New Caribbean spider named after Bernie Sanders

This 27 September 2017 video from the USA is called New spider species named after Obamas, DiCaprio.

From the University of Vermont in the USA:

Discovery: Bernie Sanders spider

September 26, 2017

A scientist at the University of Vermont and four of his undergraduate students have discovered 15 new species of “smiley-faced” spiders — and named them after, among others, David Attenborough, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

You won’t find them in Washington, DC, Hollywood, or Vermont — but on Caribbean islands and other southern spots you might now get a glimpse of Spintharus davidattenboroughi, S. barackobamai, S. michelleobamaae, and S. berniesandersi as well as S. davidbowiei and S. leonardodicaprioi.

“This was an undergraduate research project,” says Ingi Agnarsson, a spider expert and professor of biology at UVM who led the new study. “In naming these spiders, the students and I wanted to honor people who stood up for both human rights and warned about climate change — leaders and artists who promoted sensible approaches for a better world.”

The study was published September 26 in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Why Bernie?

Until now, the beautiful, yellow, smiley-faced spiders in the genus Spintharus — named for a smiley face pattern on their abdomens — has been thought to have one widespread species “from northern North America down to northern Brazil,” Agnarsson says.

However, when a research team from the Caribbean Biogeography Project (“CarBio”) — spearheaded by Agnarsson and Greta Binford at Lewis & Clark College — examined spiders from Jamaica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, Florida, South Carolina, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Colombia — they discovered that one widespread species was actually many endemic species. Using CarBio genetic work, and the Vermont students’ painstaking photography and lab work, the team — with support from the National Science Foundation — was able to identify and formally describe fifteen new species. “And if we keep looking, we’re sure there are more,” Agnarsson said.

Each student who helped describe the spiders also got to name a few of them — and some were named for beloved family members, “but we all named the Bernie Sanders spider”, says Lily Sargeant, one of the students who worked on the project, and who graduated from UVM last year. “We all have tremendous respect for Bernie. He presents a feeling of hope.”

“That spider species will be named after Bernie forever,” says Ben Chomitz, another of the student researchers.

“Our time on this earth is limited,” says Lily Sargeant. “But I think that ideas are not that way. It is my hope that through naming that spider after Bernie we can remember the ideas that he has at this pivotal point in the life of our nation.”

For student Chloe Van Patten, her naming process goes back to what she calls a high school “obsession” with actor Leonardo DiCaprio. “I’m over my crush, but now that he’s involved in environmental issues, I love him even more. So I named a spider after him hoping that if he read our study,” says the recent UVM graduate, “he might go out to dinner with me and talk about climate change.”

Conservation concerns

The Caribbean region has long been known to scientists as a major global hotspot for biological diversity. The leading spider expert on the Spintharus genus in earlier decades, Herbert W. Levi (1921-2014), had concluded that differences he observed in these spiders across a wide swath of geography represented variation within one species. But newer molecular techniques deployed by the project’s leaders, Agnarsson and Binford, show otherwise. “These are cryptic species,” Agnarsson says. “As Dr. Levi’s work clearly showed, they’re hard to tell apart by looking at them.” But the DNA data are clear: these spiders have not been interbreeding — exchanging genes — for millions of years.

“Thoughts about conservation change dramatically when you go from having a common, widespread species to an endemic on, say, Jamaica that has very specific conservation needs,” Agnarsson says.

“All the sudden we have fifteen-fold increase in diversity in this particular group — just because we did a detailed study,” says Agnarsson. “That tells us something about biodiversity in general. The more we look, the more we discover.” Conservation biology, the team notes, fundamentally depends on good taxonomy, since preserving one widespread species is a radically different task than protecting the precise habitat of a genetically isolated, local species.

The Vermont students saw their lab work in a broad cultural light. “I’m a second-generation American and I’m black,” says Lily Sargeant. “It is through a diversity of perspectives that we achieve innovation in science and I appreciate how much the Obamas value diversity.”

“Here’s the thing,” says UVM scientist Ingi Agnarsson, “we need to understand and protect biodiversity in its many forms, and we felt compelled to recognize leaders that understand this.”


‘Rajoy’s Spanish ‘democracy’ is not democracy’

This video says about itself:

Catalonia referendum: Voters confront police in Barcelona

1 October 2017

Catalan voters shouting, “Occupation forces get out” forced Spanish National Police to retreat from the education ministry building in Barcelona.

Al Jazeera’s Karl Penhaul reports from Barcelona.

Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant today:

In a comprehensive report on the referendum day by our correspondent Maartje Bakker, several Catalans tell about their wish for independence.

The 70-year-old Albert Ferris Pellicer was for twenty years a migrant worker in the Netherlands and with him memories of the dictatorship of Franco are now coming back. He also came this Sunday to stop the police, with a picnic basket on his back. “We live under a dictatorship. We did not know, but now we found out”, he says. “They send armed forces against us. But surely we are not jihadists? It’s a dictatorship, just a bit softer. We are pseudo-free, we know now.”

Today Catalans realize that the Spanish dictatorship never stopped.

Evictions, rubber bullets and ‘pseudo freedom’: that was the Barcelona referendum day.

Britain: Catalan referendum: Jeremy Corbyn urges Theresa May to intervene ‘to find political solution to the crisis’. The Civil Guard has firing rounds of rubber bullets into crowds on protesters in Barcelona: here.

Hundreds injured as riot police storm Catalan referendum polling stations. Barcelona mayor calls for Spanish prime minister to resign amid reports of police firing rubber bullets at people trying to vote: here.

South African hippos save wildebeest from crocodile

This video from South Africa says about itself:

Hippos Come to Rescue Wildebeest from Crocodile

29 August 2017

Timing is everything when visiting Kruger [National Park]… 72-year-old pensioner, Mervyn Van Wyk and his wife Tokkie, understand just how lucky they were to be in the right place at the right time!

Hippos threatened by ivory poachers: here.

Woman Hitler concentration camp survivor votes in Catalonia

Anti-fascist woman votes in Catalonia

This photo shows 102-year-old Ms Neus Català, survivor of Adolf Hitler‘s concentration camp for women Ravensbrück during World War II, voting in the Catalan referendum today.

The caption of this photo, translated from Twitter in Catalan says:

a life of anti-fascist commitment. Voting. Resisting. Winning. We, who love her so much.

One can only hope that the police of the rightist Madrid minority government won’t injure this 102-year-old anti-nazi woman, like they do today with so many others.

Spanish police injures hundreds for voting

Police violence in Catalonia

This Reuters photo shows a man who wanted to vote in Tarragona, Catalonia in the referendum, and was injured by Spanish police violence.

According to Dutch NOS TV, Spanish police, sent to Catalonia by the right-wing Rajoy minority government to stop referendum voting today, has injured over 465 human beings for voting.

Spanish police has attacked firefighters as well.

Catalan regional police, on the other hand, protects the many people who still want to vote. There are long queues at the polling stations.

UPDATE: Spanish police injures 761 people.