Bahrain dictatorship arrests hunger striker’s daughter


This video is called Arresting Zainab Al-Khawaja by brutal force – Bahrain Dec.15/2011.

From the BBC:

24 April 2012 Last updated at 12:24 GMT

Leading Bahrain activist Zainab al-Khawaja detained

A prominent pro-democracy activist in Bahrain has been detained for seven days after being arrested for allegedly insulting police, rights groups say.

Zainab al-Khawaja was held on Saturday night after sitting in a road leading to the Bahrain International Circuit, a day before the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Bahraini police have once again brutally dispersed a crowd of protesters calling for the release of a jailed activist serving a life sentence. Witnesses say the Bahraini security forces used tear gas and water cannons against the demonstrators: here.

Bahrain: Grand Prix races on people’s blood: here.

Mark Steel: Give credit to Bernie Ecclestone – every despot should have a Grand Prix: here.

After Formula One scrutiny, Bahrain hires a fan of Saddam Hussein to improve its image: here.

Ovid’s poetry influenced visual arts


Titian, Diana and Actaeon

From daily The Guardian in England:

The transformative effect of Ovid’s Metamorphoses on European art

As a summer National Gallery exhibition will show, Titian was the greatest visualiser of Ovid – but he had some major competition

The National Gallery once put on an exhibition about the influence of the New Testament on western art. Seeing Salvation argued that if you don’t know the biblical story of Christ, you can’t comprehend such paintings as Titian’s Noli Me Tangere. But this summer the same gallery showcases another, very different book that has also exerted a vast influence on European art – Ovid‘s Metamorphoses.

Written in Latin in the reign of the ancient Roman emperor Augustus, who exiled Ovid for naughtiness, this epic poem retells the myths of ancient Greece for a sophisticated Roman audience. Ovid’s audience worshipped these same gods, giving the Greek pantheon Latin names (Zeus became Jupiter or Jove, Aphrodite became Venus, and so on) but found the antics of their deities by turns salacious, shocking, hilarious and tragic.

Ovid tells stories in verse about the crazed love life of Jupiter, driven by his lusts for various nymphs to take the forms of a bull, or a cloud, or a shower of gold in order to trick or seduce them. He tells of the courage of Perseus, who killed Medusa, and the folly of Phaethon, who tried to drive the sun’s chariot. He was the favourite source of classical myth for artists in the 16th and 17th centuries, and reading his book is like flicking through a series of descriptions of famous paintings, so copiously has he been illustrated.

The National Gallery is putting on its show Metamorphosis to celebrate the two great Titians it has purchased in partnership with the National Gallery of Scotland. Diana and Callisto and Diana and Actaeon both depict scenes from Ovid. But if Titian was the greatest visualiser of Ovid he had a lot of competition. Such marvels of art as Correggio’s Jupiter and Io, Michelangelo’s Fall of Phaethon, and Carravaggio’s Medusa all draw heat from Ovid’s imaginative fire.

The exhibition Metamorphosis, an Olympic special tied in with new opera productions, involves works by contemporary British artists – including Chris Ofili and Mark Wallinger – that respond to Ovid’s myths. The gallery is also publishing newly commissioned poems after Ovid by writers who include Seamus Heaney.

Mysterious Ordovician fossil discovered


The mysterious fossil

From the University of Cincinnati in the USA:

Mysterious ‘monster’ discovered by amateur paleontologist

Around 450 million years ago, shallow seas covered the Cincinnati region and harbored one very large and now very mysterious organism. Despite its size, no one has ever found a fossil of this “monster” until its discovery by an amateur paleontologist last year.

The fossilized specimen, a roughly elliptical shape with multiple lobes, totaling almost seven feet in length, will be unveiled at the North-Central Section 46th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America, April 24, in Dayton, Ohio. Participating in the presentation will be amateur paleontologist Ron Fine of Dayton, who originally found the specimen, Carlton E. Brett and David L. Meyer of the University of Cincinnati geology department, and Benjamin Dattilo of the Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne geosciences faculty.

Fine is a member of the Dry Dredgers, an association of amateur paleontologists based at the University of Cincinnati. The club, celebrating its 70th anniversary this month, has a long history of collaborating with academic paleontologists.

“I knew right away that I had found an unusual fossil,” Fine said. “Imagine a saguaro cactus with flattened branches and horizontal stripes in place of the usual vertical stripes. That’s the best description I can give.”

The layer of rock in which he found the specimen near Covington, Kentucky, is known to produce a lot of nodules or concretions in a soft, clay-rich rock known as shale.

“While those nodules can take on some fascinating, sculpted forms, I could tell instantly that this was not one of them,” Fine said. “There was an ‘organic’ form to these shapes. They were streamlined.”

Fine was reminded of streamlined shapes of coral, sponges and seaweed as a result of growing in the presence of water currents.

“And then there was that surface texture,” Fine said. “Nodules do not have surface texture. They’re smooth. This fossil had an unusual texture on the entire surface.”

For more than 200 years, the rocks of the Cincinnati region have been among the most studied in all of paleontology, and the discovery of an unknown, and large, fossil has professional paleontologists scratching their heads.

“It’s definitely a new discovery,” Meyer said. “And we’re sure it’s biological. We just don’t know yet exactly what it is.”

To answer that key question, Meyer said that he, Brett, and Dattilo were working with Fine to reconstruct a timeline working backward from the fossil, through its preservation, burial, and death to its possible mode of life.

“What things had to happen in what order?” Meyer asked. “Something caused a directional pattern. How did that work? Was it there originally or is it post-mortem? What was the burial event? How did the sediment get inside? Those are the kinds of questions we have.”

It has helped, Meyer said, that Fine has painstakingly reassembled the entire fossil. This is a daunting task, since the large specimen is in hundreds of pieces.

“I’ve been fossil collecting for 39 years and never had a need to excavate. But this fossil just kept going, and going, and going,” Fine said. “I had to make 12 trips, over the course of the summer, to excavate more material before I finally found the end of it.”

Even then he still had to guess as to the full size, because it required countless hours of cleaning and reconstruction to put it all back together.

“When I finally finished it was three-and-a-half feet wide and six-and-a-half feet long,” Fine said. “In a world of thumb-sized fossils that’s gigantic!”

Meyer, co-author of A Sea without Fish: Life in the Ordovician Sea of the Cincinnati Region</em>, agreed that it might be the largest fossil recovered from the Cincinnati area.

“My personal theory is that it stood upright, with branches reaching out in all directions similar to a shrub,” Fine said. “If I am right, then the upper-most branch would have towered nine feet high. “

As Meyer, Brett and Dattilo assist Fine in studying the specimen, they have found a clue to its life position in another fossil. The mystery fossil has several small, segmented animals known as primaspid trilobites attached to its lower surface. These small trilobites are sometimes found on the underside of other fossilized animals, where they were probably seeking shelter.

“A better understanding of that trilobite‘s behavior will likely help us better understand this new fossil,” Fine said.

Although the team has reached out to other specialists, no one has been able to find any evidence of anything similar having been found. The mystery monster seems to defy all known groups of organisms, Fine said, and descriptions, even pictures, leave people with more questions than answers.

The presentation April 24 is a “trial balloon,” Meyer said, an opportunity for the team to show a wide array of paleontologists what the specimen looks like and to collect more hypotheses to explore.

“We hope to get a lot of people stopping by to offer suggestions,” he said.

In the meantime, the team is playing around with potential names. They are leaning toward “Godzillus.”

See also here (with photos).

Horse fossil discovery in Tibet


This video from the USA is called Pliocene Epoch – Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land.

From the Institute of Vertebrae Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences:

Three-toed horses reveal the secret of the Tibetan Plateau uplift

April 24, 2012

The Tibetan Plateau is the youngest and highest plateau on Earth, and its elevation reaches one-third of the height of the troposphere, with profound dynamic and thermal effects on atmospheric circulation and climate. The uplift of the Tibetan Plateau was an important factor of global climate change during the late Cenozoic and strongly influenced the development of the Asian monsoon system. However, there have been heated debates about the history and process of Tibetan Plateau uplift, especially elevations in different geological ages.

In PNAS Early Edition online April 23, 2012, Dr. Tao Deng from Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his team report a well-preserved skeleton of a 4.6 million-year-old three-toed horse (Hipparion zandaense) from the Zanda Basin, southwestern Tibet. Morphological features indicate that the Zanda horse was a cursorial horse that lived in alpine steppe habitats. Because this open landscape would be situated above the timberline on the steep southern margin of the Tibetan Plateau, the elevation of the Zanda Basin 4.6 Ma ago was estimated to be ~4,000 m above sea level using an adjustment to the temperature in the middle Pliocene as well as comparison with modern vegetation vertical zones. Thus, Deng and his team conclude that the southwestern Tibet achieved the present-day elevation in the mid-Pliocene.

Fossils of the three-toed horse genus Hipparion that have been found on the Tibetan Plateau have provided concrete evidence for studying the uplift of the plateau, including a skull with associated mandible of Hipparion zandaense from Zanda. In August 2009 a three-toed horse skeleton was excavated from the Zanda Basin, and its dental morphology confirmed the assignment to H. zandaense.

The Zanda Basin is a late-Cenozoic sedimentary basin located just north of the high Himalayan ridge crest in the west-central part of the orogen (32° N, 82° E). …

More information: Original paper: here.

Extinct Fox Species With Supersharp Teeth Discovered in Tibet: here.

Homophobic attack on Japanese women band


This is a music video of Japanese all-women group AKB48.

AFP news agency reports on it:

‘Lesbian’ Japan pop group ad slammed

A commercial showing members of wildly popular all-girl band AKB48 passing bite-sized candies seductively from mouth-to-mouth is under fire in Japan for encouraging homosexuality. The advertisement, which aired in March, shows the school uniform-clad young women – all in their late teens or early 20s – intimately exchanging the sweet, with the close-up footage slowing as their lips near.

A broadcasting standards watchdog said on Thursday the majority of the 116 complaints it had received in March about commercials concerning young people related to this advert.

“The commercial may encourage homosexuality,” one of the complaints said, adding “oral flora” was also a concern, according to the Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organisation.

Sadly, homophobia is alive. Not limited to just one religion. Not just sixty years ago, but still today. Not just in the Netherlands, or the USA, or England, or ‘liberated’ Croatia, or ‘liberated’ Iraq.

Britain: Religious groups were under pressure on Sunday over allegations that the Catholic Education Service urged schools to back an anti same-sex marriage campaign; here.

USA: North Carolina Pastor Sean Harris: Parents Should ‘Punch’ Their Gay-Acting Children (AUDIO): here.

Kentucky Catholic high school bans lesbian couple from prom: here.

Mary Jamis, North Carolina Lesbian Seeking Marriage License, Arrested: here.

Republican congressman says it should be legal to fire someone for being gay: here.

Obama and marriage equality: here.

Rare crested ibis baby in Japan


This video from Japan is about a young rare crested ibis, recently hatched.

From News on Japan:

Rare crested ibis hatches in Japan

Japanese wildlife researchers say a crested ibis chick hatched in the wild is the first of the endangered birds born outside captivity in 36 years. The nestling hatched from an egg produced by a pair of the endangered birds on Sado Island in Niigata prefecture, the Environment Ministry said Sunday.

Its parents, a 3-year-old male and 2-year-old female, were raised at an ibis conservation center on the island and released into the wild in March 2011.

They were found to have built a nest on March 16 of this year, Jiji Press reported, and the chick’s birth was recorded by a remote camera placed near the nest.