Herbal Viagra actually contains the real thing

IF IT looks too good to be true, it probably is. Several "herbal remedies" for erectile dysfunction sold online actually contain the active ingredient from Viagra.

Michael Lamb at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and colleagues purchased 10 popular "natural" uplifting remedies on the internet and tested them for the presence of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. They found the compound, or a similar synthetic drug, in seven of the 10 products – cause for concern because it can be dangerous for people with some medical conditions.

Lamb's work was presented last week at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting in Washington DC.

This article appeared in print under the headline "Herbal Viagra gets a synthetic boost"

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Obama calls for replacing sequester with balanced approach

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama urged Congress on Saturday to replace automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester with what he called "a balanced approach," which combines "smart" cuts with reforms.

The appeal came the day after the president, complying with the law, signed an order bringing arbitrary cuts worth US$85 billion into force as well as a report by his Office of Management and Budget detailing the cuts to each agency.

Obama has called the sweeping cuts, stemming from a 2011 debt ceiling agreement, "dumb".

The across-the-board cuts were triggered automatically following the failure of efforts to clinch a deal with Republicans on cutting the deficit.

But in his weekly radio and Internet address, he argued there was still time to find a smarter solution to the nation's debt problem.

"I still believe we can and must replace these cuts with a balanced approach - one that combines smart spending cuts with entitlement reform and changes to our tax code that make it more fair for families and businesses without raising anyone's tax rates," Obama said.

He said the budget deficit, now exceeding US$1 trillion, can be reduced without laying off workers or forcing parents and students to pay the price.

"A majority of the American people agree with me on this approach - including a majority of Republicans," the president argued. "We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own party and the rest of the country."

Under the sequester, 800,000 civilian employees of the Defence Department will go on a mandatory furlough one day a week and the navy will trim voyages. The deployment of a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf has been cancelled.

Defence contractors may be forced to lay off workers and some federal health spending could be hit.

Cuts will also be made to special needs education and preschool for less well-off children. National parks could close and wait times could hit four hours at airport customs posts.

But the president insisted that despite public bickering, Republicans and Democrats actually had more in common than they were willing to let on.

"I know there are Republicans in Congress who would actually rather see tax loopholes closed than let these cuts go through," Obama said. "And I know there are Democrats who'd rather do smart entitlement reform than let these cuts go through. There's a caucus of common sense. And I'm going to keep reaching out to them to fix this for good."

- AFP/xq

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Redflex execs out as scandal grows in red light camera firm

The president, chief financial officer and top lawyer for Chicago's red light camera company resigned this week amid an escalating corruption scandal that has cost Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. its lucrative, decadelong relationship with the city.

The resignations came as Redflex said it was winding down a company-funded probe into allegations of an improper relationship between the company and the former city transportation manager who oversaw its contract until 2011, a relationship first disclosed by the Tribune in October. A longtime friend of that city manager was hired by Redflex for a high-paid consulting deal.

The company recently acknowledged it improperly paid for thousands of dollars in trips for the former city official, the latest in a series of controversial revelations that have shaken Redflex from its Phoenix headquarters to Australia, the home of parent company Redflex Holdings Ltd.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration banned the company from competing for the upcoming speed camera contract and went further last month by announcing that Redflex would lose its red light contract when it expires in June. The Chicago program, with more than 380 cameras, has been the company's largest in North America and is worth about 13 percent of worldwide revenue for Redflex Holdings. Since 2003 it has generated about $100 million for Redflex and more than $300 million in ticket revenue for the city.

In an email addressed to all company employees, Redflex Holdings CEO and President Robert T. DeVincenzi announced the resignations of three top executives in Phoenix: Karen Finley, the company's longtime president and chief executive officer; Andrejs Bunkse, the general counsel; and Sean Nolen, the chief financial officer. Their exits follow those of the chairman of the board of Redflex Holdings, another Australian board member and the company's top sales executive who Redflex has blamed for much of its Chicago problems.

"Today's announcement of executive changes follows the conclusion of our investigation in Chicago and marks the dividing line between the past and where this company is headed," said DeVincenzi, who took over as CEO of the Phoenix company. "This day, and each day going forward, we intend to be a constructive force in our industry, promoting high ethical standards and serving the public interest."

The company also held town hall meetings in Arizona to unveil reforms, including new requirements to put all company employees through anti-bribery and anti-corruption training, hiring a new director of compliance to ensure that employees adhere to company policies and establishing a 24-hour whistle-blower hotline.

The resignations and a second consecutive halt to public trading of the company's stock are the latest in a string of events that followed Tribune reports last year regarding 2-year-old internal allegations of corruption in the Chicago contract that the company previously said were investigated and discounted.

The scandal now enveloping the company centers on its relationship to former Chicago transportation official John Bills, who retired in 2011 after overseeing the company's contract since it began in 2003.

A whistle-blower letter obtained by the Tribune said Bills received lavish vacations directly on the expense report of a company executive and raised questions about improper ties between Bills and a Redflex consultant who received more than $570,000 in company commissions.

Bills and the consultant, a longtime friend, have denied wrongdoing.

The company told the Tribune in October that its investigation into the 2010 letter found only one instance of an inadvertent expenditure for Bills, a two-day hotel stay at the Arizona Biltmore expensed by the executive. Redflex lawyer Bunkse told the newspaper that the company responded by sending the executive to "anti-bribery" training and overhauling company expense procedures.

But after additional Tribune reports, the company hired a former Chicago inspector general, David Hoffman, to conduct another investigation. Hoffman made an interim report of his findings to company board members this month. That report prompted the company officials to acknowledge a much deeper involvement with Bills, including thousands of dollars for trips to the Super Bowl and White Sox spring training over many years.

The chairman of the company's Australian board of directors resigned, trading on company stock was temporarily suspended and the company acknowledged that it is sharing information with law enforcement.

Trading was halted again this week pending more details about the company's latest actions.


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Black Hole Spins at Nearly the Speed of Light

A superfast black hole nearly 60 million light-years away appears to be pushing the ultimate speed limit of the universe, a new study says.

For the first time, astronomers have managed to measure the rate of spin of a supermassive black hole—and it's been clocked at 84 percent of the speed of light, or the maximum allowed by the law of physics.

"The most exciting part of this finding is the ability to test the theory of general relativity in such an extreme regime, where the gravitational field is huge, and the properties of space-time around it are completely different from the standard Newtonian case," said lead author Guido Risaliti, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and INAF-Arcetri Observatory in Italy. (Related: "Speedy Star Found Near Black Hole May Test Einstein Theory.")

Notorious for ripping apart and swallowing stars, supermassive black holes live at the center of most galaxies, including our own Milky Way. (See black hole pictures.)

They can pack the gravitational punch of many million or even billions of suns—distorting space-time in the region around them, not even letting light to escape their clutches.

Galactic Monster

The predatory monster that lurks at the core of the relatively nearby spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is estimated to weigh in at about two million times the mass of the sun, and stretches some 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometers) across-more than eight times the distance between Earth and the moon, Risaliti said. (Also see "Black Hole Blast Biggest Ever Recorded.")

Risaliti and colleagues' unprecedented discovery was made possible thanks to the combined observations from NASA's high-energy x-ray detectors on its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) probe and the European Space Agency's low-energy, x-ray-detecting XMM-Newton space observatory.

Astronomers detected x-ray particle remnants of stars circling in a pancake-shaped accretion disk surrounding the black hole, and used this data to help determine its rate of spin.

By getting a fix on this spin speed, astronomers now hope to better understand what happens inside giant black holes as they gravitationally warp space-time around themselves.

Even more intriguing to the research team is that this discovery will shed clues to black hole's past, and the evolution of its surrounding galaxy.

Tracking the Universe's Evolution

Supermassive black holes have a large impact in the evolution of their host galaxy, where a self-regulating process occurs between the two structures.

"When more stars are formed, they throw gas into the black hole, increasing its mass, but the radiation produced by this accretion warms up the gas in the galaxy, preventing more star formation," said Risaliti.

"So the two events—black hole accretion and formation of new stars—interact with each other."

Knowing how fast black holes spin may also help shed light how the entire universe evolved. (Learn more about the origin of the universe.)

"With a knowledge of the average spin of galaxies at different ages of the universe," Risaliti said, "we could track their evolution much more precisely than we can do today."

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Sequester: What Will Happen, What Won't Happen

When it comes to critical elements of the sequester timeline, not much is known -- because federal agencies have been tight lipped.

Asked when specific effects will be felt, officials at three federal departments declined to discuss the timing of sequester cuts and their consequences. Some departments were waiting for President Obama's Friday night sequester order and subsequent guidance they expected to receive from the Office of Management and Budget before talking about what would and wouldn't happen and when.

Read more: 57 Terrible Consequences of the Sequester

"There's no calendar of dates for specific actions or cuts on specific dates," Department of Health and Human Services public affairs officer Bill Hall told ABC News. "Again, these cuts need to be applied equally across all agency programs, activities and projects. There will be wide variation on when impacts will occur depending on a given program."

Some cuts won't be felt for a while because they have to do with government layoffs, which require 30 days notice, in most cases.

For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration won't begin layoffs until at least April 7, one FAA official estimated.

But some cuts don't involve furloughs, and could conceivably be felt immediately.

The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the timeline of layoffs to cybersecurity contractors and first responders funded through states, as well as limited Coast Guard operations and cuts to FEMA disaster relief.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development said it could not comment on cuts to housing vouchers, rent assistance for AIDS patients, maintenance for housing projects.

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Imag

Sequestration Deadline: Obama Meets With Leaders Watch Video

Sequester Countdown: The Reality of Budget Cuts Watch Video

The Department of Health and Human Services declined to discuss the specific timing of cuts to Head Start services, low-income mental-health services, AIDS/HIV testing, and inpatient substance-abuse treatment.

Read More: Automatic Cuts Could Hurt on Local Level

So even as the sequester hits, we still don't know when some of its worst effects will be felt.

Here's what we do know:

What Will Happen Saturday

      Air Force Training. At a briefing Friday, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned that "effective immediately, Air Force flying hours will be cut back."

More from Carter, via ABC News' Luis Martinez: "What does that mean for national security? What it means is that as the year goes on, apart from Afghanistan, apart from nuclear deterrence through two missions we are strictly protecting, the readiness of the other units to respond to other contingencies will gradually decline. That's not safe. And that we're trying to minimize that in every way we possibly can."

      Closed Doors at the Capitol. ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports that Capitol Police issued a memo announcing it would have to close some entrances to the Capitol, writing: "At this time it is anticipated that the U.S. Capitol Police will be required to close some entrance doors and exterior checkpoints, and either suspend or modify the hours of operation for some of the U.S. Capitol Complex posts located inside and outside of the CVC and Office Buildings."

      Capitol Janitor Furloughs. After President Obama warned that janitors at the Capitol will be furloughed, ABC News' Sunlen Miller reported that was not entirely true: The Senate sergeant at arms, Terrance Gainer, told ABC News that no full-time salaried Capitol Police officers would face furloughs or layoffs at this time. They will, however, see a "substantial reduction in overtime," Gainer told ABC News.

      Delayed Deployment for USS Truman Aircraft Carrier. This has already happened, the Associated Press reported Friday morning: "One of the Navy's premiere warships, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, sits pier-side in Norfolk, Va., its tour of duty delayed. The carrier and its 5,000-person crew were to leave for the Persian Gulf on Feb. 8, along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg."

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'Good' and 'bad' skin bugs dictate who gets spots

The secret to clear skin may lie in the cocktail of strains of a common bacterium that lives on your skin.

Propionibacterium acnes bacteria are abundant in the pores on everyone's face. They have been implicated as a cause of pimples, but why they aggravate spottiness in some people but not others has been a mystery.

The discovery that there are "good" and "bad" types of P. acnes offers a clue. It also opens up the possibility of developing treatments customised to the flora of an individual's skin.

The condition affects 85 per cent of teenagers and 11 per cent of adults, and as anyone with acne can testify, existing treatments such as antibiotics have limited effectiveness and can make skin dry out or cause redness and peeling.

Strains sequenced

A team led by Huiying Li of the University of California, Los Angeles, has analysed bacteria from the nose skin of 49 people with acne and 52 controls. "Not all P. acnes strains were created equal," says Li.

Of the thousands of P. acnes strains the researchers identified, the most common 66 were investigated in depth by completely sequencing their genomes. Of these, 63 strains were found in people with and without acne, but two appeared to be linked to acne, and one to healthy skin.

One of the "bad" strains was uniquely found on spotty skin; the other was also found in 16 per cent of samples from people without acne. The "good" strain was hardly found in people with acne but was present in a fifth of those with clear skin.

Rogue genes

Uniquely, the "bad" strains had extra groups of genes derived from viruses. These rogue genes can potentially aggravate acne and include one which binds the bugs unusually tightly to human cells. Because spots are caused by our immune system going into overdrive in response to the presence of P. acnes, resulting in inflammation, this "tightness" gene "means it can trigger a stronger immune response", says Li.

The "good" strain, meanwhile, lacked these genes. Instead, it had genetic components enabling it to recognise and destroy the rogue genes, which means it doesn't cause the skin to become inflamed and spots don't erupt.

Since not all the individuals with clear skin had the "good" strains and not all with acne had the "bad" ones, other factors – such as the tendency of the immune system to over-react or an individual's genetic make-up – might dictate whether good or bad strains grow on skin. In other words, the experiment does not demonstrate what came first – the bad strains of bacteria or the acne, a point raised by researchers not involved in the work.

"Whether the strains are cause or effect is not addressed by this study," says Martin Blaser of New York University. "Nevertheless, this is an important first step in understanding the role of P. acnes in disease."

Probiotics for acne

Li says further investigations are under way in the same people to find out how the balance of good, bad and neutral strains changes over time. She is hopeful that it might be possible to develop creams customised to each person's unique cocktail of skin bacteria to prevent or treat acne.

"Good strains might be used as probiotics to stop skin blemishes before they start, much like yogurt contains good strains of bacteria to fight off bad bugs in the gut," she says.

Another possibility might be drugs that kill only the bad strains. At present, acne is treated with antibiotics that kill all bacteria on the skin, including harmless ones that helpfully prevent nasty strains from taking hold. Exclusively killing the bad strains would be more beneficial, says Li.

Journal reference: Journal of Investigative Dermatology, doi.org/kng

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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Italy's lefti-wing leader suggests loose alliance to end deadlock

ROME: Italian left-wing leader Pier Luigi Bersani on Friday held out the prospect of forming a minority government based on a loose alliance in parliament following inconclusive elections, as Europe puts on pressure for a quick solution.

"I am calling it a government of change, which I would take the responsibility of leading," the Democratic Party leader said in an interview with La Repubblica daily, warning that Italy's "governability (is) at risk".

"Like all governments, it will ask for the confidence of parliament," he said.

But Bersani rejected out of hand the possibility of a grand coalition arrangement with Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right forces, after a new anti-establishment party upset the traditional balance of power between Italy's right and left by winning big in the polls early this week.

Bersani said the government he is proposing would have key objectives, including easing austerity measures, creating jobs, helping the poorest and cutting government costs -- echoing at least some of the demands made by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

But since a Democratic Party-led coalition did not manage majorities in both houses of parliament, the new government would depend on the support of other parties in the upper house -- an arrangement that analysts have warned would prove "highly unstable" at a time when Italy is facing an acute economic crisis.

Stefano Folli, editorialist for Il Sole 24 Ore business daily, said it would "hand over the government" to the whims of the populist Five Star Movement.

Most analysts say there will have to be new elections within months to resolve the impasse.

It is unclear whether the Five Star Movement would support Bersani after its leader, former comedian Beppe Grillo, said his movement "is not going to give a vote of confidence to the Democratic Party or to anyone else".

Not everyone in his movement agrees with this rejection, however.

The party captured a quarter of the vote with a campaign that mixed advocacy on environmental causes and grassroots local issues with a crusade against political sleaze, drawing many austerity-weary Italians to its ranks.

The party has spooked Europe with its promise to hold a referendum on the euro and cancel Italy's debts, prompting European leaders to urge Italy to stick to its fiscal commitments and form a government as soon as possible.

A deputy from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) called on Friday for Italy to leave the euro if it could not stick to EU rules after its inconclusive election.

"If one can't succeed in persuading the people of a country that they have to stick to the commitments they have themselves signed up to in terms of how the common currency works, then you can't demand new elections from outside, but the country must return to its own currency," said Klaus-Peter Willsch.

Markets were jittery in trading on Friday, with the Milan index plunging 1.58 percent -- the worst performer among major European stock markets.

The technocratic cabinet of outgoing premier Mario Monti, who won praise abroad for his budget discipline and economic reforms but became increasingly unpopular at home, will stay in place until a new government is formed.

A centrist coalition led by Monti came in fourth place, garnering far too little support to be able to cobble a majority in alliance with the left.

Bersani meanwhile ruled out another possibility -- the formation of an emergency coalition with his long-time arch-rival Berlusconi -- saying: "The hypothesis of a grand understanding does not exist and will never exist".

The scandal-tainted Berlusconi on Friday made an appearance at his appeal trial in Milan against a tax fraud conviction linked to his business empire.

A verdict in the case is expected later this month, along with a ruling in another trial in which Berlusconi is a defendant on charges of having sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of office while he was still prime minister.

Italy's new parliament must convene by March 15 at the latest under the rules of the constitution. After parliament meets, formal negotiations can begin with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on a new government.

Guglielmo Meardi, a professor at Warwick Business School in Britain, said Italy was "used to parliamentary instability... and should stay on the rails until the autumn, when fresh elections could be held."

- AFP/al

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Washington stares down start of sequester cuts

NEW YORK, March 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. government hurtled today toward making deep spending cuts that threaten to hinder the nation's economic recovery, after Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on an alternative deficit-reduction plan.

The $85 billion in across-the-board “sequestration” cuts were expected to cause airport delays, disrupt public services and result in lower pay or layoffs for millions of government workers.

Locked in during a bout of deficit-reduction fever in 2011, the time-released cuts can only be halted by agreement between Republican lawmakers and the White House.

That has proved elusive so far.

Both sides still hope the other will either be blamed by voters for the cuts or cave in before the worst effects - like air traffic chaos or furloughs for tens of thousands of federal employees - start to bite in the coming weeks.

Barring any breakthroughs in the next few hours, the cuts will begin to come into force at some time before midnight on Friday night. The full brunt of the belt tightening, known in Washington as “sequestration,” will take effect over seven months so it is not clear if there will be an immediate disruption to public services.

President Barack Obama meets top leaders of Congress at the White House at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) to explore ways to avoid the unprecedented, across-the-board cuts totaling $85 billion.

But expectations were low for a deal when the Democratic president huddles with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top U.S. Republican, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

Democrats insist tax increases be part of a solution to ending the automatic cuts, an idea Republicans reject.

“We should work together to reduce our deficit in a balanced way - by making smart spending cuts and closing special interest tax loopholes,” Obama said on Thursday.

Congress can stop the cuts at any time after they start on Friday if the parties agree to that. In the absence of any deal at all, the Pentagon will be forced to slice 13 percent of its budget between now and Sept. 30. Most non-defense programs, from NASA space exploration to federally backed education and law enforcement, face a 9 percent reduction.

The International Monetary Fund warns that the cutbacks could knock at least 0.5 percentage point off U.S. economic growth this year and slow the global economy.

The prospect of weaker growth and a jump in unemployment caused by the cuts was being seen by some in the markets as making it more likely the U.S. Federal Reserve will need to maintain its ultra lose monetary policy for longer.

“The market is of the view that if there's a fiscal tightening which causes a significant negative impact on economic prospects and the labor market, then the Fed will have to respond,” said Ian Stannard, head of European FX strategy at Morgan Stanley.

Financial markets have also had a long time to assess the potential impact of the cuts on growth and believe it is not tantamount to a recession trigger.

“There is no immediate and visible impact to the economy so markets are not seeing it as a tail risk,” said Ayako Sera, a market economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank in Tokyo.


If the cuts were to stay in place through September, the administration predicts significant air travel delays due to layoffs of airport security workers and air traffic controllers.

Some Pentagon weapons production could grind to a halt and the budget cuts would ripple through the sprawling defense contracting industry.

Meat inspections could get hung up, medical research projects on cancer and Alzheimer's disease canceled or curtailed and thousands of teachers laid off.

Instead of these indiscriminate cuts, Obama and Democrats in Congress urge a mix of targeted spending cuts and tax increases on the rich to help tame the growth of a $16.6 trillion national debt.

Republicans instead want to cut the cost of huge social safety nets, including Social Security and Medicare, that are becoming more expensive in a country with an aging population.

Meantime, Obama is edging closer to having to enforce the meat-axe approach.

By midnight, he is required to issue an order to federal agencies to reduce their budgets and the White House budget office must send a report to Congress detailing the spending cuts. In coming days, federal agencies are likely to issue 30-day notices to workers who will be laid off.


The question now appears to be how long the budget cuts will be allowed to happen. If budget cuts last only a few weeks, it is plausible they could have a marginal impact on growth and on employment. This is because some budget cuts won't translate into immediate spending cuts.

The Defense Department, for example, will probably not begin furloughing some 800,000 civilian workers until late April, after which these workers will work one day less per week. Budget cuts for capital spending could also be delayed.

The CBO estimates that only about half of the $85 billion in budget cuts planned from March through September would translate into lower spending during that period.

Once the furloughs and other spending cuts take hold, though, workers will feel the pinch, especially the 2.8 million people employed by the federal government.

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Scarred Duckbill Dinosaur Escaped T. Rex Attack

A scar on the face of a duckbill dinosaur received after a close encounter with a Tyrannosaurus rex is the first clear case of a healed dinosaur wound, scientists say.

The finding, detailed in the current issue of the journal Cretaceous Research, also reveals that the healing properties of dinosaur skin were likely very similar to that of modern reptiles.

The lucky dinosaur was an adult Edmontosaurus annectens, a species of duckbill dinosaur that lived in what is today the Hell Creek region of South Dakota about 65 to 67 million years ago. (Explore a prehistoric time line.)

A teardrop-shaped patch of fossilized skin about 5 by 5 inches (12 by 14 centimeters) that was discovered with the creature's bones and is thought to have come from above its right eye, includes an oval-shaped section that is incongruous with the surrounding skin. (Related: "'Dinosaur Mummy' Found; Have Intact Skin, Tissue.")

Bruce Rothschild, a professor of medicine at the University of Kansas and Northeast Ohio Medical University, said the first time he laid eyes on it, it was "quite clear" to him that he was looking at an old wound.

"That was unequivocal," said Rothschild, who is a co-author of the new study.

A Terrible Attacker

The skull of the scarred Edmontosaurus also showed signs of trauma, and from the size and shape of the marks on the bone, Rothschild and fellow co-author Robert DePalma, a paleontologist at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History in Florida, speculate the creature was attacked by a T. rex.

It's likely, though still unproven, that both the skin wound and the skull injury were sustained during the same attack, the scientists say. The wound "was large enough to have been a claw or a tooth," Rothschild said.

Rothschild and DePalma also compared the dinosaur wound to healed wounds on modern reptiles, including iguanas, and found the scar patterns to be nearly identical.

It isn't surprising that the wounds would be similar, said paleontologist David Burnham of the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, since dinosaurs and lizards are distant cousins.

"That's kind of what we would expect," said Burnham, who was not involved in the study. "It's what makes evolution work—that we can depend on this."


Phil Bell, a paleontologist with the Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative in Canada who also was not involved in the research, called the Edmontosaurus fossil "a really nicely preserved animal with a very obvious scar."

He's not convinced, however, that it was caused by a predator attack. The size of the scar is relatively small, Bell said, and would also be consistent with the skin being pierced in some other accident such as a fall.

"But certainly the marks that you see on the skull, those are [more consistent] with Tyrannosaur-bitten bones," he added.

Prior to the discovery, scientists knew of one other case of a dinosaur wound. But in that instance, it was an unhealed wound that scientists think was inflicted by scavengers after the creature was already dead.

It's very likely that this particular Edmontosaurus wasn't the only dinosaur to sport scars, whether from battle wounds or accidents, Bell added.

"I would imagine just about every dinosaur walking around had similar scars," he said. (Read about "Extreme Dinosaurs" in National Geographic magazine.)

"Tigers and lions have scarred noses, and great white sharks have got dings on their noses and nips taken out of their fins. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and [Edmontosaurus was] unfortunately in the line of fire from some pretty big and nasty predators ... This one was just lucky to get away."

Mysterious Escape

Just how Edmontosaurus survived a T. rex attack is still unclear. "Escape from a T. rex is something that we wouldn't think would happen," Burnham said.

Duckbill dinosaurs, also known as Hadrosaurs, were not without defenses. Edmontosaurus, for example, grew up to 30 feet (9 meters) in length, and could swipe its hefty tail or kick its legs to fell predators.

Furthermore, they were fast. "Hadrosaurs like Edmontosaurus had very powerful [running] muscles, which would have made them difficult to catch once they'd taken flight," Bell said.

Duckbills were also herd animals, so maybe this one escaped with help from neighbors. Or perhaps the T. rex that attacked it was young. "There's something surrounding this case that we don't know yet," Burnham said.

Figuring out the details of the story is part of what makes paleontology exciting, he added. "We construct past lives. We can go back into a day in the life of this animal and talk about an attack and [about] it getting away. That's pretty cool."

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Sequester Set to Trigger Billions in Cuts

Nobody likes the sequester.

Even the word is enough to send shivers of fiscal panic, or sheer political malaise, down the spines of seasoned politicians and news reporters. And today, the sequester will almost certainly happen, a year and a half after its inception as an intentionally unpalatable event amid the stalemate of the debt-limit crisis in 2011.

Automatic budget cuts will be triggered across federal agencies, as President Obama will be required to order sequestration into effect before midnight Friday night. The federal bureaucracy will implement its various plans to save the money it's required to save.

Now that the sequester will probably happen, here are some questions and answers about it:


The cuts were originally slated for $109 billion this year, but after the fiscal-cliff deal postponed the sequester for two months by finding alternate savings, the sequester will amount to $85 billion over the remainder of the year. Over the rest of the year, nondefense programs will be cut by nine percent, and defense programs will be cut by 13 percent.

If carried out over 10 years (as designed), the sequester will amount to $1.2 trillion in total.


Most government programs will be cut, including both defense and nondefense spending, with the cuts distributed evenly (by dollar amount) over those two categories.

Some vital domestic entitlements, however, will be spared. Social Security checks won't shrink; nor will Veterans Administration programs. Medicare benefits won't get cut, but payments to providers will shrink by two percent. The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), food stamps, Pell grants, and Medicaid will all be shielded from the sequester.

But lots of things will get cut. The Obama administration has warned that a host of calamities will befall vulnerable segments of the population.


Questions persist over whether or not it really does.

The sequester will mean such awful things because it forces agencies to cut things indiscriminately, instead of simply stripping money from their overall budgets.

But some Republicans, including Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, have suggested that federal agencies have plenty of flexibility to implement these cuts while avoiding the worst of the purported consequences. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accused President Obama of trying to "distort" the severity of the sequester. The federal government will still spend more money than it did last year, GOP critics of sequester alarmism have pointed out.

The White House tells a different story.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the sequestration law forces agency heads to cut the same percentage from each program. If that program is for TSA agents checking people in at airports, the sequester law doesn't care, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano can't do anything about it.

Agency heads do have some authority to "reprogram" funds, rearranging their money to circumvent the bad effects. But an OMB official told ABC News that "these flexibilities are limited and do not provide significant relief due to the rigid nature of the way in which sequestration is required by law to be implemented."


Not until April -- but some of the cuts could be felt before then.

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