New blue butterfly species discovery in Russia


The newly discovered South Russian blue butterfly. Credit: Vladimir Lukhtanov

From ScienceDaily:

New butterfly species discovered in Russia with an unusual set of 46 chromosomes

November 27, 2017

Summary: Finding a new species is a rare event in easy-to-see and well-studied organisms like butterflies, especially if they inhabit well-explored areas such as Europe. Researchers have now discovered the previously unknown South-Russian blue using an array of modern research techniques. Furthermore, the new species was found to possess 46 chromosomes, just like a human, whereas its closest relative has 68 chromosomes.

What looked like a population of a common butterfly species turned out to be a whole new organism, and, moreover — one with a very peculiar genome organisation.

Discovered by Vladimir Lukhhtanov, entomologist and evolutionary biologist at the Zoological Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Alexander Dantchenko, entomologist and chemist at the Moscow State University, the startling discovery was named South-Russian blue (Polyommatus australorossicus). It was found flying over the northern slopes of the Caucasus mountains in southern Russia. The study is published in the open access journal Comparative Cytogenetics.

“This publication is the long-awaited completion of a twenty-year history,” says Vladimir Lukhtanov.

In the mid-nineties, Vladimir Lukhtanov, together with his students and collaborators, started an exhaustive study of Russian butterflies using an array of modern and traditional research techniques. In 1997, Alexander Dantchenko who was mostly focused on butterfly ecology, sampled a few blue butterfly specimens from northern slopes of the Caucasus mountains. These blues looked typical at first glance and were identified as Azerbaijani blue (Polyommatus aserbeidschanus).

However, when the scientists looked at them under a microscope, it became clear that they had 46 chromosomes — a very unusual number for this group of the blue butterflies and exactly the same count as in humans.

Having spent twenty years studying the chromosomes of more than a hundred blue butterfly species and sequencing DNA from all closely related species, the researchers were ready to ascertain the uniqueness of the discovered butterfly and its chromosome set.

Throughout the years of investigation, it has become clear that caterpillars of genetically related species in the studied butterfly group feed on different, but similar plants. This discovery enables entomologists to not only discover new butterfly species with the help of botanic information, but also protect them.

“We are proud of our research,” says Vladimir Lukhtanov. “It contributes greatly to both the study of biodiversity and understanding the mechanisms of biological evolution.”

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Russia-bashing, pretext for attacking civil liberties


This video from the USA says about itself:

5 January 2017

We are joined by Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the founding editors of The Intercept. His latest article is headlined “WashPost Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived.” In it, he writes, “Any story that bolsters the prevailing D.C. orthodoxy on the Russia Threat, no matter how dubious, is spread far and wide. And then, as has happened so often, when the story turns out to be false or misleading, little or nothing is done to correct the deceitful effects.”

This video from the USA says about itself:

Glenn Greenwald on “Dearth of Evidence” Linking Russia to WikiLeaks Release of DNC Emails

5 January 2017

We speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Glenn Greenwald as the Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on alleged Russian cyber-attacks and top intelligence officials are briefing President Obama on a review of evidence that Russia hacked the email servers of the Democratic National Committee.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Russia, the US and fake news

Monday 27th November 2017

THE tit for tat measures being taken by the United States and Russia against each other’s journalists are bad news for press freedom in both countries.

Worse, they signal a growing willingness to clamp down on alternative media outlets which is palpable in Britain too.

The campaign to expose “Russian meddling” in the US 2016 presidential election, sporadically echoed on this side of the water with reference to the referendum on EU membership, is frankly an exercise in scaremongering.

The idea of foreign interference in an election conjures up ideas of vote-rigging, or at the very least the sort of massive financial intervention on one side practised by the United States over decades (Italy in 1948 and Russia in 1996 being two of the most blatant examples).

But that’s not what Russia is accused of. The principal allegations are that Russian intelligence stole information from the Democratic National Committee server and the emails of Hillary Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, and forwarded their contents to WikiLeaks; and that Russian internet trolls and media outlets published and publicised “fake news” on a significant scale to influence voters’ behaviour.

Russia and WikiLeaks deny the former charge, but even if they are lying the argument that the Clinton camp would have won if only its emails had remained hidden from the public is not exactly democratic.

It’s also dubious, serving mostly to help right-wing Democrats avoid facing up to the real reason they lost the election: their association with a status quo that has failed ordinary US residents.

That reality was exemplified by the rigged choice of a presidential candidate who had been part of the Washington elite for decades instead of her rival Bernie Sanders, whose socialist message might have proved a more convincing counterweight to the racist populism of Donald Trump.

But the hacked emails sideshow pales into insignificance next to the hysteria over “fake news”, a breathtakingly hypocritical scare whipped up by a political and media elite who have been feeding porkies to the public for years.

The “respectable” media who regurgitate fabrications like the incubator babies of 1990, “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq 13 years later and a whole wagonload of plausible-sounding but evidence-free atrocity stories concerning Libya or Syria, whose sources have largely been jihadist organisations actively engaged in war with the accused governments, are in no position to cry foul over the spread of apparently dubious information by Russian broadcasters or internet users.

The Morning Star is well aware of the poisonous influence of misleading media coverage. Years of demonisation of immigrants and benefit claimants in the likes of The Sun and the Daily Mail has warped our politics and played its part in what the Establishment likes to term the “radicalisation” of dangerous individuals who proceed to attack and sometimes even kill black people, or Muslims, or wheelchair-users, or in one tragic case last year the MP Jo Cox.

No-one on the left today could be ignorant of the systematic media demonisation of the first Labour leader in a century to offer real change, the demoralising effect it has had on our movement and the potent weapon it has sometimes proved in the hands of our enemies.

The answer is to campaign for a more transparent and democratic media, with the power of billionaire press tycoons curbed; and for our movement to educate, agitate and organise so citizens are better informed and better judges of the quality of the news they hear.

Banning or shackling foreign journalists and demonising individual platforms, as Theresa May hinted she would consider at her Mansion House speech, serves only to tighten the Establishment’s stranglehold on information and, by discrediting the results of democratic votes, provide an excuse for these to be disregarded.

By Glenn Greenwald:

Friday was one of the most embarrassing days for the U.S. media in quite a long time. The humiliation orgy was kicked off by CNN, with MSNBC and CBS close behind, with countless pundits, commentators and operatives joining the party throughout the day. By the end of the day, it was clear that several of the nation’s largest and most influential news outlets had spread an explosive but completely false news story to millions of people, while refusing to provide any explanation of how it happened.

The spectacle began on Friday morning at 11:00 am EST, when the Most Trusted Name in News™ spent 12 straight minutes on air flamboyantly hyping an exclusive bombshell report that seemed to prove that WikiLeaks, last September, had secretly offered the Trump campaign, even Donald Trump himself, special access to the DNC emails before they were published on the internet. As CNN sees the world, this would prove collusion between the Trump family and WikiLeaks and, more importantly, between Trump and Russia, since the U.S. intelligence community regards WikiLeaks as an “arm of Russian intelligence,” and therefore, so does the U.S. media.

What if Russiagate isn’t the story? The Trump blame game. Donald Trump became president through his own conmanship. He didn’t need Russian help with his election, and he may not have got it: here.

UK “Magnitsky bill” escalates US-led anti-Russia offensive: here.

Politicians blaming Russia for everything


Theresa May drinking

This photo from London shows British Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May drinking at the recent Lord Mayor’s Banquet; where she blamed Russia for the problems caused by her own government, thus avoiding having to look at the woman in the mirror.

By Solomon Hughes in Britain:

Putin is not responsible for Trump or Brexit

Friday 17th November 2017

Blaming our problems on Russian hacking and fake news is a way of ignoring Britain’s very real problems, writes SOLOMON HUGHES

DID RUSSIA interfere in the US presidential election? Did Russia meddle in the Brexit referendum?

Probably yes. Probably no. Does this mean Vladimir Putin is responsible for Donald Trump winning the US election? Does it mean Russia caused Brexit?

It doesn’t. But a lot of confused liberals are pretending it does as a way of hiding from the real world in a fantasy land stalked by a bare-chested Russian ogre.

A moment’s thinking can come up with the many examples of one nation interfering in the affairs of another. The US has years of organising coups and trying to fix elections worldwide.

On BBC2 on Sunday nights you can watch John Singleton’s excellent drama “Snowfall.”

The background to the story is the US government arming and backing murderous “Contra” rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

It’s a shady, dirty story of how the US secretly supported a vicious militia fighting a left-wing Central American government.

The Contras funded themselves by drug dealing in the United States itself, but the US was so keen on the Contras and careless about their own citizens that it simultaneously armed Nicaraguan gangsters and helped gangsters deal drugs in California.

Sometimes it’s just interference by propaganda. In the 2000s the US funded the Iraqi National Congress (INC), based in London. The INC operated more as a propaganda group than an actual opposition to Saddam.

In 2002 the INC presented an invoice to the US government to justify its $33 million of funds. The invoice showed all the fake stories about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or terrorist links they had placed in the British press.

It was paid for getting “fake news” into the Sunday Times, Observer, Telegraph and other British newspapers, false stories which helped promote the Iraq war.

Just as the US “interfered” in far-off nations by backing its favoured political or propaganda groups, so too the former Soviet Union “interfered” in other nations by backing or supporting its favoured political groups, mostly around the communist parties.

That could mean, for example, supporting the African National Congress in its battle against apartheid. Or it could mean backing this newspaper, by buying loads of copies of it.

Many people on the left positively welcomed this “interference,” for obvious reasons. Other people got upset about “Moscow gold.”

Lots of rightwingers liked to claim that Russian-backed “communists” were the root of all trouble, even when trouble was so clearly the product of local conditions.

Faced with protests against racism, many a sheriff or governor in the southern US states would blame the communists for “stirring things up.”

Some of the liberals saying that Putin did Brexit or Putin made Trump happen seem like a weird version of this southern sheriff.

You can almost hear them say: “It’s only Putin stirring things up. Our humble folk wouldn’t be so riled up without that ‘Russkie’ meddling.”

Since the “fall of communism” and the end of the Soviet Union, I think Putin’s Russia has become much more opportunistic and less consistent about which foreign nations it backs and promotes.

In fact, it has become a bit more like the United States, though on a smaller scale. The US has covertly backed both right-wing death squads and non-communist liberals and, in one odd adventure, abstract expressionist art, to try to build US influence and undermine US rivals.

Similarly Putin plays with backing a variety of nationalist currents abroad, but also reaches out to more traditional “leftish” critics in the West. Some of this is “propaganda.” Some of it is “soft diplomacy.”

I think the US media is right to investigate Trump’s links to the Russians because, if nothing else, it shows Trump’s cynicism and sleaziness.

But to try to pretend Putin is the cause of Trump and ignore the long-term decay and corruption of the US political system is self-deception.

The US government is more and more dominated by big money, and offers less and less support to its own citizens.

Politicians substitute racism and bigotry for, say, the ability to run a health service. This has left a hollowed-out politics that Trump has exploited.

The Democratic emails leak had an impact because the emails were real, and they showed the Democratic leadership was part of that hollowing out.

They showed that Clinton was too close to big money donors, and was using the Democratic machine to freeze out the chance for actual social change with Bernie Sanders.

So while the emails may have been “phished” by someone close to the Russian state, they showed a real problem with US politics.

The case for Putin being behind Brexit seems by comparison vanishingly small.

The “Internet Research Agency,” a Russian PR firm that does government work, has a host of “trolls” churning out tweets and other social media posts in support of official Russian policy.

Its work seems to include a few fake personalities posting nasty divisive stuff about Britain.

But the idea that this had any impact on the enormity of the EU referendum vote is a bit laughable.

It seems to be a way of ignoring how all kinds of disillusion and feelings of abandonment — and tabloid-promoted anti-migrant feeling — flowed into the Brexit vote.

It’s a way of ignoring Britain’s real problems and blaming Putin.

IN AN attempt to deflect media attention away from her government’s sordid disarray, Theresa May used her speech at the Lord Mayor’s banquet this week to accuse Russia of mounting a “sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption” in an attempt to “sow discord in the West.” Of course Russia probably is doing something like this, but so too is every other state on the planet. Thanks to good ol’ capitalism and the free market, every country with an internet connection is probably trying to “sow discontent” somewhere. It’s all part of the desperate bid to gain more control of the world’s resources before global climate change renders Earth inhospitable: here.

Facebook: less than 1$ Russian money on Brexit advertisements: here.

‘A government critic? You’re a Russian spy!’


This video from the USA says about itself:

Edward R. Murrow: “A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy”

“See It Now” on CBS – March 9, 1954.

By Joseph Kishore in the USA:

The New York Times and the criminalization of dissent

11 October 2017

The campaign within the American media and political establishment over allegations of Russian “hacking” and manipulation of the US elections is being transformed into an increasingly frenzied demand for the criminalization of dissent.

During the first months of the Trump administration, the charges of Russian interference in US politics were primarily used to prosecute a struggle within the American ruling class centered on issues of foreign policy. The anti-Russian campaign has now developed into an effort to associate all opposition within the United States to the actions of a “foreign enemy.”

A series of increasingly ludicrous articles have appeared in the US press, channeling information supposedly gathered by the Senate Intelligence Committee from social media companies. The latest appeared on Tuesday in the New York Times, which has played the central role in the media campaign. The front-page article (“Russians Spun American Rage Into a Weapon: Facebook Posts in US Fueled Propaganda”) is a piece of pure political propaganda, filled with unsubstantiated statements, wild speculation and unsupported conclusions.

Social media posts from Americans, the Times asserts, have become “grist for a network of Facebook pages linked to a shadowy Russian company that carried out propaganda campaigns for the Kremlin.” The newspaper claims to have reviewed hundreds of these posts, concluding, “One of the most powerful weapons that Russian agents used to reshape American politics was the anger, passion and misinformation that real Americans were broadcasting across social media platforms.”

The article names several Facebook pages that it baldly asserts, without proof, were owned and controlled by the unnamed Russian company, including United Muslims of America, Being Patriotic, Secured Borders, and Blacktivist.

The entire premise of the Times article is absurd. Pages associated with Russia, it is claimed, are reporting and sharing expressions of anger, sowing discontent and divisions. United Muslims of America, for example, “frequently posted content highlighting discrimination against Muslims.” This, somehow, is criminal activity. Those who originally produced the content or shared the posts are acting, at best, as Russian patsies, and, at worst, as co-conspirators. The Times cites one Trump supporter who shared a post from the Being Patriotic group, characterizing him as “not bothered…by becoming an unwitting cog in the Russian propaganda machine.”

The claims of Russian manipulation read like the ravings of individuals suffering from paranoid delusions. According to an earlier statement from Republican Senator James Lankford, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Russian “trolls” are responsible for pushing the controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence. Russian “troll farms,” he claimed, were working to “raise the noise level in America.”

Clint Watts, a former top FBI agent who has testified at Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on Russian intervention in the elections and has been frequently quoted in the media, replied to Lankford’s comments by declaring, “The Russians can just sit back and say: ‘Amplify on both sides. Make people angry.’ And it works, man, God, it works.”

Such claims reproduce the worst tactics used during the period of McCarthyite redbaiting. What used to be called “Commie dupes” are now “Russian dupes.” (Unconcerned by the fact that the Soviet Union was dissolved over a quarter century ago, GQ magazine recently posted an article that featured a graphic replacing the “G” in “Google” with a hammer and sickle). Dissent and opposition, according to this line, are to be interpreted not as the product of internal divisions and social tensions, but the nefarious workings of a foreign power.

The Times article includes lines that read like they came straight from the proclamations of Senator Joe McCarthy or the files of J. Edgar Hoover. “The Russians,” it states, “appear to have insinuated themselves across American social media platforms and used the same promotional tools that people employ to share cat videos, airline complaints, and personal rants.” The article speaks of the need to “purge social media networks of foreign influence.”

And what was supposedly involved in this major “covert propaganda campaign?” According to US Senate investigators, Russian companies spent a total of $100,000 on Facebook advertisements to promote messages like those cited by the Times.

Another article appearing in the Times on Tuesday (“Google Inquiry Connects Election Ads to Russians”) asserts that “accounts believed to be connected to the Russian government” purchased a grand total of $4,700 worth of ads, while “a separate $53,000 worth of ads with political material…were purchased from Russian internet addresses, building addresses or with Russian currency…”

This is an infinitesimal fraction of what is spent by political campaigns awash in money from corporate executives and American plutocrats. Some $2.65 billion was spent by the Clinton and Trump campaigns and organizations supporting them during the presidential race. Nearly $7 billion was spent on all US federal elections last year. Yet the Russian government’s supposedly massive campaign of subversion and propaganda amounts to a few tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook, Twitter and Google!

The conclusions would be laughable if the consequence were not so serious.

The New York Times, in close coordination with the Democratic Party and the US intelligence agencies, is engaged in a campaign that is nothing less than criminal. It is engaged in a political conspiracy to outlaw dissent in the United States and justify state efforts to prohibit, blacklist and suppress speech, particularly on the Internet. If the Russian government is merely amplifying content produced by others—including videos depicting police violence and other crimes—then the logical conclusion is that this original content must be proscribed.

Any content or article, including from the Times itself, that examines social discontent in the United States is susceptible to being picked up by the Russians and promoted. Halting such “foreign intervention” requires a regime of censorship and self-censorship of and by all media outlets—precisely what exists in a dictatorship.

The basic target of the lying campaign over Russian manipulation of US public opinion is not Russia, but the American population. The state institutions and the two parties, Democratic and Republican, are deeply discredited and broadly hated. The working class does not need the Russian or Chinese governments to know that American society is massively unequal, that the political system is controlled by the rich, and that the police engage in brutal acts of violence on a daily basis.

Control of the Internet and the suppression of free speech online is a basic strategic issue for the American ruling class. The emergence of online communication and Internet platforms broke the control of the major media conglomerates over the distribution of information. Under conditions of growing popular opposition to social inequality and war, and deepening political crisis, establishing state control over the Internet is seen as a matter of the greatest urgency.

This is what Google has already begun to do. As the World Socialist Web Site has documented, changes to Google’s search algorithm in April, introduced under the pretext of combating “fake news” and promoting “authoritative content”, have resulted in a fall in referrals from Google to the WSWS by nearly 70 percent, and to 13 other left-wing sites by between 19 and 63 percent.

The actions of Google are only the beginning. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms are preparing or have already begun to implement similar measures. The US Justice Department has demanded that staff at the American branch of Russian news agency RT register as foreign agents by October 17 or face possible arrest. This action will be used as a precedent for targeting left-wing and antiwar websites and organizations as agencies of a “foreign enemy” that must be shut down or censored.

It is necessary to organize the working class and youth against this neo-McCarthyite assault on free speech and the Internet, connecting the defense of democratic rights to opposition to social inequality, war, dictatorship and the capitalist system. Meetings must be organized throughout the country and internationally to expose what is taking place and mobilize opposition. The WSWS urges all its readers to sign the petition against Internet censorship and contact the Socialist Equality Party today.

“This anti-Russian campaign is horrible”: An interview with antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan: here.

The Russians Did It! It’s much easier for Democrats to play the blame game than it is to fix what ails them, by John Atcheson.