West Africa's first outbreak of Ebola fever is bad news for gourmets in Ivory Coast, but brings respite from the hunter to species sought out for tasty meat but feared to carry the disease. Late in March, Health Minister Raymonde Goudou Coffie called…
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They function as normal hives, but apiaries built at a kibbutz in Israel's Galilee are decked out with high-tech artificial intelligence systems set to ensure longevity for these vital pollinators.
"There are two million bees here," said Shlomki Frankin as he walks into a 12-square-metre container in Kibbutz Beit Haemek in northern Israel.
Dubbed "Beehome", the project is the brainchild of an Israeli startup and houses up to 24 hives, explained Frankin, clad in a hat and veil to protect himself from stings.
The 41-year-old told AFP that the hives feature a multi-purpose robot that does everything from monitor the bees to adjust the habitat and provide them with care.
Startup Beewise came up with the idea in an effort to reduce mortality rates in a species that has in the past years seen sharp rates of decline due to environmental threats.
"The robot is equipped with sensors that allow it to know what is happening in the hive frames," said Netaly Harari, director of operations at Beewise.
"Thanks to artificial intelligence, our software knows what the bees need," she explained in the workshop where the hives are assembled.
The robots can automatically dispense sugar, water and medication.
If a problem comes up, the beekeeper is alerted through an application, allowing for intervention remotely via computer, or in person if necessary.
The hives operate on solar energy, have adjustable temperatures, eliminate pests and can even extract honey automatically using an integrated centrifuge, Harari said.
By the end of May, the startup hopes to be producing its own honey for the first time -- the "first honey in the world made with artificial intelligence", she enthused.
For Frankin, "the robot is a tool for beekeepers, but doesn't replace them".
They "save a lot of time", he continued, because they allow him to "do a lot of simple things remotely".
About a hundred of these high-tech hives are already functional in Israel, with a dozen others sent to the United States.
Beewise is eyeing a foothold in the European market in two years.
Launched in 2018, the startup has 100 employees and by April had raised about $80 million to develop its exports.
- World Bee Day -
According to professor Sharoni Shafir, who heads the bee research centre at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Rehovot campus, the technology can help protect increasingly threatened bee colonies.
"Sometimes, a beekeeper takes several months to realize there is a problem," he told AFP, adding that "with the robot, beekeepers can deal with the problem in real-time, reducing the bees' mortality rates".
One in every six species of bees have gone regionally extinct somewhere in the world, with the main drivers thought to be habitat loss and pesticide use, according to a 2019 study.
Shafir points in particular to the "decline in fields of flowers due to construction, which has reduced the sources and diversity of food for bees".
Added to that are diseases and pests, such as the varroa destructor, a mite that has a devastating effect on honeybees, the professor added.
"In Israel, between 20 and 30 percent of hives disappear every year," the entomologist said.
He noted that a significant portion of foods consumed by people are the result of cross-pollination by bees and other insects.
More than 70 percent of crops, including almost all fruits, vegetables, oilseeds, spices, coffee and cocoa are dependent on pollinators.
The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization on May 20 celebrates World Bee Day, which aims to underline the importance of preserving bee species.
"Bees and other pollinators have thrived for millions of years, ensuring food security and nutrition, and maintaining biodiversity and vibrant ecosystems," FAO has said.
"We depend on bees," Shafir emphasized.
© 2022 AFP
Minnesota GOP frets they may nominate 'the one Republican that can lose' key congressional seat: report
Not all of the major Republican primary races were decided Tuesday night. Next week, GOP voters in a southern Minnesota Congressional district will decide whom to put forward to run for the seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Jim Hagedorn.
According to a report by The Daily Beast, Minnesota Republicans are concerned that Hagedorn's widow, Jennifer Carnahan, could become their candidate.
Jim Hagedorn was diagnosed with kidney cancer in February 2019, shortly after beginning his first term representing the state's first Congressional district, and died in February 2022.
Two weeks after her husband's death, Jennifer Carnahan announced her candidacy to take over his seat, writing on Facebook, “It was Jim’s wish that I carry his legacy forward. And I promised him I would not let him or southern Minnesota down.”
"If this were said by someone else - maybe anybody else - it might have been received as an inspirational rallying cry," according to The Daily Beast. "But many of those who actually know Carnahan, beneath the public image, don’t want to see her get anywhere near the position of power her husband left behind."
Carnahan is a polarizing figure in Minnesota GOP politics. Her campaign materials are rife with images of former President Donald Trump, although she does not have his endorsement. Her claim that Jim Hagedorn wanted her to succeed him is far from widely accepted.
Gary Steuart, a local businessman and GOP activist, was a key backer of Hagedorn’s campaigns as well as a personal friend. He says of Hagedorn, “I never heard of him supporting anybody for this seat. When he first got sick [in 2019], he told me within a few weeks of his diagnosis—he said, ‘maybe this would give an opening to a young guy in the district.’”
If Carnahan wins the May 24 primary, some worry her checkered record in the state's Republican Party could put the seat at risk for the GOP.
"Last summer, after Carnahan’s friend and GOP activist Anton Lazzaro was charged with child sex trafficking, four former executive directors of the party posted a remarkable open letter. They accused Carnahan, among other things, of covering up sexual harassment in the party ranks and ruling 'by grudges, retaliation and intimidation.' Later, a former staffer accused Carnahan of outing her as queer," according to The Daily Beast report.
“If she is the candidate there, every story is going to be, ‘Jennifer Carnahan—by the way, Tony Lazzaro,’” said one Minnesota GOP insider, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. “That’s not good for us. I truly think she’s the one Republican that could lose the seat.”
A black bulletproof vest bearing a Ukrainian military crest, a tourniquet and two felt-tip pens make up street artist Gamlet Zinkivsky's unpretentious work equipment.
The 35-year-old Ukrainian has remained in his hometown of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-biggest city, to paint its walls even amid the destruction of Russia's invasion.
Recognised internationally with exhibitions and paintings from Lima to London, Gamlet has put aside his globe-trotting success and now uses his talent to support the home front during the war.
"If I move I can have my career somewhere abroad. But it will only be comfort. In Ukraine, I have the feeling that I'm building the country," he said.
"All the city is my house, all the city (is) my gallery," the bald artist added, with four silver rings glinting on his left hand.
He writes the words "hellish hospitality" on the latest addition to his Kharkiv portfolio, a combination of Molotov cocktails and a petrol can drawn in a city centre scarred by Russian artillery fire.
'You have to paint'
At the start of the war, Gamlet spent a night in a Kharkiv metro station and 10 days at his parents' house before moving with relatives to Ivano-Frankivsk in relatively untouched western Ukraine.
He spent two months there raising funds for humanitarian aid and Ukraine's army, saying he sold a painting for two night vision devices.
Then came a telephone call from the commander of the Khartia Battalion, whose insignia he proudly sports on his vest. Every painting is signed with its name.
"You're staying in Ivano-Frankivsk for too long. We need you here (in Kharkiv) -- you have to paint," the commander told him.
Gamlet believes working in the street, where he can paint when and where he wants, is more important for public morale than getting exposure in galleries.
"I see people smiling and happy because they see a destroyed building which they loved but smile when they see painting," he explained.
Gamlet also sees his work as increasing access to art, which he prioritizes above simply earning money from selling pictures.
"Street art, it's the story for people who have never been to (an) exhibition or who don't visit museums, but they know my work in the street."
Gamlet hopes that his works, painted on wood covering the windows and exteriors of damaged buildings, will be given to a future war museum or sold for a good cause.
Only one of the eight paintings he completed in the eastern city of Izyum survived battles with Russian forces in recent weeks, he added, while other works were lost in Berdyansk and Mariupol.
But he says he does not see his art as a weapon against Russia.
"What I'm doing helps real fighters with weapons to uphold this country. This country, apart from people and cities, has artists, musicians, and culture they love. This inspires them (soldiers) to fight and defend."
Brushes with the law
This is the second time that Gamlet has stayed in Kharkiv for political reasons.
He was ready to move to Paris in 2013 before the pro-Western Maidan revolution toppled Ukraine's pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
That proved to be a watershed moment. "In 2014 I started painting with a new powerful spirit. I understood I was Ukrainian," he said.
Gamlet started painting Kharkiv's walls when he was 17 -- and his artistic activities earned him many brushes with the law.
He said he would spend as much money on "corruption" to leave police custody as he did on paint.
After yet another arrest, Gamlet decided to challenge the officers.
"I told them, 'What are you doing? Don't you have other things to do? Crimea was annexed and you found (a) terrorist like me.' Then they stopped bothering," he recalled.
Since then, he says he rejected an offer from the city to become its official painter in order to remain independent.
Gamlet studied art at university and art school for eight years. But he decided to do away with colors 12 years ago, preferring the minimalism of black and white in his work.
"I don't want to paint beautiful paintings, but great ideas," he explained.
"In the world everything is smeared and it's hard to understand if it's good or bad. In painting I can make it black and white."
© 2022 AFP