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Anti-racist American footballer Kaepernick fights injustice

This video from the USA says about itself:

9 October 2017

It was US Army veteran Nate Boyer who suggested to Kaepernick to take a knee as a sign of respect. Kaepernick’s protest was no statement on the military but to call attention to police brutality in America where cops are getting paid leave for murdering unarmed Americans.

Edited by Matt Orfalea.

By Alan Gilman in the USA:

Kaepernick seeks arbitration over NFL blacklisting

16 October 2017

Free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick is filing a collusion grievance against National Football League (NFL) owners, according to a document obtained by ABC News.

The filing, which demands an arbitration hearing on the matter, says the NFL and its owners “have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to particular institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States.”

Kaepernick drew national attention last season when he knelt during the national anthem before games to protest social injustice, and in particular the large number of police killings of African-Americans. His protest quickly spread, as many other players throughout the league engaged in similar symbolic protests during the anthem. College and high school players also joined in these anthem protests.

The gifted athlete became the target of presidential invective last month, when President Trump told a campaign rally in Alabama that he wanted NFL owners to fire any “son of a bitch” who knelt or otherwise protested during the playing of the national anthem. Several owners have taken up Trump’s call, with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones threatening to bench any player who follow’s Kaepernick’s example.

Kaepernick began his career with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011, and in his six seasons with the 49ers he led them to one Super Bowl appearance and to within one game of another. Last season, when he began his protests, he served as a backup while recovering from shoulder surgery. He regained his starting position by game six, and was the starting quarterback for all but one of the season’s remaining 10 games and finished with a 90.7 quarterback rating—higher than some of the league’s leading quarterbacks such as Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers and Joe Flacco, among others.

After last season, in part because of San Francisco’s poor record and chaotic coaching changes—four different coaches in four seasons—Kaepernick opted out of his contract, thereby making himself a free agent available to be signed by any team for this season.

During the ten months of his free agency, no team has offered Kaepernick a contract. The league’s owners have continued to assert that the refusal of any team to offer him a contract stemmed from his poor on-the-field performance and had nothing to do with his protests against police violence.

This claim, however, has been repeatedly belied by coaches and players throughout the league. In June, Seattle Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll said, “Colin’s been a fantastic football player and he’s going to continue to be … He’s a starter in this league. And we have a starter. But he’s a starter in this league, and I can’t imagine that someone won’t give him a chance to play.”

Before the season began, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins expressed the feelings of many players when he said to the Daily News, “I would love to see him push back, because I do think he’s been blackballed, and there’s plenty of quotes from owners or whoever saying they’re afraid of the backlash they would get.”

Many other players, including such prominent stars as Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin, Derrick Carr, and Aaron Rodgers have made similar statements, making it clear that the failure of any team to sign Kaepernick is unrelated to his football abilities.

The filing of the collusion claim comes at the end of the sixth week of the season. During this period, several of the league’s starters have been replaced by backups because of poor performance, while others have had to be replaced because of injuries, yet Kaepernick still has received no offers.

He has chosen to file his complaint outside of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), and has retained criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos who has represented a number of high-profile celebrities.

The NFL has very clear and strict rules outlawing teams from colluding against players. Article 17 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) prohibits teams from working together against players and states any victims of collusion are entitled to economic damages (likely the average salary quarterbacks were getting from teams this offseason), as well as additional compensation equal to double whatever those lost wages come to.

Collusion does not require all 32 teams working together, but evidence must establish that at least two individuals colluded against a player to validate a claim. In the 1980s, free-agent baseball players proved Major League Baseball owners were conspiring against them to keep salaries down. An arbitrator awarded the players $280 million in damages.

Kaepernick’s collusion claim comes as Green Bay’s all-pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers sustained a broken collarbone during Sunday’s game, likely ending his season. In August, Rodgers told ESPN Magazine, “I think he (Kaepernick) should be on a team right now. I think because of his protests, he’s not.”

COLIN KAEPERNICK FILES COLLUSION GRIEVANCE AGAINST NFL OWNERS “If the NFL … is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful protest — which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago — should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government,” his lawyer said in a statement. And several NFL players continued the protest over the weekend. [HuffPost]


Learning North American bird songs

This April 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

Learning bird song can be tricky. We’ve all been there.

That’s why the Cornell Lab of Ornithology developed a new online course.

How to Identify Bird Song uses a unique teaching approach. Travel North America visiting real soundscapes. Did you test yourself on the bird species we imitated in the video?

Here they are in order of appearance: 1 Mourning Dove 2 Northern Cardinal 3 Barred Owl 4 Eastern Screech Owl 5 Asian Koel 6 Yellow Warbler—Sweet, sweet, sweet. Isn’t it sweet? 7 White-throated Sparrow—Old Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody! 8 Olive-sided Flycatcher—Quick three beers! 9 Eastern Towhee—Drink your tea! 10 Warbling Vireo—I’ll see you and I’ll seize you and I’ll squeeze you ’til you squirt!

Director: Karen Rodriguez Videographers: Chris Foito & Karen Rodriguez Editor: Chris Foito Producers: Mya Thompson & Sarah Wagner

Appearances by (in chronological order): Mya Thompson, Michael Huffaker, Marc Devokaitis, Andrew Weber, Ashik Rahaman, Kathi Borgmann

California, USA wildfires, inadequate warnings

This video from the USA says about itself:

11 October 2017

California wildfires are devastating everything in their path. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, the hosts of The Young Turks, show you footage of the aftermath from the fires.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — The deadly wildfires devastating Northern California continued to spread across dry hills and vineyards Wednesday, prompting more evacuations from a menacing arc of flames that has killed at least 21 people, destroyed more than 3,500 buildings and battered the region’s renowned wine-growing industry.

Officials expect the death toll to rise as crews begin to reach heavily burned areas. Hundreds in flame-ravaged Sonoma County remain missing, and higher winds coupled with low humidity and parched lands could either hamper efforts to contain the fires or create new ones.

“We’re not out of the woods, and we’re not going to be out of the woods for a number of days to come,” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said at a news conference Wednesday. “We’re literally looking at explosive vegetation. These fires are burning actively during the day and at night.”

What makes these fast-moving fires particularly dangerous, Pimlott said, is that they “aren’t just in the backwoods. . . . These fires are burning in and around developed communities.”

Nearly two dozen large fires have been raging in the northern part of the state, sending thousands of residents to evacuation centers and burning roughly 170,000 acres — a collective area larger than the city of Chicago. That size is likely to grow.”

Read more here.

By Rafael Azul and Eric London in the USA:

Why didn’t Northern Californian county governments use Wireless Emergency Alerts to warn residents of breakout wildfires?

16 October 2017

Over a week has passed since the most devastating fires in California history ignited Northern California. The death toll is still climbing, reaching 40 as of Sunday night. One hundred and seventy two people are still missing in Sonoma County, the hardest hit of the four affected counties, and another 74 are unaccounted for in neighboring Napa County.

Neither Napa nor Sonoma counties alerted residents of the fires through Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) systems. Despite the fact that such technology is readily available, many of the dead and injured were caught sleeping, completely unprepared for what was coming. In some cases the victims did not hear horns or the desperate knocking of neighbors. Many rural residents beyond the reach of local police departments were left with no warning at all, their limited escape routes quickly engulfed by flames.

But the Washington Post reported yesterday that in neighboring Lake County, due north of Sonoma, local officials did send out an emergency blast that activated all cellphones, “turning them into the equivalent of squawking alarms.” Untold lives were saved by this activation of the WEA. Lake County is the only affected county that has reported zero fire deaths.

According to the Post:

“Of the four counties in Northern California where residents were killed in fires this week, two—Sonoma and Mendocino—had agreements in place with FEMA that enabled them to send alerts. Yuba and Napa counties did not, according to federal records.”

In Sonoma, local officials justified their failure to activate wireless notification on the grounds that it would produce mass panic and “because the warning is not targeted,” a county spokesperson said, adding, “to keep everyone safe we chose not to use a mass alert that would have reached areas not affected by the fire.”

The result was a nightmare. In Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma County, the smoke and heat of approaching flames woke people in residential neighborhoods shortly after 1:00 AM. “Something told me, death, go, leave,” Julie Pilacelli, a resident of Santa Rosa’s Hemlock Street told the Los Angeles Times.

By 1:30 AM, most of the of Pilacelli’s neighbors were waking each other up and fleeing their homes. There had been no warning, no phone calls, no alarms. Eventually a lone patrol car with a megaphone but no alarm sound drove up Hemlock telling people to leave. “We were left high and dry,” said Jimmy Warren, also of Hemlock Street. “No one was there to help.”

County officials claim that warning the population would have clogged roads, but they have offered no explanation as to why emergency services did not have a county-wide evacuation plan in place to prepare for the inevitability of large fires, a common occurrence in rural and semi-rural parts of Northern California.

This week’s fires have far surpassed previous fires in death and destruction because unlike previous rural wildfires, these were able to approach densely urban areas. In this case, entire residential neighborhoods were left sleeping without warning as flames swept down from the hills despite the fact that they are situated right next to highways and would have been easy to evacuate with proper warning.

A FEMA spokesperson told CNN on Saturday that contrary to Sonoma County government claims, agencies sending emergency notifications do have “the option of providing geographic coordinates defining the area where the alert is to be targeted” with basic information like the location of cell phone towers.

In response, another Sonoma County spokesperson gave residents cold comfort then she told CNN on Sunday, “It’s something we’ll absolutely be looking into as part of our after-action plan.” Sonoma County already has WEA capabilities, unlike Napa, which has reportedly not used WEAs.

Even those who did sign up for the alerts often received notice several hours after the flames had enveloped their neighborhoods. A reader of the World Socialist Web Site reported that his family in Sonoma County was only alerted of approaching fires by a call from a neighbor and barely made it out alive. Three hours after the family evacuated, they received their cell phone evacuation notice from the county.

Many elderly people were evacuated from residential nursing homes with just minutes to spare and without public warning. The San Francisco Chronicle’s growing list of the dead includes many elderly or infirm people who may have been able to survive had they been warned and evacuated in a timely manner.

Different levels of local and state government have responded with a blame game. Governor Jerry Brown also has the capacity to activate the warning system, but administration officials sought to pass the buck on to local officials: “From the state level we wouldn’t do that,” said Kelly Houston, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “Alerts and warnings happen on a local level…They decide what are the appropriate alerts for their population.”

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano in turn blamed residents for failing to sign up for an emergency alert system that sends out texts in emergencies. “If you don’t sign your cellphone up, you don’t get that service,” Giordano said. “So the message is, sign up for SoCoAlerts if you live in this county.”

On Friday, a Sonoma County spokesman said that only 2 percent of the county’s 500,000 residents signed up for the emergency warning system, an indication of how little was done by the government to advertise the system.

Lake County officials explained their decision to activate the WEA system was simple: “We had folks that were in immediate danger, and wanting to notify them of the situation,” Police Lt. Corey Paulich said. Lake County regularly sends out WEAs for weather and criminal alerts. The county also uses an app called CodeRed which notifies residents of impending disasters. In short text messages, Lake County residents were told where the fire was and where their assigned evacuation center was located.

According to the federal government’s Ready.gov emergency preparedness website, WEAs “look like text messages, but are designed to get your attention and alert you with a unique sound and vibration.” They “are no more than 90 characters, and will include the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, as well as the agency issuing the alert.” They are simple, cheap, and effective, often used to send “Amber alerts”, warning drivers to be on the lookout for child abductors.

Sonoma County’s decision not to activate the WEA for fear of causing panic is not a justified “spur of the moment” judgment call. It betrays the government’s incompetence and its lack of confidence in its own evacuation emergency plans. Moreover, the county’s fears of causing panic indicate that county officials and police feared that social tensions in the county—and particularly in the working class and immigrant neighborhoods of Santa Rosa—have reached the point that a panic would produce riots or looting.

There is no telling how many lives would have been saved had the county governments flicked the switch and activated their warning systems. There is a telling difference between the lack of emergency preparations for natural disasters and the massive degree of government preparation in response to peaceful demonstrations against police violence, for example.

As in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, the task of saving lives and property falls to the working class. Thousands of firefighters have converged from all over the country into a veritable army that is combatting the flames in multi-day shifts. These firefighters continue to risk their lives to control the flames and have contained several of the fires. Despite the firefighters’ best efforts, high winds Saturday whipped up new fires like the large one that has now engulfed the Mayacamas mountain range, threatening the small towns of Kenwood, Glen Ellen, and Oakmont.

Reports indicate that up to one-third of all those fighting the flames are prisoners, paid just $1 per hour for the extremely dangerous job. Residents of the affected towns greet firefighters with massive rounds of applause wherever they are sighted in public and have even gathered to keep residents quiet in areas where firefighters are sleeping. Fire departments have had to issue public statements asking that the public cease donations of food and drink on account of the already overwhelming showing of public support.

Captive orangutan freed

This video from Borneo says about itself:

Orangutan Kept In Small Box For Weeks Is FINALLY Free

15 October 2017

Orangutan Kept In Box For Days Is SO HAPPY To Be Free | This orangutan was kept in a crate for two weeks, just because she got too close to someone’s land. To sponsor the ongoing care of Isin the rescued orangutan, you can support International Animal Rescue.

Austrian extreme right in government?

This 2015 German language video from Austria accuses the far right FPÖ party of being a neonazi party.

By Peter Schwarz in Germany:

Far-right poised to enter government following Austrian election

16 October 2017

Sunday’s election in Austria has produced a sharp shift to the right. It is expected that a right-wing government of a kind not seen since the fall of Hitler and the restoration of Austrian independence will be installed.

The consensus view is that the election campaign was the filthiest in the country’s history. Incapable of addressing the devastating social consequences of the global capitalist crisis, the major parties sought to outdo one another with attacks on refugees and mutual mud-slinging. One commentator spoke of a “hysterical Austria-First atmosphere” dominating official politics.

As of this writing, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), with 31.4 percent of the vote, has emerged from the balloting with a clear lead. It gained 7.4 percent over its result in the last national election, in 2013. The final result will not been known until Monday, when the postal vote is counted.

Thirty-one-year-old Sebastian Kurz, who is currently foreign minister in the grand coalition with the Social Democrats (SPÖ), is likely to become the new prime minister. Kurz assumed the leadership of the ÖVP in May in what amounted to an internal party coup. He centered his campaign around his personality. Its sole political focus was hostility to immigrants, refugees and Muslims. Kurz attempted to outflank the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) from the right.

Kurz boasted that he secured the closure of the Balkan route used by refugees fleeing the catastrophic conditions in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa resulting from the US-led and NATO-backed wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. He touted his close ties to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn and promised a range of discriminatory measures against refugees. He vowed to restrict the number of immigrants, reduce social benefits for asylum seekers and close Islamic kindergartens. He also pledged to massively strengthen the police and security apparatus.

In second place is the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ). It has increased its vote by 6.9 percent to 27.4 percent and overtaken the Social Democrats (26.7 percent), who received the same vote as four years ago. Since neither the Conservatives nor the Social Democrats want to continue the grand coalition, which has governed the country for ten years, it is likely that the right-wing extremists will be part of the next government.

The FPÖ entered the government in Vienna once before, from 2000 to 2007, when the party was led by Jörg Haider. At the time, its acceptance into government triggered Europe-wide protests and the European Union imposed sanctions. Since then, the party has moved significantly further to the right.

Forty-eight-year-old Heinz-Christian Strache, who broke with Haider in 2005 and took over as party leader, was, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, part of the militant neo-Nazi scene when he began his career in the FPÖ.

As a 17-year-old, Strache joined the German nationalist student fraternity Vandalia in Vienna. He maintained close contact with well known right-wing extremist Norbert Burger and was the partner of his daughter for seven years. He had ties to the neo-Nazi Viking Youth, which was banned in Germany in 1994, and participated in paramilitary exercises with well known neo-Nazis. Since photos exist of him in uniform, Strache later tried to dismiss his paramilitary activities as harmless paintball play-acting.

Strache joined the FPÖ in 1989, but the FPÖ’s youth organization, Youth Circle of Freedom (RFJ), turned him away. “At that time, Strache was too right-wing for us and blustered too much,” future Defence Minister Herbert Scheibner said of the decision.

A government alliance between Kurz and Strache—the most likely outcome of the election—would be roughly equivalent to a coalition between the Christian Social Union’s Markus Söder and the Alternative for Germany’s Björn Höcke in Germany; or between Nicolas Sarkozy and Marine le Pen in France. In a country that was annexed by Hitler in 1938, all inhibitions about the crimes of the past are being dropped.

This development can be understood only in the context of the bankruptcy of the organisations that once described themselves as “left” or representative of the working class.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Austrian Social Democracy was among the most powerful sections of the Second International. Even after the First World War, which the Austrian Social Democracy supported, the party dominated “red Vienna,” where one in four residents was a member. In the 1970s, by which time the party had declared its unconditional defence of the bourgeois order but still carried through limited social reforms, SPÖ leader Bruno Kreisky was one of the most well known figures in international Social Democracy.

Now the SPÖ has paved the way for the rise of the right-wing extremists by abandoning even the pretense of defending workers’ rights. Instead, it has adopted xenophobic slogans, pledging prior to the election its readiness to form a coalition with the FPÖ.

Like the other parties, the Social Democrats called in the election campaign for the strengthening of borders against refugees. They supported the closure of the Balkan route by the region’s right-wing governments and pushed for a tougher stance against refugees in the Mediterranean, claiming that they were engaged in “economic migration.”

In June, Chancellor and SPÖ leader Christian Kern, a former rail industry executive, abandoned the more than 30-year-old “Vranitzky doctrine,” according to which the Social Democrats would not cooperate with the FPÖ. Leading SPÖ officials openly called for an alliance with the right-wing extremists. This was particularly the case among representatives of the influential trade union wing, such as construction union chief Josef Muchitsch and the leader of the metalworkers union, Rainer Wimmer. At the state level, the SPÖ already formed a coalition with the FPÖ in Burgenland in 2015. Both parties have hailed their close cooperation.

In the election, the SPÖ resorted to a filthy campaign that blew up in its face after it was exposed. In August, Tal Silberstein, a highly-paid SPÖ campaign consultant, was arrested in Israel on corruption charges and it was revealed that he operated anonymous Facebook pages that spread lies about ÖVP candidate Kurz, painting him as an anti-Semite.

There is no possibility of forming a majority in the new parliament by aligning one of the three major parties with one or more of the smaller parties, because the votes recorded by the latter were too low.

The neo-liberal Neos, a protest party made up of well-off middle-class elements, which adapted itself to the anti-refugee campaign, will reenter parliament with 5.0 percent of the vote, the same result as in the last election.

The Greens, whose former chairman Alexander Van der Bellen was elected Austrian president in December of 2016, lost 9.1 percent. With a total of 3.3 percent, they have fallen short of the 4 percent needed to enter parliament. The list of Peter Pilz, a former member of the Pabloite Revolutionary Marxist Group, who split from the Greens because their policies on refugees and Turkey were sufficiently right-wing, received 4.1 percent.

The Team Stronach, set up by a right-wing businessman, which received 5.7 percent in the last election, did not stand in Sunday’s election.

The rightward shift in Austria is symptomatic of Europe as a whole. In the Alpine republic, with its close to 9 million residents, the full extent of the rot of bourgeois politics is on display. In the face of deepening international and social tensions, all of the parties defending capitalism are turning to policies of nationalism, xenophobia, militarism and the strengthening of the repressive state apparatus.

The dissatisfaction and social needs of the masses find no expression in the traditional ruling parties, allowing them to be exploited by far-right demagogues. This is true not only in Austria, where the FPÖ is winning support in former SPÖ strongholds, but also in France, where the National Front won votes in run-down industrial areas, and in Germany, where the AfD’s strongholds are in impoverished parts of eastern Germany.

Young cuckoo from reed warbler nest to migration to Africa

This video shows a young cuckoo growing up in a reed warbler nest in the Netherlands in 2017.

However, a wind destroyed the nest and the cuckoo fell out.

It was brought to a bird rehabilitation center.

This 8 September 2017 video shows how, after the cuckoo had recovered and grown up, it was set free in the Ooijpolder nature reserve, to fly all the way on autumn migration to Africa.

Meanwhile, the reed warbler couple had built a new nest, from which young reed warblers fledged.

Vegan alternative for cruel anti-geese foie gras

This 2012 video is called French Foie Gras CrueltyAnimal Equality Undercover Investigation. It says about itself:

WARNING: The video you’re about to see contains graphic footage. Viewer discretion is advised.

Animal Equality documents the shocking reality of life for ducks and geese confined and force-fed for foie gras production in France.


• Animals confined to small cages in which the animals could not even turn around

• Animals with clear signs of stress and depression

• Evidence of trauma and inflammation of the esophagus – recognised by blood stains on force feeding tubes

• Animals with obvious respiratory problems

• Weak ducks left to die without veterinary care

• Ducks, who appeared fully aware of their situation at the time of slaughter. These animals were flapping, kicking, and bleeding incessantly

• Workers handling animals roughly

• Ducks moving with difficulty due to the size of their livers

France is the largest producer and exporter of foie gras. Over 20,000 tons are produced and approximately 700,000 geese and 37 million ducks are slaughtered by the French foie gras industry each year. Over 4,200 tons are consumed in Spain, and 850 tons are produced. Over 1,150,000 ducks are slaughtered by the Spanish foie gras industry each year.

Today, Dutch NOS TV reports that a vegan alternative to cruel anti-birds foie gras has been developed. Tasting similarly, but without any bird being harmed.

The new vegan foie gras, NOS photo

Belgian restaurant owner Paul Florizoone makes it, based on tofu and cereals.

It is already sold in Belgium. Today, it is introduced in the Netherlands.