One-man hero of Zambia’s farming revolution

Elleman Mumba makes an unlikely celebrity. He is not a singer nor a footballer – he is a 54-year-old peasant farmer from southern Zambia. Yet he has appeared on the front page of a national newspaper and been interviewed for numerous radio and television programmes.

What explains his fame?

Mr Mumba grows maize and groundnuts on his small plot of land in Shimabala, just south of Lusaka. Feeding his family used to be a problem. “The yield was very little. We were always looking for hand-outs; we had to rely on relief food.”

Like many farmers, Mr Mumba had no oxen of his own to plough his field. He had to wait in line to hire some, which meant he often failed to plant as soon as the first rains fell – with disastrous consequences…

Then, in 1997, Mr Mumba suddenly found himself in the vanguard of a quiet agricultural revolution. His wife had been given free training in a system called conservation farming, and persuaded him to try it.

Conservation farming is about doing less to get more. Instead of ploughing entire fields, farmers till and plant in evenly spaced basins. Only a tenth of the land area is disturbed.

This reduces erosion and run-off – where soil and nutrients are washed away by rain.

“That season I had 68 bags of maize – enough to feed my family and buy four cattle,” he says, blazing with pride at the recollection…

“They said I was using juju in my field. I felt very bad, but I knew I wasn’t using witchcraft. I told them: ‘In CF there’s no juju. It’s just that you conserve water, so even when the rains are light, you are able to get something.'”

Now many of those who called him a witchdoctor have followed him into conservation farming.

RTFA. There’s a lot that can be learned in the West as well as developing nations. This process also returns land that’s becoming “desert” into production. Subsistence farming is “good enough”, sometimes – you know.

Arrest made in murder threats to senator over healthcare

A central Washington man was so enraged by the passage of federal health care reform that he threatened to kill U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, prosecutors charged Tuesday.

“I want to xxxxxxx kill you,” court documents say Charles Alan Wilson of Selah said in one of his foul-mouthed calls to Murray’s office.

Kill the xxxxxxx senator! Hang the xxxxxxx senator! I hope somebody puts a xxxxxxx bullet between your xxxxxxx eyes,” court documents say he said in another call.

Wilson, 64, was charged Tuesday morning with threatening a federal official. He was undone, in part, by an FBI agent who posed as being with a group that wanted to repeal health-care reform.

The criminal complain says Wilson called Murray’s office multiple times between March 22 and April 4 and left threatening messages.

Congress approved health-care reform on March 21. On March 22, a staffer in Murray’s Seattle office began to record and save the messages that court documents say Wilson left…

Prosecutors say Wilson allegedly made the calls from a blocked phone number. But subpoenaed records showed that the calls came from his home line.

On April Fool’s Day, an undercover agent called Wilson, pretending to be a representative of Patients United Now, a group that wanted health-care reform repealed. Wilson agreed to have the call recorded.

The FBI compared that recording with the messages at Murray’s office and concluded that Wilson left the messages, court documents say…

If convicted of threatening a federal official, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined as much as $250,000.

Throw away the key. He’s old enough to collect his Social Security check and Medicare. The Feds may as well add prison food to his socialist lifestyle.

Home Owners Association sues museum over fossil dig

Museum crew encasing whale vertebrae in plaster

The discovery of 10 million-year-old whale bones poking out of an eroding cliff face in Calvert County seemed a windfall for science.

That’s certainly how Shmuel Rotenstreich saw it when the bones appeared almost two years ago below the cliff-top home he shares with his wife, Debora Linzer, in Chesapeake Ranch Estates.

So when someone from the Calvert Marine Museum asked if he’d object if the museum’s paleontologists excavated the skeleton, Rotenstreich, 63, a computer scientist at George Washington University, did not hesitate.

“He’s a scientist. I’m a scientist, too,” Rotenstreich said. “So I said, ‘Obviously not.’ ”

And with that blessing, five months of digging at the site began.

In a sane world, that might be that. But, there is a home owner’s association and they have lawyers with apparently nothing to keep them busy.

Unfortunately for all concerned, it now appears that his property included neither the cliff face nor the fossil skeleton. Which is why Rotenstreich and the museum in Solomons have been hauled into court.

The local community association, which claims it owns both the cliff and the fossils, is seeking monetary damages and a court order to keep the museum off its property unless the museum gets prior permission. A non-jury civil trial is scheduled to begin in Calvert County Circuit Court.

Paleontology, anthropology and related are practically neighborhood hobbies where I live. Anything you dig up is often subject to archaeological law – and we all understand that.

In general, we try to get along. We deal with a few extra months at the beginning of any construction project to peer and poke; but, museums, tribal historians, community needs govern most decisions.

RTFA. Be reminded why we try to keep the lawyers out.

Return to breastfeeding in U.S. would save lives, billion$

If most new moms would breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life, it would save nearly 1,000 lives and billions of dollars each year, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

“The United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs annually and suffers 911 preventable deaths per year because our breastfeeding rates fall far below medical recommendations,” the report said.

The World Health Organization says infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life “to achieve optimal growth, development and health.” The WHO is not alone in its recommendations.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all agree that breast milk alone is sufficient for newborns and infants until they are 6 months old.

However, a 2009 breastfeeding report card from the CDC found that only 74 percent of women start breastfeeding, only 33 percent were still exclusively breastfeeding at three months and only 14 percent were still exclusively breastfeeding at six months…

Dr. Melissa Bartick and her co-author Arnold Reinhold found that most of the excess costs are due to premature deaths. Nearly all, 95 percent of these deaths, are attributed to three causes: sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); necrotizing enterocolitis, seen primarily in preterm babies and in which the lining of the intestinal wall dies; and lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

RTFA. Reflect upon science and common sense both surpassing fashion, convenience.

Two women arrested after attempt to smuggle body onto plane

Two women have been arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle the body of a dead relative onto an easyJet flight to Germany.

The pair were reported to have told staff at Liverpool John Lennon airport that the 91-year-old man was asleep, after pushing him into the terminal in a wheelchair and covering his face with sunglasses.

The alleged attempt to get the man on board a flight to Berlin ended in their arrest on suspicion of failing to give notification of death.

Police are investigating claims the women ferried the body in a taxi from their home in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

EasyJet said two women passengers had arrived at the airport on Saturday to check in for the EZY 7223 flight to Berlin, “with an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair”. Its statement added: “On arrival at the airport, staff were immediately concerned about his health and the first aid team were called. It was then discovered the passenger was in fact deceased and the police were called.”

Har! Where’s Monty Python when you need ’em?

25 bodies found so far in West Virginia mine

In the past year, federal inspectors fined the company more than $382,000 for repeated serious violations involving its ventilation plan and equipment at Upper Big Branch. The violations also cover failing to follow the plan, allowing combustible coal dust to pile up, and having improper firefighting equipment.

Coal companies own the state, the inspectors, the politicians. Compassionate conservatives every one.

Obama/U.S. strategy to narrow use of nuclear weapons

President Barack Obama has said a retooled nuclear strategy would narrow when the United States would use nuclear weapons, including for self-defense, the New York Times reported.

Obama, in an interview with the newspaper before the White House unveils the new strategy on Tuesday, said an exception would be carved out for “outliers like Iran and North Korea.”

The much-anticipated announcement on the size and role of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile could build momentum before Obama signs a landmark arms control treaty with Russia in Prague on Thursday and hosts a nuclear security summit in Washington next week.

The Nuclear Posture Review is required by Congress from every U.S. administration but Obama set expectations high after he vowed to end “Cold War thinking” and won the Nobel Peace Prize in part for his vision of a nuclear-free world.

To set an example for moving the world toward making nuclear weapons obsolete, Obama’s strategy renounces any new atomic arms development…

The United States for the first time would explicitly commit to not using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that adhered to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty even if they attacked with biological or chemical weapons, the Times said.

We can look forward to every chickenhawk in Congress, every teabagger and, of course, every leftover from the VietNam War who still tries to justify that misbegotten adventure – to trumpet the elephant call to glorious death that so afflicts right-wing losers.

Perish the thought that a grown-up in charge might diminish their chance to threaten all of humanity with destruction.

“Termite gang” tunnels into 3rd French bank

Would-be robbers armed with a pneumatic drill dug a tunnel from a Paris subway station into the basement of a bank in the early hours of Sunday but failed to seize any cash or valuables, police said.

The attempted robbery of BNP Paribas is the third time this year so-called “termite gangs” have tried to rob a bank by digging a tunnel into the building.

It is not known whether the three incidents are related.

Well, duh. Are there that many copy-cat tunnelers in Paris?

The gang dug into the bank’s basement, possibly via the sewage system. They failed to enter the safety deposit room and nothing was taken, a BNP spokeswoman said.

They aborted the attempt and started a fire to cover their tracks, which set off alarms and alerted police. Digging equipment, including a pneumatic drill, was found at the scene…

Next we’ll probably hear about someone making off with gold bullion in Cooper Minis!

Ready for bee venom therapy?

Sami Chugg, 45, was diagnosed with MS in 1998 and it slowly began to attack her ability to move. The incurable disease stops the body’s nerve cells communicating and she was soon so ill she was permanently bed ridden.

But she is now back on her feet after trying a treatment called Bee Venom Therapy (BVT).

The treatment involves holding a bee in a pair of tweezers and deliberately stinging an area of skin on the patient’s body…

Sami says she was stung around 1,500 times in eighteen months and says it has given her her mobility back…

The alternative treatment remains unproven by evidence-based medicine but it has been used to treat other wasting diseases and arthritis…

She said: ”There are three locations we used for the stings, above the shoulders, the middle back, and then the lumbar area. It’s all centred around your spine.

I have no comment on the results from one case – and nothing to compare it to, no eval from double-blinds or placebos. One person believing in their cure is good enough for that person. And for that, I’m glad Sami Chugg is feeling better, reacquired mobility.

Thanks, wok3