Daily Archives: April 6, 2009

Black Faced Spoonbill Recovery In Jeopardy

The latest comprehensive survey of Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor has revealed a decrease in the number of wintering birds, with 2,041 individuals counted compared to 2,065 in 2008. Coordinated by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (BirdLife in Hong Kong) and supported by Wild Bird Society of Japan (BirdLife in Japan), Chinese wild Bird Federation (BirdLife in Taiwan), and the Indochina Programme Office, plus input from Chinese and Korean birdwatchers. This census is one of the best examples of single-species population monitoring in Asia.

In the late 1980s, only a few hundred birds were recorded at two sites in southern Taiwan and Hong Kong, and all were under threat. As recently as 1999, Black-faced Spoonbill was classified by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. At the BirdLife World Conference in Rosenheim, Germany in 1994, BirdLife Partners agreed on the first International Action Plan for the species, coordinated by the Chinese Wild Bird Federation (BirdLife in Taiwan). Implementation workshops were then held in Beijing (1996) and Tokyo (1997). These resulted in a systematic winter census, satellite tracking of migrating individuals, coordination of colour ringing (banding), an increased public awareness of the species and the discovery of new breeding sites in China and Russia and rediscovery in the Philippines The satellite tracking revealed for the first time that the demilitarised zone on the Korean peninsula is the species’s main breeding area.

The rest of the press release is here.

Ultimate Racism: The Liberation of Paris

In June of 1940, France fell to Germany. Among the troops who were overwhelmed by the German attacks were about 17,000 black West African colonial troops with the French Army. Many of these soldiers were shot do death by the Germans, who considered these Africans to be subhumans, as they stood in surrender. Surely, it would be fair to consider this to have been part of the Holocaust.

Then the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese did a pretty good job of trying to take over the world, millions upon millions died in that war, and the rest of the Holocaust happened.

The Allies banded together and put everything they had into defeating the racist, fascist, imperialist, evil Axis forces. And eventually prevailed. And Paris was liberated and the first troops to march into the city just abandoned by the Germans were, suitably, French.

But not the Black French.

The units that would have marched into Paris at the time of liberation consisted of a majority of black faces, as the French Army was staffed at this time primarily with colonial troops. But the black faces were weeded out of the ranks, intentionally, so that the companies of soldiers marching into liberated Paris would be 100% white.

I ask you, what, the fuck, were the Allies fighting for?

This fact has recently come to light (although, presumably, people have known about this since it happened) as the result of a BBC archiving project.

… Charles de Gaulle, made it clear that he wanted his Frenchmen to lead the liberation of Paris.

Allied High Command agreed, but only on one condition: De Gaulle’s division must not contain any black soldiers.

In January 1944 Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, was to write in a memo stamped, “confidential”: “It is more desirable that the division mentioned above consist of white personnel.

“This would indicate the Second Armoured Division, which with only one fourth native personnel, is the only French division operationally available that could be made one hundred percent white.”

This is a very interesting article. Go read the rest here.

The Trials and Tribulations Of a Catholic School Boy

Or, “Botany … can’t live with it, can’t live without it ….”

… I was out there on the nature trail, both high on life and high on a rolled up and smoked version of Mother Nature. I started talking to Jeff and the other classmates who had gathered around the growing pile of deadwood. Everybody agreed that life was pretty good and were especially happy for me that I had a date for Homecoming.

… For some strange reason, which I can’t for the life of me explain right now, I picked up a leaf from the ground and …

No, no! Don’t do it! Don’t do it!

Continue reading ….

Space Blog

An Astronaut is blogging from space:

I am going to try to paint a picture in words of what I saw. Close your eyes and imagine yourself here on ISS with me looking out of the docking compartment window. You are positioned so the Earth is passing by below and you can see the horizon as well with the night sky behind it. Here is what you see:

It is completely night. There are thunderstorms across Africa and lightening is everywhere; bright flashes are going cloud to cloud illuminating the clouds as it arcs from one to the other. It is a private fireworks show.


Minnesota Recount Update

The three judge panel convened for the purpose of addressing the Coleman challenge of the Minnesota Senate Election won by Al Franken (after a detailed recount) will meet today to examine ballots they had asked brought to the court. The panel had asked for four hundred ballots, but a small number of these (just over a dozen) had already been included in the recount and thus will not be examined.

The panel will examine the 387 or so ballots today, and decide which should be counted. Tomorrow, in a two step process the ballots will be opened by the judged (step one) and counted by court officials (step two).

It seems to be presumed that this is the final act of this panel, and that the panel will adjust the current vote count (from the recount) based by adding this new set of numbers. It is further presumed that candidate Al Franken will maintain his lead after his adjustment. That is a reasonable assumption given that it is statistically almost impossible for Coleman to erase and surpass Franken’s lead with this small number of ballots being considered. The presumption, then, is that this panel will conclude its business right after this adjustment, some time tomorrow.

I keep using the word “presumption” because I don’t believe the court has actually indicated that it is finished with this process. I’m expecting the court to take a few more days to produce a ruling, and possibly even allow additional arguments. The Coleman campaign, sensing defeat, has vowed to take this contest to the next level … the Minnesota Supreme Court. I’m certain that the election contest panel intends to send that court a decision that is as un-reversible as possible, and that is exactly what they should be doing. A little extra adjudicating around now may save a great deal of trouble later.