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« Reply #75 on: June 07, 2008, 08:25:36 PM »

Salmonella illnesses spread to 16 states


updated 1 hour, 6 minutes ago
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -

Salmonella food poisoning first linked to uncooked tomatoes has spread to 16 states, federal health officials said Saturday.

Investigations by the Texas and New Mexico Departments of Health and the U.S. Indian Health Service have tied 56 cases in Texas and 55 in New Mexico to raw, uncooked, tomatoes.

"We're seeing a steady increase," Deborah Busemeyer, New Mexico Department of Health communications director, said Saturday.

An additional 50 people have been sickened by the same Salmonella "Saintpaul" infection in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Investigators are trying to determine if raw tomatoes also are responsible for the illnesses in those states, said Arleen Porcell, a CDC spokeswoman.

The source of the tomatoes responsible for the illnesses has not been pinpointed, but health officials in Texas and New Mexico said none of them was grown in those two states.

At least 23 people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported, she said. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 82.

The rarity of the Saintpaul strain and the number of illnesses "suggest that implicated tomatoes are distributed throughout the country," she said.

Interviews conducted with 73 people found the illnesses began between April 16 and May 27, Porcell said.

Source of outbreak
Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and homegrown tomatoes are likely not the source of the outbreak, Busemeyer said.

Also not associated with the outbreak are raw Roma, red plum and round red tomatoes from Arkansas, California, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Netherlands and Puerto Rico, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Association.

Salmonella is a bacteria that lives in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals. It usually is transmitted to humans by eating food contaminated with animal feces.

Most infected people suffer fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps starting 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness tends to last four to seven days. Many people recover without treatment, but severe infection and death is possible.

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« Reply #76 on: June 10, 2008, 09:06:09 PM »

Florida tomato industry in 'complete collapse'
Official: $40 million of crop will rot if salmonella outbreak not traced

Tomato growers scrambled Tuesday to deal with the fallout from an outbreak of salmonella illness traced to eating certain types of tomatoes.

Shipments of tomatoes from Mexico to the United States have stopped, according to a major tomato-growers' association, while Florida officials warned that their industry is in a state of "complete collapse" due to the outbreak.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says there have been 167 cases of salmonellosis since mid-April, including 23 that required hospitalization, associated with consumption of raw tomatoes.
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The FDA's Web page on the outbreak has a "safe list" of 19 states and six countries whose produce is not associated with the outbreak. As of the latest update Tuesday, Florida and Mexico have been left off the list.

“We probably have $40 million worth of product we can’t sell. We’ve had to stop packing, stop picking,” said Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.

The FDA has approved a plan that will allow key growing areas in Florida to resume shipping tomatoes, said Liz Compton, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture. Under the plan, Florida tomatoes will be shipped with a certificate indicating that they came from areas in the state that were not harvesting prior to May 1, when the outbreak began.

"We therefore plan to update our Web posting this evening to indicate the geographic regions in Florida from which red round, Roma and plum tomatoes are identified as not the source of the outbreak," Faye Feldstein, acting director of the FDA's office of food defense, communication and emergency response, told Florida officials in an e-mail.

The e-mail was made available to msnbc.com by Florida state officials.

The outbreak was linked to eating certain raw red plum, red Roma and red round tomatoes, and products containing these tomatoes. Several major restaurant and grocery chains have stopped selling those varieties.

“It fundamentally shut down the industry,” said Brown. “The stuff that should have been harvested over the weekend won’t survive more than another day or so. The stuff we have in storage is getting riper every minute and at some point it will have to be disposed of.”

Florida is the largest tomato-producing state, with a crop valued at $500 million to $700 million annually, he said. The state produces more than 90 percent of the nation’s tomatoes this time of year, Brown said.

But the concern is hardly limited to Florida as growers fear the outbreak could cast a pall over their product for the prime summer season.

“Even though our tomatoes are safe, we know consumers are going to stay away from our product this year,” said Jack King, the California Farm Bureau Federation’s national affairs manager. “The lesson we learned with the spinach E. coli outbreak is that regardless of where the problem exists, it affects all growers.”

The FDA has said that it is safe to eat cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached. But those varieties account for only a tiny portion of the industry, Brown said.

Federal officials are still hunting for the source of the bacterial outbreak, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is linked to a rare strain called salmonella saintpaul.

The infections have struck most often in New Mexico and Texas.

If the federal government takes weeks to uncover the source, the damage to the industry could grow, industry experts warned.

“This is a nightmare for growers. This is right when their product should be coming to market, and everyone is saying don’t buy it,” said Jaydee Hanson, a policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, a Washington-based nonprofit. “The tragedy is that people will quit eating things that are safe because they’re worried.”

A spokesman for the Sinaloa state Tomato Growers Association says exports from Mexico have been halted as a precaution. So far there is no evidence that the salmonella originated in Mexico, which accounts for about one-third of winter tomatoes in the United States.

Salmonella bacteria are frequently responsible for food-borne illnesses. Symptoms generally appear within 12 to 72 hours after eating infected food and include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
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« Reply #77 on: July 07, 2008, 08:18:28 PM »

Feds target children with live flu vaccine
Formula planned for possibly millions contains virus that can spread on contact

The federal government plans to give children – possibly millions of them – a live influenza vaccine they could transmit to anyone with whom they come into contact.

The vaccinations could start as early as a few weeks from now, and the infections could be spread for up to three weeks following the vaccinations, officials confirmed.

Each half milliliter portion of the formula, called FluMist, contains particles of "live, attenuated influenza virus," writes Robert Carrillo on his extensive blog posting about the vaccine.

"That means that between 10 million and 100 million viral particles will be forcefully injected into the nostrils administered," he says.

Carillo warns one of the most troubling concerns over the injection is the potential for the viruses to enter directly into the brain.

"At the top of the nasal passages is a paper-thin bone called the cribriform plate," he explains. "The olfactory nerves pass through this bone and line the nasal passages, carrying messenger molecules to the brain that are identified as 'smells' familiar to us. The olfactory tract has long been recognized as a direct pathway to the brain."

According to MedImmune, the company providing FluMist, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted earlier this year to "expand flu vaccination recommendations to include all children six months through 18 years of age."

Previously, the recommendations were to vaccinate children from six months to 59 months of age, the report said.

"The new guidelines add approximately 30 million children to the recommended pediatric population to be vaccinated annually against influenza," the company said.

"MedImmune is committed to doing all it can to support the ACIP's expanded influenza vaccination recommendations and to work toward our common goal to vaccinate more children against the flu each year," John Trizzino, vice president, vaccines, said in a prepared statement. "The data presented … highlight the need to use every possible opportunity to improve vaccination rates and compliance, including vaccinating children when they visit their healthcare providers for back-to-school check-ups and sports physicals. We are focused on delivering FluMist(R) (Influenza Virus Vaccine Live, Intranasal) into the marketplace this year beginning in August."

Carrillo, who works with an organization advising about the dangers of vaccines, says among some of the ingredients of various vaccines are human diploid lung cells, fetal bovine serum, aluminum, formaldehyde, mercury and dry natural latex rubber.

In this particular case, however, probably the most significant issues are that recipients of the vaccine could suffer complications. There are advisories against giving it to children under age 2, anyone with asthma or pregnant women, and the vaccine could transmit the virus itself to others.

"It has been documented that the live viruses from the vaccine can be shed (and potentially spread into the community) from recipient children for up to 21 days," Carrillo writes.

Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, agreed.

"It's a live virus," she told WND. "There is a risk if you give it to a child, the child could expose someone to that vaccine virus in whom there could be complications."

The drug manufacturer also warns of possible complications for people afflicted with the Guillain-Barre syndrome.

"You could transmit the virus [to someone] in whom the vaccine could cause a reaction," Orient said. "What about a child whose mother turns out to be pregnant?"

There also is a warning about the danger to people whose immune systems are affected, such as individuals taking chemotherapy.

A study cited by the company in its documentation about the vaccine confirmed that a transmission of influenza from a vaccinated child to someone else is possible. That study encompassed 197 children in a day-care center, officials said.

"It does replicate and is shed and has been transmitted to a few individuals in this study," Orient said.

But she said that going from 197 children to 30 million kids, "I would say is a big experiment."

"I would be concerned about the hazards," she told WND. "And I'm not convinced about the benefit."

Orient, who serves as medical adviser for the institute's projects involving human health and disease, also is president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness and of Physicians for Civil Defense.

Carrillo also cites the moral concerns raised by vaccines. He writes on his blog, "The Bible teaches us that children are a gift from God," and parents are entrusted with the care and welfare of their children.

"Parents, not the state, are responsible to make health care decisions on behalf of their children," he says, noting the moral problems raised by vaccines that are produced using aborted baby lung tissue.

"The Bible also teaches that there have been times in history when evil government and government employees have attempted, through force or color of law, to intimidate, harm or destroy the children of God's people … Therefore, if a parent feels that vaccines are not safe, it is their responsibility to defend our children from an individual or government who is attempting to subject our children to those vaccine risks," he says.

"The Bible teaches that when man's law contradicts God's law, His people must obey God over Man. … Therefore, be it known, should any policy, edict or legislation of man decree our children must be vaccinated, we must obey God rather than man," he says

"Just so you know one flu shot a year [five] years in a row will increase chances of Alzheimer's by X10 FOLD. WOW! It is criminal that now babies at 6 months old are getting this TOXIC vaccine," Carillo says.

Federal advisory board members cited a study that found fewer than 20 percent of school-age children from 5-19 were vaccinated in their doctors' offices during the most recent influenza season.

"Just so you know, only 10 percent of the adverse reactions gets reported and the count on the site for FluMist so far is over 800 adverse reactions so in reality over 8,000 people have had an adverse reaction," Carrillo counters.

He notes parents still have retained a right to exempt their children.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the government advisory panel decision doesn't make such flu shots mandatory, but "it will smooth the way for both private insurers and publicly funded vaccination programs to pay for the immunizations."

The report did confirm that controlling influenza among children is a key to fighting the seasonal attacks.

"Kids are the vectors. They bring it home from school and give it to their parents. If you can stop it at school, you stop it at home and break the cycle," says Dr. Frank Malinoski of Gaithersburg, Md., a senior vice president for MedImmune.

The Chronicle report said there have been about two dozen pediatric influenza deaths so far this year. But it also noted the company stands to gain a return on its vaccine, with a price of about $18 per dose.

Another organization, called Families Fighting Flu, Inc., was whole-heartedly in support of the plan.

"We strongly urge all parents to recognize the severity of influenza and get their children vaccinated against the flu every year," said Richard Kanowitz, president of the group.

The organization, however, confirmed it is funded by unrestricted grants from several pharmaceutical companies, including MedImmune.

At Vaccination Liberation officials said vaccines have left flu largely unchanged in recent years anyway.

"Deaths from flu and pneumonia declined by about 90 percent of the year 1900 rates before the widespread use of flu vaccines. This demonstrates with certain[t]y that the major preventive of flu deaths (and flu incidence) is sanitation and nutrition. The fact that no further declines have occur[r]ed in the death rate for combined flu and pneumonia deaths tells us that the ONLY preventive for flu deaths and flu incidence is the lifestyle elements which make a healthy life."

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« Reply #78 on: July 07, 2008, 08:20:55 PM »

Considering that head Drs of government agencies and the manufacturer of the vaccine both make these warnings it is evident that it is not just a conspiracy theory gone amok. I strongly urge all parents to insure that your children are not given this vaccine.

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« Reply #79 on: July 12, 2008, 08:08:24 PM »

Honey bee crisis could lead to higher food prices

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080626/ap_on_go_co/sick_bees


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Food prices could rise even more unless the mysterious decline in honey bees is solved, farmers and businessmen told lawmakers Thursday.

"No bees, no crops," North Carolina grower Robert D. Edwards told a House Agriculture subcommittee. Edwards said he had to cut his cucumber acreage in half because of the lack of bees available to rent.

About three-quarters of flowering plants rely on birds, bees and other pollinators to help them reproduce. Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion annually in crop value.

In 2006, beekeepers began reporting losing 30 percent to 90 percent of their hives. This phenomenon has become known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Scientists do not know how many bees have died; beekeepers have lost 36 percent of their managed colonies this year. It was 31 percent for 2007, said Edward B. Knipling, administrator of the Agriculture Department's Agricultural Research Service.

"If there are no bees, there is no way for our nation's farmers to continue to grow the high quality, nutritious foods our country relies on," said Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza of California, chairman of the horticulture and organic agriculture panel. "This is a crisis we cannot afford to ignore."

Food prices have gone up 83 percent in three years, according to the World Bank.

Edward R. Flanagan, who raises blueberries in Milbridge, Maine, said he could be forced to increase prices tenfold or go out of business without the beekeeping industry. "Every one of those berries owes its existence to the crazy, neurotic dancing of a honey bee from flower to flower," he said.

The cause behind the disorder remains unknown. Possible explanations include pesticides; a new parasite or pathogen; and the combination of immune-suppressing stresses such as poor nutrition, limited or contaminated water supplies and the need to move bees long distances for pollination.

Ice cream maker Haagen-Dazs and natural personal care products company Burt's Bees have pledged money for research and begun efforts to help save the bees.

The problem affects about 40 percent of Haagen-Dazs' 73 flavors, including banana split and chocolate peanut butter, because ingredients such as almonds, cherries and strawberries rely on honey bees for pollination.

Katty Pien, brand director for Haagen-Dazs, said those ingredients could become too scarce or expensive if bees keep dying. It could force the company to discontinue some of its most popular flavors, Pien said.

Haagen-Dazs has developed a new limited-time flavor, vanilla honey bee, and will use some of the proceeds for research on the disorder. Burt's Bees has introduced Colony Collapse Disorder Lip Balm to "soften your lips while saving honeybees."

The House Appropriations Committee approved $780,000 on Thursday for research on the disorder and $10 million for bee research. The money awaits approval by the full House and Senate.
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« Reply #80 on: July 12, 2008, 08:26:11 PM »

There are many forces at work that are out to destroy what America once was and in many different ways.

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« Reply #81 on: July 12, 2008, 08:31:36 PM »

There are many forces at work that are out to destroy what America once was and in many different ways.



This is so true.  I am so glad that I have God, because if I didn't and still knew what I know, I would feel absolutely hopeless and more hopeless each day.
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« Reply #82 on: July 22, 2008, 03:07:52 PM »

Salmonella found in a Mexican-grown jalapeño
Pepper in Texas plant offers clues to outbreak's source

Government inspectors finally have a big clue in the nationwide salmonella outbreak: They found the same bacteria strain on a single Mexican-grown jalapeno pepper handled in Texas — and issued a stronger warning for consumers to avoid fresh jalapenos.

But Monday’s discovery, the equivalent of a fingerprint, doesn’t solve the mystery: Authorities still don’t know where the pepper became tainted — on the farm, or in the McAllen, Texas, plant, or at some stop in between, such as a packing house.

Nor are they saying the tainted pepper exonerates tomatoes sold earlier in the spring that consumers until last week had been told were the prime suspect.
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Still, “this genetic match is a very important break in the case,” said Dr. David Acheson, the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety chief.

Avoid fresh jalapenos
For now, the government is strengthening its earlier precaution against hot peppers to a full-blown warning that no one should eat fresh jalapenos — or products such as fresh salsa made from them — until it can better pinpoint where tainted ones may have sold.

Tomatoes currently on the market, in contrast, now are considered safe to eat.

The Texas plant, Agricola Zaragoza, has suspended sales of fresh jalapenos and recalled those shipped since June 30 — shipments it said were made to Georgia and Texas.

FDA said no other produce currently in the plant has tested positive for salmonella, and was continuing to probe where the produce came from and went.

But a sign over Agricola Zaragoza’s spot inside a huge produce warehouse on Monday displayed pictures of tomatoes, onions and tomatillos alongside jalapenos — suggesting the small vendor might have handled both major suspects in the outbreak that has sickened 1,251 people.

McAllen, Texas, near the Mexican border, is in a region deemed a major hub for both Texas-grown and imported produce. Although Agricola Zaragoza is a small operation, it’s unclear whether inspectors have yet visited the company’s neighboring vendors inside the huge warehouse filled with tractor-trailers loading and unloading fruits and vegetables.

“I recognize there is a need to narrow this as soon as possible,” Acheson added — as parts of the country are entering prime hot pepper season.

A person who answered the phone at Agricola Zaragoza declined comment.

The pepper industry was bracing for an economic hit and urged FDA to quickly clear jalapenos grown in certain areas, like it earlier did with tomatoes.

“That is a very broad brush to tar the industry with,” said John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association.

Angry tomato producers
Tomato producers have insisted their summertime staple couldn’t be to blame, and are estimating that industry losses may reach $250 million.

But health officials maintain they had good evidence linking certain raw tomatoes to the outbreak’s early weeks in April and May, and that the jalapeno connection appeared only in June.

“There may be more than one vehicle here,” Dr. Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

“The tomato cases are not exonerated,” Acheson added.

The tainted pepper “is an important clue but the investigation is far from complete,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal of the consumer advocacy Center for Science in the Public Interest, who described a maze of channels the FDA now must follow to determine where the contamination occurred.

Among top questions: Did the farm, packing house and distributors all use clean water? What fertilizer was used, and when? Given this distributor’s small size, who else distributed contaminated supply — or could there have been cross contamination with other products?

While health officials were cautiously excited at finally finding a firm clue, lawmakers decried the probe’s slow pace.

“The fact that it has taken over 14 weeks to identify the source of the contamination is simply unacceptable,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who is pushing for stronger requirements to help trace tainted produce. “Much like (the) tomato industry, the result is a blanket warning that will decimate the entire industry and further depress consumer confidence when only a tiny fraction of peppers may be contaminated.”

The outbreak isn’t over yet, said Tauxe said. But the CDC said last week that it appeared to be slowing, and indeed has confirmed just 14 additional cases since then. The latest that someone fell ill was July 4.
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« Reply #83 on: July 22, 2008, 03:11:32 PM »

It looks like it's getting to the point that unless it is homegrown by yourself that everything needs to be cooked in order to avoid a salmonella infection.

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« Reply #84 on: July 23, 2008, 12:03:58 AM »

There are also some good common sense things that can be done to avoid many problems while buying fresh produce. 1) Check the skin of the vegetable and make sure it's intact;  2) Wash what you buy when you get home and put it in the refrigerator;  3) Avoid buying vegetables that are already sliced or pealed.

Many types of bacteria die in refrigeration. As a contrast, leaving them out in the open air will encourage bacteria to grow. If there is doubt, cooking is definitely the best way to make sure your vegetables are safe, but you might not want them cooked for the use you have planned. If this is the case, proper selection, washing, and preparation should eliminate most problems. Regardless, we still have the safest food supply in the world.
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« Reply #85 on: July 23, 2008, 10:25:10 PM »

New Antibiotic Kills Drug-resistant Superbugs
by Brian Thomas, M.S.*

Antibiotics are a bit like electronic products. Given time, they become obsolete. Scientists at the Rockefeller University have taken antibiotic technology to the next level by targeting bacterial genes. A new drug may have turned the tables on drug-resistant "superbugs."

Researchers pitted the new drug, called Ceftobiprole, against some of the deadliest strains of multi-drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA. These bacteria have been blamed for a majority of the staphylococcal infections in hospitals and communities worldwide. Once they instigate an infection, such bacteria have proved extremely difficult to combat. Ceftobiprole has been engineered to interact with the mutated gene that confers antibiotic resistance to the bacteria.

The research, slated to be published in the August 2008 issue of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, showed Ceftobiprole to be remarkably successful in killing MRSA. The study’s lead investigator, Alexander Tomasz of the Laboratory of Microbiology at Rockefeller, said in a Rockefeller University news release, "It just knocked out the cells 100 percent."1 These results are good news for those who are suffering under and/or dying from MRSA infections. The drug was also able to kill S. aureus strains that were resistant to vancomycin (VRSA), a different class of antibiotics.

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics has been used as an example of evolution in action. However, it is rarely emphasized that these bacteria typically survive antibiotics for one of two reasons, neither of which involve the development of new genetic information. Either bacteria acquire an antibiotic-resistant gene from their environment, or they experience a mutation that both makes them antibiotic-resistant and weakens that bacterial strain when compared to its wild cousins. In neither case is a new gene or any new, useful information being created. Resistant bacteria are either the lucky recipients of pre-existing programs, or of a non-lethal mutation.

Though scientists have designed a drug that may remove the dreadful threat of MRSA infection, the fact remains that drug-resistant bacteria do not demonstrate macroevolution.2 When the selective pressure of the antiseptic hospital environment is removed, virulent bacteria such as MRSA are out-competed by other, more fit strains. And when the selective pressure of additional antibiotics like Ceftobiprole is increased, the bacteria again die. In neither case do they change from being the same species, Staphylococcus aureus, and the Bible even describes this in Genesis 1 with the repeated reference to each living creature reproducing "after his kind."

References

   1. New antibiotic beats superbugs at their own game. Rockefeller University press release, July 2, 2008. Accessed on newswire.rockefeller.edu July 3, 2008.
   2. Macroevolution includes the sweeping claim proposed by Charles Darwin in 1859 that all presently existing species developed naturally from a single common ancestor in the distant past. Mutations or gene-swapping events are real mechanisms that contribute to variation within a created kind, but are totally insufficient to account for the origin of any one kind.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.
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« Reply #86 on: July 27, 2008, 09:47:57 PM »

Fire Ants, Snakes, Tarantulas Lurk in Dolly Floodwaters as Texas Cleanup Continues

Saturday , July 26, 2008

AP
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EDINBURG, Texas  —
South Texans eager to salvage what they can from waterlogged homes struck by Hurricane Dolly have another problem: The floodwaters they're slogging through are laced with stinging fire ants, snakes and tarantulas.

"You don't want to wade in this water," state Health Services Commissioner David Lakey said during a visit to the Rio Grande Valley Friday. "You don't want to play in this water. You want to stay out of this water."

It was timely advice, but residents in many neighborhoods with waist-deep water had little choice as they sifted through the mess left by the Category 2 storm that hit the eastern Texas and Mexico coasts Wednesday. In eastern Hidalgo County, as much as 12 inches of rain fell in six hours, turning neighborhoods into coffee-colored lakes.

Officials estimated it could take six weeks for the low-lying region to completely dry out and 118,000 people still had no electricity Friday morning. Emergency managers tried to assure people that they would come to help and begged for patience. They said they were beginning to pump water from some of the worst hit areas and working to move water into floodways.

Residents were using backhoes to dig their own drainage canals and clear water off their property. But the water simply flowed into the neighbors' yards. Tempers among longtime neighbors were becoming strained.

Iliana Reyna, 34, was monitoring the floodwater's rise to the second step of her front porch in Edinburg.

Reyna, her husband and three children waded into the water Friday to gather a few belongings and what dry goods they could.

Suddenly, 4-year-old Adolfo, standing on the shoulder of the road in bare feet, screamed and began hopping. The other children scooped up water in their shoes and splashed it on his feet, while his father lifted him and brushed away the attacking ant.

"This is just too much for us," said neighbor Arnold Silva, whose yard was flooded when another neighbor dumped water into it. It rose throughout the night carrying runoff from a cow pasture and "worms, spiders and ants."

Fire ants and tarantulas — hairy spiders sometimes the size of a dinner plate — can deliver stinging, painful bites but are not deadly.

The National Weather Service said the remnants of Dolly could still add a few inches of rain to some areas, and the forecast called for isolated showers in the Rio Grande Valley.

But water wasn't the only danger. Illness also lurked in refrigerators, health officials said.

"If it doesn't look right, doesn't smell right, don't eat it," said Eddie Olivarez, Hidalgo County health administrator. He said inspectors were fanning out to restaurants to make sure they disposed of food properly as well.

Fewer than 200 people remained in shelters in Hidalgo County, down from a peak of nearly 3,300. But rescue crews in boats were still searching flooded neighborhoods and plucking people from homes.

Still, officials were relieved it wasn't worse that no one died in the first hurricane of the season to hit the U.S. mainland.

The clean up will be substantial: President Bush declared 15 counties in south Texas disaster areas to release federal funding to them, and insurance estimators put the losses at $750 million.

The storm brought 100 mph winds and broke all-time July rainfall records in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, dumping a foot of rain in some spots.

Steve McCraw, the state's homeland security director, said about 1,500 workers were on hand to help restore power and seven stations were distributing water, ice, food and hygiene kits.

Gov. Rick Perry, who flew over the area Thursday with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, cautioned residents not to rest easy just yet.

"It appears that we have handled it as well as it can be handled. But it is far from over," Perry said, noting possible flooding over the next five days from runoff as the storm moves northward.

After crashing ashore on South Padre Island, Dolly meandered north, leaving towns on the northern tip of the Rio Grande Valley with a surprise. Officials had feared the levees would breach, but the storm veered from its predicted path and they held strong.

"We're glad it didn't make a direct hit, but it just refocuses on the issues we have," said Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos. "The levees are suspect. Nothing's changed in my opinion."

On South Padre Island, which bore the brunt of the winds, officials said no buildings were in danger of collapse, but damage was widespread to hotels and other businesses.

Avi Fima was mourning the damage to "my baby" — his Surf Stop store on Padre Boulevard. Windows were blown out, half the roof was torn away and water bubbled up the carpeting inside.

"This is going to hit us good," Fima said. "We actually started summer really good. ... To rebuild it — the season will be over. We have a month left."

Shell Oil announced that it had restarted production at its natural gas operations in the Valley and was redeploying workers to rigs in the western Gulf of Mexico.

Fire Ants, Snakes, Tarantulas Lurk in Dolly Floodwaters as Texas Cleanup Continues
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HisDaughter
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« Reply #87 on: August 02, 2008, 10:53:40 PM »

A 'Dead Zone' in The Gulf of Mexico
Scientists Say Area That Cannot Support Some Marine Life Is Near Record Size
 
 The "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, an area on the seabed with too little oxygen to support fish, shrimp, crabs and other forms of marine life, is nearly the largest on record this year, about 8,000 square miles, researchers said this week.

Only the churning effects of Hurricane Dolly last week, they said, prevented the dead zone from being the largest ever.

The problem of hypoxia -- very low levels of dissolved oxygen -- is a downstream effect of fertilizers used for agriculture in the Mississippi River watershed. Nitrogen is the major culprit, flowing into the Gulf and spurring the growth of algae. Animals called zooplankton eat the algae, excreting pellets that sink to the bottom like tiny stones. This organic matter decays in a process that depletes the water of oxygen.

Researchers expected the dead zone to set a record -- even more than the 8,500 square miles observed in 2002 -- after the Mississippi, swollen with floodwaters, carried an extraordinary amount of nitrates into the Gulf, about 37 percent more than last year and the most since measuring these factors was begun in 1970.

The researchers set out July 20 aboard the Pelican, a 115-foot academic research vessel, and braved 12-foot waves and 35-mph winds from the outer bands of Dolly to take samples. The hypoxia began to appear about halfway to the bottom in waters ranging from 10 to 130 feet deep, said Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, which conducted the study. Some water samples from the bottom of the water column showed no oxygen at all, and instead bore the signature odor of hydrogen sulfide emerging from underlying sediments.

"It smells like rotten eggs," she said. "It's really nasty."

The dead zone has been known about for decades but has been studied carefully only since the mid-1980s, when Rabalais began making annual cruises in late July to measure its extent and characteristics. She said the dead zone has roughly doubled in size since 1985.

"I would think an area the size of Massachusetts where you can't catch any fish or shrimp, that's significant," Rabalais said.

The hypoxia tends to go away after October as cooler weather slows algae growth and storms mix the waters. Even so, there's a "legacy" from year to year, said Eugene Turner, a professor of coastal ecology at Louisiana State University who makes annual predictions of the size of the dead zone. Not all organic matter on the bottom decays in any given year.

"For the same amount of nitrogen going in one year, you'll get more hypoxia the next year," Turner said.

He said the entire Mississippi watershed, and not merely the Gulf, is suffering the effects of agricultural runoff. About half the streams and rivers in the watershed are unsafe for swimming, drinking, recreational contact or use as drinking water, Turner said. He said a major factor is intensified corn production, which relies heavily on fertilizer.

"The longer you wait to reduce the nitrogen, the harder it is to reverse course. It's like going into debt: You have compound-interest laws, and you have to back out of that. It's not good," he said.

The dead zone snakes east to west along the Louisiana and Texas coasts, starting near the mouth of the Mississippi. As the hypoxic region expands during the summer, commercial shrimpers and recreational fishermen have to find other areas to cast their lines and nets, typically farther out in the Gulf.

Wayne Keller, director of the Grand Isle (La.) Port Commission, said that in recent years many people along the Gulf coast have grabbed nets and poles to celebrate "jubilees" in which fish and shrimp seem to be rushing to the shoreline. But this was not a demonstration of nature's bounty, he believes:

"Unfortunately, what it was really showing was everything was going to the edge of the dead zone -- everything that could swim and go fast enough."


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« Reply #88 on: August 02, 2008, 11:28:52 PM »

This is also another one of those things that only give half of the story. While nitrogen does have some effect on this it is much more the cause of something else. Fresh water flowing into the Gulf acts as a blockade that prevents atmospheric oxygen from getting into the lower depths. The high levels of rainfall experienced in the upper Mississippi Valley has resulted in more fresh water reaching further into the Gulf. The Gulf of Mexico is a closed in area much like an over-sized bay which reduces the amount of underwater currents in it. This combined with high Sun light in the Gulf region which causes more oxygen in the water to dissipate into the atmosphere along with calmer seas due to lack of wind breaking the surface of the water are the main causes of this. The dead zone would be there even if these nutrients were not there. Perhaps it would be a trifle bit smaller but it would still be there.

All of the above factors have combined more into the equation this year than is average. The environmentalists are pushing the nitrogen washing from the farm lands just as they do with the global warming garbage in an attempt to try to get farmers being banned from using these nutrients.

It is interesting to note that some of the areas that are experiencing larger dead zones are in nations that do not use nitrogen or for that matter any other such fertilizers.

The largest "dead zone" on the planet is the entire Black Sea below a depth of about 150 meters. Due to the fact that the exchange of water in the Black Sea with the Mediterranean Sea is limited to the flow through the narrow Bosporus, all of the mixing of freshwater and seawater takes place in the upper 150 meters, because the freshwater entering from rivers is less dense than seawater. This creates a permanent "cap" over the lower waters keeping them from getting oxygen.

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« Reply #89 on: August 03, 2008, 10:41:28 AM »

Thank you PR!  Your knowledge never ceases to amaze me.  I wanna be just like you when I grow up! 
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