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Thu, 21 Feb 2019
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Plagues

Bizarro Earth

Wheat Plague Threatens Crops Around World

Wheat Disease
© RedOrbit
A widespread wheat plague is threatening farms, raising bread prices and unleashing fresh political and economic unrest, according to experts.

The disease strain has shown up in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and has hiked food prices in the Arab world, Mexico, Haiti and beyond.

"Stem rust, when it goes epidemic, destroys a crop," said Ronnie Coffman, a leading expert on wheat disease and chair of the department of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University.

"There is nothing left but black stems, zero grain. It is just an absolute devastation," Coffman told the AFP news agency.

The last major epidemic of the fungal disease broke out in 1953 but was quelled with the introduction of a resistant strain of plants in the 1970s, an initiative spearheaded by the late Norman Borlaug.

A new wave of the stem rust fungus, Ug99, turned up in Uganda in 1998, overcoming crops that were once resistant and wielding the potential to kill as much as 90 percent of the world's wheat.

Winds can transport spores as many as 100 miles per day, raising concerns among scientists about where the epidemic could turn up next.

Bizarro Earth

Bacteria-laced algae are invading freshwater streams across the globe

In the small, freshwater streams of South Dakota, a horrible menace is creeping along the rockbeds. Known as rock snot, it's a form of algae that clings to rocks and spreads rapidly until it takes over the entire ecosystem of the stream, often killing off local plants and microbes. The stuff has spread from North America all the way to New Zealand. But what's really weird is that rock snot can grow even in rivers that appear to have almost no nutrients in them at all. What is helping this algae grow so fast? Is it feeding on our fear?

A group of scientists wanted to find out. So they set about studying Didymosphenia geminata (its scientific name), also called Didymo, in one South Dakota waterway called Rapid Creek. What they discovered was that the algae could actually suck extra nutrients from water that appeared to be nutrient-free. And they do it by creating vast bacterial farms beneath the mats of rock snot. Essentially, the algae uses other life forms to create food for it.

Sheeple

Saudi Arabia: Mystery Disease Kills 300 Sheep Within an Hour

A Saudi farmer who went into his barn to take his 300 sheep on their daily pasturing was shocked when he found them all dead, a newspaper in the Gulf Kingdom said on Saturday.

The farm said he checked the sheep an hour earlier and they were all alive in their barn at his far in the western town of Qunfudha.

The unnamed farmer had owned the sheep for years and they were his sole source of living for his family of 16.

Arrow Down

Australia: Plague of Ravenous Mice Eat Farmer John Gregory's Pigs

Image
© Sunday Mail
Saving his bacon: John Gregory covers his pigs in engine oil to protect them from mice.
When South Australian farmer John Gregory entered his piggery he could not believe what he saw - mice attacking his pigs.

Since he first saw them dining out on his prized stock he has been at his wit's end about how to get rid of them.

Now, as a desperate last resort, he is covering his pigs at a farm property in Wynarka, 130km east of Adelaide, in engine oil to protect them from the mice, with the rodents apparently turned off by the taste.

"The mouse problem got really bad in April," Mr Gregory said.

"We went away in the school holidays and when we came back we drove up the driveway and it looked like the ground was moving - there were hundreds of thousands of them."

Mr Gregory, 50, said he put engine oil on his 15 pigs to protect them from the sun about once a month.

Magnify

Indonesia: Weather Blamed for Caterpillar Plague

Image
© JG Photo/Safir Makki
A boy eyeing a caterpillar in Tanjung Duren, West Jakarta, where thousands of the prickly insects have infested pine trees.
Unpredictable weather coupled with a decline in natural predators is responsible for a recent plague of caterpillars in parts of the country.

Though the phenomenon is centered largely in Probolinggo, East Java, smaller reported outbreaks in Central Java, West Java, Bali and, most recently, Jakarta have prompted fears of a widespread infestation.

But Aunu Rauf, an entomologist at the Bogor Institute of Agricultural (IPB), says there is no connection between the outbreaks in Probolinggo and those in the other areas.

"There are at least 120,000 types of caterpillars in the world, so those found in Bekasi [West Java] and Probolinggo would be different from each other," he told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.

"I'm sure the ones in Tanjung Duren [West Jakarta], where people have claimed to have been 'attacked' by caterpillars, are also a different type."

Since March, millions of hairy caterpillars have cropped up in at least five subdistricts in Probolinggo, invading fields and homes. They have also caused itchy rashes among residents.

Bug

Sri Lanka: Dengue epidemic in Colombo

Image
© Unknown
The Colombo City is facing the worst dengue epidemic ever Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) said yesterday revealing that there had been 195 cases reported this month. CMC which dropped a bomb shell, said in and round the National Hospital Colombo, Military Hospital and vicinity of the Colombo Port had been identified as the major mosquito breeding grounds in the city.

There had been 885 reported dengue cases in the city this year out of which 50 percent is reported to be school children.

Chief Medical Officer CMC Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam told a news conference yesterday that few doctors attached to the National Hospital Colombo had fell victim to Dengue while the nurses quarters is also found to be a breeding ground. In addition, several Chinese nationals who were working at development projects in Colombo were also infected.

He also warned that new complication of dengue DEN 3 had also raised its head in the city.

Dr. Kariyawasam claimed that the school principals have turned a deaf ear to the repeated requests made by the CMC to keep the schools clean while lack of public support as a whole had been one of the reasons for the epidemic.

He said all school principals in the city had been called for a meeting by the Special Commissioner, CMC, Omar Kamil on Thursday to brief them on the situation.
However, he said the Colombo City only accounts to 7 percent of the country's total number of cases though there is a school of thought that most reported cases are from the capital city. He said the disease had come from elsewhere though there is an idea that the germs had existed within the city itself.

He said the CMC had conducted dengue prevention campaigns but lack of public support, legal impediments have not brought much results.

Bug

US: Cicadas Invade South After 13-Year Sleep

cicada
© Unknown
The last cicada swarm in the US was in Virginia in 2004
Another natural phenomenon has hit the Southern States as swarms of cicadas return after 13 years hibernating underground.

Every 13 years the inch-long insects emerge from their underground lairs to plague America's Deep South in a feeding and breeding frenzy.

It adds to the natural phenomena the region has battled with after tornadoes last month and floods in Mississippi this week.

Apart from their intense 120-decibel mating racket and the frustration of finding them in hair, clothes and lunch-boxes, they're completely harmless to humans.

Meteor

New Light on the Black Death: The Viral and Cosmic Connection

This article was first published in issue 13, volume 1 / 2011 of The Dot Connector Magazine, official publication of Sott.net.
"Comets are vile stars. Every time they appear in the south, they wipe out the old and establish the new. Fish grow sick, crops fail, Emperors and common people die, and men go to war. The people hate life and don't even want to speak of it." -Li Ch'un Feng, Director, Chinese Imperial Astronomical Bureau, 648, A.D.
Image
In 2007, a meteorite fell in Puno, Southeastern Perú. José Macharé - scientist of the Geologic, Mining and Metallurgic Institute in Perú - said that the space rock fell near a muddy area by Lake Titicaca, making the water boil for around ten minutes, and mixing with the soil and emanating a gray cloud, the components of which remain unknown. Having discarded radioactive poisons, this toxic cloud is said to have caused headaches and respiratory problems in at least 200 persons from a population of 1500 inhabitants. Other than this event, how often do we hear about people getting sick due to a rock coming from space? How about birds, fish or other animals? Ancient astrologers cite comets as ill omens of death and famine, but are there any other causes other than the ones due to physical/mechanical consequences of comet impact devastation in our fragile environment of which we should be aware?

As a physician, I usually concentrate strictly on medical and health-related issues, not history or catastrophism. However, like so many other people, I see signs of atmospheric changes on our planet which, according to many experts, may well be due to increasing comet dust loading. When I read about increasing reports of fireballs all around the world, and I know that these factors must have an effect on the health of individuals and societies, it motivates me to do the research to find the connections so that I am better prepared for what may lie in our future. If our planet is entering a new cometary bombardment cycle, and if these comets harbor new species of microbes unknown to mankind's collective immunological systems (as may well be the case), then being forewarned is being forearmed.

According to the late Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe of the University of Wales at Cardiff, viruses can be distributed throughout space by dust in the debris stream of comets. Then as Earth passes though the stream, the dust and viruses load our atmosphere, where they can stay suspended for years until gravity pulls them down. They compare numerous plagues throughout our history which coincide with cometary bodies in our skies. These researchers are certain that germs causing plagues and epidemics come from space.

In a letter to Lancet [1],Wickramasinghe explains that a small amount of a virus introduced into the stratosphere could make a first tentative fallout east of the great mountain range of the Himalayas, where the stratosphere is thinnest, followed by sporadic deposits in neighboring areas. Could this explain why new strains of the influenza virus that are capable of engendering epidemics, and which are caused by radical genetic mutations, usually originate in Asia? Wickramasinghe argues that if the virus is only minimally infective, the subsequent course of its global progress will depend on stratospheric transport and mixing, leading to a fallout continuing seasonally over a few years; even if all reasonable attempts are made to contain an infective spread, the appearance of new foci almost anywhere is a possibility.

Comment: See also:

Black Death found to be Ebola-like virus

New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection

Related:

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SOTT Talk Radio show #70: Earth changes in an electric universe: Is climate change really man-made?


Stop

Florida, US: Officials determine 'duck plague' is killing ducks at Crescent Lake

Walking along the edge of Crescent Lake this week, Mike Flanagan found something that has become a concern around this close-knit neighborhood: dead ducks.

In recent weeks, more than 25 Dave Bairam, a St. Petersburg environmental analyst, takes a water sample at Crescent Lake Park on Tuesday. He said tests are measuring the lake's oxygen levels.have died along the shores of the lake just north of downtown. Then on Sunday, fish started floating to the surface. Also dead.

Image
© Chris Zuppa | Times
A female mallard flies over her ducklings Tuesday at Crescent Lake Park, where residents have found more than 25 dead ducks as well as dead fish. A necropsy found duck virus enteritis, which spreads easily in droppings but not to humans.
"This is not normal," said Flanagan, president of the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association. "Obviously our concern is, could we lose all the animals on the lake."

On Tuesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission performed a necropsy on one of the dead ducks.

The culprit: duck virus enteritis. Also known as duck plague.

Bizarro Earth

UK: Outbreak of Toxic Caterpillars in Pangbourne

Moth Caterpillar
© BBC
The oak processionary moth caterpillar feeds on oak tree leaves.
Residents in Pangbourne and parts of west London have been warned to steer clear of a toxic caterpillar.

The Forestry Commission has issued a caution not to touch the caterpillars of the oak processionary moth.

Their hairs contain a toxin that can cause itchy skin rashes as well as eye and throat irritations.

The Forestry Commission's Stewart Snape said residents can report sightings but that the caterpillars should only be removed by pest control operators.

Officials are now dealing with outbreaks of the moth in Pangbourne in West Berkshire and the London boroughs of Ealing, Brent, Hounslow, Richmond upon Thames and Hammersmith & Fulham.

Health Protection Agency director Dr Brian McCloskey said: "We strongly advise people not to touch or approach the caterpillars or their nests because of the health risks caused by the toxin-containing hairs.