German policemen’s neo-nazi network discovered


This August 2013 video says about itself:

German police and security services have been severely criticised for failing to tackle neo-Nazi violence.

Members of an extreme right-wing cell called the National Socialist Underground killed 10 people over seven years without being caught.

Now a parliamentary report says police dramatically underestimated the neo-Nazi threat.

Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Phillips reports from Berlin.

On 25 June 2020, German broadcasting organisation WDR reported that a neo-nazi network had been discovered in the police force of Aachen city.

Police officers greeted one another with ‘Heil Hitler‘ on police communications gear. Their job then was to protect the Aachen synagogue from neonazi violence.

In an internet chat group of at least four Aachen policemen, in which nazi swastikas, photos of Adolf Hitler and racist comments were exchanged.

Cambrian fossil spider relative discovery


This 2013 video says about itself:

The Maotianshan Shales

This video goes into depth about one of the largest fossil deposits of the Cambrian, with early fish, trilobites, and much more.

From Harvard University, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology in the USA:

MicroCT reveals detailed head morphology of arthropod, Leanchoilia illecebrosa

June 25, 2020

Summary: Researchers used microCT to study and re-study arthropod fossils from the early Cambrian in the Chengjiang biota in the Yunnan Province of China. Their latest study shows with unprecedented clarity the head morphology of the species Leanchoilia illecebrosa and demonstrates the presence of a labrum thus supporting the hypothesis that megacheirans are distant relatives of modern chelicerates (e.g. horseshoe crabs, scorpions and spiders).

The Chengjiang biota in the Yunnan Province of China contains one of the most species-rich and well-preserved fossiliferous deposits for the early Cambrian (ca. 518 million years old), including numerous arthropod species. However, several Chengjiang arthropods have an unfamiliar morphology, are extremely rare, or are incompletely preserved, which often leads to many of these species being problematic, poorly known, or often both, thus hindering their contribution towards reconstructing the evolution of this major animal group.

Javier Ortega-Hernández, Assistant Professor in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, and Yu Liu, Professor of Paleobiology, Yunnan University, China have collaborated for years in the study of Chengjiang arthropods and their evolutionary significance. Their latest paper in Current Biology shows with unprecedented clarity the head morphology of the species Leanchoilia illecebrosa — a member of Megacheira, a major extinct group characterized by distinctively raptorial great appendages. Ortega-Hernández’s and Liu’s reexamination of Leanchoilia demonstrates the presence of a labrum — a flap-like structure overlying the mouth opening in most modern arthropods — and offers renewed support to the hypothesis that megacheirans are distant relatives of modern chelicerates (e.g. horseshoe crabs, scorpions and spiders).

Ortega-Hernández and Liu used microCT, a technique that uses X-rays to visualize features that are not easily observable on the surface of the fossils, to study the organization of the head in small juveniles of Leanchoilia illecebrosa. With microCT, they were able to understand the head in greater detail than ever before, and discover features that refute previously believed hypotheses.

“The biggest surprise came when studying structures close to the mouth,” said Ortega-Hernández. “Until now, the very existence of a labrum in megacheirans, and its position relative to the mouth, have been the source of heated debate. In living arthropods, the labrum is considered an important feature of the head because of its precise origin during embryonic development. The 3D data on Leanchoilia allowed us to show for the first time and with great clarity that this animal indeed had a labrum. This is a useful discovery because researchers have argued with each other whether a labrum was present or not in this and other closely related species, which has prompted very different interpretations about their evolution and affinities.”

The paper is the fifth in a series of publications that represent an ongoing collaboration between the research groups led by Ortega-Hernández and Liu. This study along with others in Current Biology (v29:1, 2019), BMC Evolutionary Biology (v19, 2019, and v20, 2020), and Geological Magazine (March 27, 2020) consists of the study, and often restudy, of exceptional arthropod fossils from the early Cambrian (ca. 518 million years ago) using microCT to reveal exceptional details of the preserved anatomy that are completely inaccessible through conventional preparation tools.

“With microCT, we can discern between the iron-rich fossils and the iron-depleted rock matrix to produce highly detailed and informative virtual models in 3D that reveal their affinities, ecology and evolutionary significance,” said Ortega-Hernández. “Although each publication is a bit different and tells a distinct story for the early evolution of arthropods, they all follow the same overall goal and structure, and use similar techniques and methodology.”

“We have several ongoing projects as part of this collaboration, including many new and exciting species, as well as re-descriptions of some old favorites,” said Ortega-Hernández. “There are certainly a few pleasant surprises, and we expect that this collaboration will continue yielding high-quality morphological information for several years, as we have only started to scratch the surface.” The ongoing project is partially funded by the Harvard China Fund.

Anti-racist demonstrations in Berlin, Heerlen today


Black Lives Matter mural in Heerlen, the Netherlands, photo BLM Parkstad

This photo shows a Black Lives Matter mural in Heerlen, Limburg province, the Netherlands, made by local artists.

On 20 June 2020, there was an anti-racist demonstration in Heerlen, photos here.

Today, Black Lives Matter in Heerlen organises another protest. 17.00 – 19.00. Burgemeester van Grunsvenplein square.

This 20 June 2020 video from Germany says about itself:

How does Black Lives Matter resonate in Berlin? | On The Ground

America’s Black Lives Matter protests have sparked sister demonstrations all over the world. On the ground in Berlin, we spoke to protestors about their experiences of racism in German society, and the work that needs to be done there and across the globe.

Translated from the Berliner Zeitung in Germany today:

Thousands of people want to demonstrate again against racism in Berlin on Saturday (12.30 p.m.). More than 8,000 people registered for the rally at the Großer Stern with the motto “Black Lives Matter” by Friday afternoon, another 20,000 were “interested”, reports the dpa news agency. At the beginning of June, 15,000 people gathered on the Alexanderplatz square because of the killing in the United States of African American George Floyd by a police officer. …

Participants are invited to comply with the coronavirus distance rules.

How long-tailed tits avoid inbreeding


This 23 October 2015 video from Cornwall, Britain is called Long-tailed tits in the garden.

From the University of Sheffield in England:

Long-tailed tits avoid harmful inbreeding by recognising the calls of relatives

June 25, 2020

Long-tailed tits actively avoid harmful inbreeding by discriminating between the calls of close family members and non-family members, according to new research from the University of Sheffield.

Inbred animals typically suffer from reduced survival and reproductive success, so inbreeding is usually avoided. But, in species where young stay close to where they were born, relatives are often encountered as potential mates, increasing the risk of harmful inbreeding.

Long-tailed tits often breed close to home, allowing kin to help raise each other’s chicks, but also incurring a risk of inbreeding that reduces the reproductive success of offspring. The research, led by Dr Amy Leedale from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Science, found that despite this risk, close relatives are actively avoided when pairs form each spring.

Long-tailed tits use distinctive calls to recognise close relatives so that they can help raise their offspring. The authors suggest that these calls also explain how the birds avoid inbreeding.

Dr Amy Leedale, who led the research as a PhD student at the University of Sheffield, said: “We recorded the calls of males and females in many pairs of long-tailed tits and found that the calls of breeding pairs were less similar than the calls of close relatives that they could have bred with. Call similarity within breeding pairs was, instead, similar to that observed among distant relatives or unrelated birds.”

Long-tailed tit calls are learned in the nest, when parents, offspring and siblings are closely associated. Call similarity can therefore act as a reliable indicator of close relatedness in adulthood. This study reveals a potential mechanism by which long-tailed tits can avoid harmful inbreeding as well as gaining benefits from cooperating with kin.

Professor Ben Hatchwell, who has led the long-tailed tit project at the University of Sheffield for more than 25 years, said: “This study demonstrates the value of long-term studies of wild animals, allowing us to build pedigrees of known individuals over many generations, and to measure the consequences of behavioural decisions for their reproductive success.”

American taxpayers’ money to militarism or healthcare?


This 26 June 2020 video from the United States Senate says about itself:

Let Us Reduce Our Bloated Military Budget And Invest In Communities That Need It Most

Why are we spending more on our military than the next 11 nations combined?

I have a better idea: Reduce the Pentagon budget by 10% and invest it in the fight to finally end homelessness, hunger and poverty in the richest country on Earth.

From Senator Bernie Sanders in the USA today:

At this unprecedented moment in American history — a terrible pandemic, an economic meltdown, people marching across the country to end systemic racism and police brutality, growing income and wealth inequality and an unstable president in the White House — now is the time to bring people together to fundamentally alter our national priorities and rethink the very structure of American society.

In that regard, I have been disturbed that for too long Democrats and Republicans have joined together in passing outrageously high military budgets while ignoring the needs of the poorest people in our society. If we are serious about altering our national priorities, then there is no better place to begin with than taking a hard look at the bloated, record-breaking $740 billion military budget that is coming up for a vote in the Senate next week.

Incredibly, after adjusting for inflation, we are now spending more on the military than we did during the height of the Cold War or during the wars in Vietnam and Korea.

This extraordinary level of military spending comes at a time when the Department of Defense is the only agency of our federal government that has not been able to pass an independent audit, when defense contractors are making enormous profits while paying their CEOs exorbitant compensation packages, and when the so-called “War on Terror” will end up costing us some $6 trillion.

I believe this is a moment in history when it would be a good idea for all of my colleagues, and the American people, to remember what former Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower said in 1953:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

What Eisenhower said was true 67 years ago, and it is true today.

Will we be a nation that spends more money on nuclear weapons, or will we be one that invests in jobs, affordable housing, health care and childcare for those who need it most?

In order to begin the process of transforming our national priorities, I will be introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to reduce the military budget by 10 percent and use the $74 billion in savings to invest in distressed communities around the country that are experiencing extreme poverty, mass incarceration, deindustrialization and decades of neglect.

Next week, the Senate will begin consideration of this legislation which amounts to more than half of the discretionary spending of the U.S. government. That is why it is vitally important for you to join me now in supporting this amendment.

Let us send a powerful message to Mitch McConnell and the Democratic leadership. We need to change national priorities and we need to do it now!

Add your name to say you support a 10 percent cut in annual Pentagon spending to allow for investments in jobs, education, health care and poverty reduction in America’s most vulnerable communities.

Here is what the amendment would do:

    • Create jobs by building affordable housing, schools, childcare centers, community health centers, public hospitals, libraries, sustainable energy projects, and clean drinking water facilities.
    • Improve education by hiring more public school teachers to reduce class sizes, ensuring teachers receive adequate pay, providing nutritious meals to children and parents, and offering free tuition for public colleges, universities, and trade schools.
    • Make housing more affordable by providing rental assistance and bringing an end to homelessness.

    These funds would not be used for police departments, prisons or jails. It is time to invest in jobs and education, not more jails and incarceration.

    If this horrific coronavirus pandemic has shown us anything, it is that national security involves a lot more than bombs, missiles, tanks, submarines, nuclear warheads and other weapons of mass destruction. National security also means doing all we can to improve the lives of the American people, many of whom have been abandoned by our government for decades.

    In my view, the time is long overdue for us to take a hard look not only at the size of the Pentagon budget, but at the incredible amount of waste, fraud, and financial mismanagement that has taken place at the Department of Defense for many, many years.

    Let’s be clear: About half of the Pentagon’s budget goes directly into the hands of private contractors, not our troops. Those same contractors have paid millions in fines and settlements for misconduct, all while making huge profits off of their government contracts.

    Furthermore, Congress has appropriated so much money for the Department of Defense that the Pentagon literally does not know what to do with it. According to the Government Accountability Office, between 2013 and 2018 the Pentagon returned more than $80 billion of its funds back to the Treasury.

    We cannot keep providing excessive funds to the Pentagon when millions of children in this country are going hungry and 140 million Americans struggle to pay for the basic necessities of life without worrying about going broke.

    Now is the time for us to truly focus on what we value as a society and to fundamentally transform our national priorities.

    Cutting the military budget by 10 percent and investing that money into communities across the country is a modest way to begin that process. That is why I am asking you directly:

    Please add your name: Say you support my amendment to reduce the Pentagon budget by 10 percent and invest that money in health care, education, and housing.

    We must never stop fighting for the kind of country we know we can become. Thank you for adding your name to our petition today.

    In solidarity,

    Bernie Sanders