Beautiful spider web building time-lapse video

This video says about itself:

Beautiful Spider Web Build Time-lapse – BBC Earth

Using beautiful time-lapse photography the BBC Earth Unplugged team were able to film an Orb spider as it builds a beautifully structured web. If you enjoyed this animal slow motion video then check out our slow motion playlist here.

How spiders mastered spin control. Their silk subtly changes shape as it twists, slowing rotation. By Emily Conover, 7:00am, August 8, 2017.


British army recruits child soldiers

This 1978 punk rock music video from England is called FAREWELL TO THE ROXY: The Tickets: [Join The Army,] Get Yourself Killed.

By Alice Summers in Britain:

British Army targets working-class schoolchildren for recruitment

7 August 2017

The British Army recently launched a recruitment campaign that specifically targets working-class youth. Blandly named “This is belonging,” the campaign identifies its main audience as economically deprived young people, including adolescents only 16 years of age.

A briefing document section titled “Target audience” spells out that the army is primarily aiming to recruit 16-24 year olds in the C2DE sociological category. The C2DE category refers to the lowest three economic groupings, which range from skilled manual workers through to unskilled labour and the unemployed. The document specifies that it is chiefly targeting those who come from families with an annual household income of less than £10,000 ($US 13,100), meaning that many of the children targeted live below the poverty line.

Although the campaign is UK-wide, the army document indicates that there are “up-weights” to cities in the North of England and in the West Midlands, such as Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham. Urban centres such as these tend to have high rates of youth unemployment, at 22.8, 19.4 and 22.5 percent respectively, compared to a UK average of 14.4 percent (figures from August 2016).

Speaking to the World Socialist Web Site, Rachel Taylor, director of programmes at Child Soldiers International, condemned the army’s recruitment drive for targeting “the youngest and most vulnerable people for its most dangerous roles. Many children in these towns and cities have grown-up in communities with little economic capital or career opportunities and are easy targets for Army recruiters who are desperate to fill recruitment shortfalls.”

The fact that the armed forces are “preying on communities where unemployment and social deprivation is high … is a brazen, calculated policy to recruit 16- and 17-year-olds who have few options in life for dangerous infantry jobs that others do not want.”

The “This is belonging” campaign uses a series of short video clips showing staged scenes of young soldiers undergoing training or participating in mock combat situations, attempting to present the armed forces as a supportive, family environment. These videos were shown on social media, on television and in cinemas.

The army describes “This is belonging” as “a new inspirational and motivating creative campaign” to convey the message that recruits would be joining “a brotherhood and sisterhood formed of unbreakable bonds which … will accept you for you.”

Labelling these videos as “cleverly engineered propaganda which glamorises army life,” Taylor insisted that “the reality could not be more different.”

“Morale among the armed forces is plummeting. Forty percent of recruits are actively looking for other employment, while issues of bullying and abuse are commonplace, especially for the 24 percent of recruits who sign up under the age of 18.”

ForcesWatch, a non-profit organisation that scrutinises military recruitment practices, also criticised the army for targeting young people and for “appealing to the adolescent child’s need to belong.” The organisation argued that the army “have latched onto a very popular recruitment tool, powerful in particular among those who feel isolated or marginalised, or who have a sense of non-belonging and potentially low self-esteem.”

The UK is the only country in Europe, and one of only a handful in the world, that allows the recruitment of minors. The enlistment process into the armed forces can begin at 15 years and seven months, although training does not start until the child has reached 16 and these recruits cannot be deployed into active service until they reach 18 years.

According to a report by Medact, a non-profit organisation of health professionals, there are serious long-term consequences of child recruitment by the army. The study showed that these young recruits are more likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, alcohol abuse and self-harm after leaving the army. Male under-20 recruits have a 64 percent higher risk of suicide than their adult civilian peers and have a higher chance of being wounded or killed during their career in the armed forces.

The report concluded that military recruitment techniques “[take] advantage of adolescent cognitive and psychological vulnerabilities” and that current child recruitment practices “do not meet the criteria for full and informed consent.”

The UK government has actively promoted army recruitment within schools, with Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announcing the creation of 150 new cadet units in schools last October. There are now more than 300 cadet units across UK schools, in which children as young as 12 are taught battle planning, weapon use and military discipline.

According to ForcesWatch, the military make thousands of visits to UK schools and colleges each year and even to primary schools and nurseries. These visits include recruitment stalls at careers fairs, curriculum and career-related activities, sessions with staff members and interviews for pre-recruitment courses at army bases, among other things.

Some schools are either sponsored by or have partnerships with the armed forces or arms industry.

ForcesWatch coordinator Emma Sangster rejected the Ministry of Defence claim that the army does not directly recruit within schools. She told the Guardian: “Recruitment is a process, it’s not a single event.” During visits to school, armed forces recruiters, “drip feed things of interest to children of school age. They sanitise what conflict involves, and also glamorise it. They focus on adventure, which young people are desperate for.”

The British state is attempting to indoctrinate and prepare the next generation of working-class youth to be cannon fodder in their imperialist wars abroad. This is confirmed by the analysis of Veterans for Peace (VFP). In its report, “The First Ambush? Effects of army training and employment,” VFP asserts that British Army policy is to “channel the youngest recruits and those from poorer backgrounds into the infantry, which uses the most coercive training methods … [and] carries the greatest risks in war…

“To ensure that recruits will follow all orders and kill their opponents in war, army training indoctrinates unconditional obedience, stimulates aggression and antagonism, overpowers a healthy person’s inhibition to killing, and dehumanises the opponent in the recruit’s imagination.”

The VFP report notes that recruitment policy is rooted in class divisions, with army recruiters “creaming off” high-achieving adults from English universities to become future officers, while “dredging” poorer areas to fill the lower ranks with working-class youth whose lives are seen by the ruling elite as more dispensable.

This recruitment drive and the militarisation of education comes in the context of the escalation of British and NATO operations in the Middle East and on Russia’s borders, with the British Army currently deployed in some capacity in over 80 countries across the world.

It is not just within Britain that the militarisation of social life is taking place. In 2011, the German Bundeswehr began recruiting in schools and universities as part of a broader drive by the Defence Ministry to recruit thousands of new soldiers. Last year, the Swedish Parliament voted to bring back conscription and French President Emmanuel Macron … included the return of the draft as an electoral promise.

More than 75 years after the outbreak of World War II, ruling elites across the world are again seeking to create powerful armies able to enforce their geostrategic and economic interests through war. A century after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the international working class is once again confronted with the necessity of building a revolutionary socialist and internationalist movement in order to prevent the descent into a catastrophic world war.

United States teenage girls, more suicides

This video says about itself:

19 November 2016

A touching suicide note of a girl !!! will make you cry

By Kate Randall in the USA:

Suicide rate among US teenage girls hit all-time high in 2015

7 August 2017

A new analysis reveals that the suicide rate among teenage girls in the United States reached a 40-year high in 2015. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that between 2007 and 2015 the suicide rate among girls aged 15-19 doubled, while it tripled for younger girls, aged 12-14. The analysis was based on government records kept since 1975.

The rate of young women aged 15-19 taking their own lives was recorded at 2.9 in every 100,000 girls in 1975. While this rate increased to 3.7 by 1990, by 2007 it showed a decline, to 2.4. By 2015, however, it had doubled, reaching 5.1.

While not showing as dramatic an increase, the suicide rate among teenage boys rose by 30 percent between 2007 and 2015, according to the CDC. However, the rate of suicide among teenage boys has been historically much higher than among teenage girls. The rate of young men aged 15-19 stood at 18.1 in every 100,000 people in 2015, compared to 10.8 percent in 2007.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents aged 15-19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In 2015, half of suicides of people of all ages were committed with firearms. The other leading methods were suffocation, including hanging, at 26.8 percent, and poisoning, 15.4 percent.

Behind these figures stand thousands of fractured families struggling to deal with the tragic deaths of their young family members. Teenagers committing suicide are likely to have a history of depression, a previous suicide attempt and a family history of psychiatric disorders. They are frequently suffering from substance abuse.

However, the reasons teenagers take the desperate action of suicide cannot simply be reduced to these very real mental health struggles. Factors driving young people to take their own lives must also be traced to the growing social and economic tensions in 21st century America.

The most obvious catalyst for the uptick in teen suicide between 2007 and 2015 was the global financial crisis that peaked in 2008. Tom Simon, an author of the CDC report, told CNN: “One of the factors that people have talked about as a potential contributor to the trend is the economic downturn that we saw in 2007-2009. As economic problems go up, suicide rates go up.”

The financial crisis, which the Obama administration declared over by mid-2009, has inflicted economic hardships on millions of US families that persist to this day. The effects on teenagers and their family members have been myriad: unemployment, poverty and hunger, student debt, unpaid medical bills, homelessness. These economic pressures are major factors contributing to mental distress among teens.

In the CDC’s suicide policy guidelines, violence is also regarded as one of the major factors leading to teen suicide: “Exposure to violence (e.g., child abuse and neglect, bullying, peer violence, dating violence, sexual violence, and intimate partner violence) is associated with increased risk of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, suicide, and suicide attempts. Women exposed to partner violence are nearly five times more likely to attempt suicide as women not exposed to partner violence.”

While social media is pointed to by suicide prevention advocates as a vehicle for promoting bullying, prompting suicide and other self-harm, what young people post on Facebook, Snapchat and other social media outlets is itself often a reflection of the brutal realities confronting youth today. As the CDC points out, social media could be used as a tool to fight bullying, and would be used in this way under different social conditions.

The violence of the US ruling elite must also be included in the experience of teenagers. Teens aged 12-19 today have never lived in a world when the US was not prosecuting a war of aggression. The list of countries the US was at war in between 2007 and 2015 include Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. If the actions of the US political establishment and its two big business parties are to serve as a model for US youth, the outlook is bleak indeed.

There is also the example of the thousands of young people who have been gunned down by police during this period. And there is the massive US prison system that incarcerates 2.4 million people, overwhelmingly poor and working class. From 2007 to 2015, the US states that continue to practice the death penalty have executed 365 death row prisoners.

AAP notes that psychosocial problems and stresses, “such as conflicts with parents, breakup of a relationship, school difficulties or failure, legal difficulties, social isolation, and physical ailments … commonly are reported or observed in young people who attempt suicide.” Gay, bisexual and transgendered adolescents also exhibit high rates of depression and “have been reported to have rates of suicidal ideation and attempts three times higher than other adolescents.”

Teenagers living through these problems will receive nothing but scorn and ridicule from the fascistic, misogynist psychopaths that currently occupy the White House. Treatment for young people suffering from mental illness is also woefully underfunded, while hundreds of billions are squandered on war. The CDC estimates that only 10 percent of those needing mental illness and substance abuse treatment receive it.

The staggering new figures on teen suicide must be viewed alongside declining life expectancy, rising infant and maternal mortality, epidemic levels of opioid addiction and other societal ills as an expression of the inability of the capitalist system to meet the social and economic needs of young people and workers in the United States.

Youth suicide rate up 56 percent from 2007 to 2016. Government report shows sharp rise in US teen deaths: here.

London Grenfell Tower accountability demanded by firefighters

London marchers demand an inquest into the Grenfell fire accusing the inquiry of being a cover-up

From daily News Line in Britain:

Monday, 7 August 2017

‘We want those at the very top in central government held to account’ for Grenfell inferno says FBU

THE FIREFIGHTERS’ union’s submission to the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry demands that cuts to the fire service must be examined to establish the impact that they had on the disaster and whether lives were lost as a result.

The deadline passed at 5pm on Friday for local residents and organisations to submit evidence to the inquiry into the fire which claimed the lives of so many men, women and children. More than 200 people and organisations have submitted responses to the inquiry including the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

The FBU is urging the inquiry team and the government to listen to firefighters, emergency fire control operators and to the FBU itself. The union shares fears of survivors and family members of those who died in the fire that the inquiry will be too narrow.

The firefighters’ union has asked questions about the wider safety regime and how such a devastating incident could even take place. The FBU is urging the government to make the terms of reference for the inquiry as broad as possible, and to focus not just on the London Fire Brigade and Grenfell but on the resources available to all fire and rescue services across the country.

The inquiry also needs to look at available resources in other areas where there is a risk of tower block fires, and at how cuts to the service would impact on any similar incidents. Fire safety checks, building regulations, fire safety legislation, deregulation and national standards are all covered in the FBU’s own submission to the inquiry.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: ‘This inquiry needs to have very broad terms of reference if it is to have a real impact on reducing the likelihood of anything like this ever happening again. It needs to look at, for example, the fact that government-funded fire research has virtually disappeared in recent years, all at the very time when new insulation and cladding systems have been introduced.

‘So many factors contributed to make a perfect storm for this horrific incident to happen, and each of them needs to be examined and investigated in turn. ‘Looking at one aspect of risk but leaving others unexplored will be utterly useless. We also want those at the very top – in central government – held to account.

‘Their actions and decisions over recent years need to be thoroughly scrutinised. We urge those who are leading this inquiry to be thorough, to make the inquiry as wide ranging as possible, and to leave no stone unturned. Anything less would be an injustice to those who died and will do nothing to prevent a second Grenfell.’

The FBU, which has also made an application to be a core participant in the inquiry, hopes that the inquiry will make recommendations following its findings, just as the inquiries into the King’s Cross Station and Bradford City stadium fires did, and to make specific requirements of fire and rescue authorities across the UK and of governments. Meanwhile, after a consultation with members, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said a pay offer from the national employers is ‘inadequate in its current form’.

The national employers offered a 2% increase if the discussions around the work trials continued. A 3% increase would follow (and increases for 2018, 2019 and 2020) but only on the basis that an agreement was concluded on the work trials. There was no guarantee where the funding for the pay increase would come from – particularly problematic given central funding to the service has been cut hugely.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has been severely hit by these cuts and the FBU says that as a result lives are being put at risk. The number of emergency control operators has been cut from 22 to 15. The union says that untrained staff are fielding emergency calls from the public and taking down vital information with pen and paper. The information is then passed onto the only fully trained operator on duty who will mobilise a fire engine. Calls are also being diverted to Cornwall at peak periods.

The union warns that on several occasions, fire crews have been sent to the wrong address or delayed for up to 15 minutes before being mobilised. Additionally, operators are frequently forced to work up to 90 hours a week in order to cover staff shortages, the FBU claiming the situation has reached ‘crisis point’.

Secretary of the FBU in North Yorkshire, Steve Howley, said: ‘We have now reached crisis point. The FBU warned management and the fire authority of the dangers that the cuts would have on the ability of the control room to function safely and effectively. Unfortunately, no one listened to our concerns. We were accused of scaremongering. But these are the repercussions of such savage cuts.

‘Long hours, stress and isolation – it is becoming common for one trained operator to be on shift alone – have led to an increase in sickness amongst staff which further compounds the workforce shortages. The chief fire officer and the fire authority need to be held to account for these failings and to get a grip of the situation immediately.

‘They are putting the lives of the public at risk by placing staff under intolerable pressure. In a fire, every second counts and a delayed response can be fatal. Managers are making this more likely with their continued cuts to the service. It is completely unacceptable and must stop.’

• The FBU said that government cuts are to blame for a rise in fire-related deaths in England last year, according to the union representing firefighters. Official figures show that 303 people died in fires during 2015/16, up 15% on the previous year.

Response times to all types of serious fires also rose, in some cases by as much as one minute and eight seconds. The Fire Brigades Union said the figures reflect the real impact that cuts have had on the ability of firefighters to do their job in recent years.

Matt Wrack, the union’s general secretary, said: ‘I think fire crews are increasingly angry about how they are being treated by this government. Firefighters are praised when they rescue people, they deal with particularly difficult incidents, but all the time their job is being undermined by cuts. There has been a record number of fire station closures, fire engines being cut and 10,000 firefighter jobs go. So that means people are left running the service on a shoestring.’

• In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, Tory Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, faces angry criticism over the severe cuts and closure to the fire brigade he introduced when he was London Mayor. Johnson presided over the closure of 10 fire stations and the removal of 27 fire engines and 552 firefighters’ jobs, despite previously promising not to remove them.

Johnson repeatedly denied he had any plans to cut fire engines or fire stations, telling the London Assembly in 2010 that there were ‘no plans’ to remove engines. Pressed on the issue, he said in a filmed meeting that: ‘I don’t want to get rid of them. What’s the problem?’

He was confronted by his opponents on the London Assembly about the broken promise in 2013.

Labour Assembly leader Andrew Dismore asked then-Mayor, Boris: ‘How can cutting fire stations, cutting fire engines and cutting firefighters post not be a reduction in fire cover? You’ve lied to the people of London.’ Boris snapped: ‘Get stuffed,’ – but apologised saying: ‘It just popped out.’

The devastating cuts were implemented in 2014.

New grass snake species discovery in Europe

This 2016 video is called Natrix natrix helvetica hunting frogs 1. Natrix helvetica was then still considered a subspecies of the common grass snake.

From the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Germany:

A new snake in Europe: The Barred Grass Snake is described as a separate species

August 7, 2017

Together with an international team, Senckenberg scientists identified a new species of snake in Europe. Based on more than 1,600 snakes, the researchers were able to show that the “Barred Grass Snake,” whose range includes Western Germany, France, Great Britain, Switzerland and Italy constitutes a distinct species. In their study, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, the team examined two contact zones — in the Rhine region and in eastern Germany — where different genetic lineages of grass snakes meet.

The grass snake is among the most common and widespread snakes in Europe — yet relatively little is known to date about the genetic identity of these non-toxic reptiles, which can reach a length of up to one meter.

“We studied two areas where different genetic lineages of the grass snake come into contact. We discovered that the Barred Grass Snake, previously considered a subspecies, is in fact a distinct species (Natrix helvetica). The Barred Grass Snake is widely distributed throughout Great Britain, Switzerland, Italy and France, and also occurs in the western part of Germany. Thus, the number of European snake species has increased by one,” according to Professor Uwe Fritz, Director of the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden.

In the course of an international study led by Fritz, the professor’s doctoral student, Carolin Kindler, examined the genetic identity of more than 1,600 grass snakes — many of them scientific museum specimens. “This showed once again how valuable these — in part very old — collections can be,” explains Fritz, and he continues, “Modern methods such as genetics make it possible to gain entirely new insights from the collection specimens.”

Two “contact zones” of grass snakes were examined more closely by the scientists from Dresden: One of the zones is located in the Rhine region, the other extends from Central Germany down to the southern Balkans. In these zones, different genetic lineages of the grass snake meet, which in part had previously been thought to represent different subspecies. Such contact zones are viewed as natural laboratories for evolution, since they allow the study of hybridization and speciation.

The two contact zones examined in this study represent different stages in the speciation process: The eastern contact zone reveals a complete mixing of the involved genetic lineages over hundreds of kilometers. In the Rhine region, on the other hand, the hybrid zone is less than 50 km wide, and the admixture is very limited and unidirectional, primarily with Barred Grass Snakes cross-breeding with Eastern Grass Snakes, but rarely the other way around. “This indicates the presence of reproductive barriers,” explains Fritz. They arise during the speciation process to prevent mismatched pairings among different species. These reproductive barriers and the narrow hybrid zone show that the Barred Grass Snake constitutes a distinct species.

This conclusion is not without consequences. Grass snakes are under special protection in Europe and are considered threatened or highly threatened in some countries. “We now have to pay close attention to which species of grass snake is involved in each case, in order to be able to assess whether one of them may be more threatened than previously thought,” Fritz points out.