Greek right-wing government attacks civil liberties

This video says about itself:

Protesters denounce criminal negligence of the Greek Coast Guard during recent migrant boat sinking off Agathonisi in which sixteen people lost their lives. On 16 March sixteen people, including at least five children, drowned when the small boat they on capsized in the Aegean Sea. The only three survivors raise serious allegations against the authorities. Relatives of those lost at sea- including an Afghan mother who lost her two sons gather at Syntagma square in Athens to protest and demand responsibilities about the incident, as the Greek Coast Guard ignored the emergency calls.

Athens, Greece, 04 April 2018.

From the Dawn of the Greks blog, 12 November 2019:

The repression wave in Athens continues…

Clashes between students and riot police erupted in the Economic University AOSEE in downtown Athens yesterday September 11th. Dozens of students entered the premises of the institution in order to protest the Senate decision to close the University for a week “deliberately and for no reason”, as they say. …

Today, November 12th, the riot police in Athens evacuated one more squat in the center of Athens at Bouboulinas street, where 138 refugees and migrants were living. The situation with the repression wave of the new [right-wing] government remains out of control. Many squats and social spaces in Athens have been evacuated already. Mainly the victims are migrants and refugees.

From the Keep Talking Greece site, 11 November 2019:

Greek gov’t brings back Blasphemy Laws, penalty up to 2 years in prison

The conservative Greek government brings back the Blasphemy Laws the previous government SYRIZA had abolished less than six months ago. Violating the blasphemy laws could send those insulting God and the Greek Orthodox Church up to two years in prison.

GREECE will shut down overcrowded refugee camps on islands and replace them with tight-security holding facilities, officials announced today: here.

Rabbit size deer rediscovered in Vietnam

This 11 November 2019 video says about itself:

Scientists rediscover missing mammal, the silver-backed chevrotain

The silver-backed chevrotain has been missing for nearly 30 years. The species was last seen in Vietnam in 1990, until now. Silver-backed chevrotains have been tough to spot since they were first described in 1910.

Though chevrotains look like deer, they are not in the deer family. They are ancient rabbit-sized ungulates (hoofed animals) with features like fangs and four toes. The recent capture of the silver-backed chevrotain on camera trap is a major win in the search for missing mammals.

Global Wildlife Conservation’s Lost Species Initiative is searching for 25 species around the world. And the silver-backed chevrotain is their latest success. Prior to this, they have found four other species on the list have been found. But 20 remain missing.

Read more here.

From the Forschungsverbund Berlin in Germany:

Miniature fanged ‘deer’ rediscovered tiptoeing through Vietnam’s coastal forests

November 11, 2019

Global Wildlife Conservation and partners Southern Institute of Ecology and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research have rediscovered a species lost to science since 1990 called a silver-backed chevrotain — a deer-like species that is the size of a rabbit, has a silver sheen, and has been hanging on in a region of Vietnam ravaged by poaching by snares. The silver-backed chevrotain, also called the Vietnamese mouse deer, was last recorded more than 25 years ago and is the first mammal rediscovered on GWC’s top 25 most wanted lost species in the Search for Lost Species.

The rediscovery in southern Vietnam was published today, November 11, in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution and is spurring on efforts to protect the chevrotain and the other mysterious and extraordinary wildlife that shares its home in Vietnam.

“We had no idea what to expect, so I was surprised and overjoyed when we checked the camera traps and saw photographs of a mouse deer with silver flanks,” said An Nguyen, associate conservation scientist for GWC and expedition team leader. Nguyen is also field coordinator and PhD student with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research. “For so long, this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination. Discovering that it is, indeed, still out there, is the first step in ensuring we don’t lose it again, and we’re moving quickly now to figure out how best to protect it.”

The silver-backed chevrotain was described in 1910 from four individuals collected from southern Vietnam. A Russian expedition in 1990 in central Vietnam collected a fifth individual. Scientists know almost nothing about general ecology or conservation status of this species, making it one of the highest mammal conservation priorities in the Greater Annamite mountains, one of GWC’s focal wildlands.

After several interviews with local villagers and government forest rangers who reported seeing a gray mouse deer — the colour distinguishing the silver-backed chevrotain from the more common lesser mouse deer — the field team set three camera traps for five months in an area of southern Vietnam where locals indicated they may have seen the animal. This resulted in 275 photos of the species. The team then set up another 29 cameras in the same area, this time recording 1,881 photographs of the chevrotain over five months.

“The rediscovery of the silver-backed chevrotain provides a big hope for the conservation of biodiversity, especially threatened species, in Vietnam,” said Hoang Minh Duc, head of the Southern Institute of Ecology’s Department of Zoology. “This also encourages us, together with relevant and international partners, to devote time and effort to further investigate and conserve Vietnam‘s biodiversity heritage.”

There are 10 known species of chevrotains in the world, primarily from Asia. Despite their common English names, chevrotains are neither mice nor deer, but the world’s smallest small ungulates (hoofed mammals). They are shy and solitary, appear to walk on the tips of their hooves and have two tiny fangs. Chevrotains typically weigh less than 5 kg.

The silver-backed chevrotain is one of a number of fascinating species that live in the diverse tropical forests of Southeast Asia, where some species have been discovered only in the last few decades. This includes the antelope-like saola (the Asian “unicorn”), which was only discovered in 1992 and that no biologist has seen in the wild. Animals in this area of the world, however, are victims of a devastating hunting technique — the use of cheap and homemade wire snares. The level of indiscriminate hunting in the region has led to the widespread “empty forest syndrome” across Vietnam, pushing numerous Annamite species to the brink of extinction.

A team is now setting out to determine how large — and stable — this population of silver-backed chevrotains is, assess the wider distribution of the species and explore the threats to its survival. As part of the first-ever comprehensive survey on the species, the team began camera trap surveys in October in two additional areas. They will use all of the information that they gather to develop a conservation action plan that strengthens enforcement and protection of the species across its range, building on the increased enforcement already put in place at the site of rediscovery.

“It is an amazing feat to go from complete lack of knowledge of the wildlife of the Greater Annamites 25 years ago to now having this question mark of the silver-backed chevrotain resolved,” said Barney Long, GWC senior director of species conservation. “But the work is only beginning with the rediscovery and initial protection measures that have been put in place — now we need to identify not just a few individuals on camera traps, but one or two sites with sizable populations so that we can actually protect and restore the species.”

This project was made possible in part by the generous support of Wroclaw Zoo, Auckland Zoo, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (Project 172515989), and the Gerald Singer Deer Research Grant provided by Sainte Croix Biodiversite. Additional support was provided by the Southern Institute of Ecology and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Spanish neo-fascist Vox party, a danger

This 11 November 2019 video says about itself:

Spain’s far right looks to reignite embers of Franco era

Spain’s Socialist Party says it will act fast to form a government, after winning the most seats in Sunday’s parliamentary election.

Leader Pedro Sanchez had hoped the vote – which was the second this year – would break the country’s political deadlock.

But with the far-right Vox party more than doubling its support, the country appears more fragmented than ever before.

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull has more from Madrid.

By Alex Lantier:

The Spanish elections and the rise of the fascistic Vox party

12 November 2019

The rapid rise of the fascistic Vox party in Sunday’s Spanish elections is a warning of serious political dangers facing workers in Spain and around the world. As it faces mounting political protest and anger against social inequality, the ruling class is moving to set up fascistic police states tasked with violently repressing social opposition in the working class.

Vox officials have publicly hailed the record of the “national army” of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator who launched a coup in 1936 against growing radicalization in the working class under the Spanish Second Republic. The resulting Civil War led to over a quarter million deaths and the imposition of a dictatorship that ruled Spain until 1978, three years after Franco’s death. Franco interned hundreds of thousands in concentration camps, banned strikes and political parties, censored the press and had thousands tortured by the secret police.

The Franco regime was so despised by workers in Spain and across Europe after it fell that, when Vox was founded in 2014, it attracted virtually no support. For several years, despite its extensive connections inside the army brass and the Popular Party (PP), Vox won 50,000 votes or less, well under one percent of the vote.

Vox’s vote surged, however, after the brutal police crackdown on the peaceful Catalan independence referendum of October 2017, and particularly amid Spanish nationalist attacks in the media against mass protests in Barcelona opposing last month’s jailing of Catalan nationalist political prisoners. On Sunday, Vox won 3.6 million votes, or 15 percent, doubling its parliamentary fraction from 24 to 52 seats—third behind only the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the PP.

Vox’s rise is part of a broad trend in European capitalist politics towards the growth of neo-fascist parties, nationalism and the official public legitimization of fascist dictators.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) is currently the third-largest party in Germany, after years of propaganda by right-wing extremist professors and state officials to legitimize militarism and minimize the genocidal crimes of Nazism. Mass protests against the AfD have only intensified the ruling elite’s determination to rehabilitate Nazism. Last week, parliamentary president Wolfgang Schäuble denounced a “pacifist attitude” as the disastrous result of the Nazi defeat in World War II, which he called “the catastrophe of 1945.”

In France, as he launched a brutal crackdown on “yellow vest” protests against social inequality a year ago, President Emmanuel Macron hailed Nazi-collaborationist dictator Philippe Pétain as a “great soldier”. Amid growing anger at his social cuts, Macron continues to appeal to the far right, recently granting an interview attacking migrants and the Muslim veil to the far-right Current Values magazine.

The Frech name of that magazine is Valeurs Actuelles. Its editor-in-chief used to be a supporter of OAS extreme-right terrorism.

As a result, polls show he would now barely defeat neo-fascist candidate Marine Le Pen in a presidential election, by 55 percent to 45 percent.

The growth of fascism in official European politics does not signify a return to the mass popular support enjoyed by the Nazi Party, Mussolini’s National Fascist Party or the Francoite Falange. For now, it is a carefully staged political campaign, driven from the top, to promote violent, right-wing and nationalist opposition to social and political protest.

Vox’s rise is a classic example. While it has surged based on its anti-Catalan propaganda amid the wall-to-wall media denunciation of the independence referendum, no mass movement has emerged in Spain taking up Vox’s calls to deploy the army and execute political “criminals” in Catalonia. Polls confirm that large majorities of Spanish people support a negotiated settlement in Catalonia, despite the anti-Catalan hysteria in the media.

The promotion of Vox and of Franco comes overwhelmingly from the state machine. The PSOE allowed Vox to officially join its public prosecutor in persecuting Catalan officials who were given decade-long jail terms last month for organizing the peaceful 2017 referendum. And the Supreme Court in June issued an extraordinary ruling honoring “don Francisco Franco”, declaring that his October 1, 1936, self-proclamation as ruler of Spain during the Civil War made Franco the head of state—effectively ruling that Franco’s coup was legitimate.

Finally, the ruling elite focused the election campaign entirely on attacking mass protests in Catalonia, which were savagely repressed, with hundreds of arrests. Issues of concern to workers, like jobs, social programs and a halt to military-police violence, were off the table. The caretaker Socialist Party (PSOE) government, speaking for the entire capitalist class, had already written to the European Union (EU) pledging billions of euros in social cuts and military spending increases. All of this had the effect of boosting Vox.

The bourgeoisie’s failure to elicit broader support for its pro-fascist campaign up to now cannot, however, be a cause for complacency. The fascist threat is growing and its parties are winning increased support thanks to their constant promotion as the only alternative to the despised official parties.

Three decades ago, bourgeois propagandists proclaimed that the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant the “End of History” and the triumph of capitalist democracy. In fact, none of the contradictions of capitalism that drove the European bourgeoisie to stake its fate on fascist regimes in the 1930s had been resolved. Facing explosive anger at social inequality produced by decades of post-Soviet EU austerity and mass unemployment, the ruling class is again preparing dictatorship.

Sunday’s Spanish election revealed the breakdown of the parliamentary system established in 1978 in talks between the Francoite fascists, the PSOE … The PSOE-PP duopoly at the heart of that regime has collapsed. Each of the four elections in Spain since 2015 has resulted in a hung parliament, and no party has been able to muster a parliamentary majority since then. The ruling class is responding, through Vox, by turning back to Francoism.

Vox: its 52 deputies include retired pro-Francoite generals, former police and Civil Guards, anti-LGBTI activists, holocaust deniers, lawyers and Catholic fundamentalists: here.

Dinosaur age pollinating insects, new research

Ecological reconstruction of tumbling flower beetles Angimordella burmitina. These beetles are feeding on eudicot flowers. The color and morphology of flowers are artistic only. Image credit: Ding-hau Yang / Bao et al, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1916186116

From Indiana University in the USA:

New fossil pushes back physical evidence of insect pollination to 99 million years ago

November 11, 2019

A new study co-led by researchers in the U.S. and China has pushed back the first-known physical evidence of insect flower pollination to 99 million years ago, during the mid-Cretaceous period.

The revelation is based upon a tumbling flower beetle with pollen on its legs discovered preserved in amber deep inside a mine in northern Myanmar. The fossil comes from the same amber deposit as the first ammonite discovered in amber, which was reported by the same research group earlier this year.

The report of the new fossil will be published Nov. 11 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The fossil, which contains both the beetle and pollen grains, pushes back the earliest documented instance of insect pollination to a time when pterodactyls still roamed the skies — or about 50 million years earlier than previously thought.

The study’s U.S. co-author is David Dilcher, an emeritus professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science and a research affiliate of the Indiana Geological and Water Survey. As a paleobotanist studying the earliest flowering plants on Earth, Dilcher has conducted research on the process of amber fossilization.

The co-lead author on the study is Bo Wang, an amber fossil expert at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, where the specimen was procured and analyzed.

According to Dilcher, who provided a morphological review of the 62 grains of pollen in the amber, the shape and structure of the pollen shows it evolved to spread through contact with insects. These features include the pollen’s size, “ornamentation” and clumping ability.

The grains also likely originated from a flower species in the group eudicots, one of the most common types of flowering plant species, he said.

The pollen was not easy to find. The powdery substance was revealed hidden in the insect’s body hairs under a confocal laser microscopy. The analysis took advantage of the fact that pollen grains glow under fluorescence light, contrasting strongly with the darkness of the insect’s shell.

The insect in the amber is a newly discovered species of beetle, which the study’s authors named Angimordella burmitina. It’s role as a pollinator was determined based upon several specialized physical structures, including body shape and pollen-feeding mouthparts. These structures were revealed through an imaging method called X-ray microcomputed tomography, or micro-CT.

“It’s exceedingly rare to find a specimen where both the insect and the pollen are preserved in a single fossil,” said Dilcher. “Aside from the significance as earliest known direct evidence of insect pollination of flowering plants, this specimen perfectly illustrates the cooperative evolution of plants and animals during this time period, during which a true exposition of flowering plants occurred.”

Prior to this study, the earliest physical evidence of insect pollination of flowering plants came from Middle Eocene. The age of the new fossil was determined based upon the age of other known fossils in the same location as the fossilized beetle’s discovery.

See also here.

Donald Trump’s coup d’état in Bolivia

This 12 November 2019 TV video from Ecuador says about itself:

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales who was deposed in a coup d’etat on Sunday is on his way to Mexico where he has been granted political asylum. And in a farewell message to his supporters, Morales promised to return to continue the fight for a better Bolivia. More on these and other stories now.

By Andrea Lobo in the USA:

Bolivia’s Evo Morales forced out by coup

12 November 2019

Bolivian president Evo Morales of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party was forced to resign Sunday evening by the Bolivian military in a coup backed by the United States. Last night, Morales tweeted that he is “leaving for Mexico” after that country agreed to grant him asylum.

After three weeks of protests following the disputed October 20 presidential elections, the imperialist powers and their Bolivian client elite have overthrown the government of Morales. …

Despite empty calls to “preserve democracy”, the US government is backing a takeover of the most racist and authoritarian Bolivian politicians and state officials to install a regime that will ruthlessly crackdown on opposition as global finance demands a full-blown exploitation of Bolivia’s vast and strategic oil and mining resources, including 70 percent of global lithium reserves.

Yesterday, US president Donald Trump released a statement celebrating the coup and applauding the Bolivian military for “abiding by its oath to protect not just a single person, but Bolivia’s Constitution.” He then threatened the Venezuelan and Nicaraguan governments with the same fate, ending: “We are now one step closer to a completely democratic, prosperous and free Western Hemisphere.”

Pitched fighting took place last night as thousands of peasants and workers from El Alto and other regions surrounding La Paz mobilized in the capital to protest the coup. … Several police buildings were occupied and then burned in El Alto.

The armed forces have responded by activating “Plan Sebastián Pagador” to restore “peace and stability”, which the police are enforcing by shooting protesters with volleys of live bullets and grenades.

The Mexican government agreed yesterday to Morales’s request for asylum after his house was burned down and an arrest warrant issued by the Bolivian police. The Mexican Foreign Ministry asked the same Bolivian authorities that overthrew Morales to provide a “safe passageway”. However, the governments of Argentina and Brazil said they would not allow Morales to use their airspace.

The head of the pro-Morales Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) and several electoral officials were arrested Sunday, while about 20 MAS politicians have sought asylum in the Mexican embassy in La Paz.

Given the resignation of the presidents of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies along with Morales, the next in line will be the Senate vice president and opposition figure Jeanine Añez.

However, Luis Fernando Camacho, a far-right leader of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee —an organization led by business groups—who has become the de facto leader of the demonstrations, called for a “junta” including the military and police chiefs. The corporate media has gleefully branded Camacho “Bolivia’s Bolsonaro”, in reference to the Brazilian fascistic president.

Protests erupted across the country after the broadcast of electoral results stopped for 23 hours between Sunday and Monday evening October 20-21. During this period, Morales’s lead over Carlos Mesa in second place jumped from 7.87 percent to 9.36 percent. The TSE’s final result gave Morales 35,000 votes above the 10 percent lead needed to avoid a run-off.

Morales’s vote fell from 63 percent in the 2014 elections to 47 percent, while MAS lost 21 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and four seats in the Senate, keeping slight majorities.

Some sections of the working class participated in the initial protests amid widespread concerns over fraud; however, as the far-right character of the political parties and “civic committees” leading the protests became apparent, many workers dropped their support. For instance, medical professionals carried out a national strike, seeing the unrest as potential opportunity to rally popular support behind their demands against austerity, but the strike ended after only three days. …

On November 7, demonstrators captured Patricia Arce, a MAS mayor in the small town of Vinto … She was released after being drenched in red paint as protesters cut her hair. …

On Monday, November 4, Morales’s helicopter had to make an immediate and emergency landing due to suspicious mechanical issues. On Friday and Saturday, entire police departments, including in the capital of La Paz, rioted and joined the anti-Morales protests. Then, on Sunday morning, the OAS released its preliminary report, alleging that 78 of the 333 recount processes “showed irregularities and manipulation” and that “the manipulations of the computer systems are of such magnitude that they must be deeply investigated by the Bolivian state.”

Without presenting the corresponding evidence, the OAS then called for new elections overseen by a new electoral commission. Shortly after, the US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, released a statement backing the OAS report and adding a statement directed against MAS: “In order to restore the credibility of the electoral process, all government officials and officials of any political organizations implicated in the flawed October 20 elections should step aside from the electoral process.”

Morales initially responded in a press conference by agreeing to new elections under a new electoral commission …

Several ministers whose houses were set on fire and MAS deputies resigned. Then, Evo Morales and vice president Álvaro García Linera, announced their resignations from the Chapare region in central Bolivia, where Morales began his political career as a trade unionist.

During his announcement, Morales denounced that he was being subjected to a “civilian and police coup”, and said he was resigning to avoid further violence and persecutions against his supporters and himself. At the same time, he said the OAS report was based on political, not technical considerations.

Seven new leech species discovered

This 2017 video is called North American leeches, “Macrobdela decora“.

From the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in the USA:

Gimme shelter: Seven new leech species call freshwater mussels home

November 11, 2019

The frequent presence of leeches with a hidden lifestyle in the mantle cavity of freshwater mussels has been recorded since the second half of the 19th century. Yet this was, until now, regarded as an accidental phenomenon. Recent research not only reveals seven mussel-associated leech species new to science, but also shows that their association evolved over millions of years.

The diverse ecological group of leeches were found inside more than 3,000 freshwater mussels collected (by numerous collaborators) from East Asia, Southeast Asia, India and Nepal, Africa and North America between 2002 and 2018. Arthur Bogan, Research Curator of Mollusks for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, was part of the massive collecting effort and focused his search on parts of eastern Russia (Vladivostok area), Japan and Myanmar.

The study’s novel data reveals that at least two groups of mussel-associated leech species could be considered obligate inhabitants of the mantle cavity of freshwater mussels, meaning they cannot complete their lifecycle without exploiting their host. How did this come about? According to lead author Ivan N. Bolotov of the Federal Center for Integrated Arctic Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences, “It has been suggested that the primary selective pressure driving the evolution of parental care in leeches may have been predation on leech eggs and juvenile stages. From this point of view, [this lifestyle] could be considered a progressive evolutionary trait in brooding behavior helping to protect juvenile stages from predators.

“To estimate divergence times for mussel-associated leech clades, we calculated the first fossil-calibrated global phylogeny of leeches using a fossil leech cocoon from mid-Triassic lacustrine deposits in Antarctica as a calibration. It was found that leeches are slowly evolving animals as several other ‘living fossil’ taxa, for example, freshwater mussels, coelacanths, anthozoans, sturgeons and puddle fishes [sic; paddlefishes]. The reliable mutation rates obtained by us are of great importance to future evolutionary studies of these worms.”

The study also showed that even these leech species are not permanent residents. Molecular studies of the digestive system content of the adult mussel-associated leeches indicate that they leave their mussel hosts periodically to obtain blood of freshwater fishes. Probably, adult leeches need to use one or several higher-calorie fish blood meals instead of nutritionally sparse mussel haemolymph (body fluids of invertebrates) to ensure the successful development of eggs and complete their life cycle. While larvae and juvenile mussel-associated leeches could feed on mucus and body fluids of freshwater mussels.

Such a two-host feeding behavior, when fish blood meals are needed at the final stage of the lifecycle just before leech reproduction, appears to be a successful adaptation to a freshwater environment, in which availability of vertebrate blood is limited, and many leech species are forced to use nutrient-poor haemolymph as the primary feeding source.

The discovery of this mussel-leech association has wider-ranging importance because freshwater mussels are one of the most imperiled animal groups worldwide, revealing the fastest rates of extinction. Habitat degradation, river pollution and climate change are the primary causes of global decline. However, biological threats for freshwater mussels are still poorly known.

The findings were published in Scientific Reports in November.

Iraqi regime kills pro-democracy, anti-corruption demonstrators

Iraqi young people aboard a captured military vehicle in Baghdad

From daily News Line in Britain:

12th November 2019

At least four protesters were killed and scores injured in clashes with security forces in Baghdad on Saturday as demonstrations seriously escalated.

Three of the dead were shot, and the fourth died after being struck on the head with a tear gas canister.

Earlier on Saturday, security forces using live ammunition cleared demonstrators from three of the main bridges over the Tigris, pushing them further back from the Green Zone which has been a focal point of the unrest since it kicked off a month ago.

Security forces have fired teargas cartridges directly at protesters in Baghdad, Iraq on numerous occasions since protests resumed on October 25, 2019, killing at least 16, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

The dead are among the large number of protesters Iraqi forces have killed since daily protests began.

According to a November 5th United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) report, the nationwide death toll from October 25 through to November 4th has reached at least 97.

The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) tallied at least 105 dead and 5,655 injured during that same period.

‘The high death toll includes people who took direct hits to the head from teargas cartridges, in numbers that suggest a gruesome pattern rather than isolated accidents,’ said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

‘With the death toll now at over 100, all of Iraq’s global partners should be unequivocal in their condemnation.’

From October 25 to November 2nd, security forces’ use of force in Baghdad alone led to the deaths of at least 64 people.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 24 people who have participated in protests in Baghdad, Karbala, Maysan, Nasriya and Basra.

The UNAMI report puts the death toll from teargas cartridges penetrating upper bodies at at least 16.

Human Rights Watch analysed Reuters footage taken on October 27 and 29, which it corroborated with witness interviews.

The footage shows security forces on Jumhuriya Bridge firing into the crowds at the foot of the bridge, which opens onto Tahrir Square.

This 31 October 2019 video says about itself:

Iraqi protesters pack Baghdad’s Tahrir square

It happened shortly after another incident at the nearby Sinak Bridge. Witnesses say security forces shot at least one protester dead and injured dozens more.

Thousands of demonstrators are defying a curfew to continue anti-government protests. …

Al Jazeera’s Laura Burdon-Manley has more.

The News Line article continues:

The October 27 clip shows one officer to the right firing teargas cartridges in an upward trajectory while on the left another officer is firing in a flat trajectory at crowds of protesters less than 100 metres away.

An analyst at the Omega Research Foundation, an independent research group focusing on the manufacture, trade, and use of military, security, and police equipment, reviewed this clip for Human Rights Watch and said that the man on the left is likely to be aiming directly at the people he is targeting and this carries a high risk of causing serious injury or death if teargas cartridges are being fired.

In the second clip, both people who are using launchers are firing on a flat trajectory. Again, this is an inappropriate and highly dangerous use of teargas cartridges.

The contrast in firing techniques raises the question of whether some forces are operating side-by-side under different orders, whether they all have orders to disperse the crowds in any way they see fit, or whether forces are disregarding their orders, Human Rights Watch said.

While relying increasingly on teargas in Baghdad, security forces are continuing to use live ammunition.

Between November 4th and 6th, live ammunition killed at least 14 more protesters in Baghdad.

Human Rights Watch reviewed three videos identifiably shot at Jumhuriya Bridge, and shared via social media between October 25 and November 5th, showing dead protesters with wounds to the head that do not appear to have been caused by teargas cartridges.

Allegations of excessive force outside of Baghdad also continue, particularly in Karbala, with witnesses, UNAMI, and media reports all saying that security forces killed at least 17 protesters between October 28 and November 3rd.

Since the protests began, senior government officials have forbidden medical staff from sharing information on the dead and injured with any sources outside the Health Ministry, and the ministry has been releasing minimal and incomplete information.

The IHCHR stopped updating its national tally as of October 31.

A doctor in a facility receiving the dead and wounded from the protests said he thought the actual death toll since October 25 was much higher than the one being reported by the IHCHR. A person with links to Iraq’s morgues told Human Rights Watch she agreed with this assessment.

UNAMI recorded six abductions of protesters or volunteers providing assistance in the Baghdad demonstrations during the current wave of protests.

In one case, the sister of Saba Farhan Hameed, 36, who had been providing food, water, and first aid kits to protesters in Tahrir Square, said Hameed vanished around 11.15pm on November 2nd while en route home.

A colleague who had been on the phone with Hameed heard her scream and her phone went off. Her sister has since gone to several police stations to search for Hameed but has not been able to locate her.

The November 5th UNAMI report put the death toll from teargas cartridges to the head and chest at 16 at least.

The IHCHR reported that on October 25 alone, eight people were killed in this way.

Amnesty International reported that it had spoken to two protesters who had witnessed deaths on October 26 and 28 from teargas cartridges hitting people in the head.

Human Rights Watch interviewed a protester who said she saw another protester get hit in the head and killed by a teargas cartridge on October 29.

She said the victim was not trying to approach security forces at the time, but was just in the square, dancing and talking.

Another protester said he saw a man killed by a teargas cartridge that hit him in the head on October 28 on Jumhuriya Bridge.

Both witnesses said that they did not hear the security forces giving any oral warning before opening fire.

An activist shared a video clip that apparently showed officers opening fire with teargas cartridges on November 1st on protesters along the river, hitting a man in the head and killing him.

On November 1st, the IHCHR reported, security forces killed a woman with a teargas cartridge to her head on Jumhuriya Bridge.

Human Rights Watch has been unable to ascertain the rank and affiliation of the officers stationed on Jumhuriya Bridge since October 25 who were firing teargas.

An international military expert in Baghdad said that in his view, when the Iraqi security forces fired teargas cartridges directly at a crowd, it was ‘not an issue of training, but a level of intention, showing that security forces are absolutely using these projectiles as a weapon as opposed to a dispersal mechanism.’

The standard practices and procedures used by security forces for riot control, as well as the instructions provided by manufacturers, dictate that tear gas cartridges should not be fired directly at people.

An international observer with crowd control experience in Baghdad also said that in her view the security forces were sometimes using teargas cartridges for the same purpose as they used live bullets.

On November 1st, two doctors separately told Human Rights Watch that on the evening of October 31, they received at least 10 protesters in their tent who showed a set of symptoms different from those experienced by earlier victims of teargas exposure.

They said the more recent victims went into spasms, shock, breathing difficulty, and paralysis for about 10 minutes before the symptoms started to pass.

They showed Human Rights Watch a video capturing the symptoms.

The IHCHR expressed concern about the apparent change in symptoms, though it remains unclear what may be causing them.

Reports emerged that on the night of October 28, armed forces opened fire on protesters in Karbala, killing between 14 and 18, according to several international media outlets that said they were able to verify the casualties with unnamed security sources, even though public officials denied the incident.

A local journalist there told Human Rights Watch that he saw security forces open fire on crowds of protesters that night and saw one protester he recognised dead from a gunshot wound in the morgue the next morning.

Human Rights Watch interviewed a doctor who was on his shift that night at the morgue and who said that he saw the bodies of seven protesters who had been shot and killed.

Another medical worker shared videos she said she filmed that night, showing four bodies.

UNAMI received what it viewed as credible allegations that security forces killed 18 protesters.

The Karbala doctor said he personally knows the family of one of the victims.

He said the family tried to retrieve their son’s body, ‘But the hospital refused to give it to them unless they signed a document that they would not bring a legal suit against the government or a tribal claim. The family refused to sign and so they still don’t have the body back.’

This 9 November 2019 video is called Iraqi security forces use live gunfire to disperse protesters in Baghdad.

Lebanon’s political and economic crisis has intensified as protests and strikes continue into their fifth week, encompassing wide layers of workers and poor farmers throughout the country, across the sectarian and national divide: here.

The death toll in the mass protests that have shaken Iraq for the last seven weeks has risen to over 330, with an estimated 15,000 wounded. Young Iraqis have continued to pour into the streets in defiance of fierce repression to press their demands for jobs, social equality and an end to the unspeakably corrupt political regime created by the US occupation that followed the criminal American invasion of 2003: here.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi declared on Friday that he will resign in the wake of the bloodiest day yet in two months of mass protests against social inequality, mass unemployment, the failure of basic public services and rampant corruption: here.

MOURNERS paid their respects to Iraqi communist poet Ali Najim al-Lami as he was laid to rest yesterday, a day after his assassination in Baghdad. The Iraqi Communist Party member was shot dead in the al-Shaab district as he made his way home from a protest in Tahrir Square. The Unions of Iraqi Writers condemned “this cowardly act”, which took place as demonstrations against the Iraqi government continued, despite widespread repression. At least 450 people are believed to have been killed since protests began on October 1, with more than 20,000 injured, as security forces opened fire with live rounds: here.