Rare moustached warbler in Dutch national park

This video from Cyprus is called Moustached WarblerAcrocephalus melanopogon.

Today, a moustached warbler was heard in the Dutch Biesbosch national park.

It was only the second time ever in the Netherlands for this south European bird, a rare vagrant further north.

Last year, one was heard and ringed in the Ooijpolder nature reserve near Nijmegen.

Trump xenophobia bars Canadian nurses from the USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

30 January 2017

Donald Trump’s presidency was too much to bear for one woman so she died the day after his inauguration. The tongue and cheek obituary for Robin Porch was posted in the local St. Louis, Missouri newspaper. Her family wrote, “With Trump as president, Canada wasn’t far enough, so she moved to Heaven.” Robin was a retired registered nurse at a hospital. The 62-year-old enjoyed reading and spending time with her grandchildren.

By Shannon Jones in the USA:

US immigration bars Canadian nurses employed at Michigan hospitals

18 March 2017

At least 30 Canadian nurses working at US hospitals in the state of Michigan were told last week that they could not enter the country because of changes to immigration policies under the Trump administration.

According to a CBC report, Canadian nurses employed at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital were not able to renew their working visas. Immigration officials told one Canadian nurse new hire that advance practice nurses and nurse anesthetists no longer qualify for working visas because of the changes. All Canadian nurses employed in the US have non-immigrant North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional (TN) visas.

The nurses are being told by US immigration that they no longer qualify under the NAFTA TN category and that they must apply for H1B visas status, a more specialized category. Those applications can cost $3,000-4,000.

According to the CBC, some 30,000-40,000 Canadians work in the US under TN visas, which allow experts in certain fields a more expedited visa as long as they have a job offer.

Kathy Macki, the human resource director at Henry Ford Health Systems, reported at a press conference Thursday that 30 nurses have been affected so far by the changes. Hospital officials say they are working with the nurses to facilitate their being able to continue on the job in the US.

To apply for H1B status, Henry Ford would have to apply for expedited status, which could take up to three weeks.

Henry Ford hospital alone has hundreds of Canadian nationals on its staff and about 25 advanced nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists.

Mark Topoleski, an immigration lawyer employed by Henry Ford Hospital, told the CBC “We really question the motives. All the immigration executive orders and all the things being rolled out have been focused on national security first, and this is clearly not an issue of national security whatsoever. Livelihoods are at stake.”

US immigration officials say that they are suspending their fast track-program for processing H1B visas as of April 3. Applications for work visas typically take six months or longer. The suspension of premium H1B processing could last six months or longer and is in line with the virulently anti-immigrant stance of the Trump administration, which includes the recent travel ban on immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries. The courts have blocked that ban, at least temporarily.

At the Thursday press conference Topoleski said, “It will have a drastic impact on Henry Ford’s ability to provide patient care. This change in policy was not announced and has yet to be put out in any written format, so we really don’t understand the rationale behind this policy change.” He said he had also heard reports of a case involving a Canadian nurse working in Washington state.

At the same press conference, Patti Kunkel, a Canadian nurse practitioner who commutes daily from Ontario to work in Henry Ford’s cardiac surgery acute care unit, said she was anxious. “I worry I’ll be turned away at the border. This puts stress not only on me but on my team. We have high-acuity patients, and there’s a critical shortage of staff.” Kunkel has practiced nursing in Michigan under terms of NAFTA since 2000.

H1B visas last for three years and can be renewed for another three years. There were an average of 140,000 H1B visas issued annually between 2006 and 2015. There are no official statistics on the number of people working on H1B visas, but the number is said to be close to 1 million.

TN visas give certain Canadian professionals, such as nurses, the right to work in the US with little paperwork and unlimited renewals. Mexican nationals also qualify for TN visas under NAFTA, but must apply for a visa at a US embassy or consulate first.

In a statement issued Thursday, Customs and Border Protection public affairs officer Kris Grogan claimed there had been no change in policy relating to TN status.

The move to restrict work visas for nurses comes as the United States continues in the throes of a nursing shortage that promises to get worse as the population ages. There are some 3 million nurses in the US and nurses comprise the largest sector of the health care workforce.

According to a report in the Atlantic, a large portion of the US nursing workforce is over the age of 50 and 700,000 are expected to retire by 2024. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.2 million vacancies will open for registered nurses between 2014 and 2022, creating a shortage as large as any experienced in the US since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid.

At the same time the supply of trained nurses is not keeping pace due to the chronic underfunding of the US education system. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “U.S. nursing schools turned away 79,659 qualified applicants in 2012 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.”

An amicus curiae brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in relation to a lawsuit directed against the Trump administration’s travel ban calls foreign-born health care providers a “critical pillar of American health-care infrastructure.” According to the brief, some 28 percent of physicians in the US are immigrants, as are 15 percent of registered nurses and nearly 21 percent of direct-care workers. These include home health aides and personal-care assistants. The brief also notes “immigrant doctors and health-care workers are especially concentrated in medically underserved areas such as poor and rural communities.”

Lack of trained nurses can lead to the reduction of the number of hospital beds or to overwork of nursing staff. According to the Atlantic, “Overworking leads to fatigue and burnout, which threatens the quality of care and increases the incidence of error. Past research has found links between insufficient nursing staff and higher rates of hospital readmission and patient mortality.”

There is a high turnover rate in the nursing field related to stress. According to the journal Nursing Economics, some 30 to 50 percent of new registered nurses change jobs or leave the field within the first three years of clinical practice.

US Department of Homeland Security to track all immigrants’ social media accounts: here.

New unique Madagascar lizard discovery

This video says about itself:

7 February 2017

In Ankarana National Park, Antsiranana Province, north Madagascar, researchers discovered a new species of fish-scale gecko: Geckolepis megalepis. To escape from predators, the gecko can lose its scales at the slightest touch. The scales grow back, scar-free, in a matter of weeks.

From Science News:

Detachable scales turn this gecko into an escape artist

Newly discovered lizard leaves predators with a mouth full of the largest scales yet

By Elizabeth Eaton

7:00am, March 17, 2017

Large, detachable scales make a newly discovered species of gecko a tough catch. When a predator grabs hold, Madagascar’s Geckolepis megalepis strips down and slips away, looking more like slimy pink Silly Putty than a rugged lizard.

All species of Geckolepis geckos have tear-off scales that regrow within a few weeks, but G. megalepis boasts the largest. Some of its scales reach nearly 6 millimeters long. Mark Scherz, a herpetologist and taxonomist at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, and colleagues describe the new species February 7 in PeerJ.

The hardness and density of the oversized scales may help the gecko to escape being dinner, Scherz says. Attacking animals probably get their claws or teeth stuck on the scales while G. megalepis contracts its muscles, loosening the connection between the scales and the translucent tissue underneath. The predator is left with a mouthful of armor, but no meat. “It’s almost ridiculous,” Scherz says, “how easy it is for these geckos to lose their scales.”

From BirdLife:

Some places are so rich in natural wonders, so extraordinary, so important for people, and yet so threatened, that we must pull out all the stops to save them. Madagascar, the “island continent”, with its flora and fauna so unlike any other, is one such place. Tsitongambarika, then, is even more special: forest unique even within Madagascar, with bizarre-looking Ground-rollers, local species of lemur, and species known only from this site. It is no wonder that this highly-threatened Important Bird & Biodiversity Area (IBA) – the only remaining area in the south of the country that supports significant areas of lowland rainforest, but with unprecedented rates of deforestation – has inspired a magnificent donation from Birdfair.

Birdfair, the annual British celebration of birdwatching, raised an incredible £350,000 last year at its 2016 event, and now this special funding is now going to the protection of IBAs in danger in Africa. This money will not only go towards the immediate protection of Tsitongambarika, through supporting national BirdLife Partner, Asity Madagascar, and local communities; but the future of other threatened sites in Africa will be bettered thanks to capacity building of other BirdLife Partners to advocate their protection, and to a new awards scheme.

Dutch painter Vermeer, new book

This 2001 video is called Vermeer: Master of Light (COMPLETE Documentary).

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Saturday 18th March 2017

IN HIS relatively short life — he died in 1675 at the age of 43 — Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer was unknown outside his native country and his name faded into obscurity after his death.

That changed in the mid-19th century, when his paintings of domestic interior scenes of middle-class life grew in popularity in Europe and, eventually, internationally.

Vermeer was not a prolific painter — only 34 canvases are directly attributed to him today — because he worked slowly and meticulously.

He was by no means wealthy and the pigments he used were expensive and this is possibly a reason why his works are few in number.

Almost all his paintings appear to be set in two rooms in his house and feature the same furniture and decorations and very often the same people, usually women.

Taschen publishers are noted for the quality of their art books and that is again in evidence in the newly and sumptuously produced Vermeer: The Complete Works (£25).

It draws on the complete catalogue of his output, with the images accompanied by a detailed and informative commentary.

The quality of the reproductions are such that Vermeer’s extraordinary representation of light shines through on every page and close-ups of selected canvases enhance one of the great pleasures of observing Vermeer’s work — constructing one’s own narrative about his subjects.

The book is a fitting tribute to a painter acknowledged as one of the greats of the Dutch “golden age.”


Win a copy of Vermeer: The Complete Works. The Morning Star has a copy of Vermeer: The Complete Works to give away as a prize. All you have to do is name Vermeer’s birthplace and send your answer on a postcard to Vermeer Competition, 52 Beachy Road, London E3 2NS or by email to dawnpower@peoples-press.com. Please ensure you include your full name and address with your answer.

Closing date: Saturday March 25, 2017

American king snakes, new research

This 2012 video from the USA is called King Snake vs Rattlesnake.

From Science News in the USA:

A king snake’s strength is in its squeeze

Studies suggest how the snake coils matters more than muscle size

By Elizabeth Eaton

2:47pm, March 17, 2017

It’s not the size of a snake’s muscles that matter, but how it uses them. King snakes can defeat larger snakes in a wrestling match to the death because of how they coil around their prey, researchers report March 15 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

King snakes wrap around their food and squeeze with about twice as much pressure as rat snakes do, says David Penning, a functional morphologist at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. Penning, along with colleague Brad Moon at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, measured the constriction capabilities of almost 200 snakes. “King snakes are just little brutes,” Penning says.

King snakes, which are common in North American forests and grasslands, are constrictor snakes that “wrestle for a living,” Penning says. They mainly eat rodents, birds and eggs, squeezing so hard, they can stop their prey’s heart (SN: 8/22/15, p. 4). In addition, about a quarter of the king snake diet is other snakes. King snakes can easily attack and eat vipers because they’re immune to the venom, but when they take on larger constrictors, such as rat snakes, it has been unclear what gives them the edge. “That’s not how nature goes,” Penning says, because predators are usually larger than their prey.

King snakes, though, can eat snakes up to 35 percent larger than themselves. One of the largest king snake conquests on record, from 1893, is of a 5-foot-3-inch rat snake, about 17 percent larger than the 4-foot-6-inch king snake that consumed it, Penning says.

“David Penning is really one of the first researchers that has been looking at the anatomy, physiology and function of these snakes” to understand how king snakes are superior to rat snakes, says Anthony Herrel, a functional morphologist and evolutionary biologist at the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

To determine what makes these snakes kings, Penning and Moon compared their muscle size, ability to escape attack and the strength of their squeeze to that of rat snakes. In one test, the researchers shook dead rodents enticingly in front of the snakes to goad them into striking and squeezing. Sensors on the rodents recorded the pressure of the squeeze.

The king snakes constricted with an average pressure of about 20 kilopascals, stronger than the pumping pressure of a human heart. Rat snakes in the same tests applied only about 10 kilopascals of pressure.

But the king snakes weren’t bigger body builders. Controlling for body size, the two kinds of snakes “had the exact same quantity of muscle,” Penning says.

The snakes’ more powerful constriction is probably due to how they use their muscles, not how much muscle they have, the researchers conclude. They observed that the majority of king snakes in the study wrapped around their food like a spring in what Penning calls the “curly fry pattern.” Rat snakes didn’t always coil in the same way and often ended up looking like a “weird pile of spaghetti,” he says.

Penning plans to study how other factors influence constriction as well, such as how long the king snakes can squeeze, how hungry they are and the temperature of their environment.