Drill monkeys of African Bioko island


This 17 July 2020 video from Equatorial Guinea says about itself:

Roughly 20 miles off the coast of West Africa, the island of Bioko sits alone in the Atlantic Ocean. This rainforest-dominated terrain is home to one of the rarest primates in the world: the drill.

Coronavirus news from Trump’s USA, Cuba


This 23 July 2020 video says about itself:

Cuba sets example with successful COVID-19 strategy

Cuba has been able to send thousands of doctors and nurses overseas to help other countries fight COVID-19.

That is because the island nation has had huge success containing the virus domestically, with a rigorous active screening campaign and strict restrictions.

Since the pandemic began, the country has recorded just over 2,400 cases and fewer than 100 deaths.

Al Jazeera’s Ed Augustin reports from Havana, Cuba.

MORGUE TRUCKS IN TEXAS Texas on Wednesday set one-day records for increases in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations, forcing one county to store bodies in refrigerated trucks and prompting a top health official there to call for new stay-at-home orders. Texas, which reported 197 deaths and 10,893 hospitalizations, has been one of the states hardest hit by the resurgent coronavirus. Hidalgo County, at the southern tip of the state on the U.S. border with Mexico, has seen cases rise 60% in the last week, according to a Reuters tally, with deaths doubling to more than 360. [Reuters]

CALIFORNIA HAS THE MOST RECORDED COVID-19 CASES IN THE U.S. California’s confirmed coronavirus cases have topped 409,000, surpassing New York for most in the nation, according to data from John’s Hopkins University. However, New York’s 32,520 deaths are by far the highest total in the country and four times more than California’s tally, and its rate of confirmed infections of about 2,100 per 100,000 people is twice California’s rate. California is by far the most populous U.S. state, with nearly 40 million people, while New York has about 19.5 million. [AP]

NEARLY 3,500 PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS SIGN LETTER DEFENDING FAUCI Nearly 3,500 public health experts sent an open letter to Trump, calling those seeking to undercut Dr. Anthony Fauci a “dangerous distraction.” In the letter, the group calls the coronavirus pandemic “one of the greatest challenges the United States has faced in its history.” But signatories including two previous heads of the Food and Drug Administration, a former U.S. surgeon general and a former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said they were troubled by efforts to smear Fauci, who they said has provided a clear voice to Americans during the health crisis. [HuffPost]

SOME FURLOUGHED WORKERS MUST SIGN ARBITRATION AGREEMENTS TO GET JOBS BACK Jana Alexander was furloughed from her job at The Container Store when the pandemic began in early spring. With the economy reopening, the company recently invited her back to her old position at her store in Southlake, Texas. But there was a catch. Alexander would have to sign an arbitration agreement, giving up her right to sue The Container Store in court if she was mistreated. Her welcome-back letter made clear she had little choice in the matter if she wanted to draw a paycheck. [HuffPost]

Fox News host grills Kellyanne Conway for urging mask-wearing – “why now?”

Anna Camp warns that she likely got Covid-19 by not wearing a mask once.

Korean beetles can decompose plastic


This 21 July 2020 video is called A new species of darkling beetle larvae that degrade plastic.

From the Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH) in South Korea:

A new species of darkling beetle larvae that degrade plastic

July 20, 2020

Summary: A research team confirms biodegradation of polystyrene using darkling beetle larvae found in Korea.

There floats an enormous plastic garbage island in the North Pacific that is seven times the size of the Korean Peninsula. The island, called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is the result of 13 million tons of plastic that flow into the ocean annually from the 20,000 units of plastic consumed per second around the world. Plastic takes decades to hundreds of years to decompose naturally with plastic bags taking 10 to 20 years, nylon products or disposable straws 30 to 40 years, and plastic water bottles — commonly used once then thrown away -500 years to decompose. This problem of plastic, which has been labeled a human disaster, has been recently proven to be decomposable by beetles common in Korea.

A joint research team consisting of Professor Hyung Joon Cha and a doctoral student Seongwook Woo of the Department of Chemical Engineering at POSTECH with Professor Intek Song of Andong National University has uncovered for the first time that the larvae of the beetle in the order Coleoptera (Plesiophthophthalmus davidis) can decompose polystyrene, a material that is tricky to decompose.

By 2017, 8.3 billion tons of plastic waste were produced across the globe, of which less than 9 percent were recycled. Polystyrene, which accounts for about 6% of total plastic production, is known to be difficult to decompose due to its unique molecular structure.

The research team found that the larvae of a darkling beetle indigenous to East Asia including the Korean peninsula can consume polystyrene and reduce both its mass and molecular weight. The team also confirmed that the isolated gut flora could oxidize and change the surface property of the polystyrene film.

Meanwhile, the research team isolated and identified Serratia from the intestinal tract of P. davidis larvae. When polystyrene was fed to the larvae for two weeks, the proportion of Serratia in the gut flora increased by six fold, accounting for 33 percent of the overall gut flora. Moreover, it was found that the gut flora of this larvae consisted of a very simple group of bacterial species (less than six) unlike the gut flora of other conventional polystyrene-degrading insects.

The unique diet of the darkling beetle larvae that was uncovered in this study presents the possibility that polystyrene can be broken down by other insects that feed on rotten wood. In addition, the development of an effective polystyrene-decomposing flora using the bacterial strains found in the simple gut flora of P. davidis is highly anticipated.

The study is also noteworthy in that the paper’s first author, Seongwook Woo, who has been interested in insects since childhood and wished to make the world a better place through them, sought out Professor Cha as soon as he entered POSTECH and focused on research under his supervision over the years.

As the corresponding author of the paper, Professor Cha commented, “We have discovered a new insect species that lives in East Asia — including Korea — that can biodegrade plastic through the gut flora of its larvae.” He concluded, “If we use the plastic-degrading bacterial strain isolated in this study and replicate the simple gut floral composition of P. davidis, there is the chance that we could completely biodegrade polystyrene, which has been difficult to completely decompose, to ultimately contribute to solving the plastic waste problem that we face.”

These research findings were recently published in the online edition of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a long-standing authoritative journal in applied and environmental microbiology.

In a new laboratory study, experts from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) investigated how many microplastic particles would be absorbed in the muscle tissue of young European sea bass after being given feed with extremely high microplastic particle content for a period of four months. At least with regard to this particular food fish, their findings are good news: only an extremely small percentage of the plastic particles ingested found their way into the fish fillets; the majority were excreted. The experts take this finding as a first indication that fish fillets can still be safe for human consumption, even if the fish eaten are subjected to extreme microplastic pollution. Their study has now been published in the July issue of the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin: here.

Over 250 female-fronted punk rock songs


This is a list of 291 female-fronted punk rock songs on video, from several countries, recorded from 1977-1989.

Of course, not exhaustive. This one from 1981, eg, fits in.

Daughters of chaos: Patti Smith, Siouxsie Sioux and the feminisation of rock: here.

North Atlantic baleen whales’ changing distribution


This 24 May 2019 video says about itself:

North Atlantic right whales have returned to Canadian waters early this year, and brought with them seven new calves, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

From the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center in the USA:

Baleen whales have changed their distribution in the Western North Atlantic

July 17, 2020

Researchers have been using passive acoustic recordings of whale calls to track their movements. They have found that four of the six baleen whale species found in the western North Atlantic Ocean — humpback, sei, fin and blue whales — have changed their distribution patterns in the past decade. The recordings were made over 10 years by devices moored to the seafloor at nearly 300 locations from the Caribbean Sea to western Greenland.

“All four whale species were present in waters from the southeast U.S. to Greenland, with humpbacks also present in the Caribbean Sea,” said Genevieve Davis, a senior acoustician at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and lead author of the study. “These four species were detected throughout all the regions in the winter, suggesting that baleen whales are widely distributed during these months. Humpback, sei, fin, and blue whales also showed significant changes in where they were detected between the two time periods considered in this study: before and after 2010.”

A large group of federal, state and academic researchers from the United States and Canada conducted the study, published in Global Change Biology. It is the first to show the occurrence of these four species across the western North Atlantic Ocean over long time spans and at a large spatial scale. The study also demonstrates how whale distributions have changed over time, and in particular since 2010.

Data collected from 2004 to 2014 on 281 bottom-mounted passive acoustic recorders totaled 35,033 days of recording. These passive acoustic recorders were deployed between the tiny island of Saba in the Caribbean Sea to the Davis Strait off western Greenland. Recorders were located on the continental shelf or along the shelf edge, with six recording units in off-shelf waters.

All available passive acoustic recordings from more than 100 research projects throughout the western North Atlantic Ocean were combined to create the decade-long dataset. The time series was split between 2004 to 2010 and 2011 to 2014. That split was based on the timing of shifts in climate in the Gulf of Maine and distribution changes by numerous species in the western North Atlantic Ocean.

This is also the same time period used in a similar analysis of North Atlantic right whales that was published in 2017, and used for comparison with this study.

Results show that fin, blue, and sei whales were more frequently detected in the northern latitudes after 2010 but less on the Scotian Shelf area. This matches documented shifts in prey availability in that region.

“The Gulf of Maine, an important feeding ground for many baleen whale species, is warming faster than most places in the world, resulting in changes in distribution not only of marine mammals and fish but also for their prey,” said Davis, who was also the lead author of the 2017 North Atlantic right whale study. “These changes in distribution for five of the six baleen whale species mirrors known shifts in distribution for other species attributed to climate and the impacts of ocean warming.”

Researchers have not yet studied if or how minke whale distribution has shifted. Minkes are the sixth baleen whale species found in the western North Atlantic Ocean.

Researchers caution that while recorders provided widespread coverage, there were gaps. Also, these data can confirm where and when a species is present, but not how many individuals are present. There are differences in vocal behavior, seasonal changes, and vocalizations thought to be made by males only. The data provide a comprehensive overview of the minimum distribution in space and time of each species and add information to the current understanding of these species.

Spending More Time in Northern Latitudes

While humpback whales are found in all regions, researchers were a bit surprised at the length of time they are present in all areas. Fin, blue, and sei whales increased the time that they spent in northern latitudes after 2010, perhaps following prey. All but sei whales had a decreased acoustic presence on the Scotian Shelf after 2010.

Sei whales, one of the least-studied baleen whales, were detected with the other whale species from Florida to eastern Greenland. Sei whales are found year-round in Southern New England and the New York Bight. These are also important regions for other baleen whale species, including North Atlantic right whales that target the same prey as sei whales.

“This study is the first comprehensive analysis of sei whale distribution throughout the western North Atlantic Ocean, including their movements and important habitat,” Davis said. “The southern limit of their range remains unknown, and their migratory movements in the western North Atlantic are still not well understood but we have filled in a number of information gaps.”

Fin whales were detected nearly year-round from Virginia to eastern Greenland. They are commonly found year-round in the Gulf of Maine and in Canadian waters off Nova Scotia. Acoustic records revealed their year-round presence in Massachusetts Bay and the New York Bight. New England waters provide feeding grounds, but mating and calving grounds are unknown. Their distribution year-round suggests that, like other baleen whales, not all fin whales migrate.

Blue Whales Heard Further South Than Expected

Blue whales are seen and heard year-round in and around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where their population is well-studied. Considered a more northern whale, they have occasionally been sighted in the Gulf of Maine. Acoustic detections revealed blue whales are present as far south as North Carolina.

Blue whales tend to use deeper waters, making their seasonal movements difficult to study. Satellite tag studies, however, indicate they move from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to North Carolina, including on and off the continental shelf. They also move into deeper waters around the New England Seamounts — a chain of underwater extinct volcanoes that extends from Georges Bank southeast for about 700 miles. Researchers found the shelf break and canyons to be important habitat areas for blue whales.

“A decade of acoustic observations have shown important changes over the range of baleen whales and identified new habitats that will require further protection from human-induced threats like fixed fishing gear, shipping, and noise pollution,” said Davis.

Bezos sacks Black Lives Matter facemask-wearing worker


A protester wears a protective mask during a Black Lives Matter march through a residential neighbourhood in the United States calling for racial justice, last Monday

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 22 July 2020:

Amazon-owned supermarket embroiled in race row after alleged discrimination over BLM masks

AMAZON-OWNED supermarket Whole Foods is embroiled in a race row following its alleged sacking of a US worker for wearing a Black Lives Matter (BLM) face mask.

The company denied that it had fired staff member Savannah Kinzer over the issue, stating: “No team members have been terminated for wearing BLM face masks or apparel.”

It insisted that Ms Kinzer was sacked for allegedly “repeatedly violating our time and attendance policy by not working her assigned shifts, reporting late for work multiple times in the past nine days and choosing to leave during her scheduled shifts.”

But more than 40 Whole Foods workers are part of a lawsuit claiming discrimination against black staff members by selectively enforcing its dress code.

According to the claim, staff wearing clothing with other messages, such as LGBTQ pins or sports team logos, had not been disciplined in the past.

A statement said: “Whole Foods’s selective enforcement of its dress code in disciplining employees who wear apparel expressing support for the BLM movement constitutes unlawful discrimination.”

Shannon Liss-Riordan, the lawyer representing the workers, said Whole Foods was “falsely attacking” Ms Kinzer.

“[Its] decision to retaliate against employees expressing support for this racial justice movement was bad enough, but their efforts to disparage an amazing activist and leader are beyond the pale,” she said. “We look forward to making our argument in federal court.”

Workers are angry over hypocrisy after Whole Foods and Amazon expressed public support for BLM.

“So many companies today are doing everything they can to profess how progressive they are … but when it actually comes to letting their employees express these same sentiments they get muzzled,” she said.

Canadian beavers and wolverines use borrow pits


This 2017 video says about itself:

This country was built in part on the trapping and trading of the pelt of the Canadian Beaver. This hardworking, intelligent, and industrious animal is truly Canada’s most iconic species.

From the University of Alberta in Canada:

Industry-made pits are beneficial for beavers and wolverines

In Northern Alberta, pits created by industry activity may support beavers and subsequently wolverines

Beavers and wolverines in Northern Alberta are using industry-created borrow pits as homes and feeding grounds, according to a new study by University of Alberta ecologists.

The research examined the relationship between local wildlife and borrow pits, which are industry-created sites where material such as soil, gravel, or sand has been dug up for road construction. The results show that when revegetated the sites provide homes for beavers, which in turn support the survival of wolverines.

“The borrow pits enhance habitats for a number of species of wildlife in the bogs of Northern Alberta,” said Mark Boyce, co-author on the paper, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Alberta Conservation Association Chair in Fisheries and Wildlife.

“The deep water and adjacent forage create excellent habitats for beavers. And wolverines thrive when beavers do. Not only do they prey on beavers, wolverines also have been shown to use beaver lodges as dens where they have their cubs.”

The displacement of wildlife by industrial development is a complex issue, Boyce explains. “In this case, industrial development created the borrow pits that are now used by beavers that actually enhances habitats for our wilderness icon, the wolverine.”

The research was led by PhD student Matthew Scrafford, who formed a partnership with the Dene Tha First Nation that proved instrumental for the study.

“The most important partner on this research was the Dene Tha First Nations,” said Boyce. “Several young people in the area were enthusiastic about the project. They were instrumental in building traps and supporting our research.”

English racists attack George Floyd mural


The George Floyd mural in Manchester, England

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 22 July 2020:

George Floyd mural in Manchester defaced with racist slur

Graffiti artist and the mural‘s creator Akse fixes the damage within hours

THE defacing of a George Floyd mural with racist graffiti in Manchester has underlined the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, anti-racists declared today.

The mural of Mr Floyd, the African-American killed in Minnesota when police knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, was found today morning with a racist slur spray-painted over it.

Manchester City Council condemned the defacing of the mural in Stevenson Square as an “abhorrent crime.”

Deputy leader Nigel Murphy said the council was reviewing CCTV footage to find the perpetrator.

“It is utterly sickening that this type of behaviour exists in our society,” he continued. “Manchester is a place that celebrates our diversity and we will not tolerate hate in our city.”

A police investigation has also been launched into the incident.

The mural was restored by its creator, graffiti artist Akse, within hours of the damage being discovered.

Anti-racist campaigners in Manchester said they were “disgusted” to hear of the racist attack.

Stand up to Racism Manchester co-chair Nahella Ashraf told the Morning Star: “‘This demonstrates the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the continuing campaign needed to rid society of racism.”

The group has called for a protest in Stephenson Square tonight at 6pm to “show that we are the majority in the city.”