United States teenagers against Yemen war


This 7 July 2019 video from United States senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says about itself:

These High Schoolers Want You To Know About The War in Yemen

The Yemeni people need humanitarian aid, not more bombs. These incredible high schoolers are organizing to put an end to U.S. participation in Saudi Arabia’s brutal war in Yemen. I believe that as more young people get involved in the political process, we can achieve great things, like bringing peace to the desperate people of Yemen.

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Dinosaur age lily flower discovery


Cratolirion bognerianum. Credit: Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

From the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie in Germany:

Oldest completely preserved lily discovered

115 million years ago, tropical flowering plants were apparently very diverse and showed all typical characteristics

July 11, 2019

Botanist Dr. Clement Coiffard of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin discovered the oldest, completely preserved lily in the research collection: Cratolirion bognerianum was found in calcareous sediments of a former freshwater lake in Crato in northeastern Brazil. With an age of about 115 million years, Cratolirion is one of the oldest known monocotyledonous plants. These include orchids, sweet grasses, lilies and lilies of the valley.

Cratolirion is extraordinarily well preserved, with all roots, the flower and even the individual cells are fossilised. With a length of almost 40 centimetres, the specimen is not only extremely huge, but also shows almost all the typical characteristics of monocotyledonous plants, including parallel-veined, narrow leaves with a leaf sheath, a fibrous root system and triple flowers.

However, it was not trivial to examine the fossilised object, as it consisted of iron oxides associated with the stone. In order to see details here, Coiffard collaborated with the HZB physicist Dr. Nikolay Kardjilov, who is an expert in 3D analysis with X-rays and neutrons. At the HZB he also built up a 3D computed x-ray tomography and refined the data analysis in such a way that hardly any disturbing artefacts arise during the investigation of large, flat objects. This made it possible to analyse the details of the inflorescence hidden in the stone. A colour coding in the CT scan makes these details visible: the main axis is marked in turquoise, the supporting leaves in dark green, the pistils in light green and the remains of the actual petals can still be seen in orange.

Many early dicotyledonous flowering plants have already been described from the same sediments of the former freshwater lake in Crato. These include water lilies, aron rods, drought-resistant magnolias and relatives of pepper and laurel. In contrast to other flowering plants of the same age from the USA, Portugal, China and Argentina, the flowering plants of the Crato-Flora are unusually diverse. This could be due to the fact that Lake Crato was in the lower latitudes, but all other fossils of early flowering plants come from the middle latitudes.

From this newly described plant Cratolirion bognerianum and the species of Crato flora mentioned above, it can be deduced that the tropical flowering plants were already very diverse. “It is probable that flowering plants originated in the tropics, but only very few fossils have been described to date,” explains Coiffard. This study thus provides new insights into the role of the tropics in the development of early flowering plants and their rise to global supremacy.

Donald Trump’s war on immigrants continues


This 10 July 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Yazmin Juárez: “I watched my baby girl die slowly and painfully”.

Yazmin Juárez, who is seeking asylum in the U.S. and whose daughter died after leaving a detention center, delivers an emotional statement before the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services.

MOTHER WHOSE DAUGHTER DIED AFTER ICE CUSTODY SPEAKS Yazmin Juárez sat in front of a House subcommittee and described how her 21-month-old daughter, Mariee, crossed the border healthy last year, but died of respiratory illnesses after leaving Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. [HuffPost]

ICE RAIDS BACK ON U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials plan to launch nationwide raids and arrest thousands of undocumented immigrants as soon as this weekend, The New York Times reported. [HuffPost]

AOC WOULD CONSIDER ABOLISHING DHS Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) said she would consider getting rid of the Department of Homeland Security, which includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. [HuffPost]

African new deep-sea fish species discovered


This January 2019 video is called LiveAquaria® Diver’s Den® Deep Dive: Red Head Solon Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus solorensis).

Recently, relatives of that species were discovered.

From the California Academy of Sciences in the USA:

Wakanda forever! Scientists describe new species of ‘twilight zone’ fish from Africa

July 11, 2019

Africa has new purple-clad warriors more than 200 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. Deep-diving scientists from the California Academy of Sciences’ Hope for Reefs initiative and the University of Sydney spotted dazzling fairy wrasses — previously unknown to science — in the dimly lit mesophotic coral reefs of eastern Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. The multicolored wrasses sport deep purple scales so pigmented, they even retain their color (which is typically lost) when preserved for research. The scientists name this “twilight zone” reef-dweller Cirrhilabrus wakanda (common name “Vibranium Fairy Wrasse”) in honor of the mythical nation of Wakanda from the Marvel Entertainment comics and movie Black Panther. The new fish is described today in ZooKeys.

“When we thought about the secretive and isolated nature of these unexplored African reefs, we knew we had to name this new species after Wakanda,” says Yi-Kai Tea, lead author and ichthyology PhD student from the University of Sydney. “We’ve known about other related fairy wrasses from the Indian Ocean, but always thought there was a missing species along the continent’s eastern edge. When I saw this amazing purple fish, I knew instantly we were dealing with the missing piece of the puzzle.”

Underwater Wakanda

The Academy scientists say Cirrhilabrus wakanda’s remote home in mesophotic coral reefs — below recreational diving limits — probably contributed to their long-hidden status in the shadows of the Indian Ocean. Hope for Reefs’ scientific divers are highly trained for the dangerous process of researching in these deep, little-known mesophotic reefs, located 200 to 500 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. Accessing them requires technical equipment and physically intense training well beyond that of shallow-water diving. The team’s special diving gear (known as closed-circuit rebreathers) includes multiple tanks with custom gas blends and electronic monitoring equipment that allow the divers to explore deep reefs for mere minutes before a lengthy, hours-long ascent to the surface.

“Preparation for these deep dives is very intense and our dive gear often weighs more than us,” says Dr. Luiz Rocha, Academy Curator of Fishes and co-leader of the Hope for Reefs initiative. “When we reach these reefs and find unknown species as spectacular as this fairy wrasse, it feels like our hard work is paying off.”

Using a microscope, the team examined the specimens’ scales, fin rays, and body structures. DNA and morphological analyses revealed the new fairy wrasse to be different from the other seven species in the western Indian Ocean as well as other relatives in the Pacific. The new species’ common name is inspired by the fictional metal vibranium, a rare, and, according to Rocha, “totally awesome” substance found in the Black Panther nation of Wakanda. The Vibranium Fairy Wrasse’s purple chain-link scale pattern reminded the scientists of Black Panther’s super-strong suit and the fabric motifs worn by Wakandans in the hit film.

Precious life in deep reefs

In a recent landmark paper, the Academy team found that twilight zone reefs are unique ecosystems bursting with life and are just as vulnerable to human threats as their shallow counterparts. Their findings upended the long-standing assumption that species might avoid human-related stressors on those deeper reefs. The Hope for Reefs team will continue to visit and study twilight zone sites around the world to shed light on these often-overlooked ecosystems.

In addition to this new fish from Zanzibar, Rocha and his colleagues recently published descriptions of mesophotic fish from Rapa Nui [Easter Island] and Micronesia. Luzonichthys kiomeamea is an orange, white, and sunny yellow dwarf anthias endemic to Rapa Nui, and the basslet Liopropoma incandescens (another new species published today in Zookeys) inhabits Pohnpei‘s deep reefs — a neon orange and yellow specimen collected from a rocky slope 426 feet beneath the ocean’s surface.

“It’s a time of global crisis for coral reefs, and exploring little-known habitats and the life they support is now more important than ever,” says Rocha. “Because they are out of sight, these deeper reefs are often left out of marine reserves, so we hope our discoveries inspire their protection.”

How bluehead wrasse fish change sex


This 2008 video says about itself:

Caribbean Fish Identification: Bluehead Wrasse

Bluehead Wrasse fish experience a variety of color changes and are difficult to identify. Learn to identify Bluehead Wrasse with tips from a Caribbean scuba instructor in this free tropical fish identification video.

Expert: Don Stark.

Bio: Don Stark has over 20 years of active diving experience. He has been a frequent participant on fish collecting expeditions in the Bahamas with New England Aquarium staff.

Filmmaker: Don Stark.

From the La Trobe University in Australia:

Secrets of a sex-changing fish revealed

July 10, 2019

We may take it for granted that the sex of an animal is established at birth and doesn’t change.

However, about 500 species of fish change sex in adulthood, often in response to environmental cues. How these fish change sex has, until now, been a mystery.

The secrets of fish that change sex have, for the first time, been revealed by an international collaboration led by New Zealand scientists and including La Trobe University geneticist and Prime Minister’s Prize for Science winner 2017, Professor Jenny Graves. The findings were published today in the journal Science Advances.

“I’ve followed the bluehead wrasse for years because sex change is so quick and is triggered by a visual cue,” Professor Graves said.

“How sex can reverse so spectacularly has been a mystery for decades. The genes haven’t changed, so it must be the signals that turn them off and on.”

Bluehead wrasses live in groups, on coral reefs of the Caribbean. A dominant male — with a blue head — protects a harem of yellow females. If the male is removed, the biggest female becomes male — in just 10 days. She changes her behaviour in minutes, her colour in hours. Her ovary becomes a testis and by 10 days it is making sperm.

Using the latest genetic approaches — high-throughput RNA-sequencing and epigenetic analyses — the researchers discovered when and how specific genes are turned off and on in the brain and gonad so that sex change can occur.

The study is important for understanding how genes get turned off and on during development in all animals (including humans), and how the environment can influence this process.

“We found that sex change involves a complete genetic rewiring of the gonad,” Dr Erica Todd from the University of Otago, the co-lead author, said.

“Genes needed to maintain the ovary are first turned off, and then a new genetic pathway is steadily turned on to promote testis formation.”

Co-lead author PhD candidate Oscar Ortega-Recalde, also from the University of Otago, said the amazing transformation also appears possible through changes in cellular “memory”.

“Chemical markers on DNA control gene expression and to help cells remember their specific function in the body. Our study is important because it shows that sex change involves profound changes in these chemical marks,” Mr Ortega-Recalde said.

La Trobe’s Professor Jenny Graves said the project links to studies of sex reversal in Australian dragon lizards that she is collaborating on with researchers at the University of Canberra.

“With dragon lizards the trigger for sex change is temperature, which overrides genes on the male sex chromosomes and causes embryos to develop as females,” Professor Graves said.

“Sex reversal in dragons and the wrasse involve some of the same genes, so I think we are looking at an ancient system for environmental control of gene activity.”

German TV on hospital in Hitler age


This 26 June 2019 video is called NETFLIX – CHARITÉ AT WAR series Review – NON spoilers,

By Joanne Laurier:

Charité at War: A chilling portrayal of Nazism and its crimes

11 July 2019

All over the world, ruling elites are responding to the heightening of social tensions and widespread opposition to poverty and war by lurching to the right, resorting to police-state methods and reviving the ideological and political filth of the 20th century. In Germany, neo-Nazi activity has become a major political danger.

One of the indispensable duties of artists today is to depict realistically what Nazism was and what it meant for masses of people. Leon Trotsky once commented, “The sole feature of fascism which is not counterfeit is its will to power, subjugation, and plunder. Fascism is a chemically pure distillation of the culture of imperialism.”

In its own way, Charité at War, a powerful German television drama currently available on Netflix, gives life to Trotsky’s proposition. The series is set in the years 1943 to 1945 at Berlin’s Charité hospital, one of the most prominent in Europe. Created by Dorothee Schön, directed by Anno Saul and co-written by Schön and Sabine Thor-Wiedemann, the six episodes actually make up the second season of a series devoted to the institution—the first takes place in 1888 and following years.

Inevitably, central to Charité at War’s storyline is the crushing impact of the Nazi regime on every aspect of life and the degree to which the various doctors, nurses, staff and family members, a mix of historical and fictional figures, offer either resistance or support to the Hitler dictatorship and its policies.

“How does the Hippocratic Oath square with an oath to the Führer?,” asks one of the characters rhetorically. Viewed by millions in Germany, Charité at War is a forthright and chilling appraisal of the fascist poison that seeped into every fiber of German society. It is clearly directed against the contemporary rise of neo-Nazi and far-right elements.

Certain characters and strands of the complex plot stand out. One of the leading doctors at the Charité is Ferdinand Sauerbruch (Ulrich Noethen), a surgeon, an innovator in surgical procedures and prosthetics, who has been at the hospital since 1928. (“I defended [Albert] Einstein, the most hated scientist in the Third Reich.”) Sauerbruch is a German nationalist and a conservative, but he criticizes the Nazis and their dictates.

In the series, Sauerbruch’s chief adversary is Max de Crinis (Lukas Miko), a psychiatrist, high-ranking SS member and medical expert for the Aktion T4, a mass murder program of involuntary euthanasia. As many as 300,000 mentally ill and physically handicapped people were killed under this Nazi program in Germany and Austria, occupied Poland and Czechoslovakia. In his Mein Kampf (1924), Adolf Hitler had claimed that racial hygiene would “appear as a deed greater than the most victorious wars of our present bourgeois era.” (Both Sauerbruch and de Crinis were historical figures.)

Anni Waldhausen (Mala Emde), one of de Crinis’s most promising PhD students, is married to Artur (Artjom Gilz), a pediatrician who, unbeknownst to his wife, is testing out medications on disabled children considered disposable by the Nazis.

The duplicitous Artur’s reactionary predilections surface in a lecture he delivers to nurses about being the guardians of genetic material: “Our goal is to increase fertility for good gene holders and to prevent unwanted genetic illnesses.”

Artur describes his work, according to the precepts of Nazi “racial purity” theory, as research into the “sterilization of genetically unsuitable subjects. The genetic value of a person is determined by the tribe and not their looks or health condition. Your information regarding genetic diseases and anti-social elements is the foundation of our tribal registration in determining if the parents of disabled children should be sterilized.”

In a horrible twist of fate, Anni delivers a child, Karin, with hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, making the infant a potential victim of the euthanasia program. In the maternity ward, Anni shares a room with Magda Goebbels (Katharina Heyer)—wife of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister—who is suicidal because of a recent miscarriage.

When surreptitious efforts to cure Karin fail, Artur takes action behind Anni’s back. Some of the most tension-filled moments concern Karin’s destiny.

Anni’s life is further complicated by the fact that her anti-Nazi brother, Dr. Otto Marquardt (Jannik Schümann), is gay and recently returned from the frontline. He and his lover, nurse Martin Schelling (Jacob Matschenz), must avoid the prying and spying eyes of the vindictive Nazi collaborator, Nurse Christel (Frida-Lovisa Hamann), who is committed to Germany’s “ultimate victory”.

Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code made homosexual acts between men illegal. The Hitler regime broadened the provision, in the name of defending the “moral health” of the Volk, the German people. Nazi persecution included the conviction of some 42,000 homosexuals. Ten thousand gay men were sent to concentration camps, 60 percent of whom did not survive.

One of the most admirable anti-Nazi figures in Charité at War is Adolphe Jung (Hans Löw), a French physician (and another real historical figure) forcibly transferred from Occupied France by the German authorities to the Charité. In Episode 2, he informs Sauerbruch that famed German writer Thomas Mann, in a radio broadcast, has revealed that there are deliberate killings at the Charité: “In German hospitals,” says Mann, “they put the seriously injured together with the old, frail and mentally ill in order to kill them with nerve gas. … The regime tells us it’s a Christian crusade against the Bolsheviks. It is nothing but genocide and mass murder.”

Sauerbruch is skeptical that such horrors could possibly be taking place in his hospital. His physician wife and staunchest defender Margot (Luise Wolfram) tells Jung: “My husband is neither a Nazi nor in the party. He is a doctor not a politician.” To which Jung replies firmly: “In these times everything is political.”

Margot and Sauerbruch attempt to shield opposition figure Hans von Dohnányi (Max von Pufendorf) from the perfidious de Crinis and the Gestapo, into whose clutches he will eventually fall, resulting in his being sent to a concentration camp and murdered.

In 1945, the end of the Hitler regime draws near. There are more and more air raids as the Soviet army approaches. Berlin, the German capital, is the last stand for the Nazis, who want every doctor and nurse to handle a bazooka. In the end, the Nazi authorities become preoccupied with destroying evidence of their crimes, killing patients and, ultimately, themselves.

When Soviet soldiers enter the hospital, Artur, wearing a yellow star of David given to him by the Jewish father of an injured boy, negotiates their takeover of Charité. He performs the role of a self-sacrificing hero, in part to try and salvage his relationship with Anni. More importantly, he fears being prosecuted as a Nazi collaborator. Interestingly, one of the Soviet troops identifies Sauerbruch as the physician who treated Lenin’s tooth 30 years earlier—in Zurich.

All in all, Charité at War makes a consistently honest, convincing effort to present the horrible truth of this historical period. The unbearable pressure exerted by Nazi rule brings out the best and the worst in people. In terms of the latter, every weakness, fear, jealousy, opportunist impulse and desire for authority over others is amplified and can even take a murderous turn.

Artur under “normal” circumstances would be a conventional middle class professional and family man. However, his highly pronounced conformism and unwillingness to stand up against the fascist authorities make him a vessel for the carrying out of genuine atrocities. The series points out that Jewish personnel were all expelled from the hospital in 1933.

The acting is first-rate and committed in Charité at War, and the entire project has a sober, serious air to it. One striking visual feature is that many scenes open with actual historical footage then blended into the drama.

The series raises vital issues. The fascist threat arises from the crisis of capitalism. The Nazi regime was the terrible price the German working class paid, thanks to the Social Democratic and Stalinist misleaders who stood at their head, for the failure to overthrow the bourgeois order. Fascism is not a mass movement today, but there can’t be the slightest complacency about the dangers.

Fascism, Trotsky wrote, meant the direct dominance of every aspect of society by ruthless finance capital, which “gathers into its hands, as in a vise of steel, directly and immediately, all the organs and institutions of sovereignty, the executive, administrative and educational powers of the state: the entire state apparatus together with the army, the municipalities, the universities, the schools, the press, the trade unions, and the co-operatives.” And, one might add, the medical profession and hospitals.

When a state becomes fascist, Trotsky explained, it signifies first of all that the workers’ organizations are annihilated, the working class is reduced to an amorphous state, and “a system of administration is created which penetrates deeply into the masses.”

Charité at War is not written and directed according to a revolutionary outlook, but its honesty is an antidote to complacency.