Filming birds in flight, video

This video from the USA says about itself:


12 January 2016

Faced with the challenge of filming tiny songbirds in night flight, The Messenger Film Crew had to find a way to make the invisible visible. The wind tunnel used by scientists at Western University’s Advanced Facility for Avian Research, offered a unique solution.

See also here.

Navajo people, United States wars and racism

This video from the USA says about itself:

15 October 2012

How the Navajo People help win WW-2 as Code Talkers

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The Navajos unbreakable code

Monday 11th January 2016

An anti-racist post on social media has reminded PETER FROST of an amazing story from 75 years ago

AFTER Donald Trump tried to make racist rants respectable again, many US racists have come out of the shadows.

One story doing the rounds on social media reminded me of the time I spent, a year or so ago, in the south-west of the US with some of the land’s original inhabitants. They were members of the Navajo nation.

Here is the story — a woman is on a public phone speaking a foreign language. A man overhears her and declares: “You are in America. If you can’t speak English, go back to Mexico.”

Calmly the woman tells him: “I’m Navajo and I’m speaking my own, very old, language. If you can only speak English then go back to England.”

Let me take you back 75 years. As 1942 dawned, the war was not going well for the US and its allies. The Japanese had crippled the US navy’s proud Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour on December 7 1941.

Meanwhile in Europe, France had fallen to Germany’s Blitzkrieg and Britain was still suffering the nazis’ relentless night-time bombing.

Codes, and breaking them, would prove crucial in the allied war effort. The story of Alan Turing and the Bletchley Park cryptographers has been told many times.

For the US armed forces communications were also a nightmare. Japanese cryptographers, many educated at US universities, were having no problem breaking top-secret military codes in days rather than weeks.

As a result, US battle plans became known to the enemy almost immediately. The result was an appalling loss of US lives.

One man, Philip Johnston, a middle-aged civil engineer from Los Angeles, thought he might have a solution.

From the age of four, Johnson had lived on the Navajo reservation where his parents were missionaries. He knew the Navajo language was one of the most complicated in the world.

Johnston eventually convinced Lieutenant Colonel James E Jones, the marines’ signal corps communications officer, that a code based on the Navajo language could not be broken by the enemy.

Johnston’s confidence in his theory lay in the fact that the Navajo language includes a number of words that, when spoken with varying inflections, may have many different meanings.

To most listeners, the language is virtually incomprehensible. The use of the Navajo tongue was confined almost entirely to the reservation; few non-Navajos spoke or understood it.

Four Navajos demonstrated linguistic capability in tests for a group of sceptical marine staff officers. Two Navajos were given a typical military field order to transmit in their own language to two more Navajos in another room.

When retranslated back into English, the message received by the second pair proved to be an exact copy of the order as it was given.

Marine code experts were amazed at the speed and accuracy of the interpretation.

First 30 and then 200 Navajo volunteers came forward to work in marine communications.

Some members of the group were underage, but as birth records were not usually kept on the reservation, it was easy for a recruit to lie or be mistaken about his age.

For almost all of them, travel was a brand new experience. Some had never been off the reservation, and many had never ridden on a bus or train.

The majority of them had never seen an ocean and did not realise that they would soon be a part of the ferocious Pacific war.

The Navajos devised a new code which, when transmitted in their own language, would completely baffle their Japanese enemies.

The code’s words were short and easy to learn. A 26-letter phonetic alphabet, it used Navajo names for 18 animals or birds, plus the words ice for I, nut for N, quiver for Q, Ute for U, victor for V, cross for X, yucca for Y and zinc for Z.

In jungle combat in the Pacific, the Navajos’ ingenuity, scouting and tracking ability and utter disregard for hardships stood them in remarkably good stead.

Eventually Navajo code-talkers served all over the Pacific and with other units as well.

On an August evening in 1945, the Navajos received the coded message that everyone had been waiting for.

After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki three days later, Emperor Hirohito had urged the Japanese nation to surrender. The war was over.

In all, 421 Navajos had served as code-talkers. The Japanese never even came close to breaking the code. Not one message was ever successfully intercepted and decoded.

Like much about wartime codes, the Navajo story remained a secret until 1968 when the part it played in the US victory was finally recognised.

Let’s leave the last word to a Japanese general who admitted after World War II that the most highly skilled Japanese cryptographers had not been able to decipher the marines’ messages.

When told it was a code based on a Native American language, he said: “Thank you, that is a puzzle I thought would never be solved.”

Wild bees in the USA, new research

This video from England says about itself:

Three quick visits to a wild bees‘ nest, ‘discovered’ in Wicken Fen during 2011.

From on Earth magazine in the USA:

Where the Wild Stings Are

For the first time, researchers have mapped wild bee habitat across the United States.

BY Clara Chaisson

30 December 2015

Back in 2014, President Obama released a memorandum calling for assessments of native pollinators and their habitats. “Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honeybees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment,” the president wrote. “The problem is serious and requires immediate attention.” Researchers rose to the occasion, and now, for the first time, we have a map of wild bee habitat across the Lower 48.

We also now have even more reason to worry. Along with the wild bees’ whereabouts, the researchers mapped their declines, finding that populations dropped a stinging 23 percent between 2008 and 2013. Some of the biggest regions of loss were agricultural hot spots like California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, western Texas, and the southern Mississippi River valley. Even worse, many of the key crops in these areas, such as pumpkins, peaches, apples, and blueberries, need wild pollinators in order to be their most fruitful.

With more than $3 billion of the U.S. agricultural economy relying on the busywork of native pollinators, we can’t afford to let our bees continue to buzz off.

Supreme Court justice Scalia wants Jim Crow schools for African American students

This video from the USA says about itself:

Antonin Scalia: Gay Rights Leads To Child-Abusers Rights

17 November 2015

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia still isn’t very happy about Supreme Court decisions protecting gay Americans.

During an appearance at Georgetown Law School on Monday, Scalia worried that the high court was choosing which minorities got certain protections, The New York Times reported. Scalia, an ardent originalist, said that the distinctions the court was making were not rooted in the text of the Constitution…

Read more here.

By Tom Carter in the USA:

US Supreme Court justice argues black students should attend inferior schools

12 December 2015

The US Supreme Court heard extended arguments December 9 regarding the validity of an affirmative action program at the University of Texas.

The case and the arguments, which were significant in themselves, were overshadowed by a provocative and racist diatribe by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in which he claimed that black students would be better off in “less-advanced” and “slower-track” schools.

“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school, where they do well,” Scalia said.

Scalia claimed that “most of the black scientists in this country” come from “lesser schools” where they were not “pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.”

Repeatedly interrupting the attorney who was trying to argue the case, Scalia went on to declare that he was “not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer” black students if certain affirmative action policies were discontinued. “Maybe it ought to have fewer,” he said.

Scalia’s words were carefully chosen—doubtless prepared in advance—as a direct appeal to racists. This is language that has not been heard in Supreme Court for decades, and the attorneys arguing the case were evidently stunned. The lawyer representing the University of Texas pointed out that this was essentially a proposal to send minorities to “inferior schools.”

Scalia’s words are an echo of the darkest days in the court’s history, when it upheld racial segregation in the infamous case of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), and chattel slavery in the Dred Scott case (1857).

It is significant that Scalia made his remarks in a case that originated in Texas. Annexed in 1845, Texas was a slave state and its regiments fought for the Confederacy. For a century after the end of the Civil War, the state constituted a bastion of Jim Crow apartheid, and Texas officialdom to this day remains a cesspool of Christian fundamentalism, bigotry, and corruption. It is clear that Scalia’s remarks are directed at those sections of American society that never fully accepted the civil rights reforms.

Scalia’s racist remarks came only two days after Republican candidate Donald Trump’s call to close the country’s borders to all Muslims. Scalia no doubt feels emboldened by this political climate.

… Racism and other backward prejudices are promoted and encouraged by the capitalist class and intensified in the imperialist epoch. The capitalist class dredges up the ideological filth of the past to divide the working class and to stampede popular support behind policies that benefit the ruling class, and which could not otherwise be justified. This is the class content of racism and bigotry.

Anti-Muslim hysteria, in particular, provides a clear example of this phenomenon. Hatred against Muslims is being deliberately promoted by the imperialist ruling classes around the world in order to justify domestic crackdowns and military aggression abroad, as part of the phony “war on terror.” Contrast the response in broad sections of the international working class to the Syrian refugee crisis—compassion, hospitality, and demonstrations for better treatment—with the attempts by political leaders to whip up fear and hatred.

In the US, the figure of Donald Trump expresses perfectly the relationship between imperialism and bigotry. The billionaire parasite, like every aspiring fascist politician before him, seeks to generate support for his policies by appealing to xenophobia, misogyny, racism, and religious bigotry. For socialists, the fight against Trump means shutting down the machine that produces Trumps—capitalism.

… The ugly reappearance of open racism in American politics, including on the Supreme Court, is a process parallel to the abrogation of democratic rights, the plundering of the economy, the shift towards dictatorship, and fifteen years of military aggression and brinksmanship.

Looking back at the 20th century, it should be clear to every class-conscious worker and student how very dangerous this is, and where it will lead if the working class does not intervene. The struggle to put an end to racism and bigotry must be a united struggle by the international working class against capitalism, the driving force of reaction.