Rare rosy starlings in Dutch backyard


Rosy starling in cherry tree in Hall, photo by Arjen Werkman

This photo shows a rosy starling in a cherry tree Arjen Werkman’s backyard in Hall village in Gelderland province in the Netherlands.

While Mr Werkman worked at home on 16 June, he spotted two rosy starlings in the tree.

This East European and Central Asian species is rare in the Netherlands.

British Conservative lawbreaking helping Saudi Yemen war


This 13 August 2018 video is called Yemen: Thousands mourn children killed in Saudi air strike

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

Arms inspections rules broken at Scottish missile factory

THE British government has broken inspection rules at a Scottish missile factory supplying the Saudi air war in Yemen, an investigation revealed today.

Reports by The Ferret and Declassified UK showed that officials failed to meet criteria for three-yearly inspections at Raytheon’s Fife bomb-making plant.

The US arms giant’s Glenrothes factory has not been inspected since November 2016, despite making components believed to be used in missiles linked to Saudi war crimes in the Middle East.

Dinosaur age crocodile relatives, new research


This June 2019 video says about itself:

5 of the Strangest Prehistoric Crocs

Over the years, scientists have found evidence for a lot of weird prehistoric animals, but some of the strangest have been the crocodyliformes!

From the Forschungsverbund Berlin in Germany:

High-tech CT reveals ancient evolutionary adaptation of extinct crocodylomorphs

They transitioned from land to water during the Mesozoic era

June 18, 2020

The tree of life is rich in examples of species that changed from living in water to a land-based existence. Occasionally, some species took the opposite direction. New insights into the anatomy of the inner ear of prehistoric reptiles, the thalattosuchians, revealed details about one of these evolutionary turning points.

During the Mesozoic era, these now-extinct crocodile relatives ventured into the ocean after a long semiaquatic phase. During this process, the skeleton of the thalattosuchians gradually adapted to the new pelagic habitat. In particular, the changes to the inner ear vestibular system of these reptiles enhanced their ability to swim. Compared to whales, which adapted quickly to life in water without a prolonged semiaquatic stage, this is a strikingly different evolutionary path for the same transition. These new findings of an international research team were made possible by the use of a Canon high-tech computed tomography (CT) scanner from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW). The results have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Thalattosuchians lived during the Mesozoic about 182 to 125 million years ago and evolved from their land-living relatives to become fast-swimming marine predators. An international research team led by scientists from the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh studied the evolutionary changes which these crocodylomorphs went through during their transition from land to the ocean. The team focused on one of the most important vertebrate sensory systems — the inner ear.

Using high-resolution computed tomography (CT), the skulls of 18 thalattosuchians from the late Triassic to the Early Cretaceous were scanned to span much of the evolutionary history of crocodylomorphs. The CT scans were compared with the scans of modern crocodiles. Some of the scans were performed at the Leibniz-IZW in Berlin.

The x-ray scans reveal detailed changes in the vestibular system of the inner ear, particularly in the bony labyrinth, which plays a crucial role in sensing balance and spatial orientation. “As they transitioned from land to water, thalattosuchians developed a strikingly compact, reduced and thickened bony labyrinth reminiscent of the reduced labyrinths of other marine reptiles and whales,” explains Guido Fritsch, scientist and CT expert at the Leibniz-IZW. “Extinct land crocodiles, on the other hand, had a taller and narrower bony labyrinth. The labyrinths of semiaquatic crocodiles, which also include modern crocodiles, are longer and more compact than those of their land-living relatives.” These results illustrate that the inner ear morphology of an animal is strongly linked to its habitat.

Interestingly, thalattosuchians developed the reduction of their inner ear labyrinth only after a long semiaquatic phase that lasted tens of millions of years. First, their skeleton changed during this phase — limbs became flippers, the body became streamlined, which allowed them to move efficiently in the water and improved their ability to swim. Only then did the changes in the inner ear develop, possibly as a response to changing sensory requirements, when the thalattosuchians moved into deeper, more open waters. This adaptation process distinguishes them from whales, whose inner ear labyrinth was miniaturised soon after their transition from land to water, without a prolonged semiaquatic phase. Thus, thalattosuchians and whales took different evolutionary routes for the same type of transition.

Future studies will examine the advantages of a reduced inner ear labyrinth for water-living animals, investigate how quickly thalattosuchians developed the adaptations in their inner ear as they entered the water, and how other sensory organs changed during this transition.

Neo-nazi network in German armed forces


This 28 May 2020 video is called Germany’s KSK commando unit in turmoil over neo-Nazi infiltration.

By Gregor Link in Germany:

Fascist network uncovered in German Army’s Special Forces unit

18 June 2020

On Friday, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on a 12-page letter sent by a sergeant in the Army’s Special Forces commando unit (Kommando Spezialkräfte—KSK) to Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The letter makes clear that the 1,100-strong unit, which operates in top secrecy and specialises in lethal operations, is directed toward suppressing domestic opposition with the methods of fascist terrorism. According to the letter, some of the KSK soldiers compare the unit to Hitler’s Waffen-SS.

Right-wing extremist tendencies” are “tolerated” in the KSK and “sometimes consciously covered up”, wrote Der Spiegel, based on the soldier’s letter. According to the author of the article, evidence of the presence of right-wing extremist soldiers is “internally acknowledged, but for a variety of motives collectively ignored or even tolerated.” It is “drummed into” the soldiers from their superiors “not to report any incidents”.

According to the news magazine, the letter describes “accurately” and “in detail” how the trainers silence their recruits. They are “taught to be subservient”, which, in the words of the commando soldier, is “incompatible with the limits of the system of orders and obedience in the Army.”

The letter states that “To bring soldiers and, above all, critical officers into line”m “punishments” are used to create a “type of carcass obedience” and “a culture of accepting illegal behaviour”. Through the “firm leadership of newly recruited KSK fighters in training”, the recruits are “taught a rigorous obedience”, which, according to the text of the letter cited by Der Spiegel, “has been compared by commando soldiers in training to that of the Waffen-SS.”

The soldier goes into detail about the fascist outlook of his trainers. He says that one of them, who always uses Nazi codes in radio communications, makes no secret of his “national conservative ideology.”

One of the trainers mentioned in the letter is Daniel K., who, according to Deutsche Welle, was “heavily involved in the founding of the elite unit” and previously, in 2007, attracted notice due to his right-wing extremist ideology. At the time, he sent a threatening letter signed with his full name to a higher-ranked Army officer. That officer, a spokesman for the critical soldiers’ organisation “Darmstädter Signal”, had requested on the grounds of conscience to be relieved from duties related to drone operations in southern Afghanistan.

K. wrote at the time, “I deem you to be an internal enemy and will direct my actions to destroy this enemy with a decisive blow.” He attacked the “contemporary conglomerate of left-wing uniform-wearing recipients of care,” and urged the critical officer to return “to the swamp of Stone Age Marxism.” In conclusion, he warned, “You are being observed, no, not by impotent instrumentalised services, but by a new generation of officers who will act if the times demand it.” He wrote in the postscript, “Long live holy Germany!”

The officer filed a formal complaint concerning the threat, but no action was taken in response to K.’s letter, other than it being noted in K.’s personnel file. Although his superiors knew by 2007 at the latest that K. was a right-wing extremist, he was allowed to continue training soldiers and rose through the ranks to become a lieutenant colonel.

He was suspended in 2019 only after it emerged he was a supporter of the far-right “Reichsbürger” and the right-wing extremist “Identitarian Movement”. According to media reports, he claimed that the state no longer had the situation under control due to the influx of immigrants, meaning that “the Army now has to take things over.”

The author of the letter to the defence minister stressed that it would be “naive” to view K. as an isolated case.

Just a month ago, another KSK soldier was suspended after his close ties to the Identitarian Movement were revealed. The Tagesschau reported last Wednesday that the soldier played a part in the mistreatment of Murat Kurnaz in Afghanistan.

Kurnaz, who was born in Bremen, was held in the US Guantanamo Bay prison camp for four years as a “Taliban fighter.” After his release, he accused two KSK soldiers of having abused him in Afghanistan in 2002. The Defence Ministry confirmed that the incident involved the soldier who was suspended a month ago and a fellow soldier, who were posted to the US air base in Kandahar on “guard duty.”

Kurnaz testified in 2006: “Then one of the two Germans said to me, ‘You picked the wrong side. Eyes on the ground … Do you know who we are? We are the German force, KSK.’… Then he slammed my head on the ground and one of them kicked me.”

According to research by Southwest Broadcasting (SWR) and Tagesschau, the soldier remained stationed in Calw with the KSK before “making a career in the United States.” After a leadership training course at Fort Bliss, Texas, he took a post at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and later became an official liaison between the German and US militaries.

Spokesmen from the Army and the Bundeswehr refused to discuss the content of the allegations with SWR.

The links of the two KSK soldiers to the Identitarian Movement are also significant because one of the movement’s most prominent supporters, Brenton Tarrant, carried out a fascist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019, killing 51 people and injuring another 50. One year earlier, he donated €1,500 to the Identitarian youth movement, prompting its leader, Martin Sellner, to initiate enthusiastic direct email contact with Tarrant.

Under far-right Austrian Foreign Minister Herbert Kickl (Austrian Freedom Party), Sellner was able to delete the messages from his hard drive shortly before the Austrian police carried out a search warrant on his home. According to the Military Intelligence Service (MAD), the KSK soldier suspended in May also donated money to the Identitarians.

The KSK pursues the interests of German imperialism around the world in secretive operations and specialises more than any other Army unit in killing people.

Against the backdrop of the return of German militarism and the revival of the class struggle, such capabilities are increasingly required at home. Der Spiegel wrote that according to the letter, K. demanded that his recruits write “essays … that sketch out a potential KSK domestic intervention.”

Such plans are already well advanced. The letter to the defence minister makes clear that the far-right network in and around the KSK, which has repeatedly been in the headlines in recent years, is no mere “isolated case”, but is systematically promoted from above and covered up.

Just a few weeks ago, investigators took a KSK soldier into custody after he was found to be hoarding military weaponry, and a large underground store of explosives and munitions from the German Army’s supplies was found on his private land.

As the World Socialist Web Site reported, a right-wing extremist “shadow army” composed of KSK soldiers, police officers, judges, lawyers and intelligence service agents is preparing to round up and kill political opponents on “day X”, using death lists, military transports and munitions seized from the Army. Witnesses reported in 2017 that in this context, discussions about a “final solution” had taken place.

A central figure in this terrorist network is Andre S., code-named “Hannibal”, a former KSK soldier and friend of Franco A., an army officer strongly suspected of planning political assassinations, using the fabricated identity of a refugee. Together with an intelligence agent, Andre S. founded the organisation “Uniter”, which provided the personnel and organisational basis for the network.

The available information leaves no doubt about the fact that these right-wing extremist command structures have enjoyed the backing of figures at the highest levels. The MAD (Military Intelligence Service), in collaboration with the domestic intelligence service, placed the leading figures under surveillance and even used “Hannibal” as an informant during his time as a soldier.

In its official annual report, the agency wrote that it was supporting “members of the Army who are in a ‘social close relationship’ to suspected extremists, to protect them from … unjustified suspicion.” In this context, the MAD described the KSK as the “focus of the work.”

The cover-up will continue even after the sergeant’s letter. Eva Högl (Social Democratic Party), the new parliamentary commissioner for the Army, confirmed this in an interview with Deutschlandfunk. She said it was “very, very important to say that there is no blanket suspicion, neither towards the army or the KSK.” The army is “not a hotbed for right-wing extremists,” she continued, but rather a “piling up of isolated cases.”

Högl said she intended to carefully review “whether the right-wing extremist structures or networks exist.” But she would leave the investigation to a working group composed of the MAD and the KSK. This means the criminals—the KSK and the MAD, which covered up these developments—will be investigating themselves.

Asked whether “the dissolution of the elite unit could take place at the end of the review process in a worst-case scenario,” Högl answered: “This is not the time to talk about or even consider the dissolution of the KSK. Next year, we will celebrate—if it comes to that, and I hope it will—25 years since the founding of the KSK, and I am firmly convinced that we need this elite unit. It performs a tremendous service under extremely difficult conditions.”

The author also recommends:

Right-wing networks in the German state exposed
[18 October 2019]

Germany: Links found between right-wing network inside army and police officer murdered by far-right terrorists
[1 April 2019]

Devonian ancient plant discovery in Australia


Keraphyton mawsoniae: (A) specimen before preparation; (B) general view of stem showing the 4 rib systems (Ia, Ib, IIa and IIb); (C) central segment and four fundamental ribs; (D) rib system Ib showing a short branch dividing into two equal ultimate ribs at right and a long branch producing at least three long ultimate ribs at left; (E) long branch of rib system IIa producing short ultimate ribs; (F) short branch of rib system IIa dividing into two ultimate ribs; (G) long branch of rib system IIb producing short ultimate ribs; (H) long branch of rib system Ia producing long, but broken, ultimate ribs. Abbreviations: cs – central segment, fr – fundamental rib, ic – inner cortex, oc – outer cortex, Lb – long branch, sb – short branch. Yellow arrowheads indicate ultimate ribs. (DH) are all oriented with the cortex of the axis towards the top of the photo. Scale bars – 500 μm, (B) – 2 mm. Image credit: Champreux et al, doi: 10.7717/peerj.9321

From Flinders University in Australia:

Australian fossil reveals new plant species

June 16, 2020

Summary: Fresh examination of an Australian fossil — believed to be among the earliest plants on Earth — has revealed evidence of a new plant species that existed in Australia more than 359 Million years ago.

Antoine Champreux, a PhD student in the Global Ecology Lab at Flinders University, has catalogued the discovery of the new fern-like plant species as part of an international effort to examine the Australian fossil in greater detail.

The fossil was found in the 1960s by amateur geologist Mr John Irving, on the bank of the Manilla River in Barraba, New South Wales. The fossil was exposed after major flooding events in 1964, and Mr Irving gave the fossil to the geological survey of New South Wales, where it remained for more than 50 years without being studied.

It was dated from the end of the Late Devonian period, approximately 372-to-359 million years ago — a time when Australia was part of the Southern hemisphere super-continent Gondwana. Plants and animals had just started to colonise continents, and the first trees appeared. Yet while diverse fish species were in the oceans, continents had no flowering plants, no mammals, no dinosaurs, and the first plants had just acquired proper leaves and the earliest types of seeds.

Well-preserved fossils from this era are rare — elevating the significance of the Barraba plant fossil.

The fossil is currently in France, where Brigitte Meyer-Berthaud, an international expert studying the first plants on Earth, leads a team at the French laboratory of Botany and Modelling of Plant Architecture and Vegetation (AMAP) in Montpellier. This French laboratory is particularly interested in further examination of Australian fossils from the Devonian-Carboniferous geological period, to build a more detailed understanding of plant evolution during this era.

Mr Champreux studied the fern-like fossil during his master’s degree internship at AMAP and completed writing his research paper during his current PhD studies at Flinders University.

“It’s nothing much to look at — just a fossilised stick — but it’s far more interesting once we cut it and had a look inside,” says Mr Champreux. “The anatomy is preserved, meaning that we can still observe the walls of million-year-old cells. We compared the plant with other plants from the same period based on its anatomy only, which provide a lot of information.”

He found that this plant represents a new species, and even a new genus of plant, sharing some similarities with modern ferns and horsetails.

“It is an extraordinary discovery, since such exquisitely-preserved fossils from this period are extremely rare,” he says. “We named the genus Keraphyton (like the horn plant in Greek), and the species Keraphyton mawsoniae, in honour of our partner Professor Ruth Mawson, a distinguished Australian palaeontologist who died in 2019.”

An article describing the new plant — Keraphyton gen. nov., a new Late Devonian fern-like plant from Australia, by A Champreux, B Meyer-Berthaud and A-L Decombeix — has been published in the scientific journal PeerJ and It reinforces the partnership between the lab AMAP (Montpellier, France) and Flinders University.

COVID-19 news update


This 18 June 2020 video says about itself:

COVID-19 infections surge in six US states

Coronavirus cases continue to rise in the United States as businesses reopen

The country has reported more than 117,000 COVID-19 deaths, the highest fatality rate in the world by far.

Sharp rise in new coronavirus cases in US south and west. By Bryan Dyne, 18 June 2020, The number of coronavirus cases in the United States has doubled since the federal “slow the spread” guidelines were allowed to expire.

WHITE HOUSE WON’T SAY IF ANY HEALTH EXPERT BACKS TRUMP RALLY SAFETY White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeatedly refused to say whether any health experts told Trump it was safe to hold a massive rally this weekend, falsely insisting to reporters that his campaign was taking every possible safety precaution. Trump’s planned rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday will host up to 19,000 people indoors. The campaign event is the exact type of mass gathering that public health experts warn is a hotbed for disease. [HuffPost]

For the elite, lives are expendable”. Canadian nurse denounces budget cuts, government neglect and reckless back-to-work drive. By our reporter, 18 June 2020. “There’s a very high level of negligence,” Julien told the WSWS. “Some of my colleagues have been quarantined after being put in contact with positive patients without appropriate equipment.”

“They believe their profits are more relevant than human life”. Mexican autoworkers say General Motors is covering up COVID-19 outbreak at Silao plant. By Andrea Lobo, 18 June 2020.

This 18 June 2020 video says about itself:

Peru COVID-19 outbreak: Health workers demand more protection

Healthcare workers in Peru have been protesting against a lack of personal protective equipment.

Peru has one of the highest rates of coronavirus infections in South America.

HONDURAS PRESIDENT HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID The hospitalization of Honduras’ president with COVID-19 and pneumonia has drawn attention to another country’s struggle as cases rise sharply in the capital. President Juan Orlando Hernández announced Tuesday he and his wife had tested positive for the virus. Just hours later he was hospitalized after doctors determined he had pneumonia. From March to June 7, Honduras confirmed 6,327 coronavirus infections. In the 10 days since, it added 3,329 more, a surge that has come after the government began a gradual reactivation of the economy. [AP]

UK: COVID-19 killing the working class at more than twice the rate of the wealthiest. By Simon Whelan, 18 June 2020. The pandemic is exacerbating the effects of already growing socioeconomic and urban inequalities.

What mammals and birds believe


This February 2020 video says about itself:

Scrub jays are basically the west coast equivalent of blue jays in the United States (except one species does occur on the east coast…). There are multiple species of scrub jays and their relatives, and they may be found in Central America, as well.

Scrub jays are about the same size as blue jays and they love to eat acorns! Sometimes young scrub jays will stick around with their parents and help raise their siblings – other times they just leave as soon as they’re able. Join us on this episode of Animal Fact Files to learn more about these bright blue birdies.

From the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany:

What it means when animals have beliefs

Chimpanzees, some dog species and even scrub jay and crows have beliefs.

June 17, 2020

Humans are not the only ones who have beliefs; animals do too, although it is more difficult to prove them than with humans. Dr. Tobias Starzak and Professor Albert Newen from the Institute of Philosophy II at Ruhr-Universität Bochum have proposed four criteria to understand and empirically investigate animal beliefs in the journal Mind and Language. The article was published online on 16 June 2020.

Flexible use of information about the world

The first criterion for the existence of beliefs worked out by the philosophers is that an animal must have information about the world. However, this must not simply lead to an automatic reaction, like a frog instinctively snapping at a passing insect.

Instead, the animal must be able to use the information to behave in a flexible manner. “This is the case when one and the same piece of information can be combined with different motivations to produce different behaviours,” explains Albert Newen. “For example, if the animal can use the information that there is food available at that moment for the purpose of eating or hiding the food.”

Information can be relinked

The third criterion says that the information is internally structured in a belief; accordingly, individual aspects of that information can be processed separately. This has emerged, for example, in experiments with rats that can learn that a certain kind of food can be found at a certain time in a certain place. Their knowledge has a what-when-where structure.

Fourthly, animals with beliefs must be able to recombine the information components in novel ways. This reassembled belief should then lead to flexible behaviour. Rats can do this too, as the US researcher Jonathan Crystal demonstrated in experiments in an eight-armed labyrinth. The animals learned that if they received normal food in arm three of the maze in the morning, chocolate could be found in arm seven at noon.

Crows and scrub jays meet all criteria

The authors from Bochum also cite crows and scrub jays as examples of animals with beliefs. British researcher Nicola Clayton carried out conclusive experiments with scrub jays. When the birds are hungry, they initially tend to eat the food. When they are not hungry, they systematically hide the leftovers. In the process, they encode which food — worm or peanut — they have hidden where and when. If they are hungry in the following hours, they first look for the worms they prefer. After the period of time has elapsed that takes worms to become inedible, they head for the peanut hiding places instead.

“What best explains this change in behaviour is the birds’ belief about the worms being spoiled and their beliefs about the location of other food items,” says Tobias Starzak. The animals also react flexibly in other situations, for example if they notice that they are being watched by rivals while hiding; if this is the case, they hide the food again later.

Flexible behaviour, which can be interpreted as caused by beliefs, has also been shown in rats, chimpanzees and border collies. “But probably many more species have beliefs,” supposes Albert Newen.

Police brutality and racism news update


This 18 June 2020 video says about itself:

US police brutality: George Floyd‘s brother addresses UN meeting

George Floyd‘s brother Philonise Floyd has urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to work for justice for Black people in the US.

In a rare “urgent debate” on racism and police brutality, 54 African nations called for action.

Al Jazeera’s James Bays reports from the UN in New York.

Trump ad identifies Antifa with red triangle similar to Nazi symbol for concentration camp socialist political prisoners.

TRUMP SAYS POLICE KILLING ‘TERRIBLE,’ BUT ‘YOU CAN’T RESIST OFFICERS’ Trump called last week’s police killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta a “terrible situation,” but added that officers around the country had not been “treated fairly” and cast blame on the victim for resisting arrest. “I thought it was a terrible situation, but you can’t resist a police officer,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “If you have a disagreement, you have to take it up after the fact. It was a very sad — very, very sad — thing.” [HuffPost]

FORMER ATLANTA COP CHARGED WITH MURDER OF RAYSHARD BROOKS The Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks has been charged with felony murder. Now-former officer Garrett Rolfe is charged with 11 counts, including felony murder and three counts of aggravated assault. “We concluded and considered it that Mr. Brooks never presented himself as a threat,” Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said. [HuffPost]

Here’s what I want my white friends to know about my encounters with the police.

Five documentaries about police brutality to watch on Netflix.

CALIFORNIA POLICE INVESTIGATING NOOSES IN PARK AS HATE CRIME Multiple nooses were found hanging from tree branches at a public park in Oakland, California. Oakland police are investigating the incident as a hate crime. “Symbols of racial violence have no place in Oakland and will not be tolerated,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement. This comes as a new report from the Equal Justice Initiative has revealed that white mobs and individuals lynched at least 2,000 more Black Americans than previously documented from 1877 to 1950. [HuffPost]

THE POLICE AREN’T GOOD AT SOLVING CRIME According to the FBI’s official crime data, law enforcement solved just 46% of violent crimes and just 18% of property crimes in 2017, the most recent year for which numbers are available. Homicides and aggravated assaults were the only types of crime with clearance rates above 50%. They also solved only 35% of rapes, 29% of robberies, 14% of burglaries, 19% of larcenies and 14% of automobile thefts. Other FBI data shows that murder cases are less likely to be solved when the victim is Black. [HuffPost]

UNCLE BEN’S ‘EVOLVING’ AFTER AUNT JEMIMAH NAME CHANGE Pepsico‘s Aunt Jemimah pancake products’ name and logo are based on “a racial stereotype” and will be retired, the company said as demands for racial justice roil the corporate world. Rice brand Uncle Ben’s identity will be “evolving,” owner Mars Inc. said. [HuffPost]

Aunt Jemima and the long-overdue rebrand of racist stereotypes.

MISSISSIPPI OFFICIAL: BLACK PEOPLE ‘DEPENDENT’ SINCE SLAVERY After rejecting a proposal to move a Confederate monument, Harry Sanders, a white elected official in Mississippi, said African Americans “became dependent” during slavery and as a result, have had a harder time “assimilating” into American life than other mistreated groups. “You know why … they were slaves … they didn’t have to go out and earn any money, they didn’t have to do anything. Whoever owned them took care of them, fed them, clothed them, worked them,” he said. Critics called on Sanders to resign. [AP]

How betta fish fight, new research


This 2016 video says about itself:

The Complete Betta Fish Life Cycle in 3 Minutes

Love is beautiful. Betta fish love is uniquely beautiful. Watch their life evolve from courtship, eggs, fry to adulthood in this glittering video.

From PLOS:

Fighting fish synchronize their combat moves and their gene expression

Betta fish opponents undergo similar brain changes that become more synchronized after longer fights

June 17, 2020

When two betta fish are fighting for dominance, not only do their attacks mirror each other, but the gene expression in their brain cells also starts to align. The new findings, published June 17th in PLOS Genetics by Norihiro Okada of Kitasato University, Japan, may explain how the fish synchronize their fighting behavior.

The fighting fish Betta splendens is famous for its aggression, but opponents typically stop fighting after assessing the other’s abilities to avoid any serious injuries. The small freshwater fish is commonly used to study aggression in the lab, and it employs a handful of standard tactics like mouth-locking, bites, strikes and swimming to the surface to gulp air. In the new study, researchers observed that during a fight, two male opponents modify their actions to match the aggressive behavior of the other, leading to tightly synchronized battles.

Furthermore, when the researchers analyzed the brains of both opponents, they observed that the fish also synchronized which genes were turned on or off in brain cells. The fighting pair had similar changes in gene activity related to learning, memory, synapse function and ion transport across cell membranes. The synchronization was specific to a fighting pair and became stronger after fighting for an hour compared to a 20-minute fight, suggesting that the degree of synchronization was driven by fighting interactions.

The new study takes a neurogenomic approach to the old question of how animals synchronize their behavior. Similar mirrored behaviors also occur during mating, foraging and cooperative hunting, and these behaviors may also trigger synchronized brain changes in the pairs of animals. “One of my future plans is to elucidate what happens in the male-female interaction of fish on the molecular level,” said author Norihiro Okada.

The findings suggest that even though the betta fish are fighting each other, sometimes to the death, their brains may be cooperating at the molecular level.

British singer Vera Lynn, RIP


This is a video of British singer Vera Lynn singing We’ll Meet Again.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

British singer Vera Lynn has died at the age of 103, reports British public broadcaster BBC. …

The song We’ll meet again, which she recorded in 1942, was seen as a boost for the many lovers who were separated by the war. The song helped the soldiers express and share their experiences, their fears and their sorrows, she later said, “A lot of these boys never told anything about the war.”

Ms Lynn supported the World War II fight against nazi Germany. However, later she opposed the Afghan war of United States President George W Bush, British Blairite Prime Minister Tony Blair and later Conservative Prime Ministers.

A side of Vera Lynn not mentioned in either the BBC or the NOS reports.