Coronavirus and elections in Trump’s USA


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

Can We Stop Trump From Stealing 2020? (w/ Dr. Justin Frank)

Back in 2000, Dr. Justin Frank felt that jackboots were about to march down Pennsylvania Avenue. And all to do with votes and those infamous hanging chads not being counted. Is it all about to happen again?

New study suggests COVID-19 may age some patients‘ brains by 10 years.

THIS IS VOTER INTIMIDATION There is an unmistakable effort underway to intimidate voters — specifically Democratic voters — when they go to the polls. Right-wing groups are organizing to show up at polls with guns, a development election officials fear will create an unsafe environment for other voters to cast their ballots. In one swing state, an effort to limit the presence of guns at polling locations was met with a court fight and a standoff between the state’s election officials and some members of law enforcement. Only about a dozen states explicitly ban open or concealed carry of firearms at the polls. [HuffPost]

WITH JUST eight days to go before the US presidential election the right-wing judge Amy Coney Barrett was appointed to the American Supreme Court ensuring a Republican majority. US president Donald Trump nominated Barrett and rushed through her appointment in a move that clearly demonstrates the important role that a Republican-dominated Supreme Court will play in Trump’s determination to overturn his expected defeat at the polls on November 3rd. Back in August, Trump launched a campaign to discredit postal balloting in US elections with the baseless claim that voting by mail leads to fraud: here.

British royal family and slavery


This 27 April 2020 video says about itself:

The Role of the Royal African Company in Slavery

The Royal African Company was started under the guise of the exploration of the African continent in the 16th century. The main purpose of the company was of course the transportation of gold and slaves. The Royal African Company had a monopoly over the transportation of slaves to the Caribbean because of the Navigation Act of 1660. Learn more here.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Probe launched into royal palaces‘ links to slavery

HISTORIAN Lucy Worsley launched an investigation today into the royal palaces’ links to slavery.

The chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces said a probe into the residences’ links to the slave trade was “long overdue.”

She insisted that the charity – which looks after Kensington Palace, the Tower of London and Hampton Court – has a duty to make any historical connections public.

The inquiry comes after the National Trust released a report highlighting links to slavery and colonialism in 93 of the properties it manages.

It detailed how properties, including Winston Churchill’s home Chartwell, were connected to plantation owners, people who gained their wealth from the slave trade and those involved in colonial expansion and administration.

Ms Worsley said she wished that her organisation had acted sooner in commencing its own investigation, adding that the National Trust was “ahead of the game.”

“We’ve been thinking really hard and planning all sorts of changes,” she said.

“The time has come. We’re behind. We haven’t done well enough.”

According to Ms Worsley, all properties used by the Stuart dynasty were “going to have an element of money derived from slavery” within them.

The Stuarts played a key role in the slave trade when King Charles II granted a charter to the Royal African Company, of which his brother King James II was a member.

Ms Worsley said that there was a “challenging” side to British history which the country “is good at sidelining in favour of supporting the tourist industry.”

She added: “It is always great to push people a bit into an uncomfortable and darker direction, because then you can see the historical causes of things like social injustice.”

New gall wasp species discovery


Allorhogas gallifolia is a new species of wasp discovered in live oak trees. First collected in 2014 by students in the lab of Rice evolutionary biologist Scott Egan, A. gallifolia is one of four new wasp species described in the study. (Credit: Ernesto Samacá-Sáenz/UNAM)

From Rice University in the USA:

Discovery adds new species a lab’s ghoulish insect menagerie

October 26, 2020

A horrifying insect soap opera with vampires, mummies and infant-eating parasites is playing out on the stems and leaves of live oak trees every day, and evolutionary biologist Scott Egan found the latest character — a new wasp species that may be a parasite of a parasite — within walking distance of his Rice University lab.

Egan, an associate professor of biosciences at Rice, studies gall wasps, tiny insects that cast a biochemical spell on live oaks. When gall wasps lay their eggs on oak leaves or stems, they chemically program the tree to unwittingly produce a tumor-like growth, or gall, which first shelters the egg and then feeds the larval wasp that hatches from it.

Egan describes the wasps as “ecosystem engineers,” because their galls are attractive morsels that harbor a supporting cast of opportunistic ne’er-do-wells, thieves and killers. It’s a great setting to study how competition for resources drives evolution, and Egan and his students have spent more than a decade documenting the eerie, interspecies who’s-eating-who drama.

The latest species they discovered at Rice, Allorhogas gallifolia (al-UHROH’-guhs GAHL’-ihf-ohl-eeuh), is one of four new wasp species from the genus Allorhogas that Egan and collaborators Ernesto Samaca-Saenz and Alejandro Zaldivar-Riveron at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City described in a study this month in Insect Systematics and Diversity.

“They lay their egg in another wasp’s gall,” Egan said of A. gallifolia, which his group first hatched in 2014. “They’re using the gall as a resource, and we’re still not certain how, but I think they’re attacking herbivorous caterpillars that are feeding on the gall tissue, and the wasp larva are eating those caterpillars after they hatch.”

He said more than 50 species of Allorhogas have been found in Central America and Mexico, but only two species were previously documented in the United States, one at the University of Maryland campus in 1912 and another some years later in Arizona.

The A. gallifolia found at Rice was collected as part of an effort to describe the community of natural enemies for one species of gall wasp, Belonocnema treatae (behl-uh-NAHK’-nee-muh TREE’-tee). In that study and others like it that Egan’s lab has published for other gall species, thousands of galls are collected across the southeastern United States, and everything that emerges from the galls is studied and cataloged. Egan describes the operation, which runs almost 365 days per year, as a “factory of discovery,” and A. gallifolia was one of many mysterious specimens it has produced.

“It did not match any of the previously described species, so we documented that in our 2016 paper and raised the hypothesis that this might be a new species,” Egan said. “A year or two went by and lead author Ernesto Samaca-Saenz contacted us and offered to collaborate on determining if this lineage was, in fact, a new species.”

Samaca-Saenz is a graduate student in the UNAM lab of Zaldivar-Riveron, an expert in Allorhogas and similar predatory wasps, which can be used by farmers as biological controls for crop pests. By the time Samaca-Saenz reached out about the 2016 paper, Egan’s lab had collected a number of other undescribed specimens that they also suspected were new species of Allorhogas. The email kicked off a close collaboration that has taken Rice researchers on a number of trips to Mexico to conduct field work and science outreach in remote village schools.

While the jury is still out on exactly how A. gallifolia interacts with other species on the galls of B. treatae, Egan said he, Samaca-Saenz and Zaldivar-Riveron have discussed a number of hypotheses.

“They think it could be phytophagous, meaning it’s actually just eating plant material, or that it could be a gallmaker itself,” Egan said. “But I’m convinced that these guys are predators of caterpillars that live inside the Belonocnema galls and eat the gall plant material. I think the larval wasp eats the caterpillar and then emerges out of the side of the gall.”

Egan said it will take more research to determine whether that hypothesis is true. If it is, it would be “a whole new way of life that would be unknown to this entire genus.” But it would not be the first — or the creepiest — interaction between species that Egan and his colleagues have found.

Take 2018’s discovery, for example, that the parasitic vine Cassytha filiformis (kuh-SIHTH’-uh FIHL’-ih-form-ihs), commonly known as the love vine, targets B. treatae galls and sucks so many nutrients out of them that it mummifies the larval wasps inside. That marked the first observation of a parasitic plant attacking a gall-forming wasp, but it could not match the ghoulish weirdness of the crypt-keeper wasp they discovered in 2017.

Euderus set (yoo-DEHR’-uhs SEHT’) is so diabolical that it was named for Set, the Egyptian god who trapped, murdered and dismembered his brother in a crypt. E. set — which Egan discovered on a family vacation in Florida and later found on a tree in his front yard — lays its egg inside the gall of the Bassettia pallida (buh-SEHT’-eeuh PAL’-ih-duh) wasp. Both eggs hatch and the larvae live side by side, maturing inside the gall. When the pair are large enough to emerge as adults, E. set manipulates its step-sibling into trying to escape before its emergence hole is finished. When B. pallida’s head gets stuck in the undersized hole, E. set begins eating. Starting from the tail, it devours a tunnel through its roommate, emerging through the head to take its place in the world outside.

There are more than 1,400 known species of gall-forming wasps, and Egan said he believes there are many more species waiting to be discovered in their plant/bug-eat-bug-eat-plant corner of the world.

“We’ve focused on the gall former Belonocnema a lot, and that’s where we initially found this first Allorhogas,” he said. “When we reared out that entire community and tried to key out each of the members, A. gallifolia was one of those things where we could not narrow it down to a species. Nothing fit the description.

“Twenty-five percent of all the things we reared out of Belonocnema fit that same type of uncertainty,” Egan said. “We can’t find anything that’s ever been described like them before. Some of those, including one I have on my desk right now, are also mostly likely new species. Considering there are 90 oak species in the United States, and I have studied only three of them, this is the tip of the biodiversity iceberg.”

The research was supported by the UNAM Directorate General for Academic Personnel Affairs (IN201119) and the UNAM General Directorate of Computing and Information and Communication Technologies (LANCADUNAM-DGTIC-339).