Mchenry, Oct 15 (AP/UNB) — Wildlife officials in Maryland tracked a black bear cub for three days in order to tranquilize it and remove a bucket that had gotten stuck on its head.
The Cumberland Times-News reported Sunday the 100-pound cub was freed near the Wisp Resort in McHenry during an annual autumn festival.
The Wildlife and Heritage Service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said in a Facebook post that a crowd of onlookers at the resort was giddy to see the cub returned to the nearby woods.
London, Oct 7 (AP/UNB) — Screenwriter Ray Galton, who co-wrote the landmark British comedy series "Hancock's Half Hour" and "Steptoe and Son," has died at 88.
Galton's family said Saturday that he died Friday evening after a "long and heart-breaking battle with dementia."
The London-born Galton was diagnosed with life-threatening tuberculosis as a teenager. In a sanatorium, he met another sick teen, Alan Simpson, and the pair became long-term writing partners.
Manager Tessa Le Bars called them "the fathers and creators of British sitcom."
Galton and Simpson wrote "Hancock's Half Hour" for popular post-war comedian Tony Hancock. Their biggest hit was "Steptoe and Son," a sitcom about father-and-son junk dealers, which ran between 1962 and 1974. Producer Norman Lear adapted it into the U.S. sitcom "Sanford and Son."
Simpson died last year at 87.
San Carlos, Oct 4 (AP/UNB) — Brandon Alexander would like to introduce you to Angus, the farmer of the future. He's heavyset, weighing in at nearly 1,000 pounds, not to mention a bit slow. But he's strong enough to hoist 800-pound pallets of maturing vegetables and can move them from place to place on his own.
Sure, Angus is a robot. But don't hold that against him, even if he looks more like a large tanning bed than C-3PO.
To Alexander, Angus and other robots are key to a new wave of local agriculture that aims to raise lettuce, basil and other produce in metropolitan areas while conserving water and sidestepping the high costs of human labor. It's a big challenge, and some earlier efforts have flopped. Even Google's "moonshot" laboratory, known as X, couldn't figure out how to make the economics work.
After raising $6 million and tinkering with autonomous robots for two years, Alexander's startup Iron Ox says it's ready to start delivering crops of its robotically grown vegetables to people's salad bowls. "And they are going to be the best salads you ever tasted," says the 33-year-old Alexander, a one-time Oklahoma farmboy turned Google engineer turned startup CEO.
In this Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, photo bok choy is seen growing in the foreground at Iron Ox, a robotic indoor farm, in San Carlos, Calif.
Iron Ox planted its first robot farm in an 8,000-square-foot warehouse in San Carlos, California, a suburb located 25 miles south of San Francisco. Although no deals have been struck yet, Alexander says Iron Ox has been talking to San Francisco Bay area restaurants interested in buying its leafy vegetables and expects to begin selling to supermarkets next year.
The San Carlos warehouse is only a proving ground for Iron Ox's long-term goals. It plans to set up robot farms in greenhouses that will rely mostly on natural sunlight instead of high-powered indoor lighting that sucks up expensive electricity. Initially, though, the company will sell its produce at a loss in order to remain competitive.
During the next few years, Iron Ox wants to open robot farms near metropolitan areas across the U.S. to serve up fresher produce to restaurants and supermarkets. Most of the vegetables and fruit consumed in the U.S. is grown in California, Arizona, Mexico and other nations. That means many people in U.S. cities are eating lettuce that's nearly a week old by the time it's delivered.
There are bigger stakes as well. The world's population is expected to swell to 10 billion by 2050 from about 7.5 billion now, making it important to find ways to feed more people without further environmental impact, according to a report from the World Resources Institute .
Iron Ox, Alexander reasons, can be part of the solution if its system can make the leap from its small, laboratory-like setting to much larger greenhouses.
The startup relies on a hydroponic system that conserves water and automation in place of humans who seem increasingly less interested in U.S. farming jobs that pay an average of $13.32 per hour, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nearly half of U.S. farmworkers planting and picking crops aren't in the U.S. legally, based on a survey by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The heavy lifting on Iron Ox's indoor farm is done by Angus, which rolls about the indoor farm on omnidirectional wheels. Its main job is to shuttle maturing produce to another, as-yet unnamed robot, which transfers plants from smaller growing pods to larger ones, using a mechanical arm whose joints are lubricated with "food-safe" grease.
It's a tedious process to gently pick up each of the roughly 250 plants on each pallet and transfer them to their bigger pods, but the robot doesn't seem to mind the work. Iron Ox still relies on people to clip its vegetables when they are ready for harvest, but Alexander says it is working on another robot that will eventually handle that job too.
Alexander formerly worked on robotics at Google X, but worked on drones, not indoor farms. While there, he met Jon Binney, Iron Ox's co-founder and chief technology offer. The two men became friends and began to brainstorm about ways they might be able to use their engineering skills for the greater good.
"If we can feed people using robots, what could be more impactful than that?" Alexander says.
Trenton, Oct 3 (AP/UNB) — U.S. regulators on Tuesday approved a modernized version of a decades-old antibiotic used to treat a number of infections.
Paratek Pharmaceuticals' Nuzyra was designed to overcome the problem of resistance to tetracycline, an antibiotic widely used until recent years.
The company said the Food and Drug Administration approved Nuzyra for treating bacterial pneumonia and severe skin infections.
Paratek plans to launch the antibiotic early next year, initially for use in hospitals. It hasn't disclosed the price.
Boston-based Paratek estimates its drug could eventually treat nearly 900,000 hospitalized U.S. patients annually
About 2 million Americans get infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year and 23,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Paratek tested Nuzyra against several types of bacteria that cause pneumonia and skin infections. The drug was more effective than two standard antibiotics given to patients in comparison groups, company testing showed.
Many antibiotics no longer work well, if at all, against some bacterial infections, due to their overuse in medicine and livestock production.
Paratek's drug, also known as omadacycline, is the first in a new class of antibiotics. It's an updated version of tetracycline, a 65-year-old antibiotic that was a workhorse against skin, respiratory and other infections until increasing resistance limited its use. Paratek created its drug by tweaking tetracycline to block two common ways bacteria use to resist it.
The FDA approved both an IV version and a daily pill that patients can switch to when they leave the hospital, the company said. It will eventually market the drug for patients treated at doctors' offices and clinics.
Last week, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department announced at the United Nations General Assembly a new global effort to fight antibiotic resistance and develop new treatments. The 106 initial participants included drugmakers, government agencies, medical groups and animal food producers.
Chicago, Sep 27 (AP/UNB) — Following years of reformulating at McDonald's, most of the burgers it serves in the U.S. are now preservative-free.
As of Wednesday, the world's largest burger chain says classics like the Big Mac and Quarter Pounder with Cheese are preservative-free, with reformulated buns and sauces. Pickles on the sandwiches still contain artificial preservatives, but customers can request sandwiches without pickles.
McDonald's has been gradually removing preservatives from its menu for several years in an effort to appeal to more health-conscious buyers. In 2016, it removed high-fructose corn syrup from its buns and took artificial preservatives out of its Chicken McNuggets.
The Chicago-based company says around one-third of its sandwiches still have artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, including Egg McMuffins and Filet-O-Fish. It hasn't set a timeline for removing those ingredients.