the fascist network “Combat 18”—banned at the beginning of 2020—also took part in the protest.

Etzrodt’s participation in the march alongside far-right terrorists was no accident but rather reveals the real character of the AfD. Just a few days ago, the party was forced to sack Christian Lüth, the head of the press office of the AfD parliamentary group. Lüth had proudly described himself as a “fascist” in chat discussions and, according to research by the TV station ProSieben, ranted, in the course of a secretly recorded conversation in a bar, that migrants should be “shot or gassed.” When asked whether he wanted to bring more migrants to Germany, he replied: “Yes, because it’s better for the AfD. We can still shoot them all afterwards. That’s not an issue. Or gas them, whatever you want. I don’t care!”

Following Etzrodt’s election, all of the establishment parties sought to maintain their hands were clean. The new Thuringian state chair of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Mario Voigt, declared his faction had “clearly agreed not to vote for the AfD candidate,” while the Left Party and the Greens accused the CDU of doing exactly that. “If red-red-green did not vote for the AfD candidate, which one can assume, then in terms of arithmetic there must have been votes from the CDU for Etzrodt. So that’s clear,” declared Daniel Reinhardt, who sits on the Gera city council for the Left Party.

What is “arithmetically” clear is that the fascist candidate received support from the ranks of mainstream parties. There are currently 42 seats divided between 11 parliamentary groups on the Gera city council. The AfD has 12 MPs, the Left Party eight, the CDU six, the Citizenship Gera group three, the alliance “For Gera” three, the Greens three, the SPD three, and one each for the Free Voters, the Liberal Alliance, the neo-liberal FDP and The Party. Even if one assumed—which is unlikely—that all the representatives of smaller factions voted for the AfD, Etzrodt would still have received only 21 votes. In other words: at least two pro-AfD votes came from mainstream parties with representation in the German parliament.

There are some indications that the votes may have come from the CDU and FDP. In November 2019, the deputy chair of the CDU parliamentary group in Thuringia, Michael Heym, and 17 other CDU state politicians spoke in favour of “open-ended” talks with the AfD. Heym referred to a “bourgeois right-wing majority” and speculated on the possibility of a CDU-FDP government tolerated by the AfD. This was an option raised at the time by the fascist chairman of the Thuringia AfD, Björn Höcke, and this strategy was then implemented after the state election. In February this year, the state chairman of the FDP, Thomas Kemmerich, was elected state premier with the votes of the CDU and AfD. Following spontaneous mass protests all over Germany—20,000 alone took to the streets in the Thuringia state capital, Erfurt—Kemmerich resigned from his post.

This, however, had no impact on the right-wing policy of the CDU and FDP. In the course of a right-wing demonstration in Gera against coronavirus restrictions, Kemmerich marched alongside well-known neo-Nazis. The protest was organised by the Gera-based entrepreneur Peter Schmidt, a non-aligned member of the CDU Economic Council. Introducing Kemmerich as a speaker at the demonstration, Schmidt declared him to be the “only legitimate prime minister.” …

The SPD and the Greens are also quite prepared to line up with the AfD and other right-wing extremist parties. Also last Thursday, the SPD voted in Eisenach, Thuringia, together with the AfD and NPD in favour of an application to fill a position on the local Board of Trustees.

Woodpeckers, blue jays, blackbirds in New York


This 6 October 2020 video from New York state in the USA says about itself:

Blue Jays, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Common Grackles trade time at the Cornell Feeders in Ithaca, NY. Blue Jays and Red-bellied Woodpeckers are year-round residents in the woods surrounding the feeders, but the blackbirds and grackles are short-distance migrants on their way south! Who’s showing up at your bird feeder today?

Trump copies Adolf Hitler


This 6 October 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

A video tweeted by President Trump depicting his return to the White House on October 5, 2020 after being hospitalized with COVID-19 was clearly modeled after Hitler‘s arrival at the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in the Nazi film Triumph of the Will.

New plant species evolved in Swiss Alps


This 2014 video says about itself:

Cardamine amara (Cardamine amère) (also Large bittercress) is a flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae.

From the University of Zurich in Switzerland:

Evolution in action: New Plant species in the Swiss Alps

October 6, 2020

A new plant species named Cardamine insueta appeared in the region of Urnerboden in the Swiss alps, after the land has changed from forest to grassland over the last 150 years. The inheritance of two key traits from its parent plants enabled the newly emerged species to grow in a distinct environmental niche, as researches from the University of Zurich now show.

The emergence of a new species is generally thought to occur over long periods of time. But — as the example of the plant Cardamine insueta shows — evolution can also happen quite quickly. C. insueta, a new bittercress species first described in 1972, has only recently emerged in Urnerboden, a small alpine village in central Switzerland. It evolved just within the past 150 years due to environmental changes in the surrounding valley: when the local people cleared the forest and turned it into pasture land.

New plant species allows to observe ‘evolution in action’

“C. insueta proves to be an exceptional case to directly analyze the genetic traits and environmental responses of a new species. In other words: to observe ‘evolution in action’, a main topic of the university’s corresponding University Research Priority Program,” says Rie Shimizu-Inatsugi from the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich (UZH). The plant biologists were now able to unravel the genetic mechanisms underlying the plant’s evolution.

C. insueta developed from two parent species with specific ecological habitats: while C. amara grows in and beside water streams, C. rivularis inhabits slightly moist sites. The land-use conversion from forest to grassland induced the hybridization of the two progenitors generating the new species that is found in-between the parents’ habitats with temporal water level fluctuation. “It is the combination of genetic traits from its parents that enabled the new species to grow in a distinct environmental niche,” says Shimizu-Inatsugi. In fact, C. insueta inherited one set of chromosomes from C. amara and two sets of chromosomes from C. rivularis. It therefore contains three sets of chromosomes making it a so-called triploid plant.

Inheritance of two key parental traits enabled the survival

To characterize the responses to a fluctuating environment, the research team used high-throughput sequencing to analyze the time-course gene expression pattern of the three species in response to submergence. They found that the gene activity responsible for two parent traits were key for the survival of the new species in the novel habitat. First, C. insueta can clonally propagate through leaf vivipary, meaning it produces plantlets on the surface of leaves that can grow into new plants. It inherited the ability for asexual vegetative reproduction from C. rivularis. Since C. insueta is sexually sterile, it would not have been able to survive without this trait.

Second, C. insueta inherited the submergence tolerance from C. amara, since the genes responsible for this trait were active in both species. “The results show that C. insueta combined advantageous patterns of parental gene activity to contribute to its establishment in a new niche along a water-usage gradient. Depending on the environmental situation, the plant activates different set of genes it inherited from its two parent species.” says Rie Shimizu-Inatsugi.

Funding

This work is mainly funded by the University Research Priority Program “Evolution in Action: From Genomes to Ecosystems,” the Swiss National Science Foundation, Japan Science and Technology Agency, and the Human Frontier Science Program.

Billionaires profit from COVID-19 disaster


This 28 June 2020 video says about itself:

Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg see wealth ‘surge’ amid coronavirus pandemic: Report

According to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, American billionaires have seen their wealth grow over $600 billion dollars since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Chuck Collins of Institute for Policy Studies joins Yahoo Finance’s The Ticker to discuss.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Despite the coronavirus crisis, the wealth of more than 2,000 billionaires in the world has continued to rise. They had combined assets of $ 10.2 trillion at the end of July, Swiss bank UBS and accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers report in an annual report on billionaires. This broke the previous record set at the end of 2019 of $ 8.98 trillion.

The billionaires mainly benefited from the higher stock market prices. Billionaires active in healthcare, tech and industry in particular became richer, the researchers report, but real estate also yielded a lot of money.

Most billionaires are in Asia, but American billionaires, such as Amazon‘s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, have the biggest combined wealth.