British mail workers strike against Islamophobia

English strikers on the picket line in Bootle

By Laura Tiernan in England:

UK Royal Mail workers wildcat strike over racist insult by management

4 October 2019

Royal Mail postal workers in Merseyside walked off the job Tuesday to protest a racist comment against a Muslim co-worker. The solidarity action continued yesterday with a picket outside company headquarters in Bootle.

According to a report in the Liverpool Echo, a manager insulted a Muslim worker at the Royal Mail sorting and delivery office in Bootle and Seaforth. The popular staff member was said to be “very upset” and fellow workers quickly demonstrated their support with an “unofficial” wildcat walk-out.

Around 50 workers picketed and continued their action yesterday in a powerful reply to the nationalist climate promoted by the ruling class and its political servants and media over Brexit. Eton-educated Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sought to incite backward anti-Muslim prejudice, describing veiled women as “bank robbers” and “letter boxes”, but Royal Mail workers have advanced an opposing principle: class solidarity.

Workers stood firm yesterday despite management declaring their action was “unballoted” and therefore illegal. Under the Trade Union Act 2016, staff can only strike after a bureaucratic and secret ballot process aimed at suppressing industrial action. The anti-union laws build on those introduced by the hated Thatcher government and are routinely cited by union officials to stifle workplace grievances, strikes and secondary boycotts.

Management stated, “We are disappointed that unballoted industrial action is taking place … Royal Mail is fully committed to resolving our colleagues’ concerns in co-operation with the Communication Workers Union (CWU).”

Tuesday’s walkout in Merseyside follows a pattern of wildcat strikes provoked by Royal Mail management bullying and harassment, including at Swindon, Scarborough, Hamilton, Cambridgeshire, Canterbury, East London and Carmarthen.

In the comments section of the Liverpool Echo Tuesday, one Royal Mail worker wrote, “Given the behaviour and bullying culture among RM management I’d speculate that this comment was simply the breaking point … if you dare speak up for yourself or refuse to put work before anything else such as looking after your children or your health then you will become the target of prolonged and insidious harassment.”

In Nottingham, postal workers at the Glaisdale delivery office will be balloted for strike action over a colleague sacked in August. Ian Green, a postman for 15 years, was accused of “aggressive” behaviour when lodging a complaint over working conditions. Green’s colleagues believe he was sacked because he challenged management.

The Merseyside strike takes place as nationwide balloting concludes among Royal Mail’s 120,000-strong workforce. The ballot is certain to deliver an overwhelming strike vote with anger at boiling point over a new round of restructuring and job losses.

As the World Socialist Web Site explained last month, “RMG’s [Royal Mail Group’s] intention is to increase profitability through a five-year restructuring plan aimed at splitting its Parcelforce parcel delivery from the traditional postal service. Postal workers face the introduction of ‘gig economy’ conditions prevailing across the parcel delivery industry, while a planned review of the Universal Service Obligation threatens six-day week postal deliveries and could lead to the axing of as many as 20,000 jobs.”

The opposition among Royal Mail workers must be unified into a powerful industrial and political offensive to oppose the diktats of a management hell bent on subordinating postal services and the livelihoods of workers to the interests of corporate shareholders.

Tuesday’s walkout has been met with media censorship—only the Liverpool Echo reported the strike. This is due to fears that publicity could encourage similar strikes at Royal Mail but also throughout transport, education, the National Health Service and across the logistics industry, including Amazon.

CWU General Secretary Dave Ward tweeted of the strike, “A new era of trade unionism is being born and we stand at the forefront of it.”

Thick-billed euphonia sings in Panama

This 2 October 2019 video says about itself:

Male Thick-billed Euphonia Extended Singing Session – Oct 2, 2019

One of the most common visitors to the Panama Fruit Feeder, the Thick-billed Euphonia, is quite a skilled mimic. The Thick-billed Euphonia’s song is a rambling string of original notes and mimicked notes from other birds. Both males and females sing a variety of musical notes including a loud sharp “preet” and harsh, buzzy rattled “tziit”. Listen to this male perform his lovely song for us at the feeder.

Bernie Sanders recovering, Fox News not

As United States senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is recovering from an earlier medical problem, this 4 October 2019 video says about itself:

Bernie’s Medicare For All Push SPOOKS Fox News

The Young Turks’ Emma Vigeland reports on how Fox News FRANTICALLY cut off Dr. Oz when he started talking about how popular Bernie Sanders‘ Medicare For All plan is among doctors.

Must be a coincidence…

ANOTHER FOX NEWS DEPARTURE Veteran Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge is leaving the network to join CBS News, where “facts matter,” she said. Her departure comes a few weeks after longtime Fox News host Shepard Smith abruptly left the network. [HuffPost]

Donald Trump’s anti-Semitism

This video from the USA says about itself:

Trump’s Anti-Immigration Policies Are a Deepening of Previous Administration Policies

Although Trump’s rhetoric on immigration is shocking, suggesting border patrol should shoot border crossing immigrants in the legs, his policies are an intensification of policies that began under Obama,

I’d say, a lot earlier than Obama.

not a dramatic departure, says Aviva Chomsky.

By Peter Beinart in the USA:

With Anti-Semitic Attack On ‘Shifty’ Foe, Trump Shows Off The Mechanism Of His Racism

October 3, 2019

On Wednesday, Donald Trump again referred to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff as “shifty Schiff”. If you think that sounds vaguely anti-Semitic, you’re right. And it’s likely only the beginning. As the impeachment inquiry escalates, Trump’s anti-Semitic rhetoric probably will too.

It won’t escalate because Trump is any more hostile to Jews than he is to other religious or racial minorities. It will escalate because Trump thinks in terms of stereotypes. Thus, when challenged by an adversary, he often invokes bigoted tropes about their race, religion or gender. And for the next few months, as Trump’s presidency hangs in the balance, one of his biggest adversaries will be Adam Schiff, a Jew.

It’s no surprise that Trump called Schiff “shifty” — which means tricky or deceitful, or that in the past he’s called him “little pencil-neck”. When discussing Jews, Trump often plays on well-worn caricatures about cleverness, deviousness and physical weakness. He was quoted in 1991 as saying “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes.” In 2015, he told the Republican Jewish Coalition that, “This room negotiates deals. Perhaps more than any room I’ve ever spoken to” but “you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.”

Trump does something analogous when challenged by African Americans. He responds with racist stereotypes about their supposed lack of intelligence. When LeBron James criticized him in an interview with Don Lemon, Trump called the CNN host “the dumbest man on television… He made LeBron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.” Trump even called Barack Obama “a terrible student” who didn’t deserve admission to Columbia and Harvard Law School.

Another favored Trump stereotype about blacks is that they’re poor and unsanitary. When Representative John Lewis announced he wouldn’t attend Trump’s inauguration, Trump declared that Lewis’s district was “in horrible shape and falling apart.” When Representative Elijah Cummings challenged Trump’s policies at the border, Trump called his district “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”

When women challenge Trump, he often calls them ugly. “Look at that face!” he exclaimed about Carly Fiorina in September 2015, when she was rising in the polls. “Would anyone vote for that?” When Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski criticized him in 2017, Trump mocked her for “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” When Stormy Daniels sued him, he called her “horseface”.

And when Trump’s critics are women of color, he mixes and matches his stereotypes. Thus, when African American Representative Maxine Waters said Trump should be impeached, Trump called her not only a “seriously low IQ person” but also a “real beauty”. After Khizr Khan’s speech at the 2016 Democratic national convention, Trump suggested that his wife, Ghazala Khan, a Muslim woman, had remained silent on stage because “she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.”

Trump has done something similar with the disabled. When New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski disputed his claim that “thousands” of Arabs in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 attacks, Trump mimicked the way Kovaleski — who suffers from arthrogryposis — moves his arms and hands.

Like many of Trump’s responses, the attack was a non-sequitur. The way Kovaleski moves his limbs, or the condition of Elijah Cummings’ district, or the size of Adam Schiff’s neck, have no bearing on their criticisms of Trump. They are simply a way of undermining his perceived adversaries by conjuring negative stereotypes about the group of which they are a part.

To some, these taunts may seem too juvenile to be truly dangerous. Trump’s is the bigotry of the playground; when threatened, he simply picks up whatever negative material is most readily at hand. When attacked by a newspaper, he says it’s losing money; when attacked by a comedian, he says the comedian is not funny; when attacked by a Jew, he says the Jew is skinny and devious.

But they are dangerous. When Trump speaks, millions of Americans nod in fervent agreement.

Will one of them show up at a local synagogue looking to exact revenge on Trump’s shifty, pencil-necked tormentors, just as Robert Bowers last year went seeking revenge against the Jews who were supposedly facilitating what Trump often called an immigrant “invasion”? Probably not. But, all things being equal, I’d feel safer living in a country in which the president didn’t invoke anti-Semitic stereotypes at all.

Peter Beinart is a Senior Columnist at [US Jewish daily] The Forward and Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York. He is also a Contributor to The Atlantic and a CNN Political Commentator.

TRUMP SLAMMED FOR ANTI-SEMITIC CLAIM Jewish groups denounced President Donald Trump for anti-Semitic tropes after he referred to some Jewish voters in the real estate business as “brutal killers” who will vote for him to dodge a wealth tax. Trump also complained that some Jews “don’t love Israel enough” in a weekend speech to a Jewish group. [HuffPost]

Why big Ice Age mammals became extinct

This 2015 video is called 10 Amazing Extinct Animals from the Pleistocene.

From the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany:

Microscopic evidence sheds light on the disappearance of the world’s largest mammals

New, state-of-the-art methods provide detailed insights into the timing and causes of ‘megafauna’ extinctions in the past

October 2, 2019

Understanding the causes and consequences of Late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions is increasingly important in a world of growing human populations and climate change. A new review, led by scholars at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, highlights the role that cutting-edge scientific methods can play in broadening the discussions about megafaunal extinction and enabling more localized insights into ecosystems and species-specific responses to climate change and human activities.

The disappearance of many of the world’s largest mammal species occurred around the same time that two other major transformations in Earth’s history were unfolding: dramatic climatic change at the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary (c. 10,000 B.P.) and the dispersal of Homo sapiens to new continents. Untangling the role each of these played in Late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions has been the subject of intense scholarly debate for decades. However, recent advances in archaeological and paleontological science methods have helped demonstrate that megafaunal extinctions are more complex than any single humans-versus-climate answer can provide.

The new article, published in BioScience, emphasizes contributions from five different approaches: radiocarbon dating, stable isotope analysis, ancient DNA, ancient proteins, and microscopy. These techniques can offer robust, high-resolution insights into climate change and extinction chronologies, past habitat transformations, ecological relationships, and species diet and ranging. Especially when used in combination, these advanced methods offer unprecedented levels of detail that can help to better understand causes of extinctions in the past, which can then be applied to contemporary animal management aims, including risk assessments and rewilding efforts.

The review is an international and multidisciplinary collaboration between leading experts in megafaunal extinction research and emerging laboratory science methods. “When we started this collaboration, we were worried that we’d never get everyone to see eye-to-eye on megafaunal extinctions,” says Jillian Swift, lead author and archaeologist at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. “But it was easy to agree on the urgency of understanding deep-time human impacts to Earth systems, so that we can continue to make informed conservation decisions for our future.”

“Approaches to extinctions of ‘megafauna’ in the past are often based on sweeping narratives that assume that all species are equally vulnerable to external threats such as environmental change and human hunting,” says Patrick Roberts, of the Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and co-author on the study. “Archaeological science methods allow us to get past these generalizations and explore how the diets, demography, and mobility of individual species and populations changed through time, providing a far more complex, and accurate, picture of past ecosystems.”

“We believe that large, multidisciplinary collaborations such as this offer the best way to approach questions of such magnitude as ‘megafaunal extinctions‘”, says Nicole Boivin, Director of the Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and co-author. “It is only by coming together, from a variety of fields and backgrounds, that we can apply very different expertise and methodologies to build up more detailed understandings of the past that have major, pressing implications for present-day processes and threats.”

Plastic industry corporations, pollution and greenwashing

This 4 October 2019 video says about itself:

The Plastic Industry‘s Long Fight to Blame Pollution on You

Plastic production really began in earnest in the 1950s. It’s hard to remember, but we once got along without it. Of course, plastic offered great convenience, and its production skyrocketed. In 1967, when Dustin Hoffman was advised to go into plastics in “The Graduate”, there were 25 million tons of plastic produced. These days, we’re making 300 million tons. At this point, the plastics industry is worth $4 trillion and almost half of what it’s producing is single-use plastics — things that will be used once and almost instantly become trash.

Public outrage at this problem erupted in 1970, with the first Earth Day, and the industry has been successfully dodging the issue ever since. Through advertising, public outreach campaigns, lobbying, and partnerships with non-profits designed to seem “green”, plastics industry organizations have been blaming “litterbugs” for the growing menace and promoting the idea of recycling as the solution, while at the same time fighting every serious attempt to limit plastic production.

Read the full story here.

Dinosaurs extinct, Italian stingrays survived

This 2011 video is about the fossil fish of Monte Bolca in northeastern Italy.

From the University of Vienna in Austria:

Fossil fish gives new insights into evolution after end-Cretaceous mass extinction

October 2, 2019

An international research team led by Giuseppe Marramà from the Institute of Paleontology of the University of Vienna discovered a new and well-preserved fossil stingray with an exceptional anatomy, which greatly differs from living species. The find provides new insights into the evolution of these animals and sheds light on the recovery of marine ecosystems after the mass extinction occurred 66 million years ago. The study was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Stingrays (Myliobatiformes) are a very diverse group of cartilaginous fishes which are known for their venomous and serrated tail stings, which they use against other predatory fish, and occasionally against humans. These rays have a rounded or wing-like pectoral disc and a long, whip-like tail that carries one or more serrated and venomous stings. The stingrays include the biggest rays of the world like the gigantic manta rays, which can reach a “wingspan” of up to seven meters and a weight of about three tons.

Fossil remains of stingrays are very common, especially their isolated teeth. Complete skeletons, however, exist only from a few extinct species coming from particular fossiliferous sites. Among these, Monte Bolca, in northeastern Italy, is one of the best known. So far, more than 230 species of fishes have been discovered that document a tropical marine coastal environment associated with coral reefs which dates back to about 50 million years ago in the period called Eocene.

This new fossil stingray has a flattened body and a pectoral disc ovoid in shape. What is striking is the absence of sting and the extremely short tail, which is not long as in the other stingrays, and does not protrude posteriorly to the disc. This body plan is not known in any other fossil or living stingray. Since this animal is unique and peculiar, the researchers named the new stingray Lessiniabatis aenigmatica, which means “bizarre ray from Lessinia” (the Italian area where Bolca is located).

More than 70 percent of the organisms, such as dinosaurs, marine reptiles, several mammal groups, numerous birds, fish and invertebrates disappeared during the fifth-largest extinction event in the Earth’s history occurred about 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous. In marine environments, the time after this event is characterized by the emergence and diversification of new species and entire groups of bony and cartilaginous fishes (sharks and rays), which reoccupied the ecological niches left vacant by the extinction’s victims. The new species experimented sometimes new body plans and new ecological strategies.

“From this perspective, the emergence of a new body plan in a 50-million-year-old stingray such as Lessiniabatis aenigmatica is particularly intriguing when viewed in the context of simultaneous, extensive diversification and emergence of new anatomical features within several fish groups, during the recovery of the life after the end-Cretaceous extinction event,” states Giuseppe Marramà.

Detroit students, Mexicans support General Motors strike

This 2 October 2019 video says about itself:

Detroit students speak out in support of striking autoworkers

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) found overwhelming support at Wayne State University for striking autoworkers. One student told us:

“The amount of power has increased dramatically in the hands of the CEO’s and on Wall Street and they are trying to take your wages and your benefits and everything you’ve worked hard for. Don’t let them take it away from you. Don’t give in. Stand your ground!”

Striking General Motors workers

By Andrea Lobo:

GM shuts down Silao Complex in Mexico as workers’ rebellion brews

4 October 2019

GM has decided to shut down production at the Silao Complex, its largest in Mexico, because of a growing rebellion at the plant involving workers who are demanding a united fight with their class allies in the US. GM’s decision shows that striking workers in the US have support internationally—a huge source of strength …

The 6,000 workers at Silao assemble a vast array of transmissions, engines and more than 400,000 pick-up trucks yearly—the highly profitable GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado. Despite claiming the previous week that GM was “operating normally at all plants”, the company announced on September 26 that two shifts would be laid off from each area at the Silao Complex this week. The company then decided Tuesday to shut down the entire plant until further notice. The company will pay some workers 55 percent of their salaries during this period while eliminating paid vacation days from others.

Center for Automotive Research Vice President Kristin Dziczeek told AP that “the closing of the Silao plant has created greater pressure on GM to end the strike.”

The General Motors complex in Silao

In other words, a united struggle of Mexican and American autoworkers could mark a serious challenge to the dictatorship of the corporation … This objective class unity explodes the lie put forward by politicians like billionaire Donald Trump who claim Mexicans are “rapists” and claims by Trump, the Democrats … who falsely claim Mexican workers steal American jobs.

GM Mexico said in a press brief: “We remain vigilant on the negotiations between General Motors Company and the union UAW (United Automobile Workers) in the United States to evaluate day by day our operations, hoping for the GM complex to resume work in the following days.” …

The statements of the company … are attempts to pit workers across borders against each other. That’s because all signs suggest that the decision to close Silao was aimed at preempting a simmering rebellion by workers who are already making appeals for a joint struggle with US strikers. Since the strike began, GM has fired at least 7 workers who were opposing speedups and overtime in order not to weaken the strike of American workers.

Two-thirds of parts in the cars assembled in Mexico come from the US and Canada with a significant share going through the distribution centers on strike in the US. Both GM and the UAW have cited a shortage of auto parts as the cause of the decision. However, neither explained the sudden change in calculations to shut down Silao while keeping Ramos Arizpe, San Luis Potosí and Toluca open.

On Wednesday, EFE reported that Silao workers have denounced harassment and unjustified firings “as a consequence of backing US strikers”. The re-hiring of victimized workers, it adds, “is being considered in the demands of strikers in the United States, as well as access [by Mexican workers] to the distribution of economic resources from the [US] strike fund.”

The news agency then indicates that, upon contacting the company, GM Mexico “insisted that it was false that there have been unjustified firings and that the strike fund only applies for the UAW in the United States.”

These statements demonstrate that the company was following closely the activities of the militant group at Silao taking actions in support of the US strikers when it decided to shut down the plant.

According to workers at Silao in contact with the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter, GM and its [company] trade union had escalated the harassment and unjustified firings of the more outspoken workers and those with previous injuries to prepare for speed-ups and other measures in response to a potential strike in the United States.

Many of these workers have been targeted for participating in discussions about leaving the pro-company union, which have taken place for years. These workers established a rank-and-file group in April, which kept regular contact on social media and held bi-weekly meetings in a nearby town. After reading about the UAW contract expiration and corruption scandal on the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter in early September, the workers established contact with the WSWS and began joining online conferences organized by the WSWS to discuss with autoworkers in the United States and internationally a joint struggle.

At their local assembly on September 15, the militant group, which had about 35 workers and has since adopted the name “Generating Movement”, voted to actively oppose speed-ups and overtime that GM could use to undermine a strike in the US, which began the following day. After Silao workers communicated this decision during the September 19 international online call organized by the Autoworker Newsletter and appealed to US strikers to adopt the demand that GM re-hire co-workers in their militant group, the company began summarily firing specifically those workers present at the September 15 assembly and those who sent voice messages on September 19.

The response by those victimized has been to increase their appeals to their international brothers and sisters. In their statements to the media, the Silao workers have placed front and center that they are waging an international struggle. On Wednesday, Israel Cervantes told El Otro Enfoque, “There have already been 25 co-workers fired and we demand, along with co-workers in the United States, their immediate re-hiring.”

A Fiat Chrysler worker in Toledo, Ohio told the Autoworker Newsletter that the Silao workers “are sacrificing a lot for the good. The UAW and management use the threat of sending jobs to Mexico as a scare tactic.”

It’s the class duty of all US autoworkers to come to the defense of Silao workers and adopt their re-hiring with full back pay as a strike demand.

The strike by 48,000 General Motors workers, now in its 19th day, has been driven largely by Wall Street’s demands that GM and other automakers fundamentally transform their model of employment relations, particularly for workers producing new hi-tech vehicles. The hedge funds and financial investors who hold GM’s fate in their hands are demanding the company increase the profits it extracts from workers building traditional vehicles in order to shift capital towards electric, self-driving and ride-sharing technologies. At the same time, they are demanding GM continue to dole out billions for stock buybacks and dividend payments to attract wealthy investors. The strike has ground GM’s operations in the US to a halt and led to temporary layoffs throughout the auto and auto components industry in the US, Canada and Mexico. In calls to investors, Wall Street analysts have said the strike could lead to the loss of 100,000 vehicles and up to a billion dollars in profits in the third quarter. Nevertheless, Wall Street has instructed the GM board to defeat the strike no matter what the short-term losses. To the financial elite, the long-term gains from the expansion of temporary employees and deep cuts in health care benefits—estimated to save GM $5 an hour or half a billion dollars in labor costs every year—far outweigh the short-term losses. The defeat of the strike is seen as paving the way for a thoroughgoing restructuring of class relations throughout the global auto industry and beyond: here.