Oxpeckers warn black rhinos against danger


This 2017 video from Africa is called Black Rhino & Oxpeckers; A cleaning service.

And the birds do more for the rhino than just cleaning.

From ScienceDaily:

Black rhinos eavesdrop on the alarm calls of hitchhiking oxpeckers to avoid humans

April 9, 2020

In Swahili, red-billed oxpeckers are called Askari wa kifaru, or “the rhino’s guard”. Now, a paper appearing April 9 in the journal Current Biology suggests that this indigenous name rings true: red-billed oxpeckers may act as a first line of defense against poachers by behaving like sentinels, sounding an alarm to potential danger. By tracking wild black rhinos, researchers found that those carrying oxpeckers were far better at sensing and avoiding humans than those without the hitchhiking bird.

While conservation efforts have rebounded the critically endangered black rhino’s numbers, poaching remains a major threat. “Although black rhinos have large, rapier-like horns and a thick hide, they are as blind as a bat. If the conditions are right, a hunter could walk within five meters of one, as long as they are downwind,” says Roan Plotz (@RoanPlotz), a lecturer and behavioral ecologist at Victoria University, Australia., who co-authored the paper with ecological scientist Wayne Linklater (@PolitEcol) of California State University — Sacramento. Oxpeckers, which are known to feed on the ticks and lesions found on the rhino’s body, may make up for the rhino’s poor eyesight by calling out if they detect an approaching human.

To study the role that oxpeckers might play, Plotz and his team recorded the number of oxpeckers on two groups of the rhinos they encountered. Rhinos tagged with radio transmitters — which allowed researchers to track them while evading detection from oxpeckers — carried the bird on their backs more than half the time. The untagged black rhinos they found, on the other hand, carried no oxpeckers most of the time — suggesting that other untagged rhinos that carried the birds might have avoided encountering the researchers altogether. “Using the differences we observed between oxpeckers on the tagged versus untagged rhinos, we estimated that between 40% and 50% of all possible black rhino encounters were thwarted by the presence of oxpeckers,” says Plotz.

Even when the researchers were able to locate the tagged rhinos, the oxpeckers’ alarm calls still appeared to play a role in predator defense. The field team ran a “human approach” experiment, where one researcher would walk towards the rhino from crosswind while a colleague recorded the rhino’s behavior. The field team recorded the number of oxpecker carried, the rhinos’ behavior upon approach, and the distance of the researcher when either the rhinos became vigilant or, if undetected, it became unsafe to get any closer.

“Our experiment found that rhinos without oxpeckers detected a human approaching only 23% of the time. Due to the bird’s alarm call, those with oxpeckers detected the approaching human in 100% of our trials and at an average distance of 61 meters — nearly four times further than when rhinos were alone. In fact, the more oxpeckers the rhino carried, the greater the distance at which a human was detected,” he says. He adds that these improved detection and distance estimates may even be conservative, because they don’t take into account the untagged rhinos carrying oxpeckers that the team could not detect.

When a rhino perceived the oxpecker alarm call, it nearly always re-oriented itself to face downwind — their sensory blind spot. “Rhinos cannot smell predators from downwind, making it their most vulnerable position. This is particularly true from humans, who primarily hunt game from that direction,” says Plotz.

Taken together, these results suggest that oxpeckers are effective companions that enable black rhinos to evade encounters with people and facilitate effective anti-predator strategies once found. Some scientists even hypothesize that oxpeckers evolved this adaptive behaviour as a way to protect their source of food: the rhinos.

“Rhinos have been hunted by humans for tens of thousands of years, but the species was driven to the brink of extinction over the last 150 years. One hypothesis is that oxpeckers have evolved this cooperative relationship with rhinos relatively recently to protect their food source from human overkill,” says Plotz.

Despite this closely tied relationship, oxpecker populations have significantly declined, even becoming locally extinct in some areas. As a result, most wild black rhino populations now live without oxpeckers in their environment. But based on the findings in this study, reintroducing the bird back into rhino populations may bolster conservation efforts. “While we do not know that reintroducing the birds would significantly reduce hunting impacts, we do know oxpeckers would help rhinos evade detection, which on its own is a great benefit,” says Plotz.

Plotz says that these findings, inspired by a Swahili name, also highlight the importance of local knowledge. “We too often dismiss the importance of indigenous people and their observations. While western science has been incredibly useful, there are many insights we can learn from indigenous communities.”

Coronavirus kills African Americans


This 9 April 2020 video says about itself:

“Exposing U.S. Racism in a Stark New Way”: COVID-19 Kills Disproportionate Number of Black Americans

We speak with family physician and epidemiologist Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones about how the coronavirus is taking a devastating toll on black Americans, who are disproportionately dying from the virus across the country as a result of entrenched racial inequality.

Black Americans are more likely to have chronic health problems and less likely to have insurance. They also make up significant numbers of frontline workers that are still going to work amid the pandemic. Jones is the former president of the American Public Health Association. Her recent piece for Newsweek magazine is headlined “Coronavirus Disease Discriminates. Our Health Care Doesn’t Have To.”

Brazilian Bolsonaro’s disastrous coronavirus policies


This 25 March 2020 video says about itself:

Coronavirus crisis is a ‘media trick’, says Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed coronavirus threat as media ‘hysteria’ over coronavirus, he said he would only catch a ‘little cold’ and was not concerned about the virus.

Bolsonaro claimed a wave of pot-banging protests, which entered their sixth night on Sunday, were a part of a media-backed plot to topple him as two opinion polls suggested widespread discontent with Bolsonaro’s behaviour.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 9 April 2020:

‘Disastrous’ Bolsonaro presidency won’t meet Covid-19 challenge, Lula charges

JAIR BOLSONARO’S presidency is a “disaster” for Brazilians as the coronavirus crisis sweeps the nation, former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva says.

If Mr Bolsonaro does not U-turn on his approach to the pandemic — which he has repeatedly dismissed as “a little flu” — he would be unlikely to cling to power till the end of his term in 2022, Lula, as he is commonly known, said in an interview with Associated Press.

“Those who need liquidity at this moment are poor people — they need it to buy soap, hand sanitiser. That’s who needs liquidity — not the financial system.”

New Zealand little owl visits albatross nest


This 9 April 2020 video says about itself:

(Full Visit!) A Little Owl Makes a Surprise Appearance on the #Royal [Albatross Nest] Cam

For the first time ever, a Little Owl flew into view of the infrared illuminator, alighting first on the ground near the nestling, then flying up to perch on the camera before flying again out of frame.

Little Owls were introduced to the South Island of New Zealand in the first decade of the 1900s with the goal of helping to control pest species. While they didn’t appear to have a large impact on pests, they also haven’t seemed to have a negative effect on native fauna, mainly eating insects (particularly beetles, also caterpillars, earwigs and moths); they also eat small mammals, small birds, lizards and frogs.

RoyalCam was set up in January 2016 by the Department of Conservation. For the 2019/2020 season, we have collaborated with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Coronavirus crisis, British news


This 3 April 2020 Voice of America video says about itself:

An aircraft carrying personal protective equipment, such as face masks, from China landed at London’s Heathrow Airport, Friday, April 3.

The coronavirus continues its chilling spread around the world, infecting more than a million people.

The United States has more than 245,000 infected individuals, more than any other country.

The White House is expected to recommend Friday that people wear face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after initially saying masks were not necessary to halt the spread of the disease.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 8 April 2020:

Doctor who warned Johnson over NHS‘s lack of PPE has died from coronavirus

Boris Johnson remains in hospital following his admission on Sunday with continuing coronavirus symptoms

A DOCTOR who wrote to warn the Prime Minister about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS workers has died after contracting coronavirus.

Consultant urologist Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, 53, died on Wednesday night after being taken to hospital on March 23.

Just five days before being admitted, Dr Chowdhury wrote a Facebook post asking PM Boris Johnson to urgently provide every NHS worker with PPE.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain, 9 April 2020:

Care worker sacked while in hospital with coronavirus symptoms

BOSSES of a healthcare contractor have been slammed as “trigger happy” for sacking an employee who missed a disciplinary hearing because she was in hospital with coronavirus symptoms.

The unnamed woman’s husband suffered a fatal heart attack on the same day that she was sacked from 365 Support, which provides home care to people with severe mental or physical disabilities in Southport, Merseyside.

Public service union Unison says that the company is now delaying an appeal against the sacking until the pandemic is over, leaving the worker and her family with no income, possibly for months.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain, 9 April 2020:

Boycott call as Asos toss out drivers

Union hits out at online fashion chain for abandoning brave delivery workers in the middle of a pandemic to save on sick pay

WORKERS called for a boycott of Asos today after the online fashion retailer thanked its delivery drivers for continuing to work through a pandemic by making them redundant.

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) says Asos is switching its transport contractor, which employs the delivery drivers, from Menzies to rival companies DPD and Hermes.

The union has accused Asos and the delivery giants of effectively reneging on guarantees to protect jobs, with 70 earmarked for the scrap heap.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain, 9 April 2020:

Rail and bus privateer excited by coronavirus shareholders’ bonanza, RMT says

RAIL and bus privateer FirstGroup is looking forward to a shareholders’ bonanza during the coronavirus pandemic, transport union RMT said today.

The FTSE 250 transport firm, which regularly receives millions in public subsidies, has been caught out crowing about the virus representing “exciting times” and the “potentially real deliverables” to be cashed in.

RMT expressed “disgust and dismay” at the company’s determination to maximise profits from a lethal pandemic.

By Bethany Rielly in Britain, 9 April 2020:

Covid-19 conspiracy theories put public health at risk, new research warns

COVID-19 conspiracy theories are “compromising” efforts to fight the virus and pose a risk to public health, new research released today suggests.

Researchers at King’s College London found that people who believe in conspiracy theories surrounding the virus are less likely to comply with lockdown measures.

The research comes amid mounting concern over the spread of misinformation about the virus on social media.

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain, 9 April 2020:

Nurses criticise extra £10,000 MPs can each claim in expenses to work from home

Nurses United UK suggests cash should be spent on personal protective equipment for frontline hospital and social-care staff

NURSES slammed the awarding of an extra £10,000 of expenses to MPs who work from home during the Covid-19 epidemic today.

Grassroots group Nurses United UK suggested the cash should be spent on personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital and social-care staff who are working without adequate gear.

Any of Westminster’s 650 MPs who steer clear of their office can spend the extra money on laptops and printers, staff, additional electricity, heating and phone bills.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 9 April 2020:

Rough sleepers wary of seeking help after breakdown in trust, campaigners warn

A BREAKDOWN in trust with authorities has made rough sleepers wary of seeking help during the coronavirus pandemic, campaigners have warned.

The Labour Homelessness Campaign is calling on the government to get its act together helping Britain’s homeless population as the coronavirus crisis tightens its grip on the nation.

But it added that years of austerity — and the consequent loss of trust in the system — is making many rough sleepers reluctant to engage with authorities.

By Niall Christie in Scotland, 9 April 2020:

Over a third of Scots worried they can’t pay for food and rent during lockdown, research finds

MORE than one in three Scots are worried about their ability to pay for food and rent during the coronavirus lockdown, according to new research published today.

A survey carried out by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) found significant concerns about people’s ability to meet a range of financial commitments which are essential to everyday living.

The poll of more than 1,000 people, carried out by ScotPulse, shows 41 per cent of renters are also concerned about being able to meet rent payments, while 34 per cent are worried about their ability to pay for food and essentials.

United States musicians about coronavirus crisis


This 8 April 2020 United States TV video says about itself:

John Prine dies of coronavirus at 73, Chicago singer-songwriter’s family says

By Elliott Murtagh in the USA:

Musicians speak out on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

“A devastating blow financially and emotionally”

9 April 2020

At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, musicians and DJs in the United States who rely on live performances for a living saw their shows and tours cancelled overnight for the foreseeable future. Most of these artists already make considerable sacrifices to make ends meet, often living paycheck to paycheck and without health insurance. The pandemic has left them—along with all artists and workers in the gig economy—reeling.

The recently passed federal “stimulus” package provides a one-time check of $1,200 to most taxpayers and expanded unemployment benefits to workers in the gig economy, but it is unclear how many performing musicians will qualify for those benefits, and how much they will receive if they do.

With their income abruptly cut off, many musical artists have turned to social media, making appeals for fans to help keep them afloat by buying their music and merchandise. Bandcamp, a popular online music platform where artists can upload, stream and sell music, recently waived its normal 15 percent sales fee for one day, which raised $4.3 million for artists around the globe. Artists are also fundraising by streaming online musical performances from their homes and asking for donations.

These efforts, however, are a drop in the bucket compared to what is required. Many musicians will now see their careers damaged, perhaps irreparably. They face the real prospect of long-term unemployment. There is also the matter of what impact the present calamitous crisis will have on their thinking and their music.

The World Socialist Web Site recently spoke to a number of musicians affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Maria, a 27-year-old singer-songwriter and bandleader living in Chicago, told us, “All the money I make from music goes toward expenses related to music. So, in order to keep playing or recording music, I have to be performing and selling merch.

“This is all in the hopes of one day being able to support myself on music alone.” Maria worked two part-time jobs before she was forced to shelter in place, and has health insurance through the marketplace, but hasn’t “really been able to afford [it] since employment changes left me with lower income than I’ve had in years past.” She is also behind on student loan payments.

Two of Maria’s tours were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, one two-week tour for the SXSW (South by Southwest) Festival in Austin, Texas, and one month-long European tour in May. “That adds up to about 35 shows cancelled, which has been a devastating blow financially and emotionally.” She said she had invested a significant amount of money for merchandise and plane tickets for the tours.

When asked about the so-called stimulus package, she said that she thought it was not sustainable. Maria filed for unemployment but doesn’t know how much she will get. She said that the process was confusing and that the government website was not working.

She discussed the way in which the music community has reacted to the crisis. “We have all certainly banded together emotionally and over social media to support one another during this time. For a few weeks after the cancellations, many venues and organizations were making GoFundMe’s for donations for bands and industry workers that were put out by the closures of venues, etc.”

When Bandcamp waived fees, she noted that “These were morale boosts, and a bit of money, but ultimately not sustainable, and the burden should not fall on these institutions or on fans to provide livable wages to artists.”

Maria brought up the fact that the US government doesn’t support artists’ lives. “I think the government should absolutely take on this responsibility,” she continued. “My income provides very little wiggle room in the face of a crisis such as this. For the past four years, I have had to work two to three jobs that are somehow flexible enough to allow for touring, recording and writing time, and pay enough to support both living and business expenses like music gear, transportation and recording fees.”

In response to Trump’s desire to get the workforce back to work in a few weeks, Maria said, “It is absurd that we would put a higher premium on the maintenance of the economy when it puts thousands more Americans at a higher risk of getting sick or dying. It shows where the government’s priorities lie.”

Isaac, a 24-year-old Brooklyn-based DJ and electronic producer who supports himself entirely through music, told the WSWS, “Performing is essential—most of my income is from DJ gigs and freelance studio work.” Isaac, who does not have health insurance, said that the coronavirus pandemic has had a severe financial impact on him.

Asked if the federal assistance package was enough to support him, Isaac said it wouldn’t be. “The $1,200 would definitely help a lot right now since I can’t file for unemployment, but I definitely wouldn’t be able to survive on that alone.” Although he felt that the music community had been a major support during this crisis, he added, “I think government support is crucial, but musicians should have a hand in it.”

Kenny, a 27-year-old musician based in Kingston, New York, was in Houston, Texas, in the middle of a tour with his rock band last month when the rest of its shows got cancelled, including ones at SXSW, due to the coronavirus.

Kenny, who has a full-time job, said his band was looking forward to playing SXSW, one of the largest music festivals in the world, in order to connect to a wider audience. “A lot of us hope for that big break, and SXSW can be that for a lot a people. This was the first time we were going down, so we were just really hopeful in general, but that whole week sort of came crashing down.”

Kenny’s bandmate lives in New York City, and they don’t currently have plans to stream an online performance. “We specifically rely on our live performances to get ‘the punch’ and that’s sort of hard to do with live streaming.”

Speaking about the financial impact this crisis is having on musicians, Kenny said, “You know, a band is a business…and your business gets hurt when you’re losing all those sales you normally would have made at shows.”

He said that he has seen widespread support in the music community recently and believed that musicians had to support each other because the government wouldn’t. “They give us a measly $1,200 each and corporations get however much they’re getting, which is most of the stimulus package, it seems like, and people are still dying in hospitals.”

Kenny, who has asthma, said, “I have autoimmune diseases that make me really susceptible to this virus. Luckily, I have health insurance, but it’s not top grade. If I did end up in the hospital, I would lose a ton of work and I’m sure I would have medical debt.” He is already paying off medical debt from earlier treatment.

“I’m sure you’re going to still see a lot of people struggling,” Kenny said, “A lot of people dying, lots of people scared and not knowing what the hell is going to come next. I think we’re going to see more movements pop up to help support people.”

“We live in a capitalist society, so most of the rich don’t have any problems staying home with three pools and endless entertainment. It’s different for the day-to-day person who’s got to figure out what their landlord decides to do, what their job decides to do. If they get sick—there’s just so many questions that don’t have answers.”

Alex, a 35-year-old Brooklyn-based musician and freelance filmmaker, is part of Pleasure Jam, an organization that has been putting on a weekly series of virtual dance parties benefiting different New York City nightclubs and their staffs. He told the WSWS that the impetus for these virtual parties was seeing that New York City DJs, clubs and staff were suffering, and no one was providing them relief.

Of the various self-help groups that had been formed to help workers in need, Alex said, “All that stuff is really beautiful, but it’s also, personally, infuriating that it’s on individuals to make financial sacrifices to support small businesses and workers when that is 100 percent something the government should be doing with our tax money. It’s not happening. It’s going to the wrong people.”

Commenting on the trillions of dollars given to the financial aristocracy, Alex said he read that the same amount of money could supply $10,000 to every single American and supply billions to health care. “Why isn’t that the norm,” he said, “and giving it to the corporations the crazy thing? It’s so upside down.”

Alex said that it was necessary to transform society to address social need. “Hopefully, we can all take that logical step and change the paradigm in this country of what social safety looks like because right now it’s broken and it’s minimal, and it should be so much more robust so that when things like this happen, we’re ready.”

Nightly research about beetles


This 8 April 2020 video shows nightly research about Calodromius beetles in the Kaaistoep nature reserve in North Brabant province in the Netherlands.

They found a special beetle: Calodromius bifasciatus. This South European, 3 millimetres small, species is very rare in the Netherlands.

Calodromius bifasciatus, photo by Dick Belgers

Coronavirus crisis, worldwide


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

Fox News‘ INSANE Covid Claim

Fox News: Covid’s not so bad. Ana Kasparian and John Iadarola, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

Canada: Alberta doctors protest UCP government’s funding cuts amid coronavirus pandemic. By Janet Browning, 9 April 2020. More than 800 doctors signed an angry open letter to the hard-right United Conservative Party government protesting cuts to doctors’ fees that will result in reduced services at hundreds of rural clinics across the province.

The vicious choice advanced by Brazil’s fascist President Jair Bolsonaro at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis – that workers keep working, exposing themselves to the coronavirus, or starve – is becoming more and more concrete for millions. As Bolsonaro conducts a virulent agitation for a premature return to work, in tune with US President Donald Trump and the interests of Brazilian and international capitalists, layoffs and wage cuts are spreading throughout the country at the same pace as the new and deadly coronavirus: here.

Police in Pakistan beat and arrest health care workers protesting over Coronavirus safety concerns, lack of PPE. By Dr. Zayar, 9 April 2020. Police brutally attacked several hundred medical staff after they marched to the house of the Balochistan Chief Minister in Quetta to protest the lack of personal protective equipment or PPE.

Social crisis looms in Pakistan as COVID-19 pandemic surges. By Sampath Perera, 9 April 2020. Pakistan’s health authorities expect the outbreak in the country will increase rapidly this month to hit 50,000 cases by April 25.

Sri Lanka government intensifies crackdown on social media. By Vimukthi Vidarshana, 9 April 2020. The arrest of social media users exposing Colombo’s inadequate responses to COVID-19 will be extended to online publishers and media outlets.

Decline in COVID-19 testing casts doubt on claims Australia is “flattening the curve”. By Martin Scott, 9 April 2020. The narrow focus of testing conceals the true scope of the pandemic.