24 Feb 2017 Small ponds account for nearly half of all inland methane emissions

Ann Morrison
By Ann Morrison March 7, 2017 12:30

Update as of 24 Feb 2017

Dr. Bill Deagle, Nutrimedical Report, & Ann


Biosecurity: Zika

Biosecurity: Poison – Ricin



Constitution – Life

Constitution – Secession

Climate Change





Climate Change

Arctic Ozone Watch 20 February 2017

Arctic Ozone Watch 20 February 2017


National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center


Antarctic Ozone Hole Watch 20 February 2017



Jet Stream slower than normal over the U.S.



Current Large Fire Incidents 23 February 2017

34 Large Fires

large Fire nifc 2017-02-23

National Interagency Fire Council



Breaking: TID preparing to open Don Pedro Reservoir spillway as early as 3 p.m. Monday

Don pedro spillway


The Turlock Irrigation District could open this spillway at the Don Pedro Reservoir as early as Monday, Feb. 20, 2017, at 3 p.m., officials said. The spillway is just off Bonds Flat Road east of Modesto. Joan Barnett Lee jlee@modbee.com

February 20, 2017 4:13 AM
By Brian Clark, bclark@modbee.com

The spillway gates at Don Pedro Reservoir could open as early as 3 p.m. Monday, but no earlier, authorities said.

The Turlock Irrigation District made the declaration late Sunday night due to “volatile changes in forecasts for upcoming storms,” an agency press release stated.

“Landowners, growers and those living along the Tuolumne River, out of an abundance of caution, should undertake necessary steps to protect their property and livestock as Tuolumne River levels will rise quickly,” the agency stated in an 11 p.m. press statement.

Opening the spillway would provide relief for the brimming reservoir, which was just under 4.5 feet from reaching its maximum as of 4:40 a.m. Monday.

Tuolumne River flowing on a quiet Sunday near La Grange

The Tuolumne River was flowing big just west of La Grange on the morning of Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. A big storm heading into the Modesto-area and the Sierra foothills is likely to increase the river flow and also raise the chances of more water being released from Don Pedro Reservoir just to the east. (Brian Clark/bclark@modbee.com)

A storm that’s made its way into the Central Valley and could bring up to five inches of rain in and above the Sierra foothills would likely bring the reservoir that’s about a 50-minute drive from Modesto to its maximum.

Since midnight, downtown Modesto has received 0.25 inches of rain.

The water from the spillway would flow into the Tuolumne, which runs through the eastern part of Stanislaus County, into Modesto and then to the west part of the county.

Some residents in Modesto and west of town along the Tuolumne already have been evacuating from their homes as the river has been within inches of the 55-foot flood stage.

Late last week, Stanislaus County officials were at mobile home parks along River Road near Ninth Street to issue voluntary evacuation notices.

As of 3:30 a.m. Monday, the level had reached 54.70 feet., but that will no doubt rise with the impending spillway opening and subsequent high flows into the Tuolumne.

Storm forecast includes flooding and wind gusts

A video briefing from the National Weather Service, which expects significant impact from Monday and Tuesday’s storm. The forecast includes flooding and strong winds in Northern and Central California.

National Weather Service Sacramento

In preparing to open the gates, workers late Sunday night closed Bonds Flat Road, which run directly below the spillway, between Junction 59 and Highway 132. They were scheduled to place concrete road barriers down.

According to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, sandbags are now available at the following locations:

  • City of Modesto – 501 N. Jefferson Street, Modesto (next to City Corp Yard at Washington and Elm)
  • Patterson Corp Yard – 16215 Baldwin, Patterson
  • Oakdale Fire Station – 325 E. G Street, Oakdale
  • Stanislaus County Corp Yard – 1716 Morgan Road, Modesto

According to forecasters, rain is supposed to continue through Tuesday night and accompanied by power winds. The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning – which will bring gusts of up to 65 mph – from 4 p.m. Monday to 4 a.m. Tuesday.

The opening of the spillway gates also will effect TID electricity customers in the eastern part of the county.

In a news release early Monday morning, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department said in anticipation of the gates opening, TID will begin to “de-energize power lines along the Tuolumne River channel” at about 10 a.m. Monday. It said 978 TID electrical services along the river from La Grange to the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers will lose power.

The process will take about 18 hours, so not all of the services will lose power at one time, the sheriff’s department said.

The Stanislaus County Office of Emergency Services has notified the affected residents through www.stanaware.com of the intended power outages.

The last week of rain, light flooding and news of the spillway possibly opening has brought back memories of 1997, when under similar conditions thousands of residents were flooded out of their homes.

We’ll have more on this breaking news throughout the morning.

Material published on ModBee.com, including articles, photos, graphics, videos, bulletin board postings and other content, is copyrighted by The Modesto Bee or by other information providers who have licensed their content for use on ModBee.com. The entire contents of ModBee.com are also copyrighted as a collective work under the United States copyright laws.
Accessed at http://www.modbee.com/site-services/copyright/#navlinks=footer on February 20, 2017.


Study: Rising pond temperatures could accelerate global warming

Small ponds account for nearly half of all inland methane emissions.

Study-Rising pond temperatures could accelerate global warming

Copyright © 2017 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Experiments proved small ponds store less carbon and emit more methane as their temperatures rise. Photo by University of Exeter

“This accelerating effect in ponds, which could have serious impacts on climate change, is not currently accounted for in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models,” said researcher Gabriel Yvon-Durocher.

By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 20, 2017 at 3:47 PM Feb. 20 (UPI) —

New research suggests rising temperatures in small bodies of water, like ponds, could accelerate global warming.

Understanding and predicting climate change requires an understanding of the many feedback loops that affect carbon storage and emissions, as well as heating and cooling processes. Ponds are the source of one of those positive feedback loops, where warming begets warming.

Ponds both absorb and store carbon dioxide, and also emit methane. Experiments by scientists at the University of Exeter and Queen Mary University showed ponds become less efficient at absorbing and storing CO2 as they warm. Warmer ponds also released methane at an accelerated rate.

Researchers measured the chemical metabolism of an array of small ponds over a seven-year period. Scientists rose to the temperatures of the ponds between 4 and 5 degrees Celsius of the course of the seven-year experiment.

At the end of the seven years, carbon dioxide absorption rates were reduced by 50 percent, while methane emission rates doubled. Scientists published the results in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“This is the first experiment to investigate the long-term effects of warming in aquatic ecosystems,” Gabriel Yvon-Durocher, a professor of environmental science at Exeter, said in a news release. “Given the substantial contribution small ponds make to the emission of greenhouse gases, it is vital to understand how they might respond to global warming.”

Small ponds account for nearly half of all inland methane emissions.

“The amplified effects of experimental warming we have observed in ponds are different to those we typically see on land, where large initial effects of warming appear to diminish over the long term,” Yvon-Durocher said. “This accelerating effect in ponds, which could have serious impacts on climate change, is not currently accounted for in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models.”

Copyright © 2017 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Accessed at http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2017/02/20/Study-Rising-pond-temperatures-could-accelerate-global-warming/7711487620243/?utm_source=fp&utm_campaign=ts&utm_medium=18 on February 21, 2017.


“The Blob” of Abnormal Conditions Raised Western U.S. Ozone Levels


Typical June ozone concentration across the U.S.

Dan Jaffe/University of Washington Bothell

A large mass of relatively warm water in the Pacific Ocean, nicknamed “the blob,” was first detected in late 2013 and grew throughout 2014 and 2015. In this graphic from September 2014, three “blobs” of warm water can be seen off the North American coast from Alaska to Mexico. A new study shows the blob increased ozone levels in Washington and Oregon in 2015. Credit: NOAA

The findings suggest broad-scale climate patterns play a role in air quality and human health.

the blob equipment


Researchers use ski lifts to carry equipment to sample air on the summit of Mount Bachelor. In this image, a radon sensor travels to the peak. Credit: Dan Jaffe/University of Washington Bothell.

This news article was issued by the University of Washington and the American Geophysical Union (AGU) as a press release on 15 February 2017.

An unusually warm patch of seawater off the U.S. West Coast in late 2014 and 2015, nicknamed “the blob,” had cascading effects up and down the coast. Its sphere of influence was centered on the marine environment, but extended to weather on land.


A new study shows this strong offshore pattern also influenced air quality. The climate pattern increased ozone levels above Washington, Oregon, western Utah and northern California, according to the study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

“Washington and Oregon were really the bullseye for the whole thing, because of the location of the winds,” said Dan Jaffe, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington Bothell and lead author of the new study. “Salt Lake City and Sacramento were on the edge of this event, but because their ozone is typically higher, those cities felt some of the more acute effects.”

The study finds that terrestrial effects of “the blob”—warm temperatures, low cloud cover and calmer air—were the perfect ingredients to produce ozone. Ozone levels in June 2015 were between 3 and 13 parts per billion higher than average over the northwestern United States. The pattern pushed concentrations in Salt Lake City and Sacramento above federally allowed limits.

Ozone is an invisible component of smog that is a secondary pollutant formed by a chain reaction. Cars, factories and other sources emit pollution into the atmosphere. Solar rays then provide the spark for chemical reactions that produce the three linked oxygen atoms of ozone. This molecule is hazardous to human health and is subject to federal regulations.

Researcher Lei Zhang wears a harness to access equipment at the Mount Bachelor Observatory in September 2015


Researcher Lei Zhang wears a harness to access equipment at the Mount Bachelor Observatory in September 2015. A new study using data from the observatory shows “the blob” of warm water in the Pacific Ocean increased ozone levels in Washington and Oregon in 2015. Credit: Pao Baylon/University of Washington Bothell.

Jaffe’s research group has been measuring ozone since 2004 atop Mount Bachelor in central Oregon to tease apart the sources of ozone and other pollutants, such as forest fires, transport of pollution from overseas and domestic pollution from the United States. In June 2015, members noticed a spike in ozone above any previous measurements.

“At first we were like ‘Whoa, maybe we made a mistake,’” Jaffe said. “We looked at our sensors to see if we made an error in the calibration. But we couldn’t find any mistakes. Then I looked at other ozone data from around the Pacific Northwest, and everybody was high that year.”

Jaffe’s measurements are from the University of Washington’s Mount Bachelor Observatory in central Oregon. Members of his group use the ski hill’s lifts for transportation and electrical power to support year-round measurements at the 2,700-meter (9,000-foot) peak. Air is pulled with vacuum pumps into a room to be sampled by a variety of instruments in the summit’s lift house.

The June 2015 ozone levels at the observatory were 12 parts per billion higher than the average of previous observations for that time. Jaffe learned that air quality managers in Sacramento and Salt Lake City had several times recorded eight-hour averages above the 70 parts per billion limit set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“This was a very widespread phenomenon going all the way to California,” Jaffe said. “Managers saw that air quality was violating the air quality standards on many days, and they didn’t know why.”

The new study analyzes larger-scale climate data to show that the areas that recorded higher-than-normal ozone were the same regions that had high temperatures, weak winds and low cloud cover.

The star shows the location of Mount Bachelor Observatory


(top) The June 2015 measurement of ozone at the summit of Mount Bachelor (red dot) was significantly higher than any of the previous measurements. (middle) Differences from average ozone levels in June 2015, when “the blob” was creating unusual conditions along the West Coast. The star shows the location of Mount Bachelor Observatory. (bottom) Typical June ozone concentration across the U.S. Credit: Dan Jaffe/University of Washington Bothell

“Ultimately, it all links back to the blob, which was the most unusual meteorological event we’ve had in decades,” Jaffe said. “Temperatures were high, and it was much less cloudy than normal, both of which trigger ozone production. And because of that high-pressure system off the coast, the winds were much lower than normal. Winds blow pollution away, but when they don’t blow, you get stagnation and the pollution is higher.”

The paper also finds an effect from higher biogenic emissions, the scented emissions from trees and plants that contain natural ozone-producing particles.

The study focuses on June 2015 because the wildfire season began in July and dominated conditions in the later summer. Jaffe’s group is exploring that effect in a separate project.

While it is generally understood that warmer temperatures will favor ozone production, Jaffe said, this study suggests that broader-scale climate patterns also play a role in air quality and human health.

“Our environmental laws need to be written with an understanding that there’s a lot of variability from one year to the next, and with an understanding of the long-term path of where we’re heading under climate change,” Jaffe said. “This work helps us understand the link between climate variability and air quality, and it can give us an idea of what to expect as our planet continues to warm.”

© 2017 American Geophysical Union. All rights reserved.
Accessed at https://eos.org/scientific-press/the-blob-of-abnormal-conditions-raised-western-u-s-ozone-levels?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_content=the-blob-of-abnormal-conditions-raised-western-u-s-ozone-levels&utm_campaign=ealert&utm_source=Eos+Primary+List&utm_campaign=0658f479b3-Weekly_All_Content_Digest&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f923f18da4-0658f479b3-500686449 on February 21, 2017.



Volcanic Activity for the week of 15 February-21 February 2017

Volcanic Activity for the week of 15 February-21 February 2017


Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program

The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report is a cooperative project between the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program. Updated by 2300 UTC every Wednesday, notices of volcanic activity posted on these pages are preliminary and subject to change as events are studied in more detail. This is not a comprehensive list of all of Earth’s volcanoes erupting during the week, but rather a summary of activity at volcanoes that meet criteria discussed in detail in the “Criteria and Disclaimers” section. Carefully reviewed, detailed reports on various volcanoes are published monthly in the Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network.



# Name Location Activity
1. Barren Island Andaman Islands (India) New
2. Krakatau Indonesia New
3. Lanin Central Chile-Argentina border New
4. Pacaya Guatemala New
5. Piton de la Fournaise Reunion Island (France) New
6. Bagana Bougainville (Papua New Guinea) Ongoing
7.       Bogoslof Fox Islands (USA) Ongoing
8.       Cleveland Chuginadak Island (USA) Ongoing
9.       Colima Mexico Ongoing
10. Dukono Halmahera (Indonesia) Ongoing
11.    Kilauea Hawaiian Islands (USA) Ongoing
12. Langila New Britain (Papua New Guinea) Ongoing
13.    Nevado del Ruiz Colombia Ongoing
14.    Reventador Ecuador Ongoing
15.    Sabancaya Peru Ongoing
16.    Santa Maria Guatemala Ongoing
17. Sheveluch Central Kamchatka (Russia) Ongoing
18. Sinabung Indonesia Ongoing
19.    Turrialba Costa Rica Ongoing


3 VA SIGMETs valid 23 Feb 2017 Volcanic Ash Hazards

3 volcanic ash sigmets 2017-02-23



Begins: 2017-02-24T00:20:00Z
Ends: 2017-02-24T06:20:00Z
Top: 11,000 ft

Begins: 2017-02-24T00:53:00Z
Ends: 2017-02-24T06:20:00Z

Begins: 2017-02-23T19:45:00Z
Ends: 2017-02-24T01:45:00Z



World earthquakes for the week ending 23 Feb 2017

Earthquakes for the week ending 23 February 2017




UTC 2017-02-21 14:09:04 M 6.5 – 26.5 mi E of Padilla, Bolivia 371 mi depth

UTC 2017-02-21 14 09 04 M 6_5 - 26_5 mi E of Padilla Bolivia 371 mi depth



South American Subduction Map

West South America Subduction Zones




LaSalle Illinois Event 52564 SCRAM Hot Shutdown Feedwater Valve Failed

LaSalle Illinois




Power Reactor Event Number: 52564
Facility: LASALLE Region: 3 State: IL
Unit: [1] [ ] [ ] RX Type: [1] GE-5,[2] GE-5
Notification Date: 02/18/2017 Notification Time: 02:58 [ET]
Event Date: 02/17/2017 Event Time: 23:53 [CST]
Last Update Date: 02/18/2017 Emergency Class: NON EMERGENCY
10 CFR Section: 50.72(b)(2)(iv)(B) – RPS ACTUATION – CRITICAL
Person (Organization): PATRICIA PELKE (R3DO)


Unit SCRAM Code RX CRIT Initial PWR Initial RX Mode Current PWR Current RX Mode
1 A/R Y 30 Power Operation 0 Hot Shutdown


Event Text


“This notification is being provided in accordance with 10CFR 50.72(b)(2)(iv)(B).

“On February 17, 2017 at 2353 CST, Unit 1 Reactor Automatic Scram signal was received due to Turbine Control Valves Fast Closure. The turbine trip was due to receipt of Level 8 Trip due to a failure of the Feedwater Regulating Valve to Full open. Plant is in a stable condition with reactor pressure being maintained by the Turbine Bypass valves. Reactor water level is being controlled with Feedwater thru the Low Flow Feedwater Regulating Valve. Further investigation into the cause of the event is in progress.”

All control rods fully inserted, and decay heat is being removed via steam to the main condenser using bypass valves.

The licensee has notified the NRC Resident Inspector.

Accessed at https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/event/2017/20170221en.html on February 23, 2017.


RADCON on 24 February 2017 One of Concern-Watch


RADCON One of Concern-Watch 2017-02-23

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  1. Station ID 1:EB68FCF1   Fairfield, CA, US

CPM: current 25 Low 3 High 34

Average 15

West Fairfield

Last updated: 2017-02-23 10:47:31 GMT-0600


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Constitution – Life

Bee decline threatens US crop production

Worrisome mismatch between falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand


A new study of wild bees identifies 139 counties in key agricultural regions of California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, west Texas and the Mississippi River valley that face a worrisome mismatch between falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand. Credit: PNAS

First US wild bee map reveals 139 ‘trouble zone’ counties

  • Date:   February 19, 2017
  • Source:     University of Vermont
  • Summary:     The first-ever study to map US wild bees suggests they are disappearing in the country’s most important farmlands.


The first-ever study to map U.S. wild bees suggests they are disappearing in the country’s most important farmlands — from California’s Central Valley to the Midwest’s corn belt and the Mississippi River valley.

If wild bee declines continue, it could hurt U.S. crop production and farmers’ costs, said Taylor Ricketts, a conservation ecologist at the University of Vermont, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting panel, Plan Bee: Pollinators, Food Production and U.S. Policy on Feb. 19.

“This study provides the first national picture of wild bees and their impacts on pollination,” said Ricketts, Director of UVM’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, noting that each year $3 billion of the U.S. economy depends on pollination from native pollinators like wild bees.

At AAAS, Ricketts briefed scholars, policy makers, and journalists on how the national bee map, first published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in late 2015, can help to protect wild bees and pinpoint habitat restoration efforts.

At the event, Ricketts also introduced a new mobile app that he is co-developing to help farmers upgrade their farms to better support wild bees.

“Wild bees are a precious natural resource we should celebrate and protect,” said Ricketts, Gund Professor in UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. “If managed with care, they can help us continue to produce billions of dollars in agricultural income and a wonderful diversity of nutritious food.”


The map identifies 139 counties in key agricultural regions of California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas, and Mississippi River valley, which appear to have most worrisome mismatch between falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand.

These counties tend to be places that grow specialty crops — like almonds, blueberries and apples — that are highly dependent on pollinators. Or they are counties that grow less dependent crops — like soybeans, canola and cotton — in very large quantities.

Of particular concern, some crops most dependent on pollinators — including pumpkins, watermelons, pears, peaches, plums, apples and blueberries — appeared to have the strongest pollination mismatch, growing in areas with dropping wild bee supply and increasing in pollination demand.

Globally, more than two-thirds of the most important crops either benefit from or require pollinators, including coffee, cacao, and many fruits and vegetables.

Pesticides, climate change and diseases threaten wild bees — but their decline may be caused by the conversion of bee habitat into cropland, the study suggests. In 11 key states where the map shows bees in decline, the amount of land tilled to grow corn spiked by 200 percent in five years — replacing grasslands and pastures that once supported bee populations.


Over the last decade, honeybee keepers facing colony losses have struggled with rising demand for commercial pollination services, pushing up the cost of managed pollinators — and the importance of wild bees.

“Most people can think of one or two types of bee, but there are 4,000 species in the U.S. alone,” said Insu Koh, a UVM postdoctoral researcher who co-hosted the AAAS panel and led the study.

“When sufficient habitat exists, wild bees are already contributing the majority of pollination for some crops,” Koh adds. “And even around managed pollinators, wild bees complement pollination in ways that can increase crop yields.”


A team of seven researchers — from UVM, Franklin and Marshall College, University of California at Davis, and Michigan State University — created the maps by first identifying 45 land-use types from two federal land databases, including croplands and natural habitats. Then they gathered detailed input from national and state bee experts about the suitability of each land-use type for providing wild bees with nesting and food resources.

The scientists built a bee habitat model that predicts the relative abundance of wild bees for every area of the contiguous United States, based on their quality for nesting and feeding from flowers. Finally, the team checked and validated their model against bee collections and field observations in many actual landscapes.

Story Source:
Materials provided by University of Vermont. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Cite This Page:
University of Vermont. “Bee decline threatens US crop production: First US wild bee map reveals 139 ‘trouble zone’ counties.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170219165128.htm>.
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Accessed at https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170219165128.htm on February 21, 2017.


Presidential Memorandum — Climate Change and National Security


The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
September 21, 2016
September 21, 2016


SUBJECT: Climate Change and National Security

food–energy–water nexus Perfect Storm by John Beddington

Copyright Policy
Pursuant to federal law, government-produced materials appearing on this site are not copyright protected. The United States Government may receive and hold copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby direct the following:

Sec. 2. Background. Climate change poses a significant and growing threat to national security, both at home and abroad.

Climate change and its associated impacts affect

  • Economic prosperity
  • Public health and safety
  • International stability

Compounding effects on people’s health and well-being:

  • Extended drought
    • Flooding and water scarcity can negatively affect food and energy production
  • More frequent and severe weather events
    • Energy infrastructure, essential for supporting other key sectors, is already vulnerable to extreme weather and may be further compromised.
  • Heat waves
  • Warming and acidifying ocean waters
  • Catastrophic wildfires
  • Rising sea levels

Sec. 3. Policy. It is the policy of the Federal Government to ensure that the current impacts of climate change, and those anticipated in the coming decades, be identified and considered in the development and implementation of relevant national security doctrine, policies, and plans. This policy builds on the following Presidential directives and policies:

(a) The 2015 National Security Strategy, which identified climate change as an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources like food and water. It added that increased sea levels and storm surges threaten coastal regions, infrastructure, and property, which in turn threatens the global economy, and compounds the growing costs of preparing and restoring infrastructure;

(b) The President’s Climate Action Plan of June 2013, which included actions to help prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change;

(c) Executive Order 13653 of November 1, 2013 (Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change), which directed Federal agency actions to incorporate climate-resilience considerations into agency operations and other mission objectives;

(d) Executive Order 13677 of September 23, 2014 (Climate-Resilient International Development), which set requirements for systematically integrating climate-resilience considerations into U.S. international development work; and

(e) Executive Order 13693 of March 19, 2015 (Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade), which directed Federal actions to improve environmental performance and Federal sustainability.

Sec. 4. Coordination on Climate Change and National Security.

(a) The Climate and National Security Working Group. The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, or their designees, will chair an interagency working group (Working Group) to coordinate the development of a strategic approach to identify, assess, and share information on current and projected climate-related impacts on national security interests and to inform the development of national security doctrine, policies, and plans.

(b) Representation. The Working Group shall include representatives, at the Assistant Secretary or equivalent level, or their designees, from:

(i) the Department of State;

(ii) the Department of the Treasury;

(iii) the Department of Defense;

(iv) the Department of Justice;

(v) the Department of the Interior;

(vi) the Department of Agriculture;

(vii) the Department of Commerce;

(viii) the Department of Health and Human Services;

(ix) the Department of Transportation;

(x) the Department of Energy;

(xi) the Department of Homeland Security;

(xii) the United States Agency for International Development;

(xiii) the Environmental Protection Agency;

(xiv) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration;

(xv) the Office of the Director of National Intelligence;

(xvi) the U.S. Mission to the United Nations;

(xvii) the Office of Management and Budget;

(xviii) the Council on Environmental Quality;

(xix) the Millennium Challenge Corporation; and

(xx) any other agencies or offices as designated by the Co-Chairs.

(c) Functions. The Working Group, in close collaboration with the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), shall:

(i) identify the U.S. national security priorities that are within the scope of the Working Group’s mission;

(ii) develop recommendations for requirements for climate and social science data and intelligence analyses, as appropriate, that support national security interests;

(iii) catalog climate science data, intelligence analyses, and other products and programs that support or should be considered in the development of national security doctrine, policy, and plans. This catalogue shall include climate and social science data repositories and analytical platforms; climate modeling, simulation, and projection capabilities; and information-sharing tools and resources supporting climate risk analyses and assessments, such as the Climate Data Initiative, the Climate Resilience Toolkit, the Global Change Information System, and the National Climate Assessment;

(iv) identify information and program gaps that limit consideration of climate change-related impacts in developing national security doctrine, policies, and plans. Descriptions of these gaps will be provided to Federal science agencies and the United States Intelligence Community to inform future research requirements and priorities, including collection priorities, on climate data, models, simulations, and projections;

(v) facilitate the production and exchange of climate data and information with relevant stakeholders, including the United States Intelligence Community, and private sector partners, as appropriate;

(vi) produce, as appropriate, and make available science-informed intelligence assessments to agencies having responsibilities in the development of national security doctrine, policies, and plans in order to identify climate change-related impacts and prioritize actions related thereto;

(vii) establish, by consensus, guidance for Working Group members on coordinating, sharing, and exchanging climate science data among the members, and with the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC);

(viii) provide a venue for enhancing the understanding of the links between climate change-related impacts and national security interests and discussing the opportunities for climate mitigation and adaptation activities to address national security issues;

(ix) work to improve the Federal Government’s capability and capacity to characterize greenhouse gas sources and sinks accurately at sub-continental scales;

(x) in coordination with the NSTC, recommend research guidelines concerning the Federal Government’s ability to detect climate intervention activities;

(xi) develop, by consensus, guidance for Working Group members on building climate resilience in countries vulnerable to climate change-related impacts;

(xii) provide information and Working Group-related progress updates to the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, established by Executive Order 13653, Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change, on a quarterly basis;

(xiii) take into account defined requirements and current capabilities described in subsection (4)(c)(ii) and (iii) of this memorandum to facilitate the consideration of climate change-related impacts into national security doctrine, policies, and plans. The Working Group shall develop recommended climate data requirements and consider the cost of the production and exchange of this information, and making this information available;

(xiv) have classified and unclassified capabilities, as required and appropriate, to consolidate and make available climate change-related impact information, intelligence analyses, and assessments for access and use by Working Group member agencies;

(xv) identify the most current information on regional, country, and geographic areas most vulnerable to current and projected impacts of climate variability in the near- (current to 10 years), mid- (10 to 30 years), and long- (more than 30 years) term, in order to support assessments of national security implications of climate change, and identify areas most vulnerable to these impacts during these timeframes;

(xvi) develop recommendations for the Secretary of State to help ensure that the work of U.S. embassies, including their planning processes, are better informed by relevant climate change-related analyses; and

(xvii) coordinate on the development of quantitative models, predictive mapping products, and forecasts to anticipate the various pathways through which climate change may affect public health as an issue of national security.

(d) Action Plan. Within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, the Working Group shall, by consensus, develop an Action Plan, which shall identify specific steps that are required to perform the Working Group’s functions. The Action Plan shall also include specific objectives, milestones, timelines, and identification of agencies responsible for completion of all actions described therein. The Action Plan shall include recommendations to inform the development of agency implementation plans, as described in section 5 of this memorandum. The Action Plan shall be submitted to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology.

Sec. 5. Federal Agency Implementation Plan. Within 150 days of the date of this memorandum, the agencies listed in subsection 4(b) of this memorandum shall each develop an appropriate implementation plan supporting the policy of this memorandum. Such implementation plans may be classified, as required, to meet specific agency requirements. Implementation plans shall consider for inclusion, but not be limited to, a description of how the respective agencies will accomplish the following actions:

(a) identify, sustain, and strengthen climate-related data repositories, tools, and modeling products that inform climate change-related impacts on national security;

(b) identify climate change-related risks to agency missions, and risks that may be caused by agency policies, programs, and actions concerning international development objectives, fragility, and regional stability;

(c) pursue agency adaptation strategies and methods that address climate change-related impacts on national security and homeland defense;

(d) identify and implement climate change-related information-sharing opportunities and arrangements through international development activities, military-to-military engagements, and government-to-government climate-related data exchanges;

(e) identify economic considerations arising from the impacts of climate change globally and the resulting specific impacts on national security, including macroeconomic analyses and data-sharing mechanisms;

(f) identify the potential impact of climate change on human mobility, including migration and displacement, and the resulting impacts on national security;

(g) identify climate change-related impacts on global water and food security and nutrition and the resulting impacts on national security, and recommend actions to mitigate these impacts;

(h) identify climate change-related global health security concerns affecting humans, animals, and plants, and develop options to address them;

(i) develop an agency-specific approach to address climate-related hazards and threats to national security;

(j) determine and act on climate change-related threats to infrastructure at the asset, system, and regional level and act to strengthen the safety, security, and resilience of infrastructure critical to national security; and

(k) incorporate climate change-related impact information and considerations into agency technical and executive education and training programs.

Sec. 6. Definitions. For the purposes of this memorandum:

(a) “Adaptation” refers to the adjustment in natural or human systems in anticipation of or in response to a changing environment in a way that effectively uses beneficial opportunities or reduces negative effects.

(b) “Climate” refers to the prevailing meteorological conditions over a period of several decades, including the typical frequency of occurrence and duration of extreme storms, heat waves, precipitation, droughts, cloudiness, winds, ocean temperatures, and other events that a region is likely to encounter.

(c) “Climate change” refers to detectable changes in one or more climate system components over multiple decades, including changes in the average temperature of the atmosphere or ocean; changes in regional precipitation, winds, and cloudiness; and changes in the severity or duration of extreme weather, including droughts, floods, and storms.

(d) “Climate modeling” refers to the mathematical representation of the set of interdependent components of the climate system, including the atmosphere and ocean, cryosphere, ecology, land use, natural greenhouse gas emissions, and anthropogenic greenhouse emissions.

(e) “Fragility” refers to a condition that results from a dysfunctional relationship between state and society and the extent to which that relationship fails to produce policy outcomes that are considered effective or legitimate.

(f) “Global health security” refers to activities required, both proactive and reactive, to minimize vulnerability to acute public health events that endanger the collective health of populations living across geographical regions and international boundaries and includes the efforts of the Global Health Security Agenda to establish capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to disease threats, whether naturally occurring, deliberate, or accidental.

(g) “United States Intelligence Community” has the same definition as used in section 3003 of title 50, United States Code (Definitions), and section 3.5(h) of Executive Order 12333 of December 4, 1981 (United States Intelligence Activities), as amended.

(h) “National security” refers to the protection of the Nation and its people and interests.

(i) “Resilience” refers to the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions and to withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptions.

Sec. 7. General Provisions. (a) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable laws, regulations, Executive Orders, and policies, including the National Security

Strategy and the Climate Action Plan, and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(b) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to a department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(c) All activities conducted pursuant to this memorandum shall be undertaken consistent with all applicable classification requirements set forth in law, Executive Orders, regulation, and policy.

(d) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.


Accessed at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/09/21/presidential-memorandum-climate-change-and-national-security on September 27, 2016.


Warren Buffett’s Unusual ‘Commodity’ Investment

Water Footprints


By Chris Mayer, editor, Capital & Crisis, Saturday, February 28, 2009

This week, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway revealed a new position in Nalco Holding, a stock I’ve liked (and recommended) for a long time.

With a $1.6 billion market cap, Nalco is a small-cap stock… but it’s actually one of the world’s largest water-treatment companies. It’s my favorite pure play on water filtration. Customers use Nalco’s products and services to prevent corrosion, contamination, and the buildup of harmful deposits.

Buffett picked up 8.7 million shares. That makes Berkshire the second-largest shareholder in the company, with a little more than 6% of the shares.

It’s easy to see what Buffett likes. Nalco generates a steady stream of free cash flow – $142 million in its fiscal year ended September 30. Today, the market cap is about $1.6 billion. So you’re getting nearly a 10% free cash flow yield. Put another way, you’re only paying about 10 times free cash flow. Not earnings, but cash flow.

On the downside, Nalco has a leveraged balance sheet with $3.1 billion in net debt. However, its business model ensures steady cash inflows from service contracts, which is less of a risk than it might seem. Also, the first significant maturities don’t come until November of 2010 – plenty of time for the credit markets to return to some friendlier state. In any event, the debt was not enough of a risk to put Buffett off the scent.

There is also a nice backdrop to the Nalco thesis. Water is a scarce commodity… and we live in an age in which, for better or worse, people of all kinds are obsessed with reducing their “carbon footprint.” Now there are more footprints to worry about: water footprints.

Water Footprint

Water Footprints


The Wall Street Journal recently gave some examples of this sort of thing:

   It takes roughly 20 gallons of water to make a pint of beer, as much as 132 gallons of water to make a 2-liter bottle of soda and about 500 gallons of water, including water used to grow, dye and process cotton, to make a pair of Levi’s stonewashed jeans.

Other examples include the nearly 35 gallons of water behind every cup of coffee, the 700 gallons behind the typical dyed T-shirt, and the 630 gallons to produce a single hamburger.

So a water footprint is basically how much water you use to produce a given consumer good. There is a lot more attention focused on reducing this water footprint, especially since water-scarcity issues are cropping up a lot more these days.

Water Scarcity

You may be familiar with these numbers:

  • Two-thirds of the world’s population face water shortages by 2025, according to the United Nations.
  • And according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, about 36 states face water shortages by 2013.

These issues may not seem so pressing to you, since every time you turn on the tap, the water flows. And you can get all the bottled water you can buy at any grocery store. Unless you live in the Western states, where water rights are more of a concern, you may not appreciate water-scarcity issues.

But it is an important issue for industrial users of water all over the world. Nike, Pepsi, Starbucks, Levi’s, and about 100 other companies recently held a conference in Miami on reducing water footprints. So this is serious business.

It’s not just an attempt to be eco-friendly, either. It’s nothing but good old-fashioned greed that compels companies to think about their water usage. If you are Coca-Cola, you need a good water supply. And you can’t have locals railing at you for depleting their already low water supply to make fizzy sugar water. Coca-Cola either finds ways to use water more efficiently or the locals will shut production down.

The Journal notes in passing SABMiller’s experience in Tanzania. SABMiller makes Miller Lite, Peroni, and Pilsner Urquell. Its factory in Dar es Salaam depleted local aquifers, causing them to grow increasingly salty. Meanwhile, the city has water shortages already. SABMiller has to find a way use water more efficiently or it will go out of business in Tanzania.

These kinds of stories repeat themselves in different settings all over the world. As one manager for the Freshwater Footprint Project for the World Wildlife Fund said,

  • “Three billion more people are going to be on this planet” by 2050. “Somehow, we’re going to have to use the same amount of water we use today.”

Nalco is right in the heart of this issue. Nalco’s customers are industrial users. Nalco’s services improve water efficiency. The company also offers services to reduce air pollution, treat industrial wastewater, and more. In this, Nalco is the global leader, with a 17% global market share. It’s bigger than GE in water.

As a long-term investment, Nalco is among the more compelling ideas out there. Certainly, it’s more compelling than trying to figure out Citigroup’s balance sheet… or guessing whether or not – and when – Tiffany’s sales will come back.

In fact, the entire water spectrum looks attractive as a long-term investment theme. It’s going to be an issue we’re going to deal with for years yet… and Warren Buffett’s purchase of Nalco is further confirmation of the idea.

Chris Mayer
Editor’s note: Chris Mayer is the editor of Mayer’s Special Situations – one of our favorite investment advisories at DailyWealth. Chris is onto an interesting special situation right now involving gold and silver. In short, he’s found a unique kind of security that allows investors to receive cash flows from some of the world’s most productive mines. The higher gold and silver go, the higher your “royalty” payments. To learn more about the Chaffee Royalty Program click here.
© 2014 Stansberry & Associates Investment Research, LLC.
Accessed at http://www.dailywealth.com/354/warren-buffett-s-unusual-commodity-investment on April 10, 2014.


Average Distance to the Nearest Forest is Increasing with Forest Loss in the US

Forest attrition distance, or FAD

forest attrition distance, or FAD

Articles and accompanying materials published by PLOS on the PLOS Sites, unless otherwise indicated, are licensed by the respective authors of such articles for use and distribution by you subject to citation of the original source in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.

Figure One, from Yang and Mountrakis (2017). Figure One, from Yang and Mountrakis (2017). Case (a) shows the initial forest state followed by seven forest change examples (b-h).Forest area is depicted in green pixels. Red squares with doted lines indicate forest loss. Values of forest attrition distance and other relative metrics can be found in Table One (Yang and Mountrakis, 2017).

Posted February 22, 2017 by Jeff Atkins in Uncategorized 0000-0002-8715-2896
Source: Average Distance to the Nearest Forest is Increasing with Forest Loss in the US

According to a new study published in PLOS ONE by Sheng Yang and Giogros Mountrakis from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the average distance the nearest forest increased by over 500 m during the 1990s. During that decade, over 90,000 square kilometers of forest cover in the continental United States were lost—an approximate decline in coverage of nearly 3% or an area roughly equivalent to the size of Maine. Primarily this attrition in forest cover was due to the disappearance of key connecting forest patches.

Forest attrition is the removal of clustered or isolated forest patches that results in habitat loss, a decline in animal and plant populations, a decrease in the number of species in a given region, and changes in regional environmental conditions. Forest loss can have localized effects on weather and climate—altering both seasonal and annual precipitation as well as affecting soil and air temperatures.

Forest canopies not only have a direct cooling effect from shading, but also through transpiration—the movement of water from the soil, through plants, to the atmosphere. As air moves over forested areas, it picks up moisture and cools. When forests are removed, this process is severely altered, resulting in drier air, lower rainfall, and typically higher temperatures. Over 30% of the continental United States is covered by forest and declines in forest cover would have profound ecological and economic effects.

While many landscape studies of forest change focus on fragmentation, Yang and Mountrakis have created a new metric to quantify geographic forest change—forest attrition distance, or FAD. FAD is calculated as the average distance from non-forest and forest areas to the nearest forests in a landscape. National Land Cover Database maps of binary forest cover were used to calculate FAD for the US.

One thing that I like about this paper is its explicit consideration of what forest change looks like. What do I mean by that? The first figure, shown below, offers seven different ways that forest cover can change. We have example A, our control, which gives the initial forest state. Example B and D show “aggregated attrition” or the loss of complete intact sections—say, you have a large pizza and someone grabbed a giant slice out of it. Examples C and E show equal decreases in area as B and D, but are more random—the term used here is “dispersed attrition.” Think more like one of those thin crust pizzas where you can grab pieces out of the middle.

Upon first consideration, it might be assumed that a loss of area is a loss of area. However, there can be stark differences given the geographic or geometric pattern of forest loss. Aggregated attrition, as in examples B and D where contiguous sections of the forest are lost create “less fragmented” forests than do examples C and E, dispersed attrition. Forest fragmentation is classically measured using perimeter to area ratios. An increase in perimeter when the area of the forest remains the same, results in a higher perimeter to area ratio, and therefore more fragmentation. However, while the examples of aggregated versus dispersed attrition show the same losses in total forest cover, FAD increases substantially more with aggregated attrition, though forest fragmentation as measured by perimeter to area would be higher in in the dispersed attrition examples. The argument here would be that fragmentation may not necessarily tell the entire story and that FAD offers different information of potential use.

More interestingly, Yang and Mountrakis also consider more complex forest change regimes–shrinkage, subdivision, and perforation, shown in examples F, G, and H respectively. Figure one shows how these more complex forest cover loss regimes can play out spatially. In this examples, shrinkage, subdivision and perforation all have the same forest cover loss as examples D and E, but exhibit much higher edge density, lower average patch size, and higher perimeter to area ratios. But, reduced FAD as compared to aggregate attrition. Yang and Mountrakis make the claim that FAD is the only landscape metric that can accurately and quantitatively differentiate between all the considered scenarios, making it of potentially novel and significant importance in land use and land cover change studies.

And if you want to stick with that ill-advised pizza metaphor, imagine someone who only eats crusts or just takes bites out of random pieces and puts them back. Hopefully no one eats pizza like that, though. Ugh.

Yang and Mountrakis delve into the connection between forest cover and forest attrition. They find a non-linear relationship where initially, as forest cover decreases, forest attrition increases slowly. As forest cover decreases past an apparent threshold of 20-30% total cover, forest attrition increases exponentially.

Rural areas, rather than urban areas, are suffering higher rates of forest attrition and greater increases in FAD. Of particular note are the high rates of forest attrition on federal and state lands, highlighting a need for more focused management and conservation strategies that consider forest attrition and adequately take counter-steps.

Forest attrition losses in the western US are driven by losses in gap areas, or more isolated patches of forest. …

Observed Forest Attrition Distance Change

Articles and accompanying materials published by PLOS on the PLOS Sites, unless otherwise indicated, are licensed by the respective authors of such articles for use and distribution by you subject to citation of the original source in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.

unnamedYang and Mountrakis (2017).

Yang and Mountrakis also claim that forest attrition results in irreversible carbon losses compared to other geographic patterns of forest loss. I personally find myself divided on this claim, though it does point to an interesting research question—how does carbon cycling at the ecosystem or landscape scale respond to changes in FAD? Forest cover loss results in more than just the loss of trees. Soils are exposed to direct sunlight, resulting in lower soil moisture and higher soil temperatures that in turn affect decomposition and soil respiration—the production and emission of carbon dioxide from soils by microbes and roots. There would be complex effects on forest microclimates given the varying geographic and geometric shape of forest change. The magnitude of differences may be an open question, though from a conservation or climate mitigation standpoint, it is an important one.

Yang and Mountrakis produce an interesting new metric here that has potential for conservation and land use change work, and also for applied and basic research. But as with any novel technique, time is the ultimate judge—or in some cases, data availability. Application of this metric at more broad scales may be possible with high enough resolution global forest cover maps. Many sensitive areas around the globe, from Indonesia to the Amazon, are experiencing high rates of deforestation. If adequate data are available, FAD may be useful tool. Hopefully in the future we won’t have to walk so far to reach the forest.

Victoria Costello
As PLOS Senior Social Media & Community Editor, Victoria Costello oversees the organization’s social media efforts and manages the PLOS BLOGS Network. Prior to joining PLOS in 2012, Costello worked as an science journalist and author in the areas of psychology and neuroscience. orcid.org/0000-0002-8715-2896
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Articles and accompanying materials published by PLOS on the PLOS Sites, unless otherwise indicated, are licensed by the respective authors of such articles for use and distribution by you subject to citation of the original source in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.
Accessed at http://blogs.plos.org/blog/2017/02/22/average-distance-to-the-nearest-forest-is-increasing-with-forest-loss-in-the-us/ on February 23, 2017.


Executive Order: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States

Executive Ban on Travel

Asian Real Estate Association of America


The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
January 27, 2017


Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Purpose.   The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans. And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.

Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program. Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.

In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Sec. 2. Policy.   It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes.

Sec. 3. Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern. (a)   The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.

(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the President a report on the results of the review described in subsection (a) of this section, including the Secretary of Homeland Security’s determination of the information needed for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information, within 30 days of the date of this order. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide a copy of the report to the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence.

(c) To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

(d) Immediately upon receipt of the report described in subsection (b) of this section regarding the information needed for adjudications, the Secretary of State shall request all foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification.

(e) After the 60-day period described in subsection (d) of this section expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas) from countries that do not provide the information requested pursuant to subsection (d) of this section until compliance occurs.

(f) At any point after submitting the list described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security may submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.

(g) Notwithstanding a suspension pursuant to subsection (c) of this section or pursuant to a Presidential proclamation described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.

(h) The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall submit to the President a joint report on the progress in implementing this order within 30 days of the date of this order, a second report within 60 days of the date of this order, a third report within 90 days of the date of this order, and a fourth report within 120 days of the date of this order.

Sec. 4. Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs. (a) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall implement a program, as part of the adjudication process for immigration benefits, to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission. This program will include the development of a uniform screening standard and procedure, such as in-person interviews; a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that duplicate documents are not used by multiple applicants; amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.

(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of this directive within 60 days of the date of this order, a second report within 100 days of the date of this order, and a third report within 200 days of the date of this order.

Sec. 5. Realignment of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Fiscal Year 2017. (a) The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During the 120-day period, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall review the USRAP application and adjudication process to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States, and shall implement such additional procedures. Refugee applicants who are already in the USRAP process may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of these revised procedures. Upon the date that is 120 days after the date of this order, the Secretary of State shall resume USRAP admissions only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.

(b) Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.   Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.

(c) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.

(d) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I determine that additional admissions would be in the national interest.

(e) Notwithstanding the temporary suspension imposed pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may jointly determine to admit individuals to the United States as refugees on a case-by-case basis, in their discretion, but only so long as they determine that the admission of such individuals as refugees is in the national interest — including when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution, when admitting the person would enable the United States to conform its conduct to a preexisting international agreement, or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship — and it would not pose a risk to the security or welfare of the United States.

(f) The Secretary of State shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of the directive in subsection (b) of this section regarding prioritization of claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution within 100 days of the date of this order and shall submit a second report within 200 days of the date of this order.

(g) It is the policy of the executive branch that, to the extent permitted by law and as practicable, State and local jurisdictions be granted a role in the process of determining the placement or settlement in their jurisdictions of aliens eligible to be admitted to the United States as refugees. To that end, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall examine existing law to determine the extent to which, consistent with applicable law, State and local jurisdictions may have greater involvement in the process of determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions, and shall devise a proposal to lawfully promote such involvement.

Sec. 6. Rescission of Exercise of Authority Relating to the Terrorism Grounds of Inadmissibility.   The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Attorney General, consider rescinding the exercises of authority in section 212 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182, relating to the terrorism grounds of inadmissibility, as well as any related implementing memoranda.

Sec. 7. Expedited Completion of the Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States, as recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit to the President periodic reports on the progress of the directive contained in subsection (a) of this section.   The initial report shall be submitted within 100 days of the date of this order, a second report shall be submitted within 200 days of the date of this order, and a third report shall be submitted within 365 days of the date of this order. Further, the Secretary shall submit a report every 180 days thereafter until the system is fully deployed and operational.

Sec. 8. Visa Interview Security. (a)   The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.

(b) To the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, the Secretary of State shall immediately expand the Consular Fellows Program, including by substantially increasing the number of Fellows, lengthening or making permanent the period of service, and making language training at the Foreign Service Institute available to Fellows for assignment to posts outside of their area of core linguistic ability, to ensure that non-immigrant visa-interview wait times are not unduly affected.

Sec. 9. Visa Validity Reciprocity. The Secretary of State shall review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements to ensure that they are, with respect to each visa classification, truly reciprocal insofar as practicable with respect to validity period and fees, as required by sections 221(c) and 281 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1201(c) and 1351, and other treatment. If a country does not treat United States nationals seeking nonimmigrant visas in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State shall adjust the visa validity period, fee schedule, or other treatment to match the treatment of United States nationals by the foreign country, to the extent practicable.

Sec. 10. Transparency and Data Collection. (a)   To be more transparent with the American people, and to more effectively implement policies and practices that serve the national interest, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall, consistent with applicable law and national security, collect and make publicly available within 180 days, and every 180 days thereafter:

(i)   information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national security reasons since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later;

(ii)   information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been radicalized after entry into the United States and engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and

(iii) information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States by foreign nationals, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and

(iv)   any other information relevant to public safety and security as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, including information on the immigration status of foreign nationals charged with major offenses.

(b) The Secretary of State shall, within one year of the date of this order, provide a report on the estimated long-term costs of the USRAP at the Federal, State, and local levels.

Sec. 11. General Provisions. (a)   Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.


Copyright Policy
Pursuant to federal law, government-produced materials appearing on this site are not copyright protected. The United States Government may receive and hold copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.
Accessed at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states on February 23, 2017.


Statement on the US Executive Order 16 February 2017

muslim women headwear ban

© 2017 World Economic Forum

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/5-countries-with-the-strictest-dress-codes/ © 2017 World Economic Forum


The Geological Society, along with many other national and international scientific organizations, is concerned by the Executive Order, announced on 27 January 2017, which will prevent people from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa from entering the United States, if it is allowed to stand.

From the perspective of an international organization with members living and working around the world in what is a truly global scientific discipline, such a ban would have the potential to hinder a number of activities that are critical to our science. Furthermore, as an organization we are committed to supporting diversity and inclusion in the geoscience profession, irrespective of nationality, and the Executive Order conflicts with our stated aims in this area.

There is concern that scientists may be prevented from attending research conferences and meetings in the US. These opportunities to share and discuss research and its application facilitate the collaboration essential for excellence in science and innovation. There may also be an impact on industry. This would be particularly likely to affect the many companies in the energy and resources sectors that have offices and operations in both the US and the countries listed in the Executive Order. International firms would also need to address instances of UK-based staff who are affected by the ban.

In addition to short-term impacts on research and industry, there are also concerns about possible implications for cross-border working in the longer term. Earth science, like all science, is a global endeavor relying on the open exchange of research ideas and discussion. A ban of this type would reduce access to the best science.   Geology and the subsurface are not constrained by national borders and therefore effective advancement of our science depends on free movement across borders to carry out research and the sharing of ideas.

This Executive Order may have long-term consequences for the UK’s international scientific relations if it is an indication of the USA’s future migration policies. It is imperative, in order to maintain our position as a global power in research, that the UK Government shows leadership in promoting the importance of internationalism in science.

© 2012 The Geological Society of London, registered charity, number: 210161
Accessed at http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/US_Executive_Order on February 23, 2017.


Vladimir Putin orders Russia to recognize documents issued in rebel-held east Ukraine

Donetsk passports accepted by Russia

Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Local police officers arrange passports during a ceremony to issue the first passports of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Credit: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

   Reuters 18 February 2017 • 10:07pm

President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian authorities on Saturday to temporarily recognize civil registration documents issued in separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine, a decision strongly criticized by Ukraine’s president.

The decision will enable people from the conflict-hit region to travel, work or study in Russia.

According to Putin’s order, published on the Kremlin website, Russia will temporarily recognize identity documents, diplomas, birth and marriage certificates and vehicle registration plates issued in the eastern Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The legislation will be in place until a “political settlement of the situation” in these regions based on the Minsk peace accords, the Kremlin said.

Ukrainian authorities sharply criticized Putin’s decision, saying Russia had violated the Minsk peace process.

“For me, this is another proof of Russian occupation as well as Russian violation of international law,” Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko told reporters in Munich, Germany.

“This step completely negates the Minsk process,” said Oleksander Turchynov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, which is headed by Poroshenko.

Fighting has recently escalated in the conflict between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, refocusing global attention on a simmering conflict that has strained relations between Russia and the West.

The February 2015 Minsk peace agreement only locked the two sides into a stalemate that has been broken periodically by sharp resurgences of fighting that Kiev and the Kremlin accuse each other of instigating.

The foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine met on Saturday in Munich and agreed to use their influence to implement a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from Monday in eastern Ukraine.

© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2017
Accessed at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/18/putin-orders-russia-recognize-documents-issued-rebel-held-east/ on February 22, 2017.


Constitution – Secession

Q & A with #CalExit Leader on California’s Secession Movement

California Tattoo

California Tattoo (Joel Pollak / Breitbart News)

California Tattoo (Joel Pollak / Breitbart News) by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly 20 Feb 2017 Twin Peaks, CA 1,803


Louis Marinelli is the leader and co-founder of “Yes, California.” But the public face of the #CalExit movement also presents many political contradictions.

A soft-spoken teacher who openly admits he voted for Donald Trump, and who once worked as a grassroots activist opposing same-sex marriage, Marinelli’s hero is President John F. Kennedy, but he worked to elect George W. Bush in 2004 after his first choice, Democrat John Edwards, dropped out.

Born in New York, Marinelli fell in love with California at first sight, and considers San Diego his home — even though he is currently living in Yekaterinburg, Russia with his wife. Most recently, he ran for California State Assembly against San Diego’s Lorena Gonzalez, garnering strong support from those opposed to California’s forced vaccination law — but from very few others. Predictably, he lost the primary to the well-financed incumbent.

The #CalExit movement gained tremendous momentum with Trump’s win in November. “Yes, California” T-shirts, which Marinelli couldn’t give away last June, the Los Angeles Times reported, became a symbol of the anti-Trump “resistance.”

In many ways, Marinelli is hard to pin down. A political chameleon, he is all over the ideological map. Explaining his Bush vote to the Times, he claims he was seduced by Fox News Channel: “That channel is highly manipulative … It turned me into your typical conservative ideologue.”

He blames the Federal tax bite for California’s failed infrastructure, not Governor. Jerry Brown.   Considering the Pledge of Allegiance to be indoctrination, Marinelli became the champion of the far-left, communist leaning California National Party during his Assembly campaign, but has since broken with them over irreconcilable differences.

Marinelli agreed to talk to Breitbart News, answering 10 questions (unedited except for spelling and font) via email from Russia.

Breitbart News: Why are you in Russia?

Marinelli: I am in Russia because I am by profession a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL) and that career began in Russia in 2007 and I have travelled back forth between the United States and Russia taking different teaching positions in various Russian and American/Californian cities. Last year when the cost of rent kept rising without any improvement in services or living conditions, my wife and I decided to move. Between jobs and apartments, and with the prospect of her being able to return home to Russia to see her parents for the first time in five years, we decided to go together and I secured employment there in order to support ourselves during what was supposed to be an extended, but temporary visit before we signed a new lease and I secured new employment in California.

Things being as they are and nothing related to the government can just work as expected, her ability to travel back to Russia never materialized. However, by this time I had already provided our intent to vacate our apartment, we had already sold the majority of our property, and I had already signed an employment contract to begin teaching in Yekaterinburg. Our application to adjust her status to that of a permanent resident was delayed because the USCIS (by their own admission) were prioritizing applications for citizenship prior to the election, so that newly naturalized citizens could vote. So our application was delayed beyond the originally-provided timeline we were working on, and depending on. So long story short, she couldn’t go (yet) but I had to go or forfeit my teaching position overseas. So, I went to Russia and she stayed in California living with friends for what was supposed to be a month or two, until after the election, when we expected to complete her adjustment of status which would allow her to leave the country and return without a new visa.

Breitbart News: What is your vision for a new independent California nation?

Marinelli: I believe in making the world a better place. I believe California can play a big role in that mission. I envision a California much like the country that our founding fathers envisioned – a country where all are treated equally under the law; a country that provides for the common defense, promotes the general welfare of its people, and a country that secures our liberty from foreign and domestic threats. This campaign is at its heart a very American campaign, if by “American” we mean the America that was originally established and in a time period when its Constitution was actually followed. I probably sound like a conservative here, but I consider myself a progressive. To me being progressive is about using the collective power of the people to help those who can’t help themselves. I believe it is in the nature of Californians to help others and that is the kind of independent nation I envision – a nation that ensures everyone healthcare and education regardless of their ability to pay, a nation that protections its citizens from corporate exploitation and political corruption rooted in campaign finance, a nation that prioritizes the domestic needs of its people, their quality of life and cost of living, over its foreign agenda. These are areas where I see the United States lacking, or outright doing the opposite, and I want to establish California as a country so we can go in a different direction on these points, as well as others. Donald Trump believes in an America First philosophy and I believe in a California First philosophy.

Breitbart News. What exactly drove you to push #CalExit in the first place?

Marinelli: The dysfunction in Washington. But the straw that broke the camel’s back for me was Congress’ inability to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2014 after the Senate passed it and the president promised to sign it. Even a majority of the House of Representatives would have voted for it if it were brought up to a vote. But partisan political games held that vote up and that directly impacted my family and my marriage. It exerted a tremendous amount of stress on my relationship when the woman I brought here from another country couldn’t work, study, or really do much more than sit around the house all day because of the political situation in my country. More specifically, I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it is to support a family in San Diego on one income. Could we have found a way for my wife to work illegally? Perhaps. But we weren’t interested in violating immigration laws. She came to this country legally and her visa expired before we were able to get married. She is not a criminal, although many on the right would label her as such, and so she wasn’t about to go break the law by working illegally.

At the same time, on this side of the border, California was doing things to embrace our undocumented population. We had things like AB60 which allowed for undocumented immigrants to get a driver license, for example. Other legislation was passed to help undocumented immigrants live as normal of a life as possible in California while the Americans were doing the opposite, while the American people were largely spewing pretty hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric. Those forces combined, a push and a pull, is what caused me to change my allegiance from Washington to Sacramento.

Breitbart News: Constitutional law experts have claimed there is no protocol for leaving the union — and that it will be either by “Constitutional Amendment or Revolution.” If secession is the ultimate goal of #CalExit, do you see a realistic pathway toward secession? Please describe the specific steps.

Marinelli: Yes. There is no reference to secession in the US Constitution so again at risk of sounding like a conservative, that power is a power reserved to the people, or to the states via the Tenth Amendment. I am a big supporter of the Tenth Amendment. Now as for these law experts – they have only provided their opinions but law experts provide their opinions in a court of law everyday only to be rejected by the courts. Ultimately this will be something determined by judges, not law experts giving their opinion on cable news networks and the only valid legal opinion to this day, as you referred to, comes from the 1869 Texas v. White where it was declared that unilateral secession was illegal but possible only through revolution or by consent of the states. The thing is that “consent of the states” has never been legally defined. Some interpret that as constitutional amendment levels of consent, others could argue that a majority of the states constitutions consent. That is something the courts will have to decide.

We take the position that in 1850 Congress passed an Act which required only a majority to pass. A section of that Act admitted California as a state. I can’t think of any legal precedent or practice whereby an Act could be passed by a simple majority yet require a supermajority in order to be repealed. I could be dead wrong on that, as I am not a legal expert, but it seems that we could get this done with a simple majority. So we will pursue that route. We will also pursue the route of international law, specifically, the UN Charter which grants non-self-governing territories the right to self-determination. There is a legal argument to be made, considering California’s history and its path to statehood, that could grant us rights under international law to determine our own destiny and since the Constitution declares that treaties are the supreme law of the land in the United States, the UN Charter (which was a treaty) is also the supreme law of the land in the United States and we intend to invoke that Charter in the pursuance of our right to self-determination.

Ultimately, like most social movements, our campaign will move forward with every option on the table at our disposal in pursuance of our goals. In the end, however, the courts will decide – just as, for example, the issue of marriage equality was decided by the courts after decades of struggling for equal protection under the laws for LGBT citizens. Since this issue was last decided in 1869 – a time of Dred Scott – I think its time for the issue to be revisited and reheard in the 21st Century. Why should we be forced to live according to a legal opinion of a panel of judges that have been not among the living for more than a Century? Let’s decide for ourselves what is and what is not legally permissible.

Breitbart News: Let’s assume that California succeeds in seceding from the US. How would it survive economically if millions of productive taxpaying citizens who don’t agree with secession leave, taking all that tax revenue with them? And you know that a huge number of “conservatives” at the very least would leave, but so might a lot of others concerned about anarchy or security, or just being American.

Marinelli: Granted many people who are patriotic to the stars and stripes may pick up and leave. However, many disenfranchised moderates and “liberals” from other blue states I’m sure would love to come be a part of a great new progressive republic on the western shores of North America. I know this as fact because I get fan mail to this effect quite often. However, I disagree with your term “millions”… I don’t think “millions” would migrate out of California because of secession and I likewise don’t believe “millions” would immigrate TO California from the other states.

I do believe, however, that an independent California can reorganize itself in such a way where conservatives might think twice before relocating. An independent California is going to empower local government through the establishment of “states” of California (our current counties). These states will have their own governors, legislatures, etc., and function much like a U.S. state in the Union does today. This will end the problem of Bay Area and LA Area urban liberals controlling policy across all of California. That means inland and northern counties will not have the same gun laws and regulations that exist in the Bay Area, for example.

And our plan to reorganize the Legislature into a system of proportional party representation means that conservative voters in liberal urban areas like San Francisco can feel better voting and more represented because their votes will be tallied together with conservative voters from the Central Valley and from the Far North whereas right now a conservative voter in the Bay Area essentially has no representation in Sacramento. Our new reorganized system of representation will provide more Californians with better representation AND allow for third parties to thrive and coalition governments to form. These are big differences that contrast pretty strongly against the one party rule (in a two-party system) we see in Sacramento today.

Breitbart News: You’re also likely to see the U.S. government pitch a fight over “Federally owned land.”   (And almost 50% of California is claimed by the federal government.) How would you resolve that question without going to war with the most powerful nation on earth, who would definitely contest the loss of all the military installations all over California’s coastline?   How would the new nation build a credible military when California has a perpetual budget deficit?

Marinelli: After we establish a mandate of the people for independence (via the vote), we will be in a position to negotiate these and other issues with the Americans. Much of the federally-owned properties in California are not tax-producing so if they were to stubbornly hold onto them without California’s massive taxpaying population of an independent California, it would be a losing venture for them. It behooves them to transfer the lands to the State of California to be managed by Californians. These are issues, ultimately, that will be decided in the future after we establish a mandate for independence and that is what our campaign is about.

This is one area where we differ from the California National Party, a so-called political party. They are not a political party until they qualify as such and until they do they are just a Facebook group with nothing to actively do in pursuit of independence. This group, which is mostly comprised of Internet trolls, believe in a strategy of approaching Washington to negotiate a Californian withdrawal from the Union. Their naivety is astonishing. Even our campaign has an uphill battle in front of us but at least when we go to Washington to discuss California’s withdrawal from the Union we’ll have a mandate of the people of California behind us. That will give us the leverage we need to demand that the Americans come to the table to at least negotiate. The CNP on the other hand think they can just send a delegation to Washington and say “let’s talk about California independence” and that pitch is never going to work. They won’t be laughed out of the room because they’ll never make it in the room in the first place.

As for military installations. Our campaign is not about taking control of the US military bases. We seek instead to sign military base agreements with the Americans whereas they can keep their installations and personnel in California if they pay a lease – just like they do in scores of other countries around the world. Again, we differ with the CNP in this regard and in an important way. Not only does Yes California support military base agreements in order to keep US military installations in California in the Americans’ hands, but we explicitly reject the use of force in our campaign to achieve our campaign objectives. The CNP on the other hand have begun planning how to take US military bases by force. These people, frankly speaking, subscribe to the philosophies of radical and autocratic leftists. One of their key officers supports the death penalty for white collar crimes, another has a portrait of Mao on his wall. Collectively they have little respect for due process, they operate their group without respect to the organization’s bylaws, and back to the topic of military installations, they have even drawn up plans for taking control of them by force if necessary. That is a failed policy we reject and want nothing to do with at Yes California. That is how South Carolina started the Civil War and our plans at Yes California have been carefully laid out in order to avoid sparking civil war.

Breitbart News: There have been reports in the media that you are working with Russian “far right” nationalist groups that are seeking to break up or disrupt the United States. Is this true?

Marinelli: We at Yes California are willing to partner with any group that supports Californian independence – when our goals are aligned. This non-governmental group in Russia, the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, supports our right to self-determination and we work with them on that agenda item. We have nothing to do with them on any other of their agendas. I equate it to the United States of America working with the Saudi Arabians on certain areas of policy and strategic importance even though that country has miles of progress to make on basic human rights issues. The point being this: just because we disagree with a particular entity on one or several issues, it doesn’t mean we can’t work together on the issues where we find common ground and Yes California and Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia have found common ground on the issue of California’s self-determination rights.

Breitbart News: There have been media reports that the FBI is investigating you as a result of these connections. Is that one of the reasons why you are staying in Russia?  

Marinelli: No, my stay in Russia began long before any of these media reports. If I were to ever find out that I was actually under investigation, I would walk into an FBI building and offer myself up to answer any questions and turn myself in if necessary because I have nothing to hide, I have done nothing illegal, and I am fully confident that that truth would come to light if it was brought before a court of law where a fair trial could be held.

Breitbart News: Bloomberg has implied in one story that you are working with shadowy Russian political figures with ties to Putin. Is that true, and if so, what do you hope to gain?   Are you at all concerned that this perception might taint your movement as Marxist or Communist-backed?

Marinelli: No. I have never had any contact whatsoever with any Russian government officials. As for the second question: I would rather hold true to my princples than cave into this anti-Russian hysteria that has taken root (again) in this country. We want to build a better relationship with Russia and other countries around the world – this goes back to the idea of helping to make the world a better place. That is why our campaign proudly supports the idea of leaving the Cold War mentality in the past where it belongs and for California and Russia to build a new relationship for the 21st Century. I would rather us stand tall and maintain that noble principal and fail, than cower to the rebirth of this public hysteria about how the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!

Russia today is not a communist or Marxist state. For that, I would point you to the type of California that the people of the California National Party would like to establish. Frankly, I would rather California remain a US state than to be put into the hands of the people of the CNP, who, as I stated, can’t follow their own bylaws (how can we trust them to abide by the constitution?), who are willing to suspect due process out of convenience, whose leadership supports capital punishment for white collar crimes, and who at least one of their key members is/was the “Chairman” at “California Communist Socialist Party of the USA” and the “Deputy General Secretary at Communist Socialist Party of the USA”. These people are not in this for the right reasons, they have actively worked to undermine our effort, and the people of California should be wary of them.

Breitbart News: Describe the troubles your wife had immigrating legally to the US, and given that experience, what is your view of illegal immigration now and in the new California?

My wife came to the US legally and her visa expired before we could get married. We didn’t want to get married on an arbitrary government timeline. You know, they picked “three months” out of the sky and require you to get married within that timeframe. While we were ready to relocate to the United States, we were not ready to get married within three months of stepping off the plane. We wanted to establish ourselves, I needed to find work, a place to live, and start building a home for us – before we could go get married. It takes more than three months to do that, especially when you consider the fact that the US citizen sponsor himself was coming back to the US to live. That isn’t always the case – many cases involve a foreign spouse immigrating to the US to his or her spouse who is already established, already working, etc. That wasn’t the case with us and we needed more than these arbitrary three months to establish ourselves. So when her visa was expired, it was difficult for us to put her back into a legal status. That just changed on February 15th and we finally were able to adjust her status to that of a legal permanent resident of the United States. We are happy to have that long and stressful chapter of our lives behind us.

I support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants – particularly those who came to the United States legally, or came to the United States illegally as a child via a parent or guardian. I also support a guest worker program that would allow people to cross our border to come work legally in certain spheres where there is a demand for their labor. This does not currently exist in the United States and I hope an independent California can do what they United States has failed to do in this regard. I also support national borders and the right of any sovereign state to protect and manage its borders. So the independent California I envision won’t be one with open borders but at the same time I don’t believe in building walls – especially between communities that have such strong historical connections.

Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman.
Author, Patriot Not Politician: Win or Go Homeless
Copyright © 2017 Breitbart
Accessed at http://www.breitbart.com/california/2017/02/20/q-calexit-leader-reveals-fighting-secession-movement/ on February 21, 2017.



A recipe for scavenging in vertebrates – the natural history of a behavior

A recipe for scavenging in vertebrates – the natural history of a behaviour 2016-12-05

Copyright © 1999 – 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Figure 1.

Factors influencing the proportion of scavenging in a vertebrates’ diet. Each of the traits/factors ranges from low on the left to high on the right. A high value for a given trait can either increase scavenging propensity (+ +) or reduce it (– –), the same is true for a low value of said trait. Silhouettes ids: basal metabolism – crocodile and puma, locomotion cost – albatross and five-lined skink, detection rate – shaggy frogfish and Gyps vulture, carrion availability – fish skeleton and dinosaur skeleton, food processing – insectivorous bat and hyena, competition – Gyps vulture and Dilophosaurus, facilitation – Gyps vulture and wolverine. All images from phylopic.org, < http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ >.


Review and synthesis
   First published: 5 December 2016Full publication history
   DOI: 10.1111/ecog.02817View/save citation
   Cited by: 0 articles
   Article has an altmetric score of 66
   Funding Information


Despite its prevalence, the importance of scavenging to carnivores is difficult to ascertain in modern day forms and impossible to study directly in extinct species. Yet, there are certain intrinsic and environmental features of a species that push it towards a scavenging lifestyle. These can be thought of as some of the principal parameters in optimal foraging theory namely, encounter rate and handling time. We use these components to highlight the morphologies and environments that would have been conducive to scavenging over geological time by focusing on the dominant vertebrate groups of the land, sea and air. The result is a synthesis on the natural history of scavenging. The features that make up our qualitative scale of scavenging can be applied to any given species and allow us to judge the likely importance of this foraging behavior.

Historically, food webs have classified most acts of carnivory as predation events (Wilson and Wolkovich 2011). This is clearly a mistaken view because of the existence of scavenging, a behaviour displayed by almost all carnivorous vertebrates (DeVault et al. 2003). Recent research has begun to redress this imbalance by recognizing the prevalence of scavenging and its implications for trophic ecology across modern ecosystems (Pereira et al. 2014, Périquet et al. 2015). By increasing multichannel feeding and the number of food web links, scavenging can confer stability to an ecosystem (Moleón and Sánchez-Zapata 2015). Indeed, there is no discrete divide between predators and scavengers but rather a continuous gradient in terms of the proportion of carrion in the diet (Pereira et al. 2014). Even vultures, the canonical example of obligate scavengers, can hunt (Margalida et al. 2011). While it is relatively easy to determine whether a species engages in scavenging through observation, determining the proportion of carrion in the diet requires extensive behavioral data. This is because approaches such as stomach content and stable isotope analysis are unable to distinguish between scavenging and predation.

Unfortunately, the lack of direct behavioral data makes it even more difficult to discern scavenging from predation among extinct forms where it was surely exhibited by prehistoric vertebrate carnivores. Some simple heuristics can inform us whether or not the prey was scavenged, for instance, in cases where it was simply too large to have been killed by the ostensible predator (Pobiner 2008). But clearly, a scavenger does not only feed on dead animals too big for it to have hunted.

There are other methods however, that can allow us to discern the most suitable morphologies, physiologies and environments for a scavenging lifestyle to prosper e.g. energetics models, comparative anatomy, palaeontology etc. (Shipman 1986, Ruxton and Houston 2003, Carbone et al. 2011). Yet, a synthesis describing the natural history of scavengers is absent from the literature. Here we rectify this shortcoming in charting the natural history of scavenging by assessing its potential among vertebrate groups past and present given their ecology, functional traits and the environmental context.

The challenges of scavenging

Species that rely on scavenging to sustain substantial portions of their diets must encounter a sufficient amount of carrion in order to meet their energetic demands. Once found, the scavenger must be able to out-compete any potential competitors and efficiently process the, increasingly decaying, carcass replete with invertebrates and micro-organism derived toxins (Ruxton et al. 2014). These characteristics can be assumed to be under evolutionary selection pressures for traits that increase carrion discovery and monopoly. Finally, the potential for scavenging, in either a species as a whole, or for individuals within a population, will also depend on the density, size, and quality of carcases produced, all of which are affected by complex ecosystem dynamics (Moleón et al. 2014b). Each of these facets are essentially the backbone of fundamental ecological theory and are the key parameters defined in functional response curves, namely encounter rate, handling time and prey availability (Jeschke et al. 2002). By considering scavenging in this context of optimal foraging we can identify the prerequisite attributes and processes required for the behaviour. This has enabled us to propose a qualitative scale of scavenging whereupon we can place a given vertebrate carnivore and assess the likely importance of carrion in its diet (Fig. 1). We argue that such a scale could be valuable when behaviour cannot be observed directly, e.g. for extinct vertebrates.

Encounter rate

All foraging processes depend on the encounter rate between consumer and resource. Locomotory speed, foraging time and detection radius all determine the encounter rate between a scavenger and the carcasses it is searching for and we would thus expect selection pressures to act on the various traits that govern these parameters. Selection might also drive a species to reduce its metabolic requirements so that it can survive long periods between meals, or expand a species’ ability to process tissues or decaying flesh that might ordinarily be discarded. However, as we noted above, encounter rate is also determined by the productivity of the environment, and ultimately the rate at which carcasses are produced. Carcass production itself depends on factors such as predation, disease and scavenging itself. For instance, by consuming the majority of carrion, more prolific scavengers may deny a resource to their less prolific counterparts obliging the latter to hunt more, and thus, increase the amount of carrion (Moleón et al. 2014b).

Encounter rate – Metabolism

Because of the ephemeral nature of carrion (DeVault et al. 2003, Ruxton and Houston 2004b) we expect adaptations that reduce energetic costs of maintenance to be selected for in scavengers as it would allow for longer inter-feeding periods. Extant reptiles possess an advantage here, in that over the course of a year their food requirements can be 30 times lower than an endotherm of equal size (Nagy 2005). DeVault and Krochmal (2002) suggest this is an avenue for scavenging in snakes because they ‘exhibit exceedingly low maintenance metabolisms, and most can survive on a few scant feedings per year. It is, therefore, possible for snakes to rely largely on infrequent, less energy-rich meals’. In the same review the authors found occurrences of scavenging spread across five families of snakes and stated that this behaviour is ‘far more common than currently acknowledged’ (DeVault and Krochmal 2002). The same reasoning can be applied to crocodiles and their allies (Forrest 2003, Moleón et al. 2015).

Carey et al. (1982) found that sharks, as ectotherms, have the ability to go weeks between meals because they focus on the energy-rich sections of carcasses (see Handling time). Endotherms have also evolved physiological mechanisms that allow them to depress their otherwise high metabolic rates at certain times. For example, vultures who do so while resting at their roost and during periods of food deprivation, a problem that their large body size also helps to overcome (Bahat et al. 1998, Moleón et al. 2014b).

While it is difficult to infer the metabolisms of extinct species, similarities can still also be drawn. In the past, many ectothermic groups such as sharks and bony fish were likely to benefit from the ability to bridge long time-spans between meals such as seen in snakes. In contrast, forms such as dinosaurs (Grady et al. 2014), pterosaurs (Wellnhofer 1991), some marine reptiles (Bernard et al. 2010) and some early mammals (Lovegrove 2016) have been proposed to have possessed at least partial endothermy, potentially requiring a higher intake of material in comparison to their ectothermic equivalents. However, such higher metabolic rates would also have increased the ability of such species to actively search for carrion.

Encounter rate – Locomotion

Compared to live prey, carrion is relatively unpredictable and ephemeral, (DeVault et al. 2003), which means scavenging depends more on the ability to efficiently move over larger areas than does predation. This generally requires an efficient transfer of metabolic energy into movement which relies on the animal’s anatomy and physiology as well as the medium of the environment in which the animal is moving (i.e. aerial, aquatic or terrestrial). Perhaps the most efficient form of locomotion in vertebrates is found in flying species. Despite the energetic costs of flight, the most prolific modern, vertebrate scavengers are the old and the new world vultures. While powered flight is energetically expensive, species like vultures have evolved behavioural and anatomical features to exploit air currents using their large wingspans, allowing them to soar at a cost of only around 1.5 times their metabolic rate (Hedenstrom 1993, Duriez et al. 2014). By depending on thermal air flows these species can forage over vast ranges (Spiegel et al. 2013). An analogous mode of locomotion is also exploited by seabirds, who use strong ocean winds to search large areas of the oceans (Norberg 2012, Thaxter et al. 2012). While many species of seabird are likely primarily predators, it seems that albatrosses, who can range many hundreds of kilometres, take a substantial amount of carrion in their diet (Croxall and Prince 1994). This is typically in the form of squid carcasses, which float on the surface, allowing the birds to readily pluck their remains out of the water (Croxall and Prince 1994).

The groups from which these modern soaring birds arose, appeared during the Palaeocene (66–56 million yr ago (Mya); Jetz et al. 2012, Jarvis et al. 2014) and Cretaceous (145.5–65.5 Mya; Chiappe and Dyke 2006) respectively. However, soaring flight is likely to be far older than this with avian flight originating in the Late Jurassic (163.5–145 Mya) and vertebrate flight in the Late Triassic (235–201.3 Mya) coincident with the pterosaurs. Indeed, scavenging among pterosaurs has been hypothesised many times before (Witton and Naish 2008). Certain groups of these animals could reach enormous sizes (e.g. Azhdarchids with wingspans of 11 m; Witton and Habib 2010) and, notably, appear to have engaged in soaring flight (Witton and Habib 2010). It seems probable that at least some of these extinct species used soaring as a means for scavenging (Witton 2013).

While soaring is perhaps the only viable means of locomotion that allows for scavenger to rely entirely on carrion (Ruxton and Houston 2004b), powered flight is still an efficient means of locomotion. Certainly, avian flight is cheaper per unit distance than either walking or running (Tucker 1975).

We know that many extant birds exist as facultative scavengers because storks, raptors and corvids all take substantial quantities of carrion in their diet (Mateo-Tomás et al. 2015). Similarly, we would expect that extinct species would also scavenge in a similar fashion depending on the efficiency of their flight. For example, early birds such as Archaeopteryx are predicted to have been poor, relatively inefficient fliers (Nudds and Dyke 2010) and so ill-suited to finding carrion. The importance of efficient flying over large areas may explain the lack of scavenging behaviour in bats as they are generally nocturnal, a time when they would receive no aid from convective air currents (Norberg 2012).

Similar to aerial species, aquatic scavengers have a locomotory benefit because water is a medium that is conducive to low-cost movement (Tucker 1975, Williams 1999). This has led some researchers to argue for the likelihood of an obligate scavenging fish (Ruxton and Houston 2004a, Ruxton and Bailey 2005).

Sharks are one likely candidate for general scavenging behaviors as their locomotion, which depends on large pectoral fins to generate lift as they swim, resembles that of the large soaring fliers. Many shark species have large foraging ranges (e.g. the great white sharks Carcharodon carcharias; Bruce et al. 2006) and it seems reasonable that they would use oceanographic currents to further reduce movement costs (Ruxton and Houston 2004a). In fact, facultative scavenging is seen in many selachian groups, including species of extant sharks like white sharks (known to feed on whale carcasses; Fallows et al. 2013), Greenland sharks (feeding on seals; Watanabe et al. 2012), and sixgill sharks (Anderson and Bell 2016). There is evidence too of scavenging in extinct species, where shark teeth have been found in the remains of dinosaurs, mosasaurs and Pliocene mysticete whales (5.3–3.6 Mya; Schwimmer et al. 1997, Ehret et al. 2009).

Interestingly, however, style of swimming in fishes does not significantly affect the cost of movement (Williams 1999). Hence, it is likely that many aquatic species with large ranges will encounter scavenging opportunities.

We might expect then that by combining an aquatic environment and an endothermic metabolism marine mammals would especially prosper as scavengers. Fossil pinnipeds and cetaceans from 60 Mya have transitional features indicative of their evolutionary trajectory to fully aquatic species (Williams 1999). But despite their movement away from land their energetic savings were negligible because the total cost incurred by a swimming marine mammal is high (Williams 1999). Indeed, the total energetic cost is similar to an equivalent terrestrial or aerial mammal (Williams 1999). This underscores the tradeoffs between the benefits of endothermy in terms of activity periods and the costs of maintaining such an energetically expensive system. That said, aquatic endotherms have and do scavenge. For instance, early whales such as Basilosaurus (38–36.5 Mya) seem to have fit into the same niche as killer whales Orcinus orca and we have some evidence for scavenging in both (Whitehead and Reeves 2005, Fahlke 2012).

Terrestrial environments are the most energetically costly in which to move (Tucker 1975). Unlike aerial and aquatic environments, support must be provided through the animal’s posture. The early transition from a sprawling gait, seen in early tetrapods, to the more erect posture of synapsids and later dinosaurs and mammals, has often been supposed as conferring a huge advantage to the latter groups (Sullivan 2015). The purported advantages include benefits in terms of speed, efficiency, muscle effort and maneuverability (Sullivan 2015). Clearly, for a scavenger, an ability to efficiently cover an area at a high speed would increase the encounter rate with carrion. Despite being intuitive, Sullivan (2015) states most of the hypotheses in favour of this idea remain to be tested in the context of archosaur evolution. One noted consequence of a sprawling gait is the phenomenon known as Carrier’s constraint such that the animal can’t move and undergo coastal ventilation at the same time because the lateral movements impedes its lungs (Carrier 1987). The evolution of an upright posture has been offered as one of the primary mechanisms that allowed early archosaurs to overcome this constraint (Uriona and Farmer 2008).

Whatever the case, it is with the evolution of endothermy in the therapsid-mammal lineage (Clarke and Pörtner 2010) that terrestrial vertebrates would have gained the ability to range more widely, a vital component in seeking out carrion. Modern endothermic mammals can sustain longer periods of energetically expensive activity (Bennett and Ruben 1979) resulting in larger foraging ranges.

Today, terrestrial scavenging in mammals is probably best known in the African Savannah context where hyenas and lions can all take sizeable proportions of carrion in their diet (Pereira et al. 2014, Périquet et al. 2015). In the spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta, striped hyena Hyaena hyaena and brown hyena Hyaena brunnea it can be over 90% (Jones et al. 2015). Most, if not all, vertebrate terrestrial carnivores take carrion to some extent (DeVault et al. 2003, Pereira et al. 2014, Beasley et al. 2015). The particular ability of hyenas to subsist on high proportions of carrion means we can use them as examples of efficient terrestrial scavengers to compare with other forms (Périquet et al. 2015). In terms of locomotion, they employ a characteristic ‘rocking horse gait’ which allows them to cover great distances efficiently, loping at 10 km h–1 (Mills 1989, Jones et al. 2015). Such long-distance travel is apparent in many other cursorial predators (Pennycuick 1995, Janis and Figueirido 2014, Pereira et al. 2014). In contrast, big cats rely on ambush (Pennycuick 1995, Pereira et al. 2014). This difference means ambush predators tend to be more obligate hunters (Pereira et al. 2014). These insights allow us to compare extant terrestrial species to their prehistoric forebears given the dominance of mammalian carnivores since the Eocene (56–33.9 Mya) where the order split into the Caniforma and Feliforma (Van Valkenburgh 1987). To take one example, Anyonge (1996) found that Nimravides, a genus of sabretooth cat from the Miocence (10.3–5.3 Mya), were likely to have been ambush predators which would argue against them taking a lot of carrion.

Of course, terrestrial animals can also move bipedally. Although the evolution of bipedal movement was significant in that it freed up the forelimbs for other purposes (e.g. climbing, tool-use, wing development etc.) it does not differ radically in cost from quadrupedal locomotion (Williams (1999), and references therein). For instance, Alexander (2004) shows that, in the case of humans, we are more economical than predicted while walking and less so while running according to predicted costs of terrestrial movement calculated by allometric scaling relationships. Our locomotory efficiency has fed into the question of where our ancestors placed on the hunter-scavenger axis during the Plio-Pleistocene, which has been a matter of debate for years (Capaldo and Peters 1995, Domínguez-Rodrigo 2002). Ruxton and Wilkinson (2013) added to this debate with their argument that long distance endurance running was not an important feature of hominin scavenging but was instead used by humans for hunting prey by chasing them to exhaustion over large distances. Even when considering the use of weapons and social foraging, the authors argue that the high cost of running long distances would render it an unattractive foraging strategy for scavenging. Yet, it still may have been useful to signal the location of carrion to others.

Aside from humans and our allies, the best-known terrestrial bipeds are the dinosaurs and unsurprisingly, given their enduring appeal, the prevalence of scavenging has been extensively explored in the carnivorous theropods. These were the dominant terrestrial carnivores for most of the Mesozoic Era (252.17–66 Mya) and ranged from the chicken-sized to the whale-sized, all of which were bipedal. While the locomotory ability of theropods has been debated since their discovery, more recent studies have reconstructed them as relatively mobile animals (Pontzer et al. 2009). Despite some suggestions that larger species may have had some advantage in scavenging, partially due to the ability to search large areas (Ruxton and Houston 2003), more recent work has shown that the energetic demands of locomotion in such large forms meant scavenging was likely more prevalent in mid-sized theropods of approximately half a tonne (Kane et al. 2016).

Encounter rate – Sensory detection

As predicted by the importance of an increased encounter rate, known scavengers have evolved well-developed senses, with the visual and olfactory sensory systems most often associated with scavenging behavior. This is perhaps no surprise because sensory systems that rely on detecting signals associated with living animals, such as audioception, electroreception, thermoreception and echolocation will be limited in their ability to detect an already dead animal.

Apart from the basic capacity of these senses to detect carrion, how they function in different environments is also important. In the simplest case, the search space is a two dimensional plane (Pawar et al. 2012). If the scavenger itself is searching on the plane, as is so for terrestrial species, the detection range is simply defined by the radius of their sensory organs. Consequently, the ability to detect carrion can be seriously restricted for visually reliant, terrestrial species. They may overcome this restriction however, by using olfaction, which is less affected by the relief of the land. For example, hyenas have the ability to smell a rotting carcass 4 km away (Mills 1989), which exceeds the 500 m range deemed necessary by Ruxton and Houston (2004b) to be able to survive as a scavenger.

Indeed, the olfactory senses of many extant (and in all probability extinct) carnivores meet this required distance, making scavenging feasible for most terrestrial carnivores (Farlow 1994, Mech and Boitani 2010). Among extinct species in particular, we can use the ratio of olfactory bulb to brain size to infer a preference for olfactory foraging (Zelenitsky et al. 2011). This approach was used by Zelenitsky et al. (2011) to hypothesise such a mode for the theropod dinosaur Bambiraptor and by Witmer and Ridgely (2009) for tyrannosaurs. The flying pterosaurs however, had tiny olfactory bulbs indicating this sense was not relied on (Witton 2013).

Species capable of flight have added an extra spatial dimension (i.e. the vertical component) to their sensory environment over land animals. This allows them to look down on a landscape where they are unencumbered by obstacles that would obstruct the view of a terrestrial scavenger. In this way they are effectively cheating the 2D system by gaining a bird’s eye view which has obvious benefits in detecting carrion. Certainly, vultures are known to have impressive visual acuity, with one estimate indicating lappet-faced vultures Torgos tracheliotus are capable of detecting a 2 m carcass over 10 km away (Spiegel et al. 2013). Eagles too are known to have highly developed vision (Reymond 1985). The flying pterosaurs also convergently evolved large orbits and optic lobes (Witton 2013). It follows that the evolution of flight allowed aerial animals to detect far more carrion than their terrestrial counterparts through vision (Lisney et al. 2013).

The terrestrial-olfaction, aerial-visual divide is not total though. Terrestrial species like hyenas and hominins exploit the efficiency of birds by looking to the skies for groups of vultures to follow to carrion (Ruxton and Wilkinson 2013, Jones et al. 2015). And many birds, e.g. turkey vultures Cathartes aura, have well-developed olfactory systems (Lisney et al. 2013) which they use to forage in heavily forested areas where vision is limited (Houston 1986).

Although aquatic species also have a vertical component to their environment, they must contend with low-light levels where visual detection distances are far lower (< 100 m) than they would be for air. As such, aquatic animals detect resources through chemo- and mechanoreception more so than through vision (Ruxton and Houston 2004a). This is particularly relevant to sharks and aquatic snakes who are deemed as having the most suitable physiology for scavenging. A hypothesis put forth by Sazima and Strüssmann (1990) argued that chemical gradients in water would allow for a relatively easier detection of carrion by snakes. This gained some support from DeVault and Krochmal (2002), who found a preponderance of aquatic snake species in their review of this behaviour. Smell seems to be the primary means of carcass detection in sharks as well. Fallows et al. (2013) found that wind speed determined the number of sharks feeding at whale carcasses due to chemical stimuli from the carcasses being propagated through the water by the wind, indicating they were dependent on detecting the odours from the decaying whales.

Encounter rate – Carrion availability

Abiotic effects

The environmental influence on carcass availability is an aspect that greatly affects encounter rate. Aspects including, primary productivity, relief, and temperature will all affect scavenging tendency. Something as simple as the physical structure of the environment can have an impact, for example, snakes can access carrion in burrows that is otherwise inaccessible to other species (DeVault and Krochmal 2002).

In fact, scavenging behaviour may have evolved on land as soon as the first terrestrial tetrapods emerged. Some of the earlier tetrapods tracks dating back to the early Middle Devonian (393.3–387.7 Mya) were found in intertidal environments (Niedzwiedzki et al. 2010). These environments are isolated from marine systems twice a day leaving potential carrion unexploited by marine vertebrates. Niedzwiedzki et al. (2010) suggest that these environments ‘would thus have allowed marine ancestors of tetrapods gradually to acquire terrestrial competence while accessing a new and essentially untouched resource’.

The physical differences between water and air mean carcass availability is radically different between these environments (Beasley et al. 2012). For one, carcasses get moved around by water which results in a more diffuse signal being produced for would-be scavengers. Carcasses also tend to sink in water where they are no longer accessible to pelagic scavengers (Beasley et al. 2012; although there may be a second floating stage due to the action of bacteria; Teather 1995). Research has shown that an animal need only travel 36 km to encounter a fresh whale carcass (Smith and Baco 2003). The phenomenon of occasional bounties of carrion in the form of these whale falls has led some researchers to investigate if a scavenger could survive by seeking out these remains exclusively. Ruxton and Bailey (2005) argued that although this is energetically feasible it’s ecologically unlikely. Any animal that could find such whale carcasses is unlikely to have ignored other types of carrion.

Although no aquatic species have ever exceeded the size of whales, some enormous animals have evolved in this environment before the evolution of cetaceans, including Leedsichthys, a bony fish from the Middle Jurassic (174.1–163.5 Mya) and the aquatic Mesozoic reptiles, the plesiosaurs, pliosaurs and ichtyosaurs, that could all exceed 15 m in length (Ruxton 2011, Danise et al. 2014). So, despite being unlikely, the energetic feasibility of a marine scavenger that specialises on large carcasses has a long history.

Perhaps the greatest environmental driver of scavenging tendency is that of temperature which has a significant bearing on the availability, predictability and persistence of carrion. We know from the geological record that the Earth has undergone radical fluctuations in temperature over time. On land, there are a wide variety of vegetation types, from thickly forested areas to open grassland and the extent of this vegetation changes with season. To illustrate the point, a 10C increase in ambient temperature can double carcass decomposition rates (Parmenter and MacMahon 2009) and geological evidence indicates that the Mesozoic Earth was on average at least 6°C warmer than now (Sellwood and Valdes 2006). In terms of specific habitats, it has been shown that decomposition is greater in warm and moist areas versus more xeric ones (Beasley et al. 2015).

The impacts these can have on scavengers have been empirically supported e.g. Beasley et al. (2015) who point to a series of studies showing how microbes and invertebrates benefit at higher temperatures to the detriment of vertebrate scavengers such that ‘above 20°C vertebrates were able to detect and consume only 19% of small-mammal carcasses, whereas at temperatures below 18°C, vertebrates consumed 49% of carcasses’. Spikes in temperature can intensify droughts causing mass mortality events which result in relatively predictable peaks in carrion availability (Kendall et al. 2014). The Earth has also undergone a series of ice ages of various spatio-temporal extent (Diedrich 2012) and modern terrestrial settings that experience sub-zero conditions can act as a microcosm to show the effect extreme cold can have on scavenging. As with extremely hot conditions, extreme cold can result in mass mortality, again, providing carrion for the scavenging community (Pereira et al. 2014). Yet, freezing carcasses can become too hard to consume by most vertebrate carnivores (Selva et al. 2003).

Biotic effects

Foragers do not exist in isolation and we know from field observations that scavengers can scrounge on the discoveries of other carnivores. This sort of facilitation occurs across a range of scavengers, in the air and on the ground (Kane et al. 2014, Jones et al. 2015).

In flight, birds are able to gather a wealth of information from other foragers, be they conspecifics or otherwise (Jackson et al. 2008, Kane et al. 2014, Moleón et al. 2014b). Again, returning to vultures, the genus Gyps consists of highly social and colonially nesting species (Fernández-Bellon et al. 2015). These behaviours allow them to forage far more efficiently because one bird can scrounge information on the location of food from another successful forager (Cortés-Avizanda et al. 2014). Information transfer of this kind is typically inadvertent and as a consequence no complex social interactions are required, simply the ability to recognise a successful forager. Thus, given pterosaurs seem to have cohabited in large numbers (Witton 2013), and the theoretical benefits this can have for social foraging in birds (Dermody et al. 2011), it seems probable that scrounging behaviours were seen in the flying pterosaurs as well.

This type of facilitation then increases the encounter rate of the facilitated species and can increase the population size of the latter (Moleón et al. 2014b). This higher population of predators may take more prey and so produce more carcasses. Conversely, by feeding on carcasses, predators may hunt less because they are sated by carrion, ultimately reducing predation risk on their prey base (Moleón et al. 2014b).

Modern scavenging assemblages are known to be influenced by carcass size (Moleón et al. 2015). Larger carcasses tend to last longer and also present a more conspicuous target for a foraging scavenger which results in more species attending them (Moleón et al. 2015). This will have had implications for extinct assemblages because body size distributions vary across different environments but also across time. O’Gorman and Hone (2012) showed Mesozoic faunal distributions may have been skewed towards larger species. Similarly, the megafauna of the Pleistocene (Doughty et al. 2013) would have produced large carcasses. As a result, the scavenger assemblages during this time would have been particularly diverse.

Ruxton and Houston (2004b) suggest an historic ecosystem with a productivity similar to the Serengeti could have supported an obligate mammalian or reptilian terrestrial scavenger. Indeed, in systems that were dominated by large ectothermic or mesothermic herbivore vertebrates, the same primary productivity would have supported a greater biomass, due to the scaling of mass with metabolic rate (McNab 2009). The upshot of this may have been a higher biomass of herbivores dying and offering scavenging opportunities (although these larger species may have also lived longer).

Handling time

Since the food a scavenger depends upon is not dispatched directly, often the most easily accessible and choicest components of the carcass will be missing owing to the activity of predators and other scavengers, or, if present, will be subject to decay as well as competition. So being able to overcome competitors and maximise the nutrient gain from the remnants are all essential parts of carcass handling time.

Handling time – Competition

Large body size has substantial advantages in agonistic interactions (Ruxton and Houston 2004b, Moleón et al. 2014b, Pereira et al. 2014). For instance, lions can acquire much of their carrion through kleptoparasitism of hyena kills (Trinkel and Kastberger 2005, Pereira et al. 2014, Périquet et al. 2015). This line of reasoning suggests that some theropod dinosaurs, who could get up to 15 tonnes, would have easily monopolised a carcass (Weishampel et al. 2004) provided they could find them efficiently (Kane et al. 2016).

We would expect this trait to be selected for even in the case of weight-constrained, scavenging fliers. This is true for many vultures and other major avian scavengers such as albatrosses who can have body masses in excess of 10 kg and represent some of the heaviest bird species capable of flight (Weimerskirch 1992, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, Donázar et al. 2002). Indeed, such is the competitive advantage held by vultures over other facultative scavenging birds that temporal niche partitioning at the carcass has evolved (Kendall 2013, Kane et al. 2014, Moreno-Opo et al. 2016). Additionally, many pterosaurs were far bigger again, with estimated body masses of over 200 kg in the Azhdarchids (Witton and Habib 2010). Although Witton and Naish (2008) argued that neck inflexibility and straight, rather than hooked jaw morphology points against Azhdarchids being as well adapted as vultures to scavenging, their terrestrial proficiency indicates they would have been comfortable foraging on the ground. Extant marabou storks Leptoptilos crumeniferus have a comparable morphology and are noted facultative scavengers (Monadjem et al. 2012) so it is reasonable to believe that these pterosaurs behaved similarly.

By contrast, extant bats seem poorly equipped to deal with competitors. Their poor terrestrial ability, small size and cost of movement on the ground would count against them while attempting to fend off other species at a carcass (Riskin et al. 2006, Voigt et al. 2012).

Smaller species can compensate for a lack of individual body size by weight of numbers in competitive interactions. This is true for a host of notable scavengers, such as vultures, early hominins and hyenas, who can and could dominate larger competitors provided they substantially outnumber(ed) them (Trinkel and Kastberger 2005, Ruxton and Wilkinson 2013, Kane et al. 2014).

Direct confrontation can be circumvented by certain behavioural adaptations. The evolution of nocturnal behaviour in some mammals, for instance, has been put forth as an adaptation to reduce competition with the exclusively diurnal vultures as well as with other larger predators (Gittleman 2013, Moleón et al. 2014b, Pereira et al. 2014). In areas absent of vultures such as the Arctic, terrestrial carnivores like bears and wolves take more carrion (DeVault et al. 2003) Thus, in the Palaeozoic, the absence of flying vertebrate competitors may have permitted terrestrial forms to take in a higher proportion of carrion in their diet.

In addition to fending off other vertebrates, scavengers also have to contend with competition from invertebrates and micro-organisms, the latter of which may require a specialised physiology to deal with. Although the findings of Shivik (2006) that ‘evolutionary pressures favor detection maximizers relative to toxification minimizers in competitive interactions for carcasses’ appear sound, the fact remains that overcoming micro-organism toxins is still a beneficial adaptation to any scavenger. Avian scavengers have evolved incredibly acidic stomachs that allow them to consume and process putrefied flesh with no ill effects (Houston and Cooper 1975, Roggenbuck et al. 2014). This adaptation is not restricted to vultures though, Grémillet et al. (2012) showed wandering albatrosses Diomedea exulans (so-called ‘vultures of the seas’) had an average stomach pH of 1.5, which enables them to consume fisheries discards and squid carcasses.

There is also evidence of selection for ‘toxification minimizers’ beyond birds among the ectotherms. From our earlier arguments we know that ecthotherms are limited in their ability to find carrion as quickly as endotherms. These later arrivers would thus benefit especially from well-developed detoxifying apparatus. Shivik (2006) suggests that ‘specialized oral structures in snakes may have evolved under pressures associated with scavenging’. Moreover, some researchers have charted an evolutionary course from basal fossorial snakes to modern terrestrial species by way of a scavenging intermediate (Bauchot 2006). However, snake venom is primary associated with predation in extant species suggesting that if venom played such a role aiding digestion of discovered carcasses in extinct species it is no longer its main function (Casewell et al. 2013). In water, by contrast, competition with micro-organisms is significantly reduced because of the high pressures and low temperatures (Beasley et al. 2012).

Handling time – Facilitation

In contrast to competitive interactions, there are facilitatory processes at play between vertebrate scavengers that can benefit the facilitated species. Rather than there being a random assortment of species at a carcass, scavenging assemblages tend to be nested (Selva and Fortuna 2007). This means the species that feed on the majority of carcasses, for example vultures, are a subset of a larger community which comprises hyenas, jackals, raptors etc. (Sebastián-González et al. 2016). We noted above that this often results in an increased encounter rate but it can also reduce handling time for the species that follow. Some examples of reduced handling time include vultures, hyenas and wolves opening the tough hides of ungulate carcasses that would otherwise be inaccessible to corvids and smaller mammalian carnivores (Selva et al. 2003, Moleón et al. 2015). Unfortunately, these interactions are particularly difficult to detect in extinct species.

Handling time – Food processing

Another vital component of carrion handling time is the ability to maximize the energy gain from the remains while reducing the energetics of doing so. At whale carcasses, white and blue sharks are known to preferentially feed on the blubber layer (Long and Jones 1996). Blubber is an energy rich portion of the carcass that can allow a shark to survive for 1.5 months on 30 kg of the material (Carey et al. 1982).

On land many scavengers utilize late-stage carcass material that is less subject to decomposition and may be unavailable to other competitors, for example bone. Osteophagy is known across a range of terrestrial carnivores and given that some fat-rich mammalian bones have an energy density (6.7 kJ g–1) comparable with that of muscle tissue, it makes skeletal remains an enticing resource (Brown 1989). Within mammals, this ability reached its zenith among hyenas with the evolution of the estimated 110 kg Pachycrocuta brevirostris during the Pliocene (3.6–2.58 Mya; Palmqvist et al. 2011). Indeed, their extinction has been blamed on the decline of sabretooth cats (Machairodontinae), because the unique skull morphology of the latter meant they would leave a large amount of food on a carcass for would-be scavengers (Palmqvist et al. 2011; note, however that the inability of these cats to deal with bone may be overstated; Binder and Van Valkenburgh 2010). Earlier in the evolution of mammals, the bone-crushing dogs that evolved during the Oligocene (Borophaginae; 33.9–23.03 Mya) have also been compared to hyenas in terms of their feeding ecology (Van Valkenburgh et al. 2003, Martín-Serra et al. 2016).

In Mesozoic systems some large theropod dinosaurs had a morphology indicative of an ability to process bone (e.g. the robust skull and dentition of Tyrannosaurus rex; Hone and Rauhut 2010). There is direct evidence that T. rex did this in the form of distinctive wear marks on its tooth apices (Farlow and Brinkman 1994, Schubert and Ungar 2005) and the presence of bone fragments in its coprolites (Chin et al. 1998). The animal also had an enormous bite force, with one estimate putting it at 57 000 Newtons (Bates and Falkingham 2012) which would have been powerful enough to break open skeletons (Rayfield et al. 2001). Osteophagy may have been even more viable during the Mesozoic era as well because of the skewed body mass distribution of herbivores towards larger sizes (O’Gorman and Hone 2012). When we couple this with the fact that skeletal mass scales greater than linearly with body mass (Prange et al. 1979) there would have been a lot of bone material to consume in the environment provided an animal had the biology to process it (Chure and Fiorillo 1997).

Despite not having the anatomical ability to break open bone, the bearded vulture Gypaetus barbatus has evolved a technique whereby it drops long bones from a height, splintering them on the rocks below which allows them to feed (Margalida 2008). Similarly, early hominins developed the ability to craft tools for breaking open bones (Blasco et al. 2014). A recent study investigating potential scavenging opportunities for hominins in Kenya found that, in addition to skeletal material, there is a substantial amount of scavengeable meat left on predated remains; sufficient to sustain the requirements of an adult male Homo erectus (Pobiner 2015). In some historical hominin-inhabited areas there were higher populations of felids compared to hyenids. Again, this is significant because hyenas are likely to have left far less flesh on a carcass than a felid such as a sabretooth, enabling contemporaneous hominins to benefit (Pobiner 2015). The use of tools and the cooperative nature of hominins meant they could likely get a substantial part of their energetic requirements through scavenging depending on their environment (Moleón et al. 2014a).

On the ground, and despite the advantages of social resource defence, the competitive ability of even the largest flying bird is radically diminished in their interactions with mammalian competitors, and as such they tend to consume carrion rapidly. Houston (1974) observed a group of Gyps vultures consuming all of the soft tissue from a 50 kg Grant’s gazelle Nanger granti in eight minutes. Their serrated tongues and hooked bills enable them to achieve this feat (Houston and Cooper 1975). Aside from raptors, the specialised beaks of many modern bird lineages tends to hinder their ability to eat meat which is in contrast to the first lineages that did not have this feature (Martyniuk 2012). As Martyniuk (2012) notes, this skull morphology of early birds indicates they were predominantly carnivorous, implying scavenging was a live opportunity compared to many of their descendants. Among the pterosaurs, Witton (2013) makes the case that the istiodactyl pterosaurs were the most likely scavengers of this group based on their potential handling time. Their skull morphologies are indicative of animals that were suited to removing large amounts of flesh from an immobile foodstuff (Witton 2013).

Again, we can draw a comparison with species that are lacking in these features. Despite readily eating carrion in captivity, cheetahs Acinonyx jubatus and African wild dogs Lycaon pictus rarely do so in the wild because they are subordinate to many of the mammalian competitors they coexist with (Pereira et al. 2014). Extant bats are poorly equipped when it comes to feeding on carrion; the larger forms are typically frugivores and therefore lack the adaptations for digesting meat, while the smaller carnivorous bats are mainly found in the microbats, which are insectivorous (Aguirre et al. 2003). That said, Necromantis (‘death-eater’), a large bat from the middle to late Eocene (56–33.9 Mya) had a robust cranio-mandibular morphology, and is a likely candidate for an extinct scavenging bat (Weithofer 1887, Hand et al. 2012).


As is often the case in science, the present provides the key to the past. The animals of today, while often different (sometimes radically so) to their ancestors, can be used to make informed comparisons to extinct species. We have used this approach to give insight into the drivers of scavenging across vertebrates through time. In common with any other forager be they grazer, browser or predator, scavengers past and present have had to balance their energetic costs with the gains of food. The main factors we considered namely, encounter rate and handling time can be used to create a scale of scavenging whereupon any species can be placed in order to predict the qualitative importance of carrion in it diet. We hope this approach will be useful in the effort to explore this most understudied of feeding ecologies.

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Accessed at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ecog.02817/full on February 8, 2017.


What separates a scavenger from a predator?

Teeth typically reveal whether a species eats meat or not, but no easily definable quality reveals an ability to scavenge.

What separates a scavenger from a predator

Photo by Adam Kane et al./Ecography

Researchers plotted their scavenging scale across time and space, detailing how species have scavenged in different settings through evolutionary history. Photo by Adam Kane et al./Ecography

By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 7, 2017 at 2:54 PM Feb. 7 (UPI) —

What makes a scavenger a scavenger? What physiological features differentiate a scavenger from a predator?

New research suggests there is no obvious dichotomy separating scavengers from predators. Instead, scientists say all meat-eaters can be placed on a scavenging scale.

A scavenger, like the vulture, is capable of the occasional hunt, while lions, if desperate enough, will sometimes scavenge. Some species, however, are better suited for scavenging than others.

Generally speaking, a good scavenger must be able to move freely and cover vast areas, and they must also be able to locate — or sense — dead animals.

When researchers organized a variety of species on a scavenging scale, they found different scavenging skill sets are required for different environs. They also found some surprises.

Albatrosses, for example, are built and behave much like vultures. Yet, they use their scavenging skills to pluck dead squid floating on the surface of the ocean, while vultures stick to land.

One might think cheetahs — given their similarities with hyenas and the vast amounts of carrion available on the savanna — would be adept scavengers. But cheetahs are built exclusively for brief bursts of speed; they don’t cover vast distances very efficiently. They’re also easily bullied off carrion by other cats.

Researchers say their scale — detailed in the journal Ecography — can accommodate extinct species as well as Homo sapiens.

“What’s really interesting is that we can also place long-extinct species on this scavenging scale and get a sense of whether or not they were likely capable scavengers, which helps us build a more complete picture of the past,” Adam Kane, a researcher fellow at University College Cork in Ireland, said in a news release.

“For example, despite having keen senses, it would have been too metabolically costly for large meat-eating dinosaurs to search the huge areas required to find enough food from carrion alone,” Kane said. “And so, Tyrannosaurus only finds itself in the middle of the scale.”

Researchers suggest early humans, prone to cooperation, likely used their tool-wielding skills to regularly put carrion on the dinner table.

Copyright © 2017 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Accessed at http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2017/02/07/What-separates-a-scavenger-from-a-predator/9731486492239/?utm_source=fp&utm_campaign=ts&utm_medium=18 on February 8, 2017.


Biosecurity: Poison – Ricin

Fannin County Sheriff: Man’s car tests positive for ricin

William Christopher Gibbs

Courtesy Fannin County Jail

William Christopher Gibbs (Courtesy: Fannin County Jail)


© Copyright 2000 – 2017 Fox Television Stations, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
By: Nathalie Pozo, Deidra Dukes, Posted:Feb 07 2017 10:06PM EST, Updated:Feb 08 2017 08:38PM EST FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. –

Startling details are emerging out of Fannin County as the sheriff said a resident there ended up at an area hospital claiming to have come in contact with the deadly substance Ricin

William Christopher Gibbs, 27, drove himself to the hospital last week claiming he had Ricin on his hands, according to Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby. A field test of the car driven by Gibbs gave a positive result for Ricin, according to the sheriff.

“It turned out to be Ricin.   I think it was all contained inside his vehicle, just a small amount of something I think he had been experimenting with. It was inside his vehicle and somehow he claimed he had exposed himself to what he made, got scared, and went to the hospital,” said Sheriff Kirby.


Fannin County Sheriff: Man’s car tests positive for ricin

VIDEO REPORT: Sheriff says car tested positive for ricin

Residents said Friday about 100 officers in unmarked black vehicles swarmed a Morganton neighborhood. This rattled many residents because they saw people in HAZMAT suits and they did not know what was going on.

“All of the sudden a whole host of law enforcement vehicles showed up in our parking lot, somewhere between 30 to 40 vehicles. And around 100 law enforcement individuals,” said Morganton Mayor Mike England.

U.S. Attorney John Horn said the 4th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team of the Army National Guard and the Cherokee County Fire Department were in Fannin County to make sure everything was safe.

Horn said the Federal Bureau of Investigation has “no evidence that any poisonous or toxic substances have been dispersed or that the public is at risk,” but the FBI will be continuing their investigation into the incident.

Gibbs is being held at the Fannin County Jail on reckless conduct and probation violation charges.

Ricin is naturally occurring, found in the seed of certain plants, but when refined and purified can kill a fully-grown adult in the amount equal to just a few grains of table salt.

Accessed at http://www.fox5ny.com/news/234491215-story on February 21, 2017.


Biosecurity: Zika

Differential Responses of Human Fetal Brain Neural Stem Cells to Zika Virus Infection




  • Mexican ZIKV strain infects primary human fetal brain-derived neural stem cells
  • ZIKV inhibits neuronal differentiation in a cell-strain-dependent manner
  • Majority of differentiated ZIKV-infected cells are glial cells
  • ZIKV-mediated transcriptome alteration is cell-strain-dependent


Zika virus (ZIKV) infection causes microcephaly in a subset of infants born to infected pregnant mothers. It is unknown whether human individual differences contribute to differential susceptibility of ZIKV-related neuropathology. Here, we use an Asian-lineage ZIKV strain, isolated from the 2015 Mexican outbreak (Mex1-7), to infect primary human neural stem cells (hNSCs) originally derived from three individual fetal brains. All three strains of hNSCs exhibited similar rates of Mex1-7 infection and reduced proliferation. However, Mex1-7 decreased neuronal differentiation in only two of the three stem cell strains. Correspondingly, ZIKA-mediated transcriptome alterations were similar in these two strains but significantly different from that of the third strain with no ZIKV-induced neuronal reduction. This study thus confirms that an Asian-lineage ZIKV strain infects primary hNSCs and demonstrates a cell-strain-dependent response of hNSCs to ZIKV infection.


Zika virus (ZIKV) has recently emerged as a global public health threat with 70 countries and territories reporting active ZIKV transmission (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016a). ZIKV is a flavivirus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti and A. albopictus mosquitoes with recent outbreaks in the Americas, including in Brazil and Mexico (Kindhauser et al., 2016, Guerbois et al., 2016). Currently, there are two principal lineages of ZIKV, African and Asian (Haddow et al., 2012, Kindhauser et al., 2016, Weaver et al., 2016). Only the Asian lineage has been associated with fetal microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, whereas few infections with the African lineage have been described (Broutet et al., 2016, Cao-Lormeau et al., 2016, Kindhauser et al., 2016, Paploski et al., 2016, Weaver et al., 2016). Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially confirmed the link between microcephaly and ZIKV infection, as well as the capability of ZIKV to be sexually transmitted (Hills et al., 2016). While ZIKV typically results in mild or asymptomatic infections in healthy adults or children, the risk of microcephaly and other serious neurological deficits in the developing fetus is an alarming consequence of ZIKV infection and thus is a serious health problem worldwide (Brasil et al., 2016).

Microcephaly is a neurodevelopmental disorder where the head is smaller than the typical size during fetal development and at birth, with the circumference less than 2 SDs below the mean (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016b). Babies with microcephaly can have a wide array of problems such as developmental delays, seizures, vision and hearing loss, and feeding difficulty. To date, little is known about the mechanism underlying ZIKV-associated microcephaly. Since a normal brain develops from neural stem cells (NSCs) and their differentiated neural cells, microcephaly is most likely associated with the abnormal function of these cells. Yet, many questions remain to be addressed, such as how human fetal brain NSCs or their progeny are susceptible to ZIKV infection, whether different strains of ZIKV infect NSCs with equal efficiency, if such infection affects functions of NSCs important in human brain development, and whether NSCs from different human origins respond to ZIKV equally. Recent evidence shows that ZIKV directly infects NSCs of the fetus and impairs growth in mice (Li et al., 2016, Wu et al., 2016). It has also been shown that ZIKV infects neural progenitors from human skin-cell-induced pluripotent stem cells (Garcez et al., 2016, Tang et al., 2016), but these studies used the murine neuro-adapted prototype strain (MR766) belonging to the African lineage. A more recent study showed that a 2015 Puerto Rico strain of ZIKV, PRVABC59, infects and kills primary human fetal neural progenitors (Hanners et al., 2016). However, none of these studies investigated the effect of ZIKV on neural stem cell functions, particularly their differentiation into neurons and glial cells, which is critical for brain development.

We used several strains of human fetal brain-derived NSCs (hNSCs) and evaluated the effects of recent ZIKV outbreak strains on their infection, proliferation, and differentiation. To distinguish from genetically modified cell lines, we refer to these non-genetically modified hNSCs as hNSC strains. We found that Mex1-7 was able to infect hNSCs and decrease proliferation in all strains but altered neuronal differentiation in only two of the hNSC strains. Transcriptome analyses also revealed cell-strain-dependent upregulation of genes associated with innate immunity and apoptotic cell death and downregulation of genes associated with cell-cycle progression and neurogenesis. The in vitro primary hNSC system will be critically important for further mechanistic studies of ZIKV strain and human neural damage and for providing insights into novel therapeutic developments.


Infection of Primary hNSCs by Asian and African Lineages of ZIKV

Three primary strains of hNSCs were derived from three male donor brains at the gestational age of 9 weeks (K048) or 13 weeks (G010 and K054). ZIKV infectivity and all other analyses of these hNSCs were carried out at passage number 22. Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis revealed that the three cell strains maintained a normal cytogenetic profile with very few cells showing chromosomal trisomy (Figure S1). MOIs of 1 and 10 infectious units/cell were initially used to test the infectivity of the following three ZIKV strains: Mex1-7, FSS13025 (or FSS hereafter), and DakAr41525 (or DakAr). MOIs were calculated from Vero cell focus-forming units. Due to overall low infection rates, an MOI of 10 was chosen for all further experiments to ensure maximum infectivity. Mex1-7 and FSS (Asian-lineage strains) are a 2015 mosquito isolate from an outbreak in southern Mexico (Guerbois et al., 2016) and a 2010 human isolate from Cambodia (Haddow et al., 2012), respectively. DakAr, on the other hand, is a 1984 mosquito isolate from Senegal, belonging to the African lineage. These three ZIKV strains were propagated only in mosquito and African green monkey kidney Vero cells, and particularly Mex1-7 is a newly isolated Asian strain with very limited passage history in C6/36 mosquito cells (three passages).

Figure 1A shows representative images from K054 hNSC infection with Mex1-7, FSS, and DakAr 4 days post infection (4 dpi), with adsorption for 1 hr. Both FSS and DakAr produced significantly higher titers 4 dpi compared with Mex1-7 in all three hNSC strains. One day of ZIKV infection resulted in cell-rounding cytopathic effects as shown in Figure 1B. Quantitative analyses of ZIKV infectivity revealed that 10% and 8% of K054 cells were infected by FSS and DakAr, respectively; whereas Mex1-7 resulted in only ~1.5% cell infection in K054, K048, and G010 hNSCs (Figures 1C and 1D). Given the clinical relevance of Mex1-7 and the distinct difference of this strain from FSS and DakAr, Mex1-7 was chosen for further evaluation for its effects on hNSC survival, proliferation, and differentiation. As shown in Figure 1E, Mex1-7 infection resulted in a change in hNSC morphology. When cultured in flasks uncoated with adherent substances such as poly-D-lysine, hNSCs grew as neurospheres in suspension in the absence of ZIKV infection. However, upon the presence of ZIKV, cells developed an adherent network structure and gradually lost sphere formation (Figure 1E).

Proliferation and Survival of Primary hNSCs Altered by Mex1-7 Independent of Human Donor Origin

To measure the effect of ZIKV infection on hNSC proliferation, bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) and Ki-67 staining was performed. BrdU incorporates into the DNA during the S phase, and thus labels dividing cells. In this study, cells were incubated with BrdU for 4 hr to ascertain the effect of Mex1-7 infection on proliferation 7 dpi. As shown in Figure 2A, no significant changes were observed in BrdU labeling in Mex1-7-infected cells compared with controls (Figure 2A). Ki-67, a marker for proliferating cells, showed a significant decrease of approximately 15% in K054 cells but not in K048 or G010 (Figure 2B). Considering that BrdU and Ki-67 provide information on cell proliferation at a certain point of time, proliferation following Mex1-7 infection was further evaluated by counting cells. Initially, 1 million cells with or without Mex1-7 infection were immediately plated into a T-25 flask and allowed to grow for up to 11 days, then passaged, and counted. Without ZIKV infection, the total cell number increased by about 2.8-fold in K054, 3.6-fold in K048, and 3-fold in G010 cells (Figure 2C). In contrast, Mex1-7 infection significantly reduced the total cell numbers compared with controls. Mex1-7-infected cells decreased from 1 million cells by 15% in K054 (0.85 million), 23% in K048 (0.77 million), and 10% in G010 (0.9 million) (Figure 2C). This reduction of cells may be due to loss of cells during the passaging procedure. Alternatively, it could be due to cytopathic effects of ZIKV infection. However, we found that there was no change in apoptosis in any of the cell strains following ZIKV infection in the proliferation stage, as determined by activated caspase-3 (Cas3) staining (Figure S2). On the other hand, following differentiation, ZIKV-infected K054 cells had a significant 3.5-fold increase in activated Cas3, whereas infected G010 and K048 showed no significant change in Cas3+ cells (Figure 2D).

Differentiation of Primary hNSCs Altered by Mex 1–7 in a Human Cell Strain-Dependent Manner

To evaluate the effect of ZIKV infection on hNSC differentiation, Mex1-7-innoculated G010, K048, and K054 hNSCs were allowed to differentiate for 9 days. At 15 dpi, cells were immunostained with markers for mature neurons (microtubule-associated protein 2 or MAP2), astrocytes (glial fibrillary acidic protein or GFAP), and ZIKV proteins. Mex1-7 infection significantly reduced MAP2+ neurons by approximately 33% in K054 cells and 43% in K048 cells (Figure 3A). Interestingly, G010 neuronal differentiation was not affected by ZIKV infection, although some morphological changes were visible in these as well as in K054 and K048 (Figure 3A). On the other hand, GFAP+ cell populations were not altered in any of the three cell strains, but there was a change in cell morphology (Figure 3B). These data suggest that hNSCs of different individuals vary in neuronal differentiation potential following ZIKV infection. When dual staining of ZIKV and either GFAP or MAP2 was conducted, the majority of Mex1-7-infected and surviving cells were GFAP+ astrocytes. Of the ZIKV+ population, approximately 46% in K054, 64% in K048, and 72% in G010 were double labeled with GFAP (Figure 3C). This was significantly higher than ZIKV+ cells dual-labeled with MAP2 for neurons which were about 26% in K054, 27% in K048, and 25% in G010 (Figure 3C). We do not believe apoptosis to be responsible for this decreased neurogenesis, considering less than 1.7% of cells showed activated Cas3 staining (Figure 2D).

ZIKV-Induced Changes of Gene Expression in a Human Cell Strain-Dependent Manner

To investigate the underlying cause of ZIKV-infection-related changes in neuronal differentiation, deep sequencing of RNAs from all three strains was performed 7 dpi and after 1 day of differentiation. RNA analysis was conducted in triplicate for each cell strain. Figure 4 shows Venn diagrams and heatmaps of significantly changed genes based on a false discovery rate (FDR) cutoff of <0.05, with up- or downregulation by 2-fold or greater. Specifically, ZIKA upregulated 370 and 819 genes in K054 and K048 cells, respectively (Figure 4A); and downregulated 227 and 508 genes in K054 and K048, respectively (Figure 4B). In contrast, ZIKV-infected G010 had only 32 upregulated and 56 downregulated genes. Of the G010 upregulated genes, 11 were shared with K048, and only 2 shared with K054. In addition, 2 downregulated genes in G010 were shared with K048 and 1 gene with K054. A complete list of all ZIKV-altered genes can be found in Table S1. Gene set enrichment analysis (Subramanian et al., 2005) of Hallmark pathways on these changed genes confirmed that ZIKV-infected K048 and K054 had similarity in transcriptome alteration, which was remarkably different from that of G010 (Figure 4C). This trend was also held for the top hit pathways related to immune response, neurogenesis, cell cycle, and apoptosis (Figures 4D–4G, 5, and 6).

One of the most striking findings from the Hallmark analysis was that G010 had no significantly downregulated pathways (Figure 6). For example, doublecortin (DCX) is a protein that regulates microtubule stability and is commonly expressed in migratory neuroblasts or immature neurons. DCX was downregulated in both K048 and K054, but not G010, which correlates well with the immunocytochemical findings in Figure 3. Similar results were also detected in the expression of another neuronal marker, Tubulin Beta 3 class III (TUBB3). In addition, of the 200 genes implicated in the Hallmark pathway of the check point progression from G2 to mitotic phase in the cell cycle, K048 and K054 had 52 and 20 downregulated, respectively, while G010 showed no changes (Figures 5 and 6, Table S1). The histone cluster 1 family, particularly histone cluster 1 H4 family member A (HIST1H4A), is implicated in this cell-cycle progression process and was significantly downregulated in K048 and K054 (Figure 5, Table S1). Generally, this gene family is implicated in a wide variety of functions, including transcriptional regulation, DNA repair, and chromosomal architecture (Harshman et al., 2013, Zhou et al., 2013); and particularly HIST1H4A has been shown to be essential for DNA replication (Miotto and Struhl, 2010). It requires further studies to determine whether ZIKV-downregulated cell-cycling genes during the early differentiation stage affect neuronogenesis in the later stage. On the other hand, K048, K054, and G010 all had significantly upregulated genes associated with immune and inflammatory pathways such as interferon-gamma response; however K048 and K054 had much greater changes when compared with G010 (Figures 5 and 6A). Of the 200 genes associated with the interferon-gamma response pathway, K048 and K054 had 109 and 89 genes upregulated, respectively, compared with G010, which had only 4 upregulated genes (Figure 6A). One interesting gene upregulated in K048 and K054, but not G010, was tumor-necrosis-factor-alpha-induced protein 3 (TNFAIP3), which is involved in cytokine-mediated immune responses. It remains to be determined whether altered innate immune response genes contribute to ZIKV-mediated differential deficits in neuronogenesis.

qRT-PCR analysis further confirmed the similar cell strain-dependent trends of ZIKV-altered expression patterns in several genes such as apoptotic protein FAS, neural stem cell stemness marker SOX1, and neuron-specific TUBB3 (Figure 6B).


Here, we established an in vitro system using primary human fetal brain-derived NSCs from three different donors to characterize the effect of ZIKV infection. We particularly focused on an Asian-lineage ZIKV strain, Mex1-7, that was involved in the first outbreak in North America in late 2015 in Chiapas State (Guerbois et al., 2016). Interestingly, we found that the Mex1-7 strain had a substantial lower infectivity (1.5%) in primary hNSCs when compared with other strains (10% by FSS and 8% by DakAr) tested in this study, as well as compared with the 1947 African lineage MR766 strain (20%–80% infection rate) and ArB41644 strain (40% infection rate) reported previously (Garcez et al., 2016, Tang et al., 2016, Simonin et al., 2016). The high infectivity of MR766 may be explained by the fact that it has been passaged for over 150 times in suckling mouse brains and developed a neuro-adapted phenotype, a concern addressed previously (Miner and Diamond, 2016). An alternative explanation is that African ZIKV strains may have a higher infectivity rate than Asian ZIKV strains. In this study, the FSS and DakAr strains used were passaged 3 and 7 times, respectively, only in mosquito and mammalian cell culture and not in neural cells. On the other hand, the source of NSCs may also contribute to the discrepant infectivity of ZIKV. For example, our observation of less than 10% cell infection rates are more in line with recent reports (Hanners et al., 2016). Both this, and the fact that our study used primary cultured human fetal brain NSCs may account for differences compared with Tang et al. (2016)) and Garcez et al. (2016)) who used neural progenitor cells derived from human skin-cell-induced pluripotent stem cells. However, all of these results indicate that the type of neural cells, the viral lineage/strain from different sources, and the viral propagation methods need to be considered when interpreting ZIKV infectivity and functional consequences in human cells.

Microcephaly may result from abnormal proliferation or differentiation of NSCs during early development (Homem et al., 2015). We thus established an in vitro system to characterize the effect of Mex1-7 on survival, proliferation, and differentiation of three primary human fetal NSC strains: G010, K048, and K054. These three cell strains were derived from three human fetal donors at gestational weeks 9 (K048) and 13 (K054 and G010), around the end of the first trimester of pregnancy and within the time frame with high risk of viral-mediated abnormal neural development, including ZIKV-induced microcephaly (Cauchemez et al., 2016). Further, Mex1-7 infections decreased the cell population in all three cell strains without significant changes in Cas3 or BrdU during the proliferation stage. The lack of change of Cas3 could indicate that, during the proliferative stage, cell-cycle progression is halted but cells are not undergoing apoptosis. Since only a small percentage of hNSCs are infected (1.5%), a bystander effect may be occurring to inhibit proliferation. Alternatively, a necrotic mechanism of cell death could account for the decreased population. The population decrease is in general accordance with the previous studies using either human embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells (Dang et al., 2016, Garcez et al., 2016, Qian et al., 2016, Tang et al., 2016). In addition to these in vitro studies, two groups have also shown that ZIKV infection in pregnant mice leads to inhibition of neural progenitor proliferation in mouse embryos by cell-cycle arrest (Wu et al., 2016, Li et al., 2016). Further studies are warranted to dissect the mechanisms underlying ZIKV inhibition of NSC proliferation both in vitro and in animal models in vivo.

The most important contribution of our study to ZIKV research is the finding of ZIKV-mediated impairment of hNSC neuronal differentiation in a cell-strain-dependent manner. Specifically, ZIKV infection significantly reduced neuronal differentiation of K054 and K048 strains but not G010. Both RNA sequencing and qRT-PCR also confirm the similar trend of reduction in the expression of neuron-specific TUBB3 gene. This cell-strain-dependent impairment is unlikely related to the initial derivation of hNSC strains from different human gestational weeks: K048 at the week 9, and both K054 and G010 at 13. First, it is known that there are no significant developmental milestones between gestational weeks 9 and 13 (Stiles and Jernigan, 2010). Second, K054 and G010 were both derived from week 13 but respond differently to ZIKV in terms of neuronogenesis. On the other hand, both K054 and K048 showed significant reduction in the number of differentiated neurons despite being derived from different developmental stages. Third, the cell-strain-dependent impairment of neuronal differentiation is unlikely due to the long-term culture (passage 22) of hNSCs. Previous studies indicate that some hNSC strains, when cultured long-term in vitro, extensively accumulate chromosomal 7 and 19 trisomy that may affect neuronal differentiation (Sareen et al., 2009). However, our cytogenetic analyses identified only minimal if any chromosomal trisomy in all cell strains. Finally, the cell-strain-dependent neuronal deficit is unlikely attributed to ZIKV-induced apoptosis. This is because that K054 cells, although having a higher apoptotic death rate than K048, showed a smaller reduction of neurons than K048. Furthermore, the low rates (<1.7%) of apoptotic cell death in K048 and K054 do not match the magnitude of neuronal reduction (>33%) caused by ZIKV infection.

Interestingly, this cell-strain-dependent neuronal impairment seems well correlated with the ZIKV-induced alteration of global gene expression pattern; i.e., K054 and K048 share similar changes in transcriptome and neuronal phenotype that are distinct from G010. It remains to be determined what gene(s) is/are responsible for ZIKV-induced and cell-strain-dependent reduction of neuronal differentiation. One of the most obvious differences detected by transcriptome analyses is that K054 and K048 but not G010 share similar patterns in the innate immune response, including interferons, cytokines, and complements. A recent study also shows that cranial neural crest cells produce cytokines associated with decreased neurogenesis following infection with either MR-766 or H/PF/2013 ZIKV strains (Bayless et al., 2016). In addition, the findings related to downregulation of the Histone 1 gene family in K048 and K054 but not G010 also warrant further investigation due to the broad implications of histone modifications. Further studies with additional hNSC strains and ZIKV viral strains are required to investigate the correlation of these findings and the underlying mechanisms as to how different genetic backgrounds contribute to the cell-strain-dependent neuronal deficits following ZIKV infection.

Another important discovery of our study is that following 2 weeks of differentiation, Mex1-7 infection was mainly found in glial cells. This was true for all three cell strains. Possible explanations include that: (1) ZIKV does not interfere with astroglial differentiation from infected hNSCs; (2) hNSC-differentiated astroglia survive better than neurons; and (3) free virions released from the original target cells preferentially infect glial cells upon their differentiation. Studies to evaluate various infection time points during differentiation and to include other ZIKV strains are needed to investigate these hypotheses.

In summary, we demonstrate that the Asian-lineage ZIKV 2015 Mexican strain, Mex1-7, is neurotropic to human fetal brain-derived NSCs. It halts hNSC proliferation independent of human donor origin but elicits impairment of neuronal differentiation and alters the global gene expression pattern in a cell-strain-dependent manner. The primary hNSC culture system allows quantitative analyses of ZIKV affecting various perspectives of neural development, which lays a foundation for mechanistic investigation of ZIKV neuropathology and for therapeutic development.

Erica L. McGrath10, Shannan L. Rossi10, Junling Gao10, Steven G. Widen, Auston C. Grant, Tiffany J. Dunn, Sasha R. Azar, Christopher M. Roundy, Ying Xiong, Deborah J. Prusak, Bradford D. Loucas, Thomas G. Wood, Yongjia Yu, Ildefonso Fernández-Salas, Scott C. Weave
Nikos Vasilakis’Correspondence information about the author Nikos VasilakisEmail the author Nikos Vasilakis
, Ping Wu’Correspondence information about the author Ping WuEmail the author Ping Wu
10Co-first author
Published Online: February 16, 2017
Publication stage: In Press Corrected Proof
Open Access
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.stemcr.2017.01.008
Author Contributions
E.L.M., S.L.R., and J.G. contributed to this study equally. E.L.M. was involved in experimental design and execution, data analyses, and initial manuscript drafting and revising; S.L.R., in conceptual formulation, experimental design and execution, and manuscript drafting; J.G., in conceptual formulation, experimental design and execution, data analyses, and manuscript drafting. P.W., N.V., S.C.W., B.D.L., and Y.Y. designed the study, analyzed data, and drafted or edited the manuscript. S.R.A., D.J.P., and C.R. participated in experimental execution. I.F.-S. provided the original sample from which the Mexican isolate of ZIKV was made. T.J.D. and Y.X. provided technical support and discussion.
This work was supported in part by funds from the John S. Dunn Foundation (P.W.), the Brown Foundation of Houston (S.C.W. and N.V.), NIH grants R24AI120942 (N.V. and S.C.W.) and R21AI129509-01 (P.W. and N.V.), and the Chief Research Office at the University of Texas Medical Branch (P.W.).
Accession Numbers
The GEO accession number for the RNA-seq data reported in this paper is GEO: GSE93385.
Supplemental Information
Document S1. Supplemental Experimental Procedures and Figures S1 and S2
Table S1. Detailed Results from Transcriptome Analyses of Three hNSC Strains after ZIKV Infection, Related to Figures 4, 5, and 6
Received: July 27, 2016; Received in revised form: January 12, 2017; Accepted: January 12, 2017; Published: February 16, 2017
© 2017 The Authors.
Stem Cell Reports ISSN: 2213-6711
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. except certain content provided by third parties
Accessed at http://www.cell.com/stem-cell-reports/fulltext/S2213-6711(17)30023-1 on February 21, 2017.


Emerging arboviruses in the Pacific

Van-Mai Cao-LormeauEmail the author Van-Mai Cao-Lormeau, Didier Musso
Published: 01 November 2014
Article has an altmetric score of 3
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61977-2

Dengue virus is the causal agent of dengue fever and is typically characterized by fever, myalgia, arthralgia, rash, and sometimes severe and life-threatening clinical symptoms. This virus is regarded as the greatest threat to global public health of arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses). However, during the past decade additional mosquito-borne viruses, including chikungunya virus, which causes fever and acute polyarthralgia, have successfully expanded to geographical areas where only dengue epidemics used to be reported, particularly to the tropical oceanic regions. In 2005, chikungunya virus was recorded in the Indian Ocean islands, and from the end of 2013, reached the Caribbean.1 In 2014, concomitant outbreaks have happened in the Pacific due to dengue virus, chikungunya virus, and Zika virus—another mosquito-borne virus that mostly causes mild fever, joint pain, conjunctivitis, and rash.2, 3, 4

Substantial changes in epidemiology of mosquito-borne diseases in tropical oceanic regions are probably caused by many and difficult to address factors. However, a review of the epidemiological situation in the Pacific from the past several years shows that the present crisis could be the product of a gradual process. In the Pacific the situation worsened during a 7-year period; the predominant circulation of a single dengue virus serotype (dengue virus serotype [DENV]-1) changed to co-circulation of several virus serotypes (DENV-4 in 2007, then also with DENV-2, which caused some sporadic outbreaks, and co-circulation of DENV-3 in 2013),2 and concurrent emergence of mosquito-borne viruses not previously reported in the region (figure).

Figure Expansion of dengue, chikungunya, and Zika viruses in Pacific Island countries and territories between 2007 and 2014

Isl=island. Plot marks represent the occurrence of an outbreak. Imported cases from the Pacific with mosquito-borne viral infection confirmed back to their home country were not reported if additional information on the possible occurrence of an outbreak in the Island Country visited was not available. Data (up to September, 2014) are from ProMED (http://www.promedmail.org), WHO western Pacific Region (http://www.wpro.who.int/southpacific/), Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (http://www.spc.int/phs/PPHSN; http://www.spc.int/phd/epidemics/), Ministry of Health of New Zealand (www.health.govt.nz), Direction des Affaires Sanitaires et Sociales New Caledonia (http://www.dass.gouv.nc/portal/page/portal/dass/), Direction of Health French Polynesia (http://www.hygiene-publique.gov.pf/spip.php?article120), or from reports by the Pacific Islands health authorities on the results of molecular tests done at Institut Louis Malardé, French Polynesia, as part of the outbreaks investigations supported by WHO.


In 2007, the Yap State, the Federated States of Micronesia reported the first outbreak of Zika virus outside of Africa and Asia.5 Subsequent infections of Zika virus in other Pacific islands were not reported until 2013, when this virus reappeared in French Polynesia and then disseminated throughout the Pacific.4 The first autochthonous chikungunya infections in the region were reported in 2011 in New Caledonia. Chikungunya outbreaks occurred in Papua New Guinea in 2012, the Yap State in 2013, and Tonga, American Samoa, Samoa, and Tokelau in 2014.

Tropical oceanic regions host potential vectors for many arboviruses that local populations are mostly naive for, making these regions an ideal setting for such emerging viruses to spread; thus greatly contributing to the globalization of dengue, chikungunya, and Zika viruses as threats to public health.

We declare no competing interests.
We thank Anita Teissier and Claudine Roche for doing molecular tests on specimens received from Pacific Island Countries. We thank Eric Nilles, Division of Pacific Technical support, WHO, and laboratory staff and public health authorities from Pacific island countries for doing laboratory investigations and sharing information. We thank WHO for support for molecular testing.
   Leparc-Goffart, I, Nougairede, A, Cassadou, S, Prat, C, and de Lamballerie, X. Chikungunya in the Americas. Lancet. 2014; 383: 514
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   Cao-Lormeau, VM, Roche, C, Musso, D et al. Dengue virus type 3, South Pacific Islands, 2013. Emerg Infect Dis. 2014; 20: 1034–1036
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   Roth, A, Hoy, D, Horwood, PF et al. Preparedness for threat of Chikungunya in the Pacific. Emerg Infect Dis. 2014; 20: e130696
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   Musso, D, Nilles, EJ, and Cao-Lormeau, VM. Rapid spread of emerging Zika virus in the Pacific area. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2014; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1469-0691.12707 (published online June 7.)
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   Duffy, MR, Chen, TH, Hancock, WT et al. Zika outbreak on Yap Island, Federated States of Micronesia. N Engl J Med. 2009; 360: 2536–2543
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Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Limited except certain content provided by third parties.
Accessed at http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)61977-2/fulltext on February 22, 2017.


Group Blames Pesticide For Microcephaly

Pesticides: Experts debunk connection between pyriproxyfen and epidemic among newborns

A chemical structure for pyriproxyfen.


Volume 94 Issue 8 | p. 6 | News of The Week
Issue Date: February 22, 2016 | Web Date: February 17, 2016
By Marc S. Reisch

Mosquito larvae develop in water before emerging as adults.Mosquito larvae develop in water before emerging as adults. Credit: Tom Campbell/Purdue University


An Argentinian physicians group claims that a larvicide, not Zika virus, is responsible for an outbreak of infants born with small heads in Brazil. While some local governments in Brazil have stopped using the larvicide, pyriproxyfen, government authorities and scientific experts contend that it is safe.

Pyriproxyfen is used to treat drinking water, where it kills off the larvae of mosquitoes, including those responsible for transmitting Zika virus. Over the past year, Brazilian authorities have counted more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly, as the affliction in newborns is known, in areas where Zika virus is now widespread.

A report from Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Villages insists that marketing efforts by the chemical’s maker, Sumitomo Chemical, and government indifference to the mostly poor population affected by microcephaly are responsible for the tragedy.

But Brazil’s Ministry of Health says that “no epidemiological studies show the association between use of pyriproxyfen and microcephaly.” On the other hand, tests of blood, tissue, and amniotic fluid from affected infants suggest a relationship between Zika and microcephaly, according to the ministry. Some localities that do not use pyriproxyfen also have reported microcephaly cases, the ministry adds.

Sumitomo asserts that the chemical, which it discovered in 1984, is safe and that “concerns related to microcephaly are totally unfounded.” The product is approved in 40 countries and recommended by the World Health Organization as safe for use in drinking water, Sumitomo says.

Pyriproxyfen works by interfering with mosquitoes’ growth hormones “from hatching, to larvae, to pupae,” explains Ian Musgrave, a pharmacology lecturer at the University of Adelaide. The hormonal pathway of the growth regulator, so effective against mosquitoes, “does not exist in organisms with backbones, such as humans,” he says. “Pyriproxyfen has very low toxicity in mammals as a result.”

Some scientists wonder whether an unknown agent is responsible for the microcephaly. “Perhaps they are getting a new chemical that forms on reaction of pyriproxyfen with whatever reagent they use for water purification,” suggests Susan Kegley, CEO of the consulting firm Pesticide Research Institute. “There is certainly more than one possibility.”

Chemical & Engineering News
   ISSN 0009-2347
   Copyright © 2017 American Chemical Society
Accessed at http://cen.acs.org/articles/94/i8/Group-Blames-Pesticide-Microcephaly.html on February 21, 2017.



Ann Morrison
By Ann Morrison March 7, 2017 12:30
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