Cooperation between mammal species maybe not so rare?

Click to enlargeAndy Plumptre/WCS

Warthogs living in Uganda have learned to rid themselves of annoying ticks by seeking out the grooming services of some accommodating neighbors: a group of mongooses looking for snacks.

Specifically, the warthogs of Queen Elizabeth National Park have learned to lie down in the presence of banded mongooses. In response, the mongoose cleaning crew have learned to inspect the wild pigs for ticks, going so far as to climb on top of their customers to gain access to more parasites…

Such partnerships between different mammal species are rare, and this particular interaction illustrates a great deal of trust between participants,” said Dr. Andy Plumptre, Director for WCS Albertine Rift Program and author of the published description of the behavior. “It makes you wonder what else may be happening between species that we don’t see because, in order to see it, both species need to be unafraid of people…”

The warthog-mongoose encounter is a rare example of mammals exhibiting a symbiotic relationship called mutualism, where two animal species form a partnership with benefits for both groups. The warthogs get a cleaning and the mongooses get a meal…

“Wild pigs never fail to amaze me,” commented Dr. Erik Meijaard, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Wild Pigs Specialist Group. “Not many scientists are interested in studying the 18 species of wild pig, but behaviors like the one described here, reiterate how uniquely adaptive, intelligent, and even cute wild pigs are. Pigs play important roles in ecosystem and their protection helps many other species.”

Now if we could just convince humans to get along as well with their own species we’d have a truly positive result.

Leading credit rating company — pays $130 million settlement for sleazy work

California’s public pension system, Calpers, said it has reached a $130 million settlement with Moody’s and Moody’s Investors’ Service to resolve a case involving inflated grades of residential mortgage deals that later faltered.

The lawsuit stems from losses the pension fund suffered after the collapse of the housing market and defaults on formerly AAA-rated securities that were backed by pools of residential mortgages…

The California Public Employees Retirement System, or Calpers, brought the lawsuit against Moody’s and other rating agencies in 2009.

Remember the Great Recession – that little present from conservatives who say Wall Street is over-regulated? These were mortgages that served as collateral for the whole disaster.

Calpers, the largest pension fund in the United States, has previously settled with Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s, the other rating agencies that were named in the lawsuit.

S&P, a unit of McGraw Hill Financial, settled with Calpers in February last year for $125 million.

The settlements rank as the largest known recovery from Moody’s and S&P in a private lawsuit for civil damages

If you feel our economy still hasn’t returned to what it was, say, 10 years ago, 30 years ago, this is one of the reasons. Trading securities backed by phony credit ratings doesn’t make for long-range stability. Placing it within the context of an economy managed for the benefit of the top 1% – while screwing over the rest – illustrates even more of the questions raised by suits like this one.

Don’t look to the people who provided the groundwork for this disaster to offer legitimate solutions. The conservatives who infest Congress still have their jobs and will use all their skill at lying to convince you this coming November that it wasn’t their fault.

NSA data the White House “needs” to fight terrorists – will be turned over to local police

A while back, we noted a report showing that the “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy. The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains why this is important:

❝ A while back, we noted a report showing that the “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy. The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains why this is important:What does this rule change mean for you? In short, domestic law enforcement officials now have access to huge troves of American communications, obtained without warrants, that they can use to put people in cages.

FBI agents don’t need to have any “national security” related reason to plug your name, email address, phone number, or other “selector” into the NSA’s gargantuan data trove. They can simply poke around in your private information in the course of totally routine investigations. And if they find something that suggests, say, involvement in illegal drug activity, they can send that information to local or state police. That means information the NSA collects for purposes of so-called “national security” will be used by police to lock up ordinary Americans for routine crimes. And we don’t have to guess who’s going to suffer this unconstitutional indignity the most brutally. It’ll be Black, Brown, poor, immigrant, Muslim, and dissident Americans: the same people who are always targeted by law enforcement for extra “special” attention.

This basically formalizes what was already happening under the radar. We’ve known for a couple of years now that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the IRS were getting information from the NSA. Because that information was obtained without a warrant, the agencies were instructed to engage in “parallel construction” when explaining to courts and defense attorneys how the information had been obtained. If you think parallel construction just sounds like a bureaucratically sterilized way of saying big stinking lie, well, you wouldn’t be alone. And it certainly isn’t the only time that that national security apparatus has let law enforcement agencies benefit from policies that are supposed to be reserved for terrorism investigations in order to get around the Fourth Amendment, then instructed those law enforcement agencies to misdirect, fudge and outright lie about how they obtained incriminating information — see the Stingray debacle. This isn’t just a few rogue agents. The lying has been a matter of policy. We’re now learning that the feds had these agreements with police agencies all over the country, affecting thousands of cases…

It’s all another sobering reminder that any powers we grant to the federal government for the purpose of national security will inevitably be used just about everywhere else. And extraordinary powers we grant government in wartime rarely go away once the war is over. And, of course, the nifty thing for government agencies about a “war on terrorism” is that it’s a war that will never formally end.

And if you believe the FBI – for example – only wants Apple to help them break into one cellphone that was used by a terrorist murderer, then, you’re dumb enough to believe just about anything the FBI, CIA, NSA, White House and Congress says is needed to protect you and every other American.

They have lied, again and again. The USA Patriot Act being the biggest lie. Every revision since its first passage has only been to sooth American voters. You should go back to reality TV and Game Shows and ignore any questions about who is watching you – not watching over you – 24 hours a day.

They sent robots in to clean up Fukushima – it was too dangerous for humans. The robots died!

The robots who went into Fukushima’s no-man’s land have not returned after radiation levels in the power plant proved too strong for their circuit boards to handle.

The clean-up continues almost five years to the day after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station experienced three meltdowns after a tsunami crashed into the coastal power plant in 2011. The deathly high levels of radiation means it’s impossible for humans to go into areas of the plant to dispose of or contain the radioactivite materials. And it turns out, robots don’t fare much better either.

TEPCO and Toshiba developed a series of robots that were able to go underwater in the plant’s damaged cooling pools to remove the radioactive nuclear rods.

Five of the custom-built robots have been sent into the plant to work their magic. So far, none of them have returned. As soon as they get close to the reactors, their wiring becomes destroyed by the high levels of radioactivity and they are unable to move.

❝ “It is extremely difficult to access the inside of the nuclear plant,” said Naohiro Masuda, TEPCo’s head of decommissioning. “The biggest obstacle is the radiation.”

Yup. No one at TEPCo figured that out before they spent five years and lots of money on 5 custom robots.

Anyone surprised their safety systems failed during the tsunami?

Maersk trials drone delivery to ship at sea

Click to enlargePhoto/Maersk Tankers

Maersk Tankers says that it has completed the first drone delivery to a vessel at sea as part of a test to see whether or not drones can become a part of the supply chain.

The company says the test delivery took place near Kalundborg in Denmark and involved a drone dropping a small parcel to one of its tankers. Due to weather, the drone could not be launch from shore as planned, but rather was launched from a nearby tugboat, which dropped the package from a height of 5 meters above deck.

Maersk Tankers is hopeful that the by using drones it can significantly reduce the cost of delivery of small parcels filled with urgent spare parts, mail or medicine, when compared to using traditional methods of delivery

The usual CYA-statements are included, e.g., safety, security, blah, blah. Actually, there are beaucoup uses for these wee flying robots at sea. Surely a better way to carry a line from ship-to-ship than anything that uses gunpowder. 🙂