Prehistoric Canadian and Australian animals, new research


Photo: The Canadian Entomologist. The new fossil lacewing species Epinesydrion falklandensis from British Columbia, Canada, with an almost complete wing

From Simon Fraser University in Canada:

New fossil discovery shows 50 million-year-old Canada-Australia connection

June 15, 2020

The discovery of a tiny insect fossil is unearthing big questions about the global movement of animals and the connection to changes in climate and shifting continents across deep time. The fossil, estimated to be 50 million years old, was found in rocks near the city of Kamloops, British Columbia, but today its relatives live exclusively in Australia.

The finding is the latest in a pattern of discoveries that are leading experts to contemplate a Canada-Australia connection not previously considered. Paleontologists Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University and the Royal British Columbia Museum and Vladimir Makarkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Vladivostok published their findings in The Canadian Entomologist.

According to Makarkin, the fossil is part of the “split-footed lacewing” family. Little is known about this group over the 66-million-years following the extinction of the dinosaurs. “These fossils are rare,” he says. “This is only the fourth one found from this time-span worldwide, and it’s the most completely preserved. It adds important information to our knowledge of how they became modern.”

The paleontologists identified the fossil by the characteristic network of veins covering its wings. They emphasize that fossils like the new lacewing species help in understanding large-scale patterns of the modern distribution of life across the globe.

Previous fossil insects of this age found in B.C. and neighbouring Washington have shown connections with Pacific-coastal Russia to the west and with Europe to the east — patterns that are not surprising since the northern continents were connected then.

“Fifty million years ago, sea levels were lower, exposing more land between North America and Asia, and the Atlantic Ocean had not widened, leaving Europe and North America still joined across high latitudes,” says Archibald. He explains that the far-north experienced warmer climates then as well, helping a variety of animals and plants to disperse freely between northern continents.

The Australian connection is more puzzling though, as there is no such clear land connection. That continent was closer to Antarctica then and farther from Asia than today, leaving formidable ocean barriers for life to disperse between it and Canada’s west coast.

This lacewing joins other insect fossils from B.C. and Washington whose modern relatives only live in the Australian region. These include bulldog ants, a family of termites, and a kind of parasitoid wasp.

Archibald says that “a pattern is emerging that we don’t quite understand yet, but has interesting implications.”

The researchers suggest that the answer might be connected to climate. The forests of the ancient British Columbian temperate upland where this lacewing lived had very mild winters, in fact, probably without frost days.

The climate of modern Australia shares these mild winters even in temperate regions. “It could be that these insect groups are today restricted to regions of the world where climates in key ways resemble those 50 million years ago in the far western Canadian mountains,” says Archibald.

Archibald and Makarkin emphasise that it’s important to understand the little things in order to appreciate the big picture. “The more we know about these insects, the more we can piece together the history of how climate and the movement of continents have shaped global patterns of the distributions of life that we see in our modern world,” says Makarkin.

“To understand where we are today and where we may be going with the big changes that we are seeing in global climates, we need to understand what’s happened in the deep past.”

COVID-19 disaster, stop premature back-to-work


This 16 June 2020 video is called Cuban Medical Brigade Arrives in Turks and Caicos Islands.

USA: White House demands end to $600 per week emergency unemployment pay. 16 June 2020. The Trump administration’s plan to cut unemployment assistance in July is a naked ploy to force workers back into factories that are hotbeds of COVID-19: here.

Nearly 24,000 Ohioans told to return unemployment payments. By Isaac Finn, 16 June 2020. State authorities demanded that thousands of workers give back “overpaid benefits” they have received since the start of the economic crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meatpacking workers oppose forced return to work through protests and mass absenteeism. By Christopher Davion, 16 June 2020. With meatpacking plants the epicenter of the spread of coronavirus, workers are opposing the return to work ordered by the Trump administration through protests and absenteeism.

US auto companies pushing for more production as COVID-19 cases rise in factories. By Shannon Jones, 16 June 2020.

Studies on COVID-19 antibody response undermine US “herd immunity” policy. By Benjamin Mateus, 16 June 2020. The antibody response to the coronavirus is not very robust, undermining claims that if enough people are infected, the pandemic will burn itself out.

Virginia and Maryland ease COVID-19 restrictions. By Dominic Gustavo, 16 June 2020. The state authorities in Virginia and Maryland are proceeding with the reopening of the economy with complete indifference to the lives and health of working people in the Washington DC area and across the entire region.

Nurses outraged over US hospital chain bailouts, layoffs and bloated CEO pay. By Gary Joad, 15 June 2020. The largest health care corporations and hospital chains have collected billions in federal grants and laid off tens of thousands of health care workers, while compensating top executives hundreds of millions.

From the World Socialist Web Site, 16 June 2020:

Argentine rubber workers strike for 24 hours over COVID-19 concerns

The Unique Tire Workers Syndicate of Argentina (SUTNA) called a strike on June 11 at the Bridgestone-Firestone plant in Llavallol, a city in Buenos Aires Province. The main demand of the one-day stoppage was to demand “concrete improvements in the preventive measures regarding the COVID-19”, according to a SUTNA statement.

Four cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at the plant, but the company “continues requiring [workers] to work at close contact with infected persons and refuses to make a quarantine.”

A SUTNA communiqué stated that, though the walkout was for 24 hours, “upon not receiving positive responses, the measures will continue to increment.” The statement ridiculed the “absurd argument” that there was social distancing in the plant, when not only do workers labor close together, but there is no separation between shifts.

The statement concluded that the goal of the strike was so that “management will listen to the workers’ just complaint and that the provincial and national authorities intervene in favor of the employees.”

Mexican health workers protest sanctions and threats against those demanding supplies

Members of the National Union of Health Workers of Mexico held a protest in front of the federal Health Secretariat June 12 to denounce threats and sanctions against health workers who demand quality medical equipment and supplies, as well as better labor conditions.

The protesters brought documented proof of harassment and firings of nurses demanding better supplies for protecting themselves and patients as the COVID-19 pandemic rages.

For the moment, “We are not calling a strike; we’re calling a gathering,” said one nurse and union spokesman, but “if there are more firings, if instead of dialogue we have repression … this peaceful mobilization can be converted to the call for a national strike.”

Protests over Colombian government’s shortchanging of health resources, labor conditions

Workers in the health, education and other sectors in Colombia protested the broken promises and premature reopening plans of the government of right-wing president Iván Duque last week.

On June 9, health organizations called for protests against the government’s failure to deliver on promised resources to meet the anticipated peak in COVID-19 infections. The government had promised 13.7 trillion pesos (UD$3.8 billion) in the last three months, but only delivered about 11 percent: 1.5 billion pesos (US$420 million), according to La Silla Vacía, a political news website.

Colombian health workers, tired of the broken promises of aid, acts of aggression—including death threats—and horrendous working conditions, have held wildcat strikes and protests. Others have resigned en masse.

On June 11, members of FECODE, the Colombian Education Workers Federation, protested and held an encampment at Bogotá’s Parque Colón to protest the Education Ministry’s plans to reopen schools in August without adequate measures to ensure the health of students, teachers and parents. FECODE sent a letter to parents explaining their position.

FECODE was joined by about 50 labor and social organizations at the protest. Speakers also denounced violence against teachers and labor union leaders and criticized the nation’s anti-worker labor reforms, as well as the hikes in public service and transportation fees.

Canada: Grocery store chains end special COVID pay for workers

Several large grocery store chains including Metro, Save-On Foods, Loblaw and Walmart have ended a temporary $2 per hour COVID-19 wage increase provided to their frontline retail employees. Billed by the companies as a “reward” for their brave service in the essential food distribution business, the wage top-ups were in reality meant as a way to stem the flow of the minimum-wage staff who had been absenting themselves as the coronavirus spread into the population even as the companies were slow to provide adequate protections for the workers.

The move comes as Canadian provincial governments prioritize a staggered return to retail business re-openings across the country.

UK: Johnson opens the economy and guarantees fresh COVID-19 outbreak. By Thomas Scripps, 16 June 2020. Scientists warn that easing the lockdown under current conditions is likely to lead to a resurgence of coronavirus, endangering lives and throwing away the sacrifices made by workers and their families.

UK: Legal action highlights social-Darwinist policies against the disabled during COVID-19 pandemic. By Alice Summers, 16 June 2020. Numerous medical guidance documents published during the pandemic suggest that coronavirus patients can be denied or deprioritised for medical care solely on the basis of their age or existing mental or physical disabilities.

“This government has decided that disabled people are better off dead”. UK disability campaigners speak out on coronavirus pandemic. By Alice Summers, 16 June 2020 The WSWS spoke to disability rights campaigners last weekend about the impact of coronavirus pandemic and the Johnson government’s “herd immunity” policy on the lives of disabled people.

Germany: Schools and child daycare centres open despite the high risk of infection. By Marianne Arens, 16 June 2020. The same politicians who pump hundreds of billions of euros of so-called “Corona aid” into the vaults of the big banks and leading companies see no need to equip schools with the measures needed to combat the coronavirus.

Coronavirus pandemic in Poland: Silesian miners sacrificed for profit. By Bartosz Wyspianski and Martin Nowak, 16 June 2020. Nearly every day, almost half of the new infections in Poland can be found in Silesia.

With its hospitals overwhelmed, Delhi emerging as India’s coronavirus epicentre. By Wasantha Rupasinghe, 16 June 2020. India’s Supreme Court has described conditions in the capital city’s hospitals as “horrific,” and the situation is expected to deteriorate in coming weeks as infections rise exponentially.

Indian cruise ship crew stage second protest in three days. By Tom Casey, 16 June 2020. Thousands of cruise ship workers—some of them infected with COVID-19—remained trapped on vessels around the world after the industry shut down last March in response to the pandemic.

Parents speak out against rushed re-opening of schools in Australia. By Sue Phillips and Kaye Tucker, 16 June 2020.

New Zealand government lifts all COVID-19 restrictions. By Tom Peters, 16 June 2020. New Zealand’s health system is in severe crisis following decades of austerity and is unprepared for future COVID-19 outbreaks.

It was said that in New Zealand, coronavirus had stopped. However, now there are new cases.

European butterfly evolution, new research


This video says about itself:

Some old footage of butterflies from Germany and Sweden.

Melitaea athalia, Plebejus idas, Araschnia levana and Cabera pusaria.

From ScienceDaily:

Scientists unravel the evolution and relationships for all European butterflies

June 15, 2020

For the first time, a complete time-calibrated phylogeny for a large group of invertebrates is published for an entire continent.

In a recent research paper in the open-access, peer-reviewed academic journal ZooKeys, a German-Swedish team of scientists provide a diagrammatic hypothesis of the relationships and evolutionary history for all 496 European species of butterflies currently in existence. Their study provides an important tool for evolutionary and ecological research, meant for the use of insect and ecosystem conservation.

In order to analyse the ancestral relationships and history of evolutionary divergence of all European butterflies currently inhabiting the Old continent, the team led by Martin Wiemers — affiliated with both the Senckenberg German Entomological Institute and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research — UFZ, mainly used molecular data from already published sources available from NCBI GenBank, but also contributed many new sequences, some from very local endemics for which no molecular data had previously been available.

Butterflies, the spectacular members of the superfamily Papilionoidea, are seen as an important proponent for nature conservation, as they present an excellent indicator group of species, meaning they are capable of inferring the environmental conditions of a particular habitat. All in all, if the local populations of butterflies are thriving, so is their habitat.

Furthermore, butterflies are pollinating insects, which are of particular importance for the survival of humans. There is no doubt they have every right to be recognised as a flagship invertebrate group for conservation.

In recent times, there has been a steady increase in the molecular data available for research, however, those would have been only used for studies restricted either to a selected subset of species, or to small geographic areas. Even though a complete phylogeny of European butterflies was published in 2019, also co-authored by Wiemers, it was not based on a global backbone phylogeny and, therefore, was also not time-calibrated.

In their paper, Wiemers and his team point out that phylogenies are increasingly used across diverse areas of macroecological research, such as studies on large-scale diversity patterns, disentangling historical and contemporary processes, latitudinal diversity gradients or improving species-area relationships. Therefore, this new phylogeny is supposed to help advance further similar ecological research.

G4S defrauds Belgian taxpayers


This 12 July 2013 British TV video says about itself:

G4S to be the subject of fraud probe

They’ve been accused of overcharging the government tens of millions of pounds for electronic tagging contracts: now the Serious Fraud Office has been called in to investigate private security firm G4S.

That was then in Britain. And now, in Belgium …

Translated from Belgian (conservative) daily De Standaard, 16 June 2020:

Just before the [coronavirus] lockdown, the Belgian Competition Authority (BMA) started a thorough and large-scale investigation into abuses in the security sector. The file revolves around illegal market practices by the main players: G4S, Securitas and Seris. The study also includes Jean-Paul Van Avermaet, until recently G4S country manager, and the [governmental postal service] Bpost CEO since 13 January.

One of the possible injured parties in the file is Van Avermaet’s current employer: the Belgian government. In recent years, it has increasingly appealed to security firms. Since the terrorist attacks, their importance has increased and they are increasingly acting as an extension of the police.

A new private security law was even introduced. This entailed new tasks for the sector and was described as “the Jambon Act”.

Banks and Zaventem airport also often use the services of security firms, as do many retail companies and organizers of mass events. They all belong to the possibly injured parties.

The security firms are suspected of overcharging their services for years. They are said to not only have made price agreements, but also agreements about price increases and the charging of costs. They are also said to have been guilty of dividing the market between them.