False memories prime immune system for future attacks









































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












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












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












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












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












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












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












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












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












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




















































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Spike in dengue cases in first months of 2013






SINGAPORE: Dengue cases have spiked in the first couple of months this year.

In the first week of January, there were 100 cases. This number climbed to more than 300 cases last week.

Within Punggol South, there have been more than 100 cases reported in seven clusters.

To remind residents in the area to do their part in preventing dengue, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu visited households on Saturday.

She said that officers from the National Environment Agency and the town councils are stepping up checks to make sure the environment is free of mosquito breeding.

She also urged residents to be vigilant, noting that 70 per cent of the breeding sites in dengue cases are found in households.

She also said those suffering from dengue must also protect themselves from being bitten by mosquitoes - so as to stop the chain of transmission.

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan also reinforced the message that homeowners must be pro-active in making sure that their homes do not become mosquito breeding grounds.

He said: "We will never have enough officers to inspect every home all the time. It only takes five to seven days for the mosquito life cycle to restart again and clearly we cannot be entering homes every five days. So the key thing is we do need the homeowners to take their own precautions for their own safety."

He added that the situation is aggravated because of a different serotype which is beginning to emerge.

"Dengue I and Dengue III, and because these are serotypes which have not previously circulated in a significant way in Singapore, we don't have the immunity for it. That's why I think this epidemic is taking off and I do need to sound that note of caution to all Singaporeans," he added.

- CNA/xq



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1 dead, 3 wounded in 90 minutes Friday night









Chicago police were flagged down by a man on the street as they responded to the sound of gunfire Friday night and found a woman lying on the ground, bleeding from gunshot wounds to her upper body.


She and three others were wounded between about 5:55 p.m. and 7:20 p.m. on the South and West sides, according to Chicago police, among a total of six people shot Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. 

The woman, whose age wasn't available, was shot in the 1100 block of North Pulaski Road, just a bit south of Division Street in the West Humboldt Park neighborhood about 7:05 p.m. Officers in the area heard the gunfire and headed toward it - that's when they were flagged down. 


The woman was talking when taken away in an ambulance but suffered a wound to her back and a second below her armpit and was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital. She may have been stepped on as people fled the scene, police said. 





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Four others survived shootings Friday night and Saturday morning. 


Before 3 a.m. a 27-year-old man was shot in the arm at a party in the 1100 block of South St. Louis Avenue in the Homan Square neighborhood. 


About 7:20 p.m., two men were shot in the 7800 block of South Merrill Avenue in the South Shore neighborhood. One was shot in the knee and the other in the ankle. The pair, 19 and 20, were at a party when someone crept up a gangway and opened fire, police said.


The older was shot in the knee and the younger in the ankle, police said.  Both were taken to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County. 


About 5:55 p.m., a man sitting in his car near his home was shot in the leg by one of three guys who approached him on foot, police said. The 29-year-old was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where his condition had stabilized.

Earlier Friday, a 17-year-old was shot in the hand in the 7800 block of South Morgan Street in the Gresham neighborhood.

Check back for more information.

pnickeas@tribune.com
Twitter: @peternickeas

lford@tribune.com
Twitter: @ltaford





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Why the Dog Show Winner Looks Like a Monkey


Standing less than a foot tall and easily cradled in one of trainer Ernesto Lara's arms, Banana Joe made big news for a small dog when he became the first affenpinscher to win the Westminster Kennel Club dog show on Tuesday.

His short stature and flattened face might not make Banana Joe look like a typical winner: The name "affenpinscher" is German for "monkey terrier," and its mug is definitely simian in appearance. Now this lesser known breed is basking in the spotlight, monkey face and all. (Read "How to Build a Dog" in National Geographic magazine.)

Why the Flat Face?

People like dogs whose faces kind of look like people, with a squished-in nose and forward-facing eyes: Pekinese, bullmastiffs, and affenpinschers, to name a few. "It's mimicking the way humans appear," said Jeffrey Schoenebeck, a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health who has analyzed the development of shortened canine snouts. Several centuries ago, breeders probably sought out parents with a flat face. (Genetics note: Gene BMP3 likely contributes to a flat face in toy breeds.)

And so Banana Joe's mug reflects centuries of genetic manipulation. There's no advantage for the dog, Schoenebeck notes, except that humans would crave it more as a companion. (Related: Gallery of Dog Pictures.)

What About That Tongue?

Banana Joe sticks out his little pink tongue a lot. Maybe more than your run-of-the-mill canine. The reason may be the flat face. "There's probably less room in their mouth" for the tongue, said Schoenebeck. "It's hanging out."

Why so Small?

"The Affenpinscher comes from a terrier background," explained NIH senior staff scientist Heidi Parker, and like all terriers, it was bred to chase. The early affenpinschers' specialty was hunting down rats and other vermin for its owners. Breeding for a small size came later, as ladies started bringing affenpinschers into the home as lap dogs-and to keep away vermin that might otherwise hide in corners or under long skirts. Today's affenpinschers are in the 6-to-13 pound (3-to-6 kilogram) range.

But the dog's size hasn't given it an inferiority complex. "Most of these little guys do not realize they're as small as they are," Parker says. Toy dogs have been known to chase birds and other animals that rival them in size.

What Comes After Westminster?

Dog lovers may crave an affenpinscher. And that could cause problems if breeders try to produce more pups.

"You'll see some breeds go through sudden explosions, where they'll go from small numbers to really large numbers," says Parker. "Usually that means an increase in genetic diseases." There aren't a lot of potential parents for a purebred litter, so the odds of inbreeding, and its related diseases, go up.

And What About Banana Joe?

Now that he's made us aware of his breed, Banana Joe will retire from competition and live with his Dutch owner, free to fulfill his heritage as a lap dog.


Read More..

Carnival Cruise Ship Hit With First Lawsuit












The first lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Lines has been filed and it is expected to be the beginning of a wave of lawsuits against the ship's owners.


Cassie Terry, 25, of Brazoria County, Texas, filed a lawsuit today in Miami federal court, calling the disabled Triumph cruise ship "a floating hell."


"Plaintiff was forced to endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled vessel, and wade through human feces in order to reach food lines where the wait was counted in hours, only to receive rations of spoiled food," according to the lawsuit, obtained by ABCNews.com. "Plaintiff was forced to subsist for days in a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell."


Click Here for Photos of the Stranded Ship at Sea


The filing also said that during the "horrifying and excruciating tow back to the United States," the ship tilted several times "causing human waste to spill out of non-functioning toilets, flood across the vessel's floors and halls, and drip down the vessel's walls."


Terry's attorney Brent Allison told ABCNews.com that Terry knew she wanted to sue before she even got off the boat. When she was able to reach her husband, she told her husband and he contacted the attorneys.


Allison said Terry is thankful to be home with her husband, but is not feeling well and is going to a doctor.








Carnival's Triumph Passengers: 'We Were Homeless' Watch Video









Girl Disembarks Cruise Ship, Kisses the Ground Watch Video









Carnival Cruise Ship Passengers Line Up for Food Watch Video





"She's nauseated and actually has a fever," Allison said.


Terry is suing for breach of maritime contract, negligence, negligent misrepresentation and fraud as a result of the "unseaworthy, unsafe, unsanitary, and generally despicable conditions" on the crippled cruise ship.


"Plaintiff feared for her life and safety, under constant threat of contracting serious illness by the raw sewage filling the vessel, and suffering actual or some bodily injury," the lawsuit says.


Despite having their feet back on solid ground and making their way home, many passengers from the cruise ship are still fuming over their five days of squalor on the stricken ship and the cruise ship company is likely to be hit with a wave of lawsuits.


"I think people are going to file suits and rightly so," maritime trial attorney John Hickey told ABCNews.com. "I think, frankly, that the conduct of Carnival has been outrageous from the get-go."


Hickey, a Miami-based attorney, said his firm has already received "quite a few" inquiries from passengers who just got off the ship early this morning.


"What you have here is a) negligence on the part of Carnival and b) you have them, the passengers, being exposed to the risk of actual physical injury," Hickey said.


The attorney said that whether passengers can recover monetary compensation will depend on maritime law and the 15-pages of legal "gobbledygook," as Hickey described it, that passengers signed before boarding, but "nobody really agrees to."


One of the ticket conditions is that class action lawsuits are not allowed, but Hickey said there is a possibility that could be voided when all the conditions of the situation are taken into account.


One of the passengers already thinking about legal action is Tammy Hilley, a mother of two, who was on a girl's getaway with her two friends when a fire in the ship's engine room disabled the vessel's propulsion system and knocked out most of its power.


"I think that's a direction that our families will talk about, consider and see what's right for us," Hilley told "Good Morning America" when asked if she would be seeking legal action.






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Comet rain took life's ingredients to Jupiter's moons


































Dust made from pulverised comets may have seeded Jupiter's moons with the raw ingredients for life. That includes Europa, which is thought to harbour a liquid ocean beneath its icy crust.












Jupiter has two kinds of natural satellites: large spherical moons and smaller lumpy bodies that follow elongated orbits. Chemical analysis of the irregular bodies suggests they are made of the same stuff as asteroids and comets. This means they are probably rich in the carbon-containing compounds that are key to life on Earth.












It is thought that a gravitational reshuffling of the planets some 4 billion years ago shook up distant belts of space rocks and sent many of them hurtling towards the sun. Some got caught in Jupiter's orbit and became the irregular satellites. The objects frequently collided as they settled into their new orbits, creating dust as fine as coffee grounds.












Blanketed moons













Models say that Jupiter should have captured about 70 million gigatonnes of rocky material, but less than half that amount remains as irregular moons. "So what happened to all the stuff?" asks William Bottke of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.












His team ran simulations of the irregular moons' evolution and found that their ground-up material would have fallen towards Jupiter, dragged by gravity and blown by the solar wind. About 40 per cent of it would have hit Jupiter's four largest moons. Most of this landed on Callisto (Icarus, doi.org/kff). The rest hit Ganymede and then Europa.












That's roughly consistent with images from the Galileo spacecraft, which show dark material on Ganymede and Callisto. "Callisto literally looks like it's buried in dark debris," says Bottke, while Ganymede has a lot of similarities but less dark stuff on its surface.











Sinking carbon












But the surface of Europa is relatively clean. Cracks cover the moon's crust, which suggests it has cycled material from deeper inside, so the carbon-rich debris may have been incorporated into the ice and even made it into the ocean, says Bottke. "Would it be important in Europa's ocean? It's hard to say," he says. "But it is kind of interesting to think about."













Bottke's calculations only set a lower limit on the amount of carbon-rich material that could have ended up in Europa's ocean, says Cynthia Phillips of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, who studies Europa.












"This could potentially be an even larger source of astrobiologically interesting material for the ocean layer than the authors of this paper estimate," she says.


















































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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66-year-old man arrested for alleged outrage of modesty






SINGAPORE: Police have arrested a 66-year-old male suspect for a case of outrage of modesty.

Police were notified of the case on Friday evening when an 11-year-old victim reported that he was kissed and touched inappropriately by an unknown man in the vicinity of Yishun Street 11.

Following the report, officers from Ang Mo Kio Police Division conducted extensive follow-up and managed to establish the identity of the 66-year-old suspect.

The suspect was arrested an hour from the time of the report.

The suspect will be charged in Court on Saturday for three counts of Outrage of Modesty under Section 354(2) of the Penal Code, Chapter 224, which carries an imprisonment term of up to five years and caning.

- CNA/xq



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Passengers leave crippled ship








MOBILE, Alabama—





A crippled cruise ship that lost power for more than four days in the Gulf of Mexico was pulled into a port in Mobile, Alabama, late on Thursday as passengers cheered the end of a "hellish" voyage marked by overflowing toilets and stinking cabins.

Tugboats pulled the Carnival Triumph into port in a drama that played out live on U.S. cable news stations, creating another public relations nightmare for cruise giant Carnival Corp. Last year, its Costa Concordia luxury ship grounded off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people.


Exhausted passengers lined the ship's decks, waving towels and flashlights and cheering as it pulled into dock, while hundreds of people watched from the shore.

Carnival officials said it could take up to five hours for the more than 4,200 people on board to disembark the ship, which has only one working elevator.

Once on solid ground, many passengers still had a lengthy journey ahead. More than 100 buses were lined up waiting to carry passengers on a seven-hour bus ride to Galveston, Texas, while others had elected to stay overnight in hotels in Mobile before flying home, Carnival said.

An engine fire on Sunday knocked out power and plumbing across most of the 893-foot vessel and left it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship, which went into service in 1999, was on a four-day cruise and on its way back from a stop in Cozumel, Mexico.

Over the last four days, passengers described an overpowering stench on parts of the ship and complained to relatives and media by cellphone that toilets and drainpipes overflowed, soaking many cabins and interior passages in sewage and turning the vessel into what some have described as a giant Petri dish.

"The thing I'm looking forward to most is having a working toilet and not having to breathe in the smell of fecal matter," said Jacob Combs, an Austin, Texas-based sales executive with a healthcare and hospice company.

Combs, 30, who said he had been traveling with friends and family on the Triumph, had nothing but praise for its crew members, saying they had gone through "hell" cleaning up after some of the passengers on the sea cruise.

"Just imagine the filth," Combs told Reuters. "People were doing crazy things and going to the bathroom in sinks and showers. It was inhuman. The stewards would go in and clean it all up. They were constantly cleaning," he said.

Officials greeted passengers with warm food and blankets and cell phones. Carnival Cruise Lines Chief Executive Gerry Cahill told reporters he planned to board the ship and personally apologize to passengers for their ordeal.

"I know the conditions on board were very poor," he said. "I know it was difficult. I want to apologize for subjecting our guests to that," he said.

"We pride ourselves with providing our guests with a great vacation experience and clearly we failed in this particular case."

Operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, the flagship brand of Carnival Corp, the ship left Galveston a week ago carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew. It was supposed to return there on Monday.

A Coast Guard cutter escorted the Triumph on its long voyage into port since Monday, and a Coast Guard helicopter ferried about 3,000 lbs of equipment including a generator to the stricken ship late on Wednesday.

Earlier in the week, some passengers reported on the poor conditions on the Triumph. They said people were getting sick and passengers had been told to use plastic "biohazard" bags as makeshift toilets.

Smoke from the engine fire was so thick that passengers on the lower decks in the rear of the ship had to be permanently evacuated and slept the rest of the voyage on the decks under sheets, passengers said.

'VERY CHALLENGING CIRCUMSTANCES'

Cahill has issued several apologies and Carnival, the world's largest cruise company, says passengers will receive a full credit for the cruise plus transportation expenses, a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for this voyage, plus a payment of $500 a person to help compensate for the "very challenging circumstances" aboard the ship.

Mary Poret, who spoke to her 12-year-old daughter aboard the Triumph on Monday, rejected Cahill's apology in comments to CNN on Thursday, as she waited anxiously in Mobile with a friend for the Triumph's arrival.

"Seeing urine and feces sloshing in the halls, sleeping on the floor, nothing to eat, people fighting over food, $500? What's the emotional cost? You can't put money on that," Poret said.

Some passengers said conditions onboard improved on Thursday after the generator was delivered to the ship, providing power for a grill to cook hot food.

Carnival Corp Chairman and CEO Micky Arison faced criticism in January 2012 for failing to travel to Italy and take personal charge of the Costa Concordia crisis after the luxury cruise ship operated by Carnival's Costa Cruises brand grounded on rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio. The tragedy unleashed numerous lawsuits against his company.

The cruise ship mogul has taken a low-key approach to the Triumph situation as well, even as it grabbed a growing share of the U.S. media spotlight. His only known public appearance since Sunday was courtside on Tuesday at a game played by his Miami Heat championship professional basketball team.

"I think they really are trying to do the right thing, but I don't think they have been able to communicate it effectively," said Marcia Horowitz, an executive who handles crisis management at Rubenstein Associates, a New York-based public relations firm.

"Most of all, you really need a face for Carnival," she added. "You can do all the right things. But unless you communicate it effectively, it will not see the light of day."

Carnival Corp shares closed down 11 cents at $37.35 in trading on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares closed down 4 percent at $37.46 on Wednesday after the company said voyage disruptions and repair costs related to Carnival Triumph could shave up to 10 cents a share off its second-half earnings.

The Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel and the Bahamas Maritime Authority will be the primary agency investigating the cause of its engine room fire.

Earlier this month, Carnival repaired an electrical issue on one of the Triumph's alternators. The company said there was no evidence of any connection between the repair and the fire.

For all the passengers' grievances, they will likely find it difficult to sue the cruise operator for any damages, legal sources said. Over the years, the cruise industry has put in place a legal structure that shields operators from big-money lawsuits.

(Additional reporting by David Adams and Kevin Gray in Miami, Writing by Tom Brown; Editing by Peter Cooney and Lisa Shumaker)






Read More..

Why We Walk … and Run … And Walk Again to Get Where We're Going


You have to get to a bus stop to catch the once-an-hour express ... or to a restaurant to meet a friend ... or to a doctor's office. You've got maybe a half a mile to cover and you're worried you'll be late. You run, then you stop and walk, then run some more.

But wait. Wouldn't it be better to run the whole way?

Not necessarily.

A new study by an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State University tests the theory that people subconsciously mix walking and running so they get where they need to. The idea is that "people move in a manner that minimizes energy consumption," said the professor, Manoj Srinivasan.

Srinivasan asked 36 subjects to cover 400 feet (122 meters), a bit more than the length of a football field. He gave them a time to arrive at the finish line and a stopwatch. If the deadline was supertight, they ran. If they had two minutes, they walked. And if the deadline was neither too short nor too far off, they toggled between walking and running.

The takeaway: Humans successfully make the walk-run adjustment as they go along, based on their sense of how far they have to go. "It's not like they decide beforehand," Srinivasan said. (Get tips, gear recommendations, and more in our Running Guide.)

The Best Technique for "the Twilight Zone"

"The mixture of walking and running is good when you have an intermediate amount of time," he explained. "I like to call it 'the Twilight Zone,' where you have neither infinite time nor do you have to be there now."

That ability to shift modes served ancient humans well. "It's basically an evolutionary argument," Srinivasan said. A prehistoric human seeking food would want to move in a way that conserves some energy so that if food is hard to find, the hunter won't run out of gas—and will still be able to rev it up to escape predators.

The study, published on January 30 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, doesn't answer that question of how we make such adjustments.

Runners: Take a Break if You Need It

The mix of walking and running is also something that nonelite marathoners are familiar with. Covering 26.2 miles might take less of a toll if the runner stops running from time to time, walks a bit, then resumes a jogging pace. "You use less energy overall and also give yourself a bit of a break," Srinivasan noted. (Watch: An elite marathoner on her passion for running.)

One take-home lesson is: Runners, don't push it all the time. A walk-run mix will minimize the energy you expend.

Lesson two: If you're a parent walking with your kid, and the kid lags behind, then runs to catch up, then lags again, the child isn't necessarily trying to annoy you. Rather, the child is perhaps exhibiting an innate ability to do the walk-run transition.

Potential lesson three: The knowledge that humans naturally move in a manner that minimizes energy consumption might be helpful in designing artificial limbs that feel more natural and will help the user reduce energy consumption.

The big question for Manoj Srinivasan: Now that he has his walk-run theory, does he consciously switch between running and walking when he's trying to get somewhere? "I must admit, no," he said. "When I want to get somewhere, I just let the body do its thing." But if he's in a rush, he'll make a mad dash.

"Talk to you tomorrow," he signed off in an email to National Geographic News. "Running to get to teaching now!"


Read More..

Nightmare Ends: Passengers Leave Disabled Ship












After five days without power in the Gulf of Mexico, the more than 4,200 people aboard the Carnival Triumph returned home to the U.S., with many of them telling their horror stories for the first time.


Passengers began to disembark the damaged ship around 10:15 p.m. CT Thursday in Mobile, Ala. The last passenger disembarked the ship at 1 a.m. local time, according to Carnival's Twitter handle.


Passenger Brandi Dorsett was thankful to be home, especially for her mother who was with her on the ship. Dorsett said she wasn't pleased with the doctor on staff.


"My mother is a diabetic and they would not even come to the room because she cannot walk the stairs to help her with insulin. She hasn't had insulin in three days," Dorsett said.


Click Here for Photos of the Stranded Ship at Sea


The Carnival Triumph departed Galveston, Texas, last Thursday and lost power Sunday after a fire in the engine room disabled the vessel's propulsion system and knocked out most of its power.


After power went out, passengers texted ABC News that sewage was seeping down the walls from burst plumbing pipes, carpets were wet with urine, and food was in short supply. Reports surfaced of elderly passengers running out of critical heart medicine and others on board squabbling over scarce food.


"It's degrading. Demoralizing and then they want to insult us by giving us $500," Veronica Arriaga said after disembarking the ship.


Passengers were already being given a full refund for the cruise, transportation expenses and vouchers for another cruise. Carnival Cruise Lines is now boosting that offer to include another $500 per person.


As the ship docked, passengers lined the decks of the Triumph, waving and whistling to those on shore. "Happy V-Day" read a homemade sign made for the Valentine's Day arrival and another, more starkly: "The ship's afloat, so is the sewage."






AP Photo/John David Mercer











Girl Disembarks Cruise Ship, Kisses the Ground Watch Video









Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill: 'I Want to Apologize' Watch Video









Carnival Cruise Ship Passengers Line Up for Food Watch Video





WATCH: Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill Apologizes to Passengers


Some still aboard chanted, "Let me off, let me off!" and "Sweet Home Alabama."


Kendall Jenkins was one of many passengers that were photographed kissing the ground when they exited the ship. Jenkins, like many passengers, created makeshift beds out of lounge chairs on the ship's deck after the raw sewage smell became too much to contend with.


"We kind of camped out by our lifeboat. We would have nightmares about Titanic basically happening," passenger Kendall Jenkins told ABC News Radio.


"I am just so blessed to be back home," she added.


Cruise Ship Newlyweds Won't Be Spending Honeymoon on a Boat


Approximately 100 buses were waiting to take passengers on the next stage of their journey. Passengers had the option to take a bus ride to New Orleans or Galveston, Texas, where the ill-fated ship's voyage began. From there, passengers will take flights home, which Carnival said they would pay for.


Inside the buses, Carnival handed out bags of food that included French fries, chicken nuggets, honey mustard barbecue sauce and apples.


Deborah Knight, 56, decided to stay in Mobile after the arduous journey was over rather than board a bus for a long ride. Her husband Seth drove in from Houston and they checked in at a downtown Mobile hotel.


"I want a hot shower and a daggum Whataburger," said Knight.


She said she was afraid to eat the food on board and had gotten sick while on the ship.


For 24-year-old Brittany Ferguson of Texas, not knowing how long passengers had to endure their time aboard was the worst part.


"I'm feeling awesome just to see land and buildings," Ferguson said, who was in a white robe given to her aboard. "The scariest part was just not knowing when we'd get back," she told The Associated Press.


Carnival president and CEO Gerry Cahill praised the ship's crew and told reporters that he was headed on board to apologize directly to its passengers shortly before the Carnival Triumph arrived in Mobile.


"I know the conditions on board were very poor," Cahill said Thursday night. "I know it was very difficult, and I want to apologize again for subjecting our guests for that. ... Clearly, we failed in this particular case."


Luckily no one was hurt in the fire they triggered the power outage, but many passengers aboard the 900 foot colossus said they smelled smoke and were living in fear.






Read More..

Mosh pit physics could aid disaster planning

















































Metalheads in mosh pits act like atoms in a gas. That's the conclusion of the first study of the collective motion of people at a rock concert.












The finding could add to the realism of computer-generated crowd scenes in films and games.; More importantly, it could help architects design buildings that ease the flow of chaotic crowds in an emergency.












Research into how humans behave in crowds had mostly been limited to fairly organised situations, like pedestrians forming lanes when walking on the street. But when Jesse Silverberg, a graduate student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, took his girlfriend to her first heavy metal concert a few years ago, he witnessed a different and surprising form of crowd behaviour.












"I didn't want to put her in harm's way, so we stood off to the side," he says. "I'm usually in the mosh pit, but for the first time I was off to the side and watching. I was amazed at what I saw."












Metal fans' favoured dance style is called moshing and mostly involves bodies slamming into each other. Silverberg wondered if the mathematical laws that describe group behaviour in flocks of birds or schools of fish could apply to moshers as well.











Like a random gas













Together with another grad student and two physics professors at Cornell, he pulled videos of mosh pits off YouTube and used software developed for analysing particles in a fluid to track the moshers' motions. They found that the dancers' speeds had the same statistical distribution as the speeds of particles in a gas. Such particles move around freely, interacting only when they bounce off one another.












"This presented a bit of a mystery," Silverberg says. What makes a crowd of people with independent decision-making powers behave like a random gas?












To investigate, the team simulated a mosh pit with a few basic rules: the virtual moshers bounce off each other when they collide (instead of sticking or sliding through each other); they can move independently; and they can flock, or follow each other, to varying degrees. Finally, the team added a certain amount of statistical noise to the simulated moshers' movements – "to mimic the effects of the inebriants that the participants typically use", says co-author Matthew Bierbaum.












They found that by tweaking their model parameters – decreasing noise or increasing the tendency to flock, for instance – they could make the pit shift between the random-gas-like moshing and a circular vortex called a circle pit, which is exactly what they saw in the YouTube videos of real mosh pits. Their simulation is available online.












"These are collective behaviours that you wouldn't have predicted based on the previous literature on collective motion in humans," Silverberg says. "That work was geared at pedestrians, but what we're seeing is fundamentally different."












"The fact that human beings are very complex creatures, and yet we can develop a lifeless computer simulation that mimics their behaviour, really tells us that we're understanding something new about the behaviour of crowds that we didn't understand before," says co-author James Sethna.











Lane formation













The team also found a third mosh-pit mode that they hadn't seen on YouTube, which they call lane formation. "If you increase the flocking or decrease the density of the simulated moshers, the active participants can break down the circle and just stream through the crowd," Bierbaum says. "I'd be excited to see this, but it would have to be at a very large venue, so that the ends didn't collide with each other to form a circle pit."











Although the project was mostly for fun, the researchers think it could have real-world implications for crowd animators and architects.













"When you have earthquakes or buildings on fire, people tend to panic when they escape. We don't have a good way of experimentally seeing what's going on," Silverberg says. "By going to these heavy-metal concerts, we're able to ethically and safely observe how humans behave in these unusual excited states."












"That's how we justify it after the fact, by talking about safety," Sethna adds.












The correlation between moshers and random gases "seems very fitting to me", says Jon Freund, drummer in Ithaca-based metal band Thirteen South. "It's kind of the same thing – a pure expression of energy that's just random."












But he says knowing the physics behind it won't change how he moshes – mostly because these days he stays out of the pit. "I'm a hide-on-the-stage-and-play-my-drums mosher," he admits. "I don't want to get hit in the head."












Silverberg notes that the study's main limitation was the quality of the data. "YouTube videos are typically shaky and taken from a poor viewing angle," he says. What's more, staff at venues "tend to baulk when you walk in with a camera". He hopes to convince at least one venue to let him film with a camera suspended over the crowd. "There really is so much to do and so much we don't know yet. It's really just beginning."












Journal reference: arxiv.org/abs/1302.1886


















































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Athletics: Pistorius charged with murder






PRETORIA - South Africa's Olympic sprint star Oscar "Blade Runner" Pistorius has been charged with the Valentine's Day murder of his model girlfriend, police confirmed Thursday ahead of his expected court appearance.

"I can confirm that a suspect has been charged, he has been charged with murder," said Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale. Officials said there was no other suspect in the case.



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Anxiety grows as Chicago Public Schools narrows closing list









After trimming the number of schools that could be closed to 129, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's school administration on Wednesday entered the latest and what is likely to be the most intense phase so far in trying to determine which schools should be shut.


Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett is expected to pare the preliminary list before unveiling a final one at the end of March. She said administrators will determine which schools are saved in the coming weeks amid a final round of community meetings to hear arguments from parents, teachers and community groups about why their schools should stay open.


If a hearing Wednesday night in North Lawndale was any indication, CPS still has a long way to go to gain the public's trust.





"Our schools don't need to close," Dwayne Truss, vice chairman of CPS' Austin Community Action Council, said in front of hundreds of people packed inside a church auditorium in the West Side neighborhood. "CPS is perpetrating a myth that there's a budget crisis."


CPS initially said 330 of its schools are underenrolled, the chief criterion for closing. Members of a commission assembled to gather public input on the issue told CPS officials earlier this year that closing a large number of schools would create too much upheaval. The Tribune, citing sources, said the commission indicated a far smaller number should be closed than initially feared, possibly as few as 15.


CPS then started holding its own hearings and on Wednesday, while following many of the formal recommendations made by the Commission on School Utilization, said 129 schools still fit the criteria for closing.


The new number and the latest round of hearings sets the stage for the administration to counter questions about the district's abilities to close a large number of schools and the need to do so.


For many who have already turned up to school closing meetings, this final round of hearings will be even more critical. School supporters must show how they plan to turn around academic performance and build enrollment, and also make the case for any security problems that would be created by closing their school.


"We are prepared now to move to the next level of conversation with our community and discuss a list of approximately 129 schools that still require further vetting and further conversation," Bryd-Bennett said. "We are going to take these 129 and continue to sift through these schools."


In the past, political clout has played a role in the district's final decisions. Already this year, several aldermen have spoken out on behalf of schools in their wards.


On the Near Northwest Side, for instance, the initial list of 330 underused schools included about six in the 1st Ward. Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno helped organize local school council members, school administrators and parents to fight any closing. He also took that fight to leaders in City Hall and within CPS' bureaucracy. Nearly all of the schools in the ward were excluded from the list of 129.


"It is effort and it's organizing and not just showing up at meetings and yelling. Anybody can do that," Moreno said. "Those schools that proactively work before those meetings and explain what they are doing, what they need and that they are willing to accept new students, that's when politics works.


"My responsibility in this juncture was to focus on these schools," he said. "I had to work on the inside, with CPS and with City Hall, and with my schools on the outside."


Most of the schools on the list of 129 are on the West, South and Southwest sides, many in impoverished neighborhoods that saw significant population loss over the last decade. Largely spared were the North and Northwest sides.


In all, more than 43,000 students attend those 129 schools on the preliminary list, according to CPS records.


The area with the most schools on the list is a CPS network (the district groups its schools in 14 networks) that runs roughly from Madison Street south to 71st Street and from the lake to State Street. The preliminary list includes 24 schools in that area.


The Englewood-Gresham network has the second-largest number, 19, while the Austin-North Lawndale network where Wednesday night's meeting was held still has 16 schools on the list.


CPS critics said the preliminary list is still too large to be meaningful and that the district's promise to trim it before March 31 is only a tactic to make the final number seem reasonable.


"They started out with such a far-fetched, exaggerated list of schools, many of which are nowhere near underutilized," said Wendy Katten, co-founder of the parent group Raise Your Hand. "They might appear to be looking like they're listening, but they're not. They have not done a thorough and substantive assessment of these schools."


Following the commission's recommendations, CPS last month removed high schools and schools performing at a high level academically from consideration. On Wednesday, the district said schools with more than 600 students or utilization rates of at least 70 percent have also been taken out of consideration for closing.





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Are Honeybees Losing Their Way?



A single honeybee visits hundreds, sometimes thousands, of flowers a day in search of nectar and pollen. Then it must find its way back to the hive, navigating distances up to five miles (eight kilometers), and perform a "waggle dance" to tell the other bees where the flowers are.


A new study shows that long-term exposure to a combination of certain pesticides might impair the bee's ability to carry out its pollen mission.


"Any impairment in their ability to do this could have a strong effect on their survival," said Geraldine Wright, a neuroscientist at Newcastle University in England and co-author of a new study posted online February 7, 2013, in the Journal of Experimental Biology.


Wright's study adds to the growing body of research that shows that the honeybee's ability to thrive is being threatened. Scientists are still researching how pesticides may be contributing to colony collapse disorder (CCD), a rapid die-off seen in millions of honeybees throughout the world since 2006.


"Pesticides are very likely to be involved in CCD and also in the loss of other types of pollinators," Wright said. (See the diversity of pollinating creatures in a photo gallery from National Geographic magazine.)


Bees depend on what's called "scent memory" to find flowers teeming with nectar and pollen. Their ability to rapidly learn, remember, and communicate with each other has made them highly efficient foragers, using the waggle dance to educate others about the site of the food source.



Watch as National Geographic explains the waggle dance.


Their pollination of plants is responsible for the existence of nearly a third of the food we eat and has a similar impact on wildlife food supplies.


Previous studies have shown certain types of pesticides affect a bee's learning and memory. Wright's team wanted to investigate if the combination of different pesticides had an even greater effect on the learning and memory of honeybees.


"Honeybees learn to associate floral colors and scents with the quality of food rewards," Wright explained. "The pesticides affect the neurons involved in these behaviors. These [affected] bees are likely to have difficulty communicating with other members of the colony."


The experiment used a classic procedure with a daunting name: olfactory conditioning of the proboscis extension reflex. In layman's terms, the bee sticks out its tongue in response to odor and food rewards.


For the experiment, bees were collected from the colony entrance, placed in glass vials, and then transferred into plastic sandwich boxes. For three days the bees were fed a sucrose solution laced with sublethal doses of pesticides. The team measured short-term and long-term memory at 10-minute and 24-hour intervals respectively. (Watch of a video of a similar type of bee experiment.)


This study is the first to show that when pesticides are combined, the impact on bees is far worse than exposure to just one pesticide. "This is particularly important because one of the pesticides we used, coumaphos, is a 'medicine' used to treat Varroa mites [pests that have been implicated in CCD] in honeybee colonies throughout the world," Wright said.


The pesticide, in addition to killing the mites, might also be making honeybees more vulnerable to poisoning and effects from other pesticides.


Stephen Buchmann of the Pollinator Partnership, who was not part of Wright's study, underscored how critical pollinators are for the world. "The main threat to pollinators is habitat destruction and alteration. We're rapidly losing pollinator habitats, natural areas, and food—producing agricultural lands that are essential for our survival and well being. Along with habitat destruction, insecticides weaken pollinators and other beneficial insects."


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'Blade Runner' Charged With Murder of Girlfriend













Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic and Paralympic athlete known as the "blade runner," was taken into custody in South Africa today and charged with the murder of his girlfriend, who was fatally shot at his home.


Police in the South African capital of Pretoria received a call around 3 a.m. Thursday that there had been a shooting at the home of 26-year-old Pistorius, Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale told the Associated Press. When police arrived at the scene they found paramedics trying to revive 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp, the AP reported.


At a press conference early Thursday police said that a 26-year-old man, whom they have not named, was arrested and has requested to be taken to court immediately. Police in South Africa do not name suspects in crimes until they have appeared in court.


RELATED: 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius Faster Than a Horse






AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File













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Mogale said that the woman died at the house, and a 9 mm pistol was recovered at the scene and a murder case opened against Pistorius, the AP reported.


Police said this morning that there are no other suspects in the shooting, and that Pistorius is currently at the police station.


The precise circumstances surrounding the incident are unclear. Local reports say he may have mistaken her for a burglar, according to the AP.


Police said that they have heard reports of an argument or shouting at the apartment complex, and that the only two people on the premises were Steenkamp and Pistorius.


Police confirmed there have previously been incidents of a domestic nature at the home of Pistorius.


Pistorius, a sprint runner, had double below the knee amputations, and part of his legs have been replaced with carbon fiber blades. In 2012 he became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics, competing in the men's 400 meter race. He also competed in the Paralympics, where he won gold medals in the men's 400 meter race, in what became a Paralympics record. He also took the silver in the 200 meter race.


Steenkamp, according to her Twitter bio, is a law graduate and model. On Wednesday she tweeted, "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay."



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Night-vision rat becomes first animal with sixth sense



Douglas Heaven, reporter






The latest bionic superhero is a rat: its brain hooked up to an infrared detector, it's become the first animal to be given a sixth sense.


Developed by Miguel Nicolelis and colleagues at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, the system connects a head-mounted sensor to a brain region that normally processes touch sensations from whiskers. As shown in this video, the rat's brain is tricked when infrared light is detected, giving it a new sense organ. "Instead of seeing, the rats learned how to touch the light," says Nicolelis.





Even though the touch-processing brain area acquires a new role, the team found that it continues to process touch sensations from whiskers, somehow dividing its time between both types of signal. "The adult brain is a lot more plastic than we thought," says Nicolelis.



The finding could lead to new brain prostheses that restore sight in humans with a damaged visual cortex. By bypassing the damaged part of the brain altogether, it might be possible to wire up a video camera to a part of the brain that processes touch, letting people "touch" what the camera sees.



According to Nicolelis, it could also lead to superhero powers for humans. "It could be X-rays, radio waves, anything," he says. "Superman probably had a prosthetic device that nobody knew of."


If you enjoyed this post,watch a robot and human swap brains to learn teamwork or see a body-sharing robot that lets you experience another place.





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EU ministers to meet on horsemeat crisis






BRUSSELS: European Union farm ministers hold crisis talks in Brussels on Wednesday to agree a response to a scandal over mislabelled frozen meat products which is spreading across Europe.

The snap talks come a day after British police searching for the source of horsemeat found in kebabs and burgers raided two meat plants, the first such operation in the row, and France became the second EU nation after Britain to find horsemeat posing as beef in frozen food.

"If there is horsemeat in hamburgers or lasagne there should've been a label indicating this," EU commissioner for health Tonio Borg said ahead of the talks.

"Consumers are entitled to know what they are eating," he said at a news conference, "If anyone distributes and circulates meat products as beef, when it is not beef, that is in violation" of EU legislation.

It was up to member states to enforce current labelling legislation, he said, reiterating also that the European Commission believed that the scandal "up until now is a labelling issues" and "not a health issue".

"It is evident," he added, "that someone down the line has fraudulently or negligently -- probably fraudulently -- labelled a product in a deceptive way."

Wednesday's talks between EU agriculture ministers opening at 1630 GMT aim to have "an exchange of views and allow for sharing of information between the most affected member states" -- Britain, France, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania and Sweden.

The ministers will also look at "whatever steps may be necessary at EU level to comprehensively address this matter", said Ireland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

On Tuesday, supermarkets in Switzerland and the Netherlands became the latest to pull ready-made meals as anger grows across Europe.

France has called for precise labelling on the origin of meat in ready-made dishes.

And President Francois Hollande warned on Wednesday that the scandal could seriously damage the country's frozen food sector.

"The president underlines that it is a serious affair in relation to consumer confidence and potentially serious for the consequences for the French sector," government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said.

Interbev, an association representing the French cattle and meat industry, has denounced the EU's failure to act, saying bth consumers and professionals wanted swift action on better labelling.

In Britain, police and officials from the Food Standards Agency on Tuesday raided a slaughterhouse in northern England and a meat-producing factory in Wales. They shut both sites and seized all meat there.

"The agency and the police are looking into the circumstances through which meat products, purporting to be beef for kebabs and burgers, were sold when they were in fact horse," the agency said.

Andrew Rhodes, operations director of the FSA, said he had ordered an audit of abattoirs that produce horsemeat in Britain when the scandal arose last month "and I was shocked to uncover what appears to be a blatant misleading of consumers."

The raids on the British meat premises opened a new front in the pan-European search for the source of the horsemeat: the allegations had so far focused on Romania.

In France, retailer Picard said tests had confirmed that horsemeat was present in two lots of frozen "beef" lasagne meals made by French firm Comigel.

Retailers in Britain, Sweden, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands have been removing Comigel products after the firm alerted Swedish frozen food giant Findus to the presence of horsemeat in its meals last week.

Swiss supermarket giant Coop said it had now withdrawn all frozen lasagnes produced by Comigel as a precaution.

Comigel denies any wrongdoing. It said it obtained its meat from another French firm, Spanghero, which said it was supplied from two abattoirs in Romania who allegedly passed off horsemeat as beef.

But Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta this week angrily denied his country was to blame and called on European Union officials to find out from where the fraud originated and identify the guilty parties.

Dutch supermarkets PLUS and Boni said Tuesday they had withdrawn Primafrost brand frozen lasagne as a precaution because it may contain horsemeat without being marked on the packaging.

-AFP/fl



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Dorner case: Human remains found in debris of burned cabin









Charred human remains have been found in the burned cabin where police believe fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner was holed up after trading gunfire with law enforcement, authorities said.

If the body is identified to be Dorner’s, the standoff would end a weeklong manhunt for the ex-LAPD officer and Navy reserve lieutenant, who is accused of going on a revenge-fueled spree following his firing by the Los Angeles Police Department several years ago. Four people have died allegedly at Dorner’s hands.


The last burst of gunfire Tuesday came after the suspect, attempting to flee law enforcement officials, shot to death one San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy and seriously injured another. He then barricaded himself in a wooden cabin outside Big Bear, not far from ski resorts in the snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, according to police.








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


Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said he would not consider the manhunt over until a body was identified as Dorner.


"It is a bittersweet night," said Beck as he drove to the hospital where the injured deputy was located. He is expected to survive, but is expected to need several surgeries. "This could have ended much better, it could have ended worse. I feel for the family of the deputy who lost his life."


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Police said he ended up at the Seven Oaks Mountain Cabins, a cluster of wood-frame buildings about halfway between Big Bear Lake and Yucaipa. The suspect exchanged gunfire with San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies as he fled into a cabin that locals described as a single-story, multi-room structure.


The suspect fired from the cabin, striking one deputy, law enforcement sources said. Then he ducked out the back of the cabin, deployed a smoke bomb and opened fire again, hitting a second deputy. Neither deputy was identified by authorities. The suspect retreated back into the cabin.


The gun battle was captured on TV by KCAL-TV Channel 9 reporter Carter Evans, who said he was about 200 feet from the cabin. As Evans described on air how deputies were approaching the structure, he was interrupted by 10 seconds of gunfire.





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Obama Pledges U.S. Action on Climate, With or Without Congress


If there were anything in President Barack Obama's State of the Union to give hope to wistful environmentalists, it was the unprecedented promise to confront climate change with or without Congress, and to pursue new energy technology in the process.

Following his strong statements in his inaugural address about the ripeness of the moment to address a changing climate, Obama outlined a series of proposals to do it. Recognizing that the 12 hottest years on record all occurred in the last decade and a half, Obama said his most ambitious goal would be a "bipartisan, market-based solution," similar to the cap-and-trade system that died in Congress during his first term.(See related story: "California Tackles Climate Change, But Will Others Follow?")

But without legislative action, Obama threatened to act himself using executive authority. "I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy," he said. That will translate, White House officials said earlier in the week, to new regulations for existing coal-burning power plants and directives to promote energy efficiency and new technology research. (See related story: "How Bold a Path on Climate Change in Obama's State of the Union?")

The effort isn't one that can be stalled, he noted. Not just because of a warming planet, but also because of international competition from countries like China and parts of Western Europe that have gone "all in" on clean energy.

Energy experts signaled support of Obama's comments on energy security, including a plan for an Energy Security Trust to use revenue from oil and gas production on public lands to fund new energy research. "Clean energy businesses commend the president for reaffirming his commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to address the damaging and costly impacts of climate change," Lisa Jacobson, president of Business Council for Sustainable Energy, said in a statement. The influential League of Conservation Voters perked up to Obama's vow to act on climate change, even if alone.

Noticeably unmentioned in the speech was the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands to the refining centers of Texas. Environmentalists have urged Obama to reject the project's application for federal approval in order to hold the line against carbon-intensive production from the oil sands. (See related blog post: "Obama and Keystone XL: The Moment of Truth?") Energy analysts believe Obama is likely to approve the project in the coming weeks, yet at the same time offer new regulations on domestic oil and natural gas development.

Other environmental analysts took Obama's remarks as simple talk, so far not backed by action. “How many times do we have to have the problem described?” David Yarnold, president of the Audubon Society said after the speech. “Smarter standards for coal-fired power plants are the quickest path to a cleaner future, and the president can make that happen right now.”

Obama's path toward accomplishing those goals will likely be lonely. In the Republican rebuttal to Obama's speech, Florida Senator Marco Rubio sidelined climate change as an issue of concern and highlighted the deep partisan distrust. "When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather, he accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air," Rubio said. He echoed the long-held Republican concern that remaking an economy may not be the wisest way to confront the problem of extreme weather.

Central to Obama's efforts will be his nominees to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in his second term. Both roles were at times attacked over his first term, notably when EPA instituted new air and water regulations and DOE was caught making a bad investment in the now-defunct solar manufacturer Solyndra. If the tone of his State of the Union offers a blueprint, he'll choose people unafraid to act.

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


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Charred Human Remains Found in Burned Cabin













Investigators have located charred human remains in the burned out cabin where they believe suspected cop killer and ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner was holed up as the structure burned to the ground, police said.


The human remains were found within the debris of the burned cabin and identification will be attempted through forensic means, the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department said in a press release early this morning.


Dorner barricaded himself in the cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear Tuesday afternoon after engaging in a gunfight with police, killing one officer and injuring another, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said.


Cindy Bachman, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, which is the lead agency in the action, said Tuesday night investigators would remain at the site all night.


FULL COVERAGE: Christopher Dorner Manhunt


When Bachman was asked if police thought Dorner was in the burning cabin, she said, "Right… We believe that the person that barricaded himself inside the cabin engaged in gunfire with our deputies and other law enforcement officers is still inside there, even though the building burned."


Bachman spoke shortly after the Los Angeles Police Department denied earlier reports that a body was found in the cabin, contradicting what law enforcement sources told ABC News and other news organizations.


Police around the cabin told ABC News they saw Dorner enter but never leave the building as it was consumed by flames, creating a billowing column of black smoke seen for miles.


A press conference is scheduled for later today in San Bernardino.








Christopher Dorner Manhunt: Police Exchange Fire With Possible Suspect Watch Video











Fugitive Ex-Cop Believed Barricaded in Cabin, California Cops Say Watch Video





One sheriff's deputy was killed in a shootout with Dorner earlier Tuesday afternoon, believed to be his fourth victim after killing a Riverside police officer and two other people this month, including the daughter of a former police captain, and promising to kill many more in an online manifesto.



PHOTOS: Former LAPD Officer Suspected in Shootings


Cops said they heard a single gunshot go off from inside the cabin just as they began to see smoke and fire. Later they heard the sound of more gunshots, the sound of ammunition being ignited by the heat of the blaze, law enforcement officials said.


Police did not enter the building, but exchanged fire with Dorner and shot tear gas into the building.


One of the largest dragnets in recent history, which led police to follow clues across the West and into Mexico, apparently ended just miles from where Dorner's trail went cold last week.


Sources tell ABC News it all began at 12:20 p.m. PT Tuesday, when a maid working at a local resort called 911, saying she and another worker had been tied up and held hostage by Dorner in a cabin.


The maid told police she was able to escape, but Dorner had stolen one of their cars, which was identified as a purple Nissan.


San Bernardino Sheriff's Office and state Fish and Game officers spotted the stolen vehicle and engaged in a shootout with Dorner.


Officials say Dorner crashed the stolen vehicle and fled on foot only to commandeer Rick Heltebrake's white pick-up truck on a nearby road a short time later.


"[Dorner] said, 'I don't want to hurt you, just get out and start walking up the road and take your dog with you.' He was calm. I was calm. I would say I was in fear for my life, there was no panic, he told me what to do and I did it," Heltebrake said.


"He was dressed in all camouflage, had a big assault sniper-type rifle. He had a vest on like a ballistic vest," Heltebrake added.


Ten seconds later, Heltebrake said, a "volume of gunfire" could be heard.


Sources tell ABC News the gunfire was from Dorner who exchanged fire with two deputies.


The two deputies were wounded in the firefight and airlifted to a nearby hospital, where one died, police said. The second deputy was in surgery and was expected to survive, police said.


Police sealed all the roads into the area, preventing cars from entering the area and searching all of those on the way out. All schools were briefly placed on lockdown.


Believing that Dorner might have been watching reports of the standoff, authorities asked media not to broadcast images of police surrounding the cabin, but sent him a message.


"If he's watching this, the message ... is: Enough is enough. It's time to turn yourself in. It's time to stop the bloodshed. It's time to let this event and let this incident be over," said Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Andy Smith, told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.






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Algorithm learns how to revive lost languages









































Like living things, languages evolve. Words mutate, sounds shift, and new tongues arise from old.












Charting this landscape is usually done through manual research. But now a computer has been taught to reconstruct lost languages using the sounds uttered by those who speak their modern successors.












Alexandre Bouchard-Côté at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues have developed a machine-learning algorithm that uses rules about how the sounds of words can vary to infer the most likely phonetic changes behind a language's divergence.












For example, in a recent change known as the Canadian Shift, many Canadians now say "aboot" instead of "about". "It happens in all words with a similar sound," says Bouchard-Côté.












The team applied the technique to thousands of word pairings used across 637 Austronesian languages – the family that includes Fijian, Hawaiian and Tongan.











Tracking human history













The system was able to suggest how ancestor languages might have sounded and also identify which sounds were most likely to change. When the team compared the results with work done by human specialists, they found that over 85 per cent of suggestions were within a single character of the actual words.












For example, the modern word for "wind" in Fijiian is cagi . Using this and the same word in other modern Austronesian languages, the automatic system reconstructed the ancestor word beliu and the human experts reconstructed bali.












Reconstructing ancient languages can reveal details of our ancient history. Looking at when the word for "wheel" diverges in the family tree of European languages helps us date the human settlement of different parts of the continent, for instance.












The technique could improve machine translation of phonetically similar languages, such as Portuguese and French.












Endangered languages could also be preserved if they are phonetically related to more widely spoken tongues, says Bouchard-Côté. He is now working on an online version of the tool for linguists to use.












Journal: PNAS, 10.1073/pnas.1204678110


















































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