Today on New Scientist: 28 December 2012







Best videos of 2012: Rare view of Challenger tragedy

Watch a rare amateur video of the Challenger explosion, our most-viewed video of the year



Strong jet stream super-charged US Christmas storms

Record snowfall and dozens of tornadoes snarled holiday travel as a powerful winter storm plowed across much of the US, while rainstorms battered the UK



2012 review: The year in life science

The year's biggest stories in life science, including James Cameron's descent into the Mariana trench and efforts to break into Antarctica's buried lakes



Superstorm lessons for adapting to climate change

As the post-Sandy rebuild gets under way, coastal cities around the world will be watching



Best videos of 2012: First MRI movie of childbirth

Watch a unique view of a baby's birth, at number 2 in our countdown of the year's top science videos



Fleadom or death: Reviving the glorious flea circus

The parasite-based sideshows were almost done for by the domestic vacuum cleaner - but they are bouncing back, finds Graham Lawton



Approval for gene-modified salmon spawns controversy

Apparently months late, US regulators have declared genetically engineered fish safe to farm and eat, but final approval could be some way off



Best videos of 2012: New aircraft flies inside out

Watch a novel flying machine use a unique mechanism to propel itself, at number 3 in our countdown of the top videos of the year



2012 review: The year in technology

The year's biggest stories in technology, including Kinect devices that may spot signs of autism and controlling a robot by the power of thought



Superdoodles: The science of scribbling

Far from being a distraction, doodling has an important purpose - and you can harness it



2013 Smart Guide: Wave goodbye to the mouse

The Leap, a 3D motion control device set to launch next year, will let you control your computer with touch-free hand and finger movements





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Obama, top lawmakers meet on cliff edge






WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama Friday sought a late deal to stop the US economy tumbling off a "fiscal cliff" next week, gathering top congressional leaders for crunch White House talks.

Obama is trying to broker a deal to avert huge tax increases and spending cuts due to come into force as the year turns on Tuesday, as dysfunctional Washington reluctantly works through a disrupted holiday period.

A sense of building crisis was exacerbated by sliding stock prices on Wall Street as the political stalemate threatened a set off chain reactions that could drive America back into recession and rattle the global economy.

Obama met top Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and top Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in the Oval Office.

But with time so short, the last-ditch talks to head off a $500 billion fiscal time bomb due to detonate on January 1 appeared unlikely to forge a permanent solution on a long-term deficit reduction deal.

Instead, Obama, now banking on a stopgap solution after talks on a grand debt and tax bargain with Boehner failed, wants taxes on American families earning more than $250,000 a year to go up but to spare the middle class.

Obama will not make a new offer to Republicans, a source familiar with the meeting said, adding that the president would ask for an extension of expiring unemployment insurance for two million people.

He will also tell Republicans that if they cannot come up with a counter-proposal to avert the fiscal cliff they must allow his plan to come up for a vote in both chambers of Congress, the source said.

Such a scenario would leave Republicans in a tough political spot as if they refuse, it would be easy for the White House to blame them for the economy toppling over the cliff.

It is not clear whether the Obama plan would avert massive spending cuts due to come into force on January 1, and does not deal with his request to raise the $16 trillion ceiling on government borrowing.

Republicans want to extend George W. Bush-era tax cuts due to expire on Tuesday for everyone and accuse the president of failing to offer meaningful spending cuts in a bargain in return for them agreeing to raise revenues.

Some top lawmakers clung to hope.

"Sometimes, it's darkest before the dawn," said Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer on NBC, saying McConnell's role could be a catalyst for action.

But Republican Senator Bob Corker complained Obama and Democrats in Congress had balked at cutting spending on key social programs weighing on the budget, and inflating the deficit, accusing them of a "total dereliction of duty."

"We're going to end up with a small, kick-the-can-down-the-road bill that creates another fiscal cliff to deal with this fiscal cliff. How irresponsible is that?" Corker told reporters.

Retiring Democratic Senator Ben Nelson warned: "If this meeting is not successful in achieving a proposal, I think you need to get a parachute."

Obama broke off his vacation in Hawaii in search of a last-minute deal and Boehner called the House back to work on Sunday.

The president's scaled-down solution calls for an extension of tax cuts for people earning less than $250,000, and an extension of unemployment benefits before a wider effort to trim the deficit next year.

But it is doubtful the package could pass the House as restive conservatives last week rebuked Boehner by rejecting his fallback plan which would have raised taxes on people earning $1 million.

While each side must for the sake of appearances be seen to be seeking a deal, the easiest way out of the mess might be to allow the economy to go over the cliff, but to fix the problem in the first few days of next year.

In that scenario, Republicans, who are philosophically opposed to raising taxes, could back a bill to lower the newly raised rates on almost all Americans, thus sidestepping the stigma of raising taxes.

Recent polls show a majority of Americans back Obama's handling of the crisis, and would blame Republicans for a failure to fix it, so the president could get a short-term political boost from an early deal next year.

Should the stalemate linger however, the crisis would cloud the early months of Obama's second term, would dent his popularity and could detract from his key political goals like immigration reform and gun control.

-AFP/ac



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'Terminator' actor arrested for lewd conduct at adult movie store





















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Body Under British Parking Lot May Be King Richard III


For centuries, William Shakespeare seemed to have the last word. His Richard III glowered and leered from the stage, a monster in human form and a character so repugnant "that dogs bark at me as I halt by them." In Shakespeare's famous play, the hunchbacked king claws his way to the throne and methodically murders most of his immediate family—his wife, older brother, and two young nephews—until he suffers defeat and death on the battlefield at the hands of a young Tudor hero, Henry VII.

(Related: "Shakespeare's Coined Words Now Common Currency.")

To shed new light on the long vilified king, a British scientific team has tracked down and excavated his reputed burial spot and exhumed skeletal remains that may well belong to the long-lost monarch. The team is conducting a CSI-style investigation of the body in hopes of conclusively identifying Richard III, a medieval king who ruled England for two brief years before perishing at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Results on the investigation are expected in January.

But the much maligned monarch is not the only historical heavyweight to be exhumed.  Since the 1980s, forensic experts have dug up the remains of many famous people—from Christopher Columbus (video) and Simón Bolívar to Jesse James, Marie Cure, Lee Harvey Oswald, Nicolae Ceausescu, and Bobby Fischer. Just last month, researchers in Ramallah (map) disinterred the body of Yasser Arafat, hoping to new glean clues to his death in 2004. Rumors long suggested that Israeli agents poisoned the Palestinian leader with a fatal dose of radioactive polonium-210.

(Read more about poisoning from National Geographic magazine's "Pick Your Poison—12 Toxic Tales.")

Indeed, forensic experts have disinterred the legendary dead for a wide range of reasons—including to move their remains to grander tombs befitting their growing fame, collect DNA samples for legal cases, and obtain data on the medical conditions that afflicted them. Such exhumations, says anatomist Frank Rühli at the Centre for Evolutionary Medicine, University of Zurich, always raise delicate ethical issues. But in the case of early historical figures, scientists can learn much that is of value to society. "Research on ancient samples provides enormous potential for understanding [questions concerning our] cultural heritage and the evolution of disease," Rühli notes in an emailed response.

Franciscan Resting Place?

Archaeologists from the University of Leicester began actively searching for the burial place of Richard III this past August. According to historical accounts, Tudor troops carried Richard's battered corpse from the Bosworth battlefield and displayed it in the nearby town of Leicester before local Franciscan fathers buried the body in their friary choir. With clues from historic maps, the archaeological team located foundations of the now vanished friary beneath a modern parking lot, and during excavation, the team discovered the skeleton of an adult male interred under the choir floor—exactly where Richard III was reportedly buried.

The newly discovered skeleton has scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that may have resulted in a slightly lopsided appearance, and this may have inspired Shakespeare's exaggerated depiction of Richard as a Quasimodo-like figure. Moreover, the body bears clear signs of battle trauma, including a fractured skull and a barbed metal arrowhead embedded in the vertebrae. And even the burial place points strongly to Richard. English armies at the time simply left their dead on the field of battle, but someone carted this body off and interred it in a place of honor.

Taken together, these early clues, says Jo Appleby, the University of Leicester bioarchaeologist studying the remains, strongly suggest that the team has found the legendary king. Otherwise, she observes, "I think we'd have a hard time explaining how a skeleton with those characteristics got buried there."

But much work remains to clinch the case. Geneticists are now comparing DNA sequences from the skeleton to those obtained from a modern-day Londoner, Michael Ibsen, who is believed to be a descendant of Richard III's sister. In addition, forensic pathologists and medieval-weapons scholars are poring over signs of trauma on the skeleton to determine cause of death, while a radiocarbon-dating lab is helping to pin down the date. And at the University of Dundee in Scotland, craniofacial identification expert Caroline Wilkinson is now working on a reconstruction of the dead man's face for a possible match with historic portraits of Richard III.  All this, says Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on the project, "will help us put flesh on the bones, so to speak."

Digging Up History

Elsewhere, teams digging up the historic dead have contented themselves with more modest goals. In Texas, for example, forensic experts opened the grave of Lee Harvey Oswald in October 1981 to identify beyond doubt the man who shot President John F. Kennedy. A British lawyer and author had claimed that a Soviet agent impersonated Oswald and assassinated the American president. To clarify the situation, the forensic experts compared dental x-rays taken during Oswald's stint in the United States Marine Corps to a record they made of the body's teeth. The two matched well, prompting the team to announce publicly that "the remains in the grave marked as Lee Harvey Oswald are indeed Lee Harvey Oswald."

More recently, in 2010, Iceland's supreme court ordered forensic experts to exhume the body of the late world chess champion Bobby Fischer from his grave in Iceland in order to obtain DNA samples to determine whether Fischer was the father of one of the claimants to his estate. (The tests ruled this out.) And that same year, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez ordered forensic experts to open the casket of Simón Bolívar, the renowned 19th century Venezuelan military leader who fought for the independence of Spanish America from colonial rule. Chavez believes that Bolívar died not from tuberculosis, as historians have long maintained, but of arsenic poisoning, and has launched an investigation into the cause of his death.

For some researchers, this recent spate of exhumations has raised a key question: Who should have a say in the decision to disinter or not? In the view of Guido Lombardi, a paleopathologist at Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, investigators should make every effort to consult descendants or family members before proceeding. "Although each case should be addressed individually," notes Lombardi by email. "I think the surviving relatives of a historical figure should approve any studies first."

But tracking down the descendants of someone who died many centuries ago is no easy matter. Back in Leicester, research on the remains found beneath the friary floor is proceeding. If all goes according to plan, the team hopes to announce the results sometime in January. And if the ancient remains prove to be those of Richard III, the city of Leicester could be in for a major royal event in 2013: The British government has signalled its intention to inter the long-maligned king in Leicester Cathedral.


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Syria opposition leader rejects Moscow invitation


ALEPPO PROVINCE, Syria/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's opposition leader has rejected an invitation from Russia for peace talks, dealing another blow to international hopes that diplomacy can be resurrected to end a 21-month civil war.


Russia, President Bashar al-Assad's main international protector, said on Friday it had sent an invitation for a visit to Moaz Alkhatib, whose six-week-old National Coalition opposition group has been recognized by most Western and Arab states as the legitimate voice of the Syrian people.


But in an interview on Al Jazeera television, Alkhatib said he had already ruled out such a trip and wanted an apology from Moscow for its support for Assad.


"We have clearly said we will not go to Moscow. We could meet in an Arab country if there was a clear agenda," he said.


"Now we also want an apology from (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov because all this time he said that the people will decide their destiny, without foreign intervention. Russia is intervening and meanwhile all these massacres of the Syrian people have happened, treated as if they were a picnic."


"If we don't represent the Syrian people, why do they invite us?" Alkhatib said. "And if we do represent the Syrian people why doesn't Russia respond and issue a clear condemnation of the barbarity of the regime and make a clear call for Assad to step down? This is the basic condition for any negotiations."


With the rebels advancing steadily over the second half of 2012, diplomats have been searching for months for signs that Moscow's willingness to protect Assad is faltering.


So far Russia has stuck to its position that rebels must negotiate with Assad's government, which has ruled since his father seized power in a coup 42 years ago.


"I think a realistic and detailed assessment of the situation inside Syria will prompt reasonable opposition members to seek ways to start a political dialogue," Lavrov said on Friday.


That was immediately dismissed by the opposition: "The coalition is ready for political talks with anyone ... but it will not negotiate with the Assad regime," spokesman Walid al-Bunni told Reuters. "Everything can happen after the Assad regime and all its foundations have gone. After that we can sit down with all Syrians to set out the future."


BRAHIMI TO MOSCOW


Russia says it is behind the efforts of U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, fresh from a five-day trip to Damascus where he met Assad. Brahimi, due in Moscow for talks on Saturday, is touting a months-old peace plan for a transitional government.


That U.N. plan was long seen as a dead letter, foundering from the outset over the question of whether the transitional body would include Assad or his allies. Brahimi's predecessor, Kofi Annan, quit in frustration shortly after negotiating it.


But with rebels having seized control of large sections of the country in recent months, Russia and the United States have been working with Brahimi to resurrect the plan as the only internationally recognized diplomatic negotiating track.


Russia's Middle East envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who announced the invitation to Alkhatib, said further talks were scheduled between the "three B's" - himself, Brahimi and U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns.


Speaking in Damascus on Thursday, Brahimi called for a transitional government with "all the powers of the state", a phrase interpreted by the opposition as potentially signaling tolerance of Assad remaining in some ceremonial role.


But such a plan is anathema to the surging rebels, who now believe they can drive Assad out with a military victory, despite long being outgunned by his forces.


"We do not agree at all with Brahimi's initiative. We do not agree with anything Brahimi says," Colonel Abdel-Jabbar Oqaidi, who heads the rebels' military council in Aleppo province, told reporters at his headquarters there.


Oqaidi said the rebels want Assad and his allies tried in Syria for crimes. Assad himself says he will stay on and fight to the death if necessary.


In the rebel-held town of Kafranbel, demonstrators held up cartoons showing Brahimi speaking to a news conference with toilet bowls in front of him, in place of microphones. Banners denounced the U.N. envoy with obscenities in English.


DIPLOMATS IMPOTENT


Diplomacy has largely been irrelevant to the conflict so far, with Western states ruling out military intervention like the NATO bombing that helped topple Libya's Muammar Gaddafi last year, and Russia and China blocking U.N. action against Assad.


Meanwhile, the fighting has grown fiercer and more sectarian, with rebels mainly from the Sunni Muslim majority battling Assad's government and allied militia dominated by his Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.


Still, Western diplomats have repeatedly touted signs of a change in policy from Russia, which they hope could prove decisive, much as Moscow's withdrawal of support for Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic heralded his downfall a decade ago.


Bogdanov said earlier this month that Assad's forces were losing ground and rebels might win the war, but Russia has since rowed back, with Lavrov last week reiterating Moscow's position that neither side could win through force.


Still, some Moscow-based analysts see the Kremlin coming to accept it must adapt to the possibility of rebel victory.


"As the situation changes on the battlefield, more incentives emerge for seeking a way to stop the military action and move to a phase of political regulation," said Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.


Meanwhile, on the ground the bloodshed that has killed some 44,000 people continues unabated. According to the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain, 150 people were killed on Thursday, a typical toll as fighting has escalated in recent months.


Government war planes bombarded the town of Assal al-Ward in the Qalamoun district of Damascus province for the first time, killing one person and wounding dozens, the observatory said.


In Aleppo, Syria's northern commercial hub, clashes took place between rebel fighters and army forces around an air force intelligence building in the Zahra quarter, a neighborhood that has been surrounded by rebels for weeks.


(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo, Dominic Evans in Beirut and Steve Gutterman and Alissa de Carbonnel in Moscow; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Giles Elgood)



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Today on New Scientist: 27 December 2012









Best videos of 2012: Spiderman skin stops a bullet

Watch reinforced skin stop a speeding bullet, at number 4 in our countdown of the top videos of the year



Gastrophysics: Some said 'more', others said 'meh'

Network theorists model everything from internet traffic to disease spread. But can they tease out titillating new taste combos? New Scientist gets cooking



Best videos of 2012: Sea lice reduce pig to bones

Watch a microscopic mob devour a pig carcass underwater, as we reach number 5 in our best videos of the year.



2012 review: The year in space

A Mars rover's daredevil landing, a private space-flight boom, and a man leaping from the stratosphere were among the top space news events this year



Photo puzzle: Can you make the connection?

Correctly match up 16 pairs of science-inspired images and enter a draw to win a state-of-the-art Olympus E-PL5 digital camera



Shiver me timbers: The coolest warship ever made

Unsinkable and bulletproof, battleships made from icebergs were the great hope of the second world war, says Stephen Battersby



2013 Smart Guide: Next-generation video games

The upcoming round of consoles promises to deliver a far more immersive video-gaming experience, with super-high-definition and multi-screen action



Dangerous liaisons: Animals' tangled love lives

The surprising mate choices of certain animals are forcing us to reconsider our views of evolutionary theory



Three gods: The hardest logic puzzle ever

Tackle this logisticians' parlour game and you may be a bit closer to understanding the nature of truth itself, says Richard Webb



2012 review: The year in environment

From the devastation wrought by superstorm Sandy to vanishing Arctic sea ice, we round up the biggest environment stories of the year



Feast for the senses: Cook up a master dish

Trick your dinner guests into thinking you're a master chef by manipulating all their senses



2013 Smart Guide: Hot computing for a cool billion

Six mega-projects, from a supercomputer brain simulation to a real-life SimCity on a global scale, are vying for two prizes, each worth $1 billion



New Scientist 2012 holiday quiz

Anatomical incongruities, why men are like fruit flies, a boson by any other name, and much more in our end-of-year quiz



2013 Smart Guide: Supercomet to outshine the moon

A gas cloud crashing into the black hole at the centre of the galaxy and a naked-eye comet promise celestial fireworks in 2013



Dangerous liaisons: Fatal animal attractions

Humans aren't the only animals that can run into trouble when choosing a mate, discovers David Robson



2012 review: Zoologger's 12 beasts of Christmas

Zoologger is our weekly column highlighting extraordinary animals - and occasionally other organisms - from around the world. Here are this year's 12 best



Prehistoric cinema: A silver screen on the cave wall

With cartoon frescoes, shadow theatre and a rudimentary form of animation, our ancestors knew how to bring their stories to life, says Catherine Brahic



Review of 2012: The year's biggest news at a glance

Halt to bird flu experiments, Greece's economic crisis, the Stuxnet computer worm, Curiosity arrives on Mars, and more



How does a traffic cop ticket a driverless car?

Rapid progress means self-driving cars are in the fast lane to consumer reality. Is the law up to speed too, asks legal expert Bryant Walker Smith




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Oil prices decline on 'fiscal cliff' deal doubts






NEW YORK: Oil prices declined Thursday amid doubts that an 11th-hour deal on the "fiscal cliff" crisis could be reached by a rapidly approaching end-of-year deadline.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for February delivery, slipped 11 cents to settle at $90.87 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for February delivery dipped 27 cents to $110.80 a barrel in London trade.

With the clock ticking, the White House and Republican lawmakers have yet to reach a deal to keep the United States from falling off the so-called fiscal cliff, a combination of steep tax hikes and drastic spending cuts set to kick in next month.

President Barack Obama cut short his family Christmas break in Hawaii to return to Washington in a last-ditch attempt at reaching a compromise.

But the situation remained tense, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, saying Thursday "it looks like" the US economy will hurtle over the fiscal cliff because House Speaker John Boehner and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were stalling.

Crude oil prices were "being taken down on what appears to be the growing eventuality that the US is going to go over the fiscal cliff," said analyst John Kilduff of Again Capital.

There was "no doubt that the tax hikes and the spending cuts that will roll automatically will be a real drag on the economy for the us," he added.

Experts warn that going over the "fiscal cliff" could take the United States back into recession. And that could hurt oil demand in the world's biggest consumer of crude.

-AFP/ac



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Numerous women sexually assaulted by taxi driver, police say




123046shenoudabookingManhattan Beach Police released the photo of a taxi driver suspected of sexually assaulting multiple women in the South Bay region.


Torrance resident Sameh Shenouda, 38, was arrested in November on charges of sexually assaulting a woman in August, according to Manhattan Beach Det. Michael Rosenberger.


“The victim did not initially report the crime until she saw a news report of a similar offense occurring in Redondo Beach,” Rosenberger said.


News of Shenouda’s arrest prompted other women to come forward with information.


Rosenberger said Shenouda would offer rides to women who were walking in the evening. He would open the front passenger door so they would sit up front with him, making it easier to assault them, he said.


The United Taxi, Shenouda’s employer, has been “very cooperative with investigators,” Rosenberger said.


Manhattan Beach police are asking that if anyone has been assaulted or touched inappropriately by a taxi driver in the South Bay in the last year to contact detectives at (310) 802-5127.


ALSO:


Submit your photos


Quiz: Test your photography knowledge


Southern California Moments: Best of November


-- Dalina Castellanos


Photo: Sameh Shenouda. Credit: Manhattan Beach Police Department.



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How to Live to a Ripe Old Age


Cento di questi giorni. May you have a hundred birthdays, the Italians say, and some of them do.

So do other people in various spots around the world—in Blue Zones, so named by National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner for the blue ink that outlines these special areas on maps developed over more than a decade. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

In his second edition of his book The Blue Zones, Buettner writes about a newly identified Blue Zone: the Greek island of Ikaria (map). National Geographic magazine Editor at Large Cathy Newman interviewed him about the art of living long and well. (Watch Buettner talk about how to live to a hundred.)

Q. You've written about Blue Zones in Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; Nicoa, Costa Rica and Okinawa, Japan. How did you find your way to Ikaria?

A. Michel Poulain, a demographer on the project, and I are always on the lookout for new Blue Zones. This one popped up in 2008. We got a lead from a Greek foundation looking for biological markers in aging people. The census data showed clusters of villages there with a striking proportion of people 85 or older. (Also see blog: "Secrets of the Happiest Places on Earth.")

In the course of your quest you've been introduced to remarkable individuals like 100-year-old Marge Jetton of Loma Linda, California, who starts the day with a mile-long [0.6-kilometer] walk, 6 to 8 miles [10 to 13 kilometers] on a stationary bike, and weight lifting. Who is the most memorable Blue Zoner you've met?

Without question it's Stamatis Moraitis, who lives in Ikaria. I believe he's 102. He's famous for partying. He makes 400 liters [100 gallons] of wine from his vineyards each year, which he drinks with his friends. His house is the social hot spot of the island. (See "Longevity Genes Found; Predict Chances of Reaching 100.")

He's also the Ikarian who emigrated to the United States, was diagnosed with lung cancer in his 60s, given less then a year to live, and who returned to Ikaria to die. Instead, he recovered.

Yes, he never went through chemotherapy or treatment. He just moved back to Ikaria.

Did anyone figure out how he survived?

Nope. He told me he returned to the U.S. ten years after he left to see if the American doctors could explain it. I asked him what happened. "My doctors were all dead," he said.

One of the common factors that seem to link all Blue Zone people you've spoken with is a life of hard work—and sometimes hardship. Your thoughts?

I think we live in a culture that relentlessly pursues comfort. Ease is related to disease. We shouldn't always be fleeing hardship. Hardship also brings people together. We should welcome it.

Sounds like another version of the fable of the grasshopper and the ant?

You rarely get satisfaction sitting in an easy chair. If you work in a garden on the other hand, and it yields beautiful tomatoes, that's a good feeling.

Can you talk about diet? Not all of us have access to goat milk, for example, which you say is typically part of an Ikarian breakfast.

There is nothing exotic about their diet, which is a version of a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes vegetables, beans, fruit, olive oil, and moderate amounts of alcohol. (Read more about Buettner's work in Ikaria in National Geographic Adventure.)

All things in moderation?

Not all things. Socializing is something we should not do in moderation. The happiest Americans socialize six hours a day.

The people you hang out with help you hang on to life?

Yes, you have to pay attention to your friends. Health habits are contagious. Hanging out with unhappy people who drink and smoke is hazardous to your health.

So how has what you've learned influenced your own lifestyle?

One of the big things I've learned is that there's an advantage to regular low-intensity activity. My previous life was setting records on my bike. [Buettner holds three world records in distance cycling.] Now I use my bike to commute. I only eat meat once a week, and I always keep nuts in my office: Those who eat nuts live two to three more years than those who don't.

You also write about having a purpose in life.

Purpose is huge. I know exactly what my values are and what I love to do. That's worth additional years right there. I say no to a lot of stuff that would be easy money but deviates from my meaning of life.

The Japanese you met in Okinawa have a word for that?

Yes. Ikigai: "The reason for which I wake in the morning."

Do you have a non-longevity-enhancing guilty pleasure?

Tequila is my weakness.

And how long would you like to live?

I'd like to live to be 200.


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Russia's Putin signals he will sign U.S. adoption ban


MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin signaled on Thursday he would sign into law a bill barring Americans from adopting Russian children and sought to forestall criticism of the move by promising measures to better care for his country's orphans.


In televised comments, Putin tried to appeal to people's patriotism by suggesting that strong and responsible countries should take care of their own and lent his support to a bill that has further strained U.S.-Russia relations.


"There are probably many places in the world where living standards are higher than ours. So what, are we going to send all our children there? Maybe we should move there ourselves?" he said, with sarcasm.


Parliament gave its final approval on Wednesday to the bill, which would also introduce other measures in retaliation for new U.S. legislation which is designed to punish Russians accused of human rights violations.


For it to become law Putin needs to sign it.


"So far I see no reason not to sign it, although I have to review the final text and weigh everything," Putin said at a meeting of federal and regional officials that was shown live on the state's 24-hour news channel.


"I intend to sign not only the law ... but also a presidential decree that will modify the support mechanisms for orphaned children ... especially those who are in a difficult situation, by that I mean in poor health," Putin said.


Critics of the bill say the Russian authorities are playing political games with the lives of children, while the U.S. State Department repeated its "deep concern" over the measure.


"Since 1992 American families have welcomed more than 60,000 Russian children into their homes, and it is misguided to link the fate of children to unrelated political considerations," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement.


Ventrell added that the United States was troubled by provisions in the bill that would restrict the ability of Russian civil society organizations to work with U.S. partners.


Children in Russia's crowded and troubled orphanage system - particularly those with serious illnesses or disabilities - will have less of a chance of finding homes, and of even surviving, if it becomes law, child rights advocates say.


They point to people like Jessica Long, who was given up shortly after birth by her parents in Siberia but was raised by adoptive parents in the United States and became a Paralympic swimming champion.


However, the Russian authorities point to the deaths of 19 Russian-born children adopted by American parents in the past decade, and lawmakers named the bill after a boy who died of heat stroke in Virginia after his adoptive father left him locked in a car for hours.


Putin reiterated Russian complaints that U.S. courts have been too lenient on parents in such cases, saying Russia has inadequate access to Russian-born children in the United States despite a bilateral agreement that entered into force on November 1.


NATIONAL IDENTITY


But Putin, who began a new six-year term in May and has searched for ways to unite the country during 13 years in power, suggested there were deeper motives for such a ban.


"For centuries, neither spiritual nor state leaders sent anyone abroad," he said, indicating he was not speaking specifically about Russia but about many societies.


"They always fight for their national identities - they gather themselves together in a fist, they fight for their language, culture," he said.


The bid to ban American adoptions plays on sensitivity in Russia about adoptions by foreigners, which skyrocketed as the social safety net unraveled with the 1991 Soviet collapse.


Families from the United States adopt more Russian children than those of any other country.


Putin had earlier described the Russian bill as an emotional but appropriate response to the Magnitsky Act, legislation signed by President Barack Obama this month as part of a law granting Russia "permanent normal trade relations" (PNTR) status.


The U.S. law imposes visa bans and asset freezes on Russians accused of human rights violations, including those linked to the death in a Moscow jail of Sergei Magnitsky, an anti-graft lawyer, in 2009.


The Russian bill would impose similar measures against Americans accused of violating the rights of Russian abroad and outlaw some U.S.-funded non-governmental groups.


(Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk; additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington; Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Steve Gutterman; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Doina Chiacu)



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Three gods: The hardest logic puzzle ever


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Pakistan to mark five years since Bhutto murder






LARKANA, Pakistan: Pakistan Thursday marks the fifth anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, with her son expected to launch his political career with a speech in the family's ancestral home town.

Bhutto, twice elected prime minister, was killed in a gun and suicide attack after an election rally in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of Pakistan's army, on December 27, 2007. No one has ever been convicted of her murder.

Thousands are expected to gather at the Bhutto family mausoleum at Larkana in the southern province of Sindh and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Benazir and of President Asif Ali Zardari, is to make his first major public speech.

The Bhutto family has been a force in Pakistani politics for almost all of the country's 65-year history.

Benazir's father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto led the country from 1971 until he was ousted in a military coup in 1977. He was hanged in 1979 after being convicted of authorising the murder of a political opponent.

With a general election due in the spring, analysts say the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is eager to introduce a third generation of the dynasty to the public.

"It appears to be the formal launching of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari into politics," political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.

"Bilawal has symbolic value in the Bhutto family and Zardari would like this link to be used as symbolism in the election."

As head of state President Zardari, who came to power in elections held a month after his wife's murder, is barred from leading the PPP election campaign. He is also hugely unpopular, tainted by years of corruption allegations.

Though the 24-year-old Bilawal will be too young to stand if elections go ahead as expected in the spring -- the lower age limit is 25 -- Askari said he could provide a fresh new figurehead for the PPP campaign.

Bilawal, co-chairman of the PPP with his father, in May accused former military ruler Pervez Musharraf of "murdering" his mother by deliberately sabotaging her security.

A UN report in 2010 also said the murder could have been prevented and accused Musharraf's government of failing to protect Bhutto properly.

The Musharraf regime blamed the assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement and was killed in a US drone attack in August 2009.

There has been a surge in terror attacks in Pakistan in the past weeks. Brigadier Saad Khan, a former officer with the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, warned the Taliban may continue their campaign with an attack on events marking the anniversary.

-AFP/ac



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Girlfriend denies helping actor kill college students




A woman accused of helping her former fiance cover up two gruesome murders pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three felonies she faces in connection with the crime.


Prosecutors say aspiring actress Rachel Buffett, 25, lied to police and repeated a fabricated account that Daniel Wozniak, 28, initially told detectives.


Wozniak is charged in the 2010 murders of Orange Coast College students Samuel Herr, 26, and Julie Kibuishi, 23.


At the time of the killings, Wozniak and Buffett were starring in a community theater production of the musical "Nine."


Prosecutors allege that on May 21, 2010, Wozniak lured Herr, his neighbor, to a theater facility at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, then shot him twice in the head before stealing his ATM, wallet and cellphone.


Later that evening, Wozniak allegedly used Herr's cellphone to send a text message to Kibuishi, a friend of Herr's, to lure her to his apartment.


Authorities believe Wozniak shot Kibuishi twice in the head, and then removed some of her clothing to make it look like she was sexually assaulted.


Prosecutors say Wozniak later returned to the theater, where he allegedly cut off Herr's head, left arm and right hand before dispersing the body parts at a theater and in a local park.






Wozniak was arrested on May 26, 2010, at his bachelor party in Huntington Beach, after police traced money taken from Herr's account to him.


Prosecutors say that Wozniak wanted to steal Herr's savings account to pay for his wedding to Buffett and their honeymoon.


Wozniak has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of special-circumstances murder and is still awaiting trial. He faces the death penalty if convicted.


Buffett was arrested Nov. 20 on suspicion of being an accessory to murder after the fact.


She faces three felony counts of accessory after the fact and is currently free on $1 million bail. Buffett could get a maximum of four years in state prison if convicted.


ALSO:


Horse rescued from hayloft after wandering upstairs


Planned avalanche turns deadly, killing ski patrol veteran


Volunteers can still help with Glendale Rose Parade float


-- Times Community News


Video: At a news conference in Long Beach earlier this month, Rachel Buffett discusses the charges she's facing. Credit: Ruben Vives / Los Angeles Times


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Space Pictures This Week: Green Lantern, Supersonic Star









































































































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Syria to discuss Brahimi peace proposals with Russia


BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a senior diplomat to Moscow on Wednesday to discuss proposals to end the conflict convulsing his country made by international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, Syrian and Lebanese sources said.


Brahimi, who saw Assad on Monday and is planning to hold a series of meetings with Syrian officials and dissidents in Damascus this week, is trying to broker a peaceful transfer of power, but has disclosed little about how this might be done.


More than 44,000 Syrians have been killed in a revolt against four decades of Assad family rule, a conflict that began with peaceful protests but which has descended into civil war.


Past peace efforts have floundered, with world powers divided over what has become an increasingly sectarian struggle between mostly Sunni Muslim rebels and Assad's security forces, drawn primarily from his Shi'ite-rooted Alawite minority.


Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad flew to Moscow to discuss the details of the talks with Brahimi, said a Syrian security source, who would not say if a deal was in the works.


However, a Lebanese official close to Damascus said Makdad had been sent to seek Russian advice on a possible agreement.


He said Syrian officials were upbeat after talks with Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy, who met Foreign Minister Walid Moualem on Tuesday a day after his session with Assad, but who has not outlined his ideas in public.


"There is a new mood now and something good is happening," the official said, asking not to be named. He gave no details.


Russia, which has given Assad diplomatic and military aid to help him weather the 21-month-old uprising, has said it is not protecting him, but has fiercely criticized any foreign backing for rebels and, with China, has blocked U.N. Security Council action on Syria.


"ASSAD CANNOT STAY"


A Russian Foreign Ministry source said Makdad and an aide would meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Mikhail Bogdanov, the Kremlin's special envoy for Middle East affairs, on Thursday, but did not disclose the nature of the talks.


On Saturday, Lavrov said Syria's civil war had reached a stalemate, saying international efforts to get Assad to quit would fail. Bogdanov had earlier acknowledged that Syrian rebels were gaining ground and might win.


Given the scale of the bloodshed and destruction, Assad's opponents insist the Syrian president must go.


Moaz Alkhatib, head of the internationally-recognized Syrian National Coalition opposition, has criticized any notion of a transitional government in which Assad would stay on as a figurehead president stripped of real powers.


Comments on Alkhatib's Facebook page on Monday suggested that the opposition believed this was one of Brahimi's ideas.


"The government and its president cannot stay in power, with or without their powers," Alkhatib wrote, saying his Coalition had told Brahimi it rejected any such solution.


While Brahimi was working to bridge the vast gaps between Assad and his foes, fighting raged across the country and a senior Syrian military officer defected to the rebels.


Syrian army shelling killed about 20 people, at least eight of them children, in the northern province of Raqqa, a video posted by opposition campaigners showed.


The video, published by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, showed rows of blood-stained bodies laid out on blankets. The sound of crying relatives could be heard in the background.


The shelling hit the province's al-Qahtania village, but it was unclear when the attack had occurred.


STRATEGIC BASE


Rebels relaunched their assault on the Wadi Deif military base in the northwestern province of Idlib, in a battle for a major army compound and fuel storage and distribution point.


Activist Ahmed Kaddour said rebels were firing mortars and had attacked the base with a vehicle rigged with explosives.


The British-based Observatory, which uses a network of contacts in Syria to monitor the conflict, said a rebel commander was among several people killed in Wednesday's fighting, which it said was among the heaviest for months.


The military used artillery and air strikes to try to hold back rebels assaulting Wadi Deif and the town of Morek in Hama province further south. In one air raid, several rockets fell near a field hospital in the town of Saraqeb, in Idlib province, wounding several people, the Observatory said.


As violence has intensified in recent weeks, daily death tolls have climbed. The Observatory reported at least 190 had been killed across the country on Tuesday alone.


The head of Syria's military police changed sides and declared allegiance to the anti-Assad revolt.


"I am General Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal, head of the military police. I have defected because of the deviation of the army from its primary duty of protecting the country and its transformation into gangs of killing and destruction," the officer said in a video published on YouTube.


A Syrian security source confirmed the defection, but said Shalal was near retirement and had only defected to "play hero".


Syrian Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar left Lebanon for Damascus after being treated in Beirut for wounds sustained in a rebel bomb attack this month.


(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Andrew Osborn)



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New Scientist 2012 holiday quiz

















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THIS was the year we held our breath in almost unbearable anticipation while we waited to see whether physicists at the Large Hadron Collider would finally get a clear view of the Higgs boson, so tantalisingly hinted at last December. Going a bit blue, we held on through March when one of the LHC's detectors seemed to lose sight of the thing, before exhaling in a puff of almost-resolution in July, when researchers announced that the data added up to a fairly confident pretty-much-actual-discovery of the particle.












Early indications were that it might be a weird and wonderful variety of the Higgs, prompting a collective gasp of excitement. That was followed by a synchronised sigh of mild disappointment when later data implied that it was probably the most boring possible version after all, and not a strange entity pointing the way to new dimensions and the true nature of dark matter. Prepare yourself for another puff or two as the big story moves on next year.













This respirational rollercoaster might be running a bit too slowly to supply enough oxygen to the brain of a New Scientist reader, so we have taken care to provide more frequent oohs and aahs using less momentous revelations. See how many of the following unfundamental discoveries you can distinguish from the truth-free mimics that crowd parasitically around them.












1. Which of these anatomical incongruities of the animal kingdom did we describe on 14 July?












  • a) A fish, found in a canal in Vietnam, that wears its genitals under its mouth
  • b) A frog, found in a puddle in Peru, that has no spleen
  • c) A lizard, found in a cave in Indonesia, that has four left feet
  • d) A cat, found in a tree in northern England, that has eight extra teeth

2. "A sprout by any other name would taste as foul." So wrote William Shakespeare in his diary on 25 December 1598, setting off the centuries of slightly unjust ridicule experienced by this routinely over-cooked vegetable. But which forbiddingly named veg did we report on 7 July as having more health-giving power than the sprout, its active ingredient being trialled as a treatment for prostate cancer?












  • a) Poison celery
  • b) Murder beans
  • c) Inconvenience potatoes
  • d) Death carrots

3. Scientists often like to say they are opening a new window on things. Usually that is a metaphor, but on 10 November we reported on a more literal innovation in the fenestral realm. It was:












  • a) A perspex peephole set in the nest of the fearsome Japanese giant hornet, to reveal its domestic habits
  • b) A glass porthole implanted in the abdomen of a mouse, to reveal the process of tumour metastasis
  • c) A crystal portal in the inner vessel of an experimental thorium reactor, to reveal its nuclear fires to the naked eye
  • d) A small window high on the wall of a basement office in the Princeton physics department, to reveal a small patch of sky to postgraduate students who have not been outside for seven years

4. On 10 March we described a new material for violin strings, said to produce a brilliant and complex sound richer than that of catgut. What makes up these super strings?












  • a) Mousegut
  • b) Spider silk
  • c) Braided carbon nanotubes
  • d) An alloy of yttrium and ytterbium

5. While the peril of climate change looms inexorably larger, in this festive-for-some season we might take a minute to look on the bright side. On 17 March we reported on one benefit of global warming, which might make life better for some people for a while. It was:












  • a) Receding Arctic sea ice will make it easier to lay undersea cables to boost internet speeds
  • b) Increasing temperatures mean that Greenlanders can soon start making their own wine
  • c) Rising sea levels could allow a string of new beach resorts to open in the impoverished country of Chad
  • d) More acidic seawater will add a pleasant tang to the salt water taffy sweets made in Atlantic City

6. In Alaska's Glacier Bay national park, the brown bear in the photo (above, right) is doing something never before witnessed among bearkind, as we revealed on 10 March. Is it:












  • a) Making a phonecall?
  • b) Gnawing at a piece of whalebone to dislodge a rotten tooth?
  • c) Scratching itself with a barnacle-covered stone tool?
  • d) Cracking oysters on its jaw?

7. Men have much in common with fruit flies, as we revealed on 24 March. When the sexual advances of a male fruit fly are rejected, he may respond by:












  • a) Whining
  • b) Hitting the booze
  • c) Jumping off a tall building
  • d) Hovering around the choosy female long after all hope is lost

8. While great Higgsian things were happening at the LHC, scientists puzzled over a newly urgent question: what should we call the boson? Peter Higgs wasn't the only physicist to predict its existence, and some have suggested that the particle's name should also include those other theorists or perhaps reflect some other aspect of the particle. Which of the following is a real suggestion that we reported on 24 March?

























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If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.




































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Russia's brutal early winter claims 123 lives






MOSCOW: A bitter cold snap in Russia has claimed 123 lives in the past 10 days, an official said Tuesday, with the early freeze testing authorities in a country used to notoriously tough winters.

Temperatures have plunged as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Moscow region and minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit) in Eastern Siberia.

"Since the start of the cold, 123 people have died of exposure and frostbite," a medical source was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

Another 833 people had to be hospitalised to be treated for hypothermia and frostbite, including 123 over the past 24 hours, of whom 14 were children, the source added.

Since the start of the cold snap, 1,745 people were affected, and more than 800 had to be hospitalised, the source said.

State television reports Tuesday focused on the village of Khovu Aksy in Tyva, one of Russia's poorest regions in southern Siberia. A state of emergency was declared there after the local power station failed with temperatures of minus 40 degrees Celsius, hitting 4,000 residents.

With repair work on the power station hampered by the sub-zero conditions, some local people were given shelter at schools that had emergency heating systems.

"There is nothing, not even water, we have to melt snow, and the temperature at home is below zero," one bundled-up resident told Vesti-24 channel.

Some residents, including children, have been lifted by helicopter to the regional centre of Kyzyl, the report said.

Temperatures have been about 12 degrees Celsius lower than seasonal norms in Russia, where the coldest weather usually does not arrive until January or February.

In the Moscow region, Monday saw an all-time record for electricity consumption, Russia's power operator said on Tuesday, blaming the unusually cold temperatures.

But Russia's weather service is predicting a drastic temperature hike in the European parts of Russia later this week, with 0 degrees Celsius expected in Moscow.

The emergency ministry warned however that the warming would be accompanied by strong winds and freezing rain that would likely damage communications and slow down traffic.

In neighbouring Ukraine last week, the cold claimed 83 lives, new data showed.

On Tuesday the health ministry said no new figures would be released until next Friday.

-AFP/ac



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Demi Moore-Ashton Kutcher divorce could get ugly




Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, whose divorce timing may be about money, an expert says.


This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.


Ashton Kutcher's move to file for divorce from Demi Moore last week more than a year after they announced their split could be a matter of money or taxes, a veteran divorce attorney said.


In the divorce papers filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Kutcher cited irreconcilable differences. He did not seek any spousal support, nor did he ask that Moore be denied any.


Christopher Melcher, a veteran California divorce attorney who has represented Katie Holmes and other celebrities, said that when a filing occurs late in December, it is because the couple wants to terminate the marriage before the end of the year for tax reasons.


"A case has to be filed before the court can enter a judgment," he said.


Moore allegedly netted $90 million in her divorce from Bruce Willis. It is unclear whether she will seek a lucrative settlement from Kutcher, who is Hollywood's highest paid TV actor and has made several investments in start-up tech companies. During their marriage, Moore, once Hollywood's highest paid actress, has also made money producing several successful movies.


It is unclear if the couple had a prenuptial agreement.


Moore announced the split in November 2011. "It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I have decided to end my six-year marriage to Ashton," Moore said in a statement in November 2011. "As a woman, a mother and a wife there are certain values and vows that I hold sacred, and it is in this spirit that I have chosen to move forward with my life."


In recent weeks, Kutcher has been seen with his former TV costar Mila Kunis in her hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


[For the record, 2:30 p.m. Dec. 24: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Christopher Melcher represented Tom Cruise. He represented Katie Holmes.]


ALSO:


Henry's Tacos gets two-week reprieve


Teens stole carload of Christmas gifts in San Marino, police say


Avalanche injures 2 skiers at Squaw Valley; snowboarders blamed


-- Richard Winton


Photo: Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore in February 2009. Credit: Hermann J. Knippertz / Associated Press




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Photos: Humboldt Squid Have a Bad Day at the Beach

Photograph by Chris Elmenhurst, Surf the Spot Photography

“Strandings have been taking place with increased frequency along the west coast over the past ten years,” noted NOAA’s Field, “as this population of squid seems to be expanding its range—likely a consequence of climate change—and can be very abundant at times.” (Learn about other jumbo squid strandings.)

Humboldt squid are typically found in warmer waters farther south in theGulf of California (map) and off the coast ofPeru. “[But] we find them up north here during warmer water time periods,” said ocean sciences researcherKenneth Bruland with the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).

Coastal upwelling—when winds blowing south drive ocean circulation to bring cold, nutrient-rich waters up from the deep—ceases during the fall and winter and warmer water is found closer to shore. Bruland noted that climate change, and the resulting areas of low oxygen, “could be a major factor” in drawing jumbo squid north.

Published December 24, 2012

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Egypt approves new constitution drafted by Mursi allies


CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved a constitution drafted by President Mohamed Mursi's allies, results announced on Tuesday showed, proving that liberals, leftists and Christians have been powerless to halt the march of Islamists in power.


Final elections commission figures showed the constitution adopted with 63.8 percent of the vote in the referendum held over two days this month, giving Mursi's Islamists their third straight electoral victory since veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a 2011 revolution.


Opposition groups had taken to the streets to block what they see as a move to ram through a charter that mixes politics and religion dangerously and ignores the rights of minorities.


Mursi says the text - Egypt's first constitution since Mubarak's fall - offers enough protection for minorities, and adopting it quickly is necessary to end two years of turmoil and political uncertainty that has wrecked the economy.


"I hope all national powers will now start working together now to build a new Egypt," Murad Ali, a senior official in the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, told Reuters.


"I see this as the best constitution in Egypt's history."


In a sign that weeks of unrest have taken a further toll on the economy, the government ordered new restrictions on foreign currency apparently designed to prevent capital flight. Leaving or entering with more than $10,000 cash is now banned.


Two years since waves of unrest broke out across the Middle East and North Africa - sweeping away long-entrenched rulers in Tunisia, Libya and Yemen as well as Egypt - well-organized Islamist parties have emerged as the main beneficiaries.


Urban secularists and liberals who were behind the revolts complain that their success has been hijacked.


"We need a better constitution," said Khaled Dawood, an opposition spokesman. "It does not represent all Egyptians."


Mursi's opponents say the new constitution could allow clerics to intervene in lawmaking, while offering scant protections to minorities and women. Mursi dismisses those criticisms, and many Egyptians are fed up with street protest movements that have prevented a return to normality.


Immediately after the announcement, a small group of protesters set tires on fire and blocked traffic near the central Tahrir square, the cradle of Egypt's uprising, but there were no immediate signs of violence or major demonstrations.


Washington, which provides billions of dollars a year in military and other support for Egypt and regards it as a pillar of security in the Middle East, called on Egyptian politicians to bridge divisions and on all sides to reject violence.


"President Mursi, as the democratically elected leader of Egypt, has a special responsibility to move forward in a way that recognizes the urgent need to bridge divisions," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. He noted that many Egyptians had voiced "significant concerns" over the constitutional process.


WORSENING ECONOMY


The government says its opponents are worsening the economic crisis by prolonging political upheaval. It has pledged to impose unpopular tax increases and spending cuts to win a loan package from the International Monetary Fund.


The ban on travelling with more than $10,000 in cash followed a pledge by the central bank to take unspecified measures to protect Egyptian banks. Some Egyptians have begun withdrawing their savings in fear of more restrictions.


"I am not going to put any more money in the bank and neither will many of the people I know," said Ayman Osama, father of two young children.


He said he had taken out the equivalent of about $16,000 from his account this week and planned to withdraw more, adding that he had also told his wife to buy more gold jewellery.


The "yes" vote paves the way for a parliamentary election in about two months, setting the stage for another battle between surging Islamists and their fractious opponents.


The final result, announced by the election commission, matched - to the last decimal place - an earlier unofficial tally announced by Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood.


But the opposition said it was disappointed - it had appealed for the result to be amended to reflect what it described as major vote violations during the two-round vote.


Officials said there were no violations serious enough to change the result significantly. "We have seriously investigated all the complaints," said judge Samir Abu el-Matti of the Supreme Election Committee. The final turnout was 32.9 percent.


SENSE OF CRISIS


The referendum has sharpened painful divisions in the Arab world's most populous nation and a growing atmosphere of crisis has gripped Egypt's polarized society.


Anxiety about the economy deepened this week when Standard and Poor's cut Egypt's long-term credit rating. Prime Minister Hisham Kandil told the nation of 83 million on Tuesday the government was committed to fixing the economy.


"The main goals that the government is working towards now is plugging the budget deficit, and working on increasing growth to boost employment rates, curb inflation, and increase the competitiveness of Egyptian exports," he said.


The referendum follows Islamist victories in parliamentary and presidential elections, representing a decisive shift in a country at the heart of the Arab world where Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood was suppressed for generations by military rulers.


However, secularist and liberal opposition members hope they can organize better in time for the next parliamentary vote.


Hossam El-Din Ali, a 35-year-old newspaper vendor in central Cairo, said he agreed the new constitution would help bring some political stability but like many others he feared the possible economic austerity measures lying ahead.


"People don't want higher prices. People are upset about this," he said. "There is recession, things are not moving. But I am wishing for the best, God willing."


(Additional reporting by Patrick Werr, Tamim Elyan, Ahmed Tolba and Marwa Awad; Writing by Maria Golovnina)



Read More..

New Scientist 2012 holiday quiz

















Continue reading page

|1

|2





































THIS was the year we held our breath in almost unbearable anticipation while we waited to see whether physicists at the Large Hadron Collider would finally get a clear view of the Higgs boson, so tantalisingly hinted at last December. Going a bit blue, we held on through March when one of the LHC's detectors seemed to lose sight of the thing, before exhaling in a puff of almost-resolution in July, when researchers announced that the data added up to a fairly confident pretty-much-actual-discovery of the particle.












Early indications were that it might be a weird and wonderful variety of the Higgs, prompting a collective gasp of excitement. That was followed by a synchronised sigh of mild disappointment when later data implied that it was probably the most boring possible version after all, and not a strange entity pointing the way to new dimensions and the true nature of dark matter. Prepare yourself for another puff or two as the big story moves on next year.













This respirational rollercoaster might be running a bit too slowly to supply enough oxygen to the brain of a New Scientist reader, so we have taken care to provide more frequent oohs and aahs using less momentous revelations. See how many of the following unfundamental discoveries you can distinguish from the truth-free mimics that crowd parasitically around them.












1. Which of these anatomical incongruities of the animal kingdom did we describe on 14 July?












  • a) A fish, found in a canal in Vietnam, that wears its genitals under its mouth
  • b) A frog, found in a puddle in Peru, that has no spleen
  • c) A lizard, found in a cave in Indonesia, that has four left feet
  • d) A cat, found in a tree in northern England, that has eight extra teeth

2. "A sprout by any other name would taste as foul." So wrote William Shakespeare in his diary on 25 December 1598, setting off the centuries of slightly unjust ridicule experienced by this routinely over-cooked vegetable. But which forbiddingly named veg did we report on 7 July as having more health-giving power than the sprout, its active ingredient being trialled as a treatment for prostate cancer?












  • a) Poison celery
  • b) Murder beans
  • c) Inconvenience potatoes
  • d) Death carrots

3. Scientists often like to say they are opening a new window on things. Usually that is a metaphor, but on 10 November we reported on a more literal innovation in the fenestral realm. It was:












  • a) A perspex peephole set in the nest of the fearsome Japanese giant hornet, to reveal its domestic habits
  • b) A glass porthole implanted in the abdomen of a mouse, to reveal the process of tumour metastasis
  • c) A crystal portal in the inner vessel of an experimental thorium reactor, to reveal its nuclear fires to the naked eye
  • d) A small window high on the wall of a basement office in the Princeton physics department, to reveal a small patch of sky to postgraduate students who have not been outside for seven years

4. On 10 March we described a new material for violin strings, said to produce a brilliant and complex sound richer than that of catgut. What makes up these super strings?












  • a) Mousegut
  • b) Spider silk
  • c) Braided carbon nanotubes
  • d) An alloy of yttrium and ytterbium

5. While the peril of climate change looms inexorably larger, in this festive-for-some season we might take a minute to look on the bright side. On 17 March we reported on one benefit of global warming, which might make life better for some people for a while. It was:












  • a) Receding Arctic sea ice will make it easier to lay undersea cables to boost internet speeds
  • b) Increasing temperatures mean that Greenlanders can soon start making their own wine
  • c) Rising sea levels could allow a string of new beach resorts to open in the impoverished country of Chad
  • d) More acidic seawater will add a pleasant tang to the salt water taffy sweets made in Atlantic City

6. In Alaska's Glacier Bay national park, the brown bear in the photo (above, right) is doing something never before witnessed among bearkind, as we revealed on 10 March. Is it:












  • a) Making a phonecall?
  • b) Gnawing at a piece of whalebone to dislodge a rotten tooth?
  • c) Scratching itself with a barnacle-covered stone tool?
  • d) Cracking oysters on its jaw?

7. Men have much in common with fruit flies, as we revealed on 24 March. When the sexual advances of a male fruit fly are rejected, he may respond by:












  • a) Whining
  • b) Hitting the booze
  • c) Jumping off a tall building
  • d) Hovering around the choosy female long after all hope is lost

8. While great Higgsian things were happening at the LHC, scientists puzzled over a newly urgent question: what should we call the boson? Peter Higgs wasn't the only physicist to predict its existence, and some have suggested that the particle's name should also include those other theorists or perhaps reflect some other aspect of the particle. Which of the following is a real suggestion that we reported on 24 March?

























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