A Meta-Bug News Roundup
Screwworms in Florida
The New World screwworm, Cochliomyia homnivorax, isn’t probably something you think about. Fortunately, you don’t have to. The screwworm, a larval form of a fly, has been eradicated in the United States since 1982.
Unlike maggots, which eat only dead flesh, the screwworm eats live tissue. When I was in Haiti recently, I saw what they are capable of. Any wound, any abrasion, any cut is an invitation for the flies to show up. Then the larvae come out, and work their way not just into the necrotic parts, but the actual live tissue.
Screwworms obviously present a serious danger to livestock. I can even find you a gross story where they went into a woman’s ear. But since the ’50s, researchers began experimenting with the release of sterile male flies, first on the relatively controlled setting of an island, and then on the mainland. By 1982, there were no more screwworms in the US.
Naturally, flies don’t recognize international borders, so in partnership with Mexico and the nations of Central America, the screwworm has been restricted to south of the isthmus of Panama, a bottleneck that is relatively easy to defend. The breeding of sterile males is ongoing in Panama.
Recently, 40 endangered Key Deer had to be euthanized in Florida when it was discovered that they were infested with screwworms. Sterile males were introduced, the Florida Department of Agriculture set up inspection stations in Key Largo for animals leaving the keys, and the outbreak was contained.
Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, has died.
“When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.”
Things are getting worse.
Twittler has proposed huge tax cuts, and naturally they benefit him and those in high income brackets the most. They propose eliminating the inheritance tax, which is probably the best tax we have: WE’RE TAXING DEAD RICH PEOPLE! They’re decomposing, they can’t complain, and if their whiny little offspring think it’s just horrible that they have to be just a tiny bit like the rest of us (which they won’t, they’ll still be stinking rich), well, they can commiserate in their gated communities and in their country clubs, just like they always have. The Great Unwashed will be able to perhaps feed and educate their children a little better. It’s understandable how those at the top don’t really want a level playing field, but keeping the “Paris Hilton” tax–or maybe we should call it the Trump Kids Tax–is a good thing. Just ask Teddy Roosevelt. Whatever you name it, don’t let anyone get away with calling it a “death tax.” It’s not. It’s a tax on plutocracy and oligarchy.
I can’t write anymore today. A buffoon is fucking up or determined to fuck up so many things at once–relations with Canada and Mexico, military policy, health care, foreign trade– that it’s overwhelming. As I’ve written before, there’s a good chance that the American Experiment has failed, and the wise will at least be keeping an eye open on an exit strategy. While I’m here, I will work to make this a better and safer place, but I do not believe that this is the best place for my children to plan their future in.
Click Here, donate $5 to the Haiti Vet Mission, and get one of these very lovely stickers.
Build bridges. Help where ya can.
Was I safe?
The week before I arrived, Guy Philippe, a leader in the 2004 coup to overthrow the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was arrested on drug trafficking charges and extradited to the United States. Seen by some as an affront to the nation’s sovereignty, there were protests in Haiti, and several groups felt it necessary to evacuate their missionaries or aid workers, or else had them seek shelter among United Nations forces. The arrest was also seen as a last-chance effort to apprehend Philippe, as he was days away from being sworn in as a Senator, which would have rendered him immune to prosecution (senators in Haiti have passed a law which places them above the law.)
I was blissfully unaware of all of this before I left. My family was even more unaware. If they had read this account from the NY Times they would have been driving me crazy with phone calls and warning me not to go. My cousin Nettie would have said, “Are you CRAZY?” and my older sister would have been yelling at me on the phone. The article wasn’t published until the day after I left ( a week after the event), highlighting its relative lack of importance in the American mind, especially in the run-up to the Disastrous Inauguration. The arrest was reported a week earlier by the BBC and the Miami Herald.
Haiti is a small country, only slightly larger than Vermont. However, distances are much greater than they would be in the US due to the conditions of the roads. The problems that occurred were far from where I spent my time. My presence in Haiti was relatively cloistered, and if I hadn’t been told about these events I would not have learned of them otherwise in the course of my visit.
Haiti disbanded its military in 1995, partially in response to military coups, partially out of financial necessity. There is a national police force, and the United Nations peacekeeping forces have been in the country for over a decade for police and stability operations. The UN forces are viewed by some as occupiers, and they are responsible as well for the current cholera epidemic. UN soldiers reintroduced cholera to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, and though on the decline, the disease continues to cause morbidity and mortality.
The term “basket case” arose during WWI as a rather cruel way to refer to a quadruple amputee. It now refers to something or someone that is such a mess that it is unable to help itself, most often a person who is suffering from a mental or emotional problem that renders him or her less than functional.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It got a lot of attention in 2010 when a devastating earthquake hit the country. Since then, it has kind of fallen off of the map. In a way, that’s understandable–there is no shortage of need everywhere, we’ve had a crazy political environment, and the whims of news cycles are ephemeral.