California, Western monarch butterflies, bouncing back, ecosystem
Photo credit: Cam Miller / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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After Record Low, Monarch Butterflies Return to California (Maria)

The authors write, “There is a ray of hope for the vanishing orange-and-black Western monarch butterflies. The number wintering along California’s central coast is bouncing back after the population, whose presence is often a good indicator of ecosystem health, reached an all-time low last year. Experts pin their decline on climate change, habitat destruction and lack of food due to drought.”

‘I Want Them to Start Something’: White Supremacists Allegedly Strategized How to Provoke Counterprotesters Ahead of the ‘Unite The Right’ Rally (DonkeyHotey)

From BuzzFeed News: “As the plaintiffs in the landmark federal lawsuit against two dozen neo-Nazis and other white supremacists who organized the ‘Unite the Right’ rally called their final witnesses, they zeroed in on the alleged calls for violence in the run-up to the event, presenting organizers’ own message threads as evidence. Plaintiffs’ attorney Karen Dunn on Tuesday called to the stand Jason Kessler, a white nationalist, member of the Proud Boys, and one of the primary ‘Unite the Right’ organizers. The attorney spent hours Tuesday confirming and walking Kessler through his extensive communications with other white nationalists and neo-Nazis in the months, weeks, and days leading up to Aug. 11 and 12, 2017. Those communications — over social messaging platforms including Facebook and Discord, as well as by phone and text message — made clear that Kessler was looking to draw like-minded people from across the US to Charlottesville.”

Why We Stopped Reading the News (Russ)

The author writes, “Political rot breeds unintended consequences. One that I think most of us grok at some level is the extent to which consuming news about the corrupted and gridlocked American political situation — a lacerating exercise at best while Trump was president — has changed since his ouster. It’s perhaps even more painful now. Outrage can at least be motivating, but the slow strangulation of political hope under a razor-thin Democratic majority produces different effects. For certain kinds of idealists, it can be functionally analogous to self-harm, and that might be why it seems like a lot of left-of-center Americans news consumers have recently hit a wall and tuned out. (I’m not judging here; far be it from me to suggest how and in what quantities news should or shouldn’t be consumed.) What I’m interested in instead is both how people process political information and how those habits change. It seems indisputable that a significant group of once-avid news junkies are developing avoidant behaviors, and that might have consequences.”

Alaska Doctors Seek COVID-19 Misinformation Investigation (Mili)

The author writes, “Alaska doctors plan to ask the State Medical Board to investigate concerns about the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and treatments by other physicians. Merijeanne Moore, a private practice psychiatrist, said she drafted the letter out of concern over an event about COVID-19 treatments that featured prominent vaccine skeptics in Anchorage last month, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Moore said Saturday that nearly 100 doctors had signed the letter and more could before she plans to submit the letter on Tuesday.”

Drilling for ‘White Gold’ Is Happening Right Now at the Salton Sea (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “Barely a mile from the southern shore of the Salton Sea — an accidental lake deep in the California desert, a place best known for dust and decay — a massive drill rig stands sentinel over some of the most closely watched ground in American energy. There’s no oil or natural gas here, despite a cluster of Halliburton cement tanks and the hum of a generator slowly pushing a drill bit through thousands of feet of underground rock. Instead, an Australian company is preparing to tap a buried reservoir of salty, superheated water to produce renewable energy — and lithium, a crucial ingredient in electric car batteries.”

Biologists Rethink the Logic Behind Cells’ Molecular Signals (Sean)

From Quanta Magazine: “Back in 2000, when Michael Elowitz of the California Institute of Technology was still a grad student at Princeton University, he accomplished a remarkable feat in the young field of synthetic biology: He became one of the first to design and demonstrate a kind of functioning ‘circuit’ in living cells. He and his mentor, Stanislas Leibler, inserted a suite of genes into Escherichia coli bacteria that induced controlled swings in the cells’ production of a fluorescent protein, like an oscillator in electronic circuitry. It was a brilliant illustration of what the biologist and Nobel laureate François Jacob called the ‘logic of life’: a tightly controlled flow of information from genes to the traits that cells and other organisms exhibit. But this lucid vision of circuit-like logic, which worked so elegantly in bacteria, too often fails in more complex cells.” 

‘Megaspider’ Is Biggest of Its Kind We’ve Ever Seen, Australian Reptile Park Says (Dana)

The author writes, “A massive funnel-web spider with fangs capable of piercing human fingernails has been donated to an antivenom program in Australia, sparking an appeal for its anonymous donor to come forward. Nicknamed ‘Megaspider,’ the arachnid measures 8 centimeters (about 3 inches) foot to foot, with fangs 2 centimeters (about 0.8 inches) long, the Australian Reptile Park said.”

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