Glass windows kill billions of birds a year



News Desk, Barta24.com
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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Divya Anantharaman points her flashlight under the wooden benches surrounding an office tower near Wall Street. At this time, the streets of New York are still the exclusive domain of early risers. But starting her weekly search and rescue mission at this ungodly hour is essential, she says.

She's looking for the victims of notorious bird killers: glass skyscrapers. When daylight breaks, doormen will sweep the sidewalks clean, and evidence of the dead will be lost.

Anantharaman volunteers for NYC Audubon, an urban conservation group that monitors bird deaths from window collisions. She inspects every dark corner on her route, looking through planters, careful not to miss a collision victim she could rescue. At the end of her round, she finds a dead bird beneath a gleaming glass overpass connecting two buildings.

It's an American woodcock, she thinks, a relatively common migrating bird with a long beak. Every spring, woodcocks pass through New York after spending the cold months in Alabama and other Gulf coast states. This bird is stiff, which means it recently died, Anantharaman says. "The eyes are still so clear — this may have happened minutes ago." She snaps photos, takes a solemn moment to close the eyelids with her thumb and puts the corpse into her pink backpack.

A billion birds and counting

Every year, 90,000 to 230,000 birds crash into New York buildings, NYC Audubon estimates. The city's concentration of illuminated buildings is a dangerous obstacle for winged travelers, especially during the spring and fall migration seasons.

New York sits on a migration route to South America, where many birds spend the winter. Since birds navigate using stars, artificial nighttime light attracts and disorients them. Believing they are flying toward starlight, the birds detour and land in the middle of an unfamiliar metropolis.

"The biggest problem is reflective glass," NYC Audubon biologist Kaitlyn Parkins says. "Birds don't see a reflection of a tree. To them, it's a tree. They fly at it, can accelerate very quickly and often die immediately."

In the US, where most of the research into bird collisions has been done, buildings are responsible for the deaths of up to 1 billion birds every year, the pioneering ornithologist Daniel Klem calculated in the 1990s. But glass windows are deathtraps all over the world.

"Birds are vulnerable to glass wherever birds and glass are found together. They don't see the bloody stuff," Klem says. He adds that it's not skyscrapers but rather low- and midrise buildings that pose the biggest threat.

Klem, now a professor at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, considers window collisions a fundamental issue for the conservation of birds. "As a threat, I would put collision right after habitat destruction," he says. "What's so insidious is that windows kill indiscriminately. They also take the fittest in the population. We can't afford to lose any individual, let alone good breeders."

An international problem

In recent years, conservation groups and scientists have taken up the cause. Binbin Li leads one of two groups monitoring window strikes in China. She is an assistant professor of environmental sciences at Duke Kunshan University and earned a PhD at Duke in the US. There she met the leading researcher of the university's bird collision project.

"First, I thought this was only a problem at Duke, or in the States — I could not imagine seeing it here in China," she says. But, after her return, she got reports of three dead birds on campus within a month.

With a group of students, she now counts birds killed in flight on campus in Suzhou. Many of the victims, she notes, are found under glass corridors, just like the woodcock Anantharaman found in New York.

 

Li started a national survey to get a clearer picture of the problem. Three major migration pathways cut through China, but data on fatalities along these routes is still limited. "We realized that bird collision is not well-known in China, not even in academia," Li says.

'Just change the glass and turn off the lights'

In Costa Rica, Rose Marie Menacho had to convince her professors to let her investigate bird collisions as a PhD student eight years ago. "They didn't know much about this subject, didn't know it was a real problem," she recalls. "Even I was a bit shy saying I was studying this. I was a little ashamed because I thought it was not so big."

To understand the scale of the problem in the tropics, she now works with about 500 volunteers. Some store feathered corpses in their freezers, others send her reports and photos. "Not only migrating species collide," she says. Her volunteers recovered vibrantly colored quetzals and toucans with flamboyant oversize beaks. Both are local species.

"Collision kills many birds who already have to deal with habitat loss, climate change, pesticides, et cetera," says Parkins, the biologist. "And it's so easy to solve — just change the glass and turn off the lights."

With the data they gather, Parkins and her team are trying to convince the owners of glass buildings to act. Usually, they don't need to replace any glass. Special foil can make it less reflective — and saves energy for heating and cooling. Markings on the windows can help birds see the structure. In one example, after a bird-friendly renovation of the Javits Convention Center, volunteers have found about 90% fewer dead birds around the building.

New York City adopted legislation in January to require public buildings to turn off lights at night during migration seasons. Since last year, architects must also use bird-friendly designs for all new buildings such as ultraviolet coating on glass, which is visible to birds but not to humans.

New regulations are a good start

On the sidewalk in front of Brookfield Place, an enormous office and shopping center on the southern tip of Manhattan, Rob Coover inspects a small bird. Daylight is still scarce, but he has already searched for dead birds for half an hour.

He checks carefully behind the piles of chairs the workers of a coffee shop will soon use on their terrace. Twice already he has bent over a tiny, stiff corpse to take photos. Now he again takes rubber gloves and plastic sandwich bags out of his backpack to pick up and preserve a body. 

Coover once found 27 birds in a single morning. A fellow volunteer made international headlines when she picked up 226 lifeless birds around One World Trade Center in a single hour last September.

"It's quite depressing, all these dead bodies," Coover says. Sometimes he finds a survivor and takes the wounded animal to a bird sanctuary. Dead bodies usually go into his freezer until he has time to take them to the headquarters of the conservation group, where they are collected and some are distributed to museums. "Before the pandemic, I went to work after my rounds and put them in the office freezer." No one ever noticed, he adds.

In the United States and Canada, volunteers are active in several communities, and the list of local governments enacting legislation to protect birds from buildings is growing. According to the nonprofit American Bird Conservancy, New York's law is one of the most effective additions. After studying bird collisions for almost half a century Daniel Klem is delighted. He finally sees the growing awareness he has been hoping for.

"Climate change is also a very serious issue — nobody is interested in distracting from that. But it's very complex, and it is going to take us a while to figure things out and convince people to do things responsibly," he says. "Bird collisions, that's something we could solve tomorrow. It's not complex; we just have to have the will."

Edited by: Ruby Russell, Courtesy by: DW

The BRICS Summit Begins



News Desk, Barta24.com
The BRICS Summit Begins, Photo collected.

The BRICS Summit Begins, Photo collected.

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The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa meet virtually today (June 23)  for a summit of BRICS nations. As well as a chance to discuss economic strategies outside a Western-dominated system, the meeting once again shows that, although Russia is isolated from the West, for the rest of the world it is still very much open for business.

According to media repots, Russian President Vladimir Putin joins the gathering today at a time when his country has become China’s largest crude oil supplier—a position usually enjoyed by Saudi Arabia. He will hold talks with a group of leaders who have so far tempered any criticism of the war in Ukraine.

Indeed Xi Jinping, in his address to the BRICS Business forum on Wednesday, appeared to lay the blame on Ukraine for Russia’s invasion, calling it a “wake up call” and a reminder that “attempts to expand military alliances and seek one’s own security at the expense of others will only land oneself in a security dilemma.”

Addressing the same forum, Putin was bullish on the economic opportunities presented by the group, touting negotiations on opening Indian chain stores in Russia, increasing Chinese industrial imports and “reorienting trade flows” to BRICS nations. According to Putin, trade with the group increased by 38 percent in the first quarter of 2022.

He added that the BRICS group could soon go a step further by challenging the U.S. dollar, creating its own international reserve currency based on the “basket of currencies of our countries.”

For India, also a member of the Quad—along with Australia, Japan, and the United States—it faces a challenge to keep up its balancing act between East and West.

“India lives in a rough neighborhood and has been able to stick by its non-aligned policy to ensure its strategic autonomy by essentially engaging with everybody, and they’ve done a pretty good job of that,” Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, told Foreign Policy (FP). “But as great power competition continues to heat up, not just between the U.S. and China, but now the U.S. and Russia, it’s going to be increasingly difficult and delicate to maintain that balance.”

Indian officials aren’t naïve about their position, and are reportedly working to block any attempts to insert anti-U.S. messaging into the BRICS joint statement as well as slow any attempts to expand the grouping.

That the BRICS grouping is not known as a particularly effective combination may work in India’s favor. “I think that India can make a gamble, which I think is pretty safe, and it can essentially, pledge full support for everything BRICS is doing to show that it’s a loyal member of the group, while at the same time betting on the strong likelihood that BRICS won’t be able to move the needle forward on a lot of the issues and plans that are discussed,” said Michael Kugelman, an Asia expert at the Wilson Center and author of FP’s South Asia Brief. “That would then spare India from having to make awkward decisions about how far to go and pursue policies within BRICS that could put it at odds with the West.”

India is in high demand in a busy few weeks for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He travels to Germany over the weekend to attend the G-7 summit and in July he joins another new grouping (and acronym) I2-U2, with the leaders of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

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The Quake was Afghanistan’s Deadliest in Two Decades



News Desk, Barta24.com
The Quake was Afghanistan’s Deadliest in Two Decades

The Quake was Afghanistan’s Deadliest in Two Decades

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Villagers rushed to bury the dead Thursday and dug by hand through the rubble of their homes in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake in eastern Afghanistan that killed at least 1,000 people. The Taliban and the international community that fled their takeover struggled to bring help to the disaster’s victims.

Under a leaden sky in Paktika province, which was the epicenter of Wednesday’s magnitude 6 earthquake, men dug a line of graves in one village, as they tried to lay the dead to rest quickly in line with Muslim tradition. In one courtyard, bodies lay wrapped in plastic to protect them from the rains that are hampering relief efforts for the living.

The quake was Afghanistan’s deadliest in two decades, and officials said the toll could rise. An estimated 1,500 others were reported injured, the state-run Bakhtar News Agency said.

“They don’t have anything to eat, they are wondering what they can have to eat, and it is also raining,” a Bakhtar reporter said in footage from the quake zone. “Their houses are destroyed. Please help them, don’t leave them alone.”

The disaster heaps more misery on a country where millions already faced increasing hunger and poverty and the health system has crumbled since the Taliban retook power nearly 10 months ago amid the U.S. and NATO withdrawal. The takeover led to a cutoff of vital international financing, and most of the world has shunned the Taliban government.

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Afghanistan Quake Kills 1,000 People, Deadliest in Decades



News Desk, Barta24.com
Afghanistan Earthquake, Photo collected

Afghanistan Earthquake, Photo collected

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In this photo released by a state-run news agency Bakhtar, Afghans look at destruction caused by an earthquake in the province of Paktika, eastern Afghanistan, Wednesday (June 22).

The news of Afghanistan quake 'Deadliest in Decades' became the focus of world mrdia. Aaccoding to the report by Bakhtar News Agency via AP, a powerful earthquake struck a rural, mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday, killing 1,000 people and injuring 1,500 more in one of the deadliest quakes in decades. the state-run news agency reported the  officials warned that the already grim toll may still rise.

Information remained scarce on the magnitude 6.1 temblor near the Pakistani border, but quakes of that strength can cause serious damage in an area where homes and other buildings are poorly constructed and landslides are common. Experts put the depth at just 10 kilometers (6 miles) — another factor that could lead to severe destruction.

The disaster posed a major test for the Taliban-led government, which seized power last year as the U.S. planned to pull out from the country and end its longest war, two decades after toppling the same insurgents in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Rescuers rushed to the area by helicopter Wednesday, but the response is likely to be complicated since many international aid agencies left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. Reaching rural areas even in the best circumstances remains difficult in Afghanistan, a landlocked nation just smaller than Texas with rutted mountain roadways that may now have sustained significant damage.

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Israel’s Government Collapses



News Deak, Barta24.com
Israel’s Government Collapses

Israel’s Government Collapses

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Israel’s governing coalition will vote to dissolve Parliament before the end of the month, the prime minister’s office said Monday (20 July), sending the country into its fifth election in three years.

According to various news agencies, the collapse follows weeks of paralysis caused by the defection of two right-wing lawmakers and frequent rebellions by three others — making Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition no longer the majority in Parliament. The fallout throws a political lifeline to Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister who left office last June and whose Likud party is currently leading in opinion polls.

The election, which is expected to be held in the fall, comes at a tense time after a rise in Palestinian attacks on Israelis and an escalation in a shadow war between Israel and Iran.

The current coalition agreement requires that Yair Lapid, the foreign minister and a centrist former broadcaster, would take over as interim prime minister in the event that right-wing defections prompt early elections. If that agreement is honored, Lapid will lead the government for at least several months.

Meanwhile, Israel confirmed that it is part of a regional military partnership to combat threats from Iran — the latest example of Israel’s growing engagement with some Arab governments.

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