United States police brutality continues


This 10 June 2020 video from Britain says about itself:

7-Year-Old Delivers Powerful Poem at BLM Protest | NowThis

‘Black is beautiful.
Black is excellent.
Black is love.
Black is elegant.’

Listen to 7-year-old Nylah perform this beautiful piece at a Black Lives Matter protest in the UK.

BLACK MAN’S VIOLENT DEATH IN CUSTODY WAS FILMED Police video and documents released more than a year after the in-custody death of a Black man in Texas show that sheriff’s deputies repeatedly used a stun gun on him despite multiple pleas that he couldn’t breathe following a chase after he failed to dim his headlights. The revelations in the 2019 death of Javier Ambler raise questions about Williamson County deputies’ practice of pursuing drivers for minor crimes. A local prosecutor says the circumstances of Ambler’s death are troubling because it was being filmed for A&E Network’s real-time police show “Live PD.” [AP]

How was my son Ahmaud Arbery’s murder not a hate crime?

The grim resilience of Black mothers of murdered children.

THE POLICE HAVE SPIED ON BLACK REPORTERS AND ACTIVISTS FOR YEARS On Aug. 20, 2018, the first day of a federal police surveillance trial, I discovered that the Memphis Police Department was spying on me. The ACLU of Tennessee had sued the MPD, alleging that the department was in violation of a 1978 consent decree barring surveillance of residents for political purposes. I’d long suspected that I was on law enforcement’s radar, simply because my work tends to center on the most marginalized communities, not institutions with the most power. [HuffPost]

PUBLIC DANGER: MANY COPS MASKLESS On May 13, five New York City police officers wrestled a 22-year-old mother to the ground in a Brooklyn subway station and arrested her in front of her young child for refusing to wear a mask. Like two-thirds of New Yorkers arrested for not wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic, the woman was Black. Less than a month later, New York cops themselves are overwhelmingly going without masks at protests against police brutality and racism ― so much so that Mayor Bill de Blasio, widely criticized for defending NYPD violence against demonstrators, pleaded with officers to “follow the rules.” [HuffPost]

NEW YORK REPEALS LAW SHIELDING POLICE DISCIPLINARY RECORDS New York lawmakers passed a bill that will enable police officers’ disciplinary records to be made public through freedom of information law requests. The decades-old legislation made personnel records of police officers, firefighters and corrections officers unreviewable unless mandated by court order. The news comes as the New York Police Union boss has demanded respect for officers after brutal protest crackdowns. [HuffPost]

FLORIDA POLICE UNION PRESIDENT SUSPENDED The president of a Fraternal Order of Police chapter in Florida was suspended from his position at a sheriff’s office after he sent a Facebook post encouraging cops accused of misconduct in other cities to apply for jobs in Florida. Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said Bert Gamin, a lieutenant at the agency and president of the Brevard County FOP, was suspended with pay while an internal investigation is conducted. Ivey called the posts “disgusting.” [HuffPost]

THE ME TOO-STYLE RECKONING FOR RACISM HAS BEGUN As anger over racism builds in the U.S., a familiar pattern is unfolding: the culling of the bad apples. Black people and other people of color are calling out not just police brutality, but also racism, discrimination, harassment and racial bias in the workplace. They’re sharing stories publicly about bosses and colleagues who have mistreated them and others. They’re pointing out that the companies that now publicly state that Black lives matter don’t bother to actually follow through by treating employees of color fairly and equally. [HuffPost]

TRUMP SMEARS 75-YEAR-OLD SHOVED BY POLICE President Donald Trump dangerously suggested, with no evidence whatsoever, that a 75-year-old protester shoved by police in Buffalo, New York, last week could be “a set up” by “an ANTIFA provocateur.” Martin Gugino, a longtime activist, remained hospitalized with a serious head injury. Trump was denounced by Gugino’s lawyer and Democratic politicians, while Republicans pretended not to see the president’s vile tweet. [HuffPost]

“Cops” canceled amid a nationwide reckoning over police violence.

Trevor Noah shames police brutality with one brutal observation.

Bats, better animals than you think


This 8 June 2020 video says about itself:

Why Bats Aren’t as Scary as You Think | Nat Geo Explores

When we think of bats, an unfavorable image often comes to mind. Whether it’s the scary portrayal of them in vampire films and literature or a general fear of how their real-life counterparts might transmit viruses, bats have gotten a bad rap that’s actually more fiction than fact. Take a look at how many common bat misconceptions came about and just how vital bats are to our everyday lives.

COVID-19 disaster, international news


This 10 May 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Arizona Has HUGE Spike In Covid Cases

Our old friend, coronavirus, is still knocking at everyone’s door, trying to find itself a way in. Sam Seder and the Majority Report crew discuss this.

COVID-19 eruptions increasing in US meatpacking plants, logistics centers. By Shannon Jones, 10 June 2020. As all levels of government abandon any attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, workplaces are increasingly becoming vectors of transmission.

US Postal Service covers up COVID-19 death toll in New York City. By Tom Carter and Shuvu Batta, 10 June 2020. “There are people that have been gone for weeks, and people who have been gone who never came back.

Bridgestone tire defends safety “playbook” as infections rise at Iowa plant. By Jacob Crosse, 10 June 2020. Bridgestone has continued production despite rising infections among workers and the surrounding community.

COVID-19 spreads in US auto plants as officials hide information from workers. By Jessica Goldstein, 10 June 2020. Three new cases of coronavirus were confirmed among workers at General Motors’ assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri, in recent days.

Canadian government threatens fines and jail time to force workers back to work. By Roger Jordan, 10 June 2020. The Liberal government is spearheading a homicidal back-to-work drive that prioritizes big business profit over workers’ lives.

COVID-19 cases rise rapidly after South Asia’s governments abandon lockdowns. By our correspondents, 10 June 2020. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have all recorded dramatic increases in COVID-19 infections and deaths over the past week.

Pesticides threaten monarch butterflies


This 2014 video from the USA says about itself:

Researchers Suggest Monsanto Behind 90 Percent Drop in Monarch Butterfly Population

The monarch butterfly population has been reduced by ninety percent over the past twenty years. In terms related to the human population that’s the equivalent of losing every human in the United States except for those in Florida and Ohio.

Monsanto is now Bayer. Different name, same pesticides.

From the University of Nevada, Reno in the USA:

Milkweed, only food source for monarch caterpillars, ubiquitously contaminated

Harmful pesticides found in Western Monarch breeding ground

June 8, 2020

New evidence identifies 64 pesticide residues in milkweed, the main food for monarch butterflies in the west. Milkweed samples from all of the locations studied in California’s Central Valley were contaminated with pesticides, sometimes at levels harmful to monarchs and other insects.

The study raises alarms for remaining western monarchs, a population already at a precariously small size. Over the last few decades their overwintering numbers have plummeted to less than 1% of the population size than in the 1980s — which is a critically low level.

Monarch toxicity data is only available for four of the 64 pesticides found, and even with this limited data, 32% of the samples contained pesticide levels known to be lethal to monarchs, according to a study released today in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

“We expected to find some pesticides in these plants, but we were rather surprised by the depth and extent of the contamination,” said Matt Forister, a butterfly expert, biology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno and co-author of the paper. “From roadsides, from yards, from wildlife refuges, even from plants bought at stores — doesn’t matter from where — it’s all loaded with chemicals. We have previously suggested that pesticides are involved in the decline of low elevation butterflies in California, but the ubiquity and diversity of pesticides we found in these milkweeds was a surprise.”

Milkweed was chosen as the focus of this study because it the only food source for larval monarch butterflies in the West, and thus critical for their survival.

“We collected leaf samples from milkweed plants throughout the Central Valley and sent them to be screened for pesticides,” Chris Halsch, lead author of the paper and a doctoral student in the University’s Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology program, said. “This study is the first necessary step for understanding what butterflies are actually encountering. Now we can use these data to design experiments to test hypotheses about the relative importance of pesticide use and other stressors such as climate change on local butterflies.”

While this is only a first look at the possible risks these pesticides pose to western monarchs, the findings indicate the troubling reality that key breeding grounds for western monarchs are contaminated with pesticides at harmful levels.

“One might expect to see sad looking, droopy plants that are full of pesticides, but they are all big beautiful looking plants, with the pesticides hiding in plain sight,” Forister, who has been a professor int he University’s College of Science since 2008, said.

Western monarchs are celebrated throughout the western states and especially along the California coast where large congregations overwinter in groves of trees. Population declines also have been documented in the breeding grounds. Areas of inland California, including the Central Valley, offer important monarch breeding habitat throughout the spring and summer, including being the home to the very first spring generation which will continue the migration inland to eventually populate all western states and even southern British Columbia.

Declines in the population of western monarch butterflies have been linked with various stressors, including habitat loss and degradation, pesticide use, and climate change, among others. While pesticide use has been associated with declines, previous studies had not attempted to quantify the residues that butterflies can encounter on the western landscape.

The study’s findings paint a harsh picture for western monarchs, with the 64 different pesticides identified in milkweed. Out of a possible 262 chemicals screened, there was an average of nine types of individual pesticides per sample and as many as 25. Agricultural and retail samples generally had more residues than wildlife refuges and urban areas, but no area was entirely free from contamination. Certain pesticides were present across all landscapes, with five pesticides appearing more than 80% of the time. Chlorantraniliprole, the second most abundant compound, was found at lethal concentrations to Monarchs in 25% of all samples.

Understanding of pesticide toxicity to the monarch is limited, and is based on previously reported lab experiments. Thus we have much to learn about the concentrations encountered in field, but these new results raise concerns nonetheless. While this research focused on monarch toxicity, other pollinators and beneficial insects are also at risk from pesticide contamination throughout the landscape.

“We can all play a role in restoring habitat for monarchs,” said Sarah Hoyle, Pesticide Program Specialist at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and coauthor of the paper. “But it is imperative that farmers, land managers and gardeners protect habitat from pesticides if we hope to recover populations of this iconic animal.”

Field work, gathering plant samples, was completed last spring and summer. The lab work was completed by Nicolas Baert from the Department of Entomology and manager of the Chemical Ecology Core Facility at Cornell University. Statistical computations were completed this winter by Forister and colleague James Fordyce from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Murdered George Floyd buried, not forgotten


This 7 June 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Bakersfield Police Department Protecting Timothy Keith Moore After He Killed Robert Forbes

Full video which shows Bakersfield Police Department protecting this local Kern County, California racist terrorist criminal which ran over and murdered a peaceful protester named Robert Forbes. At the time, this racist terrorist admitted to being DUI yet BPD never tested him for DUI. Also, Bakersfield Police Department let this racist terrorist roam free for supposedly ”not enough evidence”.

This news article has more information.

Bakersfield, California protester dies after being run over by neo-Nazi. By Adam Mclean, 10 June 2020. The driver, Timothy Keith Moore, was defended by police and subsequently released without charge after he rammed Robert Forbes. … Their kid-glove treatment of Moore, who sports neo-Nazi tattoos, stands in stark contrast with their treatment of the protesters and of the working class more broadly.

Robert Forbes, RIP

George Floyd laid to rest as nationwide protests over police violence continue. By Niles Niemuth, 10 June 2020. The murder of Floyd, caught on bystander cellphone video in excruciating detail, has served as a catalyst for the largest nationwide and international outpouring of political opposition in decades.

USA: Jewish protesters blast shofar at rallies across the country.

UK: Johnson government demands police repression of George Floyd protests. By Robert Stevens, 10 June 2020. Tory MPs, as well as Labourites, denounced “thuggery” and “violent” protesters, focusing on the tearing down of the statue of a Bristol slave trader Edward Colston.

Youth protests and worker strikes show mounting social opposition in Brazil. By Tomas Castanheira, 10 June 2020. Strikes and job actions are intersecting with protests of tens by thousands of youth who have joined the international wave of demonstrations against police violence.

How living monkeys react to robot monkeys


This 2017 video says about itself:

Langur monkeys grieve over fake monkey | Spy in the Wild – BBC

Langur monkeys mistake the motionless robotic spy monkey that was accidentally dropped as a lifeless baby langur and begin to grieve.

Documentary in which animatronic spy creatures infiltrate the animal world to explore their complex emotions.

From the Society for Neuroscience:

Monkeys appreciate lifelike animation

Monkeys experience the uncanny valley effect, just like humans, but a new realistic avatar can overcome it

June 8, 2020

Monkeys can overcome their aversion to animated monkeys through a more realistic avatar, according to research recently published in eNeuro.

Humans feel more comfortable toward life-like humanoid robots, but if a robot gets too life-like, it can become creepy. This “uncanny valley” effect plagues monkeys, too, which becomes a problem when scientists use animated monkey faces to study social behavior. However, monkeys overcome the uncanny valley when presented with a sufficiently realistic monkey avatar created using movie industry animation technology.

Siebert et al. compared how Rhesus monkeys reacted toward five types of monkey faces: video footage from real monkeys, a natural-looking avatar with fur and facial details, a furless avatar, a greyscale avatar, and a wireframe face. The monkeys looked at the wireframe face but avoided looking at the furless and greyscale avatars, showing the uncanny valley effect at work. However, the natural-looking avatar with fur overcame this effect. The monkeys looked at the model and made social facial expressions, comparable to how they would act around real monkeys. Using this type of avatar will make social cognition studies more standardized and replicable.

British Conservative defeat on prematurely reopening schools


This 6 June 2020 Stop the War Coalition video from Britain says about itself:

Coronavirus, War & Empire: Arundhati Roy & Jeremy Corbyn in Conversation w/ Tariq Ali

Three heavyweight campaigners for social justice come together to discuss coronavirus, #BlackLivesMatter, China, India, Kashmir, Palestine and much more besides.

By Ceren Sagir in Britain, 9 June 2020:

Government u-turns over plans to reopen primary schools before summer

PLANS for all primary school children to return before summer were abandoned by the government today in a victory for teachers warning against the risk to public safety.

The government had aimed to bring all pupils in England back four weeks before the end of term, despite some schools warning that they were already short of space due to the socially distanced reopening for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils, and could not accommodate more children.

Teachers and teaching unions have been at loggerheads with the government over the full reopening of schools, warning that many were in no position to implement social distancing and the policy could spark a “second spike” in Covid-19 cases.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Editorial: The Tory retreat on schools is a victory for public safety

THE government’s retreat from its reckless determination to fully reopen English primary schools before the summer holidays is a victory for public safety.

And it is a victory secured by organised workers. Educators’ trade unions have led the opposition to full reopening, pointing out that ministers have been unable to explain how schools would be able to maintain social distancing guidelines if catering for a full complement of pupils.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s announcement reflected a reality that had already taken shape. Nearly half all primary schools in the country did not open to any more pupils last week despite the government’s attempt to get reception, Year 1 and Year 6 back in the classrooms.

School leaders’ confidence in prioritising safety over government instructions rested on the strength of educators’ organising within institutions — reflected in a wave of recruitment and the election of thousands of new workplace reps.

And it grew too from a strategy that applied pressure at school and local government level, which resulted in ever greater numbers of local authorities confirming that they would not co-operate with Westminster’s plans.

In the process, teachers received all the vilification and abuse that workers organising in their unions always encounter when they effectively challenge the prerogatives of capital.

The National Education Union (NEU) in particular was subjected to a string of smears in the Daily Mail, while a rogues’ gallery of Labour and ex-Labour rightwingers such as David Blunkett, Alan Johnson and Ian Austin piled in to join the attack — some urging Labour leader Keir Starmer to denounce the teachers’ unions as a sign that the right was back in charge.

Starmer didn’t do that, but though Labour has welcomed the government’s retreat it played no part in it. At no point did it offer the full support for teachers they ought to have had a right to expect.

Today was a workers’ victory secured over Westminster, not through it.

But it remains a very partial victory, because, as teachers have consistently pointed out, the impact of prolonged school closures on children’s education and wellbeing is severe.

This is especially so because the government has paid scant attention to adapting the delivery of education to pandemic conditions, instead prioritising a mass reopening of schools designed not to get kids’ education back on track but to remove an obstacle to their parents’ ability to return to the workplace.

NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted’s call for a national plan for education should form the impetus for the next stage of campaigning — and she identifies key parts of such a plan: blending home and school learning practices, increasing support for disadvantaged children including by extending free internet access and “requisitioning local public spaces such as community centres and libraries so that pressure on school space is lessened and more children are able to return to school in safe environments.”

In Parliament, both government and opposition have been hamstrung by their commitment to returning to “normal” after the lockdown.

While they argue about the speed and scale of relaxing lockdown, neither party leadership seems interested in reshaping the economy to address the needs the pandemic creates — whether that entails repurposing public spaces, reforming the agricultural sector to ensure proper wages and conditions for the home-grown “land army” needed to plug the gap left by super-exploited labour from overseas or taking control of industries to prevent the catastrophic job losses being threatened by the likes of British Airways and Rolls-Royce.

Though the case for action on all these fronts is compelling, ministers run scared of the public realising the potential of such interventions to transform existing practices and shift the balance of power away from corporations and in favour of workers.

But as educators’ unions have now shown, we can successfully press for change despite that.

UK: Setback for Johnson’s school reopening plan due to popular opposition. By Tania Kent, 10 June 2020. The temporary retreat is a credit to the millions of parents and educators who opposed the government.

From daily News Line in Britain today:

Tories are driven back over schools opening

THE PLAN for all primary school years in England to go back to school before the end of term has been dropped by the government.

Instead, schools will be given ‘flexibility’ over whether or not to admit more pupils.

The decision comes after Tory Health Secretary Matt Hancock conceded at Monday’s Downing Street briefing that secondary schools in England may not fully reopen until September ‘at the earliest’.

NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: ‘Whilst the NASUWT welcomes the government’s belated decision to step back from its plans to open schools to even more pupils before the end of this academic year, we are also urging the government to act swiftly to address the concerns of teachers and headteachers struggling to maintain safe working practices in schools where provision for children has already been extended.

‘The government must now accept that its plans for wider reopening of schools are no longer credible.

‘The government must also make clear to schools that they should revisit their plans and take all appropriate steps to protect the welfare of staff and pupils even if that means pausing planned reopening or closing wider provision in the interests of safety and public health.’

Also commenting on the government’s decision not to press ahead, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union said: ‘It has taken the government some time to recognise what was obvious to most.

‘The government’s social distancing rules made it impossible for primary schools to admit all pupils before the summer holidays. Primary schools and secondary schools will not re-open to all pupils until September at the earliest. But even that date cannot, as Matt Hancock has recognised, be taken for granted.’

‘The government must also plan for a second spike.’