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Thai school bus crash kills fifteen

Friday, February 28, 2014

A school bus taking students on a field trip crashed into a truck early this morning in eastern Thailand, killing thirteen students and two teachers.

The top deck of the bus was crushed on one side after hitting the truck and spinning. The students aboard ranged from ten-year-olds to young teens and had been headed from their Nakhon Ratchasima school to Pattaya. The bus driver fled and is unaccounted for.

The bus was carrying around 60 female students, with a boys’ bus from the school following behind. The second bus escaped the accident. The crash was on a narrow, busy road in Prachinburi. The road is in a national park which prevents upgrade works like widening, according to Nuttapong Boontob of the Thailand Accident Research Center.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Anukarn Thammavijarn said police theorise the vehicle’s “brakes may have failed or the driver might have fallen asleep.” Thammavijarn said the bus was out-of-control and going downhill when it struck the 18-wheeled truck from behind. He cited the old appearance of the vehicle as a reason to suspect brake failure for the accident.

The crash injured a further 47 people. A row of covered bodies was formed beside the wreckage. Of the injured, 23 were hospitalised. Wounds include broken bones.

Road accident rates are among the world’s highest in Thailand; last December a bus fell off a bridge, killing 29. Road accidents killed 8,600 on the nation’s roads last year. Legislation does not require bus passengers to wear seatbelts.

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Biologist Nick Bos tells Wikinews about ‘self-medicating’ ants

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Nick Bos, of the University of Helsinki, studies “the amazing adaptations social insects have evolved in order to fight the extreme parasite pressure they experience”. In a recently-accepted Evolution paper Bos and colleagues describe ants appearing to self-medicate.

I have no doubt that as time goes on, there will be more and more cases documented

The team used Formica fusca, an ant species that can form thousand-strong colonies. This common black ant eats other insects, and also aphid honeydew. It often nests in tree stumps or under rocks and foraging workers can sometimes be spotted climbing trees.

Some ants were infected with Beauveria bassiana, a fungus. Infected ants chose food laced with toxic hydrogen peroxide, whereas healthy ants avoided it. Hydrogen peroxide reduced infected ant fatalities by 15%, and the ants varied their intake depending upon how high the peroxide concentration was.

In the wild, Formica fusca can encounter similar chemicals in aphids and dead ants. The Independent reported self-medicating ants a first among insects.

Bos obtained his doctorate from the University of Copenhagen. He began postdoctoral research at Helsinki in 2012. He also runs the AntyScience blog. The blog aims to help address “a gap between scientists and ‘the general public’.” The name is a pun referencing ants, its primary topic, science, and “non-scientific” jargon-free communication. He now discusses his work with Wikinews.

((Wikinews)) What first attracted you to researching ants?

Nick Bos Me and a studymate were keeping a lot of animals during our studies, from beetles, to butterflies and mantids, to ants. We had the ants in an observation nest, and I could just look at them for hours, watching them go about. This was in my third year of Biology study I think. After a while I needed to start thinking about an internship for my M.Sc. studies, and decided to write a couple of professors. I ended up going to the Centre for Social Evolution at the University of Copenhagen where I did a project on learning in Ants under supervision of Prof. Patrizia d’Ettorre. I liked it so much there I ended up doing a PhD and I’ve been working on social insects ever since.

((Wikinews)) What methods and equipment were used for this investigation?

NB This is a fun one. I try to work on a very low budget, and like to build most of the experimental setups myself (we actually have equipment in the lab nicknamed the ‘Nickinator’, ‘i-Nick’ and the ‘Nicktendo64’). There’s not that much money in fundamental science at the moment, so I try to cut the costs wherever possible. We collected wild colonies of Formica fusca by searching through old tree-trunks in old logging sites in southern Finland. We then housed the ants in nests I made using Y-tong [aerated concrete]. It’s very soft stone that you can easily carve. We carved out little squares for the ants to live in (covered with old CD covers to prevent them escaping!). We then drilled a tunnel to a pot (the foraging arena), where the ants got the choice between the food with medicine and the food without.
We infected the ants by preparing a solution of the fungus Beauveria bassiana. Afterwards, each ant was dipped in the solution for a couple of seconds, dried on a cloth and put in the nest. After exposing the ants to the fungus, we took pictures of each foraging arena three times per day, and counted how many ants were present on each food-source.
This gave us the data that ants choose more medicine after they have been infected.
The result that healthy ants die sooner when ingesting ROS [Reactive Oxygen Species, the group of chemicals that includes hydrogen peroxide] but infected ants die less was obtained in another way (as you have to ‘force feed’ the ROS, as healthy ants, when given the choice, ignore that food-source.)
For this we basically put colonies on a diet of either food with medicine or without for a while. And afterwards either infected them or not. Then for about two weeks we count every day how many ants died. This gives us the data to do a so-called survival analysis.
We measured the ROS-concentration in the bodies of ants after they ingested the food with the medicine using a spectrophotometer. By adding certain chemicals, the ROS can be measured using the emission of light of a certain wave-length.
The detrimental effect of ROS on spores was easy to measure. We mixed different concentrations of ROS with the spores, plated them out on petridishes with an agar-solution where fungus can grow on. A day after, we counted how many spores were still alive.

((Wikinews)) How reliable do you consider your results to be?

NB The results we got are very reliable. We had a lot of colonies containing a lot of ants, and wherever possible we conducted the experiment blind. This means the experimenter doesn’t know which ants belong to which treatment, so it’s impossible to influence the results with ‘observer bias’. However, of course this is proof in just one species. It is hard to extrapolate to other ants, as different species lead very different lives.
At the moment it seems that sick ants mostly take care of the problem themselves

((Wikinews)) Where did the ants and fungus you used come from? How common are they in the wild?

NB For ants, see above about the collection.
This species of fungus does appear in Finland, but we chose to use a different strain from Denmark (with thanks to Prof. J. Eilenberg and the laboratory technician Louise Lee Munch Larsen from the University of Copenhagen). Animals can adapt to local strains (‘local adaptation’), and just to make sure we thought it would be good to use a strain of fungus that the ants definitely did not evolve specific resistances against. This means that the reaction of the ants (to self-medicate) is very likely to be a general response, and not just against their local fungal enemies.

((Wikinews)) Are there any ethical considerations around exposing ants to toxins and parasites?

NB Legally, no. Insects do not have any ‘rights’ as such regarding ethics. That said, we do take measures to not make them ‘suffer unnecessarily’. For example, dissections are done when the ants are anesthetized (either by CO2 or Ice), and when ants need to be killed, we do it in alcohol, which kills the ants in a matter of seconds. So while the ants do not have ‘rights’ as such, we still try to handle them with as much respect as possible (even though the experiment involves infecting them with a deadly fungus).
But even though the 12,000 ants in our study sounds like a lot (and it is), this is negligible in the ‘grand scheme of things’. It has been calculated that in the Netherlands alone, nearly a trillion insects die against just the licence-plates of cars every six months. I don’t own a car, so that means I’m excused right?ย ๐Ÿ˜‰

((Wikinews)) This is the first evidence for self-medicating insects. How widespread do you think this phenomenon could be in reality?

NB It’s not actually the first evidence for self-medication in insects. Moths and fruit flies definitely do it, and there’s evidence in honey bees and bumble-bees as well. So it seems to be quite wide-spread in the insect world. I have no doubt that as time goes on, there will be more and more cases documented. Insects (and animals in general) seem to be quite good at taking care of themselves.

((Wikinews)) How might ants locate healing substances in the wild?

NB Very good question. This is something that’s important to know. If they would only do it in the lab, the behaviour wouldn’t be very interesting. We have some guesses where they might get it from, but at the moment we don’t know yet. That said, I plan to investigate this question (among others) further [in] the next couple of years.

((Wikinews)) For your PhD you researched ants’ scent-based communications. Could healthy ants perhaps tell other ants are infected and encourage this behaviour?

NB There’s not much known about this. There’s conflicting evidence about whether sick ants actually smell different from healthy ones or not. At the moment it seems that sick ants mostly take care of the problem themselves. Sick ants stop most interaction with nestmates and especially brood, and leave the nest to die in isolation. This is probably for reducing chance of infecting nestmates, but of course it also reduces the work load of their nest-mates, as their corpse doesn’t have to be dragged out etc.
So as an answer to the question, I would find it unlikely that such a behaviour would evolve, but it’s not known yet.

((Wikinews)) Ants generally avoided the peroxide if they were healthy, but in some circumstances might they try to build resistance against infection in advance?

NB Who knows? Also not known yet unfortunately. That said, there is a very interesting study about resin collection in ants. Wood ants collect tree-resin, which has anti-microbial properties. They collect this even if not infected, and when you infect them, they don’t collect more of the resin than normal. So basically it seems like they collect it in order to keep diseases out of the nest, so they stop the disease before it can actually infect them.

((Wikinews)) Are there plans to follow this research up? Might you research other species? Other substances?

NB I first want to find out where they get it from in nature. There might be many sources of medicine (recent evidence suggests that tobacco plays a similar role for bumble bees). Dalial Freitak, who is also on this paper is currently running tests with Ph.D. student Siiri Fuchs (who is also on the paper) with other substances to see if any have the same effect as H2O2 [hydrogen peroxide].
Once the behaviour has been well described in this species of ant, I might do a comparison with other species. For example, once we find the source of the medicine in nature… would species without access to this source also have evolved the same behaviour in the lab? And if so… where would they get it from?
Also… can ants medicate their friends?ย ๐Ÿ™‚

((Wikinews)) What other research are you working on right now?

NB Phew…lots!ย ๐Ÿ™‚
I still have some questions left unanswered from my Ph.D. work related to how ants recognize who is a friend and who isn’t. I also started collaborating with Prof. Michael Poulsen from the University of Copenhagen on immunity in fungus-growing termites, as well as their chemical recognition abilities. Furthermore we’re working on social parasitism in wood-ants (ants have lots of animals exploiting the nest for shelter and resources, which all somehow have to get in to the fortress without getting killed).

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Caterpillars force temporary closure of Wisconsin state park

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A park in the U.S. state of Wisconsin has been closed, due to being over-run by gypsy moth caterpillars.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced the unprecedented move yesterday, with officials saying they would temporarily close Rocky Arbor State Park near Wisconsin Dells due to an infestation of gypsy moth larvae.

The larvae are present at the park in such large numbers that, according to a report by the Wisconsin State Journal, camping there would “apparently be a squishy, nightmarish experience.”

Mark Guthmiller, DNR gypsy moth suppression coordinator said that “there are also health and safety considerations that prompted our action,” explaining that there was a significant risk of people having severe allergic reactions to the caterpillars. There were also concerns that the caterpillars might be accidentally transported out of the park on park user’s vehicles to areas where the moths have as yet failed to establish themselves. Guthmiller also commented that related sanitation issues” would also “significantly detract from the quality park camping experience.”

Andrea Diss-Torrance, another gypsy moth coordinator for the DNR, said of the infestation: “It’s very severe – it’s as severe as I have ever seen.”

The closure, which will run until at least June 27, is thought to affect around 95 campground reservations at the site, which covers 255 acres. State officials have been attempting to arrange alternatives for campers at nearby parks, or, failing this being acceptable, are offering refunds. The park will be closed until after the caterpillars have completed pupation – the period in their life cycle in which they transform into moths.

The gypsy moth is a pest in the U.S., having been introduced in the 19th-century in a failed attempt to to try to breed a hardy variant of silkworm. The moths can strip the leaves off at least 250 different tree species, and as they lack natural predators in the U.S., cause significant damage. The moths often chew leaves but don’t actually eat them, thus increasing the potential damage.

At Rocky Arbor, they have already stripped all the trees in some areas of the park. The caterpillars can kill trees directly, but more usually weaken them so that they are more susceptible to die from other causes, such as disease.

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American disc jockey “DJ AM” dies at 36 of suspected drug overdose

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The American celebrity disc jockey Adam “DJ AM” Goldstein has been found dead in his apartment in Manhattan, New York. The cause of death is suspected to be a drug overdose. Goldstein was found dead by paramedics at 5:20 pm. Drug paraphernalia was found at his apartment, but the star had claimed to be clean for years after an addiction to crack cocaine.

Goldstein was a disc jockey at some of Hollywood’s most exclusive clubs and parties. He became a celebrity in his own right after relationships with actress Mandy Moore and the daughter of Lionel Richie, Nicole.

The disc jockey escaped death in September 2008 after he was involved in a plane crash that killed four people. Former drummer for rock band Blink-182, Travis Barker was also injured in the plane crash.

Several members of the Hollywood community released statements about Goldstein’s death. Television host Maria Menounos said “So horrible. In shock” and blogger Perez Hilton wrote on his Twitter page saying “He survived a deadly plane crash and now THIS, I can’t stop crying”.

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G8 Summit debates Middle-east crisis, WTO trade talks

Monday, July 17, 2006

The leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) nations met over the weekend in St. Petersburg in Russia for the 32nd G8 Summit, held under Russia’s presidency, to discuss the ongoing Israel-Lebanon crisis, the stalled world trade talks and other issues. They also met with other world leaders, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and World Trade Organisation chief Pascal Lamy.

Contents

  • 1 Israel-Lebanon crisis
    • 1.1 G8 Statement on the crisis
    • 1.2 Summit leaders express differing opinions
    • 1.3 Call for UN action
    • 1.4 Reactions from the Middle-east
  • 2 WTO Trade talks
  • 3 Assistance to Africa and other issues
  • 4 External links
  • 5 Related news
  • 6 Sources
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US unemployment rate reaches 9.8%

Friday, October 2, 2009

Companies in the United States are shedding more jobs, pushing the country’s unemployment rate to a 26-year high of 9.8%.

The US Labor Department said on Friday that employers cut 263,000 jobs in September, with companies in the service industries โ€” including banks, restaurants and retailers โ€” hit especially hard. This is the 21st consecutive month of job losses in the country.

The United States has now lost 7.2 million jobs since the recession officially began in December 2007. The new data has sparked fears that unemployment could threaten an economic recovery. Top US officials have warned that any recovery would be slow and uneven, and some have predicted the unemployment rate will top 10% before the situation improves.

“Continued household deleveraging and rising unemployment may weigh more on consumption than forecast, and accelerating corporate and commercial property defaults could slow the improvement in financial conditions,” read a report by the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook, predicting that unemployment will average 10.1% by next year and not go back down to five percent until 2014.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moodyโ€™s Economy.com, said that โ€œitโ€™s a very fragile and tentative recovery. Policy makers need to do more.โ€

“The number came in weaker than expected. We saw a lot of artificial involvement by the government to prop up the markets, and now that that is starting to end, the private sector isn’t yet showing signs of life,” said Kevin Caron, a market strategist for Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.

Also on Thursday, the US Commerce Department said factory orders fell for the first time in five months, dropping eight-tenths of a percent in August. Orders for durable goods โ€” items intended to last several years (including everything from appliances to airliners) โ€” fell 2.6%, the largest drop since January of this year.

The US government has been spending billions of dollars โ€” part of a $787 billion stimulus package โ€” to help spark economic growth. There have been some signs the economy is improving.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday that spending on home construction jumped in August for its biggest increase in 16 years. A real estate trade group, the National Association of Realtors, said pending sales of previously owned homes rose more than 12 percent in August, compared to August 2008.

A separate Commerce Department report said that consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, rose at its fastest pace in nearly eight years, jumping 1.3 percent in August.

Other reports have provided cause for concern. A banking industry trade group said Thursday the number of US consumers making late payments, or failing to make payments, on loans and credit cards is on the rise. A survey by a business group, the Institute for Supply Management, Thursday showed US manufacturing grew in September, but at a slower pace than in August when manufacturing increased for the first time in a year and a half.

Stock markets reacted negatively to the reports. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 41 points in early trading, reaching a level of 9467. This follows a drop of 203 points on Thursday, its largest loss in a single day since July. The London FTSE index fell 55 points, or 1.1%, to reach 4993 points by 15.00 local time.

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John Constable painting location mystery solved after 195 years

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The mystery of the location of a viewpoint used by English painter John Constable has been solved, after nearly 200 years. The Stour Valley and Dedham Church was painted in Suffolk, England, between 1814 and 1815, but changes to the landscape meant that the spot he chose was not known, despite the best efforts of historians and art experts.

Now the puzzle has been answered. Martin Atkinson, who works for the National Trust as property manager for East Suffolk, used clues from the painting and looked at old maps to track down the viewpoint. Trees had grown, a hedgerow had been planted and boundaries had moved or disappeared, but Atkinson eventually worked out where Constable had stood. He said, “When I discovered that I had worked out the location where Constable painted this particular masterpiece, I couldn’t believe it. All the pieces of the jigsaw finally fitted together.”

Atkinson used an 1817 map of East Bergholt, where Constable grew up, as a reference point, but found that the view would have changed not long after the painting was completed. “The foreground didn’t fit at all, it was quite unusual as we know Constable painted it in the open air so he would have been standing in the scene. The hedgerow in his work no longer exists and there’s another hedgerow that runs across the scene today which wasn’t there. When you stand on the road on which he would have stood, and use the oak tree as a reference point, you see the same view. It’s great to see where an old master stood โ€“ and be inspired by the same view,” he said.

Suffolk, where Constable painted many of his finest paintings, is often called “Constable country”. Most, but not all, of the locations that Constable depicted are known. The picture is now housed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.

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Kara Tointon and Artem Chigvintsev win UK Strictly Come Dancing

Monday, December 20, 2010

British actress Kara Tointon and her Russian dance partner Artem Chigvintsev have become the winners of the latest series of the BBC Television programme Strictly Come Dancing. The pair won the dancing show on Saturday, leaving British television presenter Matt Baker and his Kazakhstani dance partner Aliona Vilani in second place.

It’s just the most special thing that I’ve ever achieved.

Bookmakers had considered this dancing duo to be the most likely to win the series. Meanwhile, Australian actress Pamela Stephenson finished in third place along with her British dance partner, James Jordan. It was ultimately a public vote that determined the results.

Upon winning, Tointon proclaimed: “It’s just the most special thing that I’ve ever achieved.” In reference to Chigvintsev, she exclaimed: “I want to thank this man, he’s been absolutely wonderful.” Talking about the experience, she commented: “I’ve met the most fantastic friends in my life and this has been the most special experience for me.” Chigvintsev then declared to Tointon: “You’re amazing.” Baker described the dancing pair as “worthy winners, without any doubt”, saying: “If I was at home I’d be voting for you, too.”

Earlier in the final programme, Tointon and Chigvintsev had danced to the tune of Cry Me a River; the dance received the acclaim of the judges. “I would kill to be able to dance like that, I thought it was amazing,” Craig Revel Horwood exclaimed. Alesha Dixon commented: “I’m quite sad that that is the last dance we are going to see you do”. In reference to the pair, she added: “Together you are first class.” Bruno Tonioli remarked: “You danced to a level that we hardly ever see here. Whatever happens, this was incredible.”

Bruno Tonioli described Matt Baker as “very dashing and elegant”. Len Goodman believed that he was “an excellent ballroom dancer”. At one point, Palema Stephenson received a perfect score of 40 from the four judges for her Viennese Waltz. Tonioli branded the dance as “simply brilliant”. Revel Horwood used the word “remarkable” to describe that performance.

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California’s SB 1 Bill Originators’ and Supporters Turn Against Bill

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Changes to California’s SB 1 Bill have forced many of the bill’s strongest supporters, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, to oppose it. Governor Schwarzenegger is now expected to veto the bill.

The bill sought to provide incentives for businesses and individuals to install rooftop solar panels, in a manner similar to existing programs in Washington and Oregon. Under pressure from the electrician’s union, the bill was amended to require that installation be done by licensed electricians and that “prevailing wages” be paid for all commercial solar work done in the state.

Existing solar contractors were originally among the bill’s strongest supporters but now oppose it due to the changes. This comes despite the fact that they would be, under a grandfather clause, granted an exception to the new requirements for an electrician’s license. Future solar specialists would be required to also be licensed electricians.

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