United States presidential election news update

This 18 August 2019 video from the USA says about itselF:

Naomi Klein: By Not Holding Climate Debate, DNC Fails to Grasp “Intersectional Nature of the Crisis

Renowned activist and author Naomi Klein evaluates the 2020 Democratic presidential field and the climate platforms of leading candidates. She says the Democratic National Committee’s refusal to hold a debate specifically on the climate crisis reveals “a fundamental failure to understand the intersectional nature of this crisis,” making it crucial for the candidates to be vocal about their plans.

“If you say you support a Green New Deal … then you can’t wait for the moderator to ask you specifically about climate change. This is your economic plan, this is related to what your foreign policy is, this is related to your racial justice platform,” Klein says. “This is really the story of the next economy, so the candidates need to seize the reins.”

This 18 August 2019 video from the USA says about itselF:

Bernie Sanders Has HAD IT with Joe Biden’s Blatant Corporatism

This 18 August 2019 video from the USA says about itselF:

Pete Buttigieg Gets Desperate, Resorts to Attacks and Lies About Bernie Sanders

This 18 August 2019 video from the USA says about itselF:

Biden’s Most Explicitly Racist Moment Of Campaign

Ancient fossil bird discovery in New Zealand

This 18 September 2019 video from New Zealand says about itself:

Fossil of ancient bony-toothed bird found in Canterbury

One of world’s oldest bird species has been found in North Canterbury.

Bony-toothed birds, an ancient family of huge seafaring birds, were thought to have evolved in the Northern Hemisphere – but that theory has been upended by the discovery of the family’s oldest, but smallest member in New Zealand.

At 62 million-years-old, the newly-found Protodontopteryx ruthae is rewriting the history of the seabird family.

And as Eleisha Foon reports, while the discovery was made last year, it’s taken until now for experts to determine exactly what it was.

From the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand:

One of world’s oldest bird species found in Waipara, New Zealand

September 17, 2019

The ancestor of some of the largest flying birds ever has been found in Waipara, North Canterbury. …

It lived in New Zealand soon after the dinosaurs died out.

While its descendants were some of the biggest flying birds ever, with wingspans of more than 5 metres, ‘Protodontopteryx’ was only the size of an average gull. Like other members of its family, the seabird had bony, tooth-like projections on the edge of its beak.

The seabird fossil was identified by the same team that recently announced the discovery of a 1.6 metre-high giant penguin from the same site.

Amateur palaeontologist Leigh Love found the partial ‘Protodontopteryx’ skeleton last year at the Waipara Greensand fossil site. The bird was named ‘Protodontopteryx ruthae’ after Love’s wife Ruth. Love wanted to thank her for tolerating his decades-long passion for palaeontology.

Fellow amateur Alan Mannering prepared the bones, and a team comprising Love, Mannering, Canterbury Museum Curators Dr Paul Scofield and Dr Vanesa De Pietri and Dr Gerald Mayr of Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, described ‘Protodontopteryx’.

Dr Scofield says the age of the fossilised bones suggests pelagornithids evolved in the Southern Hemisphere. “While this bird was relatively small, the impact of its discovery is hugely significant in our understanding of this family. Until we found this skeleton, all the really old pelagornithids had been found in the Northern Hemisphere, so everyone thought they’d evolved up there.”

“New Zealand was a very different place when ‘Protodontoperyx’ were in the skies. It had a tropical climate — the sea temperature was about 25 degrees so we had corals and giant turtles”, he adds.

Dr Mayr says the discovery of ‘Protodontopteryx’ was “truly amazing and unexpected. Not only is the fossil one of the most complete specimens of a pseudotoothed bird, but it also shows a number of unexpected skeletal features that contribute to a better understanding of the evolution of these enigmatic birds.”

Later pelagornithid species evolved to soar over oceans with some species measuring up to 6.4 metres across the wings. ‘Protodontopteryx’s’ skeleton suggests it was less suited for long-distance soaring than later pelagornithids and probably covered much shorter ranges. Its short, broad pseudoteeth were likely designed for catching fish. Later species had needle-like pseudoteeth which were likely used to catch soft-bodied prey like squid.

Dr De Pietri says “because ‘Protodontopteryx’ was less adapted to sustained soaring than other known pelagornithids, we can now say that pseudoteeth evolved before these birds became highly specialised gliders.”

The last pelagornithid species died out around 2.5 million years ago, just before modern humans evolved.

The Waipara Greensand site where the ‘Protodontopteryx’ skeleton was found has yielded several important scientific discoveries in recent years, including ancient penguins and the world’s oldest tropicbird fossil.

Some of these discoveries, including the ‘Protodontopteryx’ fossil, will be displayed in an exhibition about ancient New Zealand at the Museum later this year.

This research was funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Marsden Fund.

Trump, General Motors attacks on striking workers

This 18 September 2019 video from the USA, in English with Spanish subtitles, says about itself:

Flint GM workers on strike oppose tier system, support international unity

WSWS Autoworker Newsletter reporters spoke to striking GM workers on the picket lines in Flint Michigan, the site of the historic sit-down strikes of 1937.

By Tom Hall in the USA:

Trump administration intervenes in bid to shut down GM strike

18 September 2019

The Trump administration is engaged in secret talks to shut down the strike at General Motors, Politico reported Tuesday afternoon.

According to anonymous sources who spoke with the media outlet, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro are both involved in the talks. …

Autoworkers must be warned: the intervention by the Trump administration is not in their interests. All of the demands of autoworkers, including the elimination of the tier system and the converting of temps to full-time positions, improved wages, health care and pensions, and the reversal of all layoffs, will be swept aside on the basis of lying promises about “saving American jobs.”

By Tom Hall in the USA:

GM hiring scabs to replace strikers at Missouri and Texas assembly plants

17 September 2019

Social media posts by autoworkers throughout the day have exposed that General Motors is hiring scab labor to operate its key assembly plants in Arlington, Texas and Wentzville, Missouri.

A flyer distributed by temp agency Stride Staffing advertised a job fair held in a Dallas suburb late Tuesday morning for “temp to hire” assembly technicians on three shifts. Any strikebreakers who are hired will earn the poverty wage of $12 to $12.35 per hour, less than some fast food workers in the Dallas area. The UAW local president at Arlington Assembly reportedly confirmed that the company was hiring scabs in an emergency meeting held this morning.

A WSWS Autoworker Newsletter reader in Missouri also reported that the UAW local president at Wentzville Assembly has informed striking GM workers that the company is hiring strikebreakers at their plant as well. …

The exposure of the strikebreaking operation comes the day after the company cut off medical benefits for striking workers, jeopardizing access to healthcare for tens of thousands of workers. The company was originally set to provide benefits until the end of the month. Workers are forced to obtain healthcare from the … ration they are being paid by the UAW strike fund, which provides medical and prescription drug coverage but not dental, vision, hearing or other benefits. Workers will not begin accruing strike pay until next Monday, when they will make a paltry $250 a week.

GM YANKS STRIKING WORKERS’ HEALTH CARE General Motors workers will be losing their company-sponsored health care two days into a strike that has shut down more than 50 facilities across the country. This forces the United Auto Workers to dip into its strike fund in order to provide health coverage to the nearly 50,000 workers involved in the work stoppage. [HuffPost]

‘IT JUST LOOKS LIKE CORPORATE GREED’ No one knows how long the largest auto strike in more than a decade will last. But workers have dug in. They look at how well General Motors has done in recent years ― the company pulled in roughly $11 billion in pre-tax profits in 2018 ― and wonder why they shouldn’t have a larger piece of the pie. [HuffPost]

Protests as Trump labor board moves to restrict grad student unions: here.

All penguin species’ genomes sequenced now

This June 2018 video is called All Penguin Species.

From GigaScience:

March of the multiple penguin genomes

September 17, 2019

Published today in the open-access journal GigaScience is an article that presents the first effort to capture the entirety of the genomic landscape of all living penguin species. The Penguin Genome Consortium — bringing together researchers from China, Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, the UK, the US, France and Germany — has produced 19 high-coverage penguin genome sequences that, together with two previously published genomes, encompass all surviving penguin species. This extensive study provides an unparalleled amount of information that covers an entire biological order, which will promote research in a wide variety of areas from evolution to the impact of human activities and environmental changes.

Penguins are a diverse order of species that span the Southern hemisphere, ranging from the Galápagos Islands on the equator, to the oceanic temperate forests of New Zealand, to the rocky coastlines of the sub-Antarctic islands, finally reaching the sea-ice around Antarctica. This iconic bird group have transitioned from flying seabirds to powerful, flightless marine divers. With their specialized skin and feathers and an enhanced thermoregulation system they are able to inhabit environments from the extreme cold Antarctic sea ice to the tropical Galápagos Islands.

These birds also serve as the figurative “canary in a coal mine”; warning of environmental and climate change. Many penguin populations have experienced rapid declines in recent decades, some having extreme population drops, such as the crash of the King penguin population, which has declined by 88% in just 3 decades. And more penguin species are predicted to decline in the near future. The dwindling populations have been linked to climate warming, environmental degradation, exploitation of the marine environment, fisheries bycatch, pollution, and the introduction of exotic predators. Penguins have thus become the focus of many ecosystem monitoring studies. Having high-quality genomes sequences of all extant penguin species serves as an outstanding new resource for understanding the specific reasons for species population loss.

Author Theresa Cole from the University of Otago in New Zealand says of this work: “The population history of different penguin species can be seen in their genome. We will provide new insights into the population history of all penguins over dramatic climate events, to predict population trends under future climate change scenarios. This research will help us understand how future climate change may affect other species, to help us develop conservation strategies.”

As with the work done on Darwin’s finches, studying the radiation of the 20 penguin species provides similar enlightening case study for researching unique penguin morphological and physiological adaptations. The consortium are also sequencing the genomes of recently extinct penguin taxa, as well as undertaking population genomic studies using multiple genomes per species.

Senior author Guojie Zhang from the University of Copenhagen, BGI, and Kunming Institute of Zoology says of this: “The penguin ancestor experienced rapid radiation leading to the current approximate 20 extant species, accompanied by many ancient lineages that are now extinct. The radiation of penguin thus provides an excellent example for the study of speciation.”

There were logistical challenges to get hold of high-quality specimens for all of these species as many come from some of the most inhospitable and far-flung corners of the globe. However, an additional challenge was cultural rather than technical. The process by which this consortium handled these sensitive issues serves as a model for building trust and collaboration with cultures that have equally important links to other native species.

Co-author Bruce McKinlay from the New Zealand Department of Conservation highlights this, saying: “Genome research in New Zealand is currently moving into novel cultural contexts, especially for penguins, which are Taonga or treasured possessions in M?ori culture. As such, our consortium have undertaken rigorous indigenous consultation to sequence the genomes from six New Zealand Taonga species. We believe these genomes will be important for a cultural context.”

The goal of the first stage of the Penguin Genome Consortium project was purely to sequence high-quality genomes, but initial validation studies have demonstrated these genomes are already producing valuable insight into evolutionary history of the penguin tree of life and the evolutionary patterns of their adaptation to Antarctica. For example, an initial phylogenetic tree presented in this study demonstrates that penguins have adapted to Antarctica on multiple occasions.

This and further comparative and evolutionary genomic analyses are currently being carried out, and the penguin genome consortium welcomes new members interested in joining the open consortium and contributing to this work. While this work is still underway early access to the 19 penguin genomes data has been provided, while the researchers ask groups intending to use this data for similar cross-species comparisons to follow the long running Fort Lauderdale and Toronto rules.

British homeless people denied housing

West Hendon, England residents defend council housing – homeless people are being routinely denied access to social housing

From daily News Line in Britain:

Social housing landlords deny homeless access to properties

18th September 2019

HOMELESS people are being routinely ‘screened out’ and denied access to social housing by social landlords because they are deemed ‘too poor or vulnerable to pay the rent’, research released yesterday by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has found.

They are being refused homes, in many cases because they are considered a ‘financial risk’ due to ‘the likelihood they would accrue major rent arrears after moving onto Universal Credit.’

Others were rejected after social landlords identified they had ‘unmet mental health or addiction problems’, often because of cuts to local NHS and housing support services.

Individuals with unmet support needs are regarded as ‘too high a risk to tenancy sustainment’, the CIH research says.

There are at least four million households in England waiting for social housing, and this number is growing.

The report recommends:

  • Housing providers should make a proportion of their properties part-or fully-furnished.
  • Make a significant investment in a 10-year programme for social house building, as recommended by CIH, Shelter, Crisis, and the National Housing Federation.
  • Suspend the Right To Buy to prevent further loss of social-rented homes and allow councils to retain receipts from Right To Buy sales.
  • Restore local housing allowance to cover the most affordable third of rents, so more people have the financial support they need to afford a decent home.

Meanwhile across the UK,  there were 98,563 teenagers between 16 and 19 on Universal Credit in August this year.

That works out at around one in every 29 people in that age range.

Campaigners said the findings reflected the huge number of people ‘struggling’ on low incomes, particularly amongst youth, who are more often than not forced into part-time low paid jobs, or onto zero hours contracts.

Universal Credit replaces the previously separate child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, and working tax credit.

It is then up to the claimant to divide up the money they receive between rent, gas, electric, water, food, clothes and other essentials.

However, Universal Credit represents a severe cut in the overall amount of money received, and claimants do not receive a single penny in the first six weeks after application.

The civil servants union PCS and the Labour Party are now calling for Universal Credit to be scrapped.

Universal Credit: ‘Cruel and flawed’ – says Unite: here.