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Mon, 02 Aug 2021
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Cow

Taxing, a Ritual to Save the Species

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© Serge Bloch
On these taxing days, when we become a defiantly bipartisan nation of whiners convinced that we are handing over to the Internal Revenue Service our blood and sweat and mother's milk, our pound of flesh and firstborn young, maybe it's time for a little perspective.

Legions before us have donated all these items and more to the public till, and not just metaphorically speaking, either. Benjamin Franklin was right to equate paying taxes with a deeply organic behavior like dying. It turns out that giving up a portion of one's income for the sake of the tribe is such a ubiquitous feature of the human race that some researchers see it as crucial to our species' success. Without ritualized taxation, there would be precious little hominid representation.

Moreover, plenty of nonhuman animals practice the tither's art, too, demanding that individuals remit a portion of their food, labor, comfort or personal fecundity for the privilege of group membership. And just as the I.R.S. depends on threat of audit as much as it does on anybody's sense of civic responsibility, so do other toll-collecting species ensure compliance by meting out swift punishment against tax cheats. For example, Marc Hauser of Harvard University has found that when a rhesus monkey is out foraging and comes upon a source of especially high-quality food, like, say, a batch of ripe coconuts, the monkey is expected to give a characteristic food call to alert its comrades to the find. "The bad thing about doing a food call is that it means others will come and take some of the food," said Laurie R. Santos, who studies the primates at Yale University. Yet a monkey who opts to keep mum about its discovery could face worse. Should other group members happen by while the private feast is under way, they will not only claim the food for themselves, but the most dominant among them will also beat the cheater indignantly.

Roses

Rare white British bluebells found in park

white bluebells
© MEN
Albino Bluebell: White versions of the Spanish variety of bluebells, introduced 200 years ago, are relatively common, but these are the much rarer native British type
The "albino" flowers lack the pigment that gives bluebells their traditional purplish blue colour.

They were found growing among a mass of blue flowers at Bluebell Wood in Ferry Meadows Country Park, Peterborough.

Ashley Wheal, ranger at the park, said: "We only have two white plants, so they are very special.

"It is very, very strange, probably only happening in one in every 10,000 bulbs.

Propaganda

Panic Stations! Sea Levels Are Rising: It's Time to Decide Which Coastal Cities Are Worth Saving

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© Nature
Since April Fool's Day expired, there has been nothing but bad news about Earth's various ice shelves circulating through the news. Antarctica's Wordie and Larsen ice shelves? The first is simply gone, and the second is disappearing fast. How about the Connecticut-sized Wilkins shelf? It has fragmented into polar pieces after the ice tether holding it to the Antarctic peninsula snapped this week, signaling that the Earth is undergoing some profound changes.

So what do melting ice shelves a world away have to do with the rest of us? That is where the fools come in.

Comment: Complete nonsense; info-entertainment journalism at best

See also: Antarctic sea ice up 43% since 1980: Where is the Media? and US Navy Physicist warns of possibly 'several decades of crushing cold temperatures and global famine', for a more probable scenario - based on real data and not computerised models programmed to deliver politicised results - facing mankind.


Bizarro Earth

Fascinating satellite image which reveals how the Earth moved in Italy tragedy

This intriguing image is being scrutinized by Italian scientists trying to unravel exactly how the Earth moved during Italy's devastating quake last week.

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Pictured: An 'interferogram' shows the Earth's deformation pattern over the L'Aquila area in central Italy following the devastating quake last week
The picture shows shock waves radiating from the epicentre of the massive 6.3 seismic event in the medieval town of L'Aquila.

Its rainbow-coloured interference patterns were deduced using 'synthetic aperture radar' (SAR) data from the European Space Agency's (ESA) Envisat and the Italian Space Agency's COSMO-SkyMed satellites.

Roses

If Bees Disappear, We'll All Be Stung

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Some people think of bees as something to be feared. But without bees, humans would not be able to survive. It's not just that they provide us with honey and wax; they are also one of the world's most important pollinators. (In fact, bees native to Canada do not produce honey; honeybees are imports - and not all bees sting!)

Close to 90 per cent of the world's plants rely on pollinators for fertilization and reproduction - including many of the plants we use for food. Beyond providing food, plants anchor soil to prevent erosion and fuel the nutrient cycle by decomposing and absorbing nutrients. Bees aren't the only pollinators; butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats, among other animals, provide pollination. But bees are the most common pollinators. If we lose the bees, we lose the plants, and if we lose the plants, well...

Blackbox

Quake scientist predicts Iran will shake in late April

We wrote last year about the attempts of two Chinese researchers to predict earthquakes several weeks in advance using unusual cloud formations. One of the researchers, Guangmeng Guo of the Remote Sensing Center at Nanjing Normal University in Jiangsu province, eastern China, recently emailed me with an update.

He says his team has detected the same unusual clouds above Iran. They predict that there will be a magnitude 5.0 to 6.0 earthquake at the end of April in southern Iran.

Comment: See: Italian earthquake expert's warnings were dismissed as scaremongering.


Arrow Down

At least 30 feared dead in Peru landslide

Up to 60 people are feared dead after a landslide engulfed 25 houses in the region of La Libertad in northwestern Peru, the country's RPP radio said on Friday.

The tragedy occurred in the Sanchez Carrion Province, some 750 km (466 miles) from the capital Lima.

Arrow Down

All bodies recovered after Kyrgyz landslide

Kyrgyzstan landslide
© Unknown
The bodies of the 16 people who died when a landslide hit a village in south Kyrgyzstan's Jalal-Abad province have been recovered by rescue workers, an emergency services spokesman said on Friday.

The landslide occurred early on Thursday, and buried five homes in the village. Nine children were among the dead.

Ambulance

22 dead in earthquakes in Afghanistan

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© Agence France-Presse
Reduced to rubble: An Afghan man stands amid the destroyed houses in Sherzad, following an earthquake in the districts of Khogyani and Sherzad in Nangarhar province, on Friday.
Bhezad Kheil - Two earthquakes shook eastern Afghanistan early Friday, collapsing mud-brick homes on top of villagers while they slept and killing at least 22 people.

The quakes hit four villages in the high mountains of the eastern province of Nangarhar, about 50 km from the Pakistan border.

Afghanistan's Hindu Kush mountain range is hit by dozens of minor earthquakes each year. Many Afghan homes are made of dried mud, so even moderate earthquakes can cause many deaths and major damage to infrastructure. The poverty-stricken nation is also battling a strengthened Taliban insurgency and another four people were killed in attacks on Friday.

Shafiqullah, from the village of Bhezad Kheil, said 21 people were buried in a cemetery following the quake, including two of his young neighbors. Nijad, 10, and Sima, 7, both died after the roof above their second-story bedroom collapsed, raining down wood beams and chunks of mud, he said.

"There were two shakes," said Shafiqullah, 30. "The first shake was very strong, when everyone was asleep. The first shake destroyed everything. Then the crying and the shouting started."

Bell

Two more quakes hit Indonesia

Two more earthquakes, both 5.3 magnitude, hit South Pagai on the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia's West Sumatra early Friday, weather officials said.

The quakes followed a 6.0-magnitude tremor Thursday that shook island residents but caused no injuries or damage, as also was the case on Friday, the Jakarta Post said.