I know I’ve slacked off in science this week. So let’s do it today. Jessia Boddy caught my attention at GIZMODO with her piece on crab spiders:
Don’t panic—it’s pretty much only the extra-tiny ones that take flight, which is a behavior called ballooning. By releasing a bouquet of streamer-like silks, baby spiders ascend into the air to find new homes after hatching, and adult spiders do so to get around more easily and find mates and new food sources. Some have even crossed entire oceans using these silk parachutes to stay aloft on wind currents.
And though the behavior is widespread, scientists haven’t nailed down exactly how spiders are able to take to the skies. Moonsung Cho, an aerodynamics engineer at the Technical University of Berlin, wanted to find out, so he studied crab spiders to see when they decide to take off and how they do it. Crab spiders are decently large for spiders that fly—though still only 5 millimeters long—so Cho thought they’d be excellent test subjects, because he wouldn’t need a heavy-duty zoom to record their behavior.
He gathered 14 of them and placed them on a small, dome-shaped structure in a Berlin park to see how they reacted to natural winds. He also studied them in the lab using controlled wind tunnels. He found that before flying away, the spiders would lay down an anchor silk strand for safety. They would then reach one of their front legs into the air to evaluate how fast the wind was blowing, and from which direction. That’s the spider equivalent of licking your finger and sticking it in the air.
And then what? They shoot out their webs – their parachutes. USA TODAY notes:
Spiders don't have wings to fly, but some can weave 10-foot-long silk parachutes to float through the air, researchers recently discovered.
Crab spiders, which are about 5 millimeters long and can change color, were observed checking the wind, raising their abdomen and spinning 7- to 13-foot-long silk parachutes, according to an observational study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS Biology. These spiders seem like expert fliers, too.
When I was a kid, Jessica Drew was Spider-Woman and she could do all sorts of cool things. The Gypsy Moth was one of her foes. I loved it and then they changed her whole story and did a revamp. Don’t get me started on the Joan Van Ark’s voice over for the Spider-Woman TV cartoon.
But spiders are so interesting. And my favorite Spider-Man remains Toby. He was the best.
Last time, I offered "Tammy Duckworth, the manliest in the Senate " and I wanted to note these:
Duckworth is a huge embarrassment.
"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Iraq: The leader of the Sadrist movement Moqtada al-Sadr had announced the formation of an alliance between the people & the opening to form the largest bloc in parliament, came during a joint press conference with President of the Al-Fathahidi alliance held in Najaf.14-06-2018
THE ECONOMIST notes:
WHAT would politicians the world over like to do when they lose an election? Annul the results and burn the ballots, of course. In Iraq such dreams come true. On June 6th outgoing MPs voted to hold a recount of Iraq’s election and sack the head of the electoral commission. They were furious that a populist Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, won the poll, held in May. Then, on June 10th, a warehouse in Baghdad containing a million ballots went up in flames. Firefighters claim to have saved most of them, but the equipment for counting the votes was destroyed.
Weary of the democratic process, Mr Sadr and his rivals are again readying their militias. An arms cache that exploded under a mosque in Mr Sadr’s Baghdad stronghold killed about 20 residents and brought his militia, Saraya Salam, onto the streets. “Certain parties are trying to drag Iraq into civil war,” he warned.
The fiercest rancour is between the Shia factions vying for the post of prime minister. Mr Sadr’s electoral bloc, Sairoun, seeks to wrest power from Dawa, a Shia Islamist party that has led the government since 2005. Dawa held the most seats in the outgoing parliament, but the electoral bloc of its leader, Nuri al-Maliki, a former prime minister, tied for fourth in the poll. Mr Maliki and his allies cried foul and said a new electronic-voting system made the poll easier to rig.
Some are fretting over the alliance between Moqtada and Hadi but this is an alliance that resulted from US interference. The US government egged on the losers encouraging them to demand a recount or a revote. They thought that would happen.
All it did was lead to Moqtada teaming up with Hadi to block the US interference.
Moqtada teaming up with others was limited. And, as Mustafa Habib (NIQASH) observed in his analysis last week, "Al-Sadr is satisfied because the state of law alliance – another Iran-allied group but one that is less popular than the militias’ – is not part of this agreement." State of Law is Nouri al-Maliki's coalition.
Sadr and Amiri are strange bedfellows.
Sadr, who once led violent campaigns against the US occupation that ended in 2011, has emerged as a nationalist opponent of powerful Shia parties allied with neighbouring Iran and as a champion of the poor.
"Our meeting was a very positive one, we met to end the suffering of this nation and of the people. Our new alliance is a nationalist one," Sadr said.
Al-Sadr's alliance comprising of communists and secular Iraqis has announced it is fiercely opposed to any foreign interference in Iraq - whether Tehran's or Washington's.
Amiri, a fluent Persian speaker, is Iran's closest ally in Iraq, having spent two years in exile there during the era of former President Saddam Hussein.
The Fatah alliance he led in the election was composed of political groups tied to Iran-backed Shia armed groups who helped government forces defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters.
Hadi heads the militias bloc. Mustafa Habib (NIQASH) offers a look at the group:
The Fatah, or Conquest, alliance is led by Hadi al-Ameri, a former government minister-turned soldier, leader of the Badr brigades and well known for his closeness to Iran and his friendship with senior Iranian soldier, Qasim Soleimani. It is made up of 18 different political parties, most of which are backed by armed militias. The Badr group is probably the most prominent in the group but the alliance also includes political wings of parties like Hezbollah in Iraq and the League of the Righteous. And they managed to do better in the elections, held May 12, than the two other alliances – that led by Haider al-Abadi and another led by cleric Ammar al-Hakim - who formerly got many of the Shiite Muslim votes in Iraq.
When the extremist Islamic State, or IS, group sparked the security crisis in 2014, that would impact the country so critically over the next three years, a Shiite Muslim-led government was in charge. The IS group exploited opportunities – political unrest, sectarian divisions, a lack of security, a mismanaged military – to take control of certain cities and towns in Iraq. Locals believed that many of these things were the fault of the current government.
Many Shiites came to believe that the Shiite Muslim political parties that had ruled for over a decade bore a large part of the responsibility for the IS group’s development.
Meanwhile the Shiite Muslim militias formed in response to the security crisis and were seen as a new hope. They were defended their own homes and also went to fight the IS group on its territory. Locals came to see them as a group with potential – not just in security terms but also with the potential to resolve other longstanding problems in Iraq, such as the wobbling economy and the lack of state services.
In 2015, Shiite Muslim militia leaders began to exploit that vision of them and started making political statements. The leader of the League of the Righteous held a press conference commenting on the nature of Iraqi politics and how a change was needed. In a year marked by extremely high summer temperatures and the deterioration of power supplies, a statement from Hezbollah in Iraq said it would hold the minister of power to account and called on police not to use violence against demonstrators who were protesting the power cuts. Such calls were unusual, coming from a militia. A few weeks before the Iraqi election, the militias also added the fight against corruption to their list of priorities.
“The fight against corruption is the first step we will take when we get into parliament,” Abdul Amir Fattah Hassan, a member of the Conquest alliance, told NIQASH. “For too long, personal interests have disrupted state services.”
The US government made a huge mistake when they thought they could force Moqtada to step aside after his bloc won the elections. Their efforts to circumvent him led to his alliance with Hadi. As usual, the western press finds outside interference shocking -- when it's not the US. So they spend all their time focusing on the manipulations of non-US governments. THE ARAB WEEKLY features an AFP piece focusing on Iran's role in the teaming:
Insiders said the unlikely tie-up to try to form a new government came after Iran decided that if it couldn't beat Sadr, then it might be better to seek to join him.
In the immediate aftermath of the vote, Tehran had launched a political offensive to try to unite its allies and block Sadr's path to power.
But Iran changed tack on realising pushing the popular cleric aside was too problematic, and instead sought to include Sadr in a Shia alliance broad enough to neutralise his influence.
At a meeting Sunday with Ameri and former premier Nuri al-Maliki at Iran's embassy in Baghdad, top emissaries from Tehran apparently endorsed a link-up with Sadr as the lesser of two evils.
"Dismissing Moqtada Sadr could allow him to assemble other groups and increase the criticism levelled at Iran's role in Iraq," said a source close to participants of the meeting.
What might the landscape in Iraq look like if the governments of Iran and the US stopped trying to control things from behind the scenes? The world will probably never know. Just like PBS' FRONTLINE will repeatedly ignore the US role in Iraq while always focusing on Saudi Arabia and Iran's attempts to control Iraq.
XINHUA notes, "A security personnel was killed and six others wounded on Friday in a militant attack on a security checkpoint in central Iraq on the first day of Eid al-Fitr festival, a police source said." In addition, Leith Aboufadel (ALMASDAR NEWS) explains, "The Turkish military killed at least 26 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Qandil Mountains region of northern Iraq today, Turkish state-owned Anadolu Agency reported."
The Turkish conflict continues and it has no end in sight. Fazel Hawramy (AL-MONITOR) points out:
"If the occupying enemy sleeps even one night comfortably … we won’t accept that," Adasa Janwelat, a young female sniper from Afrin said May 20 as she prepared to go into battle alongside other fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) against units of the Turkish army, which has occupied a large swath of territory in the Sidakan area in northern Iraq.
"After kicking out the Turkish army from south Kurdistan [Iraq], I will go to Afrin and fight against the occupying forces there." Two weeks later, on June 3, a website close to the PKK released a video, which showed the group's snipers observing Turkish soldiers on peaks in the Sidakan area through their binoculars and shooting five of them dead.
The Sidakan area is an inaccessible triangle with spectacular high peaks, rocky and precipitous gorges and rivers flowing between Iraq, Iran and Turkey. It has served as the perfect corridor for PKK fighters to cross into Turkey and attack the security forces. Since July 2015, when a 2½-year cease-fire collapsed between the government and the PKK, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has undertaken a crusade against the group in Iraq and Turkey and its affiliated groups in Syria.
Erdogan feels emboldened — especially after wresting control of Afrin from the US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG) in March, which was followed by PKK fighters' withdrawal from Sinjar and more recently the YPG's withdrawal from Manbij. But the tenacity of the PKK and its ferocity in fighting its enemies — be they the Turkish army or other Kurdish groups — show that if Erdogan indeed attacks Qandil, which is very unlikely, he should expect a bloody and long war with serious consequences for the stability of the region and Iraqi Kurdistan. While Turkish firepower appears to have been fairly effective in the flatlands and hills of northern Syria, the highlands of northern Iraq are a different story and could become a death trap for any ground invasion by the Turkish army.
The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, PACIFICA EVENING NEWS and THE DIANE REHM SHOW -- updated:
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