British police racism

This video from Britain says about itself:

Rashan Charles: reaction from deaths in police custody filmmaker

25 July 2017

We spoke to Ken Fero, who is also an organiser of the United Friends and Families Campaign.

By Daniel Kedebe in Britain:

Yes, young black men have every right to fear the police

Wednesday 9th August 2017

Society’s response to the death of Rashan Charles after being restrained by police shows racism still festers in public life, says DANIEL KEBEDE

THE CCTV footage of the final moments of Rashan Charles’s life has shocked many. A young black man ending up lifeless following contact with the police.

Social media, which has become a barometer for our society’s opinions, was awash with anger and rage but also full of comments praising the death of a supposed “drug dealer.”

There is no evidence in the public domain to suggest that Charles was involved in any criminality, let alone with a big enough quantity of any substance that would amount to “intent to supply.” The age-old racist stereotype that young black men are drug dealers is still strong.

Racism hasn’t gone anywhere. It still exists. It still festers in our society, often lingering beneath the surface, but still with the ability to manifest overtly.

Figures produced by the Office for National Statistics show a worrying trend: hate crimes rising year on year, but to put it all down to Brexit would be misleading and incorrect.

Even beyond the hate crime statistics, since the start of the millennium the proportion of Britons who admit to being racially prejudiced has steadily risen. So does a climate of rising racism have anything to do with Charles’s death?

Racism is not purely about attacks on people, vindictive thoughts or offensive comments on social media. Institutional racism — racial discrimination that has become established as normal behaviour within an organisation — also continues to chip away at the quality of life that black people can expect to have.

These are the facts. Black people with GCSEs earn 11 per cent less than white colleagues. Black people who go to university earn 23 per cent less.
If you are black you are twice as likely to be unemployed. Even if you have a job, black workers are much more likely than white workers to be in insecure jobs and on zero-hours contracts.

So we can pretend that “racism doesn’t exist any more” or “we’ve moved on now” just because Love Thy Neighbour is no longer on the television, but put very simply, if you are black you are more likely to be poor, and be poor because you are black.

Racism is all-pervasive, so we can’t delude ourselves that our criminal justice system is somehow immune to it.

If you are black you are six times more likely to be subject to police stop-and-search powers, and even if you have committed a crime, if you are black your punishment is statistically likely to be longer and harsher.

Research carried out by the organisation Release found that for cocaine possession, 78 per cent of black people are charged by police rather than cautioned, compared with 44 per cent for white people.

As David Lammy MP, who is chairing the Lammy review (an independent review of the treatment of, and outcomes for, black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system) pointed out, black men and women are 50 per cent more likely to be sentenced to jail than white people for the same crimes.

In 1999, following the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Macpherson report branded the Metropolitan Police institutionally racist — the question is, can the police escape that label?

Lawrence was murdered when I was six years old. Like any young black person growing up in the 1990s I received racism at school, but my first understanding of what racism could lead to was Lawrence’s murder.

Today, however, young black people are growing up in a situation where their peers aren’t predominantly being killed by racist youths, but at the hands of police.

Azelle Rodney, Olaseni Lewis, Sheku Bayoh, Christopher Alder — all black, all dead after police contact.

Most recently, in the space of one month three young black men have died after police contact: Edson Da Costa, Daren Cumberbatch and Rashan Charles.

Does their skin colour have anything to do with it? Statistics speak for themselves. Despite making up only 13 per cent of London’s population, those who self-identify as black or black British have been on the receiving end of 36 per cent of incidents of use of force by the police.

Of the 1,620 people who have died following contact with the police since 1990, a disproportionately high number of those killed are black.

“At least we aren’t as bad as America,” I hear them say, as if we can take comfort in such a comparison.

What is most shocking is that legitimate protests following the recent deaths of young black men at the hands of police are smeared as riots.

This is nothing more than state-sponsored tone policing, that is designed to invalidate any rightful anger communities have.

This isn’t only about smearing those protesting, it is about smearing the victims.

As I write this, news from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is being released stating that Charles had not swallowed illegal substances, that it was caffeine and paracetamol that were recovered.

Charles could have been head to toe in Class A drugs for all I care — you don’t see the police wandering around private schools and university campuses treating wealthy, white kids with such brutality.

The anger that people feel is legitimate. Even when police killings have been deemed unlawful, prosecutions have not followed, and when police can act with impunity trust cannot be built.

British army recruits child soldiers

This 1978 punk rock music video from England is called FAREWELL TO THE ROXY: The Tickets: [Join The Army,] Get Yourself Killed.

By Alice Summers in Britain:

British Army targets working-class schoolchildren for recruitment

7 August 2017

The British Army recently launched a recruitment campaign that specifically targets working-class youth. Blandly named “This is belonging,” the campaign identifies its main audience as economically deprived young people, including adolescents only 16 years of age.

A briefing document section titled “Target audience” spells out that the army is primarily aiming to recruit 16-24 year olds in the C2DE sociological category. The C2DE category refers to the lowest three economic groupings, which range from skilled manual workers through to unskilled labour and the unemployed. The document specifies that it is chiefly targeting those who come from families with an annual household income of less than £10,000 ($US 13,100), meaning that many of the children targeted live below the poverty line.

Although the campaign is UK-wide, the army document indicates that there are “up-weights” to cities in the North of England and in the West Midlands, such as Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham. Urban centres such as these tend to have high rates of youth unemployment, at 22.8, 19.4 and 22.5 percent respectively, compared to a UK average of 14.4 percent (figures from August 2016).

Speaking to the World Socialist Web Site, Rachel Taylor, director of programmes at Child Soldiers International, condemned the army’s recruitment drive for targeting “the youngest and most vulnerable people for its most dangerous roles. Many children in these towns and cities have grown-up in communities with little economic capital or career opportunities and are easy targets for Army recruiters who are desperate to fill recruitment shortfalls.”

The fact that the armed forces are “preying on communities where unemployment and social deprivation is high … is a brazen, calculated policy to recruit 16- and 17-year-olds who have few options in life for dangerous infantry jobs that others do not want.”

The “This is belonging” campaign uses a series of short video clips showing staged scenes of young soldiers undergoing training or participating in mock combat situations, attempting to present the armed forces as a supportive, family environment. These videos were shown on social media, on television and in cinemas.

The army describes “This is belonging” as “a new inspirational and motivating creative campaign” to convey the message that recruits would be joining “a brotherhood and sisterhood formed of unbreakable bonds which … will accept you for you.”

Labelling these videos as “cleverly engineered propaganda which glamorises army life,” Taylor insisted that “the reality could not be more different.”

“Morale among the armed forces is plummeting. Forty percent of recruits are actively looking for other employment, while issues of bullying and abuse are commonplace, especially for the 24 percent of recruits who sign up under the age of 18.”

ForcesWatch, a non-profit organisation that scrutinises military recruitment practices, also criticised the army for targeting young people and for “appealing to the adolescent child’s need to belong.” The organisation argued that the army “have latched onto a very popular recruitment tool, powerful in particular among those who feel isolated or marginalised, or who have a sense of non-belonging and potentially low self-esteem.”

The UK is the only country in Europe, and one of only a handful in the world, that allows the recruitment of minors. The enlistment process into the armed forces can begin at 15 years and seven months, although training does not start until the child has reached 16 and these recruits cannot be deployed into active service until they reach 18 years.

According to a report by Medact, a non-profit organisation of health professionals, there are serious long-term consequences of child recruitment by the army. The study showed that these young recruits are more likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, alcohol abuse and self-harm after leaving the army. Male under-20 recruits have a 64 percent higher risk of suicide than their adult civilian peers and have a higher chance of being wounded or killed during their career in the armed forces.

The report concluded that military recruitment techniques “[take] advantage of adolescent cognitive and psychological vulnerabilities” and that current child recruitment practices “do not meet the criteria for full and informed consent.”

The UK government has actively promoted army recruitment within schools, with Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announcing the creation of 150 new cadet units in schools last October. There are now more than 300 cadet units across UK schools, in which children as young as 12 are taught battle planning, weapon use and military discipline.

According to ForcesWatch, the military make thousands of visits to UK schools and colleges each year and even to primary schools and nurseries. These visits include recruitment stalls at careers fairs, curriculum and career-related activities, sessions with staff members and interviews for pre-recruitment courses at army bases, among other things.

Some schools are either sponsored by or have partnerships with the armed forces or arms industry.

ForcesWatch coordinator Emma Sangster rejected the Ministry of Defence claim that the army does not directly recruit within schools. She told the Guardian: “Recruitment is a process, it’s not a single event.” During visits to school, armed forces recruiters, “drip feed things of interest to children of school age. They sanitise what conflict involves, and also glamorise it. They focus on adventure, which young people are desperate for.”

The British state is attempting to indoctrinate and prepare the next generation of working-class youth to be cannon fodder in their imperialist wars abroad. This is confirmed by the analysis of Veterans for Peace (VFP). In its report, “The First Ambush? Effects of army training and employment,” VFP asserts that British Army policy is to “channel the youngest recruits and those from poorer backgrounds into the infantry, which uses the most coercive training methods … [and] carries the greatest risks in war…

“To ensure that recruits will follow all orders and kill their opponents in war, army training indoctrinates unconditional obedience, stimulates aggression and antagonism, overpowers a healthy person’s inhibition to killing, and dehumanises the opponent in the recruit’s imagination.”

The VFP report notes that recruitment policy is rooted in class divisions, with army recruiters “creaming off” high-achieving adults from English universities to become future officers, while “dredging” poorer areas to fill the lower ranks with working-class youth whose lives are seen by the ruling elite as more dispensable.

This recruitment drive and the militarisation of education comes in the context of the escalation of British and NATO operations in the Middle East and on Russia’s borders, with the British Army currently deployed in some capacity in over 80 countries across the world.

It is not just within Britain that the militarisation of social life is taking place. In 2011, the German Bundeswehr began recruiting in schools and universities as part of a broader drive by the Defence Ministry to recruit thousands of new soldiers. Last year, the Swedish Parliament voted to bring back conscription and French President Emmanuel Macron … included the return of the draft as an electoral promise.

More than 75 years after the outbreak of World War II, ruling elites across the world are again seeking to create powerful armies able to enforce their geostrategic and economic interests through war. A century after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the international working class is once again confronted with the necessity of building a revolutionary socialist and internationalist movement in order to prevent the descent into a catastrophic world war.

Cuckoos in British, United States culture

This video is about the cuckoo (Cuculus canorus).

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The beauty and the beast

Friday 14th July 2017

Enchanted by the cuckoo’s singing PETER FROST looks into this unique bird’s lifestyle and how it has impacted on our folklore and beliefs

THERE is not a finer sound on a summer’s day than the distinctive call of a cuckoo. I have heard scores of them but I have actually seen very few. Like another favourite waterside bird of mine the booming bittern, the cuckoo is much more likely to be heard than seen.

This elusiveness certainly adds to the character of this bird so beloved in song and story.

The cuckoo song, popular on both sides of the Atlantic goes back centuries. A common version goes: “The cuckoo’s a pretty bird, she sings as she flies./ She brings us good tidings, tells us no lies./ She sucks the little birds’ eggs to keep her voice clear,/ And when she sings ‘cuckoo’ the summer draws near.”

There is a copy in the Bodleian library Oxford from the early Middle Ages — it is in Chaucerian Middle English and believed to be the first English folk song to be written down and recorded.

Along with many English ballads this song was taken to the US by English settlers where it became a standard part of the repertoire of many country, folk and other US singers including, of course, Bob Dylan.

This 1962 music video from the USA is called Bob Dylan – The cuckoo is a pretty bird.

In the US the song wasn’t altered much but did manage to slip in patriotic last line “and it never sings cuckoo till the fourth day of July” — Donald Trump says it was obviously Made in US.

As well as the common cuckoo, the same one we have in Britain (Cuculus canorus),

which breeds only in Europe, Asia and north Africa, wintering in Africa

the US has about 17 other species of cuckoo — some with amazing names.

These include Bay-breasted, Black-billed, Chestnut-bellied, Cocos, Dark-billed, Dwarf, Gray-capped, Great Lizard, Hispaniolan Lizard, Lesser Ground, Mangrove, Oriental Pearly-breasted, Pheasant, Puerto Rican Lizard, Squirrel, Striped and Yellow-billed cuckoos. That’s a lot of cuckoos.

We have just one, well actually about 16,000 breeding pairs of just one species, the common cuckoo.

Cuckoos can be seen throughout Britain, but are especially numerous in southern and central England.

They are a dove-sized bird with blue grey upper parts, head and chest with dark barred white under parts. With their sleek body, long tail and pointed wings they are not unlike kestrels or sparrowhawks. They eat insects and are especially fond of hairy caterpillars.

Since 2011 the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has been running a project tracking cuckoos by satellite to find out why we have lost over half of their population over the last 20 years.

The Broads National Park is one of many partners in this project and some Broads cuckoos have been tagged and tracked by satellite. National Park rangers report on where the birds are calling and then skilled scientists and BTO volunteers — with permission from landowners — use mist nets to catch the birds and attach the satellite tracking devices.

From this tracking the BTO has garnered vital information about the routes cuckoos take and some of the difficulties they face during migration, including those caused by changing climate.

This year cuckoos at Carlton Marshes in the Broads were tagged. Both a male and, for the first time, a female, were fitted with the super lightweight tags.

The male cuckoo was named Carlton and you can follow Carlton’s progress along with the others at the BTO website

Cuckoos arrive in Britain in the spring to breed. In early June the adults begin to leave and the young birds head south later too in search of insects to feed on.

There are two routes south which most of the cuckoos follow on their 4,000-mile journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa, where they spend the winter.

Some fly over Spain and Morocco, others go east over Italy and the Balkan countries. On the way to the European breeding grounds in the spring all the tracked cuckoos take the same route across West Africa.

This is probably to take advantage of food available there at that time due to the heavy rainfall and insects breeding.

There is extensive folklore concerning the cuckoo like for instance “on hearing the first cuckoo in spring to ensure good luck one must run three times in a circle.”

In folklore the cuckoo’s nest is a euphemism for the female sexual organ and the word cuckold is used for a man whose sexual partner, often his wife, has been unfaithful.

An alternative meaning for cuckoo’s nest is a mental institution. This has become the commonest meaning since the Ken Kesey novel published in 1962 and the 1975 Milos Forman film based on it, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

The nymphs of the Frog Hopper insect surround themselves in a white foam on stems of grass known as cuckoo spit.

Best known fact about the cuckoo is of course the laying its eggs in other bird’s nests so that they will bring up the young cuckoos who throw the host birds’ own young out of their own nests.

Ornithologists call them brood parasites — the females choose the nests of other birds especially meadow pipits, dunnocks and reed warblers. A single cuckoo can lay up to 25 eggs in a season.

This unprincipled behaviour is only found rarely in other wild creatures but one recent case involves Tory MP Michael Gove.

Just two hours before Boris Johnson was preparing to make his Tory Party leadership bid Mr Gove, the man who was supposed to be making up the dream ticket with him stabbed him in the back.

Lynton Crosby, the Tory election strategist, and most of his called Gove’s move a “cuckoo nest plot.” Bit harsh on the cuckoo I reckon.

Might I suggest the Tories set off to fly away to the Congo at the end of every summer. Or would that be too cuckoo an idea?

A bit harsh on Congo, where people have suffered so much from British Unilever corporation.

Ostriches’ double-kneecaps, new research

This video says about itself:

3 Odd Facts About Ostriches

28 December 2015

Don’t bury your head in the sand for this one. We’ve got some odd ostrich facts for you!

Hosted by: Hank Green

From the Society for Experimental Biology:

Two knees or not two knees: The curious case of the ostrich‘s double kneecap

July 3, 2017

Ostriches are the only animals in the world to have a double-kneecap, but its purpose remains an evolutionary mystery. PhD student, Ms Sophie Regnault, from the Royal Veterinary College, UK says “understanding more about different kneecap configurations in different animals could help to inform prosthesis design, surgical interventions, and even robots with better joints.”

“In ostriches, the upper kneecap looks similar to the single kneecap in most other species, but the lower kneecap resembles a fixed bony process, like the point of your elbow,” says Ms Regnault. “As far as we know, this double kneecap is unique to ostriches, with no evidence found even in extinct giant birds.”

From Ms Regnault’s results, it appears that the ostrich’s double-kneecap counter-intuitively decreases the mechanical advantage of the knee extensor muscles, while in other species including humans, it has more mixed effects: increasing mechanical advantage at some knee joint angles and decreasing it at others.

The effect that this double-kneecap has on the running performance of ostriches is hard to identify, but Ms Regnault and her team have a few ideas: “We speculate that this might mean ostriches are able to extend their knees relatively faster than they would with one kneecap.”

Using a combination of CT scans and fluroscopy known as ‘X-ray reconstruction of moving morphology’ (XROMM) on a real ostrich leg, Ms Regnault and her team built a 3D model of the ostrich’s leg bones and kneecaps: “We then moved the ostrich’s leg, allowing us to animate the CT bone models to show how the patellae are actually moving in 3D.”

While this research has so far highlighted one aspect of how the sesamoid bones function, their true purpose remains a mystery. “We are still not sure why ostriches might have evolved this second kneecap,” says Ms Regnault. “It might help to protect the tendon of these heavy fast-running birds, but there are other potential roles that we haven’t yet explored.”