Helping Australian freshwater fish

This 2014 video is called Australian Native Pond (fish).

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

A breakthrough for Australia’s fish

September 4, 2018

A research team from the Threatened Species Recovery Hub has made a breakthrough that could help dwindling numbers of Australian freshwater fish species.

Dr Jabin Watson from the University of Queensland says the innovation will allow small and young fish to get past barriers like culverts.

“Simple things like dams, culverts and weirs can be enough to prevent fish from migrating, accessing habitat and even escaping predators“, said Dr Watson.

“These kinds of barriers are a major contributor to the declines and local extinctions of many Australian fish species.”

Native fish in the Murray Darling Basin are estimated to be at only ten per cent of pre European numbers.

“When streams pass through a culvert — the pipes under most roads — the flow is concentrated”, Dr Watson said.

“This fast flow can be impossible for many fish to navigate as they simply can’t swim that fast for that long.

“Small and young fish are particularly impacted.”

The team used a biohydrodynamics laboratory at UQ to test the swimming ability and behaviour of native fish species.

“Many different types of devices have been trialled in Australia to help fish move past barriers like culverts”, Dr Watson said.

“Baffles are frequently used, with the aim of giving fish areas to rest along the way, but our laboratory testing has shown that the turbulence created can really knock fish about and make them disorientated.

“We’ve discovered a completely new approach that has proved very successful in laboratory trials, enabling small and young fish to navigate fast flows.

“We have taken advantage of a property of fluid mechanics called the boundary layer to create a channel of slower flowing water along one side of the culvert”, he said.

“The boundary layer is a thin layer of slower water generated by a fluid moving across a solid surface, such as the bed and walls of a culvert.

“By adding a beam along the culvert wall, we have added another surface close to the culvert corner.

“The boundary layers from these three surfaces merge to create a reduced velocity channel that is large enough for small fish to swim through.

Dr Watson said no native fish species have evolved to cope with things like culverts.

“Strategies that work to improve fish passage provide hope for our freshwater species”, Dr Watson concludes.


Stop Australian government’s Chelsea Manning ban

This video says about itself:

30 August 2018

Global Outcry After Australia Moves to Ban Entry of Whistleblower Chelsea Manning

Human rights groups and free speech defenders around the world are speaking out on Thursday after the Australian government moved aggressively to block Chelsea Manning—the U.S. Army whistleblower who was imprisoned by her own government after leaking hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic documents, including evidence of war crimes—from entering the country as part of a global speaking tour.

By Oscar Grenfell and James Cogan in Australia:

Widespread opposition to Australian government ban on Chelsea Manning

31 August 2018

Over the past 24 hours, opposition has mounted to the Australian government’s threat to deny well-known US whistleblower and political activist Chelsea Manning a visa to enter the country and engage in a speaking tour which is scheduled to begin this weekend.

The Coalition government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday issued Manning with a “notice of intention” to reject her visa application, just days before she was set to address events in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The government is invoking Manning’s criminal conviction for leaking hundreds of thousands of military files and US diplomatic cables to claim that she fails the Migration Act’s “character test.”

As far as hundreds of millions of people are concerned, the actions of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning were both justified and proved she is a person of the highest character and quality. The publication of the information she leaked by WikiLeaks and its editor Julian Assange exposed the staggering dimensions of the US-led war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the sordid intrigues by the American state around the world.

Manning paid an immense price for her courageous decision to let the world know the truth. She was subjected to what amounted to torture and driven to the brink of suicide. She spent seven years of her life in a prison cell. Large and respectful audiences in Australia have booked tickets to attend the public events at which she will appear.

Chelsea Manning has the right to speak and her audiences and the entire working class has the right to hear her views.

The move to ban Manning from the country is among the first actions of Morrison’s government since he was installed following the backroom political coup that ousted former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last Friday.

It is intended as a signal to Washington and the US and Australian intelligence agencies that the government will intensify the persecution of whistleblowers and investigative journalists and crackdown on widespread opposition to Australia’s central role in US-led wars and military preparations, including in the Asia-Pacific region.

There is little doubt that the threatened cancellation of Manning’s visa was planned in discussions with the US administration of President Donald Trump. It followed, by less than a week, a congratulatory phone call from Trump to Morrison the day after his installment as prime minister. Morrison invited the widely-reviled American president to visit Australia this November.

Significantly, the ban on Manning was preceded by a little-reported meeting of the Five Eyes, the US-led spying network, earlier this week in Australia’s Gold Coast. The event brought together ministerial representatives of the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain, including the Trump administration’s Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

The joint statement adopted at the meeting called for a campaign against attempts to “sow discord” and “manipulate public discourse”, on the bogus pretext of combating “foreign interference”. It mapped-out plans to enable governments and intelligence agencies to bypass encryption and other online privacy measures.

In other words, the purpose of the meeting was to escalate online surveillance and censorship, the very subjects that Manning had been set to speak against in her Australian talks.

If the government does succeed in blocking Manning, it will establish a precedent to deny other journalists and whistleblowers, along with progressive, left-wing and socialist figures, from entering the country and speaking publicly.

Prominent journalists and human rights organisations have noted that the attempt to silence Manning is part of a broader crackdown on free speech.

In a letter of protest to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, world-renowned investigative journalist John Pilger stated: “Just when it doesn’t seem possible that Australia’s reputation can sink further into a mire of injustice and human rights atrocity, the government of my country proposes to deny Chelsea Manning a visa to enter Australia in order to prevent her taking part in a speaking tour. Australians are to be ‘protected’ from the free speech of this courageous person.”

Pilger demanded that the government reverse its “authoritarian” decision. He concluded: “Australians have every right to hear what Chelsea has to say, and she has every right to say it. If such freedom no longer exists in Australia, tell us now; otherwise welcome this courageous truth-teller.”

Peter Greste, a well-known Australian journalist who was imprisoned by the US-backed military dictatorship in Egypt for more than a year, declared that the ban was “undermining democracy”.

Crikey editor Bernard Keane condemned the government for blocking Manning “who leaked to reveal war crimes and US atrocities.”

Claire Mallinson, the national director of Amnesty International Australia, stated: “By refusing her entry, the Australian government would send a chilling message that freedom of speech is not valued by our government.”

Other rights organisations, including the Australian Privacy Foundation, Digital Rights Watch and the Human Rights Law Centre have likewise called for the visa ban to be lifted. In an indication that Manning is rightfully viewed as a heroic figure by broad sections of the population, online petitions demanding she be granted entry into Australia have been signed by more than 15,000 people.

The response stands in stark contrast to the hostility of the political and media establishment towards the whistleblower.

Federal Labor Party shadow minister Penny Wong issued a mealy-mouthed statement suggesting only that the government “explain” its decision to ban Manning, who she described as a “controversial figure.” Wong did not even pretend to oppose the government’s anti-democratic move.

This is in line with Labor’s protracted support for the US-led persecution of WikiLeaks. When the publisher released the cables obtained by Manning in 2010, Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard falsely declared that the “foundation stone” of WikiLeaks was “an illegal act”. She pledged that Australian authorities would collaborate with the US counterparts in the persecution of WikiLeaks and its sources.

The state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has likewise backed virtually every attack on Assange and WikiLeaks. Last year, it featured a fawning interview with Hillary Clinton, allowing her to slanderously declare, without challenge, that Assange was a “Russian agent”. The executive producer of the “7:30” program, Sally Neighbour responded to a complaint from Assange by retweeting a post describing him as “Putin’s bitch”.

The ABC has predictably lined up behind the ban on Manning, publishing a prominent opinion piece by Rodger Shanahan, a former army officer and research fellow at the Lowy Institute think tank with close ties to the intelligence agencies. He baldly declared that Manning “is not a whistleblower and Australia is right to deny her a visa.”

The ABC’s stance reflects the abandonment of any defence of democratic rights, by an entire layer of the self-styled “left” and “liberal” upper-middle class.

The actions of the Coalition government have been directly facilitated by the refusal of this milieu of the Australian political and media establishment to defend Julian Assange, an Australian citizen who has been subjected to relentless persecution for publishing the leaks made by Chelsea Manning.

The persecution of Assange and now the threatened ban on Manning stem from the lurch of the political establishment toward authoritarian, police-state forms of rule. It must be opposed as part of the broader struggle to defend and advance all the democratic and social rights of the working class.

New Zealand’s opposition National Party has demanded that whistleblower Chelsea Manning be barred from entering the country. Its immigration spokesman Michael Woodhouse declared that if he were still the minister in charge, he would not grant Manning an entry visa: here.

Australia: Numerous complaints of “bullying and intimidation” have been levelled against right-wing leaders in the ruling Liberal Party by members of parliament who supported Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before he was ousted last Friday: here.

Continue covering up child abuse, Australian bishops say

This 15 December 2017 video says about itself:

Australia: Child abuse report criticises Catholic church

A five-year inquiry into the sexual abuse of children in Australia has called for sweeping changes to be made.

These included recommending an end to mandatory celibacy in the Catholic Church.

The Australian Royal Commission estimates tens of thousands of children have been abused in Australian institutions over the last 90 years.

Al Jazeera’s Victoria Gatenby reports.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Australian bishops against mandatory reporting of abuse

The Roman Catholic Church in Australia is against the plan of some states to make it mandatory to report abuse by clergy. The bishops’ conference ACBC disagrees with the recommendation of a committee of inquiry …

The inquiry committee examined the sexual abuse within Australian churches and other institutions for five years. The survey showed that tens of thousands of children in Australia have been abused in recent decades and that the authorities have failed seriously in preventing the abuse.

The inquiry was completed last year. The committee made a series of recommendations, one of which was mandatory reporting of abuse. Since then, two of the eight Australian states and territories have introduced laws that penalize the covering up of information by priests. Archbishop Philip Wilson was convicted last month of covering up abuse in the 1970s.

Australian government, Trump poodles, ban whistleblower Chelsea Manning

United States war crimes whistleblower Chelsea Manning

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Australian opposition questions government’s decision to bar Chelsea Manning

Labor Party foreign affairs spokeswoman calls for transparency into decision to block the US whistleblower

OPPOSITION Labor Party foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong questioned the Australian government’s decision today to bar entry to whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

She said that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s administration should be transparent about the reason for denying Ms Manning’s entry.

The convicted US whistleblower had been due to begin a speaking tour at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday, her event organiser Think Inc said today.

It had received a notice of intention from the government yesterday and the group is calling on her supporters to lobby new Immigration Minister David Coleman to allow her into Australia.

While she can appeal, past precedent suggests the decision has already been made.

Think Inc said it had given the government more than 10 letters of support for Ms Manning from individuals and organisations.

Ms Manning offers formidable ideas and an insightful perspective which we are hoping to bring to the forefront of Australian dialogue”, Think Inc director Suzi Jamil said.

Ms Manning was an intelligence analyst for the US army when she leaked military and diplomatic documents [on war crimes in Iraq] to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. She served seven years of a 35-year sentence before then president Barack Obama granted her clemency in 2017.

Amnesty International national director Claire Mallinson accused the government of trying to silence Ms Manning, explaining: “By refusing her entry, the Australian government would send a chilling message that freedom of speech is not valued by our government.”

Lawyer Greg Barns, who has represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, said people with criminal records have been allowed into Australia in the past and no-one would seriously suggest Ms Manning was a risk to the Australian community.

The Department of Home Affairs said that, while it does not comment on individual cases, all non-citizens entering Australia must meet character requirements set out in the Migration Act.

Immigration in New Zealand expects to make a decision tomorrow on whether to grant her a “special direction” visa.

Ms Manning had been due to speak in Melbourne on September 7, Auckland on September 8, Wellington on September 9 and then back to Australia’s Brisbane on September 11.

CANBERRA MULLS CHELSEA MANNING VISIT The Australian government is considering whether to refuse entry to whistleblower Chelsea Manning just days ahead of her speaking tour. [HuffPost]

Australian fairy-wrens learn other birds’ calls

This is a 2012 superb fairy-wren video from Australia.

From ScienceDaily:

Fairy-wrens learn alarm calls of other species just by listening

August 2, 2018

Birds often eavesdrop on the alarm calls of other species, making it possible for them to take advantage of many eyes looking out for danger. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on August 2 have found that [superb] fairy-wrens can learn those unfamiliar calls — which they liken to a foreign language — even without ever seeing the bird that made the call or the predator that provoked it. Instead, the birds in their study learned to recognize new alarm calls by listening for unfamiliar sounds within a chorus of familiar alarm calls.

“Alarm calls warn of predators, but here the birds learnt the meaning of the call from the alarm calls of others without needing to see the predator”, says Robert Magrath of the Australian National University in Canberra. “This means it is a type of ‘social learning’, where individuals learn from others rather than through direct experience. In this case, it’s even more indirect, because they only need to hear and not see the birds giving the familiar alarm calls. So theoretically they could learn with their eyes closed!”

Magrath’s group had long been interested in bird alarm calls and eavesdropping among species. Their previous work showed that birds can learn to recognize other species’ calls; it isn’t always an innate ability. Their studies showed that fairy-wrens could learn to associate a novel alarm call with danger if they repeatedly saw a model predator at the time they heard the call.

Those studies showed the birds were learning by direct experience. But the research team — also including Dominique Potvin and Chaminda Ratnayake from the Australian National University, and Andrew Radford from the University of Bristol, UK — suspected that birds could also learn from other birds, by listening closely to their calls.

“It makes sense to learn from others when it is dangerous to learn through direct experience”, Radford says. “The current experiment shows that they can”, and through the novel process of making associations between different sounds.

The team trained birds in the absence of any predator by broadcasting unfamiliar sounds in combination with the alarm calls of other fairy-wrens and other bird species. At first, the birds didn’t flee from the unfamiliar sounds. But after training, they often did flee to cover upon hearing the sounds. Their experiment showed the fairy-wrens also continued responding equally strongly in repeated tests over the course of a week.

It wasn’t that the fairy-wrens had become warier in general. Rather, they had learned to associate new calls with known alarm calls, without ever seeing the caller or the reason for their call.

“The results were striking,” Potvin says. “They show just how quickly social learning can occur in the wild through listening to alarm choruses, a tactic that’s likely to come in handy given how hard it is to see predators and callers in many environments.”

Social learning by whatever means can help to explain the widespread eavesdropping seen in nature, the researchers say. The new findings may also be relevant to conservation efforts.

Often, endangered species breed well in captivity only to be taken by predators soon after release. As such, there are now efforts to prepare birds for life in the wild by training them to recognize their predators prior to release. “We think it would also be helpful to train birds to recognize the alarm calls of other species”, Magrath says. Their new study shows just how to go about it.

This research was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant.