Chelsea Manning speaks in New Zealand


This 8 September 2018 video says aboout itself:

Former US soldier and perhaps the world’s most famous whistleblower, Chelsea Manning, has landed in New Zealand, declaring that President Trump is “not unusual” in American politics.

Ms Manning was denied a visa to Australia, and the [right-wing] National Party said the same should happen here. But she has pushed ahead with her plans to speak in Auckland.

“It’s quite inspiring to be out here. I’m glad you all let me in”, she said, speaking exclusively to 1 NEWS. …

[She] was caught releasing thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks in 2010.

Among the leaks was video showing the US military gunning down civilians in Iraq.

Ms Manning was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment for putting the United States’ security at risk, but after seven years in jail, then-president Barack Obama released her.

“On a personal level I’m extremely thankful”, Ms Manning said. However, on a political level she said Mr Obama was a compromised leader.

And as for the current US leader, Ms Manning said, “I want to be clear on this, Donald Trump is not an aberration. He is not an abnormality. He is not unusual in American politics.”

By Tom Peters in New Zealand:

Chelsea Manning speaks in New Zealand

13 September 2018

On September 8 and 9 whistleblower Chelsea Manning spoke to meetings attended by hundreds of people in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand.

The Australian government denied entry to Manning, who had been scheduled to appear in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. She defied this attack on free speech and freedom of movement by addressing Australian audiences via live video link.

New Zealand’s opposition National Party and sections of the media had demanded a similar ban. The Labour Party-led government, however, faced with widespread public support for Manning, allowed her to enter the country.

In 2010, Manning, then 22-years-old and a US army intelligence analyst, known as Bradley Manning, leaked hundreds of thousands of US military documents and embassy cables to WikiLeaks. This courageous action exposed war crimes carried out by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the murder of journalists and innocent civilians shown in the “Collateral Murder” video.

WSWS reporters attended the event in Wellington, where Manning began by talking about her difficult early life, including periods of homelessness as a teenager, followed by her decision to join the army. Her father had also been in the military.

Manning said she had not been anti-war before seeing the brutal reality of the US war in Iraq. After arriving there in late 2009 she explained, “I started to slowly realise, I’m not working with statistics. These are people’s lives… I processed everything that was happening over time and I couldn’t separate my job from the reality, I couldn’t do that anymore… We couldn’t keep doing what we were doing.” Manning decided to leak the military documents in early 2010 while on leave in the US.

She described the brutal conditions she experienced while being detained in solitary confinement, including in “a cage” on a military base. “I had no sense of time… I was completely cut off from the outside world”, she said. “I went two months without even knowing whether or not my family knew I was alive.” Eventually, after being court-martialed, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Manning’s sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama and she was released in 2017, but not pardoned. She has spent seven years, most of her adult life, in prison.

“A lot of people want to focus on what I went through, but in the US there’s 2.2 million people in prison”, she said. She explained that those behind bars supported and “stood up for each other” and “the most violent people in prison were the prison guards”.

Asked if she felt she had got her life back after her unexpected release, Manning said she did not know. She pointed to the militarisation of every-day life in the US: “I have freedom of movement, that’s different from being in prison. But we’ve got razor-wire walls on the border now, we have police running around our neighbourhoods with AR-15s [assault rifles].

“The reason I was so bothered by what we were doing in Iraq was that we were the occupying force”, Manning continued. “I see that now, in the US, we’re our own occupying force; we have a domestic military occupation, especially in the most vulnerable communities. Trans people are disproportionately affected by that, so are people of colour and immigrants.”

Manning was interviewed for just over an hour by former Labour Party MP Georgina Beyer, the world’s first openly transgender parliamentarian, before taking questions from the audience.

Beyer criticised the Australian government’s decision to ban Manning from the country, saying “they suck up to the US”. She then admitted that New Zealand was also part of the US-led Five Eyes intelligence network.

In fact, Beyer herself was part of the 1999–2008 Labour government, which greatly strengthened New Zealand’s military and intelligence relations with the US and sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. NZ’s Special Air Service forces have been implicated in war crimes in Afghanistan.

The current Labour government of Jacinda Ardern has kept NZ forces in both countries and is further boosting military spending and collaboration with the US, including in the military build-up against China and North Korea.

Manning elaborated that “different groups of people are dealing with different problems that are coming from the same source: the same military, police and intelligence apparatus, this gigantic whirling death machine that we’ve built over several decades… So what we can do is be in solidarity with each other, even though we’re affected in different ways.”

The United States, she continued, “has the largest military in the world. We spend $700 billion a year right now, up from only $550 a couple of years ago” along with the largest prison system and intelligence apparatus.

Manning answered numerous questions from audience members, many of whom thanked her for coming to New Zealand and expressed appreciation for her courage. …

“And the things I do know about my own case, I can’t talk about because the court-martial’s classified. Even though I want to talk about stuff, I can’t, and it places me in an uncomfortable box.”

Following the publication of Manning’s leaks, WikiLeaks has been labelled a “hostile” organisation by Democrats and Republicans in the US. Its founder, Assange, has been persecuted and there are plans to imprison him for the “crime” of revealing US war crimes and anti-democratic operations throughout the world. In March, Ecuador’s government sought to appease Washington by cutting off Assange’s internet access, isolating him from the outside world.

Another audience member noted that millions have died due to US-led wars in the Middle East since 2001, yet virtually nothing is said in the media about “the horrors in Yemen, what’s happened in Raqqa [Syria], and Mosul [Iraq].”

Manning agreed that the population was kept in the dark: “You’re not supposed to know about it. It’s supposed to be so overwhelming and complex and unimaginable… that’s why it’s so hard to do activism against [war].”

Asked what she thought about the recent op-ed in the New York Times by an anonymous member of the “resistance” within the Trump administration, Manning replied: “It’s all a sideshow, in my opinion”, adding that “most people in America” did not care about “the palace intrigue” and “half the things that are being debated on television.

“You see people worried about issues in their community, and it’s stemming from the same systemic problem [as] 20 years ago.” The Trump administration, she said, was the outcome of “systemic problems” in the US.

Asked to elaborate on her recent decision to contest the Democratic Party’s primary campaign for the Maryland Senate seat, Manning said she wanted to use the campaign as a “platform… to talk about things that no other candidate in the entire Democratic Party was talking about or even suggesting. It was messy.”

At one point she and her campaign team discussed whether they should “try to win” through focus groups and “figure out what people want to hear, or do we want to stick to our principles?” They made a unanimous decision to stick to “the platform that we believed in”, including the abolition of ICE, rolling back prisons and stop arming the police with military weapons.

Manning explained that she would knock on peoples’ doors and “they would tell me their life story” and posed hard questions to which “I didn’t have answers, sometimes… I had really intense moments on people’s doorsteps.” Not knowing what to do, she said she often felt like hugging people. Following the campaign, Manning decided she could not see herself being a politician in the present system, but considered herself an activist.

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New Zealand penguins’ long journeys


This 2017 video is called Penguins 101: Fiordland Crested Penguin Fun Facts for Kids.

From PLOS:

New Zealand penguins make mammoth migrations, traveling thousands of kilometers to feed

Tawaki penguins swim up to 80 km per day to reach their feeding grounds

August 29, 2018

Fiordland penguins, Eudyptes pachyrhynchus, known as Tawaki, migrate up to 2,500 km from their breeding site, according to a study publishing August 29 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Thomas Mattern of the University of Otago and colleagues.

Tawaki penguins migrate from their breeding sites on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, where they feed at sea for several weeks to refuel after long periods of fasting on land while rearing chicks. To find out where the seabirds go, the authors attached satellite transmitters to 10 male and 7 female adult Tawaki penguins from November 2016 to March 2017, and compared the migration routes with published oceanographic data such as surface temperature and currents. Tags on nine birds continued emitting data up until they turned back for the return journey, and five were tracked for the entire migration.

They found that the penguins travelled between 3,500 and 6,800 km on their 69-day migration — making theirs one of the longest penguin pre-moult migrations recorded to date. The birds travelled between 20km and 80km per day — which the authors suggest may be close to the upper limit for penguin swimming.

Penguins travelled south west from the colony before heading to one of two feeding grounds — one near the subtropical front (STF), south of Tasmania, and one further south near the subantarctic front (SAF). Birds that left the breeding site earlier in the season tended to head to the STF, and travelled 750 km shorter on average. The authors suggest that successful breeders may be more likely to depart late because of the demands of parenting, and have to swim faster to reach the more distant feeding grounds in the SAF.

Mattern notes: “The penguins leave the New Zealand coast at a time when the ocean’s productivity is nearing its peak, so from that perspective, travelling thousands of kilometers seem to make little sense. We believe that this extraordinary behavior could be a remnant from an ancestral penguin species that evolved further south in the sub-Antarctic region before populating the New Zealand mainland. This would also explain why the species breeding range is concentrated to the southern coastlines of New Zealand; if breeding further north, this migratory behavior would simply not be feasible.”

Tuatara finds love in middle age – at 110!


https://youtu.be/OIjAclFJd9U

This video is called 5 Facts Why You Should LOVE Tuataras

The Waterthrush Blog

Personally, I have no intention of living to be 110 – it doesn’t sound like much fun to me. But apparently, tuataras can just be coming into their prime about then, as this story of a captive breeding program in New Zealand attests. I’ve always read that tuataras were “living fossils”, but I never appreciated how that moniker could apply to individuals as well as to the species.

Tuataras occupy a limited distribution, having been extirpated from most of their former range on the main islands of New Zealand:

Full interpretation of the map can be found here.

Conservation-wise, humans and their associated exotic pets and parasites have been a bane for tuataras, and some suggest that climate change will not serve them well. But for some real neat info, check the link here to Michael Ryan’s “Palaeoblog.” It includes a recently published article indicating that tuataras are…

View original post 22 more words

New Zealand blue whales research


This 2017 video says about itself:

See Blue Whales Lunge For Dinner in Beautiful Drone Footage | National Geographic

Scientists filming in the South Ocean off the coast of New Zealand captured this stunning footage of a blue whale eating a mass of krill. The whales can grow up to the length of three school buses and require a lot of energy to accelerate in the water. They speed up to about 6.7 miles just before consuming the krill, and the act of opening their mouth slows them down to about 1.1 miles per hour. They then have to expend even more energy to get back up to speed. All of this energy spent may lead the whales to be picky eaters, if the mass of krill is too small they may swim through without opening their mouth to feed.

From Oregon State University in the USA:

New Zealand has its own population of blue whales

May 17, 2018

A group of blue whales that frequent the South Taranaki Bight (STB) between the North and South islands of New Zealand appears to be part of a local population that is genetically distinct from other blue whales in the Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean, a new study has found.

The whales show a high level of residency, researchers say, as hydrophones deployed in the region recorded blue whale calls on 99.7 percent of the days between January and December in 2016.

The study, led by Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, is important because the South Taranaki Bight has several oil and gas extraction rigs and the New Zealand government recently issued its first permit for mining the seafloor there for iron sands.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Endangered Species Research.

“We had five hydrophones deployed for two years in the STB and we never heard any Australian blue whale calls — just the local New Zealand population”, said Leigh Torres, a principal investigator with OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute and co-author on the study. “When we conducted biopsies of individual whales, we also discovered that they are genetically distinct from other blue whale populations.”

This journey of discovery began in 2011 when a colleague told Torres that observers aboard seismic survey vessels had spotted nine blue whales. Torres thought it was unusual, and began looking at whaling records, which suggested the South Taranaki Bight region historically was a minor “hotspot” for blue whale activity.

She then assessed oceanographic patterns and found documentation of local upwelling that “supports aggregation of a certain krill species that blue whales like to eat.”

In 2013, Torres wrote a paper hypothesizing that blue whales may use this region because of a steady food supply. She said she received pushback from industry, resource managers and even other scientists because the blue whale is listed as a “migrant” by the New Zealand Threat Classification System.

So in 2014 she led a 10-day research expedition looking for blue whales to see if they were foraging in the area and during that study she and her colleagues identified roughly 50 blue whales. That led to more questions, including whether the whales were part of a migratory population from, say, Australia, or were potentially a distinct New Zealand population.

Torres and her graduate student, Dawn Barlow, led longer surveys in the summers of 2016 and 2017, trying to determine the abundance, distribution patterns and population structure of the New Zealand blue whales. They used biopsy darts to determine the genetics of the whales, compared sightings with photo IDs of whales from other regions, and listened to the hydrophones deployed in the region for two years.

They were able to identify 151 individual New Zealand blue whales between 2004 and 2017 by examining various photographic evidence and then used that and other data to estimate their overall abundance.

“There is no doubt that New Zealand blue whales are genetically distinct, but we’re still not certain about how many of them there are”, Barlow said. “We have generated a minimum abundance estimate of 718, and we also were able to document eight individuals that we re-sighted in multiple years in New Zealand waters, including one whale seen in three of the four years with a different calf each time, and many others we saw at least once.”

Torres said the OSU researchers are “working closely with resource managers in New Zealand to help them understand what we do and don’t know about this New Zealand blue whale population so they can apply best management practices to minimize impacts from industry.”

“While we have gained a great amount of information about blue whales in New Zealand over the past few years, we continue to analyze our data and do more research to address other knowledge gaps.”

The blue whales found off New Zealand, Australia and Chile are not quite as large as Antarctic blue whales, which scientists believe to be the largest animals to have ever lived on Earth. Antarctic blues, when they reach adulthood, can range from 28 to 30 meters in length (nearly 100 feet). The other blue whales, though slightly smaller, are still formidable at about 22 meters in length (or 72 feet).

The Oregon State researchers will return to New Zealand in July and meet with government and political leaders, as well as industry representatives. They also are presenting their data to the International Whaling Commission.

New Zealand conservation news


This 2012 video is called INCREDIBLE NEW ZEALAND WILDLIFE.

By Ann Graeme in New Zealand:

8 Mar 2018

The Lazarus Effect: protect one species, resurrect a whole forest

Pest control is saving more than just the Kiwi: species that haven’t been seen for years are reappearing in New Zealand’s forests. Ann Graeme shares inspiring stories of native birds, plants and insects that have returned after community conservation for a different species – “The Lazarus Effect”.

A version of this article first appeared in Forest & Bird magazine. To find out more about conservation in New Zealand, see here.

It rained in the night. My pack is heavy with rat bait, and I am following East 5, a bait line marked with pink ribbon, through the forest. Up, down, up the bank. It’s steep and slippery, and I pull myself higher, clutching the tree trunks. There’s the bait station. I open it, pull out the wire, slip on the baits, close the lid, and look about for the next station. It’s far below, its pink ribbon fluttering.

I’m tired and wet and muddy, and I can’t help thinking, “Is it worth it? Am I doing any good?” Then, as I put my hand on a fallen log to heave myself over, I see an insect. Not just any old insect, but an amazing and bizarre insect – a Giraffe Weevil Lasiorhynchus barbicornis. It looks at me with its beady eyes and waves the little antennae at the tip of its ridiculously long snout. Those antennae show it is a male, because female Giraffe Weevils sensibly have their antennae further along the snout, out of the way for digging.

Giraffe Weevils are not rare, but they do make crunchy mouthfuls for a rat. This weevil, brazenly clambering over a rotten log, confirms my hope that our rat control is effective and that the bait I am carrying is giving the native plants and animals a better chance of survival.

Yes, it is worth it, this work, month after month, by hundreds of local volunteers in dozens of forest restoration projects. As the pests are driven back, seeds sprout, shoots appear, and birds, lizards, and invertebrates can emerge from the shadows. Here are some of their stories.

More than 25 years ago landowners on the Russell peninsula, in Northland, engaged Laurence Gordon to protect Kiwi living on their properties. Kiwi flourished under his pest-control regime and, since the turn of the century, his work has been enhanced and extended by the Russell Kiwi Protection Trust, an initiative of Russell Landcare Trust. Now there are more than 500 Kiwi on the peninsula, and birds can be heard calling in the township of Russell.

And it wasn’t only the Kiwi who benefited from pest control. To the residents’ delight, they began to see New Zealand Tomtits Petroica macrocephala, which hadn’t been seen for decades. The little birds can rear their chicks more safely now there are few rats, stoats, and possums to raid their nests.

In 1995, North Island Weka Gallirallus australis greyi (classed as Vulnerable to extinction) were released on the peninsula. They were captive-bred birds reared by Forest & Bird members. They too have prospered and now number several thousand. And these are only the tip of the iceberg. No doubt a host of other unseen and unnoticed native animals are flourishing thanks to the pest control intended to help the Kiwi.

Like Tomtits, the Riflemen Acanthisitta chloris are vulnerable to nest-raiding predators. Riflemen had not been recorded in the Kaimai Range, west of Tauranga, but seven years after pest control began in nearby Aongatete, they turned up in the forest there! A few birds must have been surviving all along, and now pest control has allowed them to breed and multiply.

Riflemen too are being seen again in the Talbot forest of South Canterbury, and so are Tūī Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae. That is thanks to the volunteer efforts of the Talbot Forest Working Group. In Wellington, residents may be lucky enough to enjoy a visiting Kākā Nestor meridionalis (Endangered), a bird unseen in the city in living memory. They are flying from Zealandia, that pest-free jewel in suburban Karori.

Not every pest-control and restoration project will see the resurrection of a charismatic species, but every project will enjoy more subtle signs, such as the Clematis flowers that, thanks to volunteer possum control, now delight people driving from Mangawhai to Langs Beach.

Every pest we kill means fewer leaves or eggs or beetles are eaten and more flowers, Fantails, and insects thrive. And as well as these visible signs, the consequences of a healthy forest mean less erosion, clean water in the streams, and a greater store of carbon, the ultimate gift in a warming world.

Ann Graeme is a volunteer at the Aongatete Forest Project, south of Katikati, in the Western Bay of Plenty.

New Zealand governments’ lies on Iraq war


This video from England is called Historical anti-[Iraq] war protest in London: 15 February 2003.

By Sam Price in New Zealand:

New Zealand governments lied about “non-combat” role in Iraq

2 March 2018

Reports published by Fairfax Media reveal that New Zealand governments, National and Labour party alike, have lied about activities of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) in Iraq.

Around 100 New Zealand troops have been stationed in Iraq since May 2015 as part of a joint operation with Australia called Task Group Taji. The current Labour-led government has maintained that it is a strictly non-combat operation to train Iraqi soldiers. However, separate reports by human rights researcher Harmeet Sooden and investigative journalist Jon Stephenson have revealed that NZ soldiers are actively participating in the ongoing US-led war.

After the 2003–2011 US invasion and occupation of Iraq, which killed over a million people, the Obama administration sent US troops back to the country in July 2014, ostensibly to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as “Daesh”.

In reality, Washington’s aim was to shore up its position in the Middle East. It has supported a war for regime change in Syria, a Russian ally, in an alliance with Islamist militias and Kurdish forces. Over 85,000 Iraqi and 100,000 Syrian civilians have been killed in the past seven years, and an estimated 11 million Syrians have been displaced, producing the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Sooden’s report, based on government answers to his official information requests, noted that on July 19, 2017, the government expanded the NZDF’s mandate to “provide advise-and-assist support to the Iraqi Army’s North Baghdad Operations Command”. This includes gathering intelligence and planning military actions, as well as “equipping, resupplying and refitting the Iraqi security forces for combat operations”.

Task Group Taji has been gathering biometric data for an intelligence program in which the NZ Army has been involved since at least 2009. Data from this program is available to US intelligence agencies.

Sooden also found that at some point between June 2016 and May 2017 the government authorised expanding the delivery of training to Qayyarah West Airfield without public acknowledgement.

Stephenson, who has reported extensively on New Zealand’s military deployments, revealed that since at least early 2016 NZDF personnel have been secretly stationed at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center (CAOC) in Qatar. CAOC, run by the US Air Force Central Command, involves 20 countries and coordinates air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Former Pentagon official Paul Buchanan admitted that successive NZ governments’ description of New Zealand troops abroad as “non-combat” was a lie. He said: “In reality, the intelligence and planning role is as central to the kill chain as that of the pilots”.

In a comment published by Fairfax on February 12, Buchanan said “advise and assist … was envisioned from the very beginning of the Defence Force involvement in the anti-Daesh coalition”. He asserted that the government’s secrecy was necessary to protect New Zealand interests from terrorist retaliation, but also to avoid public backlash and “deny participation in potential war crimes”.

Last year, Stephenson co-authored Hit and Run, with Nicky Hager, which revealed that in 2010 NZ Special Air Service (NZSAS) commandos led an attack on two villages in Afghanistan, killing six people, including a three-year-old girl.

A documentary by Fairfax Media described the “bait and hook” tactic used by the NZSAS to terrorise villagers and provoke battles. It also revealed that the army’s so-called Provincial Reconstruction Team was secretly involved in offensive operations.

There is widespread anti-war sentiment in New Zealand, where thousands of people joined worldwide mass protests against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Every party in parliament, however, supports NZ’s involvement in Iraq.

The Labour Party and its coalition partners, New Zealand First and the Greens, voted against the former National government’s decision to send soldiers to Iraq in 2015. However, the Labour-led government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has not withdrawn the troops.

Former Labour leader Andrew Little feigned concern in 2015 that training would turn into combat operations. Earlier this month Little, now the minister responsible for the intelligence agencies, joined Defence Minister Ron Mark on a visit to Camp Taji, and to NZ troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Mark, a member of the right-wing populist NZ First, told the media that NZ troops were “highly valued” by the Iraqi government and the US-led coalition and that he hoped parliament would extend their deployment.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop recently visited New Zealand to encourage the Ardern government to extend the deployment, which is due to end in November. The government has yet to announce its decision.

Ardern defended the actions of NZDF forces in Iraq, telling Fairfax Media on February 12 the soldiers worked within their “mandate”. She admitted she was aware of the gathering of biometric intelligence data, saying this “became standard practice … some years ago for all coalition forces.”

The 1999–2003 Labour government led by Prime Minister Helen Clark sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001, and to Iraq in 2003, after initially opposing the US invasion. NZ First strongly supported the decisions.

The Greens routinely posture as anti-war, but supported troops being sent to Afghanistan, falsely claiming the deployment was “humanitarian”. The party has remained silent on the current government’s support for the Iraq war.

The Labour-NZ First-Green government … will play a critical role in bolstering military ties with the US, which is preparing for war against its nominated strategic rivals, Russia and China.

The government is pressing ahead with plans, drawn up by the National government, to spend billions of dollars to upgrade military planes and frigates. The Defence Force is continuing a recruitment campaign and there are growing calls from the media and think tanks for greater military spending.

In October, the anti-Asian xenophobic NZ First decided to form a coalition government with Labour, rather than the National Party, after US ambassador Scott Brown publicly criticised then-National Party Prime Minister Bill English for failing to fully endorse President Donald Trump’s threat to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea.

To align New Zealand with the drive to war, the government and much of the media are engaged in a witch-hunt against alleged Chinese “influence” in New Zealand politics. Ardern has ordered the Security Intelligence Service to investigate the accusations of Chinese “interference” made by NATO-funded academic Anne-Marie Brady, and echoed by NZ First.

New Zealand’s Labour Party-led government announced on September 17 that 121 NZ troops will remain in Iraq at least until June 2019. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also said 11 military personnel will stay in Afghanistan for at least another year: here.

Nigel, the lonely New Zealand gannet, dies


This video from New Zealand says about itself:

2 February 2018

Nigel the gannet dies alone after living years with concrete decoys.

Some animals are destined to spend the end of their lives alone. If that isn’t a cheery thought for a Friday, at least you haven’t fallen in love with an inanimate object. WATCH ‘NO MATES’ NIGEL HANG OUT WITH HIS CONCRETE PALS.

Nigel the lonely gannet dies as he lived, surrounded by concrete birds. New Zealand conservationists mourn loss of celebrated bird that was lured by replica gannets in the hope of establishing a breeding colony: here.