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Wikinews interviews biologist Chris Simon about periodical cicadas

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In May, periodical cicadas with 17 years life cycle emerged on the East Coast of the USA after underground development as juveniles since 1996. Researchers and scientists worked to map and study the rare wave, and the locals prepared for the noisy event. First recorded in 1666, the Magicicada septendecim species recently emerged in 1979, 1996, this year, with a next wave due in 2030.

This week, Wikinews interviewed Chris Simon, an ecology and evolutionary biologist at University of Connecticut, about the cicadas.

((Wikinews)) What caused your initial interest in periodical cicadas?

Chris Simon: As an undergraduate student, I was interested in the formation of species so when I went to graduate school I looked for a study organism that was likely to be in the process of forming new species. I chose periodical cicadas because they are broken up into reproductively isolated broods (or year classes). Reproductive isolation leads to speciation so I planned to study biochemical differences among the broods.

((WN)) You study the emergence of the periodical cicadas. What do you study? What observations are you making?

CS: We record exactly where each cicada population emerges (using GPS automated mapping and crowd sourcing). We record the presence or absence of each of the three morphologically distinct species groups of periodical cicadas (Decim group, Cassini group, and Decula group). We collect specimens for DNA analysis. We look for cicadas coming up one and four years early and late. We dig up cicada nymphs and monitor their growth rates.

((WN)) What equipment do you use?

CS: Nets, shovels, automated GPS recorders, cameras, laptop computers, automated DNA sequencers.

((WN)) Do you study the periodical cicadas with anyone else? What is their role?

CS: Yes, there are a large number of people studying periodical cicadas in my lab and in other labs. My lab is made up of Research Scientists, Postdoctoral Researchers, a technician, graduate students, and undergraduates. Research Scientist John Cooley is the leader of the GPS mapping project; he invented the automated GPS recorder; he built our crowd-sourcing website, and he is instrumental in public outreach. Postdoctoral research David Marshall also participates in the mapping project and leads the part of the research related to the mapping of stragglers. John and Dave and Technician Kathy Hill all study periodical cicada mating behavior and conduct mating and hybridization experiments. One of my graduate students Beth Wade has participated in the nymph collections and will soon start genetic work involving genome wide association mapping designed to locate genes related to life cycle. My graduate student Russ Meister is studying the genes of the bacterial endosymbionts of cicadas. My current undergraduate honors student Erin Dwyer is also studying the development of Magicicada nymphs and is helping to design a lab exercise for college students around the eastern US to do the same. Many of my past undergraduate students have studied the biochemical genetics and development of periodical cicadas. See the Simon Lab website.
CS: We are collaborating with Teiji Sota at the University Kyoto and Jin Yoshimura at Shizuoka University in Japan. They are studying the phylogeography of Magicicada. We are collaborating with John McCutcheon of the University of Montana who is studying the endosymbiont genomes.
CS: We are also collaborating with ecologists Rick Karban and Louie Yang, both professors at UC Davis who have an interest in cicada population dynamics and nutrient cycling in the ecosystem.

((WN)) You studied the periodical cicadas in 1979 and 1996 too. What changes with time?

CS: I have studied periodical cicadas since I was a student back in 1974. What changes with time is increased human development constantly shrinking the patch size of cicada populations.

((WN)) What are your thoughts on the long life span of the periodical cicadas? Why could it be so? What advantages and what disadvantages does it have?

CS: Most or all cicadas have long life cycles compared to your typical annual insect. Examples have been found of two-year to 9-year cycles in different species. Periodical cicadas evolved an even-longer life cycle and I think that part of this relates to the evolution of their synchronized life cycles and peculiar safety-in-numbers strategy for survival. To become synchronized, periodical cicadas had to evolve an exact length life cycle and all adults would have to appear in the same year. Because the nymphs grow at different rates underground, a longer life cycle and a way of counting years must have evolved so that the individuals that get to the last nymphal (underground juvenile) stage first would wait long enough for all other individuals in the population to become ready to emerge.

((WN)) News reports mention this is ‘Brood II’ of the periodical cicadas. What are the distinctive features of this specific species and what is its full scientific name?

CS: The same species exist in multiple broods. No species is restricted to Brood II. The three species present in Brood II are: Magicicada septendecim, M. cassini, and M. septendecula. These same three species are found in every 17-year brood (except the farthest north which only has M. septendecim).

((WN)) At what depth do the cicadas juveniles live underground?

CS: Most live within the top foot of soil but some have been found deeper. We do not know if they go deeper in winter. We need to do much more digging to understand the nymphs.

((WN)) How do people prepare for the cicada emergence?

CS: Of course various people prepare in different ways. Ideally, everyone prepares by studying information available on the web (especially on our websites Magicicada Central and Magicicada.org).

((WN)) Do cicadas affect transport in the local area?

CS: No, not really. Occasionally individuals can be seeing flying across highways and sometimes they smash into cars.

((WN)) Do cicadas usually stay outside or do they also invade houses too?

CS: They stay outside. One might accidentally fly in through an open window but that would be rare.

((WN)) What do the cicadas eat?

CS: Cicadas suck xylem fluid (the watery fluid coming up from the roots of plants) in deciduous forest trees and herbs. Essential amino acids in the cicada diet are supplied by their bacterial endosymbionts. There are two species of endosymbionts. One makes 8 essential amino acids and one makes two essential amino acids.

((WN)) Do cicadas damage crops or city vegetation? What damage?

CS: Cicadas do not chew leave so they do not damage crops like other insects. They can inflict some damage by their egg laying. Cicadas lay eggs in pencil-sized tree branches. If there are not enough branches available, too many female cicadas may lay eggs in a single branch weakening it and making it susceptible to breakage by wind. This can sometimes cause damage in fruit orchards. If the branches break, the eggs die so this behavior is selected against by natural selection.

((WN)) Thank you.

CS: You’re welcome. I am happy to have this opportunity to communicate with your readers!

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Woman killed on amusement park ride in New York

Sunday, July 1, 2007

A young woman was killed Friday night after an accident occurred on a gyrating ride at the Playland amusement park in Rye, New York in the United States. The woman, Gabriela Garin, was a worker at the amusement park, and had worked there for the past seven years.

The accident occurred near the end of Garin’s shift; as she was loading riders onto the ride. The ride’s new operator, unaware of Garin’s presence, started the ride while Garin was still on it. The new operator then noticed Garin, and shut the ride down in 20 seconds, but Garin had already been ejected from the ride and killed, according to a park spokesperson.

The ride is an attraction that spins people around in two-seat cars, inside a darkened tent to flashing lights and music.

This incident is not the first in the ride’s history. In 2004, a seven-year-old from Connecticut managed to free herself from the ride’s restraining bars, and climb onto the front edge of her seat. She fell soon after the ride started. A safety precaution was put in place after this incident, however, the spokesperson acknowledged that it was not followed when Garin was killed.

The company which owns the ride shut it down, along with two other rides it owns at the park.

This is the fourth fatality in the park’s history. The park features more than 50 rides, a pool, and a beach. It attracts more than 1 million visitors annually.

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Africans keep the leading position at 2008 Mumbai Marathon

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Standard Chartered Marathon, nicknamed “The Greatest Race on Earth“, held its third stage in Mumbai, India today. Because of the scorching hot weather in India, marathon runners had to adapt to the weather to overcome the challenge.

More than 30,000 runners participated in this race, joined by local NGOs and disabled who participated in a special charity short-distance running including 6km dream run, 4.3 km senior, and 2.5km wheel-chair classes. Gabriela Szabo, former Romanian Olympic Gold Medalist, named as charity ambassador of the race, was pleased by the participation from experts and NGOs.

An hour into the race, former champion Daniel Rono and Joseph Kimisi took the lead, but then Tariku Jifar from Ethiopia and defending champion John Ekiru Kelai took over Rono and Kimisi. After 40 kilometres, Kelai took a decisive lead and finally retained his champion title in 2 hours 12 minutes 22 seconds.

In the Women’s Group, Mulu Seboka from Ethiopia won the champion with 2H30m03s. Local runners Surendra Singh & Kavita Raut won the Men’s and Women’s Champions in the half-marathon class.

Division & Groups Men’s Group Women’s Group
South East Asia Dang Duc Bao Nguyen (Vietnam) 2:30’57” Pacharee Chaitongsri (Thailand) 2:55’29”
North East Asia Chin-chi Chiang (Chinese Taipei) 2:33’33” Xin Zhang (China) 2:53’59”
South Asia and Middle East Ajith Bandara Adikari Mudiyanselage (Sri Lanka) 2:24’07” Lakmini Anuradhi Bogahawatta (Sri Lanka) 3:04’21”
Africa John Ekiru Kelai (Kenya B) 2:12’22” Irene Kemunto Mogaka (Kenya B) 2:32’50”
Europe and Oceania Oleg Kharitonov (Russia) 2:30’55” Helen Stanton (Australia) 2:52’33”
America Paulino Canchanya Canchanya (Peru) 2:28’13” Rosangela Figueredo Silva (Brazil) 2:58’16”

Division & Groups Men’s Group Women’s Group
South East Asia Vietnam Thailand
North East Asia Chinese Taipei China
South Asia & Middle East India Sri Lanka
Africa Kenya B Kenya B
Europe & Oceania Russia Finland
America Peru United States

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Author: RdBXvzh4

15 Aug

Four people die after contracting H1N1 swine flu virus in West Midlands, England

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Four people die after contracting H1N1 swine flu virus in West Midlands, England
Author: RdBXvzh4

14 Aug

Friday, November 6, 2009

Four people from the NHS West Midlands in England have died after contracting the H1N1 swine flu virus. With these deaths, the number of people that have been killed in the West Midlands from the disease has now increased to 19.

NHS West Midlands has said that the number of people admitted to hospitals in the region with the disease this week was 203, whereas last week there were 146. It was also said that the number of inpatients taken into hospitals in the area was 95 from this Wednesday onwards.

Dr. Rashmi Shukla, the regional director of Public Health in the National Health Service, said about the incident: “We would expect to see a rise in respiratory illness, such as swine flu, at this time of year, and we would like to remind people that they should continue to adhere to good respiratory and hand hygiene practices to reduce chances of the virus spreading.

“Unfortunately there have been a further four swine-flu related deaths and our thoughts are with the families of these patients at this very sad time. The vaccination programme has started well across the West Midlands. It is very important that frontline health and social care workers in the West Midlands have this vaccine to protect themselves, their families and their patients.”

Thomson Corporation and Reuters agree to merge

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Thomson Corporation and Reuters agree to merge
Author: RdBXvzh4

13 Aug

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Thomson Corporation and Reuters Group PLC announced Tuesday that they have agreed to combine the two companies. The boards of both Thomson and Reuters will recommend the merger to their shareholders.

The Canadian Thomson-family holding company Woodbridge, which controls 70% of Thomson, has agreed to vote in favour of the deal and the Reuters Founders Share Company, which controls a special share in Reuters, will also support the merger.

Based on the TSX CA$46.36 closing share price of Thomson on May 14, 2007, each Reuters share would be valued at 691 pence and, therefore, the full capital of Reuters valued at approximately £8.7 billion. Cash requirements for the deal are to be provided by Thomson. Woodbridge will own approximately 53 percent of the combined company, other Thomson shareholders 23 percent and Reuters shareholders about 24 percent.

The merger arrangement will leave two separate companies that will be operated as a single entity. The boards of the two companies will be identical as will the senior executive management team. Thomson will be renamed to Thomson-Reuters Corporation, and will be listed on both the TSX and the NYSE. Thomson-Reuters PLC will list on the London Stock Exchange and the NYSE.

Reuters current CEO, Tom Glocer, will become CEO of the combined company while Thomson President and CEO Richard J. Harrington will retire at the completion of the merger.

Thomson has currently 32,000 employees worldwide, with operations in 37 countries and revenues of US$6.6 billion in 2006. Thomson’s major business operations centre around financial information and legal services, with smaller ventures in tax accounting, health care, and the scientific field. Thomson is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, in the United States.

Reuters is one of the world’s largest news agencies, with a total of 16,800 staff in all divisions, but derives more than 90 percent of its revenue from its financial service business. It is the merger of Thomson and Reuter’s financial services divisions that may have been the genesis of the talks. It has been suggested that both companies wanted a better economy of scale to compete with Bloomberg, the American financial services giant.

“We are enormously proud of the evolution of The Thomson Corporation and the value it has created for all our shareholders,” said David Thomson, Chairman of Thomson. “We recognize the rich history of Reuters and are committed to uphold the Reuters Trust Principles.”

The chairman of Reuters, Niall FitzGerald, expressed his satisfaction with the merger. “The shared expertise and complementary strengths of these two companies makes for a strategically compelling and financially attractive combination,” said FitzGerald in a joint press release. “I am especially proud that Reuters journalism will continue to be governed by the powerful Reuter Trust Principles of independence, integrity and freedom from bias.”

The new company is projecting efficiencies of greater than US$500 million per year, by the end of the third year after closing the deal.

Criticisms were raised by Reuters journalists, who voiced concerns in an open letter to the Reuters Founders Share Company. They worried whether or not “a reconstituted Reuters would maintain the high standards of journalism and the integrity, independence and freedom from bias that have shaped the company’s 156-year-old reputation.”

It is expected that the merger will draw the attention of regulators due to the size and nature of the transaction. “Antitrust authorities in Europe and the U.S. are almost certain to apply a more detailed and lengthy review of the acquisition than is typical, because of the limited number of companies that supply prices, data, news and financial tools,” said Simon Baker, analyst, Credit Suisse in London.

CyanogenMod: Open-source smartphone OS goes commercial

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CyanogenMod: Open-source smartphone OS goes commercial
Author: RdBXvzh4

13 Aug

Thursday, September 19, 2013

File:CyanogenMod Cid.svg

The developers of CyanogenMod, an open source free Android-based operating system for smartphones, announced yesterday their incorporation following a successful venture capital campaign which netted the open-source project a US$7 million nest egg, and plan to roll out a simple installation app on Google Play for their Android firmware.

Android runs nearly 80% of new mobile devices; CyanogenMod operates on at least 7 or 8 million of those. CyanogenMod replaces the read-only-memory image in android devices which have been ‘rooted’ —control acquired of the device’s superuser account— allowing continuing development for, and backporting abilities of new generations of the operating system to, older devices.

Investor Mitch Lasky wrote on his blog “We believe that CM is poised to become one of the largest mobile operating systems in the world.” Benchmark Capital and Redpoint Ventures are part of the capital providers to form Cyanogen Inc.

“The only limitation we have right now is with the number of engineers and designers we currently have. As we hire more people and build this company, we’ll be able to work on so many cool things”, said Koushik ‘koush’ Dutta, who took questions alongside Steve ‘cyanogen’ Kondik and team social media manager Abhisek “ciwrl” Devkota in a Reddit Ask Me Anything event shortly after making the announcement on the CyanogenMod blog. The team of 17, including Boost co-founder Kirt McMaster as CEO, are in Palo Alto, California and Seattle.

Kondik says Cyanogen mod is named after him. “I’m terrible with names, so I just slapped ‘mod’ onto the end of my handle and ran with it”, he explained in the incorporation announcement.

An early question raised in the Reddit event concerned profit-making: “Monetization isn’t an immediate concern and our investors […] feel the same”, said Dutta, adding “Creating disruption in a multibilion dollar market is enough to make any investor raise their eyebrow.” This means CyanogenMod would continue to be free. Follow questions asked if the company was planning to release their own model of android device. “We certainly couldn’t take on the monumental task of building/testing hardware [right now]. Hardware would be one of many potential very long term paths we could take”, said Dutta.

The firm’s first announced step is to improve the process of installing the software on owner’s devices, which Kondik described as “hideous”. A new installer app is planned to be released “in the coming weeks” on Google Play. The installer app will not require rooting the device, instead installing by simply clicking a button.

A further step, broadly described without any details, is a project with an unnamed original equipment manufacturer (OEM). “We have a least one OEM partnership in the works, there will be an announcement next week regarding our plans there”, said Kondik. The team mentioned OEM licensing several times during the Q&A session on Reddit.

In addition to these corporate steps, there were questions regarding the roadmap for development of the ROM, which already has improvements regarding privacy and security over the native android loader. With “plenty of things in the product pipeline already” Dutta lists additional security features, AirPlay mirroring, screen recording, and Voice+ as upcoming. The mood throughout the event was jovial, with humourous questions such as “can you guys PLEASE release a CM build for my toaster? I’m not sure what model it is, but it’s white and I got it at Savers.” Kondik promised “Ship it to me and I’ll duct tape a G1 running CM to it”. Dutta said his “10 of your favorite lines of source code” are “The ones that worked when they shouldn’t have.”

Wikinews interviews organiser of New Zealand’s Rock2Wgtn festival Phil Sprey

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Wikinews interviews organiser of New Zealand’s Rock2Wgtn festival Phil Sprey
Author: RdBXvzh4

13 Aug

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Across Easter weekend Wellington, New Zealand was host to Rock2Wgtn, an international two-day hard rock festival. Large crowds showed up at Westpac Stadium to see the various acts. The world has never seen an event of this kind before.

Day one featured three theatrical acts. Finnish band Lordi, known for their monster costumes, opened the night. They were followed by the US shock rocker Alice Cooper, whose themed set included the horror theatrics regularly associated with him and a hanging stunt he recently restarted after a gallows collapse nearly killed him two decades ago. The night was headlined by the distinctively costumed band KISS, complete with their famed black-and-white makeup.

The first major act on the stage on day two was the American hard rock/glam metal band Poison. After Poison, British act Whitesnake took to the stage and performed their set to the crowd. British-born American rocker Ozzy Osbourne, who, as well as a solo career, fronts the world-famous Black Sabbath, was the second night’s headline act.

The festival’s entertainment did not stop at the six main acts. There was also support performances from three New Zealand bands – The Symphony of Screams, The Valves and Sonic Altar. Their sets were accompanied by a special effects package from award-winning studio Weta Workshops, who are known for their work on movies such as The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. This came in the form of ‘Drusila the Dragon’, which rose up to a height of six foot and wigspan and moved for the audience, shining lasers from its eyes and breathing red smoke. Flame Fire Productions were hired to put on a fire show featuring several dancers alongside the performers. Also performing were six local guitarists and a group of ‘zombie‘ cheerleaders.

Despite the crowds that flocked to the event, however, it has recently become apparent that financial trouble has hit the festival. Although figures remain to be confirmed, an estimated NZ$750,000 has been lost.

Wikinews secured an exclusive interview with Phil Sprey of Capital C Concerts, who organised the festival. The entire interview is now available below.

Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Libertarian candidate Larry Stevens, Kitchener-Conestoga

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Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Libertarian candidate Larry Stevens, Kitchener-Conestoga
Author: RdBXvzh4

13 Aug

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Larry Stevens is running for the Libertarian Party in the Ontario provincial election, in the Kitchener-Conestoga riding. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.

Spanish court considering torture criminal case against former U.S. officials

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Spanish court considering torture criminal case against former U.S. officials
Author: RdBXvzh4

12 Aug

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Spanish court is considering opening a criminal investigation into whether six former George W. Bush administration officials gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay.

Baltasar Garzón, a Spanish judge with an international reputation for bringing cases against high-profile alleged human rights violators, sent the case to the prosecutor’s office to review whether it has any merit. Among the officials identified in the potential case is former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The prosecutor’s office must issue a recommendation on the merits of the case and on whether the high court has jurisdiction to pursue it. A response is expected by next month, and an official close to the case said it was “highly probable” it would go forward and lead to arrest warrants.

Spanish law allows the courts to pursue cases of torture and war crimes beyond Spanish borders. But American legal experts said the warrants, if issued, would be a largely symbolic gesture and that the officials would likely not be arrested if they did not leave the United States.

The officials are accused of providing the framework of policies and legal opinions that justified torture at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and afforded no protection under the Geneva Convention to Al-Qaeda suspects.

The charges as related to me make no sense

“The charges as related to make make no sense,” said Douglas J. Feith, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, who is one of the six accused former officials. “They criticize me for promoting a controversial position that I never advocated.”

The other officials are former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington, Pentagon attorney William Haynes, and Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee.

If I were them, I would search for a good lawyer

Gonzalo Boyé, a lawyer for the group, said that the officials cited had well-documented roles in approving illegal interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, which are widely regarded as torture. Spain typically investigates and prosecutes torture under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which the United States is a party. “If I were them, I would search for a good lawyer,” said Boyé of the accused officials.

Defenders of the officials said their legal analyses, which were conducted immediately following the September 11 attacks, are now being unfairly second-guessed.

Several human rights groups have asked judges in different countries to indict Bush officials for war crimes. Judge Garzón, best known for issuing an arrest warrant for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, has himself has been outspoken about the treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

A Spanish human rights group called the Association for Dignity of Inmates filed the criminal complaint.