Soul singer Percy Sledge dies

This music video from the USA is called Percy Sledge – When a Man Loves a Woman.

From the BBC today:

Soul singer Percy Sledge dies aged 73

US soul singer Percy Sledge, famed for his song When a Man Loves a Woman, has died aged 73.

Steve Green from talent agency Artists International Management Inc confirmed to the BBC that he died at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday.

“He was one of my first acts, he was a terrific person and you don’t find that in this business very often,” said Green. “He was truly a standout.”

Sledge had surgery for liver cancer in January 2014 but soon resumed touring.

Sledge’s debut single When a Man Loves a Woman reached the top 10 twice in the UK and topped the US Billboard chart for two weeks in 1966, when it also got to number four in the UK chart.

During an interview for the the 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals, he recalled his first recording of it.

“When I came into the studio, I was shaking like a leaf. I was scared,” he said, adding that it was the “same melody that I sang when I was out in the fields. I just wailed out in the woods and let the echo come back to me”
‘Signed away the rights’

He told BBC Radio 6 Music‘s Craig Charles in a 2011 interview that he came up with the melody for When A Man Loves A Woman, but signed away the rights of the song to Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, because “I didn’t know any better”.

“I had the melody in my mind so I gave that song to them,” he said, adding they then created the lyrics.

Sledge did not contest the agreement, saying: “I felt like if God fixed it in my mouth to give it to them I won’t change anything about it.

“I’m satisfied with what I wrote but I cut my kids out of so much because I gave it to someone else – I just wasn’t thinking.”

BBC Radio 2 DJ Tony Blackburn was among those paying tribute on Twitter, and said: “Sad to hear that Percy Sledge has died. I wonder how many times I’ve played When A Man Loves A Woman. RIP.”

Musician Bootsy Collins paid tribute on his Facebook page with the words: “Just lost another legend funkateers, Mr Percy Sledge.”

Paul Gambacini told the BBC that When a Man Loves a Woman was “one of the all time classic songs”.

“This was the essence of soul, dripping with feeling. It never had a time, it was in a world of its own, so it was timeless,” he added.

The track reached number two when it was re-released in the UK in 1987 after appearing in Oliver Stone’s film Platoon, and was featured in several other films such as The Big Chill, The Crying Game and a 1994 Meg Ryan drama named after the song itself. It was also the soundtrack to a Levis advert in 1987.

‘Transcendent moment’

It was the first US number one recorded at Alabama’s Muscle Shoals studio, where Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones would later record.

The track also scored a first gold disc for Atlantic Records, whose executive Jerry Wexler called the song “a transcendent moment” and “a holy love hymn.”

It remained Sledge’s biggest hit and helped sustain a long touring career in the US, Europe and South Africa, averaging 100 performances a year. His other chart successes included Warm and Tender Love, It Tears Me Up and Take Time to Know Her.

The song found new life in 1991 when Michael Bolton’s cover of the song topped the Billboard chart.

Before his music career, Sledge worked in the cotton fields around his hometown of Leighton in northwest Alabama, before taking a job as a hospital nurse in the early 1960s.

A patient heard him singing while he worked and recommended him to record producer Quin Ivy.

The singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 and was a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife and children.

See also here.

Saudi monarch wages war, Yemeni children suffer

This video from the USA is called Yemen Does Not Need Another War: Report from Sana’a as Saudi Attack Enters Second Day.

From Associated Press:

Unicef reveals growing humanitarian cost of Yemen conflict

At least 74 children killed and 100,000 left homes since Saudi-led air air strikes began against Houthi rebels, says UN agency

Tuesday 7 April 2015 13.41 BST

More than 100,000 people in Yemen have left their homes in search of safety and at least 74 children have been killed since fighting in the country intensified almost two weeks ago, according to the UN children’s agency.

Unicef said the violence had disrupted water supplies in areas of southern Yemen and sewage was overflowing in some areas, raising the risk of disease.

Hospitals with limited supplies were struggling to treat large numbers of wounded people and some medical facilities had come under attack, with at least three health workers, including an ambulance driver, having been killed.

Children were especially vulnerable, said Unicef’s Yemen representative, Julien Harneis.

“They are being killed, maimed and forced to flee their homes, their health threatened and their education interrupted,” Harneis said in a statement, released on Monday in Amman, Jordan.

The agency said at least 74 children had been killed and 44 wounded since 26 March, when a Saudi-led air campaign began against Shia rebels and their allies. …

“Conditions are very dangerous right now,” Unicef’s Dr Gamila Hibatullah was quoted as saying in Aden. “Hospitals are overflowing, and even ambulances have been hijacked.”

Water systems had been repeatedly damaged in three southern systems, including Aden, the agency said, adding that it was providing fuel for pumping water. It said that in other southern areas, there were reports of water accumulating in the streets and sewage overflowing.

This 26 March 2015 video says about itself:

Yemen: Injured children arrive in hospital amid Saudi-led carnage.

By Thomas Gaist:

Preparing ground invasion of Yemen, Saudi military to raze some 100 border towns

7 April 2015

Saudi Arabian military forces participating in the US-backed war against Yemen will raze to the ground nearly 100 villages along the Yemen-Saudi border, according to reports in Saudi media Monday.

The mass demolitions are part of the preparations by Saudi Arabia to expand its ongoing air campaign into a full-scale ground invasion of its impoverished neighbor to the south. Saturday marked the 11th day of a Saudi-led bombing campaign pounding the country, with concentrated strikes against targets around Aden and the northern city of Saada.

Strikes launched by the Saudis and allied forces from the Persian Gulf monarchies, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, as well as from Jordan, Egypt and Sudan, continued to pound the capital of Sanaa over the weekend.

Saudi special forces are already on the ground inside Yemen, according to some reports. Saudi Arabia demanded this weekend that Pakistan join the “Arab coalition” and supply military aid in advance of a ground invasion.

At least 500 are dead and 1,700 wounded as a result of the fighting that has raged across the Saudi-Yemeni border and throughout the interior of the country. The streets of Aden are “strewn with dead bodies,” and freshly wounded residents are flooding local medical centers, according to the Red Cross. Nearly 200 civilians have been killed and more than 1,200 wounded in Aden in the past 10 days, according to a local health official cited by the BBC.

The Red Cross has called for a 24-hour “humanitarian pause” in the fighting and the Saudi blockade of Yemen, which the agency said was necessary to prevent further mass deaths of civilians.

The breakdown of Yemen’s sanitation infrastructure under the impact of the Saudi air war threatens a devastating public health crisis, experts warn. Medical programs, including immunization programs for children, have been disrupted by severe supply shortages. Much of Aden has been without water and electricity for days, according to Reuters.

“Many, many” children have been killed since the Saudi-led assault began, according to UNICEF’s Yemen representative. Reports are emerging of mass recruitment of children into rival militias.

There is a widespread understanding that Yemen is being rapidly transformed into a slaughterhouse. Numerous governments scrambled to evacuate their citizens from Yemen over the weekend, in anticipation of further escalation of the violence, with Pakistan evacuating some 170 nationals by air on this weekend, Algeria evacuating 160, Jordan 150, Egypt 380, India 440, and Turkey rescuing some 230 of its nationals.

As Yemen’s cities and towns face bombardment from the air, the country is being torn apart by clashes between warring tribal-based militias that have stepped into the void produced by the collapse of the US puppet government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Installed by the US and Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council in early 2012, Hadi is currently in exile in Saudi Arabia after being deposed at gunpoint by Houthi forces in the opening weeks of 2015.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and other sectarian militant forces, meanwhile, have expanded their control over substantial areas, seizing entire towns and springing hundreds of imprisoned fighters from government jails.

The Houthi rebels now control territory in the northwest and the south and along the strategically critical western coastline, and are engaged in a chaotic civil war with AQAP fighters and other militant groups that effectively control areas along the southern coast.

AQAP captured the city of al Mukalla on Friday, forcing government forces to flee their fortifications and abandon their US-made weapons. It is becoming clear that the group is seen by Saudi Arabia as a critical fighting force against the Houthis.

Previously, AQAP’s activities were invoked as the pretext for US intervention and military presence in Yemen, with AQAP constituting one of the main targets of Washington’s drone warfare. Now, the group may soon be fighting on behalf of the Saudi coalition, and thus effectively on behalf of Washington.

The Saudi monarchy seeks to maintain power over the impoverished Saudi and Middle Eastern working classes through a counterrevolutionary and sectarian strategy that includes the violent suppression of Shia minorities both inside and along its borders, making the extreme-right Sunni militants of AQAP all the more attractive as potential allies against the Iran-linked Houthis.

Nonetheless, the efforts of Western media to try to portray the conflict as driven primarily by a sectarian struggle of Sunni versus Shia are calculated to cover over the fundamental responsibility of the US government and ruling elite for the rising tide of war in Yemen and throughout the broader region.

Far from the product of medieval religious disputes, as the self-proclaimed pundits of the US media establishment contend, the accelerating destruction of Yemen has been waged in close coordination with the US and with direct US logistical support and weaponry and flows directly from the efforts of US imperialism to maintain political domination over the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf through endless wars and militarist conspiracies.

In an analysis posted in late March, “America, Saudi Arabia, and the Strategic Importance of Yemen,” Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) drew out the geopolitical considerations behind the war against Yemen.

Because the new Yemen war involves essential US global interests, the Pentagon must prepare to provide direct “combat support” for the Saudi-led war, Cordesman argued.

“US strategic interests require a broad level of stability in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula,” the CSIS chief, who serves as unofficial foreign policy advisor to the White House, noted.

“Yemen is of major strategic importance to the United States, as is the broader stability of Saudi Arabia and all of the Arab Gulf states. For all of the talk of U.S. energy ‘independence,’ the reality remains very different. The increase in petroleum and alternative fuels outside the Gulf has not changed its vital strategic importance to the global and U.S. economy,” Cordesman wrote.

Cordesman’s point is that historic oil surpluses do not free the US from the need to control the strategic reserves and shipping channels of the region, levers of global power that are essential to US domination over the main European and Asian powers.

Yemen’s proximity to two of the most important commercial waterways on the planet, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Straits of Hormuz, make it a linchpin of US regional strategy. Traffic exiting the Persian Gulf must cross through Bab el-Mandeb, which is less than 20 miles across with only two shipping lanes at its narrowest point, before reaching the Suez Canal and SUMED pipeline.

“The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is a chokepoint between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, and it is a strategic link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean,” Cordesman noted.

Control over even small portions of Yemen by hostile forces could threaten key US allied regimes in Riyadh and Cairo, calling into question both “the economic stability of [the US-backed military dictatorship in] Egypt,” and “the security of Saudi Arabia’s key port at Jeddah and major petroleum export facility outside the Gulf,” Cordesman noted.

Snakebite antivenom discovery in American opossums

This video from the USA says about itself:

Virginia Opossum Family

12 July 2012

A short video clip of a Virginia Opossum family in wildlife rehabilitation at Evelyn’s Wildlife Refuge, Virginia Beach, VA. The mother Opossum came into care with an eye injury and front feet injuries.

From the East County Magazine in the USA:


By Miriam Raftery

April 5, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – Opossums aren’t typically thought of as a powerhouse in the animal kingdom. The term “playing possum” after all refers to one way opossums react to predators –by playing dead. But it turns out that opossums have a peptide that gives them a natural immunity to snakebites and other toxins – and now scientists are working to harness it to create anti-venoms.

Scientists have isolated the peptide, and in lab tests with mice exposed to venom, those opossum peptides proved effective against Western diamondback rattlers and Russell’s vipers from Pakistan. The results offer hope that a universal antivenom could be developed to counter the poisonous effects of snakebites from multiple species, National Geographic reports.

That’s big news, since worldwide, about 421,000 poisonous snake bites occur each year, and 20,000 deaths result, according to International Society on Toxicology. Human testing is next on the horizon.

Moreover, Newswise reporters, scientists found they could reproduce the peptide from E-coli bacteria, meaning it can be replicated cheaply and easily—no opossums need to be harmed in the process. Unlike standard snakebite anti-venoms, this one has thus far produced no serious side effects such as wheezing, rash or rapid heartbeat.

The anti-venom may even prove effective against other forms of toxins, since opossums also have a natural resistance to poisonous scorpions and some forms of toxic plants as well.

The results were presented in late March at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Denver.

The opossum, which resembles a large rat, is a marsupial tracing its origins back 65 million years, around the time dinosaurs went extinct. But only now have we learned a key secret to its survival against threats that kill many other animals.

So the next time you see a lowly opossum hanging by its tail from a fence or waddling across a road, remember – this ancient animal just may hold the key to saving your life if you’re ever bitten by a snake.