Pro-peace anti-NATO counter summit in Wales

This video from Wales says about itself:

UK: Activists say ‘no to NATO’ ahead of Wales summit

31 August 2014

Counter-summit at Cardiff‘s County Hall on Sunday in protest of the upcoming NATO talks.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament helped organise the counter-summit which included talks from political dissidents and peace activists.

Reiner Braun, a scholar from the German Peace Movement said that the aim of NATO since 1991 has been to “get all of the countries at the Russian border into the NATO boat” and to “make a new border around Russia.”

The 2014 NATO summit will take place in Newport, Wales, on September 4 and 5, and will see more than 150 heads of state and ministers in attendance.

Big anti-NATO peace demonstration in Wales

This video from Wales today is called Anti-NATO protesters flood the streets of Newport.

NATO conference and anti-militarism in Wales

This video from Britain is called ANTI-NATO SUMMIT PROTESTORS BEGIN 192-mile PEACE MARCH to WALES.

By Jeremy Corbyn in Britain:

Welcome to the Nato-fest

Thursday 28th August 2014

As Nato leaders gather this week in Wales, JEREMY CORBYN explores how the military alliance finds ever new ways to justify its seemingly endless expansion

Looking at government websites about the forthcoming Nato leaders’ conference at the Celtic Manor golf club, one could be forgiven for assuming it was some sort of gourmet festival.

The leaders of 60 nations will descend on Celtic Manor hotel, be treated to a sumptuous dinner at Cardiff Castle hosted by Prince Charles, visit a warship in Cardiff Bay and enjoy all the best hospitality on offer.

The chef has been named, the roads closed, the security fences built and demonstrations planned. To counter this (presumably unwelcome) intrusion there will be Nato-themed exhibitions and culinary delights.

There is no encouragement of the BBC or other media to discuss the actual role and purpose of Nato, its effects on our foreign and defence policy or its role in conflicts around the world.

To get the whole mood off to a good start there was a big display of Nato photos in Parliament which was designed to encourage MPs to better understand the peaceful role and purpose of Nato. This curious display of images of planes and ships was designed to assure everyone of military alliance’s commitment to peace and democracy.

It would be nice if instead of this superficial pastiche of reality there was serious debate about the organisation and its real purpose.

Let us look back to 1945 and the end of WWII and the start of the cold war. The United States was somewhere between isolationism and a continuation of the anti-Soviet obsession that began with the Russian revolution and the Western interventions to try to prop up the ailing Tsarist forces.

The military success of the nazis in western Europe in 1940, the subsequent invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and the entry of the US into the war led to the alliance of the US with the USSR and Britain to defeat their common enemy. In parallel there was an even closer alliance of Britain and the US as Churchill and Roosevelt discussed the post-war world.

The United Nations was founded with its curious structure giving veto powers to the big five in order to ensure that they all remained members.

Three years later the cold war was in full swing with the Berlin standoff setting the Western powers against the Soviet Union in central Europe. Nato was established to cement a transatlantic anti-communist alliance centred in western Europe and strongly supported by the British Labour foreign secretary Ernie Bevin.

For all its magnificent achievements on the domestic front, the Attlee government was pursuing neo-colonial wars in south-east Asia, cracking down on growing independence movements in African colonies and secretly developing its own nuclear weapons.

The Nato charter of 1949 heavily draws on the role of the United Nations but has the crucial and clinching Article 5 by which an attack on any one of its member states is an attack on all. It did however limit operations to the north Atlantic and European areas north of the tropics.

This cold war military alliance was met with the establishment of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 and thus Europe and the world embarked firmly on another 35 years of an ever-ratcheting arms race.

The original member states of the US and western Europe — including the dictatorship in Portugal — were joined in 1952 by Turkey and Greece which both suffered periods of military rule and abuse of human rights of their citizens. Undeterred by this minor inconvenience to the rhetoric of being a democratic alliance their membership was unchallenged.

By the end of the cold war in 1990, Nato had 16 members having being controversially joined by Spain in 1982. The end of the cold war should have been the decade of peace as the Warsaw Pact wound up and the possibility of demilitarising Europe was, for a short time, a real possibility.

However, taking advantage of the unipolar world of the 1990s, Nato and the US cast around for new opportunities, and potential enemies to justify this vast military expenditure.

For all his image as a Vietnam war opponent president Bill Clinton was the main force behind the Nato strategy of the 1990s. Many in Europe wanted a reduction in the US military presence and of Nato. The French government at that time favoured a closer relationship with eastern Europe and Russia.

Clinton had other ideas. On his first trip to Europe he announced that Nato enlargement was “no longer a question of whether but when and how.”

A few days later with its normal abuse of language the leaders launched the Partnership for Peace programme to entice central European counties to join Nato. It soon became apparent what kind of peace they had in mind.

Not long after this the war in former Yugoslavia and the atrocities at Srebrenica enabled Nato to supplant the UN forces and become embroiled in a 78-day bombardment of Serbia.

At the end of that conflict, in 2001, Noam Chomsky analysed the whole war and concluded that the real “winners” were Western arms manufacturers and that “the US was able to enforce its domination over the strategic Balkans region, displacing EU initiatives at least temporarily, a primary reason for the insistence that the operation be in the hands of Nato, a US subsidiary.”

Not long afterwards the then UN secretary-general Kofi Annan observed that the Nato action represented a threat to the “very core of the international security system” that the UN charter was designed to support.

Nato grew rapidly and within eight years had been joined by a further 12 central European and Balkan states.

Without too much fanfare Nato went global post-2001 in the wake of September 11. Initially it coyly described its involvement in Afghanistan as “out of area” and justified because it was the source of the problems faced by its members.

The Nato-created force Isaf is still very much in operation and after 13 years of occupation Afghanistan remains desperately poor for most people and deeply unstable.

This untenable logic — with Nato involved in an occupation thousands of miles from Europe — was corrected at the fateful 2010 Lisbon summit.

In a massive 54-clause statement of intent Nato became a high-spending, global military alliance that gave itself the authority to intervene anywhere in the world to further its members’ “security” and energy interests. It also continued to press for former parts of the Soviet Union to become Nato members.

Prior to Lisbon there was a requirement that all member states spend at least 2 per cent of GDP on “defence.” At that time only the US, Britain, Greece and Estonia met that figure. Now the Nato average is 3 per cent but most comes from the US. Total military spending by Nato member states is well over $1 trillion (£603 billion).

As they meet in the opulent surroundings of Celtic Manor, the heads of government will be greeted with a letter from David Cameron in which he opens with a request that relations with Russia be “reviewed.”

No talk here of the problem of Nato’s eastward expansion which had so angered Russia and caused President Putin to claim he had been lied to about Nato’s long-term intentions.

Not to be deterred Cameron then goes on to support the need to offer “defence capability” to Afghanistan.

His core proposal is that Nato should develop a global security network that “promotes freedom, democracy and the rule of law” and invites 33 other countries to attend and become partners.

Seemingly oblivious to the huge social spending needs of all member states Cameron once again asks that all governments spend more on defence.

This weekend there will be a demonstration in Newport on Saturday and a counter conference in Cardiff City Hall on Sunday.

Surely the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Syria and Ukraine are a signal not for more military spending but for the need to look at the causes of conflict, the denials of human rights and the global grab for oil and other resources.

More spending by an alliance that already has enough nuclear weapons to destroy our whole planet is the last thing the world needs.

Nato has been very adept at endlessly reinventing itself as some sort of force for peace. The reality is the opposite as the people of Afghanistan have found out to their cost.

Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.

Welsh Jurassic mammals feeding, new study

This video says about itself:

There Are No Transitional Fossils?

19 April 2011

Long-sought fossil mammal with transitional middle ear found in China.

Palaeontologists have announced the discovery of Liaoconodon hui, a complete fossil mammal from the Mesozoic found in China that includes the long-sought transitional middle ear.

The specimen was found by palaeontologists from the American Museum of Natural History and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

It shows the bones associated with hearing in mammals, the malleus, incus, and ectotympanic, decoupled from the lower jaw, as had been predicted, but were held in place by an ossified cartilage that rested in a groove on the lower jaw.

People have been looking for this specimen for over 150 years since noticing a puzzling groove on the lower jaw of some early mammals,” Jin Meng, curator in the Division of Palaeontology at the Museum and first author of the paper, said.

“Now we have cartilage with ear bones attached, the first clear paleontological evidence showing relationships between the lower jaw and middle ear,” Meng revealed

The transition from reptiles to mammals has long been an open question, although studies of developing embryos have linked reptilian bones of the lower jaw joint to mammalian middle ear bones.

The new fossil, Liaoconodon hui, fills the gap in knowledge between the basal, early mammaliaforms like Morganucodon, where the middle ear bones are part of the mandible and the definitive middle ear of living and fossil mammals.

Liaoconodon hui is a medium-sized mammal for the Mesozioc (35.7 cm long from nose to tip of tail, or about 14 inches) and dates from 125 to 122 million years.

It is named in part for the bountiful fossil beds in Liaoning, China, where it was found.

The species name, hui, honours palaeontologist Yaoming Hu who graduated from the American Museum of Natural History-supported doctoral program and recently passed away.

The fossil is particularly complete, and its skull was prepared from both dorsal and ventral sides, allowing Meng and colleagues to see that the incus and malleus have detached from the lower jaw to form part of the middle ear.

These bones remain linked to the jaw by the ossified Meckels cartilage that rests in the groove on the lower jaw. The team hypothesizes that in this early mammal, the eardrum was stabilized with the ossified cartilage as a supporting structure.

“Before we did not know the detailed morphology of how the bones of the middle ear detached, or the purpose of the ossified cartilage,” Meng said.

“Liaoconodon hui changes previous interpretations because we now know the detailed morphology of the transitional mammal and can propose that the ossified cartilage is a stabilizer.

“I”ve always dreamed of a fossil with a good ear ossicle. Now, we have had this once in a lifetime discovery,” Meng added.

From the University of Southampton in England:

Jurassic mammals were picky eaters, new study finds

August 20, 2014


New analyses of tiny fossil mammals from Glamorgan, South Wales are shedding light on the function and diets of our earliest ancestors, a team reports. Mammals and their immediate ancestors from the Jurassic period (201-145 million years ago) developed new characteristics – such as better hearing and teeth capable of precise chewing.

New analyses of tiny fossil mammals from Glamorgan, South Wales are shedding light on the function and diets of our earliest ancestors, a team including researchers from the University of Southampton report today in the journal Nature. Mammals and their immediate ancestors from the Jurassic period (201-145 million years ago) developed new characteristics — such as better hearing and teeth capable of precise chewing.

By analysing jaw mechanics and fossil teeth, the team were able to determine that two of the earliest shrew-sized mammals, Morganucodon and Kuehneotherium, were not generalised insectivores but had already evolved specialised diets, feeding on distinct types of insects.

Lead author, Dr Pamela Gill of the University of Bristol, said: “None of the fossils of the earliest mammals have the sort of exceptional preservation that includes stomach contents to infer diet, so instead we used a range of new techniques which we applied to our fossil finds of broken jaws and isolated teeth. Our results confirm that the diversification of mammalian species at the time was linked with differences in diet and ecology.”

The team used synchrotron X-rays and CT scanning to reveal in unprecedented detail the internal anatomy of these tiny jaws, which are only 2cm in length. As the jaws are in many pieces, the scans were ‘stitched together’ to make a complete digital reconstruction. Finite element modelling, the same technique used to design hip joints and bridges, was used to perform a computational analysis of the strength of the jaws. This showed that Kuehneotherium and Morganucodon had very different abilities for catching and chewing prey.

Study co-author, Dr Neil Gostling from the University of Southampton, said: “The improvement in CT scanning, both in the instrumentation, at Light Source at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland where we scanned or even the µ-VIS Centre at Southampton, along with access for research of this kind, allows us to make inroads into understanding the biology and the ecology of animals long dead. The questions asked of the technology do not produce ‘speculation’, rather the results show a clearly defined answer based on direct comparison to living mammals. This would not be possible without the computational techniques we have used here.”

Using an analysis previously carried out on the teeth of present-day, insect-eating bats, the researchers found that the teeth of Morganucodon and Kuehneotherium had very different patterns of microscopic pits and scratches, known as ‘microwear’. This indicated they were eating different things with Morganucodon favouring harder, crunchier food items such as beetles while Kuehneotherium selected softer foods such as scorpion flies which were common at the time.

Team leader, Professor Emily Rayfield from the University of Bristol, added: “This study is important as it shows for the first time that the features that make us unique as mammals, such as having only one set of replacement teeth and a specialised jaw joint and hearing apparatus, were associated with the very earliest mammals beginning to specialise their teeth and jaws to eat different things.”