As your humble scribe, I welcome you all to another edition of Overnight News Digest.
I am most pleased to share this platform with jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, rfall, JLM9999 and side pocket. Additionally, I wish to recognize our alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb along with annetteboardman as our guest editor.
Neon Vincent is our editor-in-chief.
Special thanks go to Magnifico for starting this venerable series.
The Cost of Gold in Burkina Faso: Holes
The barren, ruddy ground is pockmarked with holes as far as the eye can see—shallow, bowl-like holes filled with water and deceptively deep holes that drop like an elevator shaft straight down to black pits 50 feet below ground.
Imagine a giant meteor shower that pelts and then scorches the earth to leave nothing but holes and mounded dirt. And this is what you'd have, except that the destruction here comes not from nature but from men, women and children, clawing, digging and scraping for gold.
Here at Fandjora, a small-scale surface mine about 40 kilometers from the provincial capital of Bobo-Dioulasso, more than 1,500 people are working the earth for their tiny share of $1,600-an-ounce gold. Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, ranks fourth in Africa in the production of gold. Much of the gold comes from small-scale mines, where untold numbers of children work with their families from dawn to dusk. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated in a 2006 report that 30 to 50 percent of the people working in small-scale mines in the African Sahel, which includes Burkina Faso and neighboring Niger, are younger than eighteen. Some as young as 3 work alongside their parents.
Unapproved genetically-modified rice trials in U.S. have contaminated the world's rice supply
New evidence has emerged suggesting that the entire global supply of rice may have already been contaminated by unapproved, genetically-modified (GM) rice varieties manufactured by the American multinational corporation Bayer CropScience. A recent entry in the GM Contamination Register explains that between the years of 2006 and 2007, three different varieties of illegal GM rice, none of which have ever been approved for cultivation or consumption anywhere in the world, were identified in more than 30 countries worldwide.
Once again, field trials conducted by Bayer back in the mid-1990s appear to have been the cause of this widespread and irreversible genetic pollution. Though all official field trials of "Frankenrice" supposedly ended in 2002, the three GM rice varieties detected somehow made their way into the general rice supply, which has had a major negative impact on U.S. rice exports. Similar contamination involving both GM wheat and GM flax was also recently discovered in the food supply, and both a result of biotechnology company field trials.
"No GM rice has ever been grown commercially in the U.S. and the source of the contamination is believed to be field trials of herbicide tolerant rice conducted between the mid-1990s and early-2000s by Bayer CropScience (or its precursor companies Aventis CropScience and AgrEvo)," explains the GM Contamination Register entry. "At the time of discovery only one of the contaminating varieties (LLRICE62) had approval for cultivation in the U.S., the other two varieties (LLRICE601 and LLRICE604) had not."
Tuna caught off California carry radiation from the Japanese disaster, Stanford scientist finds
Radioactive cesium from the 2011 Japanese nuclear disaster has been carried across the Pacific Ocean to California waters in the flesh of Pacific Bluefin tuna, say researchers from Stanford and Stony Brook University. Anglers reeled in the slightly radioactive fish off San Diego. The low levels of radioactivity are not thought to a pose a health risk to humans. The researchers say the accident has provided a new way to learn more about the migratory habits of sea animals that spent time in the waters near the damaged reactors.
"All living things are radioactive," said Fisher, "primarily attributable to the naturally occurring potassium-40. The potassium-40 radioactivity in the bluefin tuna was over 30 times higher than that from the radioactive cesium. So, the radioactivity from the spill really only adds 3 percent more radioactivity than the background level."
This study opens up the door for radioactivity from the Fukushima disaster to serve as a valuable tool in mapping the paths of little-understood migratory species.
"We now know that we can use these isotopes to trace biological movements from Japan across long distances," said Fisher, "just like scientists have used isotopes in the past to track ocean currents." This new tool can be used alongside other tools like incidental catch reports and electronic tagging to piece together the journeys of the creatures that travel the oceans.
Crop Pests Spreading North with Global Warming
Crop pests and diseases are moving towards the poles at about the same speed as warmer temperatures. The finding suggests that climate change is driving their relocation, and raises major concerns about food security.
The changing climate is raising major concerns about food security in many countries, and pests may contribute to making matters worse. “Our defenses, pesticides and fungicides, are being asked to deal with larger and larger numbers of pests and diseases, each of which can evolve fungicide or pesticide resistance,” says ecologist Dan Bebber of the University of Exeter, UK, who led the new study. Expansion of pest populations into new territories increases the risk that these organisms will escape our control.
Among the biggest threats are fungi and oomycetes, similar but distinct groups of microbes, which cause plant diseases. Several highly virulent strains of fungi have emerged in recent years around the world, and the oomycete Phytophthora infestans remains a persistent problem even 168 years after causing the great Irish potato famine.
Global movement of crop pests had never been comprehensively analyzed. To fill this gap, Bebber and his colleagues made use of historical records held by CABI (formerly known as the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International), which document crop pests and diseases around the world from 1822 to the present. “No one has looked at any of these datasets. This is the first such analysis.”
More Than Funny: The Power of Modern Stand-Up Comedy
The Internet makes finding comedy a snap. Within a few minutes one can consume for free nearly hundreds of jokes on Buzzfeed or Tumblr. With comedy so readily available and free today, are people still paying to see traditional stand-up comedians?
Absolutely! Across America and the world, clubs, theaters, and even stadiums are full of stand-up comedians. The $32 million plus success of Kevin Hart's summer stand-up movie Let Me Explain drives the point home: stand-up comedians are relevant. So, what do these comedians have to offer that's worth the ticket price? A community.
Social science finds again and again that people enjoy consuming their identity and being part of a community that has the same identity and 'shared reality' -- the state of perceiving the world in similar way to others. People especially enjoy and even need such activity when their identities become threatened. Nerds, Weirdos, social liberals, and conservatives all feel a sense of threat and insecurity and long for affirmation of their personality and ideals. When a comedian on stage eloquently and humorously states what audience members already believe, it provides a great feeling - almost the same feeling one gets from a great speech from a favored political candidate.
However, what makes the experience amazing and potentially better than politics is that the tools comedians use to connect with the audience are not tricks, they are genuine. Most of the comedians actually hold the beliefs they express. Social liberals John Oliver, Lewis Black, and David Cross are passionately about the righting the wrongs they joke about. Chris Hardwick is a genuine fan of nerd content. Comedian Aziz Ansari truly captures the viewpoint of being in one's late 20s and into pop culture. Bo Burnham's stage characters, amongst masturbation and lizard jokes, reveal the true feelings that he more directly expresses in interviews when out of character.
Some say the world will end in fire. Some say ice.
Some say coordinated kamikaze attacks on the power grid by squirrels.
When I tell people about power outages caused by squirrels — and trust me when I say that I tell people about power outages caused by squirrels quite often — I wind up hearing a lot of the same snarky jokes. People say the squirrels are staging an uprising. People say the squirrels are calculating, nut-cheeked saboteurs trying to overthrow humanity. Like the apes in “Planet of the Apes,” or the Skynet computer network in “The Terminator,” the squirrels represent a kind of neglected intelligence that’s suddenly, sinisterly switching on.
Bill Moyers and Company: Encore Edition
John Lewis Marches On