First up, let's take a moment to savour pest control, Texas Style. Farmer Skip Smith, from Dublin, TX, is so fed up with feral hogs busting in to his watermelon patch and eating his crops that he’s fighting back with the aid of night-vision goggles and a silenced, fully automatic machine-gun. “The same thing that our forces use in Iraq, we're just using them on animals," Smith said, “we shoot about 45 to 50 a week on 1000 acres." Which is a hell of a lot of free bacon (ABC).
But if there is one food that might possibly challenge bacon as the mightily meaty master of my heart, it would be southern fried chicken. So what could be better than a sandwich that includes both? Well, how about one that leaves out that pointless bread stuff and puts the slices of gorgeous bacon between two hot, fresh fried chicken fillets? That is the idea behind what some reports are claiming is the latest creation from KFC, the “double-down” sandwich. Bacon, cheese and the “Colonel’s special sauce” are sandwiched between the chain’s house-style fried chicken in a heart-stopping 1200 calorie mouthful. And the day this launches near me officially marks the end of my banana diet (AJC).
As if "swine flu" wasn't bad enough, Scientific American is reporting that the Ebola virus has been detected in domestic pigs in the Philippines. The particular strain of the virus, Reston ebolavirus, is not known to cause fatal haemorrhagic fever in humans, but is still rated a class 4 pathogen by the US Center for Disease Control (it's highest rating) because of the extreme fatality rate and absence of effective treatment of the disease caused by other Ebola viruses. One farmhand who worked with the pigs has also tested positive for R.ebolavirus, but is asymptomatic.
In this case it seems like most likely that the pigs caught the disease from the human rather than the other way round. However that pigs can catch and potentially pass on the organism to humans is an unexpected, and worrying, development. Michael McIntosh of the Department of Agriculture expressed concern not only that the Reston strain might mutate into something more deadly in its new host, but that the other disease-causing strains might also be using pigs as a reservoir. "What is the level of risk?" said McIntosh, "We really don't know" (Scientific American Article) (Paper in Science).
It's a law of nature that when you've got to go, you've got to go. So if you happen to be a penguin out on the antarctic ice, well, that's where you've got to go. Which turns out to be an extremely useful fact for scientists, who have used piles of penguin poo identified on satellite images to locate where penguin colonies form. Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey hope to use the new technique to follow the penguins over many seasons and determine how much impact global warming is having on the species (Telegraph).
Meanwhile British beekeepers must be cursing that not all animals can be tracked by satellite so easily after an outbreak of bee-rustling has swept the coutryside. The spate of thefts has been provoked by rises in the price of honey combined with a shortage of bees brought about by disease. In the largest bee-heist so far, 18 hives containing over a million bees were stolen from a strawberry field they had been pollinating. According to John Howat of the Bee Farmers Association, pulling off such an audacious crime would require "inside knowledge" (BBC News).
And it's not just beekeepers who are missing their wildlife. A UK radio station that has broadcast nothing but a repeating loop of birdsong for 18 months as "filler" has finally shut down to make way for a new commercial station, and raised howls of protest from many of its half a million regular listeners. The twenty year-old recording, made in a wiltshire garden and used by the radio station free-of-charge, became a massive hit with people from all over Britain, including author Terry Pratchett, who found it a relaxing alternative to the usual radio fare. The replacement broadcast, Amazing Radio, plays music by unsigned bands uploaded to amazingtunes.com (Pocket Lint).
Finally, here's one story that almost missed the boat (ark?), swimming with stingrays may be harmful... for the stingrays. Scientists monitoring the sealife around the Camen islands have found that tourist excursions to pet the wildlife around the islands is leading to weaker immune systems and poorer health in the animals. Christina Semeniuk, an ecologist at Simon Fraser University in Canada, cited collisions with boats, overcrowding and hand-fed squid forming an greater part of their diet as the main suspects. She pointed to other studies on bears, penguins, dolphins, and apes which also showed increased stress and illness due to wildlife tourism (Guardian).
What do you do when your normally green and lush grazing pastures become over-run with mysterious worms? For the fifty herdsmen in northwest China, there is no answer but to move. The worms are one inch long, green, with thorns and black stripes, and are packed up to 3,000 per square meter. Samples of the worms have been sent to Xinjiang Agricultural University for identification, but so far the usual methods of dealing with such an invasion (chickens, ducks and other birds) has not been successful. The Story.
As Mr. Skip Peterson tells us: "This is an annual fund raiser held in Buffalo, Wyoming, for a local gymnastics team. Contestants have one minute to get the greased hog, butt first into the barrel. The coed team must also dip their hands into a bucket of Crisco before the game begins. The winning time this year was 7.45 seconds. Every team had a freash pig and each pig was only allowed to participate one time. Enjoy!"
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.