Rattlesnakes of Arizona, USA


This 15 March 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

The Desert of Rattlesnakes – snake documentary from Arizona by Living Zoology

North America was once an uninhabited wilderness where huge herds of big animals roamed. It was only about 15 thousand years ago when the Columbian mammoths, bisons, sabretooth cats and giant ground sloths lived here. After that, the climate change and human hunters caused the extinction of most of the big mammals. Only a few species survived in the harsh deserts of Southwestern USA and Northern Mexico until recent days. Today the deserts are not shaking under the hoofs of thousands of herbivores, but some animals which lived in that age are still present here. It is estimated that around 25 million years ago one particular group of vipers started to thrive in North America and they still dominate this continent. The rattlesnakes. After millions of years of evolution, they attained body structures which allowed them to become the most successful venomous snakes in this part of the world.

Coronavirus update of today


This 17 March 2020 video from Britain says about itself:

Coronavirus Will Expose Capitalism Like Never Before

“Coronavirus casts a light on every single part of our society. We will see the best of humanity and the worst of capitalism” – Kevin Ovenden

From presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in the USA today:

Solving the Health Care Crisis

Let’s start with the basics.

We need to make certain that everybody in our country who needs to go to a doctor can get health care they need regardless of their income. In this crisis we must empower Medicare to cover all medical bills during this emergency.

This is not Medicare for All. We can’t pass that right now. But what this does say is if you are uninsured, underinsured, if you have high copayments, high deductibles, or out of pocket expenses, Medicare will cover those expenses so that everybody — regardless of their health care needs, and not just for coronavirus — will get the health care they need. That is what we should be doing in this moment of crisis.

We need to make sure that hospitals have all of the ICU units and ventilators that are needed to respond to this crisis. What the fear is, is that there will be a surge of patients coming into the hospitals and we will not have equipment we need to deal with it. The federal government must work aggressively with the private sector to make sure that this equipment is available to hospitals and the medical community. The government needs to tell the private sector that this is a major priority and to get the job done.

We must also:

Increase provider capacity. During this crisis, we need to mobilize medical residents, retired medical professionals, and other medical personnel to help us deal with this crisis.

Implement successful testing models. Our testing capacity and process has been woefully inadequate. We must massively increase the availability of test kits for the coronavirus and the speed at which the tests are processed.

Use the Defense Production Act to mobilize resources. Under this proposal, we will use existing emergency authority to dramatically scale up production in the United States of critical supplies such as masks, ventilators, and protective equipment for health care workers.

Utilize the National Guard, the Army Corp of Engineers and other military resources to build mobile hospitals and testing facilities, assist providers, reopen hospitals that have been shut down and expand our health care capacity in at-risk areas.

Dramatically expand community health centers. Pass emergency funding to dramatically expand access to community health centers which provide primary, dental, and mental health care, as well as low-cost prescription drugs, to nearly 30 million Americans, 63 percent of whom are racial and ethnic minorities.

Keep health care workers safe. We need to make sure that doctors, nurses and medical professionals have the instructions and personal protective equipment that they need.

Solving the Economic Crisis

We must also respond to the global economic crisis that this pandemic is causing right now.

First and foremost, we must make sure that anyone who has a job right now receives the paychecks they need and does not lose their income. Think about the millions of workers who are being laid off in the tourism industry, the fast-food industry, the restaurant industry, the transportation industry.

These are folks that don’t have a lot of money, as you know. Some 40% of the people in this country cannot afford a $400 emergency. So people are sitting out there thinking, “What am I going to do? How am I going to take care of my family?”

That has got to be the major economic priority we address: how do we take care of the working families of this country?

Small and medium-sized businesses, especially those in severely impacted industries such as restaurants, bars, and local retail need immediate relief. We must tell these businesses, who are being forced to lay off their entire staff or possibly even shut down through no fault of their own, that we will not allow them to go out of business. The federal government will work with affected businesses to provide direct payroll costs for small and medium-sized businesses to keep workers employed until this crisis has passed.

We must provide direct, emergency $2,000 cash payments to every person in America every month for the duration of the crisis. We are likely already in a recession. Workers are losing income while their bills pile up. We must begin issuing cash payments of $2,000 a month for every person in America to provide households with the assistance they need to pay their bills and take care of their families.

It is key that we get this money out and to families as soon as possible, which means we must make the payments universal with little bureaucracy. For those who will not need their payments, we will partner with organizations to take donations from patriotic families who can contribute their payments to fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

We must also do the following to solve the economic crisis we’re facing:

Expand Unemployment Insurance. We must provide emergency unemployment assistance to anyone who loses their job through no fault of their own. Under this proposal, everyone who loses a job must qualify for unemployment compensation at 100 percent of their prior salary with a cap of $75,000 a year.

Protect non-traditional workers. In addition, those who depend on tips, gig workers, domestic workers, freelancers, and independent contractors shall also qualify for Unemployment Insurance to make up for the income that they lose during this crisis.

Guarantee that no one goes hungry. We need to make sure that seniors, people with disabilities and families with children have access to nutritious food. That means expanding the Meals on Wheels program, the school meals programs, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) so that no one goes hungry during this crisis and everyone who cannot leave their home can receive nutritious meals delivered directly to where they live.

Place an immediate moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs, and suspend payment on mortgage loans for primary residencies and utility bills. No one should lose their home during this crisis and everyone must have access to clean water, electricity, heat and air conditioning. And we must restore utility services to any customers who have had their utilities shut off. We must also provide funding for states and localities to provide rental assistance for the duration of the crisis.

Waive all student loan payments for the duration of the emergency. More than 45 million Americans struggle with $1.6 trillion in student debt. We must lift this burden during the crisis and for one month after. Long-term, we must cancel all student debt and make public colleges, universities, and trade schools tuition-free and debt-free.

Construct emergency shelter and utilize empty or vacant lodging. We must ensure the homeless, survivors of domestic violence and college students quarantined off-campus are able to receive the shelter, the health care and the nutrition they need and connect those individuals with social services to ensure nobody is left behind. We must also utilize empty hotel beds and other vacant properties to ensure everyone is safely housed during this crisis.

Use the power of the Federal Reserve to support state and local governments. Through the power granted under section 14(2)(b) of the Federal Reserve Act, the Fed will buy short-term municipal debt securities. This will help stabilize state government finances and provide states and localities the financial support they need to address this health and economic crisis.

Protect farmers. Suspend all Farm Service Agency loan payments to protect farmers during this crisis, extend crop insurance and emergency loans to all affected farmers, extend rural development loans, and expand the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to both help alleviate hunger throughout the country and support our farmers during this crisis.

Making Sure Our Response is Not a Money-Making Opportunity for Corporate America

Our response to this health and economic crisis cannot be another money-making opportunity for corporate America and Wall Street. We need to ensure no one is profiting off of the economic pain and suffering of our people in crisis.

Bail out working people, not corporate executives. Any emergency credit extensions or loans to insolvent companies or industries as a result of this crisis must come with strict protections and benefits for workers, unions, and customers, not no-strings-attached handouts for executives. During this crisis, we will ban stock buybacks and bonuses for executives. We will put conditions on this financial assistance to make sure that any corporation in America that benefits from emergency aid does not lay off workers, pays workers a livable wage, provides equity to the government, puts workers on corporate boards, and does not rip-off consumers.

Prevent price gouging by pharmaceutical companies. As soon as a coronavirus vaccine is developed it must be sold for free. Further, all prescription drugs that are developed with taxpayer dollars must be sold at a reasonable price. This agency shall use the federal government’s authority to take away patents from pharmaceutical companies that are gouging consumers and allow generic companies to manufacture prescription drugs at a substantially reduced cost. The pharmaceutical industry must be told in no uncertain terms that the medicines that they manufacture for this crisis will be sold at cost. This is not the time for profiteering or price gouging.

Investigate and prosecute price-gougers and corrupt dealings. This agency will have the authority to crack down and prosecute illegal price gouging and corruption. It shall also conduct an independent and transparent audit of all of the emergency financing programs to make sure that American taxpayer dollars are not wasted.

We Are All In This Together

What this country is experiencing right now is something that we have not experienced in the modern history of this country: a pandemic and an economic crisis, threatening the lives and income of millions of people.

I have the strong belief that if we work together, that if we do not turn to fear and panic, but if we understand that the way we solve this is by going forward as one people, remembering those that are hurting tonight and those that will be hurting in the future.

This is the richest country in the history of the world. This is a country with unbelievable energy, unbelievable talent, and with incredible resources. We can address this crisis and minimize the pain.

Please add your name to say you support these ideas to ease the health, economic, and political crises we are facing.

Again, I look forward to hearing from you as well. Please email us at plan@berniesanders.com to let us know what your ideas are and what you’re experiencing — we are here, and we will be reading replies.

Let us go forward together. Thank you.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

ADD YOUR NAME

P.S. You can read our entire response to this crisis on our website, and we invite you to email us at plan@berniesanders.com with your ideas and experiences.

Paid for by Bernie 2020

(not the billionaires)

#StayTheFuckHome – A Movement to Stop the COVID-19 Pandemic’.

And in the midst of the coronavirus, we know that there are opportunities for people to use this crisis to further suppress voter turnout. We can’t turn a blind eye to it: here.

PROGRESSIVE BEATS ABORTION RIGHTS FOE IN DEM RACE In a major win for the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, Marie Newman defeated Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski in Tuesday’s primary in Illinois, toppling one of the last remaining opponents of abortion rights among House Democrats. It was Newman’s second race against Lipinski in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District; she fell about 2,100 short of beating him in the 2018 primary. [HuffPost]

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, the government’s response to the crisis has been criminally negligent, while capitalists would rather risk workers’ health than stop production for profit. As the ruling class shows itself to be incapable of addressing the crisis, how can we, as working class and oppressed people, organize to meet our needs? What demands can we put forward in response? Here.

During the White House’s daily coronavirus news briefing, Yahoo News reporter Hunter Walker brought up the president’s previous comments about not being responsible for the country’s lack of testing. “Very simple question: Does the buck stop with you?” Walker asked. “And on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your response to this crisis?” “I’d rate it a 10,” answered Trump, whose leadership during the crisis has been marked by disinterest, lies and inaction. “I think we’ve done a great job.” [HuffPost]

GOV. CUOMO: VIRUS WAVE IS ABOUT TO BECOME A TSUNAMI New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is warning that the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak is yet to come. And the health care system, he said, simply isn’t ready for what’s about to happen. Cuomo told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, his brother: “I don’t see a curve; I see a wave. And the wave is going to break on the health care system, and I am telling you, my little brother, it is going to be a tsunami.” [HuffPost]

The National Education Association is calling on all schools to shut down immediately for at least two weeks to combat the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “has recommended banning all gatherings of more than 50 people, but exempted schools. We are calling on the CDC to update their guidance,” said a statement from NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. [HuffPost]

DEM CALLS GROW: NO BAILOUT BUCKS FOR BIGWIGS As Congress begins working on a huge fiscal package to soften the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats are demanding that any taxpayer bailout to major industries include restrictions on corporate bonuses and stock buybacks. They want to avoid the kind of outrages that happened in 2009, for example, when the insurance company AIG handed out millions in bonuses after receiving a bailout from the federal government. [HuffPost]

GOP, WHITE HOUSE DEMAND PAID SICK LEAVE CUTS Under pressure from the White House and business groups, House Democrats agreed to further water down paid sick and family leave provisions in the coronavirus emergency bill currently awaiting a Senate vote. Democrats had already vastly scaled back their proposals. Still, the original compromise bill included 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for workers with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, symptoms of COVID-19 or those caring for others who are sick. [HuffPost]

Workers at these companies say they can’t get paid sick leave.

TRUMP TELLS GOVS: GET THE VENTILATORS YOURSELVES Trump told governors on a call Monday that states should work on acquiring much-needed medical equipment, such as ventilators or respirators, on their own. “Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” the president told the governors, surprising many. [HuffPost]

2 MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TEST POSITIVE Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Ben McAdams (D-Utah) both announced they have tested positive for COVID-19. Hours later, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) reported he was in self-quarantine. In a statement, Diaz-Balart said he had developed a high fever and headache on Saturday. [HuffPost]

HOSPITALITY WORKERS’ UNION ESTIMATES 80%-90% WILL LOSE JOBS The leading labor union for hospitality workers said it expects 80% to 90% of its 300,000 members to be out of work due to the coronavirus outbreak. The union’s members, a majority of whom are women, tend to work in hotels, airports and casinos ― all businesses that have been hammered by closures and a precipitous drop in demand. [HuffPost]

IT’S NOT JUST BOOMERS. YOUNG PEOPLE ARE GETTING SERIOUSLY SICK. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease expert and a leader in the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus, has a message for younger people out and about despite calls for social distancing. “You yourself could be in harm’s way,” he said on CNN, noting cases that show young people can suffer seriously from COVID-19. “You have a responsibility … to protect the vulnerable,” he added. [HuffPost]

U.S. SPANISH SPEAKERS MAY NOT BE GETTING TIMELY UPDATES As government officials across the country warn about the dangers of the coronavirus, they’re doing so predominantly in English. They’re potentially not reaching the millions of Spanish speakers who aren’t proficient in English. Advocacy groups and Spanish-language media have stepped up to fill in the gaps as cities and states say they’re working to translate guidance on handwashing and the effect of closures. [HuffPost]

FORCED TO TAKE VIRUS SERIOUSLY, TRUMP TURNS TO RACISM At Trump’s coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday, a reporter confronted him about why he has begun referring to it: the “Chinese virus.” “There are reports of dozens of incidents of bias against Chinese Americans in this country,” she began. “Because it comes from China. It’s not racist at all,” Trump replied. “No, not at all. It comes from China, that’s why.” [HuffPost]

Trump’s “Chinese Virus” tweets have me scared for my family.

BRAZIL IS REPEATING THE U.S.’S WORST MISTAKES Sunday afternoon, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil passed 100, President Jair Bolsonaro left the presidential palace in Brasilia to mingle among thousands of pro-government demonstrators outside. It was the latest rash and irresponsible move from the far-right president, who was supposed to be in self-isolation even after saying he tested negative for COVID-19. [HuffPost]

ITALY HAS BEEN TRYING TO WARN US. WILL WE LISTEN? Italy’s coronavirus infections have surpassed 24,000. Over the weekend, the country reported 368 deaths in 24 hours ― a toll that exceeded China’s highest single-day number at the height of its outbreak. Humbled by the experience of showing the world what not to do, quarantined Italians, including health care workers, are sharing what they’ve learned, admonishing people to take the virus seriously and to heed advice not to gather. [HuffPost]

Israel: A seminar at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) on political and security implications of the corona crisis underscored the prevalent uncertainty regarding the situation, but also highlighted several instructive points. The biggest threat to the global (and Israeli) economy derives from the slowdown or negative growth in the United States, and at the current stage, the American ability to meet the crisis effectively is not clear. As for Israel, the risks of escalation in the northern arena and the Gaza Strip have decreased in the short term, but toughening the restrictions on the border crossings with the Palestinian Authority could lead to its economic collapse. The combination in Israel of a political crisis, the budget deficit, multiple security challenges, and the coronavirus outbreak is highly problematic, and a continuation of the crisis beyond the next two-three months could mean negative annual growth: here.

8 arrested at protest against suspension of Knesset activities: Gilad Cohen, Moran Azulay, Yuval Yanko, Yael Freidson -Ynet – Convoy of cars drives on main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem artery, earning some participants fines for breaking directives against mass gatherings. Those who joined the protest “against attempts to destroy Israeli democracy,” said in response that driving in separate cars did not breach the directives. Edelstein, who came under intense criticism for his decision to suspend a vote on filling Knesset committees key to fighting the coronavirus, said Thursday that that the vote would go ahead on Monday. Not clear whether he will also place the replacement of his speaker`s chair on the agenda. The speaker was also rapped by Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, who called for the vote to take place as soon as possible. [bz]

WUHAN REPORTS NO NEW INFECTIONS FOR FIRST TIME The central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, reported no new infections for the first time, while imported cases surged by a record, led by new infections in the capital of Beijing. The new imported infections also accounted for all of the new confirmed cases in mainland China, placing more pressure on authorities to screen travelers at key travel hubs. [Reuters]

Ancient Cambrian worm, new genus discovery


Utahscolex, photo Anna Whitaker

From the University of Kansas in the USA:

Mysterious ancient sea-worm pegged as new genus after half-century in ‘wastebasket’

March 17, 2020

Summary: Fifty years ago, researchers placed a mystery worm in a ‘wastebasket‘ genus and interest in the lowly critter waned — until now.

When a partial fossil specimen of a primordial marine worm was unearthed in Utah in 1969, scientists had a tough go identifying it. Usually, such worms are recognized and categorized by the arrangement of little knobs on their plates. But in this case, the worm’s plates were oddly smooth, and important bits of the worm were missing altogether.

Discouraged, researchers placed the mystery worm in a “wastebasket” genus called Palaeoscolex, and interest in the lowly critter waned for the next 50 years.

That all changed recently when Paul Jamison, a teacher from Logan, Utah, and private collector, and his student Riley Smith were hunting fossils in the Spence Shale in Utah, a 506-million-year-old geologic unit housing a plethora of exceptionally preserved soft-bodied and biomineralized fossils. (Paleontologists call such a mother lode of fossils a “Lagerstätte.”) There, Smith discovered a second, more thoroughly preserved example of the worm.

Eventually, thanks to Jamison’s donation, the new fossil specimen arrived at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, where Anna Whitaker, a graduate student in museum studies, researched and analyzed the worm with scanning electron microscopes, energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometry and optical microscopy.

At last, Whitaker determined the worm represented a new genus of Cambrian sea worm heretofore unknown to science. She’s the lead author of a description of the worm just published in the peer-reviewed paleontological journal PalZ.

“Before the new species that we acquired there was only one specimen known from the Spence Shale”, she said. “But with our new specimen we discovered it had characteristics that the original specimen didn’t have. So, we were able to update that description, and based on these new characteristics — we decided it didn’t fit in its old genus. So, we moved it to a new one.”

Whitaker and her colleagues — Jamison, James Schiffbauer of the University of Missouri and Julien Kimmig of KU’s Biodiversity Institute — named the new genus Utahscolex.

“We think they’re closely related to priapulid worms that exist today — you can find them in the oceans, and they are very similar to priapulids based on their mouthparts,” Whitaker said. “What’s characteristic about these guys is that they have a proboscis that can evert, so it can turn itself inside out and it’s covered with spines — that’s how it grabs food and sucks it in. So, it behaved very similarly to modern priapulid worms.”

While today, Utah is not a place you’d look for marine life, the case was different 506 million years ago, when creatures preserved in the Spence Shale were fossilized.

“The Spence Shale was a shelf system, and it’s really interesting because it preserves a lot of environments — nearshore to even deeper offshore, which is kind of unusual for a Lagerstätte, and especially during the Cambrian. These animals were living in kind of a muddy substrate. This worm was a carnivore, so it was preying on other critters. But there would have been whole diversity of animals — sponges, and trilobites scuttling along. We have very large, for the time, bivalve arthropods that would be predators. The Spence has a very large diversity of arthropods. It would have looked completely alien to us today.”

Whitaker hopes to complete her master’s degree this spring, then to attend the University of Toronto to earn her doctorate. The description of Utahscolex is Whitaker’s first academic publication, but she hopes it won’t be her last. She said the opportunity to perform such research is a chief reason for attending KU.

“I came for the museum studies program,” she said. “It’s one of the best in the country, and the program’s flexibility has allowed me to focus on natural history collections, which is what I hopefully will have a career in, and also gain work experience in the collections and do research — so it’s kind of everything I was looking for in the program.”

While ancient sea worms could strike many as a meaninglessly obscure subject for such intense interest and research, Whitaker said filling in gaps in the fossil record leads to a broader understanding of evolutionary processes and offers more granular details about the tree of life.

“I know some people might say, ‘Why should we care about these?'” she said. “But the taxonomy of naming all these species is really an old practice that started in the 1700s. It underpins all the science that we do today. Looking at biodiversity through time, we have to know the species diversity; we have to know as correctly as we can how many species there were and how they were related to each other. This supports our understanding of — as we move into bigger and bigger, broader picture — how we can interpret this fossil record correctly, or as best we can.”