The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies – Bloomberg

I’ve generally avoided the explicitly political here.

However, one can’t help notice that in recent years we hear a lot about the evils of modern Russia, and its geopolitical ambitions and relatively little about China, which is hardly a model of benignity.

This Bloomberg investigation into (alleged) Chinese infiltration of server hardware is therefore interesting, though the companies involved are denying strongly.

Of course, the United States is hardly doing anything like this, is it?


“Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio” – plainchant setting of Prayer to St Michael the Archangel from Heiligenkreuz Abbey


From Heiligenkreuz Abbey via the blog of Fr Edmund Waldstein.

Latin text:

Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in infernum detrude.

Usual English translation:

Saint Michael Archangel,
defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Extinct in Ireland, September 11th. Meadow Saxifrage

I began this exploration of species extinct in Ireland with a fish, the sturgeon.,   

have moved through mammals and insects, but only now am moving to plants. And predictably enough I am starting with a striking flower, rather than a less visually appealing plant. Our own biases of attraction to the memorable and visually arresting reinforces the hidden nature of Irish biodiversity loss. After all, nothing that obvious is disappearing.

From the Irish National Biodiversity Date Centre:

The last Irish records of Meadow saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata) as a native were from Co. Wicklow in 1985 and Co. Dublin in 1986. Despite repeated searches of these sites specifically for the species it has not been refound. It was officially declared extinct in the Red List of Irish Plants in 2016.

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Extinct in Ireland, September 7th, the Corn Bunting

My September blog series Extinct in Ireland continues dolefully on. And here is a bird extinct as a breeding species in Ireland very much within recent memory: the Corn Bunting.


From BirdWatch Ireland’s Corn Bunting page:

Corn Bunting

Miliaria calandra

Gealóg bhuachair

Status: Extinct as a breeding species in Ireland. Formerly a widespread resident in lowland agricultural areas.

Conservation Concern
: The European population has been evaluated as Declining, due to a moderate recent decline.

Identification: Slightly larger than Reed Bunting , with larger and more conical bill. Unlike the other three bunting species breeding in Ireland, male and female Corn Buntings do not  have different plumages. Resembles juvenile Yellowhammer, having pale grey upperparts with some diffuse dark streaking. The underparts are off white with some indistinct grey streaking. Many birds have a small dark patch on the breast. Unlike Yellowhammer, Corn Buntings have a mainly pink bill.

Similar Species: Other Bunting species.

Call: Rather quiet, the most frequently heard call is a short “tsit”. The song is very distinctive, accellerating series of notes – “tick tick zick-r-riss”. Males usually sing prominent perches, such as telephone wires or from the top of a hedge or tree.

Diet: Corn Buntings feed mainly on seeds and grains. Chicks are fed insects.

Breeding: Breeds in agricultural areas in lowlands, preferring cereals and weedy sites. No longer breeds in Ireland, with the last recorded breeding taking place in the mid to late 1990’s in County Mayo. The decline is considered to be mainly due to changes in agricultural practices tat the time, such as decline cereal cultivation and more intensive growing of silage. Around 10,000 pairs still breed in Britain, though the population has been declining.

Wintering: Gathers in small flocks (10 to 50 birds) at feeding sites, such as stubble fields.

Where to See: Only likely to occur to as a vagrant to Ireland. The last Irish record is from Cape Clear in 2006. Any potential sightings, especially in possible breeding habitat should be immediately reported to BirdWatch Ireland.


Here is a 2012 piece by Richard Collins on the Corn Bunting\:

The corn bunting, brown with dark stripes, is bigger than a sparrow. It’s not much to look at, but the jangling song evokes memories of sunny cornfields, threshing machines, balmy meadows and horse-drawn hay floats. Unusually for buntings, the sexes are alike. When territories are in short supply, the more successful males resort to polygamy. Grabbing up to three partners, they leave other would-be daddies without mates. Females reckon they are better off as the mistress of a male with a good territory than nesting monogamously with one of meagre resources. Having to share a husband doesn’t matter that much. He visits the ladies mainly for sex. Although keeping a watchful eye on the spouse while she builds the nest, he doesn’t raise a feather to help her. Nor, despite being well camouflaged, will he incubate the eggs. A largely absent father, he condescends to feed youngsters only when they’re close to fledging. Oddly, males with several wives tend to be more helpful than those with only one. Perhaps they know that females sharing a territory need extra help finding food for their young.

In Ireland’s Birds, published in 1900, Richard Ussher and Robert Warren wrote that the corn bunting ‘may be commonly met with on the small holdings near the coasts where the fences abound in briars’. Surveys carried out by BirdWatch between 1968 and 72, for the BTO/IWC Atlas project, showed that the bird had disappeared from most of the country. There were still a few areas, mainly coastal, where it was still found. The Mullet peninsula, I remember, had a healthy population into the 1970s. Nowadays, with the bunting’s demise, the place seems sad and empty. When the Atlas survey was repeated 20 years later, there were only 30 or so breeding pairs left in Ireland.

Watson has monitored the bird in Scotland, one of its last remaining strongholds in these islands, for the last 20 years. The Aberdeenshire population, he says, fell from 134 pairs to 12 during the period. But what is causing the decline? Watson blames the usual suspects; pesticides and changing farm practices. He also implicates another one; the amalgamation of small fields into larger ones.

Extinct in Ireland: September 6th, Perkin’s Mining Bee (Andrena rosae)


In recent years declines in bee populations have set alarm bells ringing, and this seems to have penetrated quite widely. I would urge all readers in Ireland to familiarise themselves with All-Ireland Pollinator Plan and to think what influence they can bring to bear on its realisation.

In Ireland two species have become extinct, one being Andrena rosae with the evocative common name of “Perkin’s Mining Bee”:

A medium-large species (averaging a little smaller than A. trimmerana and scotica) with two generations that are regarded as separate species by some workers. The spring form (called A. stragulata by some workers) usually has an extensively red abdomen in both sexes and the male has a spine on the cheeks at the base of mandibles (like A. trimmerana and some A. ferox). However some males can be very dark and the amount of red on the female abdomen varies considerably (see images).

The summer generation is usually much darker (often looking much like a short-haired trimmerana or scotica) and the males lack a cheek spine. Males have an entirely dark hind tibia (tip pale in trimmerana). However, it is still possible to find males and females with substantially red abdomens in this generation.

This brood dimorphism of the male spine character is also shown by A. trimmerana, and no genetic differences have yet been found between stragulata and rosae, which strongly suggests they are conspecific.

This is an exceptionally rare and declined bee with few modern records. It has mostly been recorded from southern Britain, especially the SW. The habits are strikingly similar to trimmerana, with the spring generation foraging heavily on Blackthorn and willows and the summer one on brambles and umbellifers. It may well replace trimmerana in more exposed and oceanic climates. Habitats used include soft-rock cliffs, exposed coastal grasslands and scrub, quarries and moorland edge.


Extinct in Ireland, September 5th, the Barberry Carpet Moth – last seen in Clonmel!


Continuing a month of postings on species extinct in Ireland since the coming of humans, the first insect of this series and a moth last found in Clonmel – the barberry carpet moth. As a Clonmel resident this does give me a slight frisson…and brings home how close to home this biodiversity loss has been.

From Ireland Red List No. 9, Macro-moths

70.124 Barberry Carpet Pareulype berberata

Regionally Extinct

The foodplant of this species is Barberry Berberis vulgaris, which has a very scattered distribution in Ireland. Barberry is a host of Wheat Rust Puccinia graminis and so was widely removed from hedges in the past to control this disease. This caused a huge decline of the moth in Britain but whether this caused extinction in Ireland is unknown. It was last recorded circa 1946 near Clonmel Co Tipperary. This has been mapped in grid square S22 although the precise locality is not known. In Britain it is double-brooded between May and August. The larvae are mainly found on mature Barberry bushes in hedges and edges of woods that are trimmed in autumn. It has the ability to utilise exotic species of Barberry as the foodplant.

In the UK, the Back from the Brink project is trying to help:

What is a Barberry Carpet Moth?
This poor moth is a victim of collateral damage. Its caterpillars feed on Barberry, a shrub of hedgerows and woodland edge. This was a host for wheat rust fungus, so almost eradicated to protect wheat crops in the 1970s. Rust-resistant wheat varieties have solved this problem, but almost too late for the Barberry Carpet Moth. Now there are just eleven populations, scattered across southern and eastern England.

Why are they in trouble?
The barberry plant is now scarce, following the eradication efforts on farmland. It’s not clear if Barberry is native, but it has been long established in the wild in the UK, and is of course of great importance to this rare, native moth. Until the plant’s populations recover, the moth’s populations are vulnerable.

How we’ll help the Barberry Carpet Moth
This Back from the Brink project is working with landowners in the areas where the moth is found (Berkshire, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire). We want to increase the moth’s habitat by planting at least 500 new Barberry plants, and by providing free land management advice. Volunteers can help the project by getting involved in surveys for the moth and for its food plant. We’ll also work with them to grow on and plant Barberry plants, and to carry out scrub and hedgerow management.

We’ll identify potential future introduction sites for the moths, and make sure stands of barberry are present for them. All moth sites will be surveyed every year, to ensure that any problems are identified and resolved. We’ll also run public events to introduce the moth to people, and explain its importance.

What we’re aiming for
By the end of the project, we aim to have made the existing Barberry Carpet Moth populations more secure, and hope to have established new ones. We will also have produced a leaflet for landowners and the public, to ensure its needs are more widely understood and interest is heightened.