Video games take off as a spectator sport

Editorial: "Give video games a sporting chance"

EVERY sport has its idols and superstars. Now video gaming is getting them too. Professional gaming, or e-sports, exploded in popularity in the US and Europe last year.

The scene has been big in Asia - particularly South Korea - for about a decade, with top players such as Lim Yo-Hwan earning six-figure salaries and competing for rock-star glory in Starcraft tournaments that attract audiences in the hundreds of thousands.

The phenomenon is taking off in the West partly because of improved video-streaming technology and large financial rewards. Video games are becoming a spectator sport, with certain players and commentators drawing massive online audiences.

And where people go, money follows. The second world championship of League of Legends - a team-based game in which players defend respective corners of a fantasy-themed battle arena - was held in Los Angeles in October. The tournament had a prize pool of $5 million for the season, with $1 million going to winning team Taipei Assassins, the largest cash prize in the history of e-sports.

League of Legends has also set records for spectator numbers. More than 8 million people watched the championship finals either online or on TV - a figure that dwarfs audience numbers for broadcasts of many traditional sports fixtures.

But gamers don't need to compete at the international level to earn money. Video-streaming software like Twitch makes it easy for players to send live footage to a website, where the more popular ones can attract upwards of 10,000 viewers - enough for some to make a living by having adverts in their video streams. Gamers can go pro without leaving their homes.

Currently, e-sports productions are handled by gaming leagues - but that could soon change. Last November saw two moves that will make it even easier to reach a global online audience. First, Twitch announced it would be integrating with Electronic Arts's Origin service, a widely used gaming platform. This would let gamers stream their play at the click of a button, making it easy for people around the world to watch.

Also in November came the latest release from one of gaming's biggest franchises, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which has the ability to live-stream via YouTube built into the game itself. Another feature allows the broadcast of in-game commentary for multiplayer matches.

"I think we will reach a point, maybe within five years, where spectator features are a necessity for all big game releases," says Corin Cole of e-sports publishing company Heaven Media in Huntingdon, UK.

David Ting founded the California-based IGN Pro League (IPL), which hosts professional tournaments. He puts the popularity of e-sports down to the demand for new forms of online entertainment. "After 18 months, IPL's viewer numbers are already comparable to college sports in the US when there's a live event," he says. "The traffic is doubling every six months."

Ting sees motion detection, virtual reality and mobile gaming coming together to make physical exertion a more common aspect of video games, blurring the line between traditional sport and e-sports. "Angry Birds could be this century's bowling," says Ting.

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British star Savile's victims set to seek damages: lawyer

LONDON: Around 50 victims of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile are set to seek damages from the late broadcaster's estate and from organisations including the BBC and Britain's health service, their lawyer said on Saturday.

A report by British police on Friday said Savile "groomed the nation" over six decades, hiding behind his fame to assault girls, boys and adult women on BBC premises and in schools and hospitals.

Liz Dux, a lawyer representing more than 50 of Savile's victims, said that because Savile had died in 2011 aged 84, civil claims were the only way that they could get justice.

"Compensation is not at the forefront of their mind, but of course it's the only method of recompense that we can get for them now, given that he can't be prosecuted," she said.

Dux said they would consider making claims against Savile's heirs, against the BBC -- the publicly funded broadcaster that made Savile one of its biggest stars in the 1970s and 1980s -- and the state-run National Health Service.

"We now have to look at what was known in the organisations. Once these inquiries have taken place then we will be able to make progress with the civil claims.

"Those inquiries are hugely important to the evidence and it will be foolhardy to press ahead straight away with the civil claims now without that evidence coming forward.

"A moratorium has been agreed in respect of the majority of the potential defendants to await the outcome of the inquiry."

In the three-month investigation by police and the NSPCC children's charity, it emerged that Savile used his fame as presenter of BBC TV's "Top of the Pops" chart show and children's programme "Jim'll Fix It" to rape and assault victims on BBC premises as well as in schools and hospitals where he did charity work.

The report recorded 214 criminal offences, including 34 rapes -- 28 of them of children. Three-quarters of the victims were children, mostly girls aged between 13 and 16, but the youngest was an eight-year-old boy.

- AFP/xq

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14-year-old boy killed on West Side

Two gunmen shot a 14-year-old boy several times Friday night as he stood on his porch, leaving him to die in the front hallway of his Humboldt Park home, authorities said.

Two male shooters opened fire about 11:50 p.m. in the 2400 block of West Augusta Boulevard, striking the boy multiple times in the chest, Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Amina Greer said.

Immediately following the shooting, a car sped down the street in reverse and took off, a neighbor said.

It appeared the boy managed to take a couple of steps before collapsing. When paramedics arrived, he was lying just inside the home, bleeding from several bullet wounds, police said. He died at the scene.

Police found blood on the front steps and more than half a dozen shell casings on the sidewalk.

The high school freshman had been talking on a cellphone in front of his home just moments before shots rang out, his stepmother said.

The shooting may have been gang-related, police sources said. Family and friends on the scene, however, said the victim avoided gangs and spent his free time listening to music and riding his bicycle.

The boy would have turned 15 on Tuesday, said his stepmother, whose name - like that of her stepson - the Tribune is withholding pending notification of additional family members.

"Now he's not even going to see his 15th birthday," his tearful stepmother said.

Neighbors returning home stared at squad cars and crime scene tape blocking the street of two- and three-story brick homes.

On the sidewalk near the crime scene, the father of one of the boy's friends sobbed as he paced near a group of somber teenagers.

When a neighbor asked him what had happened, his answer was brief.

"A little boy just got murdered," he said.

Twitter: @AdamSege
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Pictures: Civil War Shipwreck Revealed by Sonar

Photograph by Jesse Cancelmo

A fishing net, likely only decades old, drapes over machinery that once connected the Hatteras' pistons to its paddle wheels, said Delgado.

From archived documents, the NOAA archaeologist learned that Blake, the ship's commander, surrendered as his ship was sinking. "It was listing to port, [or the left]," Delgado said. The Alabama took the wounded and the rest of the crew and put them in irons.

The officers were allowed to keep their swords and wander the deck as long as they promised not to lead an uprising against the Alabama's crew, he added.

From there, the Alabama dropped off their captives in Jamaica, leaving them to make their own way back to the U.S.

Delgado wants to dig even further into the crew of the Hatteras. He'd like see if members of the public recognize any of the names on his list of crew members and can give him background on the men.

"That's why I do archaeology," he said.

(Read about other Civil War battlefields in National Geographic magazine.)

Published January 11, 2013

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Gay Rights: Politicians Move With Public

Like America, politicians have evolved on gay rights since the 1990s.

Some -- like Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who as a college student in 1992 admitted to how he once "hated gays" -- did their evolving earlier than others.

And some -- like Chuck Hagel, who will have to answer questions about his late-1990s comments about gays in the military -- had a lot more evolving to do.

But both men have moved with their country.

Acceptance of lesbians and gays has changed a lot in the past quarter of a century and the pace has quickened in recent years.

They can serve openly in the military and get married in 9 states and the District of Columbia, and a majority of Americans now supports the right of same-sex couples to marry.

A column Cory Booker wrote at the Stanford Daily while he was a student has brought headlines this week because of how it says he originally "hated gays." In the piece, which the paper re-posted this week, Booker described a gay counselor who shared with him his struggles. Booker wrote of how it struck him as similar to his black grandparents' fight for tolerance. The experience, he said, changed his attitudes on homosexuality.

"Allow me to be more direct, escaping the euphemisms of my past -- I hated gays," Booker wrote. "The disgust and latent hostility I felt toward gays were subcategories of hatred, plain and simple. While hate is a four-letter word I never would have admitted to, the sentiment clandestinely pervaded my every interaction with homosexuals. I sheepishly shook hands with gays or completely shied away from physical contact."

The column is now 20 years old, and Booker says his attitudes are very different now. A year ago he gave a strongly-worded defense of same-sex marriage in a press conference in Newark, telling reporters, "We've created a second-class citizenship in our state." He has just announced a run for U.S. Senate.

David Handschuh/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Gay Marriage: Supreme Court to Examine Marriage Equality Watch Video

"We have two types of citizens right now in our state: citizens like me, who, if I choose to marry somebody, I can marry somebody from a different country and they have a right to United States citizenship. I talked to somebody last night, his spouse is looking to be deported," Booker said in January 2012, according to video of the press conference. "I will be fundamentally in the fiber of my being supportive of equal citizenship for all people in this country because I know, at the end of the day, I would not be here, my family would not be able to put food on the table for me, if it wasn't for that ideal in America."

Booker's change of heart mimics those of numerous high-profile politicians and other Americans on the topic of gay rights and same-sex marriage. Recent polling shows just how much the country has changed on the topic. An ABC News-Washington Post poll in November showed that 51 percent of Americans support gay marriage, up sharply from 32 percent in mid-2004.

Brian Ellner led the successful campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in New York and said, "This is a movement about changing hearts and minds."

"We've seen incredibly swift movement in polling in terms of support for equality for lesbian and gay families in every demographic: younger Americans, older Americans, rural, urban, every ethnic group and across all religions," Ellner said. "It's been dramatic and every possible trend line goes into the right direction, which is for full equality."

President Obama's choice for defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, got into some hot water for past statements he made when it was revealed he called James Hormel, who was trying to win confirmation as the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg in 1998, "openly, aggressively gay." It's language that raises eyebrows now, but then it was accepted. Only in 2013 has Hagel, eager to be confirmed himself, apologized and said his views had changed on the issue of gay rights.

Rev. Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Georgia ran into a similar issue this week when he announced he would be pulling out of the presidential inauguration after being chosen by the inaugural committee to give the benediction later this month. He made the decision after it was revealed by ThinkProgress that he had given a sermon in the mid-1990s in which he said homosexuality is a sin and advocated "gay conversion" therapy. When he announced he was pulling out of the event, Giglio did not apologize outright as Hagel did; instead, he said that "speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years."

Ellner said the dramatic and swift change is because "more and more gay Americans have had the courage to come out and live open lives."

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Physics not biology may be key to beating cancer

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SIA firms up order for another 25 widebody aircraft from Airbus

SINGAPORE : Singapore Airlines (SIA) has firmed up an order for 25 more widebody aircraft from Airbus.

Five of the aircraft are the A380.

SIA has placed three consecutive orders for the A380, making it the second largest customer of the A380, and now has 19 such aircraft in service.

The remaining 20 aircraft are in the mid-size category - the A350-900s, which will be used on medium- and long-haul routes.

- CNA/ms

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Boeing Dreamliner hit by two more mishaps in Japan

Boeing Co.'s 787 Dreamliner jet suffered a cracked cockpit window and an oil leak on separate flights in Japan on Friday -- the latest in a series of incidents testing confidence in the sophisticated new aircraft.

All Nippon Airways Co said a domestic flight from Tokyo landed safely at Matsuyama airport in western Japan after a crack developed on the cockpit windscreen, and the plane's return to Tokyo was cancelled.

The same airline later said oil was found leaking from an engine of a 787 Dreamliner after the plane landed at Miyazaki airport in southern Japan. An airline spokeswoman said it later returned to Tokyo after some delay. No one was injured in either incident.

The world's first carbon-composite airliner, which has a list price of $207 million, has been beset by problems this week. Some analysts say these are normal teething issues as a new plane enters service under close scrutiny. Others say the incidents could erode public confidence in the aircraft.

The 787 Dreamliner will undergo a comprehensive review of its critical systems by regulators, the U.S. Department of Transportation said Friday.

The review of the jet will include design, manufacture and assembly, after a series of problems in recent weeks, including a battery that caught fire on an empty 787 parked in Boston on Monday.

The agency said it plans to announce more details at a press conference Friday at 9:30 am ET.

U.S. regulators have raised questions about the plane's reliability on long transocean routes, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The 787 Dreamliner made its first commercial flight in late-2011, after a series of production delays put deliveries more than three years behind schedule. By the end of last year, Boeing had sold 848 Dreamliners, and delivered 49.

Earlier this week, a battery fire caused damage to an empty 787 jet operated by Japan Airlines while it was on the ground at Boston airport. The next day, another JAL 787 spilled 40 gallons of fuel onto the taxiway at the same airport after a problem that caused a valve to open, forcing the plane to delay its departure. On Wednesday, ANA cancelled a domestic Dreamliner flight due to a brake-control computer glitch.

Boeing's top Dreamliner engineer, Mike Sinnett, was rolled out midweek to defend the 787, saying the plane's problem rates were no higher than with Boeing's successful 777 jet.


ANA said crew noticed a spider web-like crack in a window in front of the pilot's seat about 70 minutes into Friday's flight, which was close to its destination.

"Cracks appear a few times every year in other planes. We don't see this as a sign of a fundamental problem" with Boeing aircraft, a spokesman for the airline said.

On the later flight, the ANA spokeswoman said she could not specify how much oil leaked from the engine. Later on Friday, ANA - which, with JAL flies 24 of the 49 Dreamliners delivered to end-December - launched its maiden service between Tokyo's Narita Airport and San Jose, California with the Dreamliner.

Jun Akiyama, a plane enthusiast who was taking photos at the airport ahead of the San Jose departure, said: "It's worrying. If there was a major accident lives would be at stake, and these defects are only increasing fears."

But Yasushi Uesaka, a systems engineer from Osaka who was also taking pictures nearby, played down the incidents. "When new things come out, there will naturally be defects. That a lot of these defects didn't occur during flight means they're not too critical, I think."

In India - where state-owned Air India has taken delivery of six Dreamliner jets and has more on order - a senior official at the aviation regulator said there was concern at the recent spate of Dreamliner glitches. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has not ordered any Dreamliner checks for now, but is waiting for a safety report from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the official said.

Air India spokesman K. Swaminathan said the airline's debut Dreamliner flight to Paris on Thursday went without a hitch.


One of Boeing's chief innovations with the 787 is its use of electrical power to run on-board functions such as hydraulics and air conditioning, instead of relying on heavier pneumatic systems used on other planes. The weight savings make the 787 more fuel efficient, a big advantage for airlines battling high jet fuel costs.

To power the electrical system, the 787 uses generators attached to the plane's engines, which produce about 1.5 megawatts of power, enough to power about 300 hot water heaters. The system uses high-voltage distribution panels and powerful batteries, such as the one that caught fire in Boston on Monday.

Makoto Yoda, president of Japanese battery maker GS Yuasa Corp, which makes the Dreamliner batteries, said his company was looking into Monday's fire, and was sending a team of engineers to cooperate with the U.S. investigation.

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Google and Twitter Help Track Influenza Outbreaks

This flu season could be the longest and worst in years. So far 18 children have died from flu-related symptoms, and 2,257 people have been hospitalized.

Yesterday Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a citywide public health emergency, with roughly 700 confirmed flu cases—ten times the number the city saw last year.

"It arrived five weeks early, and it's shaping up to be a pretty bad flu season," said Lyn Finelli, who heads the Influenza Outbreak Response Team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Boston isn't alone. According to the CDC, 41 states have reported widespread influenza activity, and in the last week of 2012, 5.6 percent of doctor's office visits across the country were for influenza-like illnesses. The severity likely stems from this year's predominant virus: H3N2, a strain known to severely affect children and the elderly. Finelli notes that the 2003-2004 flu season, also dominated by H3N2, produced similar numbers. (See "Are You Prepped? The Influenza Roundup.")

In tracking the flu, physicians and public health officials have a host of new surveillance tools at their disposal thanks to crowdsourcing and social media. Such tools let them get a sense of the flu's reach in real time rather than wait weeks for doctor's offices and state health departments to report in.

Pulling data from online sources "is no different than getting information on over-the-counter medication or thermometer purchases [to track against an outbreak]," said Philip Polgreen, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa.

The most successful of these endeavors, Google Flu Trends, analyzes flu-related Internet search terms like "flu symptoms" or "flu medication" to estimate flu activity in different areas. It tracks flu outbreaks globally.

Another tool, HealthMap, which is sponsored by Boston Children's Hospital, mines online news reports to track outbreaks in real time. Sickweather draws from posts on Twitter and Facebook that mention the flu for its data.

People can be flu-hunters themselves with Flu Near You, a project that asks people to report their symptoms once a week. So far more than 38,000 people have signed up for this crowdsourced virus tracker. And of course, there's an app for that.

Both Finelli, a Flu Near You user, and Polgreen find the new tools exciting but agree that they have limits. "It's not as if we can replace traditional surveillance. It's really just a supplement, but it's timely," said Polgreen.

When people have timely warning that there's flu in the community, they can get vaccinated, and hospitals can plan ahead. According to a 2012 study in Clinical Infectious Diseases, Google Flu Trends has shown promise predicting emergency room flu traffic. Some researchers are even using a combination of the web database and weather data to predict when outbreaks will peak.

As for the current flu season, it's still impossible to predict week-to-week peaks and troughs. "We expect that it will last a few more weeks, but we can never tell how bad it's going to get," said Finelli.

Hospitals are already taking precautionary measures. One Pennsylvania hospital erected a separate emergency room tent for additional flu patients. This week, several Illinois hospitals went on "bypass," alerting local first responders that they're at capacity—due to an uptick in both flu and non-flu cases—so that patients will be taken to alternative facilities, if possible.

In the meantime, the CDC advises vaccination, first and foremost. On the bright side, the flu vaccine being used this year is a good match for the H3N2 strain. Though Finelli cautions, "Sometimes drifted strains pop up toward the end of the season."

It looks like there won't be shortages of seasonal flu vaccine like there have been in past years. HealthMap sports a Flu Vaccine Finder to make it a snap to find a dose nearby. And if the flu-shot line at the neighborhood pharmacy seems overwhelming, more health departments and clinics are offering drive-through options.

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Judge: Holmes Can Face Trial for Aurora Shooting

Jan 10, 2013 8:45pm

ap james holmes ll 120920 wblog Aurora Shooting Suspect James Holmes Can Face Trial

(Arapahoe County Sheriff/AP Photo)

In a ruling that comes as little surprise, the judge overseeing the Aurora, Colo., theater massacre has ordered that there is enough evidence against James Holmes to proceed to a trial.

In an order posted late Thursday, Judge William Sylvester wrote that “the People have carried their burden of proof and have established that there is probable cause to believe that Defendant committed the crimes charged.”

The ruling came after a three-day preliminary hearing this week that revealed new details about how Holmes allegedly planned for and carried out the movie theater shooting, including how investigators say he amassed an arsenal of guns and ammunition, how he booby-trapped his apartment to explode, and his bizarre behavior after his arrest.

PHOTOS: Colorado ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Theater Shooting

Holmes is charged with 166 counts, including murder, attempted murder and other charges related to the July 20 shooting that left 12 people dead and 58 wounded by gunfire. An additional 12 people suffered non-gunshot injuries.

One of the next legal steps is an arraignment, at which Holmes will enter a plea. The arraignment was originally expected to take place Friday morning.

Judge Sylvester indicated through a court spokesman that he would allow television and still cameras into the courtroom, providing the outside world the first images of Holmes since a July 23 hearing. Plans for cameras in court, however, were put on hold Thursday afternoon.

“The defense has notified the district attorney that it is not prepared to proceed to arraignment in this case by Friday,” wrote public defenders Daniel King, Tamara Brady and Kristen Nelson Thursday afternoon in a document objecting to cameras in court.

A hearing in the case will still take place Friday morning. In his order, Judge Sylvester said it should technically be considered an arraignment, but noted the defense has requested a continuance.  Legal experts expect the judge will grant the continuance, delaying the arraignment and keeping cameras out of court for now.

Sylvester also ordered that Holmes be held without bail.

Holmes’ attorneys have said in court that the former University of Colorado neuroscience student is mentally ill. The district attorney overseeing the case has not yet announced whether Holmes, now 25, can face the death penalty.

SHOWS: Good Morning America World News

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Pebble smart watch set to ship to adoring backers

Niall Firth, technology editor


(Image: Pebble)

So, finally, it is here. Pebble, the smart watch that syncs with your smartphone and social media, is about to start shipping out to the thousands of very patient crowdfunding backers who have been waiting months to get their hands on one.

Pebble made history in April last year when it became the most backed idea ever on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, raising $10 million from more than 68,000 people. Its parent, Pebble Technology, had initially asked for only $100,000.

Backers were supposed to receive their first shipment in September. The delay was caused in part by the massive response to the idea, Pebble's CEO Eric Migicovsky told a press conference at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, yesterday.

The device itself looks simple - a watch with a black-and-white, easy-to-read display. Water resistant to 5 atmospheres, Pebble uses low-power Bluetooth to sync with your smartphone to display emails, Facebook notifications and SMS messages on its screen. Incoming phone calls make the watch vibrate and can be dismissed from the watch itself. The display, which is made of power-sipping electronic paper, gives Pebble a battery life of seven days between charges.

It also syncs with the website If This Then That, which lets you set up simple rules to receive information from other sites you're interested in. Migicovsky showed how the Pebble could be set up to notify you if it had started snowing in Las Vegas according to a weather app, for example. It comes with its own operating system and will be open to third-party developers.

The announcement that it is being delivered at last is not just good news for Pebble's supporters - critics often cited the project as a case study in how Kickstarter initiatives over-promise and under-deliver. In September the site's owners even wrote a blog post to those posting projects on the site, warning them that it was better to "under-promise and over-deliver".

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58,000 commuters affected by NEL train disruption

SINGAPORE: Some 58,000 commuters were affected on Thursday when train services between HarbourFront and Dhoby Ghaut stations on the North East Line (NEL) were disrupted for six-and-a-half hours.

Rail operator SBS Transit said the disruption was traced to three broken U-shaped bolts between the HarbourFront and Outram Park stations, resulting in a power trip.

The fault is similar to one that had occurred in last August in the same tunnel section.

The stainless steel U-bolts in question were checked following the August incident and found to be in good working condition.

SBS Transit has decided to replace all U-bolts in the tunnel, starting with the section between HarbourFront and Outram Park stations.

This initial section contains about 1,900 U-bolts and is expected to take about three months for the replacement to be completed.

SBS Transit said it is working with the Land Transport Authority to review and examine all possible causes and contributory factors to the recent incidents.

Commuters were first alerted to the train disruption at about 10am on Thursday.

In addition to signboards, SBS staff wearing "Goodwill Ambassador" were also on the ground to advise and direct commuters on where to go.

Shuttle services were activated at designated bus stops at around 10.30am to provide free bus rides.

Commuters were informed at around 12.30pm that train services would resume in the late afternoon.

And shortly after 4.30pm, the full NEL service was up and running.

This is not the first time the NEL has been disrupted.

On December 20 last year, some 26,000 commuters were affected by a train fault.

- CNA/fa

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Car stolen from parking lot with 18-month-old inside

Kimberly Delgado

Kimberly Delgado
(Provided photo / January 10, 2013)

Police say they have found an 18-month-old girl who was left in a running car that was stolen from a parking lot in Bensenville early Thursday morning.

Kimberly Delgado appeared safe and unharmed, police said shortly before 7 a.m., and she was being checked as precaution.

An Amber Alert was issued after the mother left Kimberly in a black Buick while she went into an apartment building at 940 W. Irving Park Road in Bensenville around 12:40 a.m., according to Bensenville Police Chief Frank Kosman.

"A subject walked out the foyer and walked directly to her car parked directly in front of the foyer. . .and drove away," Kosman said.

Kosman said he had no reason to believe the man knew the child was inside. Police described him as Hispanic, 5-foot-4, 35 to 40 years old, heavy build, black hair, dark complected and wearing a red sweater.

The car has an Illinois license plate, L548500.
Twitter: @peternickeas

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Embryonic Sharks Freeze to Avoid Detection

Jane J. Lee

Although shark pups are born with all the equipment they'll ever need to defend themselves and hunt down food, developing embryos still stuck in their egg cases are vulnerable to predators. But a new study finds that even these baby sharks can detect a potential predator, and play possum to avoid being eaten.

Every living thing gives off a weak electrical field. Sharks can sense this with a series of pores—called the ampullae of Lorenzini—on their heads and around their eyes, and some species rely on this electrosensory ability to find food buried in the seafloor. (See pictures of electroreceptive fish.)

Two previous studies on the spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) and the clearnose skate (Raja eglanteria)—a relative of sharks—found similar freezing behavior in their young. But new research by shark biologist and doctoral student Ryan Kempster at the University of Western Australia has given scientists a more thorough understanding of this behavior.

It all started because Kempster wanted to build a better shark repellent. Since he needed to know how sharks respond to electrical fields, Kempster decided to use embryos. "It's very hard to test this in the field because you need to get repeated responses," he said. And you can't always get the same shark to cooperate multiple times. "But we could use embryos because they're contained within an egg case."

Cloaking Themselves

So Kempster got his hands on 11 brownbanded bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium punctatum) embryos and tested their reactions to the simulated weak electrical field of a predator. (Popular pictures: Bamboo shark swallowed whole—by another shark.)

In a study published today in the journal PLoS One, Kempster and his colleagues report that all of the embryonic bamboo sharks, once they reached later stages of development, reacted to the electrical field by ceasing gill movements (essentially, holding their breath), curling their tails around their bodies, and freezing.

A bamboo shark embryo normally beats its tail to move fresh seawater in and out of its egg case. But that generates odor cues and small water currents that can give away its position. The beating of its gills as it breathes also generates an electrical field that predators can use to find it.

"So it cloaks itself," said neuroecologist Joseph Sisneros, at the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved in the study. "[The embryo] shuts down any odor cues, water movement, and its own electrical signal."

Sisneros, who conducted the previous clearnose skate work, is delighted to see that this shark species also reacts to external electrical fields and said it would be great to see whether this is something all shark, skate, and ray embryos do.

Marine biologist Stephen Kajiura, at Florida Atlantic University, is curious to know how well the simulated electrical fields compare to the bamboo shark's natural predators—the experimental field was on the higher end of the range normally given off.

"[But] they did a good job with [the study]," Kajiura said. "They certainly did a more thorough study than anyone else has done."

Electrifying Protection?

In addition to the freezing behavior he recorded in the bamboo shark embryos, Kempster found that the shark pups remembered the electrical field signal when it was presented again within 40 minutes and that they wouldn't respond as strongly to subsequent exposures as they did initially.

This is important for developing shark repellents, he said, since some of them use electrical fields to ward off the animals. "So if you were using a shark repellent, you would need to change the current over a 20- to 30-minute period so the shark doesn't get used to that field."

Kempster envisions using electrical fields to not only keep humans safe but to protect sharks as well. Shark populations have been on the decline for decades, due partly to ending up as bycatch, or accidental catches, in the nets and on the longlines of fishers targeting other animals.

A 2006 study estimated that as much as 70 percent of landings, by weight, in the Spanish surface longline fleet were sharks, while a 2007 report found that eight million sharks are hooked each year off the coast of southern Africa. (Read about the global fisheries crisis in National Geographic magazine.)

"If we can produce something effective, it could be used in the fishing industry to reduce shark bycatch," Kempster said. "In [America] at the moment, they're doing quite a lot of work trying to produce electromagnetic fish hooks." The eventual hope is that if these hooks repel the sharks, they won't accidentally end up on longlines.

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Seau Suffered Brain Disease From NFL Hits: Study

A team of scientists who analyzed the brain tissue of renowned NFL linebacker Junior Seau after his suicide last year have concluded the football player suffered a debilitating brain disease likely caused by two decades worth of hits to the head, researchers and his family exclusively told ABC News and ESPN.

In May, Seau, 43 -- football's monster in the middle, a perennial all-star and defensive icon in the 1990s whose passionate hits made him a dominant figure in the NFL -- shot himself in the chest at his home in Oceanside, Calif., leaving behind four children and many unanswered questions.

Seau's family donated his brain to neuroscientists at the National Institutes for Health who are conducting ongoing research on traumatic brain injury and football players.

Click Here to Read ESPN's Coverage on Junior Seau

A team of independent researchers who did not know they were studying Seau's brain all concluded he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease typically caused by multiple hits to the head.

"What was found in Junior Seau's brain was cellular changes consistent with CTE," said Dr. Russell Lonser, chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Ohio State University, who led the study of Seau's brain while he was at NIH.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

U.S. Emergency Rooms Inundated With Flu Patients Watch Video

Patients with CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death, display symptoms "such as impulsivity, forgetfulness, depression, [and] sometimes suicidal ideation," Lonser said.

Seau's family described to ABC News and ESPN a long descent into depression in the years prior to his death.

Gina Seau, his ex-wife with whom he remained close following their divorce, said the linebacker had difficulty sleeping and became withdrawn and "detached emotionally" from his children. In one exchange, he described his mood as "low" and "dark."

"A lot of things, towards the end of his life, patterns that we saw and things that worried us, it makes sense now," she said of the diagnosis.

The night before his death, Seau sent a text message to his ex-wife and children in which he simply wrote, "I love you." They were the last words anyone would hear from him.

More than 30 NFL players have in recent years been diagnosed with CTE, a condition once known as "punch drunk" because it affected boxers who had taken multiple blows to the head. Last year, 4,000 retired players joined a class-action lawsuit against the league over its alleged failure to protect players from brain injuries.

The NFL has said it did not intentionally hide the dangers of concussions from players and is doing everything it can now to protect them.

Gina Seau said she and her ex-husband expected physical injuries from playing professional football but never thought "you're putting your brain and your mental health at a greater risk."

Junior Seau, she said, was never formally diagnosed with a concussion but routinely complained of symptoms associated with concussions after receiving hits to the head during games and in practices in 20 seasons in the NFL.

"The head-to-head contact, the collisions are just, they're out of control," Gina Seau said.

"He was a warrior and he loved the game," she added. "But ... I know that he didn't love the end of his life."

For the Seaus, football gave them everything and, they believe, has now taken it all away. They understand its attraction and, all too well, its routine danger.

"I think it's a gamble," Gina Seau said. "Just be extremely aware of what could potentially happen to your life."

None of the Seau children play football anymore and their mother is glad of that.

"It's not worth it for me to not have a dad," said one of the Seaus' sons, Tyler Seau, 23. "So, to me, it's not worth it."

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US no longer lists satellites as weapons

Satellites are no longer weapons, according to a change in US anti-arms trafficking law. The move gives hope to commercial spaceflight companies wanting to sell their technology on the global market rather than just within the US. However, the focus on Earth-orbiting craft means deep-space missions could still be hampered by onerous security laws.

On 3 January, President Barack Obama authorised a revision of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations law. Since 1999, ITAR listed US satellites and related technology as munitions with strict limits on exports to foreign powers – much to the annoyance of satellite makers. They say they cannot earn what they need to stay innovative without selling advanced technology abroad.

The updated law takes Earth-orbiting satellites and technologies off the list, although the president retains veto power, and the ruling doesn't apply to some countries, including China, Iran and North Korea.

Free space

Alex Saltman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation in Washington DC hopes the relaxation of rules will in future be extended to other space-tourism equipment such as crew capsules, which remain restricted by ITAR.

"Space technologies that in the past had primarily military uses, or which had mixed military and civilian uses, are becoming primarily commercial and therefore should be regulated as such," says Saltman. "While there is no immediate effect – there is nothing that is allowed now that was not allowed a month ago – we are a big step down the road toward loosening restrictions."

The new rules should also allow US students who aren't citizens to access computer data and documents from US aerospace companies, which they had been denied until now. So says Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose students design and build small satellites called CubeSats.

But major issues remain, Seager says, such as what will happen to international collaborations on more far-ranging probes. For instance, her students are designing instruments for the OSIRIS-REx mission to an asteroid, and it's unclear how the new rules might impact her non-US students.

"Why did they focus on satellites that orbit Earth and not spacecraft that go beyond Earth?" she says. "It's not clear whether the government can fix this language before it is written up into regulations."

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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S'pore retail investors optimistic about outlook: survey

SINGAPORE: Singapore retail investors are optimistic about their investment outlook for the next six months, according to a survey released on Wednesday by J P Morgan Asset Management.

According to the report, the J P Morgan Investor Confidence Index increased by 5 points to 106 in the latest survey, conducted between November 21 to December 7 2012.

This is a marked increase from one year ago, where the index was 86.

The increased confidence was boosted by expectations of an improved global economic environment, with 42 per cent of respondents indicating that they are likely to increase their investments in the next six months.

"The latest results demonstrate that Singapore investor confidence continues to improve," said Mr Andrew Creber, Head of Singapore Business, J P Morgan Asset Management.

"This is no doubt influenced by the progress we have seen over the past six months, where the risk of a financial meltdown in Europe was largely reduced. The Chinese economy is steadily recovering. In the US, despite the ongoing political tug-of-war over public finance, the restoration of household balance sheets and an improvement in the housing market is taking place," he added.

Confidence is also returning to affluent investors.

Investors with investable assets of S$500,000 and above were markedly more optimistic than investors with less investable assets, hitting a confidence level of 119, an increase of 17 points from June 2012.

Meanwhile, mutual fund investors have shown an increasing preference for multi asset/balanced funds, with those surveyed increasing their weighted allocation up by 7 per cent to 47 per cent for their mutual fund portfolio.

"It is important for investors to remain diversified to maintain stability in their portfolios," said Mr Creber.

The J P Morgan Investor Confidence Index is derived from a scoring of investor responses to a series of questions on their outlook for the Straits Times Index (STI), local and global economic and investment environments, and appreciation in their investment portfolio.

An index level of 100 is neutral, while 200 is extremely optimistic while zero is extremely pessimistic.

- CNA/xq

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1 dead, 1 wounded in Old Town shooting

One man was shot to death and another seriously wounded in the Old Town neighborhood this evening, among at least six people shot since this afternoon in the city, authorities said.

A man, age 31, was shot and a man, age 20, was shot in the back in an attack about 6:15 p.m. in the 1300 block of North Sedgwick Street. The Cook County medical examiner's office identified him as Tyshawn Blanton, of the 1300 block of North Halsted Street.

The 31-year-old was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where he was declared dead, said Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Daniel O'Brien, citing preliminary information. He was at least the second shooting victim to die today in Chicago.

The other victim was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in serious-to-critical condition, said Chicago Fire Department spokesman Chief Joe Roccasalva.

The shooting took place in front of a convenience store, police said.

Neighbors said one man was shot inside the store, the other outside. They reported hearing as many as 10 gunshots and later saw one man being taken away in a neck brace, the other being revived by paramedics.

Family members said the man who was killed grew up in the neighborhood and in the Cabrini-Green public housing complex nearby, and recently had a child. Before heading to the hospital, family members huddled in the street near the shop, crying.

The convenience store is a typical neighborhood shop, selling basic food and household items as well as cell phones. Uniformed officers and detectives were inside with store employees this evening as other officers canvassed the area.

Neighbors said they are angered by what they say seems to be an increase in crime in the area.

“You can’t even go to the store without getting shot and killed,” said Chante Morris, 30, who lives nearby.

Another shooting wounded a 21-year-old man about 90 minutes after the homicide. A 21-year-old was shot in the 600 block of East 51st Street about 7 p.m., Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Ron Gaines said. He was taken to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital in fair condition with wounds to his right forearm and hip, Gaines said.

Earlier, two people were shot and seriously wounded, apparently in the parking lot of a small strip mall on the Southwest Side this afternoon, authorities said.

The shooting took place just after 4 p.m. near 65th Street and Western Avenue, said Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Daniel O'Brien. Photos from the scene showed police checking the pavement of a strip mall on the southwest corner of 65th and Western for shell casings following the shooting.

Two men were wounded in the shooting and both were in serious condition, said Chicago Fire Department spokesman Chief Joe Roccasalva. One was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn for treatment, the other to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, he said.

On the scene, a 20-year-old man was shot in the leg was considered in serious condition, and the other man, age 19, shot in the leg, was considered in good condition, O'Brien said. The older of the two was taken to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County and the younger to Advocate Christ Medical Center.

Another man, 24, was shot in the 13000 block of South Drexel Avenue in the Altgeld Gardens housing complex. Though police didn't find a crime scene where the man said he was shot, neighbors did report hearing gunfire. He drove to Roseland Hospital but was later transferred to Advocate Christ Medical Center in serious condition with a gunshot wound to the chest and three more to the left arm, police said.

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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Pictures: Wildfires Scorch Australia Amid Record Heat

Photograph by Jo Giuliani, European Pressphoto Agency

Smoke from a wildfire mushrooms over a beach in Forcett, Tasmania, on January 4. (See more wildfire pictures.)

Wildfires have engulfed southeastern Australia, including the island state of Tasmania, in recent days, fueled by dry conditions and temperatures as high as 113ºF (45ºC), the Associated Press reported. (Read "Australia's Dry Run" inNational Geographic magazine.)

No deaths have been reported, though a hundred people are unaccounted for in the town of Dunalley, where the blazes destroyed 90 homes.

"You don't get conditions worse than this," New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told the AP.

"We are at the catastrophic level, and clearly in those areas leaving early is your safest option."

Published January 8, 2013

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Dead Lotto Winner's Wife Seeks 'Truth'

The wife of a $1 million Chicago lottery winner who died of cyanide poisoning told ABC News that she was shocked to learn the true cause of his death and is cooperating with an ongoing homicide investigation.

"I want the truth to come out in the investigation, the sooner the better," said Shabana Ansari, 32, the wife of Urooj Khan, 46. "Who could be that person who hurt him?

"It has been incredibly hard time," she added. "We went from being the happiest the day we got the check. It was the best sleep I've had. And then the next day, everything was gone."

Ansari, Khan's second wife, told the Chicago Sun-Times that she prepared what would be her husband's last meal the night before Khan died unexpectedly on July 20. It was a traditional beef-curry dinner attended by the married couple and their family, including Khan's 17-year-old daughter from a prior marriage, Jasmeen, and Ansari's father. Not feeling well, Khan retired early, Ansari told the paper, falling asleep in a chair, waking up in agony, then collapsing in the middle of the night. She called 911.

Khan, an immigrant from India who owned three dry-cleaning businesses in Chicago, won $1 million in a scratch-off Illinois Lottery game in June and said he planned to use the money to pay off his bills and mortgage, and make a contribution to St. Jude Children's Research Center.

"Him winning the lottery was just his luck," Ansari told ABC News. "He had already worked hard to be a millionaire before it."

Illinois Lottery/AP Photo

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Jimmy Goreel, who worked at the 7-Eleven store where Khan bought the winning ticket, described him to The Associated Press as a "regular customer ... very friendly, good sense of humor, working type of guy."

In Photos: Biggest Lotto Jackpot Winners

Khan's unexpected death the month after his lottery win raised the suspicions of the Cook County medical examiner. There were no signs of foul play or trauma so the death initially was attributed to arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease, which covers heart attacks, stroke or ruptured aneurysms. The medical examiner based the conclusion on an external exam -- not an autopsy -- and toxicology reports that indicated no presence of drugs or carbon monoxide.

Khan was buried at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago.

However, several days after a death certificate was issued, a family member requested that the medical examiner's office look further into Khan's death, Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said. The office did so by retesting fluid samples that had been taken from Khan's body, including tests for cyanide and strychnine.

When the final toxicology results came back in late November, they showed a lethal level of cyanide, which led to the homicide investigation, Cina said. His office planned to exhume Khan's body within the next two weeks as part of the investigation.

Melissa Stratton, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department, confirmed it has been working closely with the medical examiner's office. The police have not said whether or not they believe Khan's lottery winnings played a part in the homicide.

Khan had elected to receive the lump sum payout of $425,000, but had not yet received it when he died, Ansari told the AP, adding that the winnings now are tied up as a probate matter.

"I am cooperating with the investigation," Ansari told ABC News. "I want the truth to come out."

Authorities also have not revealed the identity of the relative who suggested the deeper look into Khan's death. Ansari said it was not her, though she told the AP she has subsequently spoken with investigators.

"This is been a shock for me," she told ABC News. "This has been an utter shock for me, and my husband was such a goodhearted person who would do anything for anyone. Who would do something like this to him?

"We were married 12 years [and] he treated me like a princess," she said. "He showered his love on me and now it's gone."

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Tony Fadell: From iPhones to sexing up thermostats

After quitting Apple, the tech guru behind the iPod wanted to revolutionise our homes – starting with the humble thermostat

After you left Apple, you developed a "smart" thermostat. Was that always your plan?
Not at all! The plan was to retire with my wife, who also worked for Steve [Jobs], and spend time with our children. We didn't see them because we were working so madly at Apple. We wanted to build a house in Lake Tahoe. I wanted to design the greenest, most connected house that I could. That's when I found out about the thermostat problem. These devices had not seen innovation in 30 years. They were the same as the ones our parents had. I wanted something that was very different.

Your solution was the NEST. Tell me about it
It uses algorithms and sensors to remember the temperatures you like, create a custom schedule for your home and turn itself down when you are away. And you can use your smartphone, tablet or computer to control it remotely. We call it the thermostat for the iPhone generation. It has a big dial, not fiddly buttons.

Did Steve Jobs have any input?
I was going to talk to Steve about it. He knew we were working on something, but he didn't know what. When it was time to show him, he said he couldn't do it. Unfortunately, he died just a few weeks later, before he could see it.

Is the NEST just the start of a range of smart-home devices?
Absolutely. But if you look at what we did at Apple after the iPod came out, it took us five years to start thinking about the iPhone and two more years to finally ship it. I would love to make more devices, but our goal is to make the NEST successful first.

Who would have believed the iPod could turn into the iPhone, then the iPad?
Even I wondered how many people would buy an iPad. But you have to be at the right place in the cultural time. We plan a similar trajectory with the NEST, with the ways that emerging behaviours can happen in the home through interconnected devices. You can't start with all of these things at once because people's minds get blown. You start with very simple things, simple concepts, and then you can build on them.

Will people have to continually upgrade their thermostats, as they do with cellphones?
Unlike a cellphone, you're not going to change the NEST every 18 months! They are supposed to hang on your wall for 10 to 15 years. Our goal is to continue to improve it via software, and we have built tonnes of extra capability into this device to allow that to happen. For example, we have a new update that gives an energy report - it shows how you're doing compared with last month, and even compares you to your neighbours.

Was it your aim to raise awareness of the energy we waste heating our homes?
The NEST starts people thinking about how they're using energy in the home. But it's also a great party trick. You get people whipping out their phones and saying "Check out my NEST at home! Watch, I'm going to freeze my wife!"

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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Police fire plastic bullets in Northern Ireland riots

BELFAST, United Kingdom: Police in Northern Ireland fired plastic bullets and water cannon at protesters in the capital Belfast late Monday after coming under a hail of petrol bombs, bricks and stones for a fifth night.

Rioters in the east of the city used weapons including hatchets and sledge hammers to attack police and their vehicles, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.

Pro-British protesters have taken to the streets of Belfast almost every night since December 3, when the city council announced that it would no longer fly the British flag all year round at the City Hall.

The decision sparked riots at the start of December which gave way to largely peaceful protests, but the violence has flared again since the start of the new year.

Britain's Northern Ireland minister Theresa Villiers said the province was being "held to ransom" by the protesters and called for an end to their demonstrations, including peaceful rallies that have blocked traffic for weeks.

"It's not acceptable that those who say they are defending a Union flag are actually doing it by hurling bricks and petrol bombs at police. It's disgraceful, frankly," she told BBC radio.

She added that the protests were doing "huge damage to Northern Ireland's image abroad".

The flag ruling has raised tensions in the British province between loyalists - who want to maintain the links to Britain and are mostly Protestant - and largely Catholic republicans who want a united Ireland.

Northern Ireland's chief police officer Matt Baggott on Monday accused the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, which murdered more than 500 people during the province's 30-year sectarian conflict, of whipping up the disorder.

"Senior members of the UVF in east Belfast as individuals have been increasingly orchestrating some of this violence," he told a press conference.

"That is utterly unacceptable and is being done for their own selfish motives."

On Monday, police battled to separate a crowd of around 250 loyalists from some 70 Catholic republicans, who hurled missiles including bottles at the protesters.

Around 1,000 loyalists had earlier staged a peaceful demonstration outside the City Hall as councillors held their first meeting since their decision to take the flag down.

More than 60 police officers have been injured and over 100 people arrested since the disorder began at the start of December.

The PSNI said four people had been charged in connection with Monday night's disorder and were due to appear in court on Tuesday.

Politicians from both sides have received death threats in recent weeks, but lawmakers from all major parties have insisted that the spate of violence does not pose a serious threat to Northern Ireland's peace process.

Some 3,000 people were killed in the three decades of sectarian bombings and shootings in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles".

A 1988 peace agreement brought an end to most of the violence and led to the creation of a power-sharing government between Protestants and Catholics, but sporadic bomb threats and murders by dissident republicans continue.

Loyalists see the council's decision to remove the flag for most of the year as an attack on their British identity and an unacceptable concession to republicans.

The flag will only be flown on a maximum of 17 designated days including the birthdays of members of the British royal family -- the first of which falls on Wednesday with the birthday of Prince William's wife Catherine.

Across the border in the Republic of Ireland, police are assessing the risk posed by a planned loyalist protest against the flag ruling in Dublin on Saturday.

The last major loyalist demonstration in the Irish capital sparked rioting and looting in 2006.

- AFP/de

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8 wounded in South, Southwest side shootings

At least 9 people have been shot on the South, Southwest and West sides since Monday evening, according to police.

In the latest attack, a male was shot multiple times about 6:10 a.m. in the 4000 block of West Wilcox Street, Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Laura Kubiak said.

No further details were immediately available about the shooting, which happened in the West Garfield Park neighborhood.

Earlier, a 24-year-old man was shot about 4:20 a.m. this morning in the Brighton Park neighborhood, police said.

Shots rang out as the man was standing on the sidewalk in the 4600 block of South California Avenue, striking the man in the bicep and lower back, Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Hector Alfaro said.

The man managed to drive 15 blocks to the 3100 block of South California, where he was found by first responders. Paramedics transported the man to Mount Sinai Hospital, where his condition was stabilized.

About 2:30 a.m. in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, a 24-year-old man was shot in both thighs while walking in an alley, authorities said.

The shooting happened in the 900 block of West 53rd Street, Alfaro said. The man was taken to John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County, where his condition was stabilized.

About 9:50 p.m., a 17-year-old boy was shot multiple times near the intersection of 30th Street and South Tripp Avenue in the Little Village neighborhood, police said.

Two males exited a black SUV and approached the teenager as he walked down the sidewalk, shooting him multiple times, Alfaro said.

The teen was taken to Stroger, where he was listed in critical condition, Alfaro said.

Police officers found a vehicle matching the description of the suspects' SUV, and after a brief pursuit, the SUV struck a light pole in the 3900 block of West Cermak Road, Alfaro said.

Three occupants were taken into custody and were regarded as possible suspects. No injuries were reported.

Police described the shooting as gang-related, a description shared by a close family friend of the teenager, who asked to remain anonymous when interviewed near the crime scene.

About 8:30 p.m., two men and a woman were shot in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. Two men emerged from a gangway in the 6200 block of South Rockwell Street and fired shots into a parked vehicle where the three people were sitting, Alfaro said.

A 19-year-old woman was struck in the chest was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, Alfaro said. A 22-year-old man struck in the thigh and 23-year-old man shot in the chest and buttocks were both taken to Holy Cross Hospital, Alfaro said.

The conditions of all three were stabilized, Alfaro said.

About 7:45 p,m., a 31-year-old man was shot in Marquette Park neighborhood, Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Joshua Purkiss said. The man suffered a gunshot wound to the leg and his condition was stabilized on the scene, said Purkiss.

About 6:30 p.m. in the Washington Park neighborhood, another 31-year-old man was shot in the left arm in the 6000 block of South Indiana Avenue, Purkiss said. His condition was stabilized on the scene, said Purkiss.

Purkiss had no hospital information or information on circumstances in the Marquette Park and Washington Park shootings. Fire Department officials did not respond to attempts to contact them.

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Primitive and Peculiar Mammal May Be Hiding Out in Australia

It’d be hard to think of a mammal that’s weirder than the long-beaked, egg-laying echidna. Or harder to find.

Scientists long thought the animal, which has a spine-covered body, a four-headed penis, and a single hole for reproducing, laying eggs, and excreting waste, lived only in New Guinea. The population of about 10,000 is critically endangered. Now there is tantalizing evidence that the echidna, thought to have gone extinct in Australia some 10,000 years ago, lived and reproduced there as recently as the early 1900s and may still be alive on Aussie soil.

The new echidna information comes from zoologist Kristofer Helgen, a National Geographic emerging explorer and curator of mammals at the Smithsonian Institution. Helgen has published a key finding in ZooKeys confirming that a skin and skull collected in 1901 by naturalist John T. Tunney in Australia is in fact the western long-beaked echidna, Zaglossus bruijnii. The specimen, found in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia, was misidentified for many years.

(More about echidnas: Get to know this living link between mammals and reptiles.)

Helgen has long been fascinated by echidnas. He has seen only three in the wild. “Long-beaked echidnas are hard to get your hands on, period,” he said. “They are shy and secretive by nature. You’re lucky if you can find one. And if you do, it will be by chance.” Indeed, chance played a role in his identification of the Australian specimen. In 2009, he visited the Natural History Museum of London, where he wanted to see all of the echidnas he could. He took a good look in the bottom drawer of the echidna cabinet, where the specimens with less identifying information are often stored. From among about a dozen specimens squeezed into the drawer, he grabbed the one at the very bottom.

(Related from National Geographic magazine: “Discovery in the Foja Mountains.”)

“As I pulled it out, I saw a tag that I had seen before,” Helgen said. “I was immediately excited about this label. As a zoologist working in museums you get used to certain tags: It’s a collector’s calling card. I instantly recognized John Tunney’s tag and his handwriting.”

John Tunney was a well-known naturalist in the early 20th century who went on collecting expeditions for museums. During an Australian expedition in 1901 for Lord L. Walter Rothschild’s private museum collection, he found the long-beaked echidna specimen. Though he reported the locality on his tag as “Mt Anderson (W Kimberley)” and marked it as “Rare,” Tunney left the species identification field blank. When he returned home, the specimen was sent to the museum in Perth for identification. It came back to Rothschild’s museum identified as a short-beaked echidna.

With the specimen’s long snout, large size, and three-clawed feet, Helgen knew that it must be a long-beaked echidna. The short-beaked echidna, still alive and thriving in Australia today, has five claws, a smaller beak, and is half the size of the long-beaked echidna, which can weigh up to 36 pounds (16 kilograms).

As Helgen began tracing the history and journey of the specimen over the last century, he crossed the path of another fascinating mind who had also encountered the specimen. Oldfield Thomas was arguably the most brilliant mammalogical taxonomist ever. He named approximately one out of every six mammals known today.

Thomas was working at the Natural History Museum in London when the Tunney echidna specimen arrived, still misidentified as a short-beaked echidna. Thomas realized the specimen was actually a long-beaked echidna and removed the skull and some of the leg bones from the skin to prove that it was an Australian record of a long-beaked echidna, something just as unexpected then as it is now.

No one knows why Thomas did not publish that information. And the echidna went back into the drawer until Helgen came along 80 years later.

As Helgen became convinced that Tunney’s long-beaked echidna specimen indeed came from Australia, he confided in fellow scientist Mark Eldridge of the Australian Museum about the possibility. Eldridge replied, “You’re not the first person who’s told me that there might be long-beaked echidnas in the Kimberley.” (That’s the Kimberley region of northern Australia.) Scientist James Kohen, a co-author on Helgen’s ZooKeys paper, had been conducting fieldwork in the area in 2001 and spoke to an Aboriginal woman who told him how “her grandmothers used to hunt” large echidnas.

This is “the first evidence of the survival into modern times of any long-beaked echidna in Australia,” said Tim Flannery, professor at Macquarie University in Sydney. “This is a truly significant finding that should spark a re-evaluation of echidna identifications from across northern Australia.”

Helgen has “a small optimism” about finding a long-beaked echidna in the wild in Australia and hopes to undertake an expedition and to interview Aboriginal communities, with their intimate knowledge of the Australian bush.

Though the chances may be small, Helgen says, finding one in the wild “would be the beautiful end to the story.”

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Giffords, Kelly Launch Initiative to Curb Gun Violence

After she was gravely wounded by gunfire two years ago in Tucson, Ariz., former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, imagined a life out of the public eye, where she would continue therapy surrounded by the friends, family and the Arizona desert she loves so much.

Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly Speak Exclusively to Diane Sawyer

But after the slaughter of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month, Giffords and Kelly knew they couldn't stay silent.

"Enough," Giffords said.

The couple marked the second anniversary of the Tucson shooting by sitting down with Diane Sawyer to discuss their recent visit to Newtown and their new initiative to curb gun violence, "Americans for Responsible Solutions."

"After the shooting in Tucson, there was talk about addressing some of these issues, [and] again after [a movie theater massacre in] Aurora," Colo., Kelly said. "I'm hopeful that this time is different, and I think it is. Twenty first-graders' being murdered in their classrooms is a very personal thing for everybody."

Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly Speak Exclusively to Diane Sawyer Watch Video

Gabrielle Giffords: Pledge of Allegiance at DNC Watch Video

Gabby and Mark Bonded by Dedication and Love Watch Video

Full Coverage: Gabrielle Giffords

During their trip to Newtown, Giffords and Kelly met with families directly affected by the tragedy.

"[The] first couple that we spoke to, the dad took out his cell phone and showed us a picture of his daughter and I just about lost it, just by looking at the picture," Kelly said. "It was just very tough and it brought back a lot of memories about what that was like for us some two years ago."

Full Coverage: Tragedy in Newtown

"Strength," Giffords said she told the families in Newtown.

"Gabby often told them, 'You got to have strength. You got to fight for something,'" Kelly said.

The innocent faces of the children whose lives were abruptly taken reminded the couple, they said, of 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, the youngest victim to die in the Tucson shooting at a Giffords constituent event.

"I think we all need to try to do something about [gun violence]," Kelly said. "It's obvious to everybody we have a problem. And problems can be solved."

Giffords, Kelly Call for 'Common Sense' Solutions

Giffords, 42, and Kelly, 48, are both gun owners and supporters of the 2nd Amendment, but Kelly had strong words for the National Rifle Association after the group suggested the only way to stop gun violence is to have a "good guy with a gun."

There was a good guy with a gun, Kelly said, the day Jared Loughner shot Giffords and 18 other people, six fatally, at her "Congress on Your Corner" event.

"[A man came out] of the store next door and nearly shot the man who took down Jared Loughner," Kelly said. "The one who eventually wrestled [Loughner] to the ground was almost killed himself by a good guy with a gun, so I don't really buy that argument."

Instead, Giffords and Kelly are proposing "common sense" changes through "Americans for Responsible Solutions."

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