Bandwidth-sharing app brings connectivity to all



































MAXED out on your phone's data plan? Stuck in a dead zone? Your neighbour can help. A new app lets users share mobile internet connections with anyone around them, helping the data-starved avoid roaming charges and steep overage fees.












Called AirMobs, the app shares a phone's data plan with others through the phone's Wi-Fi signal. For every kilobyte shared, AirMobs awards a data credit that can be used later.












"The idea is to extend the principle of 'give and you shall receive' to create an incentive for people to share their data plan," says Eyal Toledano at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who developed the app.


















AirMobs aims to help users avoid high charges by connecting to the internet via the phones around them. In places where perhaps only one carrier has coverage, it can provide connectivity for all.












"You can use your credit in an area where you don't have a connection," Toledano says. "Maybe the guy next to you has great coverage."











Users can choose how much of their data plan they share. AirMobs runs in the background, regularly checking the phone's battery life and the strength of the cellular connection. It also detects movement, as the signal is more stable when the phone is stationary. When conditions are right, the Wi-Fi transmitter switches on automatically, and others can then connect.













Toledano says he has successfully tested the system within MIT, but he is hesitant to release it to the Google Play Store for fear that cellular carriers will object.












Bill Menezes, an analyst at Gartner in Denver, Colorado, agrees that's a danger. "Verizon Wireless, for example, specifically prohibits resale of its services to a third party," he says. "The question is how they would enforce it against an app like this."












"If networks decided to collaborate and let all devices roam freely, AirMobs would be less needed," Toledano says. "But where operators aren't collaborating, user-to-user collaboration can fix the situation."




















































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.




































All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the "Report" link in that comment to report it to us.


If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.








Read More..

French-led troops seize airport in Mali Islamist bastion






BAMAKO: French-led forces Saturday wrested control of the airport at the Islamist stronghold of Gao, 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) northeast of the Mali capital Bamako, a security source said.

"Malian and French security forces have secured the airport of Gao and the Wanbary bridge. The two strategic points are under their control," the Malian source said.

The airport is located about six kilometres east of Gao while the bridge lies on the southern entrance to the town, held by the Al Qaeda-linked Movement for Jihad and Oneness (MUJAO) since June.

The security source did not mention any fighting.

Other sources said the Islamists had left the town after the start of a French-led military offensive on January 11 to stop a triad of Al Qaeda-linked groups from pushing down from their northern bastions towards Bamako.

In April last year, Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal were seized by an alliance of Tuareg rebels -- who wanted to declare an independent homeland in the north -- and hardline Islamist groups.

The Islamist groups include MUJAO, Ansar Dine, a homegrown Islamist group, and Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, of which MUJAO is an offshoot.

The Islamists quickly sidelined the Tuaregs to implement their own Islamic agenda. They imposed a harsh interpretation of sharia law, flogging, stoning and executing transgressors, forbidding music and television and forcing women to wear veils.

- AFP/ck



Read More..

3 dead, 2 wounded in pair of early morning shootings













Photo: Three men were shot outside of a diner in the Bridgeport neighborhood


Photo: Three men were shot outside of a diner in the Bridgeport neighborhood
(Peter Nickeas / January 26, 2013)


























































Two shootings on the South and West sides left three people dead and two wounded at 2:15 and 4 a.m. Saturday morning. 


Three men were shot outside of a diner at the corner of Wallace Street and Pershing Road in the Bridgeport neighborhood about 4 a.m. Saturday. Two men died at the scene. 


At the north end of the 1100 block of South Mozart Street in the Lawndale neighborhood, two people were shot. One also died there, police said. That happened about 2:15 a.m. 





Check back for more information. 


pnickeas@tribune.com






Read More..

Pictures: The Story Behind Sun Dogs, Penitent Ice, and More

Photograph by Art Wolfe, Getty Images

If you want the beauty of winter without having to brave the bone-chilling temperatures blasting much of the United States this week, snuggle into a soft blanket, grab a warm beverage, and curl up with some of these natural frozen wonders.

Nieve penitente, or penitent snow, are collections of spires that resemble robed monks—or penitents. They are flattened columns of snow wider at the base than at the tip and can range in height from 3 to 20 feet (1 to 6 meters). The picture above shows the phenomenon in central Chile. (See pictures of the patterns in snow and ice.)

Nieve penitente tend to form in shallow valleys where the snow is deep and the sun doesn't shine at too steep an angle, said Kenneth Libbrecht, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena who studies ice crystal formation.

As the snow melts, dirt gets mixed in with the runoff and collects in little pools here and there, he said. Since the dirt is darker in color than the surrounding snow, the dirty areas melt faster "and you end up digging these pits," explained Libbrecht.

"They tend to form at high altitude," he said. But other than that, no one really knows the exact conditions that are needed to form penitent snow.

"They're fairly strong," Libbrecht said. "People have found [the spires] difficult to hike through."

Jane J. Lee

Published January 25, 2013

Read More..

Cops Using More Private Cameras to Nab Suspects













Philadelphia detectives were able to quickly make an arrest in the murder and burning of a female pediatrician by viewing surveillance video of nearby stores and a hospital that captured the suspect entering the doctor's home and later getting into his truck.


In the hours after Dr. Melissa Ketunuti's body was found strangled and burning in her basement, city's Homicide Task Force collected surveillance footage from a coffee shop, drug store and hospital overlooking Ketunuti's block. It was footage taken from Ori Feibush's coffee shop that allowed cops to identify Smith.


The suspect, an exterminator named Jason Smith, soon confessed to detectives, police said.


Lately a range of crimes have been solved by the seemingly ubiquitous security videos maintained by private companies or citizens, and investigators have been able to quickly apprehend suspects by obtaining the video, deftly turning private cameras into effective police resources.








Philadelphia Police Arrest Suspect in Doctor's Killing Watch Video









Pa. Doctor Killing: Person of Interest in Custody Watch Video







Private surveillance cameras have become so pervasive that the face of a suspect who allegedly shot a Bronx, N.Y., cab driver in a botched robbery on Jan. 14 was splashed throughout the media within days because the cabbie had rigged his vehicle with a camera.


The New York Police Department arrested Salvatore Perrone after he was caught on surveillance video recorded near two of three shopkeeper slayings in Brooklyn, N.Y., in November. He has since been charged with murder.


And in Mesa, Ariz., surveillance footage taken in November by resident Mitch Drum showed a man rolling on the ground trying to extinguish flames that had engulfed his shirt, which had caught fire while he was allegedly siphoning gas from a car by Drum's house. The man was arrested.


Though surveillance cameras have been a staple of security since a network of government operated cameras dubbed the "ring of steel" was introduced in London in the early 1990s, police have recently launched programs to partner with more businesses.


In Philadelphia, police have launched a program for businesses to register private cameras with the department. According to the SafeCam website, businesses will only be contacted when there is a criminal incident in the vicinity of the security camera. At that point, police will request a copy of the footage for their investigation.


"Businesses are saying, 'I have a camera at this location, and it may or may not be of use to you. It's a registration to say, 'feel free to call me,'" Sgt. Joseph Green told ABCNews.com






Read More..

Feedback: Tales of the stony turd industry


* Required fields






















Password must contain only letters and numbers, and be at least 8 characters






Read More..

Football: Balotelli going nowhere this month, says Mancini






MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has once again rejected speculation linking Mario Balotelli with AC Milan and admits he is struggling to add to his squad ahead of next week's transfer deadline.

The Italy striker has made just seven Premier League starts this season after a string of controversial incidents.

Balotelli, 22, attempted to take the club to a Premier League tribunal in December after contesting fines for his poor disciplinary record.

Milan vice president Adriano Galliani has told City they need to lower their asking price for Balotelli, who has also been linked with a loan move to the San Siro.

But Mancini has dismissed the prospects of Milan signing Balotelli before the transfer window closes on Thursday.

He also added that it would be "difficult" for City to sign more players themselves and stated that it is not just Balotelli that he is looking to keep hold of.

Mancini said: "For two years it's always the question. It's not true. Mario's staying here. We haven't had any requests about Mario or any other player.

"Mario has another three years on his contract.

"We don't have enough players, we are 18 players now and we can't sell any players.

"Every day we talk about Mario. There is sometimes speculation about Mario."

Mancini has also played down reports that director of football Txiki Begiristain, who joined the club from Barcelona last year, has stipulated that City will play in a 4-3-3 system and all future signings will be purchased with that shape in mind.

The City manager insists it would be wrong to attempt to copy Barcelona's playing style.

He added: "I don't know but I speak with Txiki every day and he never told me this and we have the same thoughts about football and it's not more important to play 4-3-3, 4-4-2 or 4-5-1, it's important to have good players.

"Everyone wants to play like Barca but Barca is one, like Real Madrid or AC Milan, it's impossible to play like Barca but you can win if you play different styles.

"We are agreeing about everything because we think the same about football. We are the same. We don't have a different view."

French midfielder Samir Nasri is Mancini's only fresh injury concern ahead of their FA Cup fourth round trip to Stoke on Saturday.

The former Arsenal man has been struggling with illness and may miss the game at the Britannia Stadium.

City beat Stoke in the 2011 final to end a 35-year trophy drought in Mancini's first full season in charge.

The Italian then guided the club to the league title last season but has never contemplated what might have happened to him if City had not won the cup two years ago.

He said: "I don't think about this. We wanted to win that final, to start to win and it was an important moment for us. We want to try to do this every year if it's possible.

"We have the FA Cup and Premier League this year and we want to try to win. It's important for us to try to win every year.

"I have good memories. It was a fantastic moment to win a trophy after 35 years. It was important because we worked hard and it was good for the club and the supporters. A really good moment.

"I think that not only for us, every team that goes to the Britannia has a problem because Stoke are strong, physical and every team has a problem with this but in the last two years we've played well, had chances to win and been unlucky."

-AFP/ac



Read More..

Snow expected to fall through morning rush hour









Snow started falling about 4:45 a.m. near O'Hare International Airport, jeopardizing a 335-day streak of calendar days without snow, according to the National Weather Service.


Falling snow had failed to reach the ground overnight, blocked by a shield of dry air that ensures the flakes evaporate before hitting the ground.


“It’s been snowing very hard above the ground all night and there’s been really dry air so it evaporates before it hits the ground,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Gino Izzi said.





About a half hour into the storm, Illinois State Police in Chicago reported "slick conditions" and had already responded to six fender benders. The number of accidents reached 12, including a 9-car-crash on the Kennedy Expressway, after 6 a.m.


It's unclear if any of the crashes resulted in injuries, and Illinois State Police aren't responding to crashes where no one is injured and the car or truck is still drivable.


The snow should fall through the morning rush hour, though not much more than an inch – if that – is expected.


“We’re not looking for much to accumulate – up to an inch at worst, with high (temperatures) in the mid to upper 20s,” Izzi said. “Something like this wouldn’t be newsworthy if it wasn’t for the fact it hasn’t snowed all year.”


The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation deployed almost 200 of its 284 plow trucks to clear streets of snow and apply salt to the roads.


"We’re going to be monitoring the weather but at this point we’re looking at snow fall at least through the rush hour," said Anne Sheahan, spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation.


An inch of snow today would end the 335-day streak but failing that, it would likely extend into next week, Izzi said.


"We don’t have much of a chance of snow for the next five or six days," Izzi said. "If we miss today – today’s our one shot until we get to the middle or end of next week."


Check back for more information.


pnickeas@tribune.com
Twitter: @peternickeas





Read More..

Deformed Dolphin Accepted Into New Family


In 2011, behavioral ecologists Alexander Wilson and Jens Krause of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Germany were surprised to discover that a group of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus)—animals not usually known for forging bonds with other species—had taken in an adult bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).

The researchers observed the group in the ocean surrounding the Azores (map)—about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) off the coast of Lisbon, Portugal—for eight days as the dolphin traveled, foraged, and played with both the adult whales and their calves. When the dolphin rubbed its body against the whales, they would sometimes return the gesture.

Among terrestrial animals, cross-species interactions are not uncommon. These mostly temporary alliances are forged for foraging benefits and protection against predators, said Wilson.

They could also be satisfying a desire for the company of other animals, added marine biologist John Francis, vice president for research, conservation, and exploration at the National Geographic Society (the Society owns National Geographic News).

Photographs of dogs nursing tiger cubs, stories of a signing gorilla adopting a pet cat, and videos of a leopard caring for a baby baboon have long circulated the Web and caught national attention.

A Rare Alliance

And although dolphins are known for being sociable animals, Wilson called the alliance between sperm whale and bottlenose dolphin rare, as it has never, to his knowledge, been witnessed before.

This association may have started with something called bow riding, a common behavior among dolphins during which they ride the pressure waves generated by the bow of a ship or, in this case, whales, suggested Francis.

"Hanging around slower creatures to catch a ride might have been the first advantage [of such behavior]," he said, adding that this may have also started out as simply a playful encounter.

Wilson suggested that the dolphin's peculiar spinal shape made it more likely to initiate an interaction with the large and slow-moving whales. "Perhaps it could not keep up with or was picked on by other members of its dolphin group," he said in an email.

Default

But the "million-dollar question," as Wilson puts it, is why the whales accepted the lone dolphin. Among several theories presented in an upcoming paper in Aquatic Mammals describing the scientists' observations, they propose that the dolphin may have been regarded as nonthreatening and that it was accepted by default because of the way adult sperm whales "babysit" their calves.

Sperm whales alternate their dives between group members, always leaving one adult near the surface to watch the juveniles. "What is likely is that the presence of the calves—which cannot dive very deep or for very long—allowed the dolphin to maintain contact with the group," Wilson said.

Wilson doesn't believe the dolphin approached the sperm whales for help in protecting itself from predators, since there aren't many dolphin predators in the waters surrounding the Azores.

But Francis was not so quick to discount the idea. "I don't buy that there is no predator in the lifelong experience of the whales and dolphins frequenting the Azores," he said.

He suggested that it could be just as possible that the sperm whales accepted the dolphin for added protection against their own predators, like the killer whale (Orcinus orca), while traveling. "They see killer whales off the Azores, and while they may not be around regularly, it does not take a lot of encounters to make [other] whales defensive," he said.


Read More..

New Orleans Ready for 1st Super Bowl Since Katrina













The people of New Orleans have hosted nine Super Bowls since 1970, but Super Bowl 2013 may be one of the most meaningful yet.


That, of course, is because it's the first Super Bowl in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005.


When the San Francisco 49ers compete against the Baltimore Ravens on Feb. 3, it may rank with the 2002 game, when New Orleans hosted Super Bowl XXXVI after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


FULL COVERAGE: Super Bowl 2013


"Our home was destroyed by water," said Doug Thornton, 54, senior vice president of SMG, the management company of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. "Like many in New Orleans, we struggled at times, but have been an active part of the city. For many of us who have gone through this, there is a tremendous sense of pride to showcase our city [for those who] who may have not been here since Katrina."


The Superdome's manager since 1997, Thornton was in the Superdome for five days when Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Back then, it was called the Louisiana Superdome. It later became a shelter for thousands of displaced residents who had lost their homes.


"It's a fixture in the city," Thornton said. "You can't drive anywhere without seeing it. You can't think about going to an event unless you're coming here."


Thornton said the connection between the 37-year-old building and the local residents is even stronger since Katrina.


"We commonly refer to it as the living room of New Orleans," Thornton said.








Super Bowl 2013: Young 49ers Fan's Rap Video Watch Video









German-based car company Mercedes-Benz purchased the naming rights to the stadium in 2011, and Thornton said people embraced the new name immediately, "because we kept the word Superdome in the title."


On game day, Thornton said, he won't be able to enjoy the game. He'll show up to the Superdome around 7:30 a.m., make his rounds around the Superdome, and his day will end well after midnight.


"I've come to learn after doing these events for many years [that] there's no enjoyment," Thornton said. "You learn quickly in this business you can no longer be a fan. We're workers. This is a lifestyle, not a job. You're committed to it. It's 24-7."


The same can be said for the 5,000-or-so workers who will be in the Superdome on game day.


"It's no different than a football player getting ready for the game. You have to be ready mentally and physically," he said.


Read More: Volkswagen Uses Viral YouTube Stars in Super Bowl 2013 Pre-Game Teaser


The city has been preparing for this moment since May 2009, when New Orleans was named host of Super Bowl 47.


Jay Cicero, 50, executive director of the Super Bowl host committee and president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, said more than $1 billion in recent infrastructure improvements were not done just for the Super Bowl, but the completion dates were moved up "dramatically" because of the big game.


The city also recently completed a $350 million renovation to the Louis Armstrong International Airport.


On Monday, the city will host a ceremony for the expansion of the historic street car line to one block away from the Superdome.


Cicero said about 100,000 people are expected to travel to New Orleans from out of town for events related to the Super Bowl, which are listed on NewOrleansSuperBowl.com.


The city is also hosting other events that sandwich the Super Bowl because of Mardis Gras 2013.


An early estimate from the University of New Orleans predicted the Super Bowl's economic impact to the region would be valued around $434 million.






Read More..

Environmental crises may threaten pensions



































SAVE the planet, save your pension. A new report claims that environmental problems could bust pension funds by 2050.












Aled Jones of Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues drew together evidence about a wide range of environmental problems, from water shortages to atmospheric pollution to climate change. They plugged these into models used to predict the values of pension funds.












Jones ran several scenarios, varying how quickly governments and industry responded to environmental problems. The results are published by the UK's Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFA). In almost all cases the value of funds began to fall before 2100. In the worst-case scenario, where governments and markets did nothing, values dropped steeply from around 2020 and fell to zero by 2050.


















"Despite strong evidence that there is a risk that resource constraints could have significant economic impacts, these risks are not being factored in by many actors in the global economy," says Peter Tompkins of the IFA.


















































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.




































All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the "Report" link in that comment to report it to us.


If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.








Read More..

13 bids for Yishun mixed commercial & residential site tender






SINGAPORE: The tender for a mixed commercial and residential site at Yishun Ring Road/Yishun Avenue 9 has attracted 13 bids.

According to the Housing and Development Board (HDB), the highest bid of S$212.1 million was submitted by CEL Property - subsidiary of Singapore-listed Chip Eng Seng Corporation.

This translates into about S$8,551 per square metre of gross floor area.

The second highest bid was jointly placed by Boo Han Holdings and Far East Orchard at S$193.7 million.

URA said the other bids for the 99-year leasehold site ranged between S$55.5 million to S$182.6 million.

CBRE Research said the level of interest was "within expectations".

It believed that the residential project above the retail space should generate a fair amount of interest, going by the success of other mixed-use sites like The Hillier and Bedok Residences.

The firm pointed out that Northpoint is the only shopping mall in the area at present. Hence, the retail space that is developed in the site should be well-received by residents, office workers and students in the vicinity.

Desmond Sim, Associate Director, CBRE Research said: "This site will be the first private residential project in the proximity of Yishun MRT station and will be a pre-cursor to the next mixed use site at the current Yishun Bus Interchange, that will be put up for sale in June 2013."

CBRE Research estimates that the developer could sell the retail portion on a strata-titled basis at around S$3,000 psf to S$4,000 psf and the residential units at around S$900 psf."

The land parcel spans 8,858.3 square metres, and has a maximum permissible gross floor area of 24,803 square metres.

HDB said a decision on the award of the tender would be made after the bids have been evaluated.

- CNA/xq



Read More..

Bulls rally to beat Pistons 85-82









As the United Center rocked and the Bulls celebrated Marco Belinelli's go-ahead, three-point play with 7.5 seconds left, Joakim Noah remained down in the photographer's pit along the baseline, cameras and cheerleaders all around him.


"I didn't really see the play," Noah said. "I had the cheerleaders' pom-poms in my face."


His teammates saw it, which is why they were celebrating the shot that sealed the Bulls' stirring 85-82 comeback over the Pistons, their 17th straight victory in this series. It marked the second time in just more than a month the Bulls erased a 17-point deficit against the Pistons to prevail.








And yet Noah, who had authored, really, the play of the season — one that defines the heart and hustle that has the Derrick Rose-less Bulls on pace for 50 victories now that the midway point has been reached — remained down.


"We were over there celebrating and he was still knocked over by the cheerleaders," said Nate Robinson, who kick-started the rally with nine straight points early in the fourth. "We were like, 'Oh, yeah, we have to go help him up.' But that play shows how hard Jo works. He never gives up."


Noah smiled, clearly relishing the opportunity to tweak his teammates.


"Damn, it took forever, right?" he said of the delay.


All's well that ends well, right?


But make sure to find a replay of Noah's hustle, which came off Belinelli's bricked jumper. As Noah tumbled into cameras and cheerleaders, Belinelli cut to the basket, grabbed the fruit of Noah's effort and laid it in as Rodney Stuckey fouled him.


"I scored, but the credit goes to Jo," said Belinelli, who scored his second game-winner in four games.


Coach Tom Thibodeau just shook his head.


"Quite frankly, I don't know he got to it," Thibodeau said. "It was an incredible play."


The Bulls then watched tying 3-point attempts from Tayshuan Prince and Stuckey rim out as time expired.


"I stayed with the play," Noah said. "The basketball gods were on our side. It's not really a great play because if Detroit gets it, it's a four-on-five fast break the other side. Fortunately, we got it. "


Robinson's boundless energy can delve into extracurricular emotion, but there's no denying he jump-started the comeback. Robinson keyed a 12-2 run to open the fourth with nine straight points and a dish for a fast-break dunk from Butler, who tied his career-highs with 18 points and nine rebounds.


Butler, starting again for the injured Luol Deng, played all but 91 seconds and overcame a 1-for-8 start. He also hit a huge 3-pointer — the Bulls missed their first 10 and made just 3 of 14 — for an 82-80 lead before Jason Maxiell tied the game with 29.4 seconds left off a defensive breakdown.


"Jimmy just kept working the game," Thibodeau said. "He never got down. He kept battling and battling."


Robinson finished with 11 points.


"That's Nate. He made a lot of big-time plays for us," Thibodeau said. "He's not afraid. I respect that about him.


"The group that started the fourth quarter played with energy, got some stops and got us going.


Noah played 45 minutes with 10 points and 18 rebounds.


"We just kept saying, 'We're going to rally together,'" Butler said. "That's what this team is all about."


kcjohnson@tribune.com


Twitter @kcjhoop





Read More..

Deformed Dolphin Accepted Into New Family


In 2011, behavioral ecologists Alexander Wilson and Jens Krause of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Germany were surprised to discover that a group of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus)—animals not usually known for forging bonds with other species—had taken in an adult bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).

The researchers observed the group in the ocean surrounding the Azores (map)—about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) off the coast of Lisbon, Portugal—for eight days as the dolphin traveled, foraged, and played with both the adult whales and their calves. When the dolphin rubbed its body against the whales, they would sometimes return the gesture.

Among terrestrial animals, cross-species interactions are not uncommon. These mostly temporary alliances are forged for foraging benefits and protection against predators, said Wilson.

They could also be satisfying a desire for the company of other animals, added marine biologist John Francis, vice president for research, conservation, and exploration at the National Geographic Society (the Society owns National Geographic news).

Photographs of dogs nursing tiger cubs, stories of a signing gorilla adopting a pet cat, and videos of a leopard caring for a baby baboon have long circulated the web and caught national attention.

A Rare Alliance

And although dolphins are known for being sociable animals, Wilson called the alliance between sperm whale and bottlenose dolphin rare, as it has never, to his knowledge, been witnessed before.

This association may have started with something called bow riding, a common behavior among dolphins during which they ride the pressure waves generated by the bow of a ship or, in this case, whales, suggested Francis.

"Hanging around slower creatures to catch a ride might have been the first advantage [of such behavior]," he said, adding that this may have also started out as simply a playful encounter.

Wilson suggested that the dolphin's peculiar spinal shape made it more likely to initiate an interaction with the large and slow-moving whales. "Perhaps it could not keep up with or was picked on by other members of its dolphin group," he said in an email.

Default

But the "million-dollar question," as Wilson puts it, is why the whales accepted the lone dolphin. Among several theories presented in an upcoming paper in Aquatic Mammals describing the scientists' observations, they propose that the dolphin may have been regarded as nonthreatening and that it was accepted by default because of the way adult sperm whales "babysit" their calves.

Sperm whales alternate their dives between group members, always leaving one adult near the surface to watch the juveniles. "What is likely is that the presence of the calves—which cannot dive very deep or for very long—allowed the dolphin to maintain contact with the group," Wilson said.

Wilson doesn't believe the dolphin approached the sperm whales for help in protecting itself from predators, since there aren't many dolphin predators in the waters surrounding the Azores.

But Francis was not so quick to discount the idea. "I don't buy that there is no predator in the lifelong experience of the whales and dolphins frequenting the Azores," he said.

He suggested that it could be just as possible that the sperm whales accepted the dolphin for added protection against their own predators, like the killer whale (Orcinus orca), while traveling. "They see killer whales off the Azores, and while they may not be around regularly, it does not take a lot of encounters to make [other] whales defensive," he said.


Read More..

Majority Favors Obama's Gun Control Plan


Jan 24, 2013 7:00am







ap obama gun control 121219 wblog Majority Sees Obamas Gun Control Plan Favorably

Charles Dharapak/AP Photo


Most Americans respond positively to the stricter gun control measures Barack Obama proposed last week in the wake of the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn. – but by less of a margin than such measures receive outside the context of partisan politics.


Fifty-three percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll view Obama’s gun control plan favorably, 41 percent unfavorably. Strong proponents outnumber strong opponents by 38 vs. 31 percent in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.


See PDF with full results here.


Obama urged measures including background checks on all guns sales, reinstating the assault weapons ban, banning high-capacity ammunition magazines and armor-piercing bullets, new gun trafficking laws and increased access to mental health treatment.


Support for the package is lower than it was for some of the same steps tested individually in an ABC/Post poll earlier this month. Majorities from 88 to 65 percent favored background checks at gun shows and on ammunition purchases, creating a federal database to track gun sales and banning high-capacity magazines. That included, in each case, majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.


In this poll, asking about “Barack Obama’s proposals for stricter gun control,” partisan allegiances kick in. The president’s proposals are seen favorably by 76 percent of Democrats but unfavorably by 72 percent of Republicans; most on each side feel strongly about their respective positions. Independents split 51-44 percent, favorable-unfavorable.


What remains to be seen is whether the president can overcome those partisan predispositions in his efforts to encourage Congress to pass the legislation he seeks.


Among other groups, Obama’s proposals are viewed positively by 56 percent of women vs. 49 percent of men; 58 percent of seniors vs. 47 percent of young adults; 66 percent in the Northeast vs. 50 percent in the rest of the country; 72 percent of nonwhites vs. 43 percent of whites; and 73 percent of liberals vs. 36 percent of conservatives.


The survey was done by landline and cellular telephone Jan. 16-20 among a random national sample of 1,033 adults, and the results have a 3.5 point-error margin.



SHOWS: This Week







Read More..

Accidental physics: Why mass has a split personality



MacGregor Campbell, contributor






We interact with the concept of mass every day. Without it, gravity wouldn't keep us firmly planted on Earth. But mass is also a component of inertia, making it hard, for example, to push a stalled car.







On the surface, inertia and gravity don't seem to have much in common. But in experiments, these two versions of mass always give the same results. Although we've been aware of the coincidence since Galileo's day, the only explanation, proposed by Einstein, has been much disputed.



In this video, we delve into the split personality of mass, exposing the conundrum that lies at the core of one of the most basic concepts in physics. For more on the topic, read our full-length feature article, "Sacrificing Einstein: Relativity's keystone has to go".



For more mind-bending animations, check out our previous explainers to find out, for example, how to change the past, or if space is really infinite.




Read More..

Smaller terror groups drive threat in Indonesia






JAKARTA: With all the major suspects involved in the 2002 Bali bombings killed or imprisoned, smaller groups with more local aims are driving the terrorist threat in Indonesia.

Experts highlighted this, as part of discussions into the changing pattern of terrorism, at a forum in Jakarta.

Indonesian security forces have so far arrested almost 800 people on suspicion of militancy and sentenced nearly 700 of them.

But while the security forces' efforts and internal rifts have left Indonesia's most feared terror group Jemaah Islamiyah weakened, some members have now moved to form new cells and seek new recruits.

These new cells are now targeting the police, rather than orchestrating large scale bombings against Westerners.

"Like it or not, the excessive use of violence by authorities has spurred the possibility of the emergence of small cells, therefore we witness, if we look at the incidents, more attacks are towards the police," said Noor Huda Ismail, director executive at Institute for International Peace Building.

"Because they have enough oxygen to continue to breathe, enough ammunition to continue the recruitment because of the excessive of powers and this problem will linger until the next years."

Terrorists are increasingly using the Internet to tap into this perception of over-reach by authorities, using it to spread their message, and also raise funds.

They are even looking into hacking as part of fund raising efforts, in addition to donations, bank robberies, and legitimate front businesses.

But their network on the ground remains strong.

Experts say a major challenge for authorities is to track "dot connectors" -- ordinary people with radical thoughts who volunteer to connect the different terror cells spread out across the country.

"We tend to focus on big names like Santoso (a wanted terror suspect), who has become a celebrity in the media, but we forget these small actors who actually connect the dots," said Ms Noor Huda.

Ms Noor Huda also said post conflict areas such as Poso and Ambon will remain vulnerable conflict areas as they are conducive places for further terrorist recruitment.

Women who in the past served as moral support are now taking an active role in the terror cells by running shelters for terrorists on the run.

Terror expert Professor Greg Barton, meanwhile, put the focus on at-risk groups vulnerable to being recruited, saying the government needs to pay more attention to them.

He also felt civil society needs to be empowered to help prevent terror convicts from becoming repeat offenders.

Prof Barton said: "At best, many people who could be helped to permanently walk away from terrorism fall back into the old communities, the old networks because they are not helped to provide an alternative. Practical things like plugging them into new employment opportunities, new social networks are really key."

Professor Barton hopes Indonesia's two largest Muslim organisations, Nahdatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, play a larger role in creating post-prison rehabilitation programmes to help former convicts embrace a new way of life.

- CNA/xq



Read More..

Senate to scrutinize FAA's approval of Dreamliner battery









A key U.S. Senate committee will hold a hearing in coming weeks to examine U.S. aviation safety oversight and the Federal Aviation Administration's decision to allow Boeing Co to use highly flammable lithium-ion batteries on board its new 787 Dreamliner, a congressional aide said on Tuesday.

U.S., Japanese and French authorities are investigating two separate cases in which lithium-ion batteries on board the new airliner failed. One of the batteries sparked a fire in a parked plane in Boston, while the other forced an emergency landing in Japan.



  • Related

























  • A timeline of troubles: Boeing's Dreamliner





    A timeline of troubles: Boeing's Dreamliner






































  • US, EU join Japan in grounding Dreamliners




    US, EU join Japan in grounding Dreamliners







































  • The new Boeing Dreamliner 787





    The new Boeing Dreamliner 787






































  • Dreamliner battery





    Dreamliner battery














































  • Video: Dreamliner investigation focuses on batteries














  • Maps
























  • Boeing International Headquarters, Chicago, IL 60606, USA














  • 1 1st Street Northeast, United States Capitol, Washington, DC 20543, USA














  • Federal Aviation Administration, 600 Maryland Avenue Southwest, Washington, DC 20024, USA












As a result, authorities around the world last week grounded all 50 Boeing 787s.

The Dreamliner, with a list price of $207 million, is the world's newest airliner, a lightweight, advanced carbon-composite design that has more electrical power than any other aircraft and uses 20 percent less fuel.

"Certainly the issues of FAA certification will be a key component of the aviation safety oversight hearing we're planning," an aide to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee told Reuters in an email.

The aide, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said committee chairman Senator John Rockefeller was "following the situation surrounding the Dreamliner and FAA's task force closely and he thinks the FAA and (Department of Transportation)are examining the issue carefully."

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is also keeping a close eye on the 787 investigations and the issue of FAA oversight, congressional aides said, although no formal hearings were planned at this point.

Boeing officials have briefed both oversight committees and other key lawmakers about the matter, a Boeing spokesman said.

The Senate committee had already been planning to conduct "substantial and aggressive oversight" of aviation safety during the first quarter, but would now look closely at the 787 incidents and FAA oversight as part of that process, the committee aide said.

Problems with the 787's lithium-ion battery have sparked questions about why the FAA in 2007 granted Boeing a "special condition" to allow use of the batteries on the plane, despite the fact that they are highly flammable and hard to extinguish if they catch fire.

Boeing designed a special system that was supposed to contain any such fire and vent toxic gasses outside the plane, but the two recent incidents have raised questions about whether that was a good decision.

It remains unclear what caused the batteries to fail, but when it announced plans to ground U.S.-based 787s, the FAA said both battery failures released flammable chemicals, heat damage and smoke - all of which could affect critical systems on the plane and spark a fire in the electrical compartment.

The FAA has said it will keep the 787s grounded until airlines demonstrate that the battery system is safe and complies with safety regulations.
 

Read More..

The Promise and Perils of Mining Asteroids


Encouraged by new space technologies, a growing fleet of commercial rockets and the vast potential to generate riches, a group of entrepreneurs announced Tuesday that they planned to mine the thousands of near-Earth asteroids in the coming decades.

The new company, Deep Space Industries (DSI), is not the first in the field, nor is it the most well-financed. But with their ambition to become the first asteroid prospectors, and ultimately miners and manufacturers, they are aggressively going after what Mark Sonter, a member of DSI's board of directors, called "the main resource opportunity of the 21st century." (Related: "Asteroid Hunter to Be First Private Deep-Space Mission?")

Prospecting using miniaturized "cubesat" probes the size of a laptop will begin by 2015, company executives announced. They plan to return collections of asteroid samples to Earth not long after.

"Using low cost technologies, and combining the legacy of [the United States'] space program with the innovation of today's young high tech geniuses, we will do things that would have been impossible just a few years ago," said Rick Tumlinson, company chairman and a longtime visionary and organizer in the world of commercial space [not sure what commercial space means].

"We sit in a sea of resources so infinite they're impossible to describe," Tumlinson said.

Added Value

There are some 9,000 asteroids described as "near-Earth," and they contain several classes of resources that entrepreneurs are now eyeing as economically valuable.

Elements such as gold and platinum can be found on some asteroids. But water, silicon, nickel, and iron are the elements expected to become central to a space "economy" should it ever develop.

Water can be "mined" for its hydrogen (a fuel) and oxygen (needed for humans in space), while silicon can be used for solar power systems, and the ubiquitous nickel and iron for potential space manufacturing. (See an interactive on asteroid mining.)

Sonter, an Australian mining consultant and asteroid specialist, said that 700 to 800 near-Earth asteroids are easier to reach and land on than the moon.

DSI's prospecting spacecraft will be called "FireFlies," a reference to the popular science fiction television series of the same name. The FireFlies will hitchhike on rockets carrying up communication satellites or scientific instruments, but they will be designed so that they also have their own propulsion systems. The larger mining spacecraft to follow have been named "DragonFlies."

Efficiencies

It all sounds like science fiction, but CEO David Gump said that the technology is evolving so quickly that a space economy can soon become a reality. Providing resources from beyond Earth to power spacecraft and keep space travelers alive is the logical way to go.

That's because the most expensive and resource-intensive aspect of space travel is pushing through the Earth's atmosphere. Some 90 percent of the weight lifted by a rocket sending a capsule to Mars is fuel. Speaking during a press conference at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying in California, Gump said that Mars exploration would be much cheaper, and more efficient, if some of the fuel could be picked up en route. (Related: "7 Ways You Could Blast Off by 2023.")

Although there is little competition in the asteroid mining field so far, DSI has some large hurdles ahead of it. The first company to announce plans for asteroid mining was Planetary Resources, Inc. in spring 2012—the group is backed by big-name investors such as Google's Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, filmmaker James Cameron, and early Google investor Ram Shriram. DSI is still looking for funding.

Owning Asteroids

While these potential space entrepreneurs are confident they can physically lay claim to resources beyond Earth, there remain untested legal issues.

The United Nations Space Treaty of 1967 expressly forbids ownership of other celestial bodies by governments on Earth. But American administrations have long argued that the same is not true of private companies and potential mining rights.

While an American court has ruled that an individual cannot own an asteroid—as in the case of Gregory Nemitz, who laid claim to 433 Eros as a NASA spacecraft was approaching it in 2001—the question of extraction rights has not been tested.

Moon rocks brought back to Earth during the Apollo program are considered to belong to the United States, and the Russian space agency has sold some moon samples it has returned to Earth-sales seen by some as setting a precedent.

Despite the potential for future legal issues, DSI's Gump said his group recently met with top NASA officials to discuss issues regarding technology and capital, and came away optimistic. "There's a great hunger for the idea of getting space missions done with smaller, cheaper 'cubesat' technology and for increased private sector involvement."

Everyone involved acknowledged the vast challenges and risks ahead, but they see an equally vast potential—both financial and societal.

"Over the decades, we believe these efforts will help expand the civilization of Earth into the cosmos, and change what it means to be a citizen of this planet," Tumlinson said.


Read More..

Te'o Tells Couric He Briefly Lied About Girlfriend













Manti Te'o briefly lied to the media and the public after discovering his online girlfriend did not exist and was a part of an elaborate hoax, he admitted in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Katie Couric.


The star Notre Dame linebacker, who has been hounded by the reporters since the story broke Jan. 16, told Couric in a taped interview Tuesday that he was not lying up until December. Te'o said he was duped into believing his online girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died of cancer.


"You stuck to the script. And you knew that something was amiss, Manti," Couric said.


"Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12," Te'o said.


Te'o said he received a phone call Dec. 6 from a woman claiming she was Kekua, even though Kekua had allegedly passed away three months earlier.


"Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she's alive and then I'm going be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?" Te'o said.


See more exclusive previews tonight on "World News With Diane Sawyer" and "Nightline." Watch Katie Couric's interview with Manti Te'o and his parents Thursday. Check your local listings or click here for online station finder.


Te'o, 21, was joined by his parents, Brian and Ottilia, in the interview.


"Now many people writing about this are calling your son a liar. They are saying he manipulated the truth, really for personal gain," Couric said to Te'o's father.








Man Allegedly Behind the Manti Te?o Dead Girlfriend Hoax Watch Video









Manti Te'o Girlfriend Hoax: The Man Accused of Elaborate Prank Watch Video









'Catfish' Documentary Creator on Manti Te'o Hoax Watch Video





"People can speculate about what they think he is. I've known him 21 years of his life. And he's not a liar. He's a kid," Brian Te'o said with tears in his eyes.


Click here for a who's who in the Manti Te'o case.


Diane O'Meara told NBC's "Today" show Tuesday that she was used as the "face" of the Twitter account of Manti Te'o's online girlfriend without her knowledge or consent.


O'Meara said that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo used pictures of her without her knowledge in creating Kekua.


"I've never met Manti Te'o in my entire life. I've never spoke with him. I've never exchanged words with him," O'Meara said Tuesday.


The 23-year-old marketing executive went to high school in California with Tuiasosopo, but she says they're not close. Tuiasosopo called to apologize the day Deadspin.com broke the hoax story, she said.


Timeline of Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax story


In an interview with ESPN last week, Te'o said he had received a Twitter message from Tuiasosopo apologizing for the hoax.


The Hawaiian also spoke to Tuiasosopo on the phone the day the Deadspin report came out, according to ESPN.com. He found out that "two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing," he said.


But he did not know the identities of the other individuals involved, other than the man he says was Tuiasosopo.


Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old resident of California, has not admitted involvement publicly. Tuiasosopo graduated from Paraclete High School in Lancaster, Calif., in 2007 and has posted dozens of videos online signing Christian songs.


Those who knew him say he was a devout Christian and a good athlete. His former football coach Jon Flemming described him as gregarious, and from a "good loving family." Flemming said Tuiasosopo is the kind of guy who gives you a hug when he sees people he knows.


"He's doing good. Wishing everyone would go away," Flemming told ABC News Wednesday after a recent correspondence with Tuiasosopo.


Flemming said Tuiasosopo is "somebody I'd want my kid to grow up like. He's responsible, respectful, disciplined, dedicated."


Tessi Toluta'u, a Polynesian beauty queen, told ABC News this weekend that "Lennay Kekua" reached out to her in 2008 about entering pageants.


When visiting Los Angeles in 2009, Toluta'u was supposed to meet Kekua, but she failed to appear. Tuiasosopo met Toluta'u instead.


"[It's a] sick joke that went way too far," Toluta'u said.



Read More..

Sacrificing Einstein: Relativity's keystone has to go




COINCIDENCE is not generally something scientists have much truck with. If two things are genuinely unrelated, there is little further of interest to be said. If the coincidence keeps turning up, however, there must be some deeper underlying link. Then it is the job of science to tease out what it is and so explain why there was no coincidence in the first place.

That makes it rather odd that a large chunk of modern physics is precariously balanced on a whopping coincidence.

This coincidence is essential to the way we view and define mass. It is so fundamental to the world's workings that most of us encounter its consequences every day without giving them another thought. Yet it has vexed some of the best minds in physics for centuries. Galileo and Newton grappled with it, and ended up just accepting it, rather than understanding it. Einstein went one better: ...



To continue reading this article, subscribe to receive access to all of newscientist.com, including 20 years of archive content.


Read More..

Taxi drivers in S. Korea threaten to go on strike






SEOUL : Taxi drivers in South Korea are threatening to go on a partial strike from January 30.

It is in protest against a government decision to block legislation that would give them subsidies for public transport.

The so-called "Taxi Bill" was passed in Parliament earlier this month, but was vetoed by President Lee Myung-bak and will go back to Parliament for another vote.

If Parliament fails to pass the bill, all taxis across the country will go on strike from February 20.

The question being asked in South Korea is whether taxis should be considered public transportation, the same way that buses, subways and trains are.

Most lawmakers in Parliament have said "yes", but President Lee's government disagrees.

Yim Jong Yong, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said: "Public transportation refers to mass transportation, operating along specific routes and fixed timetables, so taxis cannot be included in this category."

The taxi bill was passed in Parliament earlier this month, with overwhelming support from both the ruling and opposition parties.

Classifying taxis as part of the country's mass transportation system means they can get state subsidies on fuel, tax and other benefits, just like bus and subway operators do.

Reports say central and local governments spend about 1.2 trillion won - or about US$1.1 billion - subsidising the bus industry every year.

If taxis are included, critics say the government would have to more than double its spending on subsidies, costing it an additional 1.9 trillion won a year.

They point out that taxis account for only about 9 per cent of transportation, whereas buses make up over 30 per cent.

Subways and trains account for more than 20 per cent.

But taxi drivers argue that they should be considered part of the public transport system.

Koo Soo Young, head of the Taxi Drivers Union, said: "There is a reason why taxis should be classified as public transport. Buses carry about 13 million passengers in one day, while taxis carry about 11 million passengers. Also the number of trains and subways is only about half the number of taxis. This shows that a large number of people use taxis because the fares are so cheap."

Although the government has rejected the bill, it said it is willing to help the taxi industry.

It is planning to come up with a plan that would give some subsidies to taxi drivers and at the same time appease bus drivers, who worry they will have to share government subsidies with taxis.

Taxi drivers are threatening to go on strike over this bill. But experts have pointed out that subsidies in the Taxi Bill will likely only benefit taxi companies, and not the drivers themselves. So drivers will really need to think this through and see what the government has to offer first.

- CNA/ms



Read More..

Body of cyanide-poisoned lottery winner is reburied

Mohammed Zaman on the exhumation of his brother-in-law, poisoned lottery winner Urooj Khan. (Posted on: Jan. 21, 2013.)









The body of a West Rogers Park man who died of cyanide poisoning last summer after winning a million-dollar lottery was laid to rest again Monday, three days after his remains were exhumed for an autopsy as part of a homicide investigation.


The scene at Rosehill Cemetery on Monday afternoon was in sharp contrast to Friday morning, when a throng of reporters and TV cameramen had massed outside an entrance gate as numerous Chicago police, Cook County medical examiner officials and cemetery workers surrounded the gravesite while Urooj Khan's remains were unearthed.


About half a dozen people — two in light blue coveralls — wheeled a gurney carrying Khan's body Monday from the back of an unmarked white minivan to under a tent at his gravesite in the Far North Side cemetery. The body was then lowered into the ground while two of Khan's relatives stood at the gravesite in the bitter cold.








Haroon Firdausi, a funeral director and imam, gave a brief prayer during the reburial.


The entire reburial took about 20 minutes.


Shortly before the reburial, one of Khan's relatives, Mohammed Zaman, talked briefly at the cemetery about the family's discomfort with his body being exhumed for the police investigation.


"The sad part is that he wasn't resting in peace," Zaman said of the exhumation. "... Now we have to bury him back again. For any religion, it's hard."


As the Tribune first revealed earlier this month, the medical examiner's office initially ruled that Khan's death in July was from hardening of the arteries, after no signs of trauma were found on the body and a preliminary blood test did not raise any questions. But the investigation was reopened about a week later after a relative raised concerns that Khan may have been poisoned.


Chicago police were notified in September after tests showed cyanide in Khan's blood. By late November, more comprehensive testing showed lethal levels of the toxic chemical, leading the medical examiner's office to declare the death a homicide.


After Khan's body was exhumed Friday, an autopsy was performed for evidence that could aid in the homicide investigation. At the time, Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said it could take several weeks for the tests to be completed. The medical examiner's office hopes samples taken from Khan's organs will show whether he ingested or inhaled the cyanide.


Although a motive has not been determined, police have not ruled out that Khan was killed because of his lottery win a few weeks before his death, a law enforcement source has told the Tribune. At the time of his death, he hadn't collected his winnings — a lump-sum payment of about $425,000 after taxes.


Zaman said he hopes the autopsy sheds more light on his brother-in-law's death.


"It's very hard for the family," Zaman said of the exhumation and reburial. "But it's the only way to find out what happened to him."


jgorner@tribune.com



Read More..

Attack at Algeria Gas Plant Heralds New Risks for Energy Development



The siege by Islamic militants at a remote Sahara desert natural gas plant in Algeria this week signaled heightened dangers in the region for international oil companies, at a time when they have been expanding operations in Africa as one of the world's last energy frontiers. (See related story: "Pictures: Four New Offshore Drilling Frontiers.")


As BP, Norway's Statoil, Italy's Eni, and other companies evacuated personnel from Algeria, it was not immediately clear how widely the peril would spread in the wake of the hostage-taking at the sprawling In Amenas gas complex near the Libyan border.



A map of disputed islands in the East and South China Seas.

Map by National Geographic



Algeria, the fourth-largest crude oil producer on the continent and a major exporter of natural gas and refined fuels, may not have been viewed as the most hospitable climate for foreign energy companies, but that was due to unfavorable financial terms, bureaucracy, and corruption. The energy facilities themselves appeared to be safe, with multiple layers of security provided both by the companies and by government forces, several experts said. (See related photos: "Oil States: Are They Stable? Why It Matters.")


"It is particularly striking not only because it hasn't happened before, but because it happened in Algeria, one of the stronger states in the region," says Hanan Amin-Salem, a senior manager at the industry consulting firm PFC Energy, who specializes in country risk. She noted that in the long civil war that gripped the country throughout the 1990s, there had never been an attack on Algeria's energy complex. But now, hazard has spread from weak surrounding states, as the assault on In Amenas was carried out in an apparent retaliation for a move by French forces against the Islamists who had taken over Timbuktu and other towns in neighboring Mali. (See related story: "Timbuktu Falls.")


"What you're really seeing is an intensification of the fundamental problem of weak states, and empowerment of heavily armed groups that are really well motivated and want to pursue a set of aims," said Amin-Salem. In PFC Energy's view, she says, risk has increased in Mauritania, Chad, and Niger—indeed, throughout Sahel, the belt that bisects North Africa, separating the Sahara in the north from the tropical forests further south.


On Thursday, the London-based corporate consulting firm Exclusive Analysis, which was recently acquired by the global consultancy IHS, sent an alert to clients warning that oil and gas facilities near the Libyan and Mauritanian borders and in Mauritania's Hodh Ech Chargui province were at "high risk" of attack by jihadis.


"A Hot Place to Drill"


The attack at In Amenas comes at a time of unprecedented growth for the oil industry in Africa. (See related gallery: "Pictures: The Year's Most Overlooked Energy Stories.") Forecasters expect that oil output throughout Africa will double by 2025, says Amy Myers Jaffe, executive director of the energy and sustainability program at the University of California, Davis, who has counted 20 rounds of bidding for new exploration at sites in Africa's six largest oil-producing states.


Oil and natural gas are a large part of the Algerian economy, accounting for 60 percent of government budget revenues, more than a third of GDP and more than 97 percent of its export earnings. But the nation's resources are seen as largely undeveloped, and Algeria has tried to attract new investment. Over the past year, the government has sought to reform the law to boost foreign companies' interests in their investments, although those efforts have foundered.


Technology has been one of the factors driving the opening up of Africa to deeper energy exploration. Offshore and deepwater drilling success in the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil led to prospecting now under way offshore in Ghana, Mozambique, and elsewhere. (See related story: "New Oil—And a Huge Challenge—for Ghana.") Jaffe says the Houston-based company Anadarko Petroleum has sought to transfer its success in "subsalt seismic" exploration technology, surveying reserves hidden beneath the hard salt layer at the bottom of the sea, to the equally challenging seismic exploration beneath the sands of the Sahara in Algeria, where it now has three oil and gas operations.


Africa also is seen as one of the few remaining oil-rich regions of the world where foreign oil companies can obtain production-sharing agreements with governments, contracts that allow them a share of the revenue from the barrels they produce, instead of more limited service contracts for work performed.


"You now have the technology to tap the resources more effectively, and the fiscal terms are going to be more attractive than elsewhere—you put these things together and it's been a hot place to drill," says Jaffe, who doesn't see the energy industry's interest in Africa waning, despite the increased terrorism risk. "What I think will happen in some of these countries is that the companies are going to reveal new securities systems and procedures they have to keep workers safe," she says. "I don't think they will abandon these countries."


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


Read More..

Inauguration: 7.5 Things You Should Have Seen


A presidential inauguration is a big, long event that lasts all day and into the night–and who has time to really watch it? People have jobs, ones that don’t let you off for a federal holiday.


Everyone (or, at least, some) will be talking about it, which means potential embarrassment for anyone who doesn’t know what happened. Thankfully, ABC employs  news professionals stationed in Washington, D.C., to pay attention to these kinds of things and boil off some of the less noteworthy or interesting stuff, presenting you with short videos of everything that really mattered. Or at least the things a lot of people were talking about.


A full day of paying attention to President Obama’s second Inauguration leads one of those professionals to offer these 7 1/2 things:


1. Beyonce Sang the National Anthem


Boy, howdy! Did she ever? Beyonce has essentially become the Obama’s go-to female performer: She recorded a music video for Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative in 2011, and she performed at the president’s last inauguration in 2009. Her velvety, soulful “Star Spangled Banner” is getting good reviews.




2. Kelly Clarkson Also Sang


Kelly Clarkson is not as “in” with the First Couple as Beyonce seems to be, but they let her sing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and she did a pretty good job with it. This was kind of weird, though, because at one point she said she loved Ron Paul, although she later said she would vote for Obama.




3.  Obama Talked About Gay Rights


This may not seem shocking since more than half the country, including President Obama, supports gay marriage. But the president made a point of mentioning gay rights during his speech, equating the struggles of the LGBT community with those of  past civil rights movements, and in doing so made history.


He name-checked Stonewall, the New York City bar that was raided by police in 1969 sparking riots to protest the anti-gay crackdown. And he actually used the word “gay”: “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” Obama said in his address.


Plenty of inaugural addresses have been chock full of rhetoric about freedom and equality, but in the last four years, the political culture surrounding gay rights has changed significantly, as more states legalized same-sex marriage and as broad swaths of the country got more comfortable with homosexuality in general. Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage, and now his inaugural address, have helped signify that change.




4. Joe Biden Made Jokes and Shook Hands With People


Could we expect anything less?


Here’s how the Vice President toasting Sen. Chuck Schumer instead of President Obama at the big luncheon:  ”I raise my glass to a man who never, never, never operates out of fear, only operates out of confidence, and a guy–I’m toasting you, Chuck.” Watch it:



And here he is, scurrying around and jovially shaking hands with people along the parade route:




5. Richard Blanco Read a Poem That Was Sort of Whitman-esque, But Not Entirely


Cuban-born Richard Blanco became America’s first openly gay, Latino Inauguration poet. He read a nine-stanza poem entitled “One Today,” which set a kind of unifying American tableau scene.




6. Obama and Michelle Walked Around Outside The Limo


President Obama walked part of the parade route, from the Capitol to the White House, with Michelle. They waved to people. It is not entirely abnormal for a president to do this at an inaugural parade. But they walked quite a ways.




7. John Boehner: ‘Godspeed’


The speaker of the House presented American flags to Obama and Biden, telling them: “To you gentlemen, I say congratulations and Godspeed.”




7 1/2. Sasha and Malia Were There. 


Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, were there. They didn’t really do much, but they did wear coats of different shades of purple that got a lot of  attention on Twitter.


Reports of the daughters looking at smartphones and applying lip gloss highlighted their day. As did this .gif of Sasha yawning.

Read More..

Supernova-powered bow shock creates cosmic spectacle



Victoria Jaggard, space and physical sciences news editor



sig12-014a.jpg

(Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)


NOW that's one groovy star. Seen speeding like a bullet through a cloud of dust and gas, the massive star Zeta Ophiuchi is creating a colourful wave known as a bow shock. This happens because the star's motion is compressing dust grains like water at the bow of a ship.







To the naked eye Zeta Ophiuchi is a placid dot parked in the constellation Ophiuchus. But the infrared vision of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows how the shooting star is electrifying its surroundings. It creates a scene akin to a UV-triggered fluorescent blacklight poster, says Spitzer image specialist Robert Hurt of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.



In this picture infrared wavelengths have been translated into visible ones, with shorter waves in blue, middle waves in green and longer ones in red. That's why the bright stars glitter like sapphires, while small dust grains fluoresce in a faint teal as they absorb Zeta Ophiuchi's light. Red in the bow shock comes from the larger, hotter dust grains that can survive the star's fierce radiation.



Given its speed and direction, astronomers think the star once orbited an even heftier companion. But the biggest stars live fast and die young, and its partner exploded in a violent supernova blast that sent Zeta Ophiuchi careening away at a whopping 87,000 kilometres per hour.



This isn't the first or even the fastest runaway but it is perhaps one of the most detailed. "Here you have a star hurtling through space and having a huge impact on its environment," says Hurt. "It really gives you a general sense of how everything is interconnected."




Read More..

Parents-to-be welcome new pro-family incentives






SINGAPORE: From 1 May 2013, working fathers will be legally entitled to one week of paid paternity leave.

Parents welcome the move, but some pro-family organisations are calling for bolder measures.

Eileen Chan and Alvin Tan tied the knot two years ago. They are expecting their firstborn in April, and with that, the bumped-up Baby Bonus.

"I think the extra S$2,000 will come in handy, especially when it comes to immunisation for the kid," said Ms Chan. "In the first year, kids tend to fall sick more often."

For the Tans, the most welcome new measure is paternity leave. Mr Tan plans to take the week off right after his wife delivers.

He said: "Especially when the baby is new-born, as a father I'd like to spend more time at home with the kid, with my wife to help settle the kid in."

Alvin is optimistic his employer will grant his paternity leave, even though his child will be born just before the measure officially kicks in on 1 May 2013.

Employers are encouraged to offer paternity leave to all eligible employees with children born on or after 1 Jan 2013, and this will be reimbursable by the government.

Ms Chan can also share one week of her maternity leave with her husband.

It's a move the National Family Council welcomes, but its chairman Mr Lim Soon Hock is calling for a whole month of maternity leave to be made gender-neutral.

Mr Lim said: "If we were to have longer paternity leave, essentially what we are creating is an opportunity for our women to go back to work earlier. But fundamental to this thinking must be that we have to move away from the notion that men are more valuable in the workplace than women."

The slew of bonuses is good news, but it is not the reason why the Tans want to have two children.

Mr Tan said: "The baby itself is the bonus, so all these incentives, we're just happy to receive them!"

The new Marriage and Parenthood Package also makes adoption leave a legal entitlement.

Working, married women who adopt children under a year old will be entitled to four weeks of government-paid leave.

Previously, this was offered by employers on a voluntary basis.

- CNA/xq



Read More..