Irish kingfishers feeding, video

This 26 June 2019 video from Ireland is about kingfishers feeding.

Dutch queen criticized for Saudi prince meeting

This 20 June 2019 video says about itself:

Khashoggi killing: UN report demands investigation into Saudi Prince Bin Salman | DW News

A new report by UN human rights expert Agnes Callamard looking into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has recommended an investigation into the possible role of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). Jamal Khashoggi was killed in October last year at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in Turkey. Now Agnes Callamard says there must be a follow-up criminal investigation into any role Crown Prince bin Salman may have played.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

‘UN rapporteur expresses strong criticism after meeting of [Dutch Queen] Máxima with Saudi crown prince

The UN rapporteur investigating the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has strongly criticized the meeting between Queen Máxima and Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. To [Dutch daily] Algemeen Dagblad, UN rapporteur Agnes Callamard accuses the queen of complicity by not discussing the Khashoggi case with the prince.

This tweet is about that meeting at the Osaka G20 summit between Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia and Dutch Queen Máxima, born in Argentina, the daughter of a dictatorship minister.

The sarcastic caption says, translated:

MBS: How did they disappear people in Argentina? Máxima: They were thrown from helicopters. MBS: Oh, we use bone saws.

Queen Máxima spoke to Mohammed bin Salman during the G20 summit in Japan. The two discussed, eg, improving the economic position of women in Saudi Arabia.

Dear Queen Maxima: before the Saudi women activists who made driving cars for women possible can even think of improving their economic position, then first: 1. The crown prince regime’s torturers will have to stop torturing them. 2. They will have to be freed from death row in prison. 3. The threat of them getting the death penalty by beheading for so-called ‘terrorism’ has to stop.

The murder of Khashoggi has not been discussed, the Dutch Government Information Service said earlier. The journalist was killed last year in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Callamard tells the AD that she finds it incomprehensible that Máxima did not raise the issue. “It is one thing to meet this man, it is something else to remain silent. At this point, silence equals complicity.”

Earlier this week a UN report appeared that there is convincing evidence that the prince is involved in the murder of the journalist. Callamard wants an international investigation to be launched into Mohammed bin Salman. She also called on countries to have sanctions against Saudi Arabia and the crown prince.

Callamard is clear about not raising the case. “If you do not speak and do not demand justice, it suggests that you have no scruples. Silence, turning a blind eye, a ‘business as usual approach’ towards the increasingly aggressive tactics of too many autocrats: those are not the characteristics of leadership that we should expect.”

Ministry informed

Máxima was at the Osaka Summit as a special United Nations advocate for inclusive financing. The conversation with the crown prince was primarily intended as preparatory work for the next G20 in Saudi Arabia, next November.

When asked about the story in the AD, Callamard informed Nieuwsuur TV news that people in high positions with moral or political authority should not close their eyes to injustice, abuse of power, war crimes or other matters. “Because of the power and influence they have, they have to use their voice where others cannot.”

“Criticism on the rise”

“The criticism of the meeting of the queen with the crown prince is growing even more with this”, says Royal House reporter Kysia Hekster. “Máxima’s UN job must be neutral, but she has now ended up in political waters. That is detrimental to her position.”

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs says the ministry was aware of the meeting between the queen and the prince. “That is usual with international performances by members of the Royal Family.”

Last October, Minister Hoekstra and Minister Kaag canceled their visits to Saudi Arabia because of the murder of Khashoggi. Dutch King Willem-Alexander called his death “a very serious matter”.

Astonishment in parliament

The House of Representatives was surprised by the meeting yesterday. “Anyone who approved this conversation between Queen Máxima and the Saudi crown prince, doesn’t understand anything about diplomacy and even less about optics,” writes MP Sjoerdsma of [government coalition party] D66.

Socialist Party Member of Parliament Karabulut wonders what the purpose of the conversation was. “Is it really true that she did not talk about the murder of journalist Khashoggi? Incomprehensible”, she writes on Twitter.

On Monday, the Lower House will hold a previously planned consultation on human rights policy. D66, GroenLinks and SP announce that they will discuss Queen Máxima’s conversation with the Saudi crown prince there.

Queen Máxima also had a private talk with Donald Trump. This tweet shows Queen Máxima with Trump, his daughter Ivanka, etc.

According to Saudi media, the crown prince had ‘spoken with the Dutch queen about cooperation between both kingdoms.’

Queen Máxima should be ashamed about this: here.

Platitudes at the G20 can’t mask a world on the brink of war: here.

Dinosaurs extinct, lichens survived

This 25 January 2018 video says about itself:

What’s in a Lichen? How Scientists Got It Wrong for 150 Years | Short Film Showcase

For 150 years, scientists believed lichen were defined by a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and algae. Meet the team of researchers who upended this belief in this short film by Andy Johnson, Talia Yuki Moore, Chris A. Johns, and Kate Furby.

From the Field Museum in the USA:

When the dinosaurs died, lichens thrived

Mass extinction hurt land plants, but DNA shows that some fungus/plant combo organisms rose up

June 28, 2019

Summary: When the asteroid hit, dinosaurs weren’t the only ones that suffered. Clouds of ash blocked the sun and cooled the planet’s temperature, devastating plant life. But fungi, which decompose dead stuff, did well. So what happened to the lichens, which are made of a plant and fungus living together as one organism?

When an asteroid smacked into the Earth 66 million years ago, it triggered mass extinctions all over the planet. The most famous victims were the dinosaurs, but early birds, insects, and other life forms took a hit too. The collision caused clouds of ash to block the sun and cool the planet’s temperature, devastating plant life. But a new study in Scientific Reports shows that while land plants struggled, some kinds of lichens — organisms made of fungi and algae living together — seized the moment and evolved into new forms to take up plants’ role in the ecosystem.

“We thought that lichens would be affected negatively, but in the three groups we looked at, they seized the chance and diversified rapidly,” says Jen-Pang Huang, the paper’s first author, a former postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum now at Academia Sinica in Taipei. “Some lichens grow sophisticated 3D structures like plant leaves, and these ones filled the niches of plants that died out.”

The researchers got interested in studying the effects of the mass extinction on lichens after reading a paper about how the asteroid strike also caused many species of early birds to go extinct. “I read it on the train, and I thought, ‘My god, the poor lichens, they must have suffered too, how can we trace what happened to them?'” says Thorsten Lumbsch, senior author on the study and the Field Museum’s curator of lichenized fungi.

You’ve seen lichens a million times, even if you didn’t realize it. “Lichens are everywhere,” says Huang. “If you go on a walk in the city, the rough spots or gray spots you see on rocks or walls or trees, those are common crust lichens. On the ground, they sometimes look like chewing gum. And if you go into a more pristine forest, you can find orange, yellow, and vivid violet colors — lichens are really pretty.” They’re what scientists call “symbiotic organisms” — they’re made up of two different life forms sharing one body and working together. They’re a partnership between a fungus and an organism that can perform photosynthesis, making energy from sunlight — either a tiny algae plant, or a special kind of blue-green bacterium. Fungi, which include mushrooms and molds, are on their own branch on the tree of life, separate from plants and animals (and actually more closely related to us than to plants). The main role of fungi is to break down decomposing material.

During the mass extinction 66 million years ago, plants suffered since ash from the asteroid blocked out sunlight and lowered temperatures. But the mass extinction seemed to be a good thing for fungi — they don’t rely on sunlight for food and just need lots of dead stuff, and the fossil record shows an increase in fungal spores at this time. Since lichens contain a plant and a fungus, scientists wondered whether they were affected negatively like a plant or positively like a fungus.

“We originally expected lichens to be affected in a negative way, since they contain green things that need light,” says Huang.

To see how lichens were affected by the mass extinction, the scientists had to get creative — there aren’t many fossil lichens from that time frame. But while the researchers didn’t have lichen fossils, they did have lots of modern lichen DNA.

From observing fungi growing in lab settings, scientists know generally how often genetic mutations show up in fungal DNA — how frequently a letter in the DNA sequence accidentally gets switched during the DNA copying process. That’s called the mutation rate. And if you know the mutation rate, if you compare the DNA sequences of two different species, you can generally extrapolate how long ago they must have had a common ancestor with the same DNA.

The researchers fed DNA sequences of three families of lichens into a software program that compared their DNA and figured out what their family tree must look like, including estimates of how long ago it branched into the groups we see today. They bolstered this information with the few lichen fossils they did have, from 100 and 400 million years ago. And the results pointed to a lichen boom after 66 million years ago, at least for some of the leafier lichen families.

“Some groups don’t show a change, so they didn’t suffer or benefit from the changes to the environment,” says Lumbsch, who in addition to his work on lichens is the Vice President of Science and Education at the Field. “Some lichens went extinct, and the leafy macrolichens filled those niches. I was really happy when I saw that not all the lichens suffered.”

The results underline how profoundly the natural world we know today was shaped by this mass extinction. “If you could go back 40 million years, the most prominent groups in vegetation, birds, fungi — they’d be more similar to what you see now than what you’d see 70 million years ago,” says Lumbsch. “Most of what we see around us nowadays in nature originated after the dinosaurs.”

And since this study shows how lichens responded to mass extinction 66 million years ago, it could shed light on how species will respond to the mass extinction the planet is currently undergoing. “Before we lose the world’s biodiversity, we should document it, because we don’t know when we’ll need it,” says Huang. “Lichens are environmental indicators — by simply doing a biodiversity study, we can infer air quality and pollution levels.”

Beyond the potential implications in understanding environmental impacts and mass extinctions, the researchers point to the ways the study deepens our understanding of the world around us.

“For me, it’s fascinating because you would not be able to do this without large molecular datasets. This would have been impossible ten years ago,” says Lumbsch. “It’s another piece to the puzzle to understanding what’s around us in nature.”

“We expect a lot of patterns from studying other organisms, but fungi don’t follow the pattern. Fungi are weird,” says Huang. “They’re really unpredictable, really diverse, really fun.”

This study was contributed to by researchers from the Field Museum, Kasetsart University, Brigham Young University, and Academia Sinica.

Women’s football World Cup, the Netherlands-Italy

As this video says, today, in Valenciennes in France, there is the Women’s football World Cup quarter finals match between the Netherlands and Italy.

These videos show the Dutch supporters marching to the stadium.

More Dutch supporters.

Interview with Dutch women international women’s team players from decades axgo, now fans (and trainer of Trias footbal club in Winterswijk): here.

Yet more Dutch supporters. A report about them is here.

There will be English spectators as well.

This video is a summary of the match: The Netherlands 2-Italy 0. Goals by Vivianne Miedema and Stefanie van der Gragt.

Many far-right police officers in the USA

This 2 September 2016 video about the USA says about itself:

This Philadelphia cop was seen sporting a racist Nazi tattoo on his arm at a Black Lives Matter movement rally. Ousted as a white supremacist, he is also a listed member of an international network of neo-Nazi organizations.

By Jacob Crosse in the USA:

Social media investigations unearth hundreds of police officers in the US involved in fascist or racist groups

29 June 2019

Two separate social media investigations completed within the last month have identified hundreds of police and correctional officers that were or are currently members of right-wing extremist groups on Facebook or who have posted violent, racist or fascistic content on the platform. Screenshots compiled in both investigations show officers posting original racist and fascist content on their personal Facebook walls, in private groups such as the Oath Keepers, Confederate Brotherhood or the “NORTH AMERICAN DEFENCE LEAGUE AGAINST ISLAM”, and also on public news posts.

Each research project positively identified active-duty officers in departments throughout the country, leading to over 50 separate investigations. In St. Louis, Missouri, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, over 100 officers have been either put on paid leave, suspended, or relegated to desk duty, pending internal investigations. However, many more departments have chosen to simply ignore the findings.

The Plain View Project (PVP) was the culmination of a nearly two year investigation beginning in the fall of 2017, and conducted by Philadelphia based attorneys. During the summer of 2016 the group of attorneys, led by lawyer Emily Baker-White, became aware of dozens of Facebook posts of current Philadelphia police officers that had endorsed violence, racism and bigotry. The PVP obtained the published rosters of police officers employed by eight departments in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Dallas and Denison, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; York, Pennsylvania; and finally, Twin Falls, Idaho.

Using the lists, the PVP team searched Facebook for the officers’ names and when they could positively link an active account to a police officer the name was added to the PVP database. In many cases officers posted pictures of themselves in uniform, discussing arrests or performing other police related duties. Through this process the PVP verified over 3,500 Facebook accounts and compiled more than 5,000 screenshots with images, posts or comments made by officers that “could undermine public trust and confidence in the police.” Through the PVP website, users are able to search by name, rank, jurisdiction, pay-grade, badge number or specific keywords.

A second research project, conducted by Reveal journalists Will Careless and Michael Corey, sought to discover how many police officers nationwide were members of right-wing “extremist” Facebook groups. Using a list of more than 1,200 extremist groups compiled by Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University, the journalists downloaded the private membership lists of the groups before Facebook disabled this feature in 2018. They then proceeded to download the membership lists of self-identified police groups and loaded the approximately one million names into a database which cross-examined the lists to see which profiles appeared in at least one extremist group and one police group.

This resulted in over 14,000 matches or “hits”. The journalists did not comb through every single match, instead just focusing on “a fraction of the list to vet.” Similar to the PVP, law enforcement officers’ identity and employment was verified by reviewing their biographies, photos or matching names to public police records. The journalists identified nearly 400 users they confirmed are either currently employed as police officers, sheriffs or correctional officers or had previously worked in law enforcement.

The totality of each investigation confirms the vast promotion and acceptance of fascistic ideology within police departments throughout the country.

The officers identified have worked at all levels of law enforcement, from patrolmen to detectives and even several captains. It is not a localized phenomenon, the cops identified work in rural jurisdictions from West Virginia to Washington and in urban cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago. Officers in the Reveal investigation were part of several right-wing anti-government militia groups, including over 150 officers who were or are currently members of the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. Earlier this week members of the Oath Keepers, in conjunction with the Oregon Republican party, forced the state legislature to shut down following violent threats.

These two groups have been seen at several rallies organized by white supremacist groups, including the 2017 Unite the Right fascist rampage in which 32-year-old Heather Heyer was murdered by neo-Nazi James Fields. Fields, who also injured 35 others when he rammed his vehicle into the crowd of counter-protesters, was sentenced to life in prison on federal hate crime charges on Friday. Fields had pleaded guilty earlier this year to 29 federal hate crime charges to avoid the death penalty. In December 2018, Fields was also convicted on state charges, including first-degree murder, for which a jury recommended that he spend life plus 419 years in state prison.

In addition to anti-government right-wing militias, hundreds of officers belonged to openly Islamophobic groups or frequently posted content denigrating Muslims in general. Several officers were former veterans, who brought their experiences, tactics and state-sanctioned racism to their departments. Others, such as Sgt. Michael Vincent of the Philadelphia Police Dept., badge number 8706, shared memes comparing the refugee crisis caused by imperialist wars and interventions to a fox raiding a chicken coop, extolling his friends and followers to “Stop the invasion of Islam to the free world!”

While both investigations focused primarily on police officers, prison guards and corrections officers were also identified. Geoffrey Crosby, a prison guard at the barbaric Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, belongs to 56 different extremist groups, 45 of which are Confederate in nature, such as “Confederate Resistance: , or “REBELS RULES, the south will rise again .!!” Crosby also claimed membership in anti-Muslim groups such as “Stop Radical Islam in America”. Crosby, who was reached by phone by Reveal, declined to be interviewed but instead advised reporters not to “call me at work again”. The Louisiana Department of Corrections emailed the independent investigative news outlet to state an investigation into Crosby is open and ongoing.

Sheldon Best, a Wisconsin corrections officer at Jackson Correctional Institution in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, is still a member of a group named “Crusades Against Degeneracy”, which frequently posts racist, Islamophobic, homophobic and anti-Semitic content. In an interview with Reveal, Best admitted that “some people” could view his membership in the hate group as problematic; however, he stated that he did not hold any prejudiced views. On a 2017 National Public Radio article posted in the group regarding demographic changes within US census results, Best opined that whites will remain the majority of adults in the United States due to “minority on minority homicide”. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has not responded to Reveal’s inquiries regarding any pending investigation into Best.

Another group which claimed membership from police officers around the country, including officer John Valdez of the Los Angeles Police Department, is the anti-communist “Anti-SJW Pinochet’s Helicopter Pilot Academy.” Members of the group shared helicopter memes depicting the extrajudicial murder of 75 people during the 1973 US backed coup in a positive light and frequently posted violent threats against Democrats, socialists and communists.

The whipping up and promotion of these attitudes within the state police is a stark warning to the working class. The far-right militia movements have been actively infiltrating police departments and prison guard units, and have been allowed to fester and recruit whether the local leadership is white, black, gay or straight, in the Democratic coastal states and the Republican interior. Both parties in the ruling class have overseen the mammoth expansion of repressive federal agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CPB) while also allowing the transfer of military equipment to departments around the country, which have been used against all members of the working class regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.

Baker-White has said she began PVP with the aim of spurring nationwide reforms in policing. “I hope that police departments make changes to increase accountability, but also to try to shift culture,” she told the Washington Post .

Her call for reforms is misguided at best. The reactionary role of the police stems not from the personal political opinions or racism of individual cops, but the other way around. Their backwardness is the product of their function as defenders of the capitalist status quo of exploitation and record social inequality.

The police are recruited and trained for this purpose. In many cases their experience in the military, and in the Middle East in particular, has encouraged the views they post on Facebook. The adult lives of the current generation of police have been spent while the US has been engaged in a continuous war from the first Persian Gulf War, through to the current preparations for war against Iran, Russia and China.

Undoubtedly the incessant tweets of the fascistic President Donald Trump have also produced a climate in which many of the cops see no particular reason why they should not express themselves in language not that different from that used by the White House.

Far more than Trump is behind this, however. The Democrats’ alternative is calls for the censorship of the internet, targeting left-wing and socialist websites under the guise of combating “Russian meddling”. In response to the unmistakable signs of growing class struggle—strikes involving teachers, auto workers, flight attendants and many others—the ruling class is turning more and more to authoritarian forms of rule, including the unleashing of the police, armed with the weapons of war, against the working class.

This is an international process, as shown by Germany, where the ruling coalition has adopted much of the agenda of the ultra-right Alternative for Germany (AfD); in France, where President Macron has praised the World War II-era Nazi collaborator Philippe Pétain while unleashing the police against “yellow vest” protesters; and in the emergence of neo-fascist and dictatorial regimes on every continent.