27 December 2013


PlanetCatfish, the leading website for all things catfish, has announced the PlanetXingu project. The goal is to raise the money needed for hard scientific research into a vibrant but doomed stretch of the Xingu River. Many species of fish favoured by aquarists come from this area, yet little research has been done. PlanetXingu is a praise worthy effort to document a fast disappearing habitat.

To donate to the project via PayPal, the secure donation page is here

(by Julian Dignall on Catfish, June 10, 2013)
 "... Harnessing aquarists and the internet to quickly and globally support, disseminate and indeed test scientific research in the field of tropical fish ichthyology is something I thought I’d like have a crack at bringing about. It seemed to me that the loricariid catfish of Brazil’s Rio Xingu would make a good starting point, for a variety of reasons. ...there is a lot going on in the Xingu from socio-economic and conservation perspectives and knowing what’s going on would also be of interest to many. Furthermore, aquarists have identified many forms of catfish from the river that are not described by scientists and there are many, many questions keepers and breeders alike would like to know about new species, populations and so on. Brazil’s positive list that defines which species may legally be collected for export is another consideration... 

Money, as always, is a factor: many of these fishes are desirable and, so, worth a lot of money – the interaction between the supply and demand is important if we are to consider such things as sustainable exports and responsible fishkeeping. With likely habitat loss imminent, we may soon be in a last chance data capture and mitigation phase - the data captured during the project will help inform those intent on mitigating the "disaster". To do that we need to understand species concepts and, as a higher goal, demonstrate the global uniqueness of the Xingu. 

Finally, there is an element of time as well; it is very likely parts of the Xingu will be changed by man’s activities, and in the near future too. It appears some species live in relatively small areas and so are at high risk of impact by such activity. It is my hope that we can find out more about the fishes and how they live in the river. Perhaps we will find bad news too, but I think it is important to have facts... "

read the full article on PlanetCatfish

related posts on stormidae here

To donate to the project via PayPal, the secure donation page is here
Rio Xingu

10 December 2013

fun with fundies: Why I'm joining the the boycott of the Salvation Army kettle drive

^^Zinnia Jones

The Salvation Army was quick to issue an apology  for the comments made by Major Andrew Craibe on June 21st 2012, in an  interview with Melbourne radio station Joy 94.9 FM. Craibe was answering questions about the Salvation Story: Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine, the manual used to train Salvation Army “soldiers” and members.

Craibe, a Salvation Army Media Relations Director in Australia, spoke to journalist Serena Ryan about calls by LGBTQ parents for a boycott of the nonprofit due to its anti-gay policies and beliefs.

Page 28 of the handbook cites Romans 1:18-32:
“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. . .
“They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.”

Asked whether the Salvation Army took the wording literally, i.e. that practising homosexuals should be put to death, the Major Craibe replied in the affirmative. Truth Wins Out transcribed the resulting discussion

“ RYAN: According to the Salvation Army gay parents deserve death. How do you respond to that, as part of your doctrine?”
CRAIBE: Well, that’s a part of our belief system.
RYAN (cutting in): So we should die.
CRAIBE: You know, we have an alignment to the Scriptures, but that’s our belief.
RYAN: Wow. So we should die."

But, is the apology worth anything or is the S.A. just covering it's ass over the Major's honest answers? It has a long history internationally of vigorously opposing lgbt equity. lgbtqnation lists just five:
  • When New Zealand considered passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986, the Salvation Army collected signatures in an attempt to get the legislation killed. The act decriminalized consensual sex between gay men. The measure passed over the charity’s objections.
  • In the United Kingdom, the Salvation Army actively pushed passage of an amendment to the Local Government Act. The amendment stated that local authorities “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” The law has since been repealed, but it led many schools and colleges to close LGBT student organizations out of fear they’d lose their government funding.
  • In 2001, the organization tried to extract a resolution from the White House that they could ignore local non-discrimination laws that protected LGBT people. While the commitment would have applied to all employees, the group claimed that it needed the resolution so it “did not have to ordain sexually active gay ministers and did not have to provide medical benefits to the same-sex partners of employees.” After lawmakers and civil rights activists revealed the Salvation Army’s active resistance to non-discrimination laws, the White House admitted the charity was seeking the exemptions.
  • Also in 2001, the evangelical charity actively lobbied to change how the Bush administration would distribute over $24 billion in grants and tax deductions by urging the White House deny funding to any cities or states that included LGBT non-discrimination laws. Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, issued a statement saying the administration was denying a “regulation sought by the church to protect the right of taxpayer-funded religious organizations to discriminate against homosexuals.”
  • In 2004, the Salvation Army threatened to close all their soup kitchens in New York City to protest the city’s decision to require all vendors and charities doing business with the city to adhere to all civil rights laws. The organization balked at having to treat gay employees equal to straight employees."
In Canada, a Supreme Court ruling from 1998 has set the rules for religious groups which accept public funding. Delwin Vriend, a lab instructor at King's University College, a Christian institution in Edmonton, was fired from his job because he is gay. When the case came up in front of the Supreme Court, the justices ruled that gays working in publicly-funded institutions were covered by Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms even if the institutions are religiously controlled.

So while the S.A. in Canada cannot discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation in it's publicly funded endeavours, it is still a fundamentalist Christian organisation which teaches that lgbt people are contrary to god's plan.

There are other places to donate.

Clerical Whispers
the FreeThinker
America Blog
gayglobe us

7 December 2013

random science 25: Mary Anning 1799 – 1847

Mary Anning was a noted British fossil collector, dealer, and paleontologist. She became known around the world for a number of important finds that she made in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis in Dorset, England, her area of residence. Her work contributed to the fundamental changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth that occurred during her life time.
Anning's gender and social class prevented her from fully participating in the scientific community of 19th-century Britain. Despite her many discoveries, she struggled financially for much of her life, and was rarely credited for her finds. She died from breast cancer at age 47.

wikimedia commons
photos sourced from Wikimedia Commons
U. of C. Berkley page
Wikipedia page