Neo-nazis and anti-nazis in Germany

This video is called German National Socialist Underground & Intelligence Services.

By Victor Grossman in Germany:

How Germany treats anti-fascists as the enemy

Friday 01 February 2013

Significant anniversaries are coming thick and fast at the moment, from 80 years since Hitler became German chancellor last Wednesday to 70 years since his army’s defeat at Stalingrad tomorrow.

Another important date comes in a couple of weeks. February 14 is the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, which has become a focus for neonazi marches in the city.

Two years ago I joined organisations which had come together to stop the annual nazi marches, with their “hate foreigners” and “Germany for the Germans” messages.

Most city leaders, shamed at last into some sort of reaction, held hands in a mile-long anti-nazi protest – but far away from the nazis’ planned route across the Elbe river which divides Dresden.

After all, the courts had ruled it a legal march, entitled to police protection.

Many took a different view and an estimated 18,000 anti-fascists came to Dresden. Despite containment by hostile police they blocked the nazis, who crept home after an aborted “march” of about 100 yards from the railway station.

All was peaceful until the evening, after most of us had left. There was a brief melee between the police and a small group of militants of the “black bloc” kind.

But the police also broke violently into the nearly empty headquarters of the anti-fascists – and the Left Party – in a move later found to be illegal. The secret tapping into virtually all mobile telephones that day was an equally dubious move, probably illegal.

Dresden’s “city fathers” – also its “mother” mayor – now want no more such blockades, not even fully peaceful ones.

Therefore, after an almost incredible two-year delay, a court has sentenced a 36-year-old family father from Berlin, never before arrested, for allegedly using a megaphone to urge the anti-fascist crowd to move forward.

He was engaged in no violence. It’s not even clear whether he really was the man with the megaphone.

All the same he was sentenced to 22 months in prison, without probation, for “breach of the peace” – longer than most neonazis get for actual violence in the rare cases when they are tried.

The judge displayed his bias with the words: “The people of Dresden are sick of getting visited by demonstrators.”

Another participant who took part in the anti-nazi action two years ago, a Protestant pastor, will be put on trial in March for allegedly “inciting violence.” The intent of these and similar cases is all too clear. Let nazis march. And don’t let anyone stand, or sit, in their way. The left is the enemy.

To make this clearer on the national level Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has now announced that the Constitutional Protection Agency, Germany’s answer to the US FBI, will continue to secretly observe members of the Left Party.

But not all the members.

It will now keep its suspicious eye on those with “extremist connections,” which means members of perfectly legitimate groups within the party which he considers a danger to the “free democratic basic order” of the country.

That includes groups such as the Communist Platform, with about 1,250 members, and smaller groups like the Marxist Forum, the Anti-Capitalist Left, the Socialist Left and Cuba Si, all of them fully official caucuses within the party.

As one Left Party Bundestag deputy stated, this is a tactically motivated, unacceptable step.

“Instead of exercising humility in light of his party’s scandalous failure in connection with 10 fascist murders, the bombing and bank raids by the nazi National Socialist Union and the insufferable failure of the Constitutional Protectors in preventing them or finding the killers, he is stubbornly sticking to the same old cold war agenda.”

The aim of the right-wing minister is clearly to split and thus destroy the Left Party. The left-wing groups he threatened are the elements in the party most opposed to electoral agreements with the Social Democrats and Greens, which they view as unprincipled as well as harmful.

Others, despite continued put-downs and insults from the Greens and SPD, still dream of a three-party coalition. This line, promoted by some during the recent election in Lower Saxony, proved disastrous.

With a diluted Left programme too many voters thought “we might as well vote for a winner like the SPD or stay at home.” The Left lost all its seats.

Song thrush sings again

This is a video of a song thrush singing.

This morning, the song thrush was singing again.

It had stopped when temperatures dropped below freezing.

Now it is less wintry, and I could hear its song.

Thrushes of the world: here.

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How owls’ heads turn full circle

This video is called Sophisticated sonar of wild [Lapland] owls hunting in the Arctic forest – BBC wildlife.

From the BBC:

1 February 2013 Last updated at 08:19 GMT

By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News

It’s the owl‘s greatest trick – turning its head almost a full circle.

The puzzle has been how the bird doesn’t throttle itself in the process. If we did it, we’d cut the blood supply to our brains and pass out.

But according to two US-based scientists, the owl has some very smart bone and vascular structures running along its neck to the skull.

These features protect blood vessels from damage and maintain the flow even when the head is swivelled 270 degrees.

“They haven’t developed just one answer to the problem; they have several answers,” said Dr Philippe Gailloud from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“And it’s because of this set of solutions that we don’t see lots of owls lying on the forest floor having suffered strokes,” the interventional neuroradiologist told BBC News.

Most birds have extremely flexible necks, but the owls are the avian species that have perhaps garnered the greatest attention for their neck-twisting exploits.

They must turn their heads in this extraordinary way because of their eyes’ narrow field of view and relative immobility.

It’s true they have double the number of bones in their neck compared with us – 14 versus seven cervical vertebrae. But it’s really the way the animal manages the flow of oxygenated blood to its brain that underpins the impressive feat.

Dr Gailloud and science illustrator Fabian de Kok-Mercado used various imaging and dissection techniques to detail the anatomy of a dozen dead owls.

They showed that the big carotid arteries, instead of being on the side of the neck as in humans, are carried close to the centre of rotation just in front of the spine. As a consequence, these arteries experience much less twisting and stretching. The potential for damage is therefore greatly reduced.

This arrangement is not specific to owls, of course; it is seen in other birds as well. What does appear unique to owls, however, is the way the vertebral arteries – the vessels that travel through channels within the neck bones – are given extra space.

In humans, the bony cavities are just big enough to carry the vertebral arteries. “By contrast, in owls, the canal is about 10 times bigger and it’s filled with an air sac,” Dr Gailloud said.

“You know birds have air sacs to make them lighter, and somehow they manage to put some of this inside that bony canal and cushion the vessel.”

In addition, between the carotid and vertebral arteries, owls have a lot of smaller connecting vessels that permit the blood to find alternative pathways should one of the main flow routes close down during rotation.

But perhaps most significant of all is the discovery that owls have wide segments in their carotids just under the skull base. The researchers found these could dilate and fill with a reservoir of blood.

“We believe this is kind of a new structure not really known before,” said Dr Gailloud.

“It’s probably a way to pool blood and get some continuity of flow even if there is disruption below at the next level.”

Mr de Kok-Mercado completed the study as part of his masters research at JHU. He now works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

He commented: “There’s no real clinical relevance here, other than ‘don’t try this at home’. But I think from a broader perspective, it just illustrates the amazing amount of biodiversity on our planet, and how there are so many things we still haven’t discovered.

“You would have thought we knew everything there was to know about the owl. A lot of this is down to technology which allows us to break new ground,” he told BBC News.

The study won top prize in the posters and graphics category of the 2012 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge. This competition is co-sponsored by the journal Science and the US National Science Foundation.

Great grey owl: here.