False memories prime immune system for future attacks









































IN A police line-up, a falsely remembered face is a big problem. But for the body's police force – the immune system – false memories could be a crucial weapon.












When a new bacterium or virus invades the body, the immune system mounts an attack by sending in white blood cells called T-cells that are tailored to the molecular structure of that invader. Defeating the infection can take several weeks. However, once victorious, some T-cells stick around, turning into memory cells that remember the invader, reducing the time taken to kill it the next time it turns up.












Conventional thinking has it that memory cells for a particular microbe only form in response to an infection. "The dogma is that you need to be exposed," says Mark Davis of Stanford University in California, but now he and his colleagues have shown that this is not always the case.












The team took 26 samples from the Stanford Blood Center. All 26 people had been screened for diseases and had never been infected with HIV, herpes simplex virus or cytomegalovirus. Despite this, Davis's team found that all the samples contained T-cells tailored to these viruses, and an average of 50 per cent of these cells were memory cells.












The idea that T-cells don't need to be exposed to the pathogen "is paradigm shifting," says Philip Ashton-Rickardt of Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study. "Not only do they have capacity to remember, they seem to have seen a virus when they haven't."












So how are these false memories created? To a T-cell, each virus is "just a collection of peptides", says Davis. And so different microbes could have structures that are similar enough to confuse the T-cells.












To test this idea, the researchers vaccinated two people with an H1N1 strain of influenza and found that this also stimulated the T-cells to react to two bacteria with a similar peptide structure. Exposing the samples from the blood bank to peptide sequences from certain gut and soil bacteria and a species of ocean algae resulted in an immune response to HIV (Immunology, doi.org/kgg).












The finding could explain why vaccinating children against measles seems to improve mortality rates from other diseases. It also raises the possibility of creating a database of cross-reactive microbes to find new vaccination strategies. "We need to start exploring case by case," says Davis.












"You could find innocuous pathogens that are good at vaccinating against nasty ones," says Ashton-Rickardt. The idea of cross-reactivity is as old as immunology, he says. But he is excited about the potential for finding unexpected correlations. "Who could have predicted that HIV was related to an ocean algae?" he says. "No one's going to make that up!"












This article appeared in print under the headline "False memories prime our defences"




















































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.









































































All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the "Report" link in that comment to report it to us.


If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.








Read More..

Thousands protest to end evictions in Spain






MADRID: Thousands of people demonstrated in Spanish cities on Saturday pushing for a new law to end a wave of evictions of homeowners ruined by the economic crisis.

Several thousand marched yelling to the din of drums and horns in central Madrid, waving banners reading "Stop evictions" and yelling "We have no homes!"

Similar protests were called in Barcelona and 50 other Spanish cities, the latest of months of demonstrations driven by anger at Spain's recession and the conservative government, which is imposing austere economic reforms.

Campaigners passed a rare milestone on Tuesday when the Spanish parliament agreed to debate a popular bill of measures to protect poor homeowners, backed by a petition that received more than 1.4 million signatures.

The organisation that brought that petition, the Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH), called Saturday's nationwide protests to pressure lawmakers to follow through and vote it into law quickly.

"I think it will pass, and it will not be thanks to the politicians but to pressure from citizens in the street," said one demonstrator in Madrid, Enrique Valdivieso, 27, holding up one end of a banner reading "Government resign".

PAH says hundreds of thousands of people have been evicted from their homes in the crisis brought on by the collapse of Spain's housing market in 2008.

The recession sparked by that collapse has driven the unemployment rate up to 26 percent, leaving many unable to pay mortgages on houses whose value has fallen.

The PAH's bill proposes to change the law to end evictions and to allow insolvent homeowners to write off their debts by surrendering their home.

Under the current law, a bank can pursue a mortgage holder to pay off the remaining balance of a loan if the value of the seized property isn't sufficient.

Outrage has been fanned by a string of suicides of people reportedly driven to despair by the prospect of eviction, including a retired couple in Mallorca on Tuesday.

"We will not stand by idle waiting for the initiative to come to parliament" to be debated, the PAH said in a statement.

"We call on all political parties to vote in favour of the initiative and proceed with it urgently," the PAH said. "If they do not, we will hold them responsible for the financial genocide we are suffering."

- AFP/fa



Read More..

Attorney killed wife during Italian cruise, police say



A former Orange County attorney allegedly killed his ex-wife for financial gain in 2006 by strangling her and throwing her overboard while on a cruise along the Italian coast, authorities said.


Lonnie Kocontes, 55, a former Mission Viejo resident, was arrested Friday at his home in Safety Harbor, Fla., in connection with the death of his former wife, Micki Kanesaki, 52, of Ladera Ranch, authorities said. He is charged with one felony count of special circumstances for financial gain.


If convicted, he faces a maximum life sentence in state prison without the possibility of parole and is eligible for the death penalty, authorities said. Kocontes, who is being held without bail, also faces extradition proceedings at a date to be determined.


He is accused of financially benefiting from Kanesaki’s death because he was the beneficiary of several of their bank accounts and property and was receiving the proceeds from the sale of their home, authorities said.


The couple divorced in 2001 and were in the midst of a court battle when they decided to put aside their rancor and take a Mediterranean vacation together.


Kocontes is suspected of killing his wife on the night of May 25, 2006, or the morning of May 26, by strangling her and throwing her body overboard, authorities said.


At the time, Kocontes reported his wife missing. He told authorities that the couple had retired to bed when about 1 a.m. Kanesaki stepped out to get a cup of tea to help her relax and never returned.


Her body was found on the morning of May 27 by the Italian coast guard, floating in the sea near Reggio di Calabria.


"I wish I knew what happened," Kocontes was quoted as saying at the time. He told authorities that his former wife had previously talked of suicide.


But an autopsy revealed Kanesaki had been strangled, authorities said.


In 2008, Kocontes is accused of attempting to transfer $1 million between various banks accounts with his new wife, Katherine, authorities said. The FBI began investigating the money transfers for possible illegal activity and the U.S. attorney’s office ultimately seized the money from Kocontes’ bank account.


The Orange County district attorney’s office was contacted and subsequently the Sheriff’s Department relaunched its investigation, authorities said.


On Wednesday, the district attorney filed its murder case against Kocontes.      


The FBI and the Orange County Sheriff's Department are continuing the investigation.


ALSO:


Riverside officer wounded in Dorner manhunt is identified


Coliseum sues ex-auditor, alleging failure to detect corruption


LAPD's 'protection details' end after Dorner's remains identified

-- Andrew Blankstein



Read More..

Picture Archive: Making Mount Rushmore, 1935-1941

Photograph from Rapid City Chamber of Commerce/National Geographic

There's no such thing as Presidents' Day.

According to United States federal government code, the holiday is named Washington's Birthday, and has been since it went nationwide in 1885.

But common practice is more inclusive. The holiday expanded to add in other U.S. presidents in the 1960s, and the moniker Presidents' Day became popular in the 1980s and stuck. It may be that George Washington (b. February 22, 1732) andAbraham Lincoln (b. February 12, 1809) still get the lion's share of attention—and appear in all the retail sale ads—on the third Monday in February, but the popular idea is that all 44 presidents get feted.

Mount Rushmore is a lot like that one day a year writ large—and in granite. It's carved 60 feet (18 meters) tall and 185 feet (56 meters) wide, from Washington's right ear to Lincoln's left.

The monument's sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, grew up in Idaho, a first-generation American born to Danish parents. He studied art in France and became good friends with Auguste Rodin. Borglum mostly worked in bronze, but in the early 1910s he was hired to carve the likenesses of Confederate leaders into Stone Mountain in Georgia.

He was about to be fired from that job for creative differences about the same time that a South Dakota historian named Doane Robinson had an idea. Robinson wanted to have a monument carved into the Black Hills of South Dakota, maybe Western historical figures like Chief Red Cloud and Lewis and Clark, each on their own granite spire. (Plan a road trip in the Black Hills.)

Robinson hired Borglum and gave him carte blanche. Borglum was looking for something with national appeal, so he chose to depict four presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

Borglum wanted to represent the first 150 years of the nation's history, choosing four presidents as symbols of their respective time periods. He took a tour of western South Dakota, searching for an ideal canvas.

The sculptor was looking for three things: a surface strong enough to sculpt, a mountain big enough to hold several figures, and a mountain face that received morning sunlight. Mount Rushmore fit the bill and was already part of a national forest, so it was easy to set aside as a national memorial.

Work started in 1927. Calvin Coolidge attended the dedication ceremony. It took 14 years to finish the carving, conducted mostly in summertime because of the area's harsh winters.

There were approximately 30 workers on the mountain at any give time. In total about 400 had worked on it by the time the monument was finished. Though the project involved thousands of pounds of dynamite and perilous climbs, not a single person died during the work.

Borglum himself died of natural causes in 1941, though, just six months before the project was declared "closed as is" by Congress that Halloween. His son Lincoln—named for his father's favorite president—took over.

In the photo above, a worker refines the details of Washington's left nostril.

About 90 percent of the mountain was carved using dynamite, which could get within 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 centimeters) of the final facial features. For those last few inches, workers used what was known as the honeycomb method: Jackhammer workers pounded a series of three-inch-deep holes followed up by chiselers who knocked off the honeycomb pieces to get the final shape. Then carvers smoothed the "skin's" surface.

—Johnna Rizzo

February 16, 2013

Read More..

Bomb kills 64 in Pakistan's Quetta


QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Sixty-four people including school children died on Saturday in a bomb attack carried out by extremists from Pakistan's Sunni Muslim majority, police said.


A spokesman for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni group, claimed responsibility for the bomb in Quetta, which caused casualties in the town's main bazaar, a school and a computer center. Police said most of the victims were Shi'ites.


Burned school bags and books were strewn around.


"The explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device fitted to a motorcycle," said Wazir Khan Nasir, deputy inspector general of police in Quetta.


"This is a continuation of terrorism against Shi'ites."


"I saw many bodies of women and children," said an eyewitness at a hospital. "At least a dozen people were burned to death by the blast."


Most Western intelligence agencies have regarded the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda as the gravest threat to nuclear-armed Pakistan, a strategic U.S. ally.


But Pakistani law enforcement officials say Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has become a formidable force.


TENSIONS


Last month the group said it carried out a bombing in Quetta that killed nearly 100 people, one of Pakistan's worst sectarian attacks. Thousands of Shi'ites protested in several cities after that attack.


Pakistani intelligence officials say extremist groups, led by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, have escalated their bombings and shootings of Shi'ites to trigger violence that would pave the way for a Sunni theocracy in U.S.-allied Pakistan.


More than 400 Shi'ites were killed in Pakistan last year, many by hitmen or bombs, and the perpetrators are almost never caught. Some hardline Shi'ite groups have hit back by killing Sunni clerics.


The growing sectarian violence has hurt the credibility of the government, which has already faced criticism ahead of elections due in May for its inability to tackle corruption and economic stagnation.


The schism between Sunnis and Shi'ites developed after the Prophet Muhammad died in 632 when his followers could not agree on a successor.


Emotions over the issue are highly potent even today, pushing some countries, including Iraq five years ago, to the brink of civil war.


Pakistan is nowhere near that stage but officials worry that Sunni extremist groups have succeeded in dramatically ratcheting up tensions and provoking revenge attacks in their bid to destabilize the country.


(Reporting by Jibran Ahmed; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Stephen Powell)



Read More..

Taxpayers' money keeps Japan's whaling fleet afloat









































NOT just cruel, but a waste of money too. Japanese government statistics reveal that the country's whaling fleet makes a loss and has to be subsidised by taxpayers.












According to a report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Japan's whaling fleet has been unable to cover its costs since 2006. The Fisheries Agency of Japan has been propping it up with public money, giving 715 million yen ($8.9 million) in 2011.












"The argument for whaling is not economic," says marine biologist Leah Gerber of Arizona State University in Tempe, who is not affiliated with IFAW. She says whaling is bound up with national pride and a belief that eating the meat is part of cultural identity.












Demand for whale meat has been declining since the 1960s,however, and stockpiles of it are growing. An IFAW survey found that only 11 per cent of Japanese citizens support whaling. "The government is encouraging a market that doesn't exist," says Gerber. "It's not healthy to eat whales because they contain mercury, and people know that."











There has been a voluntary moratorium on commercial whaling since 1986, but Norway, Iceland and Japan have continued. Instead of the moratorium, Gerber proposes establishing a global market in which a whaling quota can be divided up and bid for (Nature, doi.org/fxs3tv). That way conservationists could buy up the quotas, likely saving more whales than they do by harassing whalers at sea.













This article appeared in print under the headline "Ailing whaling propped up"


















































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.









































































All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the "Report" link in that comment to report it to us.


If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.








Read More..

Tennis: Benneteau stuns Federer in Rotterdam






ROTTERDAM, Netherlands: Frenchman Julien Benneteau sent defending champion Roger Federer crashing out of the Rotterdam World Tennis tournament on Friday with a stunning 6-3, 7-5 quarter-final upset.

Federer, who lifted the trophy in his last two appearances in 2005 and 2012, last suffered defeat in the event against Tim Henman in 2004.

"I'm very disappointed, I have some regrets about this match," said Federer, who came back from two sets to love down to beat Benneteau in the third round of Wimbledon last year.

"He played great and created more chances than I did. He deserved to win. It was a tough loss, but they do happen. Being broken so many times (five) indoors won't get the job done. My game was up and down overall.

"He made it difficult and generated pressure. That made you try to serve harder. When I had some chances I didn't take them. I was maybe a point or two away from taking it into a third set and then the clock resets."

Benneteau, the world 39, will play a Saturday a semi-final against either fifth-seeded compatriot Gilles Simon or Slovak Martin Klizan.

"This was a dream match, and I played like a dream," said Benneteau after
his second career win over the world number two.

"This is for sure my biggest win. He was the favourite, but maybe he played a bit tight. I've been playing well all week, improving with each match.

"I've had a great week here so far and I hope it's not finished."

Federer was clearly off the boil from the start, beginning with an ace but losing the first game.

He was broken three times in the first set in a shocking display from the top seed and heavy crowd favourite at the Ahoy stadium.

The French challenger wrapped up the opening set and went up a break at 3-1 in the second as Federer's game continued to suffer.

But the Swiss stirred to life as he broke back to love for 3-4.

Federer then levelled at four games apiece before Benneteau saved three break points to hold for 6-5.

A game later, it was done, with Federer donating a double-fault for a match point and then missing the far corner with a backhand which was confirmed by electronic linecalling.

Second seed Juan Martin del Potro cruised into the semi-finals with a victory in straight sets against Finland's Jarkko Nieminen.

The Argentine won 6-3, 6-4, and will now face unseeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov who came from a set down to beat Marcos Baghdatis.

Del Potro took just under 90 minutes to go through, racking up 10 aces along the way before sealing victory on his second match point as the Finn returned long.

"It was a difficult win, he's a lefty and hit his shots differently. He was fighting all the time and I had to play my best game to go through," said the 2009 US Open champion.

"It feels good to be in the semi-finals, I'm trying to repeat what I did last year (final) and go even farther.

"Dimitrov has a very good future. He's playing fantastic tennis, the match will be close for both sides."

Dimitrov beat Baghdatis 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/0), 6-3 in a performance that showed he is returning to the kind of form he produced at the start of the year, when he reached the final in Brisbane before losing to Andy Murray.

The Bulgarian had also beaten Baghdatis in three sets in that tournament, and he repeated the feat on Friday.

- AFP/fa



Read More..

Mayor who gambled away $1 billion had brain tumor




The lawyer for former San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor suggested that a brain tumor may have caused her to lose massive sums gambling on video poker games.


Over a nine-year period O'Connor wagered an estimated $1 billion, including millions from a charity set up by her late husband, who founded the Jack in the Box fast-food chain.


That was the portrait that emerged in court Thursday as the frail former mayor tearfully acknowledged that she skimmed more than $2 million from the charity founded by her late husband, Robert O. Peterson.


O'Connor, 66, admitted in a plea deal that she had a gambling addiction and is nearly destitute. Her lawyer, prominent defense attorney Eugene Iredale, suggested that a brain tumor may have impaired her reasoning.


Reporters were given copies of her brain scan from a 2011 surgery.


O'Connor's rapidly declining medical condition "renders it highly improbable — if not impossible — that she could be brought to trial," according to court documents filed by federal prosecutors.


"This is a sad day for the city of San Diego," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Phillip Halpern. "Maureen O'Connor was born and raised in this town. She rose from humble origins.... She dedicated much of her life, personal and professional, to improving this city."


The $1-billion gambling binge stretched from 2000 to 2009, according to court documents. In 2008 and 2009, when the fortune she had inherited was not enough, she began taking from the R.P. Foundation to cover her losses.


Despite being ahead more than $1 billion at one point, O'Connor "suffered even larger gambling losses," according to prosecutors. Her net loss, Iredale said, was about $13 million.


She was considered such a high roller that Las Vegas casinos would send a private jet to pick her up in San Diego. Records show that O'Connor won $100,000 at the Barona casino in San Diego County, while at roughly the same time she needed to cash a $100,000 check at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.


Those who knew the former political doyenne said she had become a recluse, inscrutable even to those she counted as friends.






"I considered myself one of her closest friends, but I would call her and she wouldn't return my call," said lawyer Louis Wolfsheimer. "I didn't want anything from her, just to know how she was. But it looked like she was becoming reclusive."


In a bargain with prosecutors, O'Connor agreed to repay $2,088,000 to the R.P. Foundation, which supported charities such as City of Hope, San Diego Hospice, and the Alzheimer's Assn. before it was driven into insolvency in 2009 by O'Connor's misappropriation of funds, prosecutors said.


"I never meant to hurt the city," an emotional O'Connor told reporters gathered at a restaurant close to the federal courthouse. She promised to repay the foundation but declined to answer questions.


Prosecutors agreed to defer prosecution for two years. If O'Connor violates no further laws and makes restitution, the charge of making illegal financial transactions may be dismissed. Under the agreement, O'Connor acknowledged her guilt but was allowed to plead not guilty.


If convicted, O'Connor could have faced a maximum 10-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $250,000.


As part of her plea agreement, O'Connor agreed to settle "all tax liability resulting from her receipt" of money from the foundation. She also agreed to seek treatment for her gambling addiction.


Although she is currently without income or a bank account, O'Connor's economic status could reverse if she wins a civil lawsuit filed against a German bank involved in the 2005 purchase of a resort in Mendocino County that O'Connor had acquired in 1998.


O'Connor sold the Heritage House for $19.5 million but has alleged that she was the victim of fraud in the sale. A settlement or victory at trial could provide the millions needed to pay restitution to the foundation as well as the tax liabilities involved with the misallocation of its funds.


"No figure, regardless of how much good they've done or how much they've given to charity, can escape criminal liability with impunity," said U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy.


One of O'Connor's major worries, defense attorney Iredale said, "is fear of losing her reputation." A Democrat, O'Connor served as mayor from 1986 to 1992, the first woman mayor in San Diego history.


ALSO:


Man killed in Valentine's Day shooting in Maywood


Ex-mayor's lawyer ties her gambling addiction to brain tumor


Gusty winds blow through Southern California, advisory issued


-- Tony Perry in San Diego


Photo: Maureen O'Connor walks to court with her attorney, Eugene Iredale. If O'Connor violates no further laws and makes restitution, the charge of making illegal financial transactions may be dismissed. Credit: Peggy Peattie / Associated Press


Read More..

Russian Meteorite Not the First: Other Objects That Crashed to Earth?



The meteor that exploded over Russia last night injured more than a thousand people and was unusually well documented, thanks to the widespread use of dashboard cameras by Russian drivers.


But it's not the first time people have seen or been hit by space rocks making landfall.


Meteorite landings have also been witnessed in Europe, Africa, Oceania, and South America, where, in 2007, Peruvian villagers were sickened by arsenic fumes released from an underground water source after impact.


But probably the most famous observed meteor exploded above the Tunguska River in Siberia in 1908. The disintegration of this rock, estimated to be about as tall as a 12-story building, leveled 800 square miles (2,000 square kilometers) of trees, shaking the ground and shining as bright as a second sun, in the words of one eyewitness.



While the damage around remote Tunguska took decades to discover, the 1992 Peekskill, New York, meteor was documented on video by 16 different observers. This event cast light that rivaled a full moon's glow and has put a lasting spotlight on the car whose trunk was crumpled by its impact.






Party Crashers


Meteorites have crashed weddings and funerals too. In 1929, a meteorite struck a wedding party in Zvezvan in then Yugoslavia, according to the book Rain of Iron and Ice: The Very Real Threat of Comet and Asteroid Bombardment. And in 1924, a meteorite interrupted a funeral service near Elwell, Colorado.


It's enough to make you want to stay at home, but even that's no guarantee of safety. In 1954 in Alabama, Ann Elizabeth Hodges took a nine-pound (four-kilogram) meteorite in the hip after it punched through her roof and bounced off a radio, leaving her alive but bruised.


The recent Russian meteorite is not the first since 1954 to cause injuries to people, the event created the highest recorded number of injuries on record due to a meteorite, noted Michael D. Reynolds, adjunct astronomy professor at Florida State College at Jacksonville and author of the book Falling Stars: A Guide to Meteors and Meteorites.


Rocks chipped off the surface of Mars that eventually landed outside Alexandria, Egypt, in 1911 have been blamed for killing a dog, according to a farmer who witnessed the event. Some of this Martian debris is now on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.


A couple of decades later, a Pennsylvania farmer suspects he saw one kill a cow.


See More on Friday's Meteor Shower in Russia


Read More..

Exclusive: North Korea tells China of preparations for fresh nuclear test - source


BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea has told its key ally, China, that it is prepared to stage one or even two more nuclear tests this year in an effort to force the United States into diplomatic talks, said a source with direct knowledge of the message.


Further tests could also be accompanied this year by another rocket launch, said the source, who has direct access to the top levels of government in both Beijing and Pyongyang.


North Korea conducted its third nuclear test on Tuesday, drawing global condemnation and a stern warning from the United States that it was a threat and a provocation.


"It's all ready. A fourth and fifth nuclear test and a rocket launch could be conducted soon, possibly this year," the source said, adding that the fourth nuclear test would be much larger than the third, at an equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT.


The tests will be undertaken, the source said, unless Washington holds talks with North Korea and abandons its policy of what Pyongyang sees as attempts at regime change.


North Korea also reiterated its long-standing desire for the United States to sign a final peace agreement with it and establish diplomatic relations, he said. North Korea remains technically at war with both the United States and South Korea after the Korean war ended in 1953 with a truce.


In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland urged North Korea to "refrain from additional provocative actions that would violate its international obligations" under three different sets of U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit nuclear and missile tests.


North Korea "is not going to achieve anything in terms of the health, welfare, safety, future of its own people by these kinds of continued provocative actions. It's just going to lead to more isolation," Nuland told reporters.


The Pentagon also weighed in, calling North Korea's missile and nuclear programs "a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security."


"The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region," said Pentagon spokeswoman Major Catherine Wilkinson.


Initial estimates of this week's test from South Korea's military put its yield at the equivalent of 6-7 kilotons, although a final assessment of yield and what material was used in the explosion may be weeks away.


North Korea's latest test, its third since 2006, prompted warnings from Washington and others that more sanctions would be imposed on the isolated state. The U.N. Security Council has only just tightened sanctions on Pyongyang after it launched a long-range rocket in December.


Pyongyang is banned under U.N. sanctions from developing missile or nuclear technology after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.


North Korea worked to ready its nuclear test site, about 100 km (60 miles) from its border with China, throughout last year, according to commercially available satellite imagery. The images show that it may have already prepared for at least one more test, beyond Tuesday's subterranean explosion.


"Based on satellite imagery that showed there were the same activities in two tunnels, they have one tunnel left after the latest test," said Kune Y. Suh, a nuclear engineering professor at Seoul National University in South Korea.


Analysis of satellite imagery released on Friday by specialist North Korea website 38North showed activity at a rocket site that appeared to indicate it was being prepared for a launch (http://38north.org/2013/02/tonghae021413/).


NORTH 'NOT AFRAID' OF SANCTIONS


President Barack Obama pledged after this week's nuclear test "to lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats" and diplomats at the U.N. Security Council have already started discussing potential new sanctions.


North Korea has said the test was a reaction to "U.S. hostility" following its December rocket launch. Critics say the rocket launch was aimed at developing technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile.


"(North) Korea is not afraid of (further) sanctions," the source said. "It is confident agricultural and economic reforms will boost grain harvests this year, reducing its food reliance on China."


North Korea's isolated and small economy has few links with the outside world apart from China, its major trading partner and sole influential diplomatic ally.


China signed up for international sanctions against North Korea after the 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests and for a U.N. Security Council resolution passed in January to condemn the latest rocket launch. However, Beijing has stopped short of abandoning all support for Pyongyang.


Sanctions have so far not discouraged North Korea from pursuing its nuclear ambitions.


"It is like watching the same movie over and over again," said Lee Woo-young, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies. "The idea that stronger sanctions make North Korea stop developing nuclear programs isn't effective in my view."


The source with ties to Beijing and Pyongyang said China would again support U.N. sanctions. He declined to comment on what level of sanctions Beijing would be willing to endorse.


"When China supported U.N. sanctions ... (North) Korea angrily called China a puppet of the United States," he said. "There will be new sanctions which will be harsh. China is likely to agree to it," he said, without elaborating.


He said however that Beijing would not cut food and fuel supplies to North Korea, a measure it reportedly took after a previous nuclear test.


He said North Korea's actions were a distraction for China's leadership, which was concerned that the escalations could inflame public opinion in China and hasten military build-ups in the region.


The source said he saw little room for compromise under North Korea's youthful new leader, Kim Jong-un. The third Kim to rule North Korea is just 30 years old and took over from his father in December 2011.


He appears to have followed his father, Kim Jong-il, in the "military first" strategy that has pushed North Korea ever closer to a workable nuclear missile at the expense of economic development.


"He is much tougher than his father," the source said.


(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Phillip Stewart in WASHINGTON; Writing by David Chance; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, David Brunnstrom and Jackie Frank)



Read More..

Sand-grain-sized drum extends reach of quantum theory


































The banging of a tiny drum heralds the intrusion of the weird world of quantum mechanics into our everyday experience. Though no bigger than a grain of sand, the drum is the largest object ever to have been caught obeying the uncertainty principle, a central idea in quantum theory.












As well as extending the observed reach of quantum theory, the finding could complicate the hunt for elusive gravitational waves : it suggests that the infinitesimal motion caused by these still-hypothetical ripples in spacetime could be overwhelmed by quantum effects.













The uncertainty principle says that you cannot simultaneously determine both a particle's exact position and momentum. For example, bouncing a photon off an electron will tell you where it is, but it will also change the electron's motion, creating fresh uncertainty in its speed.












This idea limits our ability to measure the properties of very small objects, such as electrons and atoms. The principle should also apply to everyday, macroscopic objects, but this has not been tested – for larger objects, the principle's effects tend to be swamped by other uncertainties in measurement, due to random noise, say.











Quantum drum













To extend the known reach of the uncertainty principle, Tom Purdy and colleagues of the University of Colorado, Boulder, created a drum by tightly stretching a 40-nanometre-thick sheet of silicon nitride over a square frame with sides of half a millimetre – about the width of a grain of sand. They placed the drum inside a vacuum chamber cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero, minimising any interference by random noise.












By continuously firing a stream of photons at the drum they were able to get increasingly precise measurements of the position of the skin at any moment. However, this also caused the skin to vibrate at an unknown speed. When they attempted to determine its momentum, the error in their measurement had increased – just as the uncertainty principle predicts.












"You don't usually have to think about quantum mechanics for objects you can hold in your hand," says Purdy.












That the uncertainty principle holds sway at such a large scale could affect the hunt for gravitational waves, which are predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity but have never been detected.











Mitigation strategy












Gravitational wave detectors look for very slight changes in the distance between two test masses caused by passing spacetime ripples. Purdy says his team's experiment confirms long-held suspicions that quantum uncertainty could overwhelm these very small changes.













Now he and others can use the drum to explore more advanced measurement techniques to mitigate the effects. For example, uncertainty in an object's momentum could lead to future uncertainty in its position and there should be ways to minimise such knock-on effects. "You can't avoid the uncertainty principle, but you can in some clever ways make it [such that] increasing the momentum doesn't add back to the uncertainty in position at a later time," says Purdy.











His experiment is a neat demonstration of the breakdown of the traditional notion that the atomic world is quantum while the macroscopic world is classic, says Gerard Milburn of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, who was not involved in the work. Previous, attempts to blur the quantum-classical divide have involved entangling diamonds and demonstrating quantum superposition in a strip of metal.













Despite these feats, Milburn doesn't rule out the prospect of a breakdown on really large scales. "Of course maybe one day we will see quantum mechanics fail at some scale. Testing it to destruction is a good motivation for going down this path," he says.












Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1231282


















































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.









































































All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the "Report" link in that comment to report it to us.


If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.








Read More..

Athletics: 'Blade Runner' Pistorius charged in girlfriend's murder






PRETORIA: South African police held Olympic amputee sprint star Oscar Pistorius in custody Thursday after charging him with the Valentine's Day murder of his model girlfriend, who was shot four times with a gun registered in his name.

Blonde cover girl Reeva Steenkamp died after suffering wounds to the head and hand in the shooting in the early hours of Thursday.

Police played down reports that the 29-year-old was mistaken for a burglar. They had earlier said she was aged 30.

Twenty-six-year-old Pistorius -- known globally as "Blade Runner" because of his carbon fibre prostheses -- was to appear in court early Friday to answer formal murder charges.

The sprinter became an international celebrity during last year's London Olympics, when he became the first double-amputee to line up on the starting blocks beside able bodied competitors.

He was publicly adored in his native South Africa, though questions had been raised about his colourful private life that was replete with glamorous girlfriends, guns and fast cars.

Police were called to Pistorius's upscale Pretoria home at around 4:00 am by neighbours who heard gunshots inside the gated community.

Police spokeswoman Denise Beukes said the 9mm pistol used in the shooting was registered to Pistorius, who authorities have said is the only suspect in the case.

The police said they would oppose any request for bail.

His arrest has rocked South Africa, where he had been considered a hero.

"Obviously we are shocked," his father Henke Pistorius told AFP. "He is with the police and the matter is in the hands of the authorities."

Steenkamp, once a FHM cover girl, was described as "the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth," by Sarit Tomlins of her management agency.

Born in Cape Town, she grew up in Port Elizabeth where she graduated with a degree in law from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Authorities poured cold water on media reports that she had snuck up on her lover, suggestions that were fuelled by her tweet the day before.

"What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay", she wrote.

"We were surprised by allegations that the deceased had been perceived to be a burglar," police spokeswoman Beukes said.

Police said they were talking to neighbours who heard disturbances on Wednesday evening and around the time of the shooting.

There had been previous allegations of domestic disputes at Pistorius's home.

"There were always rumours attracted to Oscar Pistorius, but most of them I just put down to him being a celebrity," said Kyle Wood, a 25-year-old fellow resident of the Silverlakes community.

In 2009 Pistorius spent a night in jail after allegedly assaulting a 19-year-old woman at a party.

He has often spoken publicly about his fondness for guns.

Last year he told a newspaper he sleeps with a pistol, machine gun, cricket bat and baseball bat for fear of burglars.

He once took a reporter to a nearby shooting range with his 9mm handgun after learning that the journalist had never fired a shot.

There are an estimated 1.5 million gun owners in South Africa, where crime remains a major problem.

Many residents keep weapons at home and equip their houses with electric fences and panic buttons that summon heavily armed guards within minutes.

In November, Pistorius tweeted about arriving home and hearing the washing machine on "and thinking it's an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry! waa."

His right to have a gun was called into question by South Africa's anti-firearms lobby.

To be licensed as a gun owner, Pistorius would have had to seek a competency certificate that requires knowledge of gun laws and interviews with his neighbours to rule out issues around addiction, mental illness or violence.

"With Oscar's case it is quite interesting because it does appear that there was a history of abuse and possible alcohol misuse," said Claire Taylor of Gun Free South Africa.

Pistorius was also known as an adrenaline junkie, with a love of speed reflected in a passion for motorbikes. Four years ago he crashed his boat in a river south of Johannesburg, breaking two ribs, an eye socket and his jaw.

Empty alcohol bottles were found in the boat, but his blood alcohol content was not tested.

Until now his problems off the track had been eclipsed by his success on it.

The Johannesburg-born athlete won gold in the 4x100m relay and the 400m individual at the Paralympic Games in London. He was triple gold medallist in the Beijing games in 2008.

He was named by Time Magazine last year as one of the world's 100 most influential people.

He had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11-months-old after being born without lower leg bones. But he played sports unhindered while growing up, switching to running after fracturing a knee playing rugby.

At high school, he was so good that his personal fitness coach said she was unaware for six months that he ran on prosthetic legs.

Already a South African pay television channel has canned a campaign featuring the runner.

There was no immediate comment from global sports giant Nike on its sponsorship of Pistorius, who it featured in an advert showing the runner setting off from the starting blocks with the line "I am the bullet in the chamber".

- AFP/jc



Read More..

Coach posed as girl to get nude images of boys, police allege




An Irvine baseball coach and high school history teacher posed as a young blonde woman on Facebook to persuade boys to send him pornographic images of themselves, prosecutors alleged this week.



Zachary Reeder, 30, of Orange has been charged with 110 felonies, including 34 counts each of distributing pornography to a minor, contacting a child with the intent to commit a lewd act and using a minor for sex acts.


Other charges include six felony counts of committing a lewd act upon a child and one felony count of bringing obscene material into California, according to court records.


Some of the 35 known victims were between the ages of 14 and 15, according to court documents filed in Orange County.


Reeder allegedly posed as a young blonde woman on Facebook to lure boys into taking sexually explicit photos of themselves and sending them to him, Irvine police said.



Irvine detectives were investigating whether Reeder targeted victims while working at Servite High School in Anaheim, where he has taught history since fall 2008, police said.



Reeder also worked at Beckman High School in Irvine for four seasons, ending last year, as a walk-on assistant baseball coach, police said.


Anyone who believes they may be a victim is asked to call Anthony Sosnowski, an investigator for the district attorney, at (714) 834-8794 or Irvine Police Det. Frough Jahid at (949) 724-7184.

ALSO:


Tow truck driver killed on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu


Dorner manhunt: Investigators pursue 1,000 tips about ex-cop


Dorner manhunt: Girls basketball scholarship honors slain couple


— Lauren Williams and Jeremiah Dobruck, Daily Pilot



Read More..

Asteroid Impacts:10 Biggest Known Hits


There's one physical connection that isn't going down after Valentine's Day this year: Earth and asteroid.

The asteroid known as 2012 DA14 will narrowly miss Earth this Friday, the closest asteroid flyby on record. But the planet has not always been so lucky.

Earth's craters are enduring testaments to direct asteroid hits. And though millions—in some cases billions—of years of erosion have made it difficult to determine the exact size of the meteorites, there is a general scientific consensus around the world's largest craters, which mark the largest asteroid impacts.

Here are the ten biggest known:

1. Vredefort Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 2 billion years ago

Location: Free State, South Africa

Specs: Also known as the Vredefort Dome, the Vredefort crater has an estimated radius of 118 miles (190 kilometers), making it the world's largest known impact structure. This crater was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

2. Sudbury Basin

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 1.8 billion years ago

Location: Ontario, Canada

Specs: The Sudbury Basin is considered one of largest impact structures on Earth, with an estimated diameter of 81 miles (130 kilometers). Dating back 1.8 billion years, it is also one of the oldest known impact structures in the world.

3. Acraman Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 580 million years ago

Location: South Australia, Australia

Specs: Located in what is now Lake Acraman, this impact structure has an estimated diameter of 56 miles (90 kilometers).

4. Woodleigh Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 364 million years ago

Location: Western Australia, Australia

Specs: This crater is not exposed at the surface and has led to many discrepancies regarding its actual size. Reports on its diameter vary from 25 to 75 miles (40 to 120 kilometers).

5. Manicouagan Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 215 million years ago

Location: Quebec, Canada

Specs: This impact crater formed what is now Lake Manicouagan. Even with erosion, it's considered one of the largest and best-preserved craters on Earth, with an estimated diameter of 62 miles (100 kilometers).

6. Morokweng Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 145 million years ago

Location: North West, South Africa

Specs: Located near the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, this crater contained the fossilized remains of the meteorite that created it.

7. Kara Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 70.3 million years ago

Location: Nenetsia, Russia

Specs: Now greatly eroded, the Kara crater is a non-exposed impact structure in Russia. Some have claimed that the impact structure actually consists of two adjacent craters: the Kara and the Ust-Kara crater.

8. Chicxulub Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 65 million years ago

Location: Yucatán, Mexico

Specs: Located on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, many scientists believe that the meteorite that left this crater caused or contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Estimates of its actual diameter range from 106 to a whooping 186 miles (170 to 300 kilometers), which if proved right could mean it's the biggest.

9. Popigai Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 35.7 million years ago

Location: Siberia, Russia

Specs: Russian scientists claim that this crater site contains trillions of carats of diamonds, making it one of the largest diamond deposits in the world. These diamonds have been referred to as "impact diamonds."

10. Chesapeake Bay Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 35 million years ago

Location: Virginia, United States

Specs: Discovered in the early 1980s, the Chesapeake Bay Crater is located approximately 125 miles (201 kilometers) from Washington, D.C. Some estimates suggest this crater is 53 miles (85 kilometers) wide.


Read More..

"Blade Runner" Pistorius charged with murdering girlfriend


JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who became one of the biggest names in world athletics, was charged on Thursday with shooting dead his girlfriend at his upscale home in Pretoria.


Police said they opened a murder case after a 30-year-old woman was found dead at the Paralympic and Olympic star's house in the Silverlakes gated complex on the capital's outskirts.


Pistorius, 26, and his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, had been the only people in the house at the time of the shooting, police brigadier Denise Beukes told reporters, adding witnesses had been interviewed about the early morning incident.


"We are talking about neighbors and people that heard things earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place," Beukes said outside the heavily guarded residential complex.


Police said a 9mm pistol had been found at the scene.


Beukes said police were aware of previous incidents at the Pistorius house. "I can confirm that there has previously been incidents at the home of Mr Oscar Pistorious, of allegations of a domestic nature," she said.


Pistorius, who uses carbon fiber prosthetic blades to run, is due to appear in a Pretoria court on Friday.


"He is doing well but very emotional," his lawyer Kenny Oldwage told SABC TV, but gave no further comment.


A sports icon for triumphing over disability to compete with able-bodied athletes at the Olympics, his sponsorship deals, including one with sports apparel group Nike, are thought to be worth $2 million a year.


South Africa's M-Net cable TV channel said it was pulling adverts featuring Pistorius off air immediately after blanket coverage of the arrest in a country more used to honoring Pistorius as a national hero.


"WE ARE ALL DEVASTATED"


Steenkamp's colleagues in the modeling world were distraught. "We are all devastated. Her family is in shock," her agent, Sarita Tomlinson, tearfully told Reuters. "They did have a good relationship. Nobody actually knows what happened."


Pistorius, who was born without a fibula in both legs, was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics and reached the 400-metre semi-finals in London 2012.


In last year's Paralympics he suffered his first loss over 200 meters in nine years. After the race he questioned the legitimacy of Brazilian winner Alan Oliveira's prosthetic blades, though he was quick to express regret for the comments.


South Africa has some of the world's highest rates of violent crime, and many home owners have weapons to defend themselves against intruders, although Pistorius's complex is surrounded by a three-meter high wall and electric fence.


In 2004, Springbok rugby player Rudi Visagie shot dead his 19-year-old daughter after he mistakenly thought she was a robber trying to steal his car in the middle of the night.


Before the murder charge was announced, Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702 said the athlete may have mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar.


Pistorius was arrested in 2009 for assault after slamming a door on a woman and spent a night in police custody. Family and friends said it was just an accident and charges were dropped.


OLYMPIAN UNDERGOES POLICE TESTS


Steenkamp, a regular on the South African social scene, was reported to have been dating Pistorius for several months.


In the social pages of last weekend's Sunday Independent she described him as having "impeccable" taste. "His gifts are always thoughtful," she was quoted as saying.


Some of her last Twitter postings indicated she was looking forward to Valentine's Day on Thursday. "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???" she posted.


Pistorius was on Thursday being processed through the police system. "At this stage he is on his way to a district surgeon for medical examination," the police brigadier said.


"When a person has been accused of a crime like murder they look at things like testing under the finger nails, taking a blood alcohol sample and all kinds of other test that are done. They are standard medical tests," Beukes said.


Pistorius is also sponsored by British telecoms firm BT, sunglasses maker Oakley and French designer Thierry Mugler.


"We are shocked by this terrible, tragic news. We await the outcome of the South African police investigation," a BT spokeswoman said before Pistorius was charged.


A Nike spokesman in London said before hearing of the murder charge that the company was "saddened by the news, but we have no further comment to make at this stage".


Pistorius also has a sponsorship deal with Icelandic prosthetics manufacturer Ossur.


"I can only say that our thoughts and prayers are with Oscar and the families involved in the tragedy," Ossur CEO Jon Sigurdsson told Reuters. "It is completely premature to discuss or speculate on our business relationship with him."


Neighbors expressed shock at the arrest of a "good guy".


"It is difficult to imagine an intruder entering this community, but we live in a country where intruders can get in wherever they want to," said one Silverlakes resident, who did not want to be named.


"Oscar is a good guy, an upstanding neighbor, and if he is innocent I feel for this guy deeply," he said.


(Additional reporting by Sherilee Lakmidas, David Dolan, Ed Cropley, Jon Herskovitz, Keith Weir and Kate Holton; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Will Waterman)



Read More..

Water wars loom as the US runs dry


* Required fields






















Password must contain only letters and numbers, and be at least 8 characters






Read More..

Tennis: Federer speeds to opening Rotterdam win






ROTTERDAM, Netherlands: Roger Federer began the defence of his Rotterdam World Tennis title by crushing Slovenia's Grega Zemlja 6-3, 6-1 in just 57 minutes on Wednesday.

Federer advanced effortlessly into the second round over last autumn's Vienna finalist and next faces Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker.

The Swiss top seed, and world number two, improved to 22-5 in Rotterdam as he plays the event for the eighth time, never losing before the quarter-finals.

Zemlja slipped to 1-9 against top 10 opposition after beating number nine Janko Tipsarevic in the Vienna semi-finals before losing to Juan Martin del Potro.

Federer raced through the opening set in 29 minutes with a break in the final game and rolled on in the second, taking a 3-1 led before closing out with a break in the penultimate game and a love game to finish with a service winner.

"I've been here and preparing for a few days, but matches are always different than training," said Federer. "The ball flies a bit and you have to be prepared.

"I'll have to be careful against De Bakker. I played him in the Davis Cup (2012). The local players always get up for home matches. I'll have to approach him carefully and not underestimate him."

French seeds moved smoothly on with number four Richard Gasquet picking up where he left off after winning the Montpellier title at the weekend.

The world number 10 cited the tiebreaker as crucial in a 7-6 (7/3), 6-1 defeat of Serb Victor Troicki to reach the second round.

"Winning the breaker was the key to the match," said Gasquet. "I played well and was then more confident at the start of the second set. It was the perfect start for me."

Gasquet is the first man this season on the ATP Tour to win more than one title after starting out in January with Doha honours.

The last time he won more than one title in a season was 2006 when he claimed three.

"I've only lost once this year," said Gasquet whose year record stands at 15-1.

"Of course I hope to keep going like this. My only defeat was to (Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga in Australia. I'm fighting as much as I can for ranking points, that's why I'm here."

Fifth seed Gilles Simon won his second-round encounter with Italian Matteo Viola 6-3, 6-1 while compatriot Julien Benneteau joined him in the quarter-finals at the Ahoy stadium with a victory over Romanian Victor Hanescu, 6-1, 6-3.

German qualifier Matthias Bachinger earned an upset win over Andreas Seppi, the Italian sixth seed, 6-3, 6-4.

- AFP/jc



Read More..

Dorner manhunt leads to deadly standoff

Human remains have been discovered in the debris of a burned cabin in Big Bear. While authorities can't confirm the remains are those of Christopher Dorner, it appears likely they are.









When authorities hemmed in the man they suspected of killing three people in a campaign of revenge that has gripped Southern California, he responded as they had feared: with smoke bombs and a barrage of gunfire.


The suspect, who police believe is fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner, shot to death one San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy and injured another Tuesday. He then barricaded himself in a wood cabin outside Big Bear in the snow-blanketed San Bernardino Mountains, police said.


Just before 5 p.m., authorities smashed the cabin's windows, pumped in tear gas and called for the suspect to surrender. They got no response. Then, using a demolition vehicle, they tore down the cabin's walls one by one. When they reached the last wall, they heard a gunshot.








PHOTOS: Manhunt for ex-LAPD officer


Then the cabin burst into flames. By late Tuesday evening, the smoldering ruins remained too hot for police to enter, but authorities said they believed Dorner's body was inside.


The standoff appeared to end a weeklong hunt for the former L.A. police officer and Navy reserve lieutenant, who is also suspected of killing an Irvine couple and a Riverside police officer. But Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said he would not consider the manhunt over until a body was recovered and identified as Dorner.


"It is a bittersweet night," said Beck as he drove to the hospital where the injured deputy was undergoing surgery. "This could have ended much better, it could have ended worse. I feel for the family of the deputy who lost his life."


TIMELINE: Manhunt for ex-LAPD officer


According to a manifesto Dorner allegedly posted on Facebook, he felt the LAPD unjustly fired him in 2009, when a disciplinary panel determined that he lied in accusing his training officer of kicking a mentally ill man during an arrest. Beck has promised to review the case.


Dorner, 33, vowed to wage "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against law enforcement officers and their families, the manifesto said. "Self-preservation is no longer important to me. I do not fear death as I died long ago."


Last week, authorities had tracked Dorner to a wooded area near Big Bear Lake. They found his torched gray Nissan Titan with several weapons inside. The only trace of Dorner was a short trail of footprints in newly fallen snow.


FULL COVERAGE: Sweeping manhunt for ex-cop


On Tuesday morning two maids entered a cabin in the 1200 block of Club View Drive and ran into a man who they said resembled the fugitive, a law enforcement official said. The cabin was not far from where Dorner's singed truck had been found and where police had been holding press conferences about the manhunt.


The man tied up the maids, and he took off in a purple Nissan parked near the cabin. About 12:20 p.m., one of the maids broke free and called police.


Nearly half an hour later, officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife spotted the stolen vehicle and called for backup. The suspect turned down a side road in an attempt to elude the officers but crashed the vehicle, police said.


A short time later, authorities said the suspect carjacked a light-colored pickup truck. Allan Laframboise said the truck belonged to his friend Rick Heltebrake, who works at a nearby Boy Scout camp.


Heltebrake was driving on Glass Road with his Dalmatian, Suni, when a hulking African American man stepped into the road, Laframboise said. Heltebrake stopped. The man told him to get out of the truck.


"Can I take my dog?" Heltebrake asked, according to his friend.


"You can leave and you can take your dog," the man said. He then sped off in the Dodge extended-cab pickup — and quickly encountered two Department of Fish and Wildlife trucks.


As the suspect zoomed past the officers, he rolled down his window and fired about 15 to 20 rounds. One of the officers jumped out and shot a high-powered rifle at the fleeing pickup. The suspect abandoned the vehicle and took off on foot.





Read More..

Owl Monkeys Shed Light on Evolution of Love


It may not seem like monkey business, but emotional bonds in animals such as primates may have evolved into love as we know it.

Take owl monkeys, tiny tropical tree-dwellers that treat every day like it's Valentine's Day. A male and a female stick together as long as possible, never cheat, and never "divorce" their mates—extremely unusual behavior, even among people. (Also see "Male Monkeys Wash With Urine to Attract Females?")

Sometimes, though, young adult owl monkeys that can't find mates—monkeys that scientists call floaters—pick vicious fights with established pairs, eventually kicking one of them out.

Now, new research shows that the monkeys forced to take on new partners have fewer babies than owl monkeys that haven't been broken up, said Eduardo Fernandez-Duque, a biological anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia who led a new study on owl monkey relationships.

The results show how monogamy helps owl monkeys—and may even shed light on how human relationships evolved.

"Call it love, call it friendship, call it marriage—there is something in our biology that leads to this enduring, emotional bond between two individuals that is widespread among human societies," Fernandez-Duque said in a statement.

Trouble in Paradise

Only about 5 percent of mammals are monogamous, and the phenomenon most often arises when both parents are needed to raise offspring, as in the case of people.

With owl monkeys, fathers take on most of the childcare after a baby is born, relying on the mother only for milk. (See video: "Owl Monkey Fathers Know Best?")

But floaters—which Fernandez-Duque and colleagues first noticed in 2003 in Argentina's Chaco region (map)—can spell trouble in paradise.

Drawing on nearly two decades of observations of 18 owl monkey groups, the team discovered that pairs that stay intact produce 25 percent more babies than monkeys in severed pairs.

The exiled animal from those broken relationships, meanwhile, is usually injured and often dies.

Since the team studied more than 150 animals, "I felt very confident that what he was telling us is a real phenomenon—it's not a flash in the pan," noted Patricia Wright, who was one of the first people to study owl monkeys in the 1980s.

"He had the goods on the animals. I was really excited about that," said Wright, an anthropologist at Stony Brook University in New York.

Wright said she was personally pleased that the study reinforced findings that owl monkeys stay true to one another unless forced to separate.

"I knew that these little monkeys didn't fool around," she said.

Chemistry of Love

Why monkeys that are broken up have fewer babies is unknown, though Fernandez-Duque suspects there's an emotional component. (See more pictures of all-star animal dads.)

Just as a man and a woman need time to get to know each other and form a deep connection, so do owl monkeys. So when a marauding monkey enters into a new relationship, there's a delay in mating—usually about a year, Fernandez-Duque  said.

In fact, pair bonding in monogamous animals, such as owl monkeys, may be "sort of evolutionary antecedent to love in humans," said Larry Young, a behavioral neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta and author of the new book The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction.

Young, who studies the brain chemistry of love and emotion, does most of his research on monogamous prairie voles.

Though human love is a rich emotion reflective of our advanced brains, he said, "the foundation of that emotion is very similar to the neuromechanisms that are causing the bond between these two prairie voles."

For instance, experiments have shown that if a vole loses its partner, the "widowed" animal shows depressive symptoms—measured by a lack of willingness to escape a dangerous situation.

According to Young, our brains are in the love seat, so to speak: The organs "have evolved the mechanism to produce an emotional attachment," he said.

That attachment is spurred by oxytocin—produced during intimate contact in both people and animals—and dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of exhilaration and happiness.

So, many splendored as it is, love, he said, "is really the result of a cocktail of chemicals."

The owl monkey study was published January 23 in the journal PLoS ONE.


Read More..

Ovation for Pope Benedict at final public mass


VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A capacity crowd in St Peter's Basilica gave Pope Benedict a thunderous standing ovation on Wednesday at an emotional last public Mass before he resigns at the end of the month.


"Thank you. Now, let's return to prayer," the 85-year-old pontiff said, bringing an end to several minutes of applause that clearly moved him. In an unusual gesture, bishops took off their mitres in a sign of respect and a few of them wept.


One of the priests at the altar, which according to tradition rests above the tomb of St Peter, took out a handkerchief to dry his tears.


The Mass was moved to St Peter's from a venue in Rome so more people could attend. Hundreds of others waited outside.


Hours earlier in the Vatican's modern audience hall, a visibly moved Benedict tried to assure his worldwide flock, saying he was confident his decision to step down would not hurt the Church.


The Vatican, meanwhile, announced that a conclave to elect his successor would start sometime between March 15 and March 20, in keeping with Church rules about the timing of such gatherings after the papal see becomes vacant.


"Continue to pray for me, for the Church and for the future pope," he said in unscripted remarks at the start of his weekly general audience, his first public appearance since his shock decision on Monday that he will step down on February 28.


It was the first time Benedict, 85, who will retire to a convent inside the Vatican, exchanging the splendor of his 16th century Apostolic Palace for a sober modern residence, had uttered the words "future pope" in public.


Church officials are still so stunned by the move that the Vatican experts have yet to decide what his title will be and whether he will continue to wear the white of a pope, the red of a cardinal or the black of an ordinary priest.


His voice sounded strong at the audience but he was clearly moved and his eyes appeared to be watering as he reacted to the thunderous applause in the Vatican's vast audience hall, packed with more than 8,000 people.


In brief remarks in Italian that mirrored those he read in Latin to stunned cardinals on Monday he appeared to try to calm Catholics' fears of the unknown.


He message was that God would continue to guide the Church.


EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE


"I took this decision in full freedom for the good of the Church after praying for a long time and examining my conscience before God," he said.


He said he was "well aware of the gravity of such an act," but also aware that he no longer had the strength required to run the 1.2 billion member Roman Catholic Church, which has been beset by a string of scandals both in Rome and round the world.


Benedict said he was sustained by the "certainty that the Church belongs to Christ, who will never stop guiding it and caring for it" and suggested that the faithful should also feel comforted by this.


He said that he had "felt almost physically" the affection and kindness he had received since he announced the decision.


When Benedict resigned on Monday, the Vatican spokesman said the pontiff did not fear schism in the Church after his resignation.


Some 115 cardinals under the age of 80 will be eligible to enter a secret conclave to elect his successor.


Cardinals around the world have already begun informal consultations by phone and email to construct a profile of the man they think would be best suited to lead the Church in a period of continuing crisis.


The conservative Benedict has appointed more than half of the cardinals who will elect his successor so it is unlikely the new man will tamper with any teachings such as the ban on artificial birth control or women priests.


But many in the Church have been calling for the election of someone who they say will be a better listener to other opinions in the Church.


The likelihood that the next pope would be a younger man and perhaps a non-Italian, was increasing, particularly because of the many mishaps caused by Benedict's mostly Italian top aides.


Benedict has been faulted for putting too much power in the hands of his friend, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Critics of Bertone, effectively the Vatican's chief administrator, said he should have prevented some papal mishaps and bureaucratic blunders.


ILL-SERVED POPE


"These scandals, these miscommunications, in many cases were caused by Pope Benedict's own top aides and I think a lot of Catholics around the world think that he was perhaps ill-served by some of the cardinals here," said John Thavis, author of a new book, The Vatican Diaries.


Benedict's papacy was rocked by crises over sex abuse of children by priests in Europe and the United States, most of which preceded his time in office but came to light during it.


His reign also saw Muslim anger after he compared Islam with violence. Jews were upset over rehabilitation of a Holocaust denier. During a scandal over the Church's business dealings, his butler was accused of leaking his private papers.


"When cardinals arrive here for the conclave ... they are going to have this on their mind, they're going to take a good hard look at how Pope Benedict was served, and I think many of them feel that the burden of the papacy that finally weighed so heavy on Benedict was caused in part by some of this in-fighting (among his administration)," Thavis told Reuters.


Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi urged the faithful to remain confident in the Church and its future.


"Those who may feel a bit disorientated or stunned by this, or have a hard time understanding the Holy Father's decision should look at it in the context of faith and the certainty that Christ will support his Church," Lombardi said.


Lombardi said that on his last day in office, Benedict would receive cardinals in a farewell meeting and after February 28 his ring of office, used to seal official documents, would be destroyed just as if he had died.


(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Giles Elgood)



Read More..

Today on New Scientist: 12 February 2013







Exploring oscillation proves a moving experience

From the animating pigs' hearts to diving into an acoustic pod, an exhibition exploring the world of oscillation is full of surprises



Gene therapy cures diabetic dogs

Diabetic beagles haven't needed an insulin injection for four years following treatment with two genes that work together to regulate glucose



Withering heights: Why animals are shrinking

It might sound incredible, but many animals are shrinking - and they will become ever tinier in the centuries to come



Suspicious quake gives away North Korea's third nuke

The magnitude-4.9 earthquake was probably due to a 10-kiloton underground nuclear bomb; the next step is to monitor for signs of radioactive gas



Latest Landsat in 40-year mission blasts off

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission, the newest addition to NASA's 40-year mission monitoring Earth from space, blasted into orbit yesterday



Robotic tormenter depresses lab rats

A new robotic rat induces stress and depression in lab animals, creating models of psychological disorders for testing new drugs



Curiosity's first drilling hints at Martian mining

The NASA rover has sampled beneath the Martian surface, perhaps laying the groundwork for future craft to build on or even mine the Red Planet



Algorithm learns how to revive lost languages

An automated system that reconstructs ancient languages could help recover the sound of words not spoken for thousands of years



Arctic sunshine cranks up threat from greenhouse gases

Soil microbes break down organic matter in permafrost more rapidly when exposed to ultraviolet light, so sunshine could speed up carbon dioxide release



Trading places with us makes robots better teammates

It's good when co-workers understand each other - especially if one of them is a robot. Read how a mechanical arm learned the mind of Celeste Biever



Wind power is now cheaper than coal in some countries

Steady technological improvements and uncertainty over the future of fossil fuels are making wind power truly competitive




Read More..

Football: Valencia maintain hope against clinical PSG






VALENCIA, Spain: Paris Saint-Germain will take a 2-1 lead into the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Valencia, but a dramatic late turn of events handed the Spanish side a lifeline.

Going into the 90th minute here at the Mestalla on Tuesday, the French league leaders appeared in cruise control thanks to first-half goals from Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore.

However, French international centre-back Adil Rami found the net in the final minute to keep Valencia in the tie, before PSG had Zlatan Ibrahimovic controversially sent-off for a studs-up challenge on Andres Guardado.

The Swede, who has been criticised in the past for failing to produce his very best in the Champions League knockout stages, will now miss the return leg at the Parc des Princes next month, but at least PSG will have a lead to defend in that game.

Despite the ending, for much of the evening this was a classic away European performance from the French league leaders, as Carlo Ancelotti's side ceded possession to their hosts but were always a threat on the counter-attack.

History suggested that this would be a major test for PSG, who were playing a knockout tie in Europe's top club competition for the first time since 1995.

Since then, Valencia had reached two Champions League finals, and had never been beaten by French opposition at their Mestalla home.

However, PSG backed by massive investment from their Qatari owners are emerging as a major continental force, and they travelled to Spain with their confidence buoyed by a run of 12 matches without defeat in all competitions.

Valencia have considerably improved since Ernesto Valverde took over as coach two months ago, and they had held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw in their last home outing.

However, they got off to a nightmare start to this game, with the lively Lucas Moura crashing a shot from 25 yards off the post as a prelude to the visitors' opening goal.

Lavezzi has been outstanding during PSG's superb recent run, and it was no great surprise to see the Argentine break the deadlock as he played a lovely one-two with Pastore before sending in a shot that Vicente Guaita in the home goal really should have kept out.

PSG allowed Valencia to dominate possession after that, but they were always a menace on the break, especially down the home side's left, where the attack-minded Guardado had been forced to fill in for the injured Aly Cissokho and Jeremy Mathieu.

Lucas forced a save from Guaita at the end of a quick break, and Pastore was also denied after again combining neatly with Pastore, while all Valencia could offer in return was a Jonas header that passed high over the bar.

They then fell further behind when Lucas turned the unfortunate Guardado inside-out on the right flank before picking out Pastore, whose first-time shot was too good for Guaita.

Valverde made a double change at half-time, with Sergio Canales and Nelson Valdez replacing Ever Banega and Jonas, but the pattern of the game remained much the same.

The Spanish side had plenty of the ball, but PSG came closest to scoring again, with Lavezzi squandering a glorious chance after being picked out by a brilliant Marco Verratti pass.

Ibrahimovic almost netted a classy third goal after a one-two with substitute Clement Chantome, who then saw his follow-up effort disallowed for offside.

But then Valencia finally found a route back into the contest as Rami appeared unmarked in the area to head home a trademark dead-ball delivery from Tino Costa before Ibrahimovic was given his marching orders.

- AFP/de



Read More..