Tarantulas, mating season and Halloween


This video says about itself:

31 October 2013

The world’s largest spider, the Goliath tarantula is also a venomous killer that liquefies its prey. Gustavo Hormiga, a biology professor at George Washington University, explains the arachnid’s ferocious hunting strategy—and why there’s no need to fear it unless you’re the size of a mouse.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Tarantulas Are Out At Halloween, But They’re Not Trick or Treating!

Posted on Monday, October 13, 2014 by eNature

Tarantulas are a group of often hairy and very large arachnids belonging to the Theraphosidae family of spiders, of which approximately 900 species have been found on 6 continents.

Halloween is almost here and lots of folks are thinking about spiders such as tarantulas—as well as bats, ghouls and other scary creatures.

But it turns out that tarantulas have a lot more on their mind this month than trick or treating.

It’s mating time for tarantulas.

And the story behind tarantula breeding season is a tale of long journeys, deadly peril, violence and love. It’s an epic worthy of Homer.

Mating Season Is Here

Fall is the time of year when male tarantulas, having finally reached adulthood, come out of the burrows in which they have lived for the first 5 to 12 years of their lives.

Their mission? To seek out females and mate with them. A host of perils awaits the newly emerged male in the outside world, not the least of which is the female herself.

The Women Are In Charge

Female tarantulas are doing what they usually do on warm evenings: sitting in their burrows near the surface, waiting to feel the vibrations of passersby. If the vibrations feel as if they might come from a small animal such as a cricket or another spider, she will rush out, grab the unsuspecting prey item and sink her fangs into it.

Clearly, approaching a female’s burrow is not a task for the faint at heart!

As a male tarantula approaches the burrow of a female, he first tastes the silk that lies around the entrance. If he detects a mature female in residence, he responds by drumming on the surface with his legs and his pedipalps (the leg-like first set of appendages, which are very long on tarantulas). The reason for this drumming is to let the female know that he is interested in mating—and would rather not be mistaken for a meal by the larger and always hungry female.

When and if a female emerges, he continues to drum as he approaches her. If she’s receptive, she will raise up the front end of her body and allow him to grab her fangs with the hook-like projections on his forelegs. He then transfers his sperm to her with his pedipalps.

That was the easy part—the difficult task still lies ahead: he must release her fangs, disengage himself, and make a hasty retreat before she can overpower him and eat him. Even if he successfully escapes from his big date, the male tarantula is still not long for this world. Adult males (mated or not) usually die before winter arrives.

It’s Not Easy Being A Male Tarantula

As if being eaten by your mate isn’t enough to worry about, the male tarantula must also be on the alert for predators like owls, skunks, and foxes.

If he detects the approach of a hungry hunter, his most effective defense is to quickly use his hind legs to kick some of the hairs off of his abdomen. The hairs dislodge easily and are light enough to float into contact with the nose and eyes of the approaching predator. On contact the hairs produce a burning sensation.

This line of defense works well against mammals and birds, but there is another tarantula hunter out there that is an even greater threat, and it is considerably smaller than the spider: it is a wasp called the Tarantula Hawk.

A Wasp That Loves The Taste Of Fresh Tarantula

Tarantula Hawks are among the largest wasps in the world; one North American species exceeds two inches in length. They are handsome insects with metallic blue bodies and orange wings, sometimes seen sipping nectar at flowers (particularly milkweeds) in the early evening hours. Female Tarantula Hawks patrol low over open country, searching for wandering male tarantulas or for the burrows of females.

When the wasp finds a tarantula, she lands and approaches the spider directly. The spider assumes a defensive posture, raising the front legs and baring the lethal-looking fangs. Unfortunately for the spider, this posture also exposes its underside to the agile wasp, which quickly darts under the spider and stings it in a soft spot where the legs join the body.

The sting of the Tarantula Hawk contains a peculiar potion; it paralyzes the spider almost instantly, but does not kill it. The “sleeping” spider is then dragged to a burrow, pulled underground, and buried with a single wasp egg attached to the outside of the body. When the egg hatches, the maggot-like wasp larva has a huge fresh meal waiting for it. The spider is still alive, its tissues undecayed and ready for the wasp larva to devour. The voracious larva will even eat the muscles and other “nonessential” tissue before consuming the still-functioning organs.

So if you are out for a walk or a drive on an early autumn evening and you happen to see a giant hairy spider making his way over the ground, don’t react with fear.

Just wish him the best of luck. With all the perils ahead of him, he’s going to need it!

Ever encounter a tarantula in the wild? Or anywhere else?

We always enjoy hearing your stories!

USA: HALLOWEEN COSTUMES FOR KIDS: SEXISM AT A YOUNG AGE “We quickly located a firefighter costume for boys, complete with a bright red jacket, a traditional helmet and an axe. The girls’ version, on the other hand, is a skin-tight, short, shiny dress that’s surely flammable. It includes a fascinator (in lieu of a helmet) never before seen on a real firefighter.” [HuffPost]

Australian government has racist and sexist adviser


This 16 October 2014 video about Australia is called Barry Spurr allegedly describes Aboriginals as ‘human rubbish tips’ and women as ‘whores’.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Professor Barry Spurr suspended by Sydney University over offensive emails

Spurr, a consultant to the federal government’s national English curriculum review, has been suspended over ‘serious allegations’, university says

Gay Alcorn

Friday 17 October 2014 04.25 BST

The University of Sydney has suspended Prof Barry Spurr over emails in which he called the prime minister, Tony Abbott, an “Abo lover”, Indigenous Australians “human rubbish tips” and Nelson Mandela as a “darky”.

In a statement, the university said Spurr was facing “serious allegations in relation to offensive emails sent from a university account”.

Spurr, a poetry expert, was a specialist consultant to the federal government’s national curriculum review looking at English from foundation to year 12.

The emails, first obtained by website New Matilda, have seriously damaged the review’s findings, with Labor calling them “tainted” and the Australian Education Union saying the review had been exposed as “an ideological waste of time from the start”.

In a series of emails over two years sent to senior academics and officials within the university, Spurr wrote that Abbott would have to be surgically separated from his “Siamese twin”, Australian of the Year and AFL star Adam Goodes, who is Aboriginal.

He said the university’s chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson, was an “appalling minx”,’ while other women were described as “whores”. He used terms such as “mussies” and “chinky-poos”.

The national curriculum review, released this month, largely accepted Spurr’s recommendations regarding the teaching of English. He had asserted in his report to the review that “the impact of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on literature in English in Australia has been minimal” and advised a greater emphasis on the western literary canon.

The university said Spurr was immediately suspended from teaching and was “precluded from attending any university campus while the matter is investigated and dealt with in accordance with the terms of the university’s enterprise agreement”.

“Racist, sexist or offensive language is not tolerated at the University of Sydney.”

The government-appointed heads of the curriculum review, Dr Kevin Donnelly and Prof Ken Wiltshire, chose Spurr as a specialist consultant on English.

Donnelly told Guardian Australia he had not heard of the email story and “would have to Google it”. “I have no comment.” Wiltshire did not respond to requests for comment.

The education minister, Christopher Pyne, attempted to distance the government from the controversy, saying the subject experts were chosen by the independent review and that the government had no involvement. Pyne rejected the denigration of minority groups, saying it was “repugnant”.

Spurr was a well-known conservative critic of the national curriculum before his appointment to review English. In 2010 he contributed to a critique published by the the libertarian think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

In his chapter, Spurr was scathing about the curriculum proposed by the former Labor government. “An empty generosity is proposed, bloated with ramifying detail and long on windy rhetoric, an obesity of the mind: short on nourishing, intellectually-bracing substance. It is the educational equivalent of fast food.”

He also stressed the importance of studying the Bible as “essential” throughout a child’s learning. “The biblical story of Noah’s ark is an obvious example of the kind of text to which the youngest children will be drawn and it can begin their introduction to the ‘great code’ of literature in English.

He has published books including Studying Poetry, See the Virgin Blest: Representations of the Virgin Mary in English Poetry and Anglo-Catholic in Religion: TS Eliot and Christianity.

Spurr’s expert advice to the national curriculum was influential, with most of his recommendations accepted in the final report. He criticised the emphasis on Aboriginal texts, saying the “the impact of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on literature in English in Australia has been minimal and is vastly outweighed by the impact of global literature in English, and especially that from Britain, on our literary culture”.

He noted that the curriculum suggested reading texts that made links between students’ lives and texts about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. “Why aren’t texts mentioned that might establish links between young Australian children’s lives and those from Europe or North America? Why must the linkage be confined to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander texts?”

The review recommended that there should be a “greater emphasis on dealing with and introducing literature from the western literary canon, especially poetry,” which Spurr had urged. It also recommended a “stronger emphasis on exemplary literary texts”, with less focus on “children creating their own literature”, again, a recommendation of Spurr.

In one of the emails published by New Matilda written on 19 April this year, Spurr reveals that Pyne wanted him to compare Australian school curriculums with curriculums from other countries.

“The Californian high school English curriculum has arrived (as Pyne wants me to compare ours with other countries). Another 300 pages of reading!

“And whereas the local curriculum has the phrase ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ on virtually every one of its 300 pages, the Californian curriculum does not ONCE mention native Americans and has only a very slight representation of African-American literature (which, unlike Abo literature, actually exists and has some distinguished productions).”

On Friday, Abbott said he had seen a report about the emails, but ‘“I haven’t had much of a chance to read it yet and I’m not easily upset, I’ve got to say, so I’ll study it closely.”

Shorten said Abbott’s remarks were inadequate. “It is not right when you are the leader of this country to simply laugh off racism. It’s not leadership to not stand up for minorities, to not recognise that what makes this country great is that we come from a hundred different countries, and that adds to the richness of who we are.”

“The government needs to explain and reassure Australians that the view of the reviewer and the disgusting remarks have not infiltrated the curriculum that is taught to all young Australians.”

The federal president of the Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the emails exposed the national curriculum review as ideological.

“It is clear that Professor Spurr’s independent review of the English curriculum had a strong influence on the final review, which quotes him extensively.

“While Pyne can try and distance himself from these shocking remarks, he cannot change the fact that the curriculum review has been tainted by the people that have been chosen to contribute to it.”

NATO’s allies killing each other and civilians in Libya


This video, recorded in Britain, says about itself:

Libyan human rights activist forced to flee Libya

25 April 2013

Magdulien Abaida is a Libyan human and women rights activist who was abducted, beaten and threatened by an Islamist militia in Benghazi. She was forced to flee to gain asylum in the UK and this is her exclusive story speaking out about her ordeal – which she was not able to do whilst in Libya. This was a BBC Newsnight film produced by Sharron Ward, reported by Tim Whewell. Director’s cut version.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Battle in Libya’s second city

Added: Wednesday 15 Oct 2014, 17:37

In the second city of Libya, Benghazi, a fierce battle has been raging all day between radical Islamic militia men and troops of former general Haftar.

Not only a former general. Also a (former?) CIA agent.

Who announced yesterday he would reconquer the city from the Islamists.

Benghazi since this summer has been in the hands of the radical militias, who are united in a coalition. Only small parts of the city and the airport of Benghazi are still in government hands.

Egypt

Residents of the city report to international news agencies that there was fighting in various districts. They also said warplanes were flying over the city. According to news agency AP these are Egyptian aircraft.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are said to actively support the militias; Turkey and Qatar are, on the contrary, on the side of the government.

NOS TV had that wrong, and deleted that last sentence in an update. Quite the contrary, Associated Press says:

Egypt‘s direct military involvement, however, reinforces the notion that Libya has become a proxy battleground for larger regional struggles, with Turkey and Qatar backing the Islamist militias while Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are supporting their opponents.

Whether the wrong earlier NOS version or the presumably correct later Associated Press version: supposed allies of the USA and other NATO countries in the war ‘against ISIS‘ (really against ISIS? The Turkish government against ISIS? Or about oil?) are killing each other and Libyan civilians in Libya.

Egypt says Erdogan’s UNGA speech ‘full of lies and fabrications’. The Turkish president accused Egypt’s President al-Sissi of coming to power in a coup in his speech at the annual UN meet: here.

Warriors of Ansar al-Sharia, one of the militias, are said to have attacked an army base this afternoon. Ansar al-Sharia is held responsible by the United States for the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi in 2012, where the ambassador and three other Americans were killed.

Parliament fled

The armed militias in Libya make a central administration of the country impossible since the fall of former dictator Gaddafi. Also in the capital, Tripoli, the government has no power at all. A militia from Misrata, a city east of Tripoli, is calling the shots there.

The Libyan government and parliament have fled to Tobruk, in the northeast of the country near the border with Egypt.

From Associated Press today:

Egyptian warplanes are bombing positions held by Islamist militias in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi as part of a large-scale operation to rid the city of militants who have held sway there for months, two Egyptian government officials said on Wednesday.

From Middle East Eye:

Pentagon officials have claimed that Egyptian airbases were used by United Arab Emirate pilots in a mysterious series of airstrikes that have hit the Mistratan [sic; Misratan] Led Alliance (MLA) in Tripoli last month. Ten Libyans, picked up in August, are thought to be in the custody of Abu Dhabi‘s State Security Agency (SSA) and are at risk of being tortured, according to Human Rights Watch who called for the UAE to reveal their whereabouts earlier this week.

Nobel Prize winner Malala’s views, don’t drown them in hypocritical praise


This video, recorded in the USA, is called Malala Yousafzai To Obama’s Face: Drones Fuel Terrorism.

Ms Yousafzai won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Media said: ‘because of her stance for girls’ education’. Educating girls contributes to peace indeed, indirectly.

Media usually neglect Malala Yousafzai’s anti-drone warfare stance. This side of her makes her an even more deserving Nobel Prize winner, being more directly pro-peace. Alfred Nobel, founder of the prize, intended it for directly anti-war people.

Helen Keller from the USA is very famous as a champion of blind and deaf people. In the Capitol, where the United States Congress meets, a statue honours her.

However, very often Big Politics and Big Media ignore Ms Keller’s political views: she was a feminist, a pacifist, a socialist, and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Another famous woman from the USA is Katharine Lee Bates, author of the very well-known poem/song America the Beautiful. Ms Bates was a feminist, a lesbian, a Christian socialist, and an anti-imperialist. All of these now conveniently ‘forgotten’ by United States Right wingers, who, when singing America the Beautiful, conveniently forget its later stanzas, so inconvenient for them.

These two women have been dead for a long time. Will a young woman of only seventeen years old now suffer a similar fate at the hands of Big Politics and Big Media?

I will quote now from the blog of Juan Cole in the USA. Juan Cole deserves sharp criticism for his support of the 2011 Libya war; a war which led to disasters for women’s rights, to a sharp increase in racism, to ever worsening bloodshed both within and outside the borders of Libya, and to hundreds of thousands of Libyans becoming refugees to save their lives.

However, this blog post by Juan Cole is better than his views on Libya:

Listening to Nobelist Malala Yousafzai instead of just Honoring Her

By Juan Cole | Oct. 11, 2014

Malala Yousafzai has become the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in history, sharing it this year with India’s Kailash Satyarthi, a children’s rights activist.

Ms. Yousafzai, from Pakistan’s picturesque Swat Valley, was shot in the head by a member of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP or Pakistani Taliban Movement) two years ago this month for standing up for girls’ education.

There is always a danger that in honoring a figure like Malala Yousafzai, the world will drown out her more challenging views. Martin Luther King, Jr. is now mainly lauded for his “I have a Dream” speech but his socialism, anti-imperialism, and opposition to the Vietnam War is little remembered. Likewise, Lila Abu-Lughod has warned against the use of Ms. Yousafzai by powerful white men as a symbol whereby they can pose as champions of Muslim women against Muslim men– an argument first made powerfully in a another context by Gayatri Spivak. The real Malala Yousafzai is harder to deploy for those purposes than is Malala the symbol.

Islamophobes who use her story as an indictment of the religion of Islam have another think coming. She credits her religion with inspiring her values, the values that made here a nobelist: “What the terrorists are doing is against Islam because Islam is a religion of peace. It tells us about equality, it tells us about brotherhood, it tells us about love and friendship and peace, that we should – we should be nice and kind to each other.”

It should be remembered that Ms. Yousafzai told Barack Obama off about his drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) of northwest Pakistan. She said of her meeting with the US president, “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism… Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”

She appears to oppose military action against the Taliban: ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’

She approvingly quoted her father as criticizing novelist Salman Rushdie for his book Satannic [sic; Satanic] Verses, but as standing for freedom of speech for such authors. Her remarks caused her book to be banned in many Pakistani private schools, angering the country’s fundamentalists. She also criticized the denial of rights to Pakistan’s Ahmadi minority.

Honoring someone with the bravery and resiliency and ethical intelligence of a Malala Yousafzai is easy. Taking her more challenging positions seriously and engaging with them is much more difficult.

The blog post might have added that Malala is a supporter of socialism.

It might also have added that Malala sees as her heroine Malalai Joya, Afghan feminist and opponent of the United States and other foreign occupation of her country.

When Stoltenberg, the new boss of militarist organisation NATO, praised Malala, I felt disgust. Don’t let warmongers drown the true voice of the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever; the way the establishment tries to drown Katherine Lee Bates, Helen Keller, Dr Martin Luther King, etc. etc.

Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Pakistani female education activist, shot and wounded but never silenced by the Taliban, became the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize recipient last week. Few women have ever won a Nobel Prize. Of the 867 awards distributed since 1901, just 46 have gone to women: here.

Austrian teenage girls want to leave ISIS


Samra Kesinovic and Sabina Selimovic want to come home

From the Daily Mirror in Britain:

Jihadi ‘poster girls’ want to come home from Syria after growing disillusioned with ISIS lifestyle

Oct 11, 2014 11:02

By Ben Russell

The girls left a note for their parents before they set off to Syria saying: “Don’t look for us. We will serve Allah – and we will die for him”

Two Austrian teenagers who became poster girls for Islamic State are now desperate to come home after reportedly becoming disillusioned with their jihadi lifestyle.

Samra Kesinovic, 17, and her friend Sabina Selimovic, 15, were persuaded to travel to war-torn Syria in April.

The girls, who are the children of Bosnian migrants, had started lecturing schoolmates in Vienna about their Islamic beliefs and left behind a note telling their parents: “Don’t look for us. We will serve Allah – and we will die for him”.

Once they arrived it is believed they were married off to local fighters and both the girls are thought to be pregnant.

Dutch NOS TV says they were married off not to local fighters, but to Chechen ISIS people. When they went to Syria, they were sixteen, respectively fourteen years old.

How Much Moral High Ground Does the US Have Over ISIS? Here.