Thursday, January 31, 2013

French troops deploy in last of Mali rebel strongholds

DOUENTZA, Mali (Reuters) - French troops took control on Wednesday of the airport of Mali's northeast town of Kidal, the last urban stronghold held by Islamist rebels, as they moved to wrap up the first phase of a military operation to wrest northern Mali from rebel hands.

A three-week ground and air offensive by French forces aimed at initially ending a 10-month Islamist rebel occupation of major towns is expected to eventually hand over to a larger African force.

The Africans' task will be rooting out insurgents hiding in the desert and mountains near Algeria's border.

"They (the French) arrived late last night and deployed in four planes and some helicopters," Haminy Belco Maiga, president of Kidal's regional assembly of Kidal, told Reuters.

However, the deployment of French troops to remote Kidal puts them in direct contact with pro-autonomy Tuareg MNLA rebels operating there.

The Tuaregs, whose separatist rebellion last year was hijacked by the Islamist radicals, say they are ready to fight al Qaeda, but many Malians blame them for triggering the collapse of democracy and division with their northern revolt.

France's military operation in its former West African colony involves around 3,500 troops on the ground backed by warplanes, helicopters and armored vehicles. It is aimed at heading off the risk of Mali being used as a springboard for jihadist attacks in the wider region or Europe.

French and Malian troops retook the major Saharan trading towns of Gao and Timbuktu at the weekend.

There were fears that many thousands of priceless ancient manuscripts held in Timbuktu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, might have been lost during the rebel occupation, but experts said the bulk of the texts were safe.

The United States and European governments strongly support the Mali intervention and are providing logistical and surveillance backing but do not intend to send combat troops.

The MNLA rebels, who want greater autonomy for the desert north, said they had moved fighters into Kidal after Islamists left the town earlier this week.

"For the moment, there is a coordination with the French troops," said Moussa Ag Assarid, the MNLA spokesman in Paris.

There were no reports of Malian government troops being in the town.

The MNLA took up arms against the Bamako government a year ago, seeking to carve out a new independent desert state.

After initially fighting alongside the Islamists, by June they had been forced out by their better armed and financed former allies, who include al Qaeda North Africa's wing, AQIM, a splinter wing called MUJWA and Ansar Dine, a Malian group.


But as the French wind up the successful first phase of their offensive, doubts remain about just how quickly the U.N.-backed African intervention force, known as AFISMA and now expected to exceed 8,000 troops, can be fully deployed in Mali to hunt down the retreating al Qaeda-allied insurgents.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the French military operation, codenamed Serval (Wildcat), was planned to be a lightning mission that would last just a few weeks to avoid getting bogged down.

"Liberating Gao and Timbuktu very quickly was part of the plan. Now it's up to the African countries to take over," he told the Le Parisien daily. "We decided to put in the means and the necessary number of soldiers to strike hard. But the French contingent will not stay like this. We will leave very quickly."

Fabius warned that things could now get more difficult, as the offensive seeks to flush out insurgents with experience of fighting in the desert from their wilderness hideouts.

"We have to be careful. We are entering a complicated phase where the risks of attacks or kidnappings are extremely high. French interests are threatened throughout the entire Sahel."

An attack on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria earlier this month by Islamist fighters opposing the French intervention in Mali led to the deaths of dozens of foreign hostages and raised fears of similar reprisal strikes across North and West Africa.


While the French operation has made destroying Islamist fighters, positions and assets with air strikes a priority, analysts say a long term solution for Mali hinges on finding a political settlement between the northern communities and the southern capital Bamako.

Interim President Dioncounda Traore said on Tuesday his government would aim to hold national elections on July 31.

After months of being kept on the political sidelines, the MNLA said they were in contact with West African mediators who are trying to forge a national settlement to reunite Mali.

"We reiterate that we are ready to talk with Bamako and to find a political solution. We want self-determination, but all that will be up to negotiations which will determine at what level both parties can go," Ag Assarid said.

However, there have been cases in Gao and Timbuktu and other recaptured towns of reprisal attacks and looting of shops and residences belonging to Malian Tuaregs and Arabs suspected of sympathizing with the MNLA and the Islamist rebels.

France has called for international observers to be deployed to ensure human rights abuses are not committed.

"Reconciling the Tuaregs with their Malian co-citizens will be extremely complicated," said Francois Heisbourg, a special adviser at the Foundation for Strategic Research, a Paris-based think-tank.

(Additional reporting John Irish and Emmanuel Jarry in Paris, David Lewis and Pascal Fletcher in Dakar; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)


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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

For early breast cancer, lumpectomy is at least as good as mastectomy

When it comes to fighting cancer, ?get it out? is a common and understandable response. It?s what prompts some women with early-stage breast cancer to choose mastectomy, an operation to remove the entire affected breast. Results from the largest-ever observational study offers reassurance to women who choose a more conservative approach?removal of just the tumor and some tissue around it (lumpectomy) followed by radiation therapy. In fact, the new study suggests that in a group of 112,000 women, those who had lumpectomy plus radiation therapy survived longer than those who underwent mastectomy.

In describing a study like this, details matter. So bear with me for a moment. The study included 112,514 women diagnosed with and treated for early-stage breast cancer between 1990 and 2004?55% chose lumpectomy and radiation, 45% chose mastectomy. All of the women were listed in the California Cancer Registry, which collects information on almost all Californians diagnosed with cancer. Researchers followed the women for an average of nine years after their diagnosis and treatment.

Over the course of the study, 31,416 of the women died, 39% from breast cancer and the rest from other causes. As a group, women who chose lumpectomy plus radiation had lower death rates from breast cancer and all causes than women who chose mastectomy. The women who appeared to reap the biggest survival benefit from lumpectomy plus radiation therapy were those over age 50 with estrogen-positive breast cancer, with 13% lower mortality from breast cancer and 19% lower for all causes. The results were reported online today in the journal Cancer.

Supporting choices

Back in 1990, a National Institutes of Health consensus panel concluded that lumpectomy followed by radiation is as good as mastectomy for early-stage breast cancer. For personal and medical reasons, many women choose to have the bigger procedure. And the number of women having mastectomies has risen recently. For early-stage breast cancer, mastectomy has been proven to cure or at least retard the disease. It?s a reasonable and understandable choice, especially given how well breast surgeons today can reconstruct a breast.

For women who choose to have lumpectomy plus radiation therapy, the new study provides yet more scientific reassurance that this approach is at least as good as mastectomy.

The results must be taken with a small grain of salt. This was not a randomized trial, the gold standard of medical research, in which women were randomly assigned to one treatment or the other. Instead, each woman and her doctor decided on the treatment strategy. It?s possible that women who chose mastectomy were less healthy or at higher risk of having an aggressive type of cancer, and that?s why women who chose lumpectomy plus radiation seemed to do better.

Lumpectomy plus radiation therapy isn?t the best choice for all women with early-stage breast cancer. Reasons to opt for mastectomy include:

  • A breast tumor that is between 4 and 5 centimeters in diameter. This is close to the upper size for an early-stage cancer.
  • Being at high risk for developing complications from radiation or the inability to undergo radiation therapy
  • A strong family history of breast cancer or presence of a known genetic mutation that significantly increases the risk of developing breast cancer again.

It?s great to have choices for treating early-stage breast cancer. And more advances are sure to come. But having options can sometimes be stressful. For a woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer, it pays to take some time thinking about your options and talking with your doctor and other trusted individuals about them.


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Preliminary FEMA flood zone maps add 35,000 NYC buildings to ...

Michael Heiman / Getty Images file

The corner of 34th Street and 1st Street in Manhattan floods during rains from Hurricane Sandy, Oct. 29, 2012 in New York City.

By Miranda Leitsinger, Staff Writer, NBC News

Some 35,000 buildings and homes have been added to flood zones in parts of New York City, according to preliminary maps released Monday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. More of these maps will be released in late February for Manhattan and other parts of city where the data is still being analyzed.?

The numbers emerged after the release earlier in the day of FEMA?s advisory flood maps for parts of the city, increasing the areas falling into 100-year flood zones or areas with the potential for destructive high speed waves along coastlines, said agency spokesman Dan Watson. More maps will be released for other parts of the city, including Manhattan, in late February, he said.?

The official maps will be released in the summer, but the preliminary ones for hard-hit areas like Staten Island and Queens are intended to give those who are rebuilding a head start. Sandy struck Oct. 29, leaving about 20,000 residential buildings in the city with some damage or disruption to their utilities.

?It can inform building back stronger and smarter with the recovery,? Watson said. ?And honestly it will also help save lives and property in the future ? because we?ve seen areas where folks have elevated or used other forms of mitigation and ? they got wet but there wasn?t as much damage as a result of it.??

The maps reflect base flood elevations and will likely increase insurance rates for those who are newly included in the flood-prone zones. Those who are now in the ?A Zones? -- or 100-year flood zones, where a flooding event has a one percent probability of occurring in any given year -- and who have a federally-backed mortgage will be required to get flood insurance once the flood maps are formally adopted, Watson said.

Some property owners may also have to elevate their buildings or homes, likely setting ground floors ground floors 3 to 6 feet higher than zoning rules previously required, according to The Associated Press. The maps have to be adopted by communities, which can appeal parts of them, Watson said.

Congress has already passed $9.7 billion in additional borrowing authority for the National Flood Insurance Program to help pay Sandy claims from homeowners in New York and New Jersey.?The Senate on Monday night approved a $50.5 billion emergency spending bill to aid people in New York and New Jersey who are trying to rebuild their homes and businesses.

Hard-hit communities were just beginning to figure out what these initial maps mean for them. In Breezy Point, a private cooperative in the city?s southern Queens Borough heavily damaged by the storm, leaders said they needed to study the maps before offering guidance: ?Keep in mind that the DOB (Department of Buildings) and City still need to make decisions regarding building criteria and if it will change.?


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How Obama will deliver his climate promise

Editorial: "Challenge unscientific thinking, whatever its cause"

BARACK OBAMA is certainly talking the talk on climate change - promising to put the fight against global warming at the heart of his second term. What's more surprising is that the US - historically, the world's biggest emitter - actually seems to be walking the walk. It is on track to meet Obama's 2009 pledge to cut US emissions by 17 per cent, from 2005 levels, by 2020. The target could even be exceeded, which may give a boost to the long-stalled international climate talks.

There's no realistic possibility of passing new laws to curb US greenhouse gas emissions - Republican control of the House of Representatives will see to that. So some pundits were scratching their heads at Obama's climate pledge in last week's inaugural address. But independent analyses paint an upbeat picture of the progress he can make simply by using existing laws.

After the gloom that followed the failure, in Obama's first term, to pass a national cap-and-trade scheme to cut emissions, the new mood of optimism may seem surprising. Yet it is backed by hard numbers, laid out in a report released last October by Resources for the Future (RFF), a think tank based in Washington DC.

The group totted up emissions reductions likely to result from action taken by states and cities, and cuts that will occur through market forces as a glut of cheap natural gas encourages power utilities to burn gas instead of coal - which emits far more for the same amount of energy generated. Together, these get about a third of the way to Obama's pledge.

But the biggest contribution comes from regulations under the Clean Air Act, including vehicle fuel economy standards that are already in place. Controls on emissions from power plants that are expected from the US Environmental Protection Agency make up the rest (see diagram). Given all this, RFF estimates that the US could cut emissions by 16.3 per cent by 2020.

"The US had been doing more than we're given credit for," says Matt Woerman, one of the report's authors. "As an American citizen, I'm pleasantly surprised."

"The 2020 target does seem to be in reach," agrees Kevin Kennedy, who heads the US climate change initiative at World Resources Institute, also in Washington DC. The think tank is expected to draw similar conclusions in a report due for release in early February.

According to Woerman, about two-thirds of the cuts outlined in the RFF report are already "baked-in". And emissions could be pushed down further still if the EPA is aggressive in regulating existing US power plants.

The RFF report assumed that the EPA would demand modest efficiency improvements for each type of plant. But the agency could get stronger cuts by setting a combined and more ambitious target for coal and gas-fired plants, and leave it to utilities and states to decide how to get there.

That would provide fresh incentives for power companies to ditch coal for natural gas. It could even bring in cap-and-trade by the back door, if companies and states decide schemes like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, launched by a coalition of north-east US states, could help make the cuts.

According to an analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), released in December, more aggressive policies like these could cut emissions from fossil fuel plants by 26 per cent, from 2005 levels, by 2020 - equivalent to an additional 10 per cent shaved off total US emissions.

Other options open to Obama include an aggressive phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons - refrigerants that are potent greenhouse gases - and plugging methane leaks (see "Fixing America's gas leak").

No one has yet calculated the amount by which the US could exceed Obama's pledge, but Woerman is optimistic. "I think we can definitely blow past the target," he says. "Maybe we could get to 25 per cent."

Numbers like that would give Obama new authority in talks with other major polluters such as China, which have been reluctant to sign up for emissions cuts while the US seemed to drag its feet. "The US will have much more credibility and influence in the next international climate negotiations if it shows, by 2014 and 2015, that it is making good on the president's pledge," says David Doniger, climate policy director with the NRDC.

This article appeared in print under the headline "Yes, Obama can deliver on climate"

Fixing America's gas leak

Measured over a century, methane has 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide - so the last thing the planet needs is for the stuff to be escaping into the atmosphere. Yet that's happening on a massive scale in the US, through leaks from production wells and the pipes that distribute natural gas.

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates total losses at 2.4 per cent of the gas being extracted, but the true figure could be higher. A survey in Colorado, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last year suggested the region's wells were losing some 4 per cent of what is produced.

Putting firmer numbers on the problem is the goal of a study led by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in New York City. It should have figures for production wells by the end of March, and for the entire distribution system by January 2014.

With better numbers in hand, the government could demand the leaks are plugged. "It is quite possible to produce natural gas with minimal 'fugitive' emissions," says Mark Brownstein of the EDF. "It may just be a question of operational and maintenance practice."

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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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rome's Trevi Fountain gets $2.9 million facelift

ROME (AP) ? Rome's 18th-century Trevi Fountain, famed as a setting for the film "La Dolce Vita," is getting a ?2.18 million ($2.9 million) restoration courtesy of the Fendi fashion house.

The 20-month project on one of the city's most iconic fountains was unveiled at a city hall press conference Monday featuring Fendi designers Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi, who said the project combined a love of Rome's past with a need to preserve its future.

Rome's fountains, Lagerfeld said, "are there to glorify water, which is the most important thing in life."

It's the latest example of Italian fashion companies coming to the aid of Italy's chronically underfunded cultural heritage. The founder of the Tod's footwear company is footing the bill for the ?25 million (nearly $34 million) restoration of Rome's ancient Colosseum, and Mayor Gianni Alemanno said he hoped these two donations were just the start.

"Without similar initiatives, we won't be able to save the cultural memory of our country," Alemanno said.

Fendi is also donating ?320,000 ($430,000) to restore another fountain complex in Rome, the Quattro Fontane.

The landmark Trevi Fountain is a must-see on any tourist itinerary. It was famously featured in Federico Fellini's 1960 movie "La Dolce Vita," with Anita Ekberg seductively splashing in the fountain's waters and calling out to leading man Marcello Mastroianni.

Many visitors flip a coin into the fountain: Tradition says that doing so ensures a prompt return to the Eternal City.

The Trevi restoration involves a complete overhaul of the fountain, including cleaning the travertine fa?ade and marble statues, replacing the gilded Latin inscriptions and re-waterproofing the main basin. The project will be carried out in phases, with the central section restored first, then the sides, then the top. At no time will it be closed to visitors, and officials said a screen bearing the image of the fountain will cover the scaffolding in a bid to minimize the eyesore for camera-toting tourists.

The restoration is expected to completed by 2015.

The fountain, which was built between 1732 and 1762, features Oceanus being carried on his chariots and contains many other allegorical references to water. The location of the fountain itself ? on a side street off central Rome's main thoroughfare ? is the termination of one of ancient Rome's aqueducts, the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct.

Alemanno stressed that the only reference to Fendi's sponsorship will be a small plaque near the fountain identifying Fendi as responsible.

Silvia Venturini Fendi said the firm, which her family founded in 1925 in Rome, wanted to give something back to the city and noted that she and her sisters had previously published a book on Roman fountains.

"For Romans, water is inspiration," she said.


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Monday, January 28, 2013

Globe Wireless Launches First Of Series For Maritime -

Satnews Daily January 28, 2013

Globe Wireless Launches First Of Series For Maritime (Event)

[SatNews] ?...with our other sponsors, can be used to help make the world a more connected place,?

Globe Wireless announced today the first of a series of Globe Wireless Satellite Communication Conferences to be held this year. The first will be in Hareid Norway, March 5 & 6, 2013. Dave Kagan, President & CEO of Globe Wireless, will provide opening remarks and will be joined at the event by representatives from Inmarsat, SpeedCast, Jotron and other experts in the field of satellite communications.

Keep pace with the ever-changing maritime satellite communications market! The conference will consist of invited guest presenters and cover topics relevant to understanding and maximizing the use and impact of the newest communication solutions, best practices, crew welfare and industry updates.

The conference format is designed to be an open discussion style to engage the maritime community and understand the needs and issues that are faced in the communications area. Live demonstrations and use of VSAT and FleetBroadband technology will be available to those attending.

The Globe Wireless Satellite Communications Conference is free and open to the Ship owners, ship managers and other maritime community members. To register, click on the graphic on the right.

?The Globe Wireless Satellite Communications Conference is an excellent way to discuss the trends, challenges and future of satellite communications and its role in the maritime industry. It?s an honor to host this conference and share some of the ways in which Globe Wireless, along with our other sponsors, can be used to help make the world a more connected place,? stated Dave Kagan.


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Study Bolsters Quantum Vibration Scent Theory

Girl Smelling Marigolds Girl Smelling Marigolds Image: Flickr/moodboardphotography

How does the sense of smell work? Today two competing camps of scientists are at war over this very question. And the more controversial theory has just received important new experimental confirmation.

At issue is whether our noses use delicate quantum mechanisms for sensing the vibrations of odor molecules (aka odorants). Does the nose, in other words, read off the chemical makeup of a mystery odorant?say, a waft of perfume or the aroma of wilted lettuce?by ?ringing? it like a bell? Chemistry and forensics labs do this all the time with spectrometers?machines that bounce infrared light off mystery materials to reveal the telltale vibrations that the light provokes. Olfaction might, according to the vibration theory of smell, do the same using tiny currents of electrons instead of infrared photons (see previous coverage of the vibration theory here).

The predominant theory of smell today says: No way. The millions of different odorants in the world are a little more like puzzle pieces, it suggests. And our noses contain scores of different kinds of receptors that each prefer to bind with specific types of pieces. So a receptor that is set to bind to a molecule called limonene sends a signal to our brains when it finds that compound, and that's one of the cues behind the smell of citrus. Likewise that same receptor wouldn't bind to hydrogen sulfide?which smells of rotten eggs.

So, the promoters of the standard theory say, the familiar chemical interactions between receptor and odorant are all that's needed to explain olfaction. No fancy quantum vibration theory is necessary.

Yet here's a twist: odorant molecules typically contain many hydrogen atoms. And hydrogen comes in multiple forms, each very chemically similar to the others. But those different isotopes of hydrogen do strongly affect how a molecule vibrates. So deuterium, containing a hydrogen nucleus that has both a proton and a neutron (as opposed to plain-old-hydrogen that has just a proton), might help scientists discriminate between the proposed vibration and standard chemical binding theories of olfaction.

According to new research published today in PLoS ONE, human noses can sniff out the presence of at least some kinds of deuterium. Specifically, experimenters found regular musk molecules smelled different from ones that contain deuterium. "Deuterated" musks, says researcher Luca Turin of the Alexander Fleming Biomedical Sciences Research Center in Greece, lose much of their musky odor and instead contain overtones of burnt candle wax.

The finding represents a victory for the vibration theory, Turin says. And, he adds, it makes some sense, when you consider the purpose of our olfactory ability?whatever its mechanism is. The natural world contains millions of types of molecules. Some are good for us, and some are bad. The nose helps to distinguish one from the other. "Olfaction is trying to be like an analytical chemist," Turin says. "It's trying to identify unknowns." Chemists identify unknowns using spectrometers. Olfactory receptors, according to the vibration theory, act like little wetware spectrometers.

Adding to Turin's quiver is a 2011 finding in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicating that drosophila flies, too, can smell the difference between a molecule called acetophenone (which to humans smells sweet) and its deuterated cousin.

That?s all well and good, says Eric Block, professor of chemistry at the University at Albany in New York State. But, he says, it hardly proves the vibration theory, which faces some contrary evidence. For one, he points out that Turin once claimed humans, like drosophilia, could sniff out a deuterated version of the molecule acetophenone from the regular stuff, yet in 2004 Nature Neuroscience published a contrary claim, that human noses can't smell the presence of deuterium in acetophenone (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group). And, Turin himself says in his new paper that he has confirmed the negative 2004 finding, although he thinks he has an explanation for the failure: deuterated acetophenone has relatively few deuteriums in it and thus may generate a weak vibrational signal that is too weak for humans to detect. Block says Turin can't have it both ways: either noses can smell deuterium or they can't.


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Kyocera Torque coming to Sprint's Direct Connect lineup in March, we go hands-on (video)

Kyocera Torque

Going to be in the market for a new Direct Connect device soon, but the current offerings seem so... drab? Enter the Kyocera Torque, the latest Sprint smartphone featuring the network's CDMA-based Push-to-Talk service. The phone, which should be available sometime in early March, brings with it LTE connectivity, (mostly) stock Android 4.0, a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus processor, HD Voice, 4-inch WVGA display, 4GB internal storage and a 2,500mAh battery. As you'd come to expect on a Direct Connect device, it's also certified mil-spec 810G and IP67 and is water-resistant (it can be in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes). It's also the first on this side of the Pacific to utilize Kyocera's Smart Sonic Receiver tissue-conduction tech, a system that foregoes the traditional earpiece and transmits audio to your ear via vibration.

The Torque packs a lot of average features that would likely put it somewhere in the mid-range (we haven't been given pricing yet), but it's definitely not going to win any beauty awards -- it's still a Direct Connect device, after all. Its outer layer is dressed with Dura-Grip and the phone is plenty bulky as a result; however, it's also much more durable than your standard piece of electronics. We threw the phone at the wall, slammed it repeatedly on the table, dunked it in water and even let it sit in ice for at least 20 minutes, all without incident.

On the software side, the Torque uses a version of stock Android 4.0 with only a small amount of tweaking. Essentially, the only major change added in by Sprint and Kyocera is Eco Mode, a power management system on the Torque that blocks background data connections for nonessential apps. We've put together a gallery of pics for you below. Follow us past the break for a full spec listing and our hands-on video.

Kyocera Torque specs:

  • Military spec 810G and IP67-certified
  • IPX5 / IPX7-certified "waterproof" (up to one meter for 30 minutes)
  • 5.54 ounces (157g)
  • 113 x 60.5 x 14.3mm (4.44 x 2.38 x 0.56 inches)
  • Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core MSM8960 Snapdragon S4 Plus
  • 4-inch WVGA IPS display, Gorilla Glass 2
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4GB internal storage
  • MicroSD (up to 32GB)
  • 2,500mAh battery
  • 5MP rear camera, 1.3MP front-facing
  • NFC, WiFi b/g/n 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 4.0+LE/EDR
  • HD Voice

Mat Smith contributed to this post.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Attack on Syria would be seen as attack on Iran: Tehran

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran would consider any attack on Syria an attack on itself, a senior government official was quoted as saying on Saturday, in one of Tehran's most assertive defenses of its ally yet.

Iran is a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who is fighting a near two-year-long revolt. Tehran has already repeatedly warned the West against intervening in the conflict against Assad.

"Syria has a very basic and key role in the region for promoting firm policies of resistance ... For this reason an attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran and Iran's allies," said Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to the Mehr news agency.

Tehran sees Damascus as part of an axis of opposition to Israeli and Western influence in the Middle East.

In September, an Iranian military official was quoted as saying Iran would take action if the United States was to attack Syria.

Shi'ite Muslim power Iran and Syria, whose leader follows an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, signed a mutual defense pact in 2006, but little is known of its details or whether there are any other signatories.

Iran accuses Western powers and regional states of supporting and arming the Syrian rebels, while the rebels accuse Iran of sending fighters from its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to help Assad crush the uprising.

(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Andrew Heavens)


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AP PHOTOS: Scenes of panic at Brazil club fire

AAA??Jan. 27, 2013?3:06 PM ET
AP PHOTOS: Scenes of panic at Brazil club fire

A crowd stands outside the Kiss nightclub during a fire inside the club in Santa Maria city, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. A blaze raced through the crowded nightclub in southern Brazil early Sunday, killing 245 people as the air filled with deadly smoke and panicked party-goers stampeded toward the exits, police and witnesses said. It appeared to be the world's deadliest nightclub fire in more than a decade.(AP Photo/Roger Shlossmacker)

A crowd stands outside the Kiss nightclub during a fire inside the club in Santa Maria city, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. A blaze raced through the crowded nightclub in southern Brazil early Sunday, killing 245 people as the air filled with deadly smoke and panicked party-goers stampeded toward the exits, police and witnesses said. It appeared to be the world's deadliest nightclub fire in more than a decade.(AP Photo/Roger Shlossmacker)

Relatives of victims react as they wait for news near the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria city, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. According to police more than 200 died in the devastating nightclub fire in southern Brazil. Officials say the fire broke out at the club while a band was performing. (AP Photo/Ronald Mendes-Agencia RBS)

ALTERNATIVE CROP OF XSI107.- Relatives of victims react as they wait for news near the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria city, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. According to police more than 200 died in the devastating nightclub fire in southern Brazil. Officials say the fire broke out at the club while a band was performing. (AP Photo/Ronald Mendes-Agencia RBS)

Relatives of victims react near the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria city, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. According to police more than 200 died in the devastating nightclub fire in southern Brazil. Officials say the fire broke out at the club while a band was performing. (AP Photo/Ronald Mendes-Agencia RBS)

A victim of a fire in a club is carried in Santa Maria city, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, early Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. According to police more than 200 died in the devastating nightclub fire in southern Brazil. Officials say the fire broke out at the Kiss club in the city of Santa Maria while a band was performing. At least 200 people were also injured. (AP Photo/Deivid Dutra/Agencia Freelancer)

Here are photos showing the aftermath of a fatal nightclub fire in Santa Maria, Brazil. The club was hosting a party for university students, which turned fatal as hundreds of partygoers stampeded toward the exit. Firefighters and police say more than 200 are dead, and at least 200 are injured.

Associated Press


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Screeners of unusual size? I don?t think they exist. (Unqualified Offerings)

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Meeting Notes

From the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Meeting, San Francisco, January 3-7

From the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Meeting, San Francisco, January 3-7

By Susan Milius

Web edition: January 25, 2013
Print edition: February 9, 2013; Vol.183 #3 (p. 17)

Pregnant male pipefish have hormone swings

The first study to track a form of testosterone through male pregnancy in fish has found an unusual roller coaster of swoops and spikes.

Among pipefishes, seahorses and sea dragons, females produce eggs but males get pregnant, carrying the embryos. Even though pregnant male Gulf pipefish (Syngnathus scovelli) reverse common sex roles, tests show males still have more of the main fish form of testosterone (called ketotestosterone) than females do, Sunny K. Scobell of Texas A&M University in College Station reported on January 6. What?s different in role-reversed pipefish is that male ketotestosterone levels vary, much as hormones do in females of other species.

For most of a male pipefish?s 14-day pregnancy, ketotestosterone concentrations stay low, closer to female ketotestosterone levels. This dip allows for normal embryo development. About day 10 or 11, male ketotestosterone concentrations shoot up tenfold, presumably letting males ready sperm for the next mating, within a day or so of giving birth, Scobell said.

Wings have damage control for insect-sized smash-ups

Flying insects have their fender-benders, too, and so have evolved at least two alternatives to bumpers.

Yellow jacket wings have a dot of rubbery material called resilin toward the wing tip along the leading edge. The wing doesn?t flex in flight but bends there during collisions, Andrew Mountcastle of Harvard University reported January 5.

In a lab test, wings with a natural resilin patch lost only 18 percent of the tip area when a yellow jacket was spun in a rotating cradle that bumped the wing tip area against a fixed surface for an hour. When researchers immobilized the rubbery spot (by gluing on a dot of polyester glitter), spinning yellow jackets lost about 80 percent of their wing tip area.

A common bumblebee?s wings don?t have rubbery spots, but spinning them in the collider didn?t cause damage as severe as in yellow jacket wings with a glitter-stiffened joint. Resilin might not help much in bumblebees because it would have to be six times stiffer to prevent flexing during their deep, fast wingbeats, Mountcastle calculated. Instead, he hypothesizes that bumblebees get crash flexibility from reduced wing veins toward the tip.?


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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Movie Reviews: Parker, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters ...

Editor's Note: All reviews and information aggregated from?Moviefone and RottenTomatoes.

Want to catch a movie this weekend? Here is Patch's roundup of movies playing at Lakeville 21 TheatreMarcus Rosemount Cinema, Apple Valley?s Carmike Cinema and Great Clips IMAX Theatre at the Minnesota Zoo.

New this weekend:

One sentence plot: Parker (Jason Statham) is a professional thief who lives by a personal code of ethics: Don't steal from people who can't afford it and don't hurt people who don't deserve it.
Moviefone viewer score: 85
"How does Hackford fall so far off the rails with the pedestrian crime thriller Parker, based on the 19th book in the Parker series by the late Donald E. Westlake (no slouch himself, with scripting credits on The Grifters and The Stepfather)? For starters, Westlake didn?t pen this script, and the John J. McLaughlin screenplay is a mess, both highly ludicrous and predictable. McLaughlin ? yeah, the same dude who wrote Black Swan and the recent Hitchcock ? really treads in the shallow end of the gene pool here." Montreal Gazzette. Full review

"'Parker' plays like the bloodiest promotional video ever made for Palm Beach tourism. Stabbings, explosions and furniture-smashing brawls occur at some of the ritziest (and name-checked) locations within the sun-splashed, pastel-soaked slab of Florida opulence. Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the idea of The Breakers." Star Tribune. Full review


Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
One sentence plot: After getting a taste for blood as children, Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Arterton) have become the ultimate vigilantes, hell bent on retribution.
Moviefone viewer score: 91
"High-concept pitch or no, the movie doesn?t really work. They were shooting for sort of a witch-hunting 'Zombieland,' an F-bomb-riddled 'Van Helsing' packed with comical anachronisms ? a Bavarian forest past with witch trials, pump shotguns and primitive Tasers, where bottles of milk have woodcut pictures of 'missing children' on the labels." Norfolk Daily News. Full review

"In the 3D?Witch Hunters, the kids were taken into the woods and left on their own by their father. They stumble into a candy-covered witch house, are taken prisoner and when they figure a way out of their fix - working as a team - they've found their calling. They'll track, shoot, stab, behead and burn witches. Whatever it takes." The Age. Full review

"Even though their skillsets are essentially limited to finding and killing witches, Hansel and Gretel decide to rescue the children themselves. Really, the film should have been called Hansel and Gretel: Occasional Child Recoverers, but that doesn't scan so well. So, who could have abducted the children? A witch?" The Guardian. Full review

Other movies in theaters:

One sentence plot:
Guillermo del Toro presents 'Mama', a supernatural thriller that tells the haunting tale of two little girls who disappeared into the woods the day that their parents were killed.
Moviefone viewer score: 84
"What's under the bed? Who's behind that door? What's making those vaguely satanic noises? These and other thought-provoking questions are entertained in Mama, a visually polished but overly repetitive chiller." Variety. Full Review

"It never hits the high notes of Mr. del Toro's own films or successfully weaves between reality and fantasy as it should." New York Observer. Full Review

"Nothing in the movie is quite original, yet Muschietti, expanding his original short, knows how to stage a rip-off with frightening verve." Entertainment Weekly. Full Review

Do you plan on seeing this movie? Please tell us what you thought in the comments below.


Broken City
One sentence plot:
The mayor of New York City hires a disgraced ex-cop to identify his wife's lover, setting into motion a scandalous series of events in this post-noir thriller from director Albert Hughes.
Moviefone viewer score: 91
"'Broken City' is an evocative and over-ambitious title for a so-so political potboiler that wants to be a gritty, expansive epic of moral and urban decay." Variety. Full review.

"Broken City tells a sordid tale of big city corruption that would have made for a fine film noir sixty years ago but feels rather contrived and unbelievable in the setting of contemporary New York... It's never really convincing that the characters would do some of the far-fetched things required of them by the script, resulting in a sense of detachment that is never helpful for a thriller." The Hollywood Reporter. Full review.

Do you plan on seeing this movie? Please tell us what you thought in the comments below.


Gangster Squad
One sentence plot:
Ruthless, Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) runs the show in this town, reaping the ill-gotten gains from the drugs, the guns, the prostitutes and--if he has his way--every wire bet placed west of Chicago.
Moviefone viewer score: 90
Moviefone critic score: 43
?The cops play things as dirty as the crooks in Gangster Squad, an impressively pulpy underworld-plunger that embellishes on a 1949 showdown between a dedicated team of LAPD officers and Mob-connected Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) for control of the city.? Variety. Full Review.

?Made up of synthetics rather than whole cloth, this lurid concoction superficially gets by thanks to a strong cast and jazzy period detail, but its cartoonish contrivances fail to convince and lack any of the depth, feeling or atmosphere of genre stand-bearers like ?L.A. Confidential.?? The Hollywood Reporter. Full Review.

?Despite the unrelenting action and the terrific cast, Gangster Squad comes up more scattered than successful.? Austin Chronicle. Full Review.

Do you plan on seeing this movie? Please tell us what you thought in the comments below.

- - - - -

Zero Dark Thirty
One sentence plot:
The filmmaking duo behind The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal) takes on the hunt for -- and the killing of -- Osama bin Laden in this Annapurna Pictures production that tracks SEAL Team Six, the special-ops team who eventually brought down the terrorist leader.
Moviefone viewer score: 63
Moviefone critic score: 95
?Telling a nearly three-hour story with an ending everyone knows, Bigelow and Boal have managed to craft one of the most intense and intellectually challenging films of the year.? The Guardian. Full Review.

?Like the fictional Clarice Starling in ?The Silence of the Lambs,? Maya is a consummate professional who brilliantly performs her job in an often hostile work environment.? New York Post. Full Review.

?A monumental achievement that documents a coordinated and complicated response to a monumental tragedy.? Philadelphia Enquirer. Full Review.

Do you plan on seeing this movie? Please tell us what you thought in the comments below.


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
One sentence plot: The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug.
Moviefone viewer score: 72 percent
Moviefone critic score: 58
?Charming, spectacular, technically audacious; in short, everything you expect from a Peter Jackson movie. A feeling of familiarity does take hold in places, but this is an epically entertaining first course.? Total Film. Full Review.

?A mesmerizing study in excess, Peter Jackson and company's long-awaited prequel to the Lord of the Rings saga is bursting with surplus characters, wall-to-wall special effects, unapologetically drawn-out story tangents and double the frame rate (48 over 24) of the average movie.? Time Out New York. Full Review.

?I'm holding the filmmaker responsible for getting us all back again - to feelings of excitement and delight. Vital as they are, Gollum and Bilbo can only do so much to keep us enchanted. Is Jackson able to sustain the magic in two more installments? I peer into Tolkien's Misty Mountains and embrace the journey.? Entertainment Weekly. Full Review.

Do you plan on seeing this movie? Have you seen it already? Leave a review of the film with a comment below.


Django Unchained
One sentence plot: Set in the South two years before the Civil War, Django Unchained stars Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave who forms an unlikely partnership with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz.
Moviefone viewer score: 73
Moviefone critic score: 80
"A sharp shock of a film in an Awards season very full of movies so noble they become immobile. It's wildly unlikely to get much love from the Academy, and that's fine-bluntly, it's too good for them. With its bloody stew of history and hysteria, action taken from movies and atrocities taken from fact, Django isn't just a movie only America could make-it's also a movie only America needs to." Boxoffice Magazine.?Full Review.

"Exactly what you might expect from the fearless, controversial director of "Pulp Fiction" - it's overlong, raunchy, shocking, grim, exaggerated, self-indulgently over-the-top and so politically incorrect it demands a new definition of the term. It is also bold, original, mesmerizing, stylish and one hell of a piece of entertainment." Rex Reed of New York Observer.?Full Review.

"Django Unchained also has the pure, almost meaningless excitement which I found sorely lacking in Tarantino's previous film, Inglourious Basterds, with its misfiring spaghetti-Nazi trope and boring plot. I can only say Django delivers, wholesale, that particular narcotic and delirious pleasure that Tarantino still knows how to confect in the cinema, something to do with the manipulation of surfaces. It's as unwholesome, deplorable and delicious as a forbidden cigarette." Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian.?Full Review.

Do you plan on seeing this movie? Have you seen it already? Leave a review of the film with a comment below.


Les Miserables
One sentence plot: Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Miserables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption, in a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.
Moviefone viewer score: 81
Moviefone critic score: 63
"Stirring and striking, Hooper's epic musical won't be wanting for awards and plaudits. Danny Cohen's cinematography is stunning and Hathaway's Oscar is guaranteed." Neil Smith of Total Film.?Full Review.

"Russell Crowe's pained vocal stylings (they sound more like barks) as relentless Inspector Javert can be forgiven after hearing Hugh Jackman's old-pro fluidity in the central role of Jean Valjean, hiding a criminal past." Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out New York.?Full Review.

"Fortunately, this sprawling epic is well-anchored. There cannot be a better big-screen showman than Jackman." Elizabeth Weitzman of New York Daily News.?Full Review.

Do you plan on seeing this movie? Have you seen it already? Leave a review of the film with a comment below.


This is 40
One sentence plot: Five years after writer/director Judd Apatow introduced us to Pete and Debbie in 'Knocked Up', Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their roles as a husband and wife both approaching a milestone meltdown in 'This Is 40', an unfiltered, comedic look inside the life of an American family.
Moviefone viewer score: 53
Moviefone critic score: 58
"This Is 40 isn't always hilarious, but it's ticklishly honest and droll about all the things being a parent can do to a relationship. And why it's still worth it." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly.?Full Review.

"Judd Apatow's instincts have rarely been sharper, wiser or more relatable than in This Is 40, an acutely perceptive, emotionally generous laffer about the joys and frustrations of marriage and middle age." Justin Chang of Variety.?Full Review.??

"In short, This Is 40, in tried and true Apatowian style, mixes weighty issues about intimacy and cohabitation with astute and smart-alecky pop culture references, crude bathroom jokes, stoner riffs, boob ogling, and existential angst." Steven Rea of Philadelphia Inquirer.?Full Review.

Do you plan on seeing this movie? Have you seen it already? Leave a review of the film with a comment below.

- - - - -

Jack Reacher
One sentence plot: The Usual Suspects' Christopher McQuarrie brings Lee Child's Jack Reacher character to the big screen with this Paramount Pictures release starring Tom Cruise as the lone-wolf investigator on the hunt for a murderous sniper.
Moviefone viewer score: 65
Moviefone critic score: 49
"In terms of pure pop entertainment value, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more smartly constructed, beautifully shot, pulse-pounding movie this holiday season." Drew Taylor of The Playlist.?Full Review.

"A superior thriller, with Cruise and McQuarrie slotting together like a bullet in a clip. Like Reacher on the firing range, the aim isn't always true ? but the misses are fractional." James Mottram of Total Film.?Full Review.

"Tom Cruise is in fine form as mysterious tough guy Jack Reacher finally reaches the big screen." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter.?Full Review

Do you plan on seeing this movie? Have you seen it already? Leave a review of the film with a comment below.


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Facebook is preventing Twitter's Vine from finding friends

16 hrs.

Twitter's Vine officially launched on Thursday and things have already been fairly rough for the?new video-sharing service. First we noticed that it seems to lack any proper privacy settings or features and now it seems as if Facebook's preventing Vine from finding any friends.

As the Verge's Jeff Blagdon points out, some Twitter users are calling attention to an error message which appears when they attempt to find Facebook friends on Vine. "Vine is not authorized to make this Facebook request," the message explains.

We reached out to both Facebook and Twitter to find out more about this error message. A Twitter spokesperson responded with a polite message pointing us to a post on the official Facebook developers blog. (Yes, yes. This made us chuckle for a moment, too.)

In the blog post, Facebook's Justin Osofsky, director of platform partnerships and operations, clarifies some of the social network's platform policies.?He basically explains that most apps use Facebook's platform to give people an easy way to log into apps, easily share content and so on. But, he writes, there is a small number of apps which are "using Facebook to either replicate [its] functionality or bootstrap their growth in a way that creates little value for people on Facebook."

"[W]e?ve had policies against this that we are further clarifying today," he writes, linking to the social network's platform policies page, which explains why Vine's cut off:

Facebook Platform enables developers to build personalized, social experiences via the Graph API and related APIs. If you use any Facebook APIs to build personalized or social experiences, you must also enable people to easily share their experiences back with people on Facebook. [...]?You may not use Facebook Platform to promote, or to export user data to, a product or service that replicates a core Facebook product or service without our permission.

In other words: No, Vine. You can't make friends by leaning on Facebook.

Of course, this siliness?is just the latest skirmish in a long battle over "friends" between Facebook and Twitter.?Facebook blocked Twitter's access to the social network's in-app friend finder in mid-2010 and Twitter later killed Instagram's ability to find friends easily. (Instagram, as you may remember, is now owned by Facebook.

Guess it's Twitter's turn to do something again.

Want more tech news?or interesting?links? You'll get plenty of both if you keep up with Rosa Golijan, the writer of this post, by following her on?Twitter, subscribing to her?Facebook?posts,?or circling her?on?Google+.


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Friday, January 25, 2013

Cycling agrees to truth and reconciliation process

FILE - This is a Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 file photo of Pat McQuaid, President of the Union Cycliste Internationale, UCI, as he informs about the position of the UCI regarding the decision from USADA in the case of Lance Armstrong, during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland. The head of cycling's governing body has been replaced on a key International Olympic Committee panel as he deals with the fallout from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. International Cycling Union President Pat McQuaid said Wednesday he was too busy to attend all the meetings of the Olympic commission evaluating bids for the 2020 Summer lympics.(AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi, File)

FILE - This is a Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 file photo of Pat McQuaid, President of the Union Cycliste Internationale, UCI, as he informs about the position of the UCI regarding the decision from USADA in the case of Lance Armstrong, during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland. The head of cycling's governing body has been replaced on a key International Olympic Committee panel as he deals with the fallout from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. International Cycling Union President Pat McQuaid said Wednesday he was too busy to attend all the meetings of the Olympic commission evaluating bids for the 2020 Summer lympics.(AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi, File)

Foto de archivo del 20 de mayo de 2010 en la que el ciclista Lance Armstrong es ayudado tras sufrir una ca?da en el Tour de California. (AP Foto/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LONDON (AP) ? Cycling's governing body agreed Friday to introduce a "truth and reconciliation" commission with the World Anti-Doping Agency, effectively undermining the independent panel investigating the Lance Armstrong scandal.

The UCI established an independent three-person panel to investigate accusations that its leaders covered up suspicious doping tests given by Armstrong during his 1999-2005 run of Tour de France victories and improperly accepted donations from him totaling $125,000.

The panel had demanded earlier Friday that it must be allowed to implement a form of amnesty program that allowed riders and officials to come forward with information on doping without fear of retribution, citing a struggle to persuade witnesses to speak openly.

UCI President Pat McQuaid said the federation would work with WADA to develop the amnesty commission. The UCI said it would update the independent panel on the talks before a second public hearing next Thursday.

"The truth and reconciliation process is the best way that we can examine the culture of doping in cycling in the past, and can clear the air so that cycling can move forward," McQuaid said after the panel's initial hearing.

McQuaid said he will hold talks with WADA President John Fahey this weekend about how the truth and reconciliation process would operate.

The independent panel also wants to broaden its investigation into Armstrong's role as the ringleader of an elaborate doping scheme on the U.S. Postal Service team, which was exposed in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report last year. Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life, admitted to doping in an interview last week with Oprah Winfrey.

But the UCI rebuffed attempts by the panel to widen the inquiry on Friday, insisting it would be too costly to fund wide-scale investigations.

McQuaid also said since the independent commission was established, "several of our stakeholders have said they won't take part in it. Not just USADA and WADA but others, national federations.

"We feel that because a lot of the allegations which are in the USADA report are made by riders, that those riders, if they come forward to the truth and reconciliation commission, can make those allegations again and the UCI can respond to those allegations within that process," McQuaid said.

McQuaid first revealed he was considering such an amnesty program to The Associated Press in September, but said Friday the plans were only finalized in recent days.

"WADA have indicated that they would share costs with the UCI," McQuaid said Friday. "The WADA code is being reviewed and an amnesty is under discussion within that review. But we're just bringing that aspect forward."

McQuaid said that delaying the hearing was not designed to help its own re-election prospects in September, insisting: "I have nothing to worry about."

"There has been a culture of doping in cycling," he said. "But we hope through this truth and reconciliation commission which we are going to put in place, once it has done its work, we have drawn a line in the sand finally ? and for the last time drawn a line in the sand ? and our sport can move on and be the great sport around the world it should be."

Effectively, the UCI is asking the panel it established to suspend itself. It had been due to hold full hearings in April and report by June.

British judge Philip Otton, who heads the panel, accused the UCI of trying to use the delay in the truth and reconciliation process as "an excuse to kick the USADA allegations into the long grass."

"We're not trying to kill this inquiry. We set you up," UCI lawyer Ian Mill responded later in a heated exchange that led to him being told by Otton: "Please do not raise your voice."

"We are not the bad guys here," Mill said. "We have a finite amount of money available to us ... we are not like a football body."

But the panel fears that the process is being intentionally stalled, complaining about a lack of full disclosure by the UCI.

"It just amazes me that we have had absolutely no documents whatsoever," former British Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson said to the UCI's lawyer. "When are we going to get the .... files?"

But Mil said the "entire process has been derailed" because the panel is demanding a truth and reconciliation process of its own and a widening of its role into the wider doping scandal.

"An amnesty is one thing, getting to the bottom and determining how the USPS team operated without detection or sanction in a reasonable timescale ... causes us considerable anxiety," Mill said.

"That truth and reconciliation process is not capable of being done with the timetable and it may or may not be done under the auspices of this inquiry," Mill said. "We can do something which we understand you don't want to do ... a limited inquiry taking place in April."


Rob Harris can be reached at

Associated Press


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Health Care Law Quirk Complicates Medicaid Expansion ? CBS Miami

MIAMI (CBSMiami) ? Numerous Republican governors, including Rick Scott, have rejected expanding Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. But a quirk in the law could force governors into a tough spot of denying health coverage to U.S. citizens, but giving it to legal immigrants.

The issue first came to light a few weeks ago when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer broke ranks and said her state would be accepting the Medicaid expansion in the law known as Obamacare. Brewer had been a vocal opponent of the law, but her budget analysts caught the glitch.

A spokeswoman for Governor Scott said he is, ?concerned about how legal immigrants and U.S. citizens are treated differently under the president?s healthcare law, which we continue to learn more about.?

The expansion of Medicaid in Florida was quickly rejected by Governor Scott after last year?s Supreme Court decision upheld Obamacare, but allowed states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion. However, Scott has since backed away from that position in recent months, but still hasn?t accepted the expansion.

The Medicaid expansion would be fully paid for by the federal government initially and then roughly 90 percent would be covered by the federal government in several years.

The quirk was an unintended consequence of the Supreme Court?s ruling on the law.

Here?s the convoluted background:

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, the health care law will offer health insurance to millions of people now uninsured. Middle-class uninsured people will be able to get taxpayer-subsidized private policies through new markets called exchanges. Low-income uninsured people will be steered to Medicaid, a government program jointly funded by Washington and the states.

Under previous laws, legal immigrants have to wait five years to qualify for Medicaid. Ng?andu said Hispanic advocacy groups wanted to lift that restriction during the 2009 congressional health care debate, but couldn?t get political support. The Medicaid waiting period remained in place, but a compromise was reached that would allow low-income legal immigrants to get subsidized private coverage in the new health insurance exchanges.

The health care law expanded Medicaid to cover millions of low-income adults who are ineligible under current rules. As written, the law assumed that every state would accept the Medicaid expansion, with Washington paying for most of it. So the law stipulated that people below the federal poverty line ? $11, 170 for a single person, $23,050 for a family of four? could not get subsidies for private coverage in the exchanges. Medicaid was to be their only option.

Legal immigrants here for less than five years remained an exception.

Along came the Supreme Court. It upheld Obama?s law, but ruled that states were free to accept or reject the Medicaid expansion. The court did not touch the issue of coverage for legal immigrants in the health insurance exchanges. That provision remained in place.

And that?s how the immigration glitch came to be. Poor people in a state that turns down Obama?s Medicaid expansion can only get government subsidized coverage if they are legal immigrants. U.S. citizens are out of luck.

(TM and ? Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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Still Crazy after All These Fears (preview)

Cover Image: February 2013 Scientific American MagazineSee Inside

The world will end, but not for a long, long time

classroom, teacher in front classroom, Mayan Apocalypse, end of the world, students, chalkboard Image: Matt Collins

Congratulations, you survived the Mayan apocalypse. I knew you could do it.

I had complete confidence that I would live past the alleged planetary expiration date of December 21, 2012, provided I didn't get hit by a bus or slip in the bathtub. But those modes of demise are, of course, far less tantalizing than some end-of-the world fantasy dreamed up by amateur archaeologists and sucked down by people who perhaps never worry that they have undiagnosed hypertension or that the highway bridge they cross daily hasn't been properly maintained.

This article was originally published with the title Still Crazy After All These Fears.


Steve Mirsky has been writing the Anti Gravity column since a typical tectonic plate was about 33 inches from its current location. He also hosts the Scientific American podcast Science Talk.


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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Asbestos News Roundup: 1.24.13 - Asbestos in Schools ...

January 24th, 2013. By LucyC

AsbestosRoundupLogo1 Asbestos News Roundup: 1.24.13   Asbestos in SchoolsThis week?s asbestos news roundup includes all the recent asbestos-related news and information that you should be aware of. An ongoing list of reported asbestos hot spots in the US from the Asbestos News Roundup archive appears on our asbestos map.

Asbestos Risk in Schools

Building materials and insulation such as drywall, floor/ceiling tile, applied fireproofing spray, and piping/boiler insulation used in the construction of schools prior to 1980, frequently contained asbestos.

While undisturbed asbestos materials generally do not pose a health risk to students and teachers, over time they can become hazardous due to deterioration or damage.

If asbestos containing materials are disturbed, (e.g. during the installation, maintenance, or removal process), asbestos fibers may become airborne and pose a health threat to students, teachers and other employees within the schools. Once asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed, the risk of getting an asbestos related disease, such as asbestosis or mesothelioma, also increases. Student exposure to asbestos in schools is particularly concerning because once the fibers accumulate in the lungs, the latency period between asbestos exposure and the onset of symptoms can take as long as 20 to 50 years.

The federal government has been regulating the use of asbestos in schools since the 1980?s. Schools now have regulatory requirements and management plans to reduce the risk of potential asbestos exposure for students and teachers. However, until the presence of asbestos in schools is eliminated entirely, many believe it will continue to pose a health risk.

Asbestos Lawsuit

Charleston, WV: 50 companies have been named as defendants in an asbestos lawsuit filed by Ray Earl Wamsley II who was diagnosed with asbestosis on April 11, 2012. In his lawsuit, Wamsley claims the defendants are responsible for his asbestosis disease.

Specifically, Wamsley alleges the defendants exposed him to asbestos during his employment as a head artist, decorator, pipefitter, painter and electrician?s helper from 1969 until 1993. Wamsley further claims the defendants failed to warn him of the dangers of asbestos.

The defendants are being sued based on theories of negligence, contaminated buildings, breach of expressed/implied warranty, strict liability, intentional tort, conspiracy, misrepresentations and post-sale duty to warn, according to the suit. (

Charleston, WV: John E. Huxley and his wife, Lucille A. Huxley, have named 134 companies as defendants in their asbestos lawsuit, filed this month. In their lawsuit, they claim the defendants are responsible for Mr.Huxley?s diagnosis of asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Huxley was diagnosed with asbestosis and mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos while employed at various job sites and locations throughout West Virginia and while his mother was employed at E.I. Du Point De Nemours & Company, according to the lawsuit.

The Huxleys claim the defendants failed to warn Mr. Huxley of the dangers of asbestos and failed to take reasonable precautions to warn him of the dangers. Further, the lawsuit states the defendants failed to place any warnings on the asbestos-containing products to warn handlers of the dangers of the products and failed to warn of the dangers of other ingredients in their products, including silica.

The Huxleys claim the defendants were negligent and caused John Huxley to suffer his lung injuries, shock and other nervous or emotional disorders. (

Charleston, WV: Norman T. Dial, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma on October 8, 2012 has filed an asbestos lawsuit, naming 70 companies as defendants responsible for his asbestos disease.

Dial and his wife, Marcia C. Dial, claim the defendants exposed him to asbestos during his employment as a store assistant, laborer, deck hand and operator from 1954 until 1999. The couple also alleges the defendants exposed Mr. Dial to asbestos and/or asbestos-containing fibers during his career and failed to warn him about the dangers.

The defendants are being sued based on theories of negligence, contaminated buildings, breach of expressed/implied warranty, strict liability, intentional tort, conspiracy, misrepresentation and post-sale duty to warn, according to the suit.

The lawsuit contends that the defendants? actions kept the Huxleys and others ignorant of the dangers of asbestos and other products and in this way, the conspirators aided efforts to sell products containing asbestos.(

Charleston, WV: Cletis William Adkins and his wife, Lola Lee Adkins are suing 62 companies they claim are responsible for Mr. Adkins diagnosis of asbestos-related lung cancer.

In the lawsuit, Adkins, diagnosed with lung cancer on September 10, 2012, claims the defendants exposed him to asbestos during his employment as a laborer, high lift operator and custodian from 1955 until 1994. Further, the Adkins allege the defendants exposed Cletis Adkins to asbestos and/or asbestos-containing fibers during his career and failed to warn him about the dangers.

The defendants are being sued based on theories of negligence, contaminated buildings, breach of expressed/implied warranty, strict liability, intentional tort, conspiracy, misrepresentation and post-sale duty to warn, according to the suit. (

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013 and is filed under Asbestos Mesothelioma, Emerging Issues, lawsuits. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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