Woodpeckers’ pecking causing brain damage?

This 2016 video from the USA is called Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Concussions?

From the Field Museum in Chicago, USA:

Woodpeckers show signs of possible brain damage, but that might not be a bad thing

February 2, 2018

Summary: With each peck, woodpeckers absorb more than ten times the force it would take to give a human a concussion. But they seem fine. Researchers examined the brains of woodpeckers in museum collections and saw that the brains showed a build-up of a protein that’s a sign of brain damage in humans. The woodpeckers might not have sustained brain damage themselves, though — the researchers think that protein build-up could possibly be beneficial to the birds.

With woodpeckers, the answer’s in the question — true to their name, they peck wood. And when they do, they peck hard — with each peck, the bird undergoes a force of 1,200 to 1,400 g’s. By comparison, a measly force of 60-100 g’s can give a human a concussion. The fact that a woodpecker can undergo fourteen times that without getting hurt has led helmet makers model their designs around these birds’ skulls. However, a new study in PLOS ONE complicates this story by showing that woodpecker brains contain build-ups of a protein associated with brain damage in humans.

“There have been all kinds of safety and technological advances in sports equipment based on the anatomic adaptations and biophysics of the woodpecker assuming they don’t get brain injury from pecking. The weird thing is, nobody’s ever looked at a woodpecker brain to see if there is any damage”. says Peter Cummings of the Boston University School of Medicine, one of the new study’s authors.

To find the answer to this question, researchers used bird brains from the collections of the Field Museum and the Harvard Museum of Natural History and examined them for accumulation of a specific protein, called tau.

“The basic cells of the brain are neurons, which are the cell bodies, and axons, which are like telephone lines that communicate between the neurons. The tau protein wraps around the telephone lines — it gives them protection and stability while still letting them remain flexible”, explains lead author George Farah, who worked on the study as a graduate student at the Boston University School of Medicine.

In moderation, tau proteins can be helpful in stabilizing brain cells, but too much tau build-up can disrupt communication from one neuron to another. “When the brain is damaged, tau collects and disrupts nerve function — cognitive, emotional, and motor function can be compromised”, says Cummings.

Since excessive tau can be a sign of brain damage in humans, Farah and his team decided to examine woodpecker brains for tau build-up. The Field Museum and Harvard loaned the researchers bird specimens pickled in alcohol — Downy Woodpeckers for the experimental data and non-head-injury-prone Red-winged Blackbirds as a control. The researchers then removed the birds’ brains — “The brains themselves were well-preserved, they had a texture almost like modeling clay,” says Farah — and took incredibly thin slices, less than a fifth the thickness of a sheet of paper. The slices of brain tissue were then stained with silver ions to highlight the tau proteins present.

The verdict: the woodpeckers‘ brains had far more tau protein accumulation than the blackbirds’ brains. However, while excessive tau buildup can be a sign of brain damage in humans, the researchers note that this might not be the case for woodpeckers. “We can’t say that these woodpeckers definitely sustained brain injuries, but there is extra tau present in the woodpecker brains, which previous research has discovered is indicative of brain injury”, says Farah.

“The earliest woodpeckers date back 25 million years — these birds have been around for a long time“, says Cummings. “If pecking was going to cause brain injury, why would you still see this behavior? Why would evolutionary adaptations stop at the brain? There’s possibility that the tau in woodpeckers is a protective adaptation and maybe not pathological at all.”

So, woodpeckers show signs of what looks like brain damage in humans, but it might not be a bad thing. Either way, the researchers believe that the study’s results could help us humans. For example, the knowledge about woodpecker brains that could help make football equipment safer for kids, says Cummings. On the other hand, he notes, “If the tau accumulation is a protective adaptation, is there something we can pick out to help humans with neurodegenerative diseases? The door’s wide open to find out what’s going on and how we can apply this to humans.”

Farah notes that the study relied heavily upon the museum collections that the bird brains came from. “Museums are gateways to the past and a source of new innovation,” he says. “The role of museums in this project was immense — we couldn’t have done our study with just one woodpecker.”

Ben Marks, the Field Museum’s Collections Manager of Birds, said of the researchers’ request to use the Museum’s bird brains, “With one of the world’s best bird collections, we’re always trying to let people know what we have, why we have it, and what it can be used for. We get over a hundred requests for specimen loans every year — this one stood out because it was a novel approach that had real world applications. Some of the specimens used in this study were collected in the 1960s. Our staff cared for them for over 50 years before until they were requested for this study and used in a way the original collector couldn’t even envision.”


Sheltering homeless people from winter, a crime in the USA?

This video about Chicago in the USA says about itself:

Government Threatens To Seize House After Man Shelters Homeless People From Cold

Read more here.

So, not only feeding homeless people seems to be a crime in the USA.

Canada geese avoid hunters in Chicago city

This video from the USA says about itself:

16 August 2012

Canadian Geese take over front yard of suburban home in Asbury Park, NJ [New Jersey].

The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is a wild goose with a black head and neck, white patches on the face, and a brownish-gray body. Native to arctic and temperate regions of North America, it is occasionally found in northern Europe, and has been introduced to other temperate regions.

… It breeds in Canada and the northern United States in a variety of habitats. Its nest is usually located in an elevated area near water such as streams, lakes, ponds and sometimes on a beaver lodge. Its eggs are laid in a shallow depression lined with plant material and down. The Great Lakes region maintains a very large population of Canada Geese.

From the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences in the USA:

Smart birds: Canada geese give hunters the slip by hiding out in Chicago

October 23, 2017

It’s open season for Canada geese in Illinois from mid-October to mid-January. Unfortunately for hunters, Canada geese are finding a new way to stay out of the line of fire. Rather than being “sitting ducks” in a rural pond, they’re setting up residence in the city.

University of Illinois ornithologist Mike Ward says he and a team of researchers conducted a recent study to try to find out why there were so many Canada geese in Chicago in the winter. “We thought the geese would fly to forage on nearby agricultural fields during the day, then fly back to the city to roost, but that wasn’t the case. What we learned is that they weren’t going to the city for food, they were going there because there were no hunters,” he explains.

The study finds that 85 percent of the Canada geese wintered in the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area, and none made foraging flights to agricultural fields within or outside of the urban area. Their arrival demonstrated uncanny timing as well. Approximately 70 percent of the geese the researchers were tracking returned to the Chicagoland area prior to open hunting seasons.

Ward says survival rate was also high. “All of the Canada geese that spent the winter in Chicago survived, whereas half of the birds that decided to leave the Chicagoland area and go to areas where hunting is allowed, and more prevalent, were harvested.”

According to Ward, the birds’ ability to make use of nontraditional habitats in the city, such as green spaces, rooftops, and rail yards, and avoidance of agricultural fields suggests Canada geese may be minimizing risk rather than maximizing energy intake by using urban areas during winter.

“During mid-November through late February 2014-2016, we captured and attached transmitters to 41 geese within the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area,” Ward says. “To each goose, we attached an aluminum band and a GPS transmitter attached to a white plastic waterfowl neck collar.” The birds were tracked to determine habitat selection and survival.

As the winter months grew colder and the snow-depth increased, the geese chose green spaces 55 percent less often. Instead, they increased their selection of industrial urban areas, such as water treatment facilities and deep-water areas within shipping canals, by over 140 percent.

Chicago, USA police racist, report says

This 13 April 2016 video from the USA says about itself:

Chicago Police Department botched Laquan McDonald case, has history of racism – task force.

From the New York Times in the USA:

Chicago Police Dept. Plagued by Systemic Racism, Task Force Finds


APRIL 13, 2016

CHICAGO — Racism has contributed to a long pattern of institutional failures by the Chicago Police Department in which officers have mistreated people, operated without sufficient oversight, and lost the trust of residents, a task force appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel has found.

The report, issued on Wednesday, was blistering, blunt and backed up by devastating statistics. Coincidentally, it was released as city leaders were installing a new, permanent superintendent for the Chicago Police Department.

“C.P.D.’s own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,” the task force wrote. “Stopped without justification, verbally and physically abused, and in some instances arrested, and then detained without counsel — that is what we heard about over and over again.”

The report reinforces complaints made for decades by African-American residents who have said they were unfairly singled out by officers without justification on a regular basis, then ignored when they raised complaints.

It comes at a pivotal moment for the nation’s second-largest municipal police force, which is being criticized by residents and is under scrutiny from the Justice Department. And, coming from Mr. Emanuel’s own appointees, the findings intensify pressure on him and other Chicago leaders to make substantive, swift changes.

The report makes more than 100 specific recommendations for change, and task force members called on the mayor and the City Council to take action. After formally receiving the report, Mr. Emanuel had no immediate public reaction.

The task force amassed data that shows the extent to which African-Americans appear to have been disproportionately focused on by the police. In a city where whites, blacks and Hispanics each make up about one-third of the population, 74 percent of the 404 people shot by the Chicago police between 2008 and 2015 were black, the report said. Black people were the subjects in 72 percent of the thousands of investigative street stops that did not lead to arrests during the summer of 2014.

Three out of every four people on whom Chicago police officers tried to use Taser guns between 2012 and 2015 were black. And black drivers made up 46 percent of police traffic stops in 2013.

“The community’s lack of trust in C.P.D. is justified,” according to the report, a draft summary of which was first reported in The Chicago Tribune on Tuesday afternoon. “There is substantial evidence that people of color — particularly African-Americans — have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time.” …

Public pressure has remained intense. Just this week, after an officer fatally shot a black 16-year-old who the police said was armed, protesters took to the streets.

The task force was given its assignment late last year, after the release of a graphic dashcam video showing a white Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, fatally shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, along a Chicago street. Widespread protests followed, and Mr. Emanuel fired the city’s police superintendent. …

“What we heard from people all across the city is they felt like they didn’t even have a claim to the geography in front of their house, on their street, or in their neighborhoods,” Ms. Lightfoot said, as she presented the report at a downtown library. She acknowledged high rates of violence in some of those communities, but said that did not excuse abuses of power by the police, and that officers must be trained to fight crime while also respecting residents’ rights.

The panel described the city’s delays in releasing the Laquan McDonald video and officials’ false descriptions of what had happened in the days immediately after that shooting as a “tipping point” for long-simmering anger. But “the linkage between racism and C.P.D.” had not bubbled up only after the McDonald video was made public, it said. Rather, Mr. McDonald’s death gave voice to years of unfair treatment, distrust within minority communities, and to “the deaths of numerous men and women of color whose lives came to an end solely because of an encounter with C.P.D.,” the report said.

“The task force heard over and over again from a range of voices, particularly from African-Americans, that some C.P.D. officers are racist, have no respect for the lives and experiences of people of color and approach every encounter with people of color as if the person, regardless of age, gender or circumstance, is a criminal,” the report said, adding later, “These encounters leave an indelible mark.”

“Even if there was no arrest,” it said, “there is a lasting, negative effect.”

The report also condemned aspects of the city’s contracts with police unions, calling for changes to clauses that they said “make it easy for officers to lie in official reports,” ban anonymous citizen complaints and prevent the department from rewarding officers who turn in rule-breaking colleagues. The contracts, the task force concluded, “have essentially turned the code of silence into official policy.” The president of the union that represents rank-and-file officers did not immediately respond to interview requests.

The report calls for dissolving the Independent Police Review Authority, which is charged with overseeing the most serious claims of police misconduct. The task force concluded that the authority has failed to investigate a large segment of its cases, rarely carries out meaningful discipline, and is perceived as favoring the police. It recommended that it be replaced with a “fully transparent and accountable civilian police investigative agency.”

The report also calls for an expansion of the city’s body cam program; a unit assigned to handle issues around mental health crises; and a new deputy chief at the department in charge of diversity and inclusion. It also recommended putting in place a citywide reconciliation process in which the superintendent would publicly acknowledge the department’s history of racial disparity and discrimination and make a public commitment to change.

The recommendations and the report drew praise for their candor, but some here remained doubtful about whether it would really bring widespread change.

“The strong diagnoses must be followed by action — by the mayor, the City Council and the Police Department,” said Karen Sheley, police practices director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “Corrective measures — those outlined by the task force and others — must be fashioned in a way that they cannot be reversed.”

Charlene A. Carruthers, national director of Black Youth Project 100, a Chicago-based activist organization, said that she had not yet reviewed the report, but that she considered the task force “yet another example of the mayor’s office and those in power in the city of Chicago making decisions on behalf of the community.”

Ms. Carruthers said increased civilian oversight and changes to police union contracts — two task force recommendations — were urgently needed. But, she added, “I do not have confidence that the task force or the mayor’s office will take bold enough steps.”

Chicago Police Routinely Violate Civil Rights, Withering Justice Department Probe Finds. It’s the largest municipal police department to ever come under DOJ investigation. 01/13/2017 11:06 am ET: here.

A report released Friday by the US Justice Department details systematic police brutality and unconstitutional practices by the Chicago Police Department (CPD). While the 161-page report outlines a broad array of horrific practices and crimes committed by the police force, it is an exercise in political damage control and cover-up. Not a single high-level political figure is held to account or charged for crimes by the investigation: here.

Chicago, USA remembers Sandra Bland

This video from the USA says about itself:

Chicago Remembers Sandra Bland

14 July 2016

Friends and family of Sandra Bland gathered on Wednesday night to mark one year since her death with a candlelight vigil.

Ahead of the public release of body and dash camera footage of police shooting of 18-year-old African American Paul O’Neal, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) issued a national bulletin warning of possible “civil unrest.” The teenager was shot in the back on July 28 and his death has been ruled a homicide: here.