Amazon boss Bezos’ money loses US elections

This 12 November 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

“Seattle Is Not For Sale”: Voters Rebuke Amazon, Re-electing Socialist Kshama Sawant

In Seattle, Socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant has been re-elected in a race that pitted her against Amazon — Seattle’s largest private employer and one of the most powerful companies in the world. Overall, Amazon poured $1.5 million into Seattle’s City Council election and backed Sawant’s opponent, Egan Orion, with nearly half a million dollars. Kshama Sawant is Seattle’s first Socialist politician elected in nearly a century. She has successfully pushed a number of progressive policies, including making Seattle the first major American city to adopt a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Kshama Sawant joins us from Seattle. The re-election victory “has been a major repudiation, not only of Amazon and of Jeff Bezos himself, as the richest man in the world, but also it has been a referendum on the vision for Seattle,” Sawant says. “The voters in Seattle have spoken, that Seattle is not up for sale.”

By Kayla Costa and Julio Patron in the USA:

Amazon-led corporate purge of Seattle City Council fails

12 November 2019

Late returns in the state of Washington’s mail-ballot election have dealt a major setback to the efforts of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce to purge the Seattle City Council of members who supported higher taxes on big corporations.

In five of the six seats targeted for takeover, the business-backed Democratic Party candidates lost and the candidates regarded as more hostile to corporate power won, including Kshama Sawant, a member of the … Socialist Alternative group, who won reelection to a seat she has held since 2013.

Sawant and another candidate targeted by Amazon, Andrew Lewis, had been trailing in the initial totals released by election officials on the evening of Tuesday, November 5, which consisted mainly of votes mailed in weeks ahead of election day. Young people and workers traditionally mail in their votes later, and Sawant and Lewis both surged from behind with late ballots.

By Friday, both Sawant and Lewis had moved into apparently insurmountable leads. Sawant led Egan Orion by 1,515 votes with only about 1,000 ballots still left to count in her District 3, with 51.57 percent of the vote. Assistant city attorney Lewis had 52.79 percent against former Seattle police chief Jim Pugel. The lone Amazon-backed candidate to defeat a more left-wing opponent, Alex Pedersen, had 52.34 percent of the vote against Shaun Scott, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Despite the frenzied rhetoric of … the Chamber of Commerce, on the right, … all [candidates] but Sawant were Democrats, as the Republican Party plays only a marginal role in the city’s politics, and endorsed all the business-backed Democrats.


Sawant received the endorsement of several local Democratic Party organizations in Seattle, as well as the backing of two incumbent Democratic members of the City Council whose seats were not up for election this year. …

The main feature of this year’s City Council campaign was the intervention of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which established the Civil Alliance for Sound Economy (CASE) as its political action committee to remove from the City Council all those members who had supported the “head tax” on large corporations that was passed in 2018 and then hastily rescinded under pressure from big business and Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan.

CASE and other corporate PACs raised and spent nearly $5 million, an unprecedented sum for a City Council election, with Amazon alone pumping $1.45 million into its coffers, including a well-publicized $1 million “money bomb” in early October which was supposed to terrify all political opposition.

One of biggest chunks of corporate cash, $617,592, went to Sawant’s opponent, Democrat Egan Orion, a director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and the Broadway Business Improvement Area, as well as a producer of Seattle’s annual PrideFest, a corporate LGBTQ festival. Orion has been painted as a liberal by the local press due to his identity as a gay man and his utilization of identity politics. However, he has a track record of endorsing pro-business policies.

Despite all the money spent by corporate PACs on the preferred candidates of Amazon—from $229,544 for Mark Solomon in District 2 to $831,407 for Heidi Wills in District 6—the population by and large voted for their opponents. Rather than being intimidated by the influx of corporate cash, many voters were outraged and they went to the polls in unusually heavy numbers for an off-year local election.

Voter turnout in this latest round reached 55 percent across the city and 57.6 percent in Sawant’s District 3. In her first election in 2013, Sawant beat incumbent Richard Conclin by 1 percentage point, with a voter turnout of 52.5 percent. In her second election campaign of 2015, Sawant beat Pamela Banks by roughly 12 percentage points, with a citywide voter turnout of barely 30 percent.

While Sawant’s three election victories, in 2013, 2015, and last week, undoubtedly reflect a leftward movement among working people and youth, this is not a response to the specific policies of Socialist Alternative … It is part of the radicalization of workers and youth as a whole, reflected in surveys showing that 70 percent of youth in advanced countries now support socialism.

In Seattle, the city has witnessed a drastic economic and social polarization fueled by the expansion of the technology industry, led foremost by Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google. The population has grown by 18.7 percent since 2010, making it the fastest-growing city in the nation.

This urban development has been tied to the rise in inequality, housing costs, homelessness and gentrification. In 2018, the median household income reached $93,000, up $7,000 from 2017 and far higher than the national median income of $63,179. By 2016, the top 20 percent of the population owned more than half of all wealth in the metro area, but the bottom 40 percent owned around 10 percent.

As in city after city, country after country, the working class and young population of Seattle has come to loathe Amazon and major corporations for the inequality, austerity, and exploitation associated with them. This general left-wing opposition found expression in the votes against Amazon-backed candidates and for their nominally “progressive” opponents, including Sawant.

This 11 November 2019 video from the USA is called Kshama Sawant and Chesa Boudin Secure MAJOR Progressive Victories Along West Coast.

Chile workers strike, Bolivia, other news

This 12 November 2019 video from Ecuador is called General Strike Paralyses Chile. It has also news on Bolivia.

A Chilean striking worker in the video carries a portrait of Victor Jara, the singer murdered by the Pinochet dictatorship.

CHILE will hold a referendum on replacing the country’s constitution, it was announced today, meeting a key demand of protesters. The current constitution came into force in 1980 under the former military dictator Augusto Pinochet: here.

This ongoing militancy shows that for the millions of workers and youth across Chile, life under capitalism has become intolerable. Protesters have defied a brutal military and police-state repression in which 23 people have been killed, hundreds have lost their eyes and many have denounced torture and sexual abuse by the state: here.

What was Saudi regime role in 9/11 attacks?

This 12 November 2019 video from the USA is called [Democratic party presidential candidate] Tulsi [Gabbard] Demands Info On Saudi Involvement In 911 Attacks.

FBI REVEALS NAME OF SAUDI OFFICIAL SUSPECTED OF SUPPORTING 9/11 HIJACKERS The FBI inadvertently revealed one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets about the Sept. 11 terror attacks: the identity of a mysterious Saudi Embassy official in Washington who agents suspected had directed crucial support to two of the al Qaeda hijackers. The disclosure came in a new declaration filed in federal court by a senior FBI official in response to a lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims that accuses the Saudi government of complicity in the terrorist attacks. [HuffPost]

How zebra finches sing, new research

This 27 May 2019 video is called Owl Finches~Bathing & Preening~Bird Watching Videos~Backyard Birds Australia.

From PLOS:

Songbirds sing species-specific songs

November 12, 2019

The generation of species-specific singing in songbirds is associated with species-specific patterns of gene activity in brain regions called song nuclei, according to a study published November 12 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Kazuhiro Wada of Hokkaido University in Japan, and colleagues. According to the authors, the findings could be a promising step toward a better understanding of the contribution of multiple genes to the evolution of behaviors.

Learning of most complex motor skills, such as birdsong and human speech, is constrained in a manner that is characteristic of each species, but the mechanisms underlying species-specific learned behaviors remain poorly understood. Songbirds acquire species-specific songs through learning, which is also thought to depend on species-specific patterns of gene activity in song nuclei — brain regions known to be specialized for vocal learning and production.

In the new study, Wada and colleagues made use of two closely related songbird species — the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) and the owl finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii) — and also the hybrid offspring of matings between these two species. This allowed them to examine the relationship between inter-species differences in gene expression and the production of species-specific song patterns.

The researchers compared the songs of birds that had been taught the same species’ song versus those that had only heard the other species’ song; this showed that the song learning was mostly regulated by species-specific genetic differences. They then identified genes whose activity in song nuclei is regulated in a species-specific fashion, either by changes in the genes’ own regulatory regions (“cis-regulation”) or by changes in other proteins that affect a gene’s activity (“trans-regulation”).

They found that trans-regulatory changes were more prevalent than cis-regulatory changes and tended to primarily affect the activity of genes involved in the formation of nerve connections and transmission of information between neurons in one particular song nucleus, “RA” — considered as birds’ counterpart to the mammalian laryngeal motor cortex.

They identified a signaling molecule called BDNF as a mediator of changes in trans-regulated of genes in RA, with a significant correlation between individual variation in the amount of BDNF and species-specific song properties. This was supported by the fact that the use of a drug to over-activate BDNF receptors altered the activity of trans-regulated genes in the RA and disrupted the structures of learned songs in the adult zebra finch.

These results demonstrate functional neurogenetic associations between inter-species differences in gene regulation and species-specific learned behaviors. According to the authors, future research building on these findings could reveal the specific gene regulatory changes that underlie the evolution of species-specific learned behaviors.

“We believe that this isn’t just about bird songs,” the lead author, Kazuhiro Wada said. “Our study is a promising step to understand how the changes in gene regulation could eventually lead to the evolution of species-specific animal behaviors.”</blockquote

Early life experiences of zebra finches have a big effect on the construction of their first homes, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Alberta's Faculty of Science and the University of St Andrews' School of Biology: here.

British Conservative racist, pro-rape candidates

This 21 September 2018 video from Britain says about itself:

The Conservative party is racist | Owen Jones talks …

Conservative members of the European Parliament recently decided to give their backing to the far-right Hungarian autocrat, Viktor Orbán. They were the only centre-right party to back Orbán, who has been accused of both antisemitism and Islamophobia amongst other things.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. The Tories have a long history of racism in their ranks. They’ve recently ignored
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi’s calls to hold an inquiry into the rampant Islamophobia in their ranks, Zac Goldsmith’s campaign to become London mayor was dripping with Islamophobia, Boris Johnson‘s political and journalistic career has been characterised by racist bilge and that’s before we even get into the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Enoch Powell. The Conservative party fans bigotry and divides communities in order to gain political power. It always has done and, I think, always will do.

By Ceren Sagir in Britain:

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tory candidate called unfit to stand over ‘disgusting racism’

ANOTHER Tory parliamentary candidate faced calls to stand down today over his “disgustingly racist” views on immigrants whom he blamed for “doubling the rate of HIV” in Britain.

In a 2003 article for the Spectator, South Cambridgeshire candidate Anthony Browne wrote that “letting in too many germs” will claim more lives than “letting in terrorists” through the then Labour government’s migration policy.

The former adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that immigration “brings the epidemics that blight poorer countries: HIV infection, tuberculosis and hepatitis” and claimed that “infected immigrants” arriving in Britain were “doubling the rate of HIV.”

In his book Do We Need Mass Immigration?, Mr Browne said African immigration “has overtaken gay sex as the main cause of HIV,” and said they should be treated “where they live” rather than “on the NHS.”

Stand Up To Racism co-convenor Weyman Bennett said: “Johnson and Browne have embraced the most racist and disgusting words and taken a right-wing discourse into discussions of the Muslim community and the LGBT community.

“This candidate is not fit to stand in the election and Johnson is not fit to be PM. It’s time to take a stand against racism.”

Shadow women and equalities minister Naz Shah called the claims “disgusting racism” and urged the PM to personally intervene and remove Mr Browne’s candidacy.

A Tory spokeswoman said Mr Browne has apologised for the comments “and sincerely regrets them.”

Wakefield Tory candidate Antony Calvert was pressured to step down on Sunday for his racist and misogynistic Facebook comments days after Broadland candidate Nick Conrad stood down as his rape-apologist comments on live radio re-emerged.

Former Welsh secretary Alun Cairns also resigned ahead of the Tory campaign launch for lying about his knowledge of his aide’s alleged sabotage of a rape trial.

Gower candidate Francesca O’Brien, who said contestants on Benefits Street should be “put down”, has ignored calls to step down.

Feathered polar dinosaurs discovery in Australia

This 2017 video says about itself:

Over the past 20 years, dinosaurs of all types and sizes have been found with some sort of fluff or even full-on plumage. These fuzzy discoveries have raised a whole batch of new questions so we’re here to tell you everything we know about dinosaurs and feathers.

From Uppsala University in Sweden:

First evidence of feathered polar dinosaurs found in Australia

November 12, 2019

A cache of 118 million-year-old fossilized dinosaur and bird feathers has been recovered from an ancient lake deposit that once lay beyond the southern polar circle.

Feathered dinosaur fossils are famous, but known from a handful of localities worldwide. Examples from the Southern Hemisphere are especially rare, and mainly include only isolated feathers.

An international team of scientists has analyzed a collection of 10 such fossil feathers found in Australia, which reveal an unexpected diversity of tufted hair-like ‘proto-feathers’ from meat-eating dinosaurs, together with downy body feathers, and wing feathers from primitive birds that would have been used for flight.

Uniquely, the fossil feathers from Australia were all entombed in fine muddy sediments that accumulated at the bottom of a shallow lake close to the South Pole during the Age of Dinosaurs.

“Dinosaur skeletons and even the fragile bones of early birds have been found at ancient high-latitudes before. Yet, to date, no directly attributable integumentary remains have been discovered to show that dinosaurs used feathers to survive in extreme polar habitats,” said Dr Benjamin Kear from Uppsala University in Sweden, a leading author on the study.

“These Australian fossil feathers are therefore highly significant because they came from dinosaurs and small birds that were living in a seasonally very cold environment with months of polar darkness every year.”

The fossil feathers were discovered in the Koonwarra Fish Beds Geological Reserve, which is a heritage-listed site 145 km southeast of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia.

“Fossil feathers have been known from Koonwarra since the early 1960s, and were recognized as evidence of ancient birds, but have otherwise received very little scientific attention. Our study is thus the first to comprehensively document these remains, which include new specimens that were examined using cutting-edge technologies,” said Dr Thomas Rich of the Melbourne Museum in Australia, who has led numerous expeditions to the Koonwarra locality.

A suite of advanced microscopic and spectroscopic techniques was employed to determine the anatomy and preservation of the Koonwarra fossil dinosaur and bird feathers.

“The Koonwarra feathers are preserved in incredible detail,” said fossil bird expert Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich of Monash University and the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.

“There are even tiny filament-like structures that would have ‘zipped’ the feather vanes together, just as in the flight feathers of modern birds.”

However, unlike the structurally complex feathers of birds today, which are characterized by interlocking branches called barbs and barbules, different kinds of small dinosaurs had coverings that comprised much more simpler hair-like ‘proto-feathers’.

“Dinosaur ‘proto-feathers’ would have been used for insulation,” said Dr Martin Kundrát, of Pavol Jozef Safarik University in Slovakia, a leading author on the study.

“The discovery of ‘proto-feathers’ at Koonwarra therefore suggests that fluffy feather coats might have helped small dinosaurs keep warm in ancient polar habitats.”

Microscopic remains of possible melanosomes, cellular structures that contain colour pigments, were also detected on several of the fossil feathers found at Koonwarra.

These traces occurred across the uniformly dark feather surfaces, as well as in distinct bands that might represent original patterning from the polar dinosaurs and birds.

Melanic residues have been reported on fossil feathers from elsewhere around the world, and are widely acknowledged as indicators of dinosaur colouration.

The densely packed fossil melanosomes occurring on the Koonwarra feathers could suggest dark colours that perhaps assisted in camouflage, visual communication, and/or heat absorbance in cold polar climates.

Possible preservation of biomolecules was also assessed, but proved to be too degraded, and were apparently lost during weathering of the rock.

The Koonwarra fossil feathers provide the first record of dinosaur integument from the ancient polar regions, and hint what was once a global distribution of feathered dinosaurs and early birds.

Some of the fossil feathers found at Koonwarra are on display in the ‘600 Million Years’ exhibition at the Melbourne Museum in Australia.