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Dutch scientists baffled over 20,000 seabirds dead or dying washing up on North Sea

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Dutch scientists said Wednesday they are baffled after 20,000 dead or dying guillemots washed up on North Sea beaches in a phenomenon not seen for decades.

The fish-eating seabirds have been washing up between the northern Wadden Islands and southwestern Zeeland — all showing symptoms of severe starvation, a marine biologist said.

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“What’s killing them though is the million-dollar question,” Mardik Leopold, a maritime researcher for Wageningen University, told AFP.

“And we still don’t know what the answer is. It’s an alarming situation,” he added.

“The last time we saw high mortality rates like this was in the 1980s and 1990s.”

A number of questions are puzzling scientists, he said.

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The bird deaths are confined only to Dutch shores — nothing has been reported in Belgium or Germany.

High winds and stormy winter seas also could affect the birds’ feeding patterns on herring and sprat as they become too fatigued to eat, Leopold said.

“But again, why are the deaths only localised to the Netherlands? Surely we’re not the only place experiencing winter weather?” said Leopold.

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Dutch media have raised the question of whether the deaths may be linked to a recent container spill, littering the Dutch and German coast lines with debris, including plastic toys, polystyrene, shoes and at least one bag with a dangerous powder identified by authorities as “organic peroxide.”

But Leopold said an initial autopsy on a small number of birds showed “no plastic” in their stomachs.

Similarly, if the birds were affected by a chemical, other animals would also have shown symptoms, the marine biologist said.

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“The birds were not covered in oil either,” he added.

Dutch authorities said Wednesday they had been told by the MSC shipping company that at least 341 containers were lost off the MSC Zoe as it was battling a storm last month.

Scientists are now planning a mass autopsy of hundreds of dead birds next week, hoping to shed more light on the mystery.

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However, the species is not threatened with extinction. Some two million guillemots live in the North Sea, the NOS public broadcaster said.

 

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Trump’s ‘indefensible’ comments just made it ‘much much harder’ for GOP to win in 2020: Ex-RNC Chair

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President Donald Trump's latest anti-Semitic trope is going to make it "much much harder" for Republicans to hold control of the White House in 2020, the former chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) explained on MSNBC on Tuesday.

Michael Steele was interviewed by MSNBC's Chris Matthews on "Hardball."

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Washington Post editorial board calls Trump too cowardly to pass background checks in scathing editorial

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Trump’s tumbling support among ‘the poorly educated’ may crush his 2020 prospects: report

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When Donald Trump famously declared, “I love the poorly educated” during his 2016 campaign, it was obvious that he was taking a much more populist (or rather, pseudo-populist) approach than Republican presidential candidates were typically known for. And white males without college degrees continue to be a key part of the president’s base. But Washington Post columnist Aaron Blake, analyzing an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Monday, stresses that when Trump is up against a “generic 2020 Democrat,” he finds himself struggling with non-college educated white women.

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