NASA sends woman to moon, which woman?


This 2018 video says about itself:

Moon 101 | National Geographic

What is the moon made of, and how did it form? Learn about the moon’s violent origins, how its phases shaped the earliest calendars, and how humans first explored Earth’s only natural satellite half a century ago.

NASA PLANNING TO SEND FIRST WOMAN TO THE MOON IN 2024 NASA revealed this week that it plans to send a woman to the moon for the first time in 2024. The Artemis Plan describes the first lunar mission since 1972 aimed at sending a man and the first woman to Earth’s nearest neighbor. “Sending human explorers 250,000 miles to the Moon, then 140 million miles to Mars, requires a bold vision, effective program management, funding for modern systems development and mission operations, and support from all corners of our great nation as well as our partners across the globe,” NASA said in the plan’s introduction. [HuffPost]

So, now the question is: Which woman will be sent to the moon? Some people in the USA might suggest: Ann Coulter, provided it is a one-way ticket.

And which man? Donald Trump, same condition?

Climate change threatens Komodo dragons


This 2019 video says about itself:

The Raw Nature crew observe Komodo dragons hunting in the wild during a visit to Rincah Island in Indonesia. They then demonstrate the effect of the powerful Komodo venom on a piece of raw meat.

From the University of Adelaide in Australia:

Climate change threatens Komodo dragons

September 17, 2020

The world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, could be driven to extinction by climate change unless significant measures to intervene are taken soon.

A new international study, led by the University of Adelaide and Deakin University, has found that the impact of both global warming and sea-level rise threatens the extinction of Komodo dragons, which already have restricted habitats, and this must be better incorporated into conservation strategies.

“Climate change is likely to cause a sharp decline in the availability of habitat for Komodo dragons, severely reducing their abundance in a matter of decades,” says lead author Dr Alice Jones from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences. “Our models predict local extinction on three of the five island habitats where Komodo dragons are found today.”

The Komodo dragon, Varanus komodoensis, is the world’s most iconic lizard species which has existed on Earth for more than a million years, but only an estimated 4000 individuals survive in the wild. They are endemic to five islands in southeast Indonesia: Komodo, Rinca, Nusa Kode and Gili Motang which are part of Komodo National Park, and Flores, the fifth and largest island which has three nature reserves.

“Current-day conservation strategies are not enough to avoid species decline in the face of climate change. This is because climate change will compound the negative effects of already small, isolated populations,” says Dr Jones.

“Interventions such as establishing new reserves in areas that are predicted to sustain high-quality habitats in the future, despite global warming, could work to lessen the effects of climate change on Komodo dragons.

This study, which is published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, is the result of many years of fieldwork on the ecology and conservation status of Komodo dragons.

“Using this data and knowledge in conservation models has provided a rare opportunity to understand climate change impacts on Indonesia’s exceptional but highly vulnerable biodiversity,” says co-author Dr Tim Jessop, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University.

Importantly, the research project involved close collaboration with the Komodo National Park and the Eastern Lesser Sunda Cen¬tral Bureau for Conservation of Natural Resources.

“The severity and extent of human actions impacting Komodo dragon populations, especially on Flores Island, are only just being realised,” says co-author Deni Purwandana, Coordinator of the Komodo Survival Program.

“Having an insight into future impacts of climate change provides new possibilities to work with conservation agencies and local communities to find on-ground solutions that will limit climate and other threats to Komodo dragons and their habitats.”

The researchers say climate-change-informed decisions should be a common part of conservation practice.

“Our conservation models show that Komodo dragons on two protected large islands are less vulnerable to climate change. However, even these island habitats might not provide an adequate insurance policy for the survival of the species,” says Associate Professor Damien Fordham from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute.

“Conservation managers in coming decades may need to consider translocating animals to sites where Komodo dragons have not been found for many decades. This scenario can be tested easily using our approach.

“Our research shows that without taking immediate action to mitigate climatic change, we risk committing many range-restricted species like Komodo dragons to extinction.”

Violence encouraged in Donald Trump’s USA


This 22 September 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Florida [ruled by Trump’s Republican party] To Legalize Murdering Protesters

This is not an exaggeration. John Iadarola and Emma Vigeland break it down on The Damage Report.

“The American Civil Liberties Union joined Florida Democrats on Monday in condemning a proposed bill by Gov. Ron DeSantis that would newly classify certain forms of protest as felonies and impose harsh penalties on some protesters.

Flanked by Republican lawmakers and law enforcement officials at an afternoon press conference in Winter Haven, DeSantis referred to Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon as he announced the proposed legislation.

“I look at what goes on in Portland. They’ll have people, they’ll arrest them,” DeSantis said. “They’re all scraggly-looking Antifa-types. They get their mugshot taken, then they get released. It’s like a carousel; on and on it goes.”

“That’s not going to happen in here in Florida,” the governor vowed.”

Read more here.

TRUMP CELEBRATES VIOLENCE AGAINST JOURNALISTS Trump celebrated violence against journalists during a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, mocking a reporter who was injured covering this summer’s racial injustice demonstrations and calling the act “actually a beautiful sight.” The president’s comments are the latest of many attacks on the free press but an overt endorsement of members of the media coming under attack. Trump also recounted racial justice demonstrations in Minneapolis following the police killing of George Floyd, saying the city had been “cured” after National Guard troops were deployed. [HuffPost]

World’s oldest, dinosaur age, animal sperm discovery


This 17 September 2020 video says about itself:

100 Million-Year-Old Sperm Is The Oldest Ever Found. And It’s Giant

The oldest known sperm in the world has been discovered, locked in a piece of amber that solidified when behemoths like Spinosaurus dominated the Earth.

From Queen Mary University of London in England:

World’s oldest animal sperm found in tiny crustaceans trapped in Myanmar amber

September 16, 2020

An international collaboration between researchers at Queen Mary University of London and the Chinese Academy of Science in Nanjing has led to the discovery of world’s oldest animal sperm inside a tiny crustacean trapped in amber around 100 million years ago in Myanmar.

The research team, led by Dr He Wang of the Chinese Academy of Science in Nanjing, found the sperm in a new species of crustacean they named Myanmarcypris hui. They predict that the animals had sex just before their entrapment in the piece of amber (tree resin), which formed in the Cretaceous period.

Fossilised sperm are exceptionally rare; previously the oldest known examples were only 17 million years old. Myanmarcypris hui is an ostracod, a kind of crustacean that has existed for 500 million years and lives in all kinds of aquatic environments from deep oceans to lakes and rivers. Their fossil shells are common and abundant but finding specimens preserved in ancient amber with their appendages and internal organs intact provides a rare and exciting opportunity to learn more about their evolution.

Professor Dave Horne, Professor of Micropalaeontology at Queen Mary University of London said: “Analyses of fossil ostracod shells are hugely informative about past environments and climates, as well as shedding light on evolutionary puzzles, but exceptional occurrences of fossilised soft parts like this result in remarkable advances in our understanding.”

During the Cretaceous period in what is now Myanmar, the ostracods were probably living in a coastal lagoon fringed by trees where they became trapped in a blob of tree resin. The Kachin amber of Myanmar has previously yielded outstanding finds including frogs, snakes and a feathered dinosaur tail. Bo Wang, also of the Chinese Academy of Science in Nanjing added: “Hundreds of new species have been described in the past five years, and many of them have made evolutionary biologists re-consider long-standing hypotheses on how certain lineages developed and how ecological relationships evolved.”

The study, published in Royal Society Proceedings B, also has implications for understanding the evolutionary history of an unusual mode of sexual reproduction involving “giant sperm.”

The new ostracod finds may be extremely small but in one sense they are giants. Males of most animals (including humans) typically produce tens of millions of really small sperm in very large quantities, but there are exceptions. Some tiny fruit flies (insects) and ostracods (crustaceans) are famous for investing in quality rather than quantity: relatively small numbers of “giant” sperm that are many times longer than the animal itself, a by-product of evolutionary competition for reproductive success. The new discovery is not only by far the oldest example of fossil sperm ever found but also shows that these ostracods had already evolved giant sperm, and specially-adapted organs to transfer them from male to female, 100 million years ago.

Each ostracod is less than a millimetre long. Using X-ray microscopy the team made computer-aided 3-D reconstructions of the ostracods embedded in the amber, revealing incredible detail. “The results were amazing — not only did we find their tiny appendages to be preserved inside their shells, we could also see their reproductive organs,” added He Wang. “But when we identified the sperm inside the female, and knowing the age of the amber, it was one of those special Eureka-moments in a researcher’s life.”

Wang’s team found adult males and females but it was a female specimen that contained the sperm, indicating that it must have had sex shortly before becoming trapped in the amber. The reconstructions also revealed the distinctive muscular sperm pumps and penises (two of each) that male ostracods use to inseminate the females, who store them in bag-like receptacles until eggs are ready to be fertilised.

Such extensive adaptation raises the question of whether reproduction with giant sperms can be an evolutionarily-stable character. “To show that using giant sperms in reproduction is not an extinction-doomed extravagance of evolution, but a serious long-term advantage for the survival of a species, we need to know when they first appeared” says co-author Dr Renate Matzke-Karasz of Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich.

This new evidence of the persistence of reproduction with giant sperm for a hundred million years shows it to be a highly successful reproductive strategy that evolved only once in this group — quite impressive for a trait that demands such a substantial investment from both males and females, especially when you consider that many ostracods can reproduce asexually, without needing males at all. “Sexual reproduction with giant sperm must be very advantageous” says Matzke-Karasz.

COVID-19 disaster news update


This 22 September 2020 video says about itself:

Trump mocks 200,000 dead from coronavirus. John Iadarola and Emma Vigeland break it down on The Damage Report.

THE PLAGUE STATES OF AMERICA: 200,000 DEAD More than 200,000 people have now died from the coronavirus in the United States. The U.S. reached the grim pandemic milestone on Tuesday — amid growing concerns among medical professionals of a potential “perfect storm” for both COVID-19 and influenza infections as temperatures begin to dip in the Western Hemisphere. Doctors have been advising that adults and children older than 6 months get a flu vaccine as soon as possible to reduce the risk of catching the flu and to reduce the severity of symptoms if a person does get infected. [HuffPost]

You can get COVID-19 and flu at the same time – and it can be deadly.

PENTAGON GAVE $1 BILLION IN PANDEMIC AID TO DEFENSE CONTRACTORS In March, when Congress allocated $1 billion dollars from its first coronavirus relief package to go to the U.S. Department of Defense, the expectation was that the funds would be spent on essential medical supplies needed for the department to help combat the deadly disease. At the time ― and even now ― the United States was facing a shortage of critical items like N95 masks. A new Washington Post report, however, reveals the Trump administration gave a majority of the Pentagon’s billion-dollar coronavirus aid package to defense contractors to make things like Army uniforms, body armor and jet engine parts. [HuffPost]

How to politely decline social invitations in the pandemic.

‘Significant concern’ about COVID-19 rise in largely Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in New York City.

Boris Johnson’s early Christmas present to Britain: Six months of coronavirus gloom.

Young tortoises are attracted to faces


This video says about itself:

Differentiating Mediterranean Tortoises

Featuring the Marginated tortoise (Testudo marginata), the Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca) and the Hermann’s tortoises (Testudo hermanni). Chris Leone shows how to properly tell one from the other.

From Queen Mary University of London in England:

Tortoise hatchlings are attracted to faces from birth

September 16, 2020

Tortoises are born with a natural preference for faces, according to new research from scientists at Queen Mary University of London, the University of Trento and the Fondazione Museo Civico Rovereto.

The study provides the first evidence of the tendency for solitary animals to approach face-like shapes at the beginning of life, a preference only previously observed in social species such as human babies, chicks and monkeys.

The researchers tested the reactions of hatchlings from five different species of tortoise to different patterned stimuli, made up of a series of blobs. They found that the tortoises consistently moved to areas with the ‘face-like’ configuration — containing three blobs arranged in an upside-down triangle shape.

The findings suggest that this early behaviour likely evolved in the common ancestors of mammals, reptiles and birds more than 300 million years ago.

Dr Elisabetta Versace, lead author of the study from Queen Mary University of London, said: “Researchers have previously observed this spontaneous attraction to faces in social animals such as humans, monkeys and chicks. Because all these species require parental care, it was thought this early adaptation was important for helping young animals respond to their parents or other members of the same species. However, now we have shown that this behaviour is also found in solitary tortoise hatchlings, suggesting it may have evolved for another reason.”

Tortoises were hatched and kept away from any animal or human faces from birth until the start of the test. Each animal was then placed in the middle of a rectangular space divided into four areas containing either a face-like or control stimuli. The researchers analysed the preference of hatchlings for face-like stimuli by recording the first area the animal entered during the experimental period.

Unlike birds and mammals, tortoises are solitary species — they have no post-hatching parental care and do not form social groups as adults. Previous research has even shown that tortoise hatchlings ignore or avoid members of the same species in early life.

Silvia Damini from the University of Trento, said: “It is possible that this preference for face-like stimuli enhances learning from living animals in both social and solitary species from the early stages of life. In fact, other animals can provide information on important environmental factors, such as the availability of resources.”

Gionata Stancher, Head of the Tortoise Sanctuary Sperimentarea (Fondazione Museo Civico Rovereto, Italy) where the experiments were conducted, said: “Being able to recognise and respond to cues associated with other living animals could help young animals acquire information vital for their survival.”

British government conspired against Allende in Chile


A crowd of people marching to support the election of Salvador Allende for president in Santiago, Chile, in 1964

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

Documents reveal British government’s covert role in bringing down Allende

Harold Wilson’s Labour government helped the US to meddle in the 1964 and 1970 elections, investigative website Declassified UK reveals

THE British government interfered in two elections in Chile to prevent socialist leader Salvador Allende winning power, declassified Foreign Office papers have revealed.

The documents unveil for the first time Britain’s covert role in preparing the ground for General Augusto Pinochet’s bloody military coup in 1973, according to a report published today by investigative website Declassified UK.

They show that Harold Wilson’s Labour government

Officially, Labour. But helping the far right in Chile.

helped the US to meddle in the 1964 and 1970 elections in an effort to prevent Mr Allende, Chile’s leading socialist, from coming to power.

A secret unit within the Foreign Office called the information research department (IRD) launched a propaganda offensive to smear Mr Allende and lend legitimacy to his main opponent, Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei.

The socialist candidate lost to Mr Frei in 1964 but won the 1970 election.

The report states that the Labour government considered Mr Frei’s election success in 1964 a “landmark victory”, with a minister at the time describing it as a “victory against the communists to press home.”

As support for Mr Allende grew in the run-up to the 1970 election, the Foreign Office escalated its propaganda offensive, deploying a specialist field officer to Santiago who was tasked with thwarting a socialist victory.

A few weeks before voters went to the polls, an IRD officer told British ambassador David Hildyard that “the IRD operation … has been concentrating on preventing an extreme-left alliance from gaining power in the 1970 presidential elections.”

The Chilean military’s overthrow of Allende’s government – with US support – ushered in 17 years of brutal dictatorship under Gen Pinochet, during which 40,000 people were tortured, 3,200 killed or “disappeared” and more than 200,000 forced into exile.

New spider species discovered in Colombia


This 21 September 2020 video is called New species of spider discovered – Ocrepeira klamt.

From the Universität Bayreuth in Germany:

A new species of spider

September 16, 2020

During a research stay in the highlands of Colombia conducted as part of her doctorate, Charlotte Hopfe, PhD student under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheibel at the Biomaterials research group at the University of Bayreuth, has discovered and zoologically described a new species of spider. The previously unknown arachnids are native to the central cordillera, not far from the Pacific coast, at an altitude of over 3,500 meters above sea-level. In the magazine PLOS ONE, the scientist from Bayreuth presents the spider she has called Ocrepeira klamt.

“I chose the zoological name Ocrepeira klamt in honour of Ulrike Klamt, my German teacher at high school. The enthusiasm with which she pursues her profession and the interest she shows in her students and in literature are an inspiration to me,” says Charlotte Hopfe.

The cordillera in Colombia is famous for its unusually large variety of species. The habitats of these species are distributed at altitudes with very different climatic conditions, vegetation, and ecosystems. The Bayreuth researcher has collected and zoologically determined specimens of more than 100 species of spider in these habitats. In doing so, she was mainly in a region that has only been accessible to researchers since the end of civil war in Colombia in 2016. She discovered the new spider, which differs from related species in the striking structure of its reproductive organs, at altitudes of over 3,500 meters above sea-level. In the identification of this and many other spider specimens, Hopfe received valuable support from researchers at Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia, with which the University of Bayreuth has a research cooperation. Colombia has been identified as a priority country in the internationalization strategy of the University of Bayreuth, which is why it maintains close connections with several Colombian universities.

The study of spiders from regions of such various huge climatic and ecological variety may also offer a chance to find answers to two as yet unexplored questions. It is not yet known whether temperatures, precipitation, or other climatic factors influence the evolution of spiders, or the properties of their silk. For example, is the proportion of species with extremely elastic silk in the lowland rainforest higher than in the semi-desert? And it is also still unclear whether the properties of the silk produced by a species of spider are modified by climatic factors. Would a spider living in the high mountains, such as Ocrepeira klamt, produce the same silk if it were native to a much lower region of the cordillera? The answer to these questions could provide important clues as to the conditions under which unusual spider silks develop.

Along similar lines, it would also be interesting to explore whether there are spider silk proteins which, due to their properties, are even more suitable for certain applications in biomedicine and biotechnology than silk proteins currently known. “The greater the variety of spider silks whose structures and properties we know, the greater the potential to optimize existing biomaterials and to develop new types of biomaterials on the basis of silk proteins,” Hopfe explains.

Charlotte Hopfe’s research was funded by the German Academic Exchange Service and the German Academic Scholarship Foundation.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter, transphobia, Rolling Stones


British author J.K. Rowling, well-known for her Harry Potter books, recently came also in the news because of transphobic views.

This 16 September 2020 musical parody video from Britain says about itself:

The Rowling Stones – You Can’t Ever Be What You Want

J. K. Rowling’s Rolling Stones tribute band.