Trump, stay away from Kenosha, USA

This 2015 punk rock music video from England says about itself:

Maid Of Ace performing “Stay Away” live on BBC Introducing The South 11/4/15.

In 2015, Trump was not yet president of the USA. Yet, in 2020 this song title by the Maid of Ace punk girls is very fitting.

Trump intends to visit Kenosha in Wisconsin tomorrow, 1 September. Kenosha, where a Trump supporter murdered two Black Lives Matter demonstrators and gravely injured a third one.

How wood storks survive

This February 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

Wood Storks using Grope Feeding and Tactolocation strategies at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Titusville, Florida. Filmed with Leica V-Lux (TYP 114) on 23 January 2015. © Bill Schmoker, Leica Birding Team.

From Florida Atlantic University in the USA:

Hot dogs, chicken wings and city living helped wetland wood storks thrive

Study of wetland birds finds city storks fared better than their non-urban counterparts in suboptimal natural conditions

August 31, 2020

Summary: Using the Wood Stork, researchers compared city storks with natural wetland storks to gauge their success in urban environments based on their diet and food opportunities. Results provide evidence of how a wetland species persists and even thrives in an urban environment by switching to human foods like chicken wings and hots dogs when natural marshes are in bad shape. These findings indicate that urban areas can buffer a species from the unpredictability of natural food sources.

Natural wetlands continue to disappear due to city and human development and are being replaced with humanmade swales, ponds and canals. This degradation and replacement of natural wetlands suggest that urban areas may be imperative to wetland species, especially when natural conditions are unpredictable. Wetland birds are often seen in and around cities; however, they have been largely ignored in urban wildlife studies. In their historic ranges, wetland birds inhabit dynamic marshes, traveling long distances to locate food. Yet, does their ability to forage for food in natural environments translate to their ability to do so in an urban environment?

Using the Wood Stork (Mycteria americana), a large American wading bird found throughout southeastern swamps and wetlands, scientists from Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science compared city storks with natural wetland storks to gauge their success in urban environments based on their diet and food opportunities.

Results of the study, published in Scientific Reports, provide evidence and a systematic understanding of how a wetland species persists and even thrives in an urban environment, by switching to human foods like chicken wings and hot dogs when natural marshes are in bad shape.

For the study, researchers sampled 160 nests during the 2015-2017 nesting seasons. Of the 160 sampled nests, 106 nests were in three urban colonies and 54 nests were in two natural wetland colonies in South Florida where a vast freshwater wetland, the Everglades, is located adjacent to a large urban area. They compared urban and natural wetland storks’ productivity, body condition, reproductive performance, breadth of diet, and tested whether stork diets changed during suboptimal natural wetland conditions.

They found that storks were able to exploit urban areas when natural food resources were scarce. This ability to switch between habitats and thus resources allowed for better reproductive performance during periods of low natural food availability. Furthermore, body condition did not differ significantly between urban and natural wetland nesting birds during either optimal or suboptimal conditions, suggesting that supplemental environmental resources do not negatively impact body condition. These findings indicate that urban areas can buffer a species from the unpredictability of natural food resources.

“During suboptimal conditions, urban birds expanded their diets to include more prey types, including anthropogenic food, suggesting that urban birds were able to exploit urban areas during low natural wetland prey availability,” said Betsy A. Evans, Ph.D., a natural resources specialist with the United States Army Corps of Engineers and lead author, who conducted the study as a graduate student in FAU’s Department of Biological Sciences with co-author Dale E. Gawlik, Ph.D., a professor in biology and FAU’s Environmental Science Program. “The ability of urban birds to switch their diet to include different prey types such as human-provided food that included chicken wings and hot dogs likely allowed them to produce more chicks during poor natural wetland prey availability conditions than their non-urban counterparts.”

Evans and Gawlik discovered that not only were urban storks able to access human-provided food such as trash, but they also increased the proportion of amphibians such as frogs in their diet when natural wetland conditions were suboptimal. Larval frogs (tadpoles) occur in a wide range of wetland types in the study region; however, they were 10 times more abundant in roadside created wetlands such as swales, ponds and canals than in natural wetlands during the time-period of this study. This suggests that storks may also have been accessing created wetlands along roadways during suboptimal natural wetland conditions.

“Behavioral flexibility and the ability to travel long distances and exploit resources in dynamic systems may give wetland birds an ecological advantage in urban environments,” said Gawlik. “Our findings demonstrated that urban storks expanded their diets during times of low natural wetland prey availability to include resources commonly found in urban areas, partially dampening the natural wetland food limitation on wading bird populations. Natural wetland birds, however, paid a greater reproductive penalty during suboptimal conditions than their urban counterparts. Furthermore, this ability to switch diets between resource pulses may reduce population fluctuations and lower the risk of extinction.”

The study demonstrates that urban environments may support biodiversity in a variety of ways. To mitigate potential threats from urbanization it will be important to understand how species exploit new resources as well as how they are affected by loss of resources from human activities.

For the study, the researchers visited two natural wetland colonies and three urban colonies one to two times per week during the 2015-2017 breeding seasons (approximately March through June). They selected these study colonies based on their range of hydrological conditions and history of repeated use by nesting storks. They describe colony landscape type broadly as either “urban” or “natural wetland” with natural wetland colonies occurring within Everglades National Park and urban colonies occurring within the urban east coast corridor of South Florida. At each colony location, they marked individual nests from which they collected productivity, body condition, and diet information.

This research was partially supported by the Florida Department of Transportation (BDV27-922-02).

Racism, news update

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

Why Jacob Blake‘s Family will have to fight for justice

After his unarmed son was killed by Kenosha police, Michael Bell Sr. has fought for independent investigations of police shootings.

WISCONSIN GOV. ASKS TRUMP TO STAY AWAY FROM STATE Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers urged President Donald Trump to reconsider a planned trip to the state following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, saying such a visit may only “delay our work to overcome division and move forward.” Evers, a Democrat, sent the missive after the White House said the president would travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday to meet with law enforcement and survey the damage following demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism that came after the shooting. Days after Blake was shot, two protesters were killed. [HuffPost]

TRUMP DUCKS QUESTION ABOUT ACCUSED TEEN SHOOTER President Donald Trump on Saturday dodged a question about Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager and Trump supporter who has been charged with homicide in the shooting deaths of two demonstrators in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Donald Trump Jr., meanwhile, retweeted a supportive message about Rittenhouse. The teen traveled to the Kenosha protest Tuesday armed with a semi-automatic rifle, according to investigators. The fatal shooting of two protesters and the wounding of a volunteer medic was captured in cellphone videos. [HuffPost]

THE GOP IS VERY MUCH TRUMP’S PARTY, POLL SHOWS More Trump voters said they were loyal to President Donald Trump than they were to the Republican Party, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. Some 49% of Republican and Republican-leaning independents who voted for Trump in 2016 said they consider themselves more supporters of Trump than of the Republican Party. Just 19% said they were more supporters of the party, with another 28% saying they were supporters of both. The poll came on the heels of the Republican National Convention, during which the GOP declined to rally around a policy platform and instead opted to “reassert the party’s strong support” for “Trump and his administration.” [HuffPost]

Breonna Taylor’s life was changing. Then the police came to her door.

USA: ‘Jews want a race war’ website removed only to be quickly replaced.

Vatican hid Holocaust orphans from families, urged Pope not to protest deportations

No to Turkish-Greek oil war!

This 12 August 2020 video says about itself:

Turkey: Greek warship seen off island of Kastellorizo following Turkish oil search

Footage filmed from the Turkish town of Kas looking out upon Greek island of Kastellorizo in distance purportedly shows a Greek warship, on Tuesday.

The sighting came a day after Turkey sent one of its oil-and-gas research vessels Oruc Reis escorted by Turkish warships to carry out a seismic survey, used primarily for oil and gas exploration, off the Greek island.

Greece has reportedly responded by bringing in a large portion of its fleet to the area.

Athens considers the Turkish research to be contrary to international law stating that the sea areas belong to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Greece according to the rules of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

From daily News Line in Britain, 31 August 2020:

No War! Greek And Turkish Workers Must Unite – Their Enemy Is At Home

WHILE President Trump is celebrating the Israel-UAE alliance against Iran and Palestine, and planning to extend it throughout the region, his NATO allies are getting ready to cut each other’s throats in the Med.

Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu yesterday warned Greece that its plans to extend its territorial waters would be taken by Turkey as a declaration of war.

Turkey’s discovery of major gas deposits in waters surrounding Crete and Cyprus has further escalated tensions between the two states.

Cavusoglu has now warned France against supporting Greece, saying that Paris wants to create a security force of the EU against NATO. Turkey is signalling to the USA its willingness to help the USA curb the EU. ‘NATO is one of the goals of the current escalation,’ Cavusoglu added.

The Turkish military has launched fresh war games in the eastern Mediterranean region, as tensions between Ankara and Athens mount over maritime borders and gas drilling rights.

The EU is taking the side of Greece, with France last week deploying its naval forces to hold joint military exercises with Greece along with Italy and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay has attacked as ‘hypocritical’ a threat by the EU to impose sanctions on Ankara, saying that: ‘We are proficient in the language of peace and diplomacy, but will not hesitate to do the necessary thing when it comes to defending Turkey’s rights and interests. France and Greece know that better than anyone,’ he added.

EU Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, who said that the bloc was preparing to slap sanctions on Turkey to curtail Turkey’s ability to explore for natural gas in the contested waters of the region, and could, according to Borrell, target individuals, Turkish ships and the use of European ports.

‘We can go to measures related to sectoral activities … where the Turkish economy is related to the European economy,’ Borrell told a news conference recently in reference to the possible sanctions.

On Friday, August 28, Turkey declared that it would hold military drills off northwest Cyprus in the coming weeks.

Following that, the Turkish military issued a warning to mariners, known as a Navtex, which said it would be holding a ‘gunnery exercise’ from Saturday, August 29th until September 11th. Before that, on August 12th, Greek and Turkish frigates that were following one of Ankara’s oil and gas survey ships, the Oruc Reis, collided.

Turkish and Greek F-16 fighter jets have already engaged in a mock ‘dogfight’ over the Mediterranean as Ankara dispatched its planes to intercept six Greek jets as they returned from war games in Cyprus. The Med region was not always a powder keg ready to be exploded by the NATO alliance, and the EU.

It was Colonel Gadaffi who warned the UK and NATO that if it moved to remove him through military action, then Libya would be carved up by Islamists and the whole region would be propelled into a massive oil war.

The Middle East and the Med region is set to explode and end the US plans for a signing ceremony in Washington of the normalisation deal with the United Arab Emirates in which the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was due to participate, to seal the anti-Palestine and anti-Iran alliance.

Israeli minister Ofir Akunis said yesterday that the date for the signing ceremony could be decided by senior aides to Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump in Abu Dhabi today.

In fact, the fear of Arab and Muslim leaders of the consequences of making a deal with Israel and selling out Palestine is very great. The Sudan leadership told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ‘NO’ and rejected a major financial bribe, such is the fear of the Arab revolution.

What is required in the Med region are not imperialist wars but socialist revolutions. The Greek and Turkish workers must unite to prevent any war in the Med. Their enemy is at home. It is the EU capitalists that have destroyed Greece, not the Turkish workers nor any other section of the working class.

Many hummingbirds in Texas, USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

Hummingbirds Aflutter In The Davis Mountains – August 25, 2020

Tiny hummingbirds buzz through the West Texas feeder cam site in the Davis Mountains. This site sits along the migration routes of more than 10 different species of hummingbirds.

United States Trumpists’ bleach-drinking self-harm

This 30 August 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Americans refusing to stop drinking bleach is very 2020. Ana Kasparian and Emma Vigeland discuss on The Young Turks.

“Following 46 cases of bleach ingestions in the North Texas Poison Center region since the start of August, experts are again warning people that drinking the chemical won’t prevent COVID-19.

The organization pointed to “misleading and inaccurate information circulating online about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19,”

Dear CBS TV: ‘Circulating online’? Why not be more precise, and say that President Donald Trump advised to do this potentially lethal quackery?

It would have been better if the murderer of Black Lives Matter demonstrators Kyle Rittenhouse would have followed this ‘medical’ advice by Trump, instead of Trump’s incitement to violence against Trump critics.

for an uptick in poisonings.

The FDA has long warned that drinking chlorine dioxide products can lead to “severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration and acute liver failure.”

Read more here.

Male dinosaurs, female dinosaurs and mathematics

This 2001 video is called When Dinosaurs Roamed America.

From the Field Museum in the USA:

Using math to examine the sex differences in dinosaurs

August 26, 2020

Summary: When you only have fossils to go off of, it’s hard to tell which dinosaur traits, like size and ornamentation, are related to the animals’ sex, and which traits are related to other things like age. But a new kind of statistical analysis can often estimate the degree of sexual variation in a dataset of fossils.

Male lions typically have manes. Male peacocks have six-foot-long tail feathers. Female eagles and hawks can be about 30% bigger than males. But if you only had these animals’ fossils to go off of, it would be hard to confidently say that those differences were because of the animals’ sex. That’s the problem that paleontologists face: it’s hard to tell if dinosaurs with different features were separate species, different ages, males and females of the same species, or just varied in a way that had nothing to do with sex. A lot of the work trying to show differences between male and female dinosaurs has come back inconclusive. But in a new paper, scientists show how using a different kind of statistical analysis can often estimate the degree of sexual variation in a dataset of fossils.

“It’s a whole new way of looking at fossils and judging the likelihood that the traits we see correlate with sex,” says Evan Saitta, a research associate at Chicago’s Field Museum and the lead author of the new paper in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. “This paper is part of a larger revolution of sorts about how to use statistics in science, but applied in the context of paleontology.”

Unless you find a dinosaur skeleton that contains the fossilized eggs that it was about to lay, or a similar dead giveaway, it’s hard to be sure about an individual dinosaur’s sex. But many birds, the only living dinosaurs, vary a lot between males and females on average, a phenomenon called sexual dimorphism. Dinosaurs’ cousins, the crocodilians, show sexual dimorphism too. So it stands to reason that in many species of dinosaurs, males and females would differ from each other in a variety of traits.

But not all differences in animals of the same species are linked to their sex. For example, in humans, average height is related to sex, but other traits like eye color and hair color don’t neatly map onto men versus women. We often don’t know precisely how the traits we see in dinosaurs relate to their sex, either. Since we don’t know if, say, larger dinosaurs were female, or dinosaurs with bigger crests on their heads were male, Saitta and his colleagues looked for patterns in the differences between individuals of the same species. To do that, they examined measurements from a bunch of fossils and modern species and did a lot of math.

Other paleontologists have tried to look for sexual dimorphism in dinosaurs using a form of statistics (called significance testing, for all you stats nerds) where you collect all your data points and then calculate the probability that those results could have happened by pure chance rather than an actual cause (like how doctors determine whether a new medicine is more helpful than a placebo). This kind of analysis sometimes works for big, clean datasets. But, says Saitta, “with a lot of these dinosaur tests, our data is pretty bad” — there aren’t that many fossil specimens, or they’re incomplete or poorly preserved. Using significance testing in these cases, Saitta argues, results in a lot of false negatives: since the samples are small, it takes an extreme amount of variation between the sexes to trigger a positive test result. (Significance testing isn’t just a consideration for paleontologists — concerns over a “replication crisis” have plagued researchers in psychology and medicine, where certain studies are difficult to reproduce.)

Instead, Saitta and his colleagues experimented with another form of stats, called effect size statistics. Effect size statistics is better for smaller datasets because it attempts to estimate the degree of sex differences and calculate the uncertainty in that estimate. This alternative statistical method takes natural variations into account without viewing dimorphism as black-or-white-many sexual dimorphisms can be subtle. Co-author Max Stockdale of the University of Bristol wrote the code to run the statistical simulations. Saitta and his colleagues uploaded measurements of dinosaur fossils to the program, and it yielded estimates of body mass dimorphism and error bars in those estimates that would have simply been dismissed using significance testing.

“We showed that if you adopt this paradigm shift in statistics, where you attempt to estimate the magnitude of an effect and then put error bars around that, you can often produce a fairly accurate estimate of sexual variation even when the sexes of the individuals are unknown,” says Saitta.

For instance, Saitta and his colleagues found that in the dinosaur Maiasaura, adult specimens vary a lot in size, and the analyses show that these are likelier to correspond to sexual variation than differences seen in other dinosaur species. But while the current data suggest that one sex was about 45% bigger than the other, they can’t tell if the bigger ones are males or females.

While there’s a lot of work yet to be done, Saitta says he’s excited that the statistical simulations gave such consistent results despite the limits of the fossil data.

“Sexual selection is such an important driver of evolution, and to limit ourselves to ineffective statistical approaches hurts our ability to understand the paleobiology of these animals,” he says. “We need to account for sexual variation in the fossil record.”

“I’m happy to play a small part in this sort of statistical revolution,” he adds. “Effect size statistics has a major impact for psychological and medical research, so to apply it to dinosaurs and paleontology is really cool.”

Tear gas poisons Portland, USA water

This 29 August 2020 video about Oregon in the USA says about itself:

Portland Water POISONED By Tear Gas

Mass amounts of tear gas sprayed in Portland are poisoning the city’s water supply. John Iadarola and Jordan Uhl break it down on The Damage Report.

Australian northern quolls, research and conservation

This May 2014 video from Australia says about itself:

Saving the northern quoll from cane toads

A cane toad invasion is threatening key species in the Northern Territory. Most endangered is the small predatory Northern Quoll, which dies within minutes of being poisoned by the toad.

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

The northern quoll: An amazingly versatile survivor?

August 28, 2020

The northern quoll, one of Australia’s most adorable and endangered native carnivores, appears to be adapted to dramatically different landscapes — which may be key to the species’ survival.

University of Queensland PhD candidate Pietro Viacava co-led a study that found similarities between northern quoll skulls across a 5000 kilometre range, which has raised hopes scientists will be able to cross-breed isolated populations.

“Northern quolls are in danger — a lot has been thrown at them,” Mr Viacava said.

“They’ve been victims of a devastating cane toad invasion, increases in bushfires and habitat fragmentation, all while facing stiff competition from other carnivores such as dingoes and cats.

“The problem we are facing with conserving the northern quoll is that there may be too little genetic diversity in these handful of remaining populations, scattered across Australia.

“If we cross-bred them, we might run the risk that they wouldn’t be ideally suited to these diverse environments.

“Their skulls, for example, might not be properly adapted to eat local prey, as it differs across Australia.

“Luckily, this doesn’t seem to be the case — these quolls seem to be incredibly versatile.”

The research team used a technique known as ‘geometric morphometrics’ to characterise skull shape variation in museum specimens of northern quolls.

They looked for shape differences between populations, or whether environmental conditions coincided with changes in skull shape.

Dr Vera Weisbecker from the Flinders University College of Science and Engineering supervised the study, and said the results appeared to be a win for northern quoll conservation.

“Quoll skull shapes were mostly similar across their entire range, although the shapes did vary with the size of the animals,” Dr Weisbecker said.

“This means, for example, that a quoll skull from Pilbara region in WA looked nearly the same as a similar-sized one from south-eastern Queensland, 5000 kilometres apart.

“Although other parts of the animal’s body and genetic factors need to be considered, we will most likely be able to breed animals from different populations for conservation without losing adaptations to feeding.”

However, there is also a much less positive potential explanation for the results.

“Scientists have long suspected that marsupial mammals — such as quolls, kangaroos and koalas — are seriously limited in the degree to which they can adapt their skull and skeleton,” Dr Weisbecker said.

“This is because newborn marsupials require a specifically shaped snout to be able to latch onto the mother’s teat.

“In that case, what we see may actually be a serious limitation on the ability of quolls to adapt, rather than the much more hopeful multipurpose solution we propose.”

To further explore this possibility, the team is now looking at how closely related species of antechinus — smaller quoll relatives — differ in skull shape.

The team includes researchers from UQ, Flinders University, Queensland University of Technology and the University of New England, with funding from the Australian Research Council.