Fears for world’s rarest penguin as population plummets

A yellow-Eyed penguin marches along a beach near Dunedin, New Zealand.

Almost half the breeding population of the world’s most endangered penguin species, the yellow-eyed penguin, has disappeared in one part of New Zealandand conservation groups believe commercial fishing is to blame.

The yellow-eyed penguin is endemic to New Zealand’s South Island and sub-Antarctic islands, where there are just 1,600 to 1,800 left in the wild, down from nearly 7,000 in 2000.

During a recent survey of the island sanctuary of Whenua Hou (Codfish Island), department of conservation staff made the alarming discovery that close to half the island’s breeding population of penguins had vanished. Elsewhere in New Zealand the bird’s population is at its lowest level in 27 years.

Forest & Bird’s chief executive Kevin Hague said because the island was predator-free the evidence pointed to the animals being caught and drowned in the nets of commercial fishing trawlers. Only 3% of commercial trawlers have independent observers on them to report bycatch deaths.

“Unlike previous years where disease and high temperatures caused deaths on land, this year birds have disappeared at sea,” said Hague.

“There is an active set net fishery within the penguins’ Whenua Hou foraging ground, and the indications are that nearly half the Whenua Hou hoiho population has been drowned in one or more of these nets.”

Last year 24 nests were recorded on Whenua Hou, but this year rangers only found 14. Penguin numbers are declining in other parts of the South Island as well, and researchers fear the beloved bird, which appears on the New Zealand $5 note, is heading ever closer to extinction.

Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust general manager Sue Murray said every effort was being made to save the birds by conservation groups, but the birds faced multi-pronged threats from disease to dogs and climate change.

A rare yellow-eyed penguin found dead in the net of a fishing trawler.
 A rare yellow-eyed penguin found dead in the net of a fishing trawler. Photograph: Ministry of Primary Industries, New Zealand

“The trust has huge concerns for the future of hoiho [yellow-eyed penguins] on Whenua Hou given their rapid decline. Our focus must be the marine environment where hoiho spend at least half of their life as it is unlikely that terrestrial impacts are a major factor in the decline here.”

The penguins – which are small and have yellow eyes – can be found from Banks Peninsula near Christchurch to as far south as the sub-Antarctic islands.

University of Otago’s Thomas Mattern, a penguin expert, told the Otago Daily Times he believed time was running out for the birds.

“Quite frankly, the yellow-eyed penguins, in my professional opinion, are on their way out,” Mattern said.


Indonesia: the world’s volcanic hotspot


Indonesia, where more than 40,000 people have been evacuated over fears of an imminent volcanic eruption at Mount Agung on Bali, is the world’s most volcanic area.

The Southeast Asian archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and islets — and nearly 130 active volcanoes — is situated on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.

Here are some of the country’s most deadly eruptions:

  • Tambora

In 1815, Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa explodes in one of the most violent eruptions in recorded history. An estimated 12,000 people die, while a resulting famine kills another 80,000.

  • Krakatoa

The island of Krakatoa is practically wiped off the map in 1883 by a volcanic explosion so powerful that it is heard some 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles) away.

Around 36,000 people are killed in the eruption and the resulting tsunami. A new volcano emerges in 1928 on the same site.

  • Kelud

Mount Kelud, a Java island volcano, erupts in 1568, killing 10,000 people.

It takes another 5,000 lives in 1919.

In February 2014, 75,000 people are evacuated due to a forecast Kelud eruption.

  • Merapi

In 1930 an eruption in Java of Mount Merapi — considered one of the world’s most active and dangerous volcanoes — kills more than 1,300 people.

It erupts again in 2010, forcing 280,000 people to flee and killing more than 300 in what is considered its most powerful eruption since 1930.

Merapi is also one of the most densely populated volcanic sites: 12,000 people live on its slopes and a million people live under its threat.

  • Sinabung

In 2014, 16 people are killed after an eruption of Mount Sinabung on the western island of Sumatra.

Another eruption in 2016 kills seven.

  • Agung

In 1963, several successive eruptions of Mount Agung, a spiritual centre on the island of Bali, leave nearly 1,600 dead.


Inside the World’s First All-Female Special Forces Unit Norway’s Jegertroppen

Image result for Inside the World’s First All-Female Special Forces Unit: Norway’s Jegertroppen

An explosion just a few feet away rocks the unmarked station wagon as it travels along a dirt road in the Norwegian woodland.

Immediately, two soldiers jump from their front seats and run for cover behind the carcass of an old, rusty tank. Firing their weapons at targets along the snow-covered hillside, they call for support from the rest of their unit.

This firefight is just a drill, but the soldiers taking part are battling to break down one of the final barriers to women serving in the armed forces. They are training to become part of Norway’s Jegertroppen or “Hunter Troops” — the world’s first all-female military special forces unit.

More than a year after the U.S. Department of Defense repealed a longtime ban on women serving in ground combat assignments, relatively few have been trained or assigned to these jobs in the U.S. military.

Norway has moved a lot faster to break down military gender barriers. Its parliament introduced legislation in the 1980s that opened up all military roles to women. Last year, Norway became the first NATO country to introduce female conscription.

But the introduction of the all-female special forces unit in 2014 raised the profile of women in the Norwegian military the most.

The unit was started after Norway’s Armed Forces’ Special Command saw an increased need for female special operations soldiers — particularly in places like Afghanistan where male troops were forbidden from communicating with women. The exclusion of half the population was having a detrimental impact on intelligence gathering and building community relations.

Image: A soldier rests after military training exercise at the Terningmoen Camp in Elverum, Norway

“When [Norway] deployed to Afghanistan we saw that we needed female soldiers. Both as female advisers for the Afghan special police unit that we mentored, but also when we did an arrest,” said Col. Frode Kristofferson, the commander of Norway’s special forces. “We needed female soldiers to take care of the women and children in the buildings that we searched.”

So they created the all-female unit specifically designed to train them.

“One of the advantages that we see with an all-female unit is that we can have a tailored program and a tailored selection for the female operators,” Kristofferson said, adding that at the end of the one-year program the female soldiers are just as capable as their male counterparts.

One of the unit’s members, 22-year-old Tonje, said the unit is proof that women can do the same job as men, even in the male-dominated world of the military.

“We’re carrying the same weight in the backpack as the boys,” said Tonje, who did not provide her full name due to the unit’s rules. “We do the same tasks.”

Those tasks at Terningmoen Camp, about 100 miles north of Oslo, include parachuting out of military aircraft, skiing in the Arctic tundra, navigating the wilderness and fighting in urban terrain.

She added that the weapon, backpack and other gear she carries on long marches, weighs over 100 pounds.

“I’m the smallest, so I carry as much weight as I myself weigh,” she said.

[Source:- NBC]

Stop blaming the tech industry for the world’s problems

Everything we do is terrible, says the trope. We’re oppressive. We’re exploitative. We’re sexist, racist, classist. We deify horrible frat-boy brogrammer assholes, while funding, and celebrating, morally bankrupt apps that exist to stand in for their mothers and/or servants. We destroy jobs and displace the working class. We cater to the rich and privileged urban elite, while the poor masses fall further behind. How can we possibly claim to be building a better world?

And the thing is, you can, in isolation, actually make a pretty good case that the tech industry is guilty of all of these things. In isolation. But pull back just a little, and it’s hard to deny that most of these things are symptoms, not problems — symptoms of the world in which we exist. Compared to the rest of that world, the tech industry is, mostly, a beacon of hope and progress.

The congenital sexism of our industry has been the subject of whole acres of pixels over the last few years; no need belaboring that point. But at the same time, InHerSight, an organization devoted to providing “a powerful and representative picture of what it’s really like for women in the workplace,” reports that tech is rated by its respondents as the bestindustry for women to work in. Yes, you read that correctly. The best of all industries. Despite its manifold, manifest flaws.

Is the upper echelon of tech executives heavily, wildly disproportionately dominated by men? It sure is. But consider the context: specifically, that we live in a world where there are more S&P 1500 CEOs named John than there are women. (This is also true of the FTSE 100.)

Do the major tech companies’ diversity reports make for fairly grim reading? Yes, they do. But they’re not outright chilling, unlike, say, reading that: “racial resentment played a larger role in the 2016 [American] election than economic concerns … Trump successfully leveraged existing resentment towards African Americans in combination with emerging fears of increased racial diversity in America to reshape the presidential electorate.” Meanwhile in the UK, well —


Dorian Lynskey @Dorianlynskey

Every day I wonder what non-racist Leave voters think they were voting for. https://twitter.com/alanferrier/status/841996616798212096 



People complain that technology’s priorities are pathologically skewed and wrong:


Spanish California @_danilo

climate change
global unrest
wealth inequality
lack of access to medicine

and our tech resources go to food delivery robots for rich people https://twitter.com/TechCrunch/status/852151994420572161 



But let me remind you that the most powerful nation in the world recently wasted literally trillions of dollars on a useless war that consumed hundreds of thousands of lives and led to massive destabilization and unrest. Fortunately, the current US administration… uh… yeah, that sentence isn’t going to go anywhere good, is it.

Let remind me you that the parasitical finance industry now consumes some 30% of all US corporate profits, and counting. Of course, because of their important work, the rest of the world gets… well… look, the important thing is that they’re making an enormous amount of money, OK? Don’t ask what the rest of us receive in exchange for that 30% tithe of all profits. No good’s going to come of that.

Almost everyone I know in the tech industry (obviously there’s selection bias there, but hear me out) genuinely wants to do more good for the world, and to help people. But we live in late capitalism1, which straitjackets our options. Even Elon Musk had to hit the jackpot with PayPal before he could build Tesla and SpaceX. Young frat boys are the entrepreneurs of choice because they’re the ones who feel like they can afford to take that risk in the world in which we live. Privileged pretty-people assholes have invaded the tech industry because it has become a locus of power and of cultural cachet. All this was inevitable, in late capitalism.

And please note: yesterday’s expensive luxuries are tomorrow’s low-cost necessities. Mobile phones were outrageously offensive symbols of investment-banker excess, once. Passenger jets used to be so expensive that you were expected to pay for your tickets in installments. The world’s first CD players cost thousands of dollars. Now CDs are obsolete in most countries, and a side-hustle for Kentucky Fried Chicken in others:

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter


Matthew Ogle @flaneur

We are truly in the weirdest timeline https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/03/arts/music/steve-lillywhite-kfc-sell-cds-indonesia.html 



Don’t get me wrong. I understand where this rage comes from, and to some extent, that well of fury speaks well of tech. Because while some of it simply comes from the rage of the powerless against the powerful — and while it may not feel like it, my fellow nerds, we now find ourselves in the heart of perhaps the world’s primary locus of power — some of it comes from the sense, the expectation, the hope that tech should be better.

And you know what? They’re right. We should be better; much better than what we so often see around us. We’re the ones building tomorrow, and setting its standards. No one else is going to improve things for us. It is literally our job.

But it’s hard to build a better world, and it’s especially hard when you’re enmeshed in a system whose primary design goal often seems to be to perpetuate power, wealth, and privilege for those who already have it. So cut the tech industry a little slack. We can’t help but reflect the sewers that birthed us from time to time. But remember what Oscar Wilde once said: we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

1For the record, I am a capitalist, and I believe in capitalism and its power to lift the world out of poverty; but at the same time, its excesses need to be checked and corralled from time to time, and our collective failure to do so has allowed it to go all Sorcerer’s Apprentice on us over the last few decades.