Octopus from dinosaur age discovered


From The Palaeontological Association:

Cretaceous octopus with ink and suckers — the world’s least likely fossils?

New finds of 95 million year old fossils reveal much earlier origins of modern octopuses. These are among the rarest and unlikeliest of fossils. The chances of an octopus corpse surviving long enough to be fossilized are so small that prior to this discovery only a single fossil species was known, and from fewer specimens than octopuses have legs.

Everyone knows what an octopus is. Even if you have never encountered one in the flesh, the eight arms, suckers, and sack-like body are almost as familiar a body-plan as the four legs, tail and head of cats and dogs. Unlike our vertebrate cousins, however, octopuses don’t have a well-developed skeleton, and while this famously allows them to squeeze into spaces that a more robust animal could not, it does create problems for scientists interested in evolutionary history. When did octopuses acquire their characteristic body-plan, for example? Nobody really knows, because fossil octopuses are rarer than, well, pretty much any very rare thing you care to mention.

The body of an octopus is composed almost entirely of muscle and skin, and when an octopus dies, it quickly decays and liquefies into a slimy blob. After just a few days there will be nothing left at all. And that assumes that the fresh carcass is not consumed almost immediately by hungry scavengers. The result is that preservation of an octopus as a fossil is about as unlikely as finding a fossil sneeze, and none of the 200-300 species of octopus known today has ever been found in fossilized form. Until now, that is.

Palaeontologists have just identified three new species of fossil octopus discovered in Cretaceous rocks in Lebanon. The five specimens, described in the latest issue of the journal Palaeontology, are 95 million years old but, astonishingly, preserve the octopuses’ eight arms with traces of muscles and those characteristic rows of suckers. Even traces of the ink and internal gills are present in some specimens. ‘These are sensational fossils, extraordinarily well preserved’ says Dirk Fuchs of the Freie University Berlin, lead author of the report. But what surprised the scientists most was how similar the specimens are to modern octopus: ‘these things are 95 million years old, yet one of the fossils is almost indistinguishable from living species.” This provides important evolutionary information. “The more primitive relatives of octopuses had fleshy fins along their bodies. The new fossils are so well preserved that they show, like living octopus, that they didn’t have these structures.’ This pushes back the origins of modern octopus by tens of millions of years, and while this is scientifically significant, perhaps the most remarkable thing about these fossils is that they exist at all.

Disturbing but awesome facts about the Giant Pacific Octopus: here.

SS nazis march in Latvia


This video is an Alfred Hitchcock documentary on the Nazi Holocaust.

The video says about itself:

An Alfred Hitchcock documentary on the Nazi Holocaust

a film the British Government deemed too grisly for release after World War II – has received its public debut on British television. Fifteen minutes of the black-and- white film, which was shot by the armed forces after the war, were televised Tuesday night by the Independent Television News.

From British daily The Morning Star:

SS veterans march in Latvia to remember nazi troops

Tuesday 17 March 2009

ABOUT 300 Latvians marched through Riga on Monday to honour soldiers who fought in an elite nazi unit during World War II.

Several dozen representatives from Latvia‘s anti-fascist committee held a counter-demonstration, chanting: “Hitler Kaput.”

Police set up barricades to keep the two sides apart.

Riga city officials had prohibited the Legionnaires Day commemoration, but police did not prevent the procession of ageing Waffen SS veterans and their supporters as they marched from an Old Town cathedral.

And they did not stop the rightwingers from laying wreaths at the capital’s Freedom Monument.

But riot police swooped on the counter-demonstration and seized a red hammer-and-sickle flag.

Four anti-fascists were detained for “unruly behaviour.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the Legionnaires Day rally as a march by nazi supporters and drew parallels between it and Holocaust denial.

Soviet soldiers moved into Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in June 1940 but were driven out by nazi occupation forces a year later.

The nazis killed 80,000 Jews, or 90 per cent of Latvia’s pre-war Jewish population, before the Red Army liberated the country in 1944.

Relations between Russia and Latvia and Estonia have been strained by the two Baltic states’ persecution of Red Army veterans and the revival of ultra-nationalism and fascism.

The dismantling of the Soviet war memorial, the Bronze Soldier, in Tallinn [in Estonia] just before the May 9 2007 Victory Day celebrations in Russia triggered street protests in which over 1,000 people were arrested and one Russian national was killed.

See also here.

Baltic nazis in South America? Here.

Pet Shop Boys song on Menezes killing


From British daily The Morning Star:

Pet Shop Boys track attacks Menezes shooting

Tuesday 17 March 2009

THE B-side of the new Pet Shop Boys single was written about Jean Charles de Menezes, it was revealed on Tuesday.

We’re All Criminals Now is the second track on the Love Etc CD and includes the lyrics “Got the bus to the station/Music playing in my head/Ran to get on the Tube train/Police shoot someone dead.”

The evergreen electro-pop duo said the song was a comment on the erosion of civil liberties.

Neil Tennant said: “The B-side of the single is about the shooting of Menezes and surveillance cameras and how when you go to the USA you have to give your fingerprints like a common criminal.

“We’re all treated like that, but yet it ends up with someone innocent getting shot, so we feel very strongly about that.”

Mr de Menezes, an electrician from Brazil, was shot dead by two police marksmen on a train at Stockwell Tube station in south London on July 22 2005 after he was mistaken for failed July 21 bomber Hussain Osman.

An inquest jury returned an open verdict in December after hearing three months of evidence.

See also here.

A senior police surveillance officer who admitted tampering with his evidence during the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes was cleared on Tuesday by an official investigation: here.

The driver of the Tube train on which Jean Charles de Menezes was killed has finally received compensation for suffering trauma when he was chased by armed police in the aftermath of the incident: here.

US people against Afghan war


In Britain, most people oppose the war in Afghanistan.

And, according to USA Today:

Poll: More view Afghan war as ‘mistake’

By Tom Vanden Brook

WASHINGTON — American support for the war in Afghanistan has ebbed to a new low, as attacks on U.S. troops and their allies have hit record levels and commanders are pleading for reinforcements, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows.

In the poll taken Saturday and Sunday, 42% of respondents said the United States made “a mistake” in sending military forces to Afghanistan, up from 30% in February. That’s the highest mark since the poll first asked the question in November 2001 when the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban government … .

In January 2002, 6% of respondents called the war “a mistake.”

Those who said the war is going well dropped to 38% in the latest poll, the lowest percentage since that question was asked in September 2006.

Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, concerned about deteriorating security there, has asked for 30,000 additional U.S. troops. President Obama is sending 17,000 troops, but he has ordered a thorough review of the strategy before deciding to send any more. There are about 38,000 U.S. troops there now. …

Success in Afghanistan will depend on Obama’s ability to make the case for more sacrifices there, said Thomas Donnelly, a military analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

The neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute; infamous for global warming denial, militarism, etc. Being a true chickenhawk, Mr Donnelly himself will not go as a soldier to Afghanistan, and will leave that “sacrifice” to others.

Public support for the war “is critical,” Donnelly said, “because it’s almost certainly going to be very long and very difficult.”

The poll found more optimism about the war in Iraq, where security gains have dramatically reduced U.S. casualties. In 2008, 314 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq compared with 904 in 2007.

A majority, 51%, said the war is going well there, about the same as in September. Those saying it is going badly declined to 43% from 47% in September and a peak of 71% in January 2007.

The views on Iraq have to do with the widespread perception that Obama is winding down the Iraq war; as part of the “change” from the Bush war years which he promised during the elections.

How real is that perception? It is a bit early to tell. However, peace demonstrations commemorating the anniversary of Bush’s Iraq invasion, on Saturday 21 March, will help rather than hinder real change.

This is a Steve Bell cartoon about Bush and Obama.

Bush and Obama in Afghanistan, cartoon

Filipinos’ anger about US military rapist


This video says about itself:

July 2 [2013] – Reuters’ Michaela Cabrera reports from the Philippines’ Subic Bay, former site of a U.S. naval base, where the return of U.S. warships is being welcomed by some and watched warily by others.

A video from Philippines TV which used to be on YouTube was called Philippine American Visiting Forces Agreement – a one-sided agreement.

From The Raw Story in the USA:

Filipino activists: US military siding with convicted rapist

Stephen C. Webster

Rage at soldier’s continued detention in embassy stretching diplomatic ties

Late 2006, four US Marines were accused of rape and complicity in the assault of a 22-year-old girl. Today, one convicted rapist’s pending appeal and continued detention in an American embassy has stretched to the breaking point American relations with a country it liberated during World War II.

Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith was convicted of the rape and initially held in a local jail in Manila. Three other US servicemen were accused of complicity in the rape, but their charges were dropped.

“Last month, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that Smith should be returned to the custody of local authorities, saying that an accord between U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney and Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo that had allowed Smith’s move to the embassy violated the Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries,” reported the LA Times. “Critics of the 1999 agreement say it is full of loopholes. They also argue that it should be scrapped as unconstitutional, a claim the Supreme Court rejected.”

“In convicting the Marine, the trial judge concluded that the woman ‘resisted his kisses, pushed him and fought him back until she lost consciousness because of alcoholic drinks she had taken,'” reported the Times.

“She is dismayed. She now expects no more help from the Philippine government, which she feels has sided with Smith,” said Evalyn Ursua, the girl’s attorney, during an interview on dzXL radio, as reported by GMA News.

‘Last weekend, the White House said Obama called President Arroyo and voiced support for the VFA, which governs the conduct of visiting troops during joint military exercises.”

“First of all, let me just clarify that the VFA is not about Smith,” said Deputy presidential spokesman Lorelei Fajardo, in a report by the Philipino Star. “We have not abandoned Nicole. We will be supporting her all the way and I’m sure there will be some kind of a compromise agreement between the two countries so that we can come to terms for the best, for what would be the best for Nicole. I think that should be clear enough.”

“She said the case of Smith is still under appeal and when there is a final conviction, the Philippine authorities would take him into custody.”

“This is not merely ignoring the rights of a Filipino woman who has been assaulted,” Luzviminda Ilagan, a member of the Philippine Congress, in a UPI report, “but the message is also that we are still subservient to the policies of the American government.”

“A resolution seeking to abrogate the treaty, which has the support of six senators, has been referred to the Senate foreign relations committee under Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago,” reported the Inquirer.

If his appeal is not upheld, the girl’s attorney says the accused faces 20 to 40 years in prison.

Britain: Rape case shows sexism ingrained in the police force: here.

The number of extra-judicial killings of suspected criminals in Davao city [in the Philippines] has risen to 888 since 1998. The consensus of human rights organisations is that the murders are the work of a death squad acting in collusion with local government officials: here.

Progressive forces in the Philippines have urged Manila to scrap a military deal with the US after former officials testified that US soldiers have been fighting in Mindanao in violation of the country’s constitution.

A new 10-year agreement that will give US forces extensive access to Philippine military bases was announced yesterday ahead of US President Barack Obama’s arrival in Manila today. Senior US National Security Council (NSC) official Evan Medeiros described the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as “the most significant defence agreement that we have concluded with the Philippines for decades”: here.

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New butterfly species discovered in London museum


Splendeuptychia ackeryi, the new species

From Birdlife:

A splendid new butterfly for science – a new species of butterfly has been found in the collections of the Natural History Museum in London after being held there since 1920.

Blanca Huertas discovered the species, together with two colleagues, on a Conservation Leadership Programme-funded biological expedition in a remote mountain in Colombia in 2005. However, she did not notice it was an undescribed species until she found other specimens in the Natural History Museum collections, also from Colombia but caught in 1920.

The discovery was confirmed by detailed studies of its unusually hairy mouthparts, different to other related species. This butterfly belongs to the genus Splendeuptychia and has been called Splendeuptychia ackeryi in honour of Phil Ackery, the former Collection Manager of the butterfly collections at the Natural History Museum. The description of the “Magdalena Valley Ringlet” was published in the scientific journal Zootaxa in February 2009.

Major oil spill destroys wildlife in Colombian reserve: here.