Its Seal Hunting Season Again!

i-967423dc2d7b1fed36b696b03f10ef52-seal_1.JPGCanada, land of the holier than thou. Hey, some of my best friends are Canadians, but really, most Canadians look down on Americans for being all the bad things that we truly are. So fine, we deserve it. But if you are a non-Canadian of any nationality, the next time a Canadian condescends to you, mention the one-million-seal a year quote that the Canadian government allows in their annual seal hunt.

Top Three Seal Hunt MythsHere are the top three myths told by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) about the commercial seal hunt:Myth #1: The seal hunt is humane.All available evidence, including veterinary reports and independent observations, indicates that each year tens of thousands of seal pups die in an unacceptably cruel manner inconsistent with contemporary animal welfare standards.Year after year, observers report abuses such as the hooking and dragging of live seals across the ice, seals clubbed or shot and left to suffer on the ice, and seals skinned while conscious. And while all recent veterinary reports recommend reducing the suffering of seals, their recommendations have not been fully implemented. There is no doubt that Canada’s commercial seal hunt continues to result in considerable and unacceptable suffering.

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Gloves, Mittens, Socks, Quarks and Alternative Universes. It all makes so much sense…

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Jennifer Gooch’s mission was to create a simple Web site where people could go to find their lost gloves. Even if no happy reunions ever took place, she was just content to spread a little goodwill.But just a month since http://www.onecoldhand.com went live, the Carnegie Mellon University art student is busier than ever. She’s reunited four gloves with their owners, is working on similar sites for cities around the globe, and is planning a book to showcase her found gloves.

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Boreal and South American Birds

i-218e473f6c30fde98e1b38a4f3d892ff-Canadian_warbler.jpgFall, a very sunny, very breezy day on the lake, Amanda and I sitting in the cabin minding our own business.Suddenly, …thwack…… well, it was a sort of tiny miniature thwack, but a thwack nonetheless. Peering outside through the window, we could see the the last death throws of a tiny greenish bird that had run into the window. The lighting conditions must have been just right for this bird to think that it could fly through the cabin, because this was an odd and unusual event. (We later made further adjustments to the window to see to it that this did not happen again, of course.)But ex morbido cum ergo identeo, or words to that effect … we were at least able to get a really good look at this tiny warbler, it being dead and all. And it turned out to be one of those rare Canadian tundra species that is only seen in Minnesota for a few minutes while it is whizzing past on its way to Ecuador or even beyond Ecuador. (more…)

Power Line Safety for Hungary’s Hawks

i-fcb71851b4c1f9ba779a9e84947bf042-powerlinehawk.jpgPower lines kill raptors. Tens of thousands of raptors a year die on power lines. But there are ways to avoid this.

On 26 February, the Hungarian Ornithological and Nature Conservation Society (MME; BirdLife in Hungary) signed an agreement with the Ministry of Environment and Water (MEW), and all relevant electric companies in Hungary, to provide a long-term solution for bird-electrocutions. The signing parties promised to transform power lines in Hungary, and to make them more ‘bird-friendly’ by 2020.Since the 1980s, electrocutions and collisions with electric power lines have caused the death of thousands of protected birds in Hungary and other European countries. The real extent of the problem, and the approximate number of affected birds, were not clear until MME started to systematically gather data on electrocuted birds in 2004.To date, five national surveys of power lines have been completed by 150 volunteers and national park employees. They covered all important bird habitats in Hungary.In total, 2,183 carcasses of electrocuted birds were found underneath 19,216 electric poles. Based on these findings, MME estimated that at least 30,000 birds (especially Raptors and Corvids) are killed annually.”Electrocution is one of the most Significant causes of death for several globally threatened raptor species, such as Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca, Saker Falcon Falco cherrug and Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus” said Márton Horváth (MME).Another serious problem concerning electric power lines is birds colliding with the wires. These incidents affect mainly large migratory species such as cranes and geese, as well as the Vulnerable Great Bustard Otis tarda.

… read the rest here.

The Nematode Vulva and the Nature of Evolution

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchThe question is basic: Is evolutionary change largely random or is it more often shaped by selective forces? The former is linked to what is called Neutral Theory, and it has a lot of support, to the extent that it most likely true. The latter is part of what is sometimes known as the Adaptationist Program, and it is certainly correct. New research on the Development of the Nematode Vulva is sure to cloud the issue even further.. (more…)

Minnesotans: In case you were wondering where Mark is these days:

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The University of California Board of Regents today (March 27) voted unanimously to appoint Mark G. Yudof, current head of the University of Texas system and a recognized leader in American higher education, the 19th president of the University of California.The appointment was made during a special meeting of the board following a search committee’s recommendation last week. Yudof will succeed Robert C. Dynes, who last August announced his intention to step down by June 2008 after nearly five years in the position.Yudof’s appointment will become effective this summer, with the exact date to be determined.”I am deeply honored by this appointment,” said Yudof. “The University of California stands as a model for the world, creating tomorrow’s leaders and innovators and helping to solve many of society’s most pressing problems. I can think of no greater personal privilege than to have the opportunity to lead this remarkable institution.”Yudof, 63, has served as chancellor of the UT system since 2002. He heads one of the largest university systems in the country with 15 campuses, 194,000 students and an annual operating budget of $10.7 billion. Yudof previously was president of the University of Minnesota and a longtime faculty member, dean and provost at the University of Texas at Austin.

Gene Genie #24

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Welcome to Gene Genie #24: with a heavy emphasis on Personal Genetics

The previous Gene Genie was hosted at DNAdirect Talk and it is still fresh, so go have a look if you have not already. The next Gene Genie will be hosted at My Biotech Life. By the way, the Gene Genie logo was created by Ricardo at My Biotech Life — see the other award winning artwork here.

If you wish to submit a post for the next Gene Genie, you may use the handy-dandy submission form.

And, now, on with the show:

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Saving the Red Breasted Goose

Branta ruficollis is endangered. The Red Breasted Goose International Working Group (RbGIWG, which is unpronounceable) has a new species action plan to save this critter.Here’s some info from Redbrested Goose Central:i-f11d8e6c4dd1f42ff3d5f77a12ab7e1e-rbgoosewhite.jpg

Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) is a charismatic globally threatened species highly dependent on wetlands and farmed areas. In the last 50 years, the distribution of the breeding and wintering grounds of Red-breasted Goose has changed dramatically for unknown reasons.This species has a small wintering range with 80-90% of the population concentrated in just five roost sites covering less than 20 000 km2 and the remainder occurring in a few other areas.The European wintering population is estimated to be more than 27,000 individuals, but this has fluctuated wildly.It is markedly lower than during the period 1970 -1990, but after remaining stable from 1990 to 2000, significant reductions have recently been observed. For these reasons, in 2007, Branta ruficollis was up listed to Endanger.[source]

And here is a cool goolge map thingie that lest you monitor the geese on their flyway. (more…)

Brightest Gamma-Ray Burst Evah!

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NASA astronomers were blown away last week by what was far and away the strongest gamma-ray burst (GRB) ever observed. GRB 080319B, shown here in x-ray [left] and optical/ultraviolet [right] views captured by the Swift satellite, burned so brightly that its afterglow was briefly visible to the naked eye from its origin 7.5 billion light-years (or half a universe) away. If placed side-by-side with the brightest supernova ever seen, the burst would still outshine it by a factor of 2.5 million, researchers calculated. GRBs typically occur when the explosion of a dying star gets channeled into twin high-speed jets. Astronomers are mystified why this one shined so intensely. The burst may simply have been extra powerful or its very narrow jets may have pointed directly at Earth.

More photos of this event and other interesting stuff here.

Early, somewhat controversial hominid walked like an Australopith

ResearchBlogging.orgi-68d5312667866fe9103d6f046f7c6dff-orrorin_hip.jpgThe ape human split is a bit of a moving target. In the 1970s and early 1980s, there were geneticists who placed it at very recent (close to 4 million years ago) and palaeoanthropologists, using fossils, who placed it at much earlier. During the 1980s, the ape-human split moved back in time because of the importance of sivapithecus, then later in time when Sivapithecus slipped and fell out of the hominid/hominin (human ancestor) family tree. Meanwhile the geneticists were moving towards a more and more recent split. At one point not too long ago, all the evidence converged with the split being around five million years ago. The fossils and the genes agreed, and there were rumors (but nothing published) saying that palaeoanthropologists working in Ethiopia were prepared (soon) to announce that one of the fossils dating to this time had “less then fully developed” bipedalism.But science marches on, and the kinds of questions we are asking of the human fossil record are more detailed than the fossil record usually gives up in a mere few decades of research. So new finds came along and everything changed again. Now, there is a new paper by Richmond and Jungers suggesting that one of the earliest hominid, Orrorin tugenensis, was just as bipedal as any australopith, yet is much farther back in time than, and in many ways, different from our genus (Homo). (more…)

Faith Vs. Speculation: Religious Instructor Resigns In Disagreement Over Reality of Jesus

Bible scholar and NorthPointe Christian High School teacher Kent Dobson resigned Tuesday after he and the school board parted ways over Dobson’s role in a Discovery Channel program, “Jesus: The Missing History.”"It was apparent to both Kent and the board that some of the views expressed on the program were outside of the Statement of Faith of NorthPointe Christian and therefore his resignation was given and accepted,” according to a statement made by NorthPointe Superintendent Jim Hofman and e-mailed to NorthPointe parents.Dobson, the 31-year-old son of retired Calvary Church pastor Ed Dobson and a NorthPointe Bible teacher for nearly two years, refused to comment Wednesday on his resignation, his father said….Neither Hofman nor NorthPointe Board President Kevin Belk would say what specific comments made on the program, which was hosted by Dobson, led to Dobson’s resignation. Nor would they say how Dobson’s role on the program became a school board issue.”I really wish I could lay it all out, but it’s a personnel issue,” Hofman said. Belk, who also is police chief in Grand Rapids, referred all questions to Hofman.The Discovery program first aired at 10 p.m. March 16. A promo on the Discovery Channel Web site says this about the show: “Wars have been fought in his name. Untold millions have devoted their lives to him. But how much do we really know about Jesus ben Joseph of Galilee? Explorer and bible scholar Kent Dobson sets out to get to the bottom of it.”The program raised “difficult questions about the biblical story,” Ed Dobson said. Kent “interviewed scholars who raised questions, and people assumed falsely this is what Kent believes.

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Home Schooling in California

A California appellate court agreed Wednesday to rehear arguments in a controversial case that called into question the legality of home schooling, court documents show.A statewide uproar began when a panel with the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled in last month that there is no constitutional right to home school children.The ruling arose following an investigation into abuse inside a Los Angeles family that home schooled its children.The court agreed to rehear the case based on a request from the father in the family at the center of the case. The father, identified only as Philip L., is represented by Ramona-based attorney Gary Kreep.Kreep is allied with the Alliance Defense Fund, which announced on its Web site Wednesday the court’s decision to rehear the case. The Christian organization takes cases related to religious freedoms.The court said it would look at two issues: whether there is a constitutional right to home school, and whether California law provides for instruction at home by parents who don’t have teaching credentials and are not affiliated with any public school program.The court also said it would consider arguments from the state superintendent of education, the State Board of Education and the California Teachers Association.The matter will be argued in June.

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