Himalayan mountain birds, new study


This video from India says about itself:

Barbets and other birds of the lower Himalayas

4 October 2011

Birds of Dehra Dun and Chakrata:

Great Barbet, Blue-Whistling Thrush, Black-Lored Tit, Grey-Hooded Warbler, Green-Backed Tit and Ruddy Shelducks.

According to Wikipedia:

“The Ruddy Shelduck, Tadorna ferruginea, is a member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae. It is in the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae. In India it is known as the Brahminy Duck.

There are very small resident populations of this species in north west Africa and Ethiopia, but the main breeding area of this species is from south east Europe across central Asia to southeast China. These birds are mostly migratory, wintering in southern Asia.

Although becoming quite rare in southeast Europe and southern Spain, the Ruddy Shelduck is still common across much of its Asian range. It may be this population which gives rise to vagrants as far west as Iceland, Great Britain and Ireland. However, since the European population is declining, it is likely that most occurrences in western Europe in recent decades are escapes or feral birds. Although this bird is observed in the wild from time to time in eastern North America, no evidence of a genuine vagrant has been found.”

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

How Do Birds Cope With Thin Air at High Altitudes?

The higher you go, the less oxygen you get with each breath and the tougher it is to be active. Just imagine how birds feel at high elevation as they go about their high-energy, high-exertion lifestyles. To understand how birds cope, researcher Sahas Barve turned to the steep Himalayan mountains of his native India. Intriguingly, he found that migrant songbirds had a different approach than the birds that live high year round. Find out how they do it.

Anti-Semitism, racism, deportation in the USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

Trump’s America: Anti-Semitism is Back, and It’s Not Going Away

10 November 2016

Donald Trump being elected President of the United States has legitimized the voice of the alt-right in this country and the anti-Semitic rhetoric that comes along with it.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

Behind the anti-Semitic and racist attacks in the US

1 March 2017

The coming to power of the Trump administration has encouraged the most reactionary, racist and backward forces in American society. Nearly 100 bomb threats have been phoned in to Jewish Community Centers around the country, all of them so far hoaxes, but causing widespread fear and disruption. Two Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated, most recently Saturday night in Philadelphia, when more than 500 gravestones were displaced or broken—an effort that clearly involved a sizeable and determined effort.

Last weekend, an Indian immigrant software engineer was murdered in Kansas City, shot to death in a bar by a bigoted Navy veteran who apparently thought he was killing an Iranian, and who echoed Trump’s campaign rhetoric, shouting “get out of my country,” before opening fire. This is only the most flagrant in a wave of violence and intimidation against immigrants and Muslims, inspired by Trump’s executive orders targeting refugees and immigrant workers.

Trump gave lip service to concern over racist and anti-Semitic attacks at the beginning of his nationally televised speech to Congress Tuesday night. His crocodile tears were belied almost immediately as he returned to his main campaign theme of demonizing immigrants as criminals, drug dealers and gang members.

The president’s real attitude to the wave of anti-Semitic attacks was expressed in his remarks at the White House Tuesday to a group of state attorneys general. Trump was asked about the bomb threats and desecration of graves, and he replied, “Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people—or to make others—look bad,” he told the state officials.

This was not the first time that Trump has suggested that his political opponents are staging the anti-Semitic attacks in order to embarrass his administration. Trump said much the same thing, albeit in a typically confused and rambling fashion, when asked about the attacks at his February 16 press conference. “You have some of the signs and some of that anger caused by the other side,” he claimed. “They’ll do signs and drawing that are inappropriate. It won’t be my people. It will be people on the other side to anger people like you.”

Similar claims have been promoted by far-right elements like former KKK leader and neo-Nazi David Duke, with the “people on the other side” replaced with the statement that it is Jews who are responsible for the desecrations.

Officials of Jewish groups have criticized Trump’s latest remarks, as they have a series of comments and actions that have no serious explanation except as expressions of deep-seated anti-Semitism among key officials in the Trump White House.

The most flagrant was the official White House statement commemorating worldwide observances of the Holocaust, which made no reference to the Jewish victims of Hitler’s “final solution,” an omission that White House aides said was intentional.

The ties between Trump and the foul swamp of anti-Semitism and white racism have been noted as far back as his notorious reluctance to distance himself from Duke, who fervently endorsed Trump in the Republican primaries.

Trump’s closest policy adviser, who has taken on a leading role in virtually every area is Stephen Bannon, the fascist-minded former head of Breitbart News, which has become one of the main Internet watering holes for white racist, anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi elements. In his political utterances, Bannon invokes what are diplomatically described as “dog whistles” for anti-Semitism, thinly disguised tropes like his denunciation of the “corporatist, globalist media” at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference.

Trump himself embraced “America First” as the theme of his fascistic inaugural address, despite—or because of—the fact that the group of that name in the 1930s was headed by Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh and the slogan became identified with hostility to Jews.

The White House has repeatedly rebuffed charges of anti-Semitism by pointing to Trump’s family—his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner, now a top White House aide—and to prominent Jewish members of Trump’s cabinet like Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin. The issue is not resolved so easily.

Trump’s promotion of anti-immigrant racism and American nationalism has a definite political logic, aligning his administration with the foulest and most retrograde tendencies in American political life. These elements flocked to the Trump campaign and were emboldened both by his election victory and his promotion of figures like Bannon, Sebastian Gorka (associated with the Hungarian neo-Nazi group, the Order of Vitéz) and Michael Anton (who has denounced Islam as a “militant faith”) to high positions in the White House.

The Trump administration has been steeped in racism and chauvinism from its first day in office. Significantly, while he was forced to make a perfunctory condemnation of anti-Semitism last week, Trump has not said a word about anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant violence. He said nothing about the massacre of five Muslims at a mosque in Quebec City, Canada, carried out by an ultra-right racist and Trump admirer.

Throughout this period, the major policy initiative of the new administration has been to launch a pogrom-style onslaught against immigrants, whether Muslim refugees fleeing US bombs and missiles in the Middle East, or Mexicans and Central Americans, feeding their families by working at low-paying and arduous jobs across the United States.

The heavily publicized raids, round-ups and mass jailing of innocent people have served as a green light to every racist vigilante in America. The Trump administration is morally and political responsible for the upsurge of anti-Semitism and racism, and it must be held accountable.

The Trump administration, however, is an expression of a profound disease, and one that did not begin with the entry of Trump and Bannon into the White House. Far-right nationalism in general and anti-Semitism in particular have always been associated with social and political reaction. It is employed by the ruling class to divert popular anger and to create the ideological foundation for war.

The 1930s saw a savage rise of anti-Semitism, not only in Europe, but in the United States as well. This was also a period of racist lynchings in the south, followed during the Second World War by the mass internment of Japanese Americans ordered by the Roosevelt administration.

All of this nationalist filth is again reemerging. Similar forces are on the rise throughout Europe, with parties and organizations that promote Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, violent attacks on immigrants and the buildup of the police and military—all the trappings of a revival of the fascist forces that were responsible for the greatest crimes of the twentieth century.

In country after country, the ruling class is bringing forward the worst forms of nationalism and religious bigotry. The war policies of American imperialism in the Middle East, with the backing of NATO, have driven tens of millions of refugees to flee their homes. More than a million have made their way to Europe seeking safety and a decent future. But the policy of the Trump administration, and its co-thinkers in Europe, is to brand the victims of imperialism as “terrorists” and bar their entry.

In the final analysis, the mix of fascistic reaction thrown up by the Trump administration is a product of the crisis and breakdown of the capitalist system.

Anti-Semitic hate crimes spike in New York City: here.

03/17/2017 07:48 pm ET: Top Trump Adviser Faces Calls For Resignation After Reports Of Ties To Nazi-Aligned Group. Sebastian Gorka proudly wears a medal from a Hungarian group that collaborated with Nazis during World War II: here.

Even Before Trump, The Republican Party Was Reluctant To Push Out Nazi-Linked Officials. Is it really so surprising to see Sebastian Gorka keep his White House job? By Paul Blumenthal: here.

YES, SEAN SPICER DID CLAIM HITLER NEVER USED CHEMICAL WEAPONS As a reminder, the Nazis gassed millions in concentration camps. Here’s a second-by-second breakdown of how this press conference unfolded, as well as an excellent live reaction shot from White House correspondent April Ryan. The press secretary has since apologized. [HuffPost]

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer falsely stated at a press conference Tuesday that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons, triggering widespread popular anger and disgust in the US and internationally: here.

All Pharaohs Must Fall: A Passover Reflection on Sean Spicer, Wednesday, April 12, 2017 By Brant Rosen, Truthout: here.

This video from the USA says about itself:

24 February 2017

The wife of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the man who was shot and killed at an Olathe bar on Wednesday night, said to reporters that “he wanted to do so much for this country” and “he did not deserve a death like this.”

WIFE OF SLAIN KANSAS INDIAN MAN: ‘DO WE BELONG HERE?’ Sunayana Dumala, the widow of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, asked in a lengthy Facebook post what the U.S. government was going to do to address hate crimes. [HuffPost]

By Wasantha Rupasinghe:

Popular outcry against murder of Indian immigrant in US

1 March 2017

There is growing popular anger in both India and America at last week’s murder of an Indian immigrant in Olathe, Kansas and at US President Donald Trump’s failure to condemn the xenophobic attack.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old software engineer, was shot dead and fellow Indian immigrant Alok Madasani wounded by a man who had hurled racial slurs at them, was asked to leave Austins Bar and Grill, then returned with a shotgun. Before opening fire, the shooter shouted, “Get out of my country” and “terrorist.” Also injured in the attack was Ian Grillot, who tried to tackle the gunman.

Adam Purinton, a 51-year-old US Navy veteran, has been charged with one count of premeditated murder and two counts of attempted murder in the February 22 shooting.

Witnesses to the crime suggest that Purinton believed the men were Muslims and from Iran. Madasani, who worked with Kuchibhotla at the GPS manufacturer Garmin, told the New York Times, the shooter had asked them “what visa are we currently on and whether we are staying here illegally.”

Last week’s tragic events took place against the background of the virulent anti-immigrant campaign launched by Trump and his administration. This includes an executive order targeting immigrants and travelers from Iran and six other mainly Muslim countries, a vast expansion of the arbitrary powers of immigration police to arrest and deport immigrants, a wave of raids targeting undocumented workers and their families, and preparations for mass deportations and internment camps.

The Trump administration has baldly denied any connection between its anti-immigrant witch hunt and stoking of anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican sentiment and a sharp spike in hate crimes.

Speaking last week, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer curtly dismissed a reporter’s suggestion that the “rhetoric” of Trump and his administration could have “contributed in any way” to the Kansas shooting and other violent attacks targeting Muslims, Jews, and immigrants. “To suggest there’s any correlation,” Spicer claimed, “…is a bit absurd.”

But working people in both India and the US are increasingly drawing the connection, as well as noting Trump’s conspicuous silence on the Kansas killing.

No less politically revealing is the failure of Trump’s Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to condemn Kuchibhotla’s murder.

Modi has frequently boasted of his close ties to the growing Indian immigrant population in America and casts himself as the fiercest opponent of “terrorism.” Yet he has said nothing about the lethal attack targeting Indian immigrants in Olathe. India’s Prime Minister has been similarly silent on Trump’s discriminatory travel ban targeting Muslim countries, although India is home to some 175 million Muslims, making it the third-largest Muslim country in the world.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is notorious for its anti-Muslim Hindu chauvinism. However, the principal reason for Modi’s silence on both Trump’s Muslim ban and the Olathe attack is his determination not to do anything that might embarrass or antagonize the Trump administration. Under Modi, and with Indian big business’s enthusiastic support, New Delhi has dramatically expanded its military-security partnership with Washington. In the hopes of boosting their own great-power ambitions, the Indian ruling elite is recklessly transforming India into a “frontline” state in Washington’s military-strategic offensive against China. Last month, the Pentagon revealed that India is to become a service and repair hub for the US Seventh Fleet, the arm of the US Navy charged with spearheading military action against China.

Popular anger over the horrific events in Olathe and the Trump administration’s whipping up of animosity toward immigrants is, nevertheless, proving to be a political problem for India’s government. As the outcry grew in India, Pratik Mathur, the press secretary at the Indian embassy in Washington, issued a statement expressing deep concern at Kuchibhotla’s killing and calling on US authorities to conduct a “speedy investigation.”

Yesterday, the Indian government hastened to deny media reports that New Delhi had issued a diplomatic demarche to the US over the lethal attack in Olathe. Indian External Affairs spokesperson Gopal Baglay claimed prompt action by US authorities had “obviated” the need for such action. “It is important to note,” asserted Baglay, “that the US authorities are engaged with us on the larger concern regarding safety of Indians in the US, a matter which continues to receive the government’s top priority.”

In reality, the Trump administration fully intends to press forward with its anti-immigrant witch hunt, both so as to make immigrants scapegoats for the mass unemployment, falling living standards, and social deprivation produced by capitalism and to justify the buildup of the repressive apparatus of the state.

Indian immigrant workers are certain to be among the primary victims of the Trump administration’s plans to dramatically curtail the H1B Visa program under which US employers can temporarily employ high-skilled foreign workers.

The Indian government’s indifference to Kuchibhotla’s fate and eagerness to work with the Trump administration stands in marked contrast to the sentiments of working people in India and America. In both countries, there has been an outpouring of anger, much of it directed against Trump, and support for the victims and their families.

As of Monday, more than 8,000 people had contributed $1.25 million to a GoFundMe campaign, launched by a former coworker of Kuchibhotla, to raise funds for the victims of the Olathe shooting. According to the Kansas City Star, hundreds participated in a peace march there Sunday to protest the anti-immigrant attack.

Protests rallies were also held in Andhra Pradesh, the southern Indian state where Kuchibhotla grew up and his family lives. His funeral, which was held in Hyderabad yesterday, was in part a political protest, with many of the participants chanting or holding up “Down with Trump” and “Down with Racism” signs.

Unlike the Modi government, some sections of the Indian press have pointed to the connection between the shooting in Olathe and the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant witch hunt. A February 27 Indian Express editorial, titled “The Cost of Hate,” said, “President Donald Trump and his political allies, who fanned the red-hot coals of white nationalist tendencies in the United States through the course of their election campaign, must answer questions raised by [Kuchibhotla’s] murder.” The Hindu said the Olathe shooting “cannot but shine a spotlight on President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant actions,” then rebuked Trump for failing to condemn it. A Times of India editorial, “Shot in Kansas: A Hyderabad engineer falls victim to festering socio-economic turmoil in America,” noted that “Indians were blamed for ‘stealing’ jobs from Americans during the Obama administration as well.”

The Indian media’s comments are indicative of their concerns that the ultra-rightwing agenda of the Trump administration will incite popular opposition to the Indo-US military-strategic alliance and disrupt the operations of India’s IT firms, whose US operations are India’s largest source of export income.

USA: Yousef Ajin, 48, a Jordanian working class immigrant who has lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for 18 years, received a waiver from deportation at the conclusion of a deportation hearing Tuesday. Ajin, a maintenance worker, was arrested on January 30 following a routine check-in with his immigration officer. Ajin won wide support for his case, with over 200 people attending the protest in front of the courthouse and official statements from local politicians in Ann Arbor: here.

Ancient primate fossil discovery in India


This 2014 video Lecture 16 Early Primate Evolution.

From the University of Southern California in the USA:

Newfound primate teeth take a big bite out of the evolutionary tree of life

The new species of primate from India is distantly related to the lemurs of Madagascar

February 28, 2017

Summary:

Fossil hunters have found part of an ancient primate jawbone related to lemurs — the primitive primate group distantly connected to monkeys, apes and humans, a researcher reports. Scientists named the new species Ramadapis sahnii and said that it existed 11 to 14 million years ago. It is a member of the ancient Sivaladapidae primate family, consumed leaves and was about the size of a house cat.

Fossil hunters have found part of an ancient primate jawbone related to lemurs — the primitive primate group distantly connected to monkeys, apes and humans, a USC researcher said.

Biren Patel, an associate professor of clinical cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, has been digging for fossils in a paleontologically rich area of Kashmir in northern India for six years. Although paleontologists have scoured this region for a century, relics of small extinct primates were rarely found or studied.

Scientists named the new species Ramadapis sahnii and said that it existed 11 to 14 million years ago. It is a member of the ancient Sivaladapidae primate family, consumed leaves and was about the size of a house cat, said Patel, co-author of the new study in the Journal of Human Evolution.

“Among the primates, the most common ones in the Kashmir region are from a genus called Sivapithecus, which were ancestral forms of orangutans,” Patel said. “The fossil we found is from a different group on the primate family tree — one that is poorly known in Asia. We are filling an ecological and biogeographical gap that wasn’t really well documented. Every little step adds to the understanding of our human family tree because we’re also primates.”

The last primate found in the area was 38 years ago. So, in addition to being a new species, this is the first primate fossil found in the area in decades.

“In the past, people were interested in searching for big things — things they could show off to other people,” Patel said. “A lot of the small fossils were not on their radar.”

The inch-and-a-quarter partial mandible belongs to a primate weighing less than 11 pounds that had outlived its other adapidae cousins found in North America, Europe and Africa by millions of years.

“New primates are always a hot topic, and this one is the first of its kind from its area in Asia, which has significant consequences for understanding primate evolution in the Old World,” said Michael Habib, an assistant professor of clinical cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

The question that remains is how the ecosystem in northern India supported this species when its relatives elsewhere were disappearing or had already gone extinct. Future fieldwork and recovering more fossil primates will help answer this question.

“People want to know about human origins, but to fully understand human origins, you need to understand all of primate origins, including the lemurs and these Sivaladapids,” Patel said. “Lemurs and sivaladapids are sister groups to what we are — the anthropoids — and we are all primates.”

Researchers from Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, Arizona State University, Stony Brook University and Panjab University also contributed to this study, which was supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the Institute of Human Origins and funding from some of the involved universities.

United States racist murders Indian ‘in Trump’s war on Iran’


This 26 February 2017 video from the USA is called Hundreds march in support of Olathe shooting victims, attend prayer vigil.

From the BBC today:

Olathe, Kansas, shooting suspect ‘said he killed Iranians

A man arrested last week for shooting two Indians at a Kansas bar allegedly told a barmaid he had just opened fire on some “Iranian people“.

Adam Purinton, 51, fled the scene of the attack at a pub in Olathe and went to a restaurant where he confided in a staff member, police say.

He was arraigned in court on Monday with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

The accused wore a safety smock to prevent him from harming himself.

Police say he shot and killed Srinivas Kuchibholta at a pub on Wednesday evening.

In a 911 call, a bartender, Sam Suida, told the police dispatcher a man had come into the bar and said he’d done something “really bad” and that he was on the run.

“He asked if he could stay with me and my husband, and he wouldn’t tell me what he did,” she says on a recording of the call.

“I kept asking him, and he said that he would tell me if I agreed to let him stay with me.

“Well, I finally got him to tell me and he said, like, that he shot and killed two Iranian people in Olathe.” …

Witnesses said the suspect shouted “get out of my country” before shots rang out.

Mr Madasani told the BBC the gunman had demanded to know if they were in the country legally.

The suspect is being held in the Johnson County Jail on a bond of $2m (£1.6m).

His next court appearance is on 9 March.

White House adviser: Trump won’t ‘overly discuss’ hate crimes by whites for fear he’ll ’cause a fire’: here.

Young snakes born in India


This 17 January 2017 video says about itself:

Venomous Red-Tailed Viper Snake giving birth to 12 babies in India – National Geographic

New frog species discovery in India


This video from India says about itself:

Euphlyctis karaavali: CR Naik

25 December 2016

Video clip of Karaavali skittering frog. This is part of supplementary video clip of the article published in Asian Herpetological Research 2016, 7(4): 229–241; DOI: 10.16373/j.cnki.ahr.160020

From BirdLife:

The frog we thought was a kingfisher

By Tim Knight, 24 Jan 2017

A coastal survey in western India has spawned the discovery of a new species hiding in plain sight.

Tadpoles turning into frogs are nothing new, but when a bird is miraculously transformed into an amphibian – and a previously unknown one at that – it’s time to sit up and take notice. In a bizarre turn of events that gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘metamorphosis’, a frog whose call was initially mistaken for the more familiar sound made by a white-throated kingfisher has just been confirmed as a new species.

It was citizen science that first shed light on the true identity of the Karaavali skittering frog, named after the region where it was first recorded. In the local Kannada language widely spoken in the state of Karnataka, Karaavali is the name for India’s west coast.

A local forester, C R Naik, was monitoring the biodiversity around his coastal village in order to document the bird, snake and frog species in the vicinity. Having realised that the kingfisher-like call was actually being emitted by a frog, he had the presence of mind to record it on his mobile phone. During subsequent fieldwork in the Western Ghats he played back the recording to a team of scientists, including several herpetologists, who naturally assumed that they were listening to a bird.

Leap of the imagination

Among them was Seshadri K S, winner of a 2010 Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) award who is currently studying for a PhD at the National University of Singapore. Intrigued by Naik’s claim that the call belonged to a frog and not, in fact, to the commonly heard White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon gularis, Seshadri resolved to visit the coastal site and investigate the mystery for himself. Sure enough, a few hours of nocturnal detective work amid flooded paddy fields in the company of Naik revealed that the forester’s story was not an elaborate hoax. Subsequent analysis of the call helped to confirm that the species was indeed new to science.

“Often, such scientific discoveries happen because there are foot soldiers like Mr Naik working hard in the field”, Seshadri observed. “Him being a forest official and making observations on nature makes this discovery special. We hope this discovery will inspire the staff of the forest departments and research is encouraged. By joining hands with researchers, Naik has come to the forefront of biodiversity conservation. Such efforts will [help to put] biological research in India on a par with [the rest] of the world.”

In a wonderful example of the results that can be achieved when enthusiastic and knowledgeable citizens join forces with experts, Naik is among the co-authors of a paper recently published in the December 2016 issue of Asian Herpetological Research, which brought the Karaavali skittering frog discovery to the attention of the wider scientific community.

Public engagement

Dr Gururaj K V, a renowned frog researcher and another co-author of the recent paper, who performed the bioacoustics analysis of the call, is a strong advocate of the need to engage the general public in scientific pursuits and was therefore particularly gratified that citizen science had played such a key role in the discovery: “We were certain that the call was of a bird and [that] he was taking us for a ride; however, Mr Naik was adamant. We conceded that the call ought to be explored more and asked Naik to make a video next time he heard it. He immediately got to work and sent us short video clips and said this was a new species of frog.”

Naik himself was equally elated: “I am so happy that a new frog [has been] discovered from my native place and I am doubly delighted to be part of this discovery. I am thankful for the entire team of scientists who took trusted in me. This discovery has motivated me and I will continue making observations, not only about frogs, but in other [areas of] natural history. Such observations can help in creating awareness among citizens about nature.”

The newly discovered species is already threatened by nearby infrastructure development in the shape of highway construction and conversion of agricultural land. The paper’s authors highlight the fact that the frog appears to be restricted to just three districts in the coastal plains of Karnataka, and recommend that it should be officially classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

See also here.