How tardigrades survive extreme circumstances


This March 2017 video says about itself:

Without water, a human can only survive for about 100 hours. But there’s a creature so resilient that it can go without it for decades. This 1-millimeter animal can survive both the hottest and coldest environments on earth, and can even withstand high levels of radiation. Thomas Boothby introduces us to the tardigrade, one of the toughest creatures on Earth.

From the University of California – San Diego in the USA:

Cracking how tardigrades survive the extremes

Researchers discover that a protein in tiny tardigrades binds and forms a protective cloud against extreme survival threats such as radiation damage

October 1, 2019

Summary: Scientists have gained a new understanding of how tiny, ultra-resilient invertebrates known as tardigrades, or ‘water bears’, are protected in extreme conditions. Tardigrades are found in water environments around the world — including mountainous, deep sea and Antarctic environments. The researchers discovered that a tardigrade protein named Dsup binds to chromatin — DNA inside cells — and forms a protective cloud against extreme survival threats such as radiation damage.

Diminutive animals known as tardigrades appear to us as plump, squeezable toys, earning them irresistible nicknames such as “water bears” and “moss piglets.”

But don’t let their squishy appearance fool you. These microscopic invertebrates are highly resilient. In fact, they’re considered “extremophiles“, with near super-power abilities of defense in harsh conditions. What’s behind these capabilities?

Scientists at the University of California San Diego have gained a new understanding of how tardigrades are protected in extreme conditions. Their findings are published in the journal eLife on Oct. 1, 2019.

At roughly 0.1 to one millimeter in size, tardigrades are found in water environments around the world — including mountainous, deep sea and Antarctic environments. They are well documented as having remarkable abilities to survive extreme conditions, from dangerously high radiation levels to chillingly low temperatures to exposure to deadly chemicals. They’ve even been launched into space as part of a project to transfer life forms to the moon (and crash-landed there with the Beresheet lander spacecraft earlier this year).

Carolina Chavez (undergraduate, now a PhD student at UCLA), Grisel Cruz-Becerra (postdoctoral scholar), Jia Fei (assistant project scientist), George A. Kassavetis (research scientist) and James T. Kadonaga (distinguished professor) of UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences employed a variety of biochemical techniques to investigate the mechanisms underlying the survivability of tardigrades in the extremes.

Previous studies identified a protein named Dsup (for Damage suppression protein), which is found only in tardigrades. Intriguingly, when Dsup is tested in human cells, it can protect them from X-rays; however, it was not known how Dsup performs this impressive feat. Through biochemical analysis, the UC San Diego team discovered that Dsup binds to chromatin, which is the form of DNA inside cells. Once bound to chromatin, Dsup protects cells by forming a protective cloud that shields DNA from hydroxyl radicals, which are produced by X-rays.

“We now have a molecular explanation for how Dsup protects cells from X-ray irradiation,” said Kadonaga, a distinguished professor and the Amylin Endowed Chair in Lifesciences Education and Research. “We see that it has two parts, one piece that binds to chromatin and the rest of it forming a kind of cloud that protects the DNA from hydroxyl radicals.”

However, Kadonaga doesn’t think this protection was meant specifically to shield against radiation. Instead, it’s probably a survival mechanism against hydroxyl radicals in the mossy environments that many terrestrial tardigrades inhabit. When the moss dries up, tardigrades shift into a dormant state of dehydration, or “anhydrobiosis,” during which Dsup protection should help them survive.

The researchers say the new findings eventually could help researchers develop animal cells that can live longer under extreme environmental conditions. In biotechnology, this knowledge could be used to increase the durability and longevity of cells, such as for the production of some pharmaceuticals in cultured cells.

“In theory, it seems possible that optimized versions of Dsup could be designed for the protection of DNA in many different types of cells,” said Kadonaga. “Dsup might thus be used in a range of applications, such as cell-based therapies and diagnostic kits in which increased cell survival is beneficial.”

The eLife paper is dedicated to Professor Russell F. Doolittle, a UC San Diego professor emeritus of molecular biology and a pioneer in protein evolution, who carried out the evolutionary analysis of Dsup for the new research and provided guidance throughout the project.

How tardigrades protect their DNA to defy death. A ‘fluffy cloud’ of protein shields water bears’ DNA from radiation, drying and other damage: here.

Royal Shakespeare Company breaks with BP oil


This 23 July 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

Sir Mark Rylance: Actor quits Royal Shakespeare Company over BP sponsorship
Sir Mark Rylance says he does “not wish to be associated with BP any more than I would with an arms dealer or a tobacco salesman“.

Oscar-winning British actor Sir Mark Rylance has quit the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) over sponsorship funding it receives from BP.

Sir Mark accused the energy firm of obscuring its damaging environmental impact by supporting arts organisations.

BP sponsors the RSC’s ticket scheme for 16-25-year -olds.

Writing for The Guardian and campaign group Culture Unstained, he said: “Today I feel I must dissociate myself from the RSC, not because it is any less of a theatre company, but because of the company it keeps.

“I feel I must resign as I do not wish to be associated with BP any more than I would with an arms dealer, a tobacco salesman or anyone who wilfully destroys the lives of others alive and unborn.

“The RSC will continue pushing BP‘s brand on to a generation of young people who have – in huge numbers through the ongoing school strikes – told adults they need to step up their response to the climate crisis now.

“Surely the RSC wants to be on the side of the world-changing kids, not the world-killing companies?”

Sir Mark added on BP: “Does this company have the right to associate itself with Shakespeare?

“Does it even have the right to have the word ‘British’ in its name when it is arguably destroying the planet our children and grandchildren will depend on to breathe, drink, eat and survive?”

The British star, who won the best supporting actor Oscar in 2016 for his role in Bridge of Spies, has called on the RSC to set a positive example for the future of sponsorship in the arts.

Like the BP oil fat cats are not fit sponsors for Shakespeare, their Shell oil fat cat colleagues are not fit sponsors for wildlife photography or classical music. Like there are also dodgy corporate sponsors at PSV football

However, today good news.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

RSC ends BP sponsorship

THE Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is ending its sponsorship by BP following pressure from school climate strikers.

The RSC’s £5 ticket scheme for 16 to 25-year-olds had been supported by the oil giant since 2013.

However, pupils involved in the climate strikes threatened to boycott the British cultural institution over its “sickening” links to BP.

In a letter to the RSC, the students said: “BP’s influence is nothing but a stain on the RSC.

“If we, as young people, wish to see an affordable play at your theatre, we have to help to promote a company that is actively destroying our futures by wrecking the climate.

“BP is jeopardising the futures of these young people they apparently care so much about.

“It is sickening that the works of Shakespeare are being associated with these events.”

Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance, an associate artist with the RSC for 30 years, cut his link with the theatre company in the summer over the issue.

A joint statement by RSC artistic director Gregory Doran and executive director Catherine Mallyon said: “Amidst the climate emergency, which we recognise, young people are now saying clearly to us that the BP sponsorship is putting a barrier between them and their wish to engage with the RSC.

“We cannot ignore that message. It is with all of this in mind that we have taken the difficult decision to conclude our partnership with BP at the end of this year.

“There are many fine balances and complex issues involved and the decision has not been taken lightly or swiftly.”

BP said it was “disappointed and dismayed that the RSC has decided to end our partnership early.”

How jellyfish regenerate body parts


This July 2017 video from Japan is about Cladonema pacificum jellyfish.

From Tohoku University in Japan:

Jellyfish‘s ‘superpowers’ gained through cellular mechanism

October 1, 2019

Jellyfish are animals that possess the unique ability to regenerate body parts. A team of Japanese scientists has now revealed the cellular mechanisms that give jellyfish these remarkable “superpowers”.

Their findings were published on August 26, 2019 in PeerJ.

“Currently our knowledge of biology is quite limited because most studies have been performed using so-called model animals like mice, flies, worms and fish etc. Given that millions of species exist on the earth, it is important to study various animals and broaden our knowledge,” said Yuichiro Nakajima, Assistant Professor at the Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences, Tohoku University in Japan, and corresponding author of the study.

“Jellyfish are one of such animals with interesting biological features,” Nakajima said. “For example, they have stinging cells, called cnidocytes, to capture prey.”

Cnidarian jellyfish — named for their stinging cells — have existed on the earth for more than 500 million years. They form part of a unique group of animals that are not bilaterally symmetrical and also possess the capacity to regenerate body parts — a trait most of the complex animals, including humans, have lost. These early-diverging primitive animals could play a pivotal role in helping us better understand the evolutionary biology of bilaterally symmetrical animals, like us humans.

For their study, the researchers used Cladonema pacificum — a jellyfish species from the Cnidaria phylum that has branching tentacles — to investigate the spatial pattern of cell proliferation and their roles during jellyfish development and regeneration, aiming to establish the cellular basis of these phenomena. “With easy lab maintenance and a high spawning rate, Cladonema is suitable for studying various aspects of jellyfish biology,” Nakajima explained.

To investigate the role of cell proliferation following food uptake in determining body-size growth, appendage shape, and regeneration in Cladonema jellyfish, the researchers examined the distribution of cells that play a key role in DNA replication through cell division, producing new ‘daughter’ cells that are identical to the original ‘parent’ cell. They found spatially distinct groups of proliferating cells in the medusa (sexual) life-stage, with cell proliferation in the umbrella-shaped portion of their body being uniform, while cell proliferation in the tentacles was clustered.

After withholding food or blocking cell proliferation using a cell-cycle inhibiting agent, the researchers found body size growth was inhibited, and they also observed defects in tentacle branching, differentiation of stem cells into stinging cells, and regeneration. These results suggest that free-swimming adult jellyfish in the sexual stage possess actively proliferating cells that play a key role in controlling body-size, tentacle shape, and regeneration.

Additionally, the researchers found that when food was not available, the jellyfish exhibited a gradual decrease in body size after 24 hours, suggesting they are sensitive to food availability and are able to adapt to metabolic changes in response to environmental conditions.

“We are currently trying to understand the molecular mechanisms of Cladonema development and regeneration,” said Sosuke Fujita, a master student in the Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, and the first author of the study. “Based on this research, molecular control of cell proliferation is the key to deciphering jellyfish growth and regeneration.

According to Nakajima, the researchers also plan to investigate the differences between the two different adult stages in jellyfish: medusae (sexual) and polyps (asexual). “For these purposes, we will identify gene expression changes associated with different developmental and regeneration contexts and plan to introduce genetic tools for manipulation of genes.”

Bernie Sanders in hospital, get well soon!


This 2 October 2019 video from the USA is called Bernie Sanders Embraces Class Warfare, Rolls Out a Plan to Curb CEO Pay.

Read more here.

Unfortunately, today, there is also this Associated Pres news:

Bernie Sanders Has Heart Procedure, Scraps Campaign Events

WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders’ campaign said Wednesday that the Democratic presidential candidate had a heart procedure for a blocked artery and was canceling events and appearances “until further notice.”

The 78-year-old Sanders was in Las Vegas when, according to a campaign statement, he experienced chest discomfort during a campaign event Tuesday and sought medical evaluation. Two stents were “successfully inserted” and that Sanders “is conversing and in good spirits,” according to the campaign.

Sanders’ wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, was en route to Las Vegas on Wednesday and said in an email to The Associated Press that her husband was “doing really well”.

Tick Segerblom, a Clark County, Nevada, commissioner who was at Sanders’ fundraiser Tuesday said Sanders seemed fine at the time. “He spoke well. He jumped up on the stage. There was just nothing visible,” Segerblom said.

… Sanders sometimes jokingly refers to his age at town halls and other events, especially when interacting with younger participants. …

“The issue is, who has the guts to take on Wall Street, to take on the fossil fuel industry, to take on the big money interests who have unbelievable influence over the economic and political life of this country?” Sanders said on the stage that night. …

In Sanders’ case, when doctors insert a stent, they first thread a tiny balloon inside a blocked artery to widen it. The stent is a small wire mesh tube that then is propped inside to keep the artery open. The number of stents needed depends on the size of the clog.

The treatment can immediately improve symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath. The stents are threaded into place through blood vessels in the groin or wrist, requiring only a tiny incision. Most are coated with medication to prevent the targeted artery from reclosing. That is still a risk, requiring monitoring, and patients also often are prescribed blood thinners to prevent clots from forming in the stents.

A letter released by Sanders’ physician in 2016 cited a history of mildly elevated cholesterol but no heart disease.

Get well soon, Bernie!

Enemies of Bernie Sanders will use this hospitalisation as a pretext to claim that Bernie Sanders is supposedly ‘too old’ to run for president. ‘Conveniently’ forgetting that Sanders is roughly the same age as the two other Democratic party candidates called front runners in the media, Senator Warren and Joe Biden. Roughly the same age as Republican President Donald Trump. Roughly the same age as Sanders’ 2016 Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton (who also had a health problem during her campaign; much closer to the presidential election day).

Shell oil, bad classical music sponsors


This classical music video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Shell Symphony by Kate Honey (excerpts)

Shell Symphony was composed by Kate Honey in 2017 to call on Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw to end its partnership with the oil giant Shell. This is the film of the premiere on October 5th 2017, in a protest concert outside the Concertgebouw.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

A group of activists threw ten thousand music sheets from the balcony in the Concertgebouw last night. The group, Fossil Free Culture NL, protests against the collaboration between the Concertgebouw and Shell.

The group protested at the Concertgebouw because the cultural institution receives sponsor money from Shell. “We cannot believe that they are sponsored as a public institution by Shell,” campaigner Maria Rietberg told NH Nieuws regional broadcasting organisation. “The Concertgebouw plays an important role in the world that we want to create together, free from fossil fuels.”

#FossilFreeMuseumplein

The action group previously handed out black champagne to visitors to the Concertgebouw. They also demonstrated against the Van Gogh Museum. That museum also had links with Shell, but they have since been broken.

The campaign #FossilFreeMuseumplein is not nearly finished when it is up to the activists. Ultimately, they want to ensure that no one public institution on the square has links with Shell.

Saving freshwater fish species and aquariums


This 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute – Freshwater Biodiversity

The warm waters of the southeastern United States are home to an amazing diversity of animals and habitats. The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, TNACI, works to protect and sustain the region’s natural treasures and bring people of all ages closer to nature. Help us celebrate and care for these riches in our backyards.

Learn more about the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute and how you can help here.

From Aarhus University in Denmark:

The hidden ark: How a grassroots initiative can help save fish from extinction

October 1, 2019

Summary: Freshwater fish are the most threatened vertebrate group, and species are disappearing faster than scientists can describe them. A new study shows that aquarium hobbyists can play an important role in freshwater fish conservation by filling in the gaps left by the scientific community and conservation organizations.

Freshwater fish are a highly diverse group, representing nearly half of all fish species. Due to accelerating human activities, they are also the most threatened vertebrate group, and are disappearing faster than they can be described. Currently, half of all freshwater fish species are still not formally assessed by conservation organizations, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), resulting in many species becoming extinct before conservation actions can even be initiated.

However, a newly published study by Dr. Jose Valdez from Aarhus University and Kapil Mandrekar from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, shows how aquarium hobbyists can play an important role in freshwater fish conservation by filling in the gaps left by the scientific community and conservation organizations.

Dedicated hobbyists

Aquarium keeping is one of the most popular hobbies in the world, with millions of fish owners participating in this activity worldwide. Due to their interest in fish conservation and a love for the species they own, hobbyists often pay more attention to the conservation status of particular fish groups than the scientific community and can be more knowledgeable of some species than their professional counterparts.

“In some cases, species that are not yet scientifically described are well known to hobbyists — such as many species from the armoured catfish family,” says Valdez.

Aquarium hobbyist organizations help bring these passionate enthusiasts together to exchange information on keeping and caring for specific groups of fishes. These hobbyist organizations, along with their dedicated members, have already helped discover new species while saving others from extinction by providing rare and extinct in the wild fish from their own aquariums towards various conservation projects.

Organizations ensure survival

This includes conservation projects such as the Fish Ark Project (FAP) and associated organizations such as the Goodeid Working Group (GWG), who successfully keep populations of the 12 most endangered or extinct-in-the-wild and 24 threatened goodeid species in Mexico. Others such as the Hobbyist Aqualab Conservation Project (HACP), has already provided specimens of rare fish species to 34 universities, public aquaria, zoos, and other hobbyists in 15 countries to ensure their survival.

The largest organization is the CARES (Conservation, Awareness, Recognition, Encouragement, and Support) preservation program, which is associated with some of the major aquarium hobbyist organizations. CARES has taken a grassroots initiative to encourage hobbyists to keep the most endangered, and in some cases, already extinct in the wild freshwater fish to ensure their continued survival.

“The importance of programs, such as CARES,” says Mandrekar, “is that some of the species they focus on have little to no commercial value in the fish trade, and emphasize those that are overlooked and not charismatic enough for many conservation programs.”

First study of potential

Although CARES was founded fifteen years ago, the study by Jose Valdez and Kapil Mandrekar was the first to assess the program’s species and the potential value of CARES to the scientific community and conservation.

The researchers found that CARES listed nearly six hundred species of freshwater fish and over eighty species which are currently unknown by the scientific community.

“Aquarium hobbyists often possess detailed descriptions of undescribed species and the habitats where they are found, which can provide a detailed background for future work by the scientific community,” explains Mandrekar.

The CARES list also contained over thirty species that they consider already extinct in the wild, even though more than a third of those were classified as not threatened by the IUCN.

Need for close partnership with scientists

The vast disconnect of information revealed by the study exemplifies the importance of programs such as CARES and the need for scientists and conservation organizations to not only develop closer partnerships with hobbyist organizations but also recognize them as a valuable resource that can help save freshwater fishes from extinction.

“Many species already extinct in the wild currently only exist because they are specifically being kept and bred by these hobbyists. By bridging these conservation and knowledge gaps, fish hobbyists from the comfort of their home, are playing a pivotal role in helping preserve many of these threatened and rare fishes for future generations,” explains Valdez.

Although CARES involves individuals with scientific backgrounds, the authors state that there must be closer collaborations with scientists across disciplines as well as partnering with in-situ and ex-situ conservation efforts.

Advertising con men, bad PSV football sponsors


This January 2018 video says about itself:

Known Forex Scams To Avoid: Forex Robot Scams, Fake Brokers & Spread Manipulation ☠️

Forex can be a really shady place to be involved in and there are a lot of scams out there.

1) Managing money service – someone in a social forum or bar trying to convince you to give him money to manage it for you. Obviously, there are proper management fund services out there and hedge funds (that are regulated) if you want to do this.
2) Fake brokers – not regulated or clones of regulated firms or brokers with a fake regulation website.
3) Robots – not all automated systems are scams but there are robots being advertised like fruit machine slot robots.
4) Spread manipulation – not so much anymore, especially regulated firms can’t get away with this anymore. But with unregulated brokers, it is a different story…

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

PSV sponsor in controversy because of ‘shady fake ads’

The Investous corporation will continue to be an official PSV sponsor until the end of next year. That says a spokesperson for the Eindhoven football club now that the company has been discredited due to fraudulent practices. In the TV program ‘Opgelicht’ [Deceived], it turned out yesterday evening that the sponsor uses ads to seduce gullible people to invest in bitcoins, gold or shares.

Fake ads on social media lead to fake news articles with made-up quotes from Dutch celebrities such as Waylon or Jort Kelder. The articles resemble pieces from the NOS or the Volkskrant daily. Whoever clicks through is brought into contact with ‘brokers’, who then offer extremely risky investments. Investous turns out to be the company behind these advertisements.

According to the research program, the chance that the investments will generate a profit is only ten percent. Several people have lost tens of thousands of euros because of the advertisements, Omroep Brabant regional broadcasting organisation writes.

Not illegal

Investous does not do anything illegal. The company is based in Cyprus, where supervision is much more superficial than in the Netherlands. PSV spokesperson Thijs Slegers tells in the TV program that five complaints about the sponsor have arrived at the club. PSV has asked the company to take the complaints seriously and resolve them.

Investous did not want to appear in front of the camera of the TV program.

The NOS article does not mention another, bigger sponsor of PSV: Philips corporation. Philips in fact founded PSV in 1913. Recently, Philips is involved in briberry scandals; eg, in Poland and in Brazil.

What did dinosaur age crocodiles eat?


This August 2018 BBC video says about itself:

Sarcosuchus: the Dinosaur Killing Crocodile

Steve Backshall needs the most powerful jaw in the dinosaur kingdom… the giant croc Sarcosuchus might have what he’s looking for.

From the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in the USA:

What did ancient crocodiles eat? Study says as much as a snout can grab

September 30, 2019

Summary: To study the diet of ancient crocodiles, two researchers combined mathematical analyses of the animals’ shapes, surveys of modern crocodiles‘ diet, modeling methods for reconstructing the diet of fossil groups, and forensic-style interpretations of damaged bones from the distant past.

While most people imagine alligators and crocodiles as being much the same now as they were during the age of dinosaurs, digging into the fossil record shows much more diverse species through time. Semiaquatic ambush predators resembling modern alligators and crocodiles are seen in fossil relatives going back to the Jurassic period, but the group also includes oceangoing crocs with flippers and tail flukes, heavily armored pug-faced crocs, long-legged crocs that ran on land, and giant crocs with tiny teeth and surfboard-shaped skulls.

Many of these odd adaptations seem to be associated with what the animals were eating, but how do scientists study the diet of animals that have been dead for millions of years?

Two researchers — one from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and one from Stony Brook University — have tried to tackle this question by bringing together mathematical analyses of the animals’ shapes, surveys of modern crocodiles’ diet, modeling methods for reconstructing the diet of fossil groups, and forensic-style interpretations of damaged bones from the distant past.

“We used to put modern crocs into two ecological bins: slender-snouted groups who eat only fish and broader-snouted groups who eat pretty much whatever they want,” said paleontologist Stephanie Drumheller, an adjunct assistant professor in UT’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and coauthor of the paper, published in Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. “The reality is a lot more complicated.”

Slender-snouted crocodiles, such as Indian gharials and freshwater crocodiles, actually eat all sorts of animals other than fish, though they do tend to stick with smaller prey relative to their body size. Among the crocs that eat larger prey, the researchers found an unexpected split. Broad V-shaped snouts, like those found in American crocodiles, correspond with animals that are able to eat prey species up to their own size. More U-shaped snouts, like those seen in American alligators, can often be found in species that take down even larger prey — sometimes close to twice their own body weight.

“Several of these fossil groups had skulls and teeth wildly different from living species. This suggests that the way they fed also differed dramatically,” said coauthor Eric Wilberg, an assistant professor in Stony Brook University’s Department of Anatomical Sciences. Among these are a group of extinct crocs that lived in the oceans. While they had slender snouts similar to those of living gharials, their eyes were positioned more on the side of the head, and the part of the skull that houses the jaw muscles was enlarged. This suggests they were not ambush predators like modern crocodylians.

Another group consists almost exclusively of species that lived on land. These crocs had flattened, serrated teeth, like those of carnivorous dinosaurs, and eyes positioned more on the side of the head.

Paleontologists can’t observe feeding in extinct groups, but the fossil records sometimes provide snapshots of this behavior.

“Crocodiles and their relatives are pretty messy eaters,” said Drumheller. “That’s great for us, because they’ll often leave broken, bitten bones behind for paleontologists to find.”

Most of these fossil bite marks line up nicely with the idea of crocodiles and their relatives eating within their expected weight classes. The fossils that don’t fit may be evidence of scavenging, a behavior that is rarely testable in the fossil record.

Some crocodile groups remain mysterious. No fossil bite marks exist for the stubby-faced crocs, whose complex teeth and weak jaws suggest they might have been plant eaters, or for the surfboard-headed ones, which had tiny teeth and may have sported pelican-like pouches under their long, wide jaws.

“Crocodiles and their relatives have long been thought of as unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, and as a result they have received less scientific attention than other groups like dinosaurs and mammals,” said Wilberg. Renewed interest in the group has consistently demonstrated a complex evolutionary and ecological history, going far beyond the semiaquatic ambush predators alive today.

‘Trump wants shooting, alligators, snakes against refugees’


This 2 October 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Donald Trump reportedly wanted a moat full of snakes

In the 9th century, Anglo-Saxon King Aelle of Northumbria killed enemy prisoners by throwing them into a snake pit.

and alligators on the U.S. Mexico border. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss on The Young Turks.

“Donald Trump floated adding a moat filled with snakes and alligators at the border and shooting border jumpers in the legs as a solution to the influx of illegal immigration coming from the south, it was revealed Tuesday.

During a private March meeting with White House advisers, the president asked for cost estimates on several ideas he had that he felt would stop migrants from illegally crossing into the U.S., more than a dozen White House and administration officials directly involved in the events revealed in a new book.

The book, ‘Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration’ by New York Times Washington correspondent Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, will be published by Simon & Schuster on October 8, but excerpts were adapted and published on the Times‘ website Tuesday.”

Read more here.

From the BBC today:

Donald Trump ‘suggested shooting migrants in the legs’

US President Donald Trump suggested shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down, according to a new book.

The book, by two New York Times journalists, says Mr Trump suggested extreme methods of deterring migrants from crossing the southern border.

They included building an electrified, spiked border wall and a snake or alligator-infested moat.

Building a wall on the border with Mexico is one of Mr Trump’s main policy objectives.

The construction of the wall has now begun, with the Pentagon allocating $3.6bn (£2.9bn) of military funding towards its development.

Donald Trump's eight United States-Mexican border wall prototypes

What are the authors’ claims?

The book – called Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration, by reporters Michael Shear and Julie Davis, and based on interviews with more than a dozen unnamed officials – was published by the New York Times.

It chronicles a week in March 2019 when Mr Trump reportedly tried to halt all southern migration to the US. …

Previously, Mr Trump had made a public statement suggesting soldiers shoot migrants who throw rocks.

Mr Trump suggested other extreme measures, according to the book.

“Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh,” reads the extract.

The excerpt describes Mr Trump ordering aides to enforce a complete shutdown of the US-Mexico border by noon the following day, leaving advisers “in a near panic” and “desperately” trying to placate the president. …

Aides reportedly managed to change Mr Trump’s idea of closing the border, but the president later pushed out a number of senior aides who he believed were frustrating his immigration crackdown, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

TRUMP SUGGESTED SHOOTING MIGRANTS IN THE LEGS Trump in March reportedly suggested soldiers shoot migrants in the legs in order to prevent them from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new book, an excerpt of which The New York Times published. [HuffPost]

TRUMP CALLS WOMEN OF COLOR IN CONGRESS ‘SAVAGES’ Trump attacked congressional “Democrat savages” in a vicious tweet over the weekend — and specifically referred to four women of color and Jewish lawmakers Rep. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), who chair key committees in the impeachment inquiry. [HuffPost]

Climate change killing Mojave Desert birds


This January 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Mojave Desert Birds in Winter ~ 4K

Southern California deserts are action-packed with birds in winter. Phainopeplas, Costa’s Hummingbird and Verdin are among the species seen in public lands around surrounding Palm Springs. Filmed in 4K with Sony RX10 IV.

From the University of California – Berkeley in the USA:

Collapse of desert bird populations likely due to heat stress from climate change

Hotter temperatures mean birds need more water to cool off — if it’s available

September 30, 2019

Summary: Last year, biologists discovered that bird populations in the Mojave Desert had crashed over the past 100 years. The biologists now have evidence that heat stress is a key cause. Simulations with a computerized ‘virtual bird’ suggest that with higher temperatures, birds need more water to keep cool. Larger insectivores or carnivores should be most affected, and small seed-eaters less so if drinking water is available: just as the biologists reported last year.

As temperatures rise, desert birds need more water to cool off at the same time as deserts are becoming drier, setting some species up for a severe crash, if not extinction, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.

The team that last year documented a collapse of bird communities in Mojave Desert over the last century — 29 percent of the 135 bird species that were present 100 years ago are less common and less widespread today — has now identified a likely cause: heat stress associated with climate change.

The researchers’ latest findings, part of UC Berkeley’s Grinnell Resurvey Project, come from comparing levels of species declines to computer simulations of how “virtual birds” must deal with heat on an average hot day in Death Valley, which can be in the 30s Celsius — 90s Fahrenheit — with low humidity. These temperatures are, on average, 2 C (3.6 F) hotter than 100 years ago. The birds that the model predicted would require the most extra water today, compared to a 100 years ago, were the species that had declined the most in the Mojave Desert over the past century. The desert straddles the border between California and Nevada.

The most threatened turn out to be larger birds, and those that have an insect or animal diet.

“We often think that climate change may cause a mass mortality event in the future, but this study tells us that the change in climate that has already occurred is too hot, and in certain areas, animals can’t tolerate the warming and drying that has already occurred,” said lead author Eric Riddell, a UC Berkeley postdoctoral scholar.

The virtual bird simulation was unique in allowing the researchers to identify the impact of a daily physiological stressor in the desert — heat — as birds leave the shade to forage for food or find mates. Other aspects of a changing environment, such as changing food sources and fire, only add to the heat stress.

“This is one of the first studies that directly ties the increase in physiological demands from a warmer and drier climate to the changes that are taking place in biodiversity,” said senior author Steven Beissinger, a UC Berkeley professor of environmental science, policy and management and a researcher at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley. “Most previous studies have not found a direct physiological connection between climate change and biodiversity change, which is usually mediated through changes in the food web or competing species. Our study points to a direct effect of climate change via increased water demands for evaporative cooling to maintain body temperature in the comfort zone.”

According to Beissinger, the team’s conclusions about these California and Nevada desert birds may apply to species in other regions of the world.

“Warmer, drier conditions are expected to spread with climate change, so we are probably looking at an increase, for birds in this kind of evaporative water demand, in a lot of places,” he said. “Some of these effects might not just be limited to the desert. Does it matter to an insectivore that doesn’t drink water if it is in the hot desert or in your hot hometown, say Atlanta? As the climate warms, I am not so sure.”

Beissinger, Riddell and their colleagues detailed their findings in a paper to be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Grinnell Resurvey Project, a 15-year effort to revisit and record wildlife at sites around California visited by UC Berkeley biologist Joseph Grinnell and his colleagues at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology between 1904 and 1940. The comparison of the state’s mammal and bird life over more than a century has revealed the changes wrought by climate change to date and provided insight into what may happen in coming decades as global warming continues.

Panting and gular flutter

Like humans, birds regulate their internal temperatures to keep within a comfortable range. But they do not sweat. Like dogs, they pant, but can also vibrate their throat muscles in what’s called a gular flutter. The resulting increase in air flow and evaporating water cools them off.

The hotter they get, however, the more water they must exhale to lower their body temperature. The team calculated that larger birds, like the mourning dove, require 10% to 30% more water today to keep cool because of the 2 C increase in Mojave Desert temperatures over the last 100 years.

According to the UC Berkeley analysis, birds that eat insects or other animals are more threatened by changes in evaporative water loss because they typically get all of their water from the moisture in their food. They seldom, if ever, drink from surface water sources. A 30% increase in water requirement could mean that larger birds have to catch an extra 60 to 70 bugs per day to survive the increased heat. If those bugs are even around, the birds still have to expend extra energy and time to find them.

The team’s field survey, led by postdoctoral researcher Kelly Iknayan and published last year, confirms this prediction: The American kestrel, prairie falcon and turkey vulture, all large and carnivorous, have declined, as have large insect-eaters like the white-throated swift, violet-green swallow, olive-sided flycatcher, Western meadowlark and Western bluebird.

Smaller birds that eat seeds or are omnivores are less threatened, according to the model. In fact, the earlier study showed that small insectivores in the Mojave Desert — the blue-gray gnatcatcher, ruby-crowned kinglet, mountain chickadee, black-tailed gnatcatcher, black-throated sparrow, verdin and canyon wren — have suffered less over the past century.

Vegetarian birds, such as seedeaters, face a different problem. Because they can drink from surface water sources — springs and pools in desert oases, they can supplement the water they get from their food. But that’s only if water is around. Even protected areas of the Mojave Desert — Death Valley, Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve, where the bird surveys were conducted — are getting drier from climate change and because of groundwater pumping by nearby cities and agricultural areas. As a result, the seedeaters are also at risk of heat-related death.

The team’s survey of birds in these parks confirmed that most seedeaters in areas with open sources of water have been impacted less by climate change over the last century.

“For plant-based eaters, it is more binary: whether or not a species survived at a site over the past 100 years had more to do with the presence or absence of surface water. If you could drink, you were better off than if you couldn’t drink,” Riddell said “For insect eaters, it is more dependent on the magnitude of cooling, determined by body size and feather absorbance. The greater its water requirements, the more a species declined. So, there are different ways in which climate change is manifesting itself for different members of the bird community.”

The researchers noted that some birds are adapting to the hotter temperatures by moving northward or up mountain slopes to find cooler habitats, while others are shifting their active nesting periods earlier in the year to avoid hotter summer temperatures. Some species are even becoming smaller, reducing their water needs. But birds can reduce their size only so much.

“We explored that possibility: how small would birds have to get to maintain the same levels of stress,” Riddell said. “It was something ridiculous, like 35 to 50 percent smaller. That’s not gonna happen, it is way too small.”

Virtual birds

Riddell, who has a background in physics, modeled the heat balance of 50 different species of desert birds on a computer, obtaining physical data on each from specimens in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. These data included size, as well as reflectance of feathers, length of feathers and depth of feathers on the back and belly. He validated the model by comparing its predictions to data on heat balance in captive birds and also to experiments on physical bird models by researchers, including co-author Blair Wolf of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

He then ran the model, varying conditions for each bird species — from staying in the sun all day to remaining in the shade all day — at various temperatures. Death Valley holds the record high temperature on Earth: 134 F in 1913.

From these virtual experiments, Riddell and his colleagues were able to obtain good estimates of the amount of extra water needed for evaporative cooling by each bird species today compared to 100 years ago, and what these birds will need in the future, under different climate change scenarios.

Not surprisingly, larger birds turned out to require a higher amount of water today, and they represent many of the species most impacted since the early 20th century. Riddell predicts that, in the worst case scenario of climate change, larger birds like the mourning dove may require nearly twice their typical intake of water by the end of the century to remain cool enough to survive higher temperatures in the desert.

“People have been focusing on lethal thresholds for birds, but our metric was death by a thousand cuts: recurrent cooling costs that birds are going to have to deal with every day,” Riddell said. “According to Kelly’s work, we have seen a 50 percent reduction in species diversity at sites in the desert visited a century ago by Grinnell. This isn’t really a question of when will it happen in the future, but understanding what we have already done, what has already happened.”

Barry Sinervo of UC Santa Cruz was also a co-author of the paper. The work was funded by the National Science Foundation (1457742).

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