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A pandemic for trees

An insect-spread pathogen is killing trees and harming economies in Europe

Italy Photo Press/Zuma Press/Newscom

A pandemic for trees
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A pandemic for trees

A spreading disease among European olive trees could cost the economy over 20 billion euros, according to a recent study. The disease is caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, believed to be the most deadly plant pathogen in the world, and there is no cure. It showed up in an Italian olive orchard in 2013, but it also infects cherry, almond, and plum trees. Xylella makes it difficult for a tree to move water and nutrients, killing the tree. Sap-sucking insects spread the pathogen, making it very hard to control. It recently showed up in olive trees in Spain and Greece and has spread quickly up and down Italy. Farmers are fighting the disease by burning infected trees, but the researchers say the only effective way of stopping it will be producing a resistant tree.


U.K. resident Connie Titchen, age 106, has recovered from the coronavirus. Titchen, a great-grandmother of eight, was born in 1913 and lived through two World Wars. She was admitted to a Birmingham, England, hospital with what she thought was pneumonia and was soon diagnosed with COVID-19. After three weeks of fighting, her doctors said, Titchen was virus-free. Nurses lined the hall to clap as she was wheeled out to go home, according to media reports. Titchen said in a statement that she felt “very lucky” and was eager to see her family.


President Donald Trump says he will sign an executive order to block legal immigration into the United States temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The president tweeted that the suspension is needed for health reasons and “to protect the jobs” of Americans. He didn’t say how long the new restriction would last. Trump had already blocked travel from China, most of Europe, Canada, Mexico, and Iran, and the U.S. State Department has halted almost all visa processing for weeks during the pandemic.


The spy trial of Paul Whelan began in Moscow on April 13. The Russian government accused the former U.S. Marine of espionage after authorities found a USB flash drive in his apartment that they claim contained secret information. Russian security arrested Whelan in December 2018 and he has been in prison ever since. During these 16 months he has not been able to speak to family or friends, U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan said in an interview with the BBC. The diplomat called it a trial without any proof. Authorities have denied Sullivan permission to attend court during Whelan’s trial or talk to the defendant. Whelan says he is innocent and that a friend left the USB in his room. His lawyer argued for postponing the trial, like many others during the pandemic, saying Whelan’s case is high-profile and should not be heard in a locked-down courtroom. That argument failed to persuade the court.


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