Sea lamprey love life, new research


This 12 April 2018 video from Wales is called Sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) spawning in the upper Wye.

From Michigan State University in the USA:

Smells like love…to sea lampreys

July 9, 2019

Some people are drawn to cologne; others are attracted to perfume. When it comes to sea lampreys, however, spermine smells like love.

In new research led by Michigan State University and published in the current issue of PLoS Biology, spermine, an odorous compound found in male semen, proved to be a powerful aphrodisiac.

Spermine isn’t a new discovery. It’s been a known quantity in semen since 1678 — at least in humans. Its tractor-beam effect on spawning female sea lampreys is new, however, and it can be yet another key way to potentially control the invasive species.

“We found the male ejaculate contains spermine, a highly specific and potent pheromone, which attracts only mature females”, said Weiming Li, fisheries and wildlife professor and senior author of the study. “Mature females likely use spermine to identify males actively releasing sperm in the spawning aggregation.”

They need this help because sea lampreys migrate up to river gravel beds ¬- spawning aggregation sites — drawn by other pheromones released from spawning males. These mating cues are merely the billboards, though, along riverine highways that draw them to the sites.

Arriving at the gravel bar of love, the females see many males on nests — all mature and ready to mate. Rather than find “the perfect mate,” the females seem to act on localized cues and form promiscuous pairs with many males — in sequence and one at a time — and spawn several times per hour.

Spermine is a coup de gras [sic; coup de grâce] that helps females make their final selections, navigate the throng of males and find the best ones with which to mate. According to Li, this is the first time scientists have been able to document this behavior in sea lampreys.

“We also were able to document a specific receptor in the noses of females that picks up spermine, and it can be smelled at trace-level concentrations,” said Richard Neubig, pharmacology professor and study co-author. “This was a big job requiring nearly 12,000 tests in the MSU high-throughput screening lab to figure out the right pair of chemical and receptor.”

Ovulatory females detect this faint cologne, and they respond at levels as low as 10-14 molar, a mere whiff comparable to a single drop of perfume in a pool. It’s interesting to note that even higher levels of spermine had no effect on immature females or other males.

Li and a team of scientists identified the receptor for spermine, a trace-associated receptor, or TAAR, in females. Future work will determine if spermine can be used to manage invasive sea lamprey populations. Likewise, MSU scientists will investigate the TAAR mechanism to explore its control potential.

Controlling sea lampreys in the Great Lakes is a critical goal of fisheries scientists. The invasive species infiltrated the upper Great Lakes via the Atlantic Ocean in the 1920s through shipping canals. They feed by attaching themselves to other fish, such as salmon and trout. One sea lamprey can kill more than 40 pounds of fish, and the U.S. and Canadian governments spend approximately $20 million annually to control them in the Great Lakes.

No Nicki Minaj concert in Saudi Arabia


This 6 July 2019 video from the USA is called Nicki Minaj Receives Huge Backlash After Controversial Saudi Arabia Performance.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The US American rapper Nicki Minaj is not going to Saudi Arabia for a concert. In a statement she writes that she has given it a lot of thought and that she has studied the situation in more detail.

Her conclusion is that she will not go to the strictly religious country, where women have less rights than men and LGBT people are discriminated against.

‘Discriminated against’=getting the death penalty.

In the statement, Nicki Minaj expresses her strong support for the establishment of equal rights for women and LGBT people. She also speaks out for freedom of expression.

The announcement last week that Minaj would appear at the Jeddah World Fest was received with surprise. In her raps, Minaj does not mince words …. The video clips that accompany her songs can be called explicit.

Dutch government sends refugees to Afghan war


Dutch demonstration against sending refugees back to the Afghan war, photo by Defence for Children

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Family deported to Afghanistan, human rights organizations furious

A family with four minor children has been deported to Afghanistan today. Ten children’s and human rights organizations, including Defence for Children and Amnesty International, tried unsuccessfully to prevent the deportation. According to those organizations, Afghanistan is unsafe. …

According to the children’s rights organization Defence for Children, Afghanistan is too dangerous for the children. “Attacks and violence occur every day”, said Martine Goeman, lawyer at Defence for Children, in the NOS Radio 1 Journal. “Civilians are being killed. This is a vulnerable family. We are very concerned about this.” …

Last September, then State Secretary Harbers replied to parliamentary questions that 120 families with minor children were on the list to be deported. …

“We have concluded that Afghanistan is too unsafe“, said Emile Affolter, spokesperson for Amnesty. According to the Global Peace Index, Afghanistan is the most dangerous country in the world, last year that was still Syria. “And the violence is only increasing,” says Affolter. …

Human rights organizations point out that the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway are the only countries in Europe that deport families to Afghanistan. Also, the granting percentages for residence applications for Afghans are much higher in other countries. In Italy, for example, it is 98 percent, in France 67 percent, while in the Netherlands it is 35 percent.

The Afghan Minister of Migration this spring asked the Dutch government to stop deporting asylum seekers to his country. “The public domain is unsafe”, Minister Balkhi told Nieuwsuur. “For example, someone was deported from Sweden who died in a bomb attack. This can happen to anyone else who is deported.”

Dodgy facial recognition in Detroit, USA


This 9 July 2019 video from the USA is called Criticism mounts over Detroit Police Department’s facial recognition software.

By Kevin Reed in the USA:

Building the infrastructure of a police state

Detroit’s facial recognition surveillance system exposed

9 July 2019

The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners decided on June 29 to postpone a vote on the expansion of its use of camera and facial recognition technology amid growing public outrage over the system that has been in place since 2016.

The decision to delay the vote followed a report the previous day in the Detroit Metro Times that the core surveillance technology—which is scanning and recording the activity of everyone in the city within sight of its extensive camera network at all times—was purchased for $1 million and installed without any public review or discussion let alone a vote of the Detroit City Council or the Police Commission.

Earlier reports in the Metro Times exposed the use of the high-definition video cameras and face-scanning software by the Detroit Police Department (DPD) to identify and track the movements of individuals at “parks, schools, immigration centers, gas stations, churches, abortion clinics, hotels, apartments, fast-food restaurants, and addiction treatment centers.” The article also said that police can identify people in real time using “databases containing hundreds of thousands of photos, including mugshots, driver’s licenses, and images scraped from social media.”

Additionally, the report said the system is integrated with Detroit police body cams and the city’s highly touted “ground-breaking and crime-fighting” public-private-community partnership called Project Green Light Detroit. The program involves placing cameras—at a cost of $4,000 per location—that stream live video to the DPD’s Real Time Crime Center at its downtown headquarters.

A web page at detroitmi.gov dedicated to the Project Green Light hosts a map showing the location of nearly 600 surveillance cameras and says this infrastructure is for “improving neighborhood safety, promoting the revitalization and growth of local businesses, and strengthening DPD’s efforts to deter, identify, and solve crime.”

After the extent of the surveillance was exposed and public anger began to rise, Detroit Police Chief James Craig hastily called a press conference on June 27 in an effort to downplay the invasive nature of the system and justify its implementation.

Forced to admit that the artificial intelligence and biometrics system had been in place for the past two years without review, Craig became irritated. When questioned by the media about its legality, he said, “How come we never talk about the criminals?” Chief Craig also said that the department had the right to detain people based on the technology because it constitutes “reasonable suspicion” that an individual identified by the system had committed a crime.

When asked about it, Democratic Mayor Mike Duggan has repeatedly refused to comment, even though he was a key decision-maker in signing the three-year contract with DataWorks Plus. The firm, located in Greenville, South Carolina, provides technology to more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies in North America and New Zealand.

DataWorks Plus specializes in hardware and software systems that integrate traditional police identification databases like mug shots and fingerprints with more-advanced biometric data such as iris- and tattoo-matching and voice and facial recognition analytics. According to the Metro Times, the city contract also allows for thousands of hours of surveillance video to be shared with third-party law enforcement vendors.

While the smaller circulation alternative weekly Metro Times has played a role in questioning the city’s surveillance operation, the two major daily publications—the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News—have engaged in a campaign to cover up the anti-democratic implications of the police program. Both papers have published multiple articles extolling the benefits of the system to the public and just recently began reporting on growing public concerns.

Among these Free Press and News coverage have been public relations pieces promoting the crime-fighting potential of Project Green Light and quoting Mayor Duggan and the president of the Black McDonald’s Operators Association on how it will bring a “safer environment” and “make criminals think twice before committing a crime” at a participating business.

Detroit’s 24-hour live video surveillance system was initially exposed on May 16 when Georgetown Law School’s Center on Privacy & Technology published a study called “America Under Watch: Face Surveillance in the United States.” This report compared pilot facial recognition programs in Detroit and Chicago to similar systems operated in the Southwest China city of Guiyang where “police are purportedly able to locate and identify anyone who shows their face in public—in a matter of minutes.”

The Georgetown Law report explains that Detroit signed a contract for the “FACE Watch Plus real-time video surveillance software” that operates “not less than 100 concurrent video feeds.” The DPD’s face recognition policy, which was approved by the Board of Police Commissioners and went into effect on July 1, 2018, “may connect the face recognition system to any interface that performs live video, including cameras, drone footage, and body-worn cameras.”

The city contract with DataWorks Plus also includes a mobile app that Detroit police officers may use to run facial recognition searches on the city’s 500,000 mug shots. The system also provides access to Michigan’s Statewide Network of Agency Photos (SNAP), a database that includes driver’s license photographs.

In their analysis of the Detroit system, Georgetown Law explains that Project Green Light was essentially a Trojan Horse used to pitch businesses that are open late at night “as a way to deter crime and improve police response times to incidents at locales across the city.” However, by April 2019 the number of Green Light Partners had been expanded to many other locations including churches, schools and support centers that “reveal deeply personal information” about “religious, political or social views or activities” of people in a “noncriminal organization or lawful event.”

It was Georgetown Law that brought to light efforts by Detroit city officials to obscure the facial recognition aspects of the Project Green Light program. The study points out that neither the application to participate nor the agreement signed by private business partners with the city mention “the use of real-time face surveillance.”

The Georgetown Law study also reviewed the democratic and constitutional issues raised by video-based facial recognition technology in general, writing, “By enabling the secret and mass identification of anyone enrolled in a police—or other government—database, it risks fundamentally changing the nature of our public spaces.”

Among the constitutional violations of these technologies is a “chilling effect” on First Amendment free speech and peaceful assembly rights in public places under video surveillance and the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures by secretly monitoring and cataloging “every single movement” of someone across time.

The fact that Detroit’s secret surveillance system has been in place for two years and plans were well advanced for a major expansion behind the backs of city residents is a political warning to the working class about the complicity of the local media and Democratic Party in the buildup of the infrastructure of a police state. Not a word would have been said about the issue if the public had not been informed about it and begun demanding that the program be stopped.

For example, Police Commissioner from the Fifth District Willie E. Burton—who is an up-and-coming figure of Detroit Democratic Party politics with connections to Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders—is just now calling for public hearings and a referendum on the facial recognition system following his enthusiastic endorsement of Project Green Light over the past two years.

Meanwhile, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Democratic congresswoman from Michigan’s 13th District, which includes much of Detroit, had said nothing about police surveillance of the city’s citizens until the Georgetown study was published.

Starting with a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on May 22, Tlaib has been calling for a moratorium on the use of the technology “until we do something about it at a federal level.” In other words, she would approve the use of facial recognition systems under US government regulations approved by congressional Democrats and Republicans.

The selection of Detroit as a testing location for advanced systems of facial recognition has both a political and historical significance. Despite the decimation of its industrial base, Detroit remains a center of the American working class with a long history of class struggle against big business and the state. Detroit is the location of an urban uprising in the summer of 1967 in which federal troops and tanks were mobilized for the first time against the population of a major American city. …

The ruling class are well aware of the seething anger and fighting capacity of the working class and youth today in Detroit and other cities and growing opposition to capitalism more generally. It is to this threat that the system of facial recognition software tied to real-time video surveillance of the public is being developed and deployed.