The White House reportedly rejected a recent funding request from the US Postal Service, which predicted that it would soon run out of cash flow, thanks in part to coronavirus. Based on a quick glance at my Twitter feed, there are lots of people who are understandably concerned that this is all part of a larger GOP plot to destroy USPS, along with all other public institutions.
Considering that the Post Office would actually be a successful business if not for the GOP-sponsored Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, sometimes known as "one of the most insane laws Congress ever enacted," this is a valid concern. When people say that USPS is not a profitable business, it's specifically because of that law, which legally forbids them from making a profit, and also requires the Postal Service to fully refund its retirees' benefits 75 years in advance. No other company or organization — public or private — has ever done something that absurd. And it was clearly a deliberate move.
But here's the thing: they're never going to get rid of the Postal Service, not entirely. Because USPS is the only entity that will ship live scorpions. And that's an important public service. (Yes, they technically say that it has to be "for the purposes of medical research use or the manufacture of antivenin" but that's easy to get around.)
There's also the fact that FedEx and UPS rely on the US Postal Service for about a third of their services — particularly for "last mile" deliveries. Read the rest
Watch it - if you're not beat up in a United Airlines seat, you might get stung. At least that's what happened to Richard Bell, a passenger flying from Houston to Calgary on Sunday, when a scorpion dropped from the overhead bin, landed in his hair, fell onto his tray table, and then zapped him.
This mishap occurred on the same day United passenger David Dao was beaten up on another flight for not "volunteering" to give up the seat he paid for. He was then dragged off the plane while unconscious.
Luckily, the scorpion did much less damage to Bell – he only suffered pain that "felt like a wasp sting." Other than that he was fine.
And as for the scorpion? It was flushed down the toilet in the aircraft.
Read the full story on The Washington Post.
Image by Papypierre1 Read the rest
The Arizona bark scorpion is the deadliest scorpion in the continental United States. But the Southern grasshopper mouse happily munches on the scorpions. How? The scorpion's venom actually triggers the mouse to numb itself to pain.
From KQED Science:
The scorpion venom contains neurotoxins that target sodium and potassium ion channels, proteins embedded within the surface of the nerve and muscle cells that play an important role in regulating the sensation of pain. Activating these channels sends signals down the nerves to the brain. That’s what causes the excruciating pain that human victims have described as the feeling like getting jabbed with a hot needle. Others compare the pain to an electric shock. But the grasshopper mouse has an entirely different reaction when stung.
Within the mouse, a special protein in one of the sodium ion channels binds to the scorpion’s neurotoxin. Once bound, the neurotoxin is unable to activate the sodium ion channel and send the pain signal. Instead it has the entirely opposite effect. It shuts down the channel, keeping it from sending any signals, which has a numbing effect for the mouse.
"Stinging Scorpion vs. Pain-Defying Mouse"
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Here's the latest comic from Robert Arthur, author of a book that I read years ago and think about often, called You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos.
David Macdonald argues in his 2007 book, Drugs in Afghanistan, that Afghanistan’s increased drug usage is driven by an impoverished battle-scarred population trying desperately to relieve its suffering. Western-led efforts to universally criminalize drugs are futile because distressed people will always be able to find chemical relief.
As an example, Macdonald notes that in Afghanistan even the ubiquitous scorpions can be used for intoxication. Tartars in Bamiyan province prepare scorpions by smashing them between stones and letting them dry. The main part of the tail, with the sting, is then crushed into a powder and smoked with tobacco and/or hashish (marijuana).
Getting High on Scorpions: The Afghan Drug War Read the rest