British Conservative racist, pro-rape candidates


This 21 September 2018 video from Britain says about itself:

The Conservative party is racist | Owen Jones talks …

Conservative members of the European Parliament recently decided to give their backing to the far-right Hungarian autocrat, Viktor Orbán. They were the only centre-right party to back Orbán, who has been accused of both antisemitism and Islamophobia amongst other things.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. The Tories have a long history of racism in their ranks. They’ve recently ignored
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi’s calls to hold an inquiry into the rampant Islamophobia in their ranks, Zac Goldsmith’s campaign to become London mayor was dripping with Islamophobia, Boris Johnson‘s political and journalistic career has been characterised by racist bilge and that’s before we even get into the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Enoch Powell. The Conservative party fans bigotry and divides communities in order to gain political power. It always has done and, I think, always will do.

By Ceren Sagir in Britain:

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tory candidate called unfit to stand over ‘disgusting racism’

ANOTHER Tory parliamentary candidate faced calls to stand down today over his “disgustingly racist” views on immigrants whom he blamed for “doubling the rate of HIV” in Britain.

In a 2003 article for the Spectator, South Cambridgeshire candidate Anthony Browne wrote that “letting in too many germs” will claim more lives than “letting in terrorists” through the then Labour government’s migration policy.

The former adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that immigration “brings the epidemics that blight poorer countries: HIV infection, tuberculosis and hepatitis” and claimed that “infected immigrants” arriving in Britain were “doubling the rate of HIV.”

In his book Do We Need Mass Immigration?, Mr Browne said African immigration “has overtaken gay sex as the main cause of HIV,” and said they should be treated “where they live” rather than “on the NHS.”

Stand Up To Racism co-convenor Weyman Bennett said: “Johnson and Browne have embraced the most racist and disgusting words and taken a right-wing discourse into discussions of the Muslim community and the LGBT community.

“This candidate is not fit to stand in the election and Johnson is not fit to be PM. It’s time to take a stand against racism.”

Shadow women and equalities minister Naz Shah called the claims “disgusting racism” and urged the PM to personally intervene and remove Mr Browne’s candidacy.

A Tory spokeswoman said Mr Browne has apologised for the comments “and sincerely regrets them.”

Wakefield Tory candidate Antony Calvert was pressured to step down on Sunday for his racist and misogynistic Facebook comments days after Broadland candidate Nick Conrad stood down as his rape-apologist comments on live radio re-emerged.

Former Welsh secretary Alun Cairns also resigned ahead of the Tory campaign launch for lying about his knowledge of his aide’s alleged sabotage of a rape trial.

Gower candidate Francesca O’Brien, who said contestants on Benefits Street should be “put down”, has ignored calls to step down.

Feathered polar dinosaurs discovery in Australia


This 2017 video says about itself:

Over the past 20 years, dinosaurs of all types and sizes have been found with some sort of fluff or even full-on plumage. These fuzzy discoveries have raised a whole batch of new questions so we’re here to tell you everything we know about dinosaurs and feathers.

From Uppsala University in Sweden:

First evidence of feathered polar dinosaurs found in Australia

November 12, 2019

A cache of 118 million-year-old fossilized dinosaur and bird feathers has been recovered from an ancient lake deposit that once lay beyond the southern polar circle.

Feathered dinosaur fossils are famous, but known from a handful of localities worldwide. Examples from the Southern Hemisphere are especially rare, and mainly include only isolated feathers.

An international team of scientists has analyzed a collection of 10 such fossil feathers found in Australia, which reveal an unexpected diversity of tufted hair-like ‘proto-feathers’ from meat-eating dinosaurs, together with downy body feathers, and wing feathers from primitive birds that would have been used for flight.

Uniquely, the fossil feathers from Australia were all entombed in fine muddy sediments that accumulated at the bottom of a shallow lake close to the South Pole during the Age of Dinosaurs.

“Dinosaur skeletons and even the fragile bones of early birds have been found at ancient high-latitudes before. Yet, to date, no directly attributable integumentary remains have been discovered to show that dinosaurs used feathers to survive in extreme polar habitats,” said Dr Benjamin Kear from Uppsala University in Sweden, a leading author on the study.

“These Australian fossil feathers are therefore highly significant because they came from dinosaurs and small birds that were living in a seasonally very cold environment with months of polar darkness every year.”

The fossil feathers were discovered in the Koonwarra Fish Beds Geological Reserve, which is a heritage-listed site 145 km southeast of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia.

“Fossil feathers have been known from Koonwarra since the early 1960s, and were recognized as evidence of ancient birds, but have otherwise received very little scientific attention. Our study is thus the first to comprehensively document these remains, which include new specimens that were examined using cutting-edge technologies,” said Dr Thomas Rich of the Melbourne Museum in Australia, who has led numerous expeditions to the Koonwarra locality.

A suite of advanced microscopic and spectroscopic techniques was employed to determine the anatomy and preservation of the Koonwarra fossil dinosaur and bird feathers.

“The Koonwarra feathers are preserved in incredible detail,” said fossil bird expert Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich of Monash University and the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.

“There are even tiny filament-like structures that would have ‘zipped’ the feather vanes together, just as in the flight feathers of modern birds.”

However, unlike the structurally complex feathers of birds today, which are characterized by interlocking branches called barbs and barbules, different kinds of small dinosaurs had coverings that comprised much more simpler hair-like ‘proto-feathers’.

“Dinosaur ‘proto-feathers’ would have been used for insulation,” said Dr Martin Kundrát, of Pavol Jozef Safarik University in Slovakia, a leading author on the study.

“The discovery of ‘proto-feathers’ at Koonwarra therefore suggests that fluffy feather coats might have helped small dinosaurs keep warm in ancient polar habitats.”

Microscopic remains of possible melanosomes, cellular structures that contain colour pigments, were also detected on several of the fossil feathers found at Koonwarra.

These traces occurred across the uniformly dark feather surfaces, as well as in distinct bands that might represent original patterning from the polar dinosaurs and birds.

Melanic residues have been reported on fossil feathers from elsewhere around the world, and are widely acknowledged as indicators of dinosaur colouration.

The densely packed fossil melanosomes occurring on the Koonwarra feathers could suggest dark colours that perhaps assisted in camouflage, visual communication, and/or heat absorbance in cold polar climates.

Possible preservation of biomolecules was also assessed, but proved to be too degraded, and were apparently lost during weathering of the rock.

The Koonwarra fossil feathers provide the first record of dinosaur integument from the ancient polar regions, and hint what was once a global distribution of feathered dinosaurs and early birds.

Some of the fossil feathers found at Koonwarra are on display in the ‘600 Million Years’ exhibition at the Melbourne Museum in Australia.

Greek right-wing government attacks civil liberties


This video says about itself:

Protesters denounce criminal negligence of the Greek Coast Guard during recent migrant boat sinking off Agathonisi in which sixteen people lost their lives. On 16 March sixteen people, including at least five children, drowned when the small boat they on capsized in the Aegean Sea. The only three survivors raise serious allegations against the authorities. Relatives of those lost at sea- including an Afghan mother who lost her two sons gather at Syntagma square in Athens to protest and demand responsibilities about the incident, as the Greek Coast Guard ignored the emergency calls.

Athens, Greece, 04 April 2018.

From the Dawn of the Greks blog, 12 November 2019:

The repression wave in Athens continues…

Clashes between students and riot police erupted in the Economic University AOSEE in downtown Athens yesterday September 11th. Dozens of students entered the premises of the institution in order to protest the Senate decision to close the University for a week “deliberately and for no reason”, as they say. …

Today, November 12th, the riot police in Athens evacuated one more squat in the center of Athens at Bouboulinas street, where 138 refugees and migrants were living. The situation with the repression wave of the new [right-wing] government remains out of control. Many squats and social spaces in Athens have been evacuated already. Mainly the victims are migrants and refugees.

From the Keep Talking Greece site, 11 November 2019:

Greek gov’t brings back Blasphemy Laws, penalty up to 2 years in prison

The conservative Greek government brings back the Blasphemy Laws the previous government SYRIZA had abolished less than six months ago. Violating the blasphemy laws could send those insulting God and the Greek Orthodox Church up to two years in prison.

Rabbit size deer rediscovered in Vietnam


This 11 November 2019 video says about itself:

Scientists rediscover missing mammal, the silver-backed chevrotain

The silver-backed chevrotain has been missing for nearly 30 years. The species was last seen in Vietnam in 1990, until now. Silver-backed chevrotains have been tough to spot since they were first described in 1910.

Though chevrotains look like deer, they are not in the deer family. They are ancient rabbit-sized ungulates (hoofed animals) with features like fangs and four toes. The recent capture of the silver-backed chevrotain on camera trap is a major win in the search for missing mammals.

Global Wildlife Conservation’s Lost Species Initiative is searching for 25 species around the world. And the silver-backed chevrotain is their latest success. Prior to this, they have found four other species on the list have been found. But 20 remain missing.

Read more here.

From the Forschungsverbund Berlin in Germany:

Miniature fanged ‘deer’ rediscovered tiptoeing through Vietnam’s coastal forests

November 11, 2019

Global Wildlife Conservation and partners Southern Institute of Ecology and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research have rediscovered a species lost to science since 1990 called a silver-backed chevrotain — a deer-like species that is the size of a rabbit, has a silver sheen, and has been hanging on in a region of Vietnam ravaged by poaching by snares. The silver-backed chevrotain, also called the Vietnamese mouse deer, was last recorded more than 25 years ago and is the first mammal rediscovered on GWC’s top 25 most wanted lost species in the Search for Lost Species.

The rediscovery in southern Vietnam was published today, November 11, in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution and is spurring on efforts to protect the chevrotain and the other mysterious and extraordinary wildlife that shares its home in Vietnam.

“We had no idea what to expect, so I was surprised and overjoyed when we checked the camera traps and saw photographs of a mouse deer with silver flanks,” said An Nguyen, associate conservation scientist for GWC and expedition team leader. Nguyen is also field coordinator and PhD student with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research. “For so long, this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination. Discovering that it is, indeed, still out there, is the first step in ensuring we don’t lose it again, and we’re moving quickly now to figure out how best to protect it.”

The silver-backed chevrotain was described in 1910 from four individuals collected from southern Vietnam. A Russian expedition in 1990 in central Vietnam collected a fifth individual. Scientists know almost nothing about general ecology or conservation status of this species, making it one of the highest mammal conservation priorities in the Greater Annamite mountains, one of GWC’s focal wildlands.

After several interviews with local villagers and government forest rangers who reported seeing a gray mouse deer — the colour distinguishing the silver-backed chevrotain from the more common lesser mouse deer — the field team set three camera traps for five months in an area of southern Vietnam where locals indicated they may have seen the animal. This resulted in 275 photos of the species. The team then set up another 29 cameras in the same area, this time recording 1,881 photographs of the chevrotain over five months.

“The rediscovery of the silver-backed chevrotain provides a big hope for the conservation of biodiversity, especially threatened species, in Vietnam,” said Hoang Minh Duc, head of the Southern Institute of Ecology’s Department of Zoology. “This also encourages us, together with relevant and international partners, to devote time and effort to further investigate and conserve Vietnam‘s biodiversity heritage.”

There are 10 known species of chevrotains in the world, primarily from Asia. Despite their common English names, chevrotains are neither mice nor deer, but the world’s smallest small ungulates (hoofed mammals). They are shy and solitary, appear to walk on the tips of their hooves and have two tiny fangs. Chevrotains typically weigh less than 5 kg.

The silver-backed chevrotain is one of a number of fascinating species that live in the diverse tropical forests of Southeast Asia, where some species have been discovered only in the last few decades. This includes the antelope-like saola (the Asian “unicorn”), which was only discovered in 1992 and that no biologist has seen in the wild. Animals in this area of the world, however, are victims of a devastating hunting technique — the use of cheap and homemade wire snares. The level of indiscriminate hunting in the region has led to the widespread “empty forest syndrome” across Vietnam, pushing numerous Annamite species to the brink of extinction.

A team is now setting out to determine how large — and stable — this population of silver-backed chevrotains is, assess the wider distribution of the species and explore the threats to its survival. As part of the first-ever comprehensive survey on the species, the team began camera trap surveys in October in two additional areas. They will use all of the information that they gather to develop a conservation action plan that strengthens enforcement and protection of the species across its range, building on the increased enforcement already put in place at the site of rediscovery.

“It is an amazing feat to go from complete lack of knowledge of the wildlife of the Greater Annamites 25 years ago to now having this question mark of the silver-backed chevrotain resolved,” said Barney Long, GWC senior director of species conservation. “But the work is only beginning with the rediscovery and initial protection measures that have been put in place — now we need to identify not just a few individuals on camera traps, but one or two sites with sizable populations so that we can actually protect and restore the species.”

This project was made possible in part by the generous support of Wroclaw Zoo, Auckland Zoo, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (Project 172515989), and the Gerald Singer Deer Research Grant provided by Sainte Croix Biodiversite. Additional support was provided by the Southern Institute of Ecology and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Spanish neo-fascist Vox party, a danger


This 11 November 2019 video says about itself:

Spain’s far right looks to reignite embers of Franco era

Spain’s Socialist Party says it will act fast to form a government, after winning the most seats in Sunday’s parliamentary election.

Leader Pedro Sanchez had hoped the vote – which was the second this year – would break the country’s political deadlock.

But with the far-right Vox party more than doubling its support, the country appears more fragmented than ever before.

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull has more from Madrid.

By Alex Lantier:

The Spanish elections and the rise of the fascistic Vox party

12 November 2019

The rapid rise of the fascistic Vox party in Sunday’s Spanish elections is a warning of serious political dangers facing workers in Spain and around the world. As it faces mounting political protest and anger against social inequality, the ruling class is moving to set up fascistic police states tasked with violently repressing social opposition in the working class.

Vox officials have publicly hailed the record of the “national army” of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator who launched a coup in 1936 against growing radicalization in the working class under the Spanish Second Republic. The resulting Civil War led to over a quarter million deaths and the imposition of a dictatorship that ruled Spain until 1978, three years after Franco’s death. Franco interned hundreds of thousands in concentration camps, banned strikes and political parties, censored the press and had thousands tortured by the secret police.

The Franco regime was so despised by workers in Spain and across Europe after it fell that, when Vox was founded in 2014, it attracted virtually no support. For several years, despite its extensive connections inside the army brass and the Popular Party (PP), Vox won 50,000 votes or less, well under one percent of the vote.

Vox’s vote surged, however, after the brutal police crackdown on the peaceful Catalan independence referendum of October 2017, and particularly amid Spanish nationalist attacks in the media against mass protests in Barcelona opposing last month’s jailing of Catalan nationalist political prisoners. On Sunday, Vox won 3.6 million votes, or 15 percent, doubling its parliamentary fraction from 24 to 52 seats—third behind only the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the PP.

Vox’s rise is part of a broad trend in European capitalist politics towards the growth of neo-fascist parties, nationalism and the official public legitimization of fascist dictators.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) is currently the third-largest party in Germany, after years of propaganda by right-wing extremist professors and state officials to legitimize militarism and minimize the genocidal crimes of Nazism. Mass protests against the AfD have only intensified the ruling elite’s determination to rehabilitate Nazism. Last week, parliamentary president Wolfgang Schäuble denounced a “pacifist attitude” as the disastrous result of the Nazi defeat in World War II, which he called “the catastrophe of 1945.”

In France, as he launched a brutal crackdown on “yellow vest” protests against social inequality a year ago, President Emmanuel Macron hailed Nazi-collaborationist dictator Philippe Pétain as a “great soldier”. Amid growing anger at his social cuts, Macron continues to appeal to the far right, recently granting an interview attacking migrants and the Muslim veil to the far-right Current Values magazine.

The Frech name of that magazine is Valeurs Actuelles. Its editor-in-chief used to be a supporter of OAS extreme-right terrorism.

As a result, polls show he would now barely defeat neo-fascist candidate Marine Le Pen in a presidential election, by 55 percent to 45 percent.

The growth of fascism in official European politics does not signify a return to the mass popular support enjoyed by the Nazi Party, Mussolini’s National Fascist Party or the Francoite Falange. For now, it is a carefully staged political campaign, driven from the top, to promote violent, right-wing and nationalist opposition to social and political protest.

Vox’s rise is a classic example. While it has surged based on its anti-Catalan propaganda amid the wall-to-wall media denunciation of the independence referendum, no mass movement has emerged in Spain taking up Vox’s calls to deploy the army and execute political “criminals” in Catalonia. Polls confirm that large majorities of Spanish people support a negotiated settlement in Catalonia, despite the anti-Catalan hysteria in the media.

The promotion of Vox and of Franco comes overwhelmingly from the state machine. The PSOE allowed Vox to officially join its public prosecutor in persecuting Catalan officials who were given decade-long jail terms last month for organizing the peaceful 2017 referendum. And the Supreme Court in June issued an extraordinary ruling honoring “don Francisco Franco”, declaring that his October 1, 1936, self-proclamation as ruler of Spain during the Civil War made Franco the head of state—effectively ruling that Franco’s coup was legitimate.

Finally, the ruling elite focused the election campaign entirely on attacking mass protests in Catalonia, which were savagely repressed, with hundreds of arrests. Issues of concern to workers, like jobs, social programs and a halt to military-police violence, were off the table. The caretaker Socialist Party (PSOE) government, speaking for the entire capitalist class, had already written to the European Union (EU) pledging billions of euros in social cuts and military spending increases. All of this had the effect of boosting Vox.

The bourgeoisie’s failure to elicit broader support for its pro-fascist campaign up to now cannot, however, be a cause for complacency. The fascist threat is growing and its parties are winning increased support thanks to their constant promotion as the only alternative to the despised official parties.

Three decades ago, bourgeois propagandists proclaimed that the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant the “End of History” and the triumph of capitalist democracy. In fact, none of the contradictions of capitalism that drove the European bourgeoisie to stake its fate on fascist regimes in the 1930s had been resolved. Facing explosive anger at social inequality produced by decades of post-Soviet EU austerity and mass unemployment, the ruling class is again preparing dictatorship.

Sunday’s Spanish election revealed the breakdown of the parliamentary system established in 1978 in talks between the Francoite fascists, the PSOE … The PSOE-PP duopoly at the heart of that regime has collapsed. Each of the four elections in Spain since 2015 has resulted in a hung parliament, and no party has been able to muster a parliamentary majority since then. The ruling class is responding, through Vox, by turning back to Francoism.

Vox: its 52 deputies include retired pro-Francoite generals, former police and Civil Guards, anti-LGBTI activists, holocaust deniers, lawyers and Catholic fundamentalists: here.

Dinosaur age pollinating insects, new research


Ecological reconstruction of tumbling flower beetles Angimordella burmitina. These beetles are feeding on eudicot flowers. The color and morphology of flowers are artistic only. Image credit: Ding-hau Yang / Bao et al, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1916186116

From Indiana University in the USA:

New fossil pushes back physical evidence of insect pollination to 99 million years ago

November 11, 2019

A new study co-led by researchers in the U.S. and China has pushed back the first-known physical evidence of insect flower pollination to 99 million years ago, during the mid-Cretaceous period.

The revelation is based upon a tumbling flower beetle with pollen on its legs discovered preserved in amber deep inside a mine in northern Myanmar. The fossil comes from the same amber deposit as the first ammonite discovered in amber, which was reported by the same research group earlier this year.

The report of the new fossil will be published Nov. 11 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The fossil, which contains both the beetle and pollen grains, pushes back the earliest documented instance of insect pollination to a time when pterodactyls still roamed the skies — or about 50 million years earlier than previously thought.

The study’s U.S. co-author is David Dilcher, an emeritus professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science and a research affiliate of the Indiana Geological and Water Survey. As a paleobotanist studying the earliest flowering plants on Earth, Dilcher has conducted research on the process of amber fossilization.

The co-lead author on the study is Bo Wang, an amber fossil expert at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, where the specimen was procured and analyzed.

According to Dilcher, who provided a morphological review of the 62 grains of pollen in the amber, the shape and structure of the pollen shows it evolved to spread through contact with insects. These features include the pollen’s size, “ornamentation” and clumping ability.

The grains also likely originated from a flower species in the group eudicots, one of the most common types of flowering plant species, he said.

The pollen was not easy to find. The powdery substance was revealed hidden in the insect’s body hairs under a confocal laser microscopy. The analysis took advantage of the fact that pollen grains glow under fluorescence light, contrasting strongly with the darkness of the insect’s shell.

The insect in the amber is a newly discovered species of beetle, which the study’s authors named Angimordella burmitina. It’s role as a pollinator was determined based upon several specialized physical structures, including body shape and pollen-feeding mouthparts. These structures were revealed through an imaging method called X-ray microcomputed tomography, or micro-CT.

“It’s exceedingly rare to find a specimen where both the insect and the pollen are preserved in a single fossil,” said Dilcher. “Aside from the significance as earliest known direct evidence of insect pollination of flowering plants, this specimen perfectly illustrates the cooperative evolution of plants and animals during this time period, during which a true exposition of flowering plants occurred.”

Prior to this study, the earliest physical evidence of insect pollination of flowering plants came from Middle Eocene. The age of the new fossil was determined based upon the age of other known fossils in the same location as the fossilized beetle’s discovery.

See also here.