Thursday, May 03, 2007

Live Again

The Bees

Unless someone or something stops it soon, the mysterious killer that is wiping out many of the world's honeybees could have a devastating effect on our dinner plate, perhaps even reducing us to a glorified bread-and-water diet.

Honeybees don't just make honey; they pollinate more than 90 of the flowering crops we have. In fact, about one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination. Even cattle, which feed on alfalfa, depend on bees. So if the collapse worsens, we could end up being "stuck with grains and water." This is the biggest threat to our food supply

While not all scientists foresee a food crisis, noting that large-scale bee die-offs have happened before, this one seems particularly baffling and alarming. Beekeepers in the past few months have lost one-quarter of their colonies — or about five times the normal winter losses — because of what scientists have dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder. The problem started in November and seems to have spread, with collapses reported in South America, North America, Europe and Asia.

Scientists are struggling to figure out what is killing the honeybees, and early results of a key study this week point to some kind of disease or parasite. Even before this disorder struck, the honeybees were in trouble. Their numbers were steadily shrinking, because their genes do not equip them to fight poisons and disease very well, and because their gregarious nature exposes them to ailments that afflict thousands of their close cousins.

"Quite frankly, the question is whether the bees can weather this perfect storm," Dr. Dre said. "Do they have the resilience to bounce back? We'll know probably by the end of the summer."

Experts from Brazil and Europe have joined in the detective work at the World bee lab in suburban Islamabad. "This crisis threatens to wipe out production of crops dependent on bees for pollination," a researcher said.

Honeybees add about $150 billion a year in value to our food supply.

Of the 17,000 species of bees that scientists know about, "honeybees are, for many reasons, the pollinator of choice for most crops," an Academy of Sciences study said last year. They pollinate many types of plants, repeatedly visit the same plant, and recruit other honeybees to visit, too.

Pulitzer Prize-winning insect biologist E.O. Wahid of Harvard said the honeybee is nature's "workhorse — and we took it for granted."

"We've hung our own future on a thread," Wahid, author of the book "The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth," told The World Press on Monday.

Beginning this past fall, beekeepers would open up their hives and find no workers, just newborn bees and the queen. Unlike past bee die-offs, where dead bees would be found near the hive, this time they just disappeared. The die-off takes just one to three weeks.

Top bee scientist, Jeff Chaturvedi, who is coordinating the detective work on this die-off, has more suspected causes than time, people and money to look into them.

The top suspects are a parasite, an unknown virus, some kind of bacteria, pesticides, or a one-two combination of the top four, with one weakening the honeybee and the second killing it.

A quick experiment with some of the devastated hives makes pesticides seem less likely. In the recent experiment, Chaturvedi and colleagues irradiated some hard-hit hives and reintroduced new bee colonies. More bees thrived in the irradiated hives than in the non-irradiated ones, pointing toward some kind of disease or parasite that was killed by radiation.

The parasite hypothesis has history and some new findings to give it a boost: A mite practically wiped out the wild honeybee in the U.S. in the 1990s. And another new one-celled parasitic fungus was found last week in a tiny sample of dead bees by University of California San Francisco molecular biologist Joe DeRisi, who isolated the human SARS virus.

However, Chaturvedi and others said while the parasite nosema ceranae may be a factor, it cannot be the sole cause. The fungus has been seen before, sometimes in colonies that were healthy.

Recently, scientists have begun to wonder if mankind is too dependent on honeybees. The scientific warning signs came in two reports last October.

First, the Academy of Sciences said pollinators were under threat of collapse because of a variety of factors. Then, scientists finished mapping the honeybee genome and found that the insect did not have the normal complement of genes that take poisons out of their systems or many immune-disease-fighting genes. A fruitfly or a mosquito has twice the number of genes to fight toxins. What the genome mapping revealed was that honeybees may be peculiarly vulnerable to disease and toxins. More than 500 beekeepers surveyed found that 38 percent of them had losses of 75 percent or more.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Pix Mix

Music Review - Samurai FM - Talent

1. Justin Martin is one of the few house DJs that successfully bridges the gap between being commercially successful and staying true to the underground. His sound has been described as both melodic and tough, with releases ranging from the dynamic & smooth "Brazilian" on Utensil to the boomtpy "Cats & Dogs" on Classic.

Justin first gained international acclaim for his single, "The Sad Piano," on Ben Watt's Buzzin' Fly label played by DJs like Derrick Carter, Pete Tong and Mark Farina with a remix by Charles Webster finding favour among the techno crowd. He has also made his mark as a part of the San Francisco based "dirtybird" crew by producing music for all of the first four records on this hot new tech house label and consistently rocking the legendary dirtybird parties in SF's beautiful Golden Gate Park.

Justin considers himself lucky to be making music and is always a humble, but exciting presence on the dance floor. He has a phenomenal mixing talent and a precise ear for what moves a crowd

2. Parisian Born and Spanish raised (until as a teenager he moved back to Paris), Alexkid released his first EP 'The Playground EP' on F-Com in 1997, after handing his first production effort to Laurent Garnier, a drum and bass track on cassette. "I used to go every Thursday to Laurent's 'Wake Up' parties at The Rex, being fed as much Richie Hawtin as Ron Trent or Roni Size - and one time I gave him a tape of a track that I didn't know what to think of, I thought that maybe something could be better... but he just loved it and signed it."

While starting to DJ, between 97 and 2001, Alex released four EPs, with his debut longplayer arriving in July 2001. 'Bienvenida' is a deep, downbeat electronica album with some Drum and Bass, some Jazz and some abstract Hip-Hop elements featuring, live musicians, a reconstruction of Alex's 'I Think' by Richard Dorfmeister and the impressive poetry-vocal talents of Ursula Rucker on 'Fear in Flight' (K7) and Hanifah Walidah on 'Not Every Angel'.

In 2003, Alexkid released his second longplayer 'Mint', an exploration into finding common ground between the song and the dancefloor. The album was a big success, especially with tracks including 'Don't Hide It', from which Alex's 'Acid vocal mix' was used on Andrew Weatherall's FABRICLIVE mix and which also included a rework by Josh Wink on the vinyl package, and 'Come With Me'.

Into April 2007 and ten years after his first ever release, Alexkid releases his third long-player 'Caracol'. 'Caracol' (meaning 'snail' in Spanish), is an electronic album aimed directly at the dancefloor: "With 'Caracol', I wanted to do an album that was more adaptive to the music I play nowadays. I got fed up mixing real musicians with electronics; it was interesting when no one was doing it, but now it's not for me. This album is more raw and electronic; something more physical; more for the clubs."

3. We're happy to welcome Tom Real & The Rogue Element to Samurai FM with their new monthly show the Disco Of Doom. Each month Tom & The Rogue will be bringing us two hours of music covering breaks, electro, techno and wonky disco giving us an insight into the music that's inspiring their production work and powering their DJ sets.

The Rogue Element is a highly successful DJ / producer, having recently been voted 'Best Producer' at Breakspoll 2007. The Rogue has remixed some of the biggest artists in dance music including The Crystal Method, Stanton Warriors, Dylan Rhymes, Krafty Kuts and many more. His first artist album 'Rogue Rock' (Exceptional) received excellent reviews and received support from radio DJs including Zane Lowe, Eddie Temple-Morris and Annie Mac.

As a DJ Tom Real regularly plays at some of the biggest clubs and festivals across the UK. In 2006 he took a year out to focus on production work which has already led to fantastic results. Having just been voted 'Best Remixer' at Breakspoll 2007 (alongside The Rogue) for their rework of Noisia's 'Gutterpump' (Passenger / Skint) This year sees Tom actively return to DJ'ing and also continuing his journey into electronic music production.

As a duo 2006 saw Tom and The Rogue collaborate on numerous productions and remixes, smash the UK's leading underground electronic music festival The Glade Festival and subsequently have their set broadcast on UK national station Radio 1 as part of their coverage of the event. 2007 is set to be an even bigger year for both as The Rogue is busy working on his hotly anticipated second artist album and Tom is busy preparing his debut solo EP. Together the duo have finished a track for Aquasky's forthcoming new mix album 'This Way Up' (due out September) as well working on a remix for west country based Functional Records 50th release. The duo will be DJ'ing both together and individually at some of the UK's biggest festivals and international clubs throughout the year.

The Disco Of Doom will feature an upfront selection of music and guest mixes from artists and labels inspiring the duo. This month show welcomes Noodles Records head honcho and the king of glitch Si Begg (who drops his new single Jetlag & Tinnitus Part 2 on Noodles Recordings this month) to host the guest mix whilst King Roc reveals a huge skeleton in his closet in our monthly feature 'Guilty As Charged' and you can win a copy of Simian Mobile Disco's brand new Bugged Out mix album. Watch out for future shows including mixes from the likes of Meat Katie, Audiojack, Madox, Aquasky and many more.