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 on: Jun 30, 2016, 08:36 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

We have the wrong idea about males, females and sex

The out-dated idea that females are chaste and males are promiscuous needs to be thrown away

By David Robson
30 June 2016

Sexual Revolutions

Once upon a time, animal courtship was thought to run something like a Barbara Cartland novel. The rakish males battle it out for a chaste female, who sits around choosing the prince charming to father her young. While her mate may sow his wild oats far and wide, she patiently tends her brood.

Notwithstanding a few counterexamples, these roles were thought to be largely the same across the animal kingdom: males were thought to be promiscuous, dominant and aggressive and the females chaste and passive. For many people, it was just the natural order of the world.

But have we been blinkered by our own cultural prejudices, casting animals in the kinds of roles we saw in the society around us? That is the view of a small but growing number of biologists. "It's almost like they are using this locker-room logic – counting which males 'score' the most," says Joan Roughgarden at the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology.

    The dividing line between male and female is frequently blurred or easily crossed

Researchers such as Roughgarden argue that it was a classic case of "confirmation bias". Many biologists were seeing what they wanted to believe, and then using the results to justify prevailing cultural norms. "You get this back-and-forth: science is reinforcing societal mores, and the mores are reinforcing what the science is saying," says Zuleyma Tang-Martinez at the University of Missouri – St Louis.

The result, Tang-Martinez and Roughgarden believe, is that scientists have often failed to recognise astonishingly diverse sexual behaviours across the animal kingdom. There are now myriad examples of animals that break the rules entirely – from intersex kangaroo to a fish with four separate "genders".

If they are right, we should rethink many of our assumptions about sex differences. As with humans, the dividing line between male and female is frequently blurred or easily crossed.

Much of our modern understanding of sex differences came from Charles Darwin's struggles to explain the peacock's tale. How could such a cumbersome and extravagant display ever contribute to the animal's survival?  "The sight of a feather in a peacock's tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!" he wrote in an 1860 letter to his colleague Asa Gray.

    Darwin saw the same patterns – males being "passionate", females "coy" – across the animal kingdom

Darwin's solution was "sexual selection": a form of evolution that comes directly from the challenges of reproduction.

When many males compete for a single female, each male has to show off his worth in some way; either through direct combat, or in a showy display that proves he would be the healthiest father for her young. The resulting arms race led to the evolution of ever more excessive traits in the males of certain species: hence the peacock's tale, which helps it to advertise its good health to the peahen.

Darwin saw the same patterns – males being "passionate", females "coy" – across the animal kingdom. Later, the evolutionary biologist Angus John Bateman argued that this could be explained through basic economics.

Eggs, Bateman said, are huge and packed full of nutrients, making them costly to produce. By contrast, sperm are so small they can be produced in their millions.

    The bottom line is that males have evolved to be promiscuous and females have evolved to be choosy

This means the stakes of the mating game are much higher for a female, and so she needs to choose her gamble carefully. Meanwhile, the male has sperm to spare, letting him take a gamble wherever he chooses.

The female's investment is even greater if she has to spend time gestating and rearing the young, so she needs to make sure she chooses a mate who will give her young the best genes and the best chances of survival.

"The bottom line is that males have evolved to be promiscuous and females have evolved to be choosy – they should only mate with the best male," says Tang-Martinez.

Some of the first evidence came from an experiment Bateman conducted on fruit flies in 1948. He found that males had a better chance of passing on their genes if they mated with many different partners, whereas the females did not produce any more offspring after their initial mating.

    Just like peacocks, female pipefish have evolved bright, colourful markings as a result of sexual selection

The same kind of logic has since explained the behaviours of many different species, from dragonflies and grouse to baboons and elephant seals. Indeed, a seminal 1972 paper on the subject by Robert Trivers has now been cited more than 11,000 times, making it one of the most influential ideas in evolutionary biology.

True, there were always some exceptions. For instance, in certain species of pipefish the female actively courts the male, before "gluing" her eggs to her chosen mate. While she can swim off to find another partner, he spends time nourishing the growing young.

In this case the male invests more in the young than the female does. But such cases of "sex role reversal" were generally considered to be rare

They were also thought to be exceptions that proved the rule. Just like peacocks, female pipefish have evolved bright, colourful markings as a result of sexual selection. These females are also larger than the males, and form hierarchies of dominance determining who can access the "harem".

Still, in the vast majority of species, males were assumed to play the jock while the females waited patiently on the sidelines. This assumption is now under attack by some biologists, who wonder whether it has been shaped by prevailing cultural preferences.

The arguments are particularly troubling when sexual selection theory is used to explain human behaviours.

    Even that very first study of fruit flies has come under scrutiny

For instance, some researchers had argued that men are naturally funnier than women, with humour acting as a sexual display akin to bright, colourful plumage – even though any apparent sex differences could easily be the result of sexist stereotyping rather than evolutionary history.

Perhaps biologists just have not looked hard enough to truly understand the complex ways that males and females may interact.

"We haven't really asked any questions about how sexual selection may be acting on females," says Patricia Gowaty at the University of California, Los Angeles. "We know barely anything about what's going on in competitive arenas of females… and the people that have asked seem to think the only way it might act is the same way it does on males."

Even that very first study of fruit flies – the cornerstone of parental investment theory – has come under scrutiny. When Gowaty tried to replicate the results in 2012, she failed to find convincing evidence that the males benefited from being more promiscuous than the females.

In a paper published in April 2016, Tang-Martinez describes many examples in which females do not play by the rules laid down by sexual selection theory.

    Female lionesses may mate 100 times a day with a string of different partners

For instance, the females of many bird species had been thought to be exclusively monogamous, with the female faithfully sticking with her chosen partner.

In fact, this could not be further from the truth. Female birds often have dalliances even when in a stable partnership. Among the fairy wren, for instance, just 5% of the clutches will have been fathered by a single mate.

As further evidence, Tang-Martinez points out that female lionesses may mate 100 times a day with a string of different partners. The same seemingly-indiscriminate lust can be seen in many species of primates: not just the famously sexually-active bonobos, but langurs, lemurs and capuchin monkeys. That's not to mention countless studies of beetles, crickets, salamanders, snakes, geckos and house mice.

In all these cases, the females simply do not sit around waiting for Prince Charming, as Bateman had proposed. But the idea that this overthrows Bateman's ideas is rather controversial.

While Trivers says he was surprised by some of the findings in songbirds, he argues that the balance of evidence still hangs in favour of parental investment theory. "There's no question about it, the general theory is alive and well," he says.

    It is dangerous to come up with simple explanations for all species

A study published in February 2016 compared the behaviours of 60 different species, and it supports Trivers. "As far as our data go, it's true for [the] vast majority of species," says co-author Nils Anthes of the University of Tübingen in Germany – although he agrees there are many exceptions.

But even in this comprehensive study, Tang-Martinez points out that the overall differences between the sexes were rather weak: according to one measure, they were not even statistically significant.

Furthermore, the number of species studied was still relatively small, she says. The study also did not fully account for the fact that sex differences may change depending on circumstances – like the ratio of males and females within the population, which could influence how the individuals pair up.

In any case, Tang-Martinez is not suggesting that we should throw out the whole theory. Clearly, it is true for some animals. Instead, she thinks it is time to drop the more sweeping generalisations about male and female behaviour. "It is dangerous to come up with simple explanations for all species," she says.

Joan Roughgarden would firmly agree. Formerly known as Jonathan, she began thinking about the evolution of gender at a Gay Pride march in San Francisco, shortly before her gender transition.

    When I got into it I was astonished by just how much variation there is

How, Roughgarden wondered, does biology account for such a huge population, normally considered an unfortunate footnote in scientific theory? "When scientific theory says something is wrong with so many people, perhaps the theory is wrong, not the people," she concluded.

The result was her 2004 book Evolution's Rainbow, which examined the multitudinous ways that sex is expressed in nature. It goes far beyond our black-and-white definitions of "male" and "female".

"As a biologist, you think there may be a couple – maybe as many as a dozen – of cases that depart from heteronormative binary," says Roughgarden. "But when I got into it I was astonished by just how much variation there is."

Scientists generally assume that sex is determined by the presence or absence of certain chromosomes. In humans, it is the X and Y chromosomes.

    An intersex female bear actually mates and gives birth through the tip of her 'penis'

However, the relevant genes can still be expressed in different ways. The result is that, within any species, many individuals will show characteristics of two sexes.

There are plenty of examples of hermaphrodite invertebrates: leopard slugs are one of many. But Roughgarden has also found that intersex individuals are common among mammals, including red kangaroos, tammar wallabies, Vanuatu pigs, and America's black and brown bears.

According to a 1988 study, between 10 to 20% of female bears have a penis-like structure in place of a vagina. "An intersex female bear actually mates and gives birth through the tip of her 'penis'," says Roughgarden.

These are extreme cases. But many other animals cannot be classified simply as "males" and "females", as if members of each sex will look and act according to the same template.

In Evolution's Rainbow, Roughgarden cites many species that could be considered to have three, four or five separate "genders": that is, animals that belong to the same biological sex but that have distinct appearances and sexual behaviours.

    Among white-throated sparrows there appear to be two kinds of males and two kinds of females

For instance, the bluegill sunfish has three male genders, each of which reproduces in a different way. The largest, most aggressive males show off a flashy orange breast, and actively court females to lay eggs in their territory. In contrast, the smallest males are duller in colour and have no territory of their own, but will dart into one of the dominant male's territory's to fertilise some of his mate's eggs.

It is the medium-sized males who are the most surprising. They appear to actively court the larger males with a dance in the water. If the big male accepts their advances, they may then form a ménage a trois with an approaching female, with both males both fertilising her eggs.

Why would the larger male team up with the weaker partner in this way? One possibility is that his presence helps to reassure the female that the larger male is not too aggressive. For this reason, Roughgarden describes these medium-sized males as marriage brokers.

In other species, a range of "genders" may offer a greater variety of parenting styles.

For instance, among white-throated sparrows there appear to be two kinds of males and two kinds of females. Each is defined by the colour of the stripes in their feathers, their relative dominance or aggression, and the amount of parental care they offer the young. Noticeable differences can also be found in their brain structure.

    A "cross-dressing" male with more feminine features is often described as "deceptive"

The result is a number of different possible couplings, each dividing the responsibilities of parenting – such as feeding and defending the young – in a different way.

Roughgarden's book offers many similar examples among hummingbirds, wrasse and tree lizards, each showing a spectrum of genders.

There is also a growing list of species that engage in homosexual behaviours. With such variation, it begins to make less sense to discuss "male" and "female" behaviour as if it means the same thing for all species, or even all individuals within a species.

Roughgarden says evolutionary theory has not done justice to this broad spectrum.

Even when biologists have noted these exceptions, they tend to describe them in pejorative terms, she says. For instance, a "cross-dressing" male with more feminine features is often described as "deceptive".

    The living world is made of rainbows within rainbows within rainbows

"Again, it's this locker-room story – you go to a bar, see this cute-looking girl, and it turns out to be a guy, so you feel fooled and taken advantage of," she says.

Still, Roughgarden thinks attitudes are changing, albeit slowly. Today, homosexual behaviour in animals is attracting more research, and she hopes the same will be true of sex and gender roles more generally. "There's just beginning to be a discussion about non-binary gender variation," she says.

By ignoring this variation, we simplify the story of evolution and neglect some of nature's most astonishing adaptations. As Roughgarden puts it: "The living world is made of rainbows within rainbows within rainbows."

 on: Jun 30, 2016, 08:16 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
‘Unprecedented’: Scientists declare ‘global climate emergency’ after jet stream crosses equator

David Edwards
Raw Story
29 Jun 2016 at 13:48 ET                   

Climate scientists this week expressed alarm after “unprecedented” data showed the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream crossing the Equator.

In a column on Tuesday, environmental blogger Robert Scribbler noted that the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream had merged with the Southern Hemisphere Jet Stream.

“It’s the very picture of weather weirding due to climate change. Something that would absolutely not happen in a normal world,” he wrote. “Something, that if it continues, basically threatens seasonal integrity.”

“Like many extreme events resulting from human-forced climate change — this co-mingling of upper level airs from one Hemisphere with another is pretty fracking strange,” Scribbler explained. “Historically, the Tropics — which produce the tallest and thickest air mass in the world — have served as a mostly impenetrable barrier to upper level winds moving from one Hemisphere to another. But as the Poles have warmed due to human-forced climate change, the Hemispherical Jet Streams have moved out of the Middle Latitudes more and more. ”

“That’s bad news for seasonality,” he continued. “You get this weather-destabilizing and extreme weather generating mixing of seasons that is all part of a very difficult to deal with ‘Death of Winter’ type scenario.”

University of Ottawa climate scientist Paul Beckwith called the new behavior “unprecedented.”

“Our climate system behaviour continues to behave in new and scary ways that we have never anticipated, or seen before,” Beckwith observed. “Welcome to climate chaos. We must declare a global climate emergency.”

In a YouTube video, Beckwith said that the jet stream behavior signaled “massive hits to the food supply” and “massive geopolitical unrest.”

Watch Beckwith’s YouTube video:

 on: Jun 30, 2016, 06:49 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Hi Marty,

 "Could I ask about S.N. Venus in the 6th house in Aries? (6th hs. ruled by Pisces). Could this be an individual who has been experiencing past lives of devotion and God's work (service to others), and has been coming to the realization that they don't have to belittle themselves or suffer or feel guilt in order to be in relationship with Creator?"


This could be true if the Soul has evolved into the Spiritual evolutionary condition.


   "It seems to me that their S.N. Venus would evolve thru fits and starts - sudden instinctual reactions that would propel themselves toward self-forgiveness and self-love. Once these self-revelations begin, it seems like the individual would continually challenge themselves toward spiritual exploration and a completely renewed sense of self in relationship to Creator. They would have wanted to reincarnate, this lifetime, to complete this revelation, and to summon strength to encourage others to seek this freedom of thought, etc."


They would have desired to continue in this new evolutionary direction: not complete it. This would be a relatively new evolutionary development that needs further evolution is the reason for this. Of itself this symbol, in the Spiritual evolutionary condition for the Soul, implies a breaking free, Aries, from the implied build up of guilt, and the need to atone for that guilt. Such guilt is a learned guilt manifesting from the various religions that the Soul would have orientated too in other lifetimes. Atoning for such guilt would have also have created a masochistic inner relationship to the Soul within itself. With the S.Node in Aries in the 6th this would then mean a recent desire within the Soul to break free, a new evolutionary cycle, from that type of inner relationship to the Soul.

Within this the Soul would have manifested a real desire to help and be of service to others by way of a work, a karma yoga, through which helping others in real and practical ways to improve the very nature of  their own existence.


   "In this new-found relationship between themselves and Creator, it would instill self-confidence in the individual to begin the process of inspiring others to challenge pre-existing belief patterns and 'old tapes'."




  "Sometimes when I see a similar signature, I think that the individual may have experienced religious persecution in a past-life, and it's safe to be born now."


Yes because the persecution, 6th House/ 12th House, Virgo/ Pisces archetypes, manifests from the nature of the religions that the Soul had orientated too in other lifetimes in which any deviation from the behaviors associated with the doctrine of those religions was transgressed. This could also manifest within the Soul's inner relationship to itself by way of self persecution for not being able to 'conform' to such doctrines and/ or for not being good enough, 'pure' enough, as compared to the 'ideal' religious person within  those religious doctrines. Another source of guilt that needed to be atone for. Thus a Soul who would be highly self critical of itself, and thus, by way of relating to others, critical of them: the implied 'shortcoming's' as compared to the ideal. The 'safe' to be born now comes from within the Soul itself by way of desiring to chose a life to break free from these dynamics.

And so on. There is much more.

God Bless, Rad

 on: Jun 30, 2016, 06:22 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The bird that cannot survive by itself

The spoon-billed sandpiper is so endangered, there are only about 200 breeding pairs left. So conservationists are taking their eggs away
By Andrew Luck-Baker
28 June 2016

Normally it is a terrible idea to steal eggs from the nests of wild birds. That is doubly true if the species is endangered, in which case every individual counts. In the UK, anyone caught with a wild bird's egg can be sent to prison for six months.

But in the chilly coastal tundra of Chukotka, in the remote north-east of Russia, conservationists are doing exactly that. Beginning in 2012, Russian and British ornithologists have been taking the eggs from the nests of spoon-billed sandpipers. These little wading birds are critically endangered.

This is no sport, however, and it is entirely legal. The conservationists are raising the stolen chicks themselves, because that way the young birds have a far better chance of survival. Once they are large enough to survive on their own, they are released into the wild.

It is a desperate, last-ditch approach to conservation. But those involved are doing it because the spoon-billed sandpiper's situation is equally desperate.

There are only about 200 breeding pairs of spoon-billed sandpipers left in the wild. The population has declined rapidly over the last few decades.

    This is a migratory journey of some 4,970 miles, undertaken by a bird no larger than a sparrow

The source of this crisis does not lie in their breeding habitats in Russia, but far to the south.

Once a young spoon-billed sandpiper has reached the right size, it embarks on an epic migration. It will head south to the Chinese and South Korean shores of the Yellow Sea, and then on to South East Asia.

This is a migratory journey of some 4,970 miles (8,000km), undertaken by a bird no larger than a sparrow. And it is on this journey that the sandpipers face their greatest challenges.

The birds' habitats in the Yellow Sea have been almost swept away.

Away from the Russian tundra, spoon-billed sandpipers are shorebirds. They feed on intertidal mudflats, which are home to millions of small invertebrates.

    Most of their eggs and chicks fall victim to predators

But in China and South Korea, these once vast muddy beaches have been converted to dry land for agriculture and industry. That means there are fewer places for the birds to refuel on their gruelling migration.

The habitat loss in the Yellow Sea is a crisis for many migratory shorebirds. These birds all travel along the East Asian Australasian Flyway, which stretches halfway around the world and is one of the great bird migratory routes. Bar-tailed godwits and eastern curlews are also in population free-fall.

Shorebird hunting is also a problem, particularly in South East Asia and south China. Spoon-billed sandpipers are too small to be worthwhile targets for hunters, but they are caught as bycatch in the mist nets set for larger species.

To offset these losses, the sandpipers need to produce lots of young. But that is also something they struggle with.

Spoon-billed sandpiper parents have the odds stacked against them.

Most of their eggs and chicks fall victim to predators, in the form of larger birds, like skuas and gulls, and mammals like foxes and ground squirrels. On average, a breeding pair will produce three or four eggs each year, but they will only add one youngster every two years to the population flying south.

This is where the conservationists come in.

They steal eggs and keep them in incubators. Then they care for the newly-hatched chicks, until the young birds are large enough to fend for themselves.

The process is known as "head-starting". The idea is to harvest eggs as soon as they are laid, then raise the hatchlings in the safety of a temporary aviary.

In theory, head-starting means about seven times more youngsters get the opportunity to start the migration to the Yellow Sea.

The proposal to try head-starting came from the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT), a British charity. The WWT already hosts the world's only captive population of spoon-billed sandpipers, at its centre at Slimbridge.

    Chukotka is three times the area of the United Kingdom and has almost no roads

This group of 23 birds has been established as an "ark" population. The hope is to breed them in captivity, so that if the worst happens in the wild the species will still live on.

In June 2016, two of these captive pairs produced eggs for the first time. Two of the eggs are known to be fertile. The WWT expects them to hatch on Wednesday 29 June and Saturday 2 July.

Still, for now the most intense activity is focused on head-starting.

The head-starting project is located near the fishing village of Meinypil'gyno. In recent years, about a dozen spoon-billed sandpiper pairs have come to a nearby area of tundra to breed.

This place is by far the best-known breeding area for the species in Chukotka. It is also profoundly remote. Chukotka is three times the area of the United Kingdom and has almost no roads. Transport is by helicopter, caterpillar-tracked vehicles and quad bikes.

Each year, the team takes all the eggs from eight nests. If the eggs are stolen early enough in the season, the robbed parents will mate again and lay a new clutch. The team leaves those to their fate.

Taking eggs from such endangered birds was always going to be risky, says Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, head of spoon-billed sandpiper conservation for Birds Russia.

However, there were two aspects of the birds' biology that suggested it might work.

The first encouraging fact was that spoon-billed sandpiper chicks can feed themselves as soon as they have hatched and dried out. Within an hour, they start walking on their oversized legs in search of invertebrates to eat.

The young birds also know instinctively when to begin migrating and where to go. Somehow it is hard-wired in them – unlike young geese and cranes, which need parental guidance.

However, the team still had the problem of what to feed the young birds while they were in the aviary.

"We bring out a dried formulated food with vitamins and minerals for them," says Roland Digby of the WWT, who has been to Chukotka every year since 2012.

But they also try to give the young birds their natural diet: insects. Fortunately, during the Arctic summer the insect population explodes.

The tundra "is moving with mosquitoes," says Digby. "I've been up there and the clouds of mosquitoes have been so thick, you couldn't see 10 metres. It's tough for the aviculturists, but as a fresh live food it is fantastic for the birds, and they thrive on it."

    We used the vacuum cleaner to suck mosquitoes into a bag

But during the first year of head-starting, the team faced a crisis. Their young charges would not eat the dried food, and strong winds meant there were no mosquitoes in the immediate area.

They had to go mosquito-hunting in remote valleys, away from the winds.

"There was a whole expedition organised with a quad bike, a vacuum cleaner and a portable generator," says Syroechkovskiy. "We used the vacuum cleaner to suck mosquitoes into a bag, which we then brought back to feed the chicks."

It was a bizarre thing to do, but it worked. "That way we saved our first spoon-billed sandpiper chicks," says Syroechkovskiy.

Now, the project team collects mosquitoes from these dense swarms around the clock. There is no night in the far north at this time of year, and the chicks need lots of food to be ready for their first migration.

"These chicks hatch out and they weigh only 5 grams," Digby says. "They look like little bumblebees with huge feet. By the time they are 20 days old, they are fully fledged and we then release them. At 23 to 25 days old, these birds start that incredible migration."

Each year, the project raises and releases about 30 new birds. Almost of them begin the flight towards the Yellow Sea.

"The first two years of head-starting was a really nervous time for us," says Syroechkovskiy. "It was a lot of effort and investment. And we asked ourselves, was it going to work?"

In 2014, the first head-started birds reappeared at Meinypil'gyno. They had survived the round trip.

Then in 2015, several returnees paired up with wild birds to breed. It is too early to say if the 2016 returnees will also breed successfully, but there is no particular reason to think that they will not.

There is also evidence of a wider gain, says Syroechkovskiy. "In the summer of 2015 we recorded a slight increase in our local population of spoon-billed sandpipers for the first time, after a very steep decline in the previous six years. When you look in detail at the data, you can see the increase is happening because of head-starting."

"Increasingly we are proving that head-starting works," says Syroechkovskiy. "It's quite a special moment when you see all your efforts delivering a result."

However, the team is clear that head-starting alone is not going to save the spoon-billed sandpiper from extinction. In fact, the species is doomed in the wild unless the urgent issues of habitat destruction and hunting can be solved.

    Success in saving the spoon-billed sandpiper depends on international cooperation on the Flyway

"Head-starting is giving us a little more time for rather intensive activities for conservation of the species in the non-breeding grounds," says Syroechkovskiy.  "Work on preventing hunting in Myanmar, and trying to prevent habitat loss in China, in particular, is equally very important to what we are doing on the Russian breeding grounds."

Ultimately, the only way to save this tiny bird is to preserve the East Asian Australasian Flyway. Every step of it is essential.

"Success in saving the spoon-billed sandpiper depends on international cooperation on the Flyway," says Syroechkovskiy.

 on: Jun 30, 2016, 06:16 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Giraffes did not evolve long necks to reach tall trees

Most of us assume that giraffes' long necks are to help them reach food in the tops of trees. Actually they might have more to do with sex
By Henry Nicholls
30 June 2016

Reputation: Long-necked giraffes are better able to survive hard-times than short-necked giraffes. This is how they came by their unusual appearance.

Reality: Most scientists now reckon the giraffe's extraordinary neck is a result of intense competition between males for access to females.

The giraffe is the tallest land mammal alive, its long legs and neck contributing to its impressive stature. Males can be up to 18ft (5.5m tall), females a little less.

    It is obliged to browse on the leaves of trees and to make constant efforts to reach them

In the wild, these beautiful creatures stretch their necks beyond those of antelope, kudu and even elephants to strip leaves from the untouched upper reaches of trees.

This has birthed a popular misconception: that long necks have evolved in giraffes because they allow them to get to the parts other herbivores cannot reach.

The French zoologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck is usually credited as the first person to suggest this.

As the giraffe lives "in places where the soil is nearly always arid and barren, it is obliged to browse on the leaves of trees and to make constant efforts to reach them," he wrote in his 1809 book Philosophie Zoologique. "From this habit long maintained in all its race, it has resulted that the animal's fore-legs have become longer than its hind legs, and that its neck is lengthened."

    Long-necked giraffes were more likely to survive hard times than their short-necked rivals

In short, giraffes' long necks are the result of generation upon generation of repeated stretching and inheritance.

The English naturalist Charles Darwin also thought the giraffe's extraordinary legs and neck must have something to do with foraging. "The giraffe, by its lofty stature, much elongated neck, fore-legs, head and tongue, has its whole frame beautifully adapted for browsing on the higher branches of trees," he wrote in On the Origin of Species in 1859.

But Darwin did not buy Lamarck's ideas on how evolutionary change came about. Instead he argued that the giraffe's neck results from repeated "natural selection". Long-necked giraffes were more likely to survive hard times than their short-necked rivals.

It has since become clear that Darwin was largely correct about how evolution works, and that Lamarck got it wrong. So it is important to understand the difference between Lamarckian and Darwinian mechanisms of evolution.

    Giraffes feed most often and faster with their necks bent

However, it is a real shame that the giraffe is used to illustrate the point.

For a start, Lamarck made only a single, passing mention of giraffes in all his many writings. Yet it is this we remember him for – rather than the prescience of his ideas on evolution, which hugely influenced Darwin, or the many other contributions he made.

Worse still, the frequent deployment of giraffes when explaining natural selection has insinuated a big zoological porky into the public consciousness: namely, the idea pushed by both Lamarck and Darwin that giraffes' long necks evolved to help them feed.

The evidence to support this idea is decidedly thin.

In 1996, zoologists Robert Simmons and Lue Scheepers set out several challenges to what has become known as the "competing browsers" hypothesis.

    This idea has become known as the "necks-for-sex" hypothesis

"During the dry season (when feeding competition should be most intense) giraffe generally feed from low shrubs, not tall trees," they wrote in The American Naturalist. What's more, giraffes feed most often and faster with their necks bent.

There was also the troublesome question of why giraffes have been around 6.5ft (2m) taller than any of their competition for over 1 million years. By any measure, that is overkill.

So Simmons and Scheepers proposed an alternative: long necks have been sexually selected. This idea has become known as the "necks-for-sex" hypothesis.

The first piece of evidence is that there are significant differences between the sexes. For instance, the neck and head dimensions of males far outstrip those of females. This is a strong indication that sexual selection may be in play.

Male giraffes often fight for access to females, a ritual referred to as "necking". The rivals stand flank to flank, then start to whack each other with their heads.

    The exaggerated neck of the giraffe may have less to do with feeding and more to do with sex

"The top or back of the well-armored skull is used as a club to strike the neck, chest, ribs, or legs of the opponent with a force capable of knocking a competitor off balance or unconscious," wrote Simmons and Scheepers.

In an extreme case, reported in the 1960s, one male punctured his opponent's neck just below the ear. The impact splintered a vertebra and a shard of bone entered the luckless giraffe's spinal column, killing him.

The largest males usually win these battles and do most of the breeding, says zoologist Anne Innis Dagg of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, who has been studying giraffes since the 1950s. "The other giraffes don't get much breeding opportunity."

There is also evidence that females are more receptive to advances from larger males. Dagg says this all suggests that the exaggerated neck of the giraffe may have less to do with feeding and more to do with sex.

Finally, there is another misconception about giraffes that Dagg is keen to set straight: the idea that there are plenty of them and we do not need to be concerned for their conservation.

    One male punctured his opponent's neck just below the ear

"Giraffes are now in danger of becoming extinct in the wild in some races," she says.

There are nine difference subspecies of giraffe. Two of them – the West African giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis peralta) and Rothschild's giraffe (G. camelopardalis rothschildi) – are currently considered "endangered" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species.

Several other subspecies may soon be added to the Red List, says Dagg. "Some are presently under serious consideration."

 on: Jun 30, 2016, 06:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
U.S. Elections

FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver Gives Clinton An 80 Percent Chance Of Winning The Presidency

By Sean Colarossi on Wed, Jun 29th, 2016 at 9:08 pm

Nate Silver of rolled out his 2016 general election forecast on Wednesday, and the odds don’t look so good for Donald Trump.

According to Silver’s forecast model, Hillary Clinton has an 80 percent chance of becoming the next president.

“Trump faces longer odds and a bigger polling deficit than John McCain and Mitt Romney did at the same point in their respective races,” Silver wrote on Wednesday.

According to the new forecast, Clinton is favored to carry all of the so-called swing states. She also has a better than 50 percent chance of winning Arizona, something not done by a Democrat since 1996.

Missouri, a state President Obama lost by almost 10 points in 2012, is also a toss-up this year, according to the forecast.

As of today, Silver predicts that Clinton would carry upwards of 350 electoral votes compared to Trump’s 183 and win the popular vote by almost eight points.

While political pundits, myself included, were way off in their predictions that Trump would never win the Republican nomination, the team at FiveThirtyEight built a forecast model that was highly accurate during an unpredictable primary season. They correctly predicted 53 of 58 GOP primary races this year – a stellar record considering how volatile the campaign has been.

For the general election campaign, there is no reason to think the formula is flawed.

“It’s pretty much the same model that we used to successfully forecast the 2012 election,” Silver wrote.

Silver correctly called 48 of 50 states in 2008 and accurately predicted all 50 states in the 2012 election.


Major Republican Donor Warns Trump Will Cause Global Depression If He Wins

By Jason Easley on Wed, Jun 29th, 2016 at 3:51 pm

A top Republican donor is warning that if Donald Trump wins the White House, he will trigger a global depression.

Paul Singer said, “The most impactful of the economic policies that I recall him coming out for are these anti-trade policies. And I think if he actually stuck to those policies and gets elected president, it’s close to a guarantee of a global depression, widespread global depression.”

Singer supported Marco Rubio and donated a million dollars to a PAC dedicated to stopping Trump, but his comments aren’t being driven by politics.

Every major objective analysis of Trump’s proposals has come to the same conclusion. A Donald Trump presidency would wreck the US economy, and his trade policies would cause a negative global economic event.

The message is clear. A vote for Donald Trump equals a vote for an economic downturn that will make George W. Bush’s Great Recession seem like a small hiccup on the path to prosperity. Trump’s economic policies didn’t work for Herbert Hoover, and they will cause even more damage if they are implemented in the 21st Century.

Republicans know that Trump must be stopped. They couldn’t do it in the primary, so they are counting on Democrats and Independents to save the country in November.


Mitch McConnell Stabs Trump In The Back While Complimenting Hillary Clinton

By Jason Easley on Wed, Jun 29th, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has done little to hide his distaste for his own party’s presidential nominee, but McConnell is now claiming that Trump is not credible candidate while at the same time complimenting Hillary Clinton.

Here is the transcript of a recent interview McConnell did with NY1:

McConnell: “Trump clearly needs to change, in my opinion, to win the general election. What I’ve said to him both publicly and privately: ‘You’re a great entertainer. You turn on audiences. You’re good before a crowd. You have a lot of Twitter followers. That worked fine for you in the primaries. But now that you are in the general, people are looking for a level of seriousness that is typically conveyed by having a prepared text and Teleprompter and staying on message.’ So my hope is that he is beginning to pivot and become what I would call a more serious and credible candidate for the highest office in the land.”

Bennett: “At the moment, though, I hear you saying he does not meet that threshold of credibility?”

McConnell: “He’s getting closer. Getting closer.”

McConnell, however, called Democrat Hillary Clinton “intelligent and capable” in the interview but said he hopes Republicans win the White House this fall.

Mitch McConnell really wants Republicans to win the White House, which is why he is trashing Trump and praising Hillary Clinton as intelligent and capable. The message that McConnell was sending was that he believes that Trump was not intelligent enough and capable enough to serve as President Of The United States.

It is almost July. Donald Trump will be accepting the Republican nomination in a few weeks. If he is not yet an intelligent and capable candidate, he never will be.


Enraged UK Lawmakers Want To Block Trump’s Email Address Due To Spam

By Jason Easley on Wed, Jun 29th, 2016 at 1:00 pm

UK lawmakers are getting increasingly annoyed as Donald Trump continues to send them spam emails asking for money. It is gotten to the point where the lawmakers are asking Parliament to block Trump’s email address.

The Wall Street Journal reported:
Several members of the U.K. Parliament in recent days have publicly complained about emailed solicitations from the campaign of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, who has in recent weeks escalated his fundraising efforts.

Conservative lawmaker Roger Gale on Tuesday asked the Speaker of the House of Commons to take action to block Mr. Trump’s emails. “Members of Parliament are being bombarded with electronic communications from Team Trump on behalf of somebody called Donald Trump,” he said. “I am all in favor of free speech, but I do not see why colleagues on either side of the House should be subjected to intemperate spam. Efforts to have them deleted have failed. Would you be kind enough to intercede with the Parliamentary Digital Service to see if they might be blocked?”

It is not surprising that Trump who is facing multiple civil lawsuits for fraud in the United States has taken to sending out spam emails begging for money. There is little difference between the Nigerian prince who claims that you will get $3 million if you send him a $1,000 processing fee, and Donald Trump who claims that he will indict Hillary Clinton if you send him five bucks.
The fact that the UK lawmakers are asking for Trump’s email address to be blocked shows the level of exasperation that the elected leaders have reached with Spammer Don’s inept digital fundraising operation.

If the UK won’t ban Trump, it looks they may have to ban his email address to make the spam stop.

Now, if they could only do something about his Twitter account.


Donald Trump renews support for waterboarding at Ohio rally: 'I like it a lot'

Presumptive Republican nominee said ‘We have to fight fire with fire’ after referencing Isis and repeatedly compared Trans Pacific Partnership deal to rape

Ben Jacobs in St Clairsville, Ohio
Wednesday 29 June 2016 02.02 BST

Donald Trump offered renewed support on Tuesday for the use of torture while repeatedly comparing a proposed free trade agreement to rape.

Trump, who has often praised the use of waterboarding and has spoken positively about alleged war crimes committed by American troops, said at a campaign rally, “We have to fight fire with fire”, after referencing the penchant for beheadings by Isis.

The presumptive Republican nominee claimed that while the terrorist group committed a range of atrocities including beheadings and drowning prisoners, the US was afraid to even use waterboarding. In Trump’s opinion, this left Isis believing that the US was weak and stupid and it needs to “fight so viciously and violently” to combat the threat.

Trump also renewed his praise of waterboarding, which was banned by the Bush administration in 2006 as both potentially illegal and ineffective. “What do you think about waterboarding?” Trump asked the crowd. They cheered as he gave his answer: “I like it a lot. I don’t think it’s tough enough.”

His comments came just hours after a terrorist attack on the Istanbul airport that caused dozens of deaths. Prior to taking the stage, Trump’s campaign issued a measured statement on the attack: “Our prayers are with the families of those killed and injured in Istanbul. The whole world is stunned and horrified.” At his Ohio rally, he said: “There is something going on that’s really, really bad.”

Trump also repeatedly compared the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal to rape. The remarks came just hours after Trump delivered a speech on trade policy outlining his populist protectionist views on America’s economic role in the world. Unlike in that speech, Trump didn’t use a teleprompter on Tuesday and three times compared TPP to “the rape of our country”.

The remarks were not the first time Trump has referenced rape on the campaign trail. In May, the real estate developer said “we can’t continue to allow China to rape our country”, and at his announcement speech in June 2015 he accused the Mexican government of deliberately sending rapists across the border into the US.

The rally was Trump’s first appearance in the crucial swing state of Ohio since its March primary. No Republican presidential candidate in American history has won the White House without winning the Buckeye State. The event was held in the traditionally Democratic Ohio Valley, an economically depressed area that is increasingly trending Republican in federal elections.

 on: Jun 30, 2016, 06:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Forget the politics – Brexit may be unlawful

Panic not: there are good reasons to believe the government’s decision to withdraw from the EU would not be legal, and that the UK is not going anywhere

Philip Allott
Thursday 30 June 2016 08.00 BST

The circumstances surrounding the EU referendum are so bizarre, so chaotic and so impassioned that it is easy to overlook the fact that the UK’s withdrawal from the union would simply consist of two administrative acts performed by the government, acts that are subject to well-settled forms of legal analysis and legal evaluation. The government decides that the UK will withdraw from the EU; and the government notifies the European council of that intention.

There is strong reason to believe that the government’s withdrawal decision would be unlawful, and hence that the notification would be invalid.

The government acts in question are, as a matter of legal analysis, the exercise of legal powers. It is of the essence of legal powers that they have limits. The reason is that the exercise of a legal power alters the legal situation of anyone to whom that exercise applies. It may reduce their legal freedom, deprive them of rights, and impose new legal obligations. A legal power of a public authority, such as the government, may affect the legal situation of very many people. For this reason, the courts are particularly firm in keeping public authorities within the limits of their powers. UK withdrawal from the EU would affect the legal situation of every person in the UK, and the legal situation of many other people elsewhere.

At the request of a person directly affected by the exercise of a power, a court may conduct a so-called judicial review to determine whether the exercise of a public power on a given occasion is, or is not, within the limits of the power. This applies to all public powers at all levels of government and administration.

This activity of the courts is a product of centuries of constitutional struggle to control the temptation to absolutism of kings and, now, of the executive branch of government. The principle of the rule of law has become a fundamental principle of our constitution and of liberal democracy in general. All public power is subject to the law applied and enforced by the regular courts. Until 2015, the lord chancellor, as head of the judiciary, was the ultimate guardian of the rule of law. Then a lord chancellor was appointed who was not a judge but a government minister.

As the powers of public authorities have increased massively in volume over the last hundred years, the law of judicial review has developed to a corresponding extent. There are thousands of decided cases and whole libraries of commentaries. As a branch of law it is dense and subtle and controversial – especially when it involves undoing the work of an elected body; and controversial within a never-ending debate about how vigorous the courts should be.

So that they are not themselves seen as arbitrary, the courts are constantly developing and refining general principles of judicial review. In the light of the current state of those principles, two elements of the government’s decision-making in relation to withdrawal from the EU seem to be worthy of judicial review.

First, the original motivation for the holding of a referendum seems not to have been the public interest, but the particular interest of a political party. Especially in cases relating to local authorities, the allegation of a corrupt abuse of a public power is familiar – for example, a planning decision favouring a friend of the chairman of the planning committee. It would be bold to extrapolate such a case to the level of national government. But it is worth noting that it would be a challenge not to the Referendum Act of Parliament – challenging the validity of an act of parliament would raise formidable problems of general constitutional law – but to the actions of the government in the process leading up to that legislation.

Secondly, the courts, in countless cases, have entered into consideration of the substance of public decisions. They do not aim to second-guess the policy embodied in the decision. But they can take the view that the very substance of the decision is flawed in some fundamental way that takes it beyond the outer limits of the power. They have devoted much effort to finding general formulas for justifying this extreme step, reflecting again their crucial concern that they themselves must not seem to be acting arbitrarily.

In the light of the current law, it is possible that a court might take the view that it is arbitrary and unreasonable and disproportionate, in the legal sense of those words, to base the vastly important decision to withdraw from the EU on the opinion expressed by a bare majority of people taking part in a referendum provided for in an act of parliament – but an act of parliament that makes no provision for the legal effect of that referendum – thereby ignoring the opinion expressed by a very large minority. Governments are governments of the whole nation, not of a favourable constituency.

In the matter of withdrawal from membership of the EU, the government is not acting under its “prerogative power” in the field of foreign relations – an inherited power of the crown that needs no legislative basis. It is using the powers contained in article 50 of the treaty on European Union, which is part of UK law through the European Communities Act 1972. Article 50 explicitly leaves the legality of a withdrawal decision to national law. An unlawful decision under UK law would be invalid for the purposes of article 50.

The legality of the proposed government acts is open to serious question, a question that can only be finally answered in the courts.

 on: Jun 30, 2016, 05:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

CS Monitor

Why does the extreme right appeal in Europe? Slovakia offers troubling clues

Part 10 of Who is 'Europe'?, a weekly series on how European natives and residents are responding to pressures from terrorism, migration, nationalism, and the 'European project.'   

By Sara Miller Llana, Staff writer June 29, 2016   

Ostrý Grúň, Slovakia — The victims of World War II and their descendants call it “Bloody Sunday.”

On Jan. 21, 1945, Nazi soldiers, retaliating against partisans and their supporters living throughout these hills of Central Slovakia, burned down Ostrý Grúň and shot 64 villagers, women and children among them, dead. In the years since, the town has raised memorials, commissioned books, and constructed an archival room dedicated to those they lost.

But when the nation went to the polls to choose new leadership in national elections in March, nearly a fifth of this town, angered by mainstream politics, voted for an extremist party that openly supports the Nazi puppet state installed during the war.

“From my position, I can’t understand why residents choose this way to show their frustration about their current discontent,” says Jana Angletova, the mayor of Ostrý Grúň. Her father survived the massacre as a baby only because he was hidden under a duvet. Both of his parents, Mayor Angletova's grandparents, were rounded up and killed.

Amid corruption scandals, economic uncertainty, and now the migrant crisis, Slovakia, which is slated to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union next month, is not Europe's only trouble spot. Populists and anti-EU forces across the bloc are threatening the order forged after World War II. Most recently, Britain's vote to leave the EU appears to have put the ruling Conservatives on a rightward tilt while also bolstering the anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party.

But for all the concerns across the continent about a return to the intolerance of the 1930s, it is in the post-communist countries of the EU that many fear the risk is greatest, as public frustration has undermined the ideals that these countries subscribed to upon joining the bloc. And with an accused fascist party now sitting in Slovakia's parliament, the director of the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising Stanislav Mičev calls it “a crisis of moral values.”

“Many European countries are supporting extremist parties, even more than in Slovakia. But western European extremist parties are not fascist parties,” he says. “When you say this party is xenophobic or supports a program of racial hatred, [supporters] will say this is not true. They say [the party] just wants to establish order here, and that it’s not possible today what happened during Hitler’s era. They are not aware of how fragile our politics are.”

'No shared vision'

Pundits expected Slovakia’s populist right to grow like similar parties across Europe, and grow it did. But polling almost just as well in the general election was the extreme right People's Party Our Slovakia (L’SNS), led by Marian Kotleba, who used to wear a uniform that resembled that of the Hlinka Guard, which rounded up Jews during Slovakia’s Nazi puppet state. It garnered 8 percent of the vote, landing in parliament for the first time.

Now many here are asking what has gone wrong, and whether a failure to address the shortcomings of the transformation to democracy have fed growing intolerance and resentments toward the political elite and the EU. 

Part of Czechoslovakia during the fall of the Berlin Wall, the country’s Velvet Revolution was a reference point of the era. And in the 90s, when authoritarian leadership threatened the Western credentials of the young nation, prompting then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to call Slovakia a “black hole in the heart of Europe," Slovaks fought to join post-war alliances. “There was a common vision, we wanted to get into the EU and NATO,” says sociologist Olga Gyarfášová.

Over a decade since their 2004 accession to the EU, however, enthusiasm for the bloc has dimmed significantly. In one recent survey here, 52.3 percent of respondents were positive about Slovakia’s membership in the EU, dropping from 68 percent in 2010. “It is 12 years that Slovakia is formally anchored in the EU and NATO, one would it expect it to be more embedded,” says Ms. Gyarfášová, who oversaw the survey.

Today, she says, she attributes the rise of Kotleba as part of a nation lost. “Now there is no shared vision.”

Part of the problem is that EU membership was never weighed in terms of principles, argues sociologist Michal Vašečka. “The Slovak transformation was very much focused on changes of institutions and connected with the building of capitalism,” he says. “It was not very attached to values. It was perceived by most of the population not in terms of quality of life in all possible dimensions, but quality of life in material dimensions.”

Opening the door to fascism?

The obligations associated with membership spurred soul-searching during the EU’s sovereign debt crisis, which happened just as Slovakia’s growth pattern was buoying a nation always cast aside as the poorer half of Czechoslovakia. Support to Greece during its first bailout was so emotional and contested the Slovak government collapsed because of it.

“Suddenly Slovaks realized that their membership in the EU is not just taking eurofunds and freely moving around EU, but that there are some responsibilities too” says Mr. Vasecka. “This is the moment when positive feelings about the EU disappeared in a second.”

Since then problems have only mounted, and have seemed to reach another turning point with the refugee crisis. Slovakia Prime Minister Robert Fico, a Social Democrat, has been one of the loudest anti-refugee voices in Europe, even suing over the EU’s relocation quotas. Many blame him for desensitizing the public to aggressive rhetoric from all sides.

“Fico opened the door to primitive language,” says Matúš Kostolný, the editor of the daily Dennik N. “People see [Kotleba] talks dirty but so does everyone else. And at least Kotleba offers solutions [to the people]. Divisions between normal and extremist politics started to become really thin.”

Kotleba, a former school teacher, first tried his hand at politics with his "Slovak Togetherness – National Party," but it was banned in 2007 for fomenting hate. He re-emerged in 2011 with L’SNS, and shocked Slovakia in 2013 when he became the governor of Banská Bystrica. At that point the victory was looked upon as an anomaly, says Mr. Kostolný. “But when his party won at the national level, people started to see there is a bigger problem.”

Slovakia now joins just Hungary and Greece, via Jobbik and Golden Dawn respectively, in electing national lawmakers from parties with openly fascist tendencies to office. All three parties reject the label, as does Kotleba, whose office didn’t respond to requests for an interview.

But one of the first acts of the new members of L’SNS in Slovakia's parliament was to demand a minute of silence to mark the day Jozef Tiso was hanged in 1947 for treason. Tiso was the head of Slovakia's pro-Nazi, totalitarian government when 70,000 Slovaks were deported to their deaths during World War II.
German Chancellor Adolf Hitler greets Slovakian President Jozef Tiso, when the latter visited him at his headquarters in Germany, on Nov. 20, 1941. AP/File   

Kotleba has a clear anti-Roma platform, and is against asylum seekers, as well as NATO and the EU. His party's website recently posted a congratulatory note to Britain for their vote on "Brexit," calling it false that Slovakia couldn't survive outside the confines of the bloc.

'People want a better life'

Slovakia’s political elite is still reeling from the rise of L’SNS. The president didn’t invite members of Kotleba’s party to a meeting for all representatives of parliament after the vote. Newspaper editors have mulled how to direct their coverage – weighing whether covering Kotleba gives his party unnecessary respect or ignoring him turns him into a folk hero.

While there are clear admirers of Tiso in Slovakia, most people say they are drawn to Kotleba as an anti-establishment figure and man of the people. Radovan Bránik, who founded a crisis response team "Modrý Anjel" ("Blue Angel") which assists during natural disasters like flooding, says that when needed, Kotleba dispatches help with efficacy. “When it comes to volunteering, if I ignore their politics, they are objectively the most effective volunteer workers,” he says.

And their message has resonated, especially in remote areas where mainstream politicians hardly step foot. “They say, we cleaned up your house, we helped you rebuild your village. Like we did that, we will help you rebuilt the Slovak political scene. And the Slovak political scene is in ruins.”

But these towns are riven by his rise, particularly in Banská Bystrica where he’s in power. In Ostrý Grúň, only a few will talk about politics, and almost no one will share a name, as suspicions over who voted for whom abound. The results have aggravated a generational divide in the town. A quarter of first-time votes went to Kotleba’s party, confounding older residents in the region.

Marian Gruber, who raises trout, calls it nothing short of a tragedy and a misunderstanding of democracy. “There is democracy, and there will be democracy. The question is whether we can understand it and exist within it,” he says. “People only want to take from it. Democracy is also about duties.”

“There is growth of radicalism. We give it a label in Slovakia, trying to ‘establish order,’” he says. “It is very dangerous.”

One resident, overseeing a work crew renovating her roof, scoffs at the concern. She says she has to travel to neighboring Austria to work and maintain a middle-class lifestyle and fears her sons will have to do the same. “There is one reason we voted for Kotleba," she says. "People want a better life.”

Moral bearings

Richard Youngs, an expert on international democracy at Carnegie Europe, says that the protest vote against the elite is showing up everywhere, from Central Europe to Britain. “Because this is a phenomenon that we are seeing across the majority of EU member states today, there is something structural going on in terms of the relationship between populations, national governments, and what is going on at the EU level.”

Mr. Mičev, the museum director, says he worries the protest is turning into intolerance. “This country is saying we are a ‘Christian’ country, then how do we explain the hatred in context of the migrant wave?” he says. “How do we explain that the main line is not to help anybody, even those who need it?”

For Emilia Surianska, one of the last living survivors who lost her mother and sister during the massacre in Ostrý Grúň, says she worries that fellow Slovaks have lost their moral compass.

“If someone had to survive what I had to go through, the vote would never have ended like this,” says Ms. Surianska, who speaks about losing her family at age 7. “People don’t understand what refugees have to go through. They don’t understand what fascists are,” she says. “Slovakia is losing empathy. People can’t feel for other people anymore.”

 on: Jun 30, 2016, 05:55 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Tackling illegal fishing in western Africa could create 300,000 jobs

Overseas Development Institute report says crackdown on illegal fishing, and building up national fleets, could generate billions of dollars for the region

Jo Griffin
Wednesday 29 June 2016 13.17 BST

If governments in western Africa could end illegal fishing by foreign commercial vessels and build up national fleets and processing industries, they could generate billions of dollars in extra wealth and create around 300,000 jobs, according to a new report (pdf).

The devastating, social, economic and human consequences of overfishing in western Africa’s coastal waters have been well documented but the report, Western Africa’s Missing Fish, by the Overseas Development Institute and Spanish investigative journalists porCausa, lays bare the extent of lost opportunities across countries including Senegal, Mauritania, Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

“The scale of the losses is enormous. Instead of jobs and development, the livelihoods of artisanal fishers are being decimated by foreign fishing fleets, which operate virtually unchecked,” says Alfonso Daniels, lead author of the report, which presents new evidence of the extent and pattern of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) in the region – a global “epicentre” of overfishing.

For the first time, researchers used detailed satellite and tracking data to analyse the two main practices of IUU fishing: the activities of reefers – large-scale commercial vessels that receive and freeze fish at sea – and the transportation of fish in large refrigerated containers that are subject to less strict reporting requirements.

In 2013, they followed reefers off the coast of western Africa and found vessels from China, Holland and South Korea operating there, with fish exported globally. Among the 35 reefers operating in the region that year, routes were consistent with the transfer of catches from fishing vessels to reefers, including inside the exclusive fishing waters of Senegal and Ivory Coast, countries that have banned ship-to-ship transfers of catches.

The tracking data also revealed the extent of IUU fishing via transfers on to container ships. Daniels says that 84% of illegal fish is taken out of the region in this way, making it hard to stop illegally caught fish entering the global supply chain. “Container ships are ignored,” he says. “Whether willingly or not, the industry has found a way to take out fish under the radar.”

The report says that a “crisis of global governance on the world’s oceans” has meant that international efforts to prevent the plunder of marine resources are likely to fail. Daniels says it is essential to address all parts of the chain, highlighting three measures to combat IUU fishing: a ban on transferring fish at sea, strengthening regulations, and investment in patrols in “hot spots” of IUU fishing.

Artisanal fishers are at the frontline of the crisis. Usmane Kpanabum, a fisherman on the island of Sherbro off Sierra Leone, says his nets were slashed by South Korean trawlers that fish inside the five-mile coastal zone reserved for artisanal fishers. Sierra Leone had just two coastguard boats to patrol its entire coastline in 2013.

If regional governments end illegal fishing and build up fish processing industries and indigenous fishing fleets, they could generate $3.3bn (£2.5bn), eight times the $400m they currently raise by selling foreign rights, says the report.

By developing their fishing sectors, western African governments could create up to 300,000 new jobs, with artisanal fishers connected to consumers. Using data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the report says this would lead to an almost 10% increase in the total workforce in the fisheries sectors, and would also create jobs for 90,000 women and reduce youth unemployment.

It could also have a significant impact on food security, improving the diet and nutrition of people in the region as more households would consume fish protein normally exported by foreign vessels.

Daniels says: “We have a situation not only of missed opportunity but where resources are being exhausted very quickly – Nigeria and Senegal have very little left at all.”

According to one previous estimate, more than half of the stocks in the stretch of coast from Senegal to Nigeria alone have been overfished, with IUU fishing believed to account for between one third and half of the total catch. In 2012, according to data from USAid, Senegal was losing around $300m due to IUU fishing – equivalent to 2% of GDP.

“There are several global epicentres of overfishing – including the Pacific and South America – but western Africa is one of the worst because of the impact of overfishing on problems such as the drugs trade, organised crime and illegal migration,” Daniels says.

 on: Jun 30, 2016, 05:53 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Millions of Iraqi children repeatedly and relentlessly targeted, says UN

Unicef report says 3.6 million children face risks including death or sexual violence, and 4.7 million need humanitarian aid as a result of the conflict

Clár Ní Chonghaile
Thursday 30 June 2016 01.01 BST

One in every five children in Iraq is at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence and recruitment into armed groups, while nearly 1,500 have been snatched from the streets or their homes since 2014, says a new report (pdf).

The UN children’s agency, Unicef, says 3.6 million children face this litany of risks – an increase of 1.3 million in 18 months. A third of all Iraqi children – 4.7 million – need humanitarian aid, with conditions only getting worse following fierce battles around the city of Falluja.

“Children in Iraq are in the firing line and are being repeatedly and relentlessly targeted,” says Peter Hawkins, the agency’s representative in Iraq.

“We appeal to all parties for restraint and to respect and protect children. We must help give children the support they need to recover from the horrors of war and contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq.”

The report says almost 10% of Iraq’s children – more than 1.5 million – have been forced to flee their homes since the intensification of fighting in 2014.

“The conflict is exposing children in Iraq to daily horrors. Unless addressed immediately, young minds, haunted by fear and hatred, could slip into a spiral of despair, darkness and a sense of helplessness. Learning, playing and aspiring to a more prosperous future will be a thing of the past.”

Last week, the United Nations warned that fighting against Islamic State – whose two main strongholds were Falluja and Mosul – could force up to 2.3 million people from their homes this year.

On Sunday, a senior Iraqi commander said Isis had been routed from Falluja after a month-long operation that forced tens of thousands of people to camps on the outskirts of the devastated city. More than 80,000 people are now short of food, water and shelter in these makeshift camps. The UN says it desperately needs more funds to help them – and potentially millions more as the fighting spreads.

The loose alliance of government forces, local fighters and Shia militias, backed by air power from the US-led coalition, plan to continue across the country and eventually move against Mosul.

Unicef says it has documented 838 child deaths since 2014, and 794 injuries, but it says the true number is probably much higher. It has also verified the abduction of 1,496 children – on average 50 every month – since the beginning of 2014.

“The kidnapping of children from their homes, their schools and from the streets is horrifying,” said Hawkins. “These children are being ripped from their families and are subjected to sickening abuses and exploitation.”

The report says abducted girls are most at risk of sexual abuse, particularly those from religious and ethnic communities.

“The use of sexual violence and the brutalisation of women and girls has been well documented, with many abducted on a mass scale, held captive for months, sold into sexual slavery and subjected to rape, torture and abuse. Boys are often forced into supporting front-line activities in the conflict, including as combatants or suicide bombers,” it says.

Unicef documents 124 cases of child recruitment since 2014, but again says the true number was probably much higher.

Another threat to children is thousands of mines, scattered across the country. The report says that in Diyala, east of Baghdad, security forces disarmed at least 18 explosives hidden in dolls along a route used by families fleeing the fighting.

Aside from ever-present physical danger, children are facing devastating psychological trauma with lifelong consequences, Unicef says.

“The glass doors in my house shattered in the bombings. I don’t like airplanes. They are loud and they make me scared. I think about it now and I cry a lot. Sometimes I can’t sleep. I want to stay beside my dad,” Wafiyah, 10, who was displaced from Baiji, north of Tikrit, told the report’s authors.

Because so many families have lost their livelihoods, more and more children are being sent to work, or get married early. Unicef says currently around 975,000 girls in Iraq are married before the age of 15 – twice as many as in 1990 – while 575,000 children are estimated to be working – again double the number in 1990.

Nearly one in five schools is out of use due to conflict and almost 3.5 million children of school-age are missing out on an education, it adds.

Unicef says attacks on schools and medical facilities must cease, while aid organisations must have unimpeded access to children, including those in areas not under government control. It also calls for civilians to be given safe passage, education services to be improved, and psychological support to be provided.

Money is already running out and this has led to cutbacks in life-saving support for children. Unicef is seeking $100m for its work in Iraq in 2016.

“The consequences of inaction today will be felt for years to come,” the report warns. “Today’s children of Iraq are the country’s future teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, labourers, farmers, scientists and technicians. A failure to protect and nurture these children now will result in social and economic costs down the road that will threaten the future of the country.”

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