The fungi kingdom is vast and varied, encompassing everything from single-celled baking yeast to what might be the world's largest organism —a 2,200-acre mycelium in Oregon. Fungi are everywhere, from the roots of most plants to the stomach of nearly every animal. Mycologists estimate that there are more than 1.5 million species of fungi, but fewer than 7 percent have been identified. Of those, about 20 percent are mushrooms. Below, an abridged family tree.
Paul Stamets envisions a world in which mushrooms aren't just for foodies but are a powerful way to fight disease, clean up pollution, and produce clean energy. Some fungi-friendly developments that could spring from his research:
A MUSHROOM OF ONE'S OWN Cardboard is impregnated with spores so that instead of throwing away boxes, you can put them outside and—voilà!—organic, locally grown mushrooms.
The mayor of the Mexican border town of Palomas, Estanislao Garcia, was kidnapped yesterday morning and then found dead yesterday afternoon. Whether it was the drug cartels or the Mexican army that tortured and shot Garcia, he has become a statistic in the Mexican drug war. So far in 2009 6.8 people have been murdered each day in the drug siege. And the 2nd-year mayor has now become one of the 14,000 people killed since Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006.
In Palomas, a town that like Ascensión falls within the gravitational pull of the sprawling border city of Ciudad Juárez, the entire police force recently resigned, forcing the police chief to seek shelter in the United States. The town is dying. Few people cross from America to shop because of the violence. There is a gray cast to the children begging in the streets that suggests malnutrition. Work has fled—the people-smuggling business has moved because of US pressure in the sector and so the town is studded with half-built or abandoned cheap lodgings for migrants heading north. Also there is an array of narcomansions whose occupants have moved on. And there are eyes everywhere. I walk down the dirt streets tailed by pickups with very darkly tinted windows. The biggest restaurant in town for tourists closes every day at 6 p.m.—get home before dark.
To follow developments in the Mexican drug war, the Juárez region, and the ongoing plight of Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, join the Frontera Google Group maintained by NMSU librarian and border expert Molly Molloy. I will also be posting updates on Emilio's trial here as the preliminary proceedings get underway later this month.
After a month spent studying the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," a vortex of waste twice the size of Texas in the North Pacific Ocean where there's a 36-to-1 ratio of plastic to plankton, the scientists behind Project Kaisei offered tours of their vessel and talked with Mother Jones' Sam Baldwin, Andy Kroll, and Taylor Wiles about finding lawn chairs and laundry baskets floating a thousand miles at sea. Environmental experts also weighed in on how all that junk got out in the Pacific, its impact on marine life, and why "benign by design" is a phrase to know. Watch the video below.
MoJo extra: Check out a slideshow of plastic items that Project Kaisei brought back.
Here in the Bay Area, we take our earthquake retrofitting seriously: Hence the Labor Day weekend closing of the Bay Bridge for a crucial step in the ongoing replacement of the eastern span, and the announcement last night that all 260,000 cars that use the bridge on a typical day would have to find other ways to commute this morning due to a newly discovered crack in a steel link. Given the new crack, I was expecting to have to forsake my usual cushy carpool ride from Berkeley to the Mother Jones office in downtown San Francisco for a long, crowded, and expensive train ride today, but when I woke up this morning I checked the news on the computer and, just like that, the bridge workers had beaten the odds and the bridge was operational. All it took was 70 hours of continuous work.
Too bad the print edition of the San Francisco Chronicle couldn't keep up with the news. Millions of people in the Bay Area woke up this morning wondering about the Bay Bridge and the area's largest daily, with a daily circulation of 312,408, got it wrong.
Ironically, I saw this in the newspaper box while waiting in the carpool line for a ride over the Bay Bridge. Ouch.