Earth may be crashing through dark matter walls



































Earth is constantly crashing through huge walls of dark matter, and we already have the tools to detect them. That's the conclusion of physicists who say the universe may be filled with a patchwork quilt of force fields created shortly after the big bang.












Observations of how mass clumps in space suggest that about 86 per cent of all matter is invisible dark matter, which interacts with ordinary matter mainly through gravity. The most popular theory is that dark matter is made of weakly interacting massive particles.











WIMPs should also interact with ordinary matter via the weak nuclear force, and their presence should have slight but measurable effects. However, years of searches for WIMPs have been coming up empty.













"So far nothing is found, and I feel like it's time to broaden the scope of our search," says Maxim Pospelov of the University of Victoria in Canada. "What we propose is to look for some other signatures."











Bubbly cosmos













Pospelov and colleagues have been examining a theory that at least some of the universe's dark matter is tied up in structures called domain walls, akin to the boundaries between tightly packed bubbles. The idea is that the hot early universe was full of an exotic force field that varied randomly. As the universe expanded and cooled, the field froze, leaving a patchwork of domains, each with its own distinct value for the field.












Having different fields sit next to each other requires energy to be stored within the domain walls. Mass and energy are interchangeable, so on a large scale a network of domain walls can look like concentrations of mass – that is, like dark matter, says Pospelov.












If the grid of domain walls is packed tightly enough – say, if the width of the domains is several hundred times the distance between Earth and the sun – Earth should pass through a domain wall once every few years. "As a human, you wouldn't feel a thing," says Pospelov. "You will go through the wall without noticing." But magnetometers – devices that, as the name suggests, measure magnetic fields – could detect the walls, say Pospelov and colleagues in a new study. Although the field inside a domain would not affect a magnetometer, the device would sense the change when Earth passes through a domain wall.












Dark matter walls have not been detected yet because anyone using a single magnetometer would find the readings swamped by noise, Pospelov says. "You'd never be able to say if it's because the Earth went through a bizarre magnetic field or if a grad student dropped their iPhone or something," he says.











Network needed













Finding the walls will require a network of at least five detectors spread around the world, Pospelov suggests. Colleagues in Poland and California have already built one magnetometer each and have shown that they are sensitive enough for the scheme to work.












Domain walls wouldn't account for all the dark matter in the universe, but they could explain why finding particles of the stuff has been such a challenge, says Pospelov.












If domain walls are found, the news might come as a relief to physicists still waiting for WIMPs to show up. Earlier this month, for instance, a team working with a detector in Russia that has been running for more than 24 years announced that they have yet to see any sign of these dark matter candidates.












Douglas Finkbeiner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who was not involved in Pospelov's study, isn't yet convinced that dark matter walls exist. But he is glad that physicists are keeping an open mind about alternatives to WIMPs.












"We've looked for WIMP dark matter in so many ways," he says. "At some point you have to ask, are we totally on the wrong track?"












Journal reference: Physical Review Letters, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.110.021803


















































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Scope to expand health screening programmes for elderly: Koh Poh Koon






SINGAPORE: The People's Action Party (PAP) candidate for the Punggol East by-election Dr Koh Poh Koon said he plans to set up a wellness centre for the elderly to help senior residents age actively.

He said there is scope to expand health screening and preventive programmes for the elderly in the ward.

Dr Koh told reporters that plans are still in early stages but the centre will be built as part of the new Community Centre, to be located near Rivervale Plaza.

He said fundraising for the new centre has reached 50 per cent.

Dr Koh added that he will push forward on this effort if and when he is elected MP for the area.

- CNA/ck



Read More..

Local volunteers answer call for National Day of Service









Lillie Council and Leah Gipson sat at a small table at Navy Pier's USO office Saturday with stacks of blank postcards and stationery piled between them.

They put pen to paper and wrote notes, one by one, to American troops serving overseas, doing their part to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in the National Day of Service that precedes the federal holiday recognizing him Monday.

"Sometimes when you're away from home, you just need that little bit of comfort from home, even if it's from a stranger," said Council, who said she served in the Army for six years in the 1980s.

"I think it just makes someone's day to know they're appreciated and they're thought of," she said.

Council and Gipson joined volunteers across the country Saturday — including President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama — who donated their time and effort to more than 2,000 public service projects as part of the National Day of Service.

The King holiday has long included a call for Americans to volunteer. But Obama gave the movement new life before his first inauguration four years ago, when he encouraged Americans to honor King's legacy through service.

He and his wife renewed that call this year as they prepared for Obama's public inauguration ceremony Monday.

More than 60 volunteer events were scheduled in the Chicago area Saturday, from the USO letter-writing campaign to a blood drive in Bolingbrook and a project in Grayslake to gather laundry detergent and bagged lunches for people staying at a Lake County homeless shelter.

At the USO event, donated candy, granola bars and trail mix filled a table. More than 100 people were expected to donate goods or write letters to troops by the end of the day, said Chris Miller, director of center operations and volunteer services for the USO of Illinois.

Gipson said she decided to write letters to troops after reflecting on the sacrifices her relatives made. Her father served in the Army in Vietnam, and her brother served in the Marine Corps in Iraq, she said.

"When I'm writing these letters, I picture my dad, I picture my brother, and I think about what they would have needed to hear while they were away from their families and away from home," Gipson said.

In the South Loop neighborhood, about two dozen volunteers scrubbed doors, door frames and window sills at The Studios, a 170-unit affordable housing building at East 18th Street and South Wabash Avenue.

The volunteers cleaned every door in the building so quickly that they soon began spreading out in search of other areas that needed sprucing up.

"I love it," said Maggie McGuire, a member of Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church who helped organize the project. "I'm doing it because I believe that decent, affordable housing is a basic right."

Laura Shiplet, another church member, said that volunteering at The Studios made her feel like she's keeping King's legacy alive.

"I want to be part of his dream, especially this weekend," Shiplet said, a bucket of soapy water at her feet. "It's like a big celebration of Martin Luther King's life."

rhaggerty@tribune.com

Twitter @RyanTHaggerty



Read More..

Attack at Algeria Gas Plant Heralds New Risks for Energy Development



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


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



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

Map by National Geographic



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


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


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


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


"A Hot Place to Drill"


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


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


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


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


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


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


Read More..

Algeria Hostage Crisis Over, One American Dead













After the Algerian military's final assault on terrorists holding hostages at a gas complex, the four-day hostage crisis is over, but apparently with additional loss of life among the foreign hostages.


One American, Fred Buttaccio of Texas, has been confirmed dead by the U.S. State Department. Two more U.S. hostages remain unaccounted for, with growing concern among U.S. officials that they did not survive.


But another American, Mark Cobb of Corpus Christi, Texas is now confirmed as safe. Sources close to his family say Cobb, who is a senior manager of the facility, is safe and reportedly sent a text message " I'm alive."










Inside Algerian Hostage Crisis, One American Dead Watch Video









American Hostages Escape From Algeria Terrorists Watch Video





In a statement, President Obama said, "Today, the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the families of all those who were killed and injured in the terrorist attack in Algeria. The blame for this tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out, and the United States condemns their actions in the strongest possible terms. ... This attack is another reminder of the threat posed by al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups in North Africa."


According to Algerian state media, 32 militants are dead and a total of 23 hostages perished during the four-day siege of the In Amenas facility in the Sahara. The Algerian Interior Ministry also says 107 foreign nationals who worked at the facility for BP and other firms were rescued or escaped from the al Qaeda-linked terrorists who took over the BP joint venture facility on Wednesday.


The Japanese government says it fears "very grave" news, with multiple casualties among the 10 Japanese citizens working at the In Amenas gas plant.


Five British nationals and one U.K. resident are either deceased or unaccounted for in the country, according to British Foreign Minister William Hague. Hague also said that the Algerians have reported that they are still trying to clear boobytraps from the site.




Read More..

NASA planet-hunter is injured and resting



Lisa Grossman, physical sciences reporter

Kepler-deadwheel2.jpg


(Image: NASA/Kepler mission/Wendy Stenzel)


NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope has put its search for alien Earths on hold while it rests a stressed reaction wheel.


The injured wheel normally helps to control the telescope's orientation, keeping it pointed continuously at the same patch of sky. Kepler stares at the thousands of stars in its field of view to watch for the telltale blinks that occur when a planet crosses in front of its star. It has found nearly 3000 potential planets outside our solar system since its launch in 2009, transforming the field of exoplanet research and raising hopes of someday finding alien life.


When it launched, Kepler had four reaction wheels: three to control its motion along each axis, and one spare. But last July, one wheel stopped turning. If the spacecraft loses a second wheel, the mission is over.






So when another wheel started showing signs of elevated friction on 7 January, the team decided to play it safe. After rotating the spacecraft failed to fix the problem, NASA announced yesterday that they're placing Kepler in safe mode for 10 days to give the wheel a chance to recover.


The hope is that the lubricating oil that helps the wheel's ball bearings run smoothly around a track will redistribute itself during the rest period.


The telescope can't take any science data while in safe mode. But if the wheel recovers on its own, Kepler's extended mission will run until 2016, leaving it plenty of time to make up for the lost days.


"Kepler is a statistical mission," says Charlie Sobeck, Kepler's deputy project manager at NASA's Ames Research Centre in Mountain View, California. "In the long run, as long as we make the observations, it doesn't matter a lot when we make the observations."


Despite the high stakes, the team doesn't seem too worried.


"Each wheel has its own personality, and this particular wheel has been something of a free spirit," Sobeck says. "It's had elevated torques throughout the mission. This one is typical to what we've seen in the past, and if we had four good wheels we probably wouldn't have taken any action."


"I prefer to picture the spacecraft lounging at the shore of the cosmic ocean sipping a Mai Tai so that she'll be refreshed and rejuvenated for more discoveries," wrote Kepler co-investigator Natalie Batalha in an email.


The team will check up on the wheel on 27 January and return to doing science as soon as possible.


There are two exoplanet missions currently being considered for after Kepler is finished, says Doug Hudgins at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. One, TESS (Terrestrial Exoplanet Survey Satellite), would scan the entire sky for planets transiting the stars nearest to the sun. The other, FINESSE (Fast Infrared Exoplanet Spectroscopy Survey Explorer), would take spectra of planets as they passed in front of their stars as a way to probe their atmospheres.


The missions are being evaluated now, and NASA will probably select one this spring, Hudgins says. The winner will launch in 2017.


If Kepler goes down with its reaction wheel, that won't affect which mission wins, he adds. "That's a straight-up competition based on the merits of the two concept study reports."




Read More..

SDA will "make use of new technology" to reach out to residents






SINGAPORE: The Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) will not be holding an on site rally for the Punggol East by-election on Sunday.

The Party's candidate Desmond Lim said the party will "make use of new technology" to reach out to residents.

This will likely to be in the form an online rally which will be streamed.

Mr Lim was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a visit to the Arulmigu Velmurugan Gnanamuneeswarar Temple at Rivervale Crescent.

He said cost was an important factor in the decision, made unanimously by party members.

He said running an election is costly, and the party is small, with limited resources.

Mr Lim said using new media will also reach out to Punggol East residents, many of whom are younger and are more tech-savvy.

He added the party would release details of this arrangement "very soon".

Mr Lim added that the decision was not because the party could not get their rally application approved.

- CNA/ck



Read More..

Notre Dame's Te'o: 'There is no way that I could be part of this'









Manti Te'o broke his silence late Friday and denied any involvement in the dead girlfriend hoax that has consumed the former Notre Dame All-American for days, while saying the man behind the ruse called two days ago to apologize for it.

"I wasn't faking it," Te'o told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap in an off-camera interview. "I wasn't part of this."

A 22-year-old named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo allegedly preyed upon Te'o in creating a bogus woman named Lennay Kekua who began an online- and telephone-only relationship with Te'o, Notre Dame's bellwether linebacker, only to die in September of leukemia and create a personal back story that propelled Te'o to national renown but ultimately crumbled this week.


Schaap reported after a two and a half hour interview with Te'o that the player wasn't completely sure Kekua did not exist until two days ago -- when Tuiasosopo called Te'o to admit he was behind the hoax and apologize for it.


As for at least one glaring inconsistency -- the story of how Te'o and Kekua met -- the former Irish star admitted to a lie. The relationship, such as it was, began during Te'o's sophomore year at Notre Dame via Facebook, he told ESPN. He attempted to contact Kekua via Skype and Facetime but never saw a face on the other end, Te'o said.





And as for the story of meeting Kekua on the field at Stanford in 2009, a tale retold by his father in October, Te'o said: "I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away."


ESPN reported Friday that Tuiasosopo called a friend from church in early December and admitted he duped Te'o, without the Notre Dame linebacker playing a part in the deception. Deadspin.com, which broke the girlfriend hoax story Wednesday, reported that Te'o might have played a role in the fraud.

Te'o denied that he used the situation to enhance his Heisman Trophy candidacy. He finished second in the voting to Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

"When (people) hear the facts, they'll know," Te'o told ESPN. "They'll know that there is no way that I could be part of this."

Te'o did say the ordeal weighed on him during Notre Dame's 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS title game, in which he played arguably one of the worst games of his career.


"It affected me," Te'o said. "When you're stuck in big game like that... people depend on you. You need to perform."

bchamilton@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribHamilton





Read More..

Attack at Algeria Gas Plant Heralds New Risks for Energy Development



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


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



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

Map by National Geographic



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


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


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


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


"A Hot Place to Drill"


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


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


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


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


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


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


Read More..

Armstrong Tearful Over Telling Kids Truth













Lance Armstrong, 41, began to cry today as he described finding out his son Luke, 13, was publicly defending him from accusations that he doped during his cycling career.


Armstrong said that he knew, at that moment, that he would have to publicly admit to taking performance-enhancing drugs and having oxygen-boosting blood transfusions when competing in the Tour de France. He made those admissions to Oprah Winfrey in a two-part interview airing Thursday and tonight.


"When this all really started, I saw my son defending me, and saying, 'That's not true. What you're saying about my dad? That's not true,'" Armstrong said, tearing up during the second installment of his interview tonight. "And it almost goes to this question of, 'Why now?'


"That's when I knew I had to talk," Armstrong said. "He never asked me. He never said, 'Dad, is this true?' He trusted me."


He told Winfrey that he sat down with his children over the holidays to come clean about his drug use.


"I said, 'Listen, there's been a lot of questions about your dad, about my career and whether I doped or did not dope,'" he said he told them. "'I always denied that. I've always been ruthless and defiant about that, which is why you defended me, which makes it even sicker' I said, 'I want you to know that it's true.'"


He added that his mother was "a wreck" over the scandal.


Armstrong said that the lowest point in his fall from grace and the top of the cycling world came when his cancer charity, Livestrong, asked him to consider stepping down.






George Burns/Harpo Studios, Inc.











Lance Armstrong-Winfrey Interview: How Honest Was He? Watch Video









Lance Armstrong-Winfrey Interview: Doping Confession Watch Video







After the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency alleged in October that Armstrong doped throughout his reign as Tour de France champion, Armstrong said, his major sponsors -- including Nike, Anheuser Busch and Trek -- called one by one to end their endorsement contracts with him.


"Everybody out," he said. "Still not the most humbling moment."


Then came the call from Livestrong, the charity he founded at age 25 when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.


"The story was getting out of control, which was my worst nightmare," he said. "I had this place in my mind that they would all leave. The one I didn't think would leave was the foundation.


"That was most humbling moment," he said.


Armstrong first stepped down as chairman of the board for the charity before being asked to end his association with the charity entirely. Livestrong is now run independently of Armstrong.


"I don't think it was 'We need you to step down,' but, 'We need you to consider stepping down for yourself,'" he said, recounting the call. "I had to think about that a lot. None of my kids, none of my friends have said, 'You're out,' and the foundation was like my sixth child. To make that decision, to step aside, that was big."


In Thursday's interview installment, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France admitted publicly for the first time that he doped throughout his career, confirming after months of angry denials the findings of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which stripped him of his titles in October.


He told Winfrey that he was taking the opportunity to confess to everything he had done wrong, including for years angrily denying claims that he had doped.


READ MORE: Armstrong Admits to Doping


WATCH: Armstrong's Many Denials Caught on Tape


READ MORE: 10 Scandalous Public Confessions






Read More..

Matching names to genes: the end of genetic privacy?

















Continue reading page

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Are we being too free with our genetic information? What if you started receiving targeted ads for Prozac for the depression risk revealed by your publicly accessible genome? As increasing amounts of genetic information is placed online, many researchers believe that guaranteeing donors' privacy has become an impossible task.












The first major genetic data collection began in 2002 with the International HapMap Project – a collaborative effort to sequence genomes from families around the world. Its aim was to develop a public resource that will help researchers find genes associated with human disease and drug response.












While its consent form assured participants that their data would remain confidential, it had the foresight to mention that with future scientific advances, a deliberate attempt to match a genome with its donor might succeed. "The risk was felt to be very remote," says Laura Lyman Rodriguez of the US government's National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.












Their fears proved to be founded: in a paper published in Science this week, a team led by Yaniv Erlich of the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, used publicly available genetic information and an algorithm they developed to identify some of the people who donated their DNA to HapMap's successor, the 1000 Genomes Project.











Anonymity not guaranteed












Erlich says the research was inspired by a New Scientist article in which a 15-year-old boy successfully used unique genetic markers called short tandem repeats (STRs) on his Y chromosome to track down his father, who was an anonymous sperm donor. Erlich and his team used a similar approach.













First they turned to open-access genealogy databases, which attempt to link male relatives using matching surnames and similar STRs. The team chose a few surnames from these sources, such as "Venter",and then searched for the associated STRs in the 1000 Genomes Project's collection of whole genomes. This allowed them to identify which complete genomes were likely to be from people named Venter.












Although the 1000 Genome Project's database, which at last count had 1092 genomes, does not contain surname data, it does contain demographic data such as the ages and locations of its donors. By searching online phonebooks for people named Venter and narrowing those down to the geographic regions and ages represented in the whole genomes, the researchers were able to find the specific person who had donated his data.












In total, the researchers identified 50 individuals who had donated whole genomes. Some of these were female, whose identity was given away because of having the same location and age as a known donor's wife.











Matter of time













Before publishing their findings, the team warned the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other institutions involved in the project about the vulnerability in their data. Rodriguez says that they had been anticipating that someone would identify donors, "although we didn't know how or when".












To prevent Erlich's method from being used successfully again, age data has been removed from the project's website. Erlich says that this makes it difficult, although not impossible, to narrow the surnames down to an individual.












"The genie's out of the bottle," says Jeffrey Kahn of Florida State University in Tallahassee. "It's a harbinger of a changing paradigm of privacy." A cultural zeitgeist led by companies such as Facebook has led to more information sharing than anyone would have thought possible back in 2002 when HapMap first began, he says.











Recurring problem













This is not the first time genome confidentiality has been compromised. When James Watson made his genome public in 2007, he blanked out a gene related to Alzheimer's. But a group of researchers successfully inferred whether he carried the risky version of this gene by examining the DNA sequences on either side of the redacted gene.












While someone is bound to find another way to identify genetic donors, says Rodriguez, the NIH believes it would be wrong to remove all of their genome data from the public domain. She says that full accessibility is "very beneficial to science", but acknowledges that the project needs to strike a careful balance between confidentiality and open access.












It is especially pertinent, says Kahn, because genetic data does not just carry information from the person from whom it was taken. It can also reveal the genetic details of family members, some of whom might not want that information to be public. A relative's genome might reveal your own disease risk, for example, which you might not want to know or have an employer learn of. While laws prohibit health insurers and employers from discriminating against people based on their genetic data, it would not be difficult to give another reason for denying you a job.












An individual's relatives could not prevent that individual from learning about themselves, says Rodriguez, but researchers should encourage would-be genome donors to discuss the risks and benefits with their families.

























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Kim Dotcom poised for return with Megaupload successor






WELLINGTON: Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom will launch a new file-sharing site at his Auckland mansion on Sunday, exactly a year after armed police arrested him at the same venue in the world's largest online piracy case.

Dotcom's new venture, mega.co.nz, aims to recreate the success of his Megaupload empire, which boasted 50 million daily visitors and accounted for four percent of all Internet traffic before it was shut down after the police raid.

The 38-year-old, who changed his name from Kim Schmitz, remains free on bail in New Zealand as US authorities seek his extradition on a range of charges including money laundering, racketeering and copyright theft.

They allege Megaupload sites netted more than US$175 million in criminal proceeds and cost copyright owners more than US$500 million by offering pirated copies of movies, TV shows, music and other content.

Dotcom denies any wrongdoing and the charges, which carry jail terms of up to 20 years, have not discouraged him from launching the new Mega service, which he has enthusiastically promoted on Twitter in recent weeks.

"I think you will be very happy with the new #Mega," he tweeted Friday, "It's like time travel. We'll take you to the future!!!"

The tech entrepreneur has promised an "epic" launch for the new site and even impersonated Willy Wonka to promote it at an Auckland shop on Thursday, handing out tubs of ice cream with golden tickets to the event hidden in them.

Details of the planned service are scarce, but the site promises to use state-of-the-art encryption methods that mean only users, not the site's administrators, know what they are uploading.

That would theoretically stop authorities from accusing administrators of knowingly aiding online piracy, the central allegation facing Dotcom.

Dotcom has said Mega will offer users 50GB of free storage, significantly more than similar sites such as Dropbox and Google Drive, but most details remain under wraps until they are unveiled Sunday at the Dotcom Mansion.

The German national was preparing for his birthday party at the lavish Auckland property in January last year when armed police staged a dawn raid, tracking him down in a hidden panic room running off his bedroom.

Officers seized more than a dozen luxury cars, including a 1959 pink Cadillac, along with valuable artworks and a sawn-off shotgun, while Dotcom's bank accounts were frozen and he spent more than a month in jail.

Eventually freed on bail, his legal team have enjoyed a number of successes challenging the prosecution case, including a ruling that the police raid was illegal and a government admission that Dotcom was illegally spied upon before his arrest.

The extradition hearing is due to be heard in August.

-AFP/fl



Read More..

Former Chicago businessman gets 14 years in terror case









Throughout Thursday's sentencing, Tahawwur Rana's children appeared nervous, his college student son bouncing his leg rapidly and his daughter, a high schooler, leaning forward with her hands clasped tightly.


After all, their father, a former doctor and businessman who was convicted in one of Chicago's most significant terrorism cases, now faced up to 30 years in prison for aiding and abetting a plot to slay and behead Danish newspaper staffers because of cartoons the paper published of the Prophet Muhammad. Rana also had been convicted of providing support to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani terrorist organization.


But at the end of the 90-minute hearing, the brother and sister left the crowded courtroom appearing much relieved — their faces visibly softened — after U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber sentenced Rana to 14 years in prison, a little less than half of the maximum.





After court, Rana's attorneys expressed satisfaction with the sentence after arguments from federal prosecutors that Rana, 52, should serve the full 30-year term.


"I thought we had the law on our side, frankly," said Rana's attorney, Patrick Blegen. "But obviously it's a scary proposition when the government asks for such a lengthy sentence. And his family was very concerned."


Rana's trial drew international media attention because he also was charged with supporting Lashkar's terrorist attacks in 2008 that killed more than 160 people in Mumbai, India's largest city. Rana was acquitted, however, of those charges.


David Coleman Headley, Rana's childhood friend who pleaded guilty in both the Danish and Mumbai cases, was the government's star witness at the three-week trial. Headley's testimony about the inner workings of Lashkar provided a rare insight into an international terrorist network. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced next week.


At trial, evidence showed that Rana supported the Danish plot by letting Headley pose as an employee of Rana's Far North Side immigration business while Headley scouted the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Copenhagen in advance of the attack. The plot was never carried out.


Rana, a Pakistan native, immigrated to the United States from Canada. He worked as a doctor before settling into Chicago, where he set up several businesses and raised three children with his wife. She did not attend Thursday's sentencing because immigration officials stopped her earlier this month when she tried to re-enter the U.S. after a family trip to Canada, according to Rana's lawyers.


At the hearing, the defense reiterated its position at trial that Rana had been drawn into the plot by a more conniving Headley.


But the sentencing also turned on whether Rana's plotting constituted an act of terrorism against the Danish government. That would have required a stiffer penalty under federal sentencing guidelines.


Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Collins argued for the so-called terror enhancement, saying that in statements to authorities after his arrest, Rana admitted supporting Lashkar as well as knowing that the terrorist group had targeted India in the Mumbai attack.


As for the other scheme, Collins said the plotters hoped to draw the Danish forces into a "fight to the death" after storming the newspaper and planned to make "martyr videos."


"It was not just the newspaper," Collins told the judge. "It was much broader."


But Rana's attorney disagreed, saying evidence at trial showed that Rana wanted to punish only the staff of the newspaper for cartoons that had been deemed offensive to Muslims.


Leinenweber ultimately rejected the government's argument and lowered the maximum faced by Rana to 14 years under the federal sentencing guidelines, leading Collins to make one further attempt at convincing the judge to sentence Rana to the maximum 30 years in prison.


"Defendants who want to think they can avoid detection by sitting at a safe distance need to understand there will be significant penalties when they are caught," the prosecutor said.


Blegen argued for mercy by insisting that Rana's crimes were an aberration for a man who has spent most of his life helping others and raising children who are all in school with plans to contribute to society — a sharp contrast to Headley, who testified at trial about teaching military drills to his young child at city parks.


In the end, Leinenweber noted Rana's seemingly contrasting personalities — an intelligent man convicted in a "dastardly" plot to behead a newspaper staff — and settled on 14 years in prison.


"This is about as serious as it gets," the judge said. "It only would have been more serious if it had been carried out."


asweeney@tribune.com



Read More..

Opinion: Lance One of Many Tour de France Cheaters


Editor's note: England-based writer and photographer Roff Smith rides around 10,000 miles a year through the lanes of Sussex and Kent and writes a cycling blog at: www.my-bicycle-and-I.co.uk

And so, the television correspondent said to the former Tour de France champion, a man who had been lionised for years, feted as the greatest cyclist of his day, did you ever use drugs in the course of your career?

"Yes," came the reply. "Whenever it was necessary."

"And how often was that?" came the follow-up question.

"Almost all the time!"

This is not a leak of a transcript from Oprah Winfrey's much anticipated tell-all with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, but instead was lifted from a decades-old interview with Fausto Coppi, the great Italian road cycling champion of the 1940s and 1950s.

To this day, though, Coppi is lauded as one of the gods of cycling, an icon of a distant and mythical golden age in the sport.

So is five-time Tour winner Jacques Anquetil (1957, 1961-64) who famously remarked that it was impossible "to ride the Tour on mineral water."

"You would have to be an imbecile or a crook to imagine that a professional cyclist who races for 235 days a year can hold the pace without stimulants," Anquetil said.

And then there's British cycling champion Tommy Simpson, who died of heart failure while trying to race up Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France, a victim of heat, stress, and a heady cocktail of amphetamines.

All are heroes today. If their performance-enhancing peccadillos are not forgotten, they have at least been glossed over in the popular imagination.

As the latest chapter of the sorry Lance Armstrong saga unfolds, it is worth looking at the history of cheating in the Tour de France to get a sense of perspective. This is not an attempt at rationalisation or justification for what Lance did. Far from it.

But the simple, unpalatable fact is that cheating, drugs, and dirty tricks have been part and parcel of the Tour de France nearly from its inception in 1903.

Cheating was so rife in the 1904 event that Henri Desgrange, the founder and organiser of the Tour, declared he would never run the race again. Not only was the overall winner, Maurice Garin, disqualified for taking the train over significant stretches of the course, but so were next three cyclists who placed, along with the winner of every single stage of the course.

Of the 27 cyclists who actually finished the 1904 race, 12 were disqualified and given bans ranging from one year to life. The race's eventual official winner, 19-year-old Henri Cornet, was not determined until four months after the event.

And so it went. Desgrange relented on his threat to scrub the Tour de France and the great race survived and prospered-as did the antics. Trains were hopped, taxis taken, nails scattered along the roads, partisan supporters enlisted to beat up rivals on late-night lonely stretches of the course, signposts tampered with, bicycles sabotaged, itching powder sprinkled in competitors' jerseys and shorts, food doctored, and inkwells smashed so riders yet to arrive couldn't sign the control documents to prove they'd taken the correct route.

And then of course there were the stimulants-brandy, strychnine, ether, whatever-anything to get a rider through the nightmarishly tough days and nights of racing along stages that were often over 200 miles long. In a way the race was tailor-made to encourage this sort of thing. Desgrange once famously said that his idea of a perfect Tour de France would be one that was so tough that only one rider finished.

Add to this the big prizes at a time when money was hard to come by, a Tour largely comprising young riders from impoverished backgrounds for whom bicycle racing was their one big chance to get ahead, and the passionate following cycling enjoyed, and you had the perfect recipe for a desperate, high stakes, win-at-all-costs mentality, especially given the generally tolerant views on alcohol and drugs in those days.

After World War II came the amphetamines. Devised to keep soldiers awake and aggressive through long hours of battle they were equally handy for bicycle racers competing in the world's longest and toughest race.

So what makes the Lance Armstrong story any different, his road to redemption any rougher? For one thing, none of the aforementioned riders were ever the point man for what the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has described in a thousand-page report as the most sophisticated, cynical, and far-reaching doping program the world of sport has ever seen-one whose secrecy and efficiency was maintained by ruthlessness, bullying, fear, and intimidation.

Somewhere along the line, the casualness of cheating in the past evolved into an almost Frankenstein sort of science in which cyclists, aided by creepy doctors and trainers, were receiving blood transfusions in hotel rooms and tinkering around with their bodies at the molecular level many months before they ever lined up for a race.

To be sure, Armstrong didn't invent all of this, any more than he invented original sin-nor was he acting alone. But with his success, money, intelligence, influence, and cohort of thousand-dollar-an-hour lawyers-and the way he used all this to prop up the Lance brand and the Lance machine at any cost-he became the poster boy and lightning rod for all that went wrong with cycling, his high profile eclipsing even the heads of the Union Cycliste Internationale, the global cycling union, who richly deserve their share of the blame.

It is not his PED popping that is the hard-to-forgive part of the Lance story. Armstrong cheated better than his peers, that's all.

What I find troubling is the bullying and calculated destruction of anyone who got in his way, raised a question, or cast a doubt. By all accounts Armstrong was absolutely vicious, vindictive as hell. Former U.S. Postal team masseuse Emma O'Reilly found herself being described publicly as a "prostitute" and an "alcoholic," and had her life put through a legal grinder when she spoke out about Armstrong's use of PEDs.

Journalists were sued, intimidated, and blacklisted from events, press conferences, and interviews if they so much as questioned the Lance miracle or well-greased machine that kept winning Le Tour.

Armstrong left a lot of wreckage behind him.

If he is genuinely sorry, if he truly repents for his past "indiscretions," one would think his first act would be to try to find some way of not only seeking forgiveness from those whom he brutally put down, but to do something meaningful to repair the damage he did to their lives and livelihoods.


Read More..

Lance Armstrong Admits to Doping













Lance Armstrong, formerly cycling's most decorated champion and considered one of America's greatest athletes, confessed to cheating for at least a decade, admitting on Thursday that he owed all seven of his Tour de France titles and the millions of dollars in endorsements that followed to his use of illicit performance-enhancing drugs.


After years of denying that he had taken banned drugs and received oxygen-boosting blood transfusions, and attacking his teammates and competitors who attempted to expose him, Armstrong came clean with Oprah Winfrey in an exclusive interview, admitting to using banned substances for years.


"I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times," he said. "I know the truth. The truth isn't what was out there. The truth isn't what I said.


"I'm a flawed character, as I well know," Armstrong added. "All the fault and all the blame here falls on me."


In October, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued a report in which 11 former Armstrong teammates exposed the system with which they and Armstrong received drugs with the knowledge of their coaches and help of team physicians.






George Burns/Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc./AP Photo











Lance Armstrong Admits Using Performance-Enhancing Drugs Watch Video









Lance Armstrong's Oprah Confession: The Consequences Watch Video









Lance Armstrong's Many Denials Caught on Tape Watch Video





The U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team "ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen," USADA said in its report.


As a result of USADA's findings, Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles. Soon, longtime sponsors including Nike began to abandon him, too.


READ MORE: Did Doping Cause Armstrong's Cancer?


Armstrong said he was driven to cheat by a "ruthless desire to win."


He told Winfrey that his competition "cocktail" consisted of EPO, blood transfusions and testosterone, and that he had previously used cortisone. He would not, however, give Winfrey the details of when, where and with whom he doped during seven winning Tours de France between 1999 and 2005.


He said he stopped doping following his 2005 Tour de France victory and did not use banned substances when he placed third in 2009 and entered the tour again in 2010.


"It was a mythic perfect story and it wasn't true," Armstrong said of his fairytale story of overcoming testicular cancer to become the most celebrated cyclist in history.


READ MORE: 10 Scandalous Public Confessions


PHOTOS: Olympic Doping Scandals: Past and Present


PHOTOS: Tour de France 2012


Armstrong would not name other members of his team who doped, but admitted that as the team's captain he set an example. He admitted he was "a bully" but said there "there was a never a directive" from him that his teammates had to use banned substances.


"At the time it did not feel wrong?" Winfrey asked.


"No," Armstrong said. "Scary."


"Did you feel bad about it?" she asked again.


"No," he said.


Armstrong said he thought taking the drugs was similar to filling his tires with air and bottle with water. He never thought of his actions as cheating, but "leveling the playing field" in a sport rife with doping.






Read More..

NASA buys blow-up habitat for space station astronauts









































NASA wants to blow up part of the International Space Station – and a Las Vegas firm is eager to help.












The US space agency has signed a $17.8-million contract with Bigelow Aerospace of Nevada to build an inflatable crew habitat for the ISS.












According to details released today at a press briefing , the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, will launch in 2015. Astronauts on the ISS will test the module for safety and comfort.












BEAM will fly uninflated inside the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon capsule. Once docked and fully expanded, the module will be 4 metres long and 3 metres wide. For two years astronauts will monitor conditions inside, such as temperature and radiation levels.











Bigelow hopes the tests done in orbit will prove that inflatable capsules are safe and reliable for space tourists and commercial research, an idea almost as old as NASA itself. The space agency began investigating the concept of expandable spacecraft in 1958. Space stations like this would be easier to launch and assemble than those with metal components, so would be cheaper. But research ended after a budget crunch in 2000, and Bigelow licensed the technology from NASA.












Stronger skin













The company has made progress, developing shielding that resists punctures from space debris and micrometeorites. BEAM's skin, for instance, is made from layers of material like Kevlar to protect occupants from high-speed impacts. The craft's skin has been tested in the lab alongside shielding used right now on the rest of the ISS, says Bigelow director Mike Gold.












"Our envelope will not only equal but be superior to what is flying on the ISS today. We have a strong and absolute focus on safety," he says.












And we have to be sure that inflatable craft are safe, says William Schonberg, an engineer specialising in orbital debris protection at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. "The overall risk to the ISS is the sum of the risks of its individual components," he says.












It may seem counter-intuitive, but a flexible, inflatable design is just as likely to survive punishment from space debris as metal shielding, says Schonberg. "Certain composite cloth materials have been shown to be highly effective as shields against [high-speed space] impacts. So depending on what material is used, and in what combination it is used with other materials – such as thermal insulation blankets – the final design could be just as effective and perhaps better than the more traditional all-metal shields used elsewhere on the station."












Gold hopes BEAM will also demonstrate that fabric shielding can limit radiation risks. This is a major worry on missions to the moon or an asteroid say, where astronauts have to spend weeks or months outside Earth's protective magnetic field.












High-energy particles called cosmic rays constantly fly through the solar system, and when they strike metal shielding, they can emit secondary radiation in the form of X-rays. This doesn't happen with Kevlar-based fabric shields and so expandable habitats could be more desirable for travellers heading deeper into space, says Gold.


















































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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Punggol East 5-year plan won't cost much: RP's Jeyaretnam






SINGAPORE: The Reform Party's candidate for Punggol East, Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, said the five-year plan he has in mind for residents of the ward will not cost a lot of money.

He said this in response to questions from reporters on Thursday on how he intends to fund the plan, which will include a legal clinic to help those in debt, as well as a tuition club.

Mr Jeyaretnam, who is Secretary-General of the party, intends to unveil the plan next week.

He announced the plan on Nomination Day on Wednesday.

Mr Jeyaretnam said he will be discussing the plan with his grassroots team. He added that several residents of Punggol East are in the team as his primary advisers in this by-election.

The Reform Party chief said that he will not hold more than two rallies. The first will probably be held this weekend.

-CNA/ac



Read More..

Notre Dame A.D.: Te'o victim of 'sad and very cruel deception'

Notre Dame Vice President/Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick makes statement on Manti Te'o Girlfriend Hoax Allegations









Facing a media throng just days before competing for a national championship, Notre Dame's star linebacker Manti Te'o fielded a question about the death of his girlfriend and his ability to rise above the tragedy.


It was a benign question, one he had heard dozen of times before as Lennay Kekua's passing had been woven so tightly into the narrative of his triumphant senior year. And he answered it as he always had.


But at that time, Te'o — and university officials — knew there was far more to the story than platitudes about football and family.








A week earlier, on Dec. 26, the Heisman Trophy runner-up told Notre Dame officials that his girlfriend did not exist and that he was a victim of an elaborate Internet hoax, the school said Wednesday.


"In many ways, Manti was the perfect mark because he is a guy who is so willing to believe in others and so ready to help, that as this hoax played out in a way that called upon those tendencies of Manti, it roped him more and more into the trap," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. "He was not a person who would have a second thought about offering his assistance and help."


Swarbrick outlined a bizarre story in which Te'o learned his girlfriend never existed about three months after her supposed death. The player received a phone call Dec. 6, while at an awards show, from what he believed was Kekua's old cellphone number. The woman on the other end — in a voice he recognized as Kekua's — told him that she wasn't dead.


Two days after Te'o was thrown for a loop by a dead girlfriend rising from the grave, here is how he answered a question about charity work he had performed this year.


"I worked with Relay for Life stuff," he said. "I really got hit with cancer. I don't like cancer at all. I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer."


She later tried to rekindle the relationship, Swarbrick said.


"Every single thing about this, until that day in the first week of December, was real to Manti," Swarbrick said. "There was no suspicion it wasn't. No belief it might not be. And so the pain was real. The grief was real. The affection was real. That's the nature of this sad, cruel game."


Swarbrick likened the hoax to the movie"Catfish


"Every single thing about this, until that day in the first week of December, was real to Manti," Swarbrick said. "There was no suspicion it wasn't. No belief it might not be. And so the pain was real. The grief was real. The affection was real. That's the nature of this sad, cruel game."


Swarbrick likened the hoax to the movie "Catfish," in which a person creates a fake persona with someone else's picture, then dupes another person into a romantic relationship. The film spurred a popular MTV show by the same name that investigates online relationships to see if the participants are real.


Te'o notified his coaches of the situation Dec. 26, after discussing it with his parents over the Christmas holiday. Swarbrick said he met with the player twice and found his story about the exclusively online and telephonic relationship to be consistent. Te'o and Kekua never met face to face, Swarbrick said.


"Several meetings were set up where Lennay never showed," he said.


Kekua's purported passing came within 48 hours of the real death of Te'o's grandmother, Annette Santiago, in September. That double loss vaulted Te'o onto the cover of Sports Illustrated and, along with Notre Dame's eventual undefeated regular season, into the Heisman Trophy mix.


Te'o finished second in that voting to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, tying for the best finish ever by a pure defender.


The scam does more than shatter a college football fairy tale. It also leaves a black mark on sports journalism, as many news outlets — including the Tribune — ran stories about Kekua's passing without verifying her death. There was no published obituary for Kekua and no California driver's license issued to anyone with that name. The Social Security Administration database had no record of anyone with the surname Kekua dying in 2012.


Yet respected national publications such as Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times all ran stories about Te'o's heartbreak. The Chicago Tribune published 15 articles mentioning her death in the past four months.


An Academic All-American with a 3.3 grade-point average, Te'o, 21, released a statement Wednesday insisting that he had been duped into having a long-term, "emotional relationship" with an Internet impostor. Describing the situation as "painful and humiliating," Te'o said he believed he maintained an authentic relationship with Kekua over the phone and via the Internet.





Read More..

6 Ways Climate Change Will Affect You

Photograph by AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The planet keeps getting hotter, new data showed this week. Especially in America, where 2012 was the warmest year ever recorded, by far. Every few years, the U.S. federal government engages hundreds of experts to assess the impacts of climate change, now and in the future.

From agriculture (pictured) to infrastructure to how humans consume energy, the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee spotlights how a warming world may bring widespread disruption.

Farmers will see declines in some crops, while others will reap increased yields.

Won't more atmospheric carbon mean longer growing seasons? Not quite. Over the next several decades, the yield of virtually every crop in California's fertile Central Valley, from corn to wheat to rice and cotton, will drop by up to 30 percent, researchers expect. (Read about "The Carbon Bathtub" in National Geographic magazine.)

Lackluster pollination, driven by declines in bees due partly to the changing climate, is one reason. Government scientists also expect the warmer climate to shorten the length of the frosting season necessary for many crops to grow in the spring.

Aside from yields, climate change will also affect food processing, storage, and transportation—industries that require an increasing amount of expensive water and energy as global demand rises—leading to higher food prices.

Daniel Stone

Published January 16, 2013

Read More..

Notre Dame: Football Star Was 'Catfished' in Hoax













Notre Dame's athletic director and the star of its near-championship football team said the widely-reported death of the star's girlfriend from leukemia during the 2012 football season was apparently a hoax, and the player said he was duped by it as well.


Manti Te'o, who led the Fighting Irish to the BCS championship game this year and finished second for the Heisman Trophy, said in a statement today that he fell in love with a girl online last year who turned out not to be real.


The university's athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, said it has been investigating the "cruel hoax" since Te'o approached officials in late December to say he believed he had been tricked.


Private investigators hired by the university subsequently monitored online chatter by the alleged perpetrators, Swarbrick said, adding that he was shocked by the "casual cruelty" it revealed.


"They enjoyed the joke," Swarbrick said, comparing the ruse to the popular film "Catfish," in which filmmakers revealed a person at the other end of an online relationship was not who they said they were.


"While we still don't know all of the dimensions of this ... there are certain things that I feel confident we do know," Swarbrick said. "The first is that this was a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax, perpetrated for reasons we don't understand."






Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images











Notre Dame's Athletic Director Discusses Manti Te'o Girlfriend Hoax Watch Video









Notre Dame Football Star Victim of 'Girlfriend Hoax' Watch Video









Eddie Lacy, Barrett Jones Discuss 'Bama Win Watch Video





Te'o said during the season that his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died of leukemia in September on the same day Te'o's grandmother died, triggering an outpouring of support for Te'o at Notre Dame and in the media.


"While my grandma passed away and you take, you know, the love of my life [Kekua]. The last thing she said to me was, 'I love you,'" Te'o said at the time, noting that he had talked to Kekua on the phone and by text message until her death.


Now, responding to a story first reported by the sports website Deadspin, Te'o has acknowledged that Kekua never existed. The website reported today that there were no records of a woman named Lennay Kekua anywhere.


Te'o denied that he was in on the hoax.


"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online," Te'o said in a statement released this afternoon. "We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her."


Swarbrick said he expected Te'o to give his version of events at a public event soon, perhaps Thursday, and that he believed Te'o's representatives were planning to disclose the truth next week until today's story broke.


Deadspin reported that the image attached to Kekua's social media profiles, through which the pair interacted, was of another woman who has said she did not even know Te'o or know that her picture was being used. The website reported that it traced the profiles to a California man who is an acquaintance of Te'o and of the woman whose photo was stolen.


"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating," Te'o said.






Read More..

Why musical genius comes easier to early starters








































Good news for pushy parents. If you want your child to excel musically, you now have better justification for starting their lessons early. New evidence comes from brain scans of 36 highly skilled musicians, split equally between those who started lessons before and after the age of 7, but who had done a similar amount of training and practice.












MRI scans revealed that the white matterSpeaker in the corpus callosum – the brain region that links the two hemispheres – had more extensive wiring and connectivity in the early starters. The wiring of the late starters was not much different from that of non-musician control participants. This makes sense as the corpus callosum aids speed and synchronisation in tasks involving both hands, such as playing musical instruments.













"I think we've provided real evidence for something that musicians and teachers have suspected for a long time, that early training can produce long-lasting effects on performance and the brain," says Christopher Steele of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, and head of the team.











Sweet spot












Steele says that younger-trained musicians may have an advantage because their training coincides with a key period of brain development . At age 7 or 8, the corpus callosum is more receptive than ever to the alterations in connectivity necessary to meet the demands of learning an instrument.













However, he stresses that these connectivity adaptations are no guarantee of musical genius. "What we're showing is that early starters have some specific skills and accompanying differences in the brain, but these things don't necessarily make them better musicians," he says. "Musical performance is about skill, but it is also about communication, enthusiasm, style and many other things we don't measure. So while starting early may help you express your genius, it won't make you a genius," he says.











Nor should older aspiring musicians despair. "They should absolutely not give up. It is never too late to learn a skill," says Steele.













Journal reference: Journal of Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1523/jneurosci.3578-12.2013


















































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Punggol East ward saw 3-way fight in 2011 GE






SINGAPORE: In the 2011 General Election, the Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC) saw a three-way fight among political parties that contested.

The People's Action Party's (PAP) Michael Palmer won over half of the votes.

The Punggol East SMC had over 30,000 voters in the 2011 General Election and it was the only constituency that saw a three-cornered fight.

Then, the PAP's Michael Palmer, The Workers' Party's Lee Li Lian and the Singapore Democratic Alliance's Desmond Lim campaigned for residents' hearts and minds.

The three focused largely on ground concerns during the hustings.

Mr Lim promised new facilities of over a million dollars for residents if he won.

It was something Mr Palmer cast doubt on. He was the ward's incumbent, elected in 2006 when the area was still under Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency, before it was carved out as a single seat.

Mr Palmer had said his time in the ward was used to build cohesion among residents, and hoped for continuing support.

Ms Lee, on the other hand, chose to look at estate cleanliness and cost of living issues.

When the dust settled, Mr Palmer won, taking around 55 per cent of votes.

Ms Lee took about 41 per cent.

And Mr Lim got around four per cent.

- CNA/ck



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