Free Bahraini political prisoners, petition for Obama


This video from the USA says about itself:

Nabeel Rajab of Bahrain Center for Human Rights on His Possible Military Trial for Publishing Photo.

By Brian Dooley, Human Rights Defenders Program:

Tell President Obama: Demand Bahrain to Free Jailed Dissidents [Petition]

2-20-2013

In Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, a government crackdown on dissent and increasingly violent protests have led to mounting civilian and police casualties. Bahrain desperately needs an end to this crisis.

Two years ago, President Barack Obama told the Bahraini government “the only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.”

The regime restarted its dialogue with some opposition groups last week. This is an encouraging step, but real progress will only happen if the regime releases its prominent dissidents in jail and allows them to join the dialogue.

Urge President Obama to demand that the Bahraini Kingdom release dissidents jailed on politically motivated charges.

As the dialogue continues, medics who were detained after treating wounded protesters and telling the international media the truth about the abuses remain in jail. Opposition and human rights leaders who called for democratic reforms remain in jail. And human rights defenders and civil society leaders continue to face threats, arrests, and prosecutions for peaceful human rights activities.

Two years after the democracy movement filled the streets of Bahrain, human rights defenders continue to look to the United States for support—despite its muted criticisms of the violations committed by the ruling family. It’s past time that the United States supports—through word and deed—human rights and civil society groups fighting for democratic reforms in the country.

Urge President Obama to demand that the Bahraini Kingdom release dissidents jailed on politically motivated charges.

VOICES: Forced into Hiding in Bahrain But Speaking Out: here.

33 new trapdoor spiders discovered, named after Obama, Jolie


Afer United States President Obama had a long-extinct lizard named after him, now he has also inspired the naming of a still living newly discovered animal species.

Female specimen of Aptostichus barackobamai. Photo credit Jason Bond

From Wildlife Extra:

33 new trapdoor spider species discovered in the American southwest

Barak Obama & Angelina Jolie get spiders named after them
December 2012. A researcher at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History and Department of Biological Sciences has reported the discovery 33 new trapdoor spider species from the American Southwest. These newly described species all belong to the genus Aptostichus which now contains 40 species, two of which are already famous – Aptostichus stephencolberti and Aptostichus angelinajolieae.

Barack-Obama-i

The genus now includes other such notable species as Aptostichus barackobamai, named for Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, and reputed fan of Spiderman comics; Aptostichus edwardabbeyi, named for environmentalist and author Edward Abbey (1927-1989); Aptostichus bonoi from Joshua Tree National Park, named for the lead singer of the Irish rock band U2; Aptostichus pennjillettei named for illusionist and intellectual Penn Jillette; Aptostichus chavezi, named for Mexican American and civil rights and labor activist César Chávez (1927-1993).

Other notable new species names include Aptostichus anzaborrego, known only from the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in southern California; and Aptostichus sarlacc from the Mojave Desert, named for George Lucas’ Star Wars creature, the Sarlacc from the fictional desert planet Tatooine.

The researcher, Prof. Jason Bond, who is a trapdoor spider expert and the director of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History was excited at the prospect of such a remarkable and large find of new species here in the United States and particularly California.

Biodiversity hotspot

“California is known as what is characterized as a biodiversity hotspot. Although this designation is primarily based on plant diversity, the region is clearly very rich in its animal diversity as well. While it is absolutely remarkable that a large number of species from such a heavily populated area have gone unnoticed, it clearly speaks volumes to how little we know of the biodiversity around us and that many more species on the planet await discovery ” Bond said.

Like other trapdoor spider species, individuals are rarely seen because they live their lives in below-ground burrows that are covered by trapdoors, made by the spider using mixtures of soil, sand, and/or plant material, and silk. The trapdoor serves to hide the spider when it forages for meals at the burrow entrance, usually at night.

Aptostichus species are found in an amazing number of Californian habitats to include coastal sand dunes, chaparral, desert, oak woodland forests, and at high altitudes in the alpine habitats of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Bond said, “This particular group of trapdoor spiders are among some of the most beautiful with which I have worked; species often have gorgeous tiger-striping on their abdomens. Aptostichus to my mind represents a true adaptive radiation – a classical situation in evolutionary biology where diversification, or speciation, has occurred such that a large number of species occupy a wide range of different habitats”.

Bond also noted that while a number of the species have rather fanciful names, his favourite is the one named for his daughter Elisabeth. “Elisabeth’s spider is from an incredibly extreme desert environment out near Barstow, California that is the site of a relatively young volcanic cinder cone. The spiders make their burrows among the lava tubes that extend out from the cone – it is a spectacular place to visit but the species is very difficult to collect because the spiders build rather deep burrow among the rocks”.

Obama lizard became extinct with dinosaurs


Obamodon, Cretaceous lizards, snakes and dinosaurs

From e! Science News:

Asteroid that killed the dinosaurs also wiped out the ‘Obamadon’

Published: Monday, December 10, 2012 – 17:06 in Paleontology & Archaeology

The asteroid collision widely thought to have killed the dinosaurs also led to extreme devastation among snake and lizard species, according to new research — including the extinction of a newly identified lizard Yale and Harvard scientists have named Obamadon gracilis. “The asteroid event is typically thought of as affecting the dinosaurs primarily,” said Nicholas R. Longrich, a postdoctoral associate with Yale’s Department of Geology and Geophysics and lead author of the study. “But it basically cut this broad swath across the entire ecosystem, taking out everything. Snakes and lizards were hit extremely hard.”

The study was scheduled for online publication the week of Dec. 10 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Earlier studies have suggested that some snake and lizard species (as well as many mammals, birds, insects and plants) became extinct after the asteroid struck Earth 65.5 million years ago, on the edge of the Yucatan Peninsula. But the new research argues that the collision’s consequences were far more serious for snakes and lizards than previously understood. As many as 83 percent of all snake and lizard species died off, the researchers said — and the bigger the creature, the more likely it was to become extinct, with no species larger than one pound surviving.

The results are based on a detailed examination of previously collected snake and lizard fossils covering a territory in western North America stretching from New Mexico in the southwestern United States to Alberta, Canada. The authors examined 21 previously known species and also identified nine new lizards and snakes.

They found that a remarkable range of reptile species lived in the last days of the dinosaurs. Some were tiny lizards. One snake was the size of a boa constrictor, large enough to take the eggs and young of many dinosaur species. Iguana-like plant-eating lizards inhabited the southwest, while carnivorous lizards hunted through the swamps and flood plains of what is now Montana, some of them up to six feet long.

“Lizards and snakes rivaled the dinosaurs in terms of diversity, making it just as much an ‘Age of Lizards’ as an ‘Age of Dinosaurs,'” Longrich said.

The scientists then conducted a detailed analysis of the relationships of these reptiles, showing that many represented archaic lizard and snake families that disappeared at the end of the Cretaceous, following the asteroid strike.

One of the most diverse lizard branches wiped out was the Polyglyphanodontia. This broad category of lizards included up to 40 percent of all lizards then living in North America, according to the researchers. In reassessing previously collected fossils, they came across an unnamed species and called it Obamadon gracilis. In Latin, odon means “tooth” and gracilis means “slender.”

“It is a small polyglyphanodontian distinguished by tall, slender teeth with large central cusps separated from small accessory cusps by lingual grooves,” the researchers write of Obamadon, which is known primarily from the jaw bones of two specimens. Longrich said the creature likely measured less than one foot long and probably ate insects.

He said no one should impute any political significance to the decision to name the extinct lizard after the recently re-elected U.S. president: “We’re just having fun with taxonomy.”

The mass (but not total) extinction of snakes and lizards paved the way for the evolution and diversification of the survivors by eliminating competitors, the researchers said. There are about 9,000 species of lizard and snake alive today. “They didn’t win because they were better adapted, they basically won by default, because all their competitors were eliminated,” Longrich said.

Co-author Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar, a doctoral student in organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University, said: “One of the most important innovations in this work is that we were able to precisely reconstruct the relationships of extinct reptiles from very fragmentary jaw material. This had tacitly been thought impossible for creatures other than mammals. Our study then becomes the pilot for a wave of inquiry using neglected fossils and underscores the importance of museums like the Yale Peabody as archives of primary data on evolution — data that yield richer insights with each new era of scientific investigation.”

Jacques A. Gauthier, professor of geology and geophysics at Yale and curator of vertebrate paleontology and vertebrate zoology, is also an author.

The paper is titled “Mass Extinction of Lizards and Snakes at the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary.” The National Science Foundation and the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies supported the research.