Clouded leopard cubs in India, video

This 25 February 2020 video says about itself:

Clouded Leopard Cubs Grow Up | India’s Wild Leopards

In his quest to document India’s most elusive cat species, photographer and filmmaker Sandesh Kadur follows a pair of orphaned clouded leopards as they learn the skills they’ll need to survive in the wild.

US Trump administration negligence on coronavirus epidemic

This 29 February 2022 CNN TB video from the USA says about itself:

First coronavirus death in US confirmed

A patient infected with the novel coronavirus in King County, Washington state, has died, a Washington Department of Health spokesperson said.

By Joseph Kishore in the USA:

The Trump administration’s incompetent and criminally negligent response to the coronavirus outbreak

29 February 2020

The second and third confirmed “unknown origin” case of coronavirus in the United States adds to the growing body of evidence that US officials have made a disastrous series of mistakes in response to the mounting outbreak, putting an unknown number of lives at risk.

On Friday, a northwest Oregon resident and a 65-year-old resident of Santa Clara County, California tested positive for the disease. Both individuals had no known travel history to centers of the outbreak and no connection with anyone previously identified as infected. This follows the news Wednesday that a woman in Solano County, California, about 90 miles away, tested positive for the disease, also without any obvious sources of transmission.

Since the virus has a two-week period before symptoms occur, and because most cases do not require hospitalization, the disease is likely already present in a much broader population.

Even though the initial outbreak emerged in China two months ago, US officials have done next to nothing to prepare for its emergence within the United States.

Only a small handful of locations are prepared to even carry out testing for the disease. Without proper testing procedures, no individual quarantine measures – the only effective way to contain its spread – can be implemented.

The reaction of the Trump administration has been focused entirely on attempting to bolster the stock markets while utilizing the spread of the disease to escalate its trade war policies and shut down travel to the United States from even more countries, building off its xenophobic travel ban.

In January, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross declared that the outbreak of coronavirus in the world’s second-largest economy [China] could be good for the American economy. “So I think it will help to accelerate the trend of jobs to North America,” Ross said of the epidemic. “Some to US, probably some to Mexico as well.”

Yesterday, Trump again dismissed growing warnings from doctors and scientists that the outbreak could quickly become a pandemic affecting the lives of millions of people. “It’s going to disappear, one day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear,” Trump proclaimed. “And from our shores you know it could get worse before it gets better, could maybe go away, we’ll see what happens, nobody really knows.”

Vice President Mike Pence, a religious obscurantist who rejects the reality of evolution, has been appointed to oversee the administration response to the outbreak. Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, the wife of Trump’s fascistic adviser Stephen Miller, will be in charge of all coronavirus communications.

Trump’s acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney went as far Friday to dismiss the possible threat of coronavirus, blaming the media for playing it up because “they think this will bring down the president, that’s what this is all about.” These remarks were delivered at the annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), which was held under the theme of “America vs. Socialism”.

There have been plenty of warnings, increasingly dire, about the impact of the coronavirus not just in China but in the United States and throughout the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) raised the alarm in 2018 that it was time to prepare to combat a possible “Disease X”, a viral infection that would emerge in animals and be transferred to humans. The WHO report warned that such a disease would spread rapidly and without initial detection, evading efforts at quarantine.

The US government has done nothing to prepare for predictable disease outbreaks, which in the age of globalization and mass air travel can spread very rapidly from one part of the globe to the other.

Instead, the Trump administration has been slashing funding for initiatives that are aimed at preventing the spread of disease like coronavirus.

Budget cuts in 2018 caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to shut down 80 percent of an initiative aimed at preventing global disease outbreaks. In October, the US Agency for International Development was forced to shut down a program that deployed teams to detect and halt the spread of disease from animals to humans, including at markets where animals were being improperly slaughtered. Trump’s budget proposal for 2021 would slash CDC funding by 16 percent.

The White House has eliminated the positions for advisers on global health issues from the National Security Council (NSC). Trump fired Tom Bossert, his homeland security adviser on the NSC, in 2018. His responsibilities included overseeing the US government’s response to pandemics, but he was never replaced.

Health workers have not been prepared to handle the outbreak. NBC News reported Friday that a government whistleblower has filed a complaint that the Department of Health and Human Services dispatched a dozen employees without proper training or equipment to interact with Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, and placed in quarantine on military bases in California.

The whistleblower complaint notes that HHS employees had face-to-face contact with the individuals heading into quarantine, handing out keys for room assignments and identification ribbons. While the workers have not shown symptoms of the virus, such major breaches in protocol could have resulted in transmission.

Two weeks after the CDC announced that it would launch a surveillance testing program in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, the initiative had still not begun. Meanwhile, scientists at 40 labs across the US were only given the go-ahead Wednesday night to use a test for detecting the coronavirus. A problem had been discovered with one of the ingredients in the test, limiting almost all testing for the last two months to one CDC lab in Atlanta.

The disastrous state of preparedness for the spread of the disease in the United States is not just the responsibility of the Trump administration. For decades, the ruling elite, under both Democrats and Republicans, has overseen the devastation of social infrastructure. Trillions have been expended to bail out the banks, finance the US war machine and erect a massive police-state apparatus. A series of natural disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires, has exposed the fact that the government cannot protect the population from entirely predictable threats to public well-being.

For the past three years, the Democrats have focused their entire opposition to Trump on the claim that Russia represents a grave threat to “American democracy”, as the ruling class fights out differences over foreign policy. Meanwhile, real threats to millions of workers and young people have been covered up, and opposition to the Trump administration based on the social interests of the vast majority of the population suppressed.

… The working class must mobilize now to demand a massive allocation of resources for health care and treatment, and to ensure that all those who are impacted by the economic fallout are compensated and received financial support. The trillions of dollars which are held by the global super-rich must be confiscated to develop the necessary health care infrastructure around the world without regard to national boundaries.

PENCE: IT’S ‘UNDERSTANDABLE’ DON. JR. ACCUSED DEMS OF HOPING ‘MILLIONS’ DIE OF VIRUS Vice President Mike Pence told Jake Tapper on CNN it was “understandable” that Donald Trump Jr. accused Democrats of wanting “millions of people” to die of coronavirus to make the president look bad. Tapper played a Fox News tape of Trump Jr. on Friday calling it a “new level of sickness” for the Democrats to hope for the death of Americans “so that they can end Donald Trump’s streak of winning.” [HuffPost]

The World Health Organization (WHO) has upgraded its assessment of the danger posed by the coronavirus to “very high,” stopping short of calling the outbreak a pandemic. Director-General Tedros said at a recent press conference, “For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe death or disease.” The coronavirus has now been documented in at least 56 countries: here.

The number of confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus in South Korea rose by 594 on Friday to a total of 2,931 infections. The majority have been in the country’s fourth-largest city, Daegu, home to 2.5 million people. Sixteen people have died, including three people on Friday. Nearly half of the infections have been traced back to the Shincheonji religious cult, with 210,000 of its members currently being tested for the virus: here.

‘Trump, NATO shouldn’t support Erdogan’s Syrian war’

This 29 February 2020 video by United States Democratic Congresswoman, presidential candidate and Iraq war veteran Tulsi Gabbard says about itself:

Say no to getting dragged into Erdogan’s war with Russia

Donald Trump needs to make it clear to NATO and Erdogan that the United States will not be dragged into a war with Russia by the aggressive, Islamist, expansionist dictator of Turkey, a so-called “NATO” ally.

The main “rebel” force fighting force in Idlib [allies of the Turkish Erdogan regime] is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a United Nations-designated terrorist front led by the former Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda. The former top US diplomat in charge of the anti-ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) campaign, Brett McGurk, described Idlib province as “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11” and “a huge problem”: here.

Germany after the Hanau nazi massacre

A carnival float, depicting far-right AfD politician Bjoern Hoecke, whose arm is raised by CDU and FDP politicians at the Thuringia elections, during the traditional carnival parade in Duesseldorf, Germany, on Monday, February 24 2020

This photo shows a carnival float, depicting far-right AfD politician Bjoern Hoecke, whose arm is raised to a nazi salute by CDU and FDP politicians at the Thuringia elections, during the traditional carnival parade in Duesseldorf, Germany, on Monday, February 24 2020.

By Kevin Ovenden in Britain:

Friday, February 28, 2020

Merkel reaps the whirlwind

KEVIN OVENDEN looks at the false narratives being offered by right-wing German politicians in the wake of the murderous attacks on Hanau’s shisha bars

LARGE protests have swept Germany in the wake of the far-right terror attack at two shisha bars in Hanau on Wednesday of last week.

The mobilisations and calls for further action from anti-fascist and anti-racist organisations offer much more than a collective show of grief and solidarity with the nine dead, plus the mother of the killer. He murdered her before taking his own life and leaving a manifesto-style, racist “confession”.

The movement is pointing to the deep roots of what is the latest instance of far-right terror, and not only in Germany. It is also providing the basis for a practical response, not what are so often empty words from state officials and governments.

German chancellor Angela Merkel gave a prime example of that when she said of the Hanau atrocity: “Hate is a poison… that is responsible for far too many crimes.”

Just hate? Is this simply a product of an irrational state of mind or is there something else to why a racist would target brown-skinned people in self-evidently Middle Eastern venues?

The unfathomable act of a “lone wolf” was the line of one spokesperson for the far-right AfD, which has a large fascist wing. Jorg Meuthen said: “This is neither right-wing nor left-wing terror. It’s the crazy act of a deranged man.”

His party “Kamerad” [as nazis used to refer to one another] Rainer Rahn, who headed the AfD list in Frankfurt in 2018, claimed the party was being smeared for responsibility for the atrocity, before giving this mitigation and rationalisation for the mass murder: “Shisha bars are places that displease many people, including me. If someone is constantly disturbed by such a facility, it could somehow contribute to such an act.”

It is not only the fascists of the AfD who have demonised the German equivalents of those Arab-run pavement cafes on London’s Edgware Road. Centre-left politicians called for police raids on bars in Berlin in the false name of tackling “criminality.” No criminal activity was discovered.

There seems no accident in the choice of terror target. But the official response of bemusement and talk of de-contextualised “hate crime” (a term whose inflation is destroying all rational thought) serves to avoid investigating what is causing this.

So does detaching it from a series of neo-nazi terror attacks. In the last few months in Germany, we have had the neo-nazi murder of a liberal-minded politician of Merkel’s own party in Kassel and the attempted massacre at a synagogue in Halle.

Barely a month has gone by without fresh revelations of neo-nazi, white-survivalist terror cells being uncovered. They have disproportionately included members of special units of the German armed forces and police.

The arrests have in several cases exposed a culture of tolerance for overt extreme-right allegiance by others in those institutions but not themselves members of the terror groups, with their plans to attack mosques and left-wing targets, and stockpiling of arms caches.

Two weeks ago 12 members of a neo-nazi network were finally arrested. They included a serving police officer.

According to Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, far-right extremists committed 10,105 violent crimes in the last decade, as well as 83 murders since 1990.

It says it is aware of about 24,000 “far-right extremists”. Over half of them have expressed support for terroristic violence to achieve their aims.

Lest you think that the German equivalent of Britain’s MI5 is atop the situation, its former chief, Hans-Georg Maassen, was forced to resign in 2018. It came after pressure from the left over him expressing sympathy for the AfD and turning a blind eye to what was nothing short of an attempted pogrom by neo-nazis in the east German city of Chemnitz in August that year.

In a copycat attack on immigrants two weeks later, video emerged of neo-nazis raising the slogan “National-Socialism now!” Maassen said his agency had seen nothing other than concerned citizens taking to the streets. He then provided a confidential intelligence briefing to AfD MPs.

Defending Maassen to the last was German interior minister Horst Seehofer, who proclaims: “There is no place for Islam in Germany.”

There is an awful lot more going on than “lone wolves” in Hanau, Halle, Pittsburgh, Charleston, Christchurch, Finsbury Park, the murderer of Labour MP Jo Cox in Yorkshire.

Understanding the complete picture with all its gradations is important if the left and labour movement are to win a practical and effective response to this terror threat.

Closely associated with the “lone wolf” theory is the idea that this is a simple and direct result of reactionary ideas swirling around in society and promulgated by mainstream politicians.

There is an element of truth in that.

Mainstream racism and reaction embolden those who look to violent methods – even terrorism. If a local mayor orders police raids on Middle Eastern cafes, then why not take a more “activist” approach yourself? So combating racism at all levels is vital.

But more is happening than that. It is not just the intersection of bigoted ideas with those so dehumanised that they will act upon them in the most violent way.

That, actually, is the defence put up by major far-right/fascist organisations such as the AfD. Tory racist propaganda against asylum seekers in the early 1990s did encourage a popular racism in which attacks took place.

But the striking 300 per cent increase in racist attacks in south-east London at that time did not take place by a process of osmosis from some reactionary announcement by the Tory home secretary.

It fitted wholly with the opening of the fascist British National Party’s headquarters and its intensified activity in that area. Similarly when it made an electoral breakthrough in east London.

There was a mechanism between the spread of reactionary ideas in general and murderous, organised far-right or racist attacks. It is a fascist mechanism.

One baleful consequence of the political earthquakes that have shaken the Establishment on both sides of the Atlantic in the last four years has been to lose sight of that mechanism. All sorts of commentators have talked instead of a kind of amorphous “populism”.

For pro-capitalist politicians of the centre, and their theoreticians, populism is a danger from both right and left, against a liberal, rational centre. We are led back to the once leader of that centre, Merkel, talking piously of “hatred” in response to a far-right terrorist attack that murdered 10 people.

A left variant has been mistakenly to take at face value efforts by fascist forces to gain electoral credibility – from Le Pen’s RN in France to the AfD – as some novel “post-fascist” phenomenon.

The argument is that there is a kind convergence between fascist thugs of the 1980s looking to parliamentary methods and centre-right politicians dabbling in breaking taboos on racism and extra-parliamentary mobilisation.

It is a wholly one-sided assessment, with dangerous political consequences. The AfD’s rise has not been a process of domestication into “normal parliamentary methods”. It has both sought to carve out a national conservative space and radicalised through seeking to normalise fascist positions, and in some cases actions.

That is not without its tensions and contradictions. But we have just had, in the name of domesticating the AfD,
the conservatives and liberals in the eastern state of Thuringia cut a deal with the most fascist wing of the party to oust the left from government.

Massive reaction across Germany broke the alliance, and is probably responsible for the “liberal” FDP being punished at the polls in Hamburg last Sunday for its disgusting role in the scandal.

But the preparedness of the right of the mainstream right to make the AfD’s votes “useful” by including it in governing arrangements continues. It is contributing to a deepening crisis for the German government.

SPD politician Michael Roth rightly describes the AfD as a “political arm of right-wing terrorism.”

For the AfD is incubating such terrorism not only through its virulent racism and anti-leftism. At its base and on its fringes is a swirling cesspit that includes those in the neo-nazi subculture.

They can move back and forth, find space to discuss “tactics” (how much constitutional, how much terroristic).

The mainstream right does not want terror attacks on shisha bars. But it entertains political pacts with the AfD. And the AfD breeds those who do want terror attacks on shisha bars.

The internet enormously increases the velocity of communication and capacity for fascists or those looking to more “radical” solutions. What French anti-racists call the “fascho-sphere” allowed, for example, the Christchurch terrorist in New Zealand to forge connections globally.

That is a distinct feature – up to a point. The murderer of Jo Cox MP brewed his own murderous worldview out of fascist texts bought by mail order from the US in the 1980s.

This cannot be put down to deranged men in a grotty basement becoming “radicalised” online. There are material, social and political processes at work.

Three weeks today the left and anti-racists will take to the streets in Germany to confront those mechanisms. Stand Up to Racism and others will march in Britain on the same international day of action.

We don’t have the state resources, directed to democratic and progressive ends, directly to stop the next fascist terrorist.

But we can make a difference by intelligently focusing upon opposing racism in general, crushing the fascist mechanisms and pressuring the authorities to stop treating this as a series of “lone wolves” motivated by some vague “hate.”

Ophiuchus galaxy, universe’s biggest ever explosion

This 27 February 2020 video says about itself:

The biggest explosion seen in the universe has been found. This record-breaking, gargantuan eruption came from a black hole in a distant galaxy cluster hundreds of millions of light-years away.

Astronomers made this record-breaking discovery using X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA‘s XMM-Newton, and radio data from the Murchison Widefield Array in Australia and the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India.

The unrivaled outburst was detected in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, which is about 390 million light-years from Earth. Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, containing thousands of individual galaxies, dark matter, and hot gas.

In the center of the Ophiuchus cluster, there is a large galaxy that contains a supermassive black hole. Researchers have traced the likely source of this gigantic eruption to this black hole.

Although black holes are famous for pulling material toward them, they often expel prodigious amounts of material and energy. This happens when matter falling toward the black hole is redirected into jets, or beams, that blast outward into space and slam into any surrounding material.

Astronomers needed to combine the X-ray information along with the radio data in order to clinch this finding. They discovered that a cavity in the hot gas, first seen in Chandra data in 2016, was filled almost perfectly with radio emission created by electrons that had been accelerated to nearly the speed of light. This allowed them to confirm that an explosion of unprecedented size took place in Ophiuchus.

The amount of energy required to create the cavity in Ophiuchus is about five times greater than the previous record-holder, MS 0735+74, and hundreds and thousands of times greater than typical clusters.

The black hole eruption must have finished because the researchers do not see any evidence for current jets in the radio data. This shutdown can be explained by the Chandra data, which show that the densest and coolest gas seen in X-rays is currently located at a different position from the central galaxy. If this gas shifted away from the galaxy it will have deprived the black hole of fuel for its growth, turning off the jets.

While much has been learned about the galaxy cluster Ophiuchus through X-ray and radio telescopes, more data will be needed to answer the many remaining questions this object poses.

Big pro-climate strike in Bristol, England

The Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate protest procedes through Bristol centre

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Friday, February 28, 2020

20,000 join Thunberg in school strike for climate justice

CLIMATE activist Greta Thunberg joined a crowd of more than 20,000 people today to take part in Bristol’s 10th climate strike.

The 17-year-old Swedish campaigner gave a speech to the huge rally before joining a rainy march through the city streets, accompanied by a samba band.

Ms Thunberg accused officials, government, and media of “completely ignoring” climate change and urged the crowd’s large contigent of schoolchildren to “be the adults in the room”.

She said: “Once again, they sweep their mess under the rug for us — young people, their children — to clean up for them.

“But we must continue and we have to be patient. Remember that the changes required will not happen overnight since the politics and solutions are far from sight.

“We will not be silenced because we are the change, and change is coming whether you like it or not.

“This emergency is being completely ignored by the politicians, the media and those in power.

“Basically, nothing is being done to halt this crisis despite all the beautiful words and promises from our elected officials.

“So what did you do during this crucial time? I will not be silenced when the world is on fire.”

She was joined in the pre-march speeches with a call for change from Mya-Rose Craig, also 17 and who last week became the youngest person to be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bristol.

The student ornithologist — whose doctorate was in recognition of her Black2Nature organisation which runs nature camps for children from black and minority-ethnic backgrounds — called for greater diversity in the climate movement.

She told the crowd: “We have to engage with all of our communities in order to properly fight climate change. An unequal world can never be a sustainable one.”

Protesters of all ages waved flags, placards and banners and chanted as they made their way around the city centre.

Police said around 20,000 people attended, while organisers estimated the number was closer to 30,000.

Ms Thunberg, who triggered the global school-strike movement by sitting outside of the Swedish parliament in 2018, said she was visiting Bristol because of its strong climate-change movement.

The city last year unveiled a 15 metre-high mural of her painted on the side of the Tobacco Factory venue.

Dr Patrick Hart, a GP and member of Doctors for Extinction Rebellion, said: “We’re speaking out to raise the alarm on the impending health crisis.

“As healthcare professionals, our code of conduct compels us to act promptly where we notice unacceptable risks to patient health, both now and future.

“Climate change is the greatest threat to human life worldwide, so we’re demanding our government take urgent action to address the crisis before it’s too late.”

 Greta Thunberg stands alongside fellow environmental activists for the Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate protest at College Green in Bristol

Editorial: We need carbon-neutral production – with no compensation for corporations: here.

Like capitalism’s previous calamities, climate change hits the poorest worst: here.