Nuclear weapons proliferation, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Australia?


This 20 February 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Trump Admin’s Secretive Talks to Sell Saudi Arabia Nuclear Technology Spark New Fear of Arms Race

House Democrats are accusing the Trump administration of moving toward transferring highly sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of U.S. law. Critics say the deal could endanger national security while enriching close allies of President Trump. Saudi Arabia is considering building as many as 16 nuclear power plants by 2030, but many critics fear the kingdom could use the technology to develop nuclear weapons and trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

We speak with Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna of California and Isaac Arnsdorf, a reporter with ProPublica. Arnsdorf first wrote about the intense and secretive lobbying effort to give nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in 2017. His reporting was cited in the House report.

After the threats of Donald Trump proliferating nuclear weapons to the Saudi absolute monarchy, and to his right-wing crony Shinzo Abe in Japan … now Australia?

By Peter Symonds in Australia:

Prominent Australian academic suggests building nuclear weapons

11 July 2019

Strategic analyst Hugh White has reignited a debate in media and security circles about building nuclear weapons to defend the country against the alleged threat posed by nuclear-armed powers, particularly China. His recently published book, How to Defend Australia, argues that nuclear weapons need to be considered because the United States is in relative decline and can no longer be relied upon to defend Australia in a “more contested and more dangerous” region.

This discussion is taking place in the context of a broader dispute in the political establishment over how to position Australian capitalism amid the increasingly belligerent US confrontation with China over economic issues and the US military build-up in the Indo-Pacific in preparation for war.

The dominant position in ruling circles is that Australia has no choice but to stick with the US military alliance, even if it damages relations with its top trading partner, China. Indeed, since US President Barack Obama announced his aggressive “pivot to Asia” against China in the Australian parliament in 2011, Australian military and military bases have been integrated ever more closely with the US, and governments—Labor and Coalition—have toed the line from Washington.

White, a former senior defence official, Labor government adviser and now professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, is one of the dissident voices. He has previously advocated for the US to strike a power-sharing deal with China to defuse tensions, but now suggests that Australia has to be prepared to go it alone. Amid the rising dangers of a US-China war, White lines up with others who, either directly or indirectly, advocate for a more “independent” foreign policy.

White makes clear that the necessary corollary of a so-called independent foreign policy is a huge build-up in the Australian military. He calls for a virtual doubling of military spending—from 2 percent to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product. Such an increase would be extracted from the working class via the further gutting of essential social services.

White’s argument—in public at least—is based on the hoary old lie that the military build-up is purely defensive in character. In reality, the military’s mission has always been to prosecute the economic and strategic interests of Australian imperialism, which, in more recent times, has included interventions in East Timor and Solomon Islands. Australian participation in British and US-led wars has always sought to secure the backing of the major powers for its own regional and international interests. Now, White is arguing, Australia requires more military muscle to do the same.

White claims he is not advocating the acquisition of nuclear weapons but merely encouraging a debate, which he is now fostering with the assistance of the media. It is not the first time that White has advanced this proposal, but the publication of his book has become the occasion for his appearance on a number of TV and radio programs, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s high-profile “Q&A” last Monday night.

Well aware that any decision to build nuclear weapons would face huge public opposition, White was at pains to stress that it was “the hardest issue I’ve ever dealt with in 40 years of thinking about the unpleasant business of war.” White, however, is doing far more than just encouraging a general discussion. He is outlining an entire agenda, including what would be needed to build nuclear weapons and the necessary delivery systems. He advocates creating a nuclear arsenal along the lines of Britain and France, based on submarine-launched missiles.

For all his attempts to disguise the provocative character of his arguments, White was adamant on the central point, saying: “At the moment, we depend on US nuclear weapons to deter any possible nuclear attack on Australia. The less confident we are of that, the less confident we are that we can rely on America to do that, the stronger the arguments for Australia to acquire its own.” Asked whether China or other powers were a future existential threat, he declared they could pose “at least a very, very serious threat, and one which we can no longer rely on America to defend us from.”

White is standing reality on its head. While it is true that the US faces a historic decline vis-a-vis China and other powers, the response of Obama and now Donald Trump has not been to withdraw from Asia but to confront China on all fronts—diplomatically, economically and militarily—to maintain American domination. US imperialism has no intention of being eclipsed in Asia or any other region of the world and is recklessly engaged in an economic war and military provocations in contested waters close to the Chinese mainland that could trigger open conflict. The danger to Australia’s population is not primarily from Chinese aggression, but from being dragged by the US into a war on China that would have incalculable consequences.

Rising geopolitical tensions and rivalries, and the growing danger of a global conflict, have sparked debate not only in Canberra but in other capitals, including Tokyo, Berlin and Seoul, about building nuclear weapons. A nuclear arms race would multiple many-fold the danger of a nuclear war. This prospect barely rated a mention among the politicians and commentators on the “Q&A” program. Both Liberal Senate President Scott Ryan and Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong differed with the need for nuclear weapons, but did not emphatically rule out building a nuclear arsenal. They praised White, in Wong’s words, for grappling with “the most challenging set of external circumstances since World War II.”

Scant reference was made to the fact that acquiring nuclear weapons would be a clear breach of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty that Australia has signed. Diana Sayed, a human rights lawyer, declared that it was “astonishing” that the issue was being canvassed. After branding nuclear weapons as “inhumane and indiscriminate” and an environmental disaster, Sayed said: “The fact that Australia would even be entertaining this thought is unfathomable and unconscionable to me, and it goes against everything in international law.” Her remarks were quickly brushed aside.

The growing prominence being afforded in the media to building nuclear weapons is a sure sign that behind the scenes a more intense discussion is underway. This would concern not only the advisability of a nuclear arsenal, but also how to overcome the intense public opposition and anti-war sentiment that such a decision would trigger. The debate is another warning of the advanced preparations being made in capitals around the world for war, not decades down the track, but in the not-too-distant future.

The author also recommends:

Renewed push for Australia to building nuclear weapons
[30 January 2018]

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Australian journalism on war crimes, spying: criminal?


This 4 June 2019 video says about itself:

ABC’s Sydney headquarters raided by Australian federal police

AFP officers have raided the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ultimo headquarters over reporting from 2017 looking into the clandestine operations of Australian special forces in Afghanistan. ABC news presenter Joe O’Brien was live on air as the AFP entered the building.

‘There’s a raid happening right here at the ABC … just 100 metres or so that way’, he said to camera while pointing over his shoulder. The ABC warrant names the broadcaster’s national reporting team reporters Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, as well as ABC news boss Gaven Morris.

The raid on the national broadcaster comes less than 24 hours after the AFP served News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst a warrant to search her Canberra home, phone and computer, 14 months after she published a story over a top-secret proposal to expand the nation’s domestic surveillance agency’s capabilities.

After the Trump administration in the USA attacked press freedom which had uncovered war crimes in the USA, and the Macron administration in France attacked press freedom in order to cover up French governmental complicity in Saudi war crimes in Yemen

By Oscar Grenfell in Australia:

Australian Federal Police raid journalists over exposures of government spying, war crimes

5 June 2019

Over the past 24 hours, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has carried out two raids targeting separate media organisations, for their publication of articles exposing government spying plans and war crimes committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, AFP officers raided the home of Sunday Telegraph political editor Annika Smethurst in the Australian Capital Territory over an article she wrote in April 2018, revealing a secret government proposal to enable the Australian Signals Directorate to conduct domestic spying operations.

After 11 a.m. today, AFP officers entered the Sydney building of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) with a search warrant, referencing 2017 reports detailing the involvement of Australian troops in extrajudicial killings and other violations of international law in Afghanistan.

The raids are a major assault on freedom of the press. They are a dramatic escalation of a protracted campaign by the Liberal-National Coalition, the Labor Party opposition, and the entire political establishment, to criminalise the exposure of government crimes on the pretext of protecting “national security.”

The police warrant for the search of Smethurst’s house allowed them to examine her computers and mobile phones. An AFP statement said that the raid was part of “an investigation into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security information” and “alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret.”

The investigation is reportedly over an April 2018 article by Smethurst, revealing that the Coalition government was moving to enable the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), the country’s main electronic eavesdropping agency, to carry out domestic spying operations, including against Australian citizens.

The ASD is legally barred from spying on Australian targets. Under existing legislation, it can only provide “technical advice” to the AFP and the domestic spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Already, in 2013, however, US government documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the ASD collaborated with the US National Security Agency to conduct mass surveillance operations, likely including against Australian citizens.

The government’s proposed changes in 2018 would have formalised these spying operations, giving the ASD the power to access bank accounts, text messages, emails and other electronic communications. Smethurst’s report indicated that it was seeking to expand warrantless surveillance, allowing ASD snooping with ministerial permission rather than a court order.

The proposal came just months after the Coalition government, with the support of the Labor opposition, established a new Home Affairs Ministry overseeing the operations of ASIO, the AFP and the Australian Border Force. This was aimed at creating a body, modelled on the US Department of Homeland Affairs, to integrate the operations of the security agencies to enable further attacks on democratic rights.

When the 2018 revelations were made public they were dismissed by Coalition Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton as “nonsense”. Smethurst’s story, however, was immediately referred to the AFP for investigation.

News Corp Australia, the Murdoch-owned company which publishes the Sunday Telegraph responded to the raid yesterday by branding it “outrageous and heavy-handed”.

Defenders of civil liberties warned of the far-reaching implications of the raid.

Greg Barns, spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, stated: “Scrutiny of government agencies by the media is critical to a democracy, and it is very concerning that these security agencies seem to want to avoid any examination.”

Digital Rights Watch described the raids as a “gross abuse of national security powers”.

The government has doubled-down. Asked if he was concerned about journalist’s homes being raided, Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared: “It never troubles me that our laws are being upheld.”

Morrison’s comments came amid indications that the raid on Smethurst is part of a broader crackdown on the press after the government was reinstalled in a federal election last month.

2GB presenter and Sky News commentator Ben Fordham yesterday revealed that after he aired a story about up to six refugee boats having recently travelled towards Australia, he was contacted by senior officials from the Home Affairs department.

They stated that they would be “investigating” the disclosure and asked Fordham to give up his source. Under Australia’s draconian border protection regime, refugee boat arrivals are subject to national security secrecy laws, even if those on board perish, or if they are intercepted by Australian Border Force or naval officers.

The approach to Fordham, who said yesterday he was concerned he could also be targeted with a raid, was followed by this morning’s attempt to search the ABC building.

While reports are scanty, the warrant reportedly names ABC investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, along with director of news, Gaven Morris. AFP officers are seeking to obtain thousands of emails, files, passwords and written documents from April 2016 and July 2017. They are reportedly investigating the 2017 publication of “The Afghan Files”, which exposed the killing of unarmed civilians by Australian troops, the desecration of corpses and other war crimes covered up by military command.

The two raids are part of a broader campaign against government whistleblowers. The government, with the support of Labor, is prosecuting a former intelligence officer, dubbed Witness K, and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, for exposing an Australian espionage operation against the tiny state of East Timor.

David McBride, a former Australian military lawyer, also faces the prospect of a lengthy jail sentence if he is convicted over the alleged leak of documents to journalists containing evidence of war crimes committed in Afghanistan by Australia’s Special Forces.

Successive Labor and Coalition governments have expanded laws which abolish any whistleblower protections, even if leaks expose illegal actions.

The raid against Smethurst, however, raises the prospect of prosecutions of journalists and media organisations for publishing leaked material, in a direct attack on freedom of the press.

This was signalled by the phrasing of the warrant, which reportedly stated that the raid was partly in relation to the “alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret, which is an extremely serious matter that has the potential to undermine Australia’s national security.”

The phrasing corresponds to Espionage and Foreign Interference legislation passed last year by the Coalition, with the full support of Labor. The new laws make it a criminal offense to “deal with” information that “harms” “national security”. “Deal with” is defined to cover a long list of activities: “collect”, “possess”, “make a record of”, “copy”, “alter”, “conceal”, “communicate”, “publish” and “make available”.

Journalists have a limited defence, if they “reasonably believe” the information they published was in the public interest. However, this proviso is entirely undefined and subject to interpretation, meaning that journalists and media organisations could still face prosecution.

The AFP raids are part of a deepening assault on the democratic rights of the population, which is aimed at suppressing growing opposition to militarism, war, social inequality and the escalating expansion of police powers. In both cases, journalists who have revealed evidence of crimes by the government and military are raided and implicitly threatened with criminal prosecution.

This is part of a broader drive by governments around the world to abolish freedom of the press and other fundamental civil liberties. The sharpest expression is the attempt by the US administration of President Donald Trump to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for his role in exposing US war crimes and diplomatic intrigues.

The author also recommends:

Australia’s new secrecy laws block exposure of government crimes [14 July 2018]

Australia’s foreign interference laws threaten whistleblowers and media freedom [9 July 2019]

Australian police chief links media raids to US-led “Five Eyes” spy network: here.

“Is there going to be a future for journalism?” Australian media workers denounce police raids: here.

Two prominent criminal trials of whistleblowers, whose leaks exposed war crimes and illegal operations by the country’s US-linked military and intelligence services, are likely to be largely conducted behind closed doors after the Australian government issued “national security information” certificates: here.

The global war on journalism: here.

Netherlands-Australia 3-0, women’s football


This 1 June 2019 video is about today’s friendly international women’s football match in Eindhoven of the Netherlands against Australia.

Both teams have qualified for the World Cup, which will start on 7 June in France.

Though, according to the Huffington Post, Australia is one of the dark horses to win the World Cup tournament, the Dutch ‘orange lionesses’ beat the Australian ‘Matildas‘ 3-0.

This is a 26 May 2019 Dutch music video of a song supporting their women’s team.

2019 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP The eighth edition of the Women’s World Cup has been described as the most important in history. Kicking off in Paris today, the tournament promises an unprecedented wealth of talent, and never before has women’s football had such a platform. [CNN]

Australian nazi terrorist Tarrant no ‘lone wolf’


This Associated Press video says about itself:

Witnesses inside the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch describe the horrific scene when a gunman opened fire during Friday afternoon prayers. One said there was 10 to 15 minutes of continuous shooting, “He just shot all the people.” (March 15 2019)

By Tom Peters in New Zealand:

Australian fascist group tried to recruit Christchurch terrorist

8 May 2019

The Sydney Morning Herald revealed on May 2 that in 2017 the Australian fascist and white supremacist Lads Society tried to recruit Brenton Tarrant, who carried out the March 15 terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The death toll from New Zealand’s worst-ever mass shooting increased to 51 on May 2 after Turkish citizen Zekeriya Tuyan succumbed to injuries in hospital. Dozens more were injured in the atrocity, which the gunman had spent at least two years preparing.

The latest revelation further discredits the claims by Australian and New Zealand governments and police, along with much of the media, that Tarrant was a lone gunman whose attack could not have been prevented. NZ police commissioner Mike Bush repeated to TVNZ on Monday that the shooter was “not ever on anyone’s radar.” In fact, Tarrant had long-standing links with Australian far-right groups, made repeated threats of violence, and donated large sums to the racist Identitarian movements in Austria and France.

The Lads Society is one of several neo-Nazi groups which, despite their small membership, have received extensive publicity in the corporate media in recent years, and are closely monitored by police and intelligence agencies. Like the Christchurch shooter, the group was emboldened by the election victory of US President Donald Trump and the shift to the right by the entire political establishment in Australia and internationally.

In a May 3 blog post, Lads Society leader Thomas Sewell said the group’s members were “the sons of Nietzsche, of [Italian fascist] Evola, of Hitler, of [British fascist Oswald] Mosley, of [Enoch] Powell.” The society describes non-white immigration as the “genocide” of the white race and seeks to establish an ethnically cleansed state.

According to the Herald, Sewell claimed he never personally met Tarrant, but people in the fascist scene “had known of Tarrant online for at least three years.” Tarrant supported the United Patriots Front, the predecessor of the Lads Society, in numerous Facebook comments. He hailed UPF leader and Lads Society co-founder Blair Cottrell as an “Emperor.”

In 2016, Tarrant sent a Facebook message threatening to kill a man who had denounced an anti-immigrant rally held by the UPF. The threat was shown to Melbourne police, who dismissed it and took no action. In New Zealand, police similarly ignored a report in 2017 from a member of the public about violent and anti-Muslim language at the Bruce Rifle Club, where Tarrant was a member.

Sewell told the Herald he had corresponded with Tarrant and invited him to join the Lads Society but Tarrant declined because he “didn’t believe there was a peaceful solution to European people being genocided.” Sewell said “we believe, certainly at this stage, that there is a peaceful solution for us to create the society we want to live in.” [emphasis added]

In other words, the difference with Tarrant was a matter of timing and tactics, and did not concern their shared fascist politics and willingness to use violent methods.

Sewell added that the group was prepared to resort to violence “if the state continues its persecution of our people for wanting to preserve their culture and heritage” or if his members were arrested. “I’m not going to give you any explicit threat but it’s pretty f—king obvious what’s going to happen,” Sewell said.

In fact, far from being persecuted, fascists feel able to make such public threats because they are confident of being protected by the state apparatus. On March 20, the Lads Society revealed that it had a friendly visit from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and state police “to ask for our insight into the motivations of Brenton Tarrant and how they can assist us in ensuring our lawful community organisation can succeed and grow in order to prevent further isolation, radicalisation and potentially any future politically motivated violence.”

Following the Christchurch shooting, ASIO’s director-general Duncan Lewis told a Senate committee there was “nothing wrong with” right-wing extremism “except when it ventures into violence.” He declared there was no need to refocus intelligence gathering on far-right groups, which were already being monitored. ASIO and the police did not explain why they took no action in response to Tarrant’s repeated threats on social media to attack immigrants, “Marxists and globalists.”

In Europe and the US, there are extensive neo-Nazi networks and fascist sympathisers within the military, border security and intelligence agencies. Tarrant, who travelled throughout Europe in the years before his attack, estimated that hundreds of thousands of European far-right nationalists were employed in the armed forces.

Members of the “alt-right” are being welcomed into established bourgeois parties, which have largely adopted their xenophobic and anti-Muslim rhetoric in order to divide the working class and deflect blame for social inequality and poverty onto immigrants. Labor and the Liberal-National coalition have for decades demonised and imprisoned refugees, and joined US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In late 2017 and 2018 a group of 22 fascists, including members of the Lads Society and Antipodean Resistance, were admitted into the youth wing New South Wales branch of the National Party, which is part of the Liberal-National coalition government. A leading member of the group, Clifford Jennings, was voted onto the executive of the NSW National Party youth. The group, which included open racists and admirers of Adolf Hitler, was only expelled following an investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in October 2018.

In the lead-up to the May 18 federal election, the same elements are campaigning for the Conservative National Party, founded by independent senator Fraser Anning, a former member of the racist One Nation party. Anning issued a press release following the Christchurch shootings blaming the victims for the attack and declaring that Muslim immigration was the “real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand’s streets today.” Anning is openly campaigning for a white “ethno-state” and to “ban all Muslim and Black immigration.”

In New Zealand, the right-wing nationalist NZ First Party is a partner in Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour-led coalition government. NZ First has repeatedly demonised Muslims and Chinese immigrants, using language similar to Tarrant’s. Ardern adopted the right-wing party’s anti-immigrant policies and made NZ First leader Winston Peters deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

Notwithstanding their hypocritical professions of sympathy for the Christchurch victims and the Muslim community, the ruling class in Australia and New Zealand continue to promote the fascist forces that led to the atrocity and will be used against the working class as it seeks to organise in opposition to austerity and imperialist war.

Young Australians demonstrate against climate change


Part of the Melbourne, Australia pro-climate rally

From the World Socialist Web Site in Australia:

Australian youth speak out against climate change

By our reporters

6 May 2019

On Friday, thousands of students and youth around Australia took part in a “national day of action” against climate change. Rallies were held in regional centres and capital cities across the country.

The events followed worldwide March 15 protests, in which tens of thousands of young people throughout Australia participated. …

Mia

In Melbourne, high school student Mia said: “I think it’s good that children are getting out there. It shows that it’s an actual problem and it needs to be dealt with.”

Asked if she thought the major parties would act on climate change, Mia responded: “I think they’re all in it for themselves, for their own profit. I feel like they have things that they deem more important than the futures of their children and their grandchildren on their minds. Whatever is going to make them the most money is what they deem most important.”

Theo

In response to the program of the IYSSE, Theo—a year nine student from inner Melbourne—said: “Creating an international organization of the youth that will take action on climate change is a really good idea because there is a lot of us and we are all really passionate and we will get it done.”

Katerina and Georgia, journalism students at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, initially attended the rally as part of an assignment.

However, Katerina explained: “I knew what it was about and the causes. It blew my mind to see so many children with nothing to lose protesting today. I think the politicians need to listen.” She agreed that none of the major parties would do anything about climate change, saying “if you look at their track records, they’ve all gone back on their word. They might win us over with election promises, but no doubt this will keep going.”

Georgia and Katerina with SEP candidate Tessa Pietsch (right)

They were buoyed to hear of the SEP’s campaign putting forward a socialist alternative to the capitalist profit system and were excited to meet SEP Victorian senate candidate, Tessa Pietsch—whose statement they were reading—at the rally.

Year 11 students Zara, Heyma and Saskia took part in the rally in the regional New South Wales city of Newcastle, attended by around 200 students.

Heyma said that students were protesting “because we thought it was important to voice our views about climate change and the lack of government action. This is a pressing issue, and the world is waking up to it. People are beginning to realise that they need to get involved in this. We need to get involved in strikes like this, get involved in politics and make sure we’re informed.”

Zara, Heyma and Saskia

Zara explained she thinks “governments haven’t taken any steps to resolve climate change because it’s an economic issue. The government just wants the rich to make heaps of money, they don’t care about the environment that they’re leaving behind for us, the younger generation. They only care about making profits. They only think about the short-term gains.”

“We want to spread awareness that we’re ready to fight for this,” Saskia added. “We’re fighting to protect the environment and our future. The whole of society needs to change, not just particular policies. The fact that this movement is international is important—it also shows the power of social media, in spreading movements like these and uniting young people, who are thinking about these things and want to take action.” …

Aiden and Jackson

KyleKyle, a year 10 student who attended the inner-Sydney Marrickville protest said he thinks climate change “is one of the most important issues we face seeing as it involves the whole planet.”

“I’m anti-capitalism in general. A lot of people say that you have to make changes in yourself, but there is a big problem with the way companies are working. They are not changing what they are doing. They are telling us that we can change, but they need to change what they are doing in a big way.”

Gouldian finches, why so colourful?


This 2017 video from Australia is called Gouldian Finch Conservation – ABC News.

From Cornell University in the USA:

Why unique finches keep their heads of many colors

An underlying selection mechanism prevents one color from dominating

April 23, 2019

There appears to be an underlying selection mechanism at work among Gouldian Finches — a mechanism that allows this species to produce and maintain individuals with red heads, black heads, and yellow heads. Research by scientists from the the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and other institutions, reveals what this additional evolutionary process might be. Findings were published today in the journal Nature Communications.

“Most people have heard of natural selection,” says lead author Kang-Wook Kim at the University of Sheffield. “But ‘survival of the fittest’ cannot explain the color diversity we see in the Gouldian Finch. We demonstrate that there is another evolutionary process — balancing selection — that has maintained the black or red head color over thousands of generations.”

The yellow-headed type (actually more orange) is produced by a completely different mechanism that is not yet understood. Yellow-headed Gouldian Finches make up less than one percent of the wild population.

“Having distinct multiple color types — a polymorphism — maintained within a species for a long time is extremely rare,” explains co-author David Toews, who did this work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab and who is now at Pennsylvania State University. “Natural selection is typically thought of in a linear fashion — a mutation changes a trait which then confers some reproductive or survival advantage, which results in more offspring, and the trait eventually becomes the sole type in the population.”

Studies from Macquarie University in Australia have shown the red-headed finches have the apparent advantage. Female Gouldian Finches of all colors prefer the red-headed males, who also happen to be more dominant in the social hierarchy. So why hasn’t the black-headed type disappeared? It turns out there are disadvantages to having a red head, too, such as higher levels of stress hormones in competitive situations.

“If advantages are cancelled out by concurrent disadvantages, these two color types can be maintained — that’s balancing selection,” Toews says. “Red forms are not as common in the wild, so the counterbalancing pressure reduces the advantage of being red. That’s super cool!”

Teams from the University of Sheffield and the Cornell Lab independently zeroed in on a particular gene called follistatin which is found on the Gouldian Finch sex chromosome and regulates melanin to produce either red- or black-headed finches. Rather than competing, the two teams decided to join forces and share their data. For the yellow morph, a different gene, not located on the sex chromosome, is controlling the head pigmentation, but it hasn’t yet been found and it’s not clear what forces are allowing the yellow morph to persist in the wild.

In another twist, Toews and co-author Scott Taylor, at the University of Colorado-Boulder, have done previous research that revealed the genes likely governing the plumage differences between North American Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers — and one of those regions is in the same spot on the sex chromosome that differs among Gouldian Finches with different head colors.

“We didn’t expect we’d locate the exact genomic region that governs plumage differences in both the Gouldian Finch and the two warblers,” says Toews. “But now that we’ve done it, it opens up the possibility that the same region in other species may also be controlling plumage color.”

Australian police knew Christchurch terrorist, did nothing


This 17 March 2019 video says about itself:

Christchurch, New Zealand shooting survivor recounts attack

Muhammad Luthfan Fadhli, who is 19 and originally from Indonesia, recalled his time inside the mosque where a shooter unleashed gunfire on March 15 that killed 50 people.

By Tom Peters in New Zealand:

Australian police dismissed death threat by Christchurch terrorist

12 April 2019

A few hours after the March 15 mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch which killed 50 people and injured more, New Zealand’s police commissioner Mike Bush was asked in a press conference: “Why were these people [initially there was more than one suspect] not on a security watch list? Were they completely unknown to police?”

He replied: “No agency had any information about these people… I’ve been in contact with my Australian colleagues, they have no information on them at all either.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the media that the shooter, Australian fascist Brenton Tarrant, was “on nobody’s radar, anywhere.” New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern made a similar statement.

In fact, it is now clear that the gunman had come to the attention of Australian police more than two years before the attack. On Wednesday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that in September 2016, a man went to police in the Melbourne suburb of Eltham after receiving a death threat from Tarrant via Facebook.

The man had criticised the United Patriots Front (UPF), an extreme-right group that was planning an anti-refugee rally in Melbourne. In response, Tarrant said: “The UPF is the leading ethno-nationalist group within Australia… When you speak against the UPF you speak against my right to a home for my people and my culture. This marks you.”

Tarrant warned the man to “choose your words carefully” and “think of who you insult.” He then added: “If you are a nationalist I hope you one day see the light, and if you are a Marxist I hope you one day meet the rope.”

The man made a screenshot of Tarrant’s Facebook message and took it to police, who dismissed the death threat and told him to block Tarrant on Facebook. Police did not take an official statement.

Victoria Police told the ABC yesterday they had “no record” of the 2016 complaint, adding that they had “strong arrangements in place for monitoring and tracking people who pose a threat to the community.”

There is no innocent explanation for police refusing to investigate or even, apparently, make a record of Tarrant’s death threat. The episode raises extremely disturbing questions about the relationship between the police and Australia’s anti-immigrant and fascist groups.

The death threat was not an isolated incident. Tarrant made numerous public comments on Facebook in 2016 hailing the UPF and its neo-Nazi leader, Blair Cottrell, and threatening “globalists and Marxists.”

In one instance, when members of the UPF violently clashed with counter-protesters in Coburg, Tarrant wrote: “Communists will get what communists get, I would love to be there holding one end of the rope when you get yours traitor.” All of this was apparently ignored by police and intelligence agencies.

In New Zealand, police similarly dismissed a complaint made in late 2017 by Peter Briedhal, who was concerned about the racist, anti-Muslim comments expressed by members of the Bruce Rifle Club, which Tarrant had joined after moving to New Zealand that year. When Briedhal went to police he was told not to worry, and his complaint was not recorded.

If authorities had “no information” on the Christchurch terrorist, this is because police in Australia and New Zealand had deliberately shielded him. For several years he was allowed to travel the world, donate to fascist groups in Europe, amass a stockpile of weapons and prepare his atrocity, all while making public comments on Facebook and 8chan expressing his murderous hatred of Marxists and Muslims.

The reason Tarrant was not stopped is suggested in his fascist manifesto, which expresses support for the military and police and states that he did not want to shoot any police officers in the course of his attack. He estimated that in Europe hundreds of thousands of far-right nationalists were employed in the armed forces.

The manifesto has been banned by New Zealand’s chief censor in order to prevent public discussion of Tarrant’s political motivations. The ruling elite do not want any questions raised about whether members of the police and intelligence agencies in New Zealand and Australia share Tarrant’s fascist views.

The document shows the similarity of the gunman’s anti-immigrant and anti-Marxist politics to those of the political establishment throughout the world, including the administration of US President Donald Trump.

In Australia and New Zealand, anti-Muslim racism has been cultivated for decades to justify the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have killed more than a million people. … New Zealand First, which is part of the Labour-led government, has frequently demonised Muslims and Chinese people, using language similar to that of the Christchurch shooter.

The entire Australian political establishment and media have viciously attacked refugees fleeing wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, creating an environment in which right-wing nationalist groups have flourished. The UPF and True Blue Crew have received significant promotion on TV and radio programs. One Channel 7 report in January 2018 described these fascist organisations, led by admirers of Adolf Hitler, as concerned “patriots” seeking “to help average Australians deal with what they are calling an immigrant crime crisis.”

The working class must draw the necessary political lessons from the systematic promotion of the extreme right by capitalist parties and the media, and the protection given to fascists like Tarrant by the police. The official response to the Christchurch shootings is to cover up the political roots of the attack and push for censorship of the internet and other police-state powers. These will be used, not against fascists, but against workers and young people who are moving to the left and seeking to fight against austerity and militarism.

“The historic function of fascism,” Leon Trotsky wrote in 1934, “is to smash the working class, destroy its organisations, and stifle political liberties when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery.” He warned workers that it was fatal to rely on the police or bourgeois parliaments to oppose fascism.

Today, while fascism is not a mass movement, it presents a growing danger to working people throughout the world, amid the most severe crisis of global capitalism since the 1930s. The working class must respond by building a socialist movement to unite workers around the world in a political fight to abolish capitalism, which is the source of nationalism and fascism as well as social inequality and war.

The author also recommends:

Why was the New Zealand terrorist attack not prevented?
[27 March 2019]

New Zealand government bans fascist terrorist Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto
[26 March 2019]

The New Zealand terrorist attack and the international danger of fascism
[18 March 2019]

Australia’s political spy agency boss told a Senate estimates hearing this week there was no reason to refocus intelligence gathering on right-wing extremism, despite an Australian white supremacist being charged with the killing of Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15: here.