Local councillors persecuted for ‘too small’ king of Spain portrait


Portraits of king of Spain and of Catalonia in Torredembarra

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Spanish local councilors prosecuted for small royal portrait

Today, 19:32

The councilors of the Spanish town Torredembarra are prosecuted because of the size of the picture of King Felipe hanging in the council chamber. The official portrait is only slightly larger than a passport photo.

Torredembarra is in Catalonia, where many people strive for independence from Spain. Led by a left-wing party, the city council decided last August for the small portrait. All seventeen councilors must now justify that decision in court, says the prosecutor.

One of the council members calls the court case politically motivated. According to him, this picture is within the law which requires that there should be an official portrait in every council chamber.

“Prominent place”

The politician also points out that the portrait is as big as that of the Catalan government leader Mas. Under Spanish law, the image of the regional leader may not be bigger than that of the king.

He also says that the portrait is in a prominent place: over the entrance to the hall.

The councilors would suffer even worse persecution if they would have had this cartoon portrait in King Felipe.

Happy 2016, wish birds in Extremadura, Spain


Extremadura birds

This card from Extremadura in Spain wishes everybody happy holidays. It is from a Twitter message.

On the card three local birds: a common crane, a black stork and a white stork.

Pyrenean bearded vultures, new study


This video is about adult and (mainly) bearded vultures in Spain, between griffon vultures and ravens.

From Raptor Politics:

Removal of eggs or chicks has considerable impact in the Pyrenean population of bearded vultures – new paper

A new paper published recently (see below) suggests that the removal of eggs, chicks or fledglings will have a detrimental effect on the population trend of the bearded vulture in the Pyrenees over the next 30 years, in most modelled scenarios.

The removal of eggs or chicks from wild populations to create captive populations, reinforce free-ranging populations or reintroduce species into the wild is a restoration tool that is often used, including with bearded vultures in the Pyrenees (eggs collected for reintroduction in Picos de Europa). However, it is necessary to assess objectively potential detrimental effects upon the donor population.

Margalida et al. modelled the population under different demographic and management scenarios (removal of eggs, chicks or fledglings) and obtained a population decline in 77% of all 57 scenarios analysed. The study also shows that the effects of extractions will not be detectable until more than nine years after the initiation of such interventions.

Based on this, the authors question if extractions for future reintroductions should be envisioned. In particular egg extraction bears a great risk of failure due to the low hatching success observed today in the wild (25–45%). Alternative, less risky management options would be the collection of only the second, freshly-born chick from double clutches (given that in this species siblicide is the rule) and the release from captive stock – the method used by the VCF in our reintroduction projects.

The bearded vulture population in the Pyrenees has most likely reached saturation, as inferred from productivity trend (significantly down), changes in mating system (recent increase in the proportion of trios), as well as in the distance between neighbouring nests that declined by > 20% between 1992 and 2002.

Adult mortality – the demographic variable with most impact on population growth in this species – has been steadily increasing over the recent years in the Pyrenean population, and demographic forecasts, including the present study, predict a negative trend and its near-extinction over the next 50 years if non-natural mortality (i.e. illegal poisoning) continues unabated.

The age at first breeding has also been increasing in the Pyrenean population, passing from 8 years during the period 1987–2006 to 10 years presently – most likely the outcome of density-dependent regulation.

The VCF defends that in order to reverse this tends, it will be necessary to stop artificial feeding in the core population area, while targeted supplementary feeding at the limits of the current Pyrenean distribution range should be promoted to boost dispersal and future settlement into neighbouring mountain ranges – this is indeed the objectives of the LIGE GYPCONNECT we are now starting – seehere.

You can download the paper below.

British government loves wars, people hate them


This video from England says about itself:

Syed from [pro-refugee organisation] London2Calais at Stop the War rally opposite Parliament, London 2nd December 2015.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Britain Will Not Forget

Friday 4th November 2015

BRITAIN’S politicians were accused of ignoring the will of the British people in favour of imperialist intervention — yet again — yesterday as RAF bombs fell on Syria.

Within hours of Wednesday’s 397-223 vote to begin air raids against Isis targets, aircraft took off on their first bombing run, to the fury and despair of protesters and peace activists.

The outcome has been labelled “eerily reminiscent” of the 2003 vote on the illegal Iraq invasion.

Responding to Wednesday’s Commons vote in favour of extending bombing campaigns into the civil-war-torn country, Stop the War Coalition chair Andrew Murray and convener Lindsey German said the decision was “profoundly mistaken and dangerous.”

“The Prime Minister made no good case for war,” they said in a joint statement, “and his abuse of those who differ as ‘terrorist sympathisers’ gives a measure of his small-mindedness.

“There is no good case for British air strikes in a war which is already seeing the two major military powers, the US and Russia, bombing Syria.

“A new war will not increase the prospects of peace in Syria, nor will the British people be safer from terrorism. And the record of two years’ bombing of Isis in Iraq shows that it will not be dislodged by a great-power air war.”

Anti-war protesters attending the Stop the War rally also reacted furiously after the vote.

Loud boos erupted from the crowd which had gathered outside the Palace of Westminster to hear the outcome.

Grace Tennant, a student from Birmingham, said: “It is about human lives. It’s a moral argument.

“Britain won’t be safer because of this, we’ll become less safe.”

There were shouts of: “Shame on you” as news of the vote spread through the hundreds-strong crowd.

Protesters held a minute’s silence against the decision to launch a bombing campaign. Many sat down and flicked the peace sign before chanting: “Not in my name.”

Colin Crilly, from London, said: “I’m disappointed but not surprised, it just shows the disconnect between the public and elected officials.

“I fear that this will mean the cycle of violence will just continue.”

CND general secretary Kate Hudson called the vote “a devastating blow” for both innocents who “face a rain of death and destruction from our bombers” and against “our collective humanity and universal principles of peace and justice.”

She told the Star: “What will it take for decision-makers to learn the lessons of the last 14 years of the so-called War on Terror?

“Contrary to media spin, this is not a policy that has majority support at home. Polls indicate that at least half the population are opposed to it, and that opposition is likely to grow as the situation worsens and mission creep sets in.”

Among those who voted in favour were 66 Labour MPs, including shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn.

Also by Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Anti-fascist fight has its legacy misappropriated

Friday 4th November 2015

SHADOW foreign secretary Hilary Benn’s “specious” evocation of the International Brigades’ heroism as justification for Britain joining the aerial bombardment of Syria provoked outrage yesterday.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday night, Mr Benn sought to draw parallels between the fight against fascism in the 1930s and ’40s and the case for further British military action against the Islamic State (Isis) terrorist group.

Mr Benn said: “We are here faced by fascists — not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us in the chamber tonight, and the people we represent.

“What we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. It is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists, trade unionists and others joined the International Brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco.”

His comments angered many who not only queried his definition of fascism but also accused him of exploiting the memory of those who gave their lives to fight the far right during the Spanish civil war and World War II.

Thousands of individuals defied their governments in order to travel to Spain in 1936 to fight in defence of the Spanish republic against the fascist troops of General Francisco Franco.

Speaking in a personal capacity, International Brigade Memorial Trust trustee Pauline Fraser hit out at Mr Benn for seeking to use a “just war” to justify his position.

“There is absolutely no comparison between the volunteers who defied their government to try to save the Spanish republic and those who fought fascism in World War II and the bombing of Syria by Western imperialist powers, which will not be helpful in solving the problem and means that many civilians will be killed,” she said.

Frog-killing fungus, good news at last


This video from Spain is about the Mallorcan midwife toad.

From Wired.com:

Lizzie Wade

11.17.15

7:02 pm

A Frog-Killing Fungus Finally Meets Its Match on the Island of Mallorca

This fall, like every fall for the past six years, Jaime Bosch found himself dangling off a cliff on the island of Mallorca with a backpack full of tadpoles. The Spanish ecologist was rappelling down to the bottom of a steep canyon, preparing to return his precious cargo to the ponds where they had hatched.

Bosch, who works at Spain’s National Museum of Natural History, had evacuated the tadpoles weeks earlier, hoping to save them from certain death at the hands of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, better known as Bd. Since researchers discovered it in the late 1990s, the fungus has decimated amphibian populations around the world, leading to the collapse or extinction of at least 200 species. Bosch was hoping against hope that he could prevent the Mallorcan midwife toad (Alytes muletensis) from being next.

Bd is an insidious fungus, growing all over an infected amphibian’s skin—the organ through which the creatures breath and drink. Infection often leads to fatal organ failure. Normally, once Bd makes its way into an ecosystem, scientists can’t do much besides tally up the carnage.

Mallorca and its native toads have some unique characteristics that made Bosch think he might be able to save them. First of all, it’s a very simple system, ecologically speaking: one island, with one amphibian species. Plus, the island only has a few ponds, making it possible to capture every last tadpole that hatches in them. Finally, the ponds tend to dry out every summer and get refilled by autumn rains, which should flush out any Bd-infected water.

Not that it was easy. Hence the rappelling down into canyons to reach the ponds, loading the tadpoles into plastic water bottles, and making an arduous hike out. Once Bosch got the tadpoles back to his lab, he bathed them for seven days in an anti-fungal solution designed to kill any Bd spores growing on their skin. At first, he thought that would be enough to eliminate the fungus from the island. Optimistic, he loaded the tadpoles into a helicopter that would get them as close to the ponds as it could, before transferring them to his backpack for another rappelling trip down the canyons.

But when he and his team went back the next year, they found that the tadpoles were infected again. That meant the local environment was hiding a reservoir of Bd somewhere—most likely the adult toads that were too reclusive to catch.

Bosch decided that if his team couldn’t treat every infected animal, they would have to disinfect the whole place. So this time, after they evacuated the tadpoles to the lab for their anti-fungal baths, they drained the breeding ponds and scrubbed the underlying rock with a chemical call Virkon-S, renowned for its Bd killing ability.

“That’s what works. That’s when the fungus didn’t come back,” Bosch says. In an article published today in Biology Letters, he reports that his team successfully eliminated Bd from four out of five infected ponds on Mallorca. They repeated the protocol on the fifth pond this year, and Bosch hopes the whole island will be officially free of the fungus by the next tadpole season.

“It’s a monumental achievement,” says Brian Gratwicke, a biologist who leads the amphibian efforts at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, DC. “It provides huge hope for the whole community.”

But it’s not exactly transferable. Flying tadpoles around by helicopter? Rappelling down inaccessible canyons? Covering every rock in a pond with toxic chemicals? If this is what it takes to stop Bd on one island, in one simple ecosystem, how can scientists even hope to eradicate it in the rest of the world?

Well…they can’t. Karen Lips, a biologist at the University of Maryland who helped discover Bd, doubts any of these methods would be effective in the rainforest of Panama, where she works. “Sterilizing one pond is not going to do it. You’d have to sterilize the entire jungle.” Still, she says, such techniques could be useful for protecting other islands and isolated ecosystems from Bd. “Perhaps that’s what we’re going to be left with: lots of islands. Either islands in oceans, or mountaintop islands, or islands in a sea of concrete. Maybe that’s the way we’re going to be able to protect our amphibians in the future,” Lips says.

Bosch agrees that his protocol “is not a solution for eliminating Bd from everywhere in the world.” But, he says, “we can’t just stand still and do nothing,” watching amphibian after amphibian go extinct. “Every now and again [the amphibian science] community needs a win. And this is one of those wins,” Gratwicke says. Bosch won this battle. And sometimes, in a war, that’s the best you can hope for.