Shark versus whale, 4 million years ago


From New Scientist:

Shark versus whale, 4 million years BC

* 13:00 05 May 2009 by Ewen Callaway

Palaeontologists have discovered a fossilised great white shark tooth lodged in a four-million-year-old whale mandible bone – a first.

A team led by Dana Ehret, of the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, unearthed the unique specimen in southern Peru’s Pisco Formation, which during the Pliocene, the period around 2 to 5 million years ago, was an ocean.

But did the shark kill the whale, or merely scavenge its corpse? Find out in our gallery

Journal reference: PALAIOS, DOI: 10.2110/palo.2008.p08-077r

According to the Palaios article, the shark is a Carcharodon sp. (same genus, but not necessarily the same species, as the present great white shark). The whale is a mysticete whale.

Whale Evolution with Pictures: here.

Here, I report a new toothed mysticete from the Late Oligocene of Australia that is more archaic than any previously described: here.

Fossil Shark And Seal Bone Bed Helps Reconstruct Life Along California’s Ancient Coastline: here. And here.

Pliocene shark fossils in the Netherlands, here.

According to a new study; a mysterious population of Killer whales off the British Columbia coast specializes in killing sharks: here.

Author Marilyn French dies


Marilyn FrenchFrom Dutch NOS TV:

In New York, the feminist US American author Marilyn French has died. She was 79 years old. In 1977, French published her first work, The Women’s Room, a partially autobiographical novel about an oppressed woman. Worldwide, over 20 million copies of it were sold.

She was unable to find a publisher in the USA for her last book, In the name of Friendship, in 2006. It was published in the Netherlands then. After this proved to be a success, it was published in the US after all.

See also here. And here.

“Big number” of Afghan civilians killed by NATO


This video is called US troops kill civilians in Afghanistan, people protest.

From DPA news agency:

Afghan civilians killed in NATO airstrike aimed at Taliban

Posted : Tue, 05 May 2009 10:23:24 GMT

Kabul – Around 30 people including “a big number” of civilians and several Taliban militants were killed in a clash with international forces in western Afghanistan, a provincial governor said Tuesday. …

“Around 30 Taliban and civilians were killed by ground forces and airstrikes,” he said, adding that the total number of casualties remained unclear as some civilian homes were bombed and authorities had no precise information on how many civilians were killed in the raid. …

Civilian casualties during the anti-Taliban operation have become a delicate issue in Afghanistan.

President Hamid Karzai has pleaded several times with the NATO forces to avoid civilian deaths during their operations and has admitted that his repeated demands have strained his relations with some Western countries that have soldiers in the country.

A summit meeting in Washington between President Barack Obama and his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts, Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari, has been overshadowed by the worst massacre of Afghan civilians since the US invaded the country in October 2001: here.

200 New Amphibian Species In Madagascar Discovered


From ScienceDaily:

(May 5, 2009) — A study with participation of the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC) identified between 129 and 221 new species of frogs from Madagascar, which practically doubles the currently known amphibian fauna. This study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, suggests that the number of amphibian species in Madagascar, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, has been significantly underestimated. According to the researchers, if these results are extrapolated at a global scale, the number of amphibian species worldwide could double. …

The paper suggests that the total biodiversity on the island could be much higher also in other groups, so the actual destruction of natural habitats may be affecting more species than previously thought. This is important for conservation planning, as the rate of destruction of rainforests in Madagascar has been one of the highest in the planet, with more than 80% of the historic surface of rainforest already lost. …

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and one of the most biodiverse areas globally, with a high degree of endemic species. “To get an idea of its biodiversity, while in the Iberian Peninsula are about 30 species of amphibians and in Germany about 20, in a single locality in Madagascar we can find ca. 100 species of frogs”, explains Vieites.

Photos: here.

Spanish investigation of Bush’s torture crimes


This video from the USA is called Olbermann: We cannot let mistakes of the past haunt our future! Bush Torture Memos.

By Paul Mitchell:

Spain: Garzón investigation reveals abuse suffered by Guantánamo detainees

5 May 2009

The criminal investigation launched this month by Spain’s top investigative judge, Baltasar Garzón, into allegations of torture at Guantánamo Bay and other US prison camps is based on the evidence of four detainees who were subsequently sent to Spain for trial. All four were accused of being Al Qaeda members, but Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed and Lahcen Ikassrien were acquitted by Spain’s High Court, and Abdul Latif Al-Banna and Omar Deghayes had their warrants for arrest in the UK cancelled.

Garzón’s investigation targets the “possible material authors, enablers and accomplices” of these illegal abuses, possibly including the high-level Bush administration officials, responsible for what amounts to an “authorized and systematic plan for torture and harsh treatment of people deprived of their freedom without any charges and without the most basic elemental rights for detainees, set forth and demanded by international treaties.”

MI5 secretly tried to hire British men held in Guantanamo Bay and other US prison camps by promising to protect them from their American captors and help secure their return home to the United Kingdom, The Independent has learnt: here.

Julia Sweig: Give Guantanamo back to the Cuban people: here.

CIA Was Authorized to Keep Prisoners Awake for 11 Days: here.

Bybee’s memo: Judge should resign or be impeached …by the Salt Lake Tribune: here.

Guantanamo inmate ‘slashes wrists’: here.

Former Guantanamo prisoner Omar Deghayes speaks out: here.

Did Gauguin cut off Van Gogh’s ear?


Van Gogh, Self-portrait with bandaged ear

From British daily The Guardian:

Art historians claim Van Gogh‘s ear ‘cut off by Gauguin

* Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
* Monday 4 May 2009 21.55 BST

Vincent van Gogh‘s fame may owe as much to a legendary act of self-harm, as it does to his self-portraits. But, 119 years after his death, the tortured post-Impressionist’s bloody ear is at the centre of a new controversy, after two historians suggested that the painter did not hack off his own lobe but was attacked by his friend, the French artist Paul Gauguin.

According to official versions, the disturbed Dutch painter cut off his ear with a razor after a row with Gauguin in 1888. Bleeding heavily, Van Gogh then walked to a brothel and presented the severed ear to an astonished prostitute called Rachel before going home to sleep in a blood-drenched bed.

But two German art historians, who have spent 10 years reviewing the police investigations, witness accounts and the artists’ letters, argue that Gauguin, a fencing ace, most likely sliced off the ear with his sword during a fight, and the two artists agreed to hush up the truth.

In Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence, published in Germany, Hamburg-based academics Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans argue that the official version of events, based largely on Gauguin’s accounts, contain inconsistencies and that both artists hinted that the truth was more complex.

See also here. And here.