USA, UK far-right news update


This video from the USA says about itself:

Charlottesville: Race and Terror – VICE News Tonight on HBO

On Saturday hundreds of white nationalists, alt-righters, and neo-Nazis traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia to participate in the “Unite the Right” rally. By Saturday evening three people were dead – one protester, and two police officers – and many more injured.

“VICE News Tonight” correspondent Elle Reeve went behind the scenes with white nationalist leaders, including Christopher Cantwell, Robert Ray, David Duke, and Matthew Heimbach — as well as counter-protesters. VICE News Tonight also spoke with residents of Charlottesville, members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Charlottesville Police.

From the neo-Nazi protests at Emancipation Park to Cantwell’s hideaway outside of Virginia, “VICE News Tonight” provides viewers with exclusive, up close and personal access inside the unrest.

This episode of VICE News Tonight aired August 14, 2017 on HBO.

These Fascists Inadvertently Raised Over $35,000 For A Cause They Hate. The few hundred fascists who rallied in Portland, Oregon, last weekend unwittingly raised over $35,000 for the defense of Latino immigrants, anti-fascist activists announced Saturday: here.

Proud Boys Leader Admits Their Rallies Are For Fighting And Wasting Money. The Proud Boys for years have helped organize street fights in Portland, Oregon ― gatherings thinly veiled as political freedom rallies in order to secure permits or police escorts from the city. This week, that veil was lifted, as the group’s leader admitted the ugly and obvious truth: The events are staged with the intention of spurring fights, wasting city resources and winning a game of optics against their anti-fascist nemeses: here.

Right-wing star Andy Ngo exits Quillette after damning video surfaces  [Daily Beast]

The Justice Department [of Donald Trump] is under fire for allegedly including a link to a white nationalist website in its daily news briefing emailed to immigration court employees on Monday. The memos have been sent to staffers each morning by the Executive Office of Immigration Review, only this time, as first reported by BuzzFeed News, one included a link to VDare.com, which is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an “anti-immigration hate website.”

Infiltrator exposes Generation Identity UK’s march towards extreme far right [Guardian]

8chan founder: site owners were in ‘direct contact’ with and made site changes for ‘Q’ [Right Wing Watch]

[Republican white supremacist Congressman] Steve King is broke and has been abandoned by his colleagues as he runs for re-election [Daily Beast]

Wild bees news update


This 2013 video says about itself:

Squash Bee Identification: squash bees and honey bees

Squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa) are found in Central and North America. In this short video, I provide tips on how to tell squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa) from honey bees. I don’t mention it in the video, but an additional factor to consider is the shape of the bee’s abdomen. If you are looking at the bee from behind the honey bee’s abdomen is torpedo shaped while the squash bee’s abdomen looks a little flatter and wider – one might even say a squashed torpedo shape.

If you want to use a key to identify your bees use the interactive key at www.discoverlife.org or look for Sheffield, R. 1994. The bee genera of North and Central America. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington.

From the University of Guelph in Canada:

Wild ground-nesting bees might be exposed to lethal levels of neonics in soil

August 26, 2019

In a first-ever study investigating the risk of neonicotinoid insecticides to ground-nesting bees, University of Guelph researchers have discovered at least one species is being exposed to lethal levels of the chemicals in the soil.

Examining the presence of these commonly used pesticides in soil is important given the majority of bee species in Canada make their nests in the ground.

This study focused on hoary squash bees, which feed almost exclusively on the nectar and pollen of squash, pumpkin and gourd flowers.

Researchers found that the likelihood that squash bees are being chronically exposed to lethal doses of a key neonicotinoid, clothianidin, in soil was 36 per cent or higher in squash fields.

That means 36 per cent of the population is probably encountering lethal doses, which is well above the acceptable threshold of 5 per cent, in which 95 per cent of the bees would survive exposure.

“These findings are applicable to many other wild bee species in Canada that nest on or near farms,” said U of G School of Environmental Sciences professor, Nigel Raine, who holds the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation and worked on the study with PhD student and lead author Susan Chan.

“We don’t yet know what effect these pesticides are having on squash bee numbers because wild bees are not yet tracked the same way that honeybee populations are monitored. But we do know that many other wild bee species nest and forage in crop fields, which is why these findings are so concerning.”

Published in Scientific Reports, the study began with Chan collecting soil samples from 18 commercial squash fields in Ontario. Pesticide residue information from these samples and a second government dataset from field crops was used by Chan and colleagues Prof. Ryan Prosser, School of Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Jose Rodríguez-Gil to assess the risk to ground-nesting squash bees.

The research comes as Health Canada places new limits on the use of three key neonicotinoids, including clothianidin, while it decides whether to impose a full phase-out of these pesticides. Neonics have been linked to concerns about honeybee colony health, with research showing these bees can ingest dangerous amounts through nectar or pollen.

“Current risk assessments for insecticide impacts on pollinators revolve around honeybees, a species that rarely comes into contact with soil,” said Raine. “However, the majority of bee species live most of their life in soil, so risks of pesticide exposure from soil should be a major factor in these important regulatory decisions.”

“Until now, no one has examined the risk to bees from neonics in soil despite the fact these pesticides are applied directly to seeds planted into the ground, or sprayed directly onto soil at planting, and can persist for months after application,” said Chan.

“Only about 20 per cent of the neonicotinoid insecticide applied to coated seeds is actually taken up into the crop plant; the rest stays in the soil and can remain there into subsequent seasons.”

Squash bees are at particular risk because they prefer the already-tilled soil of agricultural fields for their elaborate underground homes. And as they build their nests, they move about 300 times their own body weight worth of soil.

Since the bees don’t eat soil, it’s difficult to know exactly how much pesticide residue enters the bees. But the researchers calculated that even if they are conservative and assume only 25 per cent of the clothianidin enters the bee, the risk of lethal exposure in pumpkin or squash crops is 11 per cent — still above the widely accepted threshold of 5 per cent.

The team also examined the exposure risk in field crops, since many ground-nesting bee species live near corn and soybean fields, which use neonics as well. They found that 58 per cent of ground-nesting bees would be exposed to a lethal dose of clothianidin while building their nests even if only 25 per cent of the clothianidin in the soil enters the bee.

“Pumpkin and squash farmers face a dilemma in that they want to protect pollinators, such as the squash bee, because they are vital to crop production, but at the same time need to protect their crops from pests,” said Chan.

“New approaches are needed that allow farmers to control pests and protect pollinators simultaneously. My advice to farmers is if you find an aggregation of squash bees nesting on your farm, protect these key pollinators from exposure to neonicotinoids by either not using them at all, or at least not using them near the aggregation. Creating pesticide-free places to nest will help your population of squash bees to grow over time.”

More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone. They are also threatened. Scientists demand more research on the ecology of these insects: here.

Australian right-wing government wants more internet censorship


This June 2018 video is called Censorship in Australia.

By Oscar Grenfell in Australia:

Australian PM calls for new internet censorship measures at G7

27 August 2019

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison used a trip to the G7 international summit in France over the weekend to aggressively push for an escalation of online censorship, on the pretext of combating “violent” and “extremist” material.

Morrison’s proposals were part of a months-long campaign that his government has waged to exploit the fascist terrorist attack in Christchurch last March to erode online freedom of speech.

While Australia is not a member of the G7, Morrison was invited to attend the summit and took part in a series of sideline meetings, including with US President Donald Trump. Morrison’s performance underscored Australia’s central role as a loyal ally of the US, and an attack dog of its global Five Eyes spying and surveillance network, which has been intimately involved in online censorship.

The centrepiece of Morrison’s intervention was a call for the adoption of an international agreement, that would pressure the major social media companies to report on their response to “extremist” and “terrorist” content on their platforms.

According to the Australian Associated Press, this would establish protocols for the social media corporations to regularly issue public reports on “how many attempts there were to upload violent or extremist content, how many the platform stopped before they went up, how many were posted for more than an hour, how many downloads there were, and how the company dealt with the material that was downloaded.”

As in previous calls from the Australian government for more stringent regulations, the terms “violent” and “extremist” are undefined. They could include exposures of police and state violence, footage or images from demonstrations or virtually any controversial political content.

In the wake of the Christchurch attack, senior government ministers warned against “right-wing and left-wing extremism

Most terrorist violence is right-wing white supremacist violence; though Donald Trump is in denial about that. The anti-fascist ‘left-wing’ has killed exactly 0 (zero) people.

signalling that mounting popular opposition to war, social inequality and authoritarianism is a central target of the censorship drive.

While the reporting regime would be voluntary, Australian government representatives said they anticipated that the social media companies would come under “pressure” to comply. Like other measures floated by the Morrison government, this is aimed at compelling the platforms to more aggressively remove content, lest they come under public attack from the authorities.

Significantly, Morrison’s policy has been backed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which announced prior to the G7 that it would provide an unspecified funding package to facilitate its roll-out.

At a one-on-one meeting with Morrison on Sunday, OECD head Angel Gurria reportedly gushed that the Australian prime minister had played the central role in a global crackdown on the internet since the Christchurch attack.

“But then somebody has to lead the charge, to make this have staying power, to make this stick in a way. And that was your role,” Gurria reportedly told Morrison, adding, “What happened then is that the idea caught fire.”

Morrison’s proposals have met with an enthusiastic response, because they dovetail with an attempt by governments throughout Europe and internationally to create a legislative framework for the suppression of political speech on the internet.

In March, the European parliament voted in favour of a directive which, under the guise of copyright reforms, would enforce the use of so-called upload filters in social media. This is aimed at ensuring that all content uploaded to YouTube and other platforms is scanned in advance by powerful computer censorship programs.

Similar measures have been taken by individual European states. In January 2018, the German Network Enforcement Law came into effect, requiring operators of internet platforms with more than two million users to remove or block access to “obviously illegal content within 24 hours of receiving the complaint.”

Last May, French President Emmanuel Macron called an international meeting, along with the New Zealand government, to call for social media corporations to prevent the sharing of “terrorist and violent extremist content.” Macron’s government has also been implicated in attempts to censor social media associated with mass “Yellow Vests” protests against social inequality and austerity.

In addition to furthering these international efforts, Morrison’s intervention over the weekend was aimed at providing even more draconian measures his government is preparing to implement domestically, with a veneer of global legitimacy.

The Australian prime minister reiterated plans his government first announced in June to allow telecommunication companies and Internet Service Providers to block access to websites that host “harmful” or “extremist” content.

A spokesman for federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher told the Sydney Morning Herald on the weekend that “the new blocking arrangements would give telcos the legal backing to address fringe websites that wilfully host abhorrent violent material and refuse to engage constructively with government.”

The government has not specified what role it would play in determining which websites are blocked. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, however, signalled that the police and intelligence agencies would be intimately involved, declaring in a statement: “This new protocol will better equip our agencies to rapidly detect and shut down the sharing of dangerous material online, even as a crisis may still be unfolding.”

Dutton’s comments raise the spectre of the government shutting-down political and news websites in the event of civil unrest or the emergence of mass oppositional movements.

In 2009, WikiLeaks published the then federal Labor government’s secret list of blacklisted websites. While Labor ministers had previously claimed that targeted sites shared illicit content, such as child pornography, WikiLeaks revealed that many of the blacklisted domains were law-abiding.

The move to again ban websites follows the bipartisan passage of online censorship laws in April. The legislation makes it an offence for social media platforms not to “expeditiously” remove “abhorrent violent material,” punishable with up to three years’ imprisonment or fines of as much as 10 percent of the platform’s annual turnover. It also compels them to report the sharing of prohibited material to the Australian Federal Police “within a reasonable time,” or face massive fines.

At the time, the New York Times noted that the bill was establishing a new global precedent for online restrictions, declaring: “No established democracies have ever come as close to applying such sweeping restrictions on online communication.”

These attacks on democratic rights are above all directed against growing social anger within the working class against militarism, inequality and authoritarianism.

Governments and the intelligence agencies are deeply fearful that social media via the internet provides the means for these sentiments to coalesce into powerful movements of opposition, by facilitating the organisation of protests, demonstrations and political gatherings. Above all, they are concerned that online platforms enable workers and youth to access genuine alternatives to the lies and government propaganda of the corporate press.

In April 2017, Google, in collaboration with the US intelligence agencies, introduced a new search engine algorithm aimed at reducing traffic to progressive, left-wing and anti-war websites. The World Socialist Web Site was among the hardest hit, with a 74 percent decrease in Google search referrals within months of the policy being implemented. Facebook and other social media platforms have adopted similar measures.

How herring adapted to Baltic Sea light


This 2009 video says about itself:

Baltic herring in the Baltic Sea

The Eastern Baltic Sea has not only natural and historical values, of which we might not know, but it also faces a bunch of challenges and threats (such as eutrophication or toxic algae) to persist the way it has been for centuries.

From Uppsala University in Sweden:

How the herring adapted to the light environment in the Baltic Sea

August 26, 2019

The evolutionary process that occurs when a species colonizes a new environment provides an opportunity to explore the mechanisms underlying genetic adaptation, which is essential knowledge for understanding evolution and the maintenance of biodiversity. An international team of scientists, led by researchers from Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, reports that a single amino acid change in the light-sensing rhodopsin protein played a critical role when herring adapted to the red-shifted light environment in the Baltic Sea. Remarkably about one third of all fish living in brackish or freshwater carry the same change. The study is published today in PNAS.

“The Atlantic and Baltic herring are excellent models for evolutionary studies for two reasons,” explains Dr. Leif Andersson from Uppsala University and Texas A&M University who led the study. “Firstly, their enormous population sizes allow us to study the effects of natural selection without the disturbing stochastic changes in the frequency of gene variants that happens in small populations. Secondly, the colonization of the brackish Baltic Sea by herring within the last 10,000 years (following the most recent glaciation) provides an opportunity to study what happens when a species adapts to a new environment.”

“We have examined the entire genome in many populations of Atlantic and Baltic herring and find that a single amino acid change in the protein rhodopsin, in which phenylalanine has been replaced by tyrosine, played a critical role during the adaptation to the Baltic Sea,” says Jason Hill, scientist at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden, and first author on the paper. This makes a lot of sense since rhodopsin is a light-sensitive receptor in the retina and satellite data show that the Baltic Sea has a red-shifted light environment compared with the Atlantic Ocean, because dissolved organic material absorbs blue light.

“A careful genetic analysis of our data shows that the evolutionary process must have been very rapid. We estimate that the rhodopsin gene variant found in Baltic herring increased in frequency to become the most common variant within only a few hundred years,” says scientist Mats Pettersson at Uppsala University.

The amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine are structurally very similar and only differs by the presence of a hydroxyl (-OH) moiety in tyrosine, so could this change really be so important?

“In fact, the crystal structure of rhodopsin shows that residue 261 is located in the vicinity of the chromophore retinal where light absorption occurs. The presence of tyrosine in Baltic herring rhodopsin makes light absorption red-shifted by about 10 nanometer and can thereby catch more photons in the red-shifted light environment in the Baltic Sea,” says Dr. Patrick Scheerer at Charité — Universitätsmedizin Berlin, in Berlin, Germany, and one of the co-authors of the study.

When the scientists analysed the rhodopsin sequence from more than 2,000 fish they found that about one third of all species occurring in brackish or freshwater carry exactly the same genetic change as the Baltic herring whereas nearly all fish living in marine waters have a rhodopsin gene variant with phenylalanine like the Atlantic herring. “It is remarkable that we find the same mutation occur independently and at least 20 times across thousands of fish species, this provides a really striking example of convergent evolution at the molecular level,” says Erik Enbody, co-author and post-doctoral fellow at Uppsala University.

“Our hypothesis is that this change in rhodopsin is particularly important during the juvenile stage and that the Baltic herring variant allows fish larvae to better utilise the light environment in the Baltic Sea when searching for food or avoiding predators,” explains Leif Andersson. This hypothesis is supported by their finding that both Atlantic salmon and brown trout that always spawn in freshwater but may live most of their life in marine water have tyrosine 261 in rhodopsin like a freshwater fish. In contrast, the European and Japanese eel which both are born in marine waters but live most of their adult lives in freshwater carry phenylalanine 261 like the great majority of marine fish.