Florida scientists discover super termites


A hybrid colony of Coptotermes termites. A king C. gestroi (nutty-brown abdomen) is shown on the left, and a queen C. formosanus (orange abdomen) on the right. They are surrounded by their hybrid offspring, including eggs, larvae, workers, and soldiers.

Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus) and Asian subterranean termites (Coptotermes gestroi) are the most damaging pest species in the world. Both are highly invasive and have spread throughout many areas of the world due to human activity, and their distributions overlap in some areas.

Now scientists in Florida have observed Formosan males mating with Asian females — in fact, they seem to prefer the Asian females more than females from their own species — and their hybrid offspring seem to grow colonies twice as fast as their parents…

Many hybrids are unable to reproduce…And many hybrids that actually can reproduce tend to lose vigor after one or more generations, which is why farmers often buy new hybrid seeds each growing season…But so far that doesn’t seem to be the case for these termite hybrids. In the laboratory, the Florida researchers are raising a hybrid colony that is growing twice as fast as same-species colonies, suggesting a potential case of hybrid vigor…

While these laboratory observations remain to be confirmed in the field, the results still raise a tangible concern about the hybridization of these incredibly destructive pests, which could have significant economic impacts…

However, even if they do not produce viable reproductives, the hybrids could still be problematic in the wild. A C. formosanus colony can grow to contain millions of individuals within five to eight years, and since the hybrid colony in the UFL lab is growing at least as fast as its parental species, it’s reasonable to assume that hybrid colonies will also contain millions of termites after five years or so…

What we are dealing with here is a termite colony that acts like a super organism,” said Dr. Nan-Yao Su, another UFL professor and co-author of the study. “Whether or not it produces reproductives, the colony itself poses a serious threat to homeowners.”

Florida’s Republican governor is a reasonably consistent thug. He’ll probably handle this threat to homeowners the way he handles climate change. First, he’ll deny it exists. Them, he’ll order all scientists on the state payroll to censor their work so there will be nothing on the record admitting to the danger.

Philosophical idealism is laughable outside the world of academia. Attempting to justify a causal relationship between concepts held in thought – and material reality – is always refuted simply by the absurdity of trying to prove something comes from nothing. In today’s Republican politics, molding the bigotry of neo-cons around a core of religion and superstition, politicians behave as if denying a problem will make it go away. Refusing to answer a question will somehow eliminate the physical processes that provoked the question in the first place.

Republicans will “give up” emergency rooms rather than accept Obamacare

A Baton Rouge, La., hospital is closing the only emergency room on the city’s impoverished north side, a real-world ripple effect of the ideological clash over President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The shutdown on April 1 serves as an early warning for hospitals in states like Louisiana, where Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal turned down federal money to expand the Medicaid program for the poor. Charity hospitals will lose billions of federal aid beginning late next year, a cut that was supposed to be offset as more residents were covered by Medicaid.

The combination is a looming “double whammy,” said Shawn Gremminger, a lobbyist for America’s Essential Hospitals in Washington, which represents those that care for the poor.

“It’s not survivable,” he said. “Hospitals are going to close…”

While Republican governors in states including Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey have expanded their Medicaid programs under Obamacare, Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has remained steadfast in his opposition…

The governor is putting ideology ahead of the welfare of the state,” said state Rep. Alfred Williams, a Democrat from Baton Rouge. “He has an agenda and it’s to run for president of the United States. And if that causes the people of Louisiana to suffer, then I believe he’s OK with that…”

Nationally, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 has eased the strain of caring for the uninsured. The law allowed for making Medicaid available to those earning as much as 138 percent of the poverty level, or about $16,200 for an individual. The expense is fully paid by the federal government through 2016 before being phased down to 90 percent.

After the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 said it was up to states to decide whether to expand the program, the decisions initially broke down along party lines as Republicans questioned whether the federal government would keep its pledge to pay for it.

Ten of 28 states that have since decided to do so were led by Republicans. A new wave of the party’s governors in states including Tennessee, Wyoming and Utah tried to follow this year, though they have been stymied by lawmakers.

There’s a warm spot in my heart for the Charity Hospitals of Louisiana. They helped me survive a couple of hard days after seven stalwarts of Confederate policing armed with guns and clubs decided I was attacking them with my head. Reminiscences aside, hatred and contempt for the healthcare needs of Americans in general, poor Americans in specific, has become a core issue for Republicans since the days of Reagan.

Reagan set out to shut down the US Public Health Service and to close every hospital in the United States servicing the needs of folks with ordinary incomes – and especially the indigent. The furore raised by masses of individuals of conscience included a number of Republicans of that era as well as the body of Democrats, Progressives, religious and non-religious people of good will. He was halted after gutting a significant number of programs serving needs unmet by profit-based healthcare.

The confrontation has only gotten worse as the Republican Party moved further to the Right, the Democrat Party joined the economic ideology mandating the Rule of Money, becoming less and less likely to participate in anything like leadership on issues of liberty. Which, BTW, includes healthcare.

You still can’t have peace without justice.