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Invasive starfish species threatens Philippines coral reef considered center of biodiversity

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A coral-killing starfish has begun infesting a channel of water in the Philippines famed for having some of the most diverse marine life in the world, the government said Friday.

The appearance of the crown-of-thorns starfish in the Verde Island Passage could cause great damage to the area’s biodiversity, Jacob Meimban, head of the wildlife bureau’s coastal marine management office, told AFP.

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“The crown-of-thorns starfish really kills the corals. It eats the polyps of the corals, leaving the bleached, white bodies. Then it moves elsewhere… until it leaves the reef dead,” Meimban said.

Marine biologists have described the passage, which is 100 kilometres (around 60 miles) long and 20 kilometres wide, as the “centre of the centre” of the world’s ocean biodiversity.

It is at the top of the Coral Triangle, an area of water spanning down to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor that is called the “Amazon of the Seas” because of its rich marine life.

However environmentalists have also warned for years that the passage, a popular dive location, is under grave threat from pollution and overfishing.

It is one of the busiest waterways in the Philippines, with its waters plied daily by oil and chemical carriers. On nearby shores there are shipyards, chemical, oil refineries and big populations.

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Meimban said the starfish had been detected in large numbers for the first time in recent months.

He said they may have boomed because of overfishing, which removed many of its natural predators, and siltation, which brings nutrients to the sea that encourage their growth.

He said two dives in the Verde Island passage since April had found at least 500 square metres (around 5,400 square feet) of corals ruined by the starfish, but they did not have enough divers to determine the full extent of the damage.

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The wildlife bureau has tapped local volunteers, university students and the coastguard for divers to start removing the starfish.

“But we need more divers,” he said.

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Removing the starfish requires divers to laboriously pick them up one-by-one with metal tongs, then bring them to shore for burial, he said.

Marine biologists say the crown-of-thorns starfish has been a recurring threat to coral reefs around the world for decades.

The Australian government said in March it had spent more than $1.4 million to cull 60,000 of them on the Great Barrier Reef.

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Watch video, courtesy of AFP, below


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2020 Election

Bernie Sanders campaign accepts apology from MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews: ‘We got to get past it’

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MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews on Monday apologized to the Bernie Sanders campaign after comparing his dominance in the first three states of the 2020 presidential nomination to the fall of France to the Nazis in World War II.

Sanders senior advisor Chuck Rocha was asked on Fox News for response.

"Look, we all get hot and say things in the moment, I'm glad Chris apologized," Rocha said. "We got to move on and get past it, I'm glad he said what he had to say, I'm tired of folks on Twitter fighting with each other, it's time to win this election."

https://twitter.com/Acyn/status/1232099452531331072

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2020 Election

LEAKED AUDIO: Mike Bloomberg mocked Obama and said he would use drone strikes on enemies if elected in 2020

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Yet another recording has emerged of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg as the billionaire campaigns for the presidency.

"Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said at a private event in 2016 that his presidential campaign platform would have been to "defend the banks" and also labeled the progressive movement and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, now a rival for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, as 'scary,'" CNN reported Monday.

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‘This is mind control’: Ex-CIA agent nails Trump’s new loyalty oath for government staffers

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CNN's Phil Mudd

The White House and Republicans were supposed to be putting together a plan to protect Americans against Russia hacking yet another election, former CIA officer Phil Mudd pointed out on CNN Monday. Instead, they've failed Americans, opting instead for their own crusade to protect the president from anyone who disagrees with him.

"In a typical president, the National Security Council would say to the president, 'here are the options,' but they won't do that," said Mudd.

Retired Rear Adm. John Kirby agreed, saying that in wake of the president's acquittal from the Republican Senate, he feels empowered to do whatever he wants.

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