The Thylacine may not be extinct after all:
Scientists in northern Australia are preparing to hunt for the Tasmanian tiger following a series of “sightings” of the species, which was declared extinct after the last one died in a zoo in 1936.
As part of a search due to begin next month, scientists plan to set up more than 50 camera traps to try to spot a so-called tiger, or thylacine, in Cape York, a peninsula in the country’s north-east corner.
This follows two apparently credible sightings in the region, including one by Brian Hobbs, a former tourism operator who revealed earlier this month that he spotted a family of the animals in 1983 after they startled his German shepherd.
"These animals, I've never seen anything like them before in my life," he told ABC Radio.
"They were dog-shaped — I had a shepherd with me so I certainly know what dogs are about — and in the spotlight I could see they were tan in colour and they had stripes on their sides."
Patrick Shears, a former ranger who also claims to have seen a tiger, said local Aborigines reported regularly spotting the creature.
"They pretty well confirmed that they know about a dog-like creature — not a dingo [a native Australian dog] — that's often seen at night," he said.
"They call it the 'moonlight tiger'… They're curious. If you're not moving and not making a noise they'll come within a reasonable range and check you out then just trot off.”
Professor Bill Laurance, one of two researchers from James Cook University undertaking the search, said the sightings appeared to be credible but admitted it seemed unlikely that the species would have survived in such low numbers.
“All observations of putative thylacines to date have been at night, and in one case four animals were observed at close range - about 20 feet away - with a spotlight,” he said.
“We have cross-checked the descriptions we received of eye shine colour, body size and shape, animal behaviour, and other attributes, and these are inconsistent with known attributes of other large-bodied species in north Queensland such as dingoes, wild dogs or feral pigs.”
The Tasmanian tiger, a carnivorous marsupial which disappeared following the arrival of British settlers, has gained an almost mythical status in Australia.
The last known creature died on September 7, 1936 at a zoo in Hobart, the capital of the island state of Tasmania.
There have since been countless alleged sightings, but none has ever been confirmed. Scientists in Australia have also been attempting to clone it.
The creatures were believed to have once roamed the mainland but became extinct there – possibly after being preyed on by dingoes, Australian wild dogs – and were left only in Tasmania. They were then hunted and trapped by the colonialists, who believed the tiger was a threat to their sheep.
Well yes...despite attempts to blame it all on the British, the extinction of the thylacine from mainland Australia seems largely to have been caused by dingoes, which arrived there some 4000 years ago - well before Captain Cook.
More blue East London skies:
Dale Grimshaw mural, Hanbury Street
Niall Ferguson in today's Sunday Times (£):
The term “lone wolf” is a misleading one. No one becomes a jihadist all by himself, just by watching beheading videos. As my wife, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, argues in a powerful new report, jihad is always preceded by dawa — the process of non-violent but toxic radicalisation that transforms the petty criminal into a zealot.
The network of dawa takes many different forms. In the UK a key role used to be played by the organisation al-Muhajiroun (the Emigrants), which the jailed Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary led before his arrest. But there are many less visible organisations — Islamic centres with shadowy imams — busily spreading the mind poison.
To see how this poison works, read the recent Policy Exchange study of Britain’s Muslim communities, Unsettled Belonging. At first sight, the news is good. Altogether, 90% of those surveyed condemned terrorism. Most British Muslims, we read, have “fundamentally secular interests and priorities”. Only 7% said they did not feel a strong sense of belonging to the UK.
But read on. Nearly half said they did not want to “fully integrate with non-Muslims in all aspects of life”, preferring some separation in “schooling and laws”. Asked whether they would support the introduction of sharia, 43% said yes. And 1 in 10 British Muslims oppose the prohibition of tutoring that “promotes extreme views or is deemed incompatible with fundamental British values”.
Worst of all, nearly a third (31%) of those surveyed believe that the American government was responsible for 9/11. Get this: “More people claimed that the Jews were behind these attacks (7%) than said it was the work of al-Qaeda (4%).”
After 7/7, the government’s anti-terrorism strategy was designed to “Prevent” people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 even placed a duty on the police, prisons, local authorities, schools and universities to stop people “being drawn into terrorism”. When she was home secretary, Theresa May vowed “systematically [to] confront and challenge extremist ideology”. For this she was denounced by the usual suspects, notably the Muslim Council of Britain, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Cage and the Islamic Human Rights Commission. But the reality is that Prevent has not prevented enough.
The problem is that it’s very hard to stop a network such as this one flourishing when it can operate even in jails. Figures published by the Ministry of Justice show the number of Muslims in prison (for all types of offence) more than doubled to 12,255 between 2004 and 2014. One in seven inmates in England and Wales are Muslim. Guess what goes on inside. Clue: it’s not like an episode of Porridge.
This problem isn’t going away. Ask the French. About 8% of the French population is Muslim, which is roughly the proportion the Pew Research Centre projects it will be in Britain by 2030. The French authorities estimate that they have 11,400 radical Islamists. And about 60% to 70% of the French prison population is Muslim.
Here's Hirsi Ali's report - The Challenge of Dawa: Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Counter It. From the executive summary:
A narrow focus on Islamist violence had the effect of restricting our options only to tools such as military intervention, electronic surveillance, and the criminal justice system. This approach has proved both costly and ineffective.
Moving beyond the controversy over his executive order on immigration, President Trump now has the chance to broaden our strategy. Instead of “combating violent extremism,” his administration needs to redefine the threat posed by political Islam by recognizing it as an ideology that is fundamentally incompatible with our freedoms and a movement that is working insidiously but effectively to achieve its stated utopia.
I argue that the American public urgently needs to be educated about both the ideology of political Islam and the organizational infrastructure called dawa that Islamists use to inspire, indoctrinate, recruit, finance, and mobilize those Muslims whom they win over to their cause.
There is no point in denying that this ideology has its foundation in Islamic doctrine. However, “Islam,” “Islamism,” and “Muslims” are distinct concepts. Not all Muslims are Islamists, let alone violent, though all Islamists—including those who use violence—are Muslims. I believe the religion of Islam itself is indeed capable of reformation, if only to distinguish it more clearly from the political ideology of Islamism. But that task of reform can only be carried out by Muslims. Happily, there is a growing number of reformist Muslims. Part of the Trump administration’s strategy must be to support and empower them.
The other part of the strategy requires confronting dawa, a term unfamiliar to Americans. Dawa as practiced by radical Islamists employs a wide range of mechanisms to advance their goal of imposing Islamic law (sharia) on society. This includes proselytizing but extends beyond that.4 In Western countries, dawa aims both to convert non-Muslims to political Islam and to instill Islamist views in existing Muslims. The ultimate goal of dawa is to destroy the political institutions of a free society and replace them with the rule of sharia law.
Dawa is to the Islamists of today what the “long march through the institutions” was to twentieth-century Marxists. It is subversion from within—the abuse of religious freedom in order to undermine that very freedom. Another analogy is also possible. After Islamists gain power, dawa is to them what Gleichschaltung (synchronization) of all aspects of German state, civil, and social institutions was to the National Socialists.
There are of course differences. The biggest difference is that dawa is rooted in the Islamic practice of attempting to convert non-Muslims to accept the message of Islam. As it is an ostensibly religious missionary activity, proponents of dawa enjoy a much greater protection by the law in free societies than Marxists or fascists did in the past.
Worse, Islamist groups have enjoyed not just protection but at times official sponsorship from government agencies duped into regarding them as representatives of “moderate Muslims” simply because they do not engage in violence....
Well, that's one way of looking at it. Timothy Snyder:
We no longer need to wonder what it would be like to lose a war on our own territory. We just lost one to Russia, and the consequence was the election of Donald Trump. The war followed the new rules of the 21st century, but its goal was the usual one of political change.
The greatest student of war, Carl von Clausewitz, defined war as "an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will." In his own time, the 19th century, force meant battle: "there is only one means in war: combat." Combat is not war, but a means to win a war, to impose one's will.
But what if the enemy's will can be altered without the blood and treasure of military engagement? If that were true, then a country with a smaller military budget, like Russia, might beat one with a better army, like America.
That just happened, and we are still wiping our eyes in foggy denial.
Nearly 70 percent of the North Korean population, roughly seven in 10 people, is undernourished, a U.S. broadcaster reported Wednesday, citing a U.N. report on the need for humanitarian aid to North Korea.
According to the report released the previous day by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), some 18 million North Korean people, including 1.3 million children under five, are malnourished because of the socialist country's poor state food rations which lack protein and fat, Radio Free Asia said.
The report also pointed out that the North's daily food rations remained at 300-380 grams per person on average last year, just half of some 600 grams that the United Nations recommends as the minimal daily requirement, the broadcaster said.
The report stressed the need for fresh assistance to the North, while reminding that North Korean residents suffer insufficiency in food, sanitation and drinking water because of recurring natural disasters like droughts and floods.
It ain't recurring natural disasters that cause the undernourishment of the North Koreans: it's the unnatural regime in Pyongyang. Aid to North Korea simply gets siphoned off to the military. It's been happening for years, and still the aid agencies don't get it.
The aid agencies are still advocating the same failing strategy they’ve pursued for decades, which has hardly made a statistical dent in the percentage of undernourished North Koreans. The obvious cause of this, as the U.N. Panel of Experts recently reported, “This humanitarian situation is largely the result of priority being accorded to the military and defence industry, which has significantly distorted economic resource allocation.” (Para. 279.)
I’ve documented, for example, how North Korea squandered millions on its military on a mausoleum for Kim Il-sung while millions were starving of dying of opportunistic disease in the countryside. Or how it continues to spend six times on luxury imports what the U.N. World Food Program is asking foreign donors for each year. Or what spends to build luxury facilities like ski resorts, amusement parks, and 3D theaters for its elites. Or the billions it spends on missile development and testing, or nukes (for which we still have no estimates). Or Kim Jong-un’s affinity for yachts.
A more overlooked cause is the regime’s interference with private agriculture and markets that provide a substantial share of the food that most North Koreans survive on. Yet another is the fact that Pyongyang exports a substantial amount of the food it produces to raise cash for things that matter more to it than the nutrition of its people.
Meanwhile there are reports that the number of workers heading to Russia has increased sharply, with the old route through China being reopened - signs of the increasing desperation of Pyongyang to earn foreign currency:
A source close to North Korean affairs in China said that Russia is likely to welcome the plan by the North Korean authorities to dispatch a large labor force for foreign currency earning, noting, "The international community is keeping a watchful eye on North Korea's dispatch of workers abroad in order to block the nation's sources of foreign currency. But as long as Russia is in need of a cheap labor force, the regime can keep dispatching workers. The fact that they have resumed the old route [via Dandong] ten years after it was shut down shows the magnitude of the operation."
A recent report by Radio Free Asia (RFA) lends further weight to these claims. RFA reported that according to statements made by the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang on March 20, Russia and China discussed the issue of dispatching workers during a joint working group meeting held on March 17 in Pyongyang. "These movements," the report read, "can be interpreted as part of a policy to increase the number of dispatched workers, despite negative sentiment from the international community."
These workers, it should be remembered, work under conditions of virtual slave labour, under close supervision from Kim loyalists, with torture and execution awaiting those who try to escape.
The Times headline this morning - Killer was Muslim convert:
The terrorist who brought carnage to Westminster was a Muslim convert and violent criminal known to the security services, it emerged last night, as the death toll rose to five.
Khalid Masood, 52, who stabbed PC Keith Palmer to death outside the Palace of Westminster after mowing down pedestrians on the nearby bridge, had been in prison twice, raising concerns that he may have been radicalised behind bars.
Masood was born Adrian Russell Ajao in Dartford, Kent, and brought up by a single mother in the seaside town of Rye, East Sussex, before a religious conversion, sources confirmed. After he was shot dead, Islamic State hailed him as one of its “soldiers”.
How wonderful that a violent criminal can find a meaning to his life, and gain final redemption, through the power of religion.
Can't quite let Chick Berry go without one more live performance. This one's on Belgian TV, from 1965. God knows who's backing him, but it doesn't matter: it's all about Chuck and his guitar. An amazing performance:
I said last week that he'd had the "brilliant idea of writing rock'n'roll songs with lyrics that appealed to white teenagers". Which may not be quite fair, but certainly no other black R'n'B artist of the time could possibly have come up with that lyric - "Roll over Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news".
Bob Dylan - "When I first heard Chuck Berry, I had no idea that he was black. I thought he was white hillbilly."
The early years:
By early 1953 Berry was performing with Johnnie Johnson's trio, starting a long-time collaboration with the pianist. The band played mostly blues and ballads, but the most popular music among whites in the area was country. Berry wrote, "Curiosity provoked me to lay a lot of our country stuff on our predominantly black audience and some of our black audience began whispering 'who is that black hillbilly at the Cosmo?' After they laughed at me a few times they began requesting the hillbilly stuff and enjoyed dancing to it." Berry's calculated showmanship, along with a mix of country tunes and R&B tunes, sung in the style of Nat King Cole set to the music of Muddy Waters, brought in a wider audience, particularly affluent white people.
If you missed it, David Remnick's obit in the New Yorker is worth a read.
In contrast to the prevarication and dithering that greeted Trump's claim that Obama got the security services to tap his phone, GCHQ over here, when the finger was pointed at them by Judge Andrew Napolitano, lost no time in describing the allegations as rubbish. Which, as Michael Totten notes, is what the FBI should have done from the start:
Comey’s response, while serious and polite and respectful, is a vestige, an anachronism from an earlier era. “With respect to the president’s tweets,” he said in his testimony, “I have no information that supports those tweets. We have looked carefully inside the FBI.”
He looked carefully inside the FBI? Really? He was under oath, so he probably did, and if so, what a mistake. GCHQ didn’t look inside its own agency carefully, I assure you—it didn’t have time—any more than NASA would look seriously inside its own organization if Vladimir Putin accused it of fomenting international terrorism.
Important men and women with dignified jobs have better things to do than go on a snipe hunt.
The FBI shouldn’t have spent more than five minutes “investigating” Trump’s ludicrous claim that Obama wiretapped his phone for the same reason that they never investigated Trump’s equally ludicrous claim that Obama was born in Kenya. Despite what Trump has said on the subject, law enforcement will not waste its time looking into whether or not Senator Ted Cruz’s father participated in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, nor will the Federal Election Commission bother proving or disproving the president’s boast that he won the popular vote because three million people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton. The American Medical Association certainly won’t look into Trump’s claim that vaccines cause autism. It was thoroughly debunked years before the president disgraced himself by repeating it.
Serious people can’t take the president of the United States seriously. He is a compulsive liar and a crackpot conspiracy theorist and must be treated accordingly without delay.
If it was purely a high body count he was after, would the Westminster terrorist have been better off driving at speed down somewhere like Oxford Street. perhaps? Instead, that is, of the more symbolic target of Westminster itself, and the Houses of Parliament?
Well, maybe not. We're now getting news from Antwerp:
A French national of North African origin has been arrested in the Belgian city of Antwerp on suspicion of driving at a crowd, officials say.
A car was driven "at high speed" on De Meir, the northern city's main shopping street, before it was intercepted. There were no reports of any injuries.
Knives, a non-lethal gun and some unidentifiable liquid were found in the car, prosecutors say.
What they don't tell you is that De Meir is pedestrianised. Admittedly it's broad enough for pedestrians to be fairly widely spaced, and to get out of the way, but even so it seems extraordinary that no one was hurt. If that's what the driver was intending.