Dinosaur footprints discovery in French caves

This 2016 video says about itself:

Incredible caves are all over the world, for this list we’ve compiled the top 10 most astonishing caves. Each have they own unique facts, history, looks and location but they are all awesome and astounding in their own ways.

10. Ellison’s Cave, USA – 0:08 Ellison’s Cave is a pit cave located on Pigeon Mountain in the Appalachian Plateaus of Northwest Georgia. It is the 12th deepest cave in the United States and features the deepest, unobstructed underground pitch in the continental US named Fantastic Pit. 9. Ice Cave, Russia – 0:43 This incredible cave near the Mutnovsky Volcano in Russia is the result of volcanic fed hot springs running through ice to create an ice cave that has a very shallow roof allowing sunlight to pass through. This cave was discovered by accident in 2012 and is nearly 980 ft. long. 8. Cave of the Swallows, Mexico – 1:12 The Cave of the Swallows is an open air pit cave in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. The mouth of the cave is 160 by 203 feet wide further widening to a room approximately 994 by 442 ft wide.[2] The floor of the cave is a 1214 ft free fall drop from the top making it the largest known cave shaft in the world, the second deepest pit in Mexico and perhaps the 11th deepest in the world. 7. Waitomo Glowworm Cave, New Zealand – 1:45 The Waitomo Glowworm Caves on the North Island of New Zealand is known for it’s spectacular glowworms. This species of glowworms is found exclusively in New Zealand and are the size of an average mosquito. If you are so keen to see the glow worms you can join an organized boat tour that goes right underneath them. 6. Phraya Nakhon Cave, Thailand – 2:15 Phraya Nakhon Cave in Thailand is located 4 hours south of Bangkok. It’s a fairly accessible cave to the public as it is only a 30 minute sweaty hike to reach the cave. King Chulalongkorn built the Kuha Karuhas pavilion inside the cave in 1890, when he fell in love with the beauty of the cave during his visit. If you want there is a Boat that will drop you off in some murky water at the entrance of the cave for 300 Baht but is only operational in good weather conditions. 5. Antelope Canyon, USA – 2:45 Antelope Canyon is primarily a water eroded rock canyon located near the city of Page, in the northern part of the state of Arizona Antelope Canyon is a known for its smooth, wavy walls of sandstone, caused mainly by flash flooding and rain 4. Batu Caves, Malaysia – 3:24 The Batu Caves contain a Buddhist temple created on the edge of a cliff in Myanmar, and is the unassuming entrance to Kyaut Sae Cave. Legend has it, that in the 13th century the massive cave was originally used as a place of hiding for locals who wanted to hide from the Mongols. 3. Fingal’s Cave, Scotland – 3:43 Fingal’s Cave, located in on an uninhabited island called Staffa, is 72 feet tall and 270 feet deep. This sea cave a one of a kind with visually astonishing hexagonal columns made of basalt. It was formed by the cooling on the upper and lower surfaces of the solidified lava which resulted in contraction and fracturing. 2. Son Doong Cave, Vietnam – 4:33 Son Doong Cave in Vietnam is the largest cave discovered on earth. It was discovered in 1991 by a local man but not fully explored until 2009. Son Doong Cave has a max depth of 490 feet and max length of 30,000 feet. It was created by a large vertical fault in the limestone that was flooded by river water which carved it’s way deep under the surface for millions of years. Having limestone walls that run in a nearly in a straight line allows for much greater stability, which is what has allowed this cave to get so big. 1. Naica Mine, Mexico – 5:23 This incredible cave was accidentally found by the Naica mining company as they were drilling deep for silver, lead and zinc. They noticed a large crystal which appeared to be made of ice but considering the temperature inside the cave is 136 Fahrenheit or 58 degrees Celsius they knew immediately it was a large rare crystal growth.

By John Pickrell, April 27, 2020 at 6:00 am:

Deep caves are a rich source of dinosaur prints for this paleontologist

Several deep caves in France are proving to be a surprising source of ancient tracks

Crawling through tight underground passages in southern France, paleontologist Jean-David Moreau and his colleagues have to descend 500 meters below the surface to reach the only known footprints of long-necked dinosaurs called sauropods ever found in a natural cave.

The team discovered the prints, left by behemoths related to Brachiosaurus, in Castelbouc Cave in December 2015 (SN: 2/21/18). But getting to the site might make even the most hardened field scientists balk. Wriggling through such dark, damp and cramped spaces every time they visit is challenging for elbows and knees, and even trickier when carrying delicate equipment such as cameras, lights and laser scanners.

It’s both physically exhausting and “not comfortable for someone claustrophobic”, with the researchers spending up to 12 hours underground each time, says Moreau, of the Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté in Dijon. It can be dangerous too, as some parts of the cave are periodically flooded, so accessing the deep chambers must be limited to periods of drought, he says.

Moreau has studied fossilized dinosaur footprints and plants for more than a decade in southern France’s Causses Basin, one of the richest areas for aboveground dinosaur tracks in Europe. When spelunkers chanced upon some underground prints in 2013, Moreau and his colleagues realized there could be lots of dinosaur prints within the region’s many deep, limestone caves. Footprints left in soft mud or sand hundred million years ago could have been turned to rock and forced underground over many eons.

And deep caves, being less exposed to wind and rain, “can occasionally offer larger and better-preserved surfaces [imprinted by dinosaur steps] than outdoor outcrops,” Moreau says.

Moreau’s team is the only one to have discovered dinosaur footprints in natural caverns, though prints also have been found around the world in human-made railway tunnels and mines. “The discovery of dinosaur tracks inside a natural karstic cave is extremely rare,” he says.

The first subsurface dinosaur prints that the team found were 20 kilometers away from Castelbouc at a site called Malaval Cave, reached via an hour-long clamber through an underground river with several 10-meter drops. “One of the main difficulties in the Malaval Cave is to walk taking care to not touch or break any of the delicate and unique [mineral formations],” Moreau says.

Those three-toed prints, each up to 30 centimeters long and detailed in 2018 in the International Journal of Speleology, were left by carnivorous dinosaurs walking upright on their hind legs through marshland about 200 million years ago.

In contrast, the five-toed herbivore tracks in Castelbouc Cave are each up to 1.25 meters long and were left by three enormous herbivorous sauropods that walked the shoreline of a sea about 168 million years ago. What’s more, these prints are on the cave’s ceiling 10 meters above the floor, the team reports in a study published online March 25 in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

In fact, “the tracks we see on the roof are not ‘footprints’, they are ‘counterprints’”, Moreau explains. “The dinosaurs walked on a surface of clay, which is nowadays totally eroded to form the cave. Here, we only see the overlying layer [of sediment that filled in the footprints],” leaving reverse prints bulging out of the ceiling. It’s similar to what you’d see if you filled a footprint in mud with plaster and then washed all of the mud away to leave the cast.

The tracks are important as they hail from a time in the early to mid-Jurassic Period from 200 million to 168 million years ago when sauropods were diversifying and spreading across the world, but relatively few fossil bones have been found (SN: 12/1/15). These prints confirm that sauropods then inhabited coastal or wetland environments in what is now southern France.

Moreau is now leading researchers in exploring “another deep and long cave, which has yielded hundreds of dinosaur footprints”, he says. The team has yet to publish those results, which he says may prove to be the most exciting of all.

More military spending during COVID disaster

This 28 April 2020 video says about itself:

International Peace Bureau Response to the SIPRI Data on Military Spending

In a response to the new SIPRI Data on Military Expenditure for 2019, the IPB held a number of online press conferences. Here is one which was held by IPBs two co-presidents, Lisa Clark and Philip Jennings, as well as Distinguished Associate Fellow at SIPRI and former MEP, Tarja Cronberg.

Global arms spending tops $1.9 trillion as fight against COVID-19 is starved of resources. By Bill Van Auken, 29 April 2020. The continued spending of trillions on arms and war amid the present pandemic represents a crime against humanity.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

US consolidates its global position as world’s leading warmonger spending $732 billion on military in 2019

WASHINGTON consolidated its position as the world’s leading war machine, with a staggering $732 billion of military spending in 2019, 38 per cent of the global total, according to a new report.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) annual evaluation put total global military spending at almost $1.9 trillion (£1.5tn) last year, a rise of 3.6 per cent from the 2018 total.

Spending on war and weapons accounted for 2.2 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) according to the global security organisation’s report. This equates to around $249 (£200) per person.

Dinosaur age mammal discovery in Madagascar

This 29 April 2020 video says about itself:

Macalester Professor helps discover “Crazy Beast” in Madagascar

Raymond Rogers, DeWitt Wallace Professor and chair of the Geology Department, is the co-author of a groundbreaking article published today in the scientific journal Nature. The paper details the discovery of a new mammalian fossil in the Mahajanga Basin in Madagascar.

From Stony Brook University in the USA:

Stony Brook, Long Island, April 29, 2020: In evolutionary terms, islands are the stuff of weirdness. It is on islands where animals evolve in isolation, often for millions of years, with different food sources, competitors, predators, and parasites…indeed, different everything compared to mainland species. As a result, they develop into different shapes and sizes and evolve into new species that, given enough time, spawn yet more new species.

Such is the case with the discovery of a new, bizarre 66-million-year-old mammal in Madagascar by a team of international researchers led by Dr. David Krause, senior curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and professor emeritus at Stony Brook University, where part of the research was done. The discovery of this opossum-sized mammal that lived among dinosaurs and massive crocodiles on the fourth largest island on Earth was announced today in the journal Nature. Dr. James B. Rossie of Stony Brook University is one of the study’s co-authors. The late Yaoming Hu of Stony Brook University was also a co-author.

The finding of the new mammal, called Adalatherium, which is translated from the Malagasy and Greek languages and means “crazy beast”, is based on a nearly complete skeleton that is astoundingly well preserved. The skeleton is the most complete for any Mesozoic mammal yet discovered in the southern hemisphere.

Krause said that “knowing what we know about the skeletal anatomy of all living and extinct mammals, it is difficult to imagine that a mammal like Adalatherium could have evolved; it bends and even breaks a lot of rules.”

In fact, although a life-like reconstruction might lead one to think that Adalatherium was a run-of-the-mill badger, its “normality” is literally only skin deep. Below the surface, its skeleton is nothing short of “outlandish.” It has primitive features in its snout region (like a septomaxilla bone) that hadn’t been seen for a hundred million years in the lineage leading to modern mammals.

“Its nasal cavity exhibits an amazing mosaic of features, some of which are very standard for a mammal, but some that I’ve never seen in anything before,” Rossie declared.

Adalatherium had more holes (foramina) on its face than any known mammal, holes that served as passageways for nerves and blood vessels supplying a very sensitive snout that was covered with whiskers. And there is one very large hole on the top of its snout for which there is just no parallel in any known mammal, living or extinct.

The teeth of Adalatherium are vastly different in construction than any known mammal. Its backbone had more vertebrae than any Mesozoic mammal and one of its leg bones was strangely curved.

About the size of a Virginia opossum, Adalatherium was also unusual in that it was very large for its day; most mammals that lived alongside dinosaurs were much smaller, mouse-sized on average.

Adalatherium belongs to an extinct group of mammals called gondwanatherians because they are only known from the ancient southern supercontinent of Gondwana. Gondwanatherian fossils were first found in Argentina in the 1980s but have since also been found in Africa, India, the Antarctic Peninsula, and Madagascar. Gondwanatherians were first thought to be related to modern-day sloths, anteaters, and armadillos but “now are known to have been part of a grand evolutionary experiment, doing their own thing, an experiment that failed and was snuffed out in the Eocene, about 45 million years ago”, Krause explained.

Prior to the discovery of the nearly complete skeleton of Adalatherium, gondwanatherians were only known from isolated teeth and jaw fragments, with the exception of a cranium from Madagascar described by Krause and his team in 2014.

The completeness and excellent preservation of the skeleton of Adalatherium potentially opens up new windows into what gondwanatherians looked like and how they lived, but the bizarre features still have the scientific team guessing.

As Krause’s primary collaborator Simone Hoffmann of the New York Institute of Technology put it, “Adalatherium is the oddest of oddballs. Trying to figure out how it moved is nearly impossible because, for instance, its front end is telling us a different story than its back end.” The research team is still uncovering clues but thinks that, although Adalatherium might have been a powerful digging animal, it was also capable of running and potentially even had other forms of locomotion.

The plate tectonic history of Gondwana provides independent evidence for why Adalatherium is so bizarre. Adalatherium was found in rocks dated to near the end of the Cretaceous, at 66 million years ago. Madagascar, with the Indian subcontinent attached to the east, separated from Africa over a hundred million years before and finally became isolated as an island in the Indian Ocean when the Indian subcontinent detached at approximately 88 million years ago and drifted northward. That left the lineage that ultimately resulted in Adalatherium to evolve, isolated from mainland populations, for over 20 million years – “ample time to develop its many ludicrous features,” said Krause.

The fossil record of early mammals from the northern hemisphere is roughly an order of magnitude better than from the south.

“Adalatherium is just one piece, but an important piece, in a very large puzzle on early mammalian evolution in the southern hemisphere,” Krause noted. “Unfortunately, most of the pieces are still missing.”

More than anything, this discovery underscores to the researchers how much more remains to be learned by making new discoveries of early mammals in Madagascar and other parts of the former Gondwana.

In addition to Krause, Hoffmann, and Rossie, other researchers involved in the new discovery – which was funded by the National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society — were: the late Yaoming Hu of Stony Brook University; John R. Wible of Carnegie Museum of Natural History; Guillermo W. Rougier of University of Louisville; E. Christopher Kirk of University of Texas at Austin; Joseph R. Groenke of Stony Brook University and Ohio University; Raymond R. Rogers of Macalester College; Julia A. Schultz of Institut für Geowissenschaften der Universität Bonn, Alistair R. Evans of Monash University and Museums Victoria; Wighart von Koenigswald of Institut für Geowissenschaften der Universität Bonn; and Lydia J. Rahantarisoa of Université d’Antananarivo.

The new Adalatherium mammal is just the latest of a series of bizarre back-boned animals discovered by Krause and his research team on Madagascar over the past 25 years. Earlier discoveries have included a giant, armored, predatory frog (Beelzebufo), a pug-nosed, vegetarian crocodile (Simosuchus), and a small, buck-toothed dinosaur (Masiakasaurus).

The island itself is filled with animals (and plants) found nowhere else on the planet, including hissing cockroaches, giraffe weevils, tomato frogs, Satanic leaf-tailed geckos, panther chameleons, and streaked tenrecs to name a few. And, of course, there is the signature group of mammals – lemurs – made famous in the animated “Madagascar” movies. Only a few thousand years ago, the Madagascar fauna also included 1400-pound elephant birds, gorilla-sized lemurs, and pygmy hippopotamuses.

For more information visit here.

COVID-19 disaster, worldwide news

This 29 April 2020 video from England says about itself:

Body bags protest as construction workers raise call to “Shut The Sites”

Shut The Sites blockade the London headquarters of construction giant MACE, whose CEO – Mark Reynolds – is a spokesperson for the Construction Leadership Council.

The CLC has just shockingly announced that construction needs to stay open and social distancing for coronavirus can be ignored for up to 15 minutes at a time, if a job cannot be carried out by one person alone. This watering down of official guidelines for building sites will pass on the infection to their family members and send hundreds to their deaths.

No construction worker wants to put their family at risk, but they also need to pay their rent, which is why the electrician, bricklayer, carpenter, engineer and union safety rep who participated in the direct action also called on the government to pay every worker, irrespective of whether they are a direct employee, self-employed or an agency worker.

Shut The Sites activist went on to blockade a nearby Laing O’Rourke’s building site, sending a clear message to the CLC, major contractors and the government – if you don’t shut down construction and keep people safe, then workers are going to do it themselves.

The protest took place of 28th April – International Workers Memorial Day. The global Day of Action by unions over deaths in the workplace. The slogan for #IWMD20 is “Mourn the Dead – Fight for the Living”. So after the protest, the construction workers paid their respects to their fellow workers who had died at the bronze ‘Building Worker’ statue at Tower Hill in London.

Note: A full risk assessment was carried out prior to the action, full PPE was provided and control measures were put in place to reduce transmission of COVID-19.

BBC Panorama exposes government responsibility for UK health worker deaths. By Thomas Scripps, 29 April 2020. Using documents from within the NHS supply chain, the investigation rips apart ministers’ claims to have provided 1 billion items of personal protective equipment in the last two months.

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

Dulux will reopen decorating centres and risk lives workers warn

DULUX workers have accused the company of reopening decorating centres before it is safe to do so, forcing non-essential staff to work or take unpaid leave.

The Morning Star was contacted by outraged workers at the paint company, whose stores will be reopening on May 4.

All staff had been initially furloughed until June 24 and then asked to take a week of annual leave.

COVID-19 infection at sporting fixtures underscores criminality of Johnson government’s herd immunity policy. By Barry Mason, 29 April 2020. It was only due to growing opposition that the government was forced to impose a lockdown. But much of the damage had already been done, as evidenced by its allowing three sporting events to take place.

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

Struggling Scottish artists facing ‘real hardship’

CORONAVIRUS could be the “final straw” for thousands of artists in Scotland who were already struggling to make ends meet before the outbreak, a union warned today.

Many artists are falling through the cracks of the government’s provisions during the lockdown as they are not eligible for welfare benefits, small business grants or furlough payments, Scottish Artists Union (SAU) said.

This has left many of them facing “real hardship,” seeing their incomes collapse while still having to pay rent for their homes as well as studio spaces.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain, 29 April 2020:

GMB angry with ‘heartless and immoral’ Asos

ASOS was accused today of planning to make hundreds of call centre workers redundant and to transfer jobs overseas.

General union GMB said that the online fashion retailer was to cut 300 jobs at its Leavesden site in Hertfordshire while moving work to the Philippines and other countries with cheaper labour.

The union said that workers were receiving letters announcing the redundancies.

Coronavirus pandemic surges across South Asia, even as governments push for a return to work. By our correspondents, 29 April 2020. The response of South Asia’s governments to the pandemic underscores the contempt of the national bourgeoisie for the lives of hundreds of millions of working people and rural toilers.

Jaffna health workers complain of poor facilities as pandemic spreads in Sri Lanka. By Subash Somachandran, 29 April 2020. Health workers in northern Sri Lanka insist that the insufficiency of tests and shortcomings of health facilities has made the province vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quebec government threatens thousands of lives with precipitous return to work. By Richard Dufour, 29 April 2020. Quebec Premier François Legault has announced the reopening of the province’s elementary schools and daycares.

This 28 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

This Is What Happens When You Participate In Anti-Lockdown Protests

Stupid is as stupid does. Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur discuss on The Young Turks.

“A leader of an anti-lockdown protest group in North Carolina says that she has tested positive for COVID-19 — and she’s angry that she was forced to quarantine for two weeks to avoid spreading the virus to other people.

Local news station CBS 17 reports that Audrey Whitlock, a leader of the ReOpen NC protest movement, posted on Facebook this week that she has been under quarantine for the past two weeks after being diagnosed with COVID-19.”

Australian schools reopening as spearhead of “back to work” campaign. By Sue Phillips and Oscar Grenfell, 29 April 2020. State and federal governments are invoking dubious research to insist it is safe for teachers and students to return to schools.

Australian health workers infected with COVID-19 but governments cover up full picture. By Margaret Rees, 29 April 2020. Even according to the officially-reported cases, Melbourne’s health system is one of the worst-affected in Australia.

Hero shrews backbone evolution, new research

This 2 October 2013 video says about itself:

Bill Stanley tells us all about the weird and wonderful Hero Shrew, and reveals his latest discovery!

Read more about Thor’s Hero Shrew (Scutisorex thori).

From the Field Museum in the USA:

How hero shrews’ bizarre backbones evolved

Dense spines — inside and out — hint that the shrews are good at scrunching up like an inchworm

April 28, 2020

Summary: Hero shrews have some of the weirdest backbones in the animal kingdom — they’re incredibly strong, with stories of a 0.25-pound shrew supporting a grown man standing on its back. No one knows what they use these super-strong spines for, though, so scientists took micro-CT scans to examine the backbones inside and out. They discovered evidence that the bones are exposed to lots of stress from back-to-front, suggesting the shrews scrunch up like inchworms.

At first glance, hero shrews don’t seem super exciting — they’re small grayish-brown mammals, related to moles and hedgehogs, and they look a little bit like chubby, long-nosed rats. But under their fur, they have some of the strangest skeletons in the animal kingdom. Hero shrews have unique interlocking backbones that make their spines insanely strong — the shrews only weigh a quarter of a pound, but there are stories that their backs can support the weight of a full-grown man standing on them. Scientists aren’t sure why these tiny animals developed such crazy backbones, but researchers looking for clues took CT scans of shrew spines to try to get a better sense of how the spines evolved.

“Hero shrews have crazy-looking spines — their vertebrae are squished flat like a pancake, and they have a bunch of extra places where they touch the vertebrae next to them. It makes a really long stiff column along their back, and there aren’t good field reports as to what this structure might be useful for,” says Stephanie Smith, a postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum and the University of Chicago and the lead author of a new paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “So we wanted to look at those vertebrae and figure out how they might be using them.”

Western scientists first became aware of hero shrews about a hundred years ago, but the Mangbetu people of the Congo Basin have long known about the shrews’ incredible strength. There’s a (maybe apocryphal) story about Mangbetu people showing a team of American and European scientists how a grown man could stand on a hero shrew’s back without hurting it. A second species of hero shrew, with a spine complexity in between that of the original hero shrew and a regular shrew, was described in 2013. But researchers haven’t been able to spot the shrews in the wild putting these backbones to good use — the shrews are hard to find, and they live in areas where political unrest makes research trips nearly impossible.

“There are two species of hero shrew, and they’re both very poorly known. We have specimens of them at the museum, but we can’t see them in action. It’s almost like studying an animal in the fossil record, where we have specimens that tell us about their anatomy, but we can’t bring a live specimen into the lab and observe it,” says Kenneth Angielczyk, a curator of paleontology at the Field Museum and the paper’s senior author.

The authors of the 2013 paper, including the Field’s late head of collections Bill Stanley, posited that the hero shrews’ thick spines might be used as a brace as the animals shifted logs and peeled apart palm stems to get at insects. But no one’s observed them doing that. All we know for sure is that the shrews’ backbones are unique.

“Their spines are arched, and when they contract their muscles to squeeze their vertebrae together, the bones interlock really tightly. When that happens, it becomes one solid block of vertebrae instead of a bunch of bendy pieces,” says Smith.

Without any live shrews to observe, Smith and Angielczyk turned to the bones in the Field Museum’s collections. They took micro-CT scans of the bones of the two known hero shrew species, as well as a “normal” shrew for comparison. These scans revealed minute details of the bones, but more importantly, they also hinted at how the bones were used in life.

“Bones contain a record, to some degree, of the forces that are acting on them during life. There are special cells in the bone that detect when pressure is put on it. They send out signals to reorganize the bone to be better at handling the forces they’re under, so you have bones responding throughout an animal’s life to habitual forces,” explains Smith. “My absolute favorite example of this was a paper where they put sheep in tall shoes, like high heels, and the different angle of pressure changed the inner structure of their leg bones.”

Armed with the knowledge that the inner structure of bone changes depending on the direction of the forces that have acted on the bone, Smith and Angielczyk tried to determine what these shrews had gotten up to. “We found that the two species of hero shrews have really, really thick, dense spongy bone inside their vertebrae. The percentage of bone is high relative to the total volume of the structure compared to other shrews,” Smith says. “That makes the bone a lot sturdier. It’s like how a chair with thick legs and crossbeams connecting those legs is sturdier than a chair with just four spindly legs and no crossbeams.”

“That’s really interesting because it says that these guys can take a lot of force compressing their spine from head to tail. And that’s the main direction that force is applied to the spine in an animal that has four legs,” continues Smith. “It doesn’t necessarily solve the question of what are they doing, but it does give us an indicator that they’re habitually experiencing strong forces in that direction.”

To sum up: hero shrew spines don’t just look tough from the outside, they’re also super-dense inside, in a way that indicates that they’re able to withstand pressure from being scrunched up like an inchworm. It doesn’t confirm Stanley’s hypothesis that the shrews scrunch up and then extend their spines to wedge apart palm trunks to get at bugs — only direct observation can do that. But it does indicate that the shrew’s backbones could resist the forces such behavior would generate.

In addition to studying the forces the hero shrews were exposed to in life, Smith also helped quantify the differences between the two known species. The original hero shrew described in 1910 has a more complex spine than the new species from 2013, although the latter has a more complex spine than regular shrews. This suggests the transitional features of the 2013 species (Thor’s hero shrew) can provide information about how the 1910 shrew evolved from a slender-spined ancestor. To help quantify the differences between the shrews’ spines, Smith painstakingly counted all the little nodules and tubercles on the specimens’ vertebrae. “I think the grand total was something like 17,000,” she says. “We found that the Thor’s hero shrew was intermediate on both the inside and the outside. Because of the way that bone reacts to load, that means that it could also be functionally intermediate. But that’s just a hypothesis at this point.”

And if this all seems like a lot of time and effort thinking about shrews at a time when the world has bigger fish to fry, the researchers note that it helps answer bigger questions about the evolution of mammals.

“Small mammals experience the world differently than we do, and we don’t have all that much information about the way that being small affects their interaction with the world,” says Angielczyk. “Part of what we’re interested in is the question of how you can be a small mammal — what do you need to be effective at that and resist forces that are being applied to your body in different functional contexts. It’s something that we don’t know very much about, but it’s important, because we evolved from small mammals. Better knowledge of what it takes to be a small mammal is important for understanding a lot of weird things about mammals in general, including us.”

Smith has no plans to move on from studying shrews anytime soon. “Shrews are really interesting ecologically, and they’re so small they have almost secret powers,” she says. “They’re incredibly diverse, and I think they’re beautiful. They’re dope as hell.”

Coronavirus update, USA

This 29 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Trump Attacks Post Office While Carriers & Clerks Die from COVID-19

President Trump has lashed out at the U.S. Postal Service as the pandemic brings it to the brink of collapse and more people than ever are relying on the mail. Trump claims the agency is only losing money because it is undercharging Amazon and other companies for shipping. “It just isn’t true”, says American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein.

Trump orders meatpacking workers back on the job as opposition mounts to back-to-work campaign, 29 April 2020. US President Donald Trump’s executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to force employees at meatpacking plants back to work marks a new stage in his administration’s confrontation with the working class: here.

With over 1 million coronavirus cases and 60,000 fatalities in the US, markets eager to get back to business. By Benjamin Mateus, 29 April 2020. The markets are clamoring for a rapid reopening of businesses, regardless of concerns about the impact of a second wave of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 cases increase across Illinois as many counties push to reopen. By Brian Brown, 29 April 2020. The pandemic poses enormous problems for rural areas where public health programs and hospitals have been greatly defunded over the last decade, leaving vulnerable residents in greater danger.

“This pandemic is showing that something is wrong in our society”. 10,000 nursing home workers vote to strike in Illinois in the face of life-threatening working conditions. By Jessica Goldstein, 29 April 2020. The coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage nursing home residents and staff, accounting for 35 percent of COVID-19 cases in Illinois.

Millions of US workers blocked from applying for jobless benefits. By Kevin Reed, 29 April 2020. An Economic Policy Institute survey shows that the real number of unemployed workers in the US is far higher than the official 26.5 million who have filed unemployment claims.

As millions face destitution gravy train continues for US auto execs. By Shannon Jones, 29 April 2020. General Motors CEO Mary Barra was among the top 20 highest-paid executives in 2019 with Ford and Fiat Chrysler execs not far behind.

Round two of the “Paycheck Protection Program”: Another disaster for US small businesses and their employees. By Barry Grey, 29 April 2020. The abortive start of the second round of the “small business” program demonstrated that the vast majority of small businesses and their employees will receive little or nothing in relief from the economic collapse.

About the Donald Trump-right-wing billionaire Koch brothers-right-wing billionaire Rupert Murdoch-right-wing billionaire DeVos dynasty‘s ‘Flu Klux Klan‘:

The Extremists And Grifters Behind Many Of The Anti-Lockdown Protests. Many of the right-wing protests against state stay-at-home orders sweeping the nation have been organized or attended by white nationalists, conspiracy theorists, anti-government militias, members of a neo-fascist street gang, and other assorted extremists and scam artists, a HuffPost analysis shows: here.

This 28 April 2020 video fryom the USA says about itself:

Anti-lockdown leader, Audrey Whitlock is under quarantine after contracting COVID-19. John Iadarola and Jordan Uhl break it down on The Damage Report.

“One of the leaders of ReOpenNC, the movement against Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order, posted on Facebook that she tested positive for coronavirus.

Audrey Whitlock missed the group’s first two rallies in Raleigh while she was in quarantine, a fellow organizer, Ashley Smith, told WRAL News.

Smith said that Whitlock tested positive three weeks ago.”

‘Reopen’ Protests Started Small. Right-Wing Media Gave Them A Massive Platform. What has changed in just a brief period of time is that a network of right-wing media outlets, powerful conservative activists and President Donald Trump have all championed the demonstrations and helped their organizers grow the movement ― giving relatively small and widely unpopular protests an outsized platform and influence: here.

Amid The Pandemic, U.S. Militia Groups Plot ‘The Boogaloo,’ AKA Civil War, On Facebook. Thousands of armed right-wing militants are plotting a violent uprising against the U.S. government during the coronavirus crisis, a new report finds, and Facebook is providing them a platform to prepare and organize: here.

Far right hijack coronavirus crisis to push agenda and boost support: here.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

People’s World doubles web traffic during Covid-19

US publication People’s World is bucking a global trend with a doubling of its circulation since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, its editorial team announced on Monday.

The socialist website, which was founded in 1924 as the Daily Worker newspaper, reached two million unique readers last year and is on course to beat that in 2020, they said in a statement.

People’s World is covering protests by nurses, the experiences of Uber drivers, Amazon workers and other issues facing the labour and progressive movement while challenging US President Donald Trump’s “anti-China racism and scapegoating”.

More than three million individual readers have accessed the World Socialist Web Site since the beginning of 2020. By David North and Andre Damon, 27 April 2020. The international readership of the World Socialist Web Site has grown considerably since the beginning of 2020.

Deep-sea scaly-foot snails, new research

This September 2019 video says about itself:

The Deep-Sea Snail with an Iron Shell

Deep in the Indian Ocean, scientists have discovered a snail whose feet are covered in iron scales, but how it builds these scales is a bit of a mystery.

Hosted by: Olivia Gordon.

From the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology:

Genomic secrets of scaly-foot snail from hydrothermal vents

Laying the foundation for potential solutions provided by deep-sea creatures

April 28, 2020

Researchers have decoded for the first time the genome of Scaly-foot Snail, a rare snail inhabited in what scientists called ‘the origin of life’- deep-sea hydrothermal vents characterized with near-impossible living conditions. Unraveling the genome of this unique creature will not only shed light on how life evolved billions of years ago, but will also lay the foundation for the discovery of potential remedies offered by these ancient creatures.

Despite an extreme environment characterized by high pressure, high temperature, strong acidity and low oxygen level which resembles living condition in pre-historic time, hydrothermal vents harbor a diverse amount of creatures — most of which have huge potential for biomedical and other applications. Among other inhabitants of such difficult environment, Scaly-foot Snail, also known as “Sea Pangolin“, is of particular interest to marine scientists.

Scaly-foot Snail is the only extant gastropod (a major invertebrate animal, commonly known as snails and slugs) alive that possesses armor-like scales — an otherwise very common feature for gastropods during the Cambrian time over 540 million years ago. This snail is also the only organism in the world known to incorporate iron into its exoskeleton, and is also one of the top ten astounding marine species of the decade (2007-2017). Little is known, however, about its genome and unusual morphology, as the creature is extremely difficult to locate and collect.

Now, a research team led by Prof. QIAN Peiyuan, Chair Professor of HKUST’s Department of Ocean Science and Division of Life Science, managed to collect 20 scaly-foot snails at around 2,900 meters below sea level from the Indian Ocean in collaboration with researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), and analyze the snail’s genome sequence.

Contrary to many scientists’ expectation that the creature contains some new special genes that give rise to its bizarre morphology, the team actually discovered that all of the snail’s genes already existed in other mollusks such as squid and pearl oyster, and the snail’s gene sequence has remained almost unchanged throughout its evolution. The 25 transcription factors (a key protein that regulates many downstream gene expression levels) which contribute to the snail’s scale and shell formation, as the team identified, have also contributed to the formation of many other unique hard-parts in Mollusca — such as operculum in gastropods, beak in squid, spicule in chiton, or chaetae in polychaetes.

“Although no new gene was identified, our research offers valuable insight to the biomineralization — a process where the clustering, positioning and on and off switching of a combination of genes defines the morphology of a species,” Prof. Qian said. “Uncovering Scaly-foot Snail’s genome advances our knowledge in the genetic mechanism of mollusks, laying the genetic groundwork which paves the way for application. One possible direction is how their iron-coated shells withstand heavy blows, which can provide us insights on ways to make a more protective armor.”

The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

The study of genome sequencing of organisms often brings breakthrough to biomedical and other sectors. An enzyme of a microbe that lives in such vents — for example, was recently used for the detection of COVID-19 as well as other viruses such as AIDS and SARS.

COVID-19 disaster in Britain, update

This 22 April 2020 video from the British parliament says about itself:

Jeremy Corbyn returns to the backbench

Jeremy Corbyn rebels against over 70’s #COVID19 guidance to ask [Conservative Health Secretary] Matt Hancock for further assurances on the availability of testing.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 28 April 2020:

Jeremy Corbyn: pandemic should make leaders realise arms spending does not protect us

Labour’s ex-leader speaks out at CND webinar

THE coronavirus crisis should serve as a wake-up call to other impending disasters awaiting humanity, including nuclear war and climate change, peace activists said today.

Speaking at a CND webinar, politicians including Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and activists discussed whether Britain will honour its commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

The objective of the international treaty is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.

By Ceren Sagir in Britain, 28 April 2020:

Matt Hancock dodges call for apology from son of doctor who died while fighting coronavirus

MATT HANCOCK was asked to apologise today by the son of a doctor who died with coronavirus after warning the government about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Health Secretary was confronted during a live phone-in on LBC by 18-year-old Intisar Chowdhury, the son of Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, who died earlier this month.

Dr Chowdhury, who was 53, had written a Facebook post just five days before he was admitted to hospital asking Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urgently provide every NHS worker with PPE. He died two weeks after making the plea.

Flowers in Britain commemorate coronavirus deaths

By Bethany Rielly in Britain, 29 April 2020:

Ministry of Justice cleaners walk out after colleague’s death as nation mourns Covid-19 victims

WORKERS forced to clean empty offices at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) downed tools today following the death of a colleague from suspected Covid-19.

The walkout coincided with International Workers’ Memorial Day, as millions across the country took part in a minute’s silence to honour key workers who have died from the virus.

The cleaners, who work at the government building in central London, claim they are being forced to go in because they cannot survive on statutory sick pay (SSP) if they take time off.

By Ceren Sagir in Britain, 28 April 2020:

A third of coronavirus deaths are taking place in care homes, new figures reveal

A THIRD of all coronavirus deaths in England and Wales are now happening in care homes, unrecorded in the government’s daily updates, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed today.

There were 2,000 coronavirus care-home deaths in the week ending April 17, double from the previous week, bringing the total number to 3,096.

Projections for the last week suggest that the numbers of Covid-19 deaths in care homes have continued to rise.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain, 28 April 2020:

TSSA urges Scottish and Welsh government against premature opening of rail networks

THE Scottish and Welsh governments were urged today to resist pressure from rail operators to resume services prematurely.

Transport union TSSA is calling on Scottish and Welsh leaders Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford to “prevent any premature reopening which may threaten the health of transport workers and passengers.”

General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “We are getting more and more reports of pressure and plans from management to return our members to their workplaces and increase services even though there are no safety plans in place and the need for it has not been explained.”

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

After the crisis we need a new normal in the world of work

YESTERDAY, as is now routine, we were subjected to a blizzard of pious messaging from government ministers and the mainstream monopoly press valorising the routinely heroic work of essential workers.

No doubt, among the high officials, government ministers and the more elevated of media professionals there is a genuine appreciation that their health, safety and comfortable lives can proceed because of this essential work.

We will, for the moment, take this on trust. But a hint of the hypocrisy inherent in these utterances from on high is evidenced by the fact that as our official broadcaster transmitted these words of praise and appreciation there was a conspicuous failure to refer to the fact that it was International Workers’ Memorial Day.

There was no mention that this takes place every year as workers’ organisations, usually without a media fanfare, remember with respect the dead and injured at work and resolve to redouble our efforts to make work a safe environment.

The TUC confronts the issue with an honesty that contrasts with official hypocrisy.

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) commemorates those workers.

The increased salience of these issues, not just the routine question of health and safety, but also the inevitable contradiction under capitalism between the drive for profit and the wellbeing of workers, means that among the millions of working people and their families there is stirring a sense that when this bloody war of attrition with Covid-19 has been fought to a relatively safe conclusion, things will have to change.

This week the prime minister — whose return to work is due to the efforts of health workers whose deserved pay rise was stymied by his and other Tory votes in Parliament — resumed his duties.

Note how carefully he calibrated his insistence that a return to the routines of capital accumulation – which depends, under capitalism, on the willingness of workers to take home just a proportion of the values they create – was inflected with a hint that he intends to “refine the economic and social restrictions” that stand in the way of this.

Pointedly he said he could not “spell out now how fast or slow or even when those changes will be made,” but he did promise to say more “in the coming days”.

The sharp-eyed will notice that both the chief medical and chief scientific officers insisted that they offer evidence and that ministers decide.

Today is National Postal Workers Day. If any group of workers define in their daily labours the truth that there is such a thing as society it is postal workers who are literally the sinews of social life.

It is remarkable how they have maintained an ethos of public service even as their sector of the economy has been privatised, their workplaces turned into profit centres and their work subordinated not to social need or economic efficiency but private profit.

In the so-called “Royal” Mail they face an employer whose postcode is profit. When Communications Workers Union leader Dave Ward says “When we come out of the other side of this there needs to be a revaluing of how workers in the UK are seen and recognised. We will not go back to ‘normal’ – we will create a new normal”, he tells us half the story.

Postal workers and their union have already begun the creation of the new normal when they turned in a massive near-total majority for industrial action both last year and this. Royal Mail bosses should not think that their employees’ willingness to prioritise keeping the nation connected during the pandemic means that mandate has weakened.

British Royal Mail

By mailwoman Sarah White in Britain, 29 April 2020:

Life in Royal Mail during Covid-19

In unprecedented times, from the moment of waking up, greater thought is put in to how we are going to get through the day. With a higher stress level than usual on how to keep ourselves safe while the company that employs us has acted too slowly in recognising the seriousness of the situation that the country is in.

Upon entering the building the immediate worry of maintaining the 2-metre social distancing with minimal space available is thrust upon us due to so many delivery offices under one roof.

As I progress though the building it soon becomes apparent due to the increase of parcels that space is of a premium which again causes problems with social distancing. After a slow start, social distancing signs were implemented.

Leaving the office to go out on delivery is almost a blessing as for the first time in the morning you won’t have the worry of space being the main concern.

Due to performing a rural delivery, I feel part of the community, I feel appreciated as well as being asked how I am and how my family are with many people thanking me for my efforts. I have a large amount of elderly customers on my delivery and although I cannot do what I usually do with the reduction of physical contact I still like to make sure they are ok or if they need anything, for example, any shopping or medication picked up.

I can safely say that for the first time since starting 20 years ago I feel we are certainly more appreciated alongside the NHS and other key workers.

I hope as a result Royal Mail management realises how important we are to the social structure of society in times of crisis and reassess the direction the company intends to go.

I am proud to be your local postie – say thank you to yours today.

Sarah White
Dartford unit representative

Sorting mail in Britain

By postman Ben Scott in Britain, 29 April 2020:

Proud to be your postal worker

Every morning it is the same. You sit in your car before work starts wondering if today is the day you are going to catch Corona.

We are all worried. Every day.

The Union has been great trying to keep us safe, we have new shifts, only one postie per van. But there are still concerns. PPE seems constantly in short supply. Keeping two meters away is hard in my office, it is an old building and a lot of us work here. But we are doing our best.

How Arctic rock ptarmigans save energy

This October 2012 video is called Svalbard rock ptarmigan (winter plumage).

From Lund University:

Arctic wildlife uses extreme method to save energy

April 28, 2020

The extreme cold, harsh environment and constant hunt for food means that Arctic animals have become specialists in saving energy. Now, researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered a previously unknown energy-saving method used by birds during the polar night.

Researchers from Lund University and the University of Tromsø have examined the immune system strength of the Svalbard rock ptarmigan in the Arctic. This bird lives the farthest up in the Arctic of any land bird, and the researchers have investigated how the immune response varies between winter and late spring.

When I was in Svalbard in June, I saw rock ptarmigans. Including a male which had spent the night on a telephone pole (safe from local Arctic foxes). He landed and mated with a female.

“We have discovered that the birds reduce how much they spend on keeping their own immune defence system up and running during the five months of the year when it is dark around the clock, probably to save energy. Instead, they use those resources on keeping warm and looking for food. When daylight returns, their immune response is strengthened again,” says Andreas Nord, researcher at Lund University.

The researchers found that when the birds become ill in mid-winter, their energy consumption drops compared to when they are healthy. However, when the birds become ill in late spring, their energy consumption increases instead.

“A weaker immune system is probably a part of all the adaptations that Arctic animals use to save energy in winter. The risk of being infected by various diseases so far north is less in winter than when it becomes warmer towards summer,” says Andreas Nord.

When Svalbard rock ptarmigan save energy in this manner, they do so by weakening an already weak immune system. According to the researchers, this is probably due to the fact that the species evolved in the Arctic where there has been less of a need for a very strong immune defence system.

“This may have negative consequences when the climate changes and migratory birds arrive earlier in the Arctic and leave later. More and more tourists also come ashore in places where people have not set foot before. Such a scenario paves the way for an increased risk of disease and may be a threat to animals that have evolved in the Arctic where a strong immune defence system might not have been needed,” Andreas Nord concludes.

Big Pharma monopolies cause unnecessary coronavirus deaths

This 16 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Taxpayers Funded COVID-19 Research, And Big Pharma Profited

It’s definitely just a coincidence that one of Trump‘s coronavirus task force members is a former lobbyist for Gilead Sciences, the company that won orphan drug status for its COVID-19 treatment.

From Project Syndicate/New York in the USA, Sunday, April 26, 2020:

Patents vs. the pandemic

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Arjun Jayadev and Achal Prabhala

Imagine a world in which a global network of medical professionals monitored for emerging strains of a contagious virus, periodically updated an established formula for vaccinating against it, and then made that information available to companies and countries around the world. Moreover, imagine if this work were done without any intellectual-property (IP) considerations, and without pharmaceutical monopolies exploiting a desperate public to maximize their profits.

This may sound like a utopian fantasy, but it is actually a description of how the flu vaccine has been produced for the past 50 years. Through the World Health Organization’s Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), experts from around the world convene twice a year to analyze and discuss the latest data on emerging flu strains, and to decide which strains should be included in each year’s vaccine. As a network of laboratories spanning 110 countries, funded almost entirely by governments (and partly by foundations), GISRS epitomizes what Amy Kapczynski of Yale Law School calls “open science”.

Because GISRS is focused solely on protecting human lives, rather than turning a profit, it is uniquely capable of gathering, interpreting, and distributing actionable knowledge for the development of vaccines. While this approach may have been taken for granted in the past, its advantages are quickly becoming clear.

In responding to the pandemic, the global scientific community has shown a remarkable willingness to share knowledge of potential treatments, coordinate clinical trials, develop new models transparently, and publish findings immediately. In this new climate of cooperation, it is easy to forget that commercial pharmaceutical companies have for decades been privatizing and locking up the knowledge commons by extending control over life-saving drugs through unwarranted, frivolous, or secondary patents, and by lobbying against the approval and production of generics.

With the arrival of COVID-19, it is now painfully obvious that such monopolization comes at the cost of human lives. Monopoly control over the technology used in testing for the virus has hampered the rapid rollout of more testing kits, just as 3M’s 441 patents mentioning “respirator” or “N95” have made it more difficult for new producers to manufacture medical-grade face masks at scale. Worse, multiple patents are in force in most of the world for three of the most promising treatments for COVID-19 – remdesivir, favipiravir, and lopinavir/ritonavir. Already, these patents are preventing competition and threatening both the affordability and the supply of new drugs.

We now have a choice between two futures. In the first scenario, we continue as usual, relying on the big pharmaceutical companies, hoping that some potential treatment for COVID-19 will make it through clinical trials, and that other technologies for detection, testing, and protection will emerge. In this future, patents will give monopoly suppliers control over most of these innovations. The suppliers will set the price high, forcing downstream rationing of care. In the absence of strong public intervention, lives will be lost, particularly in developing countries.

The same problem will also apply to any potential COVID-19 vaccine. Unlike Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, which was made freely available immediately, most vaccines that come to market today are patented. For example, PCV13, the current multi-strain pneumonia vaccine administered to babies, costs hundreds of dollars because it is the monopoly property of Pfizer. And although Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance subsidizes some of the costs of the vaccine in developing countries, many people still cannot afford it. In India, more than 100,000 preventable infant deaths from pneumonia are recorded every year, while the vaccine brings in roughly $5 billion in revenue for Pfizer annually.

In the second possible future, we would acknowledge that the current system – in which private monopolies profit from knowledge that is largely produced by public institutions – is not fit for purpose. As public-health advocates and scholars have long argued, monopolies kill, by denying access to life-saving medicines that otherwise would have been available under an alternative system – like the one facilitating the yearly production of the flu vaccine.

There is already some movement in favor of alternative approaches. For example, Costa Rica’s government recently called on the WHO to establish a voluntary pool of IP rights for COVID-19 treatments, which would allow multiple manufacturers to supply new drugs and diagnostics at more affordable prices.

Patent pooling is not a new idea. Through the Medicines Patent Pool, the United Nations and the WHO have for years sought to increase access to treatments for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis, and have now expanded that program to cover COVID-19. Patent pools, prize funds, and other similar ideas are part of a broader agenda to reform how life-saving drugs are developed and made available. The goal is to replace a monopoly-driven system with one based on cooperation and shared knowledge.

To be sure, some will argue that the COVID-19 crisis is sui generis, or that the threat of compulsory licenses offers sufficient means for pressuring drug companies to behave well. But, beyond front-line researchers who are not motivated solely by short-term profits, it is not clear that the big pharmaceutical companies understand their responsibilities. After all, Gilead, the maker of remdesivir, initially reacted to the current crisis by applying for “orphan drug” status, which would have granted it a stronger monopoly position and multimillion-dollar tax breaks. (Following a public outcry, the company withdrew its application.)

For too long, we have bought into the myth that today’s IP regime is necessary. The proven success of GISRS and other applications of “open science” shows that it is not. With the COVID-19 death toll rising, we should question the wisdom and morality of a system that silently condemns millions of human beings to suffering and death every year.

It’s time for a new approach. Academics and policymakers have already come forward with many promising proposals for generating socially useful – rather than merely profitable – pharmaceutical innovation. There has never been a better time to start putting these ideas into practice.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and University Professor at Columbia University, is the author, most recently, of People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent. Arjun Jayadev is professor of Economics at Azim Premji University and senior economist at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Achal Prabhala is a fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation and coordinator of the accessibsa project, which campaigns for access to medicines in India, Brazil, and South Africa.