Irish Magdalene Laundries survivor wins compensation fight


This 3 November 2017 video says about itself:

Slave Labour: Magdalene Laundries disgraced Irish Catholic women

For almost 150 years thousands of women in Ireland were sent to live in Catholic institutions, punished for crimes like having a child out of wedlock or petty theft.

Steve Humphries’ Sex In a Cold Climate, a documentary denouncing the Magdalene Asylums, which were operated by Catholic nuns in Ireland for over 100 years.

The Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, also known as Magdalene asylums, were institutions of confinement, usually run by Roman Catholic orders.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

IRELAND: Magdalene Laundries survivor Mary Cavner has won a battle for compensation after spending six years in one of the notorious Catholic-run workhouses as a child.

She grew up in Cork and was placed in the care of nuns at the age of 11 when her father died. She was denied an education and left malnourished.

At least 10,000 young women passed through the Magdalene Laundries between 1922 and 1996. They were locked up and forced to work for no pay in collusion with the state.

Fiddler crabs’ eyes help against predators


This 2016 video is called Fiddler crab dance.

From the University of Bristol in England:

Separate polarization and brightness channels give crabs the edge over predators

August 21, 2019

Fiddler crabs see the polarisation of light and this gives them the edge when it comes to spotting potentials threats, such as a rival crab or a predator. Now researchers at the University of Bristol have begun to unravel how this information is processed within the crab’s brain. The study, published in Science Advances today [Wednesday 21 August], has discovered that when detecting approaching objects, fiddler crabs separate polarisation and brightness information.

The key advantage of this method is that the separate visual channels provide a greater range of information for the crab. The research also suggests that when it comes to detecting predators’, polarisation can provide a more reliable source of information than brightness.

The researchers from the Ecology of Vision Group in the School of Biological Sciences tested how crabs responded to visual stimuli presented on a special computer monitor developed by the lab. By changing the polarisation and brightness of the stimuli the researchers were able to test whether certain combinations of polarisation and brightness appeared to cancel each other out.

Sam Smithers, PhD student in the School of Biological Sciences and one of the authors, said: “If you look through Polaroid sunglasses at the sky, you will notice that the brightness changes when you tilt your head. This is because the light from the sky is polarised and your sunglasses allow you to see differences in polarisation as differences in brightness.”

“For our experiments we tested whether fiddler crabs see the same effect. However, we discovered that the crabs detect polarisation in a completely different way to this and polarisation has no effect on how the crabs detect the brightness of a scene.”

The next step for the research team is to find out what happens to the brightness and polarisation information deeper in the brain. This will help them to understand how and when polarisation and colour information provide a visual advantage to the viewer.

The new study is about the fiddler crab species Afruca tangeri.

Saudi bloodbath in Yemen with British weapons


This 28 May 2015 video says about itself:

Saudi-led airstrikes kill at least 80 in Yemen

A day of deadly bombing by Saudi-led warplanes has killed at least 80 people in Yemen’s capital Sanaa and in an area along the border with Saudi Arabia.

Witnesses said many civilians were caught up in the blast.

By Phil Miller in Britain:

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Six billion pounds worth of British weapons licensed to countries in Yemen war

WHITEHALL has licensed £6.3 billion worth of weapons to Saudi-led forces in the first four years of their war in Yemen.

The aerial bombardment of one of the world’s poorest countries has created what the United Nations regards as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

British-made fighter jets, bombs and missiles have all played a central role in the bombing, according to Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which compiled the latest figures.

The group obtained official data that showed £5.3bn worth of arms had been licensed for sale to Saudi Arabia.

Another coalition partner, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), had received £657 million worth of arms export licences.

CAAT spokesman Andrew Smith said: “Thousands of people have been killed in the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen, but that has done nothing to deter the arms dealers.

“The bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the complicity and support of Downing Street.”

The revelation comes as the UAE is set to sponsor a major arms fair in London next month, Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI).

Three other dictatorships involved in the bombing, Egypt, Bahrain and Kuwait, have received licences worth almost £200m.

Representatives from all five countries are expected to attend DSEI.

Mr Smith added: “It is disgraceful that the government has invited the Saudi military and other coalition members to London to buy even more weapons.

“This only goes to show that no matter how dire the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has become, the government will continue to prioritise arms sales over the rights and lives of Yemeni people.”

New spinosaur, new stegosaur discovered


This 21 August 2019 video says about itself:

A New Spinosaur & A New Stegosaur Discovered – 7 Days of Science

This week we had some pretty awesome palaeontology news with two new species of non-avian dinosaurs being named!

The scientific description of the new stegosaur species is here.

Pro-Trump neo-nazi arrested in Florida, USA


This 20 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Pro-Trump Neo-Nazi ARRESTED

The Young Turks’ Emma Vigeland breaks down the news that a Trump supporter, who also happens to be a big Hitler fan, was arrested for threatening a Hispanic woman in Miami.

The details are gruesome. And this is a part of a larger trend… which is terrifying.

Good beewolf news from Texel island


This August 2017 video says about itself:

A short story on the European Beewolf wasp (Philanthus triangulum) showing how it preys on others and what it does to improve the success of its offspring. Shot on heathland.

Wildlife warden Huib Koel reports today from Texel island in the Netherlands:

The beewolves on Texel are doing well

The tourists are not the only ones who enjoy the summer temperatures on Texel, also the solitary beewolves – a species of wasp that is not dangerous to humans – benefit from the heat. The bird watchers at De Slufter discovered more than a hundred nests at the end of last month alongside the bike path at the Zanddijk dunes. Last year the counter stopped at around thirty heaps of sand made by the beewolves. Beewolves catch honey bees as food for their young.

At De Slufter, the beewolves do not have to fly far, because every year a beekeeper puts his hives with tens of thousands of honey bees very close to the nest location of the beewolves. His honey bees get nectar from the flowering sea lavender in De Slufter, but several hundred honey bees end their lives in the wolves’ nest. …

Rare species discovered

This year the bird watchers discovered another insect that keeps a close eye on the activities of the bee wolves. An insect with fantastic green and red shiny, metallic colours. It is one of the most beautiful insects in the Netherlands: an emerald wasp with the scientific name Hedychrum rutilans of less than a centimeter in size. It is a rare wasp species, although it has been observed more frequently in recent years – just like the beewolves. It is the only emerald wasp that targets beewolves. Other jewel wasps have other victims. … She tries to deposit her egg in the beewolf’s nest. According to the EIS research agency of Naturalis, this is the seventh observation of this jewel wasp on Texel.

Hedychrum rutilans

Graphic novelist Spiegelman censored for criticizing Trump


This video from the USA says about itself:

The Holocaust Through the Eyes of a Maus (Art Spiegelman)

What can a comic book artist tell us about the Holocaust? Upon Reflection host Marcia Alvar speaks with Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the graphic novels “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” and “Maus II.” In this 1991 video from the University of Washington, Spiegelman ruminates about his own parents’ survival in the Holocaust and how he developed a better sense of their generation through story depiction. The tiny pictures of Maus use anthropomorphic characters to relate the war between German and Jew or “cat and mouse”.

From the Hollywood Reporter weekly in the USA:

Art Spiegelman Says Marvel Refused His Essay Unless Trump “Orange Skull” Comment Removed

August 19, 2019 6:48am, by Ryan Parker

Marvel is part of the Walt Disney corporation.

Billionaire and Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter is a known supporter of the president.

Art Spiegelman says Marvel Comics refused to publish an introduction to a forthcoming book because he took a jab at President Donald Trump.

The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novelist told the Guardian that he was informed the publisher was trying to stay “apolitical” and that the reference to Trump needed to be removed from “Marvel: The Golden Age 1939–1949” — or the entire piece would be scrapped.

So, being ‘apolitical’ is only enforced for commoners like Art Spiegelman. Not at all for Marvel boss’ Perlmutter with his Trump support.

In the initial essay, Spiegelman wrote, “In today’s all too real world, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America.”

The Red Skull, Captain America’s archnemesis, is a Nazi agent.

“I didn’t think of myself as especially political compared with some of my fellow travelers, but when asked to kill a relatively anodyne reference to an Orange Skull I realized that perhaps it had been irresponsible to be playful about the dire existential threat we now live with, and I withdrew my introduction,” Spiegelman told the Guardian. “International fascism again looms large…and the dislocations that have followed the global economic meltdown of 2008 helped bring us to a point where the planet itself seems likely to melt down.”

Billionaire and Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter is a known Trump supporter and has reportedly donated large sums to Trump’s campaigns.

The publisher may wish to be apolitical, but Marvel Entertainment is another story.

Numerous stars of Marvel films, including Captain America actor Chris Evans, have been outspoken about their dislike of and disagreements with Trump.

DISNEY-SONY STANDOFF The next “Spider-Man” film could be very far from home for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe because of a standoff between Disney and Sony. In a story first reported by Deadline, the two studios were unable to reach terms on a deal that would give Disney a co-financing stake in future films. [HuffPost]

Dutch Philips corporation’s Brazilian bribery scandal


This 21 August 2019 video is called Philips, Under Investigation In U.S. And Brazil, Fired Whistleblower Who Warned Of Graft.

There are not just Philips scandals in the USA and Brazil; in Poland as well (also bribery); in South Africa as well; in the Netherlands, where they are not paying taxes, as well.

From Reuters news agency today:

Exclusive: Philips, under investigation in U.S. and Brazil, fired whistleblower who warned of graft

By Brad Brooks

SAO PAULO, August 21 – Healthcare giant Philips was warned of suspicious sales of its medical equipment to the Brazilian government, and failed to halt them, nearly a decade before an alleged bribery racket was exposed in the company’s Brazil operations last year, Reuters has learned.

Claims of malfeasance reached the highest levels of the Dutch conglomerate as early as 2010, according to court records filed by federal prosecutors, internal company documents and Reuters interviews with a former manager at a Philips subsidiary in Brazil who says he told superiors of the suspected scheme and was later sacked.

That ex-employee, Jose Israel Masiero Filho, a former supply-chain executive with Dixtal Biomedica Industria e Comercio Ltda., spoke extensively with Reuters in his first interview with foreign media. He said in January 2010 he spotted irregularities in three deals to sell Philips and Dixtal equipment to an obscure Brazilian middleman who had landed big contracts with Brazil’s Ministry of Health. Masiero said he suspected payoffs had been used to secure that government business, allegations now at the heart of a burgeoning graft probe in Brazil, court records show.

Masiero emailed an internal Philips hotline immediately to report his suspicions, met soon after with the company’s top compliance officer, and alerted at least three other senior executives during 2010. Among them was Steve Rusckowski, former chief executive of Philips Healthcare, the company’s largest division. Masiero’s warnings were detailed in emails, internal company memos and court records viewed by Reuters.

“Philips should consider that by approving and accepting these sales, it will be involved in illegal activities if discovered,” Masiero wrote to Rusckowski in an email dated October 14, 2010.

Still, Koninklijke Philips (PHG.AS), as the company is formally known, continued to sell to the Brazilian intermediary to fulfill the Health Ministry contracts, invoices show.

Rusckowski, who served as Philips Healthcare’s chief executive until April 2012, did not respond to requests for comment. He is now CEO of New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics (DGX.N).

In an emailed statement to Reuters, Philips said it is cooperating with Brazilian authorities investigating the nation’s medical device industry. The company said it launched an internal investigation in 2010 in response to an “anonymous complaint” but “did not identify direct evidence of wrongdoing.” The company said it did, however, tighten up its internal control processes in Brazil.

Philips would not discuss ex-employee Masiero or the circumstances surrounding his dismissal.

Brazil’s Health Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Philips is now among the targets in a widening investigation into medical contracting graft in Brazil that authorities say is still in its early stages, and which has sparked additional probes by U.S. law enforcement.

Masiero is cooperating with Brazilian prosecutors. They allege Philips and other multinationals conspired with intermediaries to pay bribes for public contracts, charging Brazil’s state healthcare system inflated prices to recoup the cost of the kickbacks. Twenty four people were charged last year in connection with the alleged scheme. All are currently on trial in Rio de Janeiro.

Germany’s Siemens AG (SIEGn.DE) and the American firms Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), General Electric Co (GE.N) and Stryker Corp (SYK.N), all major manufacturers of medical devices, have been swept up in the probe.

Johnson & Johnson, Siemens and GE declined to comment. They previously denied wrongdoing and said they were cooperating with the investigation. Stryker said it was committed to working in an ethical manner and that it was unable to comment further.

In the United States, the FBI, Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched their own investigations into suspected corruption in sales of medical equipment in Brazil as well as China, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The whistleblower Masiero said he is cooperating with all those agencies, an assertion confirmed in emails viewed by Reuters. The Justice Department, SEC and FBI all declined to comment.

Philips told Reuters it is “reviewing” inquiries from the Justice Department and SEC in connection with the Brazil probe.

MYSTERIOUS MIDDLEMAN

Now 52, Masiero was hired in 2006 to be Dixtal’s exports manager, rising to become the top logistics and supply chain executive for the Sao Paulo-based medical device firm in early 2009. Philips purchased Dixtal in 2008.

In early 2010, Masiero noticed what he considered irregularities with three large contracts awarded by Brazil’s Health Ministry. The deals, one for 750 Philips heart defibrillators, the others for a total of 3,972 Dixtal vital-signs monitors, were worth a combined 68.9 million reis (about $40 million at the time), government records show.

Masiero said he found it odd that Philips did not compete directly for such a major piece of business. Neither Philips or Dixtal submitted bids, according to government records of tender competitors viewed by Reuters.

Instead the contracts were won by Rizzi Comercio e Representacoes Ltda., a little-known Brazilian medical supply firm. Masiero, tasked with getting the equipment to Rizzi Comercio, was surprised to find its billing address was a tiny storefront with peeling purple paint in a dilapidated Sao Paulo neighborhood.

“It was an immediate red flag for me,” Masiero told Reuters.

In addition, the Health Ministry was paying well above market prices for the equipment, Masiero said, unusual for a large customer with buying clout. On February 12, 2010, for example, Masiero allegedly received an email from a Philips’ sales executive, Frederik Knudsen, directing him to deliver the first shipment of 60 defibrillators to Rizzi Comercio, which marked up those devices an additional 67%, according to correspondence included in court records.

“The value that should be on the order is what was agreed to with the Health Ministry” – $16,700 per unit – “and not what we sold them to Rizzi for ($9,991),” according to the email allegedly from Knudsen, which was seen by Reuters.

Prosecutors say Philips and Rizzi Comercio conspired to disguise and recoup the cost of bribes through inflated prices, fleecing Brazilian taxpayers in the process.

Knudsen, whom Philips confirmed still works for them, is now among those on trial in Rio. So is Daurio Speranzini, who led Philips Healthcare’s operations in Latin America for seven years before joining GE in 2011. He left that firm last December. Both men were charged last August with racketeering and fraud.

Knudsen’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment. In a written defense filed with the court, they said Knudsen did not set Philips’ prices and that he is innocent. In a separate court filing, they also questioned the veracity of the emails their client allegedly sent to Masiero.

Speranzini’s lawyers referred questions to their written defense, which contends he had no knowledge of the alleged bribery scheme or of Masiero’s warnings.

Also on trial for racketeering and fraud are two brothers who own Rizzi Comercio, Wlademir and Adalberto Rizzi.

Their lawyer, who did not respond to requests for comment, said in court filings that her clients engaged in no illegal activities.

SOUNDING THE ALARM

Uneasy about the deals with Rizzi Comercio, Masiero on January 20, 2010, notified Philips’ global compliance team in Amsterdam through an email hotline.

Philips sent Caroline Visser, then-chief of Philips’ global compliance, to Brazil to meet with Masiero in March 2010. She promised a swift investigation, according to emails the pair exchanged.

Two months later, Masiero was transferred from Dixtal to a logistics post within Philips in Sao Paulo, a move he considered a demotion and an effort to silence him. The shipments continued, invoices show.

Frustrated, Masiero on October 14, 2010, sent an email to Rusckowski, the head of Philips’ healthcare division.

Masiero expressed concern about Rizzi Comercio and its use of an unfamiliar intermediary, Moses Trading American, to purchase the U.S.-made Philips heart defibrillators on its behalf for export to Brazil. Far more typical, Masiero told Reuters, would be for Philips to sell directly to Rizzi.

Masiero’s uneasiness only increased when he traced Moses Trading American’s address on Philips’ invoices to a private home on a golf course in suburban Phoenix.

“Moses Trading selling operation is clearly suspicious,” Masiero wrote to Rusckowski.

According to emails reviewed by Reuters, Rusckowski forwarded Masiero’s message to Clement Revetti, Jr., the chief legal officer for Philips Healthcare. Revetti thanked Masiero and asked him not to contact the CEO again.

Masiero defied that order. On November 9, 2010, he again emailed Rusckowski and Revetti of his concerns.

On March 4, 2011, Masiero says he discussed his suspicions once more in person in Sao Paulo with Visser, the compliance head. He was fired later that day. Masiero said he was given no reason for his dismissal. Paperwork required under Brazilian labor laws shows Philips sacked Masiero “without cause”, meaning the company made no claims that it was performance-related.

Visser and Revetti did not respond to requests for comment.

As for Moses Trading American, Brazilian prosecutors say that operation is run by a Peruvian named Oscar Moses whom they are investigating in connection with a string of allegedly fraudulent medical equipment deals in Brazil. He has not been charged with a crime.

Moses did not respond to requests to comment sent to his Linkedin and Facebook profiles.

TALKING TO PROSECUTORS

Discouraged after his firing, Masiero dropped the matter.

Then in 2014, Brazil was engulfed by a corruption scandal centered on contracting graft at state oil company Petrobras (PETR4.SA). That blockbuster probe, known as Car Wash, ultimately toppled leaders at the highest levels of Brazilian business and politics.

Masiero got in touch with federal prosecutors.

“His information was key to helping us break up this scheme,” said Marisa Ferrari, a lead prosecutor on the case.

Masiero, meanwhile, is unemployed. He said he has been blacklisted in Brazil.

He and his family recently left Brazil for a country Masiero does not want to name.