Australian couple videotapes large huntsman spider killing gecko

Australian couple videotapes large huntsman spider killing gecko

A couple in Queensland, Australia got an unexpected treat: they witnessed a large huntsman spider, with a 5 inch diameter, killing a gecko on their living room window, and have pictures and video to share with the rest of us. It’s an amazing example of nature in action, demonstrating just what these incredible arachnids can do. Spiders are known for ridding homes and neighborhoods of pests, and large huntsman spiders really get the hob done.

And this isn’t even the most impressive hunt recorded in Queensland. Another Australian captured a huntsman dragging an entire adult mouse along the side of a refrigerator! We can expect more exciting spider footage to come, because the huntsman is one of the most common spiders in Australian homes, making the probability of more encounters with this unusually large arachnid extremely probable.

Australia’s huntsman spiders are certainly huge, and appear quite menacing to the uninitiated, but to humans they are harmless. These expert hunters live up to their names, because they don’t build webs, but rather stalk their prey, as cats might, before pouncing, and then immobilizing the hapless creatures with venom. This is, of course, unsettling to many. Australia definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. But for spider enthusiasts the world over, there’s great news: the huntsman spider isn’t a single species, but rather an entire family called Saparassidae, comprising over 1,000 distinct species found throughout Australia, Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean, and North America. The Australian varieties, though, can get quite large, as we’ve seen.

Learn more about the gecko eating huntsman spider (Science Alert)



Photo: Melanie Jade Ottaway, Science Alert

Man arrested for threatening decorated Muslim Police Officer and her son

Man arrested for threatening decorated Muslim Police Officer and her son

A man accosted a decorated off duty Muslim-American police officer, and her 16-year-old son in Brooklyn, New York. Aml Elsokary, born and raised in New York City, intervened when she saw the man shove and verbally abuse her son. At that point he turned his rage on her, shouting an expletive, which he appended to the word “ISIS,” and threatening to cut her throat. The alleged suspect, Christopher Nelson, 36, was soon arrested and arraigned on a charge of menacing as a hate crime, which is a felony.

Officer Elsokary joined the police force following the 9/11 attacks. She’s a practicing muslim, who wears a head scarf under her police hat. She’s proven her bravery in the line of duty: in 2014 she was decorated for saving a man from a fire. The heroic officer attended a press conference with New York’s Mayor, and reiterated her commitment to helping all people, no matter what their religion.

Several similar hate crimes have occurred in New York City, and across the nation, over the last few months. According to many observers, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has a long history of activism in the civil rights movement, these incidents appear to be escalating in frequency following Donald Trump’s election victory, and are of great concern to both law enforcement and civil rights groups. Many fear that Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric, which was particularly negative towards muslims and Mexicans, has served to incite marginal members of his following to violence.

The bigotry and violence that these attacks against innocent people represent are unconscionable and have no place in a free and just society. We must all speak out against these crimes, and intervene or call for help when ever we see them occurring. And most important of all, Donald Trump must continue to loudly and clearly disavow such attacks, and publicly denounce and admonish those who make such threats and perpetrate such crimes. It’s not enough that the President Elect has mentioned this once or twice. A few mild statements after an entire year of fiery, rage-filled rhetoric aren’t enough to make a difference and correct a problem he set in motion with his own words.

Learn more about Officer Esokary’s ordeal (ABC News)


Photo: ABC News

Donald Trump saves 800 factory jobs, but more to go to Mexico

Did Donald Trump just save 1,000 factory jobs in Indiana?

According to Donald Trump, over 800 jobs will stay in Indiana following negotiations with the President Elect. However, over 1,300 American jobs will still go to Mexico, meaning only about 40% of the total number in question will be saved, and possibly only for the short term. And, in his grandiose style, the President Elect also inflated the numbers by 200 at a press conference, claiming that over 1,000 jobs would remain in the U.S.

Carrier, a noteworthy player in the heating and cooling industry, had announced back in February of 2016 that it was pulling up stakes in Indiana, and setting up shop in Monterrey, Mexico. Trump supporters are ecstatic, and point to this small but measurable success as proof of the President Elect’s business acumen, while his critics feel this is a dangerous precedent for a U.S. President to establish.

Details of the deal are still sketchy, but apparently the company was offered 7 million dollars in financial incentives from the state of Indiana, currently governed by Vice President Elect Mike Pence, over the next 10 years, and probably a low corporate tax rate, to keep these manufacturing jobs in the United States. As part of his business development plan, Donald Trump has proposed a general 15% tax on businesses, substantially lower than the current 35% tax rate.

In addition, Trump has threatened to levee high import tariffs for American companies manufacturing their products abroad at the expense of American jobs at home. According to Trump, under his administration, it will be easy for companies to move from state to state within the U.S., competing for the most favorable business opportunities, but very difficult to leave the country.

Regarding the Carrier deal, it’s interesting to note that the company would have saved an estimated $65 million per year by moving its operation to Mexico. Critics and pundits, including former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, point out that Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies (UTC) currently holds government contracts worth billions of dollars. This leads to speculation that these contracts are potent leverage for the President Elect, especially since the Trump administration is expected to invest in a massive military build-up worth billions more to the private sector, and may have influenced the negotiations.

The advantages of this turn of events for American workers are obvious, albeit small. Though 800 jobs are better than nothing, President Obama’s bailout of the automobile industry saved over 1 million jobs. But critics are concerned that this sets a precedent for one to one negotiations between the President Elect and individual companies, like Carrier. Such a strategy would be unwieldy when implemented over and over again, thousands of times, in order to make a lasting impact on the nation’s economy, and it would establish a stake for the President in the success of specific companies, apart form their competitors, raising ethical concerns. This might lead to additional measures, essentially favoritism, in order to help these specific companies perform well down the road, which may be unfair to their competition, and may not be in the best interests of the economy as a whole.



Photo: By Marc Nozell (Flickr) CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons



Courageous clown, champion of children, killed in Aleppo air strike

Courageous clown, champion of children, killed in Aleppo air strike

A young clown who entertained children in Aleppo, Syria has tragically died in an air strike.

The Syrian city of Aleppo struggles under the yoke of war, barraged by frequent air strikes. The city’s people live in terror from day to day in this war-torn region. Under these harsh conditions, our hearts go out to the children of Aleppo, whose lives should be filled with innocence and wonder, but who suffer the indignities of war. But for a brief time a wonderful, warm-hearted hero was their champion.

When most were concerned for their own survival and well-being, which is perfectly understandable in such a place, Anas Al-Basha, just 24 years of age, dressed in costume and applied the make-up of a clown, to perform for the local children with music. He distributed candy and tried to make their lives better, working for a local relief organization. He selflessly and joyfully offered them at least a brief respite from the trauma of constant violence, and a return to the wonder of childhood they deserved. But cruel realities tend to return with a vengeance. On Tuesday death rained down from the sky, and his young life ended in an air strike in a rebel-held neighborhood of Aleppo, according to his brother.

His death, an example of so called “collateral damage,” is emblematic of the kind of tragedy that occurs constantly in wars across the globe. Non combatants, innocents, even children, are routinely slaughtered in wars, during air strikes and artillery barrages, all over the world, as governments, paramilitary and terrorist groups vie for dominance and control of territory. It’s been happening for years, in fact, for centuries. It must stop. But it won’t, until the people of the world, and the leaders of the nations, join together to learn how to solve serious political and social problems peacefully.

Learn about the clown who brought joy to children, dead at 24 (CNN)



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