Coronavirus news update


This 17 June 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Stop The Covid Cover-up At Tesla Auto Plant-Musk & Newsom Partners In Crime At The Tesla Plant

A press conference was held to protest the cover-up by the Elon Musk owned Tesla factory in Fremont, California. on June 15, 2020. Speakers talked about the dangerous cover-up by the company of information about those who have become infected and where they worked.

Also, speakers talked about the refusal of California Democratic governor Gavin Newsom to have any physical inspections of the plant’s health and safety conditions by Cal-OSHA. There are less than 200 Cal-OSHA inspectors for California’s 18 million workers and there have been no physical inspections of the plant where there are 10 to 15 thousand workers. Elon Musk publicly declared that he would violate the Alameda County “Shelter In Place” order and both Alameda County and Governor Newsom refused to hold him accountable. They also said the Fremont police would investigate to see if Musk was following the health and safety protection rules.

More than 40 percent of all US deaths from COVID-19 are in nursing homes. By Benjamin Mateus, 17 June 2020. A report published Tuesday says that there were 51,000 COVID-19 deaths among residents of US nursing homes and extended care facilities.

Faurecia workers denounce unsafe return to work. By Tim Rivers, 17 June 2020. Workers at the Faurecia plant in Saline, Michigan described how the company was concealing the spread of COVID-19 in the plant.

Canada’s grocery chains slash wages as pandemic continues to rage. By Roger Jordan, 17 June 2020. The decision to abolish the pay premium shows the companies’ shocking disregard for the lives of workers.

Outbreaks of COVID-19 in Brazil’s meat processing plants and mines. By Tomas Castanheira, 17 June 2020. Clusters of coronavirus at large companies across the country threaten the lives of thousands of workers.

Galapagos giant tortoises return to their island


This 17 June 2020 video says about itself:

Ecuador: ‘Diego’ the turtle, who sired 800 babies and saved his species, returns home after 87 years

Mandatory Credit: Ministry of Environment and Water of Ecuador

‘Diego’, the world’s most famous giant tortoise, returned to Espanola Island in the Galapagos archipelago on Monday after helping breed some 800 turtle hatchlings in captivity, saving his species from extinction.

Diego and 15 other turtles that were part of the project were subjected to a quarantine process and internal deworming. They were then fitted with an identification microchip before leaving Santa Cruz Island on board a boat bound for Espanola Island.

Diego had remained in captivity for decades, helping to multiply the endemic population of giant tortoises from 15 to 2,300, and in so doing becoming recognised as the saviour of his species.

The repopulation project began in the 1960s after experts determined that the population had been reduced to just two males and 12 females.

COVID-19 disaster in Donald Trump’s USA continues


This 17 June 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Trump’s Massive Tulsa Rally Raises Alarms As COVID Increases | NowThis

Trump will hold a massive rally in Oklahoma despite rising COVID cases in the state.

Here’s the latest on President Trump’s Tulsa rally in Oklahoma and why experts are concerned about spread of COVID-19.

NowThis will stream Pres. Trump’s rally with live fact-checking on Saturday, 6/20 at 7pm central.

TRUMP SAYS VIRUS ‘GOES AWAY,’ FALSELY CLAIMS AIDS VACCINE EXISTS President Donald Trump said “if we stop testing right now we’d have very few cases” of coronavirus on Monday. The comment was part of a broader administration effort to play down the pandemic that experts worry is sending a dangerous message to the American public. During the same speech that Trump baselessly claimed the coronavirus will “go away,” he incorrectly stated that an AIDS vaccine exists — a statement many have already slammed. This comes as the Trump administration has been ordered to give tribes their coronavirus relief funds, which the Treasury Department was sitting on, and as Florida, Arizona and Texas report record surges in infections. [AP]

PENCE SAYS ALL STATES OPENING RESPONSIBLY. FAUCI DISAGREES. Vice President Mike Pence painted misleading portrait of the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus and the current state of the crisis in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal. Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, praised all 50 states for beginning to reopen in a “safe and responsible manner.” But Dr. Anthony Fauci said that isn’t the case. “There certainly were states that did not strictly follow the guidelines that we put out about opening America again,” Fauci told NPR. This comes as three states see record highs in COVID-19 cases after reopening. [HuffPost]

More U.S. deaths than World War I: How does the COVID-19 toll compare with other deadly events?

Aesculapian snakes fighting, video


This 17 June 2020 video says about itself:

Snake male combat – males of some snake species fight for dominance during mating season. Non-venomous Aesculapian snakes (Zamenis longissimus) are big long snakes, which are critically endangered in the Czech Republic. This video shows 2 males fighting for the right to mate with a female for over one hour. Both snakes try to push the body of the rival down to the ground. This footage was filmed in the wild nature in the Dyje river valley.

Juan de Oñate, ‘hero’ of 21st-century racists


This 16 June 2920 video from New Mexico in the USA says about itself:

Albuquerque Police Department identifies man arrested in connection to shooting of protester near Juan de Oñate statue in Albuquerque.

By Jacob Crosse in the USA:

New Mexico protester wounded by far-right shooter

17 June 2020

Just over three weeks after President Donald Trump gave a fascistic speech in the White House Rose Garden, proclaiming himself the president of “law and order” while calling on the military and police to “dominate the streets”, right-wing militia groups and fascist bands have taken up the president’s call and are coordinating with local officials and police departments across the country to intimidate, harass, attack, and in some cases, shoot peaceful demonstrators.

In Albuquerque, an anti-racist protester was shot by a former [pro-Trump Republican] city council candidate, Steve Baca, 31, during a protest Monday evening over the “La Jornada” sculpture at Tiguex Park in the city’s downtown. The monument features horse-mounted conquistador Juan de Oñate. Oñate is despised, particularly by Native Americans, for his role in the Acoma Massacre of 1599.

Baca, the son of a former Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy, was safely escorted from the scene of the protest by police Monday evening after shooting protester Steve Williams at least once in the torso. Baca was not formally charged and arrested until Tuesday morning according to the criminal complaint filed by the Albuquerque Police Department.

Baca ran for city council in 2019, garnering six percent of the vote. According to a campaign flyer, if elected, Baca promised to “crackdown on crime” and let “police officers do their job.”

In an interview with the Albuquerque Journal last year Baca railed against the homeless, advocating for a “criminal justice perspective-crack down on the low-level crimes that the homeless community is doing; have officers do warrant pickups, crack down on those very small crimes like drug abuse… A lot of the people [who are homeless] are addicted to drugs; you need to get those people into the court system so they can be forced to go to rehab.”

Baca is being charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. The complaint, in contradiction to witness statements and copious video evidence, paints Baca, who was recorded physically assaulting multiple women as well as brandishing the firearm he would later fire against demonstrators, as simply an innocent person “protecting the statue” …

Monday’s protests turned violent once several armed men, who identified themselves to a New York Times reporter as members of the New Mexico Civil Guard of Curry County (NMCG), tried to insert themselves between protesters—mostly local youth—and the monument they were trying to dislodge. While it is unknown at this time if Baca is a member of the “Civil Guard”, video posted to social media after the shooting shows him being protected by the heavily armed militia members while waiting for a police escort.

Once police finally arrived to safely escort Baca from the scene, riot police fired tear gas into the crowd of remaining protesters and ordered them to disperse. Six NMCG members were also handcuffed and taken into custody by Albuquerque police at the same time.

A recent Facebook post from the group page declared that Baca was not a member of NMCG and that the NMCG only got in between “the man in the blue shirt” and the “angry mob” to ensure “no protesters were shot.” The NMCG is led by local painter O’Rion Petty, who according to the Eastern New Mexico News started the Facebook group to “Defend citizens and their private property.” A featured photo on the page depicts the logo from the hate group the Three Percenters.

The recently formed group first made their appearance during a June 2 vigil for George Floyd in Clovis, New Mexico. Eight members of the group showed up to the vigil, made up mostly of local youth, wearing body armor and carrying semi-automatic rifles, their faces obscured by balaclavas. Speaking to the News Petty claimed they were at the vigil “not … to intimidate the protesters or anything like that. We’re not with antifa. We’re there because of everything that’s going on [around the country] and we’re not going to watch our community be destroyed, if it comes to that.”

Petty noted that the police are “completely fine with us being around. They wanted to make sure we don’t look like law enforcement or military and so we’re staying in plain clothes for this” (emphasis added).

When questioned what would happen if the situation turned violent, Petty advised that the group “will always go [with] the non-lethal option when it’s available. We do carry things like pepper spray … but if we feel like someone’s life is in imminent danger or our lives are in imminent danger, at that point we would have to go ahead and use lethal force if necessary.”

Notably, Baca can be seen in several videos prior to Monday’s shooting carrying a silver can of pepper spray as well as the Glock pistol which was spotted by worried protesters prior to the shooting.

Meanwhile, in the small town of Bethel, Ohio, 30 miles east of Cincinnati, the Bethel Police Department is investigating roughly 10 different assault cases after more than 250 people identified by city officials as “motorcycle gangs, back the blue groups, and Second Amendment advocates,” assaulted and harassed a small group of roughly 100 protesters during a Sunday Black Lives Matter march.

Alicia Gee, 36, lifelong resident of Bethel and substitute teacher, organized the march after seeing a similar event was being held in neighboring Kentucky. Gee, who only expected about 25 people to show up, was pleasantly surprised when over 100 had arrived by 1 p.m. in the town of less than 3,000. Gee had contacted Bethel police on Tuesday to ensure the protest would be legal and that adequate arrangements could be made.

Once the protests began, however, Gee received word that the armed group of thugs was trying to interrupt the march. Gee attempted to move the group away from the far-right mob but they were soon discovered and surrounded. Bethel police stood by, refusing to call for any back up as the bikers and their police supporters crossed the street dividing the two groups and began to assault the anti-police violence protesters, including Andrea Dennis, who brought her 63-year-old mother to the protests.

“I was really scared because they were carrying guns and they were so aggressive,” Dennis told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “They were grabbing me and grabbing my mom and they just seemed to have no respect for the law.” By 3:45 p.m. multiple protesters had been physically assaulted, with social media photos showing young, mostly white youth, bruised and bloody. No arrests were made on Sunday by Bethel police who said that their investigation is “still ongoing.”

NEW MEXICO SHOOTING RAISES SPECTER OF RIGHT-WING VIOLENCE One person was shot at a demonstration on Monday demanding the removal of a statue depicting a violently repressive Spanish colonial official, Juan de Oñate, in New Mexico. The shooting occurred after agitated counterprotesters, including a small right-wing militia, crashed the protest. The removal of statues commemorating Confederate leaders, slaveholders and colonial despots has become a flashpoint for conflict and right-wing vigilantism before, most notably during the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia in August 2017. [HuffPost]

How barn owlets help each other


This 2017 video is called Bringing Up Baby: How barn owls do it.

By Pratik Pawar, June 16, 2020, at 6:00 am:

Barn owlets share food with their younger siblings in exchange for grooming

Such cooperation is thought to be rare among the young of other birds

If ever there were a competition to rank sibling relationships in the animal kingdom, barn owls would be close to the top. That’s because elder barn owlets will sometimes give away their meal to their younger siblings. Such cooperative behavior has been reported in adult nonhuman primates and birds, but rarely among young (SN: 2/6/12).

“I don’t know any other species where you can find it,” says Pauline Ducouret, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. But scientists weren’t sure what prompted the food sharing. Now, observations of nests show that elder barn owlets offer their food to their younger siblings in exchange for grooming, Ducouret and her colleagues report in the July issue of the American Naturalist.

Barn owls (Tyto alba) raise six chicks at once, on average, and sometimes as many as nine (SN: 9/19/17). But not all chicks hatch at the same time, which means that elder chicks are usually healthier and larger than their younger brothers and sisters.

That’s because all chicks are entirely dependent on the parents for food, and food, in this case, is usually a small rodent, like a vole or a shrew, that can’t be easily split. So at any given visit, mom or dad can feed only one chick at a time. In many bird species, the eldest siblings would simply outcompete the rest, but not barn owls.

To understand the seeming generosity of the elder birds, Ducouret and her team observed 27 broods of barn owls across the Switzerland countryside. The scientists videotaped each brood for two consecutive days and nights to understand how the owlets interacted and attached a tiny microphone backpack to each chick to help identify individual calls.

The team found that older chicks preferentially shared food with the younger siblings that extensively groomed them. And younger owlets, in general, groomed elder siblings more often than the older ones groomed the youngsters, “perhaps to maximize the probability of being fed in return,” the researchers write. In some cases, an elder chick would also offer food to the neediest sibling, which called out incessantly, irrespective of whether it groomed or not.

But food sharing occurred only when the researchers provided extra food to the owlets. So it wasn’t a case of the older chicks risking their survival to feed the youngsters. But when there was enough food to go around, the elder siblings chose to share instead of hoard.

“[It’s an] interesting study with a large sample size and technically nice observation techniques,” says Ronald Noë, a retired behavioral ecologist from the Netherlands who was not part of the research. “One usually reads about competition among siblings and even siblicide,” he says.

Ducouret says that this food-sharing behavior could have evolved because the elder siblings enjoy both indirect and direct benefits. Being groomed offers such immediate boons as protection against parasites like lice or fleas. Grooming could also reduce conflict and social stress among the owlets. And, by helping their genetically related younger kin survive, the elder siblings ensure that more of their genes stay in the gene pool, thus indirectly benefitting themselves in the long, evolutionary run.

Police brutality and racism in the USA


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

Black Trans Lives Matter: Movement Pushes for Justice & Visibility Amid “Epidemic” of Violence

At least 15,000 people marched through Brooklyn Sunday to protest violence against Black transgender people, particularly women, who face disproportionate levels of violence at the hands of police and on the streets. The protest came as two more Black trans women were killed last week, in Ohio and Pennsylvania. They are believed to be at least the 13th and 14th violent deaths of transgender people in the United States this year.

We speak with journalist Imara Jones, creator of TransLash, who says the trans rights movement currently has “tremendous visibility” but also faces a “tremendous backlash”.

INSIDE COPS’ ONLINE FEVER SWAMPS Cops have a far-right media ecosystem of their own, where they post racist memes, spread disinformation and call for violence against antifa. Inside this echo chamber, which has thousands of users and readers, extremist views dictate the narrative. Wild misinformation and bigotry are rampant, with people who claim to be current and former officers posting debunked falsehoods and racist stereotypes about protesters. [HuffPost]

INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES CALL OUT ‘BROKEN SYSTEM’ Following the death of George Floyd last month, Indigenous communities are highlighting the ways in which they, too, have long been victims of systemic racism and police brutality. In the United States, Native American activists have been a noticeable presence at Black Lives Matter protests, while in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, Black and Indigenous protesters have called attention to longstanding problems in their countries’ own police forces and worked to remove statues glorifying colonialists and slave traders. [HuffPost]

MORGAN STANLEY SUED FOR RACE DISCRIMINATION Marilyn Booker, Morgan Stanley’s former head of diversity, says she was fired from the bank because she pushed too hard for a plan to address systemic, firmwide racial discrimination at the storied institution. She filed suit against Morgan Stanley, CEO James Gorman and her former boss Barry Krouk, in federal court in New York on Tuesday, accusing the firm of race and sex discrimination and a longtime pattern of underpaying, underpromoting, and mistreating Black employees. [HuffPost]

The ADL provides bias training for cops. But does it work?

‘I feel I must be vocal:’ a budding activist on finding her voice.

My fellow white Jews: We can’t sit this one out.

The lesson of ‘Pride’ on its 50th anniversary: People can change. Let’s use that to protect Black lives.

Washington Post op-ed calls for news media to censor videos of police brutality. By Nick Barrickman, 17 June 2020

Terrestrial animals smarter than aquatic ones, why?


This 17 June 2020 video says about itself:

Using simulations, Prof. Malcolm MacIver has discovered that hunting in savanna-like landscapes may have helped give rise to planning circuits in the brain. Rife with obstacles and occlusions, terrestrial environments gave prey spaces to hide and predators cover for sneak attacks.

From Northwestern University in the USA:

Hunting in savanna-like landscapes may have poured jet fuel on brain evolution

Rife with obstacles and occlusions, terrestrial environments potentially helped give rise to planning circuits in the brain

June 16, 2020

Summary: Compared to the vast emptiness of open water, land is rife with obstacles and occlusions. By providing prey with spaces to hide and predators with cover for sneak attacks, the habitats possible on land may have helped give rise to planning strategies — rather than those based on habit — for many of those animals.

Ever wonder how land animals like humans evolved to become smarter than their aquatic ancestors? You can thank the ground you walk on.

Northwestern University researchers recently discovered that complex landscapes — dotted with trees, bushes, boulders and knolls — might have helped land-dwelling animals evolve higher intelligence than their aquatic ancestors.

Compared to the vast emptiness of open water, land is rife with obstacles and occlusions. By providing prey with spaces to hide and predators with cover for sneak attacks, the habitats possible on land may have helped give rise to planning strategies — rather than those based on habit — for many of those animals.

But the researchers found that planning did not give our ancestors the upper hand in all landscapes. The researchers’ simulations show there is a Goldilocks level of barriers — not too few and not too many — to a predator’s perception, in which the advantage of planning really shines. In simple landscapes like open ground or packed landscapes like dense jungle, there was no advantage.

“All animals — on land or in water — had the same amount of time to evolve, so why do land animals have most of the smarts?” asked Northwestern’s Malcolm MacIver, who led the study. “Our work shows that it’s not just about what’s in the head but also about what’s in the environment.”

And, no, dolphins and whales do not fall into the category of less intelligent sea creatures. Both are land mammals that recently (evolutionarily speaking) returned to water.

The paper will be published June 16 in the journal Nature Communications.

It is the latest in a series of studies conducted by MacIver that advance a theory of how land animals evolved the ability to plan. In a follow-up study now underway with Dan Dombeck, a professor of neurobiology at Northwestern, MacIver will put the predictions generated by this computational study to the test through experiments with small animals in a robotic reconfigurable environment.

MacIver is a professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and a professor of neurobiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Ugurcan Mugan, a Ph.D. candidate in MacIver’s laboratory, is the paper’s first author.

Simulating survival

In previous work, MacIver showed that when animals started invading land 385 million years ago, they gained the ability to see around a hundred times farther than they could in water. MacIver hypothesized that being a predator or a prey in the context of being able to see so much farther might require more brain power than hunting through empty, open water. However, the supercomputer simulations for the new study (35 years of calculations on a single PC) revealed that although seeing farther is necessary to advantage planning, it’s not sufficient. Instead, only a combination of long-range vision and landscapes with a mix of open areas and more densely vegetated zones resulted in a clear win for planning.

“We speculated that moving onto land poured jet fuel on the evolution of the brain as it may have advantaged the hardest cognitive operation there is: Envisioning the future,” MacIver said. “It could explain why we can go out for seafood, but seafood can’t go out for us.”

To test this hypothesis, MacIver and his team developed computational simulations to test the survival rates of prey being actively hunted by a predator under two different decision-making strategies: Habit-based (automatic, such as entering a password that you have memorized) and plan-based (imagining several scenarios and selecting the best one). The team created a simple, open world without visual barriers to simulate an aquatic world. Then, they added objects of varying densities to simulate land.

Survival of the smartest

“When defining complex cognition, we made a distinction between habit-based action and planning,” MacIver said. “The important thing about habit is that it is inflexible and outcome independent. That’s why you keep entering your old password for a while after changing it. In planning, you have to imagine different futures and choose the best potential outcome.”

In the simple aquatic and terrestrial environments examined in the study, survival rate was low both for prey that used habit-based actions and those that had the capability to plan. The same was true of highly packed environments, such as coral reefs and dense rainforests.

“In those simple open or highly packed environments, there is no benefit to planning,” MacIver said. “In the open aquatic environments, you just need to run in the opposite direction and hope for the best. While in the highly packed environments, there are only a few paths to take, and you are not able to strategize because you can’t see far. In these environments, we found that planning does not improve your chances of survival.”

The Goldilocks landscape

When patches of vegetation and topography are interspersed with wide-open areas similar to a savanna, however, simulations showed that planning results in a huge survival payoff compared to habit-based movements. Because planning increases the chance of survival, evolution would have selected for the brain circuitry that allowed animals to imagine future scenarios, evaluate them and then enact one.

“With patchy landscapes, there is an interplay of transparent and opaque regions of space and long-range vision, which means that your movement can hide or reveal your presence to an adversary,” MacIver said. “Terra firma becomes a chess board. With every movement, you have a chance to unfurl a strategy.

“Interestingly,” he noted, “when we split off from life in the trees with chimpanzees nearly seven million years ago and quickly quadrupled in brain size, paleoecology studies point to our having invaded patchy landscapes, similar to those our study highlights, as giving the biggest payoff for strategic thinking.”

The study, “Spatial planning with long visual range benefits escape from visual predators in complex naturalistic environments,” was supported by the National Science Foundation Brain Initiative (award number ECCS-1835389).

COVID-19 at Danish mink fur business


This 2015 video says about itself:

Denmark: The Ugly Business of Fur Farms | Focus on Europe

The global fur market is booming. One fifth of global demand for mink is met by Denmark. The country is home to over 1,400 mink farms, where animals are reportedly kept under hellish conditions.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

The coronavirus was found at a mink fur business in Denmark. It is the first time this has happened in the country, the biggest producing country of mink pelts in the world.

The infected animals were discovered after a company employee tested positive for the coronavirus. All minks are killed.

In the Netherlands, the coronavirus has already been found at fifteen mink farms. More than half a million animals have been killed here.