Archive for November 2007
Another sexual reproduction theory bites the dust.
According to behavioral ecologist Dr. Jakob Bro-Jørgensen, female topi (an African antelope) can become extreme aggressors when it comes to mating, a shift in status-quo reproductive theory in which males are relatively persistent and females are relatively resistent members of the mating duo.
Every 1.5 months, a female topi is fertile and therefore becomes extremely sexually promiscuous, successfully mating with an average of four males with each male mounting her anywhere between 2-36 times (called intromissions). Females seek out and attempt to mate with males that have acquired the most territory in a breeding area – the mark of a studly topi – but will mate relatively indiscriminately if given the opportunity. And if there isn’t an opportunity, a female will make one – above is an image from the author’s nice PNAS piece in which a female is revving up to head-butt a male who is attempting to mate with another female. Go get ’em!
After all, for these females, a small window of fertility means that conception and pregnancy is serious business – if it doesnt’ happen then, it won’t again for a long while. Talk about upping the ante.
So, given that a female topi’s strategy is to mate with as many males as possible while fertile, how could male topis not be the happiest little antelopes to grace the savannah??
As it turns out, the female mating strategy of “persistence wins out” doesn’t benefit the male topi in the least. In fact, our most studly male topi, who mates inceccently during females’ most fertile periods, may be at the greatest disadvantage. Males have limited stores of sperm, which are quickly depleted with multiple matings. And, to ensure the greatest likelihood of his offsprings’ survival, male topi would prefer to practice more selective mating, in which sperm could be distributed in a more discriminative manner to the cutest female topi.
In other words, males would prefer more choice in the matter.
But, while males of other species can resist sexual advances more easily, the female topi is relentless. How? Simple: they push the males around!
Pre-mating aggression is 10x more likely in dominant females than subordinate females. It comes as no surprise, then, that dominant females mate more often than subordinate females. By being pushy, a female can prevent a male from resisting by making her presence very, very conspicuous (a nice head-butt to the side will do that for you). But, if a male counter-attacks, say “so long” – while males only do so 7% of the time, he typically refuses the female as a mating partner, a harsh consequence.
Wonder what a topi date would be like…
Once again, dear friends, the US seems ready to overthrow another nation’s government, something we pretend to deplore:
The New York Times had a news article about Venezuela in Thursday’s edition, but it was about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saying he would cut diplomatic ties with neighboring Colombia. There wasn’t a word about a memo from a CIA operative in Caracas to CIA Director General Michael Hayden, uncovered yesterday, outlining a plan for interfering with a Venezuelan referendum set for Dec. 2, and laying out the steps for instigating and backing a coup.
The plot, called “Operation Pliers,” and laid out in the letter to Hayden by an undercover operative named Michael Steele, who reportedly works in the US Embassy as a “regional affairs officer,” was intercepted by Venezuelan intelligence and released publicly on state TV yesterday.
In the Nov. 20-dated letter, Steele refers to an $8 million US-funded in-country propaganda campaign against Chavez and the referendum, already being implemented, which is designed to institutionalize many of Chavez’s socialist reforms and to permit him to continue to run for president beyond his current two-term limit. He proposes trying to stall the referendum, which pro-Chavez forces are expected to win handily, and failing that, to then promote a campaign to refuse to accept the results. Steele further confirms that the agency is working with international news agencies in an effort to distort reports about the referendum and the reforms. (CNN had to apologize for a “mistake” which led to the words “Who killed him?” superimposed over a photo of Chavez broadcast on CNN’s Spanish-language international broadcast in Venezuela. Was this a deliberate CIA-inspired black-op?)
Among the tactics Steele recommends in his letter are:
- Promoting street demonstrations and violent protests
- Creating a climate of ungovernability
- Provoking a general uprising
- Working through the US military attache at the embassy to coordinate with
- ex-military officers and former coup plotters against Chavez.
Even more darkly, the letter calls for initiating “military actions” to support opposition mobilizations and strategic building occupations, involving US military bases in neighboring Curacao and Colombia to provide support, and even taking control of parts of Venezuela in the days after the referendum, while encouraging a “military rebellion” inside the Venezuelan National Guard.
The CIA communication has been reported in articles filed by the Associated Press, but the Times and other major US news organizations have not mentioned it . Instead, the Times today ran a column by Roger Cohen, which compares Chavez to the fascists of 1930s Europe, and which calls for defeat of the referendum. (Are Cohen and the Times part of the CIA’s propaganda campaign?)
The Cohen column is so rabid that it would be almost comical, were it not for the fact that there is a real threat of a bloody CIA-inspired coup in the democratic nation of Venezuela.
In fact, I thought it would be fun and instructive to alter Cohen’s hit piece a bit, substituting the US for Venezuela, and Bush and Cheney for Chavez, to show its hypocrisy. Here then, a sample of the only lightly tweaked column:
Krugman from his blog:
I have a T-Mobile cell phone, which uses GSM technology; it works all over the world — and in parts of New Jersey. One of the parts of New Jersey where it doesn’t work happens to be my own home.
As a result, I’ve been acutely aware of the price America paid for not doing what Europe did, and settling on a single mobile standard.
But defenders of the American non-system argued that it would pay off in the long run, by spurring competition that would lead to faster technological progress.
Never mind. From John Gapper:
I am afraid that history has not been kind to this argument. Europe has stayed ahead of the US in mobile telephony, and in 3G services. Having one technology standard has spurred competition among network operators and handset manufacturers while competition in the US has been stymied by a proliferation of technologies.
Europe is also pulling ahead on broadband, again because of judicious regulation. There’s a lesson in here somewhere.
One of the (many) tired tropes of the Right (and Lou Dobbs in particular) is that immigrants refuse to learn English. That’s behind all the nonsense about making English the “official” language of the US, and so on. But, like so very many of the Right’s assertions, it’s totally false. Check this out:
Manuel Pereda, 57, spent years studying English during the day and working as a dishwasher at night. His wife, Rosa, 54, practiced common phrases and constantly looked up words in an Spanish-English dictionary.
The more English the couple learned, they assumed, the better jobs they could get and the more money they could send home to their families in Mexico. Still, despite more than three decades in the United States, they feel more comfortable in their native language, often speaking Spanish at home, at work and while doing errands in their Huntington Park neighborhood.
Their U.S.-born daughter, Damaris, 20, however, speaks primarily English with her friends, at college in Azusa and at her seasonal job at Disneyland. She values her bilingualism but said growing up in the U.S. has made her more articulate in English than in Spanish.
A study released Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, reports that in families like the Peredas, for whom Spanish is the dominant language among immigrant parents, English fluency increases across generations. By the third generation, Spanish has essentially faded into the background.
Latinos recognize that learning English is key to economic success, according to the study, which was based on survey data collected between 2002 and 2007.
“The ability to speak English is a crucial skill for getting a good job and integrating into the wider society,” said D’Vera Cohn, a senior writer at the research center, a nonpartisan research organization that does not advocate immigration policy. “Language is a vehicle for assimilation.”
Though the findings echo the history of immigration waves in the U.S., experts said, they counter the widespread perception that Latino immigrants do not assimilate and that their large numbers are a threat to the English language.
One great Christmas present for young people, I think, is a Kiva credit that they can use to make a microloan: you buy the credit, they get to choose the recipient of the microloan (up to the amount of the credit) and they get the regular reports on how the person is doing. For example, just this morning I learned that the microloan to this person has now been fully repaid. So now I can withdraw the funds, or reloan them to some other recipient(s), or donate them to Kiva. It’s extremely satisfying, and I highly recommend making Kiva microloans a part of your holiday giving. http://www.kiva.org