News Bytes

NEW VIRUS PUTS BACON IN DANGER

If you’ve been achin’ for some bacon, eat fast. A mysterious virus, new to the United States, has spread through pig farms, killing millions of piglets—destroying, not only the small animals, but also your breakfast plans. Scientists have identified the virus as porcine epidemic diarrhea, which is said to have originated in China. Since last May, the disease has spread from Iowa to 27 states, to the bafflement of researchers who have been unable to figure out how the virus has traveled so fast into the U.S. But veterinarians and scientists alike are concerned.

“It’s easy to imagine that we could have lost a million pigs, and before the winter is over I wouldn’t be surprised if that impact would be maybe three, four times that,” said Rodney Baker, a veterinary medicine professor at Iowa State University in an NPR article last month.

While scientists seek preventative measures, the pork industry is equally as invested in finding a way to curb the spread of the virus—$1.7 million have been put toward research of the disease. According to NPR, though, bacon prices aren’t rising—yet. But if the virus continues to cause death among the pig pens, we can surely expect the popular food to sizzle, not only the pan, but also the wallet.


WA POLICE BUCKLE DOWN ON TEXTING

“U Drive. U Text. U pay.” is the texty slogan of the national campaign striving to reduce texting-related accidents and deaths. Starting April 15, state law-enforcers will be buckling down on distracted drivers, according to a news release from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. The state efforts are a part of a safety plan titled Target Zero which has a mission to rid Washington of traffic-caused injury and death by 2030.

The Seattle Times reported the results of a study by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center about distracted drivers. According to their findings, nearly half of the observed drivers were texting while driving. The Washington state Department of Licensing reported that 6,000 people died in 2008 because of crashes including a distracted driver. Washington state is one of 43 states to ban texting while driving, along with D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the government’s online site on distracted driving.


OBAMA MAKES EFFORT TO BRIDGE THE GAP

It looks like America is taking steps to mind the gap—the gender pay gap, this is. President Barack Obama signed directives this week to increase the accessibility of information about workplace compensation. Such decisions are in hopes of improving workplace equality—a push, wrote The Associated Press, that Obama says has been “gummed up” by the Republican party.

“This is about Republicans seemingly opposing any efforts to even the playing field for working families,” Obama said as he signed the directives at the White House. The Senate is simultaneously focusing on conversations of broader legislation making workers capable of suing companies that pay women less simply because they are women.

“We believe that women need a fair shot to get equal pay for equal work. And we want it in our law books and we want it in our checkbooks,” said measure sponsor, Sen. Barbara Mikulski in the chamber floor Tuesday where many female senators stood in support of the legislation.


RADIATION COULD BE NEAR, SCIENTISTS SAY

As spring draws nearer, the sun radiates. And some are concerned that might not be the only radiation we get on the West Coast. Since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, national and international health departments have expressed concern of contaminated water and spreading radiation.

The Washington State Department of Health keeps updates about radiation danger on their website. According to the site, the Environmental Protection Agency has air monitors in Olympia, Richland, Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma that detect radioactivity and gauge the risks to public health. Additionally, the Department of Health is performing tests on any contamination present in the fish migrating from Japan-area waters.

The Statesmen Journal, however, reported last week that tests for radiation along the Oregon coast have come up negative. Such tests have been happening for a year now since debris from the tsunami washed onto Oregon beaches, and scientists say radiation will likely reach our coast this month, though in small amounts.


CITY LOOKS AHEAD TO BIKE SHARING

The wheels are turning for an upcoming bike sharing program on Capitol Hill. The system, called the Puget Sound Bike Share, has been talked about in the past, but only recently has the director of the program, Holly Houser, announced an opening for September.

Students and community members can expect docks around the city for 12-20 bikes and a kiosk for renting and accessing the bikes 24-hours a day. There will also be a membership option, where people can pay an annual fee in order to access bikes directly from the docks.

Now is the time to weigh in on decisions for the locations of the docks around the city. Next month we will see more info on the logistics of the program, she told Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

“In May, we’ll be unveiling the official program name and logo along with the bike color, and we’re certain you’re going to love it. Chances are, these bikes will soon become an iconic fixture around our City,” Houser wrote in the bike share announcement.