Brazil: early turtle fossil found


Araripemys arturiThe BBC reports:

Reptile fossil is ‘early turtle

Sarah Fielding

A fossil reptile discovered in Brazil may be the oldest known creature that resembles a modern turtle.

The 120-million-year-old find is linked to present-day representatives by its heavily webbed, paddle-shaped foot – an adaptation to life in the sea.

Soft tissue has been preserved on the specimen, allowing scientists to confirm the webbing rather than infer it from the length of the foot bones.

A University of Portsmouth team publish details in the journal Palaeontology.

Representatives of the turtle lineage are known from the fossil record as far back as 200 million years.

But these examples look more like tortoises, suggesting they were still very much adapted to life on land. …

“We have an incomplete slab, so it may once have had a skull as well. It’s a real enigma and we don’t have the other bits.

It’s possible somebody found the other half and it is somewhere else being looked at.”

New species

However, the researchers have enough of the specimen to determine it belongs to a new species, which they have named Araripemys arturi.

Ms Fielding, Darren Naish and David Martill from Portsmouth found that the specimen differs in some important ways from another fossil turtle from the same formation called Araripemys barretoi.

Also: ancient Chinese jade tortoise found (presumably, it was for fortune-telling).

An ancient and extinct species of marine turtle is described as being one of the largest turtles to have ever lived on Earth, and a peculiar eater that sucked up its prey with its abnormally long snout: here.

Irish revolutionary Constance Markievicz


This video is about Constance Markievicz.

19 November 2005

Constance Markievicz

Moira Nolan opens our series on women who fought back with a portrait of Irish revolutionary Constance Markievicz

Like most people educated in Britain, I was taught that the Tory ruling class that had opposed votes for women so vehemently nevertheless produced the first woman MP in 1919 — Nancy Astor.

When I was told this I challenged my teacher, arguing that Constance Markievicz was elected as Sinn Fein MP for St Patrick’s Dublin in 1918.

I was told she did not count, because she never took her seat in Westminster.

Of course, nobody ever explained why Constance Markievicz refused to take her seat.

Along with 72 other Sinn Fein MPs elected in Irish seats that year, Markievicz refused to recognise the right of Westminster to rule over Ireland.

She viewed her election as part of the powerful campaign to overturn 400 years of British occupation.

Markievicz was a revolutionary socialist and leading figure in the Irish Republican movement during the critical years of the early 20th century.

She was an unlikely revolutionary, born Lady Constance Gore-Booth into a class of aristocratic British landlords determined to keep Ireland firmly under their rule.

But a combination of her personal experience of oppression and her revulsion at contemporary political events led Markievicz away from her background and into the movement for change.

Her constant frustration at the restrictions placed on women in Victorian society led her to join the women’s suffrage movement.

And her anger at the brutality of British imperialism during the Boer War in South Africa led her to define herself as Irish and join Sinn Fein at the age of 40 in 1908.

Markievicz — now married to a Polish count involved in the revival of Gaelic culture — began to see how the struggle for women’s equality had to be connected to the movement for Irish independence.

“There can be no free women in an enslaved nation,” she declared.

Markievicz worked closely with James Connolly, a dynamic socialist thinker and leader of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU).

This experience helped clarify her ideas about how the various causes she championed – especially equality for women and justice for Dublin’s poor — could be linked through the wider struggle for socialism.

Read more here.

On Connolly: here.

USA: war in Iraq: political conflicts and corruption


Iraq war and corruption, cartoonToday:

Political conflict intensifies over Bush’s Iraq war lies

By Patrick Martin

19 November 2005

The political conflict within US ruling circles over the debacle resulting from the American intervention in Iraq intensified sharply this week.

Vice President Dick Cheney denounced Bush’s critics as “reprehensible,” saying they were “playing politics in the middle of a war,” while a leading Democratic war hawk, Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania, startled official Washington on Thursday by calling for the immediate withdrawal of US troops in Iraq.

Republican congressmen responded to Murtha’s statement with furious denunciations, accusing the congressman of cowardice and all but branding the Democrats as allies of terrorists and traitors.

Also today:

Iraq fraud arrests expose criminality of US occupation

By Bill Van Auken

19 November 2005

The arrest this week of a private contractor and a former US government official in connection with a multimillion-dollar contract-rigging and bribery scandal has exposed a piece of the corruption and criminality that is pervasive in America’s continuing military occupation of Iraq.

It has likewise offered a glimpse of the layer of con men and profiteers who have flooded into the country in the name of reconstruction and democracy.

Formally charged on Thursday were Philip H. Bloom, a US expatriate entrepreneur, and Robert J. Stein Jr., a former employee of the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which ruled Iraq from April 2003 until June of last year.

According to court papers outlining the charges against the pair, Stein accepted $546,000 in bribes from Bloom during the first six months of last year in exchange for steering more than $13 million in reconstruction contracts to the Romanian-based businessman.

Another unidentified US occupation official, who also took bribes from Bloom, is cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Italian film maker Roberto Benigni’s anti Iraq war film is ready


USA, Bush and Iraq war, cartoon

Italian film maker Roberto Benigni is famous for Life is Beautiful, about a family of Italian Jews persecuted by Italian fascists and German Nazis.

Today, TV news mentioned his new movie, The Tiger and the Snow.

Like Life is Beautiful, that film is a comedy, on an extremely serious subject.

Hitler’s and Mussolini’s mass murder of Jews, in the former case.

George W. Bush’s and Berlusconi’s war in Iraq, in the case of the new film.

On TV, Benigni described The Tiger and the Snow as “an anti-war pamphlet”, though, being a comedy, different from documentaries.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bot: war in Iraq not sensible


This video from the USA is called WMD LIES – Bush Cheney Rumsfeld etc. – THE ULTIMATE CLIP.

On Wednesday 5 October, Dutch Foreign Minister Bot (a member of the Christian Democrats, biggest party in the Rightist government coalition) said that the US Bush administration going to war in Iraq was maybe “not sensible”.

In parliament, as reported in daily NRC, Bot asked himself whether “it had been sensible that there has been an invasion by the occupying powers”.

He replied to himself: “The reply could be that it has not been sensible and that with other means, with diplomatic means, more might have been reached; and that it might have been better to continue investigation [by United Nations weapons inspectors]”.

Mr Bot noted no weapons of mass destruction (the official cause for war) had been found in Iraq.

This differs from earlier statements by the Dutch Balkenende administration.

Boris Dittrich, leader of D66, one of the two other government coalition parties, in a reaction said the Iraq war was indeed “wrong”.

Other ministers pressured Bot to backtrack, which he did for the sake of continuing the unstable unpopular Balkenende coalition.

However, meanwhile Bot had made the point, already made earlier by most people in The Netherlands and the other countries of the world, that Emperor Bush stands naked.

No matter how loudly Bush’s sycophants say, like in Hans Christian Andersen”s fairy tale, that the emperor’s new clothes are colourful and splendid.

Talking about sense: George W. Bush revealed that voices in his head, supposedly God’s voices, told him to start the Iraq war.

Britain: draconian punishment under Blair


Blair against human rights, cartoon

Carry on regardless

(Wednesday 05 October 2005)

IMPRISONING 73-year-old ladies and 71-year-old retired vicars would at first sight seem to be the stuff of which Ealing comedies are made.

And even new Labour’s harshest critics – among which number this newspaper proudly counts itself – would have been reluctant – prior to the defeat of the Tories – to allege that it would be a likely tactic.

But, as certainly as night follows day, the labour movement’s tame clowns – otherwise known as the Labour Party leadership – have managed to confound us yet again.

New Labour seems not to be content with leading five-year-old children and pregnant mothers off in handcuffs during a recent round of so-called anti-terror arrests.

Nor, apparently, is it enough to conduct dawn raids on families who have committed no crime except to flee from torture to a country whose declared adherence to international treaties obliges it to shelter them.

Even the brutal treatment of 82-year-old delegates to its own conference doesn’t seem to have satisfied new Labour’s lust for draconian responses to small problems.

Retired vicar Alfred Ridley was released from jail yesterday after serving 28 days for the dreadful crime of withholding 6 per cent of his annual council tax – a sum which, while of some significance to a pensioner, has absolutely no bearing on the state of the nation’s finances.

Fellow campaigner Sylvia Hardy was released prematurely from prison last week after a mystery donor paid her arrears against her will.

It is of great concern that the Labour Party was absolutely mute during the outrageous imprisonment of these two individuals.

Read more here.