Bella Ciao song in coronavirus-hit Italy

This 19 March 2020 musical video from Italy shows saxophone player Daniele Vitale, confined to his home like many Italians during the coronavirus crisis, playing the song Bella Ciao. While on the balconies opposite Vitale´s home, people, also confined to their homes, clap and sing along.

Bella Ciao was a song of the resistance against dictator Mussolini and his German Hitlerite allies.

To win the fight against coronavirus now, in Italy and elsewhere, it is also necessary to fight somewhat fascist-like politicians who prefer Big Business profits to human lives, like Donald Trump in the USA and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.

Coronavirus news from Britain

This 29 March 2020 video parody music video from Britain says about itself:

JCB & Dyson Song (by Boris Johnson, aged 55¾)

Boris Johnson‘s folky rumination on ventilator procurement.


Well, I’m commissioning JCB
As well as Dyson to make ventilators for me
But they’ve never made any before
And it’s probably not ideal that they’re now based in Singapore
But they’re major donors and Brexiteers
So it only seems right to try and help them profiteer
Could take a while before they’re all dispatched
We need thirty thousand of the fuckers totally from scratch

We’re not bulk-buying with the EU, oh
Because I’d rather not be seen to, oh woah
Saying no to Gtech, oh
They even offered their design spec
But James Dyson hates their chief exec
So nah

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

Sunday, March 29, 2020

500 workers walk out of Asos factory after company fails to enforce social distancing

‘Asos needs to put people before profits and make sure workers are paid properly if they need to take time off,’ GMB said

ASOS warehouse workers in Yorkshire have walked out because they cannot keep a safe space between each other in line with government instructions on social distancing.

The walkout on Saturday involved 500 workers at the online fashion retailer’s warehouse on the site of the former Grimethorpe colliery outside Barnsley.

GMB organiser Deanne Ferguson said: “The situation at Asos is disgusting: thousands of people under one roof, not enforcing social distancing.”

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Gove says ‘communication confusion’ led to government missing deadline for EU ventilator scheme

MICHAEL GOVE said today that “communication confusion” led to the government missing the deadline for an EU ventilator-procurement scheme.

Downing Street said last week that Britain had decided against joining the EU’s procurement scheme on the basis that it is no longer a member of the EU.

But it was later confirmed that Britain could participate in the scheme as it is still in the Brexit transition period until October.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, March 29, 2020:

Mortality rate of those admitted to intensive care with coronavirus close to 50%

THE mortality rate of patients admitted to intensive care with coronavirus is close to 50 per cent, according to an early study of critical care outcomes.

The Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre (ICNARC) report today shows that out of 165 admissions to critical care units, 79 patients have died and 86 were discharged.

A further 609 patients were last reported as still being in intensive care.

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Labour MP and doctor Allin-Khan says NHS staff should be immediately tested for Covid-19

ALL NHS workers should immediately be tested for coronavirus, Labour MP and practising doctor Rosena Allin-Khan said today.

Her call came as Cabinet minister Michael Gove refused to give a timeline for the testing of NHS and social-care workers.

He said that the government hoped to “be able to test as many front-line workers at the earliest possible stage.”

By Bethany Rielly in Britain:

‘Stop hoarding and stay at home’, woman with coronavirus urges public from her hospital bed

A WOMAN hospitalised for almost a week with suspected coronavirus has urged people to stay at home and stop panic buying.

Delia Colwill, from Berkshire, was taken into hospital on Tuesday after showing symptoms of coronavirus. The 47-year-old suffers from a spinal cord injury that affects her nervous system and has chronic pain.

Frog skulls, new research

This 2015 video says about itself:

Monster Frog – Documentary

Over the millennia, amphibians both large and small have dominated the Earth. Today, there are over 5000 different species of frogs inhabiting all corners of the globe—from tropical jungles and dark swamps to desert wastelands and frozen tundra. A select few evolved some extreme and bizarre adaptations to survive. An extraordinary family that comes in many weird forms, shapes and sizes.

From bone claws and glass skin to antifreeze and deadly poisons, we’ll show you the jumpers, the climbers, the killers and high flyers. And hidden deep in the jungles of Central Africa, the Goliath Frog still lives today. It is one of the largest and rarest frogs to ever walk the Earth. This is Monster Frog.

From the Florida Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Skulls gone wild: How and why some frogs evolved extreme heads

March 24, 2020

Many frogs look like a water balloon with legs, but don’t be fooled. Beneath slick skin, some species sport spines, spikes and other skeletal secrets.

While most frogs share a simple skull shape with a smooth surface, others have evolved fancier features, such as faux fangs, elaborate crests, helmet-like fortification and venom-delivering spikes. A new study is the first to take a close look at the evolution and function of these armored frog skulls.

Florida Museum of Natural History researchers used 3D data to study skull shape in 158 species representing all living frog families. Radically shaped skulls were often covered in intricate patterns of grooves, ridges and pits formed by extra layers of bone. The research team found that this trait, known as hyperossification, has evolved more than 25 times in frogs. Species with the same feeding habits or defenses tended to develop similarly shaped and patterned skulls, even if they were separated by millions of years of evolution.

“Superficially, frogs may look similar, but when you look at their skulls, you see drastic differences,” said Daniel Paluh, the study’s lead author and a University of Florida doctoral student. “Some of the weirdest skulls are found in frogs that eat birds and mammals, use their heads as a shield, or in a few rare cases, are venomous. Their skulls show how strange and diverse frogs can be.”

The last comprehensive study of frog skulls was published in 1973. Since then, scientists have doubled the number of described frog species, updated our understanding of their evolutionary relationships and developed new analytical techniques with the help of CT scanning.

This enabled Paluh to use 36 landmarks on frog skulls, scanned and digitized as part of the National Science Foundation-funded oVert project, to analyze and compare shapes across the frog tree of life.

“Before we had methods to digitize specimens, really the only way to quantify shape was to take linear measurements of each skull,” he said.

Not only do hyperossification and bizarre skull shapes tend to appear together, Paluh found, but they are often associated with frogs that eat either very large prey or use their heads for defense.

Frogs that eat other vertebrates — birds, reptiles, other frogs and mice — often have giant, roomy skulls, with a jaw joint near the back. This gives them a bigger gape with which to scoop up their prey, Paluh said, referencing Pacman frogs as one example. His analysis showed these species’ skulls are stippled with tiny pits, which could provide extra strength and bite force.

Nearly all frogs lack teeth on their lower jaw, but some, such as Budgett’s frogs, have evolved lower fanglike structures that allow them to inflict puncture wounds on their prey. One species, Guenther’s marsupial frog, has true teeth on both jaws and can eat prey more than half its body length.

Other frogs use their heads to plug the entrance of their burrows as protection from predators. These species tend to have cavernous skulls overlaid with small spikes. A few, such as Bruno’s casque-headed frog, were recently discovered to be venomous. When a predator rams the head of one these frogs, specialized spikes pierce venom glands just under the skin as a defense.

While the study showed a persistent overlap between hyperossification and fanciful skull shape, researchers aren’t sure which came first. Did frogs start eating large prey and then evolve beefier skulls or vice versa?

“That’s kind of a ‘chicken or the egg’ question,” Paluh said.

The common ancestor of today’s 7,000 frog species did not have an ornamented skull. But heavily fortified skulls do appear in even more ancient frog ancestors, said David Blackburn, Florida Museum curator of herpetology and study co-author.

“While the ancestor of all frogs did not have a hyperossified skull, that’s how the skulls of quite ancient amphibian ancestors were built,” he said. “These frogs might be using ancient developmental pathways to generate features that characterized their ancestors deep in the past.”

Previous studies proposed that frogs evolved hyperossification to prevent water loss in dry environments, but Paluh’s research found that habitat and hyperossification were not necessarily linked. The trait shows up in frogs that live underground, in trees, in water and on land.

But habitat does influence skull shape: Aquatic frogs tend to have long, flat skulls, while digging species often have short skulls with pointed snouts, a shape that also enables them to use their mouths like chopsticks to catch small, scurrying prey such as ants and termites, Paluh said. These species include the Mexican burrowing toad and the Australian tortoise frog — distant relatives that live in different parts of the world.

While the study sheds new light on frog skull shape, Blackburn said we still don’t know much about the basic biology of frogs.

“Weirdly, it’s easier for us to generate beautiful images of skulls than it is to know what these frogs eat,” Blackburn said. “Natural history remains quite hard. Just because we know things exist doesn’t mean we know anything about them.”

The study will publish this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

New Zealand workers strike against coronavirus danger

This 2016 trade union video from New Zealand says about itself:

The Migrant Workers Association stands in solidarity with the exploited workers in Sistema Plastics.

From the World Socialist Web Site, 28 March 2020:

New Zealand: Sistema plastics workers walkout over COVID-19 concerns

Sistema plastics factory employees in Auckland walked off the job on March 25 citing health and safety concerns associated with the spread of coronavirus. The plant employs around 500 workers. With New Zealand currently in a national lockdown, only businesses deemed “essential” are permitted to continue operating.

While Sistema is deemed an essential business, workers said the company had not provided any personal protective gear, such as gloves and masks, and employees were expected to work for hours within one metre of each other. Lockdown procedures currently dictate that, apart from members of their own household, everyone should be at least two metres from other people.

Workers said they would not return to the plant until it was safe to do so. Trade union officials met with Sistema management on Wednesday and following a WorkSafe inspection of the plant on Thursday, the company said workers could remain at home and would receive full pay during New Zealand’s four-week coronavirus national shutdown.

Sleepy elephants in Kenya

This 24 March 2020 video from Kenya says about itself:

These calves and adult elephants from the ‘Winds’ herd show us just how they like their midday naps in Samburu National Reserve. Some prefer standing, others like to snuggle up, and then, of course, there are those who eventually give in to the wave of sleep after a delicate balancing act! Footage: Alfred Ngachi / Save the Elephants.

Workers strike against coronavirus risks

This 28 March 2020 video from the United Kingdom says about itself:

Coronavirus: Walkouts start to shut factories and sites down

Dave Smith, a blacklisted construction worker, talks about the critical situation in the construction industry where workers are still being forced to continue working in life-threatening conditions – and the solution, as shown by 1,500 workers shutting down production at a food processing factory in Portadown. Filmed at the UK organised online meeting, “Workplace collective action to slow coronavirus”, attended by 140 people.

How false coral snakes defend themselves

This 2016 video says about itself:

There are many snakes throughout the Americas that resemble the venomous coral snake. Each one is patterned similar to the venomous coral, with red, yellow, and black rings. But only the real coral snake has the color pattern of red, yellow, black. A useful rhyme for remembering is ”Red touching black, safe for Jack. Red touching yellow kills a fellow.” This false coral in Costa Rica displays beautiful colors, but notice how yellow touches black, not red. This mimicry gives this snake an advantage by tricking potential predators into thinking that it is venomous.

From ScienceDaily:

Vibes before it bites: 10 types of defensive behavior for the false coral snake

March 23, 2020

In a recent paper in the open-access journal Neotropical Biology and Conservation, a group of Brazilian scientists from the Federal University of Viçosa (Brazil) published ten different defensive behaviours for the False Coral Snake (Oxyrhopus rhombifer), seven of which are registered for the first time for the species. One of these is reported for the first time for Brazilian snakes.

Evolution shaped anti-predator mechanisms in preys, which can be displayed either with avoidance or defensive behaviours. The current knowledge about such mechanisms are still scarce for many snake species, but it is constantly increasing over the last years. These data are helpful for better understanding of the species ecology, biology and evolution.

The False Coral Snake (O. rhombifer) is a terrestrial snake species with a colouration like the true coral snake. The species has a wide geographic distribution, occurring in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and all Brazilian biomes. Among its previously known anti-predator mechanisms, this species has already shown cloacal discharge, body flattening, struggling, erratic movements and hiding the head.

However, these behaviours were only a small part of what this species is capable of doing to defend itself! In November 2017, a juvenile male captured in the Atlantic Forest of southeastern Brazil was observed under laboratory settings, where the scientists would simulate a predation attempt with an increasing threat level.

“We released the snake on to the laboratory bench and let it notice our presence. The animal remained motionless at first, then performed a pronounced dorsoventral flattening of the anterior part of the body, raised its tail, adopted an S-shaped posture, raised the first third of the body and performed brief body vibrations. Then we approached the snake, which remained with the same posture and body vibrations. When we touched the animal (not handling), it remained with the S-shaped posture, keeping the first third of the body elevated and the dorsoventral flattening (however, less accentuated) and started to display erratic movements, false strikes and locomotor escape. When handled, the snake only struggled,” shares the lead scientist Mr. Clodoaldo Lopes de Assis.

Amongst ten recorded behaviour types only three were among those already registered for this species. Since defensive responses in snakes decrease as body size increases, juveniles exhibit a broader set of defensive behaviour than adults. Because of that, some types of behaviour described in this study might be explained either by physical constraints or stage of development of the individual.

Some types of behaviour resemble the ones of true coral snakes of the genus Micrurus, a group of extremely venomous snakes. Thus, this similarity may be linked with the mimicry hypothesis between these two groups, where harmless false coral snakes take advantage of their similar appearance to the true coral snakes to defend themselves.

Another type of anti-predation mechanism shown — body vibrations — is yet an unknown behaviour for Brazilian snakes and has been recorded for the first time. This type of behaviour is difficult to interpret, but could represent a defensive signal against non-visually orientated predators.

Finally, defensive strategies of the specimen differed according to the threat level imposed: starting from discouraging behaviour up to false bites, erratic movements and locomotor escape.”O. rhombifer may be capable of recognising different threat levels imposed by predators and adjusting its defensive behaviour accordingly,” highlights Mr. Clodoaldo Lopes de Assis.

“Through such simple laboratory observations we can get a sense of how Brazilian snakes are yet poorly known regarding their natural history, where even common species like the false coral snake O. rhombifer can surprise us!” Mr. Clodoaldo Lopes de Assis adds in conclusion.