Why Do We Socialize? The Evolutionary Truth May Disgust You

Why Do We Socialize? The Evolutionary Truth May Disgust You.

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Though there are many social animals who live in groups, or protect their growing children, we still aren’t sure how social behavior really began. Now we may have a clue — and it comes from observing the way a humble earwig shares food with its brothers and sisters.

What is it that drives humans to make great movies together, or to collaborate across great distances to discover a new planet in a distant star system? And what evolutionary process caused crows to come together in small groups, to help each other find food? It all has to do with being social animals, creatures whose lives depend (at least some of the time) on other members of the same species for survival.

There are many ways to be social, ranging from simply taking care of young to forming intense, hierarchical societies. The question is how all of these behaviors arose. What is the smallest, most primitive unit of social behavior? Zoologist Joël Meunier and his colleagues are trying to find out, and they recently published the results of their work in The American Naturalist

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Forficula auricularia, known as the European earwig, was their research subject. F. auricularia has what the researchers believe is very primitive social behavior. The mothers in this species care for their young, called nymphs, for several weeks after they hatch — you can see this behavior in the picture above. In fact, as the authors of this new study point out, many evolutionary biologists trace social behavior in all animals back to parental care.

You might say that a mother caring for her offspring could be the seed that evolved into a broad range of social behaviors, which range from dogs hunting in packs, to birds sharing a nest and humans conducting science experiments collaboratively. But our intrepid earwig researchers believe they’ve found another model for social behavior: sibling cooperation.

Earwig siblings are known to kill and eat each other, especially when food provided by the mother is scarce. But, as Meunier and his colleagues observed, earwig nymphs also share food with each other, especially when their mother isn’t around.

Here we show experimentally that sibling interactions also reflect cooperative behaviors in the form of food sharing in nonderived families of the European earwig, Forficula auricularia. Food ingested by individual offspring was transferred to their siblings through mouth-to-anus contacts and active allo-coprophagy. These transfers occurred in both the presence and the absence of the tending mothers, even though the direct contact with the mothers limited sibling food sharing.

In case you had any doubts about what the researchers are describing, I’ll spell it out for you. One of the most fundamental acts of sharing and sociality could be giving poop to your siblings to eat. Indeed, most of this food sharing was done via «mouth-to-anus contacts,» which gives the movie Human Centipede a strangely altruistic new gloss.

Meunier and colleagues suggest that social behavior developed out of these simple food-sharing practices. What’s important is that our earliest models for sociality may not be just parents sacrificing for the next generation, but also siblings cooperating to keep the whole family fed.

Conclude the researchers:

[Because F. auricularia probably reflects] an early intermediate level in the transition from solitary to highly developed forms of social life, our findings also provide evidence that the evolutionary forces promoting the emergence and the persistence of parental care and social life do not (necessarily) rely only on the benefits of parental care for offspring but may also involve the benefits of cooperative sibling interactions—possibly even before the evolution of parental care.

One of the most beautiful parts of human life — our ability to cooperate and create amazing things together — may have started long before we evolved, with a little poop sharing between brothers and sisters.

You can read the full study at American Naturalist


The US’s Wave of Hospital Closures Left Us Ill-Equipped for COVID-19

Part of the Series

Fighting for Our Lives: The Movement for Medicare for All

A couple of weeks ago, as countries scrambled to protect their citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic by closing borders and quarantining travelers, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, upon the “recommendation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” took the unprecedented step of urging all students who are studying abroad to return home. In the announcement, they emphasized the need to return home if students are living in a country with “poorly developed health services and infrastructure … for example the USA.” The word spread quickly on social media that the United States had been singled out as an example of a country with poor health care infrastructure, with many people in the U.S. agreeing that we lack the capacity to handle the pandemic.

There are many reasons why the United States, which spends the most per capita on health care each year of any wealthy nation, is lagging behind other countries in health care access. Compared to other wealthy nations, the United States stands out for lacking a universal health care system and for prioritizing corporate profits over health. This has led to a fragmented health care system that is ill-equipped for a coordinated response in a time of crisis, such as the current pandemic.

If there is any question that profits matter more than health in the United States, here are three recent examples.

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Health insurance companies pushed back when President Trump announced treatment for COVID-19 would be covered without requiring co-pays. America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry lobbying group, immediately clarified this would only apply to testing, not to treatment. Rising Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures the antimalarial drug Chloroquine that is being tested for use against COVID-19, raised the price of the drug by nearly 100 percent in late January. Incidentally, this drug is still experimental and should not be used without medical supervision, as this Arizona couple did to their demise. And rather than purchase COVID-19 tests from the World Health Organization, as South Korea did, the United States chose to develop its own tests. This has led to a severe delay in access to tests, which means the U.S. missed an important window of opportunity to identify and isolate people infected with COVID-19.

Now, the United States finds itself in the dangerous position of facing a potentially massive number of cases of COVID-19, as Italy is currently experiencing, that could overwhelm our health care system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated earlier this month that between 160 million to 214 million people in the U.S. could be infected over the next year or so if nothing were done to stop the spread of the virus. Although steps are increasingly being taken, such as closing schools, banning large gatherings and shutting down nonessential businesses, the current rise of cases in the U.S. is steeper than in countries that are experiencing significant difficulties, such as France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

You will find more infographics at Statista

Not Enough Hospital Beds

According to the Global Health Security Index, the United States ranks 175th out of 195 countries for access to health care. Italy ranks 74th and it is having problems with overcrowded hospitals and being forced to prioritize patients for intensive care based on their likelihood of surviving.

Since 1975, while the U.S. population has risen from 216 million people to 331 million, the total number of hospital beds has declined from 1.5 million to 925,000. This decline followed President Nixon’s 1973 Health Maintenance Organization Act, which allowed the privatization of health care. The United States currently has only 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 residents, just a little over half the average of 5.4 beds per 1,000 residents in other wealthy countries.

According to the American Hospital Association, there are nearly 70,000 intensive care unit beds for adults. This won’t be nearly enough to care for the estimated 2 million people who could be hospitalized for COVID-19. Most intensive care units are near full capacity on any given day. On March 27, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo stated that New York City will need an additional 87,000 hospital beds including 37,000 more intensive care unit beds on top of the 3,000 that currently exist.

New York City has been inundated with cases of COVID-19. As of this writing, there are nearly 50,000 cases in New York, most of them in and around the city, making it the 6th highest place in the world. Doctors and nurses report confusion over policies regarding the pandemic and shortages of critical supplies such as personal protective equipment, tests and medical devices, including ventilators. The governor reached out to President Trump to ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary health care facilities, and so far, they have repurposed four buildings to create 4,000 beds and are looking at four more facilities plus using college dormitories and hotels as temporary hospitals. A 750-bed naval hospital ship just docked in Manhattan, in preparation for mid-April when they expect the number of cases to peak.

Where Did the Hospital Beds Go?

Hospitals are closing in the United States at an alarming rate. In 2018, an audit of hospitals by Morgan Stanley found that 8 percent of them are at risk of closing and an additional 10 percent are on a weak financial footing. In 2018, the American Hospital Association estimated that 30 hospitals will close each year and the number is expected to rise over time.

Rural hospitals are closing the fastest. Over 120 have closed down since 2010. A report by the Chartis Center for Rural Health found another 453 of the 1,844 that remain are at risk of closing. The highest number of rural hospital closures, 19, occurred in 2019. Six rural hospitals have already been shut down this year.

Roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in a rural area. Residents of rural areas tend to be older, sicker and poorer than in other areas. They require more care and often can’t pay for it, placing a greater financial burden on local hospitals than populations that are healthier and wealthier. Hospitals are also facing competition from outpatient surgical centers, which draw insured patients away who can pay for care, thus lowering hospital revenue further.

When hospitals are located in communities with high numbers of uninsured residents, they are particularly vulnerable to closures. According to the University of North Carolina’s Rural Health Research Program, the 17 states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act had the highest number of hospital closures. Texas lost the most hospitals, followed by Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina. Over half of the remaining rural hospitals in Texas and Tennessee and more than a third of hospitals in Oklahoma and Georgia are at risk of closing due to their weak financial position.

Failing rural hospitals are preyed upon by large corporations that take them over, extract their revenues and then allow them to lapse into bankruptcy. Kaiser Health News describes one case of a Miami, Florida-based corporation, EmpowerHMS, that bought 18 hospitals in the South and Midwest. EmpowerHMS ran a lucrative but fraudulent laboratory operation out of the hospitals, bringing in tens of millions of dollars, while the hospitals themselves lacked basic supplies and equipment. In the end, 12 of the hospitals went bankrupt and eight closed. Towns were not only devastated by the loss of their local hospital and the jobs that went with it, but they were also cheated out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid property taxes.

When hospitals close down in rural areas, more people die of preventable causes. In general, the Pew Research Center found people living in rural areas travel twice as far as people living in urban and suburban areas to get to the hospital. According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, mortality rates rise by 5.9 percent when hospitals disappear, especially for people with emergencies such as strokes and heart attacks that require immediate attention.

Hospital closures in cities also tend to occur in areas that serve poor communities and often populations of color. Like rural hospitals, they may be bought by a large corporate hospital system when they are failing and then allowed to go bankrupt. It is often more profitable to redevelop them in a gentrifying area than to keep them open.

This is what happened last September to Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia, which served a predominantly Black and Brown community for 178 years and is now slated for redevelopment. Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C., St. Vincent’s Hospital in the Greenwich Village area of New York City and St. Vincent Medical Center in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles, which also provided care for over a hundred years to low-income communities of color, have also been shuttered.

In other cities, hospitals may stay open but close down essential services to make way for more lucrative fields such as orthopedics and cardiovascular disease. MedStar, a Washington, D.C.-based corporation that owns 10 hospitals in Maryland as well as physician practices, laboratories, long-term care centers and other health facilities, abruptly closed whole departments that provided obstetric, pediatric and psychiatric care in recent years.

Health care activists, doctors and patients protest outside Union Memorial Hospital, owned by Med Star, in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 10, 2018. Med Star has been closing essential departments where they are not profitable. Kevin Zeese

Profits Before Patients Is a Failed Model

As COVID-19 spreads around the world, now impacting over 700,000 people in 194 countries and territories, there is a clear difference in how well various countries are containing the pandemic. Those countries that have universal, publicly financed health care systems are better able to coordinate their responses and care for those who are ill. They have been the fastest to slow the spread of the virus.

For example, a World Health Organization mission reported that, “China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history.” China was commended for the speed with which it identified the virus, acted and modified its strategy as new information was gained about the virus. Now, China is sending medical teams and supplies to other countries that are struggling.

Other countries with single-payer health care systems have also shown their superiority to the United States in handling the pandemic. Patients are able to receive care without concern about the cost and health facilities already have direct communication with the government in order to coordinate care.

The Washington Post quotes epidemiologist David Fisman of Toronto, Canada, who says, “having a healthcare system that’s a public strategic asset rather than a business run for profit allows for a degree of coordination and optimal use of resources.”

That is the reason the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is playing a fundamental role in the COVID-19 response in the United States. As the nation’s largest publicly owned health care system, the VHA has a “fourth mission” to assist in national emergencies. Candice Bernd of Truthout describes how the VHA is currently coordinating the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic in cooperation with the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services.

If the United States had a universal single-payer health care system like a national improved Medicare for All or a national health system modeled on the VHA, hospitals would not be closing down. A key feature of the House bill for Medicare for All is that it provides global budgets for all health facilities. They would receive a monthly check to cover the costs of providing care no matter what segment of the population they serve. (This provision is lacking in the Senate Medicare for All bill, and should be added.) The VHA owns its health facilities and similarly does not have to worry about turning a profit to keep the doors open.

Support for a universal single-payer health care system in the United States is growing. We can only hope that, in the face of this deadly pandemic, we will see a louder demand and the political will to finally join the rest of the world in treating health care as a public good.

Some stories must be told. We need your help to do it.

Whether we’re reporting on the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis or lifting up the movements fighting against climate destruction, corporate profiteering and authoritarianism, it’s critical that we get the facts out. But we can’t do it without the support of our readers.

If you value our coverage of the issues that matter most, please support our independent news site with a one-time or monthly donation!

Margaret Flowers practiced pediatrics for 17 years and currently serves as the codirector of Popular Resistance and the national coordinator of Health Over Profit for Everyone. She is an adviser to the board of Physicians for a National Health Program.


The Full Truth About Earwigs Crawling In Ears

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Earwigs have a bad reputation. Since ancient times, these little bugs have been said to crawl into the ears of humans and lay their eggs. Some even believe they burrow into our brains! In fact, earwigs get their name from their reputation of crawling into the ears of humans. The French refer to them as perce-oreille, or ear piercer. Germans call them Ohrwurm, which means ear worm. That’s revolting. And, the Russians call them ukhovertka, or ear turner. But, their name in English is perhaps the most disturbing of all. The old English word «wig» comes from a family of words that include «wiggle» and «wag.» That does not paint a pretty picture. At all. So, do earwigs really wiggle into our ears? Today we’re going to settle this question once and for all.

Yes. Earwigs crawl into our ears. What. It’s true. It isn’t a myth. Well, it is mostly a myth, but it isn’t entirely a myth. These creatures can crawl into your ear, but so can a lot of other bugs.

There are documented cases of spiders, fruit fly babies, bed bugs, crickets, moths, and ticks being found in the ear of some very unlucky individuals. Some of these cases even include eggs being laid; however, it is not known whether or not an earwig has ever laid eggs in anyone’s ear.

Here is what you need to know most about earwigs:

It is extremely rare for an earwig to «wiggle» into someone’s ear. It isn’t like earwigs prefer to be in a human ear. There is nothing in there that they want, except maybe some moisture and warmth. But, they can—and do—crawl into the ears of some people. There are cases of this happening. Some from our own decade. It is, however, very unlikely that it will happen to you or anyone in your family.

These bugs will never burrow into your brain. They simply don’t have the ability or inclination.

Earwigs prefer to live in areas where there is moist rotting wood, not in your ear.

So, there you have it. Earwigs are not likely to climb in your ear; but if you want to make sure, Moyer has some solutions that will keep these, or any other pest, from crawling into your ear. When you have year-round pest services from Moyer, not only will you prevent the unlikely event of a creature wiggling into your ear, you’ll also reduce or eliminate all of the other harmful issues that can arise from having bugs and wild animals living in your home.

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«Where Is The Love?» lyrics

Black Eyed Peas Lyrics

«Where Is The Love?»

What’s wrong with the world, mama
People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas
I think the whole world’s addicted to the drama
Only attracted to the things that’ll bring a trauma

Overseas, yeah, we tryin’ to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin’
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK

But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah

Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love, this’ll set us straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all, y’all

People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach?
And would you turn the other cheek?

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)

Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love, the love, the love

It just ain’t the same, old ways have changed
New days are strange, is the world insane?
If love and peace is so strong
Why are there pieces of love that don’t belong?

Nations droppin’ bombs
Chemical gasses fillin’ lungs of little ones
With ongoin’ sufferin’ as the youth die young
So ask yourself is the lovin’ really gone

So I could ask myself really what is goin’ wrong
In this world that we livin’ in people keep on givin’ in
Makin’ wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends
Not respectin’ each other, deny thy brother
A war is goin’ on but the reason’s undercover

The truth is kept secret, and swept under the rug
If you never know truth then you never know love
Where’s the love, y’all, come on (I don’t know)
Where’s the truth, y’all, come on (I don’t know)
Where’s the love, y’all

People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach?
Or would you turn the other cheek?

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)

Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love, the love, the love?

I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I’m gettin’ older, y’all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ the wrong direction

Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema

Yo’, whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity

That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feelin’ under
That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feelin’ down
There’s no wonder why sometimes I’m feelin’ under
Gotta keep my faith alive ’til love is found
Now ask yourself

Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?

Father, Father, Father, help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love?

Sing with me y’all
One world, one world (We only got)
One world, one world (That’s all we got)
One world, one world
And something’s wrong with it (Yeah)
Something’s wrong with it (Yeah)
Something’s wrong with the wo-wo-world, yeah
We only got
(One world, one world)
That’s all we got
(One world, one world)


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