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Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Birthday, A Big Tree And It Seems We Saw The First Summer Day

April 29 is Bea’s  birthday and when friends show up in the afternoon we enjoy a big birthday cake. Most years I have made these cakes from scratch, so also this year.
1-DSC_0169Since I LOVE strawberries it had to be a strawberry cake with lots of real whipped cream. (We abhor the overly sweet frosting of North American cakes)
1-DSC_0176And it seemed to me that our guests enjoyed the cake. Now just hours prior to the cake eating contest, we had been invited with our neighbours for a barbequing cook-out. And did those burgers ever taste delicious.
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Reason for that was that I am taking out a big maple tree in their yard. It’s huge and has been threatening to drop big branches on our neighbours cars. So rather than having some damage to their property they decided that this tree was ripe to be taken away. It is easily 60ft. high, has a huge wide crown carried by 5 trunks, all of them coming out of the same root. The challenge is to take it down without letting it fall on the next house. So I brought a ladder and a long rope. Rope was tied high up around the tree with the other end around the hitch of our van. Van was taken forward to put tension on the rope. Then the cutting starts. Works like a charm. My reward is gonna be tons of nice maple firewood.
After all the cake eating we decided to take a drive along the east coast of Campobello. Big houses here on high cliffs overlooking the ocean. The biggest of them all is boarded up and has been built perching on a rock. It’s simply spectacular, but hasn’t been lived in for many years.
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Friday, April 28, 2017

Rather A Slump Than A Bump

G.D.P. Report Shows U.S. Economy Off to Slow Start in 2017
Not only are middle-class Americans facing the threat of higher product prices through import tariffs, but they are also finding themselves on the losing end of Trump’s tax fantasies. After 100 days of erratic ruling by  President Trump, the economy is showing a minimal annual growth of barely 0.7% over the first quarter of 2017, a sharp decline from the 2.1 percent annual rate recorded in the final quarter of last year.
DollarsThat goes to show that you can’t just “talk-up” the economy with slogans and election campaigning, without actually doing some things right.  What was supposed to be a big Trump bump turns now into a Trump slump. Due to the performed Trump hate-rhetoric, tourism has already noticed significantly lower numbers of foreign travelers, and now the average American consumer is about to taking a hit as well, causing reduced revenue for retailers.
But it does fit the picture of running up a recession whenever Republicans are captaining the ship. And finally Trump admitted “I thought it was much easier”.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

America Last! A Consumer Choice?

ANALYSIS

'America Last': A dangerous reaction to Trump's trade bullying: Don Pittis

Over-the-top protectionist rhetoric wins few friends among governments or consumers

By Don Pittis, CBC News Posted: Apr 27, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Apr 27, 2017 5:00 AM ET

When U.S. President Donald Trump, here with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Florida in February, announced he was pulling out of the TPP Asian trade agreement, everyone assumed it was dead. But now Japan says it will relaunch negotiations excluding the U.S.

When U.S. President Donald Trump, here with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Florida in February, announced he was pulling out of the TPP Asian trade agreement, everyone assumed it was dead. But now Japan says it will relaunch negotiations excluding the U.S. (Carlos Barria/Reuters

About The Author

Photo of Don Pittis

Don Pittis
The Business Unit

Don Pittis was a forest firefighter and a ranger in Canada's High Arctic islands. After moving into journalism, he was principal business reporter for Radio Television Hong Kong before the handover to China. He has produced and reported for the CBC in Saskatchewan and Toronto and the BBC in London. He is currently senior producer at CBC's business unit.

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(Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.)

At first it was easy to discount U.S. President Donald Trump's outrageous comments on trade. They came in the same breath as vows to build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border and remarks about dating his own daughter.

But now with the planned imposition of duties of up to 24 per cent on Canadian lumber, Trump has demonstrated to the world that he is not merely raving.

There are growing signs that the world is taking Trump's protectionism seriously.

 

Blame Canada

Canada's government has responded diplomatically, politely disagreeing with the discredited old saw that Canada is dumping softwood on U.S. markets. But British Columbia, whose huge forest industry would be devastated by such a duty, has shot back, demanding a ban on U.S. thermal coal shipments through the province. (Sorry, Alaska)

Heaping blame on foreign governments may play well among core Trump supporters. But Trump's outspoken comments are beginning to alienate some of the country's closest trade partners in a way that will only hurt the U.S. economy and damage the lives of the people who voted for him.

As in the past, companies that produce lumber in the U.S. will experience a windfall once the duty is imposed. But it is U.S. consumers who will pay the bill, says Queen's University trade expert Warren Mabee.

 

Pushing up prices

"It's going to push up prices for lumber. It's going to push up prices for houses. It going to make things more expensive for the average American," says Mabee. He says studies have shown the duty could increase the price of a new U.S. home by thousands of dollars.

USA-ECONOMY/HOUSING

While U.S. lumber producers will get a windfall from duties that devastate parts of the Canadian industry, U.S. consumers will pay the bill as house prices rise by thousands of dollars. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

As for dairy, Mabee says that from Trump's tweets you would never guess Canada is a net importer of dairy products from the U.S.

But of course Canada isn't alone in taking offence from the U.S. president's protectionist tack on trade.

Back when the new president took office, one his first official acts was to sign an order pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, calling the move "great news for American workers."

Everyone assumed that was the end of the deal, but Japan's minister of finance Taro Aso has just announced his country will restart negotiations, leaving the U.S. out in the cold.

 

'Minus the U.S.'  

"We will start talks on an 11-member TPP, minus the U.S.," said Aso in New York last week.

Japan isn't the only one looking to start a club without inviting the U.S. China is already threatening to fill the role of Pacific trade leader with RCEP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free-trade deal with 16 Asian countries.

MEXICO PROTEST

Mexican dairy farmers have complained about cheap imports that hurt their industry, but now the world's biggest importer of U.S. milk is looking for new sources. (Daniel Aguilar/Reuters)

According to a report yesterday from the Bloomberg business news service titled "America's $1.2 Billion Mexico Milk Trade Is Now at Risk," the world's biggest buyer of U.S. milk is looking for new sources, working on a deal with giant milk producer New Zealand and increasing imports from Europe.

"Mexico is looking to make sure they have market alternatives because of the rhetoric from the U.S. on renegotiating NAFTA," a U.S. agriculture and trade expert told Bloomberg.

 

Seeking markets outside the U.S.

Here in Canada trade hostility from the U.S. has led to a push to find new markets for lumber and other Canadian products. Canada's CETA agreement with Europe is one success, as Canada expands trade links with the world's second largest trade bloc. A similar deal between Europe and the U.S. seems far away.

Justin Trudeau, Li Keqiang in China

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang shakes hands with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Beijing on Aug. 31, 2016. In the face of U.S. protectionism, Canada is looking for new markets for its lumber. (Adrian Wyld/Associated Press)

Canadian international trade analyst Patrick Leblond says off-the-cuff comments by Trump have an effect, not just on government negotiators but consumers. For example, Trump's grouping energy with milk and timber as areas where Canada is trying to "take advantage" added new enemies.

"It has negative consequences," says Leblond, senior fellow with the Centre for International Governance and Innovation and a professor at the University of Ottawa. "It puts a damper on how people see the U.S. and how they see U.S. products."

He says the impact has already become apparent in the U.S. tourism industry as international travellers look for alternatives to Trump's United States, where minorities feel unwelcome and border guards demand cellphone passwords.

'America Last'

As Trump talks about "America First," consumers might be increasingly tempted to pursue a strategy of "America Last."

Patricia Cormack, an expert in a subject called consumer nationalism and co-author of the book Desiring Canada, says consumers have enormous power.

"The idea of boycotting Trump precedes these trade discussions at a more personal level, as all of us are consumers," says Cormack. "We don't need California wine. We've got tons of choices."

Of course in a globalized world market, products that seem to be from one country, such as California wine, may have inputs from many other countries, including the country doing such boycotting.

Trump's inflammatory and misinformed comments might be useful in softening up the other side in a real estate deal. But if they inspire old friends to develop plans for retaliation against the United States, they could be setting the stage for a trade war that will benefit no one.

Over-the-top protectionist rhetoric wins few friends among governments or consumers.

But the latest amazing news is that Trump will leave NAFTA in place – for now. 

Go figure.

Monday, April 24, 2017

After Work Walk.

Listening to myself I knew I was darn tired from working all day, but the weather was so enticing that I decided to leave after supper to take a beach walk in the sunset of Friars Bay.
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Many people would shy away from this beach as it has only rocks, tons of deposited seaweed and yes, some garbage coming in with the tide. But aside of the nice sunsets, it also offers something very special.
sea glassIt’s called SEA GLASS and it has been the rave for the last 5 years. I have personally met visitors, even been hired to lead the way for them, to find this treasure. What exactly is SEA GLASS?  Well, it is glass shards of all kind of shapes and colors, and a true piece of Sea glass has stayed in the sea for a very long time tumbling around along the sandy bottom of the sea until it has attained a rough surface. It is glass you can’t look through anymore. The most treasured pieces are shards in red and dark blue, purple or with/and showing old patterns, like from old medicine bottles or old car glass from rear lights.
Collectors make mosaics or jewelry of it. Decorative items like the one Bea made it are also popular.

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                    But also other “treasures” can be found. 
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Saturday, April 22, 2017

When The Lord Moves A Church

House moving  is a long standing practice in North America, but it is not an every day business to move a church across the water. And even more astonishing it is if the captain is the Lord himself.
Mr. Stan Lord is the every-day ferry provider of Campobello Island and he is not afraid to use his special beach-going ferry for transport orders out of the ordinary.

1-Fullscreen capture 4222017 72349 AM-001http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/n-s-church-floats-on-water-toward-winery-1.1018664

A rare sight occurred in Walton, N.S., on Wednesday as a century-old church was ferried down the Minas Basin on a vessel captained by a man named Lord.

The building — formerly St. Matthew's Anglican Church — is being moved to Avondale to become part of the new Avondale Sky Winery, owned by Stewart Creaser and his wife, Lorraine Vassalo.

"We needed a building to make our wine in and to sell our wine in. We've moved an old barn to our property to make the wine in and this building will be used to sell our wine," Creaser told CBC News on Wednesday.

St. Matthew's Anglican Church was built in 1844 and deconsecrated in 2008. Creaser and Vassalo bought the building for $1.67 — the same price the congregation paid for the church in 1844.

While transporting the former church to the new site will cost thousands of dollars, Creaser said he fell in love with the building as soon as he saw it.

"When you're in there it has this amazing, peaceful ambience," he said.

"We really weren't looking for a church in particular but when we were shown it, we just really believed it was the right thing to do. It was a great old building, it's got a lot of history and it deserves to be able to live on."

The journey of the nearly 30-tonne building is a complicated one that has already experienced delays. The building spent the winter on the Walton waterfront after poor weather conditions delayed attempts to move it last year.

On Wednesday, a truck successfully drove the church on to a converted ferry that arrived in Walton for the day's high tide at 2:25 p.m.

The church will now travel more than 45 kilometres down the Bay of Fundy to Newport Landing, then up the Avon River where it will sit overnight, just off Hantsport. It will be unloaded off the ferry at Thursday afternoon's high tide.

Next week, it will be driven up a hill toward Avondale Sky Winery as nearby phone, power and cable lines are carefully disconnected.

Creaser said he was originally hoping to transport the church on a truck for its entire journey.

"There's a problem with the power lines between here and our location that there's major power lines and Nova Scotia Power would have to put power or turn the power off for a significant part of the whole county, which they just can't do," he said.

Armed with cameras and chairs, dozens of people in the village of Walton came to the waterfront to witness the church's move.

"Makes it a little exciting, just look around. I've never seen this many cars in Walton in my life," said one man.

"I think it's just short of a miracle," said another.

The captain of the ferry — named Stan Lord — said he had never experienced anything of this magnitude and was surprised to see so many members of the village show up for the occasion.

"I said, 'Holy crap,'" Lord said, laughing.

The crowd broke into cheers and applause as Lord pulled the ferry away from the waterfront.

"Went to church there and there it goes now, right out to sea," said one woman.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

An Unusual Evening

Do you remember the game? The game everybody played when nothing better to do? A few years ago….OK, maybe more than a few years ago, you could walk into an office and you saw people playing a card game – on their SCREEN!  Well, I played it myself for HOURS, not in any office but at home. It  was as close to an addiction as a player might come in those days.
gamnepic
Last night, I played it again, for there was nothing else to do, as the entire island had lost its Internet since noon yesterday. First I thought it was our darn router again. Then I got suspicious about my laptop, but when I went to LOOK at the router I saw a red blinking light, indicating something was amiss. I rebooted the thing, but the red light came back on.
Now I got a feeling that our internet and phone provider was at fault.  Bell-Aliant is the worst phone provider we have ever experienced. They have poor service and they are the most expensive. They also have a monopoly on phone and internet.

I phoned them.

After the usual ID-procedure I got to explain in no uncertain terms why I was calling. It took about 10 minutes of listening to some non-descript music before the lady with the Indian accent got back to me. And the answer she came up with was as simple as it was perplexing. Bell Aliant workers had been digging in the ground and ripped open the cable.

So that was it.

No internet for us last night and instead of watching an old German TV-production I pulled out my old Toshiba laptop. It’s 12 years old and runs Win XP, but it has this old game stored on it. It’s too slow for surfing the internet but great for playing those old games.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Clueless President

Obama Advisor Responds To Trump Disrespecting Anthem In Best Way Imaginable

By Harper Cicely -

April 17, 2017 

On Easter Sunday, just before his first time hosting the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, President Donald Trump stood on the Truman balcony with First Lady Melania and their son Barron Trump. As the national anthem played, Trump failed to do just one major thing.

According to the Flag code of the United States of America, every person who is present while the national anthem is playing should be standing with their right hand over their heart during the song:

‘During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.’

Flag Code

                          Entirely self-absorbed and clueless

It wasn’t until Melania nudged her clueless husband that he quickly put his hand over his heart. It’s not like he’s not been an American citizen his whole life or anything, right?  Or maybe he thought he had immunity since he is the president of the United States. Whatever was going through his tiny little brain, all there really is to say is, seriously?

https://youtu.be/2mz99agowy0

Former President Barack Obama’s senior advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, was astonished at this moment and immediately noted that if Obama ever didn’t put his hand over his heart for the Star-Spangled Banner during his presidency, it would have become the century’s biggest scandal.

Pfeiffer went to Twitter, saying:

‘This goes without saying but if this had been Barack Obama, it would have been wall to wall coverage of Fox for the next three years.’

12:20 PM - 17 Apr 2017

The former advisor is absolutely right. During Trump’s first few months in office he has done some pretty sketchy things that would have more than likely gotten Obama  impeached.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Crocus Bloom And Bird Twitter

I have a feeling that it must be spring time. A few days ago Bea came in telling me that she had discovered the first blue Crocus under the apple tree.
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1-DSC_0068Meanwhile the blue ones got company by some white crocus.
1-DSC_0055And if that isn’t calling for a spring time feel than how about the  bird twitter right above the Crocus in the apple tree. American Gold Finches, Juncos, Blue Jays, Doves, Warblers, Downy Woodpeckers, and even Cardinals are gathering here reminding us that it is time to start thinking of seeding tomatoes and other veggies.
1-DSC_0008And look, the neighbours are out there in their garden. While Bea is busying herself with watching birds and caring for her numerous surviving winter plants like her geraniums, I am out there with rake and shovel cleaning up my wood splitting mess. We also have a brush pile to deal with and the “dealing” means we have to burn it in small portions. It’s dry now and just a little bit of gas poured cautiously over the twigs will start the fire.
1-DSC_0022It’s just a wonderful quiet day and ”No wind” is great for having a small fire in the back yard. Looking around across the deep-blue bay I marvel again about how beautiful it is here. Our paradise.
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Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Curious History of the White House Easter Egg Roll

Egg rolls were a big part of Easter for many nineteenth-century families.

Easter Egg Hunt

Played with hard-boiled eggs that have been decorated for Easter, players push their egg along down a hill, trying to be the first to reach the bottom. The best-known egg roll is probably the one held on the White House’s South Lawn each year.

The Easter Egg Roll is today the largest annual public event held at the White House. Its thousands of participants are chosen by lottery. In the 1870s, everyone wanted to participate.

Before they rolled eggs on the South Lawn, children from Washington rolled eggs down the steep slopes of Capitol Hill. According to newspaper articles, writes History.com, the first public event happened in 1872. By 1876, “foot traffic from hordes of children and their families during an egg roll caused so much damage to the Congressional grounds that legislators were forced to pass the Turf Protection Law to prevent further damage.”

The law was to take effect in 1877, according to the Clinton White House. But that year, Easter Monday was marked by pouring rain, keeping children inside during the egg roll in any case. The next year—so the story goes—President Rutherford B. Hayes was accosted by a group of children who “inquired about the possibilities of egg rolling on the South Lawn of the White House.” As the White House Historical Association notes, private egg rolling events may have been held at the White House as far back as Lincoln's administration. But this was the moment White House egg rolling went public. Hayes, in the second year of his presidency, acceded to their demands, and the White House has hosted an egg-rolling event most years since.

The photograph at the top of this story, taken in 1898 by female photojournalist Frances Benjamin Johnston, is one of two images showing both black and white children participating in the egg roll during the late nineteenth century.

“Black children were allowed to attend the White House’s annual Easter egg-rolling ceremony,” writes author Clarence Lusane in The Black History of the White House. “Permitting black children to integrate with white children on the White House premises one day a year was acceptable, even though such mingling was illegal in many places throughout the South at the time, including libraries and schools.”

According to Elizabeth Bumiller for The New York Times, even that small concession eventually faded, and by 1953, “Mamie Eisenhower asked why black children were looking through the gates at the white children rolling eggs inside.” She insisted that black children be included the following year, Bushmiller writes.

In the intervening years, black families also found another Easter egg rolling event that they felt welcome at: the National Zoo’s egg roll, which takes place on the Lion-Tiger Hill, writes Megan Gambino for Smithsonian. 

Both the National Zoo's event and the White House's will take place this Easter.

Happy Easter

Friday, April 14, 2017

Trump Is Giving The World Whiplash.

By Frida Ghitis (CNN)

During more than a year of campaigning Trump staked out positions that sowed wide anxiety, threatening to upend decades of US strategy, policy and protocol, in favor of what he claimed would be his innovative, commonsense businessman's approach.

But now, less than three months into his presidency, Trump has begun a head-snapping series of reversals. His new ideas have not survived the first contact with reality.

Now, he announces changes of mind after meeting with world leaders or after hearing of shocking events on television. Policies on Syria, China, NATO, Russia, all seem to be turning into precisely the opposite of what candidate Trump had vowed.

The President would like us to think this is the reasonable behavior of a man imbued with great leadership talents, capable of responding to changing circumstances; a brilliant navigator, tacking at the right moment, or trimming the sails to make the most of shifting winds.

That explanation, however, misses the facts. What we are seeing is an erratic foreign policy, anchored by shallow thinking. It alarms US allies and dangerously destabilizes the rest of the world. (In some areas, however, Trump is still sticking with his muscular foreign policy stance, as in the use of the biggest nonnuclear bomb in America's arsenal, dropped in Afghanistan on Thursday.)

But Trump is changing his mind because he hadn't thought very carefully about his earlier positions, so the reasoning behind them can collapse after the evening news or after a conversation with a world leader. We can only hope he -- or his wiser aides -- is giving more careful thought to the new approach before it becomes US policy

There is, however, one considerable bit of good news in the most recent installments of Jekyll and Hyde Trump. Most of the changes we have seen in the past few days reflect the abandonment of campaign pledges that were absurd from the start.

There is a chance that Trump is discovering the world as it really is. This will come as a harsh blow to those who believed his "America First" pledges to stay out of international conflicts and smash the existing global order enough to vote for him last November.

Back then, Trump questioned America's relationship with NATO, dismissing as "obsolete" the alliance that has been the bedrock of global stability since World War II. He accused China of "raping," US consumers with its trade policies and said that he would designate Beijing as a currency manipulator "on day one." He vowed to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, also on day one of his administration. He said he would improve relations with Russia, aligning with Moscow to jointly combat ISIS in Syria, while staying out of the rest of that conflict.

"Wouldn't it be nice if we got along with Russia," he declared, as if nobody else had ever thought of that; as if no one else had tried; as if fundamental policy disagreements did not lie at the heart of bilateral tensions.

And so, to review, here is the latest in the about-faces Trump has made in his world view:

Syria is the first and most shocking of all. Trump, who now calls Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a "butcher" and "an animal," had tweeted while Obama was President that getting involved in Syria would be "stupid." As candidate he promised to only fight ISIS. Russia fights ISIS and Assad fights ISIS, he said, suggesting Putin and Assad could be Washington's allies -- even disagreeing with Mike Pence when his running mate said military action against Assad might be in the cards.

But then, after a chemical attack on Syrian children blamed on Assad, a visibly moved Trump announced "my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much." In a press conference the day after the chemical attack, Trump boasted that he is "a very flexible person." Only days earlier, administration officials had suggested Trump was prepared to let Assad stay in power. Now Trump has discarded his stance on the most complex geopolitical conflict in the world today, deciding to bomb.

"I don't have one specific way, and if the world changes ... I do change and I am flexible and I am proud of that flexibility." The President wanted us to believe this is nothing more than the reasonable behavior of a pragmatic leader.

Flexibility is normally a commendable trait, the mark of the nonzealot. If circumstances change, it makes sense to adjust. But, as in practically all the cases in which Trump is backing away from his earlier stance, nothing has changed. It is as if Trump did not know of Assad's viciousness. The Syrian regime has been using chemical weapons, barrel bombs and mass starvation of civilians. Some 500,000 have died. That is not new.

Just this week, after meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump reversed course on two more fundamental campaign positions. NATO, he said, is "no longer obsolete." Nothing had changed about NATO. Trump claimed the alliance started fighting terrorism because of his pressure, but that is patently false. NATO has fought in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda.

And China? After a good meeting with Xi, Trump has decided China is no longer raping US consumers.

And how about that pledge to move the US embassy to Jerusalem? That was supposed to happen immediately after inauguration. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker, said he thought Trump was ready to move the embassy at 12:01 p.m. on January 20, immediately after being sworn in. But then, Trump discovered it was all a little more complicated than he thought. He's getting "a greater sense of some of the complexities that exist," Corker said.

Trump seemed to campaign on a premise that everyone else is a fool. Only he, he claimed, had what it takes to correct it all. It turns out his brilliant ideas were nothing but shallow talking points, good enough to trigger roars of applause at his massive rallies.

Some of the course corrections, particularly regarding NATO, are a welcome change. But the sight of a President who changes his mind with such ease over the most consequential issues of our time is deeply disturbing.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Do You Love Spiders?

Chances are your answer is negative. Mine would be too. Having been a traveler to the desert South West most of us have seen tarantulas. If you think that these look frightening then you would be much more scared by meeting the below pictured creature.

Super spider                         A fluffy lookin’ softball of a spider

This cute looking spider is the size of a softball and was discovered in a Mexican cave. Researchers at the San Diego Natural History Museum, along with experts from Mexico and Brazil, have described the new species of large cave-dwelling spider, the Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider (Califorctenus cacachilensis). Related to the notoriously venomous Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria fera), the Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider was first discovered on a collaborative research expedition in 2013 into a small mountain range outside of La Paz in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Four years later, after careful documentation and peer-review, the species and genus was deemed new to science and the discovery was published in Zootaxa  on March 2, 2017.

 

The Discovery                           

“The first evidence we found of this species was a shed exoskeleton in the cracks of a rock overhang,” said Jim Berrian, field entomologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum and one of the authors describing the new species. “The exoskeleton was abnormally big and I could tell by the eye pattern that it was in a group of spiders, wandering spiders from the Family Ctenidae, with very few species in Baja California Sur.”

Knowing that wandering spiders are often nocturnal, Berrian and colleagues returned to the same area that evening to find the first living specimen of Califorctenus cacachilensis. “I knew the spider was unusual, but needed to get Dr. Maria Luisa Jimenez to look at it to make sure,” remarked Berrian. Dr. Maria Luisa Jimenez, a researcher at Centro de Investigaciones Biol√≥gicas del Noroeste and foremost expert on the spiders of Baja California Sur, was on route to join Berrian and colleagues as part of the expedition to the Sierra Cacachilas. “When I saw these spiders for the first time, I was very impressed by their size,” said Jimenez. “In all my experience over the years collecting spiders on the peninsula, I had never seen a spider this large. I suspected that something new was waiting to be described.”

 

Is it Venomous?              Califorctenus cacachilensis is in the same group of spiders (Family Ctenidae) as the notoriously highly venomous Brazilian wandering spider. “Almost all spiders are venomous, but very few are dangerous to humans,” said Berrian. “I got bit while handling a live specimen of Califorctenus cacachilensis and I’m still alive. We haven’t analyzed the toxicity of the venom, but most wandering spiders are not as dangerous as the Brazilian wandering spider.”

 

What is a New Genus?          

The Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider is so different from other related species that the authors of this study determined that they needed create an entirely new category for it, the genus Califorctenus.

“We made the case for this by comparing many species of wandering spiders from around the world and creating a phylogeny for the group,” said Dr. Daniele Polotow a researcher at University of Campinas in Brazil and expert on wandering spiders.

Scientific names reflect the distance of the relationship in the “evolutionary tree of life.” For example, humans are a species called Homo sapiens, and belong to a genus called Homo. Other primates, like chimpanzees in the genus Pan and gorillas in the genus Gorilla, are in a totally separate genera. Similarly, Califorctenus cacachilensis is so different that a new group had to be created for it.

An Age of Discovery and Collaboration                             Most insects and spiders on the planet have yet to be discovered. There are about 1.1 million species of insects and spiders on the planet that scientists have given names, but most researchers estimate that there are two to five million that remain undescribed.

Focusing on southern California and the peninsula of Baja California, the San Diego Natural History Museum continues to invest in research, discovery, and conservation while focusing on binational collaboration. Coauthored by two Mexicans, a Brazilian, and an American researcher, the study combines multiple lines of expertise to make the case that this spider is not only a new species, but represents also a new genus. “This study is a perfect example of the importance of international collaboration and the type of research we do,” said Judy Gradwohl, president and CEO at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Monday, April 10, 2017

AMERICA: Let’s Play With Our Guns

India has its holy cows. America has its holy guns. The 300+ Mill.guns in private households are holier than any foreigner will ever be able to understand, as a good strong percentage of those weapons are even owned by very religious people.  “Thou shalt not kill” takes on a special meaning in the United States. The number of mass shootings performed by deranged white Americans is staggering. San Bernardino has just gotten its 2. mass shooting within 18 months. American owned guns have been used in school shootings, church shootings, theater shootings, club shootings, shopping centre shootings and a whole lot of domestic violence. Regardless where these vile acts of violence have occurred, the American public doesn’t seem to care about it. Oh, please don’t misunderstand me here…..I know that every shooting is causing the appropriate amount of media circus and public outrage, but when it comes to really deal with the problem, not a thing is ever been done. Apparently, the days of the Wild West have a very special place in American hearts, as the country has never managed nor ever will, distance itself from the much too easy access to deadly weapons and their use.

The old American saying “Bad guys have guns so the good guys also need guns”, should be the first sentence in American bibles.
Conspiracy theories have convinced many Americans that guns are a must-have. And when the alt-right invented the fairytale that Obama (later Hillary) was going to take their guns away, gun sales soared through the roof, once more. Business as usual for the NRA. 

While Trump has been spewing hate theories about Muslims being a threat to the country’s safety, people conveniently forgot that most mass shootings have been committed by regular deranged Americans.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Monkeying Around

Have you ever been called on “monkeying around? The term is containing more truth than you might realize. While humans sometimes imitate monkeys when we

“clown around”, our genetic relatives can exhibit amazing humane behaviour. A scientific test has revealed that Monkeys May Recognize False Beliefs—Knocking Over Yet Another Pillar of Human Cognition

Apes may be aware of the minds of others—yet another remarkable finding about the cognitive abilities of non-human animals

Ape MindAre orangutans aware that others have different minds than their own? (Barbara Vallance / Alamy Stock Photo)

By Ben Panko

SMITHSONIAN.COM
APRIL 7, 2017

For most of scientific history, humans have considered themselves unique in their cognitive abilities. But in recent years, research on some remarkable animal minds has threatened to topple these human-centric notions: Dolphins, for example, can recognize themselves in the mirror. Birds appear to form deep, emotional pair relationships akin to those of humans. And chimpanzees, amazingly, seem to learn from each other the rituals of mourning death.

Now, a new study in our closest ancestors suggests that we may also not be alone in our awareness that others may have different thoughts, experiences and views of the world than we do. The study, published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, aimed to prove this question of consciousness by looking at whether great apes recognize “theory of mind”—that is, the understanding that others have their own (presumably different) minds.

"For many years, a huge body of evidence showed that great apes were able to understand others' goals, desires and even intentions," says David Buttelmann, a psychologist at Erfurt University and lead author on the new paper. "But studies have repeatedly failed to show an understanding of false beliefs in the apes."

Psychologists are hampered in these kinds of studies by the frustrating fact that it's not possible to step into the mind of another person—or creature—to study how it perceives the world. For adult humans, fortunately, language allows psychologists to simply ask a person how they feel or what they know. But for subjects who can't speak articulately—or at all—researchers have to get more creative.
In the 1980s, psychologists devised a strategy to see whether young children were aware of the thoughts and perceptions of others, known as testing “false beliefs.” There are variations, but the test usually takes the form a simple scenario: The child is shown an object being put in a location by another person, who then leaves the room. While the first person is gone, a second person will move the object to different location. The child will then be asked to indicate where the first person will look for the object.

The child knows where the object really is now. But to answer the question correctly, he or she must assume that the first person still has a "false belief" about where the object is because they didn't see it getting moved. To psychologists, this proves that the child knows that other people can think differently than they do, and thus have a grasp of "theory of mind."

While the original studies involved children old enough to speak, more recent studies of "false beliefs" have looked at toddlers and even infants. In 2009, Buttelmann published research with a test showing that infants as young as 16 months old could recognize false beliefs in others. Testing this research in children too young to speak made Buttelmann wonder whether the same test could be used for other animals—namely, our close ape ancestors.

For the study, Buttelmann and his coauthors trained chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans to help a person unlock two boxes, one of which had an object placed in them. (Initially Buttelmann worried that his subjects might tire of the task, but, he recalls, “they had fun—I've never experienced such motivated [subjects] before."

The researchers then introduced the actual test. First, a research assistant placed an object in one of the two boxes, with a second person then moving the object to the other box. In one experiment, the first person would remain in the room while this switch happened, and then go to open to the box they originally put the object in (the "true belief" experiment). In the second, the first person would be out of the room while the switch happened, and then go for the original box (the "false belief" experiment).

False Beliefs Test

This illustration shows the experimenter trying to open a box, which may or may not have an object in it. The ape can choose to help the experimenter based on whether it thinks the person knows which box holds the object. (Buttelmann et al / EurekAlert)

They found that the first person was more likely to receive help—in the form of the ape unlocking the correct box for them—when it appeared that the person had a "false belief" about which box their object was in.

By contrasting a "true belief" person with a "false belief" person, Buttelmann says his team was able to show that "it is their understanding of the experimenter" that leads the apes to choose which box they do. They're less likely to help a person who knows where the object is because they know that person isn't confused—or so the logic goes.

The thing is, these sorts of tests are always open to interpretation, says Robert Lurz, a philosopher at Brooklyn College who has done extensive research on false beliefs and animal cognition. Pointing a similar study last year on apes by some of Buttelmann's coauthors in this study, Lurz says that how to interpret the behavior of these apes is not a settled question yet.

"Even though these two studies converge, it is not clear that they converge on the hypothesis that great apes have an understanding of others’ false beliefs or on the hypothesis that great ape have an understanding of others’ perceptions and goals," says Lurz, who was not involved in the study.

In other words, the apes' actions don't necessarily prove that they're actually recognizing false beliefs in the experimenters. "They might just infer that the experimenter wants the object because she returns to the box where she last saw the object placed," he says. "That’s a pretty good reason to think that she wants the object."

At the same time, Lurz said he was impressed by how the researchers designed this kind of experiment. "It is very difficult to design valid theory-of-mind test for animals," he says. "And so I applaud [the study's] use of an innovative procedure for testing false-belief attribution in apes."

What would be the evolutionary purpose of recognizing false beliefs? Buttlemann has some ideas. One example, he says, is that a male could perceive that the group's dominant male doesn't know that his favorite female is not where he thinks she is. The first male could then take advantage of the dominant male's false belief to mate with the female—thus increasing the likelihood of passing on his genes.

But that’s just a hypothetical scenario. For future research, Buttelmann plans to redesign his test to look at other members of the animal kingdom and get a better sense of how and why theory of mind evolved. "I would love to find out what factor might be the factor that drove the evolution of theory of mind," he says.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The White Supremacist And Neo Nazi Has been Removed From the NSC

BREAKING: Steve Bannon Has Just Been Removed From The National Security Council

By Caleb R. Newton -

April 5, 2017

Top Trump adviser Steve Bannon has just been removed from his role on the National Security Council, according to Bloomberg News.

Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs is reporting:

President Donald Trump reorganized his National Security Council on Wednesday, removing his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, and downgrading the role of his Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert, according to a person familiar with the decision and a regulatory filing.’

Trump pretty much made up a role for Bannon in his presidential administration when he first took office, and Bannon has since turned that role as Trump’s “Chief Strategist” into a feat of power grabbing. He has reportedly been behind controversies ranging from Trump’s virulent inaugural address to Trump’s repeated Muslim targeting travel bans.

Bannon’s job before serving in Trump’s White House was as a chief strategist on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, helping guide it towards the radical political stances that define Bannon’s other old employer, Breitbart.

Bannon’s role in Trump’s inner circle has long been a source of controversy, seeing as his political positions are that of a white nationalist. Bannon has been documented to believe that some sort of apocalyptic age of chaos is about to dawn on the United States; and not only that, he believes that that “age of chaos” is to be helped along, not shunned.

And yet, the President granted him access to the inner circle of deliberations about matters of national security. That access, thankfully, has now been revoked.

“Stop President Bannon” was a popular protest slogan at one point, while questions had also been raised over whether or not there needed to be some kind of outside review of Trump’s appointment of Bannon to the NSC. Ironically, the blame for Bannon ever getting appointed to the NSC in the first place might not even rest with Trump, since reports circulated at one point that the “useful idiot” president was surprised that an executive order that he’d signed included a provision for Bannon’s appointment.

Monday, April 3, 2017

For Many: No Travel To The U.S.

People don’t want to come to Trump’s America: The ‘Trump Slump’ in travel is costing America billions

KALI HOLLOWAY, ALTERNET
01 APR 2017 AT 11:16 ET

Well, that didn’t take long. People around the world have taken a look at Donald Trump and decided his America is not a place they want to visit. The result has been labeled the “Trump Slump,” a drop in international tourism that’s predicted to cost the United States more than $7 billion. Experts across the travel industry have sounded the alarm that the Trump presidency, already destructive on so many fronts, may also do serious financial damage to the country’s $250 billion tourism sector.

Frommer’s, a prominent travel guide, notes that “the prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an ‘official’ travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8 percent” for this year. ForwardKeys, which crunches travel numbers, points to a 6.5 percent downturn in international travel to the U.S. in the week after Trump attempted to issue the Muslim travel ban in January. During the same period, the company found reservations for U.S.-bound flights from Western Europe fell 14 percent and plunged 38 percent from across the Middle East. And a survey released this month by the Global Business Travel Association concluded “45 percent of European business travel professionals say they are less likely to schedule meetings or events in the U.S.,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The numbers offer evidence that Trump has turned off potential visitors from around the world. The resounding message of Trump’s “America First” stance, his obsession with the Mexico border wall, his anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies, his Muslim ban, and his rudeness to longstanding allies is that America is inhospitable to foreigners. Predictably, international travelers are opting to stay away—and that includes the European ones that Trump and his supporters are totally cool with.

“Even white, Anglo-Saxon people, who are most of our customers, they are afraid of crossing the border,” Al Qanun, who runs a Toronto travel agency, told the Times. “They don’t want to end up in some prison.”

Among the innumerable costs of Trump’s and his follower’s nationalism are a few you can actually put a price tag on. Tourism Economics, which uses data to forecast travel trends, expects the international tourism drop-off to result in a revenue loss of $7.4 billion, according to Bloomberg News. That figure doesn’t include contributions from those who come to the U.S. for medical treatments or educational reasons, and who tend to spend even more money, enriching American coffers, while they’re here. The loss of all those visitors could mean future problems for a sector on which more than 15 million people rely for employment. Oxford Economics suggests the toll may ultimately ripple beyond the travel industry, even reducing the U.S. gross domestic product by a few percentage points, per Market Watch.

“I’ll tell you quite honestly, when I saw these reports my reaction was, Oh, my god,” Douglas Quinby, of travel-market firm PhocusWright, told the Boston Globe. “To see a decline in search and booking volume in the 6- to 8-percent range is a profound shift.”

Travel industry insiders aren’t just freaking out, they’re trying to stop the trend in its tracks. Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, penned an open letter to Trump, as if he could be reasoned with.

“Mr. President, please tell the world that while we’re closed to terror, we’re open for business,” the brief letter nearly pleads. “Imbalanced communication is especially susceptible to being ‘lost in translation’—so let’s work together to inform our friends and neighbors, who could benefit from reassurance, not just who is no longer welcome here, but who remains invited.”

The coastal cities where Trump fared the worst in the election are likely to be hardest hit by travel downswings triggered by his administration. Bloomberg cites New York, Los Angeles and Miami as cities that could suffer heavy economic losses. One estimate suggests Miami could lose as much as $736 million over the next three years. Thirty percent of all foreign tourists arriving in the U.S. have New York City as their destination, and if just 300,00 fewer of them visited the city in a year, its economy would be shorted roughly $900 million. To stave off those kinds of losses, NYC & Co., the city’s official tourism agency, has adopted “All Are Welcome” as its new slogan and made it clear it opposes the Trump travel ban.

The rise of Trump and his xenophobic messaging has motivated a number of countries to warn their citizens against non-essential trips to the U.S. The Nigerian government, citing “a few cases of Nigerians with valid multiple-entry U.S. visas being denied entry and sent back,” suggested its residents skip the jaunt to America if they have a choice. In January, the Toronto Star published an editorial suggesting Canadian citizens boycott the U.S. in response to the Trump Muslim ban.

Other negative reactions to America’s longstanding social issues and rising right-wing policies began to take hold even before Trump office. Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Bahamas, the U.K., Germany and New Zealand all issued 2016 U.S. travel warnings to citizens due to the U.S.’ issues with mass shootings, general gun violence, police murders of black citizens, anti-LGBT bathroom laws, and ongoing social upheaval.

With Trump and his white nationalist brigade in charge, the tourism lag could dip to levels not seen since after the World Trade Center attacks.

“The U.S. is in danger of taking the same path it took after September 11, which led to a decade of economic stagnation in the travel and tourism sector,” David Scowsill, CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, told the Globe. “Strict visa policies and inward-looking sentiment led to a $600 billion loss in tourism revenues in the decade post-9/11.”

Trump and his followers will definitely find a way to blame President Obama if the tourism decline persists, but in reality, under the previous administration foreign visits went way up. Bloomberg cites data from U.S. Travel indicating that from 2006 to 2015, “America saw international visitors rise, with arrivals increasing from 51 million in 2006 to nearly 78 million in 2015.”

Perhaps under Trump, Russia can fill the growing gap and make up the difference. Flight app Hopper found Russia is an exception to the rule, with U.S. flight search queries recently increasing 88 percent, per the Guardian.