Get cirrus in the fight against climate change



































FEATHERY cirrus clouds are beautiful, but when it comes to climate change, they are the enemy. Found at high-altitude and made of small ice crystals, they trap heat - so more cirrus means a warmer world. Now it seems that, by destroying cirrus, we could reverse all the warming Earth has experienced so far.












In 2009, David Mitchell of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, proposed a radical way to stop climate change: get rid of some cirrus. Now Trude Storelvmo of Yale University and colleagues have used a climate model to test the idea.












Storelvmo added powdered bismuth triiodide into the model's troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere in which these clouds form. Ice crystals grew around these particles and expanded, eventually falling out of the sky, reducing cirrus coverage. Without the particles, the ice crystals remained small and stayed up high for longer.












The technique, done on a global scale, created a powerful cooling effect, enough to counteract the 0.8 °C of warming caused by all the greenhouse gases released by humans (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/grl.50122).


















But too much bismuth triiodide made the ice crystals shrink, so cirrus clouds lasted longer. "If you get the concentrations wrong, you could get the opposite of what you want," says Storelvmo. And, like other schemes for geoengineering, side effects are likely - changes in the jet stream, say.












Different model assumptions give different "safe" amounts of bismuth triiodide, says Tim Lenton of the University of Exeter, UK. "Do we really know the system well enough to be confident of being in the safe zone?" he asks. "You wouldn't want to touch this until you knew."












Mitchell says seeding would take 140 tonnes of bismuth triiodide every year, which by itself would cost $19 million.




















































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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India sees push for police reform after rape outcry






NEW DELHI: Sixteen-year-old Seenu was walking to her grandmother's house along a quiet street in northern India when a group of men dragged her into a car, took her to a secluded field and raped her in turns.

They filmed the act on their mobile phones and forced a pill into her mouth. She woke up an hour later, naked, bloodied, disoriented. The sun was just beginning to set as she put on her jeans and made her way back home.

When her father -- a gardener belonging to the "untouchable" or Dalit community which lies at the bottom of India's caste system -- found out what had happened to his only daughter, he killed himself.

Over the days that followed, Seenu (not her real name) and her mother made several trips to the nearest police station, defying threats from her upper-caste attackers, some of whom she knew.

Finally, when the Dalit community in her village held public protests and piled pressure on the police, the first arrest was made -- two weeks after the gang-rape. Since then, seven more men have been arrested.

Now living at her grandmother's home with six police officers as protection ahead of a court appearance next month, Seenu told AFP that rape victims like herself have problems reporting the crime "because police don't respect them".

"It makes me so angry. Why don't the police listen? Why don't they do their job? Why do they have to humiliate the girl or treat her like it's her fault she got raped?" she said, speaking softly so the officers did not overhear.

The gruesome gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi on December 16 last year prompted nationwide protests and a public outcry over how police handle sexual assault cases.

A beleaguered central government announced several safety measures earlier this month, including more night-time patrols by police in Delhi and the presence of at least a dozen female officers at every police station.

India suffers from a massive shortfall in the number of police on duty, currently employing only 129 officers per 100,000 people, according to data published in 2010 by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

This compares to 227 officers per 100,000 people in the United States.

Also, in many cases police have been found displaying the same sexist prejudices prevalent in Indian society, leading them sometimes to encourage rape survivors to marry their attackers.

Last week, a judge at a Delhi court ordered police to pay 25,000 rupees ($470) as compensation to a 13-year-old rape survivor, for refusing to file a complaint and pushing her to settle the case with the alleged rapist.

J.S. Verma, a former chief justice of India heading a government commission looking into sex crime, lambasted the police on Wednesday for their apathy and "low and skewed priority of dealing with complaints of sexual assault".

In his report, Verma also called for an end to the so-called "two finger test", a practice decried as demeaning and flawed in which doctors attempt to determine if a rape victim is sexually active.

Stung by the hail of criticism, police officials in Delhi recently revived a "gender sensitisation" programme that originally ran from 2008-2011, enrolling all personnel on the course in a bid to improve their handling of women.

Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar promised that the force had been "jolted," leading it to "look at offences against women in a totally different way".

The government's plans to improve policing also include measures to recruit more women, who make up just 6.5 percent of the force, according to figures in the National Crime Records Bureau.

Maurice Nagar police station could be a model for the future. Located near a sprawling university campus, the recruitment of women has long been a priority and a female officer is required to be present at all hours.

The khaki-clad guards outside are female, the officer who registers complaints is female and many of the officers on duty, zipping in and out of traffic on motorbikes are female.

But even here an officer, Nazma Khan, dismisses the notion that police reform is a panacea.

"These crimes happen because of people with a messed-up mentality, who are everywhere," she told AFP.

"If we want to change the mentality then it has to change at school level, at homes, in the family, otherwise recruitment (of police) will not make a difference," she added.

To Seenu, the Dalit teenager whose parents cast off centuries of prejudice and oppression to educate their daughter and raise her to dream of someday becoming a doctor, such arguments offer no consolation.

"If the police don't change, girls like me will never get justice and soon enough, people will just stop expecting any justice in India."

- AFP/fa



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Man, 38, fatally shot in city's 6th homicide of the day









A 38-year-old man was killed in the Englewood neighborhood tonight, making him the sixth person shot dead today, police said.

The latest shooting happened about 10:05 p.m. in the 7000 block of South Carpenter Street, Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Ron Gaines said.

The man died on the scene, Gaines said.

Earlier, in the second double homicide of the day, a 16-year-old boy and a 32-year-old man were gunned down in the West Garfield Park neighborhood about 5 p.m., police said.

Officers responded to a call of a person shot in the 4200 block of West Congress Parkway and found the two lying dead outside on the ground, according to the police.

Both victims lived in Chicago, police said. 

No one has been arrested.

Police had the crime scene near Genevieve Melody Elementary School taped off at least one block to the north, east and west, while neighbors milled about to get a better look.

On West Van Buren Street, a body could be scene lying in the roadway, near the curb and a bus stop.

A man who only identified himself as the teen victim's uncle said the boy, whose family lived nearby, had simply gone to run an errand.

"He was just going to the store," the man said. "They just killed him just like that."

Later, the man paced back and forth on the sidewalk, shaking his head in disbelief.

"He goes to school and everything," he said to a police officer.

This man and the boy were the 4th and 5th people killed today, and the shooting was the city's second double homicide.

chicagobreaking@tribune.com



Read More..

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

Photograph by Art Wolfe, Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane J. Lee

Published January 25, 2013

Read More..

Squatter, Bank of America Battle for $2.5M Mansion













Bank of America is taking a Florida man to court after he attempted to use an antiquated state law to legally take possession of a $2.5 million mansion that is currently owned by the bank.


Andre "Loki" Barbosa has lived in a five-bedroom Boca Raton, Fla., waterside property since July, and police have reportedly been unable to remove him.


The Brazilian national, 23, who reportedly refers to himself as "Loki Boy," cites Florida's "adverse possession" law, in which a party may acquire title from another by openly occupying their land and paying real property tax for at least seven years.


The house is listed as being owned by Bank of America as of July 2012, and that an adverse possession was filed in July. After Bank of America foreclosed on the property last year, the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser's Office was notified that Barbosa would be moving in, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.


The Sun-Sentinel reported that he posted a notice in the front window of the house naming him as a "living beneficiary to the Divine Estate being superior of commerce and usury."
On Facebook, a man named Andre Barbosa calls the property "Templo de Kamisamar."


After Barbosa gained national attention for his brazen attempt, Bank of America filed an injunction on Jan. 23 to evict Barbosa and eight unidentified occupants.










In the civil complaint, Bank of America said Barbosa and other tenants "unlawfully entered the property" and "refused to permit the Plaintiff agents entry, use, and possession of its property." In addition to eviction, Bank of America is asking for $15,000 in damages to be paid to cover attorney's expenses.


Police were called Dec. 26 to the home but did not remove Barbosa, according to the Sentinel. Barbosa reportedly presented authorities with the adverse possession paperwork at the time.


Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Povery Law Center, says police officers may be disinclined to take action even if they are presented with paperwork that is invalid.


"A police officer walks up to someone who is claiming a house now belongs to him, without any basis at all, is handed a big sheaf of documents, which are incomprehensible," Potok said. "I think very often the officers ultimately feel that they're forced to go back to headquarters and try to figure out what's going on before they can actually toss someone in the slammer."


A neighbor of the Boca property, who asked not be named, told ABCNews.com that he entered the empty home just before Christmas to find four people inside, one of whom said the group is establishing an embassy for their mission, and that families would be moving in and out of the property. Barbosa was also among them.


The neighbor said he believes that Barbosa is a "patsy."


"This young guy is caught up in this thing," the neighbor said. "I think it's going on on a bigger scale."


Barbosa could not be reached for comment.


The neighbor said that although the lights have been turned on at the house, the water has not, adding that this makes it clear it is not a permanent residence. The neighbor also said the form posted in the window is "total gibberish," which indicated that the house is an embassy, and that those who enter must present two forms of identification, and respect the rights of its indigenous people.


"I think it's a group of people that see an opportunity to get some money from the bank," the neighbor said. "If they're going to hold the house ransom, then the bank is going to have to go through an eviction process.


"They're taking advantage of banks, where the right hand doesn't know where the left hand is," the neighbor said. "They can't clap."



Read More..

Today on New Scientist: 25 January 2013







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

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



World's oldest portrait reveals the ice-age mind

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



Dung beetles navigate using the Milky Way

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



Stress's impact can affect future generations' genes

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



Uncharted territory: Where digital maps are leading us

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



Feedback: Tales of the stony turd industry

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



Duolingo gives language learning a jump start

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



Dolphins form life raft to help dying friend

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



Zoologger: Supercool squirrels go into the deep freeze

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



Greek economic crisis has cleared the air

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



Body armour to scale up by mimicking flexible fish

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



Astrophile: Split personality tarnishes pulsars' rep

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



Shrinking proton puzzle persists in new measurement

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



Tight squeeze forces cells to take their medicine

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




Read More..

Cycling: Armstrong lied to Oprah, says doping chief






LOS ANGELES: Lance Armstrong lied in his confessional interview with Oprah Winfrey and the shamed cyclist has two weeks to finally come clean, the US anti-doping official who pursued him for years has said.

Travis Tygart said in an excerpt of an interview with the CBS network that Armstrong failed to tell Winfrey the truth about several key points over doping -- including a claim that he raced drug-free in his comeback in 2009 and 2010.

Tygart, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief, said he has written to Armstrong to say that if he wants to lessen his lifetime sporting ban he must "cooperate fully and truthfully" by February 6, about drug-taking in the sport.

It is not clear if cooperation from Armstrong, who was stripped of all seven of his Tour De France wins last year, could take the form of testimony before a truth and reconciliation commission.

The International Cycling Union (UCI), which is under pressure from the World Anti-Doping Agency and USADA, on Friday agreed that such a platform would benefit the drug-damaged sport after a series of devastating doping cases.

Armstrong, a cancer survivor who during the Oprah interview admitted doping for the first time after years of vehement denials, said he would be willing to testify before such a commission if he were invited.

He also said that his record seven wins in the tour -- between 1999-2005 -- were fueled by performance enhancing drugs but insisted he was clean when he came out of retirement and raced in the Tour de France in 2009 and 2010.

Tygart, however, in the CBS interview which will air in full on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, said the latter claim is "just contrary to the evidence".

According to Tygart, expert reports based on the variation of Armstrong's blood values in 2009 and 2010 make it a "one to a million chance that it was due to something other than doping".

The USADA chief reiterated the assertions in the report issued last year by the agency on which it based its lifetime ban of Armstrong and the forfeiture of all his cycling results from August 1998.

The report led to Armstrong's demise after more than a decade of denials that he was a drug cheat during which he pursued a series of vitriolic attacks against several individuals who had accused him of doping.

Tygart told CBS that Armstrong may have lied about doping after his comeback because under the statute of limitations for criminal fraud, he would still be open to prosecution.

He also took issue with Armstrong's claim that the disgraced Texan's favored drug cocktail of blood-boosting EPO, blood transfusions and testosterone included just a small amount of EPO.

"He used a lot of EPO," Tygart told "60 Minutes", alleging that Armstrong was less than truthful when he told Winfrey that he had not pushed his teammates toward cheating.

"He was the boss," Tygart said in the excerpt.

"The evidence is clear he was one of the ringleaders of this conspiracy that pulled off this grand heist that... using tens of millions of taxpayer dollars defrauded millions of sports fans and his fellow competitors."

In the second segment of his interview with Winfrey, which aired over two nights on January 18-19, the 41-year-old Armstrong said he wants to compete again in sport -- perhaps marathons.

Immediately after Armstrong's first confession aired last week Tygart responded by saying that the former cyclist must testify under oath to have any hope of reducing his sanction.

"His admission that he doped throughout his career is a small step in the right direction," Tygart said.

"But if he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes, he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities."

- AFP/fa



Read More..

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

Photograph by Art Wolfe, Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane J. Lee

Published January 25, 2013

Read More..

WH, Senators to Begin Push on Immigration Reform












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


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


See Also: Where Do Labor Unions Stand on Immigration?


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


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


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






Charles Dharapak/AP Photo







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


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


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


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


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


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



Read More..

Shrinking proton puzzle persists in new measurement



































A puzzle at the heart of the atom refuses to go away. The most precise measurement yet of the proton's radius confirms that it sometimes seems smaller than the laws of physics demand – an issue that has been hotly debated for two years.












The latest finding deepens the need for exotic physics, or some other explanation, to account for the inconsistency. "If we were in a hole before, the hole is deeper now," says Gerald Miller of the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved in the new measurement.












The saga of the proton radius began in 2010, when a group led by Randolf Pohl at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, determined the width of the fuzzy ball of positive charge – and found it was smaller than had been assumed.












Previous teams had inferred the proton's radius, which is impossible to measure directly, by studying how electrons and protons interact. One method uses the simplest atom, hydrogen, which consists of one electron and one proton. A quirk of quantum mechanics says that an electron in an atom can only orbit its proton at certain distances, corresponding to different energy levels. The electron can jump between levels if it absorbs or releases energy in the form of a photon of light.











Ball of charge













By measuring the energy of photons emitted by an excited hydrogen atom, physicists can figure out how far apart the energy levels are, and thus the distances of the permitted electron orbits. A theory called quantum electrodynamics then allows them to calculate how far the proton's ball of charge must extend to keep the electrons at those distances.












This method gave a charge radius for the proton that was about 0.877 femtometres, less than a trillionth of a millimetre.












Pohl and colleagues used a novel method. They created an exotic version of hydrogen that replaces the electron with a muon, a particle that has the same charge as the electron but is 200 times heavier. Its extra bulk makes it more sensitive to the proton's size, meaning radius measurements based on muons are orders of magnitude more precise.












The new method didn't just make the measurements more precise. It also changed them: the muonic hydrogen gave a radius of 0.8418 femtometres, 4 per cent less than before.











Scandalous result












That might not sound like much, but in the world of particle physics, where theory and experiment can agree to parts in a billion, it was scandalous. A lively discussion sprang up, with some physicists claiming problems with Pohl's experiments and interpretations, and others suggesting gaps in the standard model of particle physics.













Pohl and colleagues have now repeated their experiment. The measurement of the radius is now even more precise than in 2010 – and it is still 4 per cent smaller than the value from hydrogen-based experiments.












Pohl reckons that there are three likely explanations. His experiment could have errors, although the confirmation makes that less likely. Alternatively, the electron experiments could be off. "This would be the most boring possibility," says Pohl.












The third, and most exciting, possibility is that muons do not interact with protons in the same way as electrons. In other words, the proton's apparent radius changes a little bit depending on which particle it is interacting with.












If true, that might require the existence of unknown particles that alter the way the muon interacts with the proton. Those particles could, in turn, solve some of the problems with the standard model of particle physics. They could, for instance, provide a candidate for dark matter, the mysterious stuff that makes up more than 80 per cent of the mass in the universe.











Monumental idea













Miller, Pohl and Ron Gilman of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey helped organise a workshop with 50 proton experts in Trento, Italy, last October to hash out the details of the problem – and arrived at a verdict of sorts. "Because the muon experiments seem to be so solid, the most popular answers were that there's some beyond-the-standard-model physics differentiating between muon and electron, which would be very important," Gilman says.












"That would be monumental, truly," Miller says.












But Miller also has a less radical suggestion, which could reconcile all the measurements without invoking new particles. According to quantum electrodynamics, two charged particles can interact with each other by exchanging a photon – it's as if they spontaneously create a basketball and throw it between them, he says.












The equations also allow for a more complicated interaction where the particles create two balls, and juggle them. Until now this type of interaction was considered too rare to be important, but Miller reckons that the muon's greater mass could make it a better juggler. That would strengthen the proton's interaction with it and make the proton look smaller to the muon without requiring any new physics.












All these ideas will be up for review in a few years' time when new experiments, including shooting muons at protons to see how they scatter and building muonic helium atoms to measure their energy levels, are completed.












"It's quite likely that through other experiments, in two to three years we might get an end to this," Miller says. "It shouldn't take forever."












Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1230016


















































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.


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Read More..

Sri Lanka bans women from being maids abroad






COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has said that it would bar women of all ages from travelling abroad to work in menial jobs, following the beheading of a young nanny in Saudi Arabia.

Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella announced that women under 25 were now banned from going to the Arab state to work as maids, adding that it was the first step towards a worldwide travel ban for low-paying jobs.

The move was in response to the execution earlier this month at a prison in Riyadh of Sri Lankan maid Rizana Nafik, who was only 17 when she was charged with smothering a four-month-old baby in Saudi Arabia in 2005.

"As a first step we are raising the age limit to 25. We will gradually move towards a total ban on our women going abroad to do low-paying jobs," Rambukwella told reporters.

He did not say by when the total ban would kick in, but said the authorities have started to discourage women from going to the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia where most maids are paid less than $300 a month.

Nafik was beheaded after she was found guilty of smothering an infant in her care after an argument with the child's mother, the Saudi interior ministry has said.

The US and the United Nations led international condemnation of the Saudi authorities over the January 9 execution.

Nearly 1.7 million Sri Lankans are employed abroad and the $6 billion they sent home last year is a key source of foreign exchange for the government.

- AFP/sf



Read More..

Soccer coach suspended in Maine West hazing case









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


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


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





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


jbullington@tribune.com





Read More..

Deformed Dolphin Accepted Into New Family


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

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

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

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

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

A Rare Alliance

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

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

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

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

Default

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

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

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

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

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


Read More..

It's Official: Women Will Serve in Combat













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


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


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


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


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


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








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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Obama hailed the move in a written statement


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


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






Read More..

Wallace: Wonders of nature have been solace of my life






















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






















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












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












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












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












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












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












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












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












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












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






















































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Football: Real Madrid break 500m-euro mark to top money list






LONDON: Real Madrid have become the first club in any sport to generate more than 500 million euros in revenue in a single year, according to the business advisory firm Deloitte.

The company's Football Money League, published for the 16th time on Thursday, sees Spanish champions Madrid retain their hold on first place ahead of perennial rivals Barcelona.

In an unchanged top six, Manchester United remain third, Bayern Munich fourth, European champions Chelsea fifth and Arsenal sixth, but English champions Manchester City soar five places to seventh.

AC Milan fall one place to eighth, with Liverpool remaining ninth and Italian champions Juventus rising three places to complete the top 10.

Madrid's revenue rose by seven percent to 512.6 million euros in the 2011-2012 season, equivalent to £414.7 million or $644.7 million at June 2012 exchange rates.

It enabled the nine-time European champions to hold onto top spot in the ranking for an eighth successive year, matching United's record from 1996-1997 to 2003-2004.

"It is an impressive achievement for Real Madrid to have surpassed 500 million euros in revenue in a single year," said Dan Jones from Deloitte's Sports Business Group.

"Real have led the way in the phenomenal rate of revenue growth achieved by the game's top clubs, with the double-digit (10-percent) increase by the top 20 clubs representing continued strong performance in these tough economic times.

"The combined revenues of the top 20 clubs have quadrupled since we began our analysis in 1996-1997."

Madrid triumphed in the Spanish Liga in 2011-2012, ending three years of dominance by arch-rivals Barcelona, but lost out in the Champions League after being beaten by Bayern in the semi-finals.

Overall, the combined revenue of the world's 20 highest-earning football clubs grew by 10 percent on the previous year to reach 4.8 billion euros.

City's climb of five places was matched by German champions Borussia Dortmund, who rose to 11th, and Italian side Napoli (15th).

"Manchester City's Premier League title-winning season, combined with participation in the UEFA Champions League, helped drive 51-percent revenue growth to 285.6 million euros, the largest absolute and relative growth of any Money League club," said Deloitte's Austin Houlihan.

"The club's progress to the top of the English and European game means that they are set to remain a top 10 Money League club for the foreseeable future."

The only new entry in the list was English side Newcastle United, who moved into the top 20 at the expense of Spanish club Valencia after a surprise fifth-place finish in the Premier League last season.

The English top flight remains the most well-represented league in the ranking, with seven of the 20 clubs hailing from the Premier League.

The Deloitte Football Money League 2013 (position, previous year's position, club, country, revenue in 2011-2012):

1. (1) Real Madrid (ESP) 512.6 million euros (£414.7 million)

2. (2) Barcelona (ESP) 483 million (390.8 million)

3. (3) Manchester United (ENG) 395.9 million (230.3 million)

4. (4) Bayern Munich (GER) 368.4 million (298.1 million)

5. (5) Chelsea (ENG) 322.6 million (261 million)

6. (6) Arsenal (ENG) 290.3 million (234.9 million)

7. (12) Manchester City (ENG) 285.6 million (231.1 million)

8. (7) AC Milan (ITA) 256.9 million (207.9 million)

9. (9) Liverpool (ENG) 233.2 million (188.7 million)

10. (13) Juventus (ITA) 195.4 million (158.1 million)

11. (16) Borussia Dortmund (GER) 189.1 million (153 million)

12. (8) Inter Milan (ITA) 185.9 million (150.4 million)

13. (11) Tottenham Hotspur (ENG) 178.2 million (144.2 million)

14. (10) Schalke 04 (GER) 174.5 million (141.2 million)

15. (20) Napoli (ITA) 148.4 million (120.1 million)

16. (14) Marseille (FRA) 135.7 million (109.8 million)

17. (17) Lyon (FRA) 131.9 million (106.7 million)

18. (18) Hamburg (GER) 121.1 million (98 million)

19. (15) Roma (ITA) 115.9 million (93.8 million)

20. (new) Newcastle United (ENG) 115.3 million (93.3 million)

- AFP/al



Read More..

Bulls rally to beat Pistons 85-82









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


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


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








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


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


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


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


All's well that ends well, right?


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


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


Coach Tom Thibodeau just shook his head.


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


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


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


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


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


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


Robinson finished with 11 points.


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


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


Noah played 45 minutes with 10 points and 18 rebounds.


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


kcjohnson@tribune.com


Twitter @kcjhoop





Read More..

Deformed Dolphin Accepted Into New Family


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

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

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

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

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

A Rare Alliance

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

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

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

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

Default

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

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

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

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

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


Read More..

Pentagon to Allow Women in Combat













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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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






Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images











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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


READ MORE: Female Fighter Pilot Breaks Gender Barriers


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


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


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


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






Read More..

MIT website hacked in tribute to Aaron Swartz



Hal Hodson, technology reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read More..

Japan researchers grow kidney tissue from stem cells






TOKYO: Researchers in Japan said Wednesday they have succeeded in growing human kidney tissue from stem cells for the first time in a potential breakthrough for millions with damaged organs who are dependent on dialysis.

Kidneys have a complex structure that is not easily repaired once damaged, but the latest findings put scientists on the road to helping a diseased or distressed organ fix itself.

Kenji Osafune of Kyoto University said his team had managed to take stem cells -- the "blank slates" capable of being programmed to become any kind of cell in the body -- and nudge them specifically in the direction of kidney tissue.

"It was a very significant step," he told AFP.

Osafune said they had succeeded in generating intermediate mesoderm tissue from the stem cells, a middle point between the blank slate and the finished kidney tissue.

"There are about 200 types of cells in the human body, but this tissue grows into only three types of cells," namely adrenal cells, reproductive gland cells and kidney cells, he said, adding that as much as 90 percent of cultures in their research developed into viable mesoderm tissue.

This embryonic intermediary can be grown either in test tubes or in a living host into specific kidney cells.

Osafune and his team created part of a urinary tubule, a small tube in the kidney that is used in the production of urine.

While the research is not aimed at growing an entire working kidney, he said the method his team had developed would help scientists learn more about intermediate mesoderm development and may provide a source of cells for regenerative therapy.

"I would say that we have arrived at the preliminary step on the road to the clinical level," he said.

Osafune's research is published in online science journal Nature Communications.

-AFP/fl



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Firefighters battling extra-alarm fire in Bridgeport warehouse









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


A four-story building caught fire after 9 p.m., endangering another building, according to the Chicago Fire Department. Extra alarms, bringing more fire equipment, firefighters and paramedics were called shortly after firefighters arrived.


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








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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Check back for more information.


lford@tribune.com
Twitter: @ltaford


pnickeas@tribune.com
Twitter: @peternickeas


ehirst@tribune.com
Twitter: @ellenjeanhirst



Read More..

The Promise and Perils of Mining Asteroids


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

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

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

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

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

Added Value

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

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

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

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

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

Efficiencies

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

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

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

Owning Asteroids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Al Qaeda Commander Killed for the 3rd Time












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


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


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


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




PHOTOS: Terrorists Who Came Back from the Grave


READ: Gitmo Detainee turned terror commander killed: Reports


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


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


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


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


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