Orchis commutata (Syn. Neotinea commutata), a species of orchid endemic to Sicily, Italy [source].
Building on the mass hunger strike of prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison in July of last year, several hundred prisoners across Alabama have declared that, beginning Easter Sunday, they will stop prison-mandated labor in protest of detestable living conditions.
The conditions in Alabama prisons are horrendous, packing twice as many people as the 16,000 that can be housed “humanely”, with everything from black mold, brown water, cancer causing foods, insect infestations, and general disrepair. They are also run by free slave labor, with 10,000 incarcerated people working to maintain the prisons daily, adding up to $600,000 dollars a day, or $219,000,000 a year of slave labor if inmates were paid federal minimum wage, with tens of thousands more receiving pennies a day making products for the state or private corporations.
Unpaid labor includes cooking and cleaning, production of license plates, furniture, chemicals, and linens, and farming. The slavery analogy is more than metaphorical: African-Americans comprise only 26% of Alabama’s population, but make up more than 60% of the prison population due to reactionary legislation and racist targeting of communities of color. Reports of beatings and systemic rape and sexual abuse of women inmates by guards at Tutwiler State Prison have surfaced in the media over the last year.
On the outside, labor unions and prisoners’ advocacy groups have been instrumental in helping prisoners organize themselves. The Free Alabama Movement is pushing an “Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-entry Preparedness Bill” to the Alabama legislature, while the Industrial Workers of the World labor union has vowed to provide support and assistance to the incarcerated laborers.
Melvin Ray, spokesperson for the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) said:
When we look at our situations inside of the Alabama Department of Corrections, we have no choice but to engage in this nonviolent and peaceful protest for civil and human rights. We sleep with rats and roaches. We work for free and eat slop unfit for human consumption. We serve decades in prison solely to provide free labor and without any real prospect for parole, and without any recourse to the courts for justice or redress of grievances. Our mothers, wives, and daughters must expose their breasts and panties just to visit us. This should not be acceptable to anyone. Prison is supposed to be a place where people go to work out issues and return to society. But when there is no focus on education or rehab but solely on profit margins, human suffering is inevitable. ADOC is about free labor and the new slavery no one wants to talk about. That is no longer going to work for the 30,000 of us who suffer because of it.
The Industrial Workers of the World was involved in a similar campaign in 1987, in which they organized 400 incarcerated laborers in an Ohio state prison, before the government ruled that prisoners are not legally entitled to the right to form a union - a right which all other workers enjoy.
More on the Free Alabama Movement’s strike
Late Night Special: Old Douglas Fir Woodpeckers Covered With Acorns
Acorn woodpeckers spend their time collecting acorns, drilling holes in firs, and then popping the acorns in the holes for safe keeping. This is the most extreme example I’ve seen to date, with hundreds of holes on every surface, including the underside of the limbs!
(Mount Tamalpais, California - 4/2014)
I suspect these little miscreants would be a nightmare for our arborists and groundskeepers. Aside from trees, they’ve been known to create acorn “granaries” in just about anything they can punch holes in—buildings, fenceposts, etc. Lucky for us they’re westerners through and through. —MN
Acorn Woodpecker is pretty high on my wishlist of birds to see.
I’ve never been female. But I have been black my whole life. I can perhaps offer some insight from that perspective. There are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that we find in the black community, as well as the community of women in a white male dominate society…
When I look at — throughout my life — I’ve known that I wanted to do astrophysics since I was 9 years old…I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expressions of these ambitions. All I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist, an astrophysicist was hands down the path of most resistance through the forces of society.
Anytime I expressed this interest, teachers would say, ‘Oh, don’t you wanna be an athlete?’ I want to become someone that was outside of the paradigm of expectations of the people in power. Fortunately, my depth of interest of the universe was so deep and so fuel enriched that everyone of these curve balls that I was thrown, and fences built in front of me, and hills that I had to climb, I just reach for more fuel, and I just kept going.
Now, here I am, one of the most visible scientists in the land, and I wanna look behind me and say, ‘Where are the others who might have been this,’ and they’re not there! …I happened to survive and others did not simply because of forces of society that prevented it at every turn. At every turn.
…My life experience tells me that when you don’t find blacks, when you don’t find women in the sciences, I know that these forces are real, and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today.
So before we start talking about genetic differences, you gotta come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity, then we can have that conversation.
"What’s up with chicks and science?"
Are there genetic differences between men and women, explain why more men are in science.
It’s telling that Summers is still obsessed with finding hypothetical genetic differences.
About three weeks ago, an osprey named Rodney left his wintering grounds among the sand dunes of western Venezuela and started his spring migration to Washington’s Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge on the Anacostia River. On March 27, he struck out across the Caribbean near the Colombian town of Riohacha, crossed hundreds of miles of open water, and hit the coast of Cuba two days later, after about 40 hours in the air.
Ospreys — elegant brown and white fishing birds — can fly for long periods in a state of semi-sleep, experts said.
Rodney lingered in Cuba, then crossed the Florida Straits and cruised up the East Coast. He arrived in the District last week, completing a 2,900-mile journey and a year-long community project to track two of the area’s majestic raptors from their urban haunts to their exotic wintering grounds and back.
No befuddled snowy owl, Rodney zeroed in on the area where he probably was born, experts said, and is now feasting on the Anacostia’s choice spring herring run.
Rodney and an osprey named Ron were captured on the river last spring and fitted with small transmitters that enabled scientists to follow their travels via satellite when they migrated south last fall and returned this spring.
(via The Washington Post)
A family of Little Owls on a branch in Kiryat Gat, Israel. Picture: ILIA SHALAMAEV/HOTSPOT (via Pictures of the day: 8 April 2014 - Telegraph)
Cicindela scutellaris - the Festive Tiger Beetle, found on top of a butte in Badlands National Park that had ancient windblown sand at its crest, very different from the rest of the gumbo soils of the park. Here this sand specialist can build its long burrows. Experimenting with using Black Velvet as a background … seems to gain me a few more black pixes as compared to Black Felt, also used a white card to reflect light back up on the underside of the specimen.