Dutch ex-communist MP dies


Marcus Bakker

From DutchNews:

Holland’s ‘most famous communist’ is dead

Thursday 24 December 2009

The most famous communist in the Netherlands, Marcus Bakker, has died at the age of 86, reports Nos on Thursday.

Bakker was an MP for the Dutch Communist Party (CPN) from 1956 to 1982. He was replaced by Ina Brouwer who integrated the party with the left-wing green GroenLinks.

Bakker joined the party in 1943 while it was still a banned organisation in the Netherlands and after the war he went to work for the communist newspaper De Waarheid. Bakker resigned from the party in 1999.

Bakker then resigned from GroenLinks (formed as a result of a merger between various parties) because then GroenLinks party leader Rosenmöller supported NATO’s war against Yugoslavia. Even though the GroenLinks election platform on which Rosenmöller and the other MP’s had been elected, had demanded that NATO should be dissolved and the Netherlands should quit NATO.

State homophobia in Georgia


From the Georgian International Media Centre:

Scapegoating gay people for Georgia‘s crisis

April 24, 2010 by georgiamedia

Elections are meant to be the chance for the people to express their views without fear.

But elections can also be a time of heightened fear and threat: especially for those in a minority in a society in crisis, argues Paata Sabelashvili, president of the Inclusive Foundation – Georgia’s lesbian and gay rights campaign and the only open gay rights organisation in the Caucasus.

Homosexuality is legal in Georgia – but the rights of lesbians, gay men and transgendered people are under attack. Sabelashvili was personally targeted by the police recently, the Inclusive Foundation’s offices raided, staff and clients intimidated and insulted and the office damaged. Arrested on the scene, Sabelashvili says he was only released from prison after he agreed to a plea bargain which saw him admit to a marijuana possession charge.

He says that the drugs charge was a cover for an attack on the Inclusive Foundation that was designed to appease nationalist and conservative forces aligned with the Georgian Orthodox Church’s campaign against gay rights. With the government under pressure in the backwash of the Tea Tutberidze affair and a visible break down of relations with the Patriarch, it may well be that such actions help shore up the government’s support with more conservative voters.

But while the government seems to play both sides in this debate – President Saakashvili has recently been citing his government’s legalisation of homosexuality as a positive step forward, but only to audiences outside Georgia – others see “gay bashing” as a way of winning votes.

In parliament the Christian Democrats have called for homosexuality to be recriminalised (a move that would see Georgia expelled from the Council of Europe) and, as Sabelashvili recounts in the video here, have promoted a scare campaign about gay marriage. Others – such as Malkhaz Gulashvili>, publisher of the Daily Georgian Times and founder of the People’s Orthodox Movement – are campaigning for the same outcome outside parliament.

At the root of much of this, argues Sabelashvili, is the population crisis in Georgia. Using arguments completely discredited in the west, anti-gay campaigners, either out of prejudice or ignorance, claim that homosexuality is like some infection that spreads through the population and so cuts the birth rate. For them it needs to be suppressed.

But, as Sabelashvili says here, the real factor that is cutting the birth rate is the poverty that drives so many young Georgians away from their homeland and leaves them vulnerable when abroad.

From Tert.am in Armenia:

Well-Known Georgian LGBT Organization Raided by Police, Leader Arrested

11:12 • 24.12.09

The office of Inclusive Foundation, a well-known LGBT organization in Tbilisi, Georgia, was raided by plainclothes police officers on December 15, 2009, who, according to a December 23 press release on the organization’s official website, neither provided a search warrant, nor identified themselves or the agency they represented, nor did they explain the purpose of their intrusion.

Members of the LGBT community were present in the office during the raid for a regular meeting of the Women’s Club. According to the press release, the men confiscated cell phones of all those present in the office, did not allow them to contact their families, and made degrading and humiliating remarks. They threatened to take photos of the women and disseminate them to reveal their sexual orientation. They also threatened to ‘kill’ and ‘tear to pieces’ one of the organizers of the Women’s Club if she did not stop demanding a search warrant and police ID.

Paata Sabelashvili, the leader of the organization, was arrested as a result of the raid.

According to information provided by Inclusive Foundation, staff members of the organization are under continuous surveillance. An unidentified car is permanently stationed outside the entrance to the house of one of the staff members.

Full details of the case in the organization’s appeal to the Georgian President, the Public Defender of Georgia, and the Diplomatic Missions accredited in Georgia, as well as international organizations is not yet available.

The appeal is online by now.

See also here.

The governments of both Georgia in the Caucasus and Uganda in Africa are afflicted by rampant homophobia.

Both are also staunch allies of the United States government. Both governments send their subjects as cannon fodder to wars started by George W. Bush: Ugandans to Somalia; Georgians to first Iraq, now Afghanistan. Gay people apparently do not fit in militarist macho culture deemed necessary for sending the cannon fodder; even if those gay people are not inside the military. Hence, the repression.

Quentin Crisp vs. gay rights: here.

Northern Irish anti-gay MP Iris Robinson stands down due to mental illness: here. And here.

British Lib Dems attack Tory voting record on gay rights: here.

British Council Armenia sponsors homophobic radio station: here.

Early reptile discovered with its insect meal


Cranial anatomy of the Permian parareptile (?) Macroleter poezicus

From Nature:

23 December 2009

Fossil evidence of early reptiles‘ last meal

Insect remains found in the mouths of early vertebrate fossils

Janelle Weaver

In the caves of a hilly Oklahoma ghost town, researchers have found what may be the first evidence of preserved insect remains in the mouths of fossilized vertebrates. The find is compelling evidence that early reptiles, the equivalent of modern-day lizards, fed on insects.

Sean Modesto, a biologist at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, Canada, and his colleagues found pieces of arthropod skeleton on the teeth inside two 280-million-year-old skulls of a species of reptile they have yet to fully describe. They report the discovery in the journal Biology Letters1.

One skull contained a cuticle with five segments that seemed to be part of an antenna, and the other had a long cuticle fragment that was narrow at one end and broader at the tip. This could have been part of a rear appendage.

“It is extremely uncommon to find the remains of organisms in the mouths of fossilized predators,” says Matthew Vickaryous, who studies the anatomy of fossil vertebrates at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. “To the best of my knowledge, this is a one of a kind find.”

Lucky find

Modesto and his collaborators made this discovery entirely by chance. “You don’t expect to see the last meal lodged in the teeth of fossils,” Modesto says. “The modern equivalent is finding a popcorn kernel shell in the tooth of an ancient Mayan.”

The two skulls come from an enigmatic group called parareptiles, which first appeared nearly 300 million years ago and for the most part became extinct by the end of the Permian period, with just a few species lingering into the age of dinosaurs.

“To have pieces of both vertebrate and invertebrate preserved at the same time is very unusual,” Vickaryous says. Vertebrate palaeontologists may overlook small pieces of invertebrate remains when excavating spectacular vertebrate fossils. Beyond the initial detection, preserving the remains requires careful recovery and preparation, he adds.

In younger specimens, researchers have found mollusc shell fragments in the gut of a fossil sea turtle2, preserved fish remains in a bird’s stomach3, lizard and mammal skeletons in fossil dinosaur stomachs4 and dinosaur remains in a fossil mammal’s stomach5. In fossil reptiles from the Permian, scientists have found plant material in the gut6 and reptile bones in the mouth7.

But little other evidence is available for the dietary habits of the vertebrates that lived during the Permian, says Conrad Labandeira, palaeoecologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. “This paper may be more important in the long run than the original description of the fossil bones.”

Insectivorous evidence

Roy Beckemeyer, palaeoentomologist at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum in Lawrence, has studied Permian insect fossils in Oklahoma. He evaluated photographs of the finds and verified that the fragments were from an arthropod. “We know of roughly 200 species of insects in this area during that time,” Beckemeyer says. “There’s a very good chance that these reptiles were insectivorous.”

Scientists had long suspected that early reptiles were insectivorous because of the shape of their teeth, which are sharp and curve inward, making them ideal for piercing insect skeletons and holding struggling prey in place. But that evidence is indirect because it relies on comparisons between extinct and living animals.

“It’s pretty much smoking-gun type of evidence when you actually have the organism in the part of the anatomy responsible for feeding,” Labandeira says. “It’s very compelling evidence that closes the case.”

References
1. Modesto, S. P. , Scott, D. M. & Reisz, R. R. Biol. Lett. 5, 838-840 (2009).
2. Kear, B. P. Biol. Lett. 2, 113-115 (2006).
3. Mayr, G. J. Ornithol. 145, 281-286 (2004).
4. Currie, P. J. & Chen, P.-J. Can. J. Earth Sci. 38, 1705-1727 (2001).
5. Hu, Y. , Meng, J. , Wang, Y. & Li, C. Nature 433, 149-152 (2005).
6. Karlsruhe, W. M. & Sues, H.-D. Paläontol. Zeitschr. 67, 169-176 (1993).
7. Eaton, T. H. Jr American Museum Novitates No. 2169 (1964).

15 Misconceptions Kids Have About Insects: here.

Some of the first animals to venture onto land commandeered empty seashells for protection, according to an April report in Geology: here.

Insects: The alleged Triassic palaeodictyopteran is a member of Titanoptera: here.