Links — May 1, 2009, 9:55 am

Links

1913-11-0159

“[But what caused this acceleration of swine flu evolution?] Virologists have long believed that the intensive agricultural system of southern China is the principal engine of influenza mutation: both seasonal “drift” and episodic genomic “shift.” But the corporate industrialisation of livestock production has broken China’s natural monopoly on influenza evolution. Animal husbandry in recent decades has been transformed into something that more closely resembles the petrochemical industry than the happy family farm depicted in school readers. In 1965, for instance, there were 53 million U.S. hogs on more than 1 million farms; today, 65 million hogs are concentrated in 65,000 facilities. This has been a transition from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, containing tens of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems suffocating in heat and manure while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates.”

The case is particularly sensitive because of a series of attacks on Asian fishermen in the [Keswick, Ontario,] area in 2007– given the name ‘nipper tipping’ by locals– which led to a high-profile investigation by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Five such cases in 2007, ranging from violent car chases to fishermen on piers being pushed into the water, led to criminal charges. As a result of the publicity, many other Asian anglers came forward to say they had been abused or harassed while fishing in the Lake Simcoe area.”

More than four-in-ten Americans (42%) say they heard a lot about the arrest in Massachusetts last week of a man suspected of robbing and killing a woman he met through the Craigslist web site. That is the same percentage that say they heard a lot about President Obama’s friendly greeting for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at a recent regional summit. More than a third had heard at least a little about the arrest (35%) and the Chavez encounter (34%). Republicans were more likely than Democrats to have heard a lot about Obama’s handshake with Chavez (51% vs. 39%).”

Currently, more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month, or in other words, Twitter’s audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month’s users who come back the following month, is currently about 40 percent. For most of the past 12 months, pre-Oprah, Twitter has languished below 30 percent retention.”

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On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.

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“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
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