United States political prisoner Chelsea Manning update


This 12 March 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

HEARTBREAKING: Chelsea Manning Update

Chelsea Manning has been hospitalized after attempting suicide while detained. John Iadarola and Jayar Jackson break it down on The Damage Report.

Ms. Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst jailed for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks, was hospitalized, according to her lawyers.”

Chilean government violence against demonstrators


This 10 March 2020 video says about itself:

Chile: Women clash with police and block streets during feminist strike *EXPLICIT*

After the massive march during the International Women’s Day, thousands of women took to the streets of Santiago on Monday as part of the call to join a feminist strike.

People take part in a street performance to protest a ceremony marking Chilean President Sebastian Pinera's second year in office, outside La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, on Wednesday

By Steve Sweeney:

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Chilean authorities respond with violence amid renewed calls for President to resign

CHILEAN authorities responded violently to mass protests yesterday.

The protests came amid renewed calls for the resignation of right-wing President Sebastian Pinera as the country marked 30 years since the fall of the Pinochet regime.

Police used tear gas against the crowds, which consisted of large numbers of students who hold Mr Pinera responsible for human rights abuses and the torture of opponents committed during last year’s anti-government mobilisations.

The protests were marked by violence with at least 34 killed and 30,000 injured as Mr Pinera mobilised the army on the streets of Chile for the first time since democracy was restored bringing an end to 17 years of military dictatorship.

In January authorities announced that investigations had opened into security forces for allegedly violating the human rights of 5,558 people since demonstrations started in October.

Mr Pinera issued a warning ahead of Wednesday’s protests, saying that “a violent march is anticipated and we are preparing to watch over public order.”

Those demonstrating anticipated a violent response after footage of police beating an elderly man during Sunday’s million-strong International Women’s Day demonstration went viral.

The president spoke at an event marking the 30th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Chile.

But it was largely boycotted by opposition lawmakers who slammed the hypocrisy of Mr Pinera who they blame for the atrocities committed against peaceful protesters.

A counter-protest organised by Chilean students was addressed by Gustavo Gatica, who was blinded in both eyes by rubber bullets in October’s protests.

He was cheered and joined in chants of “Pinera, guilty, your hands are stained with blood” in what was his first public appearance since being injured.

Schools and universities called for occupations across the country demanding the resignation of Mr Pinera on the second anniversary of his election.

At least nine campuses were occupied by students.

Police responded by firing tear gas in violent attempts to regain control.

Demonstrations were also attacked with the authorities seeking to disperse the crowds.

The growing opposition to Mr Pinera’s rule is calling for amendments to the Chilean constitution and a break with neoliberalism.

Opposition senator Alejandro Navarro announced that a motion was to be tabled in the Chilean parliament declaring Mr Pinera “mentally incapable” of rule.

He explained that a committee meeting had agreed to ask the constitution commission how to proceed in such a case and whether Mr Pinera could be removed from office by this mechanism.

‘Star Betelgeuse dusty, not about to explode’


This 29 February 2020 video says about itself:

At the beginning of 2020, the world held its collective breath as a nearby behemoth star, called Betelgeuse, start to dramatically fade. Could this mean the star is about to go supernova? With the recent flutter of news activity settling down, we are now finally starting to understand what might have really happened. Today, we take a deep dive into what makes massive stars like this tick, and then get into how we might have now finally come up with answers to this bizarre event.

An educational video written and presented by Prof. David Kipping.

Chapters 0:00 Teaser 0:53 Massive Stars 7:07 Dying Massive Stars 12:47 Dimming 2020 17:36 Explaining the Dimming

By Lisa Grossman today:

The star Betelgeuse might just be dusty, not about to explode

The red supergiant’s time doesn’t appear to be nigh after all

Betelgeuse, one of the brightest stars in the sky, suddenly faded in late 2019, startling astronomers and prompting speculation that the star was about to explode.

But by the end of February, Betelgeuse had started to brighten again, quashing rumors of its demise. Now a study suggests that the dimming was due to dust recently shed by the star.

“I think some people wanted this to be seen as the death throes of the star, and it’s very much not,” says astrophysicist Emily Levesque of the University of Washington in Seattle.

Betelgeuse, a type of massive, elderly star called a red supergiant, lies about 700 light-years away from Earth and marks the shoulder of the constellation Orion. Astronomers have known for decades that, someday soon, the star is going to run out of fuel and detonate in a brilliant supernova (SN: 2/8/17).

So when the star began dimming in October 2019, astronomers took notice. By December 23, it had slipped from the sixth or seventh brightest star in the sky to the 21st. That didn’t necessarily mean an explosion was imminent, but any strange behavior in a red supergiant is worth watching, Levesque says.

“When people think about stars that are visible in our sky that could explode soon, Betelgeuse is near the top of the list,” she says. “So when people said this star is doing something weird, it caught people’s attention.”

Levesque and astronomer Philip Massey of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., decided to investigate more mundane possibilities than an imminent supernova that could explain the dimming. Those options include the star’s surface cooling off suddenly, as boiling blobs of plasma rise and sink within it (SN: 1/29/20), or a cloud of dust recently puffing off the star, temporarily obscuring starlight and making Betelgeuse appear dimmer than it really is.

The pair observed the star on February 14 — when it was nearly at its dimmest — looking for signs of titanium oxide molecules in the star’s outer layers, a clue to its temperature. Comparing those observations with similar ones that Levesque had taken in 2004 showed that the temperature had dropped by about a measly 25 degrees Celsius.

“To our surprise, Betelgeuse didn’t look that different,” Levesque says. “The temperature couldn’t explain how much dimmer Betelgeuse had gotten in the last few months.”

That leaves the dust explanation, the scientists report in a study to appear in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “It’s partly process of elimination,” Levesque says. Red supergiants like Betelgeuse are known to puff out clouds of gas which condense into dust. And the star did dim uniformly over all wavelengths of light that Levesque measured, which supports the idea that dust from the star is to blame. By contrast, dust that lies in the spaces between stars would block certain wavelengths of light more than others.

The study “is a first step to a better understanding of what is happening to Betelgeuse,” says astrophysicist Miguel Montargès of KU Leuven in Belgium, who wasn’t involved in the research.

Montargès and colleagues have observed Betelgeuse with the Very Large Telescope in Chile. The star looked markedly dimmer in December 2019 than it did when the telescope observed it in January 2019, before the fade-out began. But the dimming seemed to appear only in the star’s southern hemisphere, not uniformly across Betelgeuse, according to an image the team released February 14. That could be explained by an asymmetrical dust cloud, although the situation may be more complicated. Montargès plans to observe Betelgeuse again the week of March 16 and publish the results later this year.

If the dimming is due to dust, that will give astronomers an opportunity to watch a nearby star losing mass in real-time. “There’s that famous quote, we are stardust,” Montargès says, paraphrasing a line spoken by the late astrophysicist Carl Sagan. “Perhaps the atoms we are looking at will one day be part of a planet, and perhaps sentient beings. That’s why it’s really exciting.”

Other astronomers are holding out for more information. “The dust model is viable, but it also doesn’t rule out changes in the star itself,” says astronomer Edward Guinan of Villanova University in Pennsylvania, who has also been observing Betelgeuse since the fall. Betelgeuse naturally dims and brightens on a 420-day cycle, and although the dimming is not usually this extreme, it could still be nothing out of the ordinary. “I think the jury is still out.”

Puerto Rican deep-sea fish’s mouthbreeding discovery


This 17 January 2020 video says about itself:

Deep sea fish Parazen pacificus feeding behavior: NOAA Okeanos Explorer

Taken during the NOAA Okeanos Explorer expedition to the Caribbean Sea.

By Jake Buehler, March 10, 2020 at 2:50 pm:

This is the first deep-sea fish known to be a mouthbreeder

Scientists found over 500 eggs attached to the inside of a parazen’s mouth

Most fish are broadcast spawners, casting their eggs and sperm in clouds and leaving their young to develop alone. But a tiny minority — about 2 percent — are “mouthbreeders”, keeping their fertilized eggs (and sometimes hatchlings) protected in their mouths. Now, a study reveals the first fish known from the deep sea to mouthbrood, researchers report February 27 in Scientific Reports.

In 2015, ichthyologist Randy Singer, now at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology in Ann Arbor, was identifying fish spotted by a remotely operated underwater vehicle for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Okeanos Explorer ship. A red-glinting fish flashed by the vehicle’s camera some 500 meters deep, near Puerto Rico.

Later, Singer identified the fish as a parazen (Parazen pacificus), a poorly known species found in the deep West Atlantic and West Pacific. Upon learning about parazens’ disjointed range, Singer suspected these fish were actually multiple species, not just a single species. He started examining and comparing museum specimens from both oceans.

When examining one specimen from a fish market in Taiwan, Singer peeled back its gill cover to count structures on its gills, and got a surprise. “There was just this big, gnarly clump of something in its mouth,” Singer says.

Initially thinking the female parazen had gobbled up another fish’s eggs, he looked closer and saw that the membrane-enveloped masses were attached to the inside of the mouth by “alienlike tendrils.” Clearly, Singer says, the eggs were being held in the mouth deliberately. He and his colleagues used CT scanning to count an estimated 530 developing embryos.

Deep-sea fishes normally spawn externally, and their young migrate to more productive shallow waters before returning as adults to the food-scarce deep. But mouthbrooding is a comparatively costly investment. Some shallow-water mouthbreeders eat with a mouth full of eggs, which is more difficult and costs more energy, and others abstain from eating entirely as the young develop, draining energy reserves. That parazen would invest so much in protecting their young in such scarcity begs for further investigation, Singer says.

Ashley Robart, an evolutionary biologist at Occidental College in Los Angeles, agrees that this appears to be the first deep-sea fish to mouthbrood. She points out that the fish seems to live in a sandy bottom area with little refuge from predators. “This [environment] may also favor mouth brooding since eggs or free-swimming larvae would be difficult to defend in such an exposed habitat”, she says.

For Singer, the discovery shows that there’s a greater diversity of reproductive strategies in the deep than have been appreciated. But scientists are on the cusp of unveiling far more about how fishes have adapted to deep-sea living (SN: 6/5/19).

“We’re kind of in a renaissance for deep-sea exploration right now,” Singer says. “I would expect people to see many more new discoveries coming rapidly in the future.”

Shorter English life expectancy, first since 1900


This video says about itself:

“If you’re smart and poor it’s not enough. Poor will put you down. If you’re rich and dumb, hang in there.”

Sir Michael Marmot is the global guru of health equity, and the social and economic determinants of how we live, and when we die.

“We have to make common cause. The poor are part of us and we’re all part of society.”

Sir Michael’s new book The Health Gap provides both a solid foundation for understanding the most significant sources of our health, and a thorough investigation of the most current and immediate challenges all over the world

Closing the Gap: Action for Health Equity | April 3, 2016 | Canadian War Museum, Ottawa.

By Margot Miller in Britain:

Life expectancy growth stagnates in England for first time in 120 years

12 March 2020

For the first time in 120 years, life expectancy in England has stopped rising and in deprived areas of the country it is falling.

Inequality in life expectancy between the rich and poor, a permanent feature under capitalism, is widening. So too is the gulf separating the rich and poor in terms of the number of years in good health they can expect to live.

An Institute of Health Equity report commissioned by the Health Foundation—Health Equity in England: the Marmot Review 10 Years On—refers to Professor Sir Michael Marmot, a leading expert in public health, who revealed gross inequalities in health outcomes a decade ago. He made recommendations to the national government to reduce the gap, including by “giving children the best start in life” and “fair employment and good work for all”.

The Marmot review 10 Years On reveals, in the words of Professor Marmot, who led the review, that “England is faltering” and has “lost a decade”. His foreword states, “From rising child poverty and the closure of children’s centres, to declines in education funding, an increase in precarious work and zero-hours contracts, to a housing affordability crisis and a rise in homelessness, to people with insufficient money to lead a healthy life and resorting to food banks in large numbers, to ignored communities with poor conditions and little reason for hope … Austerity will cast a long shadow over the lives of the children born and growing up under its effects.”

Since 2011, life expectancy has stalled, a development “unprecedented, at least since the turn of the last century.” The slowdown has been “dramatic”, after previously rising one year every four years since the end of the 19th century. In men overall life expectancy rose by only half a year, from 79.01 in 2010-12 to 79.56 in 2016-18. The rate was lower for women, about a third of a year, from 82.83 to 83.18.

For males living in the most deprived parts of the country, life expectancy averaged 73.9 years in 2016-18, compared with 83.4 years in better-off areas. For women the figures were 78.6 and 86.3 years.

This regression in public health coincides with the introduction of savage austerity by the Labour government led by Gordon Brown after the banking crash of 2008. A trillion pounds was made available to the banks, for which many working-class people have paid with their lives.

The report comments, “If health has stopped improving it is a sign that society has stopped improving. When a society is flourishing health tends to flourish.”

In 2016-18, the difference in life expectancy “between the least and most deprived deciles was 9.5 years for males and 7.7 years for females… In 2010-12, the corresponding differences were smaller—9.1 and 6.8 years, respectively.”

Life expectancy is lower in the North and higher in the South. Differences are increasing both between and within regions. The North East has the lowest life expectancy, London the highest. For both men and women, it decreased the most in the 10 percent of neighbourhoods in the North East with the highest levels of deprivation.

For men only, life expectancy fell in Yorkshire and the Humber, the East of England as well as the North East. The poorest women fared worst. Their life expectancy fell in every region of England, with the exception of London, the West Midlands and the North West.

Among ethnic groups, “Pakistani, Bangladeshi and White Gypsy Travellers have much lower quality of life than other ethnic groups.”

For the least deprived, life expectancy improved. The rich have the greatest chance of longevity. The largest increases in life expectancy were in the least deprived 10 percent of neighbourhoods in London.

Those living in more deprived areas also spend more time suffering ill-health. This has also increased since 2010. Those living in better-off local authorities can expect to live 12 more years of life in good health than those in deprived authorities.

This frightening societal regression also applies to Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Professor Marmot attributes 20 percent of the slowdown to bad flu seasons. The rest is socially determined—linked to cuts in services, falling disproportionately on the more deprived areas, and increasing poverty due to low wages and benefit reforms. As the report explains, the “health of the population is not just a matter of how well the health service is funded and functions… Health is closely linked to the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age and inequities in power, money and resources—the social determinants of health.”

While cuts to essential services have affected all geographical areas since 2010, the axe has fallen hardest outside London, with the more deprived areas and the South East experiencing larger cuts. The report says, “The cuts over the period shown have been regressive and inequitable—they have been greatest in areas where need is highest… the cuts have harmed health and contributed to widening health inequalities… and are likely to continue to do so over the longer term.”

As a percentage of GDP, government public spending fell by 7 points, from 42 to 35 percent, between 2009/10 and 2018/19. Central government grants to local authorities have suffered punishing cuts. From this year, the central government grant is being phased out altogether. Almost half of all councils, 168, no longer receive any core central government funding. Cuts to local government allocations from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government fell by 77 percent between 2009–10 and 2018–19. Areas vital for health outcomes such as social protection and education declined most, by 1.5 percent of GDP.

The Marmot review outlines how deprivation in early childhood is associated with a poorer prospect of having a healthier life and longevity:

“Evidence shows that positive experiences early in life are closely associated with better performance at school, better social and emotional development, improved work outcomes, higher income and better lifelong health, including longer life expectancy.”

More than four million children live in poverty in the UK. The review cites the Institute of Fiscal Studies, “[R]elative child poverty, living in a household with less than 60 percent of median income, after housing costs will increase from 30 percent to 36.6 percent in 2021 in the UK.”

Pension poverty combined with poorly insulated housing contribute to unnecessary deaths among the less well off. A report by National Energy Action and environmental group E3G published February 2018 attributed 9,700 deaths annually to people living in cold houses.

The Marmot Review 10 years On draws attention to devastating attacks on the working class, but it has no solution to offer. As in 2010, it ends with a forlorn appeal for government action to reduce health inequalities. It states baldly, “We repeat: we neither desire nor can envisage a society without social and economic inequalities.”

However, what is required is the expropriation of the society’s resources currently in the hands of a super-rich minority.

Boris Johnson’s Conservative government is committed only to ramping up the exploitation of the working class. Under conditions of a developing trade war agenda and meltdown on the financial markets, the British bourgeoise must impose worsening working conditions and the further destruction of services.

Black and green African mamba snakes


This 8 March 2020 video says about itself:

Mambas are the most feared snakes of Africa. People think that they can chase people and try to bite them. However, when it comes to snakebites, there are other snakes, like cobras and puff adders, which are responsible for most cases. Watch this video, to actually see, how beautiful are mambas. You will see 3 species in the wild:

Black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)
Jameson’s mamba (Dendroaspis jamesoni)
Eastern Green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps)

This 2018 video is about a Jameson’s mamba in Uganda.

Coronavirus pandemic and Donald Trump


This 9 February 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Trump Spends the Weekends Golfing While U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Grows

In US news and current events today, President Trump spent his weekend golding as the coronavirus surged in the U.S.

Over the weekend of March 7th, the U.S. death toll hit 22 while Trump visited Mar-a-Lago. Trump previously attacked Obama for golfing during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

This was Trump’s 249th visit to a golf club since taking office as President of the United States. Trump’s golf outings have cost taxpayers about $133,000,000. The White House says Trump’s golfing is presidential work.

OVAL OFFICE DEBACLE OVER EUROPE ‘TRAVEL BAN’ In a strange oval office speech Wednesday night, President Donald Trump addressed the coronavirus pandemic by focusing on banning travel from Europe. He later had to clarify that the ban exempts Americans, permanent residents and their families. He also confusingly said the ban would apply to trade, but tweeted later that it only affected “people.” He said nothing about the lack of available testing across the country, and ignored many crucial aspects of the public health crisis. [HuffPost]

NBA SUSPENDS SEASON AFTER PLAYER TESTS POSITIVE The NBA announced it is suspending the 2019-2020 basketball season after a player tested positive for COVID-19. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic,” the league said in a statement. [HuffPost]

U.S. CORONAVIRUS CASES PASS 1,200 The novel coronavirus has infected more than 124,500 people and killed over 4,600 worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, which has officially declared the virus a pandemic. The U.S. has over 1,200 cases. Greece has reported its first coronavirus death, and Tom Hanks and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, have been diagnosed with coronavirus and are being treated in Australia’s Queensland state. [CNN]

EXPERT CHECKS PEOPLE WHO COMPARE VIRUS TO FLU The nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is setting people straight for suggesting COVID-19 is less lethal than the seasonal flu. “The mortality for seasonal flu is 0.1 [percent],” he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “The mortality for this is about 2, 2½ percent. It’s probably lower than that, it’s probably closer to 1. But even if it’s 1, it’s 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu. You’ve got to make sure that people understand that.” [HuffPost]

What WHO calling the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic means. The organization is asking countries to double down on containment and mitigation efforts: here.

Democrats hoping to pass an emergency paid sick leave bill to deal with fallout from the coronavirus were stymied by Senate Republicans. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) tried to speed the measure for a vote on the Senate floor through a procedural maneuver, but an objection from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) prevented the bill from bypassing the Republican-controlled health committee. [HuffPost]

Beautiful hummingbirds in slow motion


This 11 March 2020 video says about itself:

Beautiful Hummingbirds in Slow Motion | BBC Earth

Sam and Simon visit a special location in Los Angeles and use a high-speed camera to reveal some of the hummingbirds‘ most intriguing behaviour.