Bugs on our Bills (and dope)

The dirt and dope that’s on your cash

By Johanna Ohm  Chicago Tribune 6.22.17

We live in a dirty world. Wherever we go, we are among microbes. Bacteria, fungi and viruses live on our phones, bus seats, door handles and park benches. We pass these tiny organisms to each other when we share a handshake or a seat on the plane.
Now, researchers are finding we also share our microbes through our money. From tip jars to vending machines to the meter maid — each dollar, passed person to person, samples a bit of the environment it comes from, and passes those bits to the next person, the next place it goes.
The list of things found on our dollars includes DNA from our pets, traces of illegal drugs, and bacteria and viruses that cause disease.
The findings demonstrate how money can silently record human activities, leaving behind so-called “molecular echoes.”
What’s on a $1 bill?
In April, a new study identified more than 100 different strains of bacteria on dollar bills circulating in New York City. Some of the most common bugs on our bills included Propionibacterium acnes , a bacteria known to cause acne, and Streptococcus oralis , a common bacteria found in our mouths.
The research team, led by biologist Jane Carlton at New York University, also discovered traces of DNA from domestic animals and from specific bacteria that are associated only with certain foods.
A similar study recovered traces of DNA on ATM keypads, reflecting the foods people ate in different neighborhoods in New York. People in central Harlem ate more domestic chicken than those in Flushing and Chinatown, who ate more species of bony fish and mollusks. The foods people ate transferred from fingers to touch screens, where scientists could recover a bit of their most recent meals.
We don’t leave only food behind. Traces of cocaine can be found on almost 80 percent of dollar bills. Other drugs, including morphine, heroin, methamphetamine and amphetamine, can also be found on bills, though less commonly than cocaine.
Identifying foods people eat or the drugs people use based on interactions with money might not seem all that useful, but scientists are also using these types of data to understand patterns of disease. Most of the microbes the researchers in New York identified do not cause disease.
But other studies have suggested that disease-causing strains of bacteria or viruses could be passed along with our currency.
Bacteria that cause foodborne illness — including salmonella and a pathogenic strain of E. coli — have been shown to survive on pennies, nickels and dimes and can hide out on ATMs. Other bacteria, such as MRSA, a drug-resistant staph infection, are found on bank notes in the U.S. and Canada, but the extent to which they could spread infections is unknown.
Try as we may to avoid exposure to germs, they travel with us and on us. Even if disease-causing microbes can survive in places like ATMs, the good news is that most exposures don’t make us sick.
Money laundering
Disease transmission linked to money is rare, and no major disease outbreaks have started from our ATMs. Although it doesn’t seem common for diseases to transmit through money, there are ways we could make our money cleaner.
Researchers are working on ways to clean money between transactions. Putting older bills through a machine that exposes them to carbon dioxide at a specific temperature and pressure can strip dollar bills of oils and dirt left behind by human fingers, while the heat kills microbes that would otherwise linger.
U.S. money is still made from a blend of cotton and linen, which has been shown to have higher bacterial growth than plastic polymers. Several countries are transitioning from money made of natural fibers to plastic, which may be less friendly to bacteria. Canada has had plastic money since 2013, and the United Kingdom transitioned to a plastic-based bank note last year.
Even if our money is not directly responsible for spreading disease, we can still use the dollar’s travel history to track how we spread disease in other ways.

The website WheresGeorge.com, created in 1998, lets users track dollar bills by recording their serial numbers. In the almost 20 years since the site’s creation, WheresGeorge has tracked the geographic locations of bills totaling more than a billion dollars.
Now, physicists at the Max Planck Institute and University of California at Santa Barbara are using data from the WheresGeorge site to track epidemics. Information on human movement and contact rates from WheresGeorge was even used to predict the spread of the 2009 swine flu.
Although we don’t know the extent to which money allows diseases to spread, Mom’s advice is probably best when handling cash: Wash your hands and don’t stick it in your mouth.
The Conversation
Johanna Ohm is a graduate student in biology at Pennsylvania State University.

Coyote Baby Saved

 

Note: I was visited by a coyote as I sat on our deck one night. Looked like a youngster, but nearly full-grown.   It came up on the steps and stood there looking at me, seemed uncertain, so I said, “HAH !”, and it turned and trotted away.  I’ve had  similar visits from a raccoon and a small skunk.  I didn’t try to startle the skunk, just let it check out the length of the deck.  RJN
____________________

Reward raised to $8,000 as surviving Barrington Hills coyote pup recovers

The two-pound coyote pup looked every bit like a small domestic puppy Wednesday at the Penny Pond Forest Preserve in Barrington Hills while being held by animal rehabber Dawn Keller of Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.

The coyote, now named Peace, snuggled into Keller’s arm adorably, and when she placed him on the ground for a second, he made a dash despite the fact there was a cast on his right rear leg.

Keller has teamed with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police, Cook County Forest Preserve Police and the Humane Society of the United States to try and bring attention to the May 11 incident that injured the pup at the Penny Pond preserve in Barrington Hills.

“It was a heinous wildlife crime,” said Sgt. Jed Whitchurch, IDNR’s supervisor for this region, referring to how a fisherman found a burlap bag in Penny Pond, and when he fished it out of the water, there were seven one-pound coyote pups just a few weeks old that all looked dead.

The fisherman called Cook County Forest Preserve Police, and an officer arrived to pick up the coyote pups, according to Lambrini Lukidis, communications director for the forest preserve. She said they are not sure how long the bag was in the water, but six of the pups were found to have water in their lungs, a sign of drowning.

“The police officer put them into a bucket and that was when he noticed one was still alive,” she said. The surviving coyote, just over a pound and two to three weeks old, was taken to Golf Rose Animal Hospital in Schaumburg. Staffers there in turn called Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation in Barrington because they don’t have a permit to keep wild animals.

Say hello to Peace, who has doubled in size and is recovering better than expected, according to Keller.

“The leg was shattered — it was dangling and misshapen, and it was sticking out slightly because of a hip fracture,” she said. Flint Creek staff started treating it with fluids, anti-inflammatory and pain medication. On the second day, it opened its eyes. Nine days later, the leg was set in a cast, and the coyote was eating well and stable at that point.

“Coyotes are really misunderstood. We really struggled with a name because he had such a horrible life so far,” Keller said, adding that Flint Creek staffers turned it around and settled on Peace because they advocate for the peaceful coexistence of coyotes and other wildlife and humans.

“He broke my heart when he was rescued,” Keller said, adding that rescuers were not sure the pup was going to make it through the first 24 hours because it suffered from hypothermia. Its shattered leg was either the result of blunt-force trauma or someone swinging the animal around by it leg, Keller said after consulting with a veterinarian.

The IDNR gave Keller special permission to show off the coyote pup to media in the hopes of garnering more attention about the incident and hopefully more leads, according to Whitchurch.

“Cold-case wildlife cases are tough. We’re hoping with the financial reward someone with information will come forward and tell us,” he said. Whitchurch added that the news of the vicious incident is still spreading, so he is hoping more media attention will inform more people.

“It’s been quieter than we were hoping for. Some people are just hearing about it,” he said, noting that there are two leads received by investigators that could be promising, but it is hard because there is no description to work with yet and it happened in May.

Some people have wondered what difference it makes, since coyotes are one of the few animals in Illinois that can be hunted year round.

“This was not a humane act,” said Whitchurch. “This is an unusual case — it’s not the norm.”

According to the IDNR, about 7,000 coyotes are harvested each year in Illinois with 75 percent taken by hunters and 25 percent by trapping, which is restricted to fall and winter months. The liberal hunting season allows landowners to remove problem animals without having to obtain a special permit. IDNR biologists monitor the populations.

The IDNR also reports that coyotes are Illinois’ largest wild predator and were nearly extinct after the state was settled. They’re most abundant in the southern, southeastern and west-central parts of the state. Their numbers increased dramatically during the 1970s and early 1980s.

While they occasionally take livestock, poultry or pets, their diet consists of animal matter, but they often eat insects, fruits or berries. Rabbits and mice are important food sources, according to the IDNR.

A study in the Chicago area showed the following percentages of food groups occurring in coyotes’ diets: 43 percent small rodents; 22 percent white-tailed deer; 23 percent fruit; 18 percent eastern cottontail rabbit; and 13 percent birds. The presence of human-associated foods, like garbage, was rare, coming in at 2 percent, as was the presence of domestic cat, at 1 percent.

Wildlife experts say coyotes are valuable members of the wildlife community and do more good than harm where humans are concerned, and the IDNR believes trying to eliminate all of the coyotes in an area is not a realistic goal because voids will be filled quickly. Fortunately, removing individuals with “bad behaviors” usually solves a problem even when other coyotes continue to live in an area, according to the IDNR.

A reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the Barrington Hills case has been steadily climbing from just a few thousand dollars to $8,000 this week. Tips can be left on the IDNR police tip line at 1-877-236-7529.

The grisly incident attracted the attention of the Humane Society of the United States, which has put more than half of the reward money. It had doubled its standard cruelty reward from $2,500 after a board member for the organization agreed to fund the increase, according to HSUS.

“Anyone who could so callously maim and kill defenseless coyote pups and then toss them away like trash is a danger not only to animals but to the community at large,” said Marc Ayers, the society’s Illinois state director.

“We are hopeful that this reward will bring forward anyone with information about this heinous crime,” Ayers added. Getting the serious attention of law enforcement, prosecutors and residents in cases involving allegations of cruelty to animals is an essential step in protecting the community, according to a statement from the group.

The connection between animal cruelty and human violence is well documented, according to the group. Studies show a correlation between animal cruelty and all manner of other crimes, from narcotics and firearms violations to battery and sexual assault, Ayers said.

“It takes a special person to brutalize an animal, especially babies,” Keller said. “That’s not normal. It’s really sad.”

Whitlock said the cooperation between the various groups and agencies has been heartening.

“It’s nice to see the stakeholders coming together,” he said. “It’s great to see people care about our natural resources and Illinois wildlife.”

fabderholden@tribpub.com

Twitter @abderholden

Copyright © 2017, Lake County News-Sun

Dolphins to the rescue!

LISTEN:  source

  Down to less than 30 individuals in the entire world, the adorable Vaquita porpoises in the Gulf of California are being rounded up and put in protective areas. Mexican conservationist, Lorenzo Rochas Bracho says that to find the elusive porpoises they need the help of US Navy-trained dolphins

 

Duration:

2 minutes

BLACK HOLE NEWS

More Gravitational Waves Detected

LISTEN:  source          Science in Action

 

The first detection of gravitational waves, announced February 2016, was a milestone in physics and astronomy, it was quickly followed by another find. Now teams working on the LIGO detector have just announcedtheir third new detection. Gravitational waves are ‘ripples’ in the fabric of space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the Universe. All three signals are thought to be caused by two black holes merging. This time the spin might give clues as to where the original stars formed.

Safer Gold Extraction
Many gold mines separate the precious metal dust from the rock using toxic substances like cyanide and mercury, but scientists at the University of Leicester have used rock samples from a gold mine in Scotland to prove they can do the job a different way, using a mixture of vitamin B4 and urea.

Genetics of Ancient Egyptian Mummies
Ancient Egyptian mummies give up their genetic secrets. Mitochondrial DNA from mummified remains show how much ancient Egyptians interbred with populations from Asia, Africa and Europe.

 

High-Rise Honey Bees

Hives downtown help environment and attract tenants

Michael Thompson of Chicago Honey Co-op installs beehives on the roof of 540 West Madison, a downtown office building. Tenants get to enjoy the honey the bees produce. (Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune )

BY ALLY MAROTTI  CHICAGO TRIBUNE  5.21.17

Bill Whitney rolled up to the loading dock of a Near West Side high-rise with about 9,000 honeybees riding shotgun in his Chevy.

The pickup truck, sporting license plates that read “B SAVER,” was overflowing with the parts needed to construct three hives for all those bees on top of the 29th-floor roof of 540 West Madison, the West Loop home to firms such as Bank of America, biopharmaceutical company Shire and slot machine-maker Everi.

While human worker bees buzz about in offices below, the rooftops of some Chicago commercial buildings are becoming hubs of activity in their own right as landlords employ tens of thousands of bees in an effort to simultaneously help the environment and rope in some eco-friendly tenants.

Building owners and managers say it’s an easy formula: Set aside a few thousand dollars in the budget, contract with a beekeeper and, come autumn, enjoy fresh honey. Some have come to view the hives as an amenity, like rooftop gardens or water recycling programs. Tenants appreciate the honey and the efforts to help save the honeybees, a species under threat in the U.S. from a deadly combination of pesticides, loss of habitat and parasites.

And it’s cool, building managers say.

“It’s exciting because it’s not something you would expect in an urban area,” said Louise Harney, a vice president and group manager at Jones Lang LaSalle, the firm that manages 540 West Madison. “We’ve had people want to be here because of our sustainability program, and beekeeping is a part of that.”

Up on the roof Tuesday, Whitney orchestrated the bees like a conductor. Hive by hive, he released the bees, contained in three shoebox-sized containers, pouring them by the thousands into their new home. He stood among them as they swarmed up and around, scouting the area and creating a cloud over the high-rise.

Last year, 540 West Madison collected about 100 gallons of honey, the building’s first harvest. Much of the honey was bottled in 3-ounce jars and passed out to tenants, visitors and students who came for a tutoring program. The building managers put the jars in gift bags and handed them out around Thanksgiving and Earth Day. Slightly Toasted, the sandwich cafe on the building’s ground floor, used the honey in some of its specialty drinks.

The building expects to spend about $2,400 to maintain the hives this year, Harney said.

The staff at Everi’s development center on the 24th floor devours the honey every time building management brings it around, said Bradley Rose, senior vice president of game development. They usually drop some off around holidays or when they give building visitors a tour of the company’s office space.

“It’s so good it usually never makes it home,” he said. “We’ll go to town on it.”

Rose remembers the honeybees being part of the sales pitch when he was searching for office space for Everi’s 60-person staff. After looking at dozens of spaces, it was the amenities at 540 West Madison that helped him decide, he said. Though at the time he was more impressed with the building’s gym than the bees, the occasional honey deliveries work wonders in making the staff feel welcome, he said.

Whitney, a veteran beekeeper and owner of City Bee Savers, also rears queen bees and mentors budding beekeepers.

“I was more interested in, How will bees do 30 stories up in the air, right downtown in the concrete jungle?” he said. “Can they really thrive and survive? The answer is yes.”

But there are precautions Whitney must take to make sure the hives stay healthy. With the thousands of bees he had driven from a farm near Savannah, Ga., just days before, Whitney brought straps and bricks to put on top of the new hives to help secure them, protecting them from the strong winds that can blow above the city.

He’ll come back throughout the summer and maintain the hives, watching for signs of strain from a mite inflicting damage on beehives across the country. The mites don’t kill the bees directly, but they latch on to them, wearing them down and causing stress that becomes deadly.

Come winter, the bees do their best to keep the queen warm, with little activity outside the hive. Though a bee lives only four to six weeks in the summer, a healthy hive will survive the cold.

Nestled in a mostly shaded area of the roof, the hives face north. Visible from their new home is the building that houses Google’s Midwest headquarters, 1KFulton, where more bees that Whitney maintains reside.

The hives stayed when Glendale, Calif.-based American Realty Advisors bought the newly developed building last summer from Chicago developer Sterling Bay, said Rachael Bruketta, assistant property manager at 1KFulton. The company set aside about $3,000 this year to spend on the bees.

“(It’s) cool to say they do this. This is an amenity at the building,” Bruketta said. “Tenants like that we care, that we’re helping bee populations.”

The building’s two hives are on the seventh-floor roof deck. While tenants also have access to the deck, the bees aren’t aggressive and generally keep to themselves.

Hopefully, the green space will encourage the bees to stay closer, Bruketta said.

If not, they’ll seek out the city’s flowers, darting to the blooms along Michigan Avenue, Millennium Park’s trees, or weeds springing from sidewalk cracks and vacant lots. The bees have a foraging range of about 11/2 miles, Whitney said, though the distance they travel depends on the availability of food.

Hotels were early adopters in Chicago’s rooftop beehive business. Tended by hotel chefs and contracted beekeepers, the hives produce honey served to guests in their morning granola or tea.

At the Palmer House Hilton in the Loop, an old-fashioned walk-in cooler is full of tiny jars of honey. The golden hues of the sugary substance change each harvest, depending on what flowers the bees pollinate, said executive chef Stephen Henry. It’s usually a beautiful gold, he said, though last year it was darker, more like the color of iced tea.

The Palmer House has been keeping bees for about five years on its 25th-floor rooftop garden, which it populates with bee-friendly flowers such as marigolds. Henry incorporates it into recipes, replacing the apricot glaze on the top of the hotel’s famous brownie with honey.

The bees at Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile produce so much honey that the hotel collaborates with a brewery to make a honey wheat ale out of it.

Several blocks south on Michigan Avenue, Chicago Honey Co-op maintains hives on top of the Chicago Cultural Center. The urban beekeeping cooperative also works with three other buildings.

Another company, The Best Bees Company, has installed hives atop other Chicago commercial buildings like AMA Plaza, 1 North Dearborn and 515 N. State St.

Unlike cities such as New York, Chicago does not regulate beekeeping, besides limiting a property to five hives. The state requires beekeepers to register with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Sometimes, new hives aren’t as accommodating to bees as the city is to keepers. On top of 540 West Madison on Tuesday, Whitney had to entice the bees to stay in the hive and claim it as their own.

He gave them a start with used honeycomb, pampering them with pollen and a few drops of sugar water while he watched them zip back and forth around the hive. Honeybees are rarely vicious, especially without an established hive to defend. They were memorizing their new home, Whitney said.

“They’re memorizing that pole; they’re memorizing that building,” he said, pointing to the top of a nearby high-rise. “They’re memorizing their spot here. They wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t think this was going to be their hive.”

Horse Thief ?

 

He Was Once Labeled a Horse Thief; Now He Wants to Save Them

A South Carolina man who was mistakenly arrested for stealing horses has leased 4,000 acres of Kentucky land in the hopes of turning it into a horse sanctuary.

| May 15, 2017,  Associated Press

He Was Once Labeled a Horse Thief; Now He Wants to Save Them

The Associated Press

In this Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 photo, cockleburs fill the mane of a wild or abandoned horse left on 4,000 acres of land in Jackson, Ky. Curtis Bostic, an attorney from South Carolina, has leased the land and is attempting to turn it into a horse sanctuary. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

By ADAM BEAM, Associated Press

JACKSON, Ky. (AP) — Curtis Bostic is an attorney, a politician and — for a few weeks in 2016 — an accused horse thief.

On a cold December day in the rugged hilltops of Breathitt County, Bostic was trying to rescue some horses he said had been abandoned and were malnourished. But he was arrested by a sheriff’s deputy, who said the horses belonged to two men who follow the local custom of setting them free in the winter to wander the wilderness of the county’s abandoned coal fields.

The charges were later dismissed after the sheriff’s department said it didn’t have probable cause to make the arrest. But during the night Bostic spent in jail, he came up with an idea: A few weeks later, he leased the land where he had been arrested. He sent a letter to the two men who had pressed charges against him. Now, they were the trespassers, and Bostic ordered them to come get their horses before he put them up for adoption.

“I can’t change the full county. But I can say you are not going to come to my property and drop your horse off in the cold winter,” Bostic said.

ADVERTISING

Bostic wants to turn 4,000 acres of former coal mines into a horse sanctuary. It’s the latest idea on how to tackle the growing horse population in the mountains of Kentucky, a state known more for pampered thoroughbreds on pristine farms than bony horses roaming free.

Bostic’s descriptions of thousands of horses suffering at the hands of cruel owners have offended the locals who say he doesn’t understand their culture.

Clifton Hudson, 30, owns five horses that he sets free to wander land he doesn’t own near his home in Breathitt County. He said he provides 600 pounds of salt each month for the horses. He stopped hauling hay bales to the land because the horses were not eating them, a sign he says means they have plenty of grass to graze. The locals often bring their children to the mountains on the weekends to pet and feed the horses.

“It’s just really it’s more of a pastime than anything else with the people of the county,” Hudson said. “So far the only person really had an issue with it has been Mr. Bostic.”

Wild horses have been a familiar sight in the Kentucky mountains for decades. But following the Great Recession and the thousands of jobs lost because of the disappearing coal industry, more horses have been set loose.

Just how many and whether they have enough food is up for debate.

Dumas Rescue, a local animal rescue organization, told a legislative committee last fall that Floyd County alone had 1,000 horses. Owner Tonya Conn said they took in 22 horses last year but had to turn away requests for 100 others.

“Some of them have never been touched by human hands,” she said.

Debby Spencer, a board member for the Appalachian Horse Center, said Floyd County has just 44 free-roaming horses, based on a census she conducted in 2014 across nine eastern Kentucky counties. She found 440 horses in eight of them, a number she said has since grown to 584.

“There is more than enough food up there,” Spencer said.

Bostic lives in South Carolina, where he’s a former member of the Charleston County Council and once ran for Congress, losing to former Gov. Mark Sanford in a 2013 primary. He’s the general counsel for Kinzer Drilling Co., which owns the land Bostic has leased. He and his wife run an orphanage in Burma and own a private retreat in Charleston that has horses.

“We kind of enjoy being saviors of the world,” he said.

But some don’t see it that way. Hudson said a lot of owners will breed their horses in the wild, collecting and selling the offspring for side income. Bostic’s lease threatens to disrupt that practice.

Breeding of free-roaming horses is tricky. Male horses, once banned from free-ranging based on an unwritten rule among local owners, are running free and mating with female horses without owners’ knowledge. In September, Johnson County sheriff’s deputies discovered 20 to 30 horses at a former coal mine. Three of the horses, all males, had been shot in the head.

“It looked like they were trying to thin the herd by killing the males,” Deputy Terry Tussey said. “It’s still an open case. We never found out anything.”

Animal aid groups have hosted free gelding clinics in eastern Kentucky, but they depend on owners bringing their horses — and many lack resources to do so.

Local government leaders see the herds of wild horses galloping through the mountains and dream of tourists flocking to watch them. Such efforts have worked elsewhere, including ponies on Assateague Island in Virginia and mustangs at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in South Dakota. But in Kentucky, a group trying to build the Appalachian Horse Center in Breathitt County has struggled to raise money.

The group has land not far from where Bostic was arrested. It plans to build a visitor center, offer guided tours and treat people with equine-assisted therapy. Local leaders hoped the group would partner with Bostic, but he isn’t interested in tourism.

“I don’t know how that would ever work,” he said. “What I want to do is help the animals that are here.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tags: Kentucky, South Carolina


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Don’t Drop that Straw !

Earth Day effort exposes plastic straws as a scourge

 

Young Spanish boy drinking milk with a straw : Stock Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Straws are among the pieces of plastic that litter Chicago beaches, cleanups have found. 
Straws are convenient for stirring cocktails or coffee, slurping down sodas and popping holes in juice boxes. But the small pieces of plastic can add up to a big problem for the environment.
In honor of Earth Day on Saturday, Shedd Aquarium is launching the “Shedd the straw” campaign to raise awareness that single-use plastic straws litter beaches, pollute lakes and rivers, and harm the animals that live in them.

The effort is one of several conservation activities planned across the Chicago area this weekend, including cleaning up neighborhood parks, vacant lots and the viaducts below The 606 trail.
Straws are among the many items — including water bottles, food wrappers and cigarette butts — that pollute Chicago’s beaches and waterways.

About 87 percent of the more than 40,000 pounds of trash picked up at beaches by volunteers last year throughout the Great Lakes region was plastic, according to the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
Cleanup events by residents help build a culture of care and stewardship that can continue past Earth Day, said Stephanie Smith, the alliance’s vice president of operations. The group has organized Adopt-a-Beach cleanups for Saturday, as it does year-round, to help keep the shoreline healthy and litter-free. Also on Saturday, Friends of the Chicago River is pitching in to clean up the river on a canoe trip in Evanston.
“Our individual practices can shift as a result of being involved,” Smith said, such as using reusable water bottles or requesting drinks without straws.
At two cleanups last year, Shedd volunteers collected more than 400 plastic straws and stirrers at 12th Street and 63rd Street beaches in Chicago. Straws, which are made of a petroleum byproduct called polypropylene mixed with colorants and plasticizers, are not biodegradable, according to the Shedd.
“We use (a straw) for a short period, and it’s out of our hands and ends up in a landfill or as litter,” said Jaclyn Wegner, Shedd’s manager of conservation partnerships and programs. “Looking at how we can change our daily habits to protect our animals around us is a priority.”
The aquarium, which no longer uses plastic straws or lids for beverages at its cafes, is urging people to turn down straws at restaurants and switch to reusable glass or metal straws or biodegradable alternatives like paper straws.
Shedd has partnered with a dozen Chicago-area restaurants to go straw-free Saturday.  At the Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook, that policy will continue beyond Earth Day, said co-owner Sarah Stegner. The restaurant will no longer offer plastic straws but will provide paper straws to customers upon request, she said. On the back of the card listing the restaurant’s dining specials will be an explanation of the Shedd’s initiative.
The aquarium approached the restaurant about participating in the campaign, which is similar to other initiatives across the country. An estimated 500 million disposable straws are used daily in the U.S., a figure provided by nonprofit recycler Eco-Cycle based on information from straw manufacturers.
“The numbers are staggering,” Stegner said. “If I can make a little difference, I want to do that.”
Stegner said she saw a viral YouTube video of a sea turtle getting a plastic straw extracted from its nostril, showing the impact straws can have on marine life.
“It’s something we just don’t think about,” she said. “Now we’ve been made aware of it, we have to do the right thing.”
lvivanco@chicagotribune.com

End-of-Life Option, Ray’s Story

Choosing end-of-life option, Ray Perman’s Story

In 6 states, those facing terminal illness can decide when to die

Five years ago, 64-yearold Ray Perman was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Perman, a designer and consultant who lived in the San Francisco Bay area, had sarcoma carcinoma, a rare and terminal cancer that affects only about 200 people a year in the United States. He also had a common, low-grade, progressive prostate cancer, not unusual for men his age.

The sarcoma caused a large, rapidly growing tumor to form in his prostate and nest against his colon. At the suggestion of his oncology team, he immediately underwent surgery to have his prostate, bladder, numerous lymph nodes and other flesh removed.

At the time of surgery, biopsies showed that both forms of cancer had metastasized, spreading the cancer to other lymph nodes. For a year, he and his doctor decided to wait instead of pursuing further cancer treatments.

A year later, the sarcoma reappeared in the form of a 5-inch, football-shaped, rapidly growing tumor in his lower abdomen, and later 12 quarter-inch and 1-inch tumors appeared in his lungs.

He was told he had two to six months to live.

Perman, at the suggestion of his oncologist, decided to try an unusual combination of two of the most powerful chemotherapy drugs available: Taxotere and Gemzar. The treatment was predicted to have about a zero to 30 percent chance of “doing something.”

The combination was so toxic, Perman said, that it caused his legs to swell, his fingernails to fall off, excessive bleeding, loss of body fluid and neuropathy, a nerve disorder that causes weakness, numbness, tingling, pain and balance problems in the arms, legs, hands and feet.

Miraculously, the treatment worked.

The large, aggressive abdominal tumor in his lower abdomen and the 12 in his lungs shrank, extending his life.

A second round of chemotherapy began about a year and a half later, when more sarcoma tumors appeared in his pelvis, tailbone and rib cage, but this time it had little effect.

“When it became obvious that treatment wasn’t working, that the side effects of the treatment were worse than the disease and that I had only a few months to live, I knew I had some decisions to make,” said Perman. “And I decided to seek only palliative care through hospice at my home and began to investigate the use of the California End of Life Option that went into effect on June 9, 2016, and authorizes medical aid in dying.”

Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding and protecting the rights of the terminally ill, says that where end-oflife options are legal (Oregon, Washington state, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado and Washington, D.C.), the fear of liability has been lifted and patients are able to talk frankly with their doctors about their fears and hopes and how to end life peacefully.

“When you’ve watched someone suffer, you will quickly become a convert for peaceful end-of-life options,” said Coombs Lee, adding that when people don’t have options, they revert to denial.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 69 percent of Americans said they agree that “when a person has a disease that cannot be cured … doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life by some painless means if the patient and his or her family request it.”

And doctors mostly agree, according to a Medscape survey of more than 7,500 doctors from more than 25 specialties. In the 2016 survey, 57 percent agreed that “physicianassisted dying should be allowed for terminally ill patients,” while 29 percent were opposed. In Medscape’s 2010 survey, 46 percent were in favor and 41 percent were opposed.

Dr. David Grube, national medical director of Compassion and Choices, said he’s found that in states where end-of-life options are legal, patients most often bring up the topic with their doctors. Those doctors, he said, are then ethically bound to be sure their patients understand the parameters of end-of-life laws.

To participate in end-oflife options, a patient has to have a terminal disease with less than six months to live as corroborated by two doctors and has to be psychologically capable and physically able to selfadminister oral medication.

“One third of those (in Oregon) who do get a prescription don’t use it, but it makes a huge difference for a person to know that he or she is in control and has the right to self-determination,” said Grube.

For Ray Perman, once it was clear that there was no further viable treatment for the cancer, the key issue became quality of life.

He spoke with his exwife and adult children, who had been supportive, and began the end-of-life options process required in California. He got confirmation from two oncologists that he was terminally ill with no chance of recovery; told his doctors of his wishes; and was competent and able to self-administer the life-ending medication.

His prescription was filled.

“I know I am going to die, and this end-of-life option has given me the freedom to enjoy the rest of my life without the fear of losing control over my own existence,” Perman said. “I don’t want to be described as struggling or battling cancer. I am living and breathing and singing and playing music with cancer, and most of all, I’m enjoying the profound beauty of life.”

On Feb. 4, Ray Perman took his end-of-life medication, and surrounded by his family, he died peacefully.

brutal childhood to peace with horses–interview

Listen to touching interviews.  Click here.

Monty Roberts is a horse trainer who has a remarkable relationship with horses. He has developed a radical way of communicating with them that has earned him many fans, including Queen Elizabeth.

Enos Mafokate is South Africa’s first black showjumper. His exceptional talent and passion for horses helped break down the racial barriers that governed all life in the apartheid era.

 

Slavery, here and now

In U.S. Restaurants, Bars And Food Trucks, ‘Modern Slavery’ Persists

IA new report highlights victims of human trafficking in the food industry, from farm workers to restaurant bus staff, cooks and wait staff. Some victims are exploited for both sex and labor.       Juanmonino/Getty Images

They come from places like Vietnam, China, Mexico and Guatemala, lured by promises of better-paying jobs and legal immigration. Instead, they’re smuggled into the U.S., forced to work around the clock as bussers, wait staff and cooks, and housed in cramped living quarters. For this, they must pay exorbitant fees that become an insurmountable debt, even as their pay is often withheld, stolen or unfairly docked.

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Find out how  slaves are working for you.  http://slaveryfootprint.org/

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In restaurants, bars and food trucks across America, many workers are entrapped in a form of modern slavery. That’s according to a new report by Polaris, an organization that fights human trafficking and helps survivors.

In the report the group offers a detailed portrait of human trafficking as it occurs in the U.S., breaking it down into 25 distinct business models, from nail salons to hotel work and domestic service.

“Because human trafficking is so diverse … you can’t fight it all at once and there are no single, silver bullet solutions. You have to … fight it type by type,” Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris, told reporters on a press call. “We see this report as a major breakthrough in the field.”

He called the report the largest data set on human trafficking in the U.S. ever compiled and publicly analyzed. The Polaris team analyzed 32,208 reports of human trafficking, and 10,085 reports of labor exploitation processed through its hotlines for victims between 2007 and 2016. The goal: to identify profiles of traffickers and their victims — and the methods they use to recruit and control them — across industries, in order to better thwart them.

Janet Drake, a senior assistant attorney general in Colorado who has prosecuted human trafficking cases, called the new report “a game changer.”

Only 16 percent of cases identified through the hotline calls involved labor trafficking, Drake says, “but now we realize through the work we’ve done that labor trafficking is probably at least as prevalent, if not more so, than sex trafficking. And that’s a real problem we’ve had as prosecutors – being able to identify and disrupt these labor trafficking networks.”

Three of the 25 categories the group tracked involve the food industry: restaurants, bars and agriculture.

From dairy farms to orange orchards, nearly 2,000 of the cases involved the agriculture industry. Workers — mostly men from Mexico and Central America — often were enticed with assurances of an hourly rate, but once they showed up in the U.S., they were paid on a much lower piece-rate basis. Many reported being denied medical care and protective gear to do their job, forced to live in squalid conditions, and threatened with deportation.

Of the more than 1,700 restaurant industry cases, the vast majority of victims involved immigrants, recruited from Mexico, Central America and East and Southeast Asia. Nearly one in five was a minor. They included cooks, wait staff and bussers at restaurants, food trucks, buffets and taquerias.

Traffickers often take advantage “of language barriers between exploited workers and patrons — and in some cases other workers at the same restaurant who are not being abused — to help avoid detection,” the report says.

Workers who try to leave may face threats of deportation. Traffickers also may threaten to injure or even kill the worker’s family back home. About a third of the cases involved immigrants without legal status in the U.S., but many other victims were here on valid work visas.

Some victims were forced to provide both sex and labor. Women from Latin America — including many minors — come to America beguiled by promises of good wages, safe migration or even a romantic relationship. They’re put to work selling drinks, and sex, at bars and cantinas, says Jennifer Penrose, data analysis director for Polaris and co-author of the report.

Many times these are “legitimate bars and restaurants, where they’ll sell alcohol, often at inflated prices,” Penrose says. But behind the scenes, “forced commercial sex may occur on-site or nearby at a hotel or warehouse.” In this model, she says, traffickers tend to be “part of larger criminal organizations.”

Because the report was based solely on calls and text messages to Polaris’ hotlines, Myles notes there are limits to what it can tell us. “Potentially, restaurant trafficking may be much higher than we’re learning about, but we’re just not getting enough of those hotline calls to be able to describe that,” he said.