Red squirrel makes her nest, video


This 1 June 2019 video shows a female red squirrel making her nest in a tree in the Veluwe region in the Netherlands.

Ex-soldier’s mass murder in Virginia, USA


This 31 May 2019 CBS TV video from the USA says about itself:

At least 11 people were killed and several others hurt in a shooting in Virginia Beach. The suspect was killed by police. Jeff Pegues has the latest.

By Bryan Dyne in the USA:

At least 12 dead in Virginia Beach mass shooting

1 June 2019

On Friday afternoon, a longtime public utilities employee opened fire in the municipal building complex of Virginia Beach, Virginia, just east of Norfolk and Chesapeake. At least twelve people were killed and another six were injured.

The shooter has been identified as 40-year-old DeWayne Craddock, a certified professional engineer in the city’s Public Utilities Department. News reports from the time show that Craddock had enlisted in the Army National Guard shortly after he graduated high school in 1996.

The shooting took place on multiple floors of Building No. 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, which includes offices for planning, public works, the police department and City Hall. It is the largest workplace mass shooting since the Aurora, Illinois warehouse shooting this past February.

The names of the victims have not been released as of this writing.

It has been reported that Craddock was killed, bringing the shooting spree to an end, though it is unclear whether or not it was during an extended shootout with police or the result of a self-inflicted gunshot. A .45 caliber handgun, extended magazines and a silencer were reportedly recovered by the police.

Injuries were being treated at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital or Sentara Princess Anne Hospital. The New York Times reported that one victim had to be airlifted by helicopter to a trauma center at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, though details on the conditions of any of the patients are not yet available.

Local authorities were alerted to the situation by an administrative assistant who works in the building where the shooting happened. According to the available police reports, a “disgruntled” employee began firing indiscriminately, though they have not yet commented on a concrete motive.

As has become common after mass shootings in the United States, politicians including Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam have responded with hypocritical laments about the “unspeakable, senseless violence.” Former Democratic vice-presidential candidate and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine appealed for Congress to address the “daily scourge” of gun violence.

These words can be given no weight. Northam presides over a state with a heavy presence of all four branches of the US military, the greatest instigator of violence in the world. Kaine was Hilary Clinton’s running mate, who, as US Secretary of State, oversaw the destruction of Libya and laughed in response to the brutal killing of former Libyan head of state Muammar Gaddafi by US backed militias.

Nor can this latest mass shooting in the United States be treated as an isolated incident of unimaginable evil. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 150 mass shootings in the country since the start of the year, among a total of nearly 22,000 incidents of gun violence more broadly. To date, there have been 16,846 people killed or injured in shootings, including 1,332 children and teenagers.

These numbers speak to a crisis-ridden society rife with social inequality and they reveal the vast toll a quarter century of unending war has inflicted on American society. The conditions of life for broad masses of people are sharply declining and, in the absence of a mass working class movement, mass shootings are one of the many negative expressions of the overall social situation.

This killing also occurs a month after the 20th anniversary of the Columbine incident. As shown since then, the actual response of the political establishment to mass killings is to call for more heavily armed police, increased surveillance … initiatives which only intensify the repressive apparatus of the state. These repressive efforts will certainly escalate in the wake of the latest, but certainly not the last, mass killing spree in America.

While it cannot be determined at this point whether Craddock’s time in the National Guard had any role in shaping the behavior that would ultimately lead to his murderous outburst, the military plays a large role in the economy and culture of Virginia Beach. The city is part of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area in Southeastern Virginia/Northeastern North Carolina, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Hampton Roads is known for its large military presence and is home to about 20 military facilities: here.

London peace activists’ Buckingham Palace anti-Trump protest


This 3 June 2019 video from England says about itself:

‘Spoil Trump’s Banquet:’ Activists Protest President’s U.K. Visit Outside Buckingham Palace

Stop the War activists were protesting outside Buckingham Palace to “spoil Trump‘s banquet.”

President Donald Trump has arrived in the U.K. on the first leg of a trip …

The agenda for Trump’s weeklong journey is largely ceremonial: a state visit and an audience with Queen Elizabeth II in London, … and his first presidential visit to Ireland.

But Trump’s visit also comes at a fraught time in British politics, with Prime Minister Theresa May stepping down as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7 over the country’s Brexit turmoil.

Lawmakers in Parliament have repeatedly rejected May’s Brexit divorce deal with the European Union.

Trump will meet with May, but Monday’s focus will be on elaborate ceremonies honouring the president. It begins with Queen Elizabeth II holding a grand welcoming ceremony at Buckingham Palace, moves on to a formal tea with Prince Charles and ends with a sumptuous state banquet Monday night.

Sponges help studying penguin, seal, fish DNA


This 2016 video says about itself:

Sponges: Oldest Creatures in the Sea? – Full Episode

Until recently there was a scientific consensus that sponges were the first animals to branch off the “Animal Tree of Life”, a kind of family tree for all living and extinct animals on earth. But recent DNA research has cast doubt on that theory, with some scientists suggesting that ctenophores, also known as comb jellies, are an older lineage.

From ScienceDaily:

Sponges collect penguin, seal, and fish DNA from the water they filter

June 3, 2019

Just like humans leave DNA in the places we inhabit, water-dwelling animals leave DNA behind in the water column. In a paper published June 3 in the journal Current Biology, scientists report that sponges, which can filter 10,000 liters of water daily, catch DNA in their tissues as they filter-feed. This proof-of-concept study identified fish, seal, and penguin DNA in sponges from the Antarctic and Mediterranean, demonstrating that sponges can be used to monitor biodiversity.

“Sponges are ideal sampling units because you find them everywhere and in every aquatic habitat, including freshwater,” says Stefano Mariani, a marine ecologist and population geneticist at the University of Salford. “Also, they’re not very selective filter-feeders, they don’t run away, and they don’t get hurt by sampling — you can just grab a piece, and they will regenerate nicely.”

Additionally, the authors found that the presence of sponge DNA did not interfere with their ability to identify the DNA of other species caught within its tissue. Instead, they found that by using a particular DNA primer, which is a short sequence of nucleic acid that probes the DNA of specific organisms, they could selectively amplify vertebrate DNA while avoiding amplifying the sponge’s DNA itself.

Using this process in tandem with metabarcoding, which sorts the jumble of DNA from the tissue sample into distinguishable, species-specific piles, Mariani and his team were able to identify 31 taxa. Mostly, the species identified were fish, but one sponge sample from Antarctica included DNA from Weddell seals and chinstrap penguins. The sample was later identified to be located offshore of a penguin breeding colony. “This was a really exciting find and also makes a lot of sense,” says Mariani, “because the penguins would be in and out of the water a lot, eating, swimming, and pooing.”

Currently, machines with large water-sampling capabilities are being developed to allow scientists to sample DNA from water, but the authors think using a natural sampler could be just as effective. Because the DNA found in water is extremely diluted, it needs to undergo extensive filtering — but with filtering, Mariani warns, comes the danger of DNA contamination. Further, preserving water samples risks degrading the DNA. Sponge tissue, however, has already filtered out the water, greatly reducing both the processing time as well as the risk of contamination.

Further, bringing machines into some regions might not be feasible and may be too disruptive to fragile ecosystems. “If you want to study an endangered species of sawfish or a manatee in a mangrove forest in Mozambique, you can’t go there with massive robots. You have to use a very low-tech approach,” Mariani says.

Moving forward, the authors would like to investigate the ability of other animals to act as DNA samplers, particularly in open waters where sponges are either rare or unreachable by humans for sampling. Mariani suggests that other organisms such as jelly fish or salps, which also sieve water but float through the water column, may be more accessible in the open ocean.

Ultimately, the authors’ goal is to improve how environmental DNA is collected in order to better monitor biodiversity in areas that may not be suitable for other methods. Determining whether sponges are more effective in capturing the biodiversity of an area over pre-existing methods, however, will require further research, but the authors say this paper is the first step in answering that question. “I am hopeful that this method will prove itself to be useful,” Mariani says. “It’s the quintessential environmentally friendly biodiversity assessment tool.”

The authors acknowledge support from a UK NERC grant.

Sudan dictatorship shoots patients in hospitals


This 2 June 2019 video says about itself:

Gunfire as Sudan military moves in to clear Khartoum sit-in

Gunfire as Sudan military moves in to clear Khartoum sit-in: Troops have used tear gas and fired on protesters camped out at the army headquarters in Sudan’s capital Khartoum.

Multiple injuries have been reported. The Sudanese Professionals Association says the military council has assigned a large number of troops to disperse the protest. Demonstrators say people are still coming from all over Sudan to join the sit-in. We speak to a number of protesters on the phone to update us on the situation.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Eyewitnesses: “Sudanese militia entered hospitals and opened fire”

The stories of eyewitnesses come from the Sudanese capital Khartoum. Early this morning, paramilitaries attacked a tent camp of protesters in front of the military headquarters. The paramilitaries set fire to tents, beat up protesters, and shot the crowd with live ammunition. According to Associated Press, at least 13 people were killed and 116 injured.

On Friday, army leaders already warned that they would take action against the protesters who had been sitting every day for weeks near the army headquarters for weeks. …

Various sources tell the NOS that after that operation militia units have spread throughout the capital. They go from neighbourhood to neighbourhood and shoot at targeted groups to drive people off the streets. The sources report that snipers are on the roofs of buildings to prevent new demonstrations. Armed men have invaded a hospital and have opened fire there, say several sources.

“Can you hear the gunshots?” Mohamed Salman has just stepped outside to talk to the NOS via his mobile phone. But on the street it’s too dangerous, so he goes back inside quickly. “They arrived in my neighbourhood with many vehicles. They took positions and started to disperse small groups of people by shooting in the air and firing tear gas. I have spoken to friends in other neighbourhoods who say there aree no warning shots, only shots aimed at people.”

What happened this morning on the square in front of the military headquarters is gradually becoming clearer. Cars with armed men arrived in the square before dawn. They came from two sides of the square and surrounded the demonstrators. The men fired tear gas from one side, while shots were fired from the other direction.

Beaten and shaved

While people tried to flee, the armed men beat up protesters. “Some demonstrators – those who have dreadlocks – were shaved by the men,” Salman says on the phone.

Who are the armed men? “They are two organizations”, says Sudanese Ahmed Abushaam, who lives in the Netherlands. He explains who he means: the Sudanese secret service, and the Rapid Support Forces, the paramilitary organisation formerly called the Janjaweed, but which changed its name after the civil war in Darfur where they played a notorious role. “This is exactly how the Janjaweed operates. What they used to do in Darfur, they now do in our capital,” said Abushaam.

“We are not at all safe,” says demonstrator Abdelmonim Ali, who fled into a house on one of the outskirts of Khartoum. “We have a wounded person with us. We can’t go anyway because the snipers walk over the roofs of all the buildings on this street.”

Another demonstrator tells his story to the NOS: “The attacks started at 5 o’clock in the morning. We were on the street, but all had to flee in different direction and so I lost sight of my friends and fellow protesters. Many people I know were injured, but when I went to see the hospital there were also shots. I had to leave the building quickly and went back to my own hiding place. At the moment I see on Facebook that more and more people are revolting. In villages around the capital, people are actually taking to the streets, even if it is dangerous to do that. People are motivated by this to fight on and to rebel.”

The demonstrations that have been taking hold of Sudan for months have flared up again in recent weeks after negotiations between the army and the opposition hit an impasse. The army top brass wants to take the lead in an interim government that should provide for economic recovery and democratic elections. The opposition demands leadership by itself, and fears that senior military officers will find a way to keep the deposed President Bashir’s party in power for the long term.

Why the paramilitaries have intervened today is not certain, but several sources point to the trip abroad that Commander Hemedti made at the end of May. Hemedti, Bashir’s former right-hand man, has just returned from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. These three countries have promised billions in support for the Sudanese army commanders. The royal family in Saudi Arabia in particular wants to maintain their warm ties with Hemedti because he provides military support [child soldiers] to the Saudis … in the … war in neighbouring Yemen.

That is against ordinary Sudanese, demonstrator Abdelmonim Ali says. “The people are furious”, he says. “We thought we could make a deal with the army. But now people all over Sudan are resisting. We want change. We have demonstrated peacefully. Those who killed innocent civilians today will be on trial.”