Middle spotted woodpecker in Dutch Alphen


This 27 February 2020 video shows a middle spotted woodpecker in the Dutch town Alphen in the western South Holland province.

This is special, as this is an eastern species in the Netherlands. In South Holland, it had only been seen twice before.

Luuk Punt made this video.

How suckerfish hitchhike with sharks


This 2016 video says about itself:

Sharks and many other large ocean animals have sucker-equipped fish called remoras sticking to them. What are the remoras doing? Do they harm the shark? Jonathan goes on a mission to investigate remoras and their role in the food web. He even sticks one on himself.

From ScienceDaily:

Vertical fibers in the suckerfish’s suction cup-like fin help it hitchhike

February 26, 2020

As the hitchhikers of the marine world, the remora fish is well known for getting free rides by gripping onto hosts with its suction disc, a highly modified dorsal fin on its head. Now, work investigating the suction disc — appearing February 26 in the journal Matter — reveals that one of the secrets to the fish’s strong grip lies within the unique architecture of the lip of the disc.

“The remora fish‘s body shape and poor swimming ability don’t give him an edge in nature,” says senior co-author Li Wen of Beihang University, describing the flat-headed, eel-like fish. “The fish had to evolve its fin into a suction cup for hitchhiking for two reasons: food and mating.”

The suction disc of the remora — also known as the suckerfish or sharksucker — is so powerful that the fish can even stay attached to leaping dolphins. To understand the underlying mechanism, the researchers looked into the tissue on the soft lip of the suction disc. Between the surface and under-skin layer, they discovered a unique structure: vertically oriented collagen fibers. The fibrous structure provides elasticity for maximizing contact with substrates and decreases the deformation of the lip to maintain its adhesive force. This is the first paper to reveal the detailed morphology structure of the lip disc tissue in remora fish.

“Our research about remoras started with our co-senior author Li Wen’s study on sharks’ skin structure,” said corresponding author Juan Guan of Beihang University. “We were fascinated by the fact that remoras’ suction disc can adhere to surfaces as rough as sharkskin. Sharks swim very fast, yet remoras can hold on to the sharks’ skin very tightly.”

Inspired by the fish, researchers engineered a biomimetic disc infused with vertical nylon fibers with electrostatic flocking, a technique that utilizes an electric charge to align fibers. Compared to pure silicon discs, the biomimetic discs demonstrate an adhesion enhancement of 62.5% and show 3.4 times increment in attachment time. Moreover, the fiber-reinforced biomimetic sucker can hang onto objects that are heavy, irregular, rough, and even under aquatic conditions.

“There are some limitations in controlling the fiber density,” says Guan. “Although nylon and collagen are similar to some extent, we can’t fully mimic their morphological and chemical composition. But we proved a simple concept: by adding vertical fibers to your sucker, you can improve the sucker’s functionality significantly. We’re doing work that can be applied in real life.”

The next step for the team is to improve the current biomimetic sucker by studying and mimicking the structure on the surface skin and under-skin layer. Other improvements include introducing environmentally friendly and biodegradable materials such as silk. The development of vertical fibers could also be applied in soft robotics to achieve intricate movements through controlling deformation.

“There’s a lot of potential in future applications,” says Wen. “I’m a mechanical engineer; I make robots. If we can make a robot with a suction disc as strong as the remora’s, it could travel the world attached to whales and sharks. The mobile biomimetic device will be able to gather meaningful bio and environmental data. I hope the suction disc can be applied to protecting the marine environment and contribute to the marine bio-monitoring system in the future.”

This work was supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, National Natural Science Foundation of China support projects, and National Key R&D Program of China.

German nazi terrorists planned massacre of Muslims


This 6 July 2019 video says about itself:

Right-wing terrorism in Germany explained: How big is the threat? | DW News

On June 2, 2019, German politician Walter Lübcke was shot in the head at point-blank range for his … stance on refugees. The murder suspect is a right-wing extremist. Other German politicians have also been attacked or threatened, sparking a national debate on right-wing and far-right extremism in Germany. But how big is the threat? What does far-right terrorism actually mean and what needs to be done to deal with it? Gideon Botsch is an expert on right-wing extremism. Here’s what he had to say about the problem and its possible solutions.

By Gregor Link in Germany:

Germany: Nazi terrorist group planned mass murder of Muslims

27 February 2020

Over a week ago, German police arrested 12 right-wing extremists who were actively preparing mass murder against refugees, Muslims and political opponents. The arrests took place just before the murder of nine people in Hanau by a fascist gunmen, and the mowing down on Monday of bystanders at the Volkmarsen carnival.

According to Der Spiegel, the group had amassed large quantities of arms and ammunition to launch a coordinated series of “Kommando” raids on mosques across Germany and kill the people at prayer. Their aim was to provoke a backlash and a “civil war” throughout Germany. According to the investigating federal prosecutor, they sought to use these methods of “shock and awe” to cause havoc to the state and social order of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The suspected terrorists’ plans show striking parallels with those of the Saxon neo-Nazi group “Revolution Chemnitz”, the October 9, 2019, attack on a synagogue in Halle, and last year’s mass murder in Christchurch, New Zealand. In searches of houses, investigators discovered home-made hand grenades, large quantities of other weapons, including a functional large-calibre weapon built by a member from Saxony-Anhalt. The Halle assassin, Stefan Balliet, had built a similar “slam gun” and used it to murder two people.

The arrests once again highlight the existence of extensive terror networks, actively preparing a fascist coup in Germany and discussing the murder of thousands of political opponents.

In recent months, a number of neo-Nazi groups have been uncovered in the secret service, the police and the Bundeswehr (army). An administrative officer of the North Rhine-Westphalian police—since suspended—is among those who have now been arrested.

A girl takes a picture near candles at a vigil for the victims of a far-right mass shooting in Hanau, Germany Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

According to Bild-Zeitung, a V-man (Verfassungsschutz or secret service agent) was part of the alleged terror cell, but was the only one not arrested. Although investigators described the V-man as among the closest confidantes of the conspirators, they nonetheless stated that suspicion of his involvement had “not been substantiated”. German broadcasters SWR and ARD reported that the V-man had given extensive information to the police in early October. However, during the final week before the arrests, he had broken off contact with the investigators, who then made the arrests.

Members of the alleged terrorist cell operated in a violent neo-Nazi milieu of fascistic groups, “Freikorps” and vigilantes. They pursued relations with right-wing extremists throughout Germany and other European countries, as well as with the far-right Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD). They discussed their plans for assault in chat groups with names like “The Hard Core” and during a minimum of two face-to-face meetings. According to media reports, the men agreed to raise €50,000 to procure additional weapons and to participate in future attacks.

A week ago, more than 10 people who were under police observation attended a meeting in Minden, Westphalia, where, according to Der Spiegel, Werner S., the alleged leader of the group, presented the assault plans.

For five months, the members of “Group S.”, from all over Germany, have been the target of Baden-Württemberg police surveillance. The defence lawyer of one of the detainees stated that the police “sometimes monitored every move by the suspect”. Werner S. was also named a “threat” months ago.

Investigators considered Werner S., alias “Teutonico”, the undisputed head of the group. Der Spiegel reported that Werner S. looked for men who were “intelligent, tough, brutal, and quick” in order to build an underground army “along the lines of the radical right-wing Freikorps of the Weimar Republic.” (The Freikorps were paramilitary organisations formed after Germany’s defeat in World War I and formed the basis of Hitler’s Nazi forces).

A “Volunteer Association for the Mobilisation of Forces” would be built through a process of “military training”. “Treachery” will be “severely punished!” said one of the chats. Anyone who believes in doing “more than just taking part in demonstrations and the like” should contact Werner S. In his apartment near Augsburg, investigators found a functioning nine-millimetre pistol and ammunition.

Werner S.’s Facebook friends include an AfD official from Börde in Saxony-Anhalt. Two right-wing extremists arrested as “supporters” of the group, Steffen B. and Stefan K., are also from Saxony-Anhalt. They are among the regional leaders of an extreme right-wing militia called “Vikings Security Germania”, a spin-off from the Finnish “Soldiers of Odin”, which first appeared during the 2015 “refugee crisis”.

Another member of “Group S.”, Markus K., reportedly participated in a 2009 neo-Nazi march in Dortmund, during which hundreds of right-wing extremists attacked a demonstration organised by the German Trade Union Confederation. Stephan Ernst and Markus H., the suspected murderers of CDU politician Walter Lübcke on June 2, 2019, took part in this attack.

Thomas N. from Minden apparently hosted the group’s last meeting before the arrests. According to Der Spiegel, investigators found “a crossbow as well as axes, morning star medieval weapons, and numerous knives.” Thomas N. is close to the ultra-right “Reich Citizens’ Movement”. Referring to anti-fascist youth, he posted on Facebook that “It is time to get rid of this Dirt.”

According to the newspaper taz, Lower Saxony’s neo-Nazi Tony E. was “one of the driving forces in the group.” He is in close contact with well-known neo-Nazis from Hamburg, Harburg and Lüneburg; these people visited him after the police raid and were said to have threatened residents and journalists.

Tony E. follows former Verfassungsschutz Director Hans-Georg Maassen on Facebook and identifies himself as a supporter of paramilitary organisations such as the “German Defence League”, “Brigade 8” and the Hannibal association “Uniter”. According to taz, Tony E. is also a member of the “Freikorps Heimatschutz”, which advocates that members “prepare for the day when war will come and when it will be a question of defending our families and the fatherland.”

The group’s links with the security agencies and with “Uniter” are significant. This paramilitary association, which is registered as a “non-profit”, links former elite soldiers, reservists, security forces and arms dealers with one another; it trains the forces of far-right Philippine ruler Rodrigo Duterte.

The group Uniter was founded in 2016 by an employee of the Baden-Württemberg Verfassungsschutz (secret police). It is the organisational backbone of an armed network comprising elite police officers, commando soldiers, intelligence officers, judges and lawyers, in whose ranks have been forged the concrete plans for an armed coup on a “Day X”, along with the mass murder of political opponents.

This “shadow army” is orchestrated by André S., alias Hannibal, a former instructor of the Bundeswehr elite unit Command Special Forces (KSK). Hannibal was also a member of the founding board of Uniter and, according to taz, was the contact person for the German Military Intelligence Service (Militärischer Abschirmdienst—MAD), with whom he maintained friendly relations. In 2018, he threatened to bring in the MAD against the newspaper taz in order to stop its questioning. The MAD contact person warned Hannibal of upcoming raids by the federal prosecutor’s office, so that he could hide a laptop with sensitive information.

In December 2019, ARD news magazine Monitor published a 2018 drone video that documents the military operational training and combat exercises of the group. The video shows armed private individuals in combat gear who are practicing house-to-house fighting under the guidance of “Hannibal”. Because he illegally stashed cartridges along with fog and signal grenades, Hannibal recently had to appear in court for a violation of the weapons and explosives law; he was fined just €1,800.

Werner S. is a close ally of the right-wing-extremist Bundeswehr soldier Franco A. and has met him personally several times. Franco A. is under suspicion for planning to carry out political assassinations while falsely posing as a refugee. Though Franco A. will be charged with “preparing a serious crime that is dangerous to the state”, both he and Werner S. are currently not being held in custody.

Despite overwhelming evidence, including detailed reports from Focus, taz and SWR, at the end of January, MAD President Christof Gramm publicly denied the existence of a “shadow army” in the German state. Nevertheless, his own organisation is officially investigating 20 “suspected cases” of right-wing extremism in the secret Bundeswehr unit KSK.

It is possible that the arrest of the 12 members of “Group S.” was carried out to limit the damage and cover up the truth of these accusations. However, the fact that the group appeared to be ready to act after just two face-to-face meetings raises the question of whether it received support from the authorities.

What is certain is that the group’s extensive plans for terror, and its far-reaching preparations for dozens, perhaps hundreds, of murders, took place under the noses of the security apparatus, which is riddled with right-wing extremists. That the danger of fascist violence in Germany is greater than at any time since the end of the Nazi dictatorship is a result of the shift to the right of the entire political establishment, the propaganda of the AfD, and the systematic trivialisation, promotion and adoption of radical right-wing positions by the federal Grand Coalition.

How tadpoles breathe, new research


This 2019 video is called This Is How a Tadpole Transforms Into A Frog.

From the University of Connecticut in the USA:

Tadpoles break the tension with bubble-sucking

February 26, 2020

When it comes to the smallest of creatures, the hydrogen bonds that hold water molecules together to form “surface tension” lend enough strength to support their mass: think of insects that skip across the surface of water. But what happens to small creatures that dwell below the surface of the water?

UConn researchers have taken a close look, and in research published recently in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B, have documented how tiny tadpoles are able to access air above the water’s surface, breathing without having to break through the surface tension.

Tadpoles often live in water with low oxygen levels where fewer predators lurk, but this also means the tadpoles need a way to get to air to breathe. Tadpoles have gills, but they don’t usually provide enough oxygen for them to survive, so most tadpoles also have lungs and breathe air as a back-up. But during the earliest period of their lives, tadpoles are too small to break through the water’s surface to breathe. Luckily for the tadpoles, they have a way to work around this problem, says ecology and evolutionary biology professor Kurt Schwenk.

Tadpoles will often charge upward toward the surface of the water, yet due to their small size and the surface tension of the water, they bounce back down. While watching this during an unrelated study on aquatic salamanders feeding on tadpoles, Schwenk noticed a bubble left behind after one tadpole’s visit to the underside of the water’s surface.

“Many researchers have observed tadpoles breathing at the surface before, but unless you look very closely and slow the action down, you can’t see what is actually happening,” says Schwenk.

Using high-speed macro-videography, Schwenk and graduate researcher Jackson Phillips captured hundreds of breathing events on film shooting at the super slow motion rate of 500-1000 frames per second. The tadpoles were seen to use a never-before-described breathing mechanism they call “bubble-sucking”, a novel breathing mechanism for vertebrates captured with novel technology.

“This research would have been much more difficult to do before high-speed video cameras were developed, and that is probably why the behavior has not been described before,” says Schwenk.

The researchers studied tadpoles from five species of frogs — four of which can be found in Connecticut. What they found was that tadpoles of all species were able to inflate their lungs within a few days of hatching, despite being too small to access air.

Instead of breaching the water’s surface, the tadpoles were seen to bubble-suck. To bubble-suck, the tadpoles first attach their mouths to the undersurface of the water. They then open their jaws wide and draw a bubble of air into the mouth. What happens next was visible through the skin of some of the tadpoles. The tadpoles empty their lungs into their mouths, where the air mixes with the fresh air of the newly sucked bubble. After the mouth closes, the air bubble is forced down into the lungs, but since the bubble is larger than their lung capacity, a portion of the air remains in the mouth, which is then expelled as a small bubble that floats to the surface. The entire process takes about three-tenths of a second.

Bubble-sucking appears to be an adaptation the tadpoles use while they are still small. When they grow large enough and charge the water’s surface, they are able to break the surface tension and “breach-breathe.” The researchers observed bubble-sucking in other species, as well — larval salamanders and even snails. They note that it is likely limited to organisms that can create the suction necessary, therefore arthropods, like insects, cannot bubble-suck.

“As a result of an accidental observation, my research has taken a turn — I never expected to work on these organisms,” Schwenk says. “Before, I thought that tadpoles were uninteresting. But now I find them deeply fascinating.”

Schwenk says this accidental discovery conveys an important point about research in general.

“These frog species are incredibly well-studied and very common,” he says. “Yet, one can learn new things even about the most common animals, which is a good lesson for students, because when getting into research, one can be left with the sense that it has all been done. The fact is, it hasn’t been — we just have to be observant and keep asking questions.”

Ex-president Hindenburg no longer Berlin honorary citizen


Paul von Hindenburg and Adolf Hitler in 1933, AFP photo

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Seventy years after the end of the Second World War, the German former president Paul von Hindenburg lost his honorary citizenship of Berlin. Hindenburg became president in the Weimar Republic in 1925 (he was then 77) and would remain so until his death in 1934.

He is no longer an honorary citizen of the capital, because in January 1933 he was politically responsible for the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor. …

Hindenburg, who was of Prussian nobility and a hero of various wars, hoped, like other German conservatives, that Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor offered the possibility of using the Nazi leader for their own purposes. Hitler’s anti-Semitic and racist ideas and his expansive foreign plans were already well known when he became Chancellor.

Get rid of

But after his appointment, Hitler managed to gain all power. He put the parliament out of action and became president after the death of Hindenburg. He had political opponents, also within his own party, removed with violence.

Both Hindenburg and Hitler were named honorary citizens of Berlin on April 20, 1933 – Hitler’s birthday, but Hitler was denied that status in 1948.

The left-wing coalition that now controls Berlin removes Hindenburg from the list not only because of Hitler’s appointment, but also because he agreed to restrict various freedoms. He also encouraged Hitler’s takeover of power by giving him more and more special powers.