Rare wall lizard on New Years Day


This is a wall lizard video from Switzerland.

On New Years Day, three young rare wall lizards were seen in the Twente region in Overijssel province in the Netherlands.

The photo is here.

So far, this species was basically only known from Maastricht in the extreme southern Netherlands.

Arafat was murdered, Israeli former MP says


This video says about itself:

6 Nov 2013

Al Jazeera Exclusive

Studies by Swiss scientists have discovered levels of polonium at least 18 times higher than normal in Yasser Arafat‘s ribs, pelvis and in soil that absorbed his remains.

They say their data is compatible with the theory that the Palestinian leader was poisoned with the radioactive element at a level up to 83 per cent.

A leading forensic scientist now say it’s almost certain he was murdered.

An Al Jazeera investigation triggered the Palestinian leader’s exhumation in November last year.

Al Jazeera’s Clayton Swisher reports from Paris.

www.aljazeera.com/killlingarafat

By Uri Avnery (former Member of Parliament in Israel):

The Assassination

16/11/13

FROM THE first moment, I did not have the slightest doubt that Yasser Arafat was assassinated.

It was a matter of simple logic.

On the way back from the funeral, I happened upon Jamal Zahalka, a member of the Knesset for the nationalist Arab Balad party, who is a highly qualified doctoral pharmacist. We exchanged views and came to the same conclusion.

The findings of the Swiss experts last week only confirmed my conviction.

FIRST OF all, a simple fact: people don’t just die for no reason.

I visited Arafat a few weeks before it happened. He seemed in reasonably good health. Upon leaving, I remarked to Rachel, my wife, that he seemed more sharp and alert than during our last visit.

When he suddenly became very ill, there was no obvious cause. The doctors at the French military hospital, to which he was transferred at the insistence of Suha, his wife, and where he died, conducted a thorough examination of his body. They found no explanation for his condition. Nothing.

That by itself was very strange. Arafat was the leader of his people, the de facto head of a state, and one can be sure that the French doctors left no stone unturned to diagnose the case.

That left only radiation or poison. Why was no poison detected at the autopsy? The answer is simple: in order to detect a poison, one must know what one is looking for. The list of poisons it almost unlimited, and the routine search is restricted to a small number.

Arafat’s body was not examined for radioactive polonium.

WHO HAD the opportunity to administer the poison?

Well, practically anybody.

During my many visits with him, I always wondered at the lax security precautions.

At our first meeting, in besieged Beirut, I wondered at the trust he put in me. It was known at the time that dozens of Mossad agents and Phalangist spies were combing the city for him. He could not be sure that I was not a Mossad agent myself, or that I was not followed, or that I was not unwittingly carrying some locating device.

Later, in Tunis, the security search of his visitors was perfunctory. The security precautions of the Israeli Prime Minister were immeasurably more stringent.

In the Ramallah Mukata’a (“compound”), no security measures were added. I had meals with him several times, and wondered again at his openness. American and other foreign guests, who were (or seemed to be) pro-Palestinian activists were invited by him freely, sat next to him and could easily have slipped poison into his food. Arafat would joke with his guests and feed them choice tidbits with his hand.

Certain poisons do not need food. Slight physical contact is enough.

YET THIS man was one of the most threatened persons in the world. He had many deadly enemies, half a dozen secret services were bent on his destruction. How could he be so lax?

When I remonstrated with him, he told me that he believed in divine protection.

Once, when he was flying in a private jet from Chad to Libya, the pilot announced that the fuel had run out. He was going to crash land in the middle of the desert. Arafat’s bodyguards covered him with cushions and formed a ring around him. They were killed, but he survived almost without a scratch.

Since then he became even more fatalistic. He was a devout – though unostentatious – Muslim. He believed that Allah had entrusted him with the task of liberating the Palestinian people.

SO WHO carried out the assassination?

For me, there cannot be any real doubt.

Though many had a motive, only one person had both the means and a profound and lasting hatred for him – Ariel Sharon.

Sharon was furious when Arafat slipped through his fingers in Beirut. Here was his quarry, so near yet so far. The Arab-American diplomat Philip Habib managed to make an arrangement which allowed the PLO fighters, including Arafat, to withdraw with honor from the city, with their arms. I was lying on the roof of a warehouse in Beirut Harbor when the PLO troops, flags flying, were driving by to the ships.

I did not see Arafat. His men were hiding him in their midst.

Since then, Sharon made no secret of his determination to kill him. And when Sharon was resolved to do something, he never, but never, gave up. Even in much smaller matters, if he was thwarted, he would return to his effort again and again and again, until he succeeded.

I knew Sharon well. I knew of his determination. Twice, when I felt that Sharon was nearing his goal, I went with Rachel and some colleagues to the Mukata’a to serve as a human shield. Later we had the satisfaction of reading an interview with Sharon, in which he complained that he had not been able to carry out the planned assassination because “some Israelis were staying there”.

THIS WAS much more than a personal vendetta. He – and not only he – saw it as a national aim.

For Israelis, Arafat was the embodiment of the Palestinian people, an object of abysmal hatred. He was hated more than any other human being after Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann. The generations-old conflict with the Palestinian people was personified by this man.

It was Arafat who had resurrected the modern Palestinian national movement, whose supreme aim was to thwart the Zionist dream of taking possession of all the country between the sea and the Jordan. It was he who had led the armed struggle (a.k.a. terrorism). And when he turned towards a peaceful settlement, recognized the State of Israel and signed the Oslo Accords, he was even more hated. Peace was bound to give back a lot of territories to the Arabs, and what could be worse?

The hatred of Arafat had long since ceased to be rational. For many, it was a total, physical rejection, a deadly brew of hate, aversion, enmity, mistrust. In the forty or so years after he appeared on the stage, millions upon millions of words had been written about him in Israel, but I truly believe that I have never seen a single positive word about him.

For all those years, an entire army of paid propaganda hacks conducted a relentless demonization campaign against his person. Every conceivable accusation was thrown at him. The assertion that he had AIDS, which is now so prominent in the Israeli covert propaganda effort, was invented then in order to mobilize homophobic prejudices. Needless to say, no evidence of homosexuality was ever presented. And the French doctors found no trace of AIDS.

IS THE Israeli government capable of deciding to carry out such a deed? It is an established fact that it is.

In September 1997, an Israeli hit squad was sent to Amman to assassinate Khalid Mishal, the Hamas leader. The chosen instrument was levofentanyl, a deadly poison that leaves no traces and produces effects like a heart attack. It was administered by a slight physical touch.

The act was bungled. The killers were detected by passers-by and fled into the Israeli embassy, where they were besieged. King Hussein, generally an Israeli collaborator, was furious. He threatened to hang the perpetrators unless a life-saving antidote was provided at once. The then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, caved in and sent the Chief of the Mossad to Amman with the required medicine. Mishal was saved.

Later, in 2010, another squad was sent to assassinate another Hamas operative, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel. They bungled the job, too – though they succeeded in killing their prey by paralyzing and then suffocating him, they were filmed by the hotel cameras and their identity disclosed.

God knows how many un-bungled murders have been carried out this way.

Israel, of course, is not alone in this field. Before, a Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, was ill-advised enough to displease Vladimir Putin. He was killed by the same radioactive polonium as Arafat, but before he died an alert doctor detected the poison. Even before, a Bulgarian dissident was poisoned by a tiny pellet fired from an umbrella,. One must assume that every self-respecting secret service has suchlike means of murder.

WHY DIDN’T Sharon kill Arafat before? After all, the Palestinian leader was besieged for a very long time in his Ramallah compound. I myself saw Israeli soldiers a few meters away from his office.

The answer is political. The US was afraid that if Israel was seen killing the PLO chief, a hero to tens of millions around the Arab world, the region would explode against the US. George Bush the son forbade it. The answer was to do it in a way that could not be traced to Israel.

This, by the way, was quite usual for Sharon. A few weeks before his 1982 invasion of Lebanon, he told the US Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, about his plan. Haig forbade it – unless there was a credible provocation. Lo and behold, a dastardly attempt was made on the life of the Israeli ambassador in London, the provocation was duly deemed to be intolerable and the war started.

For the same reason, the Netanyahu government now strenuously denies Israeli involvement in the assassination of Arafat. Instead of bragging about the successful operation, our powerful propaganda machine asserts that the Swiss experts are incompetent or lying (probably they are also anti-Semites), and that the conclusions are wrong. A respected Israeli professor is trotted out to declare that it is all nonsense. Even the good old story about AIDS is called out of retirement.

Sharon himself, in his endless coma, cannot react. But his old assistants, all of them seasoned liars, repeat their mendacious stories.

TO MY mind, the assassination of Arafat was a crime against Israel.

Arafat was the man who was ready to make peace and who was able to get the Palestinian people to accept it. He also laid down the terms: a Palestinian state with borders based on the Green Line, with its capital in East Jerusalem.

This is exactly what his assassins aimed to prevent.

See also here.

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Triassic fossil fish discovery in Switzerland


This video says about itself:

Body elongation in early fish evolution

7 Oct 2013

In Saurichthys, an early ray-finned fish, the vertebral arches of the axial skeleton are doubled, resulting in the elongation of the body and giving it a needlefish-like appearance. This video illustrates the hypothetical evolutionary transformation from a generalized fish in the late Permian to the specialized vertebral column and body shape of Saurichthys in the early Triassic.

From Sci-News.com:

Saurichthys: Unusual 240-Million-Year-Old Fossil Fish

Oct 8, 2013 by Enrico de Lazaro

A newly discovered fossil of an early ray-finned fish, named Saurichthys curionii, from the Middle Triassic of Switzerland reveals a previously unknown mechanism of axial skeleton elongation.

The extreme elongation of body axis occurred in one of two ways: through the elongation of the individual vertebrae of the vertebral column; or through the development of additional vertebrae and associated muscle segments.

Unlike other known fish with elongate bodies, the vertebral column of Saurichthys does not have one vertebral arch per myomeric segment, but two, which is unique. This resulted in an elongation of the body and gave it an overall elongate appearance.

“This evolutionary pattern for body elongation is new,” said Dr Erin Maxwell from the University of Zurich, lead author of the paper published in Nature Communications.

“Previously, we only knew about an increase in the number of vertebrae and muscle segments or the elongation of the individual vertebrae.”

According to Dr Maxwell and his colleagues, Saurichthys was certainly not as flexible as today’s eels and, unlike modern oceanic fishes such as tuna, was probably unable to swim for long distances at high speed.

Based upon its appearance and lifestyle, the roughly half-meter-long fish is most comparable to the garfish or needlefish that exist today.

Your Inner Fish” is a three-part series currently being aired on Public Television (10 pm EST). Narrated by fish paleontologist Neil Shubin and based on his book of the same name, the program explores the evolution of the vertebrate body structure, and how the anatomy of the human body expresses this lineage; first from ancient fish, then extinct reptiles and finally mammals: here.

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New Leonardo da Vinci discovery?


The painting appears to be a completed, painted version of a pencil sketch drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in Mantua in the Lombardy region of northern Italy in 1499

From the Daily Telegraph in Britain:

Leonardo da Vinci painting lost for centuries found in Swiss bank vault

It was lost for so long that it had assumed mythical status for art historians. Some doubted whether it even existed.

By Nick Squires, Rome

3:32PM BST 04 Oct 2013

But a 500-year-old mystery was apparently solved today after a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci was discovered in a Swiss bank vault.

The painting, which depicts Isabella d’Este, a Renaissance noblewoman, was found in a private collection of 400 works kept in a Swiss bank by an Italian family who asked not to be identified.

It appears to be a completed, painted version of a pencil sketch drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in Mantua in the Lombardy region of northern Italy in 1499.

The sketch, the apparent inspiration for the newly found work, hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

For centuries it had been debated whether Leonardo had actually had the time or inclination to develop the sketch into a painted portrait.

After seeing the drawing he produced, the marquesa wrote to the artist, imploring him to produce a full-blown painting.

But shortly afterwards he embarked on one of his largest works, The Battle of Anghiari on the walls of Florence’s town hall, and then, in 1503, started working on the Mona Lisa.

Art historians had long believed he simply ran out of time — or lost interest — in completing the commission for Isabella d’Este.

Now it appears that he did in fact manage to finish the project — perhaps when he encountered the aristocrat, one of the most influential female figures of her day, in Rome in 1514.

Scientific tests suggest that the oil portrait is indeed the work of da Vinci, according to Carlo Pedretti, a professor emeritus of art history and an expert in Leonardo studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“There are no doubts that the portrait is the work of Leonardo,” Prof Pedretti, a recognised expert in authenticating disputed works by Da Vinci, told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“I can immediately recognise Da Vinci’s handiwork, particularly in the woman’s face.”

Tests have shown that the type of pigment in the portrait was the same as that used by Leonardo and that the primer used to treat the canvas on which it was painted corresponds to that employed by the Renaissance genius.

Carbon dating, conducted by a mass spectrometry laboratory at the University of Arizona, has shown that there is a 95 per cent probability that the portrait was painted between 1460 and 1650.

But there needs to be further analysis to determine whether certain elements of the portrait — notably a golden tiara on the noblewoman’s head and a palm leaf held in her hand like a sceptre — were the work of Leonardo or one of his pupils, Prof Pedretti said.

A likely contender would be Gian Giacomo Caprotti, nicknamed Salai, who began working with Leonardo as a child and is believed to have become his lover.

He is believed to have entered Leonardo’s household around 1490, when he was about 10 years old.

Working as the artist’s apprentice for the next 20 years, he acquired the nickname Salai, or Little Devil. He was the subject of several erotic drawings produced by the Renaissance master.

The newly discovered portrait, which measures 24in by 18in, does bear a striking similarity to the Leonardo sketch held by the Louvre — the woman’s posture, her hairstyle and her dress are almost identical, while her enigmatic smile recalls that of the Mona Lisa.

Martin Kemp, professor emeritus of the history of art at Trinity College, Oxford, and one of the world’s foremost experts on da Vinci, said if the find was authenticated it would be worth “tens of millions of pounds” because there are only 15 to 20 genuine da Vinci works in the world.

But he raised doubts about whether the painting was really the work of Leonardo.

The portrait found in Switzerland is painted on canvas, whereas Leonardo favoured wooden boards.

“Canvas was not used by Leonardo or anyone in his production line,” Prof Kemp told The Daily Telegraph. “Although with Leonardo, the one thing I have learnt is never to be surprised.”

There are further doubts – Leonardo gave away his original sketch to the marquesa, so he would not have been able to refer to it later in order to paint a full oil version.

“You can’t rule out the possibility but it seems unlikely,” Prof Kemp said.

It was more likely to have been produced by one of the many artists operating in northern Italy who copied Leonardo’s works.

Good malaria news


This video is called New malaria vaccine ‘highly effective’ in tests.

From Nature:

Zapped malaria parasite raises vaccine hopes

Maverick malaria vaccine achieves 100% protection using parasites from irradiated mosquitoes.

08 August 2013

A malaria vaccine has become the first to provide 100% protection against the disease, confounding critics and far surpassing any other experimental malaria vaccine tested. It will now be tested further in clinical trials in Africa.

The results are important because they demonstrate for the first time the concept that a malaria vaccine can provide a high level of protection, says Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, adding that the findings are cause for “cautious optimism”.

No effective malaria vaccine is available at present. The World Health Organization has set a target to develop a malaria vaccine with 80% efficacy by 2025, but until now, says Fauci, “we have not even gotten anywhere near that level of efficacy.”

Scientists had previously been sceptical of the vaccine because producing it required overcoming massive logistical hurdles. The vaccine — called PfSPZ because it is made from sporozoites (SPZ), a stage in the life cycle of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) — uses a weakened form of the whole parasite to invoke an immune response.

In the phase I safety trial, reported today in Science1, the six subjects given five doses intravenously were 100% protected from later challenge by bites of infectious mosquitoes, whereas five of six unvaccinated controls developed malaria — as did three of nine people given only four doses of the vaccine.

PfSPZ was developed by Sanaria, a company based in Rockville, Maryland, and led by Stephen Hoffman, a veteran malaria researcher who also led the PfSPZ clinical trial. Most malaria-vaccine candidates are recombinant-subunit vaccines containing just a handful of parasite proteins, but Hoffman decided to test the whole-sporozoite vaccine on the basis of past experiments dating back to the 1970s showing that strong and long-lived protection could be obtained by exposing volunteers to thousands of bites from irradiated infected mosquitoes2.

That the vaccine works so well is a “pivotal success,” says Stefan Kappe, a malaria researcher at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute in Washington.”The trial results constitute the most important advance in malaria vaccine development since the first demonstration of protection with radiation attenuated sporozoite immunization by mosquito bite in the 70s.”

Against the odds

But to make PfSPZ was challenging. Sanaria succeeded in raising mosquitoes in sterile conditions on an industrial scale, feeding them blood infected with the malaria parasite and then irradiating them to weaken the parasite so that it can still infect people but not cause disease.

Billions of parasites were then harvested from the mosquitoes’ salivary glands, purified and cryopreserved. Many researchers were highly sceptical that sporozoites could be mass-produced in a way that passed the strict quality and safety standards needed for human medicines, notes Fauci. “To my amazement, Hoffman did it,” he adds.

Hoffman says that he hopes to have a vaccine licensed within four years. The trial now needs to be repeated and extended in regions where malaria is rampant to test whether it provides protection against different strains of the parasite than that used in the vaccine, and to see how it performs in different age groups, including young children. The first trials will be carried out at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania.

Piggybacking infrastructure

Even if the vaccine is shown to be highly effective in the field, logistical difficulties might limit its applicability. In mass vaccination campaigns, hundreds of people are vaccinated within minutes, so vaccines are usually given orally or by injection into or just under the skin. Intravenous injection is more cumbersome. “It’s very unlikely to be deployable in infants or young children,” argues Adrian Hill, a malaria researcher at the Jenner Institute in Oxford, UK.

In 2011, a clinical trial of PfSPZ given under the skin reported disappointing results, protecting only two of 80 subjects3. But the need to deliver the vaccine intravenously “is not a show-stopper”, says Hoffman, noting that the volume of vaccine —  0.5 millilitres — is tiny and requires a tiny syringe, although the company is exploring ways to improve the intravenous delivery system.

Another logistical hurdle, says Hill, is that the vaccine must be kept frozen in liquid nitrogen vapour phase. Hoffman argues, however, that the vaccine can piggyback on veterinary infrastructure in places that use liquid nitrogen to store and transport veterinary vaccines and semen for artificial insemination of livestock. “If you can carry semen into the deep Saharan belt and remote areas, why can’t you do that for a human vaccine?” says Marcel Tanner, director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel, Switzerland, which is a sponsor of the trial in Tanzania.

“Which of the logistical challenges can be managed and which will become show-stoppers can be difficult to predict,” says David Kaslow, director of the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative in Washington, DC, a public–private partnership for malaria-vaccine development.

Kappe hopes the trial results will encourage funders to invest more in optimizing this vaccine approach. “If we were talking about an HIV vaccine, there would be no question about investing in this type of success,” he says.

Nature
doi:10.1038/nature.2013.13536

References

  1. Seder, R. A. et al. Science http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1241800 (2013).
  2. Hoffman, S. L. et al. J. Infect. Dis. 185, 1155–1164 (2002).
  3. Epstein, J. E. et al. Science 334, 475–480 (2011).

See also here.

Nazi terrorism in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland


This video says about itself:

French town reacts after arrest of Norwegian neo-Nazi

Jul 16, 2013

A Norwegian neo-Nazi metal rocker and convicted killer has been arrested in France over fears of a terror plot, amidst surprise from neighbours.

There is more nazi terrorism than just Kristian Vikernes, arrested recently in France.

From The Local in Germany:

German police raid Nazi ‘Werewolf’ lairs

Published: 17 July 13 13:26 CET

Police launched raids in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland Wednesday against six suspected members of a far-right “Werewolf” cell modelled on late-World War II plans for a Nazi guerrilla resistance.

Four suspects in the three countries, plus two neo-Nazis in detention in Switzerland, were suspected of having formed a terrorist organisation that was considering violent attacks, said Germany’s federal prosecution office.

The aim of the coordinated raids, which targeted homes, business premises and jail cells and involved about 50 police in Germany alone, was to gather evidence against the suspects, prosecutors said. No arrests were made.

The men “are suspected of having founded a right-wing extremist ‘werewolf command’,” said prosecutors, referring to the Nazi’s unrealised plan for a clandestine “Werewolf” commando force that would mount a rebellion against victorious Allied forces in Germany.

“The group’s apparent objective was to eradicate the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany,” said prosecutors in a statement. Members of the extremist group were believed to have developed their own electronic encryption programme to evade surveillance.

The raids in Germany took places in the northern states of Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Suspected Terrorist Network: Police Raid Neo-Nazi ‘Werwolf’ Cell: here.

Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad reports that near Rotterdam, police investigated the house of nazi Joern B. “Joern B.” seems to be a misspelling for Jeroen Boers.