Moroccan Amazon worker speaks out


Ex-Amazon worker Ismaila N’Diaye and his wife, Khoukoud

By Will Morrow:

Amazon is a murderer and has to be stopped”

Amazon call center worker in Rabat, Morocco speaks out against company harassment

13 July 2019

The World Socialist Web Site spoke this week to Ismaila N’Diaye, a 32-year-old former Amazon customer service employee at the RBA1 facility located in Rabat, Morocco.

Ismaila contacted the WSWS recently after he read about the experience of injured homeless Amazon worker Shannon Allen in Texas. In the past year, he says, the life of his family has been torn apart by Amazon. His wife, herself a former Amazon employee, suffered a miscarriage last August due to workplace stress from excessive quotas and management pressure, an event that has left them both suffering depression. They have been bankrupted and were forced in January to flee Morocco to escape crushing debts. Since January, they have been living in Istanbul, Turkey.

We have to make sure that what happened to me doesn’t continue to others,” Ismaila said, explaining that this was why he wanted to share his story. “Amazon killed my child. It must be stopped.”

Amazon bases its French-language customer service centers in Africa and the Maghreb in order to exploit cheap labor conditions and local tax concessions. It maintains call centers in Rabat, as well as Tunis, the Tunisian capital, and Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and in Madagascar. The wage for a starting customer service employee at RBA1, which employs around 600 people, is approximately €500 a month, or roughly 40 percent of France’s minimum wage.

Ismaila was born in Senegal and moved to Morocco in 2012. He speaks French and English fluently. When he started working at Amazon in 2015, at the age of 28, he said he was excited by the prospect of working for the largest e-commerce company in the world and believed he could secure a stable career. He was so committed to his job that he won an Amazon employee prize based on customer feedback. After a year, he was transferred to a more specialized division and received a small pay rise.

“The more I got into the job, however, I realized how much there is management harassment and no respect or care for the employees,” he said.

In the workrooms where employees take calls at RAB1, a whiteboard lists the daily quotas for responding to customer queries, including speaking with five customers per hour. “But in practice they are pushing the employees to go up to 100 per day because there are not enough staff,” Ismaila said. The managers do not know how to train or assist the staff, but instead harass workers about their targets. “Your customer satisfaction is down. The number of emails is too low.”

The staff spend eight to 10 hours on the phone and have a water bottle next to them—but are not allowed to go to the bathroom. “If you want to go to the toilet you have to write a message to a ‘Real Time Analyst’, who will come to your desk, and often say they won’t respond to the request.” There is a single one-hour break, but the break area is too small for the employees, so they sit outside in the cold or in the summer heat. “It was just exploitation,” Ismaila said. “Pure exploitation.”

Eventually, last year Ismaila decided to lodge a complaint. “I told HR that the employees are suffering,” he said. “That’s when my problems began. The managers did everything to make work a nightmare for me and my wife.”

It was shortly after, in June, that Ismaila’s wife, Khoukoud, became aware of her pregnancy. Although Amazon’s human resources department and the company nurse were informed of the pregnancy, they provided no medical support or reduction in work requirements. “They continued asking her to do more, to reply to more emails than before,” Ismaila explained. “She was not eating correctly and had low energy.” His wife told the manager that she had always exceeded Amazon’s quota, but now that she is pregnant, she could not continue to do more than what is required of her.

“The manager did not listen. Every day he put pressure on her. He took her into a separate room to inquire about her results. Once it was to inform her that on a 15-minute break, she had taken 16 minutes.”

In August, Khoukoud’s pregnancy became complicated. “We had the right to be recommended to a clinic, to have a doctor see the wife, check the baby, and get the medicine she needed.” If Amazon’s medical team had recommended a hospital visit, the health insurance would have covered the fees up front. “She got no leave from work. They left us totally on our own. They put pressure on her. It was retaliation against anyone who protests. They don’t want you to talk, just to do what they say.”

That month the pregnancy underwent further complications. “Finally, the baby died inside her due to the stress she was under.”

Khoukoud received 30 days leave from Amazon only after the surgery following her miscarriage. She received no money, and the insurance company would not pay back the expensive medical fees for repeated visits until three months later. Over the same period, however, Ismaila had an injury of his own on August 21, and was unable to work.

“I had had an allergic burn reaction to a skin treatment. We were completely collapsed. We were stressed and at home. A doctor from the company came to our door from Amazon—not to check on us, but to try to catch me and make sure I was really sick enough to be at home.”

Not only did they not receive any sick pay, but for the period from August 1-21 that Ismaila did work, he received none of the wages he was owed. The day his co-workers received their paycheck at the end of the month, Ismaila drove to Amazon to ask why he had received nothing. “I was told that if an employee misses 10 days a month, they receive no salary or benefit at all. I said, ‘What is that law?’ It is slavery. I had never heard anything about it before. I posted this on Twitter—an empty payroll. It even said I owed Amazon money.”

“But since there is no law in Morocco, that’s why Amazon goes to invest there,” he said. “That’s why they’re there, in Tunis, in Senegal. They want to exploit more people, use more people, and kill more.”

Last September, management fired Ismaila, claiming he had failed to meet his quotas. In November and December, the situation for the family became more desperate, with rising medical fees and increasing days lost from work without pay. He appealed unsuccessfully against his firing to Amazon’s ethics board and to the Moroccan state’s work inspection board.

“They’re actually together,” he said. “When I went to the government work inspection, there was an Amazon representative in the office as I arrived.”

In January, they decided they had no choice but to leave Morocco and move to Istanbul. “We had a loan with the bank for our car, and my wife had another loan. We had nowhere left to stay. We were bankrupt. We would have gone to jail because we had no way to pay anything. If we return we will be arrested at the airport because we cannot pay our mortgage. Amazon has made a fugitive of me in Morocco.”

“Amazon is a murderer,” he concluded. “It is a danger to the people. It must be stopped. They are killing people’s babies. They are making people mentally ill. They are making us homeless. Then they kick them out after exploiting them for years.”

Jeff Bezos gets $30,000 in 10 seconds. An employee cannot get that even in one year. We are told about Amazon’s progress. But it is not robots or Jeff Bezos doing that. It’s humans—workers. It’s not Jeff Bezos answering the phone, responding to customers, selecting packages. The employees go through all this while he gets richer and richer. Jeff Bezos is a murderer standing on the bones of children.”

“The reason there are billionaires is because they’re getting the part of what is made by a big number of people. These people are monsters. That’s why they’re billionaires.”

He said that he hoped that sharing his story with the World Socialist Web Site would help to expose Amazon’s practices and contribute to organizing a fight back by workers around the world.

“We need an international organization,” he said, commenting on the call by the WSWS for the formation of independent rank-and-file workplace committees to unify the struggles of Amazon workers internationally and link up with other sections of the working class.

“It would be very important for the employees to have something totally independent that will represent the employees internationally. And not only at Amazon, but at a lot of companies. The labor of the people is international and we face the same thing everywhere.”

Dutch author criticizes Steiner schools


This video from Britain says about itself:

BBC Newsnight – Full Programme on Steiner Schools, Racism and Bullying

This is the full programme, including the debate after the report, shown on BBC Newsnight on the 31st of July 2014.

From the BBC: “They’ve been popular for decades among the more liberal and bohemian – or some would say wacky – middle classes. Sandra Bullock and Robin van Persie are both former students. But Newsnight has learned that complaints were made to the Department for Education – that in some of these privately funded schools teachers said they thought bullying was part of how kids “worked out their karma” – and in one school, there were problems with racism linked directly to the Steiner philosophy. But since the government received these complaints, it agreed to fund three new Steiner free schools. Chris Cook has the story.”

Our analysis of what was discussed can be found here.

Saskia Noort is a well-known Dutch author.

In a 13 July 2019 column in Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad, she wrote (translated):

It seems so beautiful, children jumping over fire or water with flower wreaths in their hair, singing hand in hand, in a meadow surrounded by happy parents. Who does not want that for their own offspring, in these times of tough performance pressure, stressed teachers and increasingly cutting back on physical education and creative subjects. …

In my old village Bergen (North Holland province) the SUVs are arranged in rows at the Adriaan Roland Holst [Steiner] School to bring the unvaccinated offspring. “Steiner school children have special parents”, Tommy Wieringa once said, and that’s right. More specifically, white parents. The pupils have “less often a non-Western migration background,” the Volkskrant daily writes euphemistically. The fact is that the Dutch word neger

in English, somewhere between ‘negro’ and ‘nigger’

was used for a long time at the Steiner schools: “Negroes [Neger] are in the development phase of a child between 0 and 7”, says Rudolf Steiner, founder of anthroposophy. My niece, with a black father, was not allowed into the family cradle by my anthroposophical aunt 25 years ago, because “if a pregnant woman encounters too many black people, her child might also get negroid characteristics.” …

Steiner schools are not only critical of ‘race mixing’, but also of vaccination.

In the Netherlands, the most prominent anti-vaxxers are on the one hand, anthroposophists; on the other hand, Christian right fundamentalist Calvinist protestants.

In my old village, the vaccination rate is remarkably low. Only 86.7 percent of children under 2 were vaccinated and that is far below the national average of 93 percent. Steiner believes that children’s diseases are not necessarily bad, and even help with their development. Anthroposophical youth doctor Rineke Boerwinkel claims that anthroposophical parents “simply ask more questions”. “These people are used to thinking for themselves.”

From the anthroposophical perspective on the development of children, namely that a soul reincarnates and slowly descends when the child is born. A childhood illness could help to compensate for karmic deficits from a previous life. “Overcoming childhood diseases can contribute to the development of the child.”

I thought I would like to touch on these two things before all those special, thoughtful pro-diversity parents think that they are bringing their child to a left-wing bubble school. The only other place where people during the solstice jumped over a fire was in the garden of the widow Rost van Tonningen.

Dutch neo-nazi activist. Widow of the second deputy leader of the Dutch nazi party during the 1940-1945 German nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

Just think about that, with your daisies in your hair.

‘Militarism damages United States people’


This 12 July 2019 video by United States congresswoman and Democratic party presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard says about itself:

End wasteful regime change wars and new cold war to invest at home

Foreign policy is inseparable from domestic issues because as long as we are wasting trillions of dollars on regime change wars, the new cold war & nuclear arms race, we will not have the money for infrastructure, health care, clean water, education, and other needs of our people.

US billionaire Epstein, child abuse and money


This 12 July 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Taina Bien-Aimé on Jeffrey Epstein’s Arrest, Alex Acosta, Fighting Sexual Trafficking and More

Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, discusses the recent arrest of Jeffrey Epstein and how it is related to her efforts to end sexual trafficking.

By David Walsh in the USA:

The case of Jeffrey Epstein and the depravity of America’s financial elite

13 July 2019

The resignation Friday of Alexander Acosta, Donald Trump’s secretary of labor, is the latest development in the widening scandal surrounding American financier and “money manager for the super-rich” Jeffrey Epstein. On July 6, Epstein was arrested at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport and two days later charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy to traffic minors for sex.

Acosta was forced out of office because of his role in 2007, as US attorney for Southern Florida, in organizing a sweetheart deal for Epstein, then facing a 53-page indictment and the possibility of a 45-year sentence in federal prison on sex trafficking charges involving dozens of underage girls. Federal authorities accused Epstein, according to the Miami Herald in November 2018, of “assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls—with the help of young female recruiters—to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day.”

“The eccentric hedge fund manager”, the Herald observed, “whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, was also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show.”

The deal agreed to by Acosta provided for Epstein to plead guilty to only two prostitution charges in state court. The plea deal included granting the multi-millionaire, along with several named co-conspirators and any unnamed “potential co-conspirators”, immunity from all federal charges. The agreement, “called a non-prosecution agreement”, reported the Herald, “essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes.”

Moreover, despite a federal law banning such an action, Acosta agreed that information about the agreement would be kept secret from the alleged victims. As a result, the deal was sealed “until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls—or anyone else—might show up in court and try to derail it.”

Epstein was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Instead of serving time in a state prison, he was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County Jail, from which he was released—again, against regulations— to work in his office up to 12 hours a day, six days a week. Upon his release after 13 months, he went back to his financial operations without skipping a beat.

There seems little doubt that Epstein is guilty of serious crimes. This is not an instance of “over-sensitivity” on the part of alleged victims or a case involving sexually ambiguous or confusing situations, much less … witch-hunting for career advancement, revenge or other motives.

By all accounts, Epstein, to satisfy his and others’ sexual or psychological needs, deliberately set out to prey on the poor and defenseless. Courtney Wild, who says she was 14 when she met Epstein, told the Miami Herald, “Jeffrey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were basically homeless. He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right.”

The newspaper later adds, “Most of the girls came from disadvantaged families, single-parent homes or foster care. Some had experienced troubles that belied their ages: They had parents and friends who committed suicide; mothers abused by husbands and boyfriends; fathers who molested and beat them. One girl had watched her stepfather strangle her 8-year-old stepbrother, according to court records obtained by the Herald

“‘We were stupid, poor children’, said one woman, who did not want to be named because she never told anyone about Epstein. At the time, she said, she was 14 and a high school freshman. ‘We just wanted money for school clothes, for shoes. I remember wearing shoes too tight for three years in a row. We had no family and no guidance, and we were told that we were going to just have to sit in a room topless and he was going to just look at us. It sounded so simple, and was going to be easy money for just sitting there.’”

Epstein, despite the seriousness of his crimes, was protected for years by his influential friends and maintained his connections to the rich and powerful.

Epstein’s rise says a great deal about American society in the past four decades in particular, and what it says amounts to an ugly and harsh indictment. A fawning 2002 feature article (“Jeffrey Epstein: International Moneyman of Mystery”) in New York magazine, a publication devoted to the worship of wealth and celebrity, provided a picture of how Epstein, from a relatively humble background in Brooklyn, made his way into America’s elite.

While teaching high school physics and calculus in Manhattan, Epstein came to the attention of Abe Greenberg, a senior partner at investment bank Bear Stearns. Greenberg, observed New York, “has long made it clear that it’s the hungry, brilliant guys lacking the fancy degrees that he favors at Bear. They even have an acronym: PSDs—poor, smart, and a deep desire to be rich. It was a description that fit Epstein to a T. He was a Brooklyn guy with a motor for a brain, and while he did love teaching, this close-up view of the rarefied Upper East Side life of his students gave him a taste for the big time.”

Epstein started at Bear Stearns as an assistant to a floor trader at the American Stock Exchange. He quickly found his lucrative niche in the world of Wall Street swindling. “At the time, options trading was an arcane and dimly understood field, just beginning to take off,” explained New York. Epstein possessed the mathematical skills to master the field. “Within just a few years he had his own stable of clients.”

He founded a firm of his own in 1982, J. Epstein & Co. “The premise behind it was simple: Epstein would manage the individual and family fortunes of clients with $1 billion or more… He would take total control of the billion dollars, charge a flat fee, and assume power of attorney to do whatever he thought was necessary to advance his client’s financial cause. And he remained true to the $1 billion entry fee. According to people who know him, if you were worth $700 million and felt the need for the services of Epstein and Co., you would receive a not-so-polite no-thank-you from Epstein.”

In 2002, New York gushed about Epstein’s wealth and his opulent life-style: “Epstein’s current residence in Manhattan—a 45,000-square-foot eight-story mansion on East 71st Street… There are other houses as well, including a sweeping villa in Palm Beach and a custom-built 51,000-square-foot castle in Santa Fe. Said to be the largest house in the state, the latter sits atop a hill on a 45,000-acre ranch.”

The magazine also included testimonials from one future US president and one past one. Donald Trump and Bill Clinton were true to their selves in their comments. Trump boasted, “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy … He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it—Jeffrey enjoys his social life.” In light of the allegations and indictments to come, the sinister implications of Trump’s remarks are obvious.

Bill Clinton, through a spokesman, offered New York this pompous and suspect tribute: “Jeffrey is both a highly successful financier and a committed philanthropist with a keen sense of global markets and an in-depth knowledge of twenty-first-century science … I especially appreciated his insights and generosity during the recent trip to Africa to work on democratization, empowering the poor, citizen service, and combating HIV/AIDS.”

Epstein may have been predisposed to certain forms of anti-social behavior, but it is safe to assume that the “irrational exuberance” of the Wall Street boom, with its accompanying uncontrolled egoism, greed and callous indifference to other human beings, amplified and “perfected” his inclinations. The filthiness and corruption of the financial and political circles, their conviction that they could do anything to anyone and get away with it, no doubt influenced his outlook and psyche.

This was the moral universe, after all, in which Enron electricity traders in 2001, as the transcripts of taped conversations later disclosed, laughed about all the money they “stole from those poor grandmothers in California”, and “when a forest fire shut down a major transmission line into California, cutting down power supplies and raising prices … celebrated, singing ‘burn, baby, burn.’”

“Force works”, the Wall Street Journal gloated in the aftermath of the first Gulf war, aimed at stealing the oil and energy reserves of the Middle East.

These were the conditions and atmosphere that gave birth to Epstein’s assembly line of sexual abuse and degeneracy, and later safeguarded it.

The financier counted among his friends many prominent figures, based on his ability to make more than a few of them tons of cash. To what extent Epstein might have entangled some of his powerful acquaintances in his sex activities and perhaps had a hold on them is unknown, but ill-gotten gains and “friendship” alone may not explain the extent to which very high-placed people protected Epstein.

And it was a bipartisan affair. Prior to Acosta’s resignation Friday, congressional Democrats postured as defenders of Epstein’s alleged victims and called for the labor secretary to step down. But Epstein had extensive ties to Clinton and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat, and was a generous contributor to primarily Democratic Party candidates, including John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Charles Schumer, Richard Gephardt and Joseph Lieberman.

Ironically, one of the members of Epstein’s heavy-hitting team of lawyers back in 2006, in addition to Dershowitz, was Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater special prosecutor who investigated Clinton’s sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky and produced a prurient and detailed report to Congress, fueling the impeachment vote by the House in December of 1998.

In a statement, Senator Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican, asserted that Acosta’s plea deal with Epstein was reviewed when Trump nominated him to be labor secretary. The agreement “was a prosecutorial judgment that was made by Secretary Acosta and was vetted by our committee,” Alexander said in his statement. He added, pointedly, “The Justice Department under the last three presidents—Trump, Obama, and Bush—have all defended his handling of the case.”

The social and political implications of the Epstein case are making some people nervous. The New York Times on Thursday editorialized against making politics out of it. Prior to Acosta’s resignation, the newspaper criticized House Democrats for “bringing their oversight authority to bear”, which they described as a “mistake.”

The Times went on: “Congress digging into this case, however, is a poor use of lawmakers’ limited time and resources. More dangerous, in the midst of the Trump administration’s war on congressional oversight in general, such hearings carry a high risk of turning the Epstein case into a partisan battle—and Mr. Acosta into a political martyr around whom the president and his followers feel moved to rally.”

A peculiar and, taken at face value, thoroughly cowardly stance. “Some outrages are best kept as free of partisan politics as possible”, the Times lectured. …

The Times is clearly anxious about anyone looking too deeply into the Epstein affair and drawing political conclusions.

The Times’ Michelle Goldberg argues that the “Epstein case is a reminder of the depraved milieu from which our president sprang”, and that the “Caligula Administration Lives On”, forgetting that the disgraced financier is a Democrat and that Bill Clinton, according to flight logs obtained by Fox News, “took at least 26 trips aboard Epstein’s Boeing 727, nicknamed the ‘Lolita Express’, from 2001 to 2003.”

Helaine Olen makes a stronger case in the Washington Post that the Epstein scandal tells us something more far-reaching and important about “how our current age of wealth excess might come to an end.” She suggests that the affair “will come to be viewed in future years as one of the defining events that brings our age of excess to a close”, and that people will study it in years to come as they now do the conduct of Marie Antoinette and Rasputin on the eve of the French and Russian revolutions.

“Our era is one of exploding and all but unpunished crime by the wealthy and connected,” she writes. “The Epstein scandal blows holes through the foundational myths of our time, revealing them for the empty and sickening bromides used to justify obscene wealth and power and privilege that they really are.”

Strong words, whose implications Olen has undoubtedly not thought through. The issue is not so much individual retribution against Epstein, although he deserves punishment if he is found guilty, as it is the organization of mass political action by the working class to do away with the entire rotten social order.

A commenter on this article writes:

During Acosta’s confirmation hearings he told congress that he was pressured by the intelligence agencies to shut down the investigation. Epstein was rumored to be doing the CIA‘s dirty work by getting information on powerful people and using it to make them stay in line.

LAWYER: EPSTEIN ABUSED VICTIMS WHILE SERVING TIME An attorney representing Jeffrey Epstein accusers said at least one woman has come forward to say she was abused while the financier was on work release as part of his lenient 2007 plea deal. [The Daily Beast]

NYC COPS GAVE EPSTEIN A PASS The New York Police Department allowed convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to skip dozens of court-mandated check-ins with law enforcement for over eight years before he was arrested and charged with the sex trafficking of minors. Over that period, cops in New York state made at least 7,061 arrests for similar violations. [HuffPost]

Fruit flies can feel pain, new research


This December 2014 video from England says about itself:

Drosophila: Small fly, BIG impact – Part 1 (Why the fly?)

A film about the history and importance of the fruit fly Drosophila as a model organism in biomedical research.

From the University of Sydney in Australia:

Insects feel persistent pain after injury, evidence suggests

July 12, 2019

Scientists have known insects experience something like pain since 2003, but new research published today from Associate Professor Greg Neely and colleagues at the University of Sydney proves for the first time that insects also experience chronic pain that lasts long after an initial injury has healed.

The study in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances offers the first genetic evidence of what causes chronic pain in Drosophila (fruit flies) and there is good evidence that similar changes also drive chronic pain in humans. Ongoing research into these mechanisms could lead to the development of treatments that, for the first time, target the cause and not just the symptoms of chronic pain.

“If we can develop drugs or new stem cell therapies that can target and repair the underlying cause, instead of the symptoms, this might help a lot of people,” said Associate Professor Neely, whose team of researchers is studying pain at the Charles Perkins Centre with the goal of developing non-opioid solutions for pain management.

Pain and insects

“People don’t really think of insects as feeling any kind of pain,” said Associate Professor Neely. “But it’s already been shown in lots of different invertebrate animals that they can sense and avoid dangerous stimuli that we perceive as painful. In non-humans, we call this sense ‘nociception’, the sense that detects potentially harmful stimuli like heat, cold, or physical injury, but for simplicity we can refer to what insects experience as ‘pain’.”

“So we knew that insects could sense ‘pain’, but what we didn’t know is that an injury could lead to long lasting hypersensitivity to normally non-painful stimuli in a similar way to human patients’ experiences.”

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is defined as persistent pain that continues after the original injury has healed. It comes in two forms: inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain.

The study of fruit flies looked at neuropathic ‘pain’, which occurs after damage to the nervous system and, in humans, is usually described as a burning or shooting pain. Neuropathic pain can occur in human conditions such as sciatica, a pinched nerve, spinal cord injuries, postherpetic neuralgia (shingles), diabetic neuropathy, cancer bone pain, and in accidental injuries.

Testing pain in fruit flies

In the study, Associate Professor Neely and lead author Dr Thang Khuong from the University’s Charles Perkins Centre, damaged a nerve in one leg of the fly. The injury was then allowed to fully heal. After the injury healed, they found the fly’s other legs had become hypersensitive. “After the animal is hurt once badly, they are hypersensitive and try to protect themselves for the rest of their lives,” said Associate Professor Neely. “That’s kind of cool and intuitive.”

Next, the team genetically dissected exactly how that works.

“The fly is receiving ‘pain’ messages from its body that then go through sensory neurons to the ventral nerve cord, the fly’s version of our spinal cord. In this nerve cord are inhibitory neurons that act like a ‘gate’ to allow or block pain perception based on the context,” Associate Professor Neely said. “After the injury, the injured nerve dumps all its cargo in the nerve cord and kills all the brakes, forever. Then the rest of the animal doesn’t have brakes on its ‘pain’. The ‘pain’ threshold changes and now they are hypervigilant.”

“Animals need to lose the ‘pain’ brakes to survive in dangerous situations but when humans lose those brakes it makes our lives miserable. We need to get the brakes back to live a comfortable and non-painful existence.”

In humans, chronic pain is presumed to develop through either peripheral sensitisation or central disinhibition, said Associate Professor Neely. “From our unbiased genomic dissection of neuropathic ‘pain’ in the fly, all our data points to central disinhibition as the critical and underlying cause for chronic neuropathic pain.”

“Importantly now we know the critical step causing neuropathic ‘pain’ in flies, mice and probably humans, is the loss of the pain brakes in the central nervous system, we are focused on making new stem cell therapies or drugs that target the underlying cause and stop pain for good.”

Small horned dinosaur discovery in China


This 8 September 2015 video says about itself:

Auroraceratops“, meaning “dawn horned face”, is a genus of basal neoceratopsian dinosaur, from the Early Cretaceous of north central China and South Korea. The etymology of the generic name refers to its status as an early ceratopsian and also to Dawn Dodson, wife of Peter Dodson, one of the palaeontologists who described it.

From the University of Pennsylvania in the USA:

Small horned dinosaur from China, a Triceratops relative, walked on two feet

July 12, 2019

Summary: Auroraceratops, a bipedal dinosaur that lived roughly 115 million years ago, has been newly described by paleontologists. More than 80 individuals of this species have been found in China’s Gansu Province.

Many dinosaur species are known from scant remains, with some estimates suggesting 75% are known from five or fewer individuals. Auroraceratops rugosus was typical in this regard when it was named in 2005 based upon a single skull from the Gobi Desert in northwestern China. But that is no longer the case.

In the intervening years, scientists have recovered fossils from more than 80 individual Auroraceratops, bringing this small-bodied plant-eater into the ranks of the most completely known dinosaurs. It is now one of the few very early horned dinosaurs known from complete skeletons. In a collection of articles appearing as Memoir 18 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology this week, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Gansu Agricultural University, and other institutions describe the anatomy, age, preservation, and evolution of this large collection of Auroraceratops.

Their analysis places Auroraceratops, which lived roughly 115 million years ago, as an early member of the group Ceratopsia, or horned dinosaurs, the same group to which Triceratops belongs. In contrast to Triceratops, Auroraceratops is small, approximately 49 inches (1.25 meters) in length and 17 inches (44 cm) tall, weighing on average 34 pounds (15.5 kilograms). While Auroraceratops has a short frill and beak that characterize it as a horned dinosaur, it lacks the “true” horns and extensive cranial ornamentation of Triceratops.

“When I first saw this animal back in 2004, I knew instantly it was a new kind that had never been seen before and was very excited about it,” says paleontologist Peter Dodson, senior author on the work and a professor with appointments in Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine and School of Arts and Sciences. “This monograph on Auroraceratops is long-awaited.”

In 2005, Dodson and his former students Hai-Lu You and Matthew Lamanna named Auroraceratops (in Latin, “dawn’s horned face”) in honor of Dodson’s wife, Dawn Dodson. You, along with fellow Chinese scientist Da-Qing Li — both authors on the current work — and collaborators followed up on the discovery, identifying more than 80 additional examples of the species, from near-hatchlings to adults.

Eric Morschhauser, lead author who is now on the faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, completed his Ph.D. under Dodson at Penn, focused on characterizing Auroraceratops using this robust dataset.

Auroraceratops represents the only horned dinosaur in the group Neoceratopsia (the lineage leading to and including the large bodied ceratopsians such as Triceratops) from the Early Cretaceous with a complete skeleton. This exclusiveness is significant, the researchers say, because horned dinosaurs transitioned from being bipedal, like their ancestors, to being the large rhinoceros-like quadrupedal animals most people think of as horned dinosaurs during the later parts of the Cretaceous.

“Before this study,” says Morschhauser, “we had to rely on Psittacosaurus, a more distantly related and unusual ceratopsian, for our picture of what the last bipedal ceratopsian looked like.”

Auroraceratops preserves multiple features of the skeleton, like a curved femur and long, thin claws, that are unambiguously associated with walking bipedally in some dinosaurs.

“It can now provide us with a better picture of the starting point for the changes between bipedal and quadrupedal ceratopsians,” adds Morschhauser.

Peter Dodson is a professor of anatomy in the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and a professor of paleontology in the School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Earth and Environmental Science.

Spanish imprisonment for Catalan yellow ribbon?


This music video from the USA is called Tony Orlando & Dawn – Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree – DjCarnol Stereo Remastered.

This 1973 song was inspired by a story of a Union soldier in the 1861-1865 United States civil war. He had been made a prisoner of war by the pro-slavery Confederate army; but wrote to his girlfriend that he was free now and coming home; and asked her to tie a yellow ribbon around a tree to tell that he was still welcome after his years of imprisonment.

Yellow ribbons now are signs in many countries that people don’t forget others who have been away for a long time; others who have been sent to fight wars; or others who have been (unjustly) imprisoned.

Now, Associated Press and others report that a Spanish judge has threatened Quim Torra, the elected president of Catalonia with prison.

For what? Did President Torra commit murder, manslaughter, or rape? Did he smuggle a billion $ worth of cocaine, like United States JP Morgan bank did? Did that president steal a million euro; or one euro?

No, Quim Torra is threatened with being deposed as president and a prison sentence for tying yellow ribbons. Yellow ribbons in Catalonia now are a sign that people don’t forget the political prisoners. Catalan politicians were made political prisoners for organising a referendum. To which the Spanish right-wing government reacted with bloody police violence.

The United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has called for the “immediate release” of four Catalan political prisoners currently in detention waiting for a verdict in the show trial mounted by the Spanish government, 20 months after they were incarcerated: here.

Spanish police attack mass protests against prison terms for Catalan nationalists: here.

Italy: African freed after three years of unjust imprisonment, wrongly suspected of ‘people smuggling’: here.