Today on New Scientist: 25 January 2013







Hagfish gulped up in first video of deep-sea seal hunt

Watch the first sighting of a seal's underwater eating habits spotted by a teenager watching a live video feed



World's oldest portrait reveals the ice-age mind

A 26,000-year-old carved ivory head of a woman is not just an archaeological find - a new exhibition in London wants us to see works like this as art



Dung beetles navigate using the Milky Way

Forget the Pole Star: on moonless nights dung beetles use the Milky Way to follow a straight path with their dung ball



Stress's impact can affect future generations' genes

DNA analysis has yielded the first direct evidence that chemical marks which disable genes in response to stress can be passed on to offspring



Uncharted territory: Where digital maps are leading us

The way we use maps is evolving fast, says Kat Austen, and it will change a great deal more than how we navigate



Feedback: Tales of the stony turd industry

Fossilised faeces in Shitlington, confusing railway notices, organic water, and more



Duolingo gives language learning a jump start

First evidence that Duolingo, a new website that helps you learn a language while translating the web, actually works



Dolphins form life raft to help dying friend

A group of dolphins was caught on camera as they worked together to keep a struggling dolphin above water by forming an impromptu raft



Zoologger: Supercool squirrels go into the deep freeze

Hibernating Arctic ground squirrels drop their body temperatures to -4 °C, and shut their circadian clocks off for the winter



Greek economic crisis has cleared the air

The ongoing collapse of Greece's economy has caused a significant fall in air pollution, which can be detected by satellites



Body armour to scale up by mimicking flexible fish

Armour that is designed like the scales of the dragon fish could keep soldiers protected - while still letting them bend



Astrophile: Split personality tarnishes pulsars' rep

Pulsars were seen as cosmic timekeepers, but the quirky way in which one example shines suggests we can't take their behaviour for granted



Shrinking proton puzzle persists in new measurement

The most precise experiment yet to find the proton's radius confirms that it can appear smaller than our theories predict - is new physics needed?



Tight squeeze forces cells to take their medicine

A short sharp squash in these channels and a cell's membrane pops open - good news when you want to slip a molecule or nanoparticle in there




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Latin America, Europe open summit to boost trade






SANTIAGO: Latin American and European leaders open a two-day summit Saturday to give a fresh impetus to efforts to seal a free trade agreement between their two blocs.

Attending the gathering are some 45 leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Cuban leader Raul Castro as well as European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Although the two blocs have met seven times, it is the 27-member European Union's first summit with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC, its Spanish-language acronym).

Set up in Caracas in December 2011 at the behest of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, CELAC groups all American nations except the United States and Canada and aims to boost regional trade and institutional cooperation,.

Chavez, who is convalescing from cancer surgery in Cuba, will not attend the weekend gathering.

Monday, CELAC leaders will hold their own summit here, with Cuba taking over the chairmanship from Chile for one year.

The meeting will seal Cuba's full regional reintegration and mark a major diplomatic coup for President Castro, whose communist-ruled country is still reeling from a 50-year-old crippling US trade embargo.

The 33 CELAC leaders hope to overcome their ideological and economic differences to foster greater regional integration.

"Our efforts (in this area) have not lived up to that is needed and what Latin America deserves," Chilean President Sebastian Pinera conceded.

Shortly before Castro landed here on Friday, about 200 people protested both for and against Havana.

An estimated 100 demonstrators massed outside the Cuban embassy, heeding a call by Chile's ruling party, the conservative Independent Democratic Union, or UDI, to demonstrate against the Castro`s presence in the Chilean capital.

The UDI accuses Castro of harboring the murderers of their party's founder, Jaime Guzman, a senator who was killed in 1991 by the nearly extinct radical leftist group Patriotic Front of Manuel Rodriguez.

The UDI president, along with other lawmakers, also came to the embassy to deliver a letter demanding to know the whereabouts in Cuba of those they allege killed Guzman: Ricardo Poblete, and three other accomplices.

However, the lawmakers were denied entry and then threw the letter into the garden.

Another 100 demonstrators, from a "Group of Solidarity with Cuba," also gathered near the embassy to show support for Cuba .

Ahead of the EU-CELAC summit, Pinera, the host, said the meeting aimed to "to seal a new strategic alliance for development and more open markets."

"It will be the first timethat Latin America will speak with one voice" with Europe, Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno said recently.

The EU is the biggest outside investor in Latin America, with three per cent of the direct foreign investment in CELAC or $385 billion in 2010.

Thursday, Van Rompuy and Barroso attended a EU-Brazil summit with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia.

The two sides called for the speedy conclusion of a free trade pact between the EU and the South American trading bloc Mercosur.

Negotiations over the pact have so far stumbled over differences on agriculture -- notably Europe's subsidies to its farmers, which undermine South America's efforts to sell its own products.

Meanwhile, a parallel Summit of the Peoples got under way here Friday with a march of 1,000 leftists protesting capitalist economic policies.

The march turned violent when hooded demonstrators tore down traffic lights and shops' shutters in central Santiago, prompting police to intervene with water cannons ans tear gas.

At least five protesters were arrested.

The two-day counter-summit brings together representatives of more than 400 social movements from across Latin America and Europe.

- AFP/fa



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Pictures: The Story Behind Sun Dogs, Penitent Ice, and More

Photograph by Art Wolfe, Getty Images

If you want the beauty of winter without having to brave the bone-chilling temperatures blasting much of the United States this week, snuggle into a soft blanket, grab a warm beverage, and curl up with some of these natural frozen wonders.

Nieve penitente, or penitent snow, are collections of spires that resemble robed monks—or penitents. They are flattened columns of snow wider at the base than at the tip and can range in height from 3 to 20 feet (1 to 6 meters). The picture above shows the phenomenon in central Chile. (See pictures of the patterns in snow and ice.)

Nieve penitente tend to form in shallow valleys where the snow is deep and the sun doesn't shine at too steep an angle, said Kenneth Libbrecht, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena who studies ice crystal formation.

As the snow melts, dirt gets mixed in with the runoff and collects in little pools here and there, he said. Since the dirt is darker in color than the surrounding snow, the dirty areas melt faster "and you end up digging these pits," explained Libbrecht.

"They tend to form at high altitude," he said. But other than that, no one really knows the exact conditions that are needed to form penitent snow.

"They're fairly strong," Libbrecht said. "People have found [the spires] difficult to hike through."

Jane J. Lee

Published January 25, 2013

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WH, Senators to Begin Push on Immigration Reform












The White House and a bipartisan group of senators next week plan to begin their efforts to push for comprehensive immigration reform.


President Barack Obama will make an announcement on immigration during a Tuesday trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, the White House said on Friday. The Senate group is expected make their plans public around the same time, the Associated Press reported.


See Also: Where Do Labor Unions Stand on Immigration?


For Obama, immigration reform is a campaign promise that has remained unfulfilled from his first White House run in 2008. During his 2012 re-election campaign, the president vowed to renew his effort to overhaul the nation's immigration system. It has long been expected that Obama would roll out his plans shortly after his inauguration.


The president's trip to Las Vegas is designed "to redouble the administration's efforts to work with Congress to fix the broken immigration system this year," the White House said.


Ever since November's election, in which Latino voters turned out in record numbers, Republicans and Democrats have expressed a desire to work on immigration reform. Obama has long supported a bill that would make many of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants without criminal records eligible to apply for an earned pathway to citizenship, which includes paying fines and learning English.






Charles Dharapak/AP Photo







But the debate over a pathway to citizenship is expected to be contentious. Other flashpoints in an immigration reform push could include a guest-worker program, workplace enforcement efforts, border security, and immigration backlogs.


In a statement, the White House said that "any legislation must include a path to earned citizenship."


Ahead of his immigration push next week, Obama met today with a group of lawmakers from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), including chairman Rubén Hinojosa (D-Texas) , Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), and CHC Immigration Task Force Chair Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), the latter's office said. CHC members are expected to play a pivotal role in the debate.


"The president is the quarterback and he will direct the team, call the play, and be pivotal if we succeed. I am very optimistic based on conversations with Republicans in the House and Senate that we will do more than just talk about the immigration issue this year," Gutierrez said in a statement following the CHC meeting with Obama. "The president putting his full weight and attention behind getting a bill signed into law is tremendously helpful. We need the president and the American people all putting pressure on the Congress to act because nothing happens in the Capitol without people pushing from the outside."


A bipartisan group of eight senators, which includes Menendez, has also begun talks on drafting an immigration bill and will play an integral part in the process of passing a bill through Congress. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has been participating in talks with others senators, has also unveiled his own outline for an immigration proposal.


The group of senators have reportedly eyed Friday as the date when they'll unveil their separate proposal, according to the Washington Post.



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Body armour to scale up by mimicking flexible fish









































IN DAYS of old, knights protected themselves in armour made up of tough, interlocking "scales". This idea might one day be revisited, with future soldiers decked out in scales inspired by the almost impenetrable skin of the "dragon fish".












This fish, Polypterus senegalus, is a tough beast whose strong bite and sturdy exoskeleton has kept its species going for 96 million years. Each of the scales that cover its long body is made up of multiple layers; when the fish is bitten, each layer cracks in a different pattern so that the scale stays intact as a whole (Nature Materials, doi.org/frkx9r).












Now we know how the different types of scales work - as a series of joints between "pegs" and "sockets", allowing the fish to bend as it swims. This combination of flexibility and strength is perfect for human armour, says Swati Varshney of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, speaking at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting in San Francisco earlier this month. She and colleagues performed X-ray scans of scales, reconstructed the shapes and then worked out how they slotted together.












Scales near the flexible parts of the fish, such as the tail, are small and allow the fish to bend. Those on the side, protecting the internal organs, are larger and more rigid. Their joints fit together tightly so that each peg reinforces the next scale rather than allowing it to flex.












The researchers created computer models of the different scale types and blew them up to 10 times their original size. Using a 3D printer, they printed a sheet of 144 interlocking scales out of a rigid material (an early prototype is pictured). The group hopes to eventually develop a full suit of fish-scale body armour for the US military that could replace the heavy Kevlar armour currently used, but Varshney says this is still some way off. Such a suit would mimic the fish: rigid and strong across the torso and more flexible towards the joints.












These fish are promising models for human armour because they have already tested out engineering designs on themselves, says Dominique Adriaens of Ghent University in Belgium. Once the design is pinned down, researchers could use different materials to make suits. Ceramic, for instance, would provide heat protection; metal could prevent punctures.


























































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Xi Jinping given Japan PM's letter amid islands row






BEIJING: An envoy from Tokyo handed Chinese leader Xi Jinping a personal letter from new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, in a meeting aimed at smoothing relations amid a bitter territorial row.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the New Komeito party, the junior partner in Japan's ruling coalition, is the most senior Japanese parliamentarian to visit China since the long-running row over disputed islands intensified last September.

At the Great Hall of the People in Beijing both sides expressed appreciation for the trip before beginning private talks, and it was not revealed what the letter said.

"Mr Yamaguchi visits China at a period in which Sino-Japanese relations face a special situation. We attach great importance to your visit," said Xi, the head of China's ruling Communist party and the country's president-to-be.

Yamaguchi said he was "incomparably happy" about the meeting.

While he has no official role in the Tokyo government headed by the hawkish Abe, the occasion was a rare positive step as the territorial dispute weighs heavily on relations between the two Asian giants.

Beijing has repeatedly sent ships to waters near the islands since Japan nationalised part of the chain in September, a move that triggered a diplomatic dispute and huge anti-Japan demonstrations across China.

China has also sent air patrols near the Tokyo-controlled islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan but claimed by Beijing as the Diaoyus. The chain could sit atop vast mineral reserves, it is believed.

Earlier this week, Yamaguchi said he hoped to improve ties but that Tokyo had no plans to compromise over the islands.

"I would like to make a step toward opening the door to normalising our relations," he told reporters before his departure.

Regarding the islands, he said: "Our stance is that no territorial problem exists. That's a shared recognition among the government and coalition."

- AFP/fa



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Soccer coach suspended in Maine West hazing case









Another soccer coach linked to hazing allegations on athletic teams at Maine West High School has been suspended without pay by the district while officials pursue his dismissal.


Maine Township High School District 207 officials reached that decision on freshman boys soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez at a special board meeting Thursday night, a month after reaching the same decision on the employment of head varsity soccer coach Michael Divincenzo.


“The board believes Mr. Rodriguez violated District 207 Board of Education policy and professional expectations by failing to adequately prevent, recognize, report and punish student hazing,” board president Sean Sullivan said in a statement read at the meeting.





Both men were originally placed on paid leave and reassigned from teaching duties this fall when allegations of hazing surfaced in early October on the Des Plaines school’s soccer and baseball teams.


Those allegations are the subject of a lawsuit filed on behalf of four alleged hazing victims on the soccer team and against the district, both coaches and Maine West Principal Audrey Haugan.


Rodriguez, a tenured applied arts and technology teacher, has 17 days to request a hearing on his dismissal through the Illinois State Board of Education, officials said.


Through an attorney, Divincenzo recently requested an appeal hearing with the state board. The appeal process could take up to one year, officials said.


Rodriguez could not be reached for comment on Thursday night. But Des Plaines police reports show he and Divincenzo previously denied any knowledge of team hazing or initiation rituals.


District officials also fulfilled early promises made shortly after the hazing allegations surfaced by approving the hiring of former assistant U.S. attorney Sergio Acosta to lead the district’s independent investigation into hazing allegations, and California-based consultant Community Matters to lead focus groups studying bullying and hazing prevention techniques.


Last week, district officials confirmed the receipt of grand jury subpoenas in the Cook County state’s attorney’s ongoing investigation. Officials reiterated their commitment to “cooperate fully with all agencies conducting their own investigations, including the Cook County State’s Attorney, Des Plaines Police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.


One subpoena, dated Dec. 6 and obtained by the Tribune, directs Maine West Principal Audrey Haugan to produce “personnel files, disciplinary records, reports, memorandums, summaries, interviews, investigations, notes, statements or other such writings or recordings for Michael Divincenzo and Emilio Rodriguez, and any and all other employees associated with coaching student athletes from 2007 to the present time.”


In another Dec. 6 subpoena, Superintendent Ken Wallace is directed to produce “any written materials describing or explaining” school, student athlete, coach or teacher conduct codes or rules, “or rules or any other similar such writings including but not limited to the topics of hazing, sexual misconduct or physical misconduct in any manner associated with Maine West High School.”


Wallace, Haugan, Maine East Principal Michael Pressler and Maine South Principal Shawn Messmer also received subpoenas dated Dec. 7. Those subpoenas, which were partially redacted, seek “any and all letters, emails, reports, memorandums, call logs, writings, recordings, or other such material regarding” redacted information, “including any such documents from within the school records or school file for” redacted information.


jbullington@tribune.com





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Deformed Dolphin Accepted Into New Family


In 2011, behavioral ecologists Alexander Wilson and Jens Krause of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Germany were surprised to discover that a group of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus)—animals not usually known for forging bonds with other species—had taken in an adult bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).

The researchers observed the group in the ocean surrounding the Azores (map)—about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) off the coast of Lisbon, Portugal—for eight days as the dolphin traveled, foraged, and played with both the adult whales and their calves. When the dolphin rubbed its body against the whales, they would sometimes return the gesture.

Among terrestrial animals, cross-species interactions are not uncommon. These mostly temporary alliances are forged for foraging benefits and protection against predators, said Wilson.

They could also be satisfying a desire for the company of other animals, added marine biologist John Francis, vice president for research, conservation, and exploration at the National Geographic Society (the Society owns National Geographic News).

Photographs of dogs nursing tiger cubs, stories of a signing gorilla adopting a pet cat, and videos of a leopard caring for a baby baboon have long circulated the Web and caught national attention.

A Rare Alliance

And although dolphins are known for being sociable animals, Wilson called the alliance between sperm whale and bottlenose dolphin rare, as it has never, to his knowledge, been witnessed before.

This association may have started with something called bow riding, a common behavior among dolphins during which they ride the pressure waves generated by the bow of a ship or, in this case, whales, suggested Francis.

"Hanging around slower creatures to catch a ride might have been the first advantage [of such behavior]," he said, adding that this may have also started out as simply a playful encounter.

Wilson suggested that the dolphin's peculiar spinal shape made it more likely to initiate an interaction with the large and slow-moving whales. "Perhaps it could not keep up with or was picked on by other members of its dolphin group," he said in an email.

Default

But the "million-dollar question," as Wilson puts it, is why the whales accepted the lone dolphin. Among several theories presented in an upcoming paper in Aquatic Mammals describing the scientists' observations, they propose that the dolphin may have been regarded as nonthreatening and that it was accepted by default because of the way adult sperm whales "babysit" their calves.

Sperm whales alternate their dives between group members, always leaving one adult near the surface to watch the juveniles. "What is likely is that the presence of the calves—which cannot dive very deep or for very long—allowed the dolphin to maintain contact with the group," Wilson said.

Wilson doesn't believe the dolphin approached the sperm whales for help in protecting itself from predators, since there aren't many dolphin predators in the waters surrounding the Azores.

But Francis was not so quick to discount the idea. "I don't buy that there is no predator in the lifelong experience of the whales and dolphins frequenting the Azores," he said.

He suggested that it could be just as possible that the sperm whales accepted the dolphin for added protection against their own predators, like the killer whale (Orcinus orca), while traveling. "They see killer whales off the Azores, and while they may not be around regularly, it does not take a lot of encounters to make [other] whales defensive," he said.


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It's Official: Women Will Serve in Combat













Women will soon be able to serve in combat, as things officially changed with the stroke of a pen today at the Pentagon.


At a joint news conference, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Charman Gen. Martin Dempsey signed a memorandum rolling back a 1994 directive prohibiting women from doing so.


"They serve, they're wounded, and they die right next to each other," Panetta said of women and men in the military. "The time has come to recognize that reality.


"If they're willing to put their lives on the line, then we need to recognize that they deserve a chance," Panetta said, noting that he wants his own granddaughters and grandsons to have the same opportunities in their lives and careers.


The change won't be immediate, however. While Panetta announced that thousands of new positions will now be open to women, he has asked the military branches to submit plans by May on how to integrate women into combat operations. He set a January 2016 deadline for branches to implement the changes, giving military services time to seek waivers for certain jobs.


Both Panetta and Dempsey said they believe the move will strengthen the U.S. military force.








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"Ultimately, we are acting to strengthen the armed forces," Dempsey said. "We will extend opportunities to women in a way that maintains readiness, morale and unit cohesion."


Women have already served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, as ABC News' Martha Raddatz and Elizabeth Gorman reported in 2009: Prohibited from serving in roles "whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground," women in support roles, nonetheless, served in support roles on the frontlines, where they have fought, been wounded and died.


Women have also flown combat missions since 1993 and have served on submarines since 2010.


Panetta noted that 152 women have died serving in the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dempsey said he realized a change was inevitable when he noticed two female turret gunners protecting a senior military officer.


"It's clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military's mission of defending the nation," Panetta said. "Women represent 15 percent of the force of over 200,000 [and] are serving in a growing number of critical roles on and off the battlefield.


"I've gone to Bethesda to visit wounded warriors, and I've gone to Arlington to bury our dead. There's no distincton."


Panetta and Dempsey said President Obama supported the move, while warning them to maintain military readiness as they considered the change.


Obama hailed the move in a written statement


"Today, by moving to open more military positions -- including ground combat units -- to women, our armed forces have taken another historic step toward harnessing the talents and skills of all our citizens," he said.


"This milestone reflects the courageous and patriotic service of women through more than two centuries of American history and the indispensable role of women in today's military," Obama said.






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Wallace: Wonders of nature have been solace of my life






















Alfred Russel Wallace discovered natural selection independently of Charles Darwin. Through his letters, available online for the first time, he tells us of his research, expeditions and enduring fascination for nature's mysteries.






















You are famously joint author, with Darwin, of the first paper describing the origin of species and natural selection, published in 1858. When did you first get the idea?
I begin [in 1847] to feel rather dissatisfied with a mere local collection – little is to be learnt by it. I sh[ould]d like to take some one family, to study thoroughly – principally with a view to the theory of the origin of species. By that means I am strongly of [the] opinion that some definite results might be arrived at.












This desire led you to Brazil to collect birds, butterflies and beetles to try to discover what drives the evolution of new species. Were there any incidents on the voyage?
On Friday the 6th of August [1852]… the Captain (who was the owner of the vessel) came into the cabin & said "I am afraid the ship's on fire. Come & see what you think of it."












Despite that harrowing experience, you next undertook an 8 year expedition to the Malay Archipelago, where you discovered the invisible boundary between the animals of Asia and the Australian region, which would later be called the Wallace Line in your honour. What fascinated you most on that trip?
The Birds have however interested me much more than the insects, they are proportionally much more numerous, and throw great light on the laws of Geographical distribution of Animals in the East… As an instance I may mention the Cockatoos, a group of birds confined to Australia & the Moluccas, but quite unknown in Java Borneo Sumatra & Malacca… Many other species illustrate the same fact.












You have been famously good-natured about sharing the discovery of natural selection with Darwin…
I also look upon it as a most fortunate circumstance that I had a short time ago commenced a correspondence with Mr. Darwin on the subject of "Varieties", since it has led to the earlier publication of a portion of his researches & has secured to him a claim to priority which an independent publication either by myself or some other party might have injuriously effected












What did you and Darwin have in common?
In early life both Darwin and myself became ardent beetle-hunters. Both Darwin and myself had, what he terms "the mere passion of collecting"… Now it is this superficial and almost child-like interest in the outward forms of living things, which, though often despised as unscientific, happened to be the only one which would lead us towards a solution of the problem of species.












Do you feel your contribution has been overlooked?
The idea came to me, as it had come to Darwin, in a sudden flash of insight: it was thought out in a few hours – was written down with such a sketch of its various applications and developments… then copied on thin letter-paper and sent off to Darwin – all within one week.












I should have had no cause for complaint if the respective shares of Darwin and myself in regard to the elucidation of nature's method of organic development had been thenceforth estimated as being, roughly, proportional to the time we had each bestowed upon it when it was thus first given to the world – that is to say, as 20 years is to one week.












You helped Darwin with the puzzle of bright colouration in animals, which led to the concept of warning colours. To ask his question again, why are some caterpillars so brightly coloured?
[Since some]… are protected by a disagreeable taste or odour, it would be a positive advantage to them never to be mistaken for any of the palatable caterpillars… Any gaudy & conspicuous colour therefore, that would plainly distinguish them from the brown & green eatable caterpillars, would enable birds to recognise them easily as a kind not fit for food, & thus they would escape seizure which is as bad as being eaten.












How did you feel looking back on your life's work, at the age of 89?
The wonders of nature have been the delight and solace of… life. Nature has afforded… an ever increasing rapture, and the attempt to solve some of her myriad problems an ever-growing sense of mystery and awe.












Do you have a message for our readers?
I sincerely wish you all some of the delight in the mere contemplation of nature's mysteries and beauties which I have enjoyed.






















































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Is it a bird? A plane? No, just a guy named Oscar






BUENOS AIRES: He was a self-styled superhero, prowling the gritty outskirts of Buenos Aires wearing a mask and cartoonish outfit and armed only with a flashlight, compass and pepper spray as he took on bad guys.

But now his cover is blown, thanks to an alleged shootout with muggers, and the superhero is charged with carrying an unlicensed gun, police said Wednesday.

The man who called himself Menganno -- Spanish for Joe Blow -- and became famous in Argentine media is actually one Oscar Lefosse, 43, a former cop who served from 1986 to 1996. It turns out his gun license expired a year ago.

On Monday, Lefosse told police that three petty criminals opened fire on his car as he drove with his wife. He returned fire with his Glock pistol.

On his Facebook page, "Menganno" -- 33,000 followers -- posted a photo of what he said was his bullet ridden car.

But a policeman quoted by the news agency Telam said the shots all came from inside the car.

"He could have killed somebody, an innocent bystander. He is irresponsible," the official said.

In an interview with AFP in 2010, Menganno described himself as "a real, flesh and blood superhero. My goal is for all of us to be better and show more solidarity. Injustice makes me sick."

He said then that he only defended himself with a flashlight, pepper spray and a compass, and had a company in the security sector. He did not elaborate.

"I do not walk around the street armed. I keep my gun at home," he said Wednesday on Argentine TV.

Lefosse used to hide his identity behind a mask that was a mix of dark and baby blue and coordinated nicely colour-wise with a Superman style suit he wore, with a symbol on his chest to boot.

-AFP/fl



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Bulls rally to beat Pistons 85-82









As the United Center rocked and the Bulls celebrated Marco Belinelli's go-ahead, three-point play with 7.5 seconds left, Joakim Noah remained down in the photographer's pit along the baseline, cameras and cheerleaders all around him.


"I didn't really see the play," Noah said. "I had the cheerleaders' pom-poms in my face."


His teammates saw it, which is why they were celebrating the shot that sealed the Bulls' stirring 85-82 comeback over the Pistons, their 17th straight victory in this series. It marked the second time in just more than a month the Bulls erased a 17-point deficit against the Pistons to prevail.








And yet Noah, who had authored, really, the play of the season — one that defines the heart and hustle that has the Derrick Rose-less Bulls on pace for 50 victories now that the midway point has been reached — remained down.


"We were over there celebrating and he was still knocked over by the cheerleaders," said Nate Robinson, who kick-started the rally with nine straight points early in the fourth. "We were like, 'Oh, yeah, we have to go help him up.' But that play shows how hard Jo works. He never gives up."


Noah smiled, clearly relishing the opportunity to tweak his teammates.


"Damn, it took forever, right?" he said of the delay.


All's well that ends well, right?


But make sure to find a replay of Noah's hustle, which came off Belinelli's bricked jumper. As Noah tumbled into cameras and cheerleaders, Belinelli cut to the basket, grabbed the fruit of Noah's effort and laid it in as Rodney Stuckey fouled him.


"I scored, but the credit goes to Jo," said Belinelli, who scored his second game-winner in four games.


Coach Tom Thibodeau just shook his head.


"Quite frankly, I don't know he got to it," Thibodeau said. "It was an incredible play."


The Bulls then watched tying 3-point attempts from Tayshuan Prince and Stuckey rim out as time expired.


"I stayed with the play," Noah said. "The basketball gods were on our side. It's not really a great play because if Detroit gets it, it's a four-on-five fast break the other side. Fortunately, we got it. "


Robinson's boundless energy can delve into extracurricular emotion, but there's no denying he jump-started the comeback. Robinson keyed a 12-2 run to open the fourth with nine straight points and a dish for a fast-break dunk from Butler, who tied his career-highs with 18 points and nine rebounds.


Butler, starting again for the injured Luol Deng, played all but 91 seconds and overcame a 1-for-8 start. He also hit a huge 3-pointer — the Bulls missed their first 10 and made just 3 of 14 — for an 82-80 lead before Jason Maxiell tied the game with 29.4 seconds left off a defensive breakdown.


"Jimmy just kept working the game," Thibodeau said. "He never got down. He kept battling and battling."


Robinson finished with 11 points.


"That's Nate. He made a lot of big-time plays for us," Thibodeau said. "He's not afraid. I respect that about him.


"The group that started the fourth quarter played with energy, got some stops and got us going.


Noah played 45 minutes with 10 points and 18 rebounds.


"We just kept saying, 'We're going to rally together,'" Butler said. "That's what this team is all about."


kcjohnson@tribune.com


Twitter @kcjhoop





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Deformed Dolphin Accepted Into New Family


In 2011, behavioral ecologists Alexander Wilson and Jens Krause of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Germany were surprised to discover that a group of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus)—animals not usually known for forging bonds with other species—had taken in an adult bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).

The researchers observed the group in the ocean surrounding the Azores (map)—about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) off the coast of Lisbon, Portugal—for eight days as the dolphin traveled, foraged, and played with both the adult whales and their calves. When the dolphin rubbed its body against the whales, they would sometimes return the gesture.

Among terrestrial animals, cross-species interactions are not uncommon. These mostly temporary alliances are forged for foraging benefits and protection against predators, said Wilson.

They could also be satisfying a desire for the company of other animals, added marine biologist John Francis, vice president for research, conservation, and exploration at the National Geographic Society (the Society owns National Geographic news).

Photographs of dogs nursing tiger cubs, stories of a signing gorilla adopting a pet cat, and videos of a leopard caring for a baby baboon have long circulated the web and caught national attention.

A Rare Alliance

And although dolphins are known for being sociable animals, Wilson called the alliance between sperm whale and bottlenose dolphin rare, as it has never, to his knowledge, been witnessed before.

This association may have started with something called bow riding, a common behavior among dolphins during which they ride the pressure waves generated by the bow of a ship or, in this case, whales, suggested Francis.

"Hanging around slower creatures to catch a ride might have been the first advantage [of such behavior]," he said, adding that this may have also started out as simply a playful encounter.

Wilson suggested that the dolphin's peculiar spinal shape made it more likely to initiate an interaction with the large and slow-moving whales. "Perhaps it could not keep up with or was picked on by other members of its dolphin group," he said in an email.

Default

But the "million-dollar question," as Wilson puts it, is why the whales accepted the lone dolphin. Among several theories presented in an upcoming paper in Aquatic Mammals describing the scientists' observations, they propose that the dolphin may have been regarded as nonthreatening and that it was accepted by default because of the way adult sperm whales "babysit" their calves.

Sperm whales alternate their dives between group members, always leaving one adult near the surface to watch the juveniles. "What is likely is that the presence of the calves—which cannot dive very deep or for very long—allowed the dolphin to maintain contact with the group," Wilson said.

Wilson doesn't believe the dolphin approached the sperm whales for help in protecting itself from predators, since there aren't many dolphin predators in the waters surrounding the Azores.

But Francis was not so quick to discount the idea. "I don't buy that there is no predator in the lifelong experience of the whales and dolphins frequenting the Azores," he said.

He suggested that it could be just as possible that the sperm whales accepted the dolphin for added protection against their own predators, like the killer whale (Orcinus orca), while traveling. "They see killer whales off the Azores, and while they may not be around regularly, it does not take a lot of encounters to make [other] whales defensive," he said.


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Pentagon to Allow Women in Combat













Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will lift a longstanding ban on women serving in combat, according to senior defense officials.


The services have until this May to come up with a plan to implement the change, according to a Defense Department official.


That means the changes could come into effect as early as May, though the services will have until January 2016 to complete the implementation of the changes.


"We certainly want to see this executed responsibly but in a reasonable time frame, so I would hope that this doesn't get dragged out," said former Marine Capt. Zoe Bedell, who joined a recent lawsuit aimed at getting women on the battlefield.


The military services also will have until January 2016 to seek waivers for certain jobs -- but those waivers will require a personal approval from the secretary of defense and will have to be based on rationales other than the direct combat exclusion rule.


The move to allow women in combat, first reported by the Associated Press, was not expected this week, although there has been a concerted effort by the Obama administration to further open up the armed forces to women.


The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously recommended in January to Secretary Panetta that the direct combat exclusion rule should be lifted.


"I can confirm media reports that the secretary and the chairman are expected to announce the lifting of the direct combat exclusion rule for women in the military," said a senior Defense Department official. "This policy change will initiate a process whereby the services will develop plans to implement this decision, which was made by the secretary of defense upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey sent Panetta a memo earlier this month entitled, "Women in Service Implementation Plan."






Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images











Soaring With the First Woman Fighter Jet Commander Watch Video









Instant Index: Divers Save Dolphin; Orangutans Play With iPads Watch Video









Extreme Cold Takes Its Toll on Freezing Nation Watch Video





"The time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service," the memo read.


"To implement these initiatives successfully and without sacrificing our warfighting capability or the trust of the American people, we will need time to get it right," he said in the memo, referring to the 2016 horizon.


Women have been officially prohibited from serving in combat since a 1994 rule that barred them from serving in ground combat units. That does not mean they have been immune from danger or from combat.


As Martha Raddatz reported in 2009, women have served in support positions on and off the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan, where war is waged on street corners and in markets, putting them at equal risk. Hundreds of thousands of women deployed with the military to those two war zones over the past decade. Hundreds have died.


READ MORE: Female Warriors Engage in Combat in Iraq, Afghanistan


"The reality of the battlefield has changed really since the Vietnam era to where it is today," said Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a former military helicopter pilot who lost both her legs in combat. "Those distinctions on what is combat and what is not really are falling aside. So I think that after having seen women, men, folks who -- cooks, clerks, truck drivers -- serve in combat conditions, the reality is women are already in combat."


Woman have been able to fly combat sorties since 1993. In 2010, the Navy allowed them on submarines. But lifting restrictions on service in frontline ground combat units will break a key barrier in the military.


READ MORE: Smooth Sailing for First Women to Serve on Navy Submarines


READ MORE: Female Fighter Pilot Breaks Gender Barriers


Panetta's decision will set a January 2016 deadline for the military service branches to argue that there are military roles that should remain closed to women.


In February 2012 the Defense Department opened up 14,500 positions to women that had previously been limited to men and lifted a rule that prohibited women from living with combat units.


Panetta also directed the services to examine ways to open more combat roles to women.


However, the ban on direct combat positions has remained in place.






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MIT website hacked in tribute to Aaron Swartz



Hal Hodson, technology reporter

A tribute to internet activist Aaron Swartz replaced the homepage for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology today, in an apparent act of protest over the university's role in the legal case that led up to Swartz's suicide on 11 Jan.

For a short time, visitors to the MIT.edu home page found a message that read: "R.I.P. Aaron Swartz. Hacked by grand wizard of Lulzsec, Sabu. God Bless America. Down With Anonymous." The background was watermarked with words from a blog post, written by Swartz, titled "Immoral".

Attributing the defacement to "grand wizard of Lulzsec, Sabu" lent the page a sarcastic air, as it's widely known that the former Lulzsec leader was outed as an FBI informant last year.

The attack on MIT's website came amid widespread criticism of how the university handled the case against Swartz, including an article in The New York Times that quoted Swartz's father as saying: "We don't believe [MIT] acted in a neutral way. My belief is they put their institutional concerns first."

According to MIT's service status page, network service was restored within the university as of 1:30 pm EST. The university had not yet returned New Scientist's request for comment when this story was published.

This is the second time since Swartz' death that the MIT site has been the target of attacks. Previously, an MIT sub-domain was replaced with a manifesto for reform of computer and copyright laws. The authors claimed to be operating as a part of the online activist group, Anonymous.

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Australian man cleared of molestation charge after public apology






SINGAPORE: An Australian man has been cleared of a charge of molesting a purchasing officer.

This came after Mr Kevin Francis D'arcy, 59, made a public apology in a local English daily on January 19 as requested by the woman.

The incident happened on August 31, 2012 in Boat Quay.

Mr D'arcy apparently squeezed the buttock of the 32-year-old woman, who was clubbing with her sister and friend.

-CNA/ac



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Massive blaze engulfs vacant Bridgeport warehouse









One-third of the Chicago Fire Department's on-duty personnel responded to a 5-11 alarm fire that engulfed a warehouse building, causing parts of it to collapse and endangering nearby buildings in the Bridgeport neighborhood Tuesday night.


A four-story building caught fire after 9 p.m., endangering another building, according to the Chicago Fire Department. Extra alarms, bringing more fire equipment, firefighters and paramedics were called soon after firefighters arrived. The fire in the former Harris Marcus Group building, 3757 S. Ashland Ave., was declared under control, though still burning, as of about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.


Firefighters had to contend with frozen hydrants and ice caused by overspray, Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago said. One firefighter suffered a back injury and was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in serious condition, said Chicago Firefighter Meg Ahlheim, a department spokeswoman.








The fire climbed into the sky and sent ashes down on cars below. The warmth from the blaze could be felt blocks away. A Chicago Fire Department helicopter was called into service to provide an "aerial visual," but after firefighters arrived, they were able to keep the blaze from spreading to nearby businesses, Santiago said.


Still, anyone who looked out an upper-floor window from buildings across the city could see the fire, with many sending photographs out over social media. Ashes fell far from the fire scene.


"You could see the embers from the highway," said Darcy Benedict, a 28-year-old UIC medical school student. "I could see blue flames rising up."


Benedict and her boyfriend saw the fire from Interstate 55 and got off to get a better look. 


A crowd of at least 40 adults and children stood behind police tape, bundled up in the freezing weather, taking videos with cellphones.


Several others at the scene expressed doubt that the fire could be contained, as dozens of hoses could be seen in the distance spraying high and low onto the enormous blaze.

The commander at Tuesday's fire used two 'special alarms' to call for additional equipment beyond what a 5-11 alarm calls for, calling in special equipment needed to fight the massive blaze, Santiago said.


“I’m looking at the south side of the main fire building and there’s a big portion of exterior wall and roof collapse,” said Chicago Firefighter Meg Ahlheim, a Chicago Fire Department spokeswoman.


There was “extreme fire” throughout the buildings. Nobody has been reported injured.


The fire in the second building was mostly extinguished as of about 10:25 p.m. but the first building is "still involved," Ahlheim said.


Special alarms are called beyond the fifth, though they are "extremely rare," according to the fire department.


Commissioner Santiago said it was the first time a 5-11 with two special alarms was called since 2006 - apparently fire a fire that gutted the historic Wirt Dexter Building in the South Loop. That fire broke out before 3 p.m. on a weekday, snarled downtown traffic and forced the CTA to stop service on Loop L tracks.


Santiago said a Fire Department chief was driving past the warehouse when he saw smoke, turned around and called the fire in, bringing the first response, which was quickly elevated to an extra-alarm.


The alarms normally escalate one at a time beyond a normal fire response up to a fifth alarm, though the scene commander skipped a fourth alarm once the fire jumped to another building.


There was also a 5-11 fire in 2012 - in Avondale on the Northwest Side. That burned for hours but didn't required the special alarms called for Tuesday night's fire. About 200 firefighters and paramedics responded to that fire.


Santiago described the warehouse as "old," with lots of timber throughout the building. Firefighters are expected to be at the blaze for several hours, he said. As the water poured on the fire starts to freeze, more portions of the timber-and-brick construction building are likely to collapse under the weight of the ice, he said.


Check back for more information.


lford@tribune.com
Twitter: @ltaford


pnickeas@tribune.com
Twitter: @peternickeas


ehirst@tribune.com
Twitter: @ellenjeanhirst



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The Promise and Perils of Mining Asteroids


Encouraged by new space technologies, a growing fleet of commercial rockets and the vast potential to generate riches, a group of entrepreneurs announced Tuesday that they planned to mine the thousands of near-Earth asteroids in the coming decades.

The new company, Deep Space Industries (DSI), is not the first in the field, nor is it the most well-financed. But with their ambition to become the first asteroid prospectors, and ultimately miners and manufacturers, they are aggressively going after what Mark Sonter, a member of DSI's board of directors, called "the main resource opportunity of the 21st century." (Related: "Asteroid Hunter to Be First Private Deep-Space Mission?")

Prospecting using miniaturized "cubesat" probes the size of a laptop will begin by 2015, company executives announced. They plan to return collections of asteroid samples to Earth not long after.

"Using low cost technologies, and combining the legacy of [the United States'] space program with the innovation of today's young high tech geniuses, we will do things that would have been impossible just a few years ago," said Rick Tumlinson, company chairman and a longtime visionary and organizer in the world of commercial space [not sure what commercial space means].

"We sit in a sea of resources so infinite they're impossible to describe," Tumlinson said.

Added Value

There are some 9,000 asteroids described as "near-Earth," and they contain several classes of resources that entrepreneurs are now eyeing as economically valuable.

Elements such as gold and platinum can be found on some asteroids. But water, silicon, nickel, and iron are the elements expected to become central to a space "economy" should it ever develop.

Water can be "mined" for its hydrogen (a fuel) and oxygen (needed for humans in space), while silicon can be used for solar power systems, and the ubiquitous nickel and iron for potential space manufacturing. (See an interactive on asteroid mining.)

Sonter, an Australian mining consultant and asteroid specialist, said that 700 to 800 near-Earth asteroids are easier to reach and land on than the moon.

DSI's prospecting spacecraft will be called "FireFlies," a reference to the popular science fiction television series of the same name. The FireFlies will hitchhike on rockets carrying up communication satellites or scientific instruments, but they will be designed so that they also have their own propulsion systems. The larger mining spacecraft to follow have been named "DragonFlies."

Efficiencies

It all sounds like science fiction, but CEO David Gump said that the technology is evolving so quickly that a space economy can soon become a reality. Providing resources from beyond Earth to power spacecraft and keep space travelers alive is the logical way to go.

That's because the most expensive and resource-intensive aspect of space travel is pushing through the Earth's atmosphere. Some 90 percent of the weight lifted by a rocket sending a capsule to Mars is fuel. Speaking during a press conference at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying in California, Gump said that Mars exploration would be much cheaper, and more efficient, if some of the fuel could be picked up en route. (Related: "7 Ways You Could Blast Off by 2023.")

Although there is little competition in the asteroid mining field so far, DSI has some large hurdles ahead of it. The first company to announce plans for asteroid mining was Planetary Resources, Inc. in spring 2012—the group is backed by big-name investors such as Google's Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, filmmaker James Cameron, and early Google investor Ram Shriram. DSI is still looking for funding.

Owning Asteroids

While these potential space entrepreneurs are confident they can physically lay claim to resources beyond Earth, there remain untested legal issues.

The United Nations Space Treaty of 1967 expressly forbids ownership of other celestial bodies by governments on Earth. But American administrations have long argued that the same is not true of private companies and potential mining rights.

While an American court has ruled that an individual cannot own an asteroid—as in the case of Gregory Nemitz, who laid claim to 433 Eros as a NASA spacecraft was approaching it in 2001—the question of extraction rights has not been tested.

Moon rocks brought back to Earth during the Apollo program are considered to belong to the United States, and the Russian space agency has sold some moon samples it has returned to Earth-sales seen by some as setting a precedent.

Despite the potential for future legal issues, DSI's Gump said his group recently met with top NASA officials to discuss issues regarding technology and capital, and came away optimistic. "There's a great hunger for the idea of getting space missions done with smaller, cheaper 'cubesat' technology and for increased private sector involvement."

Everyone involved acknowledged the vast challenges and risks ahead, but they see an equally vast potential—both financial and societal.

"Over the decades, we believe these efforts will help expand the civilization of Earth into the cosmos, and change what it means to be a citizen of this planet," Tumlinson said.


Read More..

Al Qaeda Commander Killed for the 3rd Time












The second in command of al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate was reportedly killed in an airstrike in Yemen in December, according to a news report by Arabic television network Al Arabiya, the third time the former Guantanamo detainee has been reported dead since 2010.


According to the report, Said al-Shihri died last month after sustaining severe injuries from a joint U.S.-Yemeni airstrike that targeted a convoy in which he was riding. The al Arabiya account, based on information from "family sources," said that the airstrike left al-Shihri in a coma. He allegedly died soon after and was buried in Yemen.


On Tuesday afternoon, hours after the initial report, a Yemeni government official denied having any information regarding the death of al-Shihri, according to Arabic news site al-Bawaba.


No photos of a body have yet surfaced and no mention of his death has appeared on jihadi forums.
This is the third time al-Shihri, the second in command of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has been reported killed since 2009. In 2010, the Yemeni government claimed it had captured him. In September 2012, Yemeni news sites reported he was killed in an American drone strike.




PHOTOS: Terrorists Who Came Back from the Grave


READ: Gitmo Detainee turned terror commander killed: Reports


Al-Shihri, a "veteran jihadist," traveled to Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to fight coalition troops, only to be captured weeks later, according to West Point's Combating Terrorism Center. He was sent to the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he stayed for six years before being released to Saudi Arabia. There, he entered a so-called "jihadi rehab" program that attempted to turn terrorists into art students by getting them to get "negative energy out on paper," as the program's director told ABC News in 2009.


READ: Trading Bombs for Crayons: Terrorists Get 'Art Therapy'


But just months after he supposedly entered the fingerpainting camp, al-Shihri reappeared in Yemen where he was suspected to have been behind a deadly bombing at the U.S. embassy there.


At the time, critics of the "jihadi rehab" program used al-Shihri as evidence that extremists would just go through the motions in order to be freed.


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Today at New Scientist: 21 January 2013







Twitter reveals how Higgs gossip reached fever pitch

Anyone who fondly remembers the heady days of excitement preceding the Higgs boson announcement last year can now relive the experience



Vibrating navigator shows cyclists the way

A buzzing GPS-fuelled belt that tells cyclists when to turn might help them keep their eyes on the road and save lives



Call off the pregnancy police - women want the truth

Pregnant women can do without being made to feel guilty and burdened by wrong or contradictory advice. Just give them the facts, says Linda Geddes



Supernova-powered bow shock creates cosmic spectacle

The infrared vision of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows how a massive speeding star is electrifying its surroundings



First video of squid sex reveals deep-sea Kama Sutra

Watch a pair of squid caught in the act for the first time in an unexpected sexual position



Let's be clear on health risks from radiation

Should Californians have had iodine after Fukushima? In Radiation Robert Peter Gale and Eric Lax clear up the confusion over radiation and health



Wind power delivers too much to ignore

Although aesthetic concerns need to be heard, qualms about wind's reliability are wide of the mark, argues an energy policy researcher



Quadruple DNA helix discovered in human cells

The classic double helix has been joined by a four-stranded version that may play a role in cancer



Turn up the bass to scare birds away from planes

Subwoofers that blast out sounds too low to be heard by humans can keep birds out of busy air space, and prevent them colliding with planes



Earth may be crashing through dark matter walls

If the universe is a patchwork quilt of exotic force fields, we should be able to detect dark matter whenever we cross between patches



Blinded by sun? Let your steering wheel guide you

A steering wheel that buzzes when drivers are dazzled by bright lights and drift from their lane could help curb accidents



NASA planet-hunter is injured and resting

The Kepler space telescope has put its search for alien Earths on hold while it recovers from a stressed reaction wheel



High-tech Dreamliner's wings clipped by battery trouble

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is replete with cutting-edge technology. But problems with its complex systems now have the planes grounded around the world




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Japan to ease US, French beef import restrictions






TOKYO: Japan plans to ease restrictions on American and French beef imports imposed due to concerns over mad cow disease, government officials and local media said Tuesday.

Japan, which was once the largest buyer of US beef, halted imports after a case of mad cow disease was detected in an American herd in 2003. It now imports meat only from cattle aged under 20 months.

Tokyo plans to raise the limit to 30 months starting on February 1 if the health ministry's council gives approval, the health, labour and welfare minister Norihisa Tamura told a news conference.

Japan will also apply the same age limit to beef imported from France, which was previously totally banned, Kyodo News quoted unnamed ministry officials as saying.

As for beef from cattle raised in the Netherlands, currently also subject to a total ban, Japan has been in talks with the Dutch government to set the age restriction at up to 12 months in response to its request, Kyodo said.

Beef meeting these relaxed criteria is expected to start arriving in Japan around late February to early March, it added.

-AFP/fl



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Body of cyanide-poisoned lottery winner is reburied

Mohammed Zaman on the exhumation of his brother-in-law, poisoned lottery winner Urooj Khan. (Posted on: Jan. 21, 2013.)









The body of a West Rogers Park man who died of cyanide poisoning last summer after winning a million-dollar lottery was laid to rest again Monday, three days after his remains were exhumed for an autopsy as part of a homicide investigation.


The scene at Rosehill Cemetery on Monday afternoon was in sharp contrast to Friday morning, when a throng of reporters and TV cameramen had massed outside an entrance gate as numerous Chicago police, Cook County medical examiner officials and cemetery workers surrounded the gravesite while Urooj Khan's remains were unearthed.


About half a dozen people — two in light blue coveralls — wheeled a gurney carrying Khan's body Monday from the back of an unmarked white minivan to under a tent at his gravesite in the Far North Side cemetery. The body was then lowered into the ground while two of Khan's relatives stood at the gravesite in the bitter cold.








Haroon Firdausi, a funeral director and imam, gave a brief prayer during the reburial.


The entire reburial took about 20 minutes.


Shortly before the reburial, one of Khan's relatives, Mohammed Zaman, talked briefly at the cemetery about the family's discomfort with his body being exhumed for the police investigation.


"The sad part is that he wasn't resting in peace," Zaman said of the exhumation. "... Now we have to bury him back again. For any religion, it's hard."


As the Tribune first revealed earlier this month, the medical examiner's office initially ruled that Khan's death in July was from hardening of the arteries, after no signs of trauma were found on the body and a preliminary blood test did not raise any questions. But the investigation was reopened about a week later after a relative raised concerns that Khan may have been poisoned.


Chicago police were notified in September after tests showed cyanide in Khan's blood. By late November, more comprehensive testing showed lethal levels of the toxic chemical, leading the medical examiner's office to declare the death a homicide.


After Khan's body was exhumed Friday, an autopsy was performed for evidence that could aid in the homicide investigation. At the time, Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said it could take several weeks for the tests to be completed. The medical examiner's office hopes samples taken from Khan's organs will show whether he ingested or inhaled the cyanide.


Although a motive has not been determined, police have not ruled out that Khan was killed because of his lottery win a few weeks before his death, a law enforcement source has told the Tribune. At the time of his death, he hadn't collected his winnings — a lump-sum payment of about $425,000 after taxes.


Zaman said he hopes the autopsy sheds more light on his brother-in-law's death.


"It's very hard for the family," Zaman said of the exhumation and reburial. "But it's the only way to find out what happened to him."


jgorner@tribune.com



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Attack at Algeria Gas Plant Heralds New Risks for Energy Development



The siege by Islamic militants at a remote Sahara desert natural gas plant in Algeria this week signaled heightened dangers in the region for international oil companies, at a time when they have been expanding operations in Africa as one of the world's last energy frontiers. (See related story: "Pictures: Four New Offshore Drilling Frontiers.")


As BP, Norway's Statoil, Italy's Eni, and other companies evacuated personnel from Algeria, it was not immediately clear how widely the peril would spread in the wake of the hostage-taking at the sprawling In Amenas gas complex near the Libyan border.



A map of disputed islands in the East and South China Seas.

Map by National Geographic



Algeria, the fourth-largest crude oil producer on the continent and a major exporter of natural gas and refined fuels, may not have been viewed as the most hospitable climate for foreign energy companies, but that was due to unfavorable financial terms, bureaucracy, and corruption. The energy facilities themselves appeared to be safe, with multiple layers of security provided both by the companies and by government forces, several experts said. (See related photos: "Oil States: Are They Stable? Why It Matters.")


"It is particularly striking not only because it hasn't happened before, but because it happened in Algeria, one of the stronger states in the region," says Hanan Amin-Salem, a senior manager at the industry consulting firm PFC Energy, who specializes in country risk. She noted that in the long civil war that gripped the country throughout the 1990s, there had never been an attack on Algeria's energy complex. But now, hazard has spread from weak surrounding states, as the assault on In Amenas was carried out in an apparent retaliation for a move by French forces against the Islamists who had taken over Timbuktu and other towns in neighboring Mali. (See related story: "Timbuktu Falls.")


"What you're really seeing is an intensification of the fundamental problem of weak states, and empowerment of heavily armed groups that are really well motivated and want to pursue a set of aims," said Amin-Salem. In PFC Energy's view, she says, risk has increased in Mauritania, Chad, and Niger—indeed, throughout Sahel, the belt that bisects North Africa, separating the Sahara in the north from the tropical forests further south.


On Thursday, the London-based corporate consulting firm Exclusive Analysis, which was recently acquired by the global consultancy IHS, sent an alert to clients warning that oil and gas facilities near the Libyan and Mauritanian borders and in Mauritania's Hodh Ech Chargui province were at "high risk" of attack by jihadis.


"A Hot Place to Drill"


The attack at In Amenas comes at a time of unprecedented growth for the oil industry in Africa. (See related gallery: "Pictures: The Year's Most Overlooked Energy Stories.") Forecasters expect that oil output throughout Africa will double by 2025, says Amy Myers Jaffe, executive director of the energy and sustainability program at the University of California, Davis, who has counted 20 rounds of bidding for new exploration at sites in Africa's six largest oil-producing states.


Oil and natural gas are a large part of the Algerian economy, accounting for 60 percent of government budget revenues, more than a third of GDP and more than 97 percent of its export earnings. But the nation's resources are seen as largely undeveloped, and Algeria has tried to attract new investment. Over the past year, the government has sought to reform the law to boost foreign companies' interests in their investments, although those efforts have foundered.


Technology has been one of the factors driving the opening up of Africa to deeper energy exploration. Offshore and deepwater drilling success in the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil led to prospecting now under way offshore in Ghana, Mozambique, and elsewhere. (See related story: "New Oil—And a Huge Challenge—for Ghana.") Jaffe says the Houston-based company Anadarko Petroleum has sought to transfer its success in "subsalt seismic" exploration technology, surveying reserves hidden beneath the hard salt layer at the bottom of the sea, to the equally challenging seismic exploration beneath the sands of the Sahara in Algeria, where it now has three oil and gas operations.


Africa also is seen as one of the few remaining oil-rich regions of the world where foreign oil companies can obtain production-sharing agreements with governments, contracts that allow them a share of the revenue from the barrels they produce, instead of more limited service contracts for work performed.


"You now have the technology to tap the resources more effectively, and the fiscal terms are going to be more attractive than elsewhere—you put these things together and it's been a hot place to drill," says Jaffe, who doesn't see the energy industry's interest in Africa waning, despite the increased terrorism risk. "What I think will happen in some of these countries is that the companies are going to reveal new securities systems and procedures they have to keep workers safe," she says. "I don't think they will abandon these countries."


This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.


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Inauguration: 7.5 Things You Should Have Seen


A presidential inauguration is a big, long event that lasts all day and into the night–and who has time to really watch it? People have jobs, ones that don’t let you off for a federal holiday.


Everyone (or, at least, some) will be talking about it, which means potential embarrassment for anyone who doesn’t know what happened. Thankfully, ABC employs  news professionals stationed in Washington, D.C., to pay attention to these kinds of things and boil off some of the less noteworthy or interesting stuff, presenting you with short videos of everything that really mattered. Or at least the things a lot of people were talking about.


A full day of paying attention to President Obama’s second Inauguration leads one of those professionals to offer these 7 1/2 things:


1. Beyonce Sang the National Anthem


Boy, howdy! Did she ever? Beyonce has essentially become the Obama’s go-to female performer: She recorded a music video for Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative in 2011, and she performed at the president’s last inauguration in 2009. Her velvety, soulful “Star Spangled Banner” is getting good reviews.




2. Kelly Clarkson Also Sang


Kelly Clarkson is not as “in” with the First Couple as Beyonce seems to be, but they let her sing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and she did a pretty good job with it. This was kind of weird, though, because at one point she said she loved Ron Paul, although she later said she would vote for Obama.




3.  Obama Talked About Gay Rights


This may not seem shocking since more than half the country, including President Obama, supports gay marriage. But the president made a point of mentioning gay rights during his speech, equating the struggles of the LGBT community with those of  past civil rights movements, and in doing so made history.


He name-checked Stonewall, the New York City bar that was raided by police in 1969 sparking riots to protest the anti-gay crackdown. And he actually used the word “gay”: “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” Obama said in his address.


Plenty of inaugural addresses have been chock full of rhetoric about freedom and equality, but in the last four years, the political culture surrounding gay rights has changed significantly, as more states legalized same-sex marriage and as broad swaths of the country got more comfortable with homosexuality in general. Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage, and now his inaugural address, have helped signify that change.




4. Joe Biden Made Jokes and Shook Hands With People


Could we expect anything less?


Here’s how the Vice President toasting Sen. Chuck Schumer instead of President Obama at the big luncheon:  ”I raise my glass to a man who never, never, never operates out of fear, only operates out of confidence, and a guy–I’m toasting you, Chuck.” Watch it:



And here he is, scurrying around and jovially shaking hands with people along the parade route:




5. Richard Blanco Read a Poem That Was Sort of Whitman-esque, But Not Entirely


Cuban-born Richard Blanco became America’s first openly gay, Latino Inauguration poet. He read a nine-stanza poem entitled “One Today,” which set a kind of unifying American tableau scene.




6. Obama and Michelle Walked Around Outside The Limo


President Obama walked part of the parade route, from the Capitol to the White House, with Michelle. They waved to people. It is not entirely abnormal for a president to do this at an inaugural parade. But they walked quite a ways.




7. John Boehner: ‘Godspeed’


The speaker of the House presented American flags to Obama and Biden, telling them: “To you gentlemen, I say congratulations and Godspeed.”




7 1/2. Sasha and Malia Were There. 


Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, were there. They didn’t really do much, but they did wear coats of different shades of purple that got a lot of  attention on Twitter.


Reports of the daughters looking at smartphones and applying lip gloss highlighted their day. As did this .gif of Sasha yawning.

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Wind power delivers too much to ignore






















Although aesthetic concerns need to be heard, qualms about wind's reliability are wide of the mark, argues energy policy researcher Reg Platt






















THE location of the British Isles at Europe's wild and windy western fringe does not always seem like a blessing. But in one important respect it is: the UK has the greatest potential for wind power, both onshore and offshore, of any European country.












Onshore wind power has expanded steadily across the UK in recent years and is a key plank of the country's commitment to greening its electricity supply. But as the turbines have gone up across the countryside, so has the level of opposition. Wind power has become a deeply divisive issue in British politics.












The issue exploded last year when 106 members of parliament, mostly Conservatives representing rural constituencies, signed a letter to Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. They urged him to cut subsidies for the onshore wind industry, describing wind technology as "inefficient and intermittent".












Things escalated in the autumn when the recently appointed Conservative energy minister, John Hayes, told two newspapers that "enough is enough" and that no new onshore wind farms would be built. He was slapped down by his boss Edward Davey, the secretary of state for energy and climate change and a member of the Liberal Democrat party. But simmering tensions remain at the top level of the coalition government. Another Conservative, finance minister George Osborne, is known to be sympathetic to the anti-wind cause. Wind turbines also became an important point of contention between the parties in a recent by-election.












Two of the anti-wind campaigners' main concerns are the impact of turbines on the beauty of the countryside and the opposition of local people. It is absolutely right that these be taken into account. But they need to be balanced against the bulk of public opinion, which strongly supports the increased use of wind turbines.












Any misgivings must also be balanced against the important role that this technology can play for the UK, both in fulfilling its climate-change commitments and for future economic success.












Anti-wind campaigners frequently make claims about the shortcomings of wind power. Their main complaints are that the turbines are so inefficient that they actually increase carbon dioxide emissions, and so unreliable that they require constant backup from conventional coal and gas-fired stations.












If correct, these claims would be devastating to wind power. But they are not.












My organisation, the Institute for Public Policy Research, recently published a report tackling these questions. Our conclusions are unambiguous. Onshore wind power reduces carbon emissions and is a reliable source of electricity, at least up to the capacity of wind power that is forecast to be installed in the UK by 2020.












To answer the carbon question, we used a simple model of the UK electricity market. As demand increases, say on a weekday morning when people are waking up and getting ready to go to work, power plants increase output to meet it. Plants with the lowest marginal cost - that is, those that can produce additional electricity most cheaply - are selected first by the market. Here wind beats gas and coal, as no fuel is needed to generate electricity.












The upshot is that, in theory, adding wind power to the energy mix should displace coal and gas, and hence cut carbon. This is backed up by empirical data on emissions reductions from wind power in the US.












There is another way of looking at it. In 2011, wind energy contributed approximately 15.5 terawatt-hours of electricity to the UK. If this had been supplied by fossil fuels instead, CO2 emissions would have been at least 5.5 million tonnes higher, and as much as 12 million tonnes higher.












As for the important matter of reliability, the obvious worry is that because the wind does not always blow, the system will sometimes not be able to supply electricity when needed.












This seems like common sense. However, the reliability of wind power does not depend on the variability of wind. Instead, it depends on how well changes in wind power output can be anticipated.












Forecasts of wind farm output are increasingly accurate, and drops in output can be predicted and compensated for using conventional power stations. In any case, output is surprisingly stable across the country's entire network of wind farms: when the wind isn't blowing in one area, it usually is somewhere else. The relatively small changes that do occur are well within the capabilities of existing systems for balancing supply and demand on the grid.












Even when winter delivers a "long, cold, calm spell" with low temperatures and little wind, the system can cope. This was demonstrated by a two-week period in February 2010 in Ireland, a country that is much more reliant on wind than the UK. It coped perfectly well.












If the UK government caves into pressure and lowers its ambitions for onshore wind, it will make more expensive forms of low-carbon generation a necessity to hit the UK's target of producing 30 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2020. The result will be even higher electricity bills.












Scaling back on wind would also be a lost opportunity. The natural resource at our disposal, combined with the UK's engineering heritage, could create significant economic growth and jobs.












The concerns of people who do not want wind power on their doorsteps need to be taken into account. We must also be sensitive to the need to preserve areas of natural beauty. But we should not sacrifice important opportunities because of the views of vocal minority groups and their unsubstantiated claims.


























Reg Platt is a research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, a think tank based in London



































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