Saturday Surprise — Something To Make You Smile

It has been one of those weeks from hell, hasn’t it?  I need something to bring a smile to my face, and I figured just maybe you do too!  Sometimes nothing softens the heart and makes us smile like those non-human species we call animals or critters.  I snagged these from The Guardian’s ‘Week in Wildlife’ feature last week …

Sambar deer cool off in shallow water at Yala National Park, some 250 km south-west of Colombo, Sri Lanka Photograph: Ishara S Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

A fox on Russky Island. The local population is rebounding after a fall in the 90s caused by poaching. Photograph: Yuri Smityuk/TASS/Getty Images

A reed warbler feeding a cuckoo, taken from a hide at WWT Martin Mere. Cuckoos lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, which raise the chicks in place of their own offspring. Photograph: Maggie Bullock/WWT/PA

A Formosan ferret badger at the Taipei Zoo, one of a number of animals to have been suggested as the intermediary carrier of the coronavirus. Photograph: Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

A cardinal sits in a flowering tree at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC. Warm weather has led to blossoms blooming earlier than expected. Photograph: Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

Brown hares are seen in a field near Niederleis, Austria, on Good Friday. Photograph: Georg Hochmuth/APA/AFP/Getty Images

A northern corroboree frog – one of Australia’s most endangered species – is seen in the breeding tank at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. Its population in the wild was severely impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires. Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

A popular bald eagle nesting livestream from the Friends of the Redding Eagles, northern California, which rushed to install its webcam for the pandemic audience last summer after a five-year absence. Liberty, a 22-year-old female, is on her third “marriage” and her three chicks with seven-year-old partner Guardian were hatched between 21 and 24 March. Liberty has raised 22 offspring from egg to fledgling, including three sets of triplets. Photograph: Friends of the Redding Eagles

A royal Bengal tiger at Bardiya National Park in Nepal. Previously known as the Royal Karnali Wildlife Reserve in 1976, the park is famous for royal Bengal tiger sightings. Photograph: Niranjan Shrestha/AP

A grey whale is seen at Ojo de Liebre Lagoon in Guerrero Negro, Mexico. Each year hundreds of north Pacific grey whales travel thousands of miles from Alaska to the Baja California Peninsula breeding lagoons. Photograph: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

A leopard walks at Yala National Park, some 250 km southwest of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photograph: Ishara S Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

One of 185 seized baby giant tortoises, in Puerto Ayora, Galapagos, Ecuador, which had been stuffed in a suitcase to be trafficked. Photograph: Galapagos Ecologic Airport/AFP/Getty Images

Researchers follow a Polar bear in the Arctic Ocean during the Umka 2021 expedition organised by the Russian Geographical Society. It aims to research and monitor the polar bear population and assess the impact of climate change. Photograph: Gavriil Grigorov/TASS/Getty Images

Sambar deer at Bardiya National Park, Nepal. Photograph: Niranjan Shrestha/AP

A Lesser Antillean iguana (Iguana delicatissima), a lizard endemic to the Lesser Antilles, in its natural habitat on the French Caribbean island of Martinique. Photograph: Lionel Chamoiseau/AFP/Getty Images

Lutjanus bohar, the two-spot red snapper, is a species of snapper belonging to the family Lutjanidae, at the Rowley Shoals archipelago off WA, Australia. A study shows that fishing restrictions across the Rowley Shoals archipelago helped sustain threatened species and biodiversity during a time of ‘unprecedented’ decline. Photograph: Courtesy of Matt Birt/BRUV

Wasps on aruera flowers (Bidens bipinnata) at the Lunarejo Valley, in Rivera, Uruguay. The national park, in northern Uruguay at the border with Brazil, is seeing an increase in tourist traffic, as people look for less crowded places to visit. The valley is home to many species of flora and fauna, with at least 150 types of birds, snakes, amphibians, anteaters, armadillo, foxes and wild boars. Photograph: Raúl Martínez/EPA

Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) chick at Nafplio, Greece. Photograph: Bougiotis Vangelis/EPA

People watching migratory birds at a wetland near the Yalu River in Dandong, in China’s north-eastern Liaoning province. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Storks stand in their nest in Kizilcahamam, outside the Turkish capital of Ankara. Every year, storks migrate to Turkey for an incubation period as the weather gets warmer in spring. Photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

An illegal bow trap set in Brescia, where bird poaching incidents are the highest in Italy. With 5 million birds a year illegally caught in Italy, activists are teaming up with local police to trap the hunters. Photograph: WWF Italy

Mandarin ducks on the Erdaobai River at the foot of Changbai Mountain in Jilin Province. Photograph: Sipa Asia/REX/Shutterstock

If you’ve got a minute more to spare, I highly recommend you hop over to Annie’s blog and check out the most adorable penguin and how he evaded the sharks that were determined to turn him into a snack!  It’s a short video, but I promise it will leave a smile on your face!

Happy weekend, my friends!

Saturday Surprise — Nature ‘n Critters

After the week we’ve had … WHEW!  I think we need a breather, a break from the madness, don’t you?  So, I made a few stops here ‘n there and decided to go with some interesting nature pics (in other words, critters!!!) I found in The Guardian’s Week in Wildlife feature.  Just seeing the wonders of nature and the cuteness of the critters will relax you and make you set aside your angst for a few minutes.

Bryde-whale

A Bryde’s whale and seagulls feast on anchovies in the Gulf of Thailand. The species has been spotted more frequently after the absence of tourists during the pandemic, which raises hopes of the marine ecosystem being restored after years of damage

anteater

An anteater is released in the Amazon forest after receiving veterinary treatment in Rondônia state, Brazil. Creatures of the Amazon, one of the earth’s most biodiverse habitats, face an ever-growing threat as loggers and farms advance further into the territory

koala

A young female koala named Ash sits on a Eucalyptus branch at the Australian Reptile Park in Sydney. A New South Wales parliamentary inquiry released in June 2020 found that koalas will become extinct in the state before 2050 without urgent intervention

porcupine

A wounded crested porcupine at the veterinary clinic of the ministry of the environment, waiting to be treated and released, in San Salvador

jaguar

An injured adult male jaguar walks along the riverbank at the Encontros das Águas park, in the Porto Jofre region of the Pantanal in Brazil. The Pantanal is suffering its worst wildfires in more than 47 years

hornet

A European hornet eats a rotten pear near Rennes, western France

golden-frog

A golden frog at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Gamboa, a rainforest near Panama City. Cocooned from the outside world, 200 critically endangered golden frogs are living a sheltered existence in Panama, protected from a devastating fungus that threatens to wipe out a third of the country’s amphibian species

red-admiral-butterfly

A red admiral butterfly closes its wings on a sunny day in Hengistbury Head, Dorset. • This caption was amended on 21 September 2020. It is not a peacock butterfly as the picture agency originally stated.

spider-web

Ash from nearby wildfires clings to the threads of a spider web in a blackberry thicket in western Oregon, US. Ash has been raining down in the area for the last due to the fires

grasshopper

An Adimantus ornatissimus grasshopper rests on a tree near New Delhi on 9 September. The grasshopper family is one of the most diverse, including more than 6,700 valid species around the world.

mountain-lions

P-54, a three-year-old mountain lion living in the Santa Monica mountains, gave birth to a litter of kittens – males P-82 and P-83, and female P-84 – last May. Researchers believe this is her first litter. A mountain lion baby boom has occurred this summer in the Santa Monica mountains and Simi hills west of Los Angeles. Thirteen kittens were born to five mountain lion mothers between May and August, according to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

black-apes

A herd of Sulawesi black apes (Macaca tonkeana) waiting for passersby to provide food on the Trans Sulawesi road section, Parigi Moutong regency, Central Sulawesi province, Indonesia on 8 September. Even though the local natural resources conservation agency has prohibited the provision of food to endemic animals because it can change their behaviour, many passersby ignore the ban.

koala

Eight-month-old koala joey Jasper clings to mother Nutsy at Sydney zoo on 8 July.

woodpeckers

Acorn woodpeckers look for bugs in a dead tree in the Angeles national forest where the Bobcat fire is burning above Duarte, California about 27 miles north-east of Los Angeles on 7 September.

ferret

Although protected by the US Endangered Species Act since 1973, there are only about 300 black-footed ferrets alive in the wild today, spread across about 20 sites in the western US, Canada and Mexico. Habitat loss and the widespread shooting and poisoning of prairie dogs are factors, but nothing poses a greater threat than the plague-carrying bacteria Yersinia pestis.

vulture

Smoke from numerous nearby wildfires tints the sun a vivid colour as a vulture is silhouetted on its perch on a dead tree near Elkton in western Oregon on 9 September. Hot and dry weather continues in the Pacific north-west with the potential for more massive wildfires.

macaw

A macaw seeking food about to land on an antenna in Caracas, Venezuela on 5 September. Caracas’ signature bird, the blue-and-yellow macaw, is one of four such species that inhabit the valley. Legend has it that it was introduced in the 1970s by Italian immigrant Vittorio Poggi, who says he nurtured a lost macaw and trained it to fly with his motorcycle as he cruised around his neighbourhood.

dragonfly

A ditch jewel dragonfly (Brachythemis contaminata) seen on the outskirts of New Delhi on 6 September.

prairie-chicken

A male lesser prairie chicken climbs a sage limb to rise above the others at a breeding area near Follett, Texas. Wildlife advocates say efforts to restore the birds could be set back by a proposal made on 4 September to exempt areas from habitat protections that are meant to save imperilled species.

And there you have this week’s selection of wildlife photos.  Some are so adorable, some unique in ways of their own, and some are just … weird-looking.  But, as they say, never judge a book … or a critter … by its cover … or its fur!  I hope you’ve enjoyed the cute pics today, hope they brought a smile to your gorgeous faces, and now I hope you have a wonderful weekend!  And to start you off on the right foot … here’s a funny critter video!

Former Republican Chair is committed to seeing Trump lose

Another influential Republican signs on for Joe Biden! Keith writes about Michael Steele, a long-time Republican and former Chair of the Republican Party, who is urging Republicans to wake up and see the damage Trump is doing/has done to racial relations in the U.S. Please be sure to check out the link to the article in The Guardian, as well. Thank you for this encouraging information, Keith!

musingsofanoldfart

Michael Steele, a long-time Republican and former Chair of the Republican Party, has had enough. Steele is actively working to assure the current president loses in November. Wny? David Smith writes in The Guardian about his interview with Steele, an African-American, in the following piece entitled “‘They capitulated to Trump’: Michael Steele on the fight for the Republican party’s soul.”

Here a few paragraphs from the article, which can be linked to in full below.

“’I asked myself, what are the things that matter to you? It mattered that this president has openly said to us, I’m not going to accept the outcome of this election if I don’t win. It matters to me what he’s done with the Postal Service to prevent Americans from accessing the ballot box. I see this is the time for choosing, and the choice that unfortunately many in my party, particularly in the party…

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The Destruction of Earth …

A day or so ago, I came across an OpEd in The Guardian that I felt worth sharing.  The writer poses an interesting idea … one that I agree with.

The destruction of the Earth is a crime. It should be prosecuted

George-Monbiotby George Monbiot

Why do we wait until someone has passed away before we honour them? I believe we should overcome our embarrassment, and say it while they are with us. In this spirit, I want to tell you about the world-changing work of Polly Higgins.

She is a barrister who has devoted her life to creating an international crime of ecocide. This means serious damage to, or destruction of, the natural world and the Earth’s systems. It would make the people who commission it – such as chief executives and government ministers – criminally liable for the harm they do to others, while creating a legal duty of care for life on Earth.

I believe it would change everything. It would radically shift the balance of power, forcing anyone contemplating large-scale vandalism to ask themselves: “Will I end up in the international criminal court for this?” It could make the difference between a habitable and an uninhabitable planet.

There are no effective safeguards preventing a few powerful people, companies or states from wreaking havoc for the sake of profit or power. Though their actions may lead to the death of millions, they know they can’t be touched. Their impunity, as they engage in potential mass murder, reveals a gaping hole in international law.

Last week, for instance, the research group InfluenceMap reported that the world’s five biggest publicly listed oil and gas companies, led by BP and Shell, are spending nearly $200m a year on lobbying to delay efforts to prevent climate breakdown. According to Greenpeace UK, BP has successfully pressed the Trump government to overturn laws passed by the Obama administration preventing companies from releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The result – the equivalent of another 50m tonnes of CO2 over the next five years – is to push us faster towards a hothouse Earth.

Hundreds of dead dolphins are washing up on French beaches, often with horrendous injuries. Why? Because trawler companies fishing for sea bass are failing to take basic precautions to stop them being caught. The dolphins either drown in the nets or, when pulled up wounded, are stabbed to death (to make them sink) by fishermen. For a marginal increase in profits, the trawler firms could be driving common dolphins towards regional extinction.

In West Papua, which is illegally occupied by Indonesia, the environmental group Mongabay reports that an international consortium intends, without the consent of indigenous peoples, to clear an area the size of Somerset of stunning rainforest to plant oil palm. Its Tanah Merah project is ripping a hole in an enormous expanse of pristine forest, swarming with species found nowhere else. According to Mongabay, if the scheme continues, it will produce as much greenhouse gas every year as the state of Virginia.

When governments collaborate (as in all these cases they do), how can such atrocities be prevented? Citizens can pursue civil suits, if they can find the money and the time, but the worst a company will face is a fine or compensation payments. None of its executives are prosecuted, though they may profit enormously from murderous destruction. They can continue their assaults on the living planet.

Cases against governments, such as the successful one against the Dutch state seeking a legal order to speed up its reduction of greenhouse gases, may be more productive, but only when national (or European) law permits, and when the government is prepared to abide by it. Otherwise, at international summits, where perpetrators share platforms with states that should hold them to account, we ask them nicely not to slaughter our children. These crimes against humanity should not be matters for negotiation but for prosecution.

Until 1996, drafts of the Rome statute, which lists international crimes against humanity, included the crime of ecocide. But it was dropped at a late stage at the behest of three states: the UK, France and the Netherlands. Ecocide looked like a lost cause until Higgins took it up 10 years ago.

She gave up her job and sold her house to finance this campaign on behalf of all of us. She has drafted model laws to show what the crime of ecocide would look like, published two books on the subject and, often against furious opposition, presented her proposals at international meetings. The Earth Protectors group she founded seeks to crowdfund the campaign. Recently she has been working with the Republic of Vanuatu with a view to tabling an amendment to the Rome statute, introducing the missing law.

Last week Polly was diagnosed, at the age of 50, with an aggressive cancer that has spread through much of her body. The doctors have told her she has six weeks to live. Given her determination and the support of those around her, I expect her to defy the prediction, which she has met with amazing fortitude. “If this is my time to go,” she told me, “my legal team will continue undeterred. But there are millions who care so much and feel so powerless about the future, and I would love to see them begin to understand the power of this one, simple law to protect the Earth – to realise it’s possible, even straightforward. I wish I could live to see a million Earth Protectors standing for it – because I believe they will.”

She has started something that will not end here. It could, with our support, do for all life on Earth what the criminalisation of genocide has done for vulnerable minorities: provide protection where none existed before. Let it become her legacy.

♫ Johnny B. Goode ♫

Now I know this one predates some of you, but you’ve likely heard it anyway, for it is considered one of the most recognizable songs in the history of popular music.

From The Guardian, 21 June 2007 …

The song was written by Chuck Berry while he was on tour in New Orleans in 1958. In the official version of events, supplied to Rolling Stone magazine by Berry himself, the song is autobiographical: A poor boy from a rustic corner of the Deep South with little education and few prospects masters the electric guitar and becomes the leader of a famous band. In fact, Berry was not from the Deep South; he grew up on Goode Street in Saint Louis, an unusually cosmopolitan Midwestern city with a rich musical tradition. Nor was he unschooled; he was the first and perhaps the last songwriter to use the word “omit” in a pop song (Little Queenie). And he was certainly not a hick from the sticks; he had a degree in hairdressing and cosmetology. What’s more, the song was originally written for the famous pianist Johnnie Johnson, with whom Berry had worked for years. A half-century later, Johnson would sue Berry, contending that he had co-authored many of his colleague’s hits, but the case was thrown out of court, as these cases usually are. Thus, other than not being from the South, or a yokel, or an illiterate, or white, or bearing the name “Johnny,” Berry was exactly like the character in his most famous song.

Johnny B Goode was released halfway through Dwight Eisenhower’s dreary second administration, when black people were still routinely being lynched in the Deep South, so for obvious marketing reasons the original lyric “little coloured boy” was changed to “little country boy”. 

Johnny B. Goode
Chuck Berry

Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood
Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode
Who never ever learned to read or write so well
But he could play a guitar just like a-ringin’ a bell

Go go
Go Johnny go go
Go Johnny go go
Go Johnny go go
Go Johnny go go
Johnny B. Goode

He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Go sit beneath the tree by the railroad track
Oh, the engineers would see him sitting in the shade
Strumming with the rhythm that the drivers made
People passing by they would stop and say
“Oh my what that little country boy could play”

Go go
Go Johnny go go
Go Johnny go go
Go Johnny go go
Go Johnny go go
Johnny B. Goode

His mother told him “someday you will be a man
And you will be the leader of a big old band
Many people coming from miles around
To hear you play your music when the sun go down
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
Saying “Johnny B. Goode tonight”

Go go
Go Johnny go
Go go go Johnny go
Go go go Johnny go
Go go go Johnny go
Go
Johnny B. Goode

Songwriters: Chuck Berry
Johnny B. Goode lyrics © Ole Media Management Lp

Saturday Surprise — Wildlife

Hey friends!  The weekend has arrived … finally.  It has been a sad and dramatic week in terms of the news, and I am feeling truly washed out and in need of something to make me smile … how about you?  The Guardian publishes a weekly series on wildlife called, surprisingly, The Week in Wildlife.  A post of animal pictures seemed just about right for today’s Saturday Surprise post.  You know how I adore critters, and at the end of a week like this one, I’m ready for some cute (or maybe not so cute) animals to ‘awwww’ over.

Last month when I had Jolly take over the Saturday Surprise one week, he picked pictures from the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards … he did a pretty good job, by the way, for an amateur!  This first set of pictures today are winners of the 2018 Wildlife of the Year Awards.



lounging leopardOld Mathoja was dozing when they finally found her, lying along a low branch of a nyala tree in Botswana’s Mashatu Game Reserve. Mathoja means ‘the one that walks with a limp’ injured when she was a cub, but otherwise she is a healthy, calm eight-year-old. The morning light was poor, leaves kept blowing across her face, and her eyes were only ever open briefly, making it hard for Skye to compose the shot he was after. Finally, a shaft of light gave a glint to her eyes, helping him to create his memorable portrait.


hellbentIt was not looking good for the northern water snake, clamped tightly in the jaws of a hungry hellbender, but it was a remarkable find for David. Drifting downstream in Tennessee’s Tellico River, in search of freshwater life (as he had done for countless hours over the past seven years), he was thrilled to spot the mighty amphibian with its struggling prey. The hellbender has declined significantly because of habitat loss and degradation and its presence indicates a healthy freshwater ecosystem.


Mud-dauberIt was a hot summer day, and the waterhole at Walyormouring Nature Reserve, Western Australia, was buzzing. Georgina had got there early to photograph birds, but her attention was stolen by the industrious mud-dauber wasps. They were females, digging in the soft mud at the water’s edge, then rolling the mud into balls to create egg chambers for their nearby nests. A female builds her external nest completely out of mud, cylindrical chamber by chamber, which cement together as the mud hardens.


night flightOn a night dive over deep water in the Atlantic, far off Florida’s Palm Beach, Michael achieved a long-held goal, to photograph a flying fish so as to convey the speed, motion and beauty of this ‘fantastic creature’. By day, these fish are almost impossible to approach. Living at the surface, they are potential prey for a great many animals, including tuna, marlin and mackerel. At night, they are more approachable, moving slowly as they feed on planktonic animals close to the surface.


jaguarA male jaguar sharpens his claws and scratches his signature into a tree on the edge of his mountain territory in the Sierra de Vallejo in Mexico’s western state of Nayarit. The boundary-post has been chosen with care – the tree has soft bark, allowing for deep scratch marks that are a clear warning, backed by pungent scent, not to trespass. Alejandro set up his custom-built camera trap six metres away and after eight months the jaguar eventually returned to refresh his mark.


treehopperA large Alchisme treehopper guards her family as the nymphs feed on the stem of a nightshade plant in El Jardín de los Sueños reserve in Ecuador. Unlike many treehoppers, which enlist the help of other insects (mostly ants), this species is guarded by the mother alone. She lays her eggs on the underside of a nightshade leaf, covers them with a thin secretion and then shields the clutch with her tiny frame.


I left a few out because they were either sad or disturbing, but you can visit the page if you like.  Now for a few from The Guardian’s regular Week in Wildlife …


indriThe secretive indri ( Indri indri) of Madagascar, the largest living lemur. It is also critically endangered and highly evolutionarily distinct with no close relatives, which makes its branch one of most precarious on the mammal evolutionary tree. In the likely event that the indri goes extinct, we will lose 19m years of unique evolutionary history from the mammal tree of life.
Photograph: Pierre-Yves Babelon/Aarhus University


chinstrap penguinA chinstrap penguin nesting at Spigot Peak with mountains and glaciers of Orne harbour in the background, at Gerlache Strait in the Antarctic. Greenpeace is conducting scientific research and documenting the Antarctic’s unique wildlife to strengthen the proposal to create the largest protected area on the planet, an Antarctic ocean sanctuary.
Photograph: Christian Åslund/Greenpeace


cute batResearchers examine a bat for body size and fat. Scientists are working across the western US and Canada, capturing and studying thousands of bats to better understand their hibernation habits and which are best suited to survive a deadly plague now decimating bat populations.
Photograph: Wildlife Conservation Society


walrusPacific walruses rest on an ice flow in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska. A lawsuit making its way through federal court in Alaska will decide whether Pacific walruses should be listed as a threatened species, giving them additional protections.
Photograph: SA Sonsthagen/AP


This last one isn’t an animal, but is still considered ‘wildlife’ and I found it a fascinating tree!Nellies treeNellie’s Tree in Aberford, Leeds, which has been voted England’s tree of the year. The beech tree was grafted into an N-shape to woo a woman called Nellie almost 100 years ago, the Woodland Trust said.
Photograph: Rob Grange/WTML/PA


I hope you enjoyed the photos and that you have a fun and/or relaxing weekend!

A Guardian Holiday To Greece

My blogging friend Scottish Girl, is in the truest sense, a humanitarian. For three years she has been giving of herself, dedicating her life to helping refugees in Greece. She doesn’t post often, but when she does, I always try to share her writing, for it shows us a side of life that most of us are only vaguely aware of. Today she writes of a truly appalling situation, one that I think will cause your jaw to drop. Please take a minute to read her touching post, and send her well-wishes on her upcoming wedding! Thank you, Scottish Girl, for your hard work, dedication to a most worthy humanitarian cause, and your poignant words.

From Greece With Love

I was just sent a link to The Guardian newspapers’ latest holiday offer, 7 nights, £2500pp, on a special safari tour of poverty porn on the islands and mainland of modern Greece. Sun, sea, a spot of refugee spotting and searching out local families whose lives were destroyed by the financial crisis. How quaint.

 https://holidays.theguardian.com/holidays/greece-and-the-euro-39a156d19967f52863d763098db88d16

The tour begins in the Aegean isle of Samos, famous for it’s wine, it’s breathtaking landscape, and shipwrecks. The lucky holiday maker can start their tour enjoying the vineyards of this sunny isle before heading down to the town to take a few holiday snaps of the horrific conditions the asylum seekers on the island find themselves trapped in. Don’t worry though I don’t imagine you would have to hang around in the dirt with them for too long, not like those who have been held in hotspots or in tents outside of hotspots, for…

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Who Says Protest Doesn’t Work?

In recent months we have seen a number of protests in the U.S., from the Women’s March on January 21st, to the People’s Climate March on April 29th, and most recently the March for Truth on June 3rd. Some have said these protests accomplish nothing, but I have disagreed, and today I have proof that organized protests DO sometimes make enough waves to bring about change.

uk-petition.jpgIn January, just a week after Trump’s inauguration, UK Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump to make a state visit to the UK later this year, which he gladly accepted.  However, the good citizens of the UK do not want Donald Trump to visit … understandably.  Early on, citizens and members of Parliament called for May to rescind her invitation, which she refused to do. In February, a petition circulated and was signed by more than 1.8 million people, calling for Trump to be denied a state visit, saying he is not worthy of the honour. The petition prompted a debate in Westminster Hall, a debate that ended without a vote.

Since then, Trump has done absolutely nothing that would make him more palatable, more welcome to the citizens of the UK.  In fact, his announcement that he plans to withdraw from the Paris Accords did nothing to endear him to any other western nation, certainly not the UK, where even Theresa May, who has appeared to cozy up to Trump, was disappointed in his decision.  But then came the straw that broke the camel’s back.

sadiq-khan

Mayor Sadiq Khan

A few short hours after the devastating terrorist attack in London on June 3rd, Trump took to his favoured communication tool, his twitting machine, and made false and highly critical claims about London Mayor Sadiq Khan.  The Brits, needless to say, were not amused.

“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” tweeted Trump.  But that was not at all what Mayor Sadiq said … he was telling Londoners not to be alarmed by the extra police presence they would see in the coming days.  Trump either did not bother to read what the good mayor said, or deliberately twisted his words.  Either way, he stirred outrage against the citizens in the UK and many of us here in the U.S. as well.

The Guardian reported this morning that Trump’s state visit had been “put on hold”.  Both Prime Minister May’s office and the White House deny this, though the White House spokesperson hemmed and hawed a bit, saying, according to the New York Times, that there may be other reasons Trump might delay his visit.  According to the story, Trump called PM May and indicated that he did not wish to visit if large-scale protests were likely, and that he preferred to wait “until the British public supports him coming.”  He will likely have a long wait!

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said on Twitter that Trump’s decision was “welcome, especially after his attack on London’s mayor & withdrawal from #ParisClimateDeal.”

An editorial yesterday in The Observer, the world’s oldest newspaper, established in 1791, begins …

“Donald Trump is not a fit and proper person to hold the office of president of the United States. That is a view widely held in the US and among America’s European allies, by politicians and diplomats in government and by rank-and-file voters repelled by his gross egoism, narcissism and what Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, has rightly termed his “stupefying ignorance”. It is a view we wholeheartedly share and have repeatedly expressed, before and after Trump’s narrow election victory last November.”

Trump has never before shied from contentious rallies and public events, but those were on his home turf, one in which he had ensured there would be enough of his supporters to muzzle the protesters.  But in the UK, he likely has few, if any supporters and would literally be hung out to dry.

uk-5

Hugh Muir, The Guardian

Guardian Associate Editor Hugh Muir made an interesting point when he said that if any other world leader backed out of a state visit for fear of his image, Trump would tweet, ““RAN from critics. A gift for crooked MSM. TOTAL pathetic loser!”  And we know Mr. Muir is right!  He can dish it out, but he cannot take it. Muir went on to say that “If he can’t bomb it or tweet against it, the cupboard of responses seems bare.”

As I said, there is some dispute about this conversation, though both sides confirm that there was a phone call, but both deny that the subject of Trump’s visit was discussed. I strongly suspect that it was.  There is rarely such a direct link to be drawn between public action and response from those with power, but each public protest speaks to the strength and tenor of opinion. Every one sets out a position and raises the stakes. So, protests, rallies and marches … they DO sometimes work!

uk-3

A Smart Pill?????

smartI am, apparently, not quite as smart as I once thought.  But wait … there’s a pill for that!  In fact, I have often joked, upon doing something dumb like putting my coffee cup in the clothes washing machine, that “I must have forgotten to take my smart pill today!” But who knew there really was such a thing? Now, I knew, of course, about performance-enhancing drugs in the sports world.  There has been much controversy over athletes who use anabolic steroids to build up muscle, and other drugs that may decrease both reaction time and fatigue.  And I certainly knew, having a daughter who is a urological nurse, that there are certain drugs that improve … functionality in certain areas of men’s lives.  But I never knew that there were drugs to make you smarter!

They are called nootropics, cognitive enhancement drugs, or ‘smart drugs’.  They came onto my radar just this evening via a headline in the Guardian:

Universities must do more to tackle use of smart drugs, say experts

Academics call on institutions to consider measures such as drug testing to stem UK rise of drugs used to cope with exam stress

According to the article:

“As hundreds of thousands of students across the UK prepare to sit their summer exams in coming weeks, Thomas Lancaster, an associate dean at Staffordshire University, said we were entering a “dangerous world” where students have access to the “study drugs”.

“Universities need to seriously consider how to react to the influx of smart drugs on campus. Educating students about smart drugs and seeing if they view this as cheating is important here. If the trend continues, universities may need to think about drug testing to ensure the integrity of the examination process,” Lancaster said.

Smart drugs, also known as nootropics, are a group of prescription drugs used to improve concentration, memory and mental stamina during periods of study. The most commonly used ones are Modafinil, Ritalin and Adderall. These substances are normally used to treat disorders such as narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

In May 2016 the Oxford student newspaper, the Cherwell, published a survey that showed 15.6% of students knowingly took Modafinil or another such drug without prescription.

A recent European study co-authored by Robert Dempsey, a lecturer in psychology at Staffordshire University, found that the majority of university students believe it is normal to use such drugs to enhance academic performance.”

Looking back on my college days, during exam time my drugs of choice were caffeine and tobacco … still are, for that matter.  Sure, exam time was stressful, but … so what?  Life is sometimes stressful … stressing over exams is just a small bit of preparation for the real world, for life!

My fellow blogger and friend Hugh Curtler has been saying for some time that our education system is not holding students fully accountable, and that many are being spoon-fed, passed year after year without gaining the knowledge they need. In his post titled “Academic Freedom” from December 2016, Hugh says:

” … the increasing tendency to ask little of spoiled students who complain when asked to do what they really would rather not do, will reduce our academies of higher learning to country clubs and mental health clinics where students can feel safe and protected from the realities of the world “out there.” In a word, universities are rapidly becoming more concerned about the “well-being” of the students than about their intellectual growth.”

I know this to be true, but this latest, the fact that they think a pill can make them smarter … just floors me.  Not only are they being mollycoddled, but now they need drugs to make them smart enough to pass their exams?  Whatever happened to good old-fashioned studying, paying attention, reading, then studying some more?  No need – just buy a set of Cliff Notes, take a pill, and BOOM … exam passed!

In another Guardian article from February 2017, students talk about their use of these ‘smart drugs’:

  • “Everybody’s feeling it. The pressure. There’s just so much pressure. Everything. I shouldn’t even be here. I didn’t even want to go to university but everyone said I should. And the work! It’s just… there’s so much of it! I feel like I wouldn’t even have a chance if it wasn’t for modafinil.”

  • “My ex-girlfriend used to say that to me … She was like, ‘I don’t agree with it. It’s unfair.’ And then when the pressure was on, she was like, ‘Can you give me some?’”

  • “It’s not that it makes you more intelligent. It’s just that it helps you work. You can study for longer. You don’t get distracted. You’re actually happy to go to the library and you don’t even want to stop for lunch. And then it’s like 7pm, and you’re still, ‘Actually, you know what? I could do another hour.’”

  • “It gives you this amazing concentration but you have to make sure you’re actually in front of your books. I spent five hours in my room rearranging my iTunes library on it once.”

  • “I didn’t know anything about it in my first year. It’s all coming from the international students. It was the American students that we discovered it from. They’re all medicated and they’ve got prescriptions and they sell them on.”

I am torn between feeling rage that these young students have no better sense, that they think these pills are a substitute for hard work, and feeling sadness that they will be so woefully unprepared for the careers they choose, for coping with life’s pressures.  Shame on the drug companies that manufacture the drugs, though some were developed for legitimate purposes.  Shame on parents who haven’t taught their kids that life doesn’t come to you on a silver platter, that you must earn it with hard work and responsibility.

So, maybe I am not as smart as some, but one thing is for sure – I am smart enough to know that I cannot gain knowledge from a pill bottle.  Knowledge comes only from reading, studying, thinking, listening to people, opening your mind, and experiencing life.  It is a sad statement of our education system today, but worse, it is a sad statement of the next generation to whom we will ultimately turn over stewardship of our world, for they will not be up to the challenge.

This brings to mind a song from my youth …

white-rabbit

“White Rabbit”
Jefferson Airplane

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell ’em a hookah-smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small

When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice
I think she’ll know

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head
Feed your head

Gen. Mike Flynn Will Testify In Exchange For Immunity

As always, my dear friend Gronda is on top of the latest news about the investigation into Trump and Co. and their shady Russian ties. New news today! Thank you, Gronda, for being our eyes and ears, and for implied permission to re-blog!

Gronda Morin

Image result for PHOTO OF FLYNN AND TRUMP Trump/ Flynn

The other shoe has finally dropped. The Wall Street Journal is breaking the news that the republican President Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor, retired Lt. General Mike Flynn has offered to testify about the Trump/ Russian saga in exchange for immunity.

Here is the rest of the story…

On 3/30/17, Shane Harris, Carol E. Lee and Julian E. Barnes of the Wall Street Journal penned the following report,“Mike Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity:

Image result for PHOTO OF FLYNN AND TRUMP“Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has told the Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional officials investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.”

“As an adviser to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, and later one of Mr. Trump’s top aides in the…

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