Last updateThu, 20 Nov 2014 12am


Crisp winter day in Alachua

The early morning sun and a quilt work of clouds stretched across the sky last Friday morning, casting long shadows across the grounds of Alachua City Hall.Alachua_Sky_photo_copy

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Mebane Middle National Geographic bee

Geography_Bee_Winner_copySeventh grader R.J. Murphy won the Mebane Middle School geography bee, which was sponsored by National Geographic.

ALACHUA – Mebane Middle School held its annual school-wide Geography Bee, sponsored by National Geographic, on Jan. 11. Preliminary rounds were held in social studies classes before the Christmas break to determine the 42 students who would advance to the school-wide Bee.

Contestants answered questions related to physical and cultural geography and population density around the world. After five rounds of rigorous questions, 11 students with the highest scores remained. They entered a tie-breaker round to determine who would fill the top 10 spots for the final rounds of questions. The top ten finalists were 7th grade students Connor Grady, R.J. Murphy, Tyler Owen, Connor Burgin, Evan McDonald and Tyler Baker, and 8th grade students Spencer Haire, Liam Zabek, Joshua Eang and Gary Corbett.

The 10 students faced off in competition for the first place medal. Once a contestant answered two questions incorrectly, they were eliminated from the final round. The competition was narrowed down to three contestants: Connor Grady, R.J. Murphy and Tyler Owen. After several more rounds of questions, the winner was determined, with Connor Grady coming in third and Tyler Owen taking second.  The winner of the Geography Bee was 7th grader R.J. Murphy.

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Citrus greening costs $3.63 billion in lost revenues and 6,611 jobs, new UF study shows

citrus_greening  GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Since 2006, the bacterial disease citrus greening has cost Florida’s economy an estimated $3.63 billion in lost revenues and 6,611 jobs by reducing orange juice production, according to a new study from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The study is the first complete assessment of greening’s economic impact on Florida, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. He called the study an important step in the fight against greening, because it quantifies damages and could show legislators and funding agencies why the invasive disease is one of the state’s biggest challenges.

“This study shows plainly just how imperative it is that we find a cure for citrus greening,” Payne said. “We have dedicated a huge amount of IFAS resources toward that end, and we are very appreciative of the significant support our research is receiving from the citrus industry. Growers are the people most obviously impacted, but the study demonstrates that many other Floridians are hurt as well—when fewer oranges are harvested, there are fewer dollars circulating in our state’s economy.”

First detected in Florida in 2005, greening causes citrus trees to drop fruit prematurely and eventually kills the trees. The disease is caused by a bacterium, and was first described in 1919 in China. The bacterium is transmitted by an invasive insect, the Asian citrus psyllid.

The study compares actual harvests of oranges used to make juice with projected harvests that would have taken place if greening had never struck Florida groves; it covers the growing seasons from 2006-2007 through 2010-2011. During those five years, the disease caused substantial crop losses, said citrus economist Tom Spreen, a professor with the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department.

The state’s juice-orange harvest for the period was 734 million boxes, and would have been an estimated 951 million boxes without greening, Spreen said. To develop economic impact figures, Spreen and colleague Alan Hodges, an extension scientist with the department, analyzed both scenarios using statistical models and data on the citrus industry and Florida’s economy.

To estimate lost revenues and jobs, the economists took into account direct losses to growers, indirect losses to industries affiliated with citrus production and the resulting cuts in spending by employee households and government.

When focusing strictly on juice-orange production during that five-year period, Florida growers lost $1.36 billion in revenues, and 2,125 permanent jobs were lost.

Florida Citrus Mutual, the state’s largest citrus grower organization, funded the study. The study did not address production of other citrus varieties, such as grapefruit, or oranges sold fresh to consumers, Spreen said.

Florida is the nation’s largest citrus producer and the world’s second-largest orange juice producer, after Brazil. Florida’s citrus industry generates about $8.9 billion a year, mainly from orange juice production.

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Alachua Elementary students recognized for Art in City Hall

City_Hall_Art_Kids_IMG_3097_copy  AMANDA WILLIAMSON/Alachua County Today   Alachua Elementary students were honored by the Alachua City Commission in recognition of their excellence in art and participation in providing original art work to the city.  The fifth grade students being honored currently have 16 colorful dinosaur themed art pieces displayed through the month of January in the lobby of City Hall. Students recognized Monday night included Kristen Dykerhouse, Elayna Green, Kaitlyn Orie, Noelle Gardner and Exzavier White from Mr. Becker's class; Justin Yandle and Jenna Hornsby from Mr. Zwilling's class; Sean Frombolt, Brennan Haire, Marlayna Wills and Desiree Yandle from Ms. Endelicato's class; Emma Shiskin and Tierra Jones from Mrs. Malphurs class and Alexis Dixon, Josh Thompson and Sara Balkcom from Ms. Pesta's class. Pictured above with some of the students is Alachua Elementary teacher Kathleen Resquesens.

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New drug could help reduce heart attack risk for cardiac patients awaiting surgery

  Dominick Angiolillo, M.D., Ph.D., UF_Angiolilloan associate professor of medicine and medical director of the UF Cardiovascular Research Program at the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Heart patients who have stents that prop open blocked arteries often face a dilemma when they need open heart surgery: Continue taking life-saving blood thinners but risk severe bleeding during surgery, or stop taking the medicines and risk a heart attack.

Now, researchers from the University of Florida and elsewhere have identified a new drug that can serve as a “bridge” during that time when patients have to stop taking blood thinners, minimizing both the risk of a heart attack and the risk of excessive bleeding during surgery. The findings appeared Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“This could be a way to satisfy an unmet need and solve a huge clinical problem for millions of patients,” said the study’s lead author, Dominick Angiolillo, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine and medical director of the UF Cardiovascular Research Program at the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville.

Patients who have stents — small mesh tubes that help open up the arteries — must take aspirin or other blood-thinning medication for at least one year after implantation of the devices. But a problem arises if a patient requires open heart surgery during that year.

The patient must stop taking blood thinners five to seven days before surgery to avoid severe bleeding during surgery. But stopping the medication increases heart attack risk. The need for a short-term “bridge” between traditional medication and heart surgery came to national attention when former President Bill Clinton had a mild heart attack in 2004 and needed bypass surgery. Clinton had to wait six days for surgery because he had been taking aspirin and clopidogrel, commercially sold as Plavix.

Angiolillo and colleagues conducted a two-year international clinical trial to determine whether an experimental intravenous blood-thinning drug called cangrelor can keep patients in good health during the presurgery period in which they stop taking traditional oral medication. The trial was funded by The Medicines Company, which manufactures cangrelor.

 The researchers determined the appropriate dosage of the drug then administered it to half of the 210 patients in the study. The other half were given a placebo, which did not contain the drug. Neither patients nor physicians knew to which group a patient was assigned until surgery was needed.

 The researchers found that cangrelor can effectively thin the blood to keep heart attack risk low without increasing the risk of major bleeding during surgery. Some cases of minor, non-life threatening bleeding occurred among patients on cangrelor. Since changed to BECAUSE the blood-thinning effects of cangrelor are not as long lasting as for traditional medications such as aspirin and clopidogrel, the risk of heavy bleeding is reduced.

 “This is a very important scientific first step that really helps us understand what to do with people who are awaiting surgical procedures and are on medications that raise their bleeding risk,” said Deepak L. Bhatt, M.D., M.P.H, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who is not affiliated with the current study but has also conducted research on cangrelor.

Further studies are needed before cangrelor can be used in widespread clinical practice.

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