Charles Darwin, flowering plants, mystery, new light
The author writes, “A scientist has shed new light on the origins of Charles Darwin’s ‘abominable mystery.’ The famous naturalist was haunted by the question of how the first flowering plants evolved. Darwin feared this inexplicable puzzle would undermine his theories of evolution, says Prof Richard Buggs.” Photo credit: GoToVan / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A Look Inside Biden’s Oval Office ; Former Pol Wants Politicians to Know What It’s Like to Scrape to Survive ; and More Picks 1/25

A Look Inside Biden’s Oval Office (Dan)

The author writes, “President Biden has filled the Oval Office with images of American leaders and icons, focusing the room around massive portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that hangs across from the Resolute Desk. It is a clear nod to a president who helped the country through significant crises, a challenge Biden now also faces. The Oval Office is synonymous with the power and majesty of the American presidency. Every president changes the decor of largely symbolic room to offer a sense of their personality and the type of presidency they hope to have. Biden’s is notable for the sheer number of portraits and busts of well-known American historical figures.”

This Former Politician Wants Politicians to Know What It’s Like to Be Jobless, Get COVID, Scrape to Survive (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “How many meals can you eke out of a frozen quarter-chicken from the food bank? How many tacos from its shredded meat? How many bowls of soup from its bones? How many days can you go without having to hit the coin-op laundry? How long can you avoid spending $4 for a load if you hand-wash your underwear and T-shirts and hang them to dry in the bathroom? How many months will the exhaustion linger after surviving COVID-19? Will walking to the mailbox ever again not feel like a trek up a steep mountain? These are the daily worries of a woman I talked to this week as the National Guard descended on Washington and America reeled from an attack on our Capitol — while all over our country thousands of households face bread-and-butter security crises that also are grave, with people out of work and sick and unable to pay their rents and hungry and desperately in need of help from a federal government long otherwise occupied.”

Israel Sees 60% Drop in Hospitalizations for Age 60-Plus 3 Weeks After First Shot (Dana)

From the Times of Israel: “Vaccines are quickly averting serious cases of COVID-19 among the most vulnerable members of society, an Israeli healthcare provider has indicated. The full effects of Pfizer’s vaccine are only slated to kick in around a month after the first shot, but data from Israel, home to the world’s fastest vaccination drive, has already shown that there is a stark drop in infections even before this point. Attracting widespread international interest by sharing early data, Maccabi Healthcare Services reported earlier this month that it has seen a 60 percent reduction in coronavirus infections three weeks after the first shot is administered.”

Proud Sacramento Grandmother Watches Poet Amanda Gorman Shine During Inauguration (Olivia)

From the Sacramento Bee: “As the nation inaugurated Joe Biden as the 46th president and Kamala Harris as the first female, first Black and first Asian American vice president, it was Amanda Gorman who became a breakout star Wednesday with her poetic justice. In her powerful poem, the Californian drew in the Washington, D.C., crowd and captivated millions of TV viewers with her symbolic call for peace, love and unity as America strives for reconciliation as a country. … The elder Gorman is a Sacramento resident and worked as a journalist for The Sacramento Bee from 1971 to 1978, as one of the only Black reporters in the newsroom at the time, before she went on to work at the California State Assembly.”

Scientists Find Two New Species of Fungi That Turn Flies Into ‘Zombies’ (Dan)

The author writes, “Two new fungi species that infect flies and eject spores out of a large hole in the insect’s abdomen ‘like small rockets’ have been discovered in Denmark. … While most fungi spore once the host is dead, with strongwellsea, the host continues to live for days, carrying out normal activities and socialising with other flies while the fungus consumes its genitals, fat reserves, reproductive organs and finally its muscle, all the while shooting out thousands of spores on to other individuals. After a few days, the fly lies on its back, spasms for a few hours and then dies.”


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