Sooty ships may be geoengineering by accident

GEOENGINEERING is being tested - albeit inadvertently - in the north Pacific. Soot from oil-burning ships is dumping about 1000 tonnes of soluble iron per year across 6 million square kilometres of ocean, new research has revealed.

Fertilising the world's oceans with iron has been controversially proposed as a way of sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to curb global warming. Some geoengineers claim releasing iron into the sea will stimulate plankton blooms, which absorb carbon, but ocean processes are complex and difficult to monitor in tests.

"Experiments suggest you change the population of algae, causing a shift from fish-dominated to jellyfish-dominated ecosystems," says Alex Baker of the University of East Anglia, UK. Such concerns led the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to impose a moratorium on geoengineering experiments in 2010.

The annual ship deposition is much larger, if less concentrated, than the iron released in field tests carried out before the moratorium was in place. Yet because ship emissions are not intended to alter ocean chemistry, they do not violate the moratorium, says Jim Thomas of the ETC Group, a think tank that consults for the CBD. "If you intentionally drove oil-burning ships back and forth as a geoengineering experiment, that would contravene it."

The new study, by Akinori Ito of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, is the first to quantify how shipping deposits iron in parts of the ocean normally deficient in it. Earlier models had assumed that only 1 to 2 per cent of the iron contained in aerosols, including shipping emissions, is soluble in seawater, so the remaining 98 to 99 percent would sink to the bottom without affecting ocean life. But Ito found that up to 80 per cent of the iron in shipping soot is soluble (Global Biogeochemical Cycles, As this soot rapidly falls to the sea surface, it is likely to be fertilising the oceans.

In the high-latitude north Pacific - a region that is naturally iron-poor and therefore likely to be most affected by human deposits - ship emissions now account for 70 per cent of soluble iron from human activity, with the burning of biomass and coal accounting for the rest. Shipping's share will rise as traffic continues to grow and regulations restrict coal and biomass emissions.

Can we learn anything from this unintentional experiment? Baker thinks not. "The process isn't scientifically useful," he says, because the uncontrolled nature of the iron makes it difficult to draw meaningful comparisons.

The depositions are unlikely to be harmful at current levels, he says, but "given the uncertainties, I just don't know how much these iron emissions would have to increase before there was demonstrable harm to an ecosystem, or benefit in terms of carbon uptake, for that matter".

This article appeared in print under the headline "Ships inadvertently fertilise the oceans"

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Obama urges balanced approach to deficit reduction

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama urged Congress Saturday to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction, warning that steep budget cuts known as "the sequester" would hurt the economy and threaten thousands of American jobs.

"If the sequester is allowed to go forward, thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or clean energy are likely to be laid off," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

"All our economic progress could be put at risk," he added.

The cuts, which are due to take effect on March 1, would also affect US military readiness, said the president.

"As our military leaders have made clear, changes like this affect our ability to respond to threats in an unstable part of the world," Obama pointed out.

The sequester was agreed by the president and Congress in 2011 to be so punishing that it would force Washington's warring political factions to forge an agreement on a way to cut the US budget deficit.

But amid partisan gridlock, no agreement on cutting the deficit has been reached and cuts due in March will slash defense spending by $55 billion and non-defense discretionary spending by $27 billion this year.

On Friday, the White House issued a doom-laden survey of the impact of sequestration.

It said 10,000 teacher jobs were at risk, food inspections could stop, 373,000 mental health patients would lose treatment and prosecutors could be furloughed.

The FBI would have 1,000 fewer officers, small business loans would be cut by $540 million, and around 600,000 women and children could lose government-funded emergency nutrition, according to the White House.

"The good news is, there's another option," Obama said.

He reminded his audience that two months ago, the White House and Congress faced a similar prospect of deep cuts and tax hikes, known as the "fiscal cliff".

On that occasion, said the president, Democrats and Republicans managed to come together and make "responsible cuts and manageable changes to our tax code" to pull back from the brink.

"This time, Congress should pass a similar set of balanced cuts and close more tax loopholes until they can find a way to replace the sequester with a smarter, longer-term solution," Obama said.

- AFP/ck

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Blizzard kills 1, leaves hundreds of thousands without power

New York—

A blizzard pummeled the Northeastern United States, killing at least one person, leaving hundreds of thousands without power and disrupting thousands of flights, media and officials said.

Forecasters warned of more heavy winds and snowfalls on Saturday, particularly near Boston, where up to 30 inches was expected in some areas, as well as in New York, Connecticut and Maine.

Snowfall reached 34 inches in New Haven, Conn. Snow was still falling at 6 a.m.

In the first death blamed on the blizzard, one man in his seventies was killed when a driver lost control of her car and hit him in Poughkeepsie, New York, media reported.

The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts lost power and automatically shut down during the storm late on Friday, but there was no threat to the public, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Winds reached 35 to 40 miles per hour (56 to 64 km per hour) by Friday afternoon and forecasters expected gusts up to 60 mph overnight.

The storm prompted the governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Maine to declare states of emergency.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick took the rare step of announcing a ban on most car travel starting Friday afternoon, while Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy closed the state's highways to all but emergency vehicles.

By Friday night some commuter trains that run between New York City and Westchester County, Long Island and Connecticut had already been suspended. Amtrak suspended railroad service between New York, Boston and points north on Friday afternoon.

In many cases, authorities ordered non-essential government workers to stay home, urged private employers to do the same, told people to prepare for power outages and encouraged them to check on elderly or disabled neighbors.

"People need to take this storm seriously," said Malloy, Connecticut's governor. "Please stay home once the weather gets bad except in the case of real emergency."

More than 160,000 lost power in Massachusetts, almost 200,000 in Rhode Island and 34,000 in Connecticut, according to local utilities.

The storm wasn't bad news for everyone.

In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested people relax at home - cook or watch a movie. Bloomberg said he planned on catching up on his sleep.

As she stocked up at a Brooklyn grocery store, 28-year-old Jackie Chevallier said that after two years without much snow, she was looking forward to waking up to a sea of white.

"I'd like to go sledding," she said.

The storm also posed a risk of flooding at high tide to areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy last October.

"Many of the same communities that were inundated by Hurricane Sandy's tidal surge just about 100 days ago are likely to see some moderate coastal flooding this evening," said Bloomberg.

(Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Andrew Heavens)

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Space Pictures This Week: Sun Dragon, Celestial Seagull


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Great Energy Challenge Blog

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Blizzard Drops 2 Feet of Snow on Northeast

A behemoth storm packing hurricane-force wind gusts and blizzard conditions swept through the Northeast on Saturday, dumping more than 2 feet of snow on New England and knocking out power to 650,000 homes and businesses.

More than 28 inches of snow had fallen on central Connecticut by early Saturday, and areas of southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire notched 2 feet or more of snow — with more falling. Airlines scratched more than 5,300 flights through Saturday, and New York City's three major airports and Boston's Logan Airport closed.

The wind-whipped snowstorm mercifully arrived at the start of a weekend, which meant fewer cars on the road and extra time for sanitation crews to clear the mess before commuters in the New York-to-Boston region of roughly 25 million people have to go back to work. But it also could mean a weekend cooped up indoors.

For a group of stranded European business travelers, it meant making the best of downtime in a hotel restaurant Friday night in downtown Boston, where snow blew outside and drifted several inches deep on the sidewalks.

The six Santander bank employees found their flights back to Spain canceled, and they gave up on seeing the city or having dinner out.

AP Photo/Standard Times, Peter Pereira

Blizzard 2013: Boston Families Brace for Extreme Weather Watch Video

"We are not believing it," said Tommaso Memeghini, 29, an Italian who lives in Barcelona. "We were told it may be the biggest snowstorm in the last 20 years."

The National Weather Service says up to 3 feet of snow is expected in Boston, threatening the city's 2003 record of 27.6 inches. A wind gust of 76 mph was recorded at Logan Airport.

In heavily Catholic Boston, the archdiocese urged parishioners to be prudent about attending Sunday Mass and reminded them that, under church law, the obligation "does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation."

Halfway through what had been a mild winter across the Northeast, blizzard warnings were posted from parts of New Jersey to Maine. The National Weather Service said Boston could get close to 3 feet of snow by Saturday evening, while most of Rhode Island could receive more than 2 feet, most of it falling overnight Friday into Saturday. Connecticut was bracing for 2 feet, and New York City was expecting as much as 14 inches.

Early snowfall was blamed for a 19-car pileup in Cumberland, Maine, that caused minor injuries. In New York, hundreds of cars began getting stuck on the Long Island Expressway on Friday afternoon at the beginning of the snowstorm and dozens of motorists remained disabled early Saturday as police worked to free them.

About 650,000 customers in the Northeast lost power during the height of the snowstorm, most of them in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Mass., lost electricity and shut down Friday night during the storm. Authorities say there's no threat to public safety.

At least four deaths were being blamed on the storm, three in Canada and one in New York. In southern Ontario, an 80-year-old woman collapsed while shoveling her driveway and two men were killed in car crashes. In New York, a 74-year-old man died after being struck by a car in Poughkeepsie; the driver said she lost control in the snowy conditions, police said.

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Police working with Interpol in global effort against match-fixing

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Police Force (SPF) is working with Interpol in relation to recent claims of a match-fixing syndicate originating in Singapore.

SPF said that evidence of alleged match-fixing needs to be further developed in order for Singapore law enforcement agencies to take concrete follow-up actions against the alleged suspects.

That is why the SPF will send its officers to Interpol to assist in the current investigations and join the global fight against match-fixing and illegal betting in football.

The authorities reiterated that Singapore remains highly committed in the fight against match-fixing and other trans-national crimes.

If evidence of such crimes exist, the police will pursue the case vigorously to bring the perpetrators to justice.

- CNA/al

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Blizzard takes aim at East Coast after moving through Midwest

BOSTON -- The Northeastern United States braced on Friday morning for a possibly record-setting blizzard bearing down on the region, which forecasters warned could drop up to 2-1/2 feet of snow and bring travel to a halt.

Blizzard warnings were in effect from New Jersey through southern Maine, with Boston expected to bear the heaviest blow from the massive storm. The day was expected to begin with light snow, with winds picking up and snow getting much heavier by afternoon.

Officials urged residents to stay home, rather than risk getting stuck in deep drifts or whiteout conditions.

Boston and many surrounding communities said their schools would be closed on Friday, and city and state officials told nonessential city workers to stay home and urged businesses to allow workers to work from home or on shortened schedules.

"Accumulation is expected to be swift, heavy and dangerous," Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told reporters. "I am ordering all non-essential state workers to work from home tomorrow. I am strongly urging private employers to take the same precautions."

Officials across the region echoed his recommendations, urging residents to prepare for possible power outages and consider checking on elderly or disabled neighbors who might need help.

New York City officials said they had 1,800 Sanitation Department trucks ready to respond to the storm.

The National Weather Service said Boston could get 18 to 24 inches or more of snow on Friday and Saturday, its first heavy snowfall in two years. Winds could gust as high as 60 to 75 miles per hour (95 to 120 km per hour) as the day progresses.

If more than 18.2 inches of snow falls in Boston, it will rank among the city's 10 largest snowfalls. Boston's record snowfall, 27.6 inches, came in 2003.

Cities from Hartford, Connecticut, to Portland, Maine, expected to see at least a foot of snow.

More than 2,200 flights had already been canceled by airlines for Friday, according to the website, with the largest number of cancellations at airports in Newark, New York, Chicago and Boston.

Nearly 500 flights were canceled for Saturday, according to the flight-tracking site.

Boston's Logan International Airport warned that once the storm kicked up, all flights would likely be grounded for 24 hours.

United Continental Holdings Inc, JetBlue Airways Corp and Delta Air Lines Inc all reported extensive cancellations.


For some in the Boston area, the forecast brought to mind memories of the blizzard of 1978, which dropped 27.1 inches, the second-largest snowfall recorded in the city's history. That storm started out gently and intensified during the day, leaving many motorists stranded during their evening commutes.

Dozens of deaths were reported in the region after that storm, many as a result of people touching downed electric lines.

Officials warned that a combination of heavy snow and high winds made for a high risk of extensive power outages across the region. That posed the risk of some residents losing heat at a time when temperatures would dip to 20 Fahrenheit (minus 7 Celsius).

Shelves at many stores were picked clean of food and storm-related supplies such as shovels and salt as area residents scrambled to prepare.

Some big employers said they were considering officials' pleas to allow their workers to stay home.

State Street Corp, one of Boston's largest employers in the financial sector, was considering allowing employees to work from home on Friday, said spokeswoman Anne McNally.


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Asteroid to Make Closest Flyby in History

Talk about too close for comfort. In a rare cosmic encounter, an asteroid will barnstorm Earth next week, missing our planet by a mere 17,200 miles (27,700 kilometers).

Designated 2012 DA14, the space rock is approximately 150 feet (45 meters) across, and astronomers are certain it will zip harmlessly past our planet on February 15—but not before making history. It will pass within the orbits of many communications satellites, making it the closest flyby on record. (Read about one of the largest asteroids to fly by Earth.)

"This is indeed a remarkably close approach for an asteroid this size," said Paul Chodas, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Near Earth Object (NEO) program office in Pasadena, California.

"We estimate that an asteroid of this size passes this close to the Earth only once every few decades."

The giant rock—half a football field wide—was first spotted by observers at the La Sagra Observatory in southern Spain a year ago, soon after it had just finished making a much more distant pass of the Earth at 2.6 million miles (4.3 million kilometers) away.

This time around however, on February15 at 2:24 pm EST, the asteroid will be passing uncomfortably close—ten times closer than the orbit of the moon—flying over the eastern Indian Ocean near Sumatra (map). (Watch: "Moon 101.")

Future Impact?

Chodas and his team have been keeping a close eye on the cosmic intruder, and orbital calculations of its trajectory show that there is no chance for impact.

But the researchers have not yet ruled out future chances of a collision. This is because asteroids of this size are too faint to be detected until they come quite close to the Earth, said Chodas.

"There is still a tiny chance that it might hit us on some future passage by the Earth; for example there is [a] 1-in-200,000 chance that it could hit us in the year 2080," he said.

"But even that tiny chance will probably go away within the week, as the asteroid's orbit gets tracked with greater and greater accuracy and we can eliminate that possibility."

Earth collision with an object of this size is expected to occur every 1,200 years on average, said Donald Yeomans, NEO program manager, at a NASA news conference this week.

DA14 has been getting closer and closer to Earth for quite a while—but this is the asteroid's closest approach in the past hundred years. And it probably won't get this close again for at least another century, added Yeomans.

While no Earth impact is possible next week, DA14 will pass 5,000 miles inside the ring of orbiting geosynchronous weather and communications satellites; so all eyes are watching the space rock's exact trajectory. (Learn about the history of satellites.)

"It's highly unlikely they will be threatened, but NASA is working with satellite providers, making them aware of the asteroid's pass," said Yeomans.

Packing a Punch

Experts say an impact from an object this size would have the explosive power of a few megatons of TNT, causing localized destruction—similar to what occurred in Siberia in 1908.

In what's known as the "Tunguska event," an asteroid is thought to have created an airburst explosion which flattened about 750 square miles (1,200 square kilometers) of a remote forested region in what is now northern Russia (map).

In comparison, an impact from an asteroid with a diameter of about half a mile (one kilometer) could temporarily change global climate and kill millions of people if it hit a populated area.

Timothy Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center at Cambridge, Massachusetts, said that while small objects like DA14 could hit Earth once a millennia or so, the largest and most destructive impacts have already been catalogued.

"Objects of the size that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs have all been discovered," said Spahr. (Learn about what really happened to the dinosaurs.)

A survey of nearly 9,500 near-Earth objects half a mile (one kilometer) in diameter is nearly complete. Asteroid hunters expect to complete nearly half of a survey of asteroids several hundred feet in diameter in the coming years.

"With the existing assets we have, discovering asteroids rapidly and routinely, I continue to expect the world to be safe from impacts in the future," added Spahr.

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Door-to-Door Search for Suspected Cop Killer

More than 100 police officers were going door-to-door and searching for new tracks in the snow in hopes of catching suspected cop-killer Christopher Dorner overnight in Big Bear Lake, Calif., before he strikes again, as laid out in his rambling online manifesto.

Police late Thursday night alerted the residents near Big Bear Lake that Dorner was still on the loose after finding his truck burning earlier in the day.

San Bernardino County Sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said authorities can't say for certain that he's not in the area. More than half of the 400 homes in the area had been searched by police as of late Thursday. Police traveled in two-man teams.

Bachman urged people in the area not to answer the door, unless they know the person or see a law enforcement officer in uniform.

After discovering Dorner's burning truck near a Bear Mountain ski resort, police discovered tracks in the snow leading away from the vehicle. The truck has been taken to the San Bernardino County Sheriffs' crime lab.

Read More About Chris Dorner's Allegations Against the LAPD

Bachman would not comment on Dorner's motive for leaving the car or its contents, citing the ongoing investigation. Police are not aware of Dorner's having any ties to others in the area.

Los Angeles Manhunt: Ex-Cop Christopher Dorner Sought for Killing Spree Watch Video

Los Angeles Manhunt: Who Is Christopher Dorner? Watch Video

Christopher Dorner: Ex-Cop Wanted in Killing Spree Watch Video

She added that the search in the area would continue as long as the weather cooperates. About three choppers were being used overnight, but weather conditions were deteriorating, according to Bachman.

"He could be anywhere at this point," said San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, who is expected to address the media later this morning.

Dorner, 33, a former Los Angeles police officer and Navy reservist, is suspected of killing one police officer and injured two others Thursday morning in Riverside, Calif. He was also accused of killing two civilians Sunday. And he allegedly released an angry "manifesto" airing grievances against police and warning of coming violence toward cops.

In the manifesto Dorner published online, he threatened at least 12 people by name, along with their families.
"Your lack of ethics and conspiring to wrong a just individual are over. Suppressing the truth will leave to deadly consequences for you and your family," Dorner wrote in his manifesto.

One passage from the manifesto read, "I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty."

"I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own," it read. "I'm terminating yours."

Hours after the extensive manhunt dragged police to Big Bear Lake, CNN's Anderson Cooper said Dorner had sent him a package at his New York office that arrived Feb. 1, although Cooper said he never knew about the package until Thursday. It contained a DVD of court testimony, with a Post-It note signed by Dorner claiming, "I never lied! Here is my vindication."

PHOTOS: Former LAPD Officer Suspected in Shootings

It also contained a keepsake coin bearing the name of former Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton that came wrapped in duct tape, Cooper said. The duct tape bore the note, "Thanks, but no thanks Will Bratton."

Bratton told Cooper on his program, "Anderson Cooper 360," that he believed he gave Dorner the coin as he was headed overseas for the Navy, Bratton's practice when officers got deployed abroad. Though a picture has surfaced of Bratton, in uniform, and Dorner, in fatigues, shaking hands, Bratton told Cooper he didn't recall Dorner or the meeting.

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Crowdsourcing grows up as online workers unite

Employer reviews, a living wage, and even promotions: crowd-working on sites like Amazon's Mechanical Turk is shaking off its exploitative past

Editorial: "Time to focus on the welfare of online workers"

CROWDSOURCING might be big business now but it has never been fair. The pay is terrible, there is zero regulation and no recourse for workers if things go wrong. But crowdsourcing's Wild West days of exploitation could soon be over. Moves to make employers more accountable and give crowd workers more benefits are helping shift the balance in favour of the employees.

It is crowd-working's original platform, Amazon's Mechanical Turk (AMT), that is the first port of call for reform. Mechanical Turk's entire business model hinges on persuading large numbers of workers to do tiny tasks for pennies at a time. And it relies on turning its group of human workers into "a system that doesn't talk back", says Lilly Irani, a computer scientist at the University of California in Irvine.

Turkers, as they are known, have no idea whether an individual "requester" is likely to pay them promptly for their work, or even at all, as requesters can choose to reject work without any repercussions. This is vital because around 20 per cent of Turkers say that they always or sometimes need money earned during crowd work to make ends meet, according to a small survey carried out by Irani. "There are people for whom this is a crucial source of income," she says.

Irani has built a review network called Turkopticon to address this lack of accountability. It allows Turkers to leave feedback on requesters that anyone else using the network can see, rating them out of five on "communicativity, generosity, fairness and promptness". Rejecting work out of hand might earn a requester poor scores in fairness and communicativity, while giving high-performing Turkers a bonus for their work might boost the generosity score.

The system, to be presented at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in April in Paris, runs through a browser plug-in. It scours the Mechanical Turk website for the unique numbers that identify each requester, then searches the Turkopticon database for reviews. The requester's review score is then attached to every task they offer, letting Turkers make more informed decisions about the tasks they choose.

Anne Midwinter is a part-time microbiologist from New Zealand who has completed 28,000 tasks on AMT over the past five years. Now she checks the Turkopticon review for every requester before starting any job. "There's no sick leave, paid holidays, anything like that on mTurk. There is no arbitration, no appeal if you feel that you have been unfairly treated, apart from a stinging review on Turkopticon," she says.

Other crowd-working platforms have already taken some of these issues to heart. "We started as an effort to create a worker friendly crowdsourcing platform, specifically as an alternative to systems like Mechanical Turk," says MobileWorks co-founder Anand Kulkarni.

Unlike AMT, MobileWorks sets minimum wages for its workers tied to the cost of living in the country they are working in. Each worker is assigned to a manager who watches their work and pushes suitable tasks their way, and there are opportunities to ascend the corporate ladder.

Without legal redress for online workers these efforts count for little, says Trebor Scholz at New School University in New York City. "People fought for 100 years for the 8-hour work day and paid vacation, against child labour. All of that is wiped away in these digital environments," he says, and calls for crowd workers to form a transnational union.

The first rumblings of legal action can already be heard. Oregon resident Christopher Otey has filed a lawsuit against crowd platform CrowdFlower, saying it is violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying employees a minimum federal wage. CrowdFlower disputes the claims.

Meanwhile, alongside other computer scientists, Niki Kittur at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will outline his vision for the future of crowd work at a conference in San Antonio, Texas, later this month. Kittur says crowd workers need promotions and bonuses - as well as the capacity to take their credentials with them from platform to platform, like a job reference. He is developing tools that will allow more complicated tasks to be crowdsourced because "people will be paid more if what they do is more valuable".

"Forget the perception of unskilled workers - what if you could access the top people in the field?" Kittur says. "If you could get 5 minutes of their time how could you leverage that? We're working on that now."

This article appeared in print under the headline "Workers of the crowd unite..."

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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CapitaMalls Asia Q4 net profit dips 10% on-year

SINGAPORE: Shopping mall developer and operator CapitaMalls Asia announced on Thursday a 10 per cent on-year decline in its fourth-quarter net profit.

The company attributed the drop mainly to lower fair value gains from investment properties in China and Singapore, as well as impairment losses in India and higher finance costs.

Net profit for the quarter fell to S$184.8 million from S$205.4 million a year ago.

Revenue for Q4 rose 71.4 per cent to S$113.6 million from S$66.3 million the year before.

The company cited its acquisition of Olinas Mall in Tokyo, additional stakes in three malls in Japan and higher management fees for its revenue increase.

In addition, CapitaMalls posted a record profit of S$546 million for 2012 -- a 19.7 per cent jump from the S$456 million booked the year before.

The developer said more than 50 per cent of its malls in China started operations in 2012.

Besides opening seven malls in China, the company also opened two new malls in Singapore -- The Star Vista and JCube. It also enhanced existing properties like Bugis+ and The Atrium@Orchard.

The CEO of CapitaMalls Asia, Lim Beng Chee, said the firm will focus on opening five new malls in 2013 -- two in China, two in Singapore, and one in India.

He expects the company's key markets in Singapore, China and Malaysia to continue to grow this year, with robust growth in China.

"If you look at China, I think the growth is going to be strong, particularly because our business is focused on what we call 'middle-class shopping'... So mostly everyone can come to our mall to enjoy a meal (or) go to the supermarket... I think this is going to be very positive," said Mr Lim

The company has a pan-Asian portfolio of 102 shopping malls across 52 cities in five countries -- Singapore, China, Malaysia, Japan and India.

CapitaMalls stocks closed down more than 4 per cent at S$2.08 a share on Thursday on the Singapore Exchange.

- CNA/jc

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Rush-hour rain could turn to snow tonight

The chance for freezing rain this morning is slim - but even if it happens it won't last beyond 9 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

"By then it should be warm enough that there shouldn't be a threat of additional freezing rain," said Andrew Krein, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "It will be warming up so ... mostly rain all day."

Some snow fell overnight - a half inch in some parts of the city and more up toward Waukegan - but today should just be soggy, not icy.

Chicago fanned out 199 plow trucks across the city, which are "salting the city's main streets as needed as a storm system moves across the area," according to the streets department.

"We're hovering around 32 degrees but warmer air is not too far away, and it won't be long before it moves in," Krein said.

Today's high is expected to be about 37 degrees and a half inch of rain could fall between now and tonight.

The rain may turn into a messy mix of snow and rain between 6 and 9 p.m. tonight, Krein said. Overnight lows could be in the upper 20s.
Twitter: @chicagobreaking

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Humans Swap DNA More Readily Than They Swap Stories

Jane J. Lee

Once upon a time, someone in 14th-century Europe told a tale of two girls—a kind one who was rewarded for her manners and willingness to work hard, and an unkind girl who was punished for her greed and selfishness.

This version was part of a long line of variations that eventually spread throughout Europe, finding their way into the Brothers Grimm fairytales as Frau Holle, and even into Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. (Watch a video of the Frau Holle fairytale.)

In a new study, evolutionary psychologist Quentin Atkinson is using the popular tale of the kind and unkind girls to study how human culture differs within and between groups, and how easily the story moved from one group to another.

Atkinson, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and his co-authors employed tools normally used to study genetic variation within a species, such as people, to look at variations in this folktale throughout Europe.

The researchers found that there were significant differences in the folktale between ethnolinguistic groups—or groups bound together by language and ethnicity. From this, the scientists concluded that it's much harder for cultural information to move between groups than it is for genes.

The study, published February 5 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that about 9 percent of the variation in the tale of the two girls occurred between ethnolinguistic groups. Previous studies looking at the genetic diversity across groups in Europe found levels of variation less than one percent.

For example, there's a part of the story in which the girls meet a witch who asks them to perform some chores. In different renditions of the tale, the meeting took place by a river, at the bottom of a well, or in a cave. Other versions had the girls meeting with three old men or the Virgin Mary, said Atkinson.


Researchers have viewed human culture through the lens of genetics for decades, said Atkinson. "It's a fair comparison in the sense that it's just variation across human groups."

But unlike genes, which move into a population relatively easily and can propagate randomly, it's harder for new ideas to take hold in a group, he said. Even if a tale can bridge the "ethnolinguistic boundary," there are still forces that might work against a new cultural variation that wouldn't necessarily affect genes.

"Humans don't copy the ideas they hear randomly," Atkinson said. "We don't just choose ... the first story we hear and pass it on.

"We show what's called a conformist bias—we'll tend to aggregate across what we think everyone else in the population is doing," he explained. If someone comes along and tells a story a little differently, most likely, people will ignore those differences and tell the story like everyone else is telling it.

"That makes it more difficult for new ideas to come in," Atkinson said.

Cultural Boundaries

Atkinson and his colleagues found that if two versions of the folktale were found only six miles (ten kilometers) away from each other but came from different ethnolinguistic groups, such as the French and the Germans, then those versions were as different from each other as two versions taken from within the same group—say just the Germans—located 62 miles (100 kilometers) away from each other.

"To me, the take-home message is that cultural groups strongly constrain the flow of information, and this enables them to develop highly local cultural traditions and norms," said Mark Pagel, of the University of Reading in the U.K., who wasn't involved in the new study.

Pagel, who studies the evolution of human behavior, said by email that he views cultural groups almost like biological species. But these groups, which he calls "cultural survival vehicles," are more powerful in some ways than our genes.

That's because when immigrants from a particular cultural group move into a new one, they bring genetic diversity that, if the immigrants have children, get mixed around, changing the new population's gene pool. But the new population's culture doesn't necessarily change.

Atkinson plans to keep using the tools of the population-genetics trade to see if the patterns he found in the variations of the kind and unkind girls hold true for other folktale variants in Europe and around the world.

Humans do a lot of interesting things, Atkinson said. "[And] the most interesting things aren't coded in our DNA."

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Ex-Cop Sought in Killings Tied to Victim's Father

Police in Southern California say they suspect that a fired cop is behind the shootings – one fatal - of three police officers this morning, as well as the weekend slayings of an assistant women's college basketball coach and her fiancĂ© in what they believe are acts of revenge against the LAPD.

Former police officer Christopher Jordan Dorner, 33, who's a U.S. Navy reservist, has been publically named as a suspect in the killings of Monica Quan, 28, and her 27-year-old fiancé, Keith Lawrence, Irvine police Chief David L. Maggard said at a news conference Wednesday night.
Dorner is still being sought. He is considered armed and dangerous, police say.

Police said three police officers were shot early this morning -- one in Corona, Calif. and two in Riverside, Calif.. The Riverside Police Department said that one of its officers was killed, KABC-TV reported. The conditions of the two other officers were not immediately released. Initial reports say the shootings could be related to Dorner.

Lawrence was found slumped behind the wheel of his white Kia in the parking lot of their upscale apartment complex Sunday and Quan was in the passenger seat.

"A particular interest at this point in the investigation is a multi-page manifesto in which the suspect has implicated himself in the slayings," Maggard said.

AP Photo/Irvine Police Department via The Orange County Register

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Police said Dorner's manifesto included threats against members of the LAPD. Police say they are taking extra measures to ensure the safety of officers and their families.

The document, allegedly posted on an Internet message board this week, blames Quan's father, retired LAPD Capt. Randy Quan, for his firing from the department.

One passage from the manifesto reads, "I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty."

"I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own," Dorner allegedly writes. "I'm terminating yours."

Dorner was with the department from 2005 until 2008, when he was fired for making false statements.

Randy Quan, who became a lawyer in retirement, represented Dorner in front of the Board of Rights, a tribunal that ruled against Dorner at the time of his dismissal, LAPD Capt. William Hayes told The Associated Press Wednesday night.

According to documents from a court of appeals hearing in October 2011, Dorner was fired from the LAPD after he made a complaint against his field-training officer, Sgt. Teresa Evans, saying in the course of an arrest she had kicked a suspect who was a schizophrenic with severe dementia.

After an investigation, Dorner was fired for making false statements.

"We have strong cause to believe Dorner is armed and dangerous," Maggard said.

Police say Dorner is 6-feet tall, and weighs 270 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes.

Meanwhile, Cal State Fullerton is still mourning the loss of their beloved assistant coach.

"There are really no words to convey the sadness that our program feels, that the young women who have had the privilege of working with such a bright and passionate woman," head coach Marcia Foster said earlier this week. "I want to especially send out condolences to Randal and Sylvia Quan, and her brother Ryan."

After college, Quan coached at Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks and has spent the past two years as an assistant coach at Cal State-Fullerton. The university has posted a memorial page on its sports website dedicated to Quan.

Lawrence was a business graduate who recently started working as a public-safety officer at USC.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Musical brains smash audio algorithm limits

The mystery of how our brains perceive sound has deepened, now that musicians have smashed a limit on sound perception imposed by a famous algorithm. On the upside this means it should be possible to improve upon today's gold-standard methods for audio perception.

Devised over 200 years ago, the Fourier transform is a mathematical process that splits a sound wave into its individual frequencies. It is the most common method for digitising analogue signals and some had thought that brains make use of the same algorithm when turning the cacophony of noise around us into individual sounds and voices.

To investigate, Jacob Oppenheim and Marcelo Magnasco of Rockefeller University in New York turned to the Gabor limit, a part of the Fourier transform's mathematics that makes the determination of pitch and timing a trade-off. Rather like the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics, the Gabor limit states you can't accurately determine a sound's frequency and its duration at the same time.

13 times better

The pair reasoned that if people's hearing obeyed the Gabor limit, this would be a sign that they were using the Fourier transform. But when 12 musicians, some instrumentalists, some conductors, took a series of tests, such as judging slight changes in the pitch and duration of sounds at the same time, they beat the limit by up to a factor of 13. This shows that the Fourier transform is not the whole story, says Magnasco.

"The actual algorithm employed by our brains is still shrouded in mystery."

Brian Moore of the University of Cambridge says he is not surprised that the musicians beat the limit: he already assumed that other mechanisms were at work.

Understanding human sound perception could inspire better systems for sound recordings, speech recognition and sonar.

Journal reference: Physical Review Letters,

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Thousands of Indonesian workers protest for better conditions

JAKARTA : In Indonesia, thousands of workers took to the streets in five major cities including the nation's capital Jakarta on Wednesday.

Those in Jakarta, who were mostly from the Federation of Metal Workers' Union, made several demands including having universal healthcare and their right to protest.

They are demanding that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issue a presidential decree that would lead to universal health insurance for all Indonesians by 2019.

This health insurance programme has been approved and will start as of 2014 but the Presidential decree required has yet to be issued.

Said Iqbal, President, Federation of Indonesian Metal Workers' Union, said: "If a government regulation and Presidential decree, which was supposed to be issued last November, is not introduced then steps for universal healthcare cannot begin. That's why the government is obliged to introduce the necessary regulations by late February, which includes guaranteeing that employers pay for their workers' insurance premium fees and that the poor will be able to receive government's healthcare."

One of the other demands made is a guarantee for a pension fund for labour workers from 2015

The workers are also calling for the provincial government to raise the number of components in the reasonable cost index from around 60 to 80 components.

This index is used as a benchmark to determine minimum wage increases for next year.

The workers are also objecting to two bills on national security and social organisation being deliberated in Parliament

They claim that if these two bills are passed then it will curb their right to protest in the streets citing security reasons.

If their demands are not met, the next major rally will be on 26 February by the Indonesian Labour Workers Association, the biggest labour union in Indonesia.

The union has warned that if its demands are not met by the end of April, then there will be an all out labour rally across the nation on Labour Day, 1st May.

- CNA/ch

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3 dead in West Side crash

A man and two women died in a crash on the city's West Side, authorities said.

Firefighters were called to the accident near 31st Street and Western Avenue about 8:30 p.m., according to the department's media office.

Fire officials cut three people out of a red Jeep after the car lost control and somehow ended up on it's top just west of Western Avenue on 31st Street, police  said.

Three people had been riding in the SUV and all were taken to Mount Sinai Hospital and pronounced dead there, police said. They were the only occupants in the SUV.

Just before 10 p.m., the radio in the SUV -- which was flipped on its top -- could still be heard faintly from a distance.

The SUV was eastbound on 31st Street when it hit a curb, then a light pole, and ended up on its roof, Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Hector Alfaro said.

"Some of the damage is from the fire department," police said of the doors, which had been cut to free the car's occupants. "But they flipped the car themselves.

Investigators from the department's Major Accidents Investigations Unit arrived at the scene Thursday night to investigate what had happened.

Three people were taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, one in "extremely critical" condition, two in critical condtion, according to the fire department.

The three were identified as: Phillip Barnes, of the 1500 block of Ludington Circle in Romeoville, Yvonne Tobias of the 400 block of South Homan Avenue in Chicago, and Leantwana Rosebur of the 4900 block of South Gladys Avenue in Chicago.

Barnes, 46, was pronounced dead at 9:20 p.m. Tobias, 57, was pronounced dead at 9:09 p.m. Roseburr, 40, was pronounced dead at 9:19 p.m.

Video from the scene showed a red Jeep flipped over, with its roof crushed, and a person wrapped in black on a stretcher being taken into an ambulance.

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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The Real Richard III

It's a question that actors from Laurence Olivier to Kevin Spacey have grappled with: What did Richard III, the villainous protagonist of Shakespeare's famous historical drama, really look and sound like?

In the wake of this week's announcement by the University of Leicester that archaeologists have discovered the 15th-century British king's lost skeleton beneath a parking lot, news continues to unfold that helps flesh out the real Richard III.

The Richard III Society unveiled a 3D reconstruction today of the late king's head and shoulders, based on computer analysis of his skull combined with an artist's interpretation of details from historical portraits. (Related: "Shakespeare's Coined Words Now Common Currency.")

"We received the skull data before DNA analysis confirmed that the remains were Richard III, and we treated it like a forensic case," said Caroline Wilkinson, the University of Dundee facial anthropologist who led the reconstruction project. "We were very pleasantly surprised by the results."

Though Shakespeare describes the king as an "elvish-marked, abortive, rooting hog," the reconstructed Richard has a pleasant, almost feminine face, with youthful skin and thoughtful eyes. His right shoulder is slightly higher than the left, a consequence of scoliosis, but the difference is barely visible, said Wilkinson.

"I think the whole Shakespearean view of him as being sort of monster-like was based more on his personality than his physical features," she reflected.

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People are naturally fascinated by faces, especially of historical figures, said Wilkinson, who has also worked on reconstructions of J.S. Bach, the real Saint Nicholas, the poet Robert Burns, and Cleopatra's sister.

"We make judgments about people all the time from looking at their appearance," she said. "In Richard's case, up to now his image has been quite negative. This offers a new context for considering him from the point of view of his anatomical structure rather than his actions. He had quite an interesting face."

A Voice From the Past

Most people's impression of Richard's personality comes from Shakespeare's play, in which the maligned ruler utters such memorable lines as "Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this son of York," and "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

But how would the real Richard III have expressed himself? Did he have an accent? Was there any sense of personality or passion in his choice of words?

To find out more about the mysterious monarch, Philip Shaw, a historical linguist at University of Leicester's School of English, analyzed the only two known examples of Richard III's own writing. Both are postscripts on letters otherwise composed by secretaries—one in 1469, before Richard became king, and one from 1483, the first year of his brief reign.

Shaw identified a quirk of spelling that suggests that Richard may have spent time in the West Midlands, or perhaps had a tutor who hailed from there.

"I was looking to compare the way he spells things with the way his secretaries spell things, working on the assumption that he would have been schooled to a fairly high level," Shaw explained.

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In the 1469 letter, Richard spells the word "will" as "wule," a variation associated with the West Midlands. But Shaw also notes that by 1483, when Richard wrote the second letter's postscript, he had changed his spelling to the more standard "wyll" (the letters 'i' and 'y' were largely interchangeable during that period of Middle English).

"That could suggest something about him brushing up over the years, or moving toward what would have been the educated standard," Shaw said, noting that the handwriting in the second example also appears a bit more polished. "One wonders what sort of practice and teaching he'd had in the interim."

Although it's hard to infer tone of voice from written letters, there is certainly emotion in the words penned by Richard III.

In the 1469 letter, the 17-year-old seeks a loan of 100 pounds from the king's undertreasurer. Although the request is clearly stated in the body of the letter, Richard adds an urgent P.S.: "I pray you that you fail me not now at this time in my great need, as you will that I show you my good lordship in that matter that you labour to me for."

That could either be a veiled threat (If you don't lend me the money, I won't do that thing you asked me to do) or friendly cajoling (Come on, I'm helping you out with something, so help me out with this loan).

"His decision to take the pen himself shows you how important that personal touch must have been in getting people to do something," Shaw said.

The second letter, written to King Richard's chancellor in 1483, also conveys a sense of urgency. He had just learned that the Duke of Buckingham—once a close ally—was leading a rebellion against him.

"He's asking for his Great Seal to be sent to him so that he can use it to give out orders to suppress the rebellion," Shaw said. "He calls the Duke 'the most untrue creature living. You get a sense of how personally let down and betrayed he feels."

Shaw said he hopes his analysis—in combination with the new facial reconstruction—will help humanize Richard III.

"He probably wasn't quite the villain that Shakespeare portrays, though I suspect he was quite ruthless," he said. "But you probably couldn't afford to be a very nice man if you wanted to survive as a king in those days."

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Lance Armstrong Under Criminal Investigation

Federal investigators are in the midst of an active criminal investigation of disgraced former Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, ABC News has learned.

The revelation comes in stark contrast to statements made by the U.S. Attorney for Southern California, Andre Birotte, who addressed his own criminal inquiry of Armstrong for the first time publicly on Tuesday. Birotte's office spent nearly two years investigating Armstrong for crimes reportedly including drug distribution, fraud and conspiracy -- only to suddenly drop the case on the Friday before the Super Bowl last year.

Sources at the time said that agents had recommended an indictment and could not understand why the case was suddenly dropped.

Today, a high level source told ABC News, "Birotte does not speak for the federal government as a whole."

According to the source, who agreed to speak on the condition that his name and position were not used because of the sensitivity of the matter, "Agents are actively investigating Armstrong for obstruction, witness tampering and intimidation."

An email to an attorney for Armstrong was not immediately returned.

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Earlier Tuesday, during a Department of Justice news conference on another matter, Birotte was confronted with the Armstrong question unexpectedly. The following is a transcript of that exchange:

Q: Mr. Birotte, given the confession of Lance Armstrong to all the things --

Birotte: (Off mic.)

Q: -- to all thethings that you, in the end, decided you couldn't bring a case about, can you give us your thoughts on that case now and whether you might take another look at it?

Birotte: We made a decision on that case, I believe, a little over a year ago. Obviously we've been well-aware of the statements that have been made by Mr. Armstrong and other media reports. That has not changed my view at this time. Obviously, we'll consider, we'll continue to look at the situation, but that hasn't changed our view as I stand here today.

The source said that Birotte is not in the loop on the current criminal inquiry, which is being run out of another office.

Armstrong confessed to lying and using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

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Investigators are not concerned with the drug use, but Armstrong's behavior in trying to maintain his secret by allegedly threatening and interfering with potential witnesses.

Armstrong is currently serving a lifetime ban in sport handed down by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. He has been given a Feb. 6 deadline to tell all under oath to investigators or lose his last chance at a possible break on the lifetime ban.

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