Toxic plume of pollution from military base poisoning groundwater, dairy farm…and more


Click to enlargeDon J. Usner/Searchlight New Mexico

Art Schaap and some of 4,000 dairy cows on his farm in Clovis, New Mexico. He has to kill all of them.

❝ For months, Clovis, New Mexico, dairy farmer Art Schaap has been watching his life go down the drain. Instead of selling milk, he is dumping 15,000 gallons a day – enough to provide a carton at lunch to 240,000 children. Instead of working 24/7 to keep his animals healthy, he’s planning to exterminate all 4,000 of his cows, one of the best herds in his county’s booming dairy industry.

The 54-year-old second-generation dairy farmer learned last August that his water, his land, his crops – even the blood in his body – were contaminated with chemicals that migrated to his property from nearby Cannon air force base…

❝ “This has poisoned everything I’ve worked for and everything I care about,” Schaap said. “I can’t sell the milk. I can’t sell beef. I can’t sell the cows. I can’t sell crops or my property. The air force knew they had contamination. What I really wonder is, why didn’t they say something?”

❝ There is plenty the air force could have said. It has for decades been aware that PFAS chemicals are toxic to humans, animals and the environment. By 2000, industry scientists and the Environmental Protection Agency had meticulously documented that they persist in the environment for millennia. They are linked to cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease, lowered immunity and high cholesterol, among other serious health problems.

They have poisoned the groundwater at 121 military bases across the US…

Read the stinking details. Please. The Pentagon, Federal Government, State Governments – have all known about the danger and like all tidy criminals didn’t do a damned thing about it. Civilians, urban and rural alike, have had to sue the military every time this crap comes up to get any compensation.

The ideology of a permanent warfare state demands that civilians matter least, the military and whatever they say they need is the highest priority in these United States.

Research: DNA shows girl had one Denisovan parent, one Neanderthal

DNA from just a single cave in Siberia revealed that it had been occupied by two archaic human groups that had interbred with the newly arrived modern humans. This included both the Neanderthals, whom we knew about previously, and the Denisovans, who we didn’t even know existed and still know little about other than their DNA sequences. The DNA also revealed that one of the Denisovans had a Neanderthal ancestor a few hundred generations back in his past…

Now, the same cave has yielded a bone fragment that indicates the interbreeding may have been common. DNA sequencing revealed that the bone fragment’s original owner had a mom that was Neanderthal and a father who was Denisovan. The fact that we have so few DNA samples from this time and that one is the immediate product of intermating gives us a strong hint that we should expect more examples in the future.

The Denisova Cave sits within Russia near its borders with China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. It appears to have conditions that favor the preservation of ancient DNA, as bones from the site have yielded high-quality genomes from both Neanderthals and Denisovans. It does not seem to have favored the preservation of skeletons themselves, as most material has been fragmentary; all we know about the appearance of Denisovans comes from a molar and a small finger bone, though dating indicates they occupied the cave more than 30,000 years after the Neanderthal.

Fascinating stuff…even if you’re already beyond fundamentalist fairy-tales.

Chimps or Humans…Who Has The Cleaner Bed?


Click to enlarge

❝ By swabbing abandoned chimpanzee nests in Tanzania’s Issa Valley, scientists learned that just 3.5 percent of the bacteria species present came from the chimps’ own skin, saliva, or feces. In human beds sampled in a previous study in North Carolina, the number was a whopping 35 percent.

Parasites, such as ticks and fleas, were also scarce in chimp beds.

❝ Now, before you burn your linens and start building a bed out of leaves, there are a few things you need to know.

Here’s where you go to learn the answers

Dogs and wolves share a key sense of fair play

❝ The sense of fair play is an important human trait, but new research suggests that it’s a key behaviour for dogs and wolves as well.

In tests, if one animal was given a more substantial reward when performing a task, the other one downed tools completely.

❝ It had been felt that this aversion to unfairness was something that dogs had learned from humans.

But the tests with wolves suggest that this predates domestication of dogs.

❝ Scientists have long recognised that what they term a “sensitivity to inequity”, or a sense of fairness, played an important role in the evolution of co-operation between humans. Basically, if others treated you badly, you quickly learned to stop working with them.

Researchers believe that the behaviour is also found widely in non-human primates.

❝ Experiments in 2008 demonstrated that dogs also had this sensitivity. This new study shows that it’s also deeply ingrained in wolves.

The fact that the behaviour was found in both wolves and dogs helps to overturn the idea that dogs learned this concept because they were domesticated.

I’m not being political for the sake of ideology; but, I have to wonder what this says about our own species. Certainly here in the United States and in other nations where the phenomenon of populism is once again on the rise.

A pair of distinctive dialectical features of populism are fear and hatred of those who are somehow different from what “natives” consider normal. My only personal experience with this cultural hangup was working in the Deep South in the late 1960’s. I survived in the workplace by turning it into a joke. Literally placing a sign at the entrance to my department that said – DANGER…North American Wild Yankee…Do Not Feed. Pretty much everyone got the joke and usually tried to understand our social and political differences.

Still, the Confederacy hasn’t changed much. Political struggle has taken much power away from racists. Democracy has made inroads. But, the populist myths of fear and hatred persist and have taken significant control in today’s Republican Party. Shoving most traditional conservatives to the side in a quest for brute power.

Swimming Reindeer


Click to enlargeWikimedia Commons

❝ In 1866 French engineer Peccadeau de l’Isle discovered the sculptures of two swimming reindeer on the banks of the River Aveyron. Each had been carved from a mammoth tusk about 13,000 years ago. The carvings had historic as well as artistic value: They showed that humans, mammoths, and reindeer had coexisted in France during the ice age, when the climate of France resembled that of modern Siberia.

❝ Amazingly, it wasn’t until 1904 that anyone thought to try fitting the two pieces together — it was discovered that they were two parts of a single sculpture. Today they form the oldest piece of art in the British Museum.

The British Museum rocks. Even though it’s full of stolen goods.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

All Earth’s spiders could eat every human on Earth — in one year


Click to enlarge – if you must

Spiders are quite literally all around us. A recent entomological survey of North Carolina homes turned up spiders in 100 percent of them, including 68 percent of bathrooms and more than three-quarters of bedrooms. There’s a good chance at least one spider is staring at you right now, sizing you up from a darkened corner of the room, eight eyes glistening in the shadows.

❝ Spiders mostly eat insects, although some of the larger species have been known to snack on lizards, birds and even small mammals. Given their abundance and the voraciousness of their appetites, two European biologists recently wondered: If you were to tally up all the food eaten by the world’s entire spider population in a single year, how much would it be?

❝ Martin Nyffeler and Klaus Birkhofer published their estimate in the journal the Science of Nature earlier this month, and the number they arrived at is frankly shocking: The world’s spiders consume somewhere between 400 million and 800 million tons of prey in any given year. That means that spiders eat at least as much meat as all 7 billion humans on the planet combined, who the authors note consume about 400 million tons of meat and fish each year.

Or, for a slightly more disturbing comparison: The total biomass of all adult humans on Earth is estimated to be 287 million tons. Even if you tack on another 70 million-ish tons to account for the weight of kids, it’s still not equal to the total amount of food eaten by spiders in a given year, exceeding the total weight of humanity.

In other words, spiders could eat all of us and still be hungry.

RTFA more even more info aimed at making it harder to fall asleep at night. In a nice, warm, dark room.

Dogs are smarter than we give them credit for

Dog lovers have been saying it for years: dogs are smarter than many people give them credit for.

Now, scientists are joining in. Over the past decade, research into canine behavior and intelligence has been blossoming, and a range of experiments have suggested that dogs are capable of surprisingly complex feats of social intelligence and emotional sensitivity. On the whole, psychologist and dog researcher Stanley Coren estimates, the average dog’s intelligence is roughly as sophisticated as a 2.5-year-old baby’s.

So far, research has suggested that dogs can read our cues, show emotional connection to their owners, and even display jealousy. Studies have found that the brightest dogs appear to be capable of learning hundreds of words. It’s likely that these abilities have been shaped by evolution — over thousands of years, we’ve selected those dogs best adapted to live with humans.

The field is still new, however, and researchers keep finding out a surprising amount. “Most labs have historically been invested in rodent and monkey models,” says Gregory Berns, an Emory neuroscientist who conducts MRI research with dogs. “But dogs are unique animals, and I think in many ways they’re one of the best animals for understanding social behaviors.”

Using newer technologies such as MRI as well as carefully designed behavioral experiments, a handful of labs around the world have dug into the dog psyche — and found that they’re much smarter than many people assume.

Dogs can learn hundreds of words…Dogs pay attention to the words of our speech — not just our tone…

Dogs love humans, are good at reading us, and are eager to please us. But that doesn’t mean they know right from wrong. Instead, they simply feel sad when they let us down.

And just like person-to-person interaction, sometimes that’s our fault for presuming what should be an appropriate response – and we’re the ones who are wrong.

Thanks, Helen [and Sheila the dog]