Barrel jellyfish video

This 15 August 2017 video shows a barrel jellyfish.

Diver Mirjam van der Sanden made this video in the Grevelingen estuary lake in the Netherlands.


Donald Trump supports pro-slavery generals’ statues and their racist defenders

This video from the USA says about itself:

Full Interview: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Charlottesville, Trump, the Confederacy, Reparations & More

15 August 2017

Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks to Democracy Now! in his first major interview since the inauguration of Donald Trump. Coates is the national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics and social issues. His forthcoming book, out in October, is titled “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy”. He is the author of “Between the World and Me,” for which he received the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

From in the USA today:

Trump said at a news conference … at Trump Tower in New York City [about his extreme right adviser Stephen Bannon]: “He is a good person, and I think the press treats him frankly unfairly.”

From CNN in the USA today:

Trump: Taking down Confederate memorials is ‘changing history’

As pressure mounts around the country demanding the removal of monuments lionizing the Confederacy, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the removal of such monuments is “changing history.”

“I wonder, is it George Washington next week?” Trump asked.

Trump, in an agitated back-and-forth with reporters in Trump Tower, defended members of the “Unite the Right” protest last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist has been charged with murder for ramming a car into a crowd of counter-protesters. He went on to make a slippery slope argument — equating Confederate general Robert E. Lee with presidents like Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who were slave owners.

But who did not fight on Civil War battlefields against the federal government to keep slavery. And who, unlike Robert E. Lee’s army when invading Pennsylvania, did not enslave free African Americans to sell them down south.

Trump said: “Not all of those people [of the ‘alt-right‘ violent demonstration in Charlottesville] were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee.”

Charlottesville, like many southern towns across the US, has grappled with its Confederate legacy and the decision in the past to honor men who fought to keep the institution of slavery alive. In his comments, Trump lamented the push to take down Confederate statues.

“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” Trump said. “I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

Also from CNN today:

Trump says both sides to blame amid Charlottesville backlash

President Donald Trump, in a staggering, impromptu press conference in New York on Tuesday, blamed the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend on both sides of the conflict — equating the white supremacists on one side with the “alt-left” on the other side — after his top White House aides spent days trying to clean up after Trump’s initial vague response to the violence.

“I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump said during a contentious back-and-forth with reporters in the lobby of his Midtown Manhattan building.

“What about the ‘alt-left‘ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right,’ do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump asked. …

“I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct, not make a quick statement,” Trump said, calling his initial comment a “fine statement.” …

[Trump said] there was some who came out to protest the removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue who were “fine people.”

“You had people in that group [the violent ‘Unite the Right’ demonstrators] that were there to protest the taking down, to them, of a very, very important statue and a renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name,” Trump said. …

Trump’s slippery slope argument [on Jefferson and Washington] is straight out of the ‘alt-right‘ playbook.

Oh and don’t forget the winery plug Trump included in his remarks Tuesday.

President defends far-right marchers and equates Confederate generals Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson: here.

THE AFTERMATH OF TRUMP’S DEFENSE OF ‘BOTH SIDES’ “President Donald Trump spoke again Tuesday on the white supremacist conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia, defending his much-criticized initial statement on the protests and offering an even stronger critique of demonstrators and the causes they fought for during the violent weekend gathering.” Trump was clear to say there was violence on “both sides” and referenced the “alt-left.” You can watch the speech here, which white nationalists praised and politicians rushed to condemn. CNN commentator Van Jones was tearfully at a loss at the president’s words, Anderson Cooper opened his show with blistering commentary, and Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer called Trump’s speech “a moral disgrace.” [HuffPost]

Trump aide Katharine Gorka helped end funding for a group that fights white supremacy.

All four of Baltimore’s Confederate statues were removed overnight, just days after a white nationalist rally erupted into chaos and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Baltimore City Council voted unanimously Monday night to immediately take down the monuments after more than a year of indecision: here.


This Is Why You’re Seeing The Confederate Flag Across Europe. It was shocking to see the flag greet Donald Trump in Poland. But European groups — some of them white supremacist — have waved it for years: here.

THE FEDS WANT THE VISITOR RECORDS FOR A SITE LINKED TO TRUMP PROTESTS “The request is so broad it seems like the administration is trying to obtain ‘an enemies list,’ one legal expert said.” [HuffPost]

So many CEOs resigned from Trump’s manufacturing council that he just disbanded it. Trump’s response to the Charlottesville white nationalism march caused many business leaders to resign in protest: here.

Trump’s Two Big Business Councils Disband Amid Uproar Over Charlottesville. The president took credit for dissolving the groups: here.

Wild boar piglet video

This 15 August 2017 video is about a wild boar piglet near Apeldoorn city in the Veluwe region in the Netherlands.

Charlottesville, USA murderous nazism, Donald Trump, many protests

Anti-fascist protest in Minneapolis, USA

From the World Socialist Web Site in the USA:

Protests continue against Trump and Nazi rampage in Charlottesville

By our reporters

15 August 2017

Over the past several days, tens of thousands of people across the US have marched and rallied to denounce the murderous rampage of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, which left one dead and 19 wounded. The shock and outrage over the virtual occupation of a university town by hundreds of armed fascists has been compounded by President Donald Trump’s statements providing political cover for the perpetrators.

Rallies, protests and candlelight vigils in support of the Charlottesville victims and against the fascists have been held in cities such as New York, Chicago, Washington DC, New Haven, Detroit, Minneapolis, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego and the Bay Area.

On Monday, protests were held in many locations, including Nashville, Tennessee; Durham, North Carolina; Minneapolis, New York and Washington, DC. In Nashville, protesters at the state Capitol sought to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate officer and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan. In Durham, demonstrators brought down a Confederate monument.

World Socialist Web Site reporters spoke to protesters in New York City and Washington DC. In Manhattan, thousands gathered outside of Trump Tower, where Trump was visiting for the first time since his inauguration.


Jorge, a City College of New York student and paralegal said, “I’m here to protest Trump after the rampage by the KKK and Nazis. This is what Trump has allowed, and he has to acknowledge that. Even if he is impeached, you have Pence and Sessions, who are connected to white supremacists, and this whole administration has given them a platform.”

He continued, “Fascism has never sunk its roots in the US, but has always been around since the 1930s. I think a lot of these small groups were able to grow under Obama.”

After the WSWS reporter compared today’s conditions to the economic crisis in the 1930s, Cruz added, “I completely oppose fascism in all its forms. The fascism of Mussolini or Hitler checked capitalism in some way, but what we have is almost a new form. Trump is so openly catering to the rich.”

Zack, a high school student attending with two of his friends, said, “We go to a school founded on MLK’s ideas, and we came out in order to join the people that oppose what Trump is doing. He hasn’t called out what happened in Charlottesville as terrorism. These are the people that support him and have his back.”

Zack’s friend, Daniel, added, “Trump has a base that supports itself on their own racial ideals. They are really the majority of his base now. They could lead a small uprising, as they already did. They could also expand their influence and use their ideology to suppress people.”

Daniel, Zack and Roscoe

After some discussion about the consensus between Democrats and Republicans over issues such as funding the military, their friend, Roscoe, said, “It has become like a football game, and there isn’t even agreement among the Republicans on a lot of issues. But the military budget goes through and it is just too much.”

Christopher, an unemployed worker, said, “I see an authoritarian state arising now. I came out here, and I normally don’t go to protests, because I feel like silence is complacency. Trump’s statements make Nazis and white supremacists feel emboldened and we should stand up to them and feel emboldened to stand up to them.


Trump won’t condemn the violence because he wants to keep these groups up his sleeve for when he is impeached. I’m trying to be optimistic and think this is the rock bottom, but things might get a lot worse before they get better.”

Asked about the Democrats, he added, “I’m not sure how I feel about the Democrats. They are more in line with the corporate interest than our interests.”

Kambale, who was born in the Congo, said, “I’m in the US as a refugee and I hear people telling me now to go back to the Congo. I’m really shocked to see people supporting Trump, but a lot has changed. Two years ago I used to walk around in African-style clothing, but I wouldn’t do that now. You never know who are you going to run into.


Something was sparked during Trump’s campaign, and I remember telling my friends that if he doesn’t win the election, this movement will not go away easily. He has agitated people beyond a certain point. I’m worried about matters of life and death. In Charlottesville someone died based on the political narrative of this man.”

Asked his thoughts on the political situation, he added, “I don’t believe the major political parties, and I mean both the Democrats and Republicans, are addressing the issues facing the American people. Also, a lot has stayed the same with Trump. The US military is still in Africa. It is still in the Middle East.”

In Washington DC, WSWS reporters spoke to demonstrators in front of the White House. Some 400 people gathered there and then marched to Trump Hotel in the downtown area.

Emma, a young student, said, “It is obvious that hate has no room here. Yet, we have an armed alt-right in our streets. They were mobilized by the election of a president who sympathizes with them.”

When asked why she thought people voted for Trump, she said: “I think people voted for him because they thought he was an outspoken outsider. They did not like President Obama. People in the Rust Belt felt that they no longer have a place in American society, and this is not true.”

The WSWS also spoke with Jake and Misha, two young students. Jake said, “I thought what we saw yesterday was disgusting. Even members of the media were doing intellectual acrobatics to avoid denouncing the protests. Yet, ‘Love Trumps Hate’ has a very American liberal mentality. There are very few genuine socialists or communists here.”

The WSWS reporter spoke to the students about the role played by Leon Trotsky in diagnosing the situation in Germany prior to Hitler’s rise to power and his struggle to provide a revolutionary leadership for the German working class. Misha said, “I have done a lot of research into this period. Trotsky was a man of action and understood what type of organization was needed to defeat counterrevolution. I believe we need a revolutionary vanguard in this country.”

A member of the Socialist Equality Party spoke before the assembled crowd. He said, “It is clear that Donald Trump represents a mortal danger to the working class that must be removed. But on what basis and under what program? The Democratic Party will not stop the rise of fascism. In fact, the far right is emboldened in large part by the betrayals carried out by what passes for the ‘left’ today. We call for a break with the Democrats and the Republicans. Both are responsible for the rise of Trump and neither party can be trusted to oppose him.” The crowd responded with cheers and applause.

This video from the USA says about itself:

Families Mourn Charlottesville Victims

14 August 2017

Heather D. Heyer, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates lost their lives during the Charlottesville protests. Cenk Uygur, the host of The Young Turks, breaks it down.

Heather D. Heyer died standing up for what she believed in.

Friends described her as a passionate advocate for the disenfranchised who was often moved to tears by the world’s injustices. That sense of conviction led her to join demonstrators protesting a rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.

“We were just marching around, spreading love — and then the accident happened,” a friend, Marissa Blair, said. “In a split second you see a car, and you see bodies flying.”

The authorities said Ms. Heyer, 32, was killed when a car driven by a man from Ohio plowed into the crowd.

“Heather was such a sweet soul, and she did not deserve to die,” Ms. Blair said on Sunday.

Others said Ms. Heyer, who lived in Charlottesville, spoke out against inequality and urged co-workers to be active in their community.

“Heather was a very strong woman,” said Alfred A. Wilson, manager of the bankruptcy division at the Miller Law Group in Charlottesville, where Ms. Heyer worked as a paralegal. She stood up against “any type of discrimination,” he said. “That’s just how she’s always been.”

Read more here.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

Mounting evidence of White House collusion with neo-Nazis

15 August 2017

The rampage through Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend by hundreds of neo-Nazis did not come as a surprise to the Trump White House. On the contrary, both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported the mounting threat of violence by white supremacist groups more than three months ago.

According to a document obtained and made public by Foreign Policy magazine on its web site Monday, the FBI and DHS issued a joint warning that white supremacists had already carried out more violent attacks than any other US-based groups over the past 16 years and “likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year.”

The eight-page intelligence bulletin was issued on May 10, 2017. Its significance was underscored two weeks later when a white supremacist carried out a murderous assault on a Portland, Oregon commuter train, killing two men who tried to prevent him from harassing two … women, one of them wearing traditional [Muslim] dress.

The report, titled “White Supremacist Extremism Poses Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence,” found that US neo-Nazis “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016… more than any other domestic extremist movement,” including Islamists inspired by ISIS or Al Qaeda.

The targets of the white supremacist extremists (WSE in FBI jargon) in 2016 alone included blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims and Jews. They were stabbed, shot, beaten and in one case attacked with a hatchet. There was one death, numerous injuries, and one attempted mass casualty attack that was detected and disrupted by local police.

The perpetrators “included members of racist skinhead groups, Klan members, and individuals who lacked group affiliations.” Racist prison gangs and individuals recruited over the Internet were involved in some of the attacks.

The FBI-DHS bulletin explained that the targets were not selected exclusively on a racial basis: “A review of incidents since 2000 shows racial minorities have been the primary victims of WSE lethal violence. The second most common victims were other Caucasians, including the homeless, drug dealers, sex offenders and other white supremacists perceived as disloyal …”

In language that is eerily predictive of the Charlottesville attack, the bulletin continues, “Although plot-derived mass-casualty violence remains possible, we judge it more likely that violence will continue to be spontaneous and involve targets of opportunity.”

The FBI-DHS bulletin makes nonsense of any suggestion that the deadly attack in Charlottesville could not have been foreseen. It was precisely as described in the report, involving a “target of opportunity” taking place on the outskirts of the largest assembly of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in recent US history.

There is no doubt that the FBI and DHS were heavily engaged in monitoring the actions of the fascist rioters in Charlottesville and had undercover agents active in their ranks. They would have been well aware of the danger of cars driven at high speed into crowds, not only because this has been a well-publicized technique of ISIS-linked terrorist attacks in Europe, but because an “All Lives Splatter” decal, threatening automobile attacks on demonstrators against police violence, has been widely circulated on right-wing and pro-police web sites.

Black Lives Splatter racist decal from nazi site Daily Stormer

This variation on the racist “All Lives Splatter” decal which encourages drivers to wound or kill protesters against police brutality is specifically a call to kill or injure supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is from the nazi site Daily Stormer, one of the organisers of the Charlottesville violent fascist rally. The murderer of Heather Heyer got his inspiration from this.

From Esquire:

[Tennessee] State Rep[ublican] Rep[resentative] Matthew Hill has filed a bill that says if a driver hits a protester who is blocking traffic in a public right-of-way, then that driver would be immune to civic liability if the demonstrator is hit and hurt, as long as it wasn’t intentional. “If you want to protest, fine, I am for peaceful protesting, not lawless rioters,” Hill said. “We don’t want anyone to be hurt, but people should not knowingly put themselves in harm’s way when you’ve got moms and dads trying to get their kids to school.”

The Patrick Martin article comtinues:

The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security at the time the May 10 bulletin was issued warning of white supremacist violence was retired General John F. Kelly, who was recently chosen by Trump to serve as White House chief of staff. Thus, an official with detailed, intimate knowledge of the imminence of ultra-right violence has been standing at Trump’s side for the past three weeks.

If Kelly had been monitoring the activities of the fascist right from the “outside,” so to speak, other top Trump aides, including chief political counselor Stephen Bannon, speechwriter and adviser Stephen Miller, and counterrorism counselor Sebastian Gorka, had multiple contacts from the “inside.”

It was Bannon who boasted he had made his Breitbart News web site the political home of the alt.right, the “respectable” label for white supremacist elements. Miller echoed the language of the Nazis when he branded critics of Trump’s proposed 50 percent cut in legal immigration as “cosmopolitans.” Gorka only a few days ago, in the course of a political rant against Muslims, declared that there was no such thing as a “lone wolf” terrorist and that white supremacists were not a threat to anyone.

According to the New York Times, Bannon and Miller were in meetings with Trump throughout Saturday, where they insisted that he issue an “even-handed” statement that would condemn supposed left-wing violence as well as the obvious right-wing violence.

This is the context in which one must evaluate Trump’s grudging 600-word statement Monday, dragged out of him by political advisers and congressional Republicans, making perfunctory, stilted and obviously insincere criticisms of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the KKK for the violence in Charlottesville.

It was widely noted that Trump required 48 hours of nonstop public shaming before he would distance himself even verbally from the neo-Nazis. Until then, he had equated the victims and the attackers in Charlottesville, condemning violence and intolerance “on many sides.”

The substance of the actions announced was extremely limited. Trump said after meeting with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Department of Justice “has opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car attack that killed one innocent American and wounded 20 others.” This suggests that the probe will be limited to James Alex Fields, the driver of the car, and that the organizers of the fascist demonstration, which included the mobilization of dozens of heavily armed gunmen in militia dress, will go scot free.

Trump read the statement from a teleprompter and refused to take any questions. He again refused to take questions from reporters at a later White House event to announce anti-China trade measures.

No prominent Democrat has demanded that Trump shed his coterie of White House pro-fascists, even after the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which includes a half dozen establishment civil rights organizations, issued a statement Sunday calling for the firing of Bannon, Miller and Gorka.

Meanwhile the Trump reelection campaign—already raising funds and conducting operations more than three years before the 2020 election—released its first campaign ad, a 30-second commercial that brands both Democrats and media figures as “the president’s enemies.” The tone and content of the ad demonstrate that the appeal to ultra-right and fascistic forces will be the axis of Trump’s efforts to mobilize support now and in 2018 and 2020.

This video from the USA says about itself:

White Supremacists Brutalize Black Man In Charlottesville

14 August 2017

De’Andre Harris was participating in the Charlottesville counter protest when he was jumped by white supremacists. Cenk Uygur, the host of The Young Turks, breaks it down.

“As a gang of white supremacists was beating him bloody, De’Andre Harris thought he might not survive and wondered why police were not rushing to defend him.

A few moments before, the 20-year-old Charlottesville resident and four friends, all of them African Americans, were screaming curses at white nationalists marching along Market Street in downtown Charlottesville on Saturday and carrying neo-Nazi flags and yelling racial slurs.

The verbal confrontation soon turned ugly.

As Harris recounted in an interview Sunday, he suddenly found himself fighting as many as five of the marchers.

Harris, a hip-hop artist and assistant special education teacher at a high school, said he did not know why the marchers singled him out, though he had tied a white towel around his neck on which he had scrawled epithets directed at the Ku Klux Klan and police. As he fled into a nearby parking garage, the men caught up with him, hitting with their fists and wooden poles.

But a group of police officers who were only a few yards away when the fight broke out did not attempt to break it up, according to Harris and another eyewitness.

“They were trying to kill me out there,” Harris recalled. “The police didn’t budge, and I was getting beat to a pulp.”

Read more here.

By Joseph Kishore in the USA:

The political and social roots of fascist violence in the US

15 August 2017

The eruption of Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend has come as a shock to millions of people in the United States and around the world. The images of pro-Nazi white supremacists assaulting counter-protesters and the brutal murder of 32-year-old Heather Heyer have exposed the socially and politically rancid state of American society. Nazi thugs rampaged through a university town and terrorized students and other residents while smirking policemen stood by and winked their encouragement to the attackers. The country that presumes to preach morality to the world and holds itself up as the beacon of law and democratic stability is breaking apart at the seams.

There is a vast difference between the deep-felt anger of millions of ordinary people over the events in Charlottesville and the formal hand-wringing and hypocritical condemnations of violence by politicians from the Democratic and Republican parties and the corporate media. Their statements reek of insincerity. Their pro forma denunciations of the violence in Charlottesville are devoid of any serious examination of the underlying social and political conditions out of which it arose.

Typical was Monday’s editorial (“The Hate He Dares Not Speak Of”) in the New York Times, which speaks for the Democratic Party. The editors criticized Trump for not condemning the white supremacist groups responsible for the violence. They declared that Trump “is alone in modern presidential history in his willingness to summon demons of bigotry and intolerance in service to himself.” The president is clinging to white supremacists, the editors added, “in his desperation to rescue his failing presidency.”

Were it not for Trump, the Times implies, the streets of America would resound with hymns of brotherly love. But the “Evil Trump” interpretation of history explains nothing. The swaggering thug in the White House is, like the violence in Charlottesville, a symptom of a deep and intractable crisis.

As a political and social phenomenon, fascism is a product of capitalism in extreme crisis. Analyzing the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany in 1932, Trotsky explained that the ruling class turns to fascism “at the moment when the ‘normal’ police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium… Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat—all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.” (“What Next? Vital Question for the German Proletariat”)

Fascism is not yet a mass movement in the United States. The national mobilization of far-right organizations to oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee drew only several hundred people.

Notwithstanding their limited support among the broad mass of the population, however, these reactionary elements enjoy the backing of powerful sections of the state, including the White House itself. They have the financial support of billionaire backers (Stephen Bannon, Trump’s fascistic chief strategist, has developed close ties to hedge fund executive Robert Mercer). And they have the active sympathy of significant sections of the police and military apparatus.

Throughout his campaign and his first seven months in office, Trump and his fascistic advisors have pursued a definite political strategy, based on the belief that they can exploit widespread social anger and political disorientation to develop an extra-parliamentary movement to violently suppress any popular opposition to a policy of extreme militarism and social reaction.

However, Trump is less the creator than the outcome of protracted economic, social and political processes. His administration, composed of oligarchs and generals, arises out of a quarter-century of unending war, four decades of social counterrevolution and the increasingly authoritarian character of American politics. Torture, drone assassinations, wars of aggression, police murder—overseen by both Democrats and Republicans—form the backdrop to the events in Charlottesville.

Trump’s greatest asset has been the character and orientation of his political opponents within the ruling class. He defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election because the Democrats ran as the party of the status quo, the embodiment of complacency and self-satisfaction. Since the election, their opposition to Trump has been oriented entirely to the intelligence agencies and the military, where fascist elements flourish, on the basis of demands for a more aggressive policy against Russia. They are unable and unwilling to advance a program that can command any significant popular support since they represent an alliance of Wall Street and privileged layers of the upper-middle class.

Trump has been able to win a certain base in regions of the country that have been devastated by deindustrialization …

As the Trump administration was intensifying its cultivation of fascistic forces over the past several months, Google—in alliance with those sections of the state particularly associated with the Democratic Party—was implementing a program of censorship targeting left-wing and progressive websites, above all, the World Socialist Web Site. The response of all factions of the ruling class to the social and political crisis that has produced Trump is to seek to block and suppress any challenge to the capitalist system.

Long historical experience has demonstrated that fascism can be fought only through the mobilization of the working class on a socialist and revolutionary program. The fight against the extreme right must be developed through the unification of all sections of the working class, of all races, genders and nationalities. Opposition to fascism must be connected to the fight against war, social inequality, unemployment, low wages, police violence and all the social ills produced by capitalism.

Prehistoric spider journey from Africa to Australia?

This video from Australia says about itself:

2 August 2017

This spider floated 6,000 miles across the Indian Ocean millions of years ago.

By Sarah Zielinski, 9:00am, August 15, 2017:

These spiders crossed an ocean to get to Australia

If you look at a map of the world, it’s easy to think that the vast oceans would be effective barriers to the movement of land animals. And while an elephant can’t swim across the Pacific, it turns out that plenty of plants and animals — and even people — have unintentionally floated across oceans from one continent to another. Now comes evidence that tiny, sedentary trapdoor spiders made such a journey millions of years ago, taking them from Africa all the way across the Indian Ocean to Australia.

Moggridgea rainbowi spiders from Kangaroo Island, off the south coast of Australia, are known as trapdoor spiders because they build a silk-lined burrow in the ground with a secure-fitting lid, notes Sophie Harrison of the University of Adelaide in Australia. The burrow and trapdoor provides the spiders with shelter and protection as well as a means for capturing prey. And it means that the spiders don’t really need to travel farther than a few meters over the course of a lifetime.

There was evidence, though, that the ancestors of these Australian spiders might have traveled millions of meters to get to Australia — from Africa. That isn’t as odd as it might seem, since Australia used to be connected to other continents long ago in the supercontinent Gondwana. And humans have been known to transport species all over the planet. But there’s a third option, too: The spiders might have floated their way across an ocean.

To figure out which story is most likely true, Harrison and her colleagues looked at the spider’s genes. They turned to six genes that have been well-studied by spider biologists seeking to understand relationships between species. The researchers looked at those genes in seven M. rainbowi specimens from Kangaroo Island, five species of Moggridgea spiders from South Africa and seven species of southwestern Australia spiders from the closely related genus Bertmainius.

Using that data, the researchers built a spider family tree that showed which species were most closely related and how long ago their most recent common ancestor lived. M. rainbowi was most closely related to the African Moggridgea spiders, the analysis revealed. And the species split off some 2 million to 16 million years ago, Harrison and her colleagues report August 2 in PLOS ONE.

The timing of the divergence was long after Gondwana split up. And it was long before either the ancestors of Australia’s aboriginal people or later Europeans showed up on the Australian continent. While it may be improbable that a colony of spiders survived a journey of 10,000 kilometers across the Indian Ocean, that is the most likely explanation for how the trapdoor spiders got to Kangaroo Island, the researchers conclude.

Such an ocean journey would not be unprecedented for spiders in this genus, Harrison and her colleagues note. There are three species of Moggridgea spiders that are known to live on islands off the shore of the African continent. Two live on islands that were once part of the mainland, and they may have diverged at the same time that their islands separated from Africa. But the third, M. nesiota, lives on the Comoros, which are volcanic islands. The spiders must have traveled across 340 kilometers of ocean to get there.

These types of spiders may be well-suited to ocean travel. If a large swatch of land washes into the sea, laden with arachnids, the spiders may be able to hide out in their nests for the journey. Plus, they don’t need a lot of food, can resist drowning and even “hold their breath” and survive on stored oxygen during periods of temporary flooding, the researchers note.

Solar eclipse, 21 August 2017

This video from the USA says about itself:

Eclipses Throughout our Universe | Out There | Solar Eclipse 2017

14 aug. 2017

On the 21st day of August, 2017, the moon will slide between the Earth and the sun, painting a swath of darkness across North America. The Great American Solar Eclipse.

An exercise in cosmic geometry. A reminder that we live on one sphere among many, all moving to the laws of Kepler, Newton and Einstein. The moon’s orbit around the Earth is slightly tilted, so the shadow of the new moon usually passes above or below us. About twice a year, the three bodies briefly align, and the moon’s long shadow cuts across our planet. The day dies and is reborn. The sun is replaced by an inky hole, feathered with the pale corona, a million degrees hotter than the sun itself. Staring up into the cone of blackness you can feel the cosmic gears grinding. Two minutes of beauty and terror.

What happens in Earth’s atmosphere during an eclipse? Using smartphones and radio kits, researchers will track changes in how radio waves travel through the ionosphere. By Lisa Grossman, 7:00am, August 13, 2017.

Can the eclipse tell us if Einstein was right about general relativity? He probably was, but astronomers will put his 1915 theory to the test with DIY experiments. By Lisa Grossman, 7:00am, August 15, 2017.

What can we learn about Mercury’s surface during the eclipse? A telescope aboard a pair of research jets will make a thermal map of the planet during the eclipse. By Lisa Grossman, 7:00am, August 14, 2017.

Saudi royal armed forces killing their unarmed own people

Night-time funeral of a victim of the Saudi armed forces in the Qatif district

From daily News Line in Britain:

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Saudi forces kill unarmed Shia civilians in Awamiya

SAUDI security forces killed and injured unarmed civilians when they surrounded and sealed off the predominantly Shia town of Awamiya in July 2017 as they confronted an armed group hiding in a historic neighbourhood slated for demolition, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

The violence in the Eastern province, which began in May, has resulted in deaths and injuries among the residents, local activists said, and caused significant damage to the town, based on an assessment of satellite imagery.

Residents and activists say that most residents have fled Awamiya, and those who remain lack essential services such as medical care. The town remains sealed off. Saudi Arabia announced plans to demolish and redevelop the al-Musawara neighbourhood of Awamiya, Qatif governorate, in 2016, citing health and safety reasons.

Demolition began on May 10, after al-Musawara residents were evacuated, but met with armed resistance. Awamiya residents told Human Rights Watch that security forces have fired into populated areas far from al-Musawara, killing residents, occupied a public school, closed clinics and pharmacies, and prevented essential services such as ambulances from reaching the area.

Security forces engaged in shoot-outs with an unknown number of armed men inside al-Musawara, and on July 26 brought in additional armoured vehicles and sealed the town’s entrances and exits, residents and activists said. Awamiya has a longstanding reputation of opposition to Saudi rule and has been the site of protests about government discrimination against Saudi Shia.

It is the hometown of a prominent cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, who was executed in January 2016 over his encouragement of protests in 2011 and 2012. The execution sparked a series of events leading to a breakdown of diplomatic relations with Iran and heightened sectarian tensions across the Gulf region.

On July 28, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland stated that she was ‘deeply concerned’ about photos purporting to show Saudi security forces using Canadian-made Terradyne Gurkha RPV-model armoured vehicles. She ordered an investigation into how Saudi forces are using the vehicles.

Saudi forces have also deployed another type of armoured vehicle manufactured by the South African company F & R Catai to Awamiya. The automatic cannon in this vehicle’s turret can penetrate and cause considerable damage to buildings and other infrastructure.

Human Rights Watch analysed satellite imagery that shows extensive damage to the neighbourhood and the town’s main commercial street bordering it. While much of the damage is due to the demolition, the images also show buildings and areas damaged by the violence. Activists and residents said the armed men are on most-wanted lists authorities have issued since 2012 for protest-related crimes in the area.

Saudi Arabia announced on August 10 that security forces had forced nearly all ‘terrorists and criminal elements’ out of al-Musawara, and authorities took international journalists on a tour of the neighbourhood on August 9. Saudi activists said the violence has killed more than a dozen people, both Saudis and foreigners, in addition to at least five armed militants.

A Saudi Interior Ministry official said that eight members of the police and four members of the special forces had been killed. The Saudi authorities have not released information on resident casualties. A three-year-old boy reportedly died on August 9 from injuries suffered when an armoured vehicle fired on his family’s car in June.

Five residents interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that Saudi security forces have put people in Awamiya at risk, arbitrarily shooting at or arresting those who emerged from their houses. The residents said that to their knowledge Saudi authorities never issued an order for people to leave Awamiya, and their only chance to leave safely has been for short periods allowed by security forces since July 26.

The residents said that local volunteers and activists coordinated the evacuation without assistance from Saudi authorities. They said that security forces turn away anyone who attempts to return to Awamiya to check on relatives or recover property or possessions. Local residents said that people have been fired at and injured in areas such as al-Shukrallah, al-Jumaymah, and al-Rif neighbourhoods, which are west of security forces who are stationed between these neighbourhoods and al-Musawara to the east.

The residents said they had not seen any armed militants in these areas. Five Awamiya residents and three activists close to the situation said that a majority of the town’s inhabitants fled after security forces escalated the situation on July 26. They said that most fled between July 27 and 28 when the town’s electricity was cut off for more than 24 hours, leaving people exposed to temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) without air conditioning. Residents and activists said that the electricity grid had been damaged by gunfire, but did not know who was responsible.

The residents said that security forces closed all of Awamiya’s clinics and pharmacies in May, which they believed was to ensure that militants could not seek medical treatment. Since July 26, they said, security forces had not allowed emergency services to reach the wounded or taken steps to provide humanitarian assistance to people who remain there, though all the shops in the area were closed.

They also said that security forces had occupied a boys’ secondary school, which borders al-Musawara, and circulated a video that they said showed government forces firing a rocket-propelled grenade from the roof into al-Musawara. Human Rights Watch also determined that the rocket-propelled grenade was fired into al-Musawara in the general direction of the Ahmed bin Mahmoud mosque.

UN experts on cultural rights, adequate housing and extreme poverty condemned Saudi Arabia’s destruction of al-Musawara on May 24, noting that the operation had forced ‘residents out of their homes and of the neighbourhood, fleeing for their lives.’ They stated that the destruction of al-Musawara would ‘erase the traces of … historic and lived cultural heritage.’

Al-Musawara resident, ‘Sami,’ whose name, as with others interviewed, has been changed for his protection, said he had not worked since the fighting started because his shop is on the main street near al-Musawara, in the area where security forces had sporadically opened fire on shops and homes. ‘My shop is covered in bullet holes,’ he said. ‘I am certain that security forces are responsible because the size of the bullets are medium and large, which only security forces possess.’

‘Ali’ a Awamiya resident who fled on July 30, said: ‘The security situation in Awamiya has been terrible for the past 80 days. While I was still in Awamiya, the town was constantly bombarded by shelling and security forces were going around shooting in residential neighbourhoods at random. We were too scared to leave our homes and most of the shops were shut down or burned. Anything that moved became a target.’

Another resident, ‘Ahmed,’ said that he came under fire driving in al-Shukrallah on July 29: ‘I am from the al-Jumaymah neighbourhood. I went in the morning to help my mom and dad. When I left I went toward al-Shukrallah to try to leave Awamiya via a back road through farms. I was driving between houses when someone fired at me and the bullet hit the house next to my car. I saw an armoured vehicle at the end of the street … I never saw any armed militants in this area.’