Resilient Wichita Zoo Flamingo Flies Free in Texas

FlamingoFreeTexas208-08-02.jpgFlamingo stands free and tall in Texas, nearly 13 years after escaping Wichita zoo. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A13) That can’t be right.

A flamingo? In South Texas?
Ben Shepard, in the first week of his summer internship with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, thought it must have been something else.
. . .
Mr. Shepard had the rare pleasure of spotting No. 492, an African flamingo that, for more than a decade, has shown you can still survive when no one gets around to clipping your wings.
. . .
In June 2005, on a very windy day in Wichita, a guest reported seeing two flamingos out of their enclosure. No. 492 and No. 347 had flown out; the staff had missed the signs that their feathers needed to be clipped again.
Each attempt to approach the flamingos spooked them. Soon they flew away to a drainage canal on the western side of Wichita, where they remained under observation of park officials for a week, Mr. Newland said.
They couldn’t get closer than 50 yards away from the birds, and were stumped on how to get them back. Perhaps they could try in the cover of night, using a spotlight to disorient them.
They never got the chance. July 3 brought a terrible thunderstorm. And on July 4 — Independence Day, . . . — the birds were gone.
. . .
But great fortune was ahead for No. 492. Soon after it arrived in Texas, it found an unlikely companion: a Caribbean flamingo that, Mr. Newland speculates, may have been blown into the Gulf during a tropical storm. They were seen together as early as 2006 and as recently as 2013.
“Even though they’re two different species, they are enough alike that they would have been more than happy to see each other,” he said. “They’re two lonely birds in kind of a foreign habitat. They’re not supposed to be there, so they have stayed together because there’s a bond.”
Though they’re often referred to as mates, no one knows the sex of either bird. And Mr. Newland said the fact that they’re roughly the same height suggests they’re likely to be the same sex.
. . .
“It’s less about animals escaping from a zoo than how resilient the animals on our planet are,” he said.

For the full story, see:
Daniel Victor. “Flamingo, After Cinematic Escape and Years on the Run, Is Spotted in Texas.” The New York Times (Thursday, June 28, 2018): A13.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 27, 2018, and has the title “A Flamingo? In Texas? A Zoo Fugitive Since 2005 Is Still Surviving in the Wild.” Where the wording differs between versions, the quotes above follow the somewhat more detailed online version.)

Lack of “Air-Conditioning Can Be Deadly”

(p. A10) The number of air-conditioners worldwide is predicted to soar from 1.6 billion units today to 5.6 billion units by midcentury, according to a report issued Tuesday by the International Energy Agency.
. . .
While 90 percent of American households have air-conditioning, “When we look in fact at the hot countries in the world, in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, where about 2.8 billion people live, only about 8 percent of the population owns an air-conditioner,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the energy agency.
As incomes in those countries rise, however, more people are installing air-conditioners in their homes. The energy agency predicts much of the growth in air-conditioning will occur in India, China and Indonesia.
Some of the spread is simply being driven by a desire for comfort in parts of the world that have always been hot.
. . .
And when it gets hot, forgoing air-conditioning can be deadly. The heat wave that plagued Chicago in 1995 killed more than 700 people, while the 2003 European heat wave and 2010 Russian heat wave killed tens of thousands each.

For the full story, see:
Kendra Pierre-Louis. “World Tries to Stay Cool, but It Could Warm Earth.” The New York Times (Friday, May 18, 2018): A10.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 15, 2018, and has the title “The World Wants Air-Conditioning. That Could Warm the World.”)

Ancient Skeletons Harbor a Common Cause of Liver Cancer

(p. A9) Scientists reported on Wednesday [May 9, 2018] that they have recovered DNA from the oldest viruses known to have infected humans — and have succeeded in resurrecting some of them in the laboratory.
The viruses were all strains of hepatitis B. Two teams of researchers independently discovered its DNA in 15 ancient skeletons, the oldest a farmer who lived 7,000 years ago in what is now Germany.
Until now, the oldest viral DNA ever recovered from human remains was just 450 years old.
The research may provide clues to the continuing evolution of hepatitis B, a plague that infects an estimated 257 million people worldwide and contributes to an epidemic of liver cancer.
. . .
Chronic infections can lead to liver cancer. Each year, the World Health Organization estimates, hepatitis B kills 887,000 people. Researchers have long wondered how it became a worldwide menace.
. . .
. . . the skeletons in which the Cambridge geneticists found hepatitis range from 820 to 4,500 years old. The research, published in the journal Nature, demonstrates that hepatitis B existed across Europe and Asia as early as the Bronze Age.
. . .
Johannes Krause and his colleagues examined DNA extracted from the teeth of 53 ancient people in what is now Germany. Three of them were infected with hepatitis B, it turned out: one who lived about 1,000 years ago, a second person who lived 5,300 years ago and a third who lived 7,000 years ago.
. . .
Dr. Krause and his colleagues found that their Stone Age viruses were most closely related to strains of hepatitis B found today only in chimpanzees and gorillas.
He speculated that the virus jumped from apes to humans early in the history of our species in Africa. “It’s more likely this is really an old pathogen in humans for the last hundred thousand years or more,” he said.

For the full story, see:
Zimmer, Carl. “In Ancient Skeletons, Scientists Discover a Modern Foe: Hepatitis B.” The New York Times (Thursday, May 10, 2018): A9.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 9, 2018. The print version cited above is the National Edition.)

The paper by the Cambridge geneticists, mentioned above, is:
Mühlemann, Barbara, Terry C. Jones, Peter de Barros Damgaard, Morten E. Allentoft, Irina Shevnina, Andrey Logvin, Emma Usmanova, Irina P. Panyushkina, Bazartseren Boldgiv, Tsevel Bazartseren, Kadicha Tashbaeva, Victor Merz, Nina Lau, Václav Smrčka, Dmitry Voyakin, Egor Kitov, Andrey Epimakhov, Dalia Pokutta, Magdolna Vicze, T. Douglas Price, Vyacheslav Moiseyev, Anders J. Hansen, Ludovic Orlando, Simon Rasmussen, Martin Sikora, Lasse Vinner, Albert D. M. E. Osterhaus, Derek J. Smith, Dieter Glebe, Ron A. M. Fouchier, Christian Drosten, Karl-Göran Sjögren, Kristian Kristiansen, and Eske Willerslev. “Ancient Hepatitis B Viruses from the Bronze Age to the Medieval Period.” Nature 557, no. 7705 (May 9, 2018): 418-23.

The paper co-authored by Krause, and mentioned above, is:
Krause-Kyora, Ben, Julian Susat, Felix M. Key, Denise Kühnert, Esther Bosse, Alexander Immel, Christoph Rinne, Sabin-Christin Kornell, Diego Yepes, Sören Franzenburg, Henrike O. Heyne, Thomas Meier, Sandra Lösch, Harald Meller, Susanne Friederich, Nicole Nicklisch, Kurt W. Alt, Stefan Schreiber, Andreas Tholey, Alexander Herbig, Almut Nebel, and Johannes Krause. “Neolithic and Medieval Virus Genomes Reveal Complex Evolution of Hepatitis B.” eLife 7 (2018): e36666.

Value of Property Rights Now Seen by One Who Seized Land

(p. 4) MAZOWE, Zimbabwe — The police first came early one morning five years ago, catching villagers by surprise as they worked in their fields. As hundreds of anti-riot police officers jumped down from their vehicles, their commander issued the villagers an order.
“He said that mother and daughter Grace Mugabe wanted this place,” recalled a village leader, Denboy Chaparadza. “So you better move away.”
The villagers understood right away: Grace Mugabe, the wife of Robert Mugabe, who was ousted from power in November after 37 years as Zimbabwe’s leader, and their daughter, Bona, coveted the villagers’ land. The Mugabes already owned property and businesses in Mazowe, about 25 miles north of Harare, the capital, and they were eager to expand.
Before the villagers could object, the police, armed with sticks and iron bars, demolished their modest houses. “Every house,” Mr. Chaparadza said. “They left us out in the open. We felt betrayed.”
. . .
One reason the 146 families who lived in Mazowe felt betrayed by their leader was that they themselves had seized the land from a white farmer in 2000, under Mr. Mugabe’s fast-track land reform program. Now, they risked losing everything to his wife and daughter: 3,100 acres of prime land for farming and cattle ranching that abuts a lake and gold mines.
. . .
Determining who owns the land is a necessary step to development and democratization in Zimbabwe. Nearly all Zimbabweans who benefited from Mr. Mugabe’s land reform policy lack titles, or legal ownership of their property — leaving them at the mercy of the politically powerful.
. . .
Land also remains a tool of political control, one that Mr. Mnangagwa and other leaders of the governing ZANU-PF party have never shown a willingness to relinquish.
. . .
In recent years, as fighting over succession intensified inside ZANU-PF, land was used to punish and to keep people in line.
High-ranking officials expelled from the party had their land seized, or suffered repeated incursions into their properties by party youths. The threat of losing their farms led some officials to stay in ZANU-PF, instead of decamping to new opposition parties.
. . .
Mr. Chaparadza, the village leader, said that as part of any resolution of the land issue, the new government should compensate white farmers.
“Even if they come back, that’s fine as long as they give us another place,” he said. “We won’t deny them. What we need is only some land where we can survive — and title to the land.”

For the full story, see:
NORIMITSU ONISHI. “Land Issue Stands in Zimbabwe’s Path.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, January 21, 2018): 4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 20, 2018, and has the title “Resolving Who Owns What Land Lies at Heart of Zimbabwe’s Future.”)

Innovation Skeptics Fail to See Its Broad Benefits

(p. B11) Professor Juma died on Dec. 15 [2017] at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 64. His wife said the cause was cancer. At his death he was widely credited as having been an important force in ensuring that biotechnology would play a critical role in improving economic life in many developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Calestous understood that people often resist the changes that come with innovation, and that overcoming this resistance can be very important in enabling societies to move ahead,” said Douglas W. Elmendorf, dean of the Kennedy School. “So he tried to understand why people resist innovation, and what can be done to make them feel comfortable with change.”
Professor Juma’s latest book, “Innovation and Its Enemies” (2016), described how technological change is often greeted with public skepticism. Beneath such opposition, he argued, is the belief that only a small segment of society will benefit from potential progress, while the much broader society bears the greatest risk.
. . .
Professor Juma could be lighthearted in the classroom or in public in order to make his points. With more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, he shared with them cartoons that teased skeptics of science and innovation. One of his last posts featured a game show called “Facts Don’t Matter.” In it, a contestant is told: “I’m sorry, Jeannie, your answer was correct, but Kevin shouted his incorrect answer over yours, so he gets the points.”

For the full obituary, see:
ADEEL HASSAN. “Calestous Juma, 64, Advocate of African Progress, Dies.” The New York Times (Tues., January 2, 2018): B11.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date JAN. 1, 2018, and has the title “Calestous Juma, 64, Dies; Sought Innovation in African Agriculture.”)

The most recent book by Juma, mentioned above, is:
Juma, Calestous. Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

“We Grow at Night, While the Government Sleeps”

HarareNightStreetMarket2017-09-10.jpg“In Harare, unauthorized street vendors wait until dark to avoid the police. The government says 95 percent of the work force is involved in the informal economy.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

I remember my Wabash College economics professor, Ben Rogge, telling us that during one of his visits to Brazil, many decades ago, he asked an entrepreneur how the Brazilian economy managed to grow in spite of the heavy government regulations. With a smile, the entrepreneur told Ben: “We grow at night, while the government sleeps.”

(p. 6) HARARE, Zimbabwe — Dusk falls and thousands of vendors fan out across central Harare. Through the night, they hawk their wares — vegetables, clothes, kitchen utensils, cellphones — from carts, wheelbarrows or even the pavement, transforming the city’s staid business district into a giant, freewheeling village market.

On Robert Mugabe Road, around the corner from the city’s remaining colonial-era luxury hotel, the Meikles, Victor Chitiyo has sold dress shirts since losing his job as a machine operator at a textile factory several years ago.
“Since then, I’ve never been employed,” Mr. Chitiyo, 38, said under the dim light of a street lamp. “If the economy improves, I’d want to be employed at a company again. But I don’t think that will happen. It’s been a long time since we were optimistic in Zimbabwe.”
Harare’s night market is the most visible evidence of Zimbabwe’s swelling informal economy, which the government estimates now employs all but a small share of the country’s work force.
Even as Zimbabwe’s government, banks, listed companies and other members of the formal economy lurch from one crisis to another, the thriving informal economy of street vendors, traders and others unrepresented in official statistics helps keep the country afloat. For the government of President Robert Mugabe, that parallel economy is both a source of stability — and a potential challenge.
Once one of Africa’s most advanced economies, Zimbabwe has rapidly deindustrialized and shed formal wage-paying jobs, forcing millions like Mr. Chitiyo to hustle on the streets in cities and towns.
From 2011 to 2014, the percentage of Zimbabweans scrambling to make a living in the informal economy shot up to an astonishing 95 percent of the work force from 84 percent, according to the government. And of that small number of salaried workers, about half are employed by the government, including patronage beneficiaries with few real duties.
. . .
The government has occasionally cracked down — sometimes violently — on the street vendors, who are not licensed, describing their activities, near the seat of government and businesses, as an eyesore. Some of the vendors have also staged protests against Mr. Mugabe’s rule.
But the government mostly turns a blind eye, clearly calculating that a permanent crackdown on the livelihoods of an increasing number of its citizens would result in greater political instability. According to an unspoken rule, the street vendors are allowed to operate only after dark on weekdays and starting in late afternoon on weekends.
“If I come too early, the police will take my wares away and I’ll be broke,” said Norest Muza, 28, who sold popcorn and chips while carrying her 2-year-old son on her back. “Evenings, the police don’t come.”
Many of the street vendors arrive in Harare’s business district at dusk and spend the night on the streets before going home at dawn with the morning’s first taxis and buses.
. . .
Mr. Mugabe’s violent seizure of white-owned farms starting in 2000 precipitated a decline in manufacturing and a process of deindustrialization. Manufacturing peaked in 1992, accounting for about 30 percent of the gross domestic product. Now it is 11 percent and declining.
. . .
With the government now strictly controlling the transfer of dollars outside Zimbabwe, companies dependent on trade are finding it increasingly difficult to import critical goods.
“We have companies scaling down or discontinuing certain lines that are heavy on import requirements,” said Busisa Moyo, president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.
. . .
As the formal economy keeps shrinking, more and more people have been crowding the area where Mr. Chitiyo sells shirts on Robert Mugabe Road.
Across the street, a girl’s voice was crying, “Twenty-five cents for a cob!” It belonged to Tariro Dongo, 13, on her first evening working as a street vendor. It was past 9 p.m. Tariro said she was good in school and wanted to become a teacher.
She had bought 20 corn cobs for $2 near her home in Epworth, a poor township outside Harare. If she sold everything, her profit, after transportation, would amount to a couple of dollars. Sitting on a black bucket and fanning the coals in a small charcoal burner with a piece of cardboard, Tariro roasted the cobs.
She was happy with the money she had made on her first day, Tariro said.
“Twenty-five cents,” she cried. “One cob left!”

For the full story, see:
NORIMITSU ONISHI and JEFFREY MOYO. “Trade on the Streets, and Off the Books, Keeps Zimbabwe Afloat.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., MARCH 5, 2017): 6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 4, 2017, and has the title “Trade on Streets, and Off Books, Keeps Zimbabwe Afloat.”)

“Possibly Extinct” Cave Squeaker Frog Keeps on Squeaking

(p. 6) HARARE, Zimbabwe — The cave squeaker is back.
Researchers in Zimbabwe say they have found a rare frog that has not been seen in decades.
The Arthroleptis troglodytes, below, also known as the cave squeaker because of its preferred habitat, was discovered in 1962, but there were no reported sightings of the elusive amphibian after that. An international “red list” of threatened species tagged them as critically endangered and possibly extinct.
Robert Hopkins, a researcher at the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe, in Bulawayo, said his team had found four specimens of the frog in its known habitat of Chimanimani, a mountainous area in eastern Zimbabwe.
The research team found the first male specimen on Dec. 3 [2016] after they followed an animal call they had not heard before, Mr. Hopkins said. They then discovered two other males and a female. Mr. Hopkins said he been looking for the cave squeaker for eight years.

For the full story, see:
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. “Rare Frogs Seen in 1962 Resurface in Zimbabwe.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., FEB. 5, 2017): 8.
(Note: bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 4, 2017, and has the title “Cave Squeaker, Rare Frog Last Seen in 1962, Is Found in Zimbabwe.”)