Today on New Scientist: 21 December 2012







Cadaver stem cells offer new hope of life after death

Stem cells can be extracted from bone marrow five days after death to be used in life-saving treatments



Apple's patents under fire at US patent office

The tech firm is skating on thin ice with some of the patents that won it a $1 billion settlement against Samsung



Himalayan dam-building threatens endemic species

The world's highest mountains look set to become home to a huge number of dams - good news for clean energy but bad news for biodiversity



Astrophile: Black hole exposed as a dwarf in disguise

A white dwarf star caught mimicking a black hole's X-ray flashes may be the first in a new class of binary star systems



Blind juggling robot keeps a ball in the air for hours

The robot, which has no visual sensors, can juggle a ball flawlessly by analysing its trajectory



Studio sessions show how Bengalese finch stays in tune

This songbird doesn't need technological aids to stay in tune - and it's smart enough to not worry when it hears notes that are too far off to be true



Giant tooth hints at truly monumental dinosaur

A lone tooth found in Argentina may have belonged to a dinosaur even larger than those we know of, but what to call it?



Avian flu virus learns to fly without wings

A strain of bird flu that hit the Netherlands in 2003 travelled by air, a hitherto suspected by unproven route of transmission



Feedback: Are wind turbines really fans?

A tale of "disease-spreading" wind farms, the trouble with quantifying "don't know", the death of parody in the UK, and more



The link between devaluing animals and discrimination

Our feelings about other animals have important consequences for how we treat humans, say prejudice researchers Gordon Hodson and Kimberly Costello



Best videos of 2012: First motion MRI of unborn twins

Watch twins fight for space in the womb, as we reach number 6 in our countdown of the top videos of the year



2012 Flash Fiction winner: Sleep by Richard Clarke

Congratulations to Richard Clarke, who won the 2012 New Scientist Flash Fiction competition with a clever work of satire



Urban Byzantine monks gave in to temptation

They were supposed to live on an ascetic diet of mainly bread and water, but the monks in 6th-century Jerusalem were tucking into animal products



The pregnant promise of fetal medicine

As prenatal diagnosis and treatment advance, we are entering difficult ethical territory



2013 Smart Guide: Searching for human origins in Asia

Africa is where humanity began, where we took our first steps, but those interested in the latest cool stuff on our origins should now look to Asia instead



The end of the world is an opportunity, not a threat

Don't waste time bemoaning the demise of the old order; get on with building the new one



Victorian counting device gets speedy quantum makeover

A photon-based version of a 19th-century mechanical device could bring quantum computers a step closer



Did learning to fly give bats super-immunity?

When bats first took to the air, something changed in their DNA which may have triggered their incredible immunity to viruses



Van-sized space rock is a cosmic oddball

Fragments from a meteor that exploded over California in April are unusually low in amino acids, putting a twist on one theory of how life on Earth began




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Man loses S$6,000 in unhonoured online purchase






SINGAPORE: 21-year-old Kenrick Ho is S$6,000 poorer after an online purchase gone wrong.

He had ordered 10 mobile phone sets from an eBay seller named Ms Siah, in September 2012.

But after making full payment, no goods were delivered.

"(I am) very depressed and stressed because I can do alot with S$6,000," he lamented. "What if I need the money urgently? The seller said she'd refund the money, but she kept delaying it."

Like Mr Ho, 46-year-old Madam Teo Kim Sang ordered three mobile phone sets and paid Ms Siah S$1,500 in October.

After much hassle, Madam Teo managed to get a refund of S$750, two weeks after she made full payment.

She said: "If today is Saturday, she'll say '(On) Friday I'll update you, whether I get the phone, whether I deliver, all these things' and sometimes she'll say '(On) Friday I'll deliver (the phones)' but when Friday comes, nothing (arrives)."

The relief teacher has since cancelled her order.

Both Mr Ho and Madam Teo said they will lodge a report with the Small Claims Tribunal next week.

Separately, calls from Channel NewsAsia to Ms Siah went unanswered.

According to the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), there were 228 reports of "failure-to-honour" transactions between January and November this year.

Of these, CASE handled and assisted 48 of the reports. Of those that CASE handled, about half were resolved.

Experts say it is more difficult for buyers to recover their money as there is no physical shopfront.

"The practices of the online vendors or online businesses are covered by the Consumers Protection Fair Trading Act and consumers can exercise their right under the Act to file a claim at the Small Claims Tribunal," said Seah Seng Choon, executive director of CASE.

"Secondly, if the consumer suspects foul play or cheating in any way, they should file a complaint with the police. They should ensure that the business is set up in Singapore. For businesses that are set up overseas, consumer would have great difficulty seeking redress if there's any dispute later on."

With more people going online to make their purchases, Mr Seah said it is important to read the terms and conditions of the transaction so as to avoid pitfalls of online shopping.

He added that shoppers who purchase items online has the right under the lemon law to request the businesses to repair, refund or even reduce prices if there are defects on the goods.

Another way to avoid problems in transactions is to go for cash-on-delivery deals.

- CNA/xq



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2 children dead in Englewood fire









A young boy and girl died this morning after they and two other children were left home alone in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side, officials say.

The girl, 2, and the boy, 3, were found in a back bedroom after firefighters cut through burglar bars on the brick and stone two-flat in the 6400 block of South Paulina Street. The kids were near a space heater, which the Fire Department said may have sparked the fire.


Ald. Toni Foulkes, 15th, arrived on the scene about an hour later and said she had been told by investigators that the four children were alone when the fire started.


The surviving children, a 7-year-old boy and his 4-year-old brother, were rescued by their aunt and interviewed by investigators at a neighbor's home.





Darnell, 7, said he and Marquis, 4, were asleep in one bedroom and the two other children were in another bedroom.

"When the fire started, everything shut off," Darnell said.


The boy said he and Marquis were in a bedroom by the kitchen and "the fire was in the front room where the couch is at. When we saw the fire, it was like in the front room, then it was by the bathroom door."

Darnell said his aunt came rushing through the front door. "When (she) saw the fire, she called all our names. When I opened the door, she told me, 'Come on, the fire's getting closer.' I coughed, my auntie was choking. My sister was banging on the door.

"When we got outside, police passed us, then drove backward and came up because there was a fire," he said.

Darnell's sister died in the fire, along with his cousin.

Darnell and Marquis were brought to a neighbor's house, where investigators from the Bomb and Arson unit and the Office of Fire Investigations (OFI) talked to them.

The investigator from OFI squatted down while talking to the boys. Only Darnell spoke. Marquis was quiet the entire time. Darnell spoke to a Tribune reporter afterward as he sat with four neighbors in their home.


The children were later taken into protective custody by the Department of Children and Family Services. Police said two women, a mother and an aunt, were being questioned.


When firefighters arrived around 3:30 a.m., they weren't able to get into the home because of intense heat and fire, a Fire Department official said. Fire was heavy throughout the basement and first floor, he said.


They finally got into the building by cutting through burglar bars, he said.

A neighbor told an investigator that the second-floor tenants recently moved out of the brick and stone two-flat.





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Pictures: Fungi Get Into the Holiday Spirit


Photograph courtesy Stephanie Mounaud, J. Craig Venter Institute

Mounaud combined different fungi to create a Santa hat and spell out a holiday message.

Different fungal grow at different rates, so Mounaud's artwork rarely lasts for long. There's only a short window of time when they actually look like what they're suppose to.

"You do have to keep that in perspective when you're making these creations," she said.

For example, the A. flavus fungi that she used to write this message from Santa grows very quickly. "The next day, after looking at this plate, it didn't say 'Ho Ho Ho.' It said 'blah blah blah,'" Mounaud said.

The message also eventually turned green, which was the color she was initially after. "It was a really nice green, which is what I was hoping for. But yellow will do," she said.

The hat was particularly challenging. The fungus used to create it "was troubling because at different temperatures it grows differently. The pigment in this one forms at room temperature but this type of growth needed higher temperatures," Mounaud said.

Not all fungus will grow nicely together. For example, in the hat, "N. fischeri [the brim and ball] did not want to play nice with the P. marneffei [red part of hat] ... so they remained slightly separated."

Published December 21, 2012

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'Cliff' Deniers Put Faith in No Deal













Not everyone thinks the "fiscal cliff" is so bad.


If the Dec. 31 deadline passes, income taxes will go up and across-the-board spending cuts will hit government programs. But while most of the political world frets as if a major disaster is looming, others have treated it more like the Y2K bug: a fiscal canard ginning up a lot of unnecessary panic.


The cliff is a "fantasy," former House speaker Newt Gingrich told a sold-out crowd at the Ronald Reagan library in Simi Valley, Calif., a week before Election Day.


"It is an excuse to panic," Gingrich said. "It is a device to get all of us running down the road so we accept whatever Obama wants, because otherwise we will have failed the fiscal cliff, and how can you be a patriot if you don't do what the fiscal cliff requires?"



Fiscal Cliff 'Plan B' Is Dead: Now What?


The former speaker wanted Republicans to stop negotiating with President Obama, for fear of giving too much away. "Back out of all of this negotiating with Obama," Gingrich publicly advised House Republicans. "The president is overwhelmingly dominant in the news media" but, at the opposite end of the political spectrum, liberals have said the same thing for a similar reason.






Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images











Fiscal Cliff: Boehner Doesn't Have Votes for Plan B Watch Video









'Fiscal Cliff' Negotiations: Boehner's Plan B Watch Video







While the "cliff" would mean higher taxes on the middle class, it would also mean higher taxes on the wealthy, a chief demand for liberals. Automatic budget cuts would hit defense programs, which liberals have wanted to cut anyway, but not the Medicare and Social Security entitlements that Democrats and progressives want so badly to protect.


Boehner Pulls 'Plan B' Amid GOP Disarray


Van Jones, the environmental activist and resigned White House green jobs "czar," sought to quiet the "fiscal cliff" alarms Election Night on CNN. "The problem with the label 'the cliff' is that it creates a mindset that there is nothing worse that this set of cuts, and there are things that are worse," Jones said.


"We cannot be in a situation where we get bullied or stampeded into putting in a deal that's even worse than what the fiscal cliff is about."


Jones later wrote on his blog that the "fiscal cliff" is actually a "fiscal bluff": "The so-called fiscal cliff is actually a fiscal bluff --- a made-up crisis to make us think our government is out of money and time. Congress continues to drag its feet over raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, despite the top 1% earning 23% of the nation's income, and insists on calling for cuts to vital programs instead of reining in massive subsidies ($100 billion in 2011 alone) to major corporations that already make billions in profits.


"America isn't broke --- it's being robbed.
Gingrich and Jones started the conversation, but as the deadline creeps closer, others are finishing it."


To some, the "fiscal cliff" offers a clearer upside.


"Democratic and progressive leverage goes immensely up if we get past the beginning of the year," Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee told ABC News. "Once they have to proactively lower taxes on the rich, it makes it harder and harder to move that number up and makes it easier and easier to force votes or demand votes on policies that clearly benefit the middle class."


Green says liberals will get what they want immediately, if the Dec. 31 deadline passes without a deal.


"We really want to get past the first of the year so that we have that leverage in the bag," Green told ABC. "It will also show that the fiscal cliff was a mess. If we get into 2013, the really good stuff happens right away, and the really big cuts are a 10-year phasing."






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Best videos of 2012: First motion MRI of unborn twins



Joanna Carver, reporter






These twins imaged in the womb are ranked at number 6 in our best videos of 2012 countdown.



If you want to get a sense of what it might be like to share a womb with a sibling, this video may give you a glimpse. For the first time, unborn twins have been captured using cinematic MRI, a technique that images slices of the body several times to create a video with astonishing detail.






According to Marisa Taylor-Clarke of Imperial College London, who recorded the images, this is "raw" footage, unlike typical videos of the womb, which require computer processing afterwards. She uses the technique to study twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a potentially fatal condition where one twin's growth is stunted when its sibling receives more of the blood supply.


For more about the video check out the original article, "Unborn twins caught on video MRI for the first time". If you enjoyed this post, see the first video of a couple having sex in an MRI scanner.




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Venture Scouts, Girl Guides conferred prestigious awards






SINGAPORE: Eighteen Venture Scouts and seven Girl Guides in Singapore have been conferred the highest honour in the movement.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam presented the President's Scout Award and the President's Guide Award for 2012 at the Istana on Friday.

The awards are the highest honour given to Singapore's most all-rounded Venture Scouts and Girl Guides.

The awards come as recognition of the recipients' excellent performance, dedication to the movement, and service to the community.

- CNA/ck



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Bank robber caught 2 days after bed sheet jailbreak

Police entered ahomein Southwest suburban Tinley Park about 11:30 Tuesday morning, searching for two escaped prisoners.









Joseph "Jose" Banks was been caught by FBI agents and Chicago police late Thursday night, according to law enforcement sources.


FBI agents and officers from the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force and Chicago police arrested Banks about 11:30 p.m. Thursday in the 2300 block of North Bosworth Avenue in the Sheffield Neighbors neighborhood, authorities said.


At the Bosworth address, a young man and a woman who stepped outside declined to talk.
“We’re not in the mood to answer any questions,” he said.








Colm Marron, who stepped out of a bar around the corner from the apartment where agents and police found Banks, noticed about a half dozen unmarked police cars gathering in the Walgreens parking lot across the street.


“They flew out, just down there,” he said, motioning from inside the bar toward Bosworth Avenue.


Seconds later he heard a “huge bang.”


“I was surprised how loud the bang was. It wasn’t like any thunder I’ve ever heard,” he said. “There wasn’t any echo to it, just that loud, off the bat.”


A couple of minutes later, he said, another handful of marked Chicago police cars arrived.


At a BP gas station surrounded at Fullerton, Clybourn and Ashland avenues, an attendant working an overnight shift saw two Chicago police cars – an SUV and a squad – with an unmarked car in the front and back.


“It’s not like there was a big old mob out there looking,” said Ralph De LaRosa, 45.
He noticed the flashing lights while he stood inside the gas station.


A police left the scene – west on Fullerton then south on Ashland – they kept their lights on and stayed in the order they were parked, he said. 


Banks and his cellmate, Kenneth Conley, both convicted bank robbers, were awaiting sentencing and were last accounted for at 10 p.m. Monday during a routine bed check, authorities said. About 7 a.m. Tuesday, jail employees arriving for work saw the ropes dangling from a hole in an exterior wall near the 15th floor. The duo used sheets to crawl from a window.


The two had put clothing and sheets under blankets in both their beds to throw off guards making nighttime checks, authorities said.


Cameras mounted to the side of the 28-story Metropolitan Correctional Center in the South Loop captured Banks and Conley sliding down the building shortly after 2:30 a.m. Tuesday on a rope constructed from knotted bedsheets, an employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said. The men left view briefly, but it was believed they landed on the roof of a garage below. Moments later, footage from a different camera showed them hopping a black fence marking the perimeter of the property, according to the employee.


The FBI said a surveillance camera a few blocks from the jail showed the men, who wore light-colored clothing, hailing a taxi at Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue. They also appeared to be wearing backpacks, according to the FBI.


The manhunt for the inmates included several high-profile raids Tuesday in the southwest suburbs of Tinley Park and New Lenox, where Conley's family and associates lived. A $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the two fugitives was announced by the FBI this week.


Conley is still unaccounted for as of Friday morning.





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Hollies Get Prickly for a Reason



With shiny evergreen leaves and bright red berries, holly trees are a naturally festive decoration seen throughout the Christmas season.


They're famously sharp. But not all holly leaves are prickly, even on the same tree. And scientists now think they know how the plants are able to make sharper leaves, seemingly at will. (Watch a video about how Christmas trees are made.)


A new study published in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society suggests leaf variations on a single tree are the combined result of animals browsing on them and the trees' swift molecular response to that sort of environmental pressure.


Carlos Herrera of the National Research Council of Spain led the study in southeastern Spain. He and his team investigated the European holly tree, Ilex aquifolium. Hollies, like other plants, can make different types of leaves at the same time. This is called heterophylly. Out of the 40 holly trees they studied, 39 trees displayed different kinds of leaves, both prickly and smooth.



Five holly leaves from the same tree.

Five holly leaves from the same tree.


Photographs by Emmanuel Lattes, Alamy




Some trees looked like they had been browsed upon by wild goats and deer. On those trees, the lower 8 feet (2.5 meters) had more prickly leaves, while higher up the leaves tended to be smooth. Scientists wanted to figure out how the holly trees could make the change in leaf shape so quickly.


All of the leaves on a tree are genetic twins and share exactly the same DNA sequence. By looking in the DNA for traces of a chemical process called methylation, which modifies DNA but doesn't alter the organism's genetic sequence, the team could determine whether leaf variation was a response to environmental or genetic changes. They found a relationship between recent browsing by animals, the growth of prickly leaves, and methylation.


"In holly, what we found is that the DNA of prickly leaves was significantly less methylated than prickless leaves, and from this we inferred that methylation changes are ultimately responsible for leaf shape changes," Herrera said. "The novelty of our study is that we show that these well-known changes in leaf type are associated with differences in DNA methylation patterns, that is, epigenetic changes that do not depend on variation in the sequence of DNA."


"Heterophylly is an obvious feature of a well-known species, and this has been ascribed to browsing. However, until now, no one has been able to come up with a mechanism for how this occurs," said Mike Fay, chief editor of the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society and head of genetics at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. "With this new study, we are now one major step forward towards understanding how."


Epigenetic changes take place independently of variation in the genetic DNA sequence. (Read more about epigenetics in National Geographic magazine's "A Thing or Two About Twins.")


"This has clear and important implications for plant conservation," Herrera said. In natural populations that have their genetic variation depleted by habitat loss, the ability to respond quickly, without waiting for slower DNA changes, could help organisms survive accelerated environmental change. The plants' adaptability, he says, is an "optimistic note" amidst so many conservation concerns. (Related: "Wild Holly, Mistletoe, Spread With Warmer Winters.")


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NRA to Speak on Stopping Newtown Repeat













For the past week, leadership at the National Rifle Association has largely stayed away from the media, but this morning the group may weigh in on how to keep a deadly shooting massacre like last week's at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school from happening again.


The NRA will hold a news conference in Washington, D.C., just before 11 a.m.


Its leadership has held off on interviews this week after refusing to appear on Sunday morning public affairs shows this past weekend.


The group came under pressure after Adam Lanza, 20, killed 20 children and six adults before shooting himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last Friday.


"Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting," the group said in a press release Tuesday. "The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."


NRA News anchor Ginny Simone said Thursday that in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, membership surged "with an average of 8,000 new members a day."


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the NRA is partially to blame for the tragedy.


"We're not trying to take away your right to advance the interests of gun owners, hunters, people who want to protect themselves," Bloomberg told "Nightline" anchor Cynthia McFadden in an interview Thursday. "But that's not an absolute right to encourage behavior which causes things like Connecticut. In fact, Connecticut is because of some of their actions."






Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP Photo











President Obama Launches Gun-Violence Task Force Watch Video









President Obama on Gun Control: Ready to Act? Watch Video









Joe Biden to Lead Task Force to Prevent Gun Violence Watch Video





The guns used in the attack were legally purchased and owned by the shooter's mother, Nancy Lanza, who Adam Lanza shot to death before his assault on the school.


In the aftermath of the shooting, many, including Bloomberg, have called for stricter regulations on the type of weapons used in this and other instances of mass gun violence this year.


Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has said she intends to introduce a bill banning assault weapons on the first day of next year's Congress -- a step the president said he supports.


President Obama announced Wednesday that Vice President Joe Biden will head a task force of leaders from across the country that will evaluate the best solutions to reduce gun violence in the United States.


Obama said he will "use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this."


Mayors Against Illegal Guns, of which Mayor Bloomberg is co-chair, released a letter to President Obama signed by more than 750 mayors calling on him to produce a plan to "make it harder for dangerous people to possess guns."


The letter asked for mandatory background checks for gun buyers, a ban on high-capacity rifles and ammunition magazines, and a designation of gun trafficking as a federal crime.


ABC News' George Stephanopoulos looked at whether strict gun control laws like those that have worked for the United Kingdom and Japan could work for the U.S. on "Good Morning America" Thursday.


Others have argued that, rather than banning guns, the government should be arming teachers and administrators in schools so that they can defend students in the event of another school shooting.


While Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a measure that would have let guns into schools on Tuesday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell praised the idea.


Speaking on the NRA's daily news program Tuesday, Dave Koppel of the Independence Institute said the teachers at Sandy Hook should have had weapons.


"We'd certainly be talking about fewer innocent people and children dead," Koppel said.


While a national debate over the necessary solutions to prevent a tragedy of this nature from ever happening again wages on, Connecticut residents will have to wait "several months" before the final Connecticut State Police report on the Newtown shootings is complete.



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Best videos of 2012: Experience a trip into a wormhole



Joanna Carver, reporter






This wild wormhole ride comes in at number 7 in our best videos of 2012 countdown.



Pondering what the trip of a lifetime would be? This animation by Andrew Hamilton from the University of Colorado at Boulder shows what the eye-boggling journey through a wormhole would look like.







First, you fall into the event horizon of a black hole. Once inside, you'll see the entire history of the universe in a flash of radiation. People would be vaporised by this point, so you'll have to be superhuman to make your way back out. You emerge from the black hole and tumble into a wormhole, where the flow of space around you reverses and you head back the way you came. Finally, you find yourself in a white hole - a time-reversed black hole - and speed forward faster than light.



Another radiation flash shows you the entire future of the universe, then another shows you the entire past of the new universe you're now entering. The animation then lets you turn around and see the universe you've just left.



For more about the visualisation, check out the original post: "What a trip through a wormhole would look like". You may also like to read our related feature, "Intergalactic subway: All aboard the wormhole express" or experience Hamilton's animation of a trip through a black hole.




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Singapore shares end 0.5% higher






SINGAPORE -- Singapore share prices ended 0.5% higher on Thursday, shrugging off negative cues from Wall Street.

The blue-chip Straits Times Index (STI) rose 16.95 points to end at 3,175.52, supported by the announcement of fresh easing measures by the Bank of Japan.

While the market opened lower amid fresh concerns over whether a US fiscal cliff deal will emerge before year-end, support came from the BOJ's moves to increase the size of its asset purchase programme and its plans to review its inflation target.

In the broader market, 2.03 billion shares changed hands, with gainers and losers nearly evenly matched. There were 198 gainers and 196 losers.

Among the gainers, Olam rose 1.3% to S$1.56. In two straight days of buying in the open market, Singapore's Temasek Holdings has raised its stake in the commodities trader to 18% from 16%.

- CNA/ir



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Snow, high winds expected as winter storm takes aim at Chicago













 


 
(Tribune illustration / March 10, 2012)




















































Up to three inches of snow could blanket the Chicago area tonight after a messy afternoon of rain showers and thunderstorms, ending a stretch of 290 days without snow.


The winter storm warning begins at 3 p.m. today and extends through 3 a.m. Friday, and winds of up to 60 miles per hour are expected into Friday morning.


"Those winds are going to be basically gusting as high as 50-60 miles per hour at times as we head into evning and overnight hours. We may not get a whole lot of snow but the potential for snowing, drifting and poor visiblity is very high," National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Ratzer said.





The rain soaking the region this morning should continue into the afternoon, easing up a bit before beginning again and turning to snow between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. in the western suburbs.


The mix should turn completely to snow across the entire Chicago area by about 7 p.m., Ratzer said.


State police didn't report any abnormal traffic early Thursday morning relating to the rain and thunderstorms that began before midnight Wednesday evening.


chicagobreaking@tribune.com
Twitter: @chicagobreaking






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Detecting Rabid Bats Before They Bite


A picture is worth a thousand words—or in the case of bats, a rabies diagnosis. A new study reveals that rabid bats have cooler faces compared to uninfected colony-mates. And researchers are hopeful that thermal scans of bat faces could improve rabies surveillance in wild colonies, preventing outbreaks that introduce infections into other animals—including humans.

Bats are a major reservoir for the rabies virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. Previous research shows that bats can transmit their strains to other animals, potentially putting people at risk. (Popular Videos: Bats share the screen with creepy co-stars.)

Rabies, typically transmitted in saliva, targets the brain and is almost always fatal in animals and people if left untreated. No current tests detect rabies in live animals—only brain tissue analysis is accurate.

Searching for a way to detect the virus in bats before the animals died, rabies specialist James Ellison and his colleagues at the CDC turned to a captive colony of big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus). Previous studies had found temperature increases in the noses of rabid raccoons, so the team expected to see similar results with bats.

Researchers established normal temperature ranges for E. fuscus—the bat species most commonly sent for rabies testing—then injected 24 individuals with the virus. The 21-day study monitored facial temperatures with infrared cameras, and 13 of the 21 bats that developed rabies showed temperature drops of more than 4ÂșC.

"I was surprised to find the bats' faces were cooler because rabies causes inflammation—and that creates heat," said Ellison. "No one has done this before with bats," he added, and so researchers aren't sure what's causing the temperature changes they've discovered in the mammals. (Related: "Bats Have Superfast Muscles—A Mammal First.")

Although thermal scans didn't catch every instance of rabies in the colony, this method may be a way to detect the virus in bats before symptoms appear. The team plans to fine-tune their measurements of facial temperatures, and then Ellison hopes to try surveillance in the field.

This study was published online November 9 in Zoonoses and Public Health.


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Virginia Tech Survivor Fights Back Against Guns













Colin Goddard knows what it's like to be in a classroom when an armed man bursts through the door and starts randomly shooting people. Goddard was a student at Virginia Tech when a gunman shot him and killed 32 people in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.


"It was the most terrifying nine minutes of my life," Goddard told Terry Moran of "Nightline" Wednesday.
"One moment you're conjugating French verbs, the next you're shot."


Four of Seung-Hui Cho's bullets hit Goddard April 16, 2007. Three of the bullets are still in him and serve as a constant reminder in his work with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.


Goddard does more than just lobby and appear in public-service announcements. He says he goes undercover to show how easy it is to buy guns without any background check. It's the subject of his documentary called "Living for 32," after the 32 people who died at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.


"There is not one thing that will stop all shootings," Goddard said. "
There's not one policy that will save us all, but a background check is something that will make it more difficult for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun."










School Shooting Survivor Documents Gun Law Fight Watch Video









Virginia Tech Documentary Debuts at Sundance Watch Video





In "Living for 32," Goddard says he was able to buy, for example, an Egyptian Maadi AK-47, a TEC-9 and a MAC-11 machine pistol at gun shows across the United States.


"I bought the same gun that was used to shoot me," he said. "I bought it all, all without a background check and it was all legal. My question is, 'Why is that legal?'"


Only licensed dealers are required by law to perform background checks on the people to whom they sell guns while private sellers can make gun-show sales with no background checks.


This is known as the "gun-show loophole" and Goddard has made it his mission to close it.


In one instance, Goddard was able to buy the Maadi Egyptian for $660 and was told by the dealer "there's no tax and no paperwork."


The dealer requested to see Goddard's Ohio driver's license. When Goddard couldn't provide it, he was still able to purchase the gun by providing an Ohio address instead.


"I didn't think I was going to be able to do it at first," he said. "And then once I did it once, then twice, then three times. I was like, 'Wow, this is really easy.'


"Toward the end I wasn't even thinking about it. I tried to do it as quickly as I could, say as few words as I could."


Polls show that a majority of Americans favor closing the loophole.


Goddard says closing the loophole won't end all gun violence, but that the government can do better.


The Brady Campaign recently launched a YouTube series, "We Are Better than This," in the wake of last week's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The videos feature celebrities and, perhaps more significantly, families of mass-shooting victims.


In the first three videos, Goddard appears, as do Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Redfield Ghawi, died in the Aurora, Colo., mass shooting in July.






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'Pinch-and-paste' app boosts your interior design skills



Paul Marks, senior technology correspondent


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(Image: Tulcarion/Getty)


Ever idly wondered what your kitten would look like if it had
your hairstyle? Or what your living room would look like
with a tiger-print shag-pile carpet? An augmented reality app will one day let you visualise such things on tablets or phones in an interesting way: you'll simply "pinch" the texture you want from an image on a
touchscreen and paste it onto a photo of the target.





It's the work of Kiyoshi Kiyokawa at Osaka University in Japan and colleagues, who demonstrated their system - called "pinch-n-paste" - at the Virtual Reality Software and Technology (VRST 2012) conference in Toronto, Canada, last week. Their work-in-progress system computes how the 3D texture pixels (or "texels") should wrap around the shape of the target 3D surface and then maps them onto it.


"In the case of interior design, a user could grab a texture from a real
chair in a room and paste it to an image of a sofa to see how the
newly covered sofa suits the room," Kiyokawa says.


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Pinch-n-Paste in action (Image: Kiyoshi Kiyokawa, Osaka University)


"We aim to be able to change any real object's appearance by sampling another real or virtual object's colour, texture, shape and so on, and move, delete, duplicate them as if they are virtual," he says. Combined with a head-mounted display - like Google Glasses - it will feel like "your own tailored world is real".

But what about my pasting my bouffant onto my cat? "Technically it's much more challenging, as cats are difficult to track. But it is along our research direction," Kiyoshi says.


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S. Korea's Park to win presidential vote: TV

 





SEOUL: South Korea has elected its first woman president, TV channels said Wednesday, predicting a clear victory for conservative Park Geun-Hye, daughter of the country's former dictator.

The KBS, SBS and MBC national broadcasters all declared Park "certain" to secure victory over her liberal rival Moon Jae-In with nearly 40 per cent of the nationwide vote counted.

- AFP/ck




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NIU frat members charged in hazing surrender to police









While members of a fraternity began surrendering to police throughout the region Tuesday, Northern Illinois University officials said more than 30 men and women at the school also face disciplinary sanctions in the death of a freshman pledge.


As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, 13 of 22 Pi Kappa Alpha members charged in the death of David Bogenberger had walked into police stations and were processed, DeKalb police said in a statement. At least seven posted bond and were released, police said.


DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack declined to say whether his office is considering additional actions against those involved. Authorities on Monday charged five members of the fraternity with felony hazing violations and 17 others with misdemeanor counts stemming from Bogenberger's death.





Those who turned themselves in Tuesday included three of the five fraternity leaders charged with felony hazing: fraternity president Alexander M. Jandick, 21, of Naperville; pledge adviser Omar Salameh, 21, of DeKalb; and event planner Steven Libert, 20, also of Naperville.


For two hours on Nov. 1 at the Pi Kappa Alpha house, the 19-year-old finance major from Palatine participated in an unsanctioned "parents' night," in which pledges walked from room to room and answered questions in exchange for vodka and other liquor, authorities allege.


The next morning, Bogenberger was found dead in a fraternity house bed. His blood-alcohol content was about five times the legal limit for driving, authorities said.


Those responsible for the party violated Illinois' hazing statute by providing a large quantity of alcohol to underage pledges and "creating a situation where the pledges felt compelled to consume alcohol as part of membership initiation and the Greek parenting process," according to a statement from DeKalb city and county officials and Bogenberger's family.


In addition to the criminal charges against the 22 fraternity members, NIU officials said they filed university code-of-conduct charges against 31 fraternity and sorority members alleging violations related to hazing and alcohol.


NIU previously had said 31 fraternity members faced charges but amended that Tuesday to state that the number includes fraternity and sorority members. It's likely that some students face both criminal and university disciplinary charges.


Penalties range from a reprimand to suspension or expulsion from the school.


"I believe there will be more charges coming," said Jeanne Meyer, NIU's director of community standards and student conduct. "We will pursue whatever information we receive."


University officials said Pi Kappa Alpha violated university procedures by failing to register the "parents' night" party, an annual event so named because senior members of the fraternity and associated sororities are assigned as mentors to new members. Bogenberger was among 19 pledges at the party.


His cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia, but alcohol intoxication was listed as "a significant condition contributing to death," the joint statement reported.


The school suspended Pi Kappa Alpha shortly after Bogenberger died, and the fraternity's main headquarters, which sponsors HazingPrevention.org, said Tuesday that the DeKalb chapter remains "administratively suspended."


In a statement, Pi Kappa Alpha Executive Vice President Justin Buck said the parents' night "may represent some type of locally developed, informal activity ... which stray(s) from the fraternity's mission and values, and can create dangerous environments for young people."


A few hours earlier in DeKalb, NIU student Chris Rowe walked across the shuttered fraternity house lawn and said he supported the filing of charges in Bogenberger's death.


"Somebody lost their life — it's not like they broke a finger," said Rowe, of Chicago. "Somebody should be held responsible."


Clifford Ward is a freelance writer. Jodi S. Cohen is a Tribune reporter. Tribune reporter Ted Gregory contributed.


jscohen@tribune.com


chicagobreaking@tribune.com

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking





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Race Is On to Find Life Under Antarctic Ice



A hundred years ago, two teams of explorers set out to be the first people ever to reach the South Pole. The race between Roald Amundsen of Norway and Robert Falcon Scott of Britain became the stuff of triumph, tragedy, and legend. (See rare pictures of Scott's expedition.)


Today, another Antarctic drama is underway that has a similar daring and intensity—but very different stakes.


Three unprecedented, major expeditions are underway to drill deep through the ice covering the continent and, researchers hope, penetrate three subglacial lakes not even known to exist until recently.


The three players—Russia, Britain, and the United States—are all on the ice now and are in varying stages of their preparations. The first drilling was attempted last week by the British team at Lake Ellsworth, but mechanical problems soon cropped up in the unforgiving Antarctic cold, putting a temporary hold on their work.


The key scientific goal of the missions: to discover and identify living organisms in Antarctica's dark, pristine, and hidden recesses. (See "Antarctica May Contain 'Oasis of Life.'")


Scientists believe the lakes may well be home to the kind of "extreme" life that could eke out an existence on other planets or moons of our solar system, so finding them on Earth could help significantly in the search for life elsewhere.



An illustration shows lakes and rivers under Antarctica's ice.
Lakes and rivers are buried beneath Antarctica's thick ice (enlarge).

Illustration courtesy Zina Deretsky, NSF




While astrobiology—the search for life beyond Earth—is a prime mover in the push into subglacial lakes, so too is the need to better understand the ice sheet that covers the vast continent and holds much of the world's water. If the ice sheet begins to melt due to global warming, the consequences—such as global sea level rise—could be catastrophic.


"We are the new wave of Antarctic explorers, pioneers if you will," said Montana State University's John Priscu, chief scientist of the U.S. drilling effort this season and a longtime Antarctic scientist.


"After years of planning, projects are coming together all at once," he said.


"What we find this year and next will set the stage for Antarctic science for the next generation and more—just like with the explorers a century ago."


All Eyes on the Brits


All three research teams are at work now, but the drama is currently focused on Lake Ellsworth, buried 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) below the West Antarctic ice sheet.


A 12-person British team is using a sophisticated technique that involves drilling down using water melted from the ice, which is then heated to 190 degrees Fahrenheit (88 degrees Celsius).


The first drilling attempt began on December 12, but was stopped at almost 200 feet (61 meters) because of technical problems with the sensors on the drill nozzle.


Drilling resumed on Saturday but then was delayed when both boilers malfunctioned, requiring the team to wait for spare parts. The situation is frustrating but normal due to the harsh climate, British Antarctic team leader Martin Siegert, who helped discover Lake Ellsworth in 2004, said in an email from the site.


After completing their drilling, the team will have about 24 hours to collect their samples before the hole freezes back up in the often below-zero cold. If all goes well, they could have lake water and mud samples as early as this week.


"Our expectation is that microbes will be found in the lake water and upper sediment," Siegert said. "We would be highly surprised if this were not the case."


The British team lives in tents and makeshift shelters, and endures constant wind as well as frigid temperatures. (Take an Antarctic quiz.)


"Right now we are working round the clock in a cold, demanding and extreme location-it's testing our own personal endurance, but it's worth it," Siegert said.


U.S. First to Find Life?


The U.S. team is drilling into Lake Whillans, a much shallower body about 700 miles inland (1,120 kilometers) in the region that drains into the Ross Sea.


The lake, which is part of a broader water system under the ice, may well have the greatest chances of supporting microbial life, experts say. Hot-water drilling begins there in January.


Among the challenges: Lake Whillans lies under an ice stream, which is similar to a glacier but is underground and surrounded by ice on all sides. It moves slowly but constantly, and that complicates efforts to drill into the deepest—and most scientifically interesting—part of the lake.


Montana State's Priscu—currently back in the U.S. for medical reasons—said his team will bring a full lab to the Lake Whillans drilling site to study samples as they come up: something the Russians don't have the interest or capacity in doing and that the British will be trying in a more limited way. (Also see "Pictures: 'Extreme' Antarctic Science Revealed.")


So while the U.S. team may be the last of the three to penetrate their lake, they could be the first to announce the discovery of life in deep subglacial lakes.


"We should have a good idea of the abundance and type of life in the lake and sediments before we leave the site," said Priscu, who plans to return to Antarctica in early January if doctors allow.


"And we want to know as much as possible about how they make a living down there without energy from the sun and without nutrients most life-forms need."


All subglacial lakes are kept liquid by heat generated from the pressure of the heavy load of ice above them, and also from heat emanating from deeper in the Earth's crust.


In addition, the movement of glaciers and "ice streams" produces heat from friction, which at least temporarily results in a wet layer at the very bottom of the ice.


The Lake Whillans drilling is part of the larger Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project, first funded in 2009 by the U.S. National Science Foundation with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.


That much larger effort will also study the ice streams that feed and leave the lake to learn more about another aspect of Antarctic dynamism: The recently discovered web of more than 360 lakes and untold streams and rivers—some nearing the size of the Amazon Basin—below the ice. (See "Chain of Cascading Lakes Discovered Under Antarctica.")


Helen Fricker, a member of the WISSARD team and a glaciologist at University of California, San Diego, said that scientists didn't begin to understand the vastness of Antarctica's subglacial water world until after the turn of the century.


That hidden, subterranean realm has "incredibly interesting and probably never classified biology," Fricker said.


"But it can also give us important answers about the climate history of the Earth, and clues about the future, too, as the climate changes."


Russia Returning to Successful Site


While both the U.S. and British teams have websites to keep people up to date on their work, the Russians do not, and have been generally quiet about their plans for this year.


The Russians have a team at Lake Vostok, the largest and deepest subglacial lake in Antarctica at more than 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) below the icy surface of the East Antarctic plateau.


The Vostok drilling began in the 1950s, well before anyone knew there was an enormous lake beneath the ice. The Russians finally and briefly pierced the lake early this year, before having to leave because of the cold. That breakthrough was portrayed at the time as a major national accomplishment.


According to Irina Alexhina, a Russian scientist with the Vostok team who was visiting the U.S. McMurdo Station last week, the Russian plan for this season focuses on extracting the ice core that rose in February when Vostok was breached. She said the team arrived this month and can stay through early February.


Preliminary results from the February breach report no signs of life on the drill bit that entered the water, but some evidence of life in small samples of the "accretion ice," which is frozen to the bottom of the lake, said Lake Vostok expert Sergey Bulat, of the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, in May.


Both results are considered tentative because of the size of the sample and how they were retrieved. In addition, sampling water from the very top of Lake Vostok is far less likely to find organisms than farther down or in the bottom sediment, scientists say.


"It's like taking a scoop of water from the top of Lake Ontario and making conclusions about the lake based on that," said Priscu, who has worked with the Russians at Vostok.


He said he hopes to one day be part of a fully international team that will bring the most advanced drilling and sample collecting technology to Vostok.


Extreme Antarctic Microbes Found


Some results have already revealed life under the ice. A November study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that subglacial Lake Vida—which is smaller and closer to the surface than other subglacial lakes—does indeed support a menagerie of strange and often unknown bacteria.


The microbes survive in water six times saltier than the oceans, with no oxygen, and with the highest level of nitrous oxide ever found in water on Earth, said study co-author Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA's Ames Research Center.


"What Antarctica is telling us is that organisms can eke out a living in the most extreme of environments," said McKay, an expert in the search for life beyond Earth.


McKay called Lake Vida the closest analog found so far to the two ice and water moons in the solar system deemed most likely to support extraterrestrial life—Jupiter's Europa and Saturn's Enceladus.


But that "closest analog" designation may soon change. Life-forms found in Vostok, Ellsworth, or Whillans would all be living at a much greater depth than at Lake Vida—meaning that they'd have to contend with more pressure, more limited nutrients, and a source of energy entirely unrelated to the sun.


"Unique Moment in Antarctica"


The prospect of finding microscopic life in these extreme conditions may not seem to be such a big deal for understanding our planet—or the possibility of life on others. (See Antarctic pictures by National Geographic readers.)


But scientists point out that only bacteria and other microbes were present on Earth for 3 billion of the roughly 3.8 billion years that life has existed here. Our planet, however, had conditions that allowed those microbes to eventually evolve into more complex life and eventually into everything biological around us.


While other moons and planets in our solar system do not appear capable of supporting evolution, scientists say they may support—or have once supported—primitive microbial life.


And drilling into Antarctica's deep lakes could provide clues about where extraterrestrial microbes might live, and how they might be identified.


In addition, Priscu said there are scores of additional Antarctic targets to study to learn about extreme life, climate change, how glaciers move, and the dynamics of subterranean rivers and lakes.


"We actually know more about the surface of Mars than about these subglacial systems of Antarctica," he said. "That's why this work involves such important and most likely transformative science."


Mahlon "Chuck" Kennicutt, the just-retired president of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, an international coordinating group, called this year "a unique moment in Antarctica."


"There's a growing understanding of the continent as a living, dynamic place—not a locked-in ice desert—and that has created real scientific excitement."


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Guns in Circulation Is Biggest Obstacle, Expert Says













Editor's Note: This post is part of a larger series by ABC News examining the complex legal, political and social issues in the gun control debate. The series is part of ABC's special coverage of the search for solutions in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.


The Second Amendment of the Constitution reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."


Despite that seemingly clear statement that Americans have the right to buy and own guns, legal experts say it does not preclude the government from enacting measures to regulate the manufacturing and distributing of firearms.


"The biggest misconception is the idea that the Second Amendment imposes serious hurdles to gun control," says Adam Winkler, law professor at UCLA and author of "Gun Fight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America."


"The Supreme Court has made it crystal clear that there is plenty of room for effective gun control laws," he said. "The right of people to have guns and gun control are not mutually exclusive."


Legislation introduced which proports to control gun violence has historically focused on regulating high-capacity ammunition clips and certain types of semi-automatic firearms. Polling shows that these types of regulations are generally popular, and therefore proposals to ban the sale of these types of weapons and weapon accessories makes political sense.






Charles Dharapak/AP Photo











NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg on 'Epidemic of Gun Violence' Watch Video









Sandy Hook Elementary Shooter: What Caused Shooting? Watch Video









Sandy Hook Shooting: What Was Wrong with Adam Lanza? Watch Video





But legislation to control sales of weapons don't address the biggest hurdle to effective gun control -- the guns that are already in circulation.


"The biggest problem for gun control today is a number: 300 million," Winkler said. "That's roughly the number of guns there are in civilian hands today. Any new law you pass confronts the reality of 300 million guns already in circulation."


Federal and state government hands are tied when it comes to regulating these already circulated firearms, he said.


"You can outlaw assault rifles for instance, say that anyone who has one, it's illegal, you have to turn it in," Winkler said. "You could do that, but they won't be turned in. It's not that you can't outlaw them, it's just that practically speaking you can't get rid of them."


Additionally, the politically popular avenue of banning the manufacturing and sale of certain types of semi-automatic weapons is inherently flawed.


For a gun to be classified as a semi-automatic, it must be designed to automatically reload a bullet after the shooter pulls the trigger. Virtually every civilian-owned gun is a type of semi-automatic gun, which means banning all semi-automatic guns would likely be read by the courts as a violation of the Second Amendment, and therefore any ban on these weapons would be limited in scope.


Automatic firearms -- those in which a shooter pulls the trigger once and the gun fires multiple rounds of bullets -- are tightly regulated and have been since the 1930s.


While regulation of certain types of semi-automatics, such as assault weapons, has broad public support, broader legislative actions are not. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., found that 71 percent of Americans oppose banning the sale of handguns to everyone except law enforcement officials.


"The court's reading of the Second Amendment is completely in sync with the American public's views on firearms," said Randy Barnett, professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University. "That is, you're allowed to have firearms, you're allowed to have them in the home for self-defense. ... Americans are willing to consider reasonable regulations of that, and courts are also willing to consider that."






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Best videos of 2012: Bonobo genius makes stone tools



Joanna Carver, reporter






A creative bonobo caught making tools slides in at number 9 in our best videos of 2012 countdown.






Kanzi just wanted a snack. Eviatar Nevo of the University of Haifa in Israel and colleagues locked some food inside a log - not to mess with the 30-year-old bonobo, but to see what he would come up with to retrieve it.


His solution? Making flints from stones then using them to drill into the log, a tactic that allowed him to successfully break into 24 different pieces of wood. Not all bonobos, however, seem to have the same knack for tool-making: Kanzi's companion got at the food twice but only by smashing the log on the ground.


Apart from crafting tools, Kanzi also paints, uses sign language and has even been seen making up words.


For more on bonobo technology, read the original article: "Bonobo genius makes stone tools like early humans did".




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ASEAN-India commemorative summit to chart future ties






SINGAPORE: The achievements in 20 years of ties between ASEAN and dialogue partner India will be celebrated with a commemorative summit in New Delhi on Thursday.

ASEAN leaders and their Indian host, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, are expected to adopt the "ASEAN-India Vision Statement" charting the future direction of their ties at the summit.

India started its Look East policy in 1992 under the late Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. At that time, Dr Manmohan Singh was the finance minister in the Indian Cabinet.

Since then there has been no turning back on India's ties with ASEAN.

India joined the ASEAN Regional Forum in 1996 and the East Asia Summit in 2005.

At the commemorative summit, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is expected to reiterate the Republic's support for India's continued engagement of the region, its participation in the ASEAN-led forums and India's contributions to the ASEAN Community-building efforts.

Mr Gopinath Pillai, chairman of the Institute of South Asian Studies in Singapore, describes the role India can play in the region.

Mr Pillai said: "From Singapore's point of view, the involvement of all the major countries is vital and India is a major player. So we would like to see India being very involved so that all the powers have a stake here and the region will prosper.

"India's business interests will grow. As it is, Southeast Asia has become a focus area for Indian businessmen -- either to directly invest in Southeast Asia or use Southeast Asia to go into other countries. It will take time but it is happening."

But there are some who still feel that India's ties with ASEAN are moving too slowly, said Mr Pillai.

Mr Pillai added: "But one has to take into account the composition of the two sides. On the ASEAN side, we have ten members and we have to reach consensus before we can move forward. On the Indian side, they have their own pre-occupations in the region, domestically, so that also delays the process."

However, growth in one area between the two sides has been significant, said observers, and that is in the area of two-way trade.

ASEAN-India total trade reached US$75 billion last year, 43 percent more than what was achieved in 2010.

And one project which economists said needs more push is the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement.

Negotiations on the Services and Investment Agreements are still going on, said the former chief mentor of the Confederation of Indian Industries, Tarun Das.

Mr Tarun Das said: "When we are negotiating between ten countries on one side and one country on the other side, there are 11 countries involved, and each country is different -- each country has its own strengths, weaknesses and its own concerns.

"What you are seeing is an engagement to try and address all concerns, work out compromised solutions, find the right language to be with each one's agendas and issues.'

The leaders of ASEAN and India have set a new target of achieving US$100 billion in trade between both sides by 2015.

- CNA/lp



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Students returning to classes in Newtown, Conn.












The schools of Newtown, which stood empty in the wake of a shooting rampage that took 26 of their own, will again ring with the sounds of students and teachers on Tuesday as the bucolic Connecticut town struggles to return to normal.

But among the normal sounds of a school day - teachers reading to children, the scratch of pencil on paper - students will hear new ones, including the murmur of grief counselors and the footsteps of police officers.

Four days after 20-year-old Adam Lanza strode into Sandy Hook Elementary school and gunned down a score of 6- and 7-year-olds, in addition to six faculty and staff, that school will remain closed. It is an active crime scene, with police coming and going past a line of 26 Christmas trees that visitors have decorated with ornaments, stuffed animals and balloons in the school colors of green and white as a memorial to the victims.

The massacre - one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, prompting some lawmakers to call for tighter restrictions on guns and causing school administrators around the country to assess their safety protocols.

Newtown police plan to have officers at the six schools scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, trying to offer a sense of security to the students and faculty, many of whom spent the weekend in mourning. Newtown Police Lieutenant George Sinko acknowledged it may be difficult to ease the worries of the roughly 4,700 returning students and their families.

"Obviously, there's going to be a lot of apprehension. We just had a horrific tragedy. We had babies sent to school that should be safe and they weren't," Sinko said. "You can't help but think ... if this could happen again."

Day for 'healing'

Newtown High School Principal Charles Dumais, in an e-mail to parents, said schools in the district would open two hours later than usual, with counselors available to students and their families.

"This is a day to start healing," Dumais said.

While school officials have not yet decided when Sandy Hook students will resume their studies, the building that they will move into - the unused Chalk Hill School in the nearby town of Monroe - already showed signs of preparation.

On a fence opposite the building, a green sign with white lettering proclaimed "Welcome Sandy Hook Elementary!"Dan Capodicci, whose 10-year-old daughter attends the school at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, said he thinks it's time for her to get back to classes.


"It's the right thing to do. You have to send your kids back. But at the same time I'm worried," he said. "We need to get back to normal."











Gina Wolfman said her daughters are going back to their seventh- and ninth-grade classrooms tomorrow. She thinks they are ready to be back with their friends.


"I think they want to be back with everyone and share," she said.


Newtown police Lt. George Sinko said whether to send children to school is a personal decision for every parent.


"I can't imagine what it must be like being a parent with a child that young, putting them on a school bus," Sinko said.


The district has made plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to Chalk Hill, a former middle school in the neighboring town of Monroe. Sandy Hook desks that will fit the small students are being taken there, empty since town schools consolidated last year, and tradesmen are donating their services to get the school ready within a matter of days.


"These are innocent children that need to be put on the right path again," Monroe police Lt. Brian McCauley said.


With Sandy Hook Elementary still designated a crime scene, state police Lt. Paul Vance said it could be months before police turn the school back over to the district and complete their probe into Adam Lanza, who killed his mother, Nancy, athome, before driving to the school armed with a Bushmaster AR 15 rifle and two handguns. After shooting 26 people at the school, he turned his gun on himself when he heard police approaching.


First students laid to rest

Many of the students and faculty of Sandy Hook and its neighbors will still have funerals to attend.


On Monday, Newtown held the first two funerals of many the picturesque New England community of 27,000 people will face over the next few days, just as other towns are getting ready for the holidays. At least one funeral is planned for a student — 6-year-old Jessica Rekos — as well as several wakes, including one for teacher Victoria Soto, who has been hailed as a hero for sacrificing herself to save several students.


Two funeral homes filled Monday with mourners for Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, both 6 years old. A rabbi presided at Noah's service, and in keeping with Jewish tradition, the boy was laid to rest in a simple brown wooden casket with a Star of David on it.


"I will miss your perpetual smile, the twinkle in your dark blue eyes, framed by eyelashes that would be the envy of any lady in this room," Noah's mother, Veronique Pozner, said at the service, according to remarks the family provided to The Associated Press. Both services were closed to the news media.


"Most of all, I will miss your visions of your future," she said. "You wanted to be a doctor, a soldier, a taco factory manager. It was your favoritefood, and no doubt you wanted to ensure that the world kept producing tacos."


She closed by saying: "Momma loves you, little man."


Noah's twin, Arielle, who was assigned to a different classroom, survived the killing frenzy.


At Jack Pinto's Christian service, hymns rang out from inside the funeralhome, where the boy lay in an open casket. Jack was among the youngest members of a youth wrestling association in Newtown, and dozens of little boys turned up at the service in gray Newtown Wrestling T-shirts.


Jack was a fan of New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz and was laid to rest in a Cruz jersey.


Adam Lanza's motives still unrevealed


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GRAIL Mission Goes Out With a Bang

Jane J. Lee


On Friday, December 14, NASA sent their latest moon mission into a death spiral. Rocket burns nudged GRAIL probes Ebb and Flow into a new orbit designed to crash them into the side of a mountain near the moon's north pole today at around 2:28 p.m. Pacific standard time. NASA named the crash site after late astronaut Sally Ride, America's first woman in space.

Although the mountain is located on the nearside of the moon, there won't be any pictures because the area will be shadowed, according to a statement from NASA' Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Originally sent to map the moon's gravity field, Ebb and Flow join a long list of man-made objects that have succumbed to a deadly lunar attraction. Decades of exploration have left a trail of debris intentionally crashed, accidentally hurtled, or deliberately left on the moon's surface. Some notable examples include:

Ranger 4 - Part of NASA's first attempt to snap close-up pictures of the moon, the Ranger program did not start off well. Rangers 1 through 6 all failed, although Ranger 4, launched April 23, 1962, did make it as far as the moon. Sadly, onboard computer failures kept number 4 from sending back any pictures before it crashed. (See a map of all artifacts on the moon.)

Fallen astronaut statue - This 3.5-inch-tall aluminum figure commemorates the 14 astronauts and cosmonauts who had died prior to the Apollo 15 mission. That crew left it behind in 1971, and NASA wasn't aware of what the astronauts had done until a post-flight press conference.

Lunar yard sale - Objects jettisoned by Apollo crews over the years include a television camera, earplugs, two "urine collection assemblies," and tools that include tongs and a hammer. Astronauts left them because they needed to shed weight in order to make it back to Earth on their remaining fuel supply, said archivist Colin Fries of the NASA History Program Office.

Luna 10 - A Soviet satellite that crashed after successfully orbiting the moon, Luna 10 was the first man-made object to orbit a celestial body other than Earth. Its Russian controllers had programmed it to broadcast the Communist anthem "Internationale" live to the Communist Party Congress on April 4, 1966. Worried that the live broadcast could fail, they decided to broadcast a recording of the satellite's test run the night before—a fact they revealed 30 years later.

Radio Astronomy Explorer B - The U.S. launched this enormous instrument, also known as Explorer 49, into a lunar orbit in 1973. At 600 feet (183 meters) across, it's the largest man-made object to enter orbit around the moon. Researchers sent it into its lunar orbit so it could take measurements of the planets, the sun, and the galaxy free from terrestrial radio interference. NASA lost contact with the satellite in 1977, and it's presumed to have crashed into the moon.

(Learn about lunar exploration.)


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Siblings of Sandy Hook Victims Face Survivor's Guilt













Six-year-old Arielle Pozner was in a classroom at Sandy Hook school when Adam Lanza burst into the school with his rifle and handguns. Her twin brother, Noah, was in a classroom down the hall.


Noah Pozner was killed by Lanza, along with 19 other children at the school, and six adults. Arielle and other students' siblings survived.


"That's going to be incredibly difficult to cope with," said Dr. Jamie Howard, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York. "It is not something we expect her to cope with today and be OK with tomorrow."


READ: Two Adult Survivors of Connecticut School Shooting Will be Key Witnesses


As the community of Newtown, Conn., begins to bury the young victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting today, the equally young siblings of those killed will only be starting to comprehend what happened to their brothers and sisters.


"Children this young do experience depression in a diagnosable way, they do experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Just because they're young, they don't escape the potential for real suffering," said Rahil Briggs, a child psychologist and professor at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.






Spencer Platt/Getty Images













President Obama on Newtown Shooting: 'We Must Change' Watch Video









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Arielle and other survivor siblings could develop anxiety or other emotional reactions to their siblings' death, including "associative logic," where they associate their own actions with their sibling's death, Howard said.


"This is when two things happen, and (children) infer that one thing caused the other. (Arielle) may be at risk for that type of magical thinking, and that could be where survivor's guilt comes in. She may think she did something, but of course she didn't," Howard said.


CLICK HERE for photos from the shooting scene.


Children in families where one sibling has died sometimes struggle as their parents are overwhelmed by grief, Howard noted. When that death is traumatic, adults and children sometimes choose not to think about the person or the event to avoid pain.


Interested in How to Help Newtown Families?


"With traumatic grief, it's really important to talk about and think about the children that died, not to avoid talking and thinking about them because that interferes with grieving process, want their lives to be celebrated," Howard said.


Children may also have difficulty understanding why their deceased brother or sister is receiving so much, or so little, attention, according Briggs.


"I think one of the most challenging questions we can be faced with as parents is how to 'appropriately' remember a child that is gone. So much that can go wrong with that," Briggs said. "You have the child who is fortunate enough to escape, who thinks 'Why me? Why did my brother go?' But if you don't remember the sibling enough the child says 'it seems like we've forgotten my brother.'"


"They may even find themselves feeling jealous of all the attention the sibling seems to be receiving," Briggs said.


Parents and other adults in the family's support system need to be on alert, watching the child's behavior, she said. Children could show signs of withdrawing, or seeming spacy or in a daze. They could also seem jumpy or have difficulty concentrating in the wake of a traumatic event.


"For kids experiencing symptoms, and interfering with ability to go to school, they may be suffering from acute stress disorder, and there are good treatments," Howard said.






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Best videos of 2012: Gravity-defying roof illusion



Joanna Carver, reporter






A head-scratching illusion comes in at number 10 in our best videos of 2012 countdown.



Try to wrap your head around this illusion featuring a roof that appears to defy gravity by attracting balls to its peak. Once the house is rotated to uncover the secret, you'll be surprised to see how dramatically your brain was tricked.








According to Kokichi Sugihara from Meiji University in Kawasaki, Japan, who created the mind-bending house, the illusion is interesting because our brain is fooled even after we've seen the reveal. When trying to make sense of a figure, we're primed to perceive rectangular configurations time and time again.



To find out more, read our original article: "Friday Illusion: Impossible roof defies gravity". For more mind-boggling videos, check out an impossible wedding car or watch a 3D shape that conceals six different tricks.




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India cuts growth rate forecast






NEW DELHI: India on Monday cut its growth forecast for the current fiscal year to just below six percent, putting Asia's third-largest economy on track for its worst annual performance in a decade.

The finance ministry said "supportive" moves from the central bank would be needed even for the economy to expand at the revised level of 5.7-to-5.9 percent, down from 7.85 percent estimated at the start of the year.

The forecast came a day before the bank was expected to keep the benchmark interest rate on hold as it waits for stubborn inflation to ease, despite mounting pressure for a cut to boost the sluggish economy.

"It should be possible for the economy to improve the overall growth rate of GDP (for the year) to around 5.7 percent to 5.9 percent" from 5.4 percent in the first half, said the Mid-Year Economic Analysis tabled in parliament.

The full-year rate would be far below the near double-digit pace India set before the onset of the global financial crisis.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has been urging the central bank to reduce high interest rates to bolster the economy.

But the bank has kept rates steady since April -- when it cut them for the first time in three years -- unlike other developing countries which have lowered borrowing costs to shield their economies from the eurozone crisis.

India's bank has insisted inflation must recede and the government needs to curb its ballooning fiscal deficit -- the widest of all emerging market economies -- before more rate cuts.

Growth in 2011-12 fell to a nine-year low of 6.5 percent hit by high interest rates, struggling overseas economies and sluggish investment caused by concerns about policymaking and corruption.

India's economy has not expanded by less than 6.5 percent since the 2002-2003 financial year.

Economists had already cut their year growth forecasts to mid-five percent or lower.

- AFP/ir



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Newtown plans burials as school's future debated









NEWTOWN, Conn. -- A grieving Connecticut town braced itself Monday to bury the first two of the 20 small victims of an elementary school gunman and debated when classes could resume — and where, given the carnage in the building and the children's associations with it.


The people of Newtown weren't yet ready to address the question just three days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and a day after President Barack Obama pledged to seek change in memory of the children and six adults ruthlessly slain by a gunman packing a high-powered rifle.


"We're just now getting ready to talk to our son about who was killed," said Robert Licata, the father of a student who escaped harm during the shooting. "He's not even there yet."





Newtown officials couldn't say whether Sandy Hook Elementary, where authorities said all the victims were shot at least twice, would ever reopen. Monday classes were canceled, and the district was making plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to a former school building in a neighboring town.


The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, was carrying an arsenal of hundreds of rounds of especially deadly ammunition, authorities said Sunday — enough to kill just about every student in the school if given enough time, raising the chilling possibility that the bloodbath could have been even worse.


The shooter decided to kill himself when he heard police closing in about 10 minutes into Friday's attack, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said on ABC's "This Week."


At the interfaith service in Newtown on Sunday evening, Obama said he would use "whatever power this office holds" to engage with law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and educators in an effort to prevent more tragedies like Newtown.


"What choice do we have?" Obama said on a stark stage that held only a small table covered with a black cloth, candles and the presidential podium. "Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?"


The president first met privately with families of the victims and with the emergency personnel who responded to the shooting. Police and firefighters got hugs and standing ovations when they entered for the public vigil, as did Obama.


"We needed this," said the Rev. Matt Crebbin, senior minister of the Newtown Congregational Church. "We need to be together here in this room. ... We needed to be together to show that we are together and united."


As Obama read some of the names of victims early in his remarks, sobs resonated throughout the hall. He closed by slowly reading the first names of each of the 26 victims.


"God has called them all home," he said. "For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory."


The first funerals were planned Monday for Jack Pinto, a 6-year-old New York Giants fan who might be buried in wide receiver Victor Cruz's jersey, and Noah Pozner, a boy of the same age who liked to figure out how things worked mechanically.


"He was just a really lively, smart kid," said Noah's uncle Alexis Haller, of Woodinville, Wash. "He would have become a great man, I think. He would have grown up to be a great dad."


With more funerals planned this week, the road ahead for Newtown — which had already started purging itself of Christmas decorations in a joyful season turned mournful — was clouded.


"I feel like we have to get back to normal, but I don't know if there is normal anymore," said Kim Camputo, mother of two children, ages 5 and 10, who attend a different school. "I'll definitely be dropping them off and picking them up myself for a while."


Jim Agostine, superintendent of schools in nearby Monroe, said plans were being made for students from Sandy Hook to attend classes in his town this week.


Newtown police Lt. George Sinko said he "would find it very difficult" for students to return to the same school where they came so close to death. But, he added, "We want to keep these kids together. They need to support each other."


Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said state construction employees are advising on renovating Sandy Hook, which serves grades kindergarten through four.


It wasn't just Newtown that was concerned about the next steps for its schoolchildren. Across the country, vigilance was expected to be high. In an effort to ensure student safety and calm parents' nerves, districts have asked police departments to increase patrols and have sent messages to parents outlining safety plans they assured them are regularly reviewed and rehearsed.





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