Readers’ wildlife photos (and video)

Bruce Lyon, professor of ecology and evolution at The University of California at Santa Cruz, sent us another photo-and-video-studded tale of his adventures, this time on a whale-watching trip. His notes are indented.

In mid October I went on a whale watching cruise with Sanctuary Cruises out of Moss Landing, California. Every time I go out with these guys into Monterey Bay we see something special, and this time was no different. Some evolutionary biology colleagues were on the cruise and also witnessed the spectacle I will describe (John Thompson and his wife Jill, and visiting seminar speaker Pedro Jordano from Spain). John and Pedro are leading experts on coevolution.
Part way through the trip, Chase Dekker, the cruise naturalist and photographer, noted four orcas (Orcinus orca) being frisky. They briefly played with an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) on the surface, and then moved on. Chase later noted that the orcas, far off in the distance, were showing behaviors typical of hunting behavior, like tail slaps, so went closer to see what was up. It turned out that orcas were harassing a flightless rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata), a close relative of the puffins. The auklet was flightless because of its molting strategy—a variety of waterbirds (ducks, coots, some seabirds) shed all of their flight feathers at the same time and become flightless for a period of time. As a result, the auklet was a sitting duck for use as a toy by the orcas.
Below: A rhinoceros auklet—this was not the victim.
Below: An orca approaches the auklet, possible looking to see where the bird is. The bird was pretty good at evading the whales.
Below. The auklet skitters out of the way of the orcas.

Below: The orcas were not trying to eat the auklet but instead were trying to smack the bird with their tails. The three shots below show a couple of tail smack attempts. Based on the photos, its looked like the bird avoided  the full force of the tail in these cases. We saw at least 20 of these attempted tail slaps over 25 minutes. These chases and attacks were fascinating (in a morbid way) to observe but readers will be happy to know that the auklet got away in the end.
Below: Pending doom—the light coloration shows an orca belly just below the surface on an approach to smack the bird.
Below: A couple of times the bird got up on the orca’s back while the orca swam on the surface, apparently looking for the bird. Smart move.
Below: Chase Dekker sent his drone up to get an aerial view of things and got some amazing footage of what the orcas were up to below the water. The video shows that the orcas often tried to line up the auklet but the bird was then able to scamper out of the way. The bird is tiny relative to the orcas so you have to look carefully to see it in the video; watch for its movements. [JAC: it’s pretty obvious. Poor bird!]

This was an amazing spectacle to watch but it is not entirely clear why the whales were doing this. The Sanctuary Cruises folks have spent many thousands of hours on Monterey Bay over the years and have not seen this behavior before. A couple of different studies in British Columbia have reported harassment of flightless seabirds. Based on the caloric content of a bird, and the repeated effort the whales invested in trying to smack the bird, it seems this behavior is not simply about the whales trying to get a meal. In a British Columbia study, prey that was killed and consumed was almost entirely comprised of marine mammals, but seabirds comprised 30% of the animals that were harassed but not consumed. So perhaps seabirds are for playing with but not eating.

There are distinct types of orcas that differ in diet and It is perhaps telling that this behavior has only ever been observed in ‘transient’ type orcas that specialize in marine mammals. Based on the literature, these transients often stun their prey with their tails. The orcas in Monterey Bay are also mammal-eating transients so we suspected that they may have been playing and practicing their hunting techniques on a hapless bird. It is also possible that this behavior involves teaching hunting techniques to younger less experienced animals—there were two smaller, younger orcas in the group.

Orcas were not the only thing out on the bay harassing birds that day—we saw lots of jaeger (relatives of gulls and terns) chasing elegant terns (Thalasseus elegant) and robbing them of their prey. Jaegers are ‘kleptoparasites’ that make a living, particularly in winter, chasing other birds and forcing them to drop their prey, usually fish. Outside of the Americas jaegers are called skuas.

Below: An  elegant tern has just captured a fish by diving in the ocean and tosses the fish in the air to get a better grip. If jaegers see a tern catch a fish they will often make a beeline for the tern and begin to chase it. The terns try to evade but jaegers are fast and maneuverable and a dogfight style aerial battle typically ensues. The jaeger usually wins—the tern drops the fish and the jaeger snatches it out of the air. If the tern has already swallowed the fish it will regurgitate it to get rid of the jaeger.  The jaegers were too far to photograph on the day we saw the orcas but I will include some photos from another trip when the jaegers were close to the boat.

An immature pomarine jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus) lines up an elegant tern. The rounded central tail feathers and large amount of white on the wing tips identify this as a pomarine, and the dark coloration means it is a young bird.
Sometimes two or three jaegers get in on a chase. Here two parasitic jaegers (Stercorarius parasitic) go after an elegant tern.  Parasitic jaegers have pointed central feathers that differ from the round feathers on a pomarine.
Below: There are also jaeger wannabes—Heermann’s gulls (Larus heermanni). Heermann’s gulls are not full-on pirates like jaegers, but they often do chase birds to try to steal food. Here some gulls join a chase led by a single parasitic jaeger, the dark bird closest to the falling fish that has just been dropped by the tern. The rest of the birds are gulls.
Below: the jaeger got the fish.

Monday: Hili dialogue

A new week is upon us, and the libations and comestibles of Thanksgiving have been digested and their remains ejected. It’s Monday, November 27, 2017, and we’re at National Bavarian Cream Pie Day, a day I remember from last year (though I’ve never had any). In the UK it’s Lancashire Day; Brits can weigh in on what that means. Luckily, we’re in a warmish spell in Chicago, with a high of 63° F (12° C) today. Very light fleece weather (I’m quite tolerant of cold.) And I’m here with a blank page in my head: it’s one of those days when I have no idea what I’ll write about.

On November 27, 1835,  James Pratt and John Smith were hanged in London as the last people to be executed for sodomy in England. (Someone testified that they’d seen them having sex.) Exactly sixty years later, Alfred Nobel signed his will, dedicating the fortune he made from inventing dynamite to fund prizes for those who contributed to the benefit of mankind. The will created five awards: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. On this day in 1896, Richard Strauss’s  Also Sprach Zarathustra  was first performed—in Frankfurt, Germany. On November 12, 1924, the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade took place. Some of you will remember this day in 1978, when Dan White assassinated both San Francisco mayor George Moscone and the openly gay city supervisor Harvey Milk. White was convicted only of manslaughter, and, returning to San Francisco after serving just 5 years of a 7-year sentence, he committed suicide in 1984.

Notables born on this day include Chaim Weizman (1874), Lars Onsager (1903, the man who had me removed from my dorm room at Rockefeller University as he found women’s lingerie—my girlfriend’s—in our shared bathroom), James Agee (1909), Buffalo Bob Smith (1917), Gail Sheehy (1937), Bruce Lee (1940), Jimi Hendrix (1942; he’d be 75 today), Bill Nye (1955), and Caroline Kennedy (1957). Those who fell asleep on this day include Ada Lovelace (1852), Baby Face Nelson (1934; killed in a shootout at 25, when he’d already killed 3 FBI agents on duty—still a record), and Eugene O’Neill (1953).

Re Buffalo Bob: how many of you remember this?

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is temporizing.

Hili: Haven’t you finished reading this article yet?
A: Why do you ask?
Hili: There are so many other important things to do.
In Polish:
Hili: Jeszcze nie skończyłeś czytać tego artykułu?
Ja: Czemu pytasz?
Hili: Jest wiele innych ważnych spraw.

Here are few tweets stolen from Heather Hastie:

One of my dreams is to do something like this:

I believe the bird below is a potoo, and look at its camouflage, which includes remaining absolutely still:

Two by Bonnie Raitt

The younger folk, I’ve learned, don’t know who Bonnie Raitt is, which is not only a damn shame, but makes me feel old: Raitt was born just a month before me, and I gauge how I’m doing by how she’s doing. (Does anybody else do that? Meryl Streep is about my age as well.). At any rate, I went back and found live versions of my two favorite Bonnie Raitt songs, which I’ll put up because I can.

A poignant song from 1989 about getting older; it’s her own composition:

 

In this 1991 song, written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin, Raitt’s accompanied on piano by Bruce Hornsby. What feeling she packs into this song! It’s essentially perfect: no superfluous words or forced rhymes, a wonderful melody and poignant words, emotional maturity, and expressing something many of us have felt.

The evolution of job interviews

Here are two job interview videos sent to me by several readers (thanks to all): one is of a Millennial woman and the other of a Neanderthal or other ancient hominin. Both are funny. Putting them together in chronological order, we get “the evolution of the job interview.”

First, a Stone Age job interview, apparently from the Armstrong and Miller show on the BBC:

. . . and a Millennial job interview:

 

 

 

Hybrid speciation in Galápagos finches

I’ll take “speciation” in this post, as do all the authors involved, to mean “the origin of reproductive barriers between populations that live in the same area, preventing them from either cross-mating or producing fertile hybrids if they do.” Most biologists think that speciation—the acquisition of these barriers—requires a prolonged period of geographical isolation between populations, allowing them to diverge through natural selection or genetic drift without contamination of genes between the groups. When that differentiation has proceeded to a certain point, reproductive barriers can arise as a byproduct of evolutionary divergence, and thus we have new species. (If we’re to be sure they are genuine “biological species”, they should be able to coexist after coming back together in the same area, or, in a one-way test, produce sterile or inviable hybrids when forcibly mated in zoos. If they’re cross-fertile in zoos, we can’t tell, for lots of animals that coexist in the wild without hybridizing can do so under the artificial conditions of confinement.)

This process, which Allen Orr and I described at length (and adduced evidence for) in our book Speciation, takes time—often lots of it. We estimated that producing a new species in this way in sexually-reproducing organisms takes on the order of a million years.

Yet there are ways that speciation can go faster—much faster. One way is “hybrid speciation”, in which two species have a rare bit of gene exchange, and that leads to the formation of a hybrid population that’s genetically heterogeneous. That population, faced with an odd genetic admixture and perhaps strong selection on a novel genome, might itself evolve to become reproductively isolated from both parental species, thus forming a third hybrid species.

This happens a lot in plants through the process of allopolyploidy (see here), which has accounted for a few percent of speciation events in some plant groups (and more in ferns). This form of speciation stands out for two reasons: it’s quick, often taking just a handful of generations, and it occurs without the need for geographical isolation of populations, since it’s begun by a rare hybridization event between coexisting species.  No evolutionists doubt the importance of allopolyploidy as a way of forming plant species.

Another and similar method, but not involving doubling of chromosome complements, is “homoploid hybrid speciation”, in which two normal diploid species, like the case described below, hybridize and, because some of the hybrids may be fertile or semifertile, those diploid hybrids can evolve quickly into a new species that is reproductively isolated from both parent species. (Note that in these cases the parental species can’t be absolutely reproductively isolated, as they have to mate and some of the hybrids have to be fertile. But, as Allen and I noted, the definition of “species” can allow for some trivial gene flow.)

In recent years homoploid hybrid speciation has been highly touted by some biologists, but, as I noted about a year ago, hard evidence for the process is rare. A 2014 paper in Evolution, using stringent criteria to examine possible cases, found only four reasonably convincing instances of this kind of speciation: three in a single genus of sunflowers, and one in butterflies. So the process, while interesting, has yet to be shown sufficiently common to constitute an important new take on how species arise.

But a new paper in Science by Sangeet Lamichhaney et al. describes what seems to be another case, this time occuring in the Galápagos finch genus Geospiza. The paper, which is a good one, has received a lot of press, some of it misleading, implying that this process could be common or that the concept of “biological species” is worthless. But the Science paper itself doesn’t say that.  The reference to the paper is at the bottom, but it’s behind a paywall. Judicious inquiry might get you a copy, though.

What it shows is that a new and very small species of finches arose on the Galápagos island of Daphne Major after a stray finch from another island made it to Daphne and mated with a local, resident species. This mating gave rise to a population that appears to be reproductively isolated from at least one parental species, and perhaps from the other. This isolation evolved in three generations or so, and thus the speciation event was very quick.

The story. A juvenile male of the large cactus finch G. conirostris, resident on the island of Española (and a small satellite island), flew more than 100 km to land on the tiny island of Daphne Major. Here’s a large cactus finch and the proposed journey that male took, bypassing at least two other islands to get to Daphne Major:

Geospiza conirostris, the large cactus finch

The hypothetical flight path, taken from the paper, which explains the route.

Once on Daphne, the male mated with a female of the local species: G. fortis, the medium ground finch. Here’s a female. Note that her bill (and also her body, which you can’t tell) is considerably smaller than that of the cactus finch, which has a massive, deep bill.

Female, G. fortis

One of the big findings of this paper, achieved through genetic analysis, was that the errant male parent was a G. conirostris rather than a G. scandens (common cactus finch), which initially seemed more likely because G. scandens lives on the much closer island of Santa Cruz. What the newspapers that described the research usually failed to add was that this hybrid population and its isolation has been known for some time and the observations have been published (there have been no observations since 2012). The real novelty of the Science paper is the fact that the identity of one founding parent was a surprise, and that it flew over 100 km to get to Daphne Major.

The G. fortis X G. conirostris mating produced one female and four male hybrids. One male mated with another local G. fortis female, while another male mated with his hybrid sister. From then on, every bird descending from that first hybrid coupling mated incestuously, within the lineage, and this has been going on for six generations. As of 2012, this inbred population has formed a closed mating group that is tiny: eight breeding pairs and 23 individuals. Here’s the lineage showing the immigrant male (right), his female mate, and the offspring and who they mated with. After the first mating between hybrid 17870 and outsider G. fortis 15170, all matings have been incestuous—within the group:

We have then, a population whose members mate only with other members. That indicates some reproductive isolation from the local species (there are three, including G. fortis), but of what kind?  The authors posit three types of isolation:

1.) Sexual isolation. The physical appearance of the hybrid finches makes them undesirable as mates for the other G. fortis individuals, for their beaks and bodies are bigger. Finches choose mates partly based on their appearance, as they learn a “proper” appearance by imprinting on their parents. Although imprinting is based on “cultural” exposure and not specific genes that code for “mate with an individual having a big body and beak”, this produces mate discrimination based on genetic differences between the species, and thus can be considered true reproductive isolation.

2.) Another form of sexual isolation: song differences. We know that in the Galápagos finches the males learn their song by imprinting on or imitating their fathers (this is known from natural cross-fostering studies), and it’s likely that females, too, learn the “appropriate” song of a mate by hearing their father, and thus mate with a male having her dad’s song. Since these males sing a song different from that of either parental species, the hybrid females would tend to mate with hybrid males, perpetuating the incestuous lineage.

3.) There is ecological isolation. The deeper, stronger beaks of the hybrid population enables them to open the tough, woody fruits of Tribulus cistoides  (the “fever plant” or “puncture vine”), especially in the dry season when food is scarce. This allows some ecological segregation due to differential resource use, but also allowed the hybrid population to at least hang on to a tenuous existence on Daphne Major.  Here are some T. cistoides plants and woody fruits:

 

 

But is this species reproductively isolated from the distant species G. conirostris on Española? If it isn’t, it’s not a true biological species. We don’t know the answer because the hybrid “species” doesn’t encounter the population on Española. This is crucial, because it’s not a new species unless the hybrid species is reproductively isolated from both parental species. The authors admit that this is “unknown” but guess that isolation from G. conirostris is “likely” because of the difference in bill size, body size, and song. But this is speculative.

There are other interesting data in the paper, too, but they need not detain us here. The important result is that we probably have a very sparse hybrid species of bird, that it formed in about three generations, and we now know exactly which species were the parents.

It’s another question whether this new species will persist. I suspect it won’t because it’s very small and may be wiped out either by demographic stochasticity (fluctuations in population size) or by another cross-breeding event with G. fortis that could cause the new species to be “mated to death”.  But species concepts aren’t prospective: we don’t say a reproductively isolated population isn’t a species because it’s liable to go extinct. For, in the end, virtually all species go extinct without leaving descendants.

As for what this paper says about the ubiquity of homoploid hybrid speciation, well, not much. We had four good cases and now we have five, though you wouldn’t know of this paucity by reading the popular press. The only statement I object to in this very nice paper is its very last sentence, “Joint occurrence of rare and extreme events such as these may be especially potent in ecology and evolution.” But if they’re rare and extreme, why are they “potent”? They’re surely interesting, but don’t suggest for a second that these speciation events somehow change our view of how new species form.

h/t: Dom, j.j.

________

Lamichhaney, S., F. Han, M. T. Webster, L. Andersson, B. R. Grant, and P. R. Grant. 2017. Rapid hybrid speciation in Darwin’s finches. Science, online  23 Nov 2017. DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4593
eaao4593. DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4593

Confirmation bias writ large: C. J. W*rl*m*n argues that the slaughter at the Sufi mosque wasn’t religious but political

I’m not able to print the full name of the man who wrote what’s below on Twitter (if I do I’ll have to pay someone), but the name does appear in some of the tweets. The Person In Question has undergone a sea change from being a diehard atheist to an inveterate denier that religion—especially Islam—can ever do anything bad. (He also left mainstream journalism after being found guilty of multiple instances of plagiarism.) This, of course, is the position of the Regressive Left.

The religion-can-do-no-wrong stand, however, becomes problematic when considering the recent Islamist terrorist attack on the Sufi mosque in the Sinai peninsula, where the death toll has now climbed to at least 305, including 27 children. Given that Sufis are considered heretical Muslims, and have long been the victims of persecution by other Muslims, wouldn’t it be likely that this attack was motivated by religious differences?

Not according to the Man Who Shall Not Be Named. (Note: don’t watch the video if you don’t like the sight of blood or dead bodies.)

Someone asked him about the non-religious basis of terrorism:

And here is the man’s response.

Now I’m not sure what he means but “weaponizing”, or who the “political entrepeneurs” are, and it’s not true that Sufis, as he implies, are Shiites (some are, but most consider themselves from an offshoot of Sunni Islam).  What I don’t understand is why politics, often infused with ideology, can be responsible for mass killings, yet somehow religion (also a form of ideology) is immune. A priori there would seem to be no difference: in fact, people often consider their identities to be based more on religious than political beliefs. So there’s no reason to draw a distinction from the outset between politics and religion.

But the real evidence against the man’s thesis is empirical. Historically, religions have undoubtedly played a role, often a substantial one, in warfare and killing. In Europe, many died because they were the wrong kind of Christian. And what we see here is similar: many Sufis died because they were the wrong kind of Muslim. Muslim terrorists kill more Muslims than they do Westerners: is that the result of “political mobilization”? Some might be instigated by Western interference, but not incidents like this mosque, or the killing of apostates and gays, not to mention the oppression of women.

Finally, we have ISIS’s explicit announcement, in their own magazine Dabiq (see the article “Why we hate you and why we fight you“), that the main reasons this group kills non-Muslims involve Western rejection of Islam and of the hegemony of Allah, their mockery of Islam, and their secularism. Here’s reason #1 out of six (the first four four all involve rejecting Islam and Allah):

We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah – whether you realize it or not – by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices. It is for this reason that we were commanded to openly declare our hatred for you and our enmity towards you. “There has already been for you an excellent example in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people, ‘Indeed, we are disassociated from you and from whatever you worship other than Allah. We have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone’” (Al-Mumtahanah 4). Furthermore, just as your disbelief is the primary reason we hate you, your disbelief is the primary reason we fight you, as we have been commanded to fight the disbelievers until they submit to the authority of Islam, either by becoming Muslims, or by paying jizyah – for those afforded this option – and living in humiliation under the rule of the Muslims. Thus, even if you were to stop fighting us, your best-case scenario in a state of war would be that we would suspend our attacks against you – if we deemed it necessary – in order to focus on the closer and more immediate threats, before eventually resuming our campaigns against you. Apart from the option of a temporary truce, this is the only likely scenario that would bring you fleeting respite from our attacks. So in the end, you cannot bring an indefinite halt to our war against you. At most, you could only delay it temporarily. “And fight them until there is no fitnah [paganism] and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah” (Al-Baqarah 193).

Is ISIS lying here, covering up explicitly political motivations (#5 and #6) in favor of religious ones? Why would they do that?

Now it’s not yet clear whether ISIS was responsible for this horrific attack on Sufis (reports claim that the attackers were carrying ISIS flags), but ISIS is a major cause of terrorism, and they’ve stated their reasons explicitly. On what grounds does W*rl*m*n claim that ISIS is lying and that he alone knows the real reasons for their terrorism?

Well, we know why: he is lying for his cause. I won’t speculate on the psychological reasons for his transition from denigrating religion to being an avid defender of Islam. What’s clear is that because his thesis cannot be disproven by any evidence, it need not be taken seriously.  I would ask him this: What evidence would it take to convince you that religion played a substantial role in terrorist attacks? 

Readers’ wildlife photos

Today we have some wildlife photos from reader Joe Dickinson, whose notes and IDs are indented. Don’t forget to send me your good photos!

Here are a few shots from a quick trip down to Marina, a few miles north of Monterey [California].

As usual, we looked in at Moss landing on the way down.  We found, among others, some northern shovelers (Anas clypeatra).  The preening male nicely shows the characteristic bill shape.  He may be not quite finished molting to the breeding plumage.

Near the shovelers was this great blue heron (Ardea herodeus).  The nice blue water background is, I think, unusual for this wader.

There were thousands of sanderlings (Calidris alba) along at least a two mile stretch of beach that I walked at Marina.  I love the description in my Sibley Guide:  “The familiar ‘clockwork toy’ seen chasing waves on sandy beaches.”  They are almost constantly in motion, so it is hard to get really sharp photos, but I rather like the (evening) lighting and overall atmosphere of these two photos.  I count about 200 sanderlings in the first photo, and another similar flock is hinted at by white specks (at least in the original) beyond the human figure, and it continued like that all down the part I covered. There are at least another 10 miles of contiguous beach that I did not walk, mostly protected in state parks and a national wildlife refuge.

From one of the smallest to the largest of the American sandpipers, here are some long-billed curlews (Numenius americanus).  I had never previously seen more than a pair at once, but the first shot below shows 16 individuals from a flock of more than twenty.

This snowy egret (Egreta thula) seemed to think he also was a sandpiper, dashing down the beach to snag morsels between waves.

Here is the setting at Marina, looking toward Monterey.  Along here the the beach backed by dunes is largely undeveloped because it was a Military Reservation, Ford Ord, until the 1990s.  It continues pretty much the same even further in the other direction.

Finally, we can’t go past Moss Landing without a sea otter (Enhydra lutris).  The wavy lines are reflections of the masts of sailboats.

 

Sunday: Hili dialogue

It’s Ceiling Cat’s day: November 26, 2017. and also National Cake Day (cats don’t like cake, though I bet one reader has a cake-eating cat).  It’s also Anti-Obesity Day, and tomorrow I’ll fast in its observance. But today I have a piece of sweet potato pie.

Historical events seem to slow down in the winter, perhaps because it was cold (but only in the Northern Hemisphere!). Deaths, too, seem to be sparser, but I’m sure there are data bearing on that. On November 26, 1778, Captain Cook and his crew became the first Europeans to visit Maui. On this day in 1789, George Washington proclaimed a “national thanksgiving day” at Congress’s request; and on the same day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed November 26 a national Thanksgiving Day to be observed on the final Thursday of November. (Now, by decree of Franklin D. Roosevelt, it’s the fourth Thursday, for November can have five Thursdays.) On this day in 1970, an unimaginable 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) of rain fell in ONE MINUTE in Basse-TerreGuadeloupe, the heaviest rainfall ever recorded on this planet. Can you imagine what that was like? Read more about this record here. Finally, on this day in 2004, as reported by Wikipedia, “The last Poʻouli (Black-faced honeycreeper) dies of avian malaria in the Maui Bird Conservation Center in Olinda, Hawaii, before it could breed, making the species in all probability extinct.” However, Wikipedia also reports two birds were sighted in the wild that year, though none have been seen since. Here is a live one, and it’s just very sad:

Black-faced honeycreeper (Melamprosops phaeosoma)

Notables born on November 26 include John Harvard (1607), William Cowper (1731), Bat Masterson (1853), Norbert Wiener (1894), Ruth Patrick (1907), Tina Turner (1939), and John McVie (1945). Those who crossed the Rainbow Bridge on this day include Isabella I, queen of Castile and Léon (1504), Daniel Purcell (1717), and Tommy Dorsey (1956).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is disgusted with Malgorzata’s activities:

Hili: Where is she?
A: In the kitchen.
Hili: What is she doing there?
A: Baking a cheesecake.
Hili: What a pointless indulgence.
In Polish:
Hili: Gdzie ona jest?
Ja: W kuchni.
Hili: Co tam robi?
Ja: Sernik.
Hili: Jakieś fanaberie.

 

Here are four tweets sent by Twitterfiend Matthew, the first showing an amazing fossilized bees’ nest:

And a feline kerfuffle, more like sumo wrestling!

I may have posted this viral swimming cat before, but you can’t see it too often:

And on the Internet all things are possible, including a model railway powered by rodents:

A sad story

Matthew sent me this tweet that relates a sad tale, telling me it would have people “crying in their beer.” Well, I have no beer, but my Diet Squirt became a little bit saltier when I read the tweet—especially the included letter from Bailey Sellers’s father. Do read it. (Go to the original tweet and click on the card at upper right.)

Jake Tapper versus Emily Lindin: Should we worry about men falsely accused of sexual misconduct?

AJC News, an Atlanta, Georgia news site, reports on a kerfuffle that occurred when Emily Lindin, an author and columnist for Teen Vogue, emitted a series of tweets this week asserting that she couldn’t be bothered about men damaged by false accusations about sexual harassment and assault since the benefit of making allegations public clearly overrides any damage from false allegations.

Of course there’s a benefit to making these allegations public, as it’s a good way to end sexual predation on women and, in the present situation, has prompted a lot of women to come forth saying they were damaged by men who practiced sexual harassment or assault. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, for example, I have little doubt that he’s guilty of gross sexual misconduct and perhaps rape (I don’t want to say he’s definitely guilty of a crime as that’s for the courts to determine). The issue is whether all allegations are to be believed, that those accused are certainly guilty, and if some innocent men are collateral damage, well, the ends justify the means.

This is in opposition to the generally approved view that it’s better to let several guilty people walk free than convict someone who’s innocent. (That’s one reason why the presumption in court is innocence.)

Now this situation isn’t quite the same as that, for many men accused of sexual misconduct aren’t “walking free” since their reputations are ruined, they’ve been fired, will be apostates forever, and their legal guilt will be determined by the courts. What Lindin is talking about isn’t really legal guilt, but guilt in the court of public opinion. And even here, I maintain, one has to have sufficient evidence beyond mere allegations before agitating to get someone fired or declaring that they’re guilty. (Multiple coincident accusations, as in the case of Weinstein, are of course a form of evidence.)

Jake Tapper, chief Washington correspondent for CNN, responded with an apposite tweet mentioning a fictional tale we know well, about a man falsely accused of rape (in that case, of course, it was a legal issue and the man was convicted in court):

Tapper responded again, saying Lindin’s tweet was “immoral”. A woman named Emma Erbach then accused Jake of not standing up for women:

. . .  and Tapper argues for his credibility:

I’m not sure which article Tapper’s referring to, but it may be this one from the Washington City Paper in which he says he went out on a date with Lewinsky, things didn’t work out, but then he stands up for her as a victim of the media, Clinton, and public opinion. You may argue that the fact that he dated Lewinsky may detract from his objectivity, but then again their short relationship never went anywhere.

Overall, I tend to take Tapper’s side on the morality issue. Nobody should defend the real sexual predators and harassers, but we need to remember that we need evidence, that an accusation is not tantamount to a conviction, and that we have to be careful about throwing out such accusations. I tend to believe nearly all the women who have made these accusations, but again, sometimes the evidence is thin, as in the case of Neil deGrasse Tyson (yes, he too was accused of rape). And there are well known accusations of rape that nearly everyone believed, like those against the Duke Lacrosse team and the fraternity at the University of Virginia—cases that fell apart under inspection.

The lesson is that whatever our ideological leanings, we shouldn’t participate in ruining the lives of others unless and until we have credible evidence. Tapper is bucking a Left-wing trend, and I have to admire him for that.

(Note: AJC.com reports that Lindin locked down her Twitter account, but it looks open to me now, and she may have reinstated it. The tweets above are taken directly from her site.)