Dodgy facial recognition in North Carolina, USA


This 26 July 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

How police manipulate facial recognition

Police across the country are using facial recognition to check IDs and find suspects — but are they using it the right way? A new study from Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology suggests even good algorithms can be put to bad uses, particularly once police start getting creative with the images.

Read more here.

FACIAL RECOGNITION FALSELY IDS LAWMAKERS AS CRIMINALS The ACLU’s Northern California branch released its findings from running photos of all 120 California state legislators against a database of 25,000 publicly available mugshots using common facial recognition software. The software identified 26 state legislators ― more than one in five ― as criminals. And a disproportionate number of those lawmakers were people of color.  [HuffPost]

Refugees betrayed, from Hitler till today


This video says about itself:

Voyage of the Damned (1976)

This movie is based on the 1974 book about the voyage of the SS St. Louis in 1939. Over 900 Jews were on board hoping to find sanctuary in Cuba.

By Bill Van Auken:

”Voyage of the Damned:” Hundreds of refugees stranded in the Mediterranean

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the infamous voyage of the German cruise liner the MS St. Louis from Hamburg to the Americas with 937 passengers aboard, nearly all of them German-Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution.

Even though the Cuban government had sold them visas, when they entered Havana’s harbor on May 27, 1939, the authorities stopped the refugees from disembarking. After waiting for a week in the vain hope that Cuban officials would reverse their decision, the St. Louis sailed to the coast of Florida hoping that the United States would offer refuge. However, the Democratic administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt also turned away the refugees. Attempts to enter Canada and the Dominican Republic were similarly rebuffed.

Left with no option but to return to Europe, the St. Louis docked at the Belgian port of Antwerp on June 17. Within less than a year, Belgium would be occupied by the German Wehrmacht. By the end of the Second World War, 256 of the St. Louis passengers would be murdered in the Holocaust.

Chronicled in the book Voyage of the Damned as well as a film by the same name, the fate of the St. Louis was a symbol and harbinger of the unprecedented barbarism, including Hitler’s “Final Solution”, that would engulf humanity in the course of a global war that claimed the lives of some 85 million people.

It was undoubtedly the tragic and criminal saga of the St. Louis that Leon Trotsky, the great Russian revolutionary and founder of the Fourth International, had in mind when he wrote in a May 1940 manifesto on “The Imperialist War and the Proletarian World Revolution”:

“The world of decaying capitalism is overcrowded. The question of admitting a hundred extra refugees becomes a major problem for such a world power as the United States. In an era of aviation, telegraph, telephone, radio, and television, travel from country to country is paralyzed by passports and visas. The period of the wasting away of foreign trade and the decline of domestic trade is at the same time the period of the monstrous intensification of chauvinism and especially of anti-Semitism. … Amid the vast expanses of land and the marvels of technology, which has also conquered the skies for man as well as the earth, the bourgeoisie has managed to convert our planet into a foul prison.”

These words retain all of their burning actuality under conditions in which “Voyages of the Damned” are being repeated on a daily basis in the central Mediterranean, a watery grave for tens of thousands of migrants and refugees, some 14,000 of them over the last three years alone.

The plight of two rescue vessels stranded off the coast of Europe, the Ocean Viking and the Open Arms, recalls nothing so much as the St. Louis, with the continent’s governments refusing to admit the more than 500 refugees aboard the ships.

A boat carrying refugees in the Mediterranean [Photo: UNHCR/L.Boldrini]

The migrants, most of them from Africa, were rescued off the coast of Libya from which they had fled, some them literally plucked out of the water. The 151 passengers—including 31minors—of the Open Arms, a vessel operated by a Spanish rescue group, have been at sea for nearly two weeks off the coast of Italy. They have been denied entry by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has imposed fines of up to €1 million along with imprisonment for captains entering Italian waters with refugees, together with the confiscation of their ships.

Salvini, who is in the midst of a campaign to form a new, openly fascist government in Italy, has railed against the rescue ships, touting his policy of “absolute prohibition” against their landing and seeking to use the plight of the stranded refugees to whip up anti-immigrant chauvinism in advance of an election.

The Ocean Viking, which has 356 refugees rescued at sea—nearly a third of them minors—crammed into a space meant for 200, has been denied refueling in Malta as well as entry to Italy. The passengers are enduring conditions of suffocating heat and humidity and facing the threat of huge sea swells forecast for Wednesday.

The fascistic rants of Salvini are only the most blatant expression of a policy that has been put in place throughout Europe to bar the entry of refugees. A minister of the social democratic government of acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in Spain rejected an appeal from the captain of the Open Arms to admit the 31 minors aboard the ship as refugees, asserting that the captain had no “juridical standing” or parental authority to make such a request. He further charged that those aboard the Open Arms rescuing refugees were “compromising the reputation of Spain.”

The immigration minister of Norway, whose flag is flown by the Ocean Viking, said that the refugees should be “transported back to Africa” in order to avoid any “extension of the refugee route”.

The European Commission, which issued a call to European Union (EU) member states to coordinate a solution to the plight of the stranded refugees and show solidarity, reported that not a single government had responded. Every European government, with Germany and France in the lead, has collaborated in erecting a “Fortress Europe” with barbed wire and machine guns defending the EU’s borders and a ruthless campaign to end the rescue missions in the Mediterranean.

A key part of this vicious anti-refugee campaign has been contracted out to Libyan militias, which have been recruited and trained as a coast guard dedicated to hunting down refugees trying to reach Europe. They run concentration camps in Libya where those fleeing for their lives from other parts of Africa and the Middle East are subjected to torture, rape, summary execution and being sold into slavery. A civil war that has devastated the country since the 2011 US-NATO war destroyed its government and infrastructure has further placed migrants’ lives at risk. The bombing of a detention center last month killed some 50 refugees.

The campaign against refugees in Europe is mirrored across the Atlantic, where the Trump administration has added to its mass incarceration of children, its turning away of refugees on the Mexican border and its round-up of undocumented workers in factory raids, the imposition of new regulations aimed at barring legal immigration by those without financial resources. Immigrants already in the US are to be targeted for deportation for the “crime” of using social services such as food stamps, Medicaid and housing subsidies.

Asked by a reporter Tuesday whether the poem of Emma Lazarus inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…” still applied, Ken Cuccinelli, Trump’s acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, responded with his own amended version: “Give me your tired and your poor, who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” While hardly poetry, the meaning is clear enough: working class immigrants and refugees need not apply.

TRUMPER: LADY LIBERTY ABOUT ‘PEOPLE FROM EUROPE’ Ken Cuccinelli, the Trump administration’s acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, reinforced his controversial interpretation of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty ― this time giving it a racist twist. [HuffPost]

The Bill Van Auken article continues:

The war against refugees and the scapegoating of immigrants for deteriorating living standards, unemployment and the destruction of social services under capitalism is a global phenomenon. It is employed by governments and ruling oligarchies the world over as a means of dividing the working class and cultivating neo-fascist elements that can be used to counter the growing wave of social struggles and strikes by the working class in country after country.

These policies are rooted not merely in the criminal and twisted mind of a Donald Trump or the fascistic ideology of a Matteo Salvini, but rather in the crisis of the capitalist system and the irreconcilable contradiction between the global integration of production and the capitalist nation-state system. The sealing of borders with razor wire barricades, the building of concentration camps for refugees and the whipping up of xenophobic and fascist forces echo the darkest days of the 1930s, just as the ships stranded in the Mediterranean recall the fate of the St. Louis.

The turn toward these methods is a sign not of strength, but of weakness and deepening crisis, as capitalist governments in the US, Europe and internationally face mounting opposition from working people that threatens revolutionary social and political explosions.

There are powerful sentiments of solidarity and support for refugees and immigrants within the working class that must be mobilized and armed with a socialist and internationalist program, including the right of all workers to live and work in whatever country they choose with full citizenship rights.

Britain: 3,000+ refugees have been on hunger strike in detention centres since 2015: here.

Timelapse video about Tyrannosaurus rex reconstruction


This is a 13 August 2019 timelapse video about the reconstruction of Tyrannosaurus rex fossil Trix in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands.

While there was a long reconstruction at Naturalis, Trix travelled to Salzburg, Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon and Glasgow.

Now she is back, at her spot in Naturalis’ new dinosaur hall.

42 million natural history objects, video


This 13 August 2019 Dutch language video is about Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands; which after a long reconstruction will reopen on 31 August.

There will be not just new exhibition halls. There are also new storage halls for the 42 million natural history objects in the museum’s collection; as the video shows.

French Macron’s war on refugees


Refugee tents under a highway in Saint Denis, near Paris, France

By Will Morrow:

Immigrant tent camps in Paris: Victims of France’s war on refugees

13 August 2019

Every night in Paris, in sprawling tent encampments under highway overpasses, in local playgrounds and parks, thousands of refugees go to sleep on the street. They receive no government housing, no money, no food and have no legal right to work. They are the victims of a criminal anti-immigrant regime overseen by the French state and the European Union and supported by the entire French political establishment.

Last week, World Socialist Web Site reporters interviewed dozens of asylum seekers in tents between the La Chapelle neighborhood of the 19th arondissement of Paris and the suburb of Saint Denis. Among them, most are younger than 25—the youngest 15, the oldest 45—and have been homeless in Paris for more than two years, relying on charities and private citizens for food, selling tourist knick-knacks, alcohol and cigarettes on street corners for cash.

There are between 1,500 and 2,000 homeless refugees in La Chapelle and neighboring suburbs alone, according to the immigrant rights group France Terre d’Asile. Many thousands more live in similar conditions across the country, and tens of thousands are imprisoned every year in a network of detention centers where they await deportation. The majority have fled Africa and the Middle East, escaping neo-colonial wars and conditions of poverty and social breakdown produced by centuries of oppression at the hands of France and the other imperialist powers.

The entire political establishment is complicit in this vicious anti-immigrant program, which is aimed at preventing refugees from exercising their democratic and legal right to claim asylum in France. …

Abdullah

Abdullah, 26 years old, is one of those living under the périphérique ring road at La Chapelle. He has been there since the start of 2019. Today he lives selling cigarettes at pedestrian crossings in the city.

It took him just under three years to reach France after fleeing Sudan in 2016. He travelled north through Libya and sailed across the Mediterranean toward Italy. This is the cheapest, and also likely the most dangerous, route. In 2011, France, the UK and the US launched a neo-colonial war for regime change in the country under humanitarian pretenses, plunging Libya into an ongoing civil war and installing an unstable right-wing puppet regime based on rival militias.

Since 2015, the EU has provided the Libyan coastguard with arms, ships and money to intercept refugees attempting to flee and imprison them in EU-funded detention centers, where there is widespread torture, slavery, murder and rape by the prison authorities.

Abdullah made three attempts sail to Europe before finally succeeding. On his first attempt, at the end of 2017, the Libyan coastguard caught the small boat carrying 130 people. They “drove circles around us to make the boat capsize,” he said. “Everyone was in the water. When I came up, everyone was screaming. I looked around and saw the bodies of three people, two children and a woman, floating in front of me. They left them there in the water that day.”

All the passengers were imprisoned in a detention center in Misrata. Eventually, Abdullah escaped, travelling to Tripoli, and after three months attempted to cross to Europe again. The boat was caught again by the Libyan army, and this time he was imprisoned at the Triq al Sikka detention center for six months before he was able to escape again. “Everyone must work there for nothing”, he said of this second prison. “Those who work, eat. The others are beaten or killed. The prison is foul, there are no toilets, just buckets on the ground.”

Abdullah made his final attempt at crossing in June 2018. This time his boat was picked up by a commercial liner, and transferred to the Aquarius, a rescue ship operated by Doctors Without Borders, which took the passengers to Europe. The Aquarius has been unable to sail since last November—its sailing rights have been stripped, and France and the other EU powers have refused to provide it with a flag to sail under, as part of their strategy of preventing all rescue operations in the Mediterranean and ensuring that refugees either drown or are returned to Libyan prisons.

But in France, Abdullah’s application for an asylum visa was not approved. While permitted to live in France, he was told that because he had no official birth certificate or documentation about his hometown (which he first fled at the age of 12), he would not be provided with work rights.

“Now I sleep on the road here,” he said. His tent contains a mattress and some spare clothes. Rats can be seen 20 meters away, and cars and trucks pass by at 70 kilometers per hour less than two meters from where he sleeps. “I cannot work because they say I cannot have papers. So what can I do now? When you leave Africa and think about Europe, you think you will be able to work, have documents, have a life. But you don’t. You sleep on the streets. There are many people here under the bridge who go crazy because they see no way out. This is Europe.”

Another refugee encampment in Saint-Denis

More groups of tents dot the roadway heading north out of Paris and into Saint-Denis. Less than a kilometer away, at a Saint-Denis park, lives Abdul, a 24-year-old former law student from Sudan. Under the EU’s punitive immigration system, he belongs to a category that Parisian asylum seekers refer to as “the Dublined”. It was created by the Dublin immigration agreement of 2013, which states that any refugee recorded arriving in one EU member state cannot reapply in another one, without waiting 18 months to submit their claim.

“When I arrived in Italy, they took my fingerprints,” Abdul said Friday, sitting in a Salvation Army center near La Chapelle where upwards of 200 refugees take showers and charge their cell phones every day. “So when I finally arrived here, they said I’d have to wait and gave me nothing. So I’ve been homeless here for the last two years. I just submitted my new application a month ago.”

As is the normal procedure for asylum applications in France, after submitting his application, Abdul was told to “wait” for an SMS about a follow-up meeting on his claim. They are given no information about when they will receive this text message, often waiting up to a year or more.

“I eat on the street. Sometimes I don’t eat. Sometimes individual people come and bring food they cooked at home. Most of the time I’m hungry,” he said.

Abdul took part in last month’s protest and occupation by more than 700 refugees at the historic Panthéon building, to demand the right to residency in France. “I received a photocopy of the leaflet on WhatsApp from my friend who was on the boat with me from Egypt to Italy,” he said. “I wanted to go just to show that we are here, that we exist. Right now, it is as if I didn’t exist. The government does nothing for us.”

He described the brutal police crackdown on the protest that ensued. Police entered the building, informing the protesters that “we could protest outside if we left. They told us, ‘In France, we have the freedom to protest.’” But as soon as the group left the building, the police attacked. “People were running everywhere to escape,” he said. “The police were just grabbing whoever they could get their hands on. I was arrested because I didn’t run. I said, I have the right to be here. Eventually three police came up to me, one hit me with a baton, and when I fell to the ground they kept hitting my legs.”

Police placed Abdul in detention for 24 hours before releasing him without charge. “I had all my identity documents and my application in my bag, which is why they let me out,” he said. “Many others had no papers—they were put in detention for deportation.”

The French government makes criticisms of Salvini in Italy,” Abdul commented. “But it’s the same policy. At least in Lampedusa, I had a home to live in and food to eat. Here, nothing. It’s clear that this is intentional. What they are telling us is: Stay where you are, or if you want to come here, fine, but it will be la misère.”

A playground in Saint-Denis converted into a tent camp

At a nearby Saint-Denis playground, dozens of refugees sleep on benches and tents, using the monkey bars as a clothesline and the other equipment as walls for their quarters. Mousa, a 44-year-old refugee from Somalia, has been in Europe for two years, and came to France after his application was rejected in Germany and he was threatened with deportation. He carried with him his papers, including medical prescriptions for Lyrica and Tilidin to treat his chronic back pain. He has no way of receiving these medications, and had eaten nothing for two days. “Most days someone comes at 9 p.m. and brings bread, tea and coffee,” he said.

David (29), Mohammedi (32) and Akbari (26) live in the same playground. All three are from Afghanistan, torn apart by a war led by the US and its NATO allies for the past 18 years, and all three came to France after their asylum applications were refused in Germany.

“Every day from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. you try to call the number to submit your application,” David said. “You wait on the phone for 2 hours and no one answers.” It took one month for him to reach someone and book an initial appointment to lodge his claim at the police prefect. “He took my fingerprints, said I was ‘Dublin’, and that I’d have to wait or go back. I have nowhere to go. So we stay here.”

Under a highway at La Chapelle, we spoke to a group of eight teenagers, between 15 and 19, all homeless. They came via different routes to France from Guinea, a former French colonial possession with a 50 percent poverty rate, and have been in France for between two months and two years. One of them, Quatorze, who is 17, has been in Paris since February. His application was also rejected, because he could not provide authorities with a birth certificate.

“I want to continue my studies and go to university,” he said. “I wanted to study sociology. I have no documents, so I cannot work or study here. I cannot rent an apartment. We receive nothing from the government. We live because people come and give us food—not the government, normal people, who make sacrifices for us.”

“The European Union should stop hiding its face and saying that it comes to the aide of migrants,” he commented. “They leave us like this and leave the Mediterranean in silence.”

The brutal anti-refugee regime established by the French government and the European Union is a warning to the entire working class. The mass concentration camps across Africa, the enforced homelessness and destitution of those who reach France, the brutal police crackdowns on those who protest—all these are tools of repression being developed to be deployed against the entire working class, as opposition grows to unprecedented levels of social inequality.

French police storm refugee camps in northern Paris: here.

‘Europe’s leaders consider people drowning as an acceptable price to pay …’ says Medecins Sans Frontieres: here.

French President Macron launches Islamophobic campaign after Paris police office attack: here.