Iraqi regime kills pro-democracy, anti-corruption demonstrators


Iraqi young people aboard a captured military vehicle in Baghdad

From daily News Line in Britain:

12th November 2019

At least four protesters were killed and scores injured in clashes with security forces in Baghdad on Saturday as demonstrations seriously escalated.

Three of the dead were shot, and the fourth died after being struck on the head with a tear gas canister.

Earlier on Saturday, security forces using live ammunition cleared demonstrators from three of the main bridges over the Tigris, pushing them further back from the Green Zone which has been a focal point of the unrest since it kicked off a month ago.

Security forces have fired teargas cartridges directly at protesters in Baghdad, Iraq on numerous occasions since protests resumed on October 25, 2019, killing at least 16, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

The dead are among the large number of protesters Iraqi forces have killed since daily protests began.

According to a November 5th United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) report, the nationwide death toll from October 25 through to November 4th has reached at least 97.

The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) tallied at least 105 dead and 5,655 injured during that same period.

‘The high death toll includes people who took direct hits to the head from teargas cartridges, in numbers that suggest a gruesome pattern rather than isolated accidents,’ said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

‘With the death toll now at over 100, all of Iraq’s global partners should be unequivocal in their condemnation.’

From October 25 to November 2nd, security forces’ use of force in Baghdad alone led to the deaths of at least 64 people.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 24 people who have participated in protests in Baghdad, Karbala, Maysan, Nasriya and Basra.

The UNAMI report puts the death toll from teargas cartridges penetrating upper bodies at at least 16.

Human Rights Watch analysed Reuters footage taken on October 27 and 29, which it corroborated with witness interviews.

The footage shows security forces on Jumhuriya Bridge firing into the crowds at the foot of the bridge, which opens onto Tahrir Square.

This 31 October 2019 video says about itself:

Iraqi protesters pack Baghdad’s Tahrir square

It happened shortly after another incident at the nearby Sinak Bridge. Witnesses say security forces shot at least one protester dead and injured dozens more.

Thousands of demonstrators are defying a curfew to continue anti-government protests. …

Al Jazeera’s Laura Burdon-Manley has more.

The News Line article continues:

The October 27 clip shows one officer to the right firing teargas cartridges in an upward trajectory while on the left another officer is firing in a flat trajectory at crowds of protesters less than 100 metres away.

An analyst at the Omega Research Foundation, an independent research group focusing on the manufacture, trade, and use of military, security, and police equipment, reviewed this clip for Human Rights Watch and said that the man on the left is likely to be aiming directly at the people he is targeting and this carries a high risk of causing serious injury or death if teargas cartridges are being fired.

In the second clip, both people who are using launchers are firing on a flat trajectory. Again, this is an inappropriate and highly dangerous use of teargas cartridges.

The contrast in firing techniques raises the question of whether some forces are operating side-by-side under different orders, whether they all have orders to disperse the crowds in any way they see fit, or whether forces are disregarding their orders, Human Rights Watch said.

While relying increasingly on teargas in Baghdad, security forces are continuing to use live ammunition.

Between November 4th and 6th, live ammunition killed at least 14 more protesters in Baghdad.

Human Rights Watch reviewed three videos identifiably shot at Jumhuriya Bridge, and shared via social media between October 25 and November 5th, showing dead protesters with wounds to the head that do not appear to have been caused by teargas cartridges.

Allegations of excessive force outside of Baghdad also continue, particularly in Karbala, with witnesses, UNAMI, and media reports all saying that security forces killed at least 17 protesters between October 28 and November 3rd.

Since the protests began, senior government officials have forbidden medical staff from sharing information on the dead and injured with any sources outside the Health Ministry, and the ministry has been releasing minimal and incomplete information.

The IHCHR stopped updating its national tally as of October 31.

A doctor in a facility receiving the dead and wounded from the protests said he thought the actual death toll since October 25 was much higher than the one being reported by the IHCHR. A person with links to Iraq’s morgues told Human Rights Watch she agreed with this assessment.

UNAMI recorded six abductions of protesters or volunteers providing assistance in the Baghdad demonstrations during the current wave of protests.

In one case, the sister of Saba Farhan Hameed, 36, who had been providing food, water, and first aid kits to protesters in Tahrir Square, said Hameed vanished around 11.15pm on November 2nd while en route home.

A colleague who had been on the phone with Hameed heard her scream and her phone went off. Her sister has since gone to several police stations to search for Hameed but has not been able to locate her.

The November 5th UNAMI report put the death toll from teargas cartridges to the head and chest at 16 at least.

The IHCHR reported that on October 25 alone, eight people were killed in this way.

Amnesty International reported that it had spoken to two protesters who had witnessed deaths on October 26 and 28 from teargas cartridges hitting people in the head.

Human Rights Watch interviewed a protester who said she saw another protester get hit in the head and killed by a teargas cartridge on October 29.

She said the victim was not trying to approach security forces at the time, but was just in the square, dancing and talking.

Another protester said he saw a man killed by a teargas cartridge that hit him in the head on October 28 on Jumhuriya Bridge.

Both witnesses said that they did not hear the security forces giving any oral warning before opening fire.

An activist shared a video clip that apparently showed officers opening fire with teargas cartridges on November 1st on protesters along the river, hitting a man in the head and killing him.

On November 1st, the IHCHR reported, security forces killed a woman with a teargas cartridge to her head on Jumhuriya Bridge.

Human Rights Watch has been unable to ascertain the rank and affiliation of the officers stationed on Jumhuriya Bridge since October 25 who were firing teargas.

An international military expert in Baghdad said that in his view, when the Iraqi security forces fired teargas cartridges directly at a crowd, it was ‘not an issue of training, but a level of intention, showing that security forces are absolutely using these projectiles as a weapon as opposed to a dispersal mechanism.’

The standard practices and procedures used by security forces for riot control, as well as the instructions provided by manufacturers, dictate that tear gas cartridges should not be fired directly at people.

An international observer with crowd control experience in Baghdad also said that in her view the security forces were sometimes using teargas cartridges for the same purpose as they used live bullets.

On November 1st, two doctors separately told Human Rights Watch that on the evening of October 31, they received at least 10 protesters in their tent who showed a set of symptoms different from those experienced by earlier victims of teargas exposure.

They said the more recent victims went into spasms, shock, breathing difficulty, and paralysis for about 10 minutes before the symptoms started to pass.

They showed Human Rights Watch a video capturing the symptoms.

The IHCHR expressed concern about the apparent change in symptoms, though it remains unclear what may be causing them.

Reports emerged that on the night of October 28, armed forces opened fire on protesters in Karbala, killing between 14 and 18, according to several international media outlets that said they were able to verify the casualties with unnamed security sources, even though public officials denied the incident.

A local journalist there told Human Rights Watch that he saw security forces open fire on crowds of protesters that night and saw one protester he recognised dead from a gunshot wound in the morgue the next morning.

Human Rights Watch interviewed a doctor who was on his shift that night at the morgue and who said that he saw the bodies of seven protesters who had been shot and killed.

Another medical worker shared videos she said she filmed that night, showing four bodies.

UNAMI received what it viewed as credible allegations that security forces killed 18 protesters.

The Karbala doctor said he personally knows the family of one of the victims.

He said the family tried to retrieve their son’s body, ‘But the hospital refused to give it to them unless they signed a document that they would not bring a legal suit against the government or a tribal claim. The family refused to sign and so they still don’t have the body back.’

This 9 November 2019 video is called Iraqi security forces use live gunfire to disperse protesters in Baghdad.

Anemonefish can see ultraviolet light


This 2017 video is called Amphiprion akindynos 澳洲藍帶成魚Barrier reef anemonefish.

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

Finding Nemo’s cousins: Meet the little fish that can see UV light

November 11, 2019

Summary: New research reveals anemonefish can see UV light and may use it as a secret channel find their friends and food, while evading predators.

The fish made famous in Finding Nemo can see ultraviolet (UV) light and may use it as a ‘secret channel’ to find both friends and food, according to researchers.

Anemonefish are easily recognised by their striking orange and white patterning, but University of Queensland scientists set out to find out how ‘clownfish‘ see their world and how that influences their behaviour.

Researchers at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) and the University of Maryland (USA) analysed the visual systems of a particular species of anemonefish, Amphiprion akindynos.

QBI researcher Dr Fabio Cortesi said the Great Barrier Reef anemonefish was basically Nemo’s cousin.

“We looked at everything starting with the genes they use to see and what proteins they express, and in combination with anatomical data, predicted what these anemonefish can see,” he said.

“Proteins involved in detecting light have minute, well-known differences that influence which wavelengths of light they absorb.”

QBI researcher Dr Fanny de Busserolles, who shares lead authorship on the study with Dr Sara Stieb, said the team was able to discover a unique specialisation in the eye of the fish that may allow them to better detect friends and their anemone.

“In the part of the anemonefish’s eye that looks forward, the photoreceptors detect a combination of violet light and ultraviolet light,” Dr de Busserolles said.

“They seem to be very good at distinguishing colour, and very good at seeing UV — it looks like they use it a lot.”

Dr Sara Stieb said the special ability made sense, based on the fish’s environment and food source.

“Anemonefish live very close to the surface, where UV light can easily penetrate,” Dr Stieb said.

“They live in symbiosis with anemones, and the anemones use UV to grow.

“Moreover, anemonefish feed on zooplankton which absorb UV light, so it would appear like dark dots against the background, making it easy to find.”

Dr Cortesi said UV vision lent anemonefish another important advantage.

“Their visual system seems to be very tuned to recognising who is their friend and who is not,” he said.

“The white stripes on anemonefish reflect UV, which means they should be easier for other anemonefish to recognise.

“By contrast, a lot of the bigger fish — including ones that eat anemonefish — cannot see UV, so if you want to communicate on the reef over short distances, then UV is a very good way to do this.

“UV is essentially a secret channel that only these little fish can use to talk to each other,” he said.

“They can be as flashy as they want and they won’t be seen — and it might be how Nemo’s cousin finds its friends.”

The findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Military coup in Bolivia condemned


This 9 November 2019 video says about itself:

Bolivian President Evo Morales condemns an ‘ongoing coup d’etat’ against his democratically re-elected government. And, former Brazilian President Lula Da Silva addresses the nation on the 1st day as a free man after spending 580 days in jail. More on this and other stories now.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Monday, November 11, 2019

Corbyn condemns ‘appalling’ coup against Bolivia’s President Morales

JEREMY CORBYN decried the forced resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales as a coup today, condemning the army’s demand for the socialist leader to step down as “appalling.”

Mr Morales announced his resignation on Sunday night shortly after calls from the head of Bolivia’s army to step down.

In a televised address the president said he made the decision for the “good of the country,” which has seen violent anti-government protests [by, eg, policemen] since Morales’s election win on October 20.

He added that he had been ousted in a coup attempt by “dark forces”.

The Labour leader voiced his support for Mr Morales and wrote on Twitter: “To see Evo Morales who, along with a powerful movement, has brought so much social progress, forced from office by the military is appalling.

“I condemn this coup against the Bolivian peoples and stand with them for democracy, social justice and independence.”

Mr Corbyn is a long-time supporter of the ousted leader, who became the country’s first indigenous leader 14 years ago, since which he has nationalised Bolivia’s resources, alleviated poverty and championed indigenous peoples’ rights.

His outrage was shared by shadow justice minister Richard Burgon who tweeted: “Latin America’s history offers many frightening examples of what happens when the military forces out progressive presidents.”

However, Mr Morales still remains popular among Bolivia’s working class, and, even among critics, the military’s intervention rings alarm bells for the future of Bolivia’s democracy.

Friends of Bolivia, a British-based solidarity group, told the Star that Mr Morales’s forced resignation was “clearly a coup attempt” backed by the White House.

The Trump administration has made its opposition to the Morales government clear on a number of occasions and this has hardened recently,” a spokesperson from the solidarity group said.

“Nobody denies that Evo Morales won the presidential election last month with 47 per cent of the vote.

“Yet now the military, backed by Washington’s OAS, have forced him out.”

The group expressed fears that Mr Morales’s social gains, including reducing national illiteracy, unemployment and extreme poverty, will now be “dismantled by the coup government.”

The World Peace Council (WPC) also denounced the “long-desired and planned” coup attempt which they claimed was “sponsored and supported by the US imperialists, hand in hand with the local oligarchy and their well-known instrument, the OAS.”

Bolivia’s Morales denounces ‘racists and coup-plotters’ behind his removal. Mexico calls for emergency OAS meeting and denounces coup in the Latin American country: here.

The Bolivian coup: what the mainstream media don’t tell you. Bolivia’s oligarchy launched an orgy of racist and fascist violence to oust president Morales, explains FRANCISCO DOMINGUEZ.

Apes and monkeys evolution, new research


This 2008 video is called Aegyptopithecus Mandible Fragments.

From the American Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Fossil suggests apes, old world monkeys moved in opposite directions from shared ancestor

Hip joint study could help explain why apes, humans, and Old World monkeys move so differently

In terms of their body plan, Old World monkeys — a group that includes primates like baboons and macaques — are generally considered more similar to ancestral species than apes are. But a new study that analyzes the first well-preserved femur of Aegyptopithecus zeuxis, a common ancestor of Old World monkeys and apes, suggests that as far as locomotion goes, apes and Old World monkeys each evolved a way of moving that was different from the ancestral species as they adapted to different niches in their environments.

“Our study shows that Aegyptopithecus preserves an ancient hip morphology not present in living anthropoid primates,” said Sergio Almécija, a paleoanthropologist and evolutionary biologist in the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History who is first author on the study, which was published in Nature Communications this week. “As far as the hip is concerned, it seems that apes, humans, and Old World monkeys have all parted ways long ago — which would explain why they move around so differently today.”

The fossil analyzed in the study was discovered in 2009 and is the most complete femur of Aegyptopithecus, a 15-lb (7-kg) likely tree-dwelling species that lived in Egypt about 30 million years ago, close to the time when hominoids (the group that includes apes and humans) split from the larger group that includes Old World monkeys. A well-preserved femur allowed researchers to glean details about the hip joint, a major anatomical region for inferring locomotion, using a combination of 3D morphometric analysis and evolutionary modeling.

For the analysis, the authors compared the fossil bone to other extinct and modern species, including humans, chimpanzees, and Victoriapithecus and Homunculus (extinct Old World and New World monkeys, respectively). The evolutionary modeling analysis used in the study included a method that was developed to identify convergent evolution in anole lizards in the Caribbean, which have independently developed comparable niche-specific adaptations across various islands.

The results indicate that the ancestral hip joint is, from an evolutionary perspective, as far from the hip joint of modern Old World monkeys as from those of the great apes — suggesting that each group evolved a distinct way of moving as they specialized for success in different environmental niches.

In addition, evolutionary modeling suggests that living great apes — including orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas — may have independently developed similar hip joint anatomy that allows wide-ranging, flexible movement through their arboreal habitats.

“What I find really exciting about the modeling approach is that we can develop better hypotheses about what drove the divergence of apes and monkeys, and the emerging picture is that navigating the environment is one of the key factors,” said Ashley Hammond, assistant curator in the Division of Anthropology and an author on the study.

Racism in Ukrainian football, victim punished


This 13 June 2019 video about a Brazilian footballer, now playing in Ukraine, is called Taison Freda 2019 ● Ultimate Playmaking, Passes, Skills & Goals.

There is quite often bigotry and violence in Ukraine. Against Jews, against Roma, against LGBTQ people … And quite often, perpetrators are not punished, but get taxpayer-paid cushy jobs, like special adviser to the Minister of War ‘Defence’.

Now, it is against African Brazilian football players.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Soccer player of Shakhtar Donetsk stands up against racism and gets red card

A week after the racist incident against Mario Balotelli in Italy, the football grounds were hit again this weekend. This time in Ukraine. After the top match between Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Kyiv (1-0), it was not about the match at all, but about the bizarre scenes in the last fifteen minutes.

Extreme right Dinamo Kyiv hooligans are nationalist, bringing Ukrainian flags to games. They participated in 2014 in setting a trade union building in Odessa on fire, killing 42 people inside.

The 31-year-old Taison Barcellos Freda, a player of Shakhtar, was bullied racistically by the supporters of the away team during the important game and had completely enough of that in the final phase.

Out of frustration, he raised his middle finger and kicked the ball towards the Dinamo supporters. To his own disbelief, Taison then saw the referee draw the red card for that action.

The Brazilian midfielder left the field in tears and his teammate Dentinho couldn’t stop himself from crying either. “My tears were of indignation, rejection, and helplessness,” Taison said on his Instagram account after the game. “I will continue to fight and keep my head up. Football needs more respect.”

Shakhtar Donetsk’s Portuguese trainer, Luis Castro, skipped the traditional press conference after the game, but made a statement about the issue shortly thereafter. “Expressions of racism are unacceptable. It is a shame for everyone, we have to fight against racism every day, every minute and every second.”

It is not the first time that Dinamo Kyiv has been discredited due to racism. In 2015, four black Dinamo fans were attacked by their own fellow supporters.

This was followed by a campaign by the club to combat racism. The sponsor name disappeared from the shirt and the text “Together against racism” was added instead. They played with that until the end of 2015.

But the campaign seems to have paid off. In fact, Dinamo supporters last Sunday mocked the campaign of their own club. Stickers appeared in the stadium with the text ‘Like to racism’. …

On Twitter, the world football federation FIFA and the European football federation UEFA are called upon to make themselves heard, but so far the football associations have been silent.

Meanwhile, the social media are also full of support for Taison. His compatriots Vinícius Junior and Neymar support the Brazilian and ask for respect in football.

In Italian football, racism on the fields has been a major problem for a long time. Apart from Balotelli, who wanted to leave the field last week after jungle noises from the stands in the duel with Hellas Verona, Romelu Lukaku also had to deal with racist acts by supporters.

See also here.

Prehistoric big birds, video


This 8 November 2019 video says about itself:

When Giant Birds Were Apex Predators

This video looks into the giant predatory birds that lived in South America after the dinosaurs died out up into very recently. There have been many predatory bird families but the Phorusrhacids were the largest and the existed for the longest time.