Pileated woodpeckers, other birds in New York, USA


This video from New York state in the USA says about itself:

Pileated Woodpeckers on Cornell Feeders – August 21, 2017

As one Pileated Woodpecker snacks on suet, watch a second Pileated Woodpecker make its way over from the wooden post to the top of the Cornell feeders.

Watch LIVE at http://AllAboutBirds.org/CornellFeeders for news, updates, and more information about the pond and its surroundings.

This FeederWatch cam is located in the Treman Bird Feeding Garden at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Perched on the edge of both Sapsucker Woods and its 10-acre pond, these feeders attract both forest species like chickadees and woodpeckers as well as some species that prefer open environments near water like Red-winged Blackbirds.

Fascism and anti-fascism in Boston, USA and Berlin, Germany


Anti-racist protesters march through Boston Common, USA

By Kate Randall in the USA:

Forty thousand protest in Boston against Trump and fascist groups

21 August 2017

A crowd estimated at 40,000 converged on the Boston Common Saturday to protest against racist, anti-Semitic and fascist groups and President Trump’s defense of their deadly rampage last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen marched through the city carrying torches and shouting epithets such as “Jews will not replace us” and the Nazi slogan “Blood and Soil”. They assaulted counter-demonstrators and one neo-Nazi drove his car into a group of antifascists, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and wounding 19 other people.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Trump insisted that the fascist mob included “very fine people” and declared that the violence was provoked by the antifascist demonstrators as well as elements among the far-right marchers.

The Boston protest was called in opposition to a rally by the ultra-right Boston Free Speech Coalition that had been scheduled months before the Charlottesville events. Several neo-Nazis had been listed as speakers.

Boston protesters carried signs denouncing the KKK and fascism and depicting President Trump as a Nazi. Marchers also held posters honoring Heather Heyer.

The counter-protests were organized by two groups. The Stand for Solidarity protest, backed by Answer Coalition Boston … planned a rally outside the State House, on the northeast edge of the Boston Common. Demonstrators organized by Black Lives Matter gathered in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood and marched the two miles to the Common. …

Zanna and Laura (right)

The anti-Trump demonstrations attracted tens of thousands who came to express their outrage over the events of the last week. “I’m here because of what happened in Charlottesville,” Laura said. “I’m against fascism and, in particular, the KKK bothers me. That particular branch coming out into the streets again is really disturbing. It needs to be squashed down.”

She pointed to the reverse side of her sign, which read: “White silence is compliance.” She said, “I just think that people have to stand up and support and protect the people who are being attacked. But in particular, blacks are taking the brunt of police violence… I don’t want people thinking that that’s what white people believe.”

The Boston Police Department (BPD) organized a massive mobilization of city and transit police for the protest. Police Commissioner Bill Evans said there were 500 uniformed police on hand and many plainclothes officers in the crowd. Additional police cameras were mounted throughout the Common for surveillance.

Police ringed the Common and Public Works trucks were stationed to prevent vehicles from driving into the park. Streets surrounding the Common were blocked for vehicle traffic. The BPD threatened to close the protest down if it erupted in violence. In the end, police made 33 arrests, including four on weapons charges and the others for disturbing a public assembly, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.

Police at the Boston demonstration

Police separated the Free Speech rally from the counter-protesters with barricades and fences. Only a few dozen fascists showed up for their rally at the Parkman Bandstand. The rally, scheduled to begin at noon, was over by about 12:45 p.m. Police escorted the neo-Nazis out of the Common to jeers of “Go home, Nazi scum!”

Police ushered the “free speech” demonstrators to Boston police vans, to be driven to safety and released. Counter-protesters blocked their exit for about 45 minutes. Police wearing riot gear and carrying sticks finally pushed the counter-protesters out of the way, making room for the far-right protesters to leave. A number of arrests were made.

Boston anti-fascist demonstrator Derrick

The counterdemonstration had largely wound down by about 2 p.m. and people began to make their way to the subway. At 3:22 p.m., Trump tweeted: “Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you.”

The president then attempted to backtrack on his mischaracterization of the day’s events, tweeting later in the afternoon: “I want to applaud the many protesters in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one!”

In reality, the major focus of the counter-protest was opposition to Trump’s bigoted comments of the previous days in the wake of Charlottesville.

Franny

Franny, originally from New Jersey, attends Lesley College in Cambridge, outside of Boston. She explained why she attended the protest. “I’m Jewish, so naturally any gathering of neo-Nazis would offend me,” she said. “But I feel like this is one of the very few events where you can voice your opinions and can stand in a safe place.

“You’re constantly surrounded with news and media of hate, and all this negativity. So it’s really great that people are looking towards equality and a better world.”

She was outraged by President Trump’s comments following the events in Charlottesville: “His first official statement came from a golf club in New Jersey, not even from a press conference from the White House. And saying that you can’t see the difference between anger from white supremacists and anger from those who are angry about the gathering of neo-Nazis. They’re completely different types of hate and anger and to equalize them shows immaturity and ignorance.”

She disagreed, however, with the WSWS reporter’s argument that the working class, as a class, needed to unite politically to fight Trump and the Democrats.

“I feel each economic factor has to go against Trump, even if it’s from the 1 percent,” she said. “Why don’t we attempt to change their positions and their minds? It has to come from every single person, from every single class. Not just working class, not just lower class, not just upper class. This is a social movement.”

Boston anti-fascist marchers

She agreed, however, that the political establishment was being pushed into crisis. “I think this is absolutely going to break the two-party system,” she said. “Because even now you see the splintering off of the Republicans.” …

Valerie

The WSWS spoke to Valerie, a nurse from North Carolina who grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts. “Honestly, I cannot even believe that we’re here,” she said. “It’s so disheartening for me. Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, I feel like we have taken a leap back from all our efforts for social equality and social justice.

“The only good thing that has come out of President Trump’s heinous behavior is that it has exposed how much racism there is in our country. Also, as we saw today, it shows how much more love and compassion and striving for equality there is. But we can’t address things unless they’re exposed.

“Capitalism, it doesn’t work. I mean, how many decades and hundreds of years do we need to show that it just doesn’t?”

Germany: Around 1,500 demonstrators blocked a march on Saturday of some 700 neo-Nazis from the northern Berlin district of Spandau to a former allied prison for war criminals, where they intended to commemorate Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess. Condemned to lifelong imprisonment at the Nuremberg Trials, Hess committed suicide in the prison thirty years ago, on August 17, 1987: here.

Tasmanian devil-like fossil marsupial discovery in Turkey


An artist’s reconstruction of Anatoliadelphys maasae. Image credit: Peter Schouten

From the University of Salford in England:

‘Euro Devil’: Fossil of carnivorous marsupial relative discovered in E Europe

August 17, 2017

Scientists have discovered fossil remains of a new carnivorous mammal in Turkey, one of the biggest marsupial relatives ever discovered in the northern hemisphere.

The findings, by Dr Robin Beck from the University of Salford in the UK and Dr Murat Maga, of the University of Washington who discovered the fossil, are published today in the journal PLoS ONE.

The new fossil is a 43 million year old cat-sized mammal that had powerful teeth and jaws for crushing hard food, like the modern Tasmanian Devil. It is related to the pouched mammals, or marsupials, of Australia and South America, and it shows that marsupial relatives, or metatherians, were far more diverse in the northern hemisphere than previously believed.

Dr Maga found the fossil at a site near the town of Kazan, northwest of the Turkish capital, Ankara. It has been named Anatoliadelphys maasae, after the ancient name for Turkey, and Dr Mary Maas, a Turkish-American palaeontologist. The fossil is remarkably well preserved, and includes parts of the skull and most of the skeleton.

It shows that Anatoliadelphys weighed 3-4 kilograms, about the size of a domestic cat, and that it was capable of climbing. It had powerful teeth and jaws, for eating animals and possibly crushing bones. Features of the teeth and bones of Anatoliadelphys show that is closely related to marsupials, but it is not known whether it had a pouch or not.

Dr Beck, who is a world expert in the evolution of marsupials and their fossil relatives, said: “This was definitely an odd little beast — imagine something a bit like a mini-Tasmanian devil that could climb trees.

“It could probably have eaten pretty much anything it could catch — beetles, snails, frogs, lizards, small mammals, bones, and probably some plant material as well. This find changes what we thought we knew about the evolution of marsupial relatives in the northern hemisphere — they were clearly a far more diverse bunch than we ever suspected.”

Most fossil metatherians from the northern hemisphere were insect-eating creatures no bigger than mice or rats, whereas Anatoliadelphys was ten times larger and could have eaten vertebrate prey.

“It might seem odd to find a fossil of a marsupial relative in Turkey, but the ancestors of marsupials actually originated in the northern hemisphere, and they survived there until about 12 million years ago,” said Dr Beck.

The region of Turkey where Anatoliadelphys was found was probably an island 43 million years ago, which may have enabled Anatoliadelphys to survive without competition from carnivorous placental mammals, such as fossil relatives of cats, dogs and weasels.

Today, many marsupials in Australia have been driven to extinction due to the introduction of the dingo, cats and foxes, suggesting that marsupials may be competitively inferior to placentals.

See also here.

A large Tasmanian devil relative has been discovered from a new fossil locality in the outback of northwestern Queensland. The Riversleigh fossil site in northwestern Queensland, Australia, is home to a rich fauna of Oligocene to Miocene aged marsupials. A new fossil site called Wholly Dooley Hill has been discovered near Riversleigh. Wholly Dooley Hill preserves sediments that were deposited in the floor of a limestone cave, a cave that has since eroded and only preserves its floor: here.

Paul Robeson, new book


This music video series from the USA is called Paul Robeson Playlist.

By Sue Turner in Britain:

Search for the inspirational figure of Paul Robeson pays dividends

Saturday 19th August 2017

No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson

by Jeff Sparrow

(Scribe, £14.99)

THE LIFE of Paul Robeson mirrors 20th-century struggles for black liberation, workers’ rights and international socialism and Jeff Sparrow’s biography — which he describes as unconventional — attempts to bring these past campaigns into the present.

The aim is to to inspire and inform a new generation for whom Robeson is largely unknown and to do that Sparrow travelled the world in Robeson’s footsteps, talking to people who knew or were influenced by him and those engaged in current political struggles.

Robeson’s life was astonishing by any standards. The son of an escaped slave, he was a brilliant scholar and champion athlete. Driven by his father’s insistence that self-improvement would make him a role model for other black people in the US, Robeson later rejected this individualistic approach to effecting social change as it ignored the systemic reasons for the position of black Americans.

Having abandoned a career in law, and becoming the most famous black actor and singer of his time, he began to speak out as an advocate for social justice around the world, supporting the struggles of the south Wales miners and the republican cause in the Spanish civil war.

The labour movement in Britain was a revelation for Robeson because of its solidarity and collective nature and it gave him a greater understanding of the link between the struggles for African-American and workers’ rights.

“It’s from the miners in Wales I first understood the struggle of negro and white together,” he said and the Spanish civil war was as inspirational: “The true artist cannot hold himself aloof… the artist must take sides. He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I have no alternative.”

This stance led him to deliver speeches and fundraising concerts as well as singing for the International Brigades on the battlefield.

Visits to the USSR from 1934 onwards led to a lifelong and unwavering commitment to Soviet socialism, support acceptable in the US during WWII, and he worked tirelessly to defeat fascism, hoping that the liberation of oppressed people everywhere would follow. After the war, with changing US perceptions of the Soviet Union and the rise of McCarthyism, Robeson’s career ended.

Radio stations would not play his songs, nor cinemas show his films and he could not record music nor perform live. His passport applications were rejected for 10 years and his status and popularity made him too dangerous to have a voice at home or abroad.

This witch-hunt culminated in an appearance before The Unamerican Activities Committee in 1956.

When asked if he was a member of the Communist Party, Robeson replied: “What do you mean by the Communist Party? It is a legal party… do you mean a party of people who have sacrificed for my people, and for all Americans and workers, that they can live in dignity?”

Eventually his career did revive and his political commitment remained intact. He never recanted and never retreated.

Sparrow has eloquently portrayed Robeson as a giant of a man who was prepared to kill off his career for his political beliefs. He emphasises that past struggles should inform today’s — we need not just inspiration to act but affiliation to organise and solidarity to withstand.

While Sparrow’s ruminations on his travels can be lengthy and he states his own political views very clearly, this book is nevertheless an interesting introduction. But Paul Robeson Speaks — his writings, speeches and interviews, collected by Philip Foner — and Here I Stand, Robeson’s own memoir, give a fuller insight into this remarkable activist.

Banded darter dragonfly video


This 17 August 2017 video is about a banded darter dragonfly cleaning itself.

Chris Ruijter in the Netherlands made this video.

Worldwide women’s anti-Trump march, new book


This CBS TV video from the USA says about itself:

21 January 2017

Hundreds of thousands attended the Women’s March on Washington to rally and spread their message. CBSN‘s Reena Ninan has the latest on the ground.

By Bernadette Hyland in Britain:

Striking signs of the times from women in revolt

Monday 21st August 2017

Why We March: Signs of Protest and Hope — Voices from the Women’s March

by Various (Artisan Books, £11.99)

WHY We March is a pictorial history of the Women’s March on January 21 this year which took place worldwide.

The book includes 500 photographs, mainly from cities in the US, which demonstrate how millions of women, men and children raised their voices and placards on issues such as reproductive rights, migrant rights, police violence, climate change and feminism.

All the profits from the book are going to Planned Parenthood, the US organisation that provides reproductive health services.

Many of the signs carried by the protesters feature Donald Trump — his ascent to the presidency provoked a groundswell, particularly among women, against the way he flaunted his misogyny and issued threats against women’s rights.

“Trump, illegitimate, ignorant, intolerant, instrument of international interests,” is written on one placard, while a shorter one reads: “Love Trumps Hate.” Another one screams: “I will not go back to the 1950s” …

The homemade signs really stand out, with one child in London clutching a piece of cardboard with the message: “Babies against Bullshit.”

The authors comment that the marches brought a real mixture of ages, ethnicities, religion, sexual orientation, classes and gender identities on to the streets — though I’m not sure how they gauged the economic classes of the marchers — and it would have perhaps been better to tell us a bit more about who was demonstrating, rather than include comments from celebrities such as Helen Mirren and Barbra Streisand.

And missing from the photos are any trade union banners or political parties. Is that because they did not take part or were not chosen to be in the book? Great as it is seeing people expressing their anger at political events, the question remains: What happens next?

Women did march in January in my home city of Manchester but, apart from organising another march and even though austerity has hit women twice as hard as men, we have yet to see women leading an organised fightback.