Trump, Koch brothers war on climate science


This 5 April 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

TRNN Documentary: Trump, The Koch Brothers and Their War on Climate Science

TRNN replay: Narrated by Danny Glover, a documentary special reveals how climate change science has been under systematic attack; the multi-million dollar campaign allowed a climate change denier to be elected president (a new version with updated content and music).

Bloodshed in Libya escalating


Map of Libya

This is an Australian government map of Libya. The whole country is red, meaning ‘Do not travel‘.

Today, Dutch NOS TV reports on the escalation of bloodshed in NATO’s ‘new’ Libya. The proxy war about oil there between the French Macron government and the Italian Salvini government; though the NOS does not call it that.

They write that the paramilitary force of warlord Haftar has reached a point 40 kilometer south of the capital Tripoli, where Haftar’s enemies govern.

They remark that Haftar from the 1980s till 2011 lived in exile in the USA. They don’t mention he was a CIA asset then.

After the 2011 NATO war, including the murder of Colonel Gaddafi, Haftar was back in Libya as boss of one of many outfits killing each other and civilians.

They quote Dutch ‘Libya expert’ Gerbert van der Aa (translated):

[Haftar] “has delusions of grandeur. …

People long for the time when Libya was the richest country in Africa. For most Libyans things went well at the time.”

The militia leader [Haftar] is not known for his respect for human rights. The International Criminal Court is investigating various videos that show how Haftar’s opponents are executed with a shot in the neck. The shooter is still walking around freely despite an international arrest warrant. Haftar does nothing about it.

The NOS article mentions that the Egyptian Sisi dictatorship, the Saudi absolute monarchy and the French Macron administration support Haftar.

Van der Aa expects that the whole European Union will come around to ‘preferring a strongman’ (Haftar).

So, the pretext for the NATO 2011 regime change oil war was that Colonel Gaddafi was a dictator. And now, eight years later, they may welcome a Haftar dictatorship. With the difference that since 2011, slavery, abolished in Libya in the 1850s, has returned. That, since 2011, there are many more torture jails and very many less hospitals with very many less life-saving medicines. That women’s rights have gone down the drain. That many militia men and still more Libyan and refugee civilians have been killed.

European Union Internet censorship, video


This 5 April 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

EU Clamps Down on Freedom of Speech in name of Copyright Protection

Julia Reda of the Pirate Party warns that the law does not protect creators, but large interest groups. Internet platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter will install filters and ban access to material individuals upload who do not buy the rights for everything they use.

Bezos’ Washington Post attacks Bernie Sanders


This 4 April 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Washington Post [owned by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos] Columnist Calls Bernie the “Trump of the Left” in Absurd Hit-Piece

Maybe something to do with this; or this?

This 3 April 2019 video from the USA is called Jake Tapper [of CNN] Acknowledges ‘Bernie 2020‘ Reality.

United States Senate imposes hunger on Puerto Rico


This 12 May 2019 video from the USA is called Hunger in Puerto Rico & Rochester, New York.

By Julio Patron:

US Senate fails to restore sweeping cuts to food assistance for Puerto Rico

5 April 2019

Since a factional battle broke out between Democratic and Republican parties last weekend, the US Senate has failed to pass a disaster relief bill that allocates federal money to recovery projects in all areas of the country recently affected by fires, floods, tropical storms and other natural disasters. The failure to approve this funding has left more than a million Puerto Ricans with drastically-reduced food stamp payments, one year and seven months after Hurricanes Maria and Irma struck the US territory.

The island has faced a severe economic and social crisis for decades, especially after the 2008 recession. However, Hurricane Maria exacerbated the issues by shattering basic infrastructure like the electrical grid, hospitals, homes, highways and schools. An estimated 5,000 individuals died from the direct physical and social impacts of the storm, although the politicians in San Juan and Washington along with their media outlets accepted the ludicrously low initial death count of 64 for months. For many residents, 43.5 percent of whom live below the federal poverty line, daily life can still be a struggle, with power outages, health issues, and difficulty securing a job and education.

The slow progress is a direct result of the insufficient and stalled response of the US government, which has left the fate of the island’s working class to the policies of the ultra-right Trump administration and the bitter conflicts in Congress over scraps they have left for urgent social needs.

As a result of the initial dispute over disaster relief that arose when the House passed the first Democratic Party-sponsored bill in January, the Trump administration and Puerto Rican officials slashed funding for food stamp programs, which initially affected 43 percent of recipients but have slowly spread to all recipients.

By early March, benefits fell by as much as 50 percent for the 1.4 million people out of a total 3.4 million residents who receive food stamp benefits, 300,000 of whom signed up after Hurricane Maria. For those affected, that reduction means living off $200 a month instead of $400 a month.

According to data collection by Professor Hector Cordero-Guzman at the City University of New York, 55 percent of those who saw their benefits cut are children, the elderly and the disabled. Further, 42 percent are looking for work, 15 percent are working and another 17 percent cannot work due to school or family-related obligations. Statistics on federal health coverage programs run parallel to food programs, with 1.3 million residents currently covered by Medicaid.

The restoration of food assistance depends on the disaster relief bill currently in the US Senate, which voted down both the Democratic House bill and the Republican Senate bill on Monday, April 1. Each bill proposes over $10 billion in aid to Puerto Rico and additional states that have been devastated by natural disasters over the previous year, including floods throughout the Midwest, California wildfires, Hurricane Florence on the East Coast and Hurricane Michael on the Gulf Coast.

Democrats blocked the Senate Republican version by a 44–49 vote, as it requires a minimum of 60 votes to pass. This version would have allocated a total of $13.5 billion, with $600 million going to Puerto Rico solely for nutritional assistance. Under the bill’s conditions, no funds were assigned for flood protection and energy grid projects, which are essential for the island’s recovery.

Senate Democrats led the opposition to the Republican bill due to insufficient aid assigned to Puerto Rico, while Republicans have defended their proposals through racist condemnations of the US territory as essentially a second-class portion of America.

President Trump has led the right-wing attacks on the island, suggesting in personal statements that it should not receive any aid due to poor mismanagement of resources by the local government. “Puerto Rico got far more money than Texas & Florida combined,” Trump said in a Twitter tirade on Monday, “yet their government can’t do anything right, the place is a mess—nothing works.”

He defended his position that any government aid to the island should be limited to food stamps. With his usual nationalist rhetoric and ignorance, Trump made clear that the needs of US states come before Puerto Rico, referring to the island as a “place” that Democrats are prioritizing, decisions that are “taking dollars away from our Farmers” and those affected by disasters on the US mainland.

These statements, backed by many Republican senators and congressmen, are intended to mobilize the most backward, racist elements of the party’s base on the mainland against the “foreign”, Spanish-speaking population of the US territory.

For their part, the Democrats have sought to shift all the blame for the lack of attention and resources to Puerto Rico to the Republican Party. In an opinion piece for the New York Daily News on March 31 headlined, “What Trump owes Puerto Rico”, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blamed Senate Republicans and President Trump for being “cruel and nasty” as they prevent “American children and families” from having “every resource needed to fully recover and rebuild their lives and communities.”

However, the House Democrats’ version of the bill only offers around $700 million more in relief aid for Puerto Rico. …

In 2018 the Puerto Rican Government estimated the total cost for a full recovery would be $139 billion, twelve times more than the $11.2 billion it has received so far. The Trump administration has technically allocated $41 billion to distribute “over the life of the disaster”, but this ambiguous time stamp serves as a cover for the US government to issue minimal funds to the island without promising that they will ever pay the full amount, which is already inadequate to cover the full costs of repairs and preventative measures.

The aid proposals from both right-wing parties of the American ruling class propose mere fractions of what will be required to fully restore the island and drastically improve the social and material infrastructure to prevent future disasters.

The assault on Puerto Rico began, first and foremost, with the Obama administration’s Promise Act—also known as PROMESA (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act)—which imposed an economic dictatorship over the island.

It established a non-elected Financial Oversight and Management Board that imposed severe austerity measures even before Hurricane Maria hit the island, as a “solution” to the island’s budget crisis. In the interests of the financial elite on Wall Street, the PROMESA oversight bodies made the Puerto Rican workers pay the full burden of the local government’s nearly $72 billion debt, and later controlled the financial response to the hurricane.

For their part, Puerto Rican politicians and financial executives are cooperative with the US government’s brutal assaults on the working class, or else don’t put up much of a fight against it. Though Governor Ricardo Rosselló and other prominent political figures often criticize the openly ignorant and criminal statements of Washington politicians, they agree with the basic ruling-class drive to open the workers and youth of Puerto Rico to the predatory exploitation of finance capital.

Natural disasters expose the problems inherent to the capitalist system, as the poor and working class is disproportionately burdened with the severe social crisis and loss of life, while the ruling class sees in this crisis an opportunity to exploit the population more ruthlessly. The working class of both Puerto Rico and the American mainland must reject the lies that there are no resources to rebuild every region impacted by natural disasters, not when trillions rest in the hands of corporations, banks and the stock markets.

GOP ATTACKS PUERTO RICO’S RENEWABLES PLAN Republicans on Tuesday pilloried Puerto Rico’s plan to stop burning imported fossil fuels to generate electricity, calling the proposal senseless and opening a new front in an increasingly bitter partisan battle over the storm-ravaged island’s struggle to recover. [HuffPost]

CONGRESS ABANDONS STORM-BATTERED CITIES Lawmakers left town for recess without approving long-delayed relief to several states hit by devastating storms and flooding earlier this year. Republicans and Democrats were unable to reach an agreement on a disaster aid bill because of a partisan standoff over how much financial assistance should go to Puerto Rico, which was slammed by devastating back-to-back hurricanes in 2017. [HuffPost]

A report published this week by the United Nations (UN) shows that over 820 million people across the world suffered from hunger in 2018. The annual report cast doubt on the UN’s purported goal of ending world hunger by 2030, describing it as “an immense challenge.” Last year marked the third year in a row that hunger levels have risen with roughly one in every nine people globally going hungry: here.

Why ostriches, emus cannot fly


This 14 November 2018 video says about itself:

When Birds Stopped Flying

Ratites have spread to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. And there are fossils of Ratites in Europe, Asia, and North America too. That’s a lot of ground to cover for birds that can’t fly. So how did Ratites end up all over the world?

Thanks to Ceri Thomas for the Lithornithid reconstruction.

By Tina Hesman Saey, 2:05pm, April 4, 2019:

How emus and ostriches lost the ability to fly

Changes in regulatory DNA, not gene mutations, are the culprit, scientists say

Evolutionary tweaks to DNA that bosses genes around may have grounded some birds.

New genetic analyses show that mutations in regulatory DNA caused ratite birds to lose the ability to fly up to five separate times over their evolution, researchers report in the April 5 Science. Ratites include emus, ostriches, kiwis, rheas, cassowaries, tinamous and extinct moa and elephant birds. Only tinamous can fly.

Regulatory DNA gets its name because it’s involved in regulating when and where genes are turned on and off. It doesn’t contain instructions for making proteins. Researchers have long debated whether big evolutionary changes, such as gaining or losing a trait like flight, occur mostly because of mutations to protein-making genes tied to the trait, or result mainly from tweaks to the more mysterious regulatory DNA.

Revealing the importance of regulatory DNA in shaping evolution could shed light on how closely related species with the same genes, such as chimps and humans or moas and tinamous, can develop vastly different looks and abilities.

Scientists have tended to stress the importance of protein-coding changes affecting the evolution of various traits in many organisms. Examples are relatively easy to find. For instance, a previous study of flightless Galápagos cormorants suggested that mutations in a single gene shrank the birds’ wings (SN: 6/11/16, p. 11).

In general, mutations that alter proteins are likely to be more damaging than changes to regulatory DNA, and thus easier to spot, says Camille Berthelot, an evolutionary geneticist at the French national medical research institute INSERM in Paris. A protein may be involved in many biological processes throughout the body. “So everywhere this protein is [made], there’s going to be consequences,” she says.

By contrast, many pieces of DNA may be involved in regulating a gene’s activity, and each may work in only one or a few types of tissue. That reduces the damage that changing one regulatory segment might have, rendering those bits of DNA easy targets for evolution’s experiments. But, at the same time, it also makes it much harder to determine when regulatory DNA is actually involved in big evolutionary changes, says evolutionary geneticist Megan Phifer-Rixey of Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J. Those pieces of DNA don’t all look alike and may have changed a lot from species to species.

Evolutionary biologist Scott Edwards of Harvard University and colleagues got around that problem by deciphering the genetic instruction books, or genomes, of 11 species of birds, eight of them flightless. The researchers then lined up those genomes alongside already completed genomes from birds including ostriches, white-throated tinamous, North Island brown kiwis and Emperor and Adélie penguins as well as 25 flying bird species.

The researchers were looking for stretches of regulatory DNA that hadn’t changed much over the course of the birds’ evolution, an indication that the DNA performs an important function. Among 284,001 shared, relatively unchanging stretches of regulatory DNA, the researchers found 2,355 that had accumulated more mutations than expected in ratite birds, but not in other bird lineages. The plethora of mutations indicates that those bits of regulatory DNA are evolving faster than other parts of the genome, and may have lost their original functions. Tracking when evolutionary accelerations happened led the researchers to conclude that ratites lost flight at least three times and possibly as many as five times.

Those regulatory DNA bits tended to be located near genes involved in limb development, an indication that they might tweak gene activity to produce smaller wings. The team tested the ability of one such regulatory DNA bit, called an enhancer, to turn on a gene in developing embryonic chicken wings. A version of the enhancer from elegant-crested tinamous — which can fly — turned on the gene, but a version of that same enhancer from the flightless greater rhea didn’t. That result indicates that changes in that enhancer disabled its wing-development function and might have contributed to flightlessness in rheas, the scientists say.

One current hypothesis for why ratites, except tinamous, are flightless is that the ancestor of all the species had lost the ability fly, and tinamous later regained it. “We simply don’t think that’s very plausible,” Edwards says. Rather, the ancestor of ratites probably could fly and tinamous retained that ability, while related birds lost the ability, mostly because of changes in regulatory DNA, he says. “My hunch is that it’s relatively easy to lose flight,” he says.

Aside from in the ancestor of birds, flight has evolved only a few times: in pterosaurs, in bats, and perhaps a couple of times in insects, Edwards says. Birds have lost flight multiple times. There are no known examples of regaining flight once it has been lost, he says.

The researchers also found that more than 200 protein-coding genes were evolving — building up mutations — faster than expected in flightless ratites, but those genes tended to be related to metabolism rather than shrinking wings. Those protein-coding changes aren’t as important for loss of flight as the regulatory DNA changes, the researchers conclude.

The evidence doesn’t convince evolutionary biologist Luisa Pallares of Princeton University. “This paper is playing an old game,” she says, pitting regulatory DNA changes against protein-coding ones for evolutionary importance. “I personally don’t see a point in doing that.” Both happen and may be equally important in shaping evolution, she says.