Ice and snow sculpture in Harbin, China


This video says about itself:

20 December 2017

The residents of Harbin, China brighten the long, frigid months by carving fantastical frozen sculptures for the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival that takes place in January and February. Once a mostly regional affair, the festival has grown to be a major international event and competition. So bundle up and pull on your sturdy boots to explore.

Lethal fire in China, police arrests suspects


This video from China says about itself:

18 November 2017

Nineteen people were killed and eight others injured in a house fire in Beijing’s southern Daxing District Saturday night, local authorities said.

From Caixin in China:

Nov 20, 2017 11:44 AM

Beijing Launches Citywide Inspections After Deadly Fire

By Cui Xiankang, Sun Liangzi, Qin Ziyi, Yu Lu and Li Rongde

Beijing authorities have launched blanket citywide inspections targeting unsafe buildings following a fatal fire in a suburb of the capital Saturday.

The fire broke out at 6:18 p.m. in Daxing district, about 10 miles south of the city center, killing at least 19 and injuring eight more, according to the official Beijing Daily. …

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and several people, including the landlord of the buildings, have been taken into police custody, the Beijing Daily reported, citing local police.

A grim-faced Cai Qi, Beijing’s Communist party secretary, appeared on Beijing TV Sunday and labeled the fire a “a wake-up call.” He demanded resolve to crack down on mixed-use facilities with both shops and rental homes, particularly unlicensed buildings and poorly managed industrial plants, which in addition to being safety hazards are responsible for high levels of air and water pollution.

Firefighters arrived at the scene with 34 trucks at about 6:40 p.m. and extinguished the fire around 9 p.m. They were seen carrying more than a dozen people, giving resuscitation to some before rushing them to nearby hospitals.

Most of the injured are being treated at the Daxing district hospital affiliated to Capital Medical University. An employee at the hospital contacted by Caixin refused to elaborate on the nature or severity of the injuries.

According to Chi Dehua in China today, 18 suspects were arrested, including the landlord and ‘six managers from a rental housing company’.

Now, let us look how this horrible fire compares to the Grenfell Tower disaster in London, England.

Grenfell Tower has 24 storeys; the building in Beijing three storeys. 19 dead in Beijing, 71 dead the official number in London.

In Beijing, police arrested 18 suspects, including the landlord. In London, police arrested zero suspects, also not the landlords, that is, the bigwigs of the Conservative party-run Kensington and Chelsea local authority, like Nick Paget-Brown who had to resign in disgrace.

Now, I am certainly not claiming Chinese police and judiciary are a model for the whole world to follow; they are not.

However, Grenfell Tower survivors often ask themselves why not a single suspect has been arrested, now six months after the mass killing; of which police say they suspect manslaughter.

How about the bosses of the KCTMO, the organisation managing Grenfell Tower on behalf of the Conservative local council?

How about Conservative Boris Johnson, now Foreign Secretary in the government, who as mayor of London sacked firefighters and closed fire stations?

How about Conservative ex-Prime Minister David Cameron, who stated that the aim of his government was to ‘kill safety culture’?

How about millionaire Ray Bailey of Harley Facades, whose business attached the flammable cladding to Grenfell Tower?

How about the millionaires of Rydon corporation who subcontracted the attachment of the flammable cladding to Grenfell Tower to Harley Facades?

How about the billionaires of Arconic corporation, formerly Alcoa, whose corporation made that flammable cladding?

Are they all ‘too rich to jail‘?!?!

World’s oldest trees, new research


This video from the USA says about itself:

Devonian forest

4 November 2013

This scene is excerpted from the Colorado Geology: Devonian-Mississippian video (in progress). These trees are the Progymnosperm Archaeopteris, and the forest floor includes Racophyton. Major soils did not develop until the first trees evolved on land.

Animation by Joseph Rogers and Leo Ascarrunz. Special thanks to Ian Miller and James Hagedorn (DMNS) for their input.

Interactive Geology Project, University of Colorado-Boulder.

From Cardiff University in Wales:

Fossils from the world’s oldest trees reveal complex anatomy never seen before

Intricate web of woody strands inside 374-million-year-old tree trunks point to most complicated trees to have ever grown on Earth

The first trees to have ever grown on Earth were also the most complex, new research has revealed.

Fossils from a 374-million-year-old tree found in north-west China have revealed an interconnected web of woody strands within the trunk of the tree that is much more intricate than that of the trees we see around us today.

The strands, known as xylem, are responsible for conducting water from a tree’s roots to its branches and leaves. In the most familiar trees the xylem forms a single cylinder to which new growth is added in rings year by year just under the bark. In other trees, notably palms, xylem is formed in strands embedded in softer tissues throughout the trunk.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists have shown that the earliest trees, belonging to a group known as the cladoxlopsids, had their xylem dispersed in strands in the outer 5 cm of the tree trunk only, whilst the middle of the trunk was completely hollow.

The narrow strands were arranged in an organised fashion and were interconnected to each other like a finely tuned network of water pipes.

The team, which includes researchers from Cardiff University, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, and State University of New York, also show that the development of these strands allowed the tree’s overall growth.

Rather than the tree laying down one growth ring under the bark every year, each of the hundreds of individual strands were growing their own rings, like a large collection of mini trees.

As the strands got bigger, and the volume of soft tissues between the strands increased, the diameter of the tree trunk expanded. The new discovery shows conclusively that the connections between each of the strands would split apart in a curiously controlled and self-repairing way to accommodate the growth.

At the very bottom of the tree there was also a peculiar mechanism at play — as the tree’s diameter expanded the woody strands rolled out from the side of the trunk at the base of the tree, forming the characteristic flat base and bulbous shape synonymous with the cladoxylopsids.

Co-author of the study Dr Chris Berry, from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, said: “There is no other tree that I know of in the history of Earth that has ever done anything as complicated as this. The tree simultaneously ripped its skeleton apart and collapsed under its own weight while staying alive and growing upwards and outwards to become the dominant plant of its day.

“By studying these extremely rare fossils, we’ve gained an unprecedented insight into the anatomy of our earliest trees and the complex growth mechanisms that they employed.

“This raises a provoking question: why are the very oldest trees the most complicated?”

Dr Berry has been studying cladoxylopsids for nearly 30 years, uncovering fragmentary fossils from all over the world. He’s previously helped uncovered a previously mythical fossil forest in Gilboa, New York, where cladoxylopsid trees grew over 385 million years ago.

Yet Dr Berry was amazed when a colleague uncovered a massive, well-preserved fossil of a cladoxylopsid tree trunk in Xinjiang, north-west China.

“Previous examples of these trees have filled with sand when fossilised, offering only tantalising clues about their anatomy. The fossilised trunk obtained from Xinjiang was huge and perfectly preserved in glassy silica as a result of volcanic sediments, allowing us to observe every single cell of the plant,” Dr Berry continued.

The overall aim of Dr Berry’s research is to understand how much carbon these trees were capable of capturing from the atmosphere and how this effected Earth’s climate.

Cambrian trilobites from China, new research


This American Museum of Natural History video from the USA says about itself:

Niles Eldredge: Trilobites and Punctuated Equilibria

17 December 2015

In the late 1960s, Curator Emeritus Niles Eldredge was a graduate student with a passion for trilobite eyes. He had been taught to expect slow and steady change between the specimens of these Devonian arthropods he collected for his dissertation. Only his trilobites were doing one of two things: staying the same, or evolving in leaps.

Several years later, Eldredge, along with co-author Stephen Jay Gould, turned his observations into a theory known as “punctuated equilibria”: the idea that species stay relatively the same, or at equilibrium, throughout the fossil record save for rare bursts of evolutionary change.

A former Chairman and Curator of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, Eldredge remains at the hub of evolutionary discussion and debate, as well as one of the world’s experts on trilobites, specializing in mid-Paleozoic phacopids. He has also analyzed the relationship between global extinctions of the geologic past and the present-day biodiversity crisis, as well as the general relationship between extinction and evolution.

Learn more about Trilobites: here.

From the American Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Early trilobites had stomachs, new fossil study finds

Remarkable Chinese specimens contradict previous assumptions about trilobite digestive systems and evolution

September 21, 2017

Exceptionally preserved trilobite fossils from China, dating back to more than 500 million years ago, have revealed new insights into the extinct marine animal’s digestive system. Published today in the journal PLOS ONE, the new study shows that at least two trilobite species evolved a stomach structure 20 million years earlier than previously thought.

“Trilobites are one of the first types of animals to show up in large numbers in the fossil record,” said lead author Melanie Hopkins, an assistant curator in the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. “Their exoskeletons were heavy in minerals, and so they preserved really well. But like all fossils, it’s very rare to see the preservation of soft tissues like organs or appendages in trilobites, and because of this, our knowledge of the trilobite digestive system comes from a small number of specimens. The new material in this study really expands our understanding.”

Trilobites are a group of extinct marine arthropods — distantly related to the horseshoe crab — that lived for almost 300 million years. They were extremely diverse, with about 20,000 species, and their fossil exoskeletons can be found all around the world. Most of the 270 specimens analyzed in the new study were collected from a quarry in southern Kunming, China, during an excavation led by Hopkins’ co-author, Zhifei Zhang, from Northwest University in Xi’an.

Previous research suggests that two body plans existed for trilobite digestive systems: a tube that runs down the length of the trilobite’s body with lateral digestive glands that would have helped process the food; or an expanded stomach, called a “crop,” leading into a simple tube with no lateral glands. Until now, only the first type had been reported from the oldest trilobites. Based on this, researchers had proposed that the evolution of the crop came later in trilobite evolutionary history and represented a distinct type of digestive system.

The Chinese trilobite fossils, about 20 percent of which have soft tissue preservation, are dated to the early Cambrian, about 514 million years ago. Contradictory to the previously proposed body plans, the researchers identified crops in two different species within this material. In addition, they found a single specimen that has both a crop and digestive glands — suggesting that the evolution of trilobite digestive systems is more complex than originally proposed.

The study backs up an earlier announcement made by a separate research team, which found evidence for the unusual crop and gland pairing in a single juvenile trilobite specimen from Sweden from the late Cambrian. But the Chinese material presents the oldest example of this complex digestive system in a mature trilobite, wiping away doubts that the dual structures might just be part of the animal’s early development.

“This is a very rigorous study based on multiple specimens, and it shows that we should start thinking about this aspect of trilobite biology and evolution in a different way,” Hopkins said.

Jurassic ‘flying’ mammals discovery


This video says about itself:

Flying Squirrel | World’s Weirdest

9 January 2013

Flying isn’t just for the birds. A stretchy membrane and rudder-like tail help this little mammal sail through the treetops, avoiding land-bound predators with ease.

From the University of Chicago Medical Center in the USA:

First winged mammals from the Jurassic period discovered

160-million-year-old fossils suggest a new model of life — gliding — for the forerunners of mammals, in an evolutionary parallel to modern mammal gliders

August 9, 2017

Two 160 million-year-old mammal fossils discovered in China show that the forerunners of mammals in the Jurassic Period evolved to glide and live in trees. With long limbs, long hand and foot fingers, and wing-like membranes for tree-to-tree gliding, Maiopatagium furculiferum and Vilevolodon diplomylos are the oldest known gliders in the long history of early mammals.

The new discoveries suggest that the volant, or flying, way of life evolved among mammalian ancestors 100 million years earlier than the first modern mammal fliers. The fossils are described in two papers published this week in Nature by an international team of scientists from the University of Chicago and Beijing Museum of Natural History.

“These Jurassic mammals are truly ‘the first in glide,'” said Zhe-Xi Luo, PhD, professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and an author on both papers. “In a way, they got the first wings among all mammals.”

“With every new mammal fossil from the Age of Dinosaurs, we continue to be surprised by how diverse mammalian forerunners were in both feeding and locomotor adaptations. The groundwork for mammals’ successful diversification today appears to have been laid long ago,” he said.

Adaptations in anatomy, lifestyle and diet

The ability to glide in the air is one of the many remarkable adaptations in mammals. Most mammals live on land, but volant mammals, including flying squirrels and bats that flap bird-like wings, made an important transition between land and aerial habitats. The ability to glide between trees allowed the ancient animals to find food that was inaccessible to other land animals. That evolutionary advantage can still be seen among today’s mammals such as flying squirrels in North America and Asia, scaly-tailed gliders of Africa, marsupial sugar gliders of Australia and colugos of Southeast Asia.

Maiopatagium reconstruction, © April I. Neander, University of Chicago

The Jurassic Maiopatagium and Vilevolodon are stem mammaliaforms, long-extinct relatives of living mammals. They are haramiyidans, an entirely extinct branch on the mammalian evolutionary tree, but are considered to be among forerunners to modern mammals. Both fossils show the exquisitely fossilized, wing-like skin membranes between their front and back limbs. They also show many skeletal features in their shoulder joints and forelimbs that gave the ancient animals the agility to be capable gliders. Evolutionarily, the two fossils, discovered in the Tiaojishan Formation northeast of Beijing, China, represent the earliest examples of gliding behavior among extinct mammal ancestors.

The two newly discovered creatures also share similar ecology with modern gliders, with some significant differences. Today, the hallmark of most mammal gliders is their herbivorous diet that typically consists of seeds, fruits and other soft parts of flowering plants.

But Maiopatagium and Vilevolodon lived in a Jurassic world where the plant life was dominated by ferns and gymnosperm plants like cycads, gingkoes and conifers — long before flowering plants came to dominate in the Cretaceous Period, and their way of life was also associated with feeding on these entirely different plants. This distinct diet and lifestyle evolved again some 100 million years later among modern mammals, in examples of convergent evolution and ecology.

“It’s amazing that the aerial adaptions occurred so early in the history of mammals,” said study co-author David Grossnickle, a graduate student at the University of Chicago. “Not only did these fossils show exquisite fossilization of gliding membranes, their limb, hand and foot proportion also suggests a new gliding locomotion and behavior.”

Thriving among dinosaurs

Early mammals were once thought to have differences in anatomy from each other, with limited opportunities to inhabit different environments. The new glider fossils from the dinosaur-dominated Jurassic Period, along with numerous other fossils described by Luo and colleagues in the last 10 years, however, provide strong evidence that ancestral mammals adapted to their wide-ranging environments despite competition from dinosaurs.

“Mammals are more diverse in lifestyles than other modern land vertebrates, but we wanted to find out whether early forerunners to mammals had diversified in the same way,” Luo said. “These new fossil gliders are the first winged mammals, and they demonstrate that early mammals did indeed have a wide range of ecological diversity, which means dinosaurs likely did not dominate the Mesozoic landscape as much as previously thought.”

Big protest against French policeman killing Chinese man for preparing fish


This video from France says about itself:

30 March 2017

Members of the Parisian Chinese community held a vigil mourning the death of 56-year-old Liu Shaoyo, who was shot dead by police, Thursday. The vigil was followed by a peaceful protest.

By Alex Lantier in France:

Thousands protest police murder of Liu Shaoyo in Paris

4 April 2017

Around 8,000 people joined a protest held in Paris on Sunday by Asian organizations against the murder of Chinese immigrant Liu Shaoyo on March 26 by police. Protesters were also defying a reactionary media campaig, launched by French domestic intelligence services, insinuating that their opposition to the extra-judicial execution of the 56-year-old father of five children is simply a state operation launched by China.

A banner was stretched around the statue in the center of Republic Square, that read “Police killers, we want justice.” Protesters carried banners that read “Truth, justice, dignity” or “I love France.”

One youth, Chen Hui, told the press that he had come to the protest “so as not to be the next one to be killed by a policeman,” adding that he feared that the Asian community would now be a “target” of police violence.

Sacha Lin-Jung, one of the organizers of the protest who also leads the “Chinese Living in France” non-governmental organization (NGO), wrote on Twitter: “Police violence affects all French people. We are raising our voices today in order to fulfill our responsibilities.” He added that the goal of the demonstration was to “put pressure and support the family, to establish the truth and to struggle against police violence.”

The murder, coming only weeks after the police rape of Théo in the working class district of Aulnay-sous-Bois, points to the rapid rise of police brutality against people of all ethnic origins under France’s state of emergency.

According to Liu’s daughters, police battered down the door to their apartment in a popular neighborhood of Paris and, without warning, shot their father, who had scissors in his hands to cut up a fish he was cooking. They say Liu made no physical contact with police.

Police presented multiple versions of events, without ever explaining why they shot Liu. First, it claimed that he took his scissors and attacked one of the policemen, wounding him and forcing him to go to the hospital in a “relatively urgent state.” Then it declared that in fact, the policeman had not been wounded at all, and that his bullet-proof vest stopped Liu’s scissors. However, neither account explains why police would have had to shoot and kill Liu.

The incident compelled the Chinese government to publicly ask France to protect its citizens on French soil and to also “fully bring to light what happened in this matter.”

French domestic intelligence has reacted to the popular protests by launching a reactionary media campaign, seeking to discredit the Liu family’s supporters, and more broadly all the organizations in the Chinese community hostile to police violence—which it implies are agents either of Beijing or the Chinese mob.

On March 30, Le Parisien published an article summarizing a note of the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI). It reportedly alleges that the Chinese mob, including a “big fish” tied to prostitution and gambling, is trying to “infiltrate” the protests. It also claimed that “someone close to the Chinese Communist Party and a secret agent, both of whom have infiltrated the NGO movement in France,” were joining the protests because “Beijing is very nervous about the operations of mafia networks.”

At the same time, according to Le Parisien, the DGSI complained that protesters were rejecting all accusations that they were being manipulated by Beijing or the mob: “Indeed, the movement is gathering many young people, who are very militant, and who do not want to hear anything about Beijing’s influence or mafia groups.”

The next day, FranceInfo published extracts from another DGSI briefing which, this time, placed the blame squarely on “the Chinese authorities,” which it said are “actively implicated in leading the protests.” The passages cited from this note sought to whip up suspicion and hysteria against the protesters. It added that Chinese NGOs in France “are very directly manipulated by Chinese diplomatic and consular authorities” and “seem unusually mobilized.”

The Liu family’s lawyer, Calvin Job, rejected the intelligence services’ insinuations against the protesters, calling them “defamatory.”

“This is the response we see systematically whenever there is an issue of police violence,” Job noted. “Considering the recent cases, like that of Théo, when they began to really attract attention, then things came out about a supposed abusive use of public funds by the family of the young Théo. Today, they want to make us believe that, since the citizens of the Chinese community are not sufficiently mature to organize themselves and to protest the injustices they are suffering, they are necessarily being manipulated!”

These attempts to establish an amalgam between the Republic Square protest and the activities of spies and the mob is a sinister and absurd provocation, aiming essentially to de-legitimize and ultimately illegalize all opposition to police violence and the state of emergency in France.

An innocent man was murdered by police and people of all ethnic origins in cities and suburbs across France fear they could be next. By throwing accusations against one or another NGO, without presenting any proof but simply on the say-so of unidentified intelligence officials, the security forces are trying to discredit the legitimate anger of the thousands who have exercised their constitutionally-protected right to protest.

Class tensions are explosive in France and across Europe. Tens of millions of European workers are unemployed; the PS government is deeply unpopular after having crushed protests against its retrogressive labor law; and France has been under a semi-permanent state of emergency that has suspended basic democratic rights for a year and a half. However, according to France’s spies, social anger and opposition today are the fault of Chinese agents!

The security forces’ decision to present such arguments must be taken as a warning to working people. Aware of the social gulf separating the elite from the masses, they are preparing arguments that equate all protest with treason and would thus justify banning protests and any NGO or organization that they consider to be an obstacle. Ultimately it is a sign of the deep political crisis in France, and of the panic and isolation of the ruling class.