Friday, December 18, 2020

Scientists find two new species of fungi that turn flies into ‘zombies’

Two new fungi species that infect flies and eject spores out of a large hole in the insect’s abdomen “like small rockets” have been discovered in Denmark. The new species, Strongwellsea tigrinae and Strongwellsea acerosa, are host-specific and rely on two species of Danish fly – Coenosia tigrina and Coenosia testacea, according to researchers at the University of Copenhagen. While most fungi spore once the host is dead, with strongwellsea, the host continues to live for days, carrying out normal activities and socialising with other flies while the fungus consumes its genitals, fat reserves, reproductive organs and finally its muscle, all the while shooting out thousands of spores on to other individuals. After a few days, the fly lies on its back, spasms for a few hours and then dies, according to research by the University of Copenhagen and the Natural History Museum of Denmark. The unusual tactic of keeping the host alive while releasing spores is called active host transmission (AHT). It is an effective way of getting access to other healthy individuals. Scientists think the fungi could be producing substances that “dope” their hosts (sometimes colloquially referred to as “zombies”), meaning they can stay fresh enough to live for days after infection – only collapsing once there is nothing left in their abdomens but the fungus. (Science Direct)


Thousands of venomous wasps seek shelter from cold in man’s home

Thousands of wasps swarmed a Vietnamese man’s house in an attempt to stay out of the cold on December 1, and the nail-biting event was caught on camera. The venomous wasps cling to the walls of the man’s home. Luckily, they were sleeping and did not attack. The man uses smoke to drive the wasps out of his home and then sealed up holes to prevent them from coming back. While unfortunate, this isn’t strange behaviour for wasps or many other insect species that seek shelter when temperatures start to dip. Wasps tend to become grumpier in the fall as food sources become scarce. They’re also more aggressive and protective of their queen. By the time winter arrives, they’ve calmed down a bit and will move less to conserve energy. Some species of wasp have difficulty flying in temperatures below 50° F, and many will die if exposed to prolonged freezing temperatures. (The Weather Network)


Holiday packages are out of control

As the pandemic pushes even more consumers online for holiday shopping, firms are grappling with a “historic crush of e-commerce packages.” FedEx and United Parcel Service have seen a record number of packages since Thanksgiving, leading them to limit the daily number of packages they’ll pick up and cut off delivery for some retailers. Postal employees are meanwhile working overtime and reporting backlogs, and bracing for even more mail and packages. (Washington Post)


Aging could be a booming biz

More than a third of Americans are aged 50 or above, and some business experts believe catering to this age group could be the ’20s’ version of the software or internet boom. Experts believe the affluent aging market is worth $8.3 trillion and presents a “lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors” to innovate and create solutions across sectors like health care, real estate and financial services. One example: only 1% of U.S. homes have basic structural elements for the growing number, 80% of older adults, who want to age in place. (Barrons)


Big Tech faces barrage of new rules

In what’s billed as the biggest expansion in Big Tech regulation in years, the European Union’s executive arm has proposed a pair of laws aimed at curbing illegal content and anticompetitive behavior. The rules would empower the bloc to fine companies such as Alphabet’s Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook as much as 10% of their annual revenues for violations, or to break the companies up. The proposed law faces months if not years of debate before being adopted. (The Wall Street Journal)


Teacher shortage hits US schools

Educators in the U.S. have never faced challenges like those brought on by the pandemic, and now compounding the problems is a shortage of teachers. Employment at public schools in November was down 8.7% from February, or a record low since August 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some schools are recruiting parents to act as substitute teachers. Arizona, for one, has been hard hit by teachers dropping out of the workforce. One likely factor is burnout, made worse by the staffing crunch. (CNBC)


Woman risks her life to retrieve beer kegs that were being swept by floods

A video of a woman in Australia risking her life to retrieve beer kegs during a storm has gone viral. The video was recorded by the bystanders when the woman dived into the water in order to prevent the beer kegs from being swept away in the floods. The metal beer kegs had drifted into the waters. In the nine-second clip, the woman can be seen running frantically towards the beer kegs and grabbing on to them. She then drags them to the other end.  Evacuation warnings have been issued in areas around northern New South Wales due to the threat of heavy rainfall and storm. (The Pigeon Express)


Suspension proposed for judge who told defendant how to show women ‘you’re in control’

A state judicial committee is recommending a one-month, unpaid suspension for a municipal judge who advised a domestic violence defendant on how to “let [women] know you’re the man and you’re in control.” The judge serves as a municipal judge in East Orange, New Jersey and as needed in Newark, violated judicial rules with his “sexist and misogynistic” comments and by bringing his religious beliefs into the courtroom, according to a filing by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct to the Supreme Court, which will issue out any punishment. He made the statement as he was trying to counsel a defendant, accused of multiple domestic violence incidents, not to abuse women, but since has apologized and acknowledged to the committee that his comments were “well-meaning but undeniably misguided.” He explained to the committee that his statements about men trying to “straighten” women out referred to his religious beliefs that the Bible says Eve was created from the rib of Adam. (


A man played the same numbers on the same day on 160 lottery tickets and won $800,000

A man bought 160 tickets this month for a Virginia Lottery Pick 4 game, playing exactly the same four-digit combination for every ticket: 7-3-1-4. That combination, on December 5, proved to be a winning one, bringing Cross an $800,000 payday. I saw an address in a TV show, in the background, and for some reason it stayed with me,” he told Lottery officials, according to a news release. “I just had a feeling.” Those numbers hit the Pick 4 top prize of $5,000, which was multiplied 160 times to earn Cross the huge payout. The chance of matching all four numbers in exact order is 1 in 10,000, according to the Virginia Lottery. (Virginia Lottery)


Raccoon makes surprise appearance in woman’s Christmas tree

A woman in Florida was woken up by her dog growling at 4:15 a.m. She asked her Amazon Echo device (“Alexa”) to turn on the lights and saw her dog was staring at the Christmas tree and barking. She grabbed a frying pan to try to get the animal she thought was a cat out of her tree. The creature finally came out of the tree and revealed itself. She and her dog spotted the raccoon on the side of the tree and the dog jumped towards it, knocking over the tree. After chasing the raccoon around her house for an hour it finally went back outside by using the dog door it used to enter the house in the first place. She said her advice to others in a similar situation is to call Animal Control, don’t try to do this on your own and just laugh at yourself – that’s all you can do. (WPTV)


FDA approves new genetically modified pig for allergy-free medical and food products

The US Food and Drug Administration said it has approved a genetically modified pig whose body doesn’t make a component that can trigger allergies in people. The pigs should produce meat that is safe to eat, and organs and tissues safe for transplants and for the other biomedical uses for people allergic to the compound, a sugar found on the surface of animal cells known as alpha-gal, the FDA said. It might help people who have an allergy to alpha-gal, an allergy sometimes triggered by a tick bite. The pigs, licensed to Revivicor Inc., a subsidiary of United Therapeutics, are called GalSafe pigs. Revivicor is a spinoff from PPL Therapeutics, which produced the first mammal cloned from an adult mammal: Dolly the sheep, in 1996. Products made from their bodies can be safely used by people with alpha-gal syndrome, FDA officials told a media briefing. These might include the blood thinner heparin, made from pig intestines, as well as tissue or organ transplants. (United States Food and Drug Administration)


Former DA candidate arrested, charged with child sex crimes again

Deputies say they have arrested a St. Francisville, Louisiana attorney for the second time on charges related to child sex crimes. The 58-year-old man was booked into the West Feliciana Parish Detention Center on December 15, on one count of carnal knowledge of a juvenile. Bond was set at $50,000 and he will be required to wear an ankle monitor as well as have no contact with the victim. In October, a grand jury indicted the man on two counts of aggravated rape and one count of sexual battery. The attorney and former candidate for the District Attorney’s Office of the 20th Judicial District was arrested back in 2017 following accusations that he molested a juvenile in 2003, according to the West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office. (WAFB)


Ten states have sued Google for abusing “monopolistic power”

The lawsuit is being led by Texas, whose Attorney General, Ken Paxton, says that Google has too much power over the online advertising market. The lawsuit argues that Google has used unfair practices to eliminate its competition and asks the court to implement reforms for more competition in the online advertising market. The lawsuit centers on DoubleClick, a software used by Google to buy and sell online ads. Google made $135B from ad sales last year, which according to NPR represents most of the company’s revenue. Google described the lawsuit as “meritless” and said that its practices have benefitted both consumers and businesses. The states that have joined Texas in the lawsuit are Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah, and Idaho. In a lawsuit filed in October, the U.S. Justice Department also accused Google of monopolistic practices. (Texas, et al. v Google LLC)


Friday Makes The Week Great Again With:

  • Answer The Telephone Like Buddy The Elf Day
  • Arabic Language Day
  • Give A Wine Club Day
  • International Migrants Day
  • Roast Suckling Pig Day
  • Twin Day
  • Ugly Christmas Sweater Day (3rd Friday)
  • Underdog Day (3rd Friday)

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