Archive for March, 2012


#CyberWhaleWarrior

Thousands of servicemen died in April of 1942 — during World War II — while being forced to walk for days in the Philippines. In honor of these fallen heroes, thousands will be marching a similar route through a desert in New Mexico and Sea Shepherd’s Matthew Smith will be there.

The 23rd Annual Bataan Memorial Death March will be held on March 25. Registration is now closed to the public for this 26-mile marathon, but you can still show your support. As posted on the official site at bataanmarch.com:

The Public is invited to attend the “Heroes of Bataan” Memorial Monument 10th Anniversary Dedication Ceremony on Saturday, 24 March 2012, 9AM-10AM, Veteran’s Memorial Park, 2651 Roadrunner Parkway, Las Cruces, NM.

Matt is very excited about this event. He says that he will do his best to win the race but he’s just glad he can go to represent…

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Infiltration of Political Movements Is the Norm, Not the Exception in the United States

Thursday 15 March 2012
by: Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Occupy Washington, DC | News Analysis

On March 6 members of an off-shoot of Anonymous, Lulzsec, were arrested as a result of an FBI informant, Sabu, who the media describes as a Lulzsec leader. The six arrests were for people allegedly involved with Lulzsec which became known for targeting Sony, the CIA, the U.S. Senate, and FBI, as well as Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal.

Exactly one year ago to the day of the arrests, The Guardian published an article headlined, “One in four US hackers ‘is an FBI informer.’” The article described how the FBI had used the threat of long sentences to turn some members of Anonymous and similar groups into informants.  It also described how the group was open to infiltration. On Democracy Now, Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University who is an expert on digital media, hackers and the law, said:  “There had been rumors of infiltration or informants. At some level, Anonymous is quite easy to infiltrate, because anyone can sort of join and participate. And so, there had been rumors of this sort of activity happening for quite a long time.” 

In Part I of this series, Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Mis-direct are Widespread in Occupywe described reports of widespread infiltration of the Occupy. In this article we will describe the history of infiltration of political movements in the United States and the goals of infiltration. Part III of this series will describe behavior of infiltrators, how other movements have countered infiltrators and what Occupy can do to minimize the damage from infiltrators.

Infiltration is the Norm, not the Exception, of U.S. Political Movements

When the long history of political infiltration is reviewed, the Occupy Movement should be surprised if it is not infiltrated.  Almost every movement in modern history has been infiltrated by police and others using many of the same tactics we are now seeing in Occupy. 

Also Read: Part One – Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Misdirect Is Widespread in Occupy

Virtually every movement has been the target of police surveillance and disruption activities.  The most famous surveillance program was the FBI’s COINTELPRO which according to COINTELPRO Documents targeted the women’s rights, Civil Rights, anti-war and peace movements, the New Left, socialists, communists and independence movement for Puerto Rico, among others.  Among the groups infiltrated were the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP, Congress for Racial Equality, the American Indian Movement, Students for a Democratic Society, the National Lawyers Guild, the Black Panthers and Weather Underground. Significant leaders from Albert Einstein to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who are both memorialized in Washington, were monitored. The rule in the United States is to be infiltrated; the exception is not to be.

The Church Committee documented a history of use of the FBI for purposes of political repression. They described infiltration efforts going  back to World War I, including the 1920s, when agents were charged with rounding up “anarchists and revolutionaries” for deportation. The Church Committee found infiltration efforts growing from 1936 through 1976, with COINTELPRO as the major program. While these domestic political spying and disruption programs were supposed to stop in 1976, in fact they have continued. As reported in “The Price of Dissent,” Federal Magistrate Joan Lefkow found in 1991, the record “shows that despite regulations, orders and consent decrees prohibiting such activities, the FBI had continued to collect information concerning only the exercise of free speech.”

How many agents or infiltrators can we expect to see inside a movement? One of the most notorious “police riots” was the 1968 Democratic Party Convention.  Independent journalist Yasha Levine writes: “During the 1968 protests of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which drew about 10,000 protesters and was brutally crushed by the police, 1 out of 6 protesters was a federal undercover agent. That’s right, 1/6th of the total protesting population was made up of spooks drawn from various federal agencies. That’s roughly 1,600 people! The stat came from an Army document obtained by CBS News in 1978, a full decade after the protest took place. According to CBS, the infiltrators were not passive observers, monitoring and relaying information to central command, but were involved in violent confrontations with the police.” [Emphasis in original.]

Peter Camejo, who ran for Governor of California in 2003 as a Green and as Ralph Nader’s vice president in 2004, often told the story about his 1976 presidential campaign. Camejo able to get the FBI in court after finding their offices broken into and suing them over COINTELPRO activities.  The judge asked the Special Agent in Charge how many FBI agents worked in Camejo’s presidential campaign; the answer was 66 agents.  Camejo estimated he had a campaign staff of about 400 across the country.  Once again that would be an infiltration rate of 1 out of 6 people.  Camejo discovered that among the agents was his campaign co-chair. He also discovered eavesdropping equipment in his campaign office and documents showing the FBI had followed him since he was a student activist at 18 years old.

The federal infiltration is buttressed by local and state police.  Local police infiltrators have a long tradition dating back to the Haymarket riots of 1886 and the 1904 “Italian Squad in New York City. In addition to political activity they were also involved in infiltrations of unions especially around strikes. Common throughout the United States were the so-called “Red Squads” a 1963 report estimated 300,000 officers were involved in surveillance of political activities. These were local police focused on the same types of people as the FBI.  Some of their activities included assassinations of political activists.

In fact, a predecessor to the modern Occupy, the Bonus March of 1932 was infiltrated by federal agents.  Their focus was on radicals, anarchists and Communists who might be in the movement.  The infiltration resulted in greatly exaggerated reports about radicals inside the Bonus encampments, which were primarily made up of veterans and their families that were used to help justify their removal by President Herbert Hoover with military troops acting against veterans under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, assisted by then-colonels Eisenhower and Patton.

Another predecessor to the Occupy, Resurrection City of 1968, a “community of love and brotherhood,” that occupied the Washington, DC mall for four months was organized by the Poor People’s Campaign fulfilling a plan made prior to the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Resurrection City was heavily infiltrated by layers of police including the FBI, military, Park Police, Secret Service and Metropolitan DC police.  FBI director Hoover had agents go to press conferences with false media identification, stationed FBI agents around the perimeter of the encampment and authorized an expensive informant program.  After the FBI, the most expensive infiltration of Resurrection City was military intelligence which conducted an unlawful surveillance program, intercepting radio transmissions, monitoring radio traffic and intercepting all communications which were then passed on to the FBI, Secret Service, DC police and Park Police. The military also sent fictitious media to press conferences. The Metropolitan DC police “red squad” sent undercover officers into the camp and took mug shots of its members. 

Infiltration tactics continue, perhaps have even escalated today. In a recent report the ACLU writes: “Today the government is spying on Americans in ways the founders of our country never could have imagined. The FBI, federal intelligence agencies, the militarystate and local policeprivate companies, and even firemen and emergency medical technicians are gathering incredible amounts of personal information about ordinary Americans that can be used to construct vast dossiers that can be widely shared with a simple mouse-click through new institutions like Joint Terrorism Task Forcesfusion centers, and public-private partnerships. The fear of terrorism has led to a new era of overzealous police intelligence activity directed, as in the past, against political activists, racial and religious minorities, and immigrants.” There have also multiple reports of the CIA working with New York City police for years, an activity that is almost certainly illegal.

Not only have budgets increased in the post-911 world, but restrictions on spying have been weakened and court review has become rarer.  The government, often with corporate interests, are gathering huge amounts of data on Americans and targeting a wide range of groups and individuals for intelligence gathering and infiltration. The extent of spying is so widespread that it is more than this brief article can examine, but the ACLU provides a state-by-state review.

We will not know the extent of current infiltration and the activities of government agents for quite some time, but in the post-911 world, with record intelligence budgets and a massive new homeland security bureaucracy, spying is very likely more extensive than ever.  Add to that the private security of corporations and political organizations tied to the two political parties and the extent of Occupy infiltration is very likely quite extensive.

What Have Been the Goals, Strategies and Tactics of Past Infiltration?

The most common purpose of infiltration is the intelligence function of gathering information, but the goals are commonly more aggressive. Herbert Hoover ordered FBI agents to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” the activities of these movements and their leaders according to COINTELPRO Documents.

According to, Surveillance and Governance: Crime Control and Beyond, the goal of COINTELPRO was also to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, or otherwise neutralize” groups.  FBI field operatives were directed to:

1. Create a negative public image for target groups by surveiling activists and then releasing negative personal information to the public.

2. Break down internal organization by creating conflicts by having agents exacerbate racial tensions, or send anonymous letters to try to create conflicts.

3. Create dissension between groups by spreading rumors that other groups were stealing money.

4. Restrict access to public resources by pressuring non-profit organizations to cut off funding or material support.

5. Restrict the ability to organize protests through agents promoting violence against police during planning and at protests.

6. Restrict the ability of individuals to participate in group activities by character assassinations, false arrests, surveillance.

The COINTELPRO documents disclose numerous cases of the FBI’s intentions to stop the mass protest against the Vietnam War. Many techniques were used to accomplish the assignment. The documents state: “These included promoting splits among antiwar forces, encouraging red-baiting of socialists, and pushing violent confrontations as an alternative to massive, peaceful demonstrations.”

Infiltration to gather intelligence and intentionally disrupt and break up social movements is common in the United States. At this point in history when the degree of wealth inequality has reached such staggering proportions that the richest 400 people have the same wealth as the bottom 154,000,000 people, when unemployment and foreclosures rates are high, when tens of millions can’t afford health care and students can’t afford to go to college, those in power are fearful that the people will rise up. Events of the past year, particularly the Occupy, reveal that this uprising has begun. It is likely that the powerful will use the tools available to stop Occupy, including infiltration to disrupt, divide and misdirect.

In Part III, we will describe common behaviors of infiltrators and how other social movements have tried to minimize the impact of infiltration. We will then examine the basic structure of the Occupy and analyze its strengths and weaknesses in the context of infiltration. Our hope is that this series will lead to a broader discussion within the movement so that efforts can be made to balance the strengths of Occupy with actions necessary to protect the movement from disruption and division. 

Gang bludgeon swan to death with nail-covered stick ‘to eat’ after luring it ashore with bread

 

  • RSPCA warn of swan-poaching crimewave in Lincoln
  • Police launch hunt for five-strong gang

By MATT BLAKE

PUBLISHED: 07:39 EST, 15 March 2012 | UPDATED: 09:08 EST, 15 March 201

 

Callous poachers coaxed a swan to shore with breadcrumbs before clubbing it to death with nail-embedded sticks and taking it away ‘to eat’, it emerged today.

The gang of five was spotted throwing morsels of bread into Brayford Pool in Lincoln’s town centre to lure the curious bird towards them on Tuesday evening.

But seconds later they unleashed a furious attack onto the majestic animal before bundling its bloodied carcass into the back of a van and speeding off into the dusk.

Concern: This was the third such attack on swans in the area in six months, sparking fears of a swan-poaching crimewaveConcern: This was the third such attack on swans in the area in six months, sparking fears of a swan-poaching crimewave

Detectives have now launched a Lincoln-wide manhunt for the men after one terrified passerby witnessed the bloodthirsty killing unfold.

This was the third such attack on swans in the area in six months, sparking fears of a swan-poaching crimewave.

Lincoln has a large population migrants from Eastern Europe, where swan is considered a delicacy in some areas, but officers have refused to speculate on the nationality of the attackers.

The RSPCA suspect the only motive for targeting the colony on Lincoln’s Roman waterway is to eat them.

And with swans well-known to mate for life, there are also growing concerns for the dead bird’s confused and lonely partner, who the RSPCA say will be pining for its missing mate.

Charlotte Childs, of the RSCPA’s Lincolnshire Mid and Lincoln division, said: ‘We have no idea why someone would do something so disgusting but the only thing we can logically think of is if the swans are being killed to be eaten.

‘It could have just been an attack for fun, there’s no way yet of knowing. Either way, it’s horrific and inhumane.’

Historic: A colony of white swans has lived on Lincoln's historic Brayford Pool for hundreds of yearsHistoric: A colony of white swans has lived on Lincoln’s historic Brayford Pool for hundreds of years

She added: ‘We’ve heard of other attacks closer to the Brayford Pool.

‘Swans mate for life so there will be another swan out there pining for its mate. Often if a swan dies its partner will stay with the body for a long time.

‘Swans make deep, emotional attachments with their mate so now there’s the welfare of the other swan to think about.

‘Everyone needs to be pro-active now in looking after our swans. They’re a daily sight in the city and synonymous with the Brayford in particular. Not only that but they’re incredibly friendly.

‘It’s up to us all now to be vigilant.’

A colony of white swans has lived on Lincoln’s historic Brayford Pool for hundreds of years. A local legend decrees that if the swans ever leave the pool Lincoln’s Norman built Cathedral, which overlooks the waterway, will fall to the ground.

Recruitment consultant, John Rawnsley, 37, said: ‘Whenever I visit Lincoln I always go down to the Brayford Pool and see the swans. It is hard to imagine the city without them.’

Lincolnshire Police are trying to trace the black van. The first four digits of the registration plate are FS06. Spokesman, James Newall, said the force was working closely with the RSPCA.

 

The U.S. Navy is heading to court in Georgia, where environmental groups say plans for an offshore range for military training poses threats to endangered right whales.

A U.S. District Court judge was scheduled to hear arguments in the lawsuit Thursday in Brunswick. Both sides say the case should be decided in their favor without a full trial.

Environmental groups want to stop the Navy from building a $100 million range to train submarines, airplanes and warships 75 miles offshore from Georgia and Florida.

Opponents say that’s too close to waters used by right whales each winter to give birth. Only about 400 of the rare whales remain.

The Navy says it already takes precautions to avoid harming whales and the judge should strongly consider its needs for military readiness.

Giant squid eyes are sperm whale defence

Richard BlackBy Richard BlackEnvironment correspondent, BBC News

Artwork of battle between colossal squid and sperm whale

The world’s biggest squid species have developed huge eyes to give early warning of approaching sperm whales.

Colossal and giant squid both have eyes that can measure 27cm (11in) across – much bigger than any fish.

Scientists found that huge eyes offer no advantages in the murky ocean depths other than making it easier to spot enormous shapes – such as sperm whales.

Writing in Current Biology journal, they say this could explain the equally huge eyes of fossil ichthyosaurs.

Lead scientist Dan Nilsson from Lund University in Sweden was present at the unique dissection of a colossal squid performed four years ago in New Zealand.

There, he examined and handled the eyes – in particular, the hard parts of the lens.

These alone are bigger than an entire human eye.

“Start Quote

Predation by large, toothed whales has driven the evolution of gigantism in the eyes of these squid”

Sonke JohnsenDuke University

“We were puzzled initially, because there were no other eyes in the same size range – you can find everything up to the size of an orange, which are in large swordfish,” Prof Nilsson told BBC News.

“So you find every small size, then there’s a huge gap, then there are these two species where the eye is three times as big – even though squid are not the largest animals.”

The streamlined giant squid (various species of Architeuthis) and the much chunkier colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) can both grow to more than 10m long, as measured from the tip of the body to the end of their tentacles.

The colossal squid especially is equipped with a fearsome arsenal of weapons, including barbed swivelling hooks.

Sense of proportion

Prof Nilsson with core of squid eye lensDan Nilsson saw the colossal squid’s eyes during the dissection in New Zealand in 2008

Scars on the bodies of sperm whales indicate that the two creatures regularly do battle, while colossal squid beaks found in the stomachs of sperm whales indicate that the latter often win.

Though colossal squid are encountered remarkably rarely by people, they are thought to make up about three-quarters of sperm whales’ diet in the Southern Ocean.

Whereas the whales can spot squid using sonar, the squid can deploy nothing except vision – which suggests there would be a powerful evolutionary pressure towards developing effective eyes.

Prof Nilsson’s team used mathematical models of how different sizes of eye perform at depths up to 1km.

There, moving objects are most detectable through the bioluminescence they provoke from countless tiny creatures in the water.

Squid length graphic

The models showed that in general, there is no benefit to be gained from developing eyes bigger than the swordfish’s.

The exception is a really large moving object.

Here, large eyes enable better detection of a pattern of point sources of bioluminescence – light given off by tiny organisms – in low-contrast conditions.

This would give the squid warning of a sperm whale approaching at a distance of about 120m, the researchers calculate – potentially allowing it to take evasive action and avoid being eaten.

“It’s the predation by large, toothed whales that has driven the evolution of gigantism in the eyes of these squid,” commented Soenke Johnsen, a biologist at Duke University in Durham, US, who was also part of the research team.

They speculate that eyes of the same size might have enabled ichthyosaurs, large marine reptiles that died out about 90m years ago, to avoid the fearsome jaws of the even larger pliosaurs.

A PICTURE of Snow Patrol members swimming with a dolphin in Dubai has prompted a furious backlash from animal lovers across the world.

 

Scots guitarist Paul Wilson and lead singer Gary Lightbody were photographed with the “resident” dolphin at the  five-star, £350-a-night  Atlantis The Palm resort in the city.

 

But the PR stunt backfired after animal rights campaigners took to the internet to condemn the band for appearing to support keeping dolphins in captivity.

Lead singer Gary Lightbody and bassist Paul Wilson posed with resident dolphin at the famous Atlantis resort

 

The band, who formed in Dundee and have sold millions of records, were in Dubai to headline the city’s Sandance festival.

 

When the dolphin picture appeared, showing Wilson and Lightbody enjoying a “dolphin encounter”, it sparked a huge row.

 

One angry blogger, Danielle Marie, wrote: “So Snow Patrol, you endorse cutting off 90% of a dolphin’s life so people can swim with it in an aquarium while the animals dies after a short life from a performing marine version of a concentration camp.

 

She continued: “Cruel. How dare you? I demand you show humanity now if you possess it by stopping your support for these disgusting marine concentration camp equivalents.”

 

Another angry blogger, Thomas Reub from Germany, said: “What a pity, that movie stars who had shootings with animals, don’t know about the suffering those captured/captivity-bred dolphins encounter. Dolphins belong in their natural habitat, which can only be the ocean!”

 

The anger went as far as South Africa with one blogger taking to the net to voice her opinion on the photo-op.

 

She said: “Snow Patrol- dolphins in captivity are so not cool. They deserve their freedom as much as you – the right to live their full lives where they belong, in the ocean.”

Twitter 

 

Angry Tweets also started to pour in once the pictures were posted online yesterday.

 

One Tweeter in South Africa said: “If you’re a fan of Snow Patrol, please let them know that supporting the captive dolphin trade is not cool.”

 

The photo-op is a favourite with celebrities who visit the luxury resort, attracting the likes of The Only Way Is Essex star Mark Wright as well as Kelly Brook, UB40 star Ali Campbell and Colleen Rooney.

 

The resort offers the opportunity to swim with their resident dolphin for £150 and promises to be an “unforgettable adventure.”

 

The resort chose not to make a comment.

 

Sonar testing raises whale worries

By Bill Sheets, Herald Writer
EVERETT — Whale watchers and tour-boat operators are concerned about the effect the latest round of sonar testing at Naval Station Everett could have on marine mammals.

A loud “pinging” sound has been heard on board several different boats in the area, including the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry, over the past week and a half.

The sound was so loud that Carl Williams, a tour captain for Island Adventures, heard it on the third deck of his boat moored in Everett near Anthony’s restaurant.

“You can hear it while you’re walking on the dock,” he said.

It’s coming at a bad time, say Williams and others who keep an eye on marine mammals. It’s the beginning of the migratory season for gray whales, several of which venture into Possession Sound and Port Susan to feed on their way north.

At least one whale has been spotted in the area over the past week.

“It’s disturbing, it’s very disturbing,” said Susan Berta, co-founder of the Orca Network in Greenbank.

The testing was first heard Feb. 29 and has been heard several times since. It originated on the USS Shoup, a destroyer stationed at Naval Station Everett, said Sheila Murray, a spokeswoman for the Northwest region of the U.S. Navy.

The testing has been done on and off for years but is relatively infrequent and only takes place with special permission of the Pacific fleet commander in Hawaii, she said.

“The Navy’s been doing this type of activity as long as Navy ships have been in Puget Sound,” Murray said.

The Shoup was at the center of a sonar controversy in 2003. The ship was testing its mid-range sonar in Haro Strait between Vancouver Island and San Juan Island. At least 11 porpoises stranded themselves and died on a nearby beach at the time. A pod of killer whales also was seen “speed swimming” away from the ship, said Shane Aggergaard, owner of Island Adventures, which runs tour boats out of Anacortes and Everett.

Reports by the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service were inconclusive on whether the sonar was connected to the porpoise deaths.

Passengers and crew on the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry heard the pinging for about an hour Feb. 29, ferry spokeswoman Marta Coursey said.

Williams said he first heard the sound on his tour boat on Feb. 29 and two more times, the most recent being Wednesday. It continued for about three hours in the afternoon each time, he said.

“The first day it was louder and shorter, the second day not as loud but longer,” he said. On Wednesday, “it was not as loud but continuous.”

Howard Garrett of the Orca Network said he heard the sound onboard a boat with others in Possession Sound on Wednesday. The group put a hydrophone — a device used for listening to sounds from underwater — into the sound and connected it to a microphone.

“It still hurts my ears,” Garrett said the next day, adding that the volume was turned all the way down. “They slowly ramped up and lengthened the duration” of the pings over about three hours, roughly from 2 to 5 p.m., he said.

The group also saw at least one gray whale — he’s not sure if it was the same one seen twice or two separate whales, Garrett said.

At first, the sonar showed no apparent effect on the whale, which seemed to be feeding in the water near Tulalip Bay, he said. When the sonar grew louder after about 20 minutes, though, the whale turned and swam north toward Port Susan, Garrett said.

There’s a group of gray whales that visits Possession Sound and Port Susan on their migratory trip every year, whale watchers say.

Normally about a dozen stop over, said John Calambokidis of Olympia-based Cascadia Research. About six of them are the same whales every year and about six are different, as identified by photos, he said. A trio of regulars has been spotted so far this year, Calambokidis said.

He said that gray whales hear at a lower frequency than dolphins, porpoises and orcas, so the mid-range sonar of the Shoup might not affect them as much, he said.

“I don’t think we know what effect it might have in this circumstance,” he said.

Aggergaard said he understands the Navy’s need to test the sonar but said it shouldn’t be done during migratory whale season, which runs March through May.

“This group of gray whales that come in there are pretty unique, and we’re pretty protective of them,” he said.

Williams, the boat captain, said it could spook the whales from making future visits.

“The repercussion could be next year, we might not see them come back next year,” he said.

Murray said that before and during testing, the Navy stations someone on the ship to look for whales, dolphins or porpoises. Passive sonar and aircraft, if available, also are used.

If any whales or dolphins are seen within 1,000 yards the power on the sonar is turned down, she said. Within 500 yards the power is turned down more, and within 200 yards it’s turned off.

Sonar testing is specifically allowed by federal law off the coast of Washington, Oregon and Northern California, she said. It is not specifically allowed by law pierside but it is not prohibited, either, she said. It is not allowed in inland waterways or the Strait of Juan de Fuca, she said.

The Navy is applying for a permit that would specifically allow the testing pierside in Everett, she said. It would seek a waiver under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to allow some instances in which the sonar testing likely will in some way affect animal behavior.

Sonar is more essential now than ever in detecting newer, quieter submarines that are being used by more than 40 countries, according to a Navy website.

“Active sonar is the only effective means available today to detect, track, and target modern subs under all ocean conditions,” according to the site.

Fit for the Emperor’s Banquet?

COMMENTARY BY GARY STOKES, SEA SHEPHERD HONG KONG COORDINATOR

Photo: Gary StokesPhoto: Gary StokesHaving lived in Hong Kong for over 20 years, I believe that I have developed a pretty clear understanding of the local people and customs here. For the most part Hong Kong is a reasonably clean city, when you consider that is, how many people there are crammed into such a small place. Granted, when I first arrived you couldn’t walk a few yards without hearing someone choking and coughing up phlegm for what seemed like an eternity before ‘gobbing’ it onto the sidewalk. Those days have mostly gone thanks to a government initiative to fine spitting in public. The city does get very grungy; much of this is attributed to the air pollution generated by factories across the border and the vast amount of urban traffic.

One thing I have noticed in Hong Kong is the vast amount of “germ warriors”, people who break out a small pack of tissues to wipe their hands after touching a railing or anything that might have that urban grunge on it. Now this is not a bad thing at all, and much of this I believe hails from the SARS outbreak that gave Hong Kong citizens an additional level of ‘germ awareness’ on top of what the government had previously initiated.

So with this is mind I am left completely baffled by the fact that the most talked about, controversial, and prestigious dish- Shark Fin Soup (which sells for over US$100 a bowl)-has the prime ingredient being a piece of half rotting flesh, that has been dried out in the sun in some god forsaken place, before being shipped here to Hong Kong. Upon arrival this expensive ingredient is then strewn across sidewalks, kicked about, and even walked upon. Some restaurant then buys it from a dealer in Sheung Wan for a handsome price and then rehydrates it by leaving it to soak overnight. The fin then has the crap steamed out of it and cartilage removed before being steamed again with a broth of ham, chicken, and beef to add flavor. The limp and stringy substance is then placed in a bowl and more stock is added, combined with corn starch, MSG, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and a myriad of other flavorings are also added before it is served in some fancy bowl and delivered to the table like the crown jewels and is greeted by a chorus from the diners of “whaaaa!”

Photo: Gary StokesPhoto: Gary StokesEnvironmental issues aside, this has got to be the greatest marketing campaign in the world. Take the most unappetizing object possible and add the ‘Emperor Banquet’ story, throw in some urban myths that it will keep cancer at bay and will increase sexual prowess and BINGO, an instant seller. Now add to that the fact that shark populations worldwide are being wiped out, and you’ve now created a market to sell an undesirable product. Very smart! With 5 star hotels promoting this to weddings as the “must have dish”, playing on the Asian face culture, the dish is sold en mass. Now with such a prestigiously branded image attached, the booming middle-income population of Mainland China all want some of the action.  This massive increase in consumption then creates an even greater demand of an ever-decreasing stock.

Environmentally, the impact of removing the apex predators from any ecosystem is devastating. Sharks have been around since before the dinosaurs, constantly evolving over time to become the most efficient and effective predator. Sharks have been responsible for shaping the development of all other species in the ocean that had to evolve just to survive. By removing sharks from the ecosystem, fish will overpopulate, as they have no natural predator. They will then wipe out their natural food source before dying out. The fish that were prey for the other species (now wiped out) then have no natural predator; hence the same pattern will occur again and again down through the ecosystem until we reach the bottom. Here we find plankton, and when plankton goes, so does 70% of the oxygen we breathe. This is why conservationists and NGO’s globally have been campaigning to stop Shark Fin Soup. Sharks are essential to the health of the oceans and the health of the world ecosystem.

The clock is ticking, will the diners of Shark Fin Soup wake up and realize that they are eating street food – literally – or will we wipe out a key species that may in fact result in wiping out ourselves?

Noise Is Disturbing the Whales

By SONIA COOKE | March 1, 2012 | +
Sylvain Cordier

SYLVAIN CORDIER

The residents of California’s Santa Monica Bay have some rather noisy neighbors—and they’re not happy about it. That is the conclusion of a new study which shows that blue whales feeding off the coast of California stop calling to each other when a nearby naval base powers up its sonar for training exercises.

It’s not exactly news that sonar can disturb whales. What’s different about this study, conducted by a team from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego for the journal PLoS One, is that it shows an underwater sound outside a baleen whale’s vocalization range can still affect its calling behavior. (Baleen whales – which include the blue, humpback and right — emit deep bass notes well below the ping of sonar.)  Because the endangered blue whale may depend on communication to keep its family group together and alert them to the presence of food, the effects of that sonar are a serious concern.

 

MORE: Code Blue—Saving Our Oceans

“I was hearing ‘beep beep beep,’ sometimes for one hour or even two days,” said lead author Mariana Melcón, who monitored the giant creatures for two years while they summered in California. “This seems to be very annoying for them.”

But it’s not only sonar that’s getting to them. When ships come by, churning sound of the engines falls within the blue whales’ vocalization range, which means the creatures have to raise their voices. “It’s like we are talking and all of a sudden someone turns on the music very, very loud,” explains Melcón. “Either we continue talking and try to understand each other, or we talk louder.”

Unsurprisingly, this sort of effect – like living inside a noisy, dark bar – is not ideal for intelligent and social mammals trying to have a conversation. Earlier this month, a groundbreaking study came out which showed that when shipping clamour died down in the week following 9/11, the stress hormone levels in a population of whales off the coast of New England plummeted. While the rest of the world reeled, whales finally found some much needed peace and quiet.

This chronic stress, however, is usually hidden from human eyes. “The idea was they weren’t disturbed because they were just hanging out,” said Scott Kraus, the director of research at the New England Aquarium and an author on the paper. “You think, ‘Oh, nothing’s wrong.’ But in fact, there is something wrong.”

It’s not just about annoying whales and dolphins. To these animals, sound – whether a chronic drone or intermittent blast — can be a serious problem. It has behavioral effects, like driving cetaceans away from food, forcing them to breach or surface aburptly, or disrupting communication. (A male blue whale letting out a deep call to females off the coast of Canada could once be heard more than 1,500 miles away in the Caribbean. Today, his song travels only 50-100 miles, limiting the chances of finding a mate.) Then there are physiological impacts, from hearing damage to gas-filled lesions caused by a rapid, startled ascent—the cetacean equivalent of the bends.

MORE: Obama Takes Steps to Limit Icelandic Whaling

As evidence of undersea noise’s effect on whales and dolphins mounts, so is the total volume. Oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, which uses powerful blasts of low-frequency sound in seismic survey, is one threat. Even the drive towards renewable energy – like off-shore wind farms — can have its drawbacks. “It’s essentially pile-driving,” says Mark Simmonds of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. “If you’re installing a thousand wind farms in a particular area, you’re going to be making a heck of a noise. And that noise can travel a long distance.”

Luckily it’s not all bad news. Technology can help — if people are willing to pay for it. Piles being hammered into the ground for wind farms, for example, can be surrounded by ‘bubble curtains,’ a wall of bubbles that stops the sound from traveling. And piles don’t necessarily need to be driven – they can be settled into a hole made with a quiet water drill, or merely anchored to the seabed. In terms of shipping noise, efforts are under way by the International Maritime Organization to develop and encourage the use of quieter engines on ships. “Noise is generally inefficiency in propulsion,” says Kraus. “In the long term, it may be a win/win situation.”

Even the U.S. Navy, long the bête noire of the whales’ sonic world, is now working on the problem of ocean noise. In fact, over the last ten years the U.S. Navy has been the primary funder of marine mammal research on the planet. “It took them a while,” says Brandon Southall, senior scientist for Southall Environmental Associates who is leading a new five-year Navy-funded study into marine mammals and sonar called SOCAL-BRS.“But you can’t say that they haven’t put their money with their mouth is.”

Some say this isn’t simply a conservation issue. It’s a moral one. Last month, a group of scientists and ethicists presented a ‘Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans’ to the largest science conference in the world, the AAAS meeting in Vancouver, Canada. The Declaration states that because of their intelligence and social complexity, whales and dolphins should be respected as non-human persons with a right to life. “We’ve had decades of work demonstrating what kinds of beings they are, what kind of brains they have,” says Lori Marino, a senior lecturer in neuroscience and behavioral biology at Emory University, whose groundbreaking work has shown that dolphins, like humans and great apes, can recognize themselves in the mirror. “It’s all based on upon empirical evidence. We no longer have to guess.” Science, it seems, is telling us how undersea noise is affecting whales and dolphins. It also may be telling us why we should do something about it.

Read more: http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2012/03/01/turn-it-down-how-human-noise-is-disturbing-the-whales/#ixzz1nuMfcUq1

Goodbye, First Amendment: ‘Trespass Bill’ will make protest illegal

Published: 29 February, 2012, 02:13

Washington: US park police detains a Christian religious activist during a pro-life demonstration in front of the White House in Washington on February 16, 2012. (AFP Photo/Jewel Samad)

Washington: US park police detains a Christian religious activist during a pro-life demonstration in front of the White House in Washington on February 16, 2012. (AFP Photo/Jewel Samad)

TAGS: CrimePoliticsLawUSA

 

Just when you thought the government couldn’t ruin the First Amendment any further: The House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday that outlaws protests in instances where some government officials are nearby, whether or not you even know it.

The US House of Representatives voted 388-to-3 in favor of H.R. 347 late Monday, a bill which is being dubbed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. In the bill, Congress officially makes it illegal to trespass on the grounds of the White House, which, on the surface, seems not just harmless and necessary, but somewhat shocking that such a rule isn’t already on the books. The wording in the bill, however, extends to allow the government to go after much more than tourists that transverse the wrought iron White House fence.

Under the act, the government is also given the power to bring charges against Americans engaged in political protest anywhere in the country.

Under current law, White House trespassers are prosecuted under a local ordinance, a Washington, DC legislation that can bring misdemeanor charges for anyone trying to get close to the president without authorization. Under H.R. 347, a federal law will formally be applied to such instances, but will also allow the government to bring charges to protesters, demonstrators and activists at political events and other outings across America.

The new legislation allows prosecutors to charge anyone who enters a building without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function with a federal offense if Secret Service is on the scene, but the law stretches to include not just the president’s palatial Pennsylvania Avenue home. Under the law, any building or grounds where the president is visiting — even temporarily — is covered, as is any building or grounds “restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”

It’s not just the president who would be spared from protesters, either.

Covered under the bill is any person protected by the Secret Service. Although such protection isn’t extended to just everybody, making it a federal offense to even accidently disrupt an event attended by a person with such status essentially crushes whatever currently remains of the right to assemble and peacefully protest.

Hours after the act passed, presidential candidate Rick Santorum was granted Secret Service protection. For the American protester, this indeed means that glitter-bombing the former Pennsylvania senator is officially a very big no-no, but it doesn’t stop with just him. Santorum’s coverage under the Secret Service began on Tuesday, but fellow GOP hopeful Mitt Romney has already been receiving such security. A campaign aide who asked not to be identified confirmed last week to CBS News that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has sought Secret Service protection as well. Even former contender Herman Cain received the armed protection treatment when he was still in the running for the Republican Party nod.

In the text of the act, the law is allowed to be used against anyone who knowingly enters or remains in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so, but those grounds are considered any area where someone — rather it’s President Obama, Senator Santorum or Governor Romney — will be temporarily visiting, whether or not the public is even made aware. Entering such a facility is thus outlawed, as is disrupting the orderly conduct of “official functions,” engaging in disorderly conduct “within such proximity to” the event or acting violent to anyone, anywhere near the premises. Under that verbiage, that means a peaceful protest outside a candidate’s concession speech would be a federal offense, but those occurrences covered as special event of national significance don’t just stop there, either. And neither does the list of covered persons that receive protection.

Outside of the current presidential race, the Secret Service is responsible for guarding an array of politicians, even those from outside America. George W Bush is granted protection until ten years after his administration ended, or 2019, and every living president before him is eligible for life-time, federally funded coverage. Visiting heads of state are extended an offer too, and the events sanctioned as those of national significance — a decision that is left up to the US Department of Homeland Security — extends to more than the obvious. While presidential inaugurations and meeting of foreign dignitaries are awarded the title, nearly three dozen events in all have been considered a National Special Security Event (NSSE) since the term was created under President Clinton. Among past events on the DHS-sanctioned NSSE list are Super Bowl XXXVI, the funerals of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, most State of the Union addresses and the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

With Secret Service protection awarded to visiting dignitaries, this also means, for instance, that the federal government could consider a demonstration against any foreign president on American soil as a violation of federal law, as long as it could be considered disruptive to whatever function is occurring.

When thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Chicago this spring for the 2012 G8 and NATO summits, they will also be approaching the grounds of a National Special Security Event. That means disruptive activity, to whichever court has to consider it, will be a federal offense under the act.

And don’t forget if you intend on fighting such charges, you might not be able to rely on evidence of your own. In the state of Illinois, videotaping the police, under current law, brings criminals charges. Don’t fret. It’s not like the country will really try to enforce it — right?

On the bright side, does this mean that the law could apply to law enforcement officers reprimanded for using excessive force on protesters at political events? Probably. Of course, some fear that the act is being created just to keep those demonstrations from ever occuring, and given the vague language on par with the loose definition of a “terrorist” under the NDAA, if passed this act is expected to do a lot more harm to the First Amendment than good.

United States Representative Justin Amash (MI-03) was one of only three lawmakers to vote against the act when it appeared in the House late Monday. Explaining his take on the act through his official Facebook account on Tuesday, Rep. Amash writes, “The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it’s illegal.”

“Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights,” adds the representative.

Now that the act has overwhelmingly made it through the House, the next set of hands to sift through its pages could very well be President Barack Obama; the US Senate had already passed the bill back on February 6. Less than two months ago, the president approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, essentially suspending habeas corpus from American citizens. Could the next order out of the Executive Branch be revoking some of the Bill of Rights? Only if you consider the part about being able to assemble a staple of the First Amendment, really. Don’t worry, though. Obama was, after all, a constitutional law professor. When he signed the NDAA on December 31, he accompanied his signature with a signing statement that let Americans know that, just because he authorized the indefinite detention of Americans didn’t mean he thought it was right.

Should President Obama suspend the right to assemble, Americans might expect another apology to accompany it in which the commander-in-chief condemns the very act he authorizes. If you disagree with such a decision, however, don’t take it to the White House. Sixteen-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue and the vicinity is, of course, covered under this act.