The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

January 19, 2013

Invaders are no strangers to our area

Richard Whitby
The Daily Star

---- — Most people, when they think of invasive species these days, probably think of Burmese pythons slithering wild in the Florida Everglades.

Central New York doesn’t have any exotic serpents gobbling up native wildlife, but it does have scores of invasive species. And if you think they’re a minor problem, you’re wrong.

Moreover, their cost goes way beyond their assault on native species. They have a direct effect on agricultural production and, in some cases, human health.

Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie, called invasive species a “huge problem” at the Otsego County Chamber’s State of the State Breakfast last week and said he’d like to see more effort put into controlling them.

The state already spends millions of dollars to eradicate some of the worst offenders, such as Asian longhorn beetles in the downstate region. But no region is immune.

The culprits in this region include giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), which has been found in Chenango and Otsego counties. Its sap makes human and livestock skin ultrasensitive to ultraviolet, resulting in severe burns, blistering, painful sores and purplish or blackened scars. It can cause blindness if it gets into the eyes, and it’s toxic to livestock when mixed with feed, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse (www.nyis.info).

Giant hogweed may be one of the nastiest invaders, but it isn’t the most pervasive, such as Japanese knotweed, and probably isn’t the most costly. The truth is, there is nowhere near enough space here to list all of the invasive species present in Otsego, Delaware, Chenango or Schoharie counties, but they affect everything from livestock to timber to fruit and vegetable production.

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Unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, increasingly have been used for surveillance and as weapons in Afghanistan and the war on terror.

With the Pentagon’s participation in Afghanistan winding down, expect to see more UAVs in U.S. skies in coming years, as drone manufacturers seek domestic sales.

Tucked away in the $63 billion FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which was signed into law last February after years of debate about non-drone elements, Congress ordered the Federal Aviation Administration come up with a streamlined process for granting permits to operate drones in U.S. airspace.

Several UAS (unmanned aerial systems) contractors already are based in and around Syracuse, and the Air Force’s 174th Fighter Wing, based at Hancock Field in Syracuse, is a control center for Reaper drone flights in Afghanistan.

Reapers are larger versions of the Predator A, which started out as a purely reconnaissance drone and first gained prominence in the Gulf War. In Afghanistan, Reapers carry a variety of ordnance, including Hellfire air-to-ground missiles.

Reapers also are operated by the CIA, the Navy and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, among others.

Active or proposed uses for drones in U.S. airspace include law enforcement, such as drug detection and interdiction, aerial mapping and scientific surveys.

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Health care officials warn the public, year after year, month after month, to get an annual flu vaccine shot. It’s bad enough that a substantial portion of the population ignores that advice.

But it’s unforgivable when a reporter who has written extensively about those warnings and about potential consequences of contracting influenza fails to heed them.

A lost and miserable Christmas, indeed a lost and miserable week, apparently is what’s necessary to make such warnings stick. Not to mention weeks of congestion and hoarseness.

And if you think, “I’ve had the flu, and it wasn’t so bad,” then you haven’t had the flu. Maybe you had what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes as an “influenza-like illness” or just a cold, but you haven’t had a full-blown case of it. You’d know it if you had.

For one thing, you would have had a moment — usually in the middle of the night — when you would have wondered whether you’d be able to breathe if your condition deteriorated any further. And you might have wondered whether you’d cough so hard that your throat would bleed or you’d burst a blood vessel in your head.

Influenza is nothing to trifle with. If you haven’t settled on a New Year’s resolution yet, make it this one: Never skip another influenza vaccination. Ever.

Richard Whitby can be reached at 432-1000, ext. 221, or rwhitby@thedailystar.com.