Friday, November 30, 2018

3 by Randal Ford

Animal Kingdom: A Collection of Portraits

Written by Randal Ford, Foreword by Dan Winters
These arresting studio portraits capture the beauty, power, and even humor of 150 furry and feathered species - a delight for any animal or bird lover.

Acclaimed photographer Randal Ford celebrates our fascination with and love of animals through his engaging portraits of the animal kingdom. A young male lion cub seems to sport a rebellious mohawk; a chimpanzee adopts a pensive pose; a curious duckling cocks his head at the camera lens and flaps his wings. The featured animals cover a wide range, from birds such as the African crane, cockatoos, flamingos, and roosters, to big cats such as tigers, cheetahs, and leopards, to Arabian horses, bulls, and Longhorn sheep, among many others. Bird and animal lovers will be drawn to the powerful and emotionally engaging images that seem to reveal the individual character of the other animals that share the Earth with us. Elegantly designed and packaged, this book will be the perfect gift and addition to the home of any lover of animals or fine photography.

About The Author

Randal Ford's works have appeared on the cover of Time, Texas Monthly, and Communication Arts, the advertising industry's most prestigious publication. Among other accolades, his animal photographs were awarded first place and best of show in the fine art category in the prestigious International Photo Awards competition in 2017. 

Dan Winters is widely recognized for his unusual celebrity portraiture. Winters has won more than 100 national and international awards from American Photography, Communication Arts, the Society of Publication Designers, and Life. His work is in the permanent collections at the National Portrait Gallery. 

Project Survival's Cat Haven is an innovative park dedicated to the preservation of wild cats. While some of the cats at Project Survival have been orphaned in the wild or have needed to be re-homed due to varying circumstances, they do not call themselves a sanctuary.

  • Publish Date: September 25, 2018
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Category: Photography - Individual Photographers - Essays
  • Publisher: Rizzoli
  • Trim Size: 8-1/2 x 10-7/8
  • Pages: 176
  • US Price: $40.00
  • CDN Price: $55.00
  • ISBN: 978-1-59962-147-0
$38.87 at Amazon

‘It’s Still a Blast Beating People’

St. Louis police indicted in assault of undercover officer posing as protester


Hundreds demonstrated in St. Louis in 2017 after former police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted in the killing of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
When a judge acquitted a white St. Louis police officer in September 2017 for fatally shooting a young black man, the city’s police braced for massive protests. But St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Dustin Boone wasn’t just prepared for the unrest — he was pumped.

“It’s gonna get IGNORANT tonight!!” he texted on Sept. 15, 2017, the day of the verdict. “It’s gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these s---heads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart!!!!”

Two days later, prosecutors say, that’s exactly what Boone did to one black protester. Boone, 35, and two other officers, Randy Hays, 31, and Christopher Myers, 27, threw a man to the ground and viciously kicked him and beat him with a riot baton, even though he was complying with their instructions.

But the three police officers had no idea that the man was a 22-year police veteran working undercover, whom they beat so badly that he couldn’t eat and lost 20 pounds. On Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted the three officers in the assault. They also indicted the men and another officer, Bailey Colletta, 25, for the attack.

Prosecutors released text messages showing the officers bragging about assaulting protesters, with Hays even noting that “going rogue does feel good.”

To protest leaders, the federal charges are a welcome measure of justice — but also a sign of how far St. Louis still has to go four years after the Ferguson protests helped galvanize a national movement for police accountability.

“If it was not a police officer — and particularly a black police officer — who was the victim of this assault, would we be at this juncture?” the Rev. Darryl Gray, one of the protest organizers, said to The Washington Post. “We’ve had several incidents of protesters and activists being the victims of excessive use of force and police abusing their authority without ever seeing charges like this.”

The 2017 protests centered on the case of officer Jason Stockley, who had killed 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith in December 2011 after chasing him following an alleged drug buy. Stockley had an unauthorized, personal AK-47 on the scene and was recorded on a dash cam during the chase saying he was “going to kill” Smith. Moments later, after Smith crashed, Stockley fired five fatal shots into his car.

In 2016, local prosecutors charged Stockley with first-degree murder and alleged the officer planted a revolver in Smith’s car after the killing. When a judge acquitted him on Sept. 15, 2017, activists who had emerged from the Ferguson protests planned mass demonstrations around St. Louis.

Gray said he expected police to act much as they did during Ferguson, when heavily militarized officers stormed protesters, drawing national condemnation from civil rights activists. “We knew that from 2014, the police culture had not changed,” he said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.”

In fact, texts from Boone, Hays and Myers suggest those officers were explicitly looking forward to violently attacking protesters. The day the verdict was released, Myers suggested they “whoop some ass.” Boone boasted about how he would beat “people up when they don’t act right,” and “just grab” protesters and “toss them around.”

Asked how he was faring during the demonstrations two days after the verdict, Boone responded, “A lot of cops getting hurt, but it’s still a blast beating people that deserve it. . . . I’m enjoying every night.”

That same day, Boone, Hays and Myers encountered a man identified as L.H. in federal documents. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he was Luther Hall, a veteran city police officer working undercover during the demonstrations. Though he made no effort to resist, the three officers brutally beat Hall, who was left with a two-centimeter hole above his lip, an injured tailbone and back injuries that required surgery; he still hasn’t recovered enough to return to work, the Post-Dispatch reported.

In the weeks afterward, prosecutors say, the three police officers gave false statements about the arrest and even directly contacted Hall to try to dissuade him from pursuing charges. Myers also destroyed Hall’s cellphone, prosecutors say. Colletta, who was romantically involved with Hays, also lied to investigators about the assault, according to the indictment.

Boone, Hays and Myers face charges of depriving Hall of his constitutional rights and conspiring to obstruct justice. Myers also faces a charge of destroying evidence, and Colletta is charged with obstructing, influencing or impeding a grand jury.

The four officers are being represented by police union lawyers who declined to comment to the Post-Dispatch. Jeff Roorda, the union’s head, told the Post-Dispatch, “We encourage elected officials, the media and the public to allow them their day in court without speculation about their guilt or innocence.”

Local activists have been particularly struck by the text messages released by prosecutors. Missouri State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. (D) made his name as a leader during the Ferguson demonstrations and has a pending lawsuit against St. Louis County police over his arrest in a 2014 protest. Earlier this week, he released body-camera footage that also showed officers in his case bragging about roughing up demonstrators.

“Those officers are excited and proud of beating up protesters and folks exercising their rights,” Franks told The Washington Post of the new text messages. “My case was in 2014 and now this is from 2017. This culture hasn’t changed.”

Franks said he plans to introduce legislation to more tightly restrict use of force by police and to offer more legal protections to protesters. But he also urged prosecutors to look deeper into the 2017 protests, which led to dozens of arrests — including a Post-Dispatch journalist who has filed one of at least 14 lawsuits over the police response.

“We need to hold everyone accountable, not just these officers,” Franks said. “There were more officers involved. We have higher-ups who were involved.”

As dark a picture as the indictments paint of police actions during the protests, Gray sees hope in the story being revealed.

“Maybe this police officer getting beat up by three of his own, who deliberately went out to hurt someone who was compliant and not resisting, maybe this is what is needed in this country and this city and this region to finally say, ‘We have not gone far enough to hold police accountable,’ ” Gray said.

To Help Prevent the Next Big Wildfire, Let the Forest Burn

The New York Times  by Ash Ngu and Sahil Chinoy

The photograph below shows the Yosemite Valley in 1899 on the left, with open meadows and a patchwork of large conifers.

On the right is the same view in 2011. The valley floor has many more trees.Which forest do you think is healthier?

If you picked the sparser forest from 1899, you’re on the right track.

Much of California’s forestland is overgrown, partly because of federal regulations implemented in 1910, which mandated stamping out wildfires as soon as possible. These policies were revised around the 1970s to allow some fires to naturally burn their course, but much of the West has struggled to do so.

At the height of the most recent blazes, President Trump tweeted that there was “no reason” for the fires besides “gross mismanagement” by the state. Critics took issue with the timing and simplistic logic of the statement, but the comment drew attention to the way forest management affects the frequency and intensity of wildfires. Ecologists and forest experts attribute California’s destructive wildfires to decades of aggressive fire suppression, in addition to the increased population of fire-prone areas and hotter, drier conditions due to climate change.

The solution needs to address all these things, but one critical step is shifting our understanding of fire’s role in forest ecology. Policymakers and citizens alike must abandon the idea that trees are always worth saving and that fire is always a threat. Instead, they should permit modest, ecologically necessary wildfires to burn.

“For a long time, we were mistaken about what was going on in the forest,” said Malcolm North, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “People believed that you needed to put fires out because it was burning the forest up. That has proven to be wrong.”

 Before Euro-American settlement in the 1800s, fires burned about 1.5 million acres of forest each year, on average, according to an analysis of fire return intervals by Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley. Skies were most likely smoky through much of the summer and fall, and most forests in California burned every five to 25 years from wildfires caused by lightning or Native American burning practices, he said.

These small fires benefited the entire forest ecosystem, returning nutrients to the soil by burning old vegetation and encouraging new growth by allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor.

But between 1950 and 1999, fires burned just 57,000 acres on average each year under a sweeping fire-suppression policy. Forests that were once periodically cleared by less intense wildfires are now covered by “thick carpets of forest fuels,” according to a report by the Little Hoover Commission, an independent California oversight agency.

In the past two decades, California has begun to see the consequences. Wildfires are now burning much larger swaths of California each year.

Forests across California have also grown much denser over the past 70 years, partly due to less frequent fires, but also because large, old trees have been harvested by loggers. In their place are numerous young, small trees of species that can tolerate the shade from thicker canopies and are easier to burn because of their thinner bark and slimmer trunks.

Decreasing the amount of fuel available to wildfires requires a combination of practices that remove vegetation, like prescribed fires and the selective removal of smaller trees and mulching.

Stephen Pyne, an environmental historian who studies fire, emphasized that logging would not keep wildfires at bay. “Logging takes the big trunks and leaves the small stuff because there’s no market for it,” he said. “Fire burns the little and leaves the big.”

Making matters more complicated, more than 11 million Californians live in the wildland-urban interface, fire-prone transition zones between unoccupied land and developed areas.

Because the majority of wildfires are caused by human activity, the growth since 1990 of these transition zones is troublesome.

The presence of people in these areas makes it difficult to conduct prescribed burns. It also increases the odds of deadly wildfires starting because of the proximity of buildings and flammable vegetation to ignition sources like sparking power lines, cigarettes and campfires.

Many wildfires in the past decade have occured in and near the areas where forest meets human development. Approximately 6.9 million acres burned in California wildfires from 2008 to 2017.

Over the same period, there were far fewer prescribed fires, which are intentionally set by fire managers to mimic the natural cycle of wildfire. They burned about 250,000 acres, a conservative estimate according to CalFire, the state agency responsible for fire protection in forests.

Patchwork forest ownership further complicates the application of fire-prevention strategies. State and local governments own only 3 percent of forestland. Federal agencies own 57 percent. Almost 40 percent is owned by private landowners, most of whom own small tracts of land, lack the expertise to conduct prescribed burns and are reluctant to be held liable if the fire gets out of control.

CalFire is seeking to address these challenges by streamlining the permit and planning process and training more personnel to conduct burns.

Researchers like Greg Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, are working to understand how the shift toward a hotter, drier climate in California is escalating tinderbox-like conditions and stressing densely packed trees already competing for water.

More than 120 million trees have prematurely died in recent years, according to the Forest Service. Dr. Asner estimated this is a tenth of the state’s trees. The large amount of combustible dead wood increases the risk of severe fire.

California is now collecting itself at the tail end of its most destructive and deadliest wildfire season on record. But recovery is not just about donating to relief efforts and rebuilding burned homes. It’s also about creating a new culture for forest and fire management in the state, one that respects the role that carefully planned fires play in preventing disasters.

In May, Gov. Jerry Brown took a step towards this future, dedicating $96 million to reducing wildfire risk in the state. He directed state offices to double the number of acres being managed with prescribed burns and vegetation thinning to 500,000 acres from 250,000 acres, among other directives like educating landowners about effective forest management.

“If California can begin to change, that will be a huge example for the rest of the country, certainly throughout the West,” Dr. Pyne said.

Yes, the Octopus Is Smart as Heck. But Why?

It has eight arms, three hearts — and a plan. Scientists aren’t sure how the cephalopods got to be so intelligent.

An octopus in an aquarium in Brest, France. The animals are highly intelligent, but researchers are uncertain how the trait evolved. CreditCreditFred Tanneau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The New York Times  by Carl Zimmer

To demonstrate how smart an octopus can be, Piero Amodio points to a YouTube video. It shows an octopus pulling two halves of a coconut shell together to hide inside. Later the animal stacks the shells together like nesting bowls — and carts them away. 

“It suggests the octopus is carrying these tools around because it has some understanding they may be useful in the future,” said Mr. Amodio, a graduate student studying animal intelligence at the University of Cambridge in Britain.
But his amazement is mixed with puzzlement. 

Coconut-carrying octopus

Museums Victoria Dec 14, 2009 2 min. 33 sec.
Veined Octopus, Amphioctopus marginatus, showing sophisticated tool use behaviour. Footage shot by Dr Julian Finn of Museum Victoria.

For decades, researchers have studied how certain animals evolved to be intelligent, among them apes, elephants, dolphins and even some birds, such as crows and parrots. 

But all the scientific theories fail when it comes to cephalopods, a group that includes octopuses, squid and cuttlefish. Despite feats of creativity, they lack some hallmarks of intelligence seen in other species. 

“It’s an apparent paradox that’s been largely overlooked in the past,” said Mr. Amodio. He and five other experts on animal intelligence explore this paradox in a paper published this month in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 

For scientists who study animal behavior, intelligence is not about acing a calculus test or taking a car apart and putting it back together. Intelligence comprises sophisticated cognitive skills that help an animal thrive. 

That may include the ability to come up with solutions to the problem of finding food, for example, or a knack for planning for some challenge in the future. Intelligent animals don’t rely on fixed responses to survive — they can invent new behaviors on the fly.

To measure animal intelligence, scientists observe creatures in the wild — watching a dolphin stick a sponge on its beak to avoid getting cuts from sharp rocks and coral, for example. Or they bring animals into the lab and offer them puzzles to solve, such as rewarding crows when they learn to rip paper into strips of just the right size.
Only a few species stand out in these studies, and by comparing them, scientists have identified some shared factors. The animals have big brains relative to their body size, they live for a long time, and they can form long-lasting social bonds.

Those similarities have led to some promising explanations for how certain animals evolved to be smart.

One is known as the ecological intelligence hypothesis. It holds that intelligence evolves as an adaptation for finding food. While some animals have a reliable food supply, others have to cope with unpredictability.

“If you eat fruit, you have to remember where the fruiting trees are and when they’re ripe,” said Mr. Amadio. “It can be much more cognitively challenging than eating leaves.”

Tools allow animals to get to food that they couldn’t reach otherwise. And if they can make plans for the future, they can store food to survive hard times.

Other researchers have argued for what’s known as the social intelligence hypothesis: Smarter animals “cooperate and learn from other members of the same species,” said Mr. Amadio.Together, these forces appear to have encouraged the development of bigger, more powerful brains. 

Smart animals also tend to live for a long time, and it’s possible that bigger brains drove the evolution of longevity. It takes years for juveniles to develop these complex organs, during which time they need help from adults to get enough food.
Cephalopods behave in ways that certainly suggest they’re highly intelligent. An octopus named Inky, for example, made a notorious escape recently from the National Aquarium of New Zealand, exiting his enclosure and slithering into a floor drain and, apparently, out to sea.Cuttlefish can scare off predators by forming eyespots on their bodies in order to look like giant fish. But they only use this trick against predators that rely on vision to find prey. If a predator that depends on smell shows up, the cuttlefish are smart enough just to flee.

Octopuses show the same flexibility when scientists bring them into labs. In one study, researchers at Hebrew University presented octopuses with an L-shaped box with food inside. The animals figured out how to push and pull the morsel through a tiny hole in the wall of their tank. 

Another feature that cephalopods share with other smart animals is a relatively big brain. But that’s where the similarities appear to end. Most of the neurons that do the computing, for example, are in the octopus’s arms.

Most strikingly, cephalopods die young. Some may live as long as two years, while others only last a few months. Nor do cephalopods form social bonds. 

They get together to mate, but males and females don’t stay together for long or care for their young. While chimpanzees and dolphins may live in societies of dozens of other animals, cephalopods seem to be loners.

Mr. Amodio and his colleagues think the evolutionary history of cephalopods may explain this intelligence paradox. About half a billion years ago, their snaillike ancestors evolved to use their shells as a buoyancy device. They could load chambers in the shell with gas to float up and down in the ocean.

A cousin of cephalopods, the nautilus, still lives this way. Like cephalopods, it has tentacles. It also has a somewhat enlarged brain, although it doesn’t seem to be anywhere as intelligent as an octopus.

About 275 million years ago, the ancestor of today’s cephalopods lost the external shell. It’s not clear why, but it must have been liberating. Now the animals could start exploring places that had been off-limits to their shelled ancestors. Octopuses could slip into rocky crevices, for example, to hunt for prey.

On the other hand, losing their shells left cephalopods quite vulnerable to hungry predators. This threat may have driven cephalopods to become masters of disguise and escape. They did so by evolving big brains, the ability to solve new problems, and perhaps look into the future — knowing that coconut or clam shells may come in handy, for example.

An octopus pulls together two empty shells in order to hide off the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia.CreditEthan Daniels, via Getty Images
Yet intelligence is not the perfect solution for cephalopods, Mr. Amodio suggested. Sooner or later, they get eaten. Natural selection has turned them into a paradox: a short-lived, intelligent animal.

Mr. Amodio said that scientists still need to learn a lot more about cephalopods before they can know if this hypothesis is sound. But the research may do more than shine a light on octopuses and their cousins: It could give us a deeper understanding of intelligence in general.

“We can’t take for granted that there’s just one way to intelligence,” Mr. Amodio said. “There could be different paths.”

Tarpeian Rock: The Cliff Romans Threw Their Traitors From

The ancient Romans used a variety of horrific methods to execute those condemned to death for crimes ranging from rape and murder, to adultery, libel, and treason. One method called poena cullei, or “penalty of the sack”, involved sewing up the thoroughly beaten but still alive accused in a leather sack along with an assortment of live animal, most commonly a cock, a dog, a monkey and a serpent, and then throwing the sack into water. Another method of execution, reserved for the worst criminals, runaway slaves, and Christians, involved throwing the accused in a pit to be devoured by wild animals. The Colosseum was often used for this type of execution, known as damnatio ad bestias, or “condemnation to beasts”. 


Some form of capital punishments were reserved for specific crimes, like burying alive, which was sentenced to Vestal Virgins who were found violating the oath of celibacy, and crucifixion, which was regarded such a painful and humiliating way to die that Roman citizens were generally spared of this brutal form of punishment.

One method of execution, reserved for murderers and traitors, was to hurl them off a tall cliff. The cliff of the southern summit of Capitoline Hill, overlooking the Roman Forum in Ancient Rome, was ideal for such barbarous acts. This cliff, called the Tarpeian Rock, is named after a famous traitor who tried to sell Rome to her enemies in return for gold, and instead got killed by the very enemies she tied to betray to. Her name is Tarpeia, and she was the daughter of Spurius Tarpeius, the commander in charge of the Capitoline Hill’s defenses.

According to one version of the legend, Tarpeia approached the Sabine king Titus Tatius when he attacked Rome in the 8th century BC, and offered to open the gates of the citadel in exchange for the gold bracelets they wore in their arms. In some versions, it was the Sabine king who, sensing greed in her eyes, bribed her to open the citadel gates. After Tarpeia allowed the Sabine warriors to gain passage into the city, instead of showering her with gold, the Sabines struck her with their shield and crushed her to death. 

Apparently, even the Sabines loathed her treachery and punished her for betraying her own people.

Legend tells us that Tarpeia’s body was buried beneath the cliff that bears her name, and for centuries afterwards, all notorious traitors were thrown from the Tarpeian Rock, a fate that was considered worse than death because it carried the stigma of shame.

Execution by hurling off the Tarpeian Rock continued till the 1st century CE, until it was prohibited by law. 

Image credit: Quora
Google Street View image of Tarpeian Rock.

Tower of the Sun Redux

Three-dimensional images are projected onto the “Tower of the Sun” at Expo ’70 Commemorative Park in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, on Nov. 29. (Video footage by Kenta Sujino) 

Expo ’70 tower gets far-out makeover with light projections

The Asahi Shimbun  by JUNYA SAKAMOTO/ Staff Writer  November 30, 2018

SUITA, Osaka Prefecture--The odd-looking Osaka landmark known as "Tower of the Sun" is all ready for Christmas.

The sculpture, located in Expo '70 Commemorative Park, was lit up for reporters with festive 3-D projections on the evening of Nov. 29, ahead of its public opening.

The tower was designed by the late artist Taro Okamoto as a symbol of the 1970 Osaka Expo.
The theme of the light show, which is complemented with music, is "shining galaxy."

Three-dimensional images are projected onto the “Tower of the Sun” during an event for the media on Nov. 29 at the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park in Suita, Osaka Prefecture. (Kenta Sujino)

A scene from the projected images light show on the “Tower of the Sun” during an event for media ahead of the public opening, on Nov. 29 at the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park in Suita, Osaka Prefecture (Kenta Sujino)

A message of congratulations for Osaka's successful bid to host the World Expo in 2025 is projected onto the "Tower of the Sun" during a media event on Nov. 29 at the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park in Suita, Osaka Prefecture. (Kenta Sujino)
A message of congratulations was also projected onto the landmark for Japan's recent winning bid to host the World Expo in Osaka in 2025.

The Illumi-Night Bampaku Xmas event will be held Fridays through Sundays from Dec. 1 to Dec. 23, as well as Dec. 24 and 25. The tower's opening hours will be extended to accommodate the event.


Japan has a reputation for cleanliness — just don’t look in our closets

by Amy Chavez  Contributing Writer 
The cleanliness of the Japanese is known worldwide. Thanks to the internet, videos of Japanese students cleaning their schools have gone viral, as well as a memorable clip of how the JR staff clean an entire shinkansen train in under seven minutes. The Japanese have further left their indelible mark at world sporting events by taking their garbage away from stadiums, something unthinkable in most other countries.

So I wasn’t surprised when, while watching the IWF weightlifting championships on TV the other night, two announcers commented on a Japanese competitor’s conduct in the training room.

Announcer A: Hey look, the Japanese competitor is returning his weights to the stand.

Announcer B: Yes, he always does that.

A: I’ve never seen that before.

B: The whole Japanese team does it. And they wipe down the equipment, too.

A: Really?

B: When the competition is over, the team comes out and sweeps the whole area. Then they wipe down the bars and put all their equipment away. I guess all the teams should do that, but the Japanese are the only ones I’ve ever seen do it.

It’s true that when other people are watching, the Japanese are obsessively clean. Institutionalized cleanliness is what is behind the custom for businesses to sweep the sidewalks in front of their buildings every morning, and residential areas that hold regularly scheduled clean-ups where neighbors join in clearing the drains, cutting the grass, and pulling weeds to spruce up the neighborhood. 

I’ve participated in persnickety volunteer clean-ups around our local train station that involved scraping tiny pieces of paper out of the dirt with tongs or collecting cigarette butts that were hiding behind shrubs because there were no larger pieces of garbage to pick up.

But note that these are predominantly group (or team) activities, performed in public spaces. Individuals themselves adhere to various levels, and subpar levels, of hygiene in their own lives. Japan, like everywhere else in the world, has its share of slobs. The country is just better, perhaps, at policing their delinquents.

Employers dictate that staff wear uniforms and adhere to strict personal grooming standards that would seem overly strict — even discriminatory — in other countries (hair length, color, the application of make-up, etc.). Manners on trains are reinforced with posters and public service announcements. These strategies are meant to ensure that individuals’ slovenly ways don’t creep into the workplace or public sector, while at the same time discourage overall degradation of the standards of society. But this conduct doesn’t necessarily spill over into people’s private lives. On returning home, they are free to act however they feel appropriate. 

I’m sure many folks go back to perfectly happy homes that are models of complete disarray.

In Japan, this delineation between public and private space is very strong. It also leads to many gray areas. Minshuku (Japanese inns), for example, can be untidy and dirty, especially in the countryside, because although the accommodation is open to the public, the family also lives there, so it doubles as a private space. As a result, unlike a hotel, you’ll be subject to the family’s individual standards of sanitation. Even in a clean minshuku, I dare you to take a peek into the kitchen. The culinarian’s quarter (a private area customers are not expected to enter) has never had the reputation for being very clean in Japan. Thankfully, this is changing as the nation has begun to accommodate more foreign tourists. They are starting to enforce standards rather than turning a blind eye.

Plenty of Japanese people litter, too, which is why businesses clean up outside their buildings at the start of every day. At the end of the Halloween festivities in Tokyo last October, revelers left the Shibuya area a veritable garbage dump. In the countryside, household garbage is regularly and unceremoniously chucked into rivers that swell during the rainy season and carry the pollutants into the seas. The dumping of industrial waste is also a huge problem, again, because of lax law enforcement.

Visitors from overseas mistakenly believe that Japan is populated with clean, fastidious people. They may also equate cleanliness with tidiness. But many people are clean, yet not necessarily tidy. The popularity of Marie Kondo has further hastened the myth that Japanese are orderly because many readers think she is preaching a Japanese method of tidiness, when she’s actually proselytizing her own KonMari Method. She just happens to be Japanese.

Let’s add just one more stereotype to break the proverbial camel’s back: that Japanese live a minimalist, Zen lifestyle. How many Japanese houses have I entered that are actually clutter-free? Not many. The Zen culture has given into a culture of excess and even Zen priests are known to sport the occasional Miffy key chain. 

You’d be hard up to find anyone living the ideal minimalist life in Japan.

Baby Steps

South Korea sends trains over border into North for first time in decade

The Japan Times  AP
South Korea sent rail cars and dozens of officials to North Korea on Friday for joint surveys on northern sections of railway the countries hope someday to connect with the South.
The weeks-long inspections, which will see South Korean cars running on North Korean tracks for the first time in a decade, represent one of the more significant goodwill gestures between the Koreas in past months as they move to reduce tensions across their heavily armed border.

Also on Friday, the North and South Korean militaries were planning to finish destroying 20 front-line guard posts and removing land mines from a border area where they plan to start their first-ever joint search for remains of soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The Koreas plan to hold a groundbreaking ceremony by the end of the year on an ambitious project to connect railways and roads authorized by their leaders. But beyond surveys and tape-cuttings, the Koreas cannot move much further along without the removal of U.S.-led sanctions against the North, which isn’t likely to come before it takes firmer steps toward relinquishing its nuclear weapons and missiles.

“Through the railways that will be connected in one, the South and North will prosper together and peace in the Korean Peninsula will become firmer,” South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said during a ceremony at Dorasan Station near the border. “We will maintain close consultation with related nations so that the project to connect the South and North’s railways could proceed with international support.”

After whistling twice, a South Korean train engine pulling six rail cars slowly departed toward North Korea’s Panmun Station, near the town of Kaesong, where the rail cars will be reconnected to a North Korean engine.

According to plans outlined by Cho’s ministry, Korean officials will begin by surveying a 400-km (248-mile) section of rail between Kaesong and Sinuiju that cuts through the North’s central region and northeastern coast. From Dec. 8 to 17, the Koreas will inspect an 800-km (497-mile) railway section along the eastern coast, stretching from an area near the scenic Diamond Mountain to a riverside station near the North’s border with Russia.

During the surveys, a North Korean train engine will pull six South Korean rail cars — including passenger and sleeping cars, a power-generator car and a fuel tanker — along the North Korean tracks to test operability.

The Unification Ministry said the North will attach its own rail cars to the vehicles, but it was unclear how many. Fifty-six South Korean officials will participate in the surveys, 28 each for the inspections on the western and eastern sections, the ministry said.

The Koreas in December 2007 began freight services between South Korea’s Munsan Station in Paju and the North’s Panmun Station to support operations at a now-shuttered joint factory park in Kaesong. The South used the trains to move construction materials north, while clothing and shoes made at the factory park were sent south. The line was cut in November 2008 due to political tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program and the hard-line policies of a new conservative government in Seoul.

The Kaesong factory park was shut down under the South’s previous conservative government in February 2016 following a North Korean nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

The joint railway surveys were on hold before the U.N. Security Council on Saturday granted an exemption to sanctions that allowed them to proceed. Seoul initially said the joint surveys wouldn’t violate U.N. sanctions but later admitted Washington had different views and the two sides discussed the matter.

The plan to modernize North Korea’s outdated railways and roads and connect them with the South was among many agreements reached between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who met three times this year amid a diplomatic push that eased tensions over the North’s nuclear program. Kim also met with President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, when they issued a vague aspirational statement about a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing how or when it would occur.

The follow-up talks have been rocky with North Korea insisting that sanctions be removed first before proceeding with the nuclear negotiations. There’s also unease between the United States and South Korea over the pace of inter-Korean engagement, which Washington says should move in tandem with U.S.-led efforts to denuclearize the North.

Even if the North takes concrete steps toward denuclearization and gains sanctions relief, some experts say updating North Korea’s rail networks and trains, which creak slowly along rails that were first built in the early 20th century, could take decades and massive investment.

At the most recent summit between Moon and Kim in September, the two leaders committed to reviving economic cooperation when possible, voicing optimism that international sanctions could end and allow such activity. They also announced measures to reduce conventional military threats, such as creating buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries and a no-fly zone above the border, removing guard posts and demining sections in border areas.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Meet the Spiders That Feed Milk to Their Young

The jumping arachnids’ secretions have four times as much protein as cow milk.

Females of the species Toxeus magnus, a jumping spider that mimics ants, have been discovered to feed their offspring a milk-like substanceCreditCreditChen Zhanqi
The New York Times  by Douglas Quenqua

The act of breast-feeding is so fundamental to being a mammal that we named ourselves after it. (“Mammalis” translates to “of the breasts.”) But over time, scientists have discovered that other animals also produce nutrient-rich elixirs to feed their young, including flamingos, cockroaches and male emperor penguins.

The latest addition to the cast of organisms that lactate — or something like it — is a species of jumping spider.

Researchers in China have discovered that females of the Toxeus magnus spider secrete a milk-like fluid to feed their offspring. The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, also found the arachnid mothers continue to provide the fluid, which contains about four times as much protein as cow’s milk, well after their spawn had become young adults.

Though the spiders aren’t using mammary glands to produce the fluid, and hence are “lactating” in name only, the findings should prompt scientists to reconsider what they know about nursing and how it evolved, the researchers said.

“Finding such mammal-like behavior in a spider, or in any invertebrate for that matter, was a surprise,” said Richard Corlett, a conservation biologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an author of the study. 

Jumping spiders are the single largest group of spiders in the world, with more than 5,000 species and a presence on nearly every continent. The tiny T. magnus, also known as the black ant mimicking jumper, looks like an ant, walks like an ant and even waves its front legs in the air like a pair of antennas (it jumps when threatened or hunting). The species is found mostly in Southeast Asia.

The study came about after the lead author, Zhanqi Chen, also of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, noticed that young T. magnus seemed slow to leave the breeding nest, suggesting the mothers were providing some sort of extended child care. That hypothesis received a boost when he and his colleagues observed newborns in the lab and found that neither they, nor their mother, left the nest to find food for the first 20 days.

Looking closer, they found that during the first week, the mother was depositing droplets of fluid from her underside onto the nest that the hatchlings would come and drink. After the first week, the offspring would drink the fluid directly from the mother’s body.

Adding to their surprise, the researchers found that the mother continued to provide the fluid even after her young began leaving the nest to forage at about 20 days old. The suckling finally ceased at 40 days, though the offspring still used the nest at night for another 20 days.
The extended nursing may be an evolutionary response to the creatures’ tiny size and vulnerability.
“We think that it may reflect the high risk of juvenile spiders becoming prey themselves if they have to hunt for their own food,” said Dr. Corlett.

It’s also unclear how the T. magnus generates the fluid, which contains 2 milligrams of sugar per milliliter of liquid, 5.2 milligrams of fat and a whopping 124 milligrams of protein. The researchers suspect it may have evolved from trophic eggs — unviable eggs that some insects produce to feed their young — because the fluid emerges from the same opening that produces eggs.

When the researchers blocked the mother’s ability to produce the milk by covering the opening with correction fluid (a.k.a White Out), all the hatchlings died within 11 days, showing their complete dependence on the substance.

Though further study is needed to understand how and why the T. magnus generates the fluid, the study should further challenge the assumption that lactation is a uniquely mammalian trait, said Dr. Corlett. “Our findings suggest that ‘lactation’ may arise in non-mammals when it provides a significant advantage in offspring survival.”