Survival is the most primal of instincts. If danger approaches us, we run. If a hurricane warning threatens, we evacuate. However, it just so happens as humans, we are not the only species to reflexively respond to evacuation as a means of survival. In Australia, thousands upon thousands of wolf spiders have abandoned their homes due to flooding; but instead of taking refuge in a high school gymnasium or a YMCA, they’ve taken over private residences – over 8,000 of them.

It sounds like something out of the Twilight Zone, but it’s true. Over 8,000 individuals have been temporarily forced out of their homes due to a phenomenon known as ballooning.  With the recent flooding of the Murrumbidgee River, hordes of wolf spiders have been spinning sticky webs of dragline silk to survive the inundation. This behavior is especially strange for wolf spiders which are typically solitary ground-dwelling creatures.  According to Steve Heydon, senior museum scientist at the Bohart Museum of Entomology,

“Wolf spiders would rather be hiding somewhere, trying to escape birds and other predators, but when land gets so flooded, the spiders are forced to flee into trees and other high things”

Ballooning allows the wolf spiders to fly into the air and parachute to other locations, sometimes covering long distances if need be. Each spider casts a thread of silk into the air and rides wind currents away from danger, resulting in the blanketing effect that has forced so many Australian civilians out of their homes.

Although ballooning is indeed a sight to behold, and in the case of the Australian residents, a severe inconvenience, it is not terribly uncommon. Post-flood ballooning also occurred in Pakistan just last April, with millions of spiders forming gigantic web clusters in trees to escape rising waters.

Although a sequel to 1977’s “Kingdom of the Spiders” is in development to be filmed this year (I know. I’m serious.) it won’t be as a result of Australia’s flooding situation. The wolf spiders are not expected to get cozy enough to stay in the residential homes permanently. Weather reports in Australia say the flood waters have begun receding, meaning the wolf spiders will soon be returning to their natural habitats and locals will soon be able to return home.

 

 

Did anyone even know there was such a thing as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?  I certainly didn’t.  It seems the Organization is yet another multi-national pacts, though this one is less like the EU and more like NATO.

Well, it turns out that this group includes China (duh), Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.  Nations looking to join this group include our buddies Iran and Pakistan.  The admission or denial of these states is at least one item on the agenda for their current meeting, happening right now.  There are concerns, as one might expect, about the United States’ response to adding those members in what is at least on paper an alliance of military proportions.

It might be illuminating, when viewing world affairs, to keep this coalition in mind.  For a start, it’s worth considering the fact that neither Iran nor Pakistan feels compelled to join in any similar coaltions with Middle Eastern nations. . .  because of course, they are ethnically and historically separate regions.

Of course, how trite of me to have a New Year’s Resolutions list, eh? But then, the start of a new year, like any mathematically or biologically significant milestone in the wheel of life, is a good time to reflect on what has been and what you hope should be. I’ve never ascribed to the concept of “resolutions,” in the sense of those silly promises you know you can’t keep. Rather, I prefer to take the opportunity to look out on the new cycle and set some long-term goals which have at least the appearance of achievability, and those whose aim it is to make me just a little bit better off than I was before.

And so, for the sake of both reflection and anticipation, I commit my most relevant political resolutions for the coming year:

1. I resolve to remind myself that “sovereignty” is not a word important only to the United States.

All too often in the discussion of the War on Terror, our entire dialogue happens in the absence of this very basic fact. I thought about this again while watching Pumpkin Head in the last Sunday morning of the Old Year, questioning politicians about the situation in Pakistan. I regret to say that Mike Huckabee did better with his answer than did Barack Obama. But both politicians and Tim Russert all seemed to forget that Pakistan, for all the aid we might have provided them, is still a sovereign nation. When Barack Obama says we need to “be sure” that elections in Pakistan are fair, well, the fact is that we don’t have the right to make that call. We tend to forget that while we get all wrapped up in our own problems.

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Looks as though there are many among Bhutto’s supporters who blame Musharraf for the killing. Pakistan is a largely moderate nation, despite the impression you might get from watching American news, but this kind of thing has the ability to boil over into unpredictable things in most any country:

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Benazir Bhutto killed in attack

The explosion occurred close to an entrance gate of the park in Rawalpindi where Ms Bhutto had been speaking.Wasif Ali Khan, a member of the PPP who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital, said she died at 1816 (1316 GMT).

Supporters at the hospital began chanting “Dog, Musharraf, dog”, the Associated Press (AP) reports.