Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa banned for criticism of Kiev government


This music video is called Valentina Lisitsa – Moonlight Sonata Op.27 No.2 Mov.1,2,3 (Beethoven).

By Roger Jordan in Canada:

Toronto Symphony bans pianist critical of Kiev regime

9 April 2015

Under pressure from right-wing Ukrainian-Canadian groups, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) removed Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa as the featured soloist at two Toronto concerts that were to be held this week. The TSO sought to replace Lisitsa with another pianist, but after a public outcry simply cancelled the concerts.

An internationally recognized pianist who has played with major orchestras in North America and Europe and has a large online following, Lisitsa has drawn the ire of the right wing because she has challenged their false narrative about the “democratic” character of the pro-western Kiev regime.

In Twitter postings stretching back to the weeks following the US-German-orchestrated, fascist-led coup that drove Ukraine’s elected president from office, Lisitsa been heavily critical of the Kiev regime. She has denounced it for its rampant corruption, ties to Nazi sympathizers like the Right Sector, and mistreatment of the Russian minority, and for the brutal war it has waged against the pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

The cancellation of Lisitsa’s performances of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is a brazen act of political censorship.

The management of the TSO, one of the country’s leading cultural institutions, initially sought to cover up why it had cancelled Lisitsa’s performances. It simply said she was no longer available to play in Toronto and had been replaced.

Only after Lisitsa revealed that she had been dumped from the TSO program and instructed by management not to reveal why did TSO President Jeff Melanson acknowledge that the cancellation was due to pressure from Ukrainian nationalists.

Melanson justified the decision by citing “ongoing accusations” from ”Ukrainian media outlets” that Lisitsa has used “deeply offensive language.” In an attempt to intimidate the musician, the TSO had previously forwarded Lisitsa a letter from a prominent lawyer at the country’s largest law firm, Borden Ladner Gervais, that said she could be denied entry into Canada under section 319 of Canada’s criminal code, which makes the “willful promotion of hatred” illegal.

The TSO’s actions threaten artistic freedom and freedom of speech and have ominous implications for musicians and artists everywhere. As Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association put it in comments to the CBC, “I think there is a problem with the message that this sends to artists that they may have trouble getting jobs or keeping jobs if they express views that are unpopular or controversial.”

The TSO’s banning of Lisitsa represents a cowardly capitulation to reactionary political forces—forces that enjoy the strong backing of the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.

Protests against Lisitsa’s appearance came from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), a right-wing organization that purports to represent Canada’s large Ukrainian diaspora community. Heavily influenced by extreme Ukrainian nationalism, the UCC is virulently anti-communist and anti-Russian. Some of its affiliates were founded by veterans of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which collaborated with the Nazis in World War II, including in the mass extermination of Jews, and many continue to venerate OUN leader Stepan Bandera.

Lisitsa has for some time been a target of the Ukrainian right because she has rejected the Western-backed propaganda that the Ukraine crisis has been caused by Russian aggression. Her concerts have repeatedly become the occasion for protests by Ukrainian nationalist groups. Last September, the EuroMaidan Press website published an appeal for supporters to join them in calling for a boycott of Lisitsa’s concerts in Pittsburgh.

The TSO’s ban will encourage these right-wing elements to go after Lisitsa elsewhere, as well as other artists who take a critical position towards the pro-western Kiev regime.

So as to ostracize Lisitsa, her Ukrainian nationalist opponents have labelled her a stooge of Russian president Vladimir Putin. This is a slur. What they object to is her heartfelt challenge to their false narrative.

As Lisitsa explained in the Facebook posting announcing the TSO’s banning, she initially had great hopes that what she terms the “Maidan Revolution” would end the domination of Ukraine by a corrupt oligarchy, but these hopes were quickly dashed.

“I was so proud of my people!” wrote Lisitsa. “But the ruling class doesn’t let go easily. They managed to cunningly channel away the anger, to direct it to other, often imaginable, enemies—and worse, to turn people upon themselves. Year later, we have the same rich people remaining in power, misery and poverty everywhere, dozens of thousands killed, over a million of refugees.”

In her statement, Lisitsa explains that she felt she could not remain silent as “the country of my birth, of my childhood, of my first falling in love…was sliding ever faster in to the abyss. Children die under bombs, old ladies die of starvation, people burned alive”.

She said that she has been seeking to expose the abuses going on in Ukraine, particularly against the Russian-speaking minority. “I took to Twitter in order to get the other side of the story heard, the one you never see in the mainstream media.

“To give you just one example: one of my feats was to confront French fashion magazine Elle who published a glowing cover story about women in Ukrainian army. After the research I have shown to the magazine in my Twitter posts that the ‘cover girl’ they have chosen to show was in fact a horrible person, open Neo-Nazi, racist, anti-Semite who boasted of murdering civilians for fun! The magazine issued a written public apology.”

The ability of the UCC and its supporters to aggressively target those hostile to its right-wing positions is made possible thanks to the close collaboration they enjoy with the Canadian government and more generally the unanimous support the ruling class and political elite have given to the US-NATO drive to transform Ukraine into a Western satellite.

Canada has been one of the most outspoken supporters of the Kiev regime since the February 2014 coup and is participating in the build-up of NATO forces on Russia’s borders.

The Harper government is supplying non-lethal military aid to the Ukrainian army. But it is also facilitating the supply of weapons, including guns and drones, to the Ukrainian army and aligned ultra-nationalist and fascist militias through the UCC and its Army SOS organization. Two Conservative MPs attended a recent Army SOS fundraising event in Toronto that raised more than $50,000 to be spent on arms and military gear (see “Canada helping arm Kiev regime to fight Ukrainian civil war“).

At a UCC gathering in Toronto on February 22, Conservative immigration minister Chris Alexander delivered an inflammatory speech in which he gave the government’s full backing for an aggressive course towards Russia. He called the conflict with Russia “the biggest issue facing the world today,” stressed that “ every option” is “on the table” in regards to defeating Putin—a euphemism for all-out war with Russia—and said there was “no scenario” for peace and security for this world” that does not involve defeating Russia in Ukraine.

Such are the sentiments being encouraged by the Harper government among its far right allies in the UCC, and it is in this context that the targeting of Lisitsa must be seen. Anyone who questions the official narrative of the Ukraine crisis is to be demonized as a supporter of Putin and Russian aggression.

That the TSO has bowed to this campaign is a disturbing development. Under conditions in which democratic rights are under sustained attack, the TSO has made it clear that it is willing to sacrifice the rights of freedom of speech and artistic freedom to meet the demands of the Canadian ruling class and its far right allies.

The justification the TSO has provided for its decision could hardly have been more hypocritical. The TSO statement read, “As one of Canada’s most important cultural institutions, our priority must remain on being a stage for the world’s great works of music, and not for opinions that some believe to be deeply offensive.”

The TSO has not merely provided a platform for groups defending the reactionary politics of the Kiev regime, including the persecution of Ukraine’s Russian minority. Its capitulation to the censorship demands of the UCC has strengthened precisely those forces pushing for the US and its allies to intervene militarily in Ukraine against Russia, a move that threatens to trigger an all-out conflict between the major powers.

Rare blue-winged teal at Orkney islands


This video is called Blue-winged teal duck, Anas discors, April 2010 High Park Grenadier Pond, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

From the Rare Bird Network in Britain, on Twitter:

Orkney: BLUE-WINGED TEAL 1 drake again today on Mainland. At the Shunan.

This North American species is rare in Europe.

Bat news from Canada


This video from Canada says about itself:

11 July 2013

Little Brown bats have been dying by the millions so it was a great suprise to be blessed with the discovery of a very healthy colony in Kemble, Ontario.

From the Vancouver Sun in Canada:

Researchers net rare Spotted bats near Lillooet

By Matthew Robinson

December 30, 2014

A team of biologists netted a rare find on a recent nighttime research mission near Lillooet when they captured a half-dozen spotted bats.

The bats are numbered among fewer than 20 ever caught in Canada, and are among an estimated population of fewer than 1,000 in the country, according to a news release by staff at the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.

The scientists caught the winged mammals in a mist net — a nearly invisible, in-air mesh fence that biologists use to safely snag and tag birds and bats. The intention of the biologists’ work is to learn more about the ecology of Pallid, Spotted and other related bat species in the area before White Nose Syndrome — a deadly fungal disease sweeping westward through North America — reaches B.C.

“Finding six spotted bats in one night, and seven in total this field season, is beyond our expectations,” said Jared Hobbs, a biologist with research firm Hemmera.

Spotted bats are large, but they don’t weigh much. They have a wingspan of more than 30 centimetres, but weigh just 15 grams — about the weight of a compact disc. They have the biggest ears of any B.C. bat and are recognizable for the white spot on each of their shoulders and on their rump, according to the Government of Canada’s Species at Risk registry. The hunting calls of spotted bats can be heard by the human ear, according to the release.

Cori Lausen, who co-leads the project with Hobbs, said spotted bats are not easily captured. As a result, relatively little is known about the species.

The bats are so hard to capture that it was not until 1979 that biologists discovered the species lived in the province, according to the B.C. Ministry of Environment.

“These bats are high-flying, so we used mist nets that were four times the height of those typically used, measuring about 12.5 metres high by 18 metres wide, and we focused on open grassland habitats,” said Lausen.

After netting their subjects, the researchers glued radio telemetry tags onto the backs of the bats so they can track their foraging and roosting habits.

White Nose Syndrome has killed millions of hibernating bats since spreading from the northeastern to central U.S. and Canada, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Bat populations have declined by an estimated 80 per cent since the syndrome was first documented in winter 2006-07, according to the USGS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In some areas, 90 to 100 per cent of hibernating bat populations have died off as a result of the fungus.

The syndrome has not been detected in this province, but many biologists say it’s only a matter of time until it spreads.

The biologists’ work is being funded by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, a partnership between BC Hydro, First Nations, the federal and provincial governments and others, according to the release. The project is one of eight in the Bridge and Seton River watersheds that are receiving funding from the program in 2014-15.

Western chorus frogs in Canada


This video from the USA says about itself:

Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata) calling in Illinois Beach State Park. There are thousands of this small but very vocal frogs but I had to spend a lot of time to actually see one of them. To record them the secret is to just leave the camera running and move away for 10 minutes.

From Bird Studies Canada:

The Western Chorus Frog is at risk of disappearing from parts of its range in Ontario. Its numbers have declined as much as 40% in some areas since the mid-1990s. Key causes are habitat loss and degradation -through urban sprawl and intensification of agriculture. Diseases, pollution, drainage, and climate change are also factors.

North American bird feeder webcams


This video from the USA is called Project FeederWatch Introduction.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Two FeederWatch Cams Now Online

As we near the beginning of the 2013 Project FeederWatch season, we’re excited to announce the re-launch of last year’s successful FeederWatch Cam in Manitouwadge, Ontario (watch now) alongside a brand new cam focused on the feeder birds here in Sapsucker Woods (view now). Both cams give you up-close and personal views of a diversity of birds. The Ontario cam features many winter finches that are difficult to see elsewhere like Pine Grosbeaks, Common and Hoary Redpolls, and Evening Grosbeaks, while the Sapsucker Woods cam includes birds of the Eastern deciduous forest like titmice, goldfinches, and woodpeckers (not to mention the ducks and geese cruising through the background on the pond). You can explore the most common species at each cam site by clicking on the “Species Info” tab beneath the livestream.

There’s still time to sign up for Project FeederWatch as well! Check out their new website with all the details about how you can play an important role in helping scientists learn about the habits of winter birds.