New Hawaiian land snail species discovered


The tree-dwelling Auriculella pagneorum snails show distinct variation in color and patterning. The holotype, the specimen that officially represents the species, is on the left.  Photo courtesy of Kenneth Hayes and Norine Yeung

From the Florida Museum of Natural History in the USA:

New native Hawaiian land snail species discovered, first in 60 years

July 23, 2020

Summary: Auriculella gagneorum, a small candy-striped snail from Oahu’s Waianae Mountains, represents the first new species of a living Hawaiian land snail described in 60 years.

Scientists have described a new native Hawaiian land snail species, sounding a rare, hopeful note in a story rife with extinction.

Pacific island land snails are among the world’s most imperiled wildlife, with more recorded extinctions since 1600 than any other group of animals. Hawaii’s once-teeming land snail scene of more than 750 species has shrunk by more than half, ravaged by habitat loss and invasive species such as rats, Jackson’s chameleons and the carnivorous rosy wolf snail.

Auriculella gagneorum, a small candy-striped snail from Oahu’s Waianae Mountains, represents the first new species of a living Hawaiian land snail described in 60 years. The species “brings that little glimmer of hope that this isn’t all a depressing story,” said the study’s lead author Norine Yeung, malacology curator at the Bishop Museum.

A team of researchers found A. gagneorum during a large-scale, decade-long survey of land snails that spanned 1,000 sites throughout the Hawaiian Islands. They then used the Bishop Museum’s collection of land snails to match individuals collected during the survey to unidentified specimens from the 1940s.

“This is a happy story where we discovered a snail that is still around,” Yeung said. “There are so many things in our collection that we can no longer find in the wild. But in this snail’s case, we can finally put a name to it and describe it, which is huge for the conservation of this species.”

The tree-dwelling snail shows pronounced variation in coloring, from burnished tiger’s-eye patterning to dramatic sable and white stripes. At less than two-tenths of an inch long, “you might be able to fit a dozen on your fingernail,” said study co-author John Slapcinsky, collection manager of invertebrate zoology at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Land snails play a crucial role as decomposers and fungivores in Hawaii’s ecosystems, essentially “our first recyclers,” Yeung said.

The researchers deposited a selection of A. gagneorum snails in Hawaii’s captive breeding program, with the goal of increasing their numbers and returning them to the wild. They named the species in honor of the late Hawaiian naturalists Betsy and Wayne Gagne, who were “powerhouses for conservation,” Yeung said. “They cared about the whole ecosystem, whether it was a tiny little bug or plants or one of Hawaii’s charismatic, beautiful forest birds.”

The team’s survey also produced new records of three snail species last documented in the 1950s and others feared extinct, as well as nearly 30 new species. The researchers failed to find two species, A. auricula and A. minuta, whose populations may have died out.

But while the status of Hawaii’s land snails is dire, it’s too early to despair, said Slapcinsky, who gamely struggled through skin-ripping raspberry thickets and nearly slid off a cliff while sieving for snails.

“People used to think it wasn’t even worth studying Hawaiian land snails because they were all extinct. Now we know they’re not,” he said. “If we work at it, there’s still a chance to do something about it. That’s why it’s important to be out there surveying, finding the remaining populations of these species.”

Yeung said previous reports estimated that 90% of Hawaii’s land snails were extinct, but the team’s survey shows that about 300 species still survive in remote, isolated parts of the Hawaiian Islands.

“The challenge now is trying to identify all of these because we have lost a lot of experts, and a lot of these snails are super tiny,” she said. “If you’re not a trained malacologist, the small brown snails might all look the same to you. But when you take a closer look at their shells, bodies and genetics, these little things are all different and can be tied to different valleys and ridges. When one species turns out to be three, we can run into problems with conservation.”

The researchers used a combination of physical characteristics and DNA to describe the new species. While its shell size and shape mimic A. perpusilla snails from the Koolau Range on east Oahu, molecular evidence shows A. gagneorum is more closely related to A. tenella, a slender, high-spired snail from the Waianae Range in the west.

A. gagneorum belongs to a long-overlooked group of snails known as Auriculellinae. The majority of attention and conservation efforts have focused on the larger, more colorful snails in the subfamily Achatinellinae, Lonesome George, the last known snail of its species, being the most famous example. While an entire genus of Achatinellinae is listed under the Endangered Species Act, the smaller, less obvious snails in the subfamily Auriculellinae remain understudied and unprotected, Slapcinsky said.

“We’re not bemoaning that Achatinellinae are getting attention. They do need help,” he said. “What we’re concerned about is that these other things are getting ignored.”

Meanwhile, the team pushes forward in its analysis of a decade’s worth of data and many new species descriptions. Afterwards, the researchers can turn their attention to the evolution and ecology of Hawaii’s land snails, traditionally considered by native Hawaiians as important symbols and good omens that represent change, romance and song.

“The diversity is amazing, the species are amazing, and there are so many evolutionary stories you could tell,” Yeung said, describing malacology as a “wide-open frontier.”

“But first we have to identify these snails. If you ask about their habitat and life history, it’s like, I wish I could tell you. Right now, I can just tell you this is a different species and put a name on it. It’s hard work, but it’s so gratifying.”

The researchers published their findings in ZooKeys.

COVID 19 gets worse in Trump´s USA


This 27 July 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

No Masks, No Gloves, Open Dorms — Detainees Describe Life In ICE Detention During the Pandemic.

Testimonials from ICE detention centers in New Jersey and New York during the Covid-19 outbreak.

YOUTH CORONAVIRUS HOSPITALIZATIONS UP 23% IN FLORIDA As Florida schools prepare to reopen, state health officials reported disturbing new statistics about the state’s children. The state had 31,150 COVID-19 cases reported among people under 18 as of July 24 — a 34% jump from July 16. Perhaps even more concerning, the latest data shows 303 youth hospitalizations for COVID-19, up 23% from July 16. About one-third of those cases are in children 14 to 17 years old, followed by 67 cases among children under 1. [HuffPost]

TRUMP AGAIN TWEETS FRINGE COVID-19 DISINFORMATION President Donald Trump ditched his days-old attempt to acknowledge the depth of the coronavirus crisis as he and his son, Donald Trump Jr., retweeted a viral video that was yanked by Facebook for pushing “false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19.” YouTube and Twitter also pulled the video. The clip, originally posted by the right-wing news site Breitbart, featured four people who identified themselves as doctors speaking in front of the Supreme Court building. One said that people do not need to wear face masks and attacked “fake doctors” who “sound like a computer.” The video also revived Trump’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine, which has been shown ineffective and dangerous. [HuffPost]

The link between obesity and COVID-19, explained.

North American stick insects´ colours, new research


This 2015 video from the USA says about itself

Walking Stick- Genus Timema mating

Filmed in Rainbow, California.

From Utah State University in the USA:

Genome-mapping reveals ‘supermutation’ resulting in cryptic coloration in stick insects

Summary: Biologists discuss findings from an investigation of genetic mutations in seven species of North American stick insects (Timema) resulting in cryptic coloration.

Traits that form an organism’s appearance, including color, are determined by many different genes and the creature’s environment.

“Humans and domestic animals, for example, have varied skin, fur and hair, as well as a range of heights — an example of continuous variation,” says Utah State University genetic ecologist Zach Gompert. “In the wild, however, types of genetic mutations affecting adaptation and thus, appearance, are only beginning to be understood. Some traits show more discontinuous or discrete variation.”

In a paper published July 23, 2020 in Science, Gompert and colleagues from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom; France’s Paul Valéry University of Montpellier; the University of Bern and the Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology, Switzerland; México’s Campus Juriquilla of the Autonomous University of Querétaro, University of Notre Dame and the University of Nevada-Reno, discuss findings from an investigation of seven species of North American stick insects (Timema).

“Most research on the genetic basis of traits and adaptation has focused on individual genes and small mutations,” says Gompert, associate professor in USU’s Department of Biology and the USU Ecology Center “But in this paper, we uncover a greater role for large mutations and structural rearrangements of the genome that effectively ‘lock up’ suites of genes in groups.”

The stick insects used in the study are flightless and plant-feeding. Most Timema species have green and brown-color “morphs,” a local variety of a species, which are cryptic, meaning they visually blend into their surroundings. Cryptic coloration enables the insects to avoid predation by birds, as they blend in on the leaves and stems or bark of the plants they eat. However, one species, Timema chumash, exhibits a range of morph colors, including greens and browns, but also yellow, orange, red, and shades of blue.

“Using genome-mapping methods, we show that a large, million base pair, adaptive deletion — a supermutation — converts a continuum of color variation seen in T. chumash into discrete color morphs in the other stick insect species,” Gompert says. “This finding is important, as it helps reconcile large evolutionary shifts or gaps with the continuous process of evolution. It also provides insights into how continuous variation is packaged into semi-discrete units of biological diversity, such as morphs, sexes and species.”

Racism and police in Trump´s USA


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

Fox Host: Why Not Arrest Trump’s Opponents?

This “Conservative” wants to arrest local politicians in Portland. Emma Vigeland and Ana Kasparian discuss on The Young Turks.

Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo spoke with acting DHS Sec. Chad Wolf Sunday morning about the federal officers deployed to Portland. Wolf said that they are there because things are “completely out of control” and “city leadership there fostered an environment that allows these criminals to do this throughout the night untouched.”

“We need Portland to step up to the plate, do their responsibility, and work with us to address violent criminal activity occurring every night,” he said.

Bartiromo remarked that Portland “looks like Baghdad” and asked, “These people can go all the way up to the fence and the perimeter and throw bricks at officers. What are you going to do about it?”

Read more here.

‘EXCESSIVE FORCE’ USED ON PROTESTERS A National Guard commander was “deeply disturbed” as he witnessed federal police use “excessive force” to violently clear peaceful protesters near the White House to make way for Trump to pose for photos outside a church last month, he will testify Tuesday. The account by D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco, a combat veteran who was the senior National Guard officer on the scene, contradicts Attorney General William Barr, who has insisted that anti-racism protesters were violent and deserved gassing and physical assault by law enforcement that evening. [HuffPost]

TRUMP WON’T PAY HIS RESPECTS TO JOHN LEWIS ON CAPITOL HILL Thousands of people are expected to visit Capitol Hill to pay respects to congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, but Trump won’t be one of them. “No, I won’t be going,” the president told reporters without elaborating. “No.” The president made his comment as he was leaving the White House for North Carolina just as Lewis’ American flag-draped casket was arriving at the Capitol carried by a military honor guard into the rotunda. Trump has a well-marked history as a racist. [HuffPost]

THE NYPD CAN SEE MILLIONS OF ARREST RECORDS THAT WERE MEANT TO BE SEALED For over 40 years, it has been illegal for police in New York state to access a person’s sealed arrest records. Details of arrests of people who were charged but not convicted or whose cases were dismissed ― as well as juveniles or people who completed drug treatment programs or committed noncriminal offenses ― aren’t supposed to influence law enforcement should police encounter those people again. But new court documents obtained by HuffPost show that the New York City Police Department has been breaking that law for years. [HuffPost]

VIDEO SHOWS NYPD COP PULLING PROTESTER INTO UNMARKED VAN The New York City Police Department has come under scrutiny after videos showed officers pulling a protester into an unmarked van during a demonstration Tuesday in Manhattan against racism and police brutality. Gothamist, citing the protester’s friends, identified her as an 18-year-old transgender woman. Videos shared on social media show the demonstrator being restrained by several NYPD officers before being pulled into the van. “They grabbed [her] like she was rag doll,” a witness said. “They had her arms on her neck and then they drove off.” [HuffPost]

Two months after Black Lives Matter march, police confiscate cars of peaceful protesters.

Couple wearing swastika masks at Walmart confronted by other shoppers.

LEADER OF NEO-NAZI GROUP UNDER INVESTIGATION A prominent white supremacist propagandist who once claimed to have influenced the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter is under investigation by authorities in California, a law enforcement official said on Monday. The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department told HuffPost that Andrew Richard Casarez has been under investigation for several weeks and that his home has been searched. “Detectives obtained a Gun Violence Restraining Order against him and served a search warrant at a residence … where they seized a firearm,” the department said. [HuffPost]

Republican senator deletes ad that made Jewish opponent’s nose bigger.

Florida man to be charged with vandalism of 2 synagogues.

New York City cuts funding for hate crime prevention initiative.

Police brutality, workers’ resistance in Trump’s USA


This 27 July 2020 video from California in the USA says about itself:

LAPD Threatens Journalists: “There is No Press Corps Right Now”

Independent journalist Tina-Desiree Berg reports from Los Angeles as LAPD continue brutalizing protesters. In this clip, LAPD tells journalists filming “there is no press corps right now.”

What is BORTAC and why is it patrolling the streets of Portland? By Genevieve Leigh, 27 July 2020.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Trade unionists join Portland protesters

28th July 2020

Grandmothers joined the ‘Wall of Moms’ on the demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, USA

This photo shows grandmothers joining the ‘Wall of Moms’ on the demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, USA.

Trade unionists joined the Portland, Oregon demonstrations outside the Justice Centre on Saturday night, with many protesters wearing similar coloured shirts as part of an organised effort.

Now the trade unions have begun to mobilise to defend the Portland protesters against brutal attacks from the state forces.

Teachers were wearing red, health care workers were wearing scrubs, and other union members were wearing their own union-related gear.

‘I do feel like it is something that in the future kids are going to ask “where were you?” and it’s very important that we stand for elevating all voices,’ said Barry Cochran, an Oregon English and History teacher marching on Saturday.

Lisa Turner spoke on behalf of her daughter, a nurse who was also protesting, she said: ‘I think it’s just not as nurses, we’re here for the main reason to support the Black Lives Matter movement and doing what we can to support that.

‘The risk that the stand that they are taking with their jobs and coming out here are both equally admirable.’

Bryan Vazquez, a teacher from Washington state, said: ‘I’d rather be teaching, but as a movement right now this is showcasing what teachers stand for.’

Earlier last week, a ‘Wall of Moms’ joined the Protect Portland’s BLM protesters following the sinister sight of federal agents in camouflage snatching demonstrators off the streets.

Post office mail worker Jennifer Bradly, who was wearing a ‘Union Proud’ badge, said: ‘I’m not crazy about the Feds sweeping people off the streets.

‘I’ve been active with Black Lives Matter but these demonstrations looked too violent to me until I saw the Wall of Moms.

‘It’s a big group of like-minded people. It feels like people are not going to give up. This time feels different,’ she said.

  • The international president of the Machinists union joined a rally of striking workers at Bath Iron Works on Saturday, urging them to stay strong and proclaiming: ‘There’s no way in hell we are backing down from this fight.’

Robert Martinez Jr delivered the message to Machinists Local S6 as their strike passed the one-month mark.

He accused the shipyard, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, of ‘corporate greed.’

‘This is the largest strike in the United States of America right now,’ he told the crowd of hundreds outside the union hall, across the street from the shipyard.

‘The eyes of the nation are upon us.’

The group, which included strikers, spouses and children, marched from the shipyard’s north gate to the south gate in a show of solidarity.

The 4,300 production workers went on strike on June 22 after overwhelmingly rejecting the company’s final contract proposal.

The strike is centred around subcontractors, work rules and seniority.

The union accused the company of hiring ‘scab’ workers from Alabama and Mississippi and putting them up in local hotels, which Martinez called a ‘slap in the face’ for workers.

It’s the first strike in 20 years at Bath Iron Works, which is one of the Navy’s largest shipbuilders and a major employer in Maine, with 6,800 workers.

The shipyard builds guided-missile destroyers, which are described as ‘the workhorse of the fleet’.

The strike threatens to put production further behind at a time of the United States’ growing competition with Russia and China.

The company was already about six months behind schedule when the strike began.

It needs to be able to hire subcontractors to catch up, the shipyard’s president claims.

  • Members of the Maine State Nurses Association at Calais Regional Hospital (CRH) recently signed and delivered a petition to their employer protesting against the hospital’s relaxation of its visitation policy, just as Covid-19 cases are on the rise in Washington County.

Last week, CRH responded to the workers’ demands and reversed some of its relaxed policies, handing the unionised workers a victory for their patients and themselves.

‘We are concerned for all of our patients, of course, and also for our families to whom we go home every night,’ said Registered Nurse Alison Monaghan.

‘So far, we have prevented community spread here, and we hope to keep it that way.’

  • Dozens of Chattanoogans marched throughout downtown on Saturday to protest against low wages, dangerous working conditions and other plights of low-income workers, essential workers and workers of colour.

The Workers for Black Lives rally and march was the most recent in a series of a couple of dozen protests in Chattanooga after a chain of anti-police brutality and criminal justice reform protests in June.

Saturday’s march centred around a demand for better wages, benefits and working conditions during and after the Covid-19 pandemic for all workers, especially the Black and Latino communities.

Members of those communities make roughly half of the average wage of their white counterparts in Chattanooga, but account for disproportionately high rates of the coronavirus and unemployment, statistics show.

Others called for assistance for undocumented Latino labourers who are disproportionately impacted by the virus and for the city to raise the minimum pay of its employees to $15 in order to put pressure on other local companies to be competitive.

  • The USA Actors’ Equity Union dispute with Disney continues, as it releases a new Video mocking Disney in Walt Disney World!

It wasn’t long ago that Inside the Magic reported the Actors’ Equity Association speaking out and asking Walt Disney World in Florida to follow Disneyland’s decision in postponing the reopening date.

Following the significant spike in the ongoing pandemic, they felt this was the safest thing to do.

‘If Disneyland has postponed, it is unclear how Walt Disney World can responsibly move toward reopening when coronavirus cases are much worse in Florida,’ said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association.

‘For weeks, we have made it clear to Disney that testing is a fundamental part of maintaining a safe and healthy environment for everyone, from the guests to the cast.’

Now, the Actors’ Equity Association has just taken the protest a step further, releasing a new video calling Walt Disney World out.

The new video, which was posted to Facebook, closely resembles the ‘Welcome Home’ video Disney World recently released as they were eager to welcome guests back to the theme parks.

The Actors’ Equity Union’s version of the video starts off with the original video and background music as suddenly a case count appears as cast members say ‘Welcome Home’ in the background.

They also modified the colouring of the video from the bright bold colours to now showcasing dull colours throughout the entire video (almost black and white).

The Facebook caption, along with the video, states ‘There’s nothing magical about Covid-19.

‘With over 388,500 cases in Florida, why has Disney locked us out and rejected masks and testing for Equity performers?’

The union wrote to members on Friday stating ‘Moving forward, we are asking that the grievance with Disney be expedited.’

The union’s message also stated: ‘Earlier this week, staff had a meeting with Walt Disney World to discuss our grievance, and renew a request that Disney provide masks and testing.

‘Disney refused on both counts. That means the Equity members are being offered a lesser safety standard than other park workers. That isn’t right.’

In what threatens to lead to a major escalation, a Disney spokeswoman stated that ‘the Disney company has the right to reopen without Equity performers.’

Coronavirus disaster in Boris Johnson’s Britain


This 23 June 2020 video from Britain says about itself:

Making Sense Of The Crisis: Our NHS – Safe in Trump’s hands?

Tonight we discuss the Future of OUR NHS. Joining host Laura Pidcock:

Jeremy Corbyn MP; John Lister, Health Campaigns Together; Ellen Lees, We Own It

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 27 July 2020:

Earlier lockdown could have saved lives of London bus drivers, finds review

AN EARLIER lockdown could have saved the lives of London bus drivers who died during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an independent review published today.

London bus drivers aged 20-64 had a mortality rate that was 3.5 times higher than men of the same age in all occupations in England and Wales from March to May, the review by the UCL Institute of Health Equity found.

Institute director Professor Sir Michael Marmot said: “Our review explicitly suggests that lockdown was the main factor that saved bus drivers’ lives.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain, 26 July 2020:

Care home bosses accused of risking lives of residents and staff over sick pay

CARE-HOME bosses were accused today of putting the lives of residents and staff at risk by refusing to pay full sick pay to workers who self-isolate.

Unison said that despite financial support offered by councils, care-home owners were refusing to pay sick pay, forcing staff to work even when showing symptoms of the coronavirus.

The union in Salford said the city council’s package of protections for care workers during the pandemic involves financial support for providers in exchange for guarantees that include full pay to care workers who have to self-isolate.