Beijing, Aug 20 (AP/UNB) — Scientists are working to develop a vaccine to help guard the world's pork supply as a deadly virus ravages Asia's pig herds.
Farmers have long contained its spread by quarantining and killing infected animals, but the disease's devastating march into East Asia is intensifying the search for another solution.
The virus hadn't been considered as high a priority for researchers until it turned up last year in China, home to half the world's pig population, likely by way of Eastern Europe and Russia. Since then, it has spread to other Asian countries including Vietnam and Taiwan, killing millions of pigs along the way. Though it does not sicken people, the disease is highly contagious and deadly to pigs.
"Today's situation, where you have this global threat, puts a lot more emphasis on this research," said Dr. Luis Rodriguez, who leads the U.S. government lab on foreign animal diseases at Plum Island, New York.
One way to develop a vaccine is to kill a virus before injecting it into an animal. The disabled virus doesn't make the animal sick, but it prompts the immune system to identify the virus and produce antibodies against it. This approach, however, isn't consistently effective with all viruses, including the one that causes African swine fever.
It's why scientists have been working on another type of vaccine, made from a weakened virus rather than a dead one. With African swine fever, the puzzle has been figuring out exactly how to tweak the virus.
In Vietnam, where the virus has killed 3.7 million pigs in six months, the government said this summer it was testing vaccines but provided few details of its program. In China, the government indicated scientists are working on a vaccine that genetically alters the virus, an approach U.S. scientists have been pursuing as well.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it recently signed a confidential agreement with a vaccine manufacturer to further research and develop one of Plum Island's three vaccine candidates. The candidates were made by genetically modifying the virus to delete certain genes.
But before a vaccine becomes available, it needs to be tested in large numbers of pigs in secure facilities with isolation pens, waste and carcass incinerators and decontamination showers for staff, said Linda Dixon, a biologist at London's Pirbright Institute, which studies viral diseases in livestock. The process takes two to five years, she said.
The extensive testing is necessary to ensure vaccines made by weakened viruses don't have unintended side effects.
In the 1960s, for instance, Spain and Portugal tested such a vaccine after outbreaks of African swine fever. The treated pigs seemed fine at first, but then lesions broke out on their skin, arthritis locked up their joints and the animals failed to fatten up, said Jose Manuel Sanchez-Vizcaino Rodriguez, who leads a lab focused on African swine fever at the University in Madrid.
The two countries eventually eradicated the disease by enforcing strict sanitary protocols, quarantining and killing infected and carrier pigs.
Even if vaccines become available, they might not work across the globe. Vaccines developed for the virus in China and Europe, for example, might do nothing in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease has been around longer.
A vaccine might be most desirable in places where the disease is widespread, said Daniel Rock, who previously headed Plum Island's African swine fever program. Other countries might prefer the quarantine-and-kill method.
That could be the case in the U.S., where health officials have been training pork producers how to spot and report potential symptoms, which can include bleeding, lethargy and loss of appetite.
Still, Rock said the disease's global spread has made the option of a vaccine a high priority in the U.S.
Geneva, Aug 17 (AP/UNB) — From guitars to traditional medicines and from tusk to tail, mankind's exploitation of the planet's fauna and flora is putting some of them at risk of extinction. Representatives of some 180 nations are meeting in Geneva to agree on protections for vulnerable species, taking up issues including the trade in ivory and the demand for shark fin soup.
The World Wildlife Conference on trade in endangered species, known as CITES, which takes place every three years, aims to make sure that global trade in specimens of wild animals and plants doesn't jeopardize their survival.
The conference opens Saturday and runs through Aug. 28, with key decisions expected to be finalized in the last two days. It had originally been due to take place in Colombo in May and June, but was moved to Geneva after a series of terror attacks in the Sri Lankan capital.
Three months ago, the first comprehensive U.N. report on biodiversity warned that extinction is looming for over 1 million species of plants and animals. There are growing concerns that policymakers aren't acting quickly enough to stop it.
"Business as usual is no longer an option ... The rate of wildlife extinction is accelerating," said CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero in her opening remarks to the conference.
"The assessment confirms that nature's dangerous decline is unprecedented," Higuero said.
The meeting also comes just days after the Trump administration announced plans to water down the U.S. Endangered Species Act — a message that could echo among attendees at the CITES conference, even if the U.S. move is more about domestic policy than international trade.
Alain Berset, head of the home affairs department of host Switzerland, noted that sustainable management of threatened species "of course requires taking into account the interests and the needs of the countries where these species live."
CITES bans trade in some products entirely, while permitting international trade in other species provided it doesn't hurt their numbers in the wild.
Demand is diverse for animal and plant products, prized for their medicinal properties or as pets, culinary delicacies, and products for knitwear and handbags — among many other uses.
Customs officials around the world know to be on the lookout for the CITES logo on shipments of plants and animals across borders: It amounts to a highly respected seal of approval that trade in such species is legitimate.
The meeting's agenda contains 56 proposals to change — mostly strengthen — the level of protection among vulnerable or endangered species. But some argue that protections should be downgraded because the relevant populations have stabilized or even increased. Officials say the decisions are to be based on science, not political or other considerations.
"The new wildlife trade rules ... cover an array of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, trees and other plants. Twenty listing proposals are inspired by concern over the growing appetite of the exotic pet trade for charismatic amphibians and reptiles," CITES says.
Africa is facing an internal debate about elephants and ivory.
Zambia — which argues its population of wild African elephants is large and stable, at about 27,000 — wants to "downlist" that population to allow for ivory stockpile sales and exports of hunting trophies, hides and leathers. A few other countries in southern Africa want another rule on elephants eased. But 10 other countries — all but one African — want total protection for elephants from any international ivory trade.
Israel is even proposing tougher regulations on the legal trade of mammoth ivory, hoping to undercut illegal traffickers of elephant tusk who sneakily try to pass it off as "ice ivory" — ivory that comes from mammoth tusks.
Elephant and mammoth tusks can be almost indistinguishable to the untrained eye, and the mammoth ivory trade has become a booming business. Conference attendees will have to determine whether products from a long-extinct species can or should be covered by CITES.
Advocacy group Avaaz says one key question is whether Japan, home to the world's largest legal ivory market, will join other countries committed to closing their ivory trade.
"Japan's ivory market is fueling the international illegal ivory trade," Avaaz campaigner Andy Legon said in an e-mail. "And with elephants facing extinction, China, the U.S., Hong Kong SAR, Singapore and others have recently committed to closing their ivory markets."
Flora, arguably a less glamorous subject than animal life, also gets spots on the agenda. One proposal, for example, would exempt musical instruments from trade restrictions on a type of rosewood that's prized by guitar makers.
Also on the agenda are sharks. Some researchers say commercial demand for shark fins — largely driven by the Chinese appetite for shark fin soup — is decimating populations.
Sharks are getting some support in high places, including from retired basketball all-star Yao Ming, who led China's Olympic team three times. Yao became a WildAid ambassador in 2006 when he signed a pledge to give up shark fin soup and has since appeared in numerous ads calling for diners to skip the luxury soup to save sharks.
WildAid, an environmental group, also says Yao was instrumental in bringing about China's ivory ban two years ago.
Luke Warwick of the Wildlife Conservation Society said dried shark fin can command up to $1,000 per kilogram, and listing more shark species to the CITES list would be just one of several measures needed to help vulnerable populations of the predators of the deep.
"You've got this huge, unsustainable global trade in shark fin and huge parts of it, 80%, are not regulated, with millions of animals dying," he told a Geneva news conference this week. "We're watching them disappear before our eyes."
Dr. Abdulla Naseer, the Maldives' environment minister, said his island nation supports three proposals to protect 18 species of sharks and rays, namely the mako shark, white-spotted wedgefish and giant guitarfish.
"We would be ensuring future trade is sustainable ... before it's too late," he said. "We want to see the oceans protected for future generations."
Dhaka, August 17th (UNB) - The 13th death anniversary of country’s legendary poet Shamsur Rahman was observed on Saturday.
Different socio-cultural organizations took out various programmes to mark the day.
Jatiya Kabita Parishad and Bangabandhu Sangskritik Jote placed wreaths at the grave of the poet at Banani in the morning. The death anniversary of this eminent poet was also observed at his ancestral village in Raipura of Narsingdi through various programmes.
The beloved poet was born on October 23, 1929 at his grandfather’s residence in Mahut-Tuli, Dhaka. He completed his education from Pogose High School, Dhaka College and Dhaka University.
Emerging in the latter half of the 20th century, poet Samsur Rahman achieved nationwide fame with a total of 112 books including 67 books of poetry, four novels, a short story and six translations. He was noted and considered as a key figure in Bengali literature- as well as an urban poet, columnist and journalist.
Throughout his poetic journey, he always focused on themes such as human relationships, romanticism, liberal humanism, democracy, religious fundamentalism, enormous patriotism etc.
He made his professional debut as a journalist for the ‘Daily Morning Sun’ in 1957. In a long career as a journalist, he served as the editor of a national daily named ‘Dainik Bangla’ and the ‘Weekly Bichitra’ in the 1980s.
Rahman’s first book of poetry ‘Prothom Gaan Dwitiyo Mrittyur Agey’ (First Song before the Second Death) was published in 1960. ‘Biddhasta Nilima’ (Destroyed Azure - 1967), ‘Neej Bashbhumay’ (In One’s Own Motherland - 1970) and ‘Bondi Shibir Theke’ (From Confinement in Enemy Territory - 1972) are some of his prominent books of poetry.
He also has translated poetries and published collections such as ‘Robert Froster Kobita’ (1966), ‘Robert Froster Nirbachito Kobita’ (1968) and ‘Khawaja Farider Kobita’ (1968). Apart from that, he also translated William Shakespeare’s much acclaimed drama ‘Hamlet’ into Bengali.
Rabindra Bharati University and Jadavpur University of India conferred honorary D.Lit. degrees upon him. He was also honored with many national and international awards like Adamjee Award, Bangla Academy Award for literature (poetry) in 1969, Jibanananda Das Puroshkar in 1973, Ekushey Padak in 1977, Kabitalap Puroshkar in 1979, Abul Mansur Gold Medal in 1981, Bhasani Purosker in 1982 and Mitsubishi (Japan) Award for Journalism in 1982.
This legendary poet died at the age of 76 on 17th August, 2006 of heart and kidney failure- after having been in a coma for 12 days at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).
Dhaka, Aug 17 (UNB) – The 70th birth anniversary of Natyacharya Selim Al Deen will be observed with due respect on Sunday.
The Department of Drama and Dramatics of Jahangirnagar University (JU) has chalked out a programme to celebrate the anniversary.
Jahangirnagar University Vice-chancellor Prof Farzana Islam will inaugurate the celebration by bringing out a rally on the university campus on Sunday morning.
Then they will place floral wreaths at the playwright’s grave on JU premises at 10:30am.
A seminar will be held at Theatre Lab of the Department of Drama and Dramatics at 12:00pm, where Dr Jamil Ahmed will present the keynote speech.
Noted cultural personality Nasiruddin Yousuff and Prof Lutfur Rahman will be present as discussants at the seminar to be presided over by Prof Afsar Ahmed.
Selim Al Deen, who is known as ‘Natyacharya’ was born on August 18, 1949 in Feni. He joined Jahangirnagar University in 1974 at the Bangla Department and later he became the founder chairperson of the Department of Drama and Dramatics of the university.
Denver, Aug 17 (AP/UNB) — Colorado tightened its air quality regulations on Friday, requiring that at least 5% of the vehicles sold in the state by 2023 emit zero pollution.
The state Air Quality Control Commission, which passed the rule on an 8-1 vote, said the requirement applies to auto manufacturers, not buyers. It's intended to boost the number of electric vehicles in a state struggling to control ozone pollution in its most heavily populated area.
The minimum rises to 6.23% in 2025.
Colorado is the 11th state to adopt zero-emission standards, according to Green Car Reports, which tracks developments in low-pollution vehicles.
Two auto industry groups, Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, applauded the rule. They said they had been working with Colorado officials on how to structure the requirement.
John Bozzella, president of Global Automakers, said Colorado had adopted an innovative policy by collaborating with manufacturers.
Environmental groups also welcomed the standards, but the Colorado Freedom to Drive Coalition called them costly and ineffective.
"We believe commissioners did a disservice to all Coloradans, but especially Coloradans of modest means," coalition spokeswoman Sara Almerri said.
Regulators said the zero-emission standard is aimed at reducing ozone and greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis directed the Air Quality Control Commission to set a zero-emissions standard shortly after he took office in January. In a statement Friday, he said the new rule was "only the beginning" of the state's work to reduce air pollution.
Excessive ground-level ozone has plagued Colorado's urban areas for years. Ozone is the main component of smog and can aggravate asthma and contribute to early deaths from respiratory disease. It's created from pollution emitted by vehicles, the oil and gas industry and other sources.
Ozone alerts have frequently flashed on signs over Denver freeways this summer, asking drivers to reduce car trips.
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Denver and the northern Colorado urban corridor failed to meet federal ozone standards and said the state must come up with a new plan to clean up the air.
The state is also rewriting air pollution rules for the oil and gas industry.