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Archive for February 15th, 2011

Vampire spider drawn to smell of human feet

Posted by Administrator on February 15, 2011

In Kenya, a vampire spider is hunting down its prey by tracking the smell of human feet. If that sounds nightmarish, don’t panic – the spider Evarcha culicivora is only an indirect vampire. It’s not interested in attacking humans; it’s after mosquitoes that have fed on mammal blood. If anything, the spider is our ally – it kills female Anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria.

Robert Jackson from the University of Canterbury discovered the spider in 2003. He quickly showed that it likes to target malarial mosquitoes, especially those that had just fed on blood, and it can recognise them based on either appearance or smell. And in 2009, Jackson, together with his colleague Fiona Cross, showed that the blood is both an aphrodisiac and a meal for the spiders. When they’ve drunk their fill, they become more irresistible to the opposite sex.

Now, Cross and Jackson are back with a new study, which shows that Evarcha likes to hang around humans. After all, what better place to find a blood-filled mosquito than the source of the blood?

The duo wafted the scent of human socks into test tubes occupied by captive spiders, which could leave at any time. They were more likely to stay if the smell came from a sock that a human volunteer had worn for 12 hours beforehand. The scent of unworn sock was less attractive. They spent anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes longer sampling the fragrance of feet, and spiders both male and female, young and old, behaved in the same way.

Evarcha’s keen sense of smell is unusual for a jumping spider, a group that’s better known for their exceptional eyesight. It’s possible that its sense has evolved to mirror that of its prey. Both the mosquitoes and the spiders are drawn to the smell of humans, in search of mouthfuls of blood. The only difference is that the mosquito takes it from our bodies and the spider takes it from the mosquito.

Reference: Cross & Jackson. 2011. Olfaction-based anthropophily in a mosquito-specialist predator. Biology Letters http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2010.1233

Source: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/02/15/vampire-spider-drawn-to-the-smell-of-human-feet/


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Stella “STL” Mwangi To Represent Norway In Eurovision Contest in Germany

Posted by Administrator on February 15, 2011

Stella Mwangi will be representing Norway at the Eurovision Song Contest in Germany in May. PHOTO: WIkipedia Commons

Stella Mwangi will be representing Norway at the Eurovision Song Contest in Germany in May. PHOTO: WIkipedia Commons

Stella Mwangi, who came to Norway from Kenya as a child, will represent her adopted country at the Eurovision Song Contest in Germany this spring. Mwangi sang and danced her way to a decisive victory at Norway’s version of the event, Melodi Grand Prix, over the weekend.

“Maybe I’ll make a trip back to Kenya before the (Eurovision) finals, just to talk with my aunts and both by grandmothers,” Mwangi told reporters, crying with joy after winning the most votes for best song at the Melodi Grand Prix final in Oslo Saturday night.

Her song centers heavily on what her grandmothers told her as a young girl, that she could be whatever she wants to be. The song, called “Haba haba,” is an energetic pop number full of African rhythm and enthusiasm. A commentator for newspaper Aftenposten noted that bodes well for further success at Eurovision, since recent winners (including Alexander Rybak, also of Norway, two year years ago) also did well at the song contest with bubbly songs full of energy.

“I bet that will characterize this year’s Eurovision final, too, so Norway has chosen well,” wrote Robert Hoftun Gjestad in Aftenposten. He compared Mwangi’s song Haba haba to the monster hit Waka waka that sprang to international popularity during the World Cup in South Africa last summer.

It remains noteworthy that Norwegian voters in the middle of winter chose a song with African rhythm written and performed by a 24-year-old woman originally from Kenya. Mwangi’s song had been heavily favoured all along by the bookmakers, and she simply charmed her audience in the Oslo Spektrum Arena and those watching the nationally televised final at home.

Mwangi came to Norway in 1991 as a four-year-old and grew up in Eidsvoll and Kløfta, northeast of Oslo. She already is a well-known singer in Kenya but currently lives at Lillestrøm, also just northeast of Oslo.

“I am so grateful for all the votes, I’m so glad I get to represent Norway with what I burn for,” Mwangi told reporters after digesting the fact that she had won.

“Music means everything to me,” she added. Mwangi won 127,213 votes just from eastern Norway and Trøndelag, and more than 120,000 from the rest of the country.

The second-place winner was The BlackSheeps.

Source: http://www.newsinenglish.no/2011/02/13/stella-wins-her-way-to-eurovision/


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Wagalla massacre: Raila Odinga orders Kenya probe

Posted by Administrator on February 15, 2011

The 1984 killing of thousands of ethnic Somalis in Kenya is to be investigated, Prime Minister Raila Odinga says.

Mr Odinga said the attorney general should ensure those responsible for the killings are brought to justice.

Witnesses say some 5,000 men were taken to an airstrip and denied food and water for five days before being shot by the army, which had been sent to the area to stop clan violence.

The government has previously said it could only confirm 365 deaths.

“We are yet to fully understand what exactly happened at Wagalla airstrip where thousands of people were killed,” Mr Odinga said in the town of Wajir at a ceremony to mark the 27th anniversary of the killings.

“We are yet to know who gave the orders to the soldiers and who made the decision.”

He also ordered a museum to be built to honour those who were killed.

It was the worst human rights violation in Kenya’s history, according to Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission head Ron Slye.

The area around Wajir is primarily inhabited by ethnic Somalis.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12463001

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Kenya’s first six Aqua Shops open their doors to fish farmers

Posted by Administrator on February 15, 2011

THE first six Aqua shops in Western Kenya opened their doors to new fish farmers in Western Kenya last week.

The shops are located in Funyula, Nambomboto, and Bukiri shopping centres within Samia; and Ahero, Katito and Oboch in Nyakach Districts respectively.

These franchised outlets will deliver a wide range of affordable, quality-assured aquaculture products and services including advice and inputs. The Minister of Fisheries Development Hon. Amason Kingi officially launched the shops on Friday at Nyabondo, Oboch shopping centre.

In attendance was also the 6 aquashop operators, a range of commercial aquaculture input and service providers, and over 30 fish farmers from the two pilot districts, as well as political leaders, district administrators, Ministry of Fisheries officials and potential new entrants into aquaculture.

FARM Africa together with partners, Natural Resources International; Institute of Aquaculture University of Stirling UK, and Imani Development have been working together on this 15 month pilot project beginning in April 2010, with support from the Research Into Use programme of the UK Department for International Development.

The AQUA SHOP Model has already been trialled and contributed significantly to rural aquaculture development in South Asia in India and Vietnam. FARM Africa is using this model to complement the Fish Farming Enterprise & Productivity Programme (FFE&PP) of the Ministry of Fisheries. The Project is using effective ways to bring in and encourage the private sector to drive the growth of the aquaculture sector and create Private-Public Partnerships in service provision. For further details please contact Farm Africa Project Co-ordinator Susan Otieno


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Swahili song surprises at the Grammys

Posted by Administrator on February 15, 2011


A Swahili song was one of the biggest surprises in the 2011 Grammys held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on Sunday.

“Baba Yetu” received the Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals Award. This is the first time in the Grammys 53 years of existence that a song written for a video game has won a Grammy Award.

“Baba Yetu” a Swahili version of the Lord’s Prayer, was released in 2005 and was originally written for the popular game “Civilization IV.”

The song was performed by the Soweto Gospel Choir & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and composed by Christopher Tin. The song is contained in the album “Calling all Dawns.”


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