Passengers band together on train stuck in Oregon mountains
By ANDREW SELSKY
Wednesday, February 27
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — An Amtrak train with almost 200 people aboard hit downed trees during a blizzard and got stranded in the Oregon mountains for a day and a half, but passengers and crew banded together during the ordeal that ended Tuesday.
“It was really nice to meet people pulling together,” passenger Tracy Rhodes, of Scottsdale, Arizona, said in a phone interview after the train that had been traveling from Seattle to Los Angeles rolled back into the college town of Eugene, Oregon, with a clanging bell announcing its arrival. Passengers spilled out, some waving their arms high in jubilation.
During the 36 hours that the train was stuck, younger passengers helped older ones reach their families to let them know they were all right, said Rhodes, who was traveling with her brother to visit their 82-year-old mother in Klamath Falls, Oregon. A “mom brigade” was formed to take care of and entertain the children, she said.
“People were being very kind to each other, being friends,” Rhodes said. “It restores your faith.”
The trouble began Sunday evening, when the double-decker Coast Starlight train struck a tree that had fallen onto the tracks, Amtrak said.
Rhodes said the train stopped suddenly but not violently. She was told the engine hit several snow-laden trees and that one snapped back, damaging a hose assembly providing air pressure for the brakes. The train was repaired enough to move forward a short distance to Oakridge, Oregon, a town 1,200 feet (366 meters) high in the Cascade Range that was dealing with its own problems — a blackout and snow and debris-covered roads.
Railroad officials decided to keep the passengers on board instead of letting them into the town of 3,200 people. The hours ticked by. Some passengers grew impatient.
“This is hell and it’s getting worse,” Rebekah Dodson posted on Facebook after 30 hours, along with photos of herself and other passengers smiling into the camera.
The train with 183 passengers still had electricity, heat and food. Some people took the long unscheduled stop with a sense of humor.
“The food hoarding has begun. I’m considering saving half my dinner steak and making jerky on the room heater,” Rhodes tweeted. She and her brother had sleeping berths.
“We were fed very well. Steak at night, hot breakfast in the morning,” she said. Coach passengers were given beef stew with mashed potatoes, she noted.
To pass the time, Rhodes and her brother browsed the internet and played war, speed and cribbage with cards they bought in the cafe. Others sent images and video of passengers gazing out the window at the snowy landscape or napping to social media.
Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek said the railroad regretted the extended delay.
“With more than a foot of heavy snow and numerous trees blocking the track, we made every decision in the best interest of the safety of our customers,” Naparstek said, adding that customers would get refunds and other compensation.
Amtrak spokeswoman Olivia Irvin said weather and track obstructions remained an issue and that the Coast Starlight would run only south of Sacramento until Friday.
The crew of 13 dealt with the situation as best they could. With diapers running short, a worker in the cafe improvised with napkins and safety pins, Rhodes said.
“People were great. The train crew was amazing,” said Marsha Trujillo, from Martinez, California. “They were so professional and so kind. We really wanted for nothing except for maybe someplace comfortable to lie down, and a shower.”
The Coast Starlight bills itself on the Amtrak website as “a grand West Coast train adventure.”
“Break free of congested airports and freeways to get up-close-and-personal with America’s spectacular West Coast. Hug rocky coastlines, glide beside the majestic Cascade Mountains,” the site says.
In this case, however, nature trumped modern human conveyances.
After the train began moving again Tuesday, Dodson posted a video on Facebook admiring the view.
“We are moving and it’s totally awesome,” she said as trees laden with snow swept past a window. “Isn’t it beautiful? I’m so excited.”
Carly Bigby, a teacher aboard the train, had been visiting Eugene with her fiance and was trying to figure out how to get back home to Klamath Falls.
“I am exhausted,” she told KOIN, a Portland TV station.
The highway to Klamath Falls was snowbound and impassable. With no way to reach her mother, Rhodes planned to fly home to Arizona.
“She is definitely disappointed, but is glad we’re safe,” she said.
The train retreated to the north Tuesday afternoon, heading back to Seattle. Some passengers including Rhodes got off in Portland. The train’s journey further north was delayed for at least two hours, passengers were told, after a railroad bridge over the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington state caught fire.
Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky .
Workers dig by hand to free dozens in Indonesia mine rubble
Wednesday, February 27
BOLAANG MONGONDOW, Indonesia (AP) — A grueling search and rescue effort has saved 19 people from the debris of a collapsed illegal gold mine in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province but officials said Wednesday that several dozen remain trapped.
The national disaster agency said four people are confirmed dead and an estimated 37 are still buried beneath soil and rocks in an area that is difficult to access because of its remoteness and steep terrain.
“The land contour is worrying with an 80 degree slope, so it’s pretty steep, and we don’t want any unwanted things to happen,” said local police chief Gani Fernando Siahaan. “We will continue the rescue process until night as long as weather permits.”
Emergency personnel used their bare hands and farm tools to search for the victims. Video showed rescuers struggling to bring out a body bag in nearly vertical terrain.
Makeshift wooden structures in the mine in Bolaang Mongondow district collapsed on Tuesday evening due to shifting soil and the large number of mining holes, burying people in the mine pit.
“Unstable soil conditions make us extra careful lifting rocks because it can lead to new landslides,” local disaster official Abdul Muin Paputungan said. Rescuers heard voices crying for help from beneath the debris, he said.
The disaster agency said at least 140 people from different agencies are involved in the rescue effort. It said there is an urgent need for body bags.
Informal mining operations are commonplace in Indonesia, providing a tenuous livelihood to thousands who labor in conditions with a high risk of serious injury or death.
Small artisanal and often unauthorized mining is rising in many parts of Asia and Africa. A study by the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development found the number of people engaged in such mining had risen to over 40 million, up from 30 million in 2014 and 6 million in 1993.
Landslides, flooding and collapses of tunnels are just some of the hazards. Much of the processing of gold ore involves use of highly toxic mercury and cyanide by workers using little or no protection.
Opinion: TeVido BioDevices and Treating Vitiligo
By Robert Graboyes
TeVido BioDevices, a Texas-based biotech company, plans in 2019 to begin treating patients with vitiligo (vit-ih-LIE-go) — an illness in which the body’s autoimmune system destroys the skin’s melanocytes (pigment-producing cells). The result is milky splotches and, in extreme cases, loss of pigmentation over much or all of the body. Vitiligo is especially visible in dark-skinned people, but it afflicts all ethnicities and is emotionally devastating for many.
TeVido’s treatment involves taking cells from a normally pigmented segment of the patient’s own skin and transplanting those cells to replace the damaged skin segments. The vitiligo treatment, if successful, will jumpstart TeVido’s previous plans for entry into clinical applications. The company’s longer-term goal has been the 3D-printing of a nipple for breast reconstruction. That effort, in turn, fits into biotech’s long-term goal of developing the means to manufacture larger organs (hearts, lungs, etc.) from patients’ own cells — obviating the need for transplant donors or lifelong immunosuppressant therapy.
TeVido’s effort demonstrates the virtues of entrepreneurship. Small, nimble entities can shift goals as opportunity and necessity appear. While nipple reconstruction is still a few years off, the development process offered the more rapidly attainable treatment for vitiligo. Success against vitiligo, in turn, makes it easier for TeVido to attract more investment dollars for the company’s longer-term efforts.
TeVido’s wheelhouse has been the application of 3D printing to reconstructive surgery. 3D printing is well-known for its industrial applications. For example, International Space Station astronauts constructed a ratchet wrench using software downloaded from ground control. While NASA’s printer uses a sort of glue as its construction medium, TeVido prints layer after layer of cells. That eventual dream — the ability to manufacture large replacement organs from patients’ own cells — faces a stubborn technological hurdle. With no functioning vascular system to nourish and hydrate the cells during construction, bottom layers begin dying before higher-up layers are completed. TeVido set its sights on nipple reconstruction because the nipple is a thin enough organ to complete the 3D printing job before necrosis sets in on the bottom layers.
Vitiligo involves even thinner tissue. Responding to my email query about its procedure, TeVido’s CEO Laura Bosworth explained: “As we developed our technology to re-pigment the nipple areola lost due to breast cancer, we realized this could benefit patients with vitiligo. And we can make this happen quickly.” TeVido’s initial vitiligo procedures will not involve 3D printing, but later versions of the treatment will.
Bosworth continued: “After the patient and doctor have decided this procedure is a fit, the physician will take a small sample of normally pigmented skin and send this to TeVido. The sample is very thin — about the same thickness as 3 strands of human hair. In TeVido’s FDA registered laboratory, we use aseptic processing techniques and certified raw materials in a cGMP compliant environment to prepare a cellular graft from the patient’s own skin. Our processing isolates the cells from the skin sample and dilutes them into a suspension. We ship this back to the physician, who transplants the cells to a larger depigmented area. The depigmented area is prepared by removing the very top layer of skin — think of it like a scrape or skinned knee, that heals in three to seven days. Pigment usually starts showing in 2-4 weeks and takes about 6 months to complete.”
Vitiligo is not currently curable, though for some patients, the destruction of melanocytes ceases at some point. TeVido’s procedure is limited to these stable cases. Time will tell how permanent re-pigmented skin patches will be, though clinical studies are very encouraging. However, if the milky patches start spreading again, the vitiligo is now active — destroying pigmentation. It is then possible to lose pigment at the treated spot. (As an aside, TeVido’s treatments will likely work, also, on depigmented scar tissue.)
In the meantime, TeVido’s breast reconstruction work continues apace. Women who receive nipple-sparing mastectomies often experience depigmentation of sections of the areola. TeVido hopes to begin restoring color in such cases this fall. TeVido’s original goal — recreating the color of a nipple of a “normal” mastectomy — will likely be a few years out.
In Bosworth’s words: “TeVido’s mission has always been about helping patients to feel ‘whole’ again.”
ABOUT THE WRITER
Robert Graboyes is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he focuses on technological innovation in health care. He is the author of “Fortress and Frontier in American Health Care” and has taught health economics at five universities. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Limited State Action is Required to Stop Disease Outbreaks
By Julie Gunlock
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this month that more than 100 cases of measles have been diagnosed in 10 states. Of those infected, 55 are in Washington state and most occurred in children younger than 10 whose parents chose to forgo vaccinations. Across the border in Vancouver, Canadian health officials have confirmed a measles outbreak after eight children were infected in three schools, which has been traced back to a family that chose not to vaccinate their children.
This raises serious public health questions, including: What is government’s role in encouraging vaccinations and preventing a public health crisis? While it’s important for government to defer to parents in making health decisions for their children, public officials have a duty to ensure health and safety standards in public facilities.
First, public officials should educate the public about the safety record of vaccines. Tremendous damage has been done by those who push the erroneous and widely debunked claim that vaccinations cause autism. Study after study has confirmed that this isn’t true, and the doctor who originally suggested the vaccine-autism link was found to have committed fraud and he was subsequently stripped of his medical license. Public health officials need to make sure the message of vaccine safety is loud and clear.
But government shouldn’t stop there: Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children should lose access to public schools and other government services. Currently 17 states — including Washington — allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their kids if they have a “philosophical objection” to vaccines. In other words, it renders the rule that parents must vaccinate their child before they can attend public school meaningless because it allows parents who are opposed to vaccines, for any or no reason whatsoever, to bypass the rules and enroll their children anyway. States should do away with this “philosophical” exemption.
States can and should still allow for medical and religious exemptions to vaccinations. The vast majority of recognized religious organizations in the United States approve of and encourage vaccinations. Even the Amish encourage vaccinations, although they have a lower vaccination rate than the general population. Yet, still, the state should accommodate the small number of people who can prove they belong to a religious group that opposes vaccinations as a part of their faith.
The much bigger exemption class involves people who cannot receive a vaccination due to medical reasons — these include newborns, the elderly, those with certain cancers or allergies, and others who are otherwise immunodeficient. These people are the very individuals who would benefit from a stricter vaccination policy that limits the availability of exemptions.
Those who are medically unable to receive a vaccination need to be protected by what’s known as “herd immunity,” which occurs when a large percentage of a population is immunized and as a result there are fewer potential carriers to spread the disease. This protects everyone. Yet, even a small reduction in the rate of vaccinations can compromise this principle and increase the risk of an outbreak of disease, putting those with medical exemptions in grave danger.
The state should also consider limiting those who fail to vaccinate their children other government services — such as housing assistance, access to childcare benefits, food programs and other welfare programs. This would encourage more people to take action and recognize that they have a responsibility to protect their children and the community.
Yet government policy isn’t going to be enough to reverse the trend of so many parents opting against vaccinating their children and putting vulnerable communities at tremendous risk. We need public leaders everywhere to remind people of their responsibility to their fellow man.
Church leaders should be speaking from the pulpit about the importance of vaccines and the moral responsibility each of us has to get vaccinated. Politicians should remind the citizenry of the social contract and that we owe it to our neighbors and the weakest in our communities to protect them from deadly diseases. Doctors should refuse to accept parents into their private practices unless they vaccinate. And fellow parents should reject the conspiracy theories offered up by anti-vaccine parents to show them the social cost of peddling such dangerous nonsense.
The government shouldn’t force anyone to do anything to which they object. That’s something on which we should all agree. But the government certainly has a role to play to encourage the practice of vaccinating kids and prevent the resurgence of these deadly contagious diseases.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Julie Gunlock directs the Center for Progress and Innovation at the Independent Women’s Forum. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Ospreys’ recovery from pollution and shooting is a global conservation success story
February 26, 2019
Author: Alan Poole, Research associate, Cornell University
Disclosure statement: Johns Hopkins University Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
A hundred years ago, a person wandering the back roads of coastal New England might have come across an odd sight: at the edge of a farmyard, cheek by jowl with pigs and chickens and cows, a tall pole topped with a massive stick nest. And standing guard in the nest, a large brown-backed, white-headed wild bird of prey – an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus).
Farmers in this region knew that nesting Ospreys were vigilant watchdogs, quick to chase “chicken-hawks” and other predators away. But as fish eaters, Ospreys were no threat to farm animals. And they were trusting enough to live comfortably near humans. So farmers lured them by building them places to nest – generally, an old wagon wheel atop a bare pole, mimicking the dead trees in which Ospreys had nested for millennia.
Although these clever farmers didn’t know it, they were pioneering methods that would help to bring Ospreys back from the edge of extinction decades later. As I recount in my new book, “Ospreys: The Revival of a Global Raptor,” these birds have made a spectacular recovery from chemical pollution, guns and traps, thanks to many dedicated conservationists and an amazing ability to thrive in close quarters with humans.
Gone in the blink of an eye
Up to 1950, Ospreys were one of the most widespread and abundant hawks in North America. Few rivers, lakes or ocean shorelines lacked a nesting pair. In certain favorable spots, such as islands along the Atlantic coast, wooded swamps in Florida and western states, and shallow-water lagoons bordering the Gulf of Mexico and Baja California, hundreds of nests were often clustered together in just one or two square miles.
But the bottom dropped out after World War II. Insecticides developed for military use – particularly DDT – flooded onto the civilian market to control farm and forest pests and mosquitoes in towns and villages. These chemicals accumulated in food chains, so Ospreys received large doses from the fish they consumed. In their bodies, DDT thinned their eggshells, causing a disastrous drop in the number of eggs that produced live chicks. In addition, other insecticides poisoned nestling and adult Ospreys.
By the mid-1960s, the number of Ospreys breeding along the Atlantic coast between New York City and Boston had fallen by 90 percent. And, as I document in my book, most other populations in the United States and Canada had declined by half to two-thirds.
This was the era of “Silent Spring,” biologist Rachel Carson’s blockbuster exposé, which sounded one of the first alarms about the hidden environmental costs of pesticides.
Ospreys played a lead role in this drama. Their well-documented crash provided concrete data for court cases brought to block indiscriminate spraying. Sanity prevailed: The most lethal and persistent insecticides were banned by the 1970s, giving Ospreys and other birds, including the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon, a respite in the nick of time.
A seismic shift in nesting sites
But restoring robust numbers of Ospreys to regions where most or all of the breeders were gone required more than just curbing the flow of environmental contaminants. Nest sites were increasingly scarce along shorelines as development consumed old pastoral landscapes. With fewer safe places to raise young, Osprey recovery prospects appeared dim, no matter how clean the environment or how abundant local fish populations were.
But concerned naturalists took a cue from those old farmyard nest poles and began to erect new poles in the 1970s and ‘80s, especially along the broad ribbon of salt marshes hugging the Atlantic seaboard. Ospreys adapted remarkably, zeroing in to nest on these poles, as well as on a kaleidoscope of other artificial sites springing up along U.S. coasts and rivers: power and lighting structures, channel markers and buoys, and more recently, even megatowers supporting cellphone and other electronic communications equipment. Other nesting birds of prey make occasional use of such sites, but Ospreys have been the champion colonizers.
No one could have predicted such a dramatic shift a generation ago, or what a boost it would give to Osprey numbers. Within just a few miles of where I live along the Massachusetts coast, over 200 Ospreys now nest each year, lured in by abundant nest poles we’ve built on wide-open marshes. Fewer than 20 Ospreys were found here in the 1960s.
This is not an isolated phenomenon. Thousands of pole nests now dot the coastal landscape from Maine to Florida – testimony to persistent work by hundreds of dedicated people. In Florida, at least 1,000 pairs of Ospreys have made cell towers their nesting homes. Along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, nearly 20,000 Ospreys now arrive to nest each spring – the largest concentration of breeding pairs in the world. Two-thirds of them nest on buoys and channel markers maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, who have become de facto Osprey guardians.
A global resurgence
These new nests have powered quick growth in numbers, with more Ospreys in the United States and Canada today than ever before. Many are colonizing new areas.
And this revival extends well beyond the Americas. Ospreys have a global reach, from Scotland to Japan and from the Mediterranean to Australia. Particularly in Europe, where most Ospreys were eliminated by guns and traps rather than by insecticides, we are seeing extraordinary recoveries.
Traveling to Europe in the summer of 2016 to research my book, I discovered flourishing new osprey populations. Artificial nest sites – supports built mostly in trees to stabilize existing nests and encourage new ones – were plentiful and packed with young ospreys ready to fledge. In Germany, shallow wire baskets secured atop enormous power pylons provided foundations for hundreds of new nests that had taken hold in areas long-abandoned by Ospreys.
Some researchers complain that providing these birds with nest sites is making them “prisoners of platforms” – creating artificial populations where none were meant to be. But rampant coastal development, plus industrial farming and forestry in surrounding regions, have badly degraded the landscapes in which Ospreys once thrived. To have robust numbers of this species back again is a reward for all who value wild animals, and a reminder of how nature can rebound if we address the key threats.
Alan Poole is the author of: Ospreys: the Revival of a Global Raptor. Johns Hopkins University Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.