Seven new peacock spider species discovered in Australia


This video says about itself:

2 May 2016

Maratus splendens, a species of peacock spider that can be found in moister habitats in the southeast corner of Australia (New South Wales, Victoria) but has been reported also from Western Australia.

This spider was named in 1896 but no further individuals were noted in the literature until I rediscovered this species in 2009 and David Hill and I reported on it in Peckhamia 89.1. As far as I am aware this is the only footage ever published of this spider.

Maratus splendens is one of the smaller species of Maratus, about 3 mm in length. Its “target” pattern is similar to that of Maratus pavonis, but both species can be easily distinguished. The most conspicuous difference is the presence of a silvery black area on the “head” in Maratus splendens which Maratus pavonis lacks.

For still images of this spider, including some that show its size, see my flickr collection.

Music credit: birds, crickets and frogs of the Sydney suburb of St. Ives.

If you want to learn more about peacock spiders I have bad news, there is no book about them. However, you may find my facebook page sufficiently interesting and entertaining.

Otto, J. C. and D. E. Hill. 2016. Seven new peacock spiders from Western Australia and South Australia (Araneae: Salticidae: Euophryini: Maratus). Peckhamia 141.1: 1-101: here.

Kangaroos on video


This 4 June 2016 video shows kangaroos in Australia.

Which animals kill humans?


Lethal animals

Which animals kill humans? This picture proves once the absurdity of governmental shark-killing campaigns like in Australia.

Sheep abused by Australian elite school


This video says about itself:

20 May 2016

Elite Australian King’s School caught in sheep tackling furore.

An elite Sydney boys’ school is being investigated for animal cruelty after a video emerged of students crash tackling sheep during rugby drills.

Footage of the training sessions shows the animals being dragged around a New South Wales farm by top players from the King’s School in April.

From the ABC 7:30 TV show in Australia:

Prestigious Sydney private school investigated for animal cruelty after ABC obtains ‘horrific’ sheep-tackling video

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 19/05/2016

Reporter: Lorna Knowles

The King’s School is being investigated for animal cruelty after the ABC obtained videos of members of the school’s top rugby teams crash-tackling sheep in a farm paddock, threatening to tarnish the school’s proud sporting history.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: One of the nation’s most prestigious private schools is being investigated for animal cruelty.

The ABC’S obtained videos of the school’s top rugby teams crash tackling sheep in a farm paddock.

The King’s School in Parramatta helped pioneer rugby union in Australia and has produced dozens of Wallabies players.

The school’s defending the behaviour in the videos, but it’s been condemned by farming and veterinary groups, as Lorna Knowles reports.

LORNA KNOWLES, REPORTER: It’s one of the oldest and best-known independent schools in Australia and sells itself as a boys’ school for Australia’s future leaders. One of its proudest traditions is its rugby team.

But disturbing footage filmed at a recent rugby camp threatens to tarnish the school’s reputation.

The videos obtained by 7.30 show the King’s School top rugby players chasing, tackling and flipping over these young rams.

The boys are being egged on by the adult in charge, former Waratahs player and King’s old boy James Hilgendorf, who’s also the school’s PE teacher and rugby coach.

The videos have triggered an investigation by the RSPCA which could lead to criminal charges against the school and staff involved.

STEVE COLEMAN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NSW RSPCA: It’s horrific. I can’t sum it up any other way – that the behaviour in that footage is disgraceful.

DEREK SCHOEN, PRESIDENT, NSW FARMERS ASSOCIATION: This is unacceptable animal husbandry practices. You’d never treat your stock like that and I would say most concerned farmers would view that with a bit of horror.

LORNA KNOWLES: The video was filmed last month at a camp for the King’s first and second 15 teams in Orange, NSW. The camp included a visit to the sheep farm of a King’s old boy.

The latest King’s School newsletter trumpets the visit:

THE KING’S HERALD (male voiceover): “The day at the farm was a huge success, the boys doing a series of activities that both challenged them, whilst also taking them out of their comfort zone.”

LORNA KNOWLES: 7.30 took the footage to the RSPCA late last week.

STEVE COLEMAN: Out of control, absolutely out of control. That’s a dog. If that’s – if that’s a stock – if he has any involvement with those sheep and he’s watching that happen, we’d like to know who that is. …

… Clearly there are actions and behaviours in that that are, again, unreasonable, unnecessary and unjustifiable and they are the three main ingredients in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

LORNA KNOWLES: RSPCA CEO Steve Coleman is most concerned about the behaviour of the adults supervising the boys.

STEVE COLEMAN: There’s a level of pre-organising, if you like, around this. This doesn’t just happen on a whim. So someone has thought about providing this as a so-called opportunity for these teenage boys.

LORNA KNOWLES: Dr Robert Suter, head of the Australian Vets Association, is also alarmed by the footage.

ROBERT SUTER, AUST. VETERINARY ASSOC.: We’re dealing with rams and rams can actually turn into – they can learn from that and when they’re adults and 120 kilo ball of muscle with a skull as head as a bowling ball, one of them might turn around and decide to take it out on a handler in the future. They might learn from this and I pity the handler.

LORNA KNOWLES: The videos have also raised serious concerns around the safety of the boys involved. 7.30 has obscured their faces, but it’s clear that some of them are uncomfortable.

STEVE COLEMAN: A group of teenage boys and like any group of people, you’ve got those that are dominant, those that are on the fence and those that aren’t comfortable all ending up over here because of some adult that’s encouraging it.

DEREK SCHOEN: A full grown ram will be over 100 kilos and frequently when they’re shorn, they’ll be sedated for the safety of shearers, so to have rams running around with a whole lot of schoolkids, I think is just plain stupid.

LORNA KNOWLES: The headmaster of King’s, Dr Tim Hawkes, declined an interview, but in a statement defended the incident.

TIM HAWKES, HEADMASTER, THE KING’S SCHOOL (male voiceover): “The task was supervised closely by the farmer who gave instructions to the boys as to how this task should be done. The two rugby coaches were assured by the farmer beforehand that the activity was safe and all the more so because he would be supervising it carefully. No animals were injured in the exercise. Neither were any boys.”

LORNA KNOWLES: These RSPCA investigators are far from satisfied with that explanation. They’re here today with a few more questions for Dr Hawkes.

So, that was yesterday. Meanwhile, today, Tim Hawkes has retracted his earlier pro-sheep abuse comments. He now says that the sheep abuse was ‘totally wrong’.

The Farmers’ Federation Derek Schoen says the farmer involved also has serious questions to answer.

DEREK SCHOEN: If it was one of my employees doing that, they would be shown the door very quickly. I would say have a serious look at your operation because especially if an accident did happen and the insurance company saw that footage, I don’t think you’d have a leg to stand on.

Mr Schoen says the sheep were ‘obviously stressed’.

STEVE COLEMAN: What I just saw was behaviour that can lead to similar behaviours towards humans. There’s a lot to be said about violence in general. The concerning factor for the RSPCA is if an otherwise balanced individual can do this to an animal, then what next?

LEIGH SALES: Lorna Knowles reporting.

Australian government, stop imprisoning refugees, Papua New Guinea court decides


This video says about itself:

Guantánamo of the Pacific”: Australian Asylum Seekers Wage Hunger Strike at Offshore Detention Site

22 January 2015

A massive hunger strike is underway at what some are calling “the Guantánamo Bay of the Pacific.” The Manus Island detention center is paid for by the Australian government and run by an Australian contractor, Transfield Services, but located offshore on Papua New Guinea’s soil. The inmates are not accused of any crimes — they are asylum seekers from war-ravaged countries who are waiting indefinitely for their refugee status determinations.

They are asking the United Nations to intervene against the Australian federal government’s plan to resettle them in Papua New Guinea, where they say they could face persecution. Some have barricaded themselves behind the detention center’s high wire fences; others have resorted to increasingly drastic measures such as drinking washing detergent, swallowing razor blades, and even sewing their mouths shut to protest their confinement. We speak with Australian human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Alex Kelly, a social justice filmmaker who organized a New York City vigil in solidarity with the Manus Island detainees.

From the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia:

Papua New Guinea court finds Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal

April 26, 2016 – 11:02PM

Nicole Hasham, Michael Gordon

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says about 900 men being held at the Manus Island detention centre will not be brought to Australia after Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled their detention was illegal.

The decision strikes one of the central pillars of the Turnbull government’s border protection regime, just weeks out from an election campaign during which the government is expected to heavily spruik its asylum seeker record. …

The court ruled the detention breached the constitutional right of asylum seekers to personal liberty. It ordered the Australian and PNG governments to immediately cease the “unconstitutional and illegal detention of asylum seekers” at Manus Island, and stop the breach of their human rights. …

The vast majority of men in the detention centre have been found to be refugees. The court ruling said they were seeking asylum in Australia but were “forcefully brought into PNG” and locked in an Australian-funded centre “enclosed with razor wire“. …

Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs said the unanimous ruling by five judges was “further confirmation that Australia’s detention policies are increasingly out of step with international norms”.

Professor Triggs said the future of men on Manus Island remained “profoundly uncertain”, citing UNHCR concerns that the sustainable integration of refugees into the PNG community “will raise formidable challenges and protection concerns”.

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the reported court ruling showed Australia “has been illegally detaining refugees on Manus Island for years”.

“The [Turnbull] government has got to shut the Manus Island detention camp and bring these people here… so that they can have their claims assessed and be integrated into the community,” she said.

“These people have been through enough. It’s time they were given the safety and care that they deserve.”

Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Greg Barns said the decision was consistent with international law which stated that indefinite detention was unlawful.

The ruling also meant asylum seekers could likely make successful claims for damages for false imprisonment, and strengthened claims that Australia had breached its duty of care to asylum seekers.

“If Australia ignores the decision then it is contradicting its oft-stated claim that Manus Island detention is a matter for PNG jurisdiction,” he said.

Human Rights Watch Australia director Elaine Pearson said the ruling was a “massive victory for asylum seekers and refugees” who had been detained for almost three years.

“PNG’s Supreme Court has recognised that detaining people who have committed no crime is wrong. For these men, their only ‘mistake’ was to try to seek sanctuary in Australia – that doesn’t deserve years in limbo locked up in a remote island prison,” Ms Pearson said in a statement.

“It’s time for the Manus detention centre to be closed once and for all.”

She said the detention centre had caused “severe mental health impacts. These refugees have suffered enough, it’s time for them to finally move on and rebuild their lives in safety and dignity”.

In March, PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the Manus Island detention centre must eventually close, and was a “problem” that had done more damage to his nation’s reputation than any other factor.

PNG Prime Minister Says Manus Island Detention Centre Will Close: here.

In what amounts to an indictment of the Australian political establishment, the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the imprisonment of refugees in an Australian-controlled detention facility on PNG’s remote Manus Island was unconstitutional: here.

There is increasing evidence that Australia is torturing refugees, medical experts claim: here.

Extinct whale’s tooth discovery on Australian beach


This video says about itself:

19 January 2015

In this short animation, produced for primary school children by Green.TV, supported by the Wellcome Trust, we look at the remarkable evolution of the whale from a land-based dog-like animal to the marine mammal that became the world’s largest ever creature.

From the Times of India:

Extinct whale’s 1 foot long tooth found on Australian beach

Subodh Varma | TNN | Apr 22, 2016, 04.21 PM IST

NEW DELHI: An Australian fossil enthusiast discovered a giant tooth of an ancient sperm whale that used to roam the seas five million years ago, munching up fish and even other whales. Murray Orr discovered the tooth at a beach at Beaumaris Bay near Melbourne, known for its vast trove of fossils. Orr immediately donated the fossil to Museum Victoria for further study.

The fossilised tooth is 30 centimetres (one foot) long and weighs three kilograms. This makes it larger than that of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

“After I found the tooth I just sat down and stared at it in disbelief,” Murray Orr said after the find was announced on Thursday by Museum Victoria, reports AFP.

“I knew this was an important find that needed to be shared with everyone.”

After studying the giant tooth, Museum Victoria said that it came from an extinct species of “killer sperm whale” which would have measured up to 18 metres (60 feet) in length and weighed some 40,000 kilograms.

“Until this find at Beaumaris all fossils of giant killer sperm whales were found on the west coast of South and North America,” Erich Fitzgerald, a paleontologist at the museum, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The museum said the tooth dates from the Pliocene epoch of some five million years ago and it was larger than those of sperm whales living today.

It is thought that these extict killer sperm whales deployed their massive teeth to munch on large animals, including fellow whales, unlike today’s sperm whales that eat a diet of squid and fish.

“If we only had today’s deep-diving, squid-sucking sperm whales to go on, we could not predict that just five million years ago there were giant predatory sperm whales with immense teeth that hunted other whales,” Fitzgerald said in a statement, AFP reported.

“Most sperm whales for the past 20 million years have been of the whale-killing kind. So, the fossil record reveals the living species to in fact be the exception to the rule, the oddball of the sperm whale family.”

British sexually abusive spy now trains police in Australia


This video from Britain says about itself:

Environmental and social justice campaigner Helen Steel talks about being spied on by undercover police officer John Dines.

Campaign Opposing Police surveillance meeting, London Metropolitan University, 12 November 2014.

By Conrad Landin in Britain:

Spy Cop ‘Training Police Abroad’

Thursday 10th March 2016

Undercover officer who deceived campaigner into relationship now working with Australian police

POLICE chiefs must give up hiding the identities of undercover coppers, campaigners said yesterday as an officer who deceived a woman into a long-term relationship was revealed to be training police abroad.

John Dines, a member of the Metropolitan Police’s elite Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), was found to be directing police training courses at Charles Sturt University in Sydney.

The explosive revelation came as a whistleblower undercover officer called on the upcoming undercover policing inquiry to rule out the Met’s petition for secrecy.

Mr Dines disappeared 24 years ago, after a career infiltrating protest groups.

As “John Barker,’ an identity stolen from a dead child, he had a two-year relationship with environmental activist and McLibel defendant Helen Steel.

Ms Steel was one of seven women given substantial payouts by the Met in November — when the force issued an “unreserved” apology for forming “abusive and manipulative” relationships.

The Met continues to “neither confirm nor deny” the identities of individual police officers involved in these covert operations.

Campaigners, who gathered outside New Scotland Yard yesterday evening, hope the inquiry, which is currently holding preliminary hearings before full sessions begin in the summer, could force chiefs to change this policy.

Protesters said that only 10 per cent of undercover officers’ “cover names” were known.

Reclaim the Streets activist Carolyn, who is a core participant in the inquiry, said she believed that her group was spied on by other coppers.

“No-one knows for sure if they were spied on,” she told the Star. “We’re asking for all the cover names to be made available — we’re not asking for their real names, it doesn’t affect their own security.”

But the Met has petitioned inquiry chairman Christopher Pitchford to maintain officers’ anonymity and sit in secret when discussing covert operations.

Now lawyers acting for Peter Francis, the ex-officer who revealed that the SDS had spied on trade unions, have urged Mr Pitchford to rule out this request.

They say that the Met’s argument that disclosure would contravene its promise to officers that their identities would be protected for life did not stack up.

Lawyers also say there are “no real national security considerations” in disclosing information on the targeting of activist groups — unlike undercover cops “used in relation to serious crime and to counter terrorism.”

Mr Francis previously issued a statement saying he had spied on members of five trade unions. The undercover inquiry is also examining evidence that police colluded in the blacklisting of construction workers.

GMB national officer Justin Bowden, who has been key to the anti-blacklisting campaign, said: “There is an obvious need for complete transparency on this very emotive issue.

“For there to be any kind of reconciliation and closure for people harmed by police activities, the truth has to come out.

“The police can either continue to be part of the cover-up, or be part of the clean-up.”

Ms Steel flew to Australia after discovering her ex-boyfriend’s new career, and confronted him at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith airport — where he was greeting a party of Indian police officers due to be trained at Charles Sturt.

She said Mr Dines apologised but added that when he had been sent in to infiltrate groups in north London it was to look out for “extremists.”

Ms Steel fears what his role might be with the Indian police training programme. New South Wales legislative council member David Shoebridge yesterday called for the state government to investigate whether local officers had been trained by disgraced SDS veterans.

Mr Dines was listed as a staff member on the course for Indian officers in university literature and as a “professor” in another academic document. But the university said his role was “solely administrative.”

UK plans to track all internet connections could cost £1bn, campaigners warn: here.