Ancient Greek fable and American raccoons’ intelligence


This February 2017 video is called The Surprising Intelligence of Raccoons.

From ScienceDaily:

Raccoons solve an ancient puzzle, but do they really understand it?

Study investigates whether mammals understand the principles of water displacement

September 29, 2017

Scientists have been using an ancient Greek fable written by Aesop as inspiration to test whether birds and small children understand cause and effect relationships. In “The Crow and the Pitcher“, a thirsty crow realises it should drop stones into a pitcher in order to raise the water level high enough so that the bird is able to drink it. A group of US scientists led by Lauren Stanton of the University of Wyoming have now extended this body of work to study raccoon intelligence. Their research in Springer’s journal Animal Cognition is the first to use the Aesop’s Fable paradigm to assess if mammalian carnivores understand the principles of water displacement.

The research team included Sarah Benson-Amram and Emily Davis from the University of Wyoming, as well as Shylo Johnson and Amy Gilbert from the USDA National Wildlife Research Center, where the experiments were performed. The scientists first tested whether eight raccoons (Procyon lotor) held in captivity would spontaneously drop stones into a clear fifty centimetre tube of water to retrieve floating pieces of marshmallow. They found that, similar to studies of birds, the raccoons did not spontaneously drop stones into the tube from the start.

Following previous studies on birds and human children, the scientists then trained the raccoons to drop stones into the tube. They did this by balancing stones on a rim on top of the tube. If the raccoons accidently knocked the stones in, this raised the water level high enough to bring the marshmallow reward within reach. Raccoons could then learn that the stones falling into the tube brought the marshmallow closer.

During training, seven raccoons interacted with the stones, and four raccoons retrieved the marshmallow reward after accidentally knocking the stones into the water. Two of the four raccoons that got the marshmallow during training then learned on their own to pick up stones off the ground and drop them into the water to get a reward. A third raccoon surprised the scientists by inventing an entirely new method for solving the problem. She found a way to overturn the entire, very heavy, tube and base to get the marshmallow reward.

The two raccoons that successfully dropped stones into the tube were then presented with different objects that they could drop into the tube to solve the problem, such as large versus small stones, and sinking versus floating balls. These experiments enabled the researchers to determine whether the raccoons really understood the problem. If the raccoons understand water displacement, they should select the objects that displace the most water, like the large stones and sinking balls.

The raccoons performed differently than birds and human children did in previous Aesop’s Fable studies, and they did not always pick the most functional option. Stanton, however, believes the raccoons’ performance is not necessarily a reflection of their cognitive abilities, but more so of their exploratory behaviour and the build of their dexterous paws.

“We found raccoons to be innovative in many aspects of this task, and we observed diverse, investigative behaviours that are unique to raccoons”, says Stanton, adding that the way in which the experiment was conducted might also have played a role. She explains that the raccoons had fewer opportunities to interact with the puzzle than did many of the birds that were tested in previous studies. Therefore, the performance of the raccoons might improve if they have more time to familiarize themselves with the stones and the water tube.

Despite the low success rates of the raccoons, Benson-Amram is optimistic about running more experiments with raccoons. As Benson-Amram explains “Our study demonstrates that captive raccoons are able to learn to solve novel problems and that they approach classic tests of animal cognition in diverse and exciting ways. We can’t wait to see what they do next.”

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Murdered Greek anti-nazi rapper remembered


This video says about itself:

Pavlos Fyssas Death Sparks Outrage In Greece

20 September 2013

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Greece: Murdered anti-fascist remembered

Monday 18th September 2017

Thousands march for rapper Killah P

THOUSANDS marched through Athens and other Greek cities at the weekend, with further demonstrations due today, the fourth anniversary of the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a neonazi.

People rallied in Syntagma Square and marched on the US embassy, where they protested at the killing of Heather Heyer by a white supremacist last month.

They then continued towards the offices of the Golden Dawn party, though were prevented by thousands of riot police from reaching the fascist HQ.

Hundreds of Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants joined the march after rallying separately in Omonoia Square to denounce the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people by the Myanmar authorities.

Marchers chanted: “Golden Dawn to jail — smash the nazis!”

They included “delegations of hospital workers, workers in the non-governmental organisations which have just cut their refugee support operations as funding ceased, and other trade unionists,” according to eyewitness and Morning Star contributor Kevin Ovenden.

Mr Fyssas, also known as Killah P, was stabbed to death in an attack by a crowd of fascists on September 17 2013, and indicated Golden Dawn canteen worker Giorgios Roupakias as the culprit while he lay dying.

Mr Roupakias has since admitted to the murder before a judge but was released from prison last year as his trial had still not begun and he had hit the legal limit for pre-trial detention.

The anti-fascist Keerfa coalition rejected accusations that the march was “anti-American.”

“We are with the America of resistance to racism, fascism and Trump.”

Tonight a wide array of forces will rally with the Fyssas family in Perama, an adjacent district of Piraeus to the site of Mr Fyssas’s murder.

It will include the Communist Party of Greece, whose leading trade unionist Sotiris Poulikogiannis was nearly murdered by Golden Dawn four years ago in the same area.

Footballing refugees succesfull in Greece


This video says about itself:

(15 Feb 2017) A former Greece national football player is heading a project to help refugees stranded in Greece regain a sense of purpose.

The team that former goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis helped build is called “Hope” and made up of players who fled war zones like Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most players live in a large trailer park at Skaramagas, an industrial zone west of Athens, where metal containers are turned into shoebox-shaped homes.

They train during the week, and on Sundays play in an amateur league against teams made up of professional groups like lawyers, telecom workers, and accountants.

Football’s governing body in Europe, UEFA, sponsors the refugee team as well as Greek charity Organisation Earth, which spearheaded the idea for the team.

Nikopolidis, who was key to Greece’s stunning 2004 European Cup victory, says the team provides a distraction for team members who face an uncertain future in the European Union’s slow-moving relocation programme.

Football is the main source of entertainment for many of the 60,000-odd refugees in Greece, housed in army camps, abandoned factories and disused facilities of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Nearly 9,000 refugees have been moved from Greece to other European Union countries, but the EU says the speed of relocation is still just over half the target rate.

Several Hope players have been lost to the relocation scheme, but most are expecting a long wait in Greece.

“I think the main thing is that we’ve created a group of friends, a family with bonds of friendship,” Nikopolidis said.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Footballing refugees win (almost) everything in Greece

Today, 07:08

“Run, run”, the players shout on the soccer field to a team-mate sprinting past the high fences. The training of the refugee team is about to begin, on the artificial grass field of Atromitos amateur club at Piraeus. “That’s Tufan, from Afghanistan. He’s always late,” says a laughing Syrian boy.

That is a well-known problem, assistant coach Abdullah Sulleman, who comes from the Iraqi city of Mosul, explains. Public transport is irregular from the refugee camp. By bus and metro it takes about an hour to get to the training site.

There in Skaramagas refugee camp all began last year. It is one of the largest camps in Greece, with more than 3000 people living in container houses. Many are waiting for a verdict on their asylum procedure, relocation to EU member states or family reunification.

That often long wait leads to boredom and frustration. Boys and young men tried to kill time with – of course – football.

“Then I thought why we do not make a team,” says Abdullah, who has done sports training in Iraq. “We started with a ball, without sportswear or soccer shoes. On a simple concrete ground.” …

By calls on Facebook, and after selections, eventually 25 players were selected, a trainer and doctor appointed and a technical manager. He is a well-known person: ex-keeper Antonis Nikopolidis from the Greek national team who became European champions in 2004. …

“We now have a team of players from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen and recently from Morocco and Tanzania. They play in an amateur competition, against, eg, company teams, and are doing very well.”

“We’ve only lost two times,”said 23-year-old Mohammad Omar Shurdji of Damascus proudly. “Winning more than twenty times,” adds Abdessadek Chahine, a tall Moroccan boy from Casablanca, who has lived for a year and a half in Greece. Who also plays at a Greek club. 25-year-old Mohamed Wael Sefi played at an Aleppo club before leaving his country. “Soccer is all, it’s my life,” he says.

What the young players of this team, most of them between the ages of 18 and 25, have in common is that they played competition in their homeland, some at high level. Their dream is to play at a European club.

Famous Greek footballer helps refugees


This video is about the Greek national football team unexpectedly winning the 2004 European championship by beating favourites Portugal in the final match.

A big factor in the Greek victory was their goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis. He stopped many dangerous shots by Cristiano Ronaldo and other Portuguese players.

As Dutch daily De Volkskrant reports today, Antonis Nikopolidis now is 46 years old, and still involved in football. He is a trainer for refugees from the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, stuck in Greece because of anti-refugee policies in European countries.

Football helps the refugees cope with their terrible memories of bloody wars, and with their uncertain present.

How a project to help refugee women is making American produce a lot more interesting: here.