Rattlesnakes of Arizona, USA

This 15 March 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

The Desert of Rattlesnakes – snake documentary from Arizona by Living Zoology

North America was once an uninhabited wilderness where huge herds of big animals roamed. It was only about 15 thousand years ago when the Columbian mammoths, bisons, sabretooth cats and giant ground sloths lived here. After that, the climate change and human hunters caused the extinction of most of the big mammals. Only a few species survived in the harsh deserts of Southwestern USA and Northern Mexico until recent days. Today the deserts are not shaking under the hoofs of thousands of herbivores, but some animals which lived in that age are still present here. It is estimated that around 25 million years ago one particular group of vipers started to thrive in North America and they still dominate this continent. The rattlesnakes. After millions of years of evolution, they attained body structures which allowed them to become the most successful venomous snakes in this part of the world.

Rattlesnakes in Arizona, USA

This 8 February 2020 video says about itself:

Rattlesnakes of Arizona – 9 species of venomous pit vipers from Sonoran desert

Living Zoology team was filming rattlesnakes in Southwestern USA and found 72 individuals of 9 species! This video contains chosen scenes from the documentary The Desert of Rattlesnakes. It will be posted online as soon as possible in full length.

Arizona, USA ants decapitate their queen

This 4 November 2019 video, recorded in Arizona, USA says about itself:

Bloodthirsty Ants Decapitate Queen | Empire Of The Desert Ants | BBC Earth

As the colony matures, the original Queen seizes an opportunity to manipulate her political rivals. She initiates a vicious and deadly coup, wiping out the competition both outside and inside the nest.

An ant the size of a lion isn’t as far-fetched as you would think. From as small as a sesame seed to the size of a big cat, ants come in all sizes — in augmented reality, at least. Augmented reality provides an interactive experience of the ‘real world’ with the help of computer-generated images viewed through a screen. It’s a technology often used in videogames to meld computer-generated images with reality. Now researchers in the Biodiversity and Biocomplexity Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have used this high tech approach to create the first ever augmented reality experience that pairs with a taxonomic research paper. The research, published in Insect Systematics and Diversity, presents six new species of Strumigenys ants, also known as miniature trap-jaw ants, from Fiji: here.

Through early adulthood, exposure to new experiences — like learning to drive a car or memorizing information for an exam — triggers change in the human brain, re-wiring neural pathways to imprint memories and modify behavior. Similar to humans, the behavior of Florida carpenter ants is not set in stone — their roles, whether it is protecting the colony or foraging for food, are determined by signals from the physical and social environment early in their life. But questions remain about how long they are vulnerable to epigenetic changes and what pathways govern social behavior in ants: here.

‘Mass grave of immigrants, Pentagon covers up’

This 15 August video from the USA says about itself:

Military Cover-Up? Hundreds of Migrants Feared Dead in Mass Grave at Arizona Bombing Range

As the Trump administration continues an immigration crackdown at the border, asylum seekers are being told to wait for days or weeks on end before being allowed entry into the United States.

This practice is leading more and more immigrants to risk their lives on dangerous journeys through the desert to enter the country instead, says investigative reporter John Carlos Frey. We speak with the Marshall Project reporter about the Barry Goldwater bombing range in Arizona, a vast swath of land across the border from Nogales, Mexico. The area is part of an incredibly dangerous migrant path, but aid workers are not allowed access to the site. Frey estimates hundreds of immigrants could have died there in recent years but that their bodies have not been recovered.

The brutality of borders. Mass grave revealed at Arizona Air Force bombing range. By Norisa Diaz, 18 August 2018.

Iraq war torture profiteers’ Arizona secret prison for immigrant children

Protesters place a large inflatable balloon in the likeness of President Donald Trump dressed in a Ku Klux Klan sheet across the street from Southwest Key Campbell, a private jail for children that have been separated from their parents, in Phoenix, Arizona, last week

This photo from the USA shows protesters placing a large inflatable balloon in the likeness of President Donald Trump dressed in a Ku Klux Klan sheet across the street from Southwest Key Campbell, a private jail for children that have been separated from their parents, in Phoenix, Arizona, last week.

In the same city of Phoenix, Arizona there is at least one other, even more sinister, private prison for children whose ‘crime’ is immigrating.

By Meenakshi Jagadeesan in the USA:

Iraq war contractor ran US detention centre for immigrant children

12 July 2018

The “war on terror” has now come home in the form of the US government’s war against immigrants. A report released last week by Reveal, the website of the Center for Investigative Reporting, exposed the existence of a detention facility for immigrant children run by private defense contractor MVM.

The children were held in a large, vacant office building close to downtown Phoenix, Arizona. MVM, a Virginia-based company founded by three former Secret Service agents, at one time supplied guards for CIA-run prisons in Iraq.

Since 2014, the company has received contracts worth nearly $248 million, ostensibly to transport immigrant children. However, cell phone video footage recorded by concerned neighbors shows that MVM actually detained children in the Phoenix office building during the three weeks when the Trump administration was openly pursuing a policy of separately detaining all children from families arrested at the US-Mexico border.

Lianna Dunlap, a 25-year-old teaching assistant for children with autism, began recording the video footage when she saw white vans filled with dazed-looking children being unloaded into the formerly vacant office building for the second day in a row in early June. Some were so young, they had to be carried into the facility.

The few voices she could hear made it clear that the children were Spanish-speakers. Initially concerned that the children were being trafficked, Dunlap soon began to suspect that what she was witnessing was the detention of children who had been torn from their parents at the border under Trump’s “zero tolerance policy.”

Kristen Brown, another neighbor, also noticed that once brought in, children were never seen outside. Brown, herself a mother of an active two-year-old, told Reveal that she became worried about the lack of space and facilities for children inside the building. Brown then reached out to an on-site worker, telling him that “as a mom, it does not feel right … there are 40 kids in that place.” He added that she did not know what was being done with the children.

Concerned neighbors who tried to talk to the few on-site workers met with terse replies, if any. None saw the children outside the facility after they had been brought in. However, they did see food and water being brought in.

Three weeks after the first vans were sighted, Dunlap and others noticed the presence of five unmarked white vans to take the children away. The timing coincided with Trump’s executive order back-pedaling on family separations.

When her efforts to record the process were blocked by workers who moved the vans, Dunlap and her husband confronted them. They were told they could call the police, which they did. When the Phoenix police arrived at the building, they were informed that “MVM was contracted to perform that transport.”

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson Jennifer Elzea confirmed to Reveal the existence of the contract, stating that MVM “is authorized to use their office spaces as waiting areas for minors awaiting same-day transportation between US Customs and Border Protection custody and US Health and Human Services custody.” These spaces, Elzea claimed, provided the children “a more comfortable and private atmosphere” as compared to “public transportation hubs.”

MVM has claimed publicly that it does not operate “shelters or any other type of housing.” It is, however, a matter of public record that the company has held the lease for the Phoenix office building since shortly before Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement of family separations under the “zero tolerance” policy.

When confronted with the fact that neighbors had video footage of children being taken into that facility, MVM claimed that it was a “temporary holding place” for children being flown to other locations. A company spokesperson insisted that the space was intended to hold children for a few hours before flights, but admitted that she was unsure how long the children ended up staying.

Apart from the testimony of the neighbors, Reveal reporters spotted objects including an inflatable mattress, a box marked “baby shampoo” and a medication schedule that made it apparent the building was, in fact, being used as a detention facility.

The Phoenix office building is not listed among the official shelters operated by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Moreover, even if one took for good coin the claims of ICE and MVM about the Phoenix facility being merely a more comfortable transit center for children, it would not alter the fact that its use for such a purpose might be illegal under state law. The building, which has no kitchen, few toilets and only dark windows, is not licensed by Arizona to operate as a facility in which children are held or cared for. Such a license, as per the Arizona Department of Health Services, would require “qualified staff, outdoor play areas, age-appropriate toys, smoke detectors, a food establishment permit and other government health and safety inspections.”

Just last year, MVM was awarded a five-year contract worth $8 million by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency in charge of housing unaccompanied immigrant children, to “maintain readiness” and provide “emergency services.” Such services evidently include the running of unregulated and secret detention centers.

There is no reliable answer to the question of how many such facilities exist. The existence of this detention center was exposed only due to the actions of concerned citizens.

Brown, the neighbor who tried to obtain answers about the treatment of the children, was told by a worker that there was at least one other such facility run by the same company. MVM has refused to answer questions about how many such facilities it operates around the country.

Much like the CIA black sites operated under the veil of the “war on terror”, detention centers in this on-going war against immigrants operate outside of all accepted human rights norms and democratic oversight.

USA: The head of Health and Human Services has claimed that detaining immigrant kids is an act of “generosity.

Facebook censors Arizona teachers’ group

This Associated Press video from the USA says about itself:

Zuckerberg Grilled Over Facebook Role in Myanmar

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) over the company’s role in inciting violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. (April 10 2018)

By Jerry White in the USA:

Facebook censors Arizona educators’ rank-and-file committee group

7 May 2018

Facebook has disabled the Arizona Educators Rank and File Committee group, which was initiated by the WSWS Teacher Newsletter to provide a forum for teachers in Arizona and other states to communicate …

The social media company posted a notice Sunday morning saying, “Group Has Been Disabled” and alleging that “Arizona Educators Rank and File Committee has content that goes against our Community Standards on fraud and spam.” It continued, “Using misleading or inaccurate information to artificially collect likes, followers, or shares is not allowed. Contacting people for commercial purposes without their consent is also not allowed.”

In a letter of protest to Facebook, the WSWS wrote: “We have reviewed your community standards and we are not in violation of any of them. We demand to know in detail what specific standards you alleged we have violated.

“The Arizona Educators Rank and File Committee includes more than 100 members and has provided teachers in Arizona and other states a forum to discuss their fight to defend public education. On what grounds has our Facebook group been flagged and by whom? …

You have not substantiated any of the charges against us. …

“We demand that you immediately reverse your undemocratic decision and allow the Arizona Educators Rank and File group to continue to be a forum for teachers to communicate and coordinate their struggles.” …

Denouncing the threat to permanently delete the Arizona Educators Rank and File Committee group, a teacher from Phoenix, said, “As an international mode of free expression for individuals, groups, and communities, Facebook should not decide what is acceptable for communication, since we live in a country that values all points of view and where it is acceptable and encouraged to voice all opinions and biases. To do otherwise is a form of oppression which should not be tolerated in a democracy that protects free speech.

“I have begun to make connections by speaking and listening to members on this group. I am on board. Censorship cannot be tolerated or ignored. …

“As a history teacher”, another member of the rank-and-file group from Arizona said, “you don’t have to look too far to see how censorship has been used in this country to suppress critical thought, to [not] consider various points of view— and to control the masses into taking on a certain position. The fact that Facebook shut down this site only further reinforces my suspicions that there are some larger, very powerful structures at work here that are looking to dismantle public education.”

In the name of fighting “fake news”, “Russian meddling” and “divisiveness”, Facebook, Google and other technology monopolies, along with the Democratic Party and the military-intelligence apparatus, are engaging a sweeping attack on free speech on the Internet.

The WSWS has been a particular target because it has increasingly become the center of working-class opposition among autoworkers, teachers and other sections of the working class in the US and internationally. Teachers, all workers and all those opposed to this attack on democratic rights must demand that Facebook reverse its decision and stop its censorship.

Teachers ‘£4K worse off in Tory Britain’. Labour warns schools face crisis without government funding: here.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media company, is looking to open an “internet content control center” in the iconic Torre Glòries in the Spanish city of Barcelona. This modern-day iteration of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth will implement Facebook’s latest “community guidelines” to censor content on the social media platform under the catch-all phrase of “combating fake news”: here.

Facebook homophobic censorship: here.

No money for wages, schools, health care, but… Stock buybacks will hit $1 trillion in 2018: here.

Arizona Amazon workers support striking teachers

Alyssa and friend in Phoenix, USA

By David Moore and Adam McLean in Arizona, USA:

Phoenix Amazon workers to teachers: “Keep fighting!”

30 April 2018

The strike by thousands of teachers in Arizona is continuing into its third day today. Teachers are facing pressure from politicians, the media and the Arizona Education Association (AEA) to end the walkout before any of the underlying issues are resolved.

There is widespread support for teachers throughout the state, which must be organized and mobilized to fight to defend public education. A recent AP poll showed that 80 percent of Americans who heard of the teachers’ struggles across the country supported them.

Alyssa, a worker in Phoenix, had this message for teachers: “Please don’t quit! Do not quit on us, we need better schools. It shouldn’t have even gotten to the point of a strike, but if it had to come to this it’s good that you’re doing it now. This is about the entire country, we all need to step up our game. Our kids will be running the country one day, we might as well educate them.”

Republican Governer Doug Ducey announced a deal on Friday that he hopes will end the walkout. He is promising a 20 percent raise by 2020 and an inadequate $370 million more in education spending by 2023. Currently the state’s education funding is roughly $800 million per year below its 2008 levels. His proposal is essentially unchanged from what teachers rejected when they began the walkout. It depends for 85 percent of its funding on the Arizona economy booming over the next three years.

For its part, the AEA said that Monday was the last chance for the legislators to fix the situation. …

In opposition to all these forces, workers around Phoenix sounded a common refrain: “Keep Fighting.”

Reporters from the World Socialist Web Site spoke with Amazon workers coming off the afternoon shift.

Amazon worker Anitza

Anitza, an Amazon worker, urged teachers: “Don’t stop!” She added, “All these negative comments you’re getting, it doesn’t matter. Without education we’ve got nothing. Teachers aren’t just fighting for their pay, they’re fighting for what they provide us. I remember growing up, a lot of teachers would buy supplies for us with their own money.

“Not a lot of people are looking into being teachers anymore because they get paid so little, especially in our generation. None of us are thinking about being a teacher, they’re underappreciated. We know what they go through, we know how hard it can be, we were there. We put teachers through a lot, but we wouldn’t be able to read without them!

“Right now they’re funding prisons, when they should be funding students and education and teachers.”

One Amazon worker expressed his hopes in the walkout: “If they win a raise with the strike, I think I’d want to become a teacher. I have two younger brothers still in school, and it would set a good example if I did something like that.”

Another employee who preferred to remain anonymous railed against the claim there was no money for education: “That’s a lie! How can there be no money for education when there’s so much for other stuff.” She pointed to the warehouse and said: “Bezos [the CEO of Amazon] became the richest man in the US because he’s not paying us enough. You can find so many people here who could rant about that.”

In its annual report, “The Dirty Dozen 2018: Employers Who Put Workers and Communities at Risk,” the National Council for Occupational Health and Safety (COSH) ranked Amazon and Tesla as among the most dangerous work environments in the United States, exposing the grim reality that workers face in the modern tech industries: here.

Amazon workers urge Arizona teachers to continue strike: here.

Boston: Amazon HQ2 bid targets working class suburbs: here.

On Tuesday, Amazon halted construction of a new 17-story office building in downtown Seattle, Washington to protest a proposed city council tax that would fund housing for the homeless. Amazon also threatened to sublease office space it is presently using in another downtown building: here.

Arizona, biggest United States teachers strike

A section of the marching Arizona teachers and supporters

By David Moore in the USA:

Arizona strike biggest yet in teachers’ revolt in US

27 April 2018

Arizona teachers walked out Thursday in the first statewide teachers strike in the history of the southwestern US state. A massive crowd of 75,000 educators and their supporters marched and rallied, voicing their demands for better teacher pay and more funding for schools. The same day, several thousand teachers in neighboring Colorado walked out in some of the largest school districts and rallied at the state capitol in advance of a walkout by teachers in Denver and other cities on Friday.

The Arizona march began at Chase field in Phoenix and proceeded two miles to a rally outside the state capitol where legislators were in session. Teachers, support staff and site administrators were joined by other workers in a show of solidarity. Many educators felt exhilarated for finally standing up to fight for public education. One teacher from Rio Rico told WSWS reporters “When conversations about the strike started happening we were very for the message, it felt overdue.”

By noon, when the end of the march was reaching the capitol, the state senate arrogantly adjourned until Monday ensuring that no funding proposals would be heard or voted.

Some idea of the size of the Arizona march

From the World Socialist Web Site in the USA:

“If we did this nationally, we’d have greater success”

Striking Arizona teachers speak out

By our reporters

27 April 2018

The World Socialist Web Site spoke with striking Arizona teachers today at a march on the state capitol that drew approximately 75,000 people. Teachers rejected the efforts to divide them from school support staff, and called for a united struggle with teachers across the country.

Susan, a seventh grade mathematics teacher for an online charter school in Arizona, called for the strike to be expanded. “It’s one thing for states to do individual protests, but if we did this on a national level, we’d have a greater success rate.”

Susan described the critical role played by school support staff. “There’s a lot of things we do because we don’t have support staff”, she said. “I probably work 100 hours per week, between grading, lesson planning and administrative tasks, not to mention actually being in a classroom, and calling 150 families each week.”

“When I first started seven years ago, I had support staff”, she added. “I worked sometimes less than 40 hours a week. I want there to be funding in our budget so teachers don’t have to keep doing everything themselves.”

“I live by myself and I barely make ends meet”, said Ashley, a fourth-grade teacher in the Cartwright school district. “We’re here to fund our schools and get higher pay for teachers.”

Ashley described the impact of decades of funding cuts on the conditions in her school. “Our books are all torn up, and it’s been years since we got our materials replaced”, she said. “Our toilets are horrible. The bathrooms for the kids are disgusting. When it rains, the roof leaks at the end of the building.”

Ashley explained that the strike by West Virginia teachers, who initially rebelled against the efforts by the unions to shut down the strike mid-way through, had inspired the expanding wave of teacher walkouts. “They started it all. They got us confident enough to go out. I mean I was scared, at first. They got us out and fighting, for ourselves and for our students.”

Referring to today’s planned walkout by teachers in neighboring Colorado, Ashley added, “A friend of mine is in Colorado now. They’re doing this tomorrow and they’re threatened with being fired. That’s real bravery right there. The conditions there are about the same as here.”

Lucy LiBosha, a mathematics teacher at Catalina High School in Tucson, denounced Republican governor Doug Ducey’s offer of a 20 percent wage increase, which provides nothing for school employees and provides no additional funding to make up the more than $1 billion that has been cut from the budget over the past decade.

“It’s divisive,” Lucy said. “It only addresses teachers and gives nothing to support staff. A divided, fragmented, 20 percent raise for teachers is not reasonable, and could drive a wedge between us.”

Students march at the demonstration in Arizona

Many students also attended the demonstration to support their teachers. Isabella, a high school student, said, “It’s affected us personally. We’re part of our school’s drama club and there’s very little funding for the fine arts program and our school in general. We see the lack of funding in the materials in our science classroom, and we have very old textbooks.” Her classmate, Zoe, added, “We’re out here to support a movement that’s bigger than ourselves.”

Dr. Lisa Castenita, who teaches second grade in the Cartwright school district, said, “This is a human rights issue. All of our children, nationwide, deserve the best possible education. Education is the great equalizer.

“We have a lot of people making decisions for us that have no idea what we do on a daily basis”, Lisa said. “They, like [Education Secretary Betsy] DeVos, come from the privileged upper class. Why should I listen to her make decisions about things I do on a daily basis, or about my students, who live in abject poverty? I think not! I think I know better for my students than her. You get other teachers angry, on a roll like this, and they’ll all tell you the same thing.”

Lisa added: “The issue is per-pupil funding, teacher pay, a lot of other outside circumstance that we don’t have control over. It’s not our students’ performance. Therein lies the propaganda that’s spread by our government. They want people to believe that it’s the teachers’ fault, and it is not our fault.”

“Their kids don’t go to public education, they go to private schools”, Lisa said. “They only give the appearance that they care. One of our rights as American citizens is to ‘reformat’ our government. We need a ‘reboot.’ I think there’s a lot of corruption on all sides, not just the Democrats and not just the Republicans.”

Arizona teachers rally for second day, further walkout expected Monday: here.

Peccaries mourning their dead?

This 13 December 2017 from Arizona in the USA says about itself:

Pig-like animals called peccaries were filmed visiting a corpse in the days after death and pushing it with their snouts. Read more here.

Saguaro cactus evolution, new study

This video from the USA says about itself:

Saguaro National Park

28 November 2012

Saguaro, Arizona — Home to America’s largest cacti, majestic plants, magnificent desert sunsets.

From the University of California – Berkeley in the USA:

Saguaro and other towering cacti have a scrambled history

Long lives of columnar cacti muddle scientists’ efforts to understand group’s evolutionary history

Summary: Biologists continue to debate the genealogy of the cactus family, even differing by a factor of 10 about how many different genera there are. A study based on new genome sequences of four columnar cacti, including saguaro and cardon, illustrates why this is. Because of the long lives of these columnar cacti, ancient genes drop out at random and give the impression of parallel evolution in those species that retain the genes.

Visitors to Mexico and the U.S. Southwest can’t help but stand in awe of the solitary and majestic saguaro, the towering clusters of the organ pipe cactus and Baja’s cardón, the appropriately named “elephant” cactus. The saguaro alone can grow to a height of more than 75 feet.

Scientists have now sequenced the complete genomes of four of these columnar cacti, and found, to their surprise, that their family relationships are not so straightforward as their shapes suggest.

According to Noah Whiteman, a UC Berkeley associate professor of integrative biology who is a coauthor of a paper appearing this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the cactus family tree and the giant cacti in particular — the giant saguaro, organ pipe, senita and cardón, also called the Mexican giant cactus — have been very difficult to trace. Found only in the Americas, cacti have adapted to a broad range of environments, with a current count of 1,438 species. Yet scientists disagree by a factor of 10 about how many genera of cacti these species represent.

This is in part because the same traits — succulence and a columnar form, for example — seem to have evolved separately in different lineages: what’s known as parallel evolution.

In the study, led by Whiteman’s colleagues at the University of Arizona and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the scientists created individual family trees of each gene shared across all species. They found that their histories were scrambled as a result of long generation times — saguaro cacti can live 150 years or more — making it difficult to understand the relationships among the species even with complete genomic information.

They did determine, however, that some similarities, like the succulent flesh that makes some cacti a good emergency source of water, resulted from ancient genes that were retained by some cacti but lost by others. What looked like parallel evolution, with some species gaining new genes and new functions, was actually just the random loss of genes in all the other species.

The findings could have implications for the fate of these cacti, which are losing habitat because of human development in arid areas of the Americas.

“Many species are endangered, and the fact that we don’t understand their relationships makes this fraught,” said Whiteman, who is also a faculty member with the Center for Computational Biology and an affiliate of the University and Jepson Herbaria and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

The work also addresses a recently recognized complication in interpreting the evolution of all plants and animals.

“Only with whole-genome sequencing were we able to see this pattern of incomplete lineage sorting, called hemiplasy, which looks superficially like convergent or parallel evolution, or homoplasy,” he said. “It’s an important advance because one could mistake such patterns as evidence for parallel evolution at the molecular level, which is a hot topic in evolutionary biology right now.”

By studying nearly five decades of data on more than 5,800 saguaros dotting Tumamoc Hill, researchers found that small variations in the hill’s topography might buffer saguaro populations from the impacts of climate change: here.