Lakenhal museum, reopening and photos


This 18 June 2019 video from Leiden in the Netherlands says about itself:

Museum De Lakenhal | A source of inspiration for everyone

Museum De Lakenhal will open its doors again on 20 June 2019. Following a thorough renovation and restoration, the museum is celebrating the return of the building to the public with a free opening festival from 20 to 23 June.

When the museum is reopened, the famous masterpieces such as ‘The Last Judgement’ (circa 1526-27) by Lucas van Leyden, ‘A Pedlar Selling Spectacles’ (circa 1624) by Rembrandt van Rijn and ‘Counter Composition VII’ (1924) by Theo van Doesburg will be on show in the old restored part of the museum, the ‘Laecken-Halle’. Two photo presentations are being exhibited in the new exhibition halls: still lifes of the restoration and expansion of the museum by Karin Borghouts and artist Marjan Teeuwen’s monumental Destroyed House (Leiden) projects.

This is a 2017-2019 time-lapse video of the reconstruction.

On 30 July 2019, we went to the re-opened museum.

In the first new exhibition hall, there was a seventeenth-century painting about how the Lakenhal looked then: not yet a museum, still a textile business building. But mostly photos by Karen Borghouts.

In this video, Belgian Ms Borghouts talks about how she made photos of the Lakenhal reconstruction from 2016 till 2019.

In the second new hall were photos by Marjan Teeuwen.

About destroyed houses in Amsterdam.

This video is about Marjan Teeuwen’s art about four buildings from about 1900 in Leiden, including a former porn shop, which had to be torn down for the new Lakenhal exhibition halls.

The third place of which Marjan Teeuwen photos showed destroyed buildings in this hall was Gaza.

This 1 January 2017 video says about itself:

Dutch artist Marjan Teeuwen used rubble to rebuild a house in the Gaza Strip. She transformed what was destroyed into an artistic installation.

This 2017 video is also about Ms Teeuwen’s work in Gaza.

Stay tuned, as there will be more on this blog on my Lakenhal visit!

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Cambrian arthropod predator discovery


With a spaceship-shaped carapace, rakelike claws and a round tooth-filled mouth, Cambroraster falcatus (shown in an artist’s rendition) hunted for food along the seafloor. Lars Fields © Royal Ontario Museum

By Carolyn Gramling, 7:01pm, July 30, 2019:

This newfound predator may have terrorized the Cambrian seafloor

With rakelike claws and a toothy mouth, it could snag prey even under the sand

A fierce predator, with spiny claws and a round, rasping mouth, terrorized the Cambrian seafloor 508 million years ago as it raked through the sand in search of food.

Dubbed Cambroraster falcatus, the predator was about 30 centimeters long — which, to the tiny prey of the time, likely seemed monstrous enough. But C. falcatus also had a pair of jointed limbs that ended in rakelike claws, a round mouth lined with sharp, serrated plates and a broad, shield-shaped carapace that covered its head and most of its back, giving it a distinct resemblance to a horseshoe crab, or perhaps a spaceship.

Researchers, who describe C. falcatus for the first time July 31 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, have now found hundreds of fossils of the ancient arthropod — including one showing the critter’s entire body, both front and back — in Canada’s Burgess Shale (SN: 4/27/19, p. 32).

The creature’s round, tooth-filled mouth “is a type of mouth that doesn’t exist anymore,” and is characteristic of an extinct group of arthropods called radiodonts, says Jean-Bernard Caron, a paleontologist at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Radiodonts, in general, are rare in the fossil record, Caron says.

So it was all the more remarkable to find so many specimens of C. falcatus in one location, where the animals may have gathered thanks to abundant food. A mass molting event may also have occurred at the site, the researchers speculate, which would help explain the clusters of appendages and carapaces.

The team spotted what turned out to be the first specimen of C. falcatus in 2012. “But we didn’t know what we were looking at” because the specimens were mostly just bits and pieces, Caron says. Then, in 2016, Caron and paleontologist Joseph Moysiuk of the University of Toronto found the key to the puzzle: a nearly complete fossil of the creature.

Cambroraster refers both to the Cambrian Period when this critter reigned and to the rakelike shape of its front claws, and falcatus to the sickle shape of the carapace. C. falcatus may have used its long, spiky claws to rake through the sand and form a kind of basket in which it trapped animals such as worms, small arthropods and even small fish. It may also have plowed through sediment with its spaceship-shaped head.

“What’s striking about this animal is that it opens a new window into predation during the Cambrian,” Caron says. Previous fossil finds sketched a relatively simple ecosystem structure, he says: Shrimplike predator Anomalocaris was at the top, and some smaller specialized arthropods like trilobites scuttled along the seafloor.

But C. falcatus was something else, he says: a remarkable and fierce predator that occupied its own niche, with adaptations “that really allowed it to feed on anything living in the mud.”

The researchers were surprised to find that many of today’s carnivorous species trace this diet back all the way to the base of the animal evolutionary tree, more than 800 million years, predating the oldest known fossils that paleontologists have been able to assign to animal origins with certainty. … So if the first animal was a carnivore, what did it prey on?The authors suggest the answer might lie with protists, including choanoflagellates: tiny, single-celled organisms considered to be the closest living relatives of the animals. Living as plankton in marine and freshwater, choanoflagellates are vaguely reminiscent of miniature versions of the shuttlecock batted back and forth during a game of badminton. A funnel-shaped collar of “hairs” surrounds a whip-like appendage called a flagellum whose rhythmic beating sucks a steady stream of water through the collar, filtering out bacteria and detritus that is then absorbed and digested. It is possible that the common ancestor of today’s animals was a creature very similar to a choanoflagellate: here.

“The ancient creature that is most closely related to all animals living today might have eaten bacteria and other protists rather than plants,” Wiens said.

Corporate journalist attacks pro-peace Germans


This 18 February 2019 German ARD TV video says about itself (translated):

Hitler salute: Bundeswehr slanders female witness | Panorama | NDR

Instead of finally clarifying whether at a farewell party for a lieutenant colonel the Hitler salute was brought, the Bundeswehr rather slandered the only witness.

By Johannes Stern in Germany:

Die Zeit editor Jochen Bittner condemns “German pacifism”

31 July 2019

Last week the New York Times published an op-ed by Jochen Bittner, political editor for the German weekly Die Zeit, entitled, “The world used to fear German militarism. Then it disappeared. How pacifism conquered Germany.”

The article provides an insight into the politically-malignant mentality of affluent journalists who are eager to see German militarism marching again. Throughout the article, Bittner treats the German population’s aversion to war—the result of the horrors of Nazism and the second world war—as an obstacle to be overcome.

Bittner begins his article with the complaint: “The rebuff from Berlin may have been rough, but at least it marked a new age of clarity. Not only did the German government decline a recent American request to send ground troops to Syria…, but it didn’t even consider the idea: There was no debate in the Bundestag, and not even a real one in the press.”

And he continues: “This year, Germany’s postwar federal republic turns 70. Born from the moral and physical rubble of World War II, and reunited only 30 years ago, some of its national character traits are still being formed. Others have fully matured—including a deep and abiding anti-militarism.”

Bittner’s article appeared only one day after the swearing-in of new German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, an event that made clear if there is an “abiding, national character trait” of the German bourgeoisie, then it is militarism.

Kramp-Karrenbauer’s stated goals include doubling the military budget by 2024, building a Franco-German aircraft carrier, reintroducing compulsory military service and also sending German ground troops to Syria!

Bittner knows perfectly well that German the ruling class has long ago decided to throw away all the restrictions imposed on it after its crimes in two world wars and to revive German militarism. He has many connections with the foreign policy establishment and think tanks such as the German Marshall Fund and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and has actively contributed to the return of German militarism.

At the beginning of February 2014, Bittner described how a working group of fifty politicians, journalists, academics, military personnel and business representatives had prepared the revival of German militarism for over a year. The result of this “work” was published by the SWP under the title “New Power, New Responsibility: Elements of a German Foreign and Security Policy for a changing world.”

The SWP paper formed the basis for the intervention of then Federal President Joachim Gauck and the Federal Government at the Munich Security Conference 2014, where they announced the end of Germany’s foreign policy and military restraint. What Bittner concealed in his article was that he could only report in such detail on his topic because he himself had been a member of the working group that had drafted the SWP paper.

The new German great-power strategy also included intensive war propaganda in the media. Bittner also played a central role here. Shortly after the publication of the SWP paper, he placed a programmatic article entitled “Rethinking German Pacifism” in the New York Times on November 4, 2013, in which he spoke out against the “too deeply ingrained pacifism” of the Germans and called for more “military interventions”.

Five years later Bittner is embittered about the fact that the media’s aggressive war propaganda has not changed the anti-war mood of the population at all. Disappointed, he notes: “In Germany, war is always a shame, a sign of failure. The memory of war is inextricably linked to the collapse of civilization as such, to crimes so horrific and traumatic that they pose an eternal moral legacy on the Germans: never again.”

Bittner’s anger at the deeply rooted anti-militarism is evident in every sentence of his commentary. When in 1999 the Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer “argued in favor of using German arms during the Balkan wars, a fellow party member threw a balloon filled with red paint at his head” and “in a 2018 poll, 72 percent of Germans said that their country shouldn’t join military action against the Syrian regime … The message is clear: “All war is murder, and making the case for war is the argument of a murderer.”

Reading Bittner’s commentary, it becomes clear why the far-right AfD is courted and promoted by the established media and parties. Bittner’s complaints pursue the same reactionary goal as the AfD’s demands for a “180-degree turn in memory” or its designation of the Nazi terror regime as “a bird shit in over 1,000 years of successful German history.” The historical crimes of German imperialism must be relativized in order to prepare new ones!

“Germany’s decades-long effort to learn from history, and to be on the guard against slipping into another moral abyss, has produced an unintentional byproduct: moral arrogance”, complains Bittner.

The fact that the New York Times, the mouthpiece of the US intelligence apparatus and military, is promoting this propagandist of German militarism is primarily due to Bittner’s foreign policy orientation. As a former NATO correspondent of the Die Zeit, he belongs to the section of the ruling class that, just like the New York Times, is constantly agitating for a more aggressive confrontation with Russia, raising the threat of a nuclear third world war.

Reef manta rays, photography helps


This video says about itself:

Reef Manta Rays Dancing Together || ViralHog

Occurred on March 31, 2019 / Oahu, Hawaii, USA

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

Citizen scientists offer ray of hope

July 31, 2019

Volunteer snorkelers and scuba divers have been helping capture images of reef manta rays to better protect the threatened species.

The University of Queensland initiative — Project Manta — relied on these citizen scientists to photograph or video individual reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) across Australia’s east coast.

UQ PhD candidate Asia Armstrong, who led the study, hopes the data will inform conservation planning and management along the coast.

Manta rays are a great ambassador species for conservation,” Ms Armstrong said.

“Everyone loves them, and they offer a wonderful platform for getting people involved in marine conservation, as people protect what they love.

“With Project Manta, we relied on the cameras and eyes of both trained researchers and volunteers, who helped us build a catalogue of more than 1300 individual reef manta rays, from in excess of 7000 sightings.”

Once images and videos were captured, they were analysed to isolate the distances individual rays were travelling.

“Manta rays have a unique spot pattern on their belly, which allows individuals to be identified from one another,” Ms Armstrong said.

“Each time an animal is photographed we record the date, time and location of the sighting, along with any additional information, like its sex, maturity status, injuries and behaviour.

“When a sighting is matched to an existing record we gain insights into the ray’s movements and population dynamics.”

The researchers were surprised to discover that individual rays had traveled from North Stradbroke Island to the wreck of SS Yongala, just south of Townsville, a distance of more than 1,000 kilometres.

“This is a record-breaking point-to-point movement for a reef manta ray, improving our understanding of the potential home range for this species,” Ms Armstrong said.

“Globally, reef manta rays are listed as vulnerable to extinction, so this information can help inform conservation planning internationally, particularly in regions where this species may be exposed to increased risks and threats.

“It’s important now to connect with regional research groups to enable us to compare catalogues, which may reveal longer distance movements than those we’ve discovered.

“So far, there haven’t been any records of cross-jurisdictional movements of this species — that is, movements between the waters of different countries — which is important to know for conservation planning.

“With the help of international researchers, along with passionate citizen scientists and conservationists, we can really improve the long-term chances for this incredible species.”

Racist mass murder in Gilroy, USA


This 30 July 2019 video from the USA is called A quick look at the gunman in deadly Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

The fascist attack in Gilroy and the US epidemic of mass shootings

31 July 2019

The killing of three people at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California captured headlines across America, but the corporate media has sought to suppress or downplay its most important aspect: its politically motivated character.

Nineteen-year-old Santino William Legan opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle inside the festival late Sunday afternoon. He killed three people—a six-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl, and a 25-year-old man—and wounded at least 15 others before being shot to death by local police.

The three people he killed were Hispanic or African-American. This was apparently not an accident. Legan’s internet postings indicate he was motivated by racist and white supremacist views. The most important indication was a piece of text urging, “Read Might is Right by Ragnar Redbeard”, followed by a complaint about “hordes of mestizos” (mixed-race people) allegedly crowding into towns in the Gilroy area.

The book Legan praises is Might is Right or The Survival of the Fittest, a social Darwinist, white supremacist screed first published in 1890, inspired by, among others, the reactionary German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. One passage in the book denounces the [18th century USA] Declaration of Independence for the “degrading, self-evident lie” that “all men are created equal.” This is followed by imprecations against blacks, Asians, Jews and the poor, as well as those who live in “noxious” urban centers like London, Liverpool, New York, Chicago and New Orleans—language whose modern equivalent is Donald Trump’s denunciations of “rat-infested,” crime-plagued Baltimore.

Despite this clear evidence of Legan’s political sympathies, local police and the national media claimed that the motive for his attack was a mystery, and that it was just one more “senseless killing” of the type which has become commonplace in the United States over the past three decades.

Not a single prominent media pundit or newspaper columnist made the obvious connection between Legan’s mentality and the fascistic hatred of immigrants and minorities promoted by the president of the United States, using mass rallies, comments to the media and tweets directed to a Twitter audience of more than 50 million.

The media cover-up only gained a certain plausibility because the Gilroy attack was one of ten instances of mass shooting across the United States over the past weekend. The casualty toll showed 15 deaths and 52 wounded.

The slaughter continued after the beginning of the work week. Tuesday morning at a Walmart in Southaven, Mississippi, a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee, a gunman shot two Walmart workers to death and wounded a policeman before he was himself shot and arrested.

The media response to these tragedies has been twofold: using them to disguise the specifically political aspects of the Gilroy, California attacks; and holding them up as proof of the need for stepped up repressive measures, including not only the usual liberal calls to restrict gun ownership, but stepped-up police powers as well.

Particularly noteworthy was an editorial in the Washington Post, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, which made no mention of the fascistic beliefs of the gunman and declared that the Gilroy shootings were “an indictment of our gun laws”. The editorial went on to note the heavy security presence of police during the Gilroy attack, and their quick response, shooting Legan to death one minute after he opened fire. The implication was clear: quicker and more massive police repression was in order.

In the two decades since the Columbine massacre made “mass shootings” a recognized category of events in the United States, the World Socialist Web Site has sought to develop a critical understanding of what is typically dismissed as “senseless violence” in America.

As we noted in a recent commentary, the two decades since Columbine coincide with the decomposition of American society under the impact of mounting social inequality and endless imperialist war:

It has also been two decades, more or less, since the declaration of the “war on terror” and the invasions of Afghanistan and later Iraq, two decades since the hijacking of a national election and the repudiation of any concern by the American bourgeoisie for democratic norms, two decades of mounting social inequality and two decades of unrelenting attacks on workers’ conditions of life…

American capitalist society is disintegrating. Mad, individual anti-social acts such as the one that occurred at Columbine will not be halted by the pious wishes, much less the indifference, of the powers that be.

There has been a change in the general category of “mass shootings,” which have increasingly acquired a political character.

Of course, the event that to a certain extent triggered the wave of mass killings, the Columbine murders, had an element of this. It was planned for Hitler’s birthday and the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings. Now, however, such politically-motivated massacres happen with regularity, including the attack by a fascist gunman against a synagogue in Poway, California in April of this year and the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh in October 2018.

And as the example of the Gilroy, California attack demonstrates, far from “pious wishes” about an end to such violence, the current American government is deliberately inciting such atrocities. President Trump is pursuing a definite political strategy, politically facilitated by the Democrats, of stoking violence and creating the conditions for ever more authoritarian measures.

The capitalist system as a whole is responsible. The bitter disappointment in Obama, the fascist incitement of Trump, in combination with the economic hardships and endless war, have encouraged or produced a new phenomenon, the openly right-wing mass shooter.

The author also recommends:

Three dead in Gilroy, California festival shooting: Gunman motivated by white supremacist ideology
[30 July 2019]

Fascist gunman attacks California synagogue
[29 April 2019]

Borneo dung beetles and deforestation


This February 2015 time-lapse video is called Dung removal activity by dung beetles (Malaysia, Borneo).

From Queen Mary University of London, England:

Sexual competition helps horned beetles survive deforestation

July 30, 2019

A study of how dung beetles survive deforestation in Borneo suggests that species with more competition among males for matings are less likely to go extinct, according to research led by scientists from Queen Mary University of London and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

The team followed 34 different species of tunneller dung beetle in the tropical rainforest of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. These are similar to the familiar ball-rolling dung beetles but they bury dung directly under the place where it’s deposited. Some of these species have males which compete intensively for access to females and which carry horns which they use in fights with rivals, whereas other species have less competitive males which don’t fight each other and which don’t have horns.

In the study area, 34 of these beetle species are found in pristine “old-growth” forest, and the team tracked each of them across a gradient of increasing environmental disturbance going from the old-growth forest, to lightly logged forest, then heavily logged forest and finally oil palm plantations where the original forest has been almost completely replaced.

The results, which are published in the journal Ecology Letters, showed that species with horns were more likely to persist in the disturbed environments than were those without horns, and in the most disturbed environment, oil palm plantation, all of the 11 species that remained had horns. Furthermore, the researchers found that among the species with horns, those with relatively large horns for their body size were more likely to persist and had larger population sizes.

Dr Rob Knell from Queen Mary University of London said: “Strong sexual selection, in this case, competition between males, means that some males “win” and father a large proportion of the next generation. When a population is stressed by changes to the environment the winning males can be the ones best adapted to the new environment, and this can boost the rate by which the population adapts to the new environment, making them less likely to go extinct. This is something that has long been predicted theoretically but it is the first time that this effect has been shown in the field.”

Dr Eleanor Slade from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore added “This tells us that if we want to understand how animals can adapt to changing environments then we need to think about their mating systems as well as other aspects of their biology. Understanding which species may be particularly prone to extinction after environmental change is important when evaluating species conservation status and management practices.”

Sexual selection describes the process by which members of one sex compete with each other for access to members of the opposite sex. It is ubiquitous across the animal kingdom and drives the evolution of traits such as sexual ornaments and weapons, which give advantages to individuals in competitions for mating. While these traits can benefit individuals, the effect of strong sexual selection at the level of the species is less clear. There are several ways in which sexual selection might actually increase extinction risk. These include the cost of growing and carrying sexual ornaments and weapons, the energetic expense and risk of injury from contests with rivals, and the risk of predation during conspicuous sexual displays.

These traits are also, however, indicators of an individuals’ condition and can reflect underlying genetic quality. Strong sexual selection can therefore enhance the spread of beneficial genetic variants by the mechanism explained above potentially reducing extinction risk.