A.M. Costa Rica's Fifth news page
|San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 28, 2015, Vol. 15, No. 104|
|Military accidentally sent
live anthrax spores to labs
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
The Pentagon said Wednesday that a U.S. military laboratory in the state of Utah accidentally sent live anthrax spores to civilian commercial labs in nine states and to a military lab in South Korea.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren sought to reassure the American public, saying there was no known risk and no suspected or confirmed cases of infection in lab workers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control was investigating. Warren said the Pentagon had stopped shipping anthrax spores until the investigation was complete.
The U.S. labs and the one in South Korea were supposed to get dead spores as part of a Pentagon program to develop a test to identify biological threats in the field. But somehow, the Utah lab sent live spores instead.
Contact with live anthrax can lead to a severe flu-like illness that could be fatal if not treated early.
U.N. says 800 million face
hunger around the world
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
A report by the United Nations finds that just under 800 million people around the world are going hungry today, but that estimate of world hunger has declined by 216 million people in the past 25 years.
The annual report, "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015," says chronic undernourishment also has declined in the world's developing regions but that more progress is needed.
The report is a joint effort by the United Nations' three major food agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Program.
The report finds 72 out of 129 developing countries will have achieved the Millennium Development Goal of cutting hunger in half by the end of this year.
The director of the World Food Program's policy and program division, Stanlake Samkange, applauds this result, but says it is too soon to celebrate.
“Since the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals, extreme poverty has been reduced by more than half. However, hunger has only been reduced by 14.5 percent. This provides clear evidence for the fact that growth and rising incomes do not correlate proportionately with improved food security and nutrition. Economic growth is not always inclusive. Rural livelihoods are not always invested in,” said Samkange.
The report’s hunger map shows wide differences among the regions persist. It finds large reductions in hunger in East Asia and very fast progress in Latin America and the Caribbean, southeast and central Asia, as well as some parts of Africa.
It says sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest prevalence of undernourishment in the world.
Samkange said chronic hunger on the continent actually is on the rise.
“In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly one in four are estimated to remain undernourished," he said. "Crisis environments like extreme weather events, natural disasters, political instability and civil strife have all impeded progress in sub-Saharan Africa, but, also in other countries. Globally, one in five of the world’s undernourished lives in a crisis environment. Protracted crises have in many countries prevented the protection of vulnerable population groups and the promotion of income opportunities for all.”
The report says severe food insecurity is close to being eradicated in North Africa, where the prevalence of undernourishment is now below 5 percent.
Authors of the report say no single solution exists for improving food security but that certain measures can have a great impact. They say improved agricultural productivity, especially by small and family farmers, leads to less hunger and poverty.
And they say economic growth must be inclusive and benefit everyone in society, not just those who already are well off.
U.N. adopts a resolution
urging protection of journalists
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Wednesday on the protection of journalists in conflict zones.
The measure comes as the number of deaths and kidnappings of media professionals continues to climb. Reporters Without Borders says 66 journalists were killed last year and 25 more have died since January. In the last decade, 700 media workers have been killed in the field or because of their profession.
The Security Council resolution condemned such attacks and warned parties to conflicts, including governments and armed groups, that they should take all reasonable steps to protect journalists.
It also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of reporters who are hostages in conflict zones.
The head of Reporters Without Borders, Christophe Deloire, said Iraq and Syria have become two of the most dangerous places for journalists to work. He said 45 media workers were killed in Syria since that conflict started in 2011 and at least 15 have died in Iraq since 2013.
He said ensuring accountability is key to preventing future attacks.
“In the world, more than 90 percent of crimes against journalists are never prosecuted, are never punished," said Deloire. "It is like an encouragement for all those who commit crimes against journalists. If we want to protect journalists, we have to fight impunity.”
Deloire said attacks on journalists in conflict zones could be considered war crimes and should be referred to the International Criminal Court.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, herself a former journalist, said even in countries at peace, erosions on press freedoms and the harassment and intimidation of reporters often signal a crackdown on civil, political and human rights.
She gave as an example the current political turmoil in Burundi where part of the military challenged President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek what is widely seen as an unconstitutional third term in power.
“Since the unlawful attempt to seize power was quashed, several independent journalists report being told that they are on a list of people to be arrested, and many more reportedly have been threatened with death, torture and disappearance, leading them to go into hiding,” she said.
Ms. Power said regimes like the one of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and armed groups, such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State, target journalists because they do not want people to see them for what they really are.
As the Security Council met, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement condemning the murder of Brazilian radio reporter Djalma Santos da Conceicao, whose tortured body was found Saturday, one day after he was reported to have been kidnapped by gunmen in the country’s northeast. It was the second murder of a Brazilian journalist in less than a week.
School program seeks
to introduce good foods
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
The kindergarten students at John Burroughs Elementary School are staying an hour later on this day not to brush up on their reading or math skills, but to taste kale, many for the first time.
“Yum, it tastes good,” said Robert Smith as he puts the green leaves seasoned with olive oil in his mouth.
Since the start of the school year, FoodCorps member Karen Davison has spent each day in a Washington, D.C., classroom introducing new vegetables to these 5-year-olds, while teaching them where their food comes from and how they can make healthier choices on a daily basis.
“They see a lot of packaged food. If they eat vegetables, it’s not necessarily fresh. It’s not necessarily whole, so being able to bring in fresh vegetables, leafy greens, interesting fruit, is really a great experience for these students,” Ms. Davison said.
In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States. There, they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community.
FoodCorps, a grantee of the AmeriCorps service program, also partners with existing organizations to plant gardens in schools and bring healthier options to stores, particularly in urban areas where choices may be limited.
FoodCorps Fellow Maddie Morales says the mission is particularly critical at a time when U.S. obesity rates in children have doubled in the last 30 years.
“The repercussion of having an unhealthy population is absolutely unacceptable and really scary in some ways that it affects our national security. It affects our ability to be a productive country, and it is imperative that we change the system,” Ms. Morales said.
Tiny parasite is suspect
in die-off of honey bees
By the University of California San Diego
Biologists at the University of California San Diego have discovered that a tiny single-celled parasite may have a greater-than expected impact on honey bee colonies, which have been undergoing mysterious declines worldwide for the past decade.
In this week’s issue of the journal PLOS ONE, the scientists report that a microsporidian called Nosema ceranae, which has been known to infect adult Asiatic and European honey bees, can also infect honeybee larvae. They also discovered that honey bee larvae infected with the microsporidian have reduced lifespans as adults.
Since 2006, beekeepers in North America and Europe have lost about one-third of their managed bee colonies each year due to colony collapse disorder. While the exact cause is unknown, scientists have speculated that pesticides, pathogens, mites and certain beekeeping practices have all contributed to this decline. Nosema ceranae, a kind of fungal pathogen spread by spores, is also implicated in colony collapse because it reduces colony health and is widespread.
“Previous research suggested that Nosema ceranae could not infect honey bee larvae,” said James Nieh, a professor of biology at the University of California San Diego who headed the research effort with graduate student Daren Eiri, the first author of the study. “But this was largely based upon indirect evidence, spore counts in newly emerged adult bees, which typically have low spore counts.”
Because Eiri and his co-authors conducted their experiments with larvae exposed to spores and reared in the laboratory, they said the extent of larval infection needs to be studied further using field bee colonies to determine the true impact of larval infection on colony health. Nieh noted that a study conducted recently by other scientists detected low levels of Nosema DNA in honey bee larvae, suggesting that larval infection can occur in field colonies.
“However, no study had directly investigated whether larvae could become infected with Nosema ceranae,” said Eiri. “Our study provides a direction to continue investigating this question outside the lab and in the field using entire colonies
The UC San Diego discovery may also clarify a mystery. “One puzzling aspect of Nosema ceranae infection is that infection in adult bees usually decreases after medication is given by beekeepers to a colony, but can later resurge,” Nieh said. “Some of this resurgent infection could be due to transmission between bee colonies or to adult bees that have a low, but resistant level of infection.”
“However, our study raises the possibility that brood are also infected. If so, this typically would not be detected for weeks until the emergence of adult bees. Generally, older adult bees are more heavily infected with Nosema. Thus, bees infected as brood may not develop high Nosema spore counts until they are much older adults, further delaying detection.”
Those unanswered questions suggest the impact of this microspordian on honey bee colonies deserves a second look.
“We hope that our study will spur further research into how Nosema ceranae is transmitted and into the potential infection of larvae in natural and managed honey bee colonies in the field,” said Nieh.
PLoS ONE photoSkull shows injuries above the left eye.
Ancient skull shows signs
of premeditated murder
By the Binghamton University news staff
Research into lethal wounds found on a human skull may indicate one of the first cases of murder in human history some 430,000 years ago and offers evidence of the earliest funerary practices in the archaeological record.
The study, conducted by an international team of collaborators including Binghamton University anthropologist Rolf Quam and published this week in the noted research journal PLoS ONE, was carried out at the archeological site of the Sima de los Huesos in northern Spain.
The site is located deep within an underground cave system and contains the skeletal remains of at least 28 individuals that date to around 430,000 years ago, during the Middle Pleistocene. The only access to the site is through a 13-meter deep vertical shaft, and how the human bodies arrived there remains a mystery.
A nearly complete skull, Cranium 17, from the Sima de los Huesos is comprised of 52 cranial fragments recovered during excavations at the site over the last 20 years. This skull shows two penetrating lesions on the frontal bone above the left eye. "Evidence for interpersonal violence in the human fossil record is relatively scarce, and this would appear to represent the coldest cold case on record," said Quam.
Relying on modern forensic techniques, such as contour and trajectory analysis of the traumas, the authors of the study showed that both fractures were likely produced by two separate impacts by the same object with slightly different trajectories around the time of the individual’s death.
According to the authors, the injuries are unlikely to be the result of an accidental fall down the vertical shaft. Rather, the type of fracture, their location and that they appear to have been produced by two blows with the same object lead the authors to interpret them as the result of an act of lethal interpersonal aggression or what may constitute the earliest case of murder in human history.
Furthermore, if this individual was already dead, other humans likely carried him to the top of the vertical shaft. The authors suggest that humans were likely responsible for the accumulation of bodies in the Sima de los Huesos, which supports the idea that this site represents early evidence of funerary behavior.
"This is really good evidence for an intentional role for humans in the accumulation of bodies at the bottom of this pit and suggests the hominins from this time period were already engaging in complex cognitive behaviors," said Quam.
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