Guantanamo inmate beaten

From British daily The Morning Star:

Guantanamo inmate ‘beaten with batons’

Wednesday 15 April 2009

A DETAINEE at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay phoned a global TV network on Tuesday to say that he was severely beaten for refusing to leave his cell.

Chadian Mohammed el-Gharani told al-Jazeera that guards beat him with batons and sprayed him with tear gas.

The US has never allowed journalists to interview Guantanamo prisoners and al-Jazeera did not say how it had managed to speak to Mr Gharani.

US army spokesman Brook DeWalt suggested that Mr Gharani may have used one of his weekly phone calls to his family to speak to al-Jazeera.

Mr Gharani did not give the date of the alleged abuse but said it had occurred after the election of US President Barack Obama.

The prisoner says he refused to leave his cell because he was not being permitted to interact with other detainees and was denied “normal food.”

He said that a group of six soldiers in protective gear had forcibly removed him from the cell and beat him, breaking one of his front teeth.

A US judge ruled in January that Mr Gharani should be freed, dismissing the military’s allegations that he was part of al-Qaida and had worked for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Mr Gharani is being held in a section of the camp where prisoners are permitted “privileges” while he awaits release.

See also here.

MILITARY lawyers have urged Washington to follow legally binding protocols it signed in 2002 on child soldiers and release three juveniles who are languishing in Guantanamo: here.

Cephalopods’ common toxic ancestry

By Dani Cooper in Australia:

Cephalopods share common toxic armoury

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The discovery that all octopuses, cuttlefish and some squid are venomous has opened a new range of possibilities for future drug discoveries, an Australian researcher says.

In a paper published in the latest Journal of Molecular Evolution, the researchers also show that the different species of cephalopod all share a common, ancient venomous ancestor.

Venom researcher and lead author Dr Bryan Fry, of the University of Melbourne‘s Bio21 Institute, says one of the limits in adapting animal toxins for medical use has been the narrow range of animals studied.

“New insights into the evolution of venom systems and the medical importance of the toxins cannot be advanced without recognition of the true … diversity of venoms and associated venom systems,” he says.

Fry says although the blue-ringed octopus (Hapalochlaena sp.) remains the only cephalopod species dangerous to humans, it does not make the deadly toxin.

Instead it is produced by endosymbiotic bacteria, which live in a symbiotic relationship within the tissues of the invertebrate.

Joint attack

For the study, Fry and his colleagues obtained tissue samples from octopuses, squid and cuttlefish ranging from the Antarctic, Hong Kong, Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef.

They found cephalopods use venom for predation as part of a joint attack with their beaks.

For example, cuttlefish drill into clam shells with their beaks and inject a toxin that makes the clam open its shell.

Fry says interestingly the size of the species’ beak is inversely related to the size of venom glands.

Through DNA analysis they also discovered different species have similar venom glands, and use similar venom proteins as other toxic animals such as snakes.

Because “there are no coincidences in nature”, Fry says the universal presence of these proteins suggests they have structural or chemical properties that make them predisposed to be useful as toxins.

“Not only will this allow us to understand how these animals have assembled their arsenals, but it will also allow us to better exploit them in the development of new drugs from venoms,” he says. …

Analysis of the genes for venom production also revealed the cephalopods as a prime example of convergent evolution, where species independently develop similar traits.

They found one common set of venom proteins were produced by an ancient ancestor.

But as the octopus and cuttlefish lineages diverged and moved into new ecologies, new proteins were added over time to their chemical arsenals, says Fry.

The collection of specimens for the study from the Antarctic, which was conducted as part the Census of Marine Life, may have also uncovered two or three new species of octopus, he says.

The squid family Ommastrephidae includes my favorite Humboldt squid, along with a lot of other big-time commercial fishery species: here.

Speaking of cephalopods which have surprised by not being too heavy to fly after all, I was reminded of one little cuttlefish who is actually too heavy to swim: Metasepia pfefferi, or Pfeffer’s Flamboyant Cuttlefish: here.

Ex-Bush officials scared of torture charges

From AMERICAblog in the USA:

Former Bush officials can no longer travel abroad, for fear of being extradited under torture charges

by John Aravosis (DC) on 4/14/2009 10:33:00 PM

Funny as hell. And just one more indication of what the Republicans have done to our national image.

See also here. And here.

Spain unlikely to pursue Bush team for torture: here.