False memories prime immune system for future attacks









































IN A police line-up, a falsely remembered face is a big problem. But for the body's police force – the immune system – false memories could be a crucial weapon.












When a new bacterium or virus invades the body, the immune system mounts an attack by sending in white blood cells called T-cells that are tailored to the molecular structure of that invader. Defeating the infection can take several weeks. However, once victorious, some T-cells stick around, turning into memory cells that remember the invader, reducing the time taken to kill it the next time it turns up.












Conventional thinking has it that memory cells for a particular microbe only form in response to an infection. "The dogma is that you need to be exposed," says Mark Davis of Stanford University in California, but now he and his colleagues have shown that this is not always the case.












The team took 26 samples from the Stanford Blood Center. All 26 people had been screened for diseases and had never been infected with HIV, herpes simplex virus or cytomegalovirus. Despite this, Davis's team found that all the samples contained T-cells tailored to these viruses, and an average of 50 per cent of these cells were memory cells.












The idea that T-cells don't need to be exposed to the pathogen "is paradigm shifting," says Philip Ashton-Rickardt of Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study. "Not only do they have capacity to remember, they seem to have seen a virus when they haven't."












So how are these false memories created? To a T-cell, each virus is "just a collection of peptides", says Davis. And so different microbes could have structures that are similar enough to confuse the T-cells.












To test this idea, the researchers vaccinated two people with an H1N1 strain of influenza and found that this also stimulated the T-cells to react to two bacteria with a similar peptide structure. Exposing the samples from the blood bank to peptide sequences from certain gut and soil bacteria and a species of ocean algae resulted in an immune response to HIV (Immunology, doi.org/kgg).












The finding could explain why vaccinating children against measles seems to improve mortality rates from other diseases. It also raises the possibility of creating a database of cross-reactive microbes to find new vaccination strategies. "We need to start exploring case by case," says Davis.












"You could find innocuous pathogens that are good at vaccinating against nasty ones," says Ashton-Rickardt. The idea of cross-reactivity is as old as immunology, he says. But he is excited about the potential for finding unexpected correlations. "Who could have predicted that HIV was related to an ocean algae?" he says. "No one's going to make that up!"












This article appeared in print under the headline "False memories prime our defences"




















































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Tennis: Nadal struggles into Brazil Open final






SAO PAULO: Rafael Nadal struggled into the Brazil Open final on Saturday by downing Argentine lucky loser Martin Alund in three sets.

The former world number one, who is recovering from a knee injury, battled hard to dismiss his 27-year-old opponent, who is ranked 111 in the world, winning 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 6-1 in nearly two hours.

Sunday's final will pit the 26-year-old Spanish star against Argentine David Nalbandian, who whipped Italian Simone Bolelli 6-3, 7-5 in 85 minutes in the other semi-final.

Nadal is the top seed in this $455,775 tournament, his second comeback event after a seven-month absence due to his knee injury and then illness.

Last week, he competed in the Vina del Mar Open in Chile, losing the singles and doubles finals.

Alund more than held his own against the world number five, prevailing in the second set before Nadal stepped on the gas and sealed victory with a masterful performance in the decisive third set.

The Spaniard, who has 11 Grand Slam titles, won the Brazil Open in 2005, when it was held in Costa do Sauipe in eastern Bahia state.

Last year, the tournament was moved to Sao Paulo.

The Brazil Open is part of the Latin American clay court swing, along with the Vina del Mar event and the Mexico Open, in Acapulco, where Nadal plans to compete later this month.

The three low-profile Latin American events are routinely ignored by the world's top three players -- Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

- AFP/fa



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Jackson Jr.'s downfall tied to objects, not power


CHICAGO (AP) — For all the talk of Jesse Jackson Jr. aspiring to be a U.S. senator or mayor of the nation's third-largest city, his career wasn't ended by attempts to amass political power.


Instead, it was the former congressman's desire for flashy items — a gold-plated Rolex watch, furs and collectibles, such as Eddie Van Halen's guitar.


In a state where stop-at-nothing political ambition has been well documented — and often rewarded — the seemingly frivolous cause of Jackson's undoing is seen by political observers and former colleagues as both nonsensical and sad.


"When you have a magic name like that, he was in position, waiting for the gun to go off, for mayor, the Senate ... he was playing with the big guys," said Paul Green, a longtime political scientist at Roosevelt University in Chicago who moderated Jackson's first congressional campaign debate. "To go down for this, you just feel sad."


Federal prosecutors on Friday charged Jackson Jr. with one count of conspiracy for allegedly spending $750,000 in campaign money on personal expenses. The Chicago Democrat's wife, former alderman Sandra Jackson, was charged with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns.


Authorities say the returns, for the years 2006 through 2011, knowingly understated the income the couple received.


Both agreed to plead guilty in deals with federal prosecutors. Their sentencing dates have not been set, but the charges both carry possible sentences of several years in prison. Jackson Jr. also could be ordered to repay thousands of dollars in fines and forfeitures.


While former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich went to prison because he tried to trade President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat for a more prestigious job or millions in campaign donations, Jackson could go to prison for, in part, buying memorabilia tied to martial arts movie star Bruce Lee.


The son of a civil rights icon, Jackson represented Illinois' 2nd District, which includes part of Chicago's South Side and south suburbs, for 17 years. He was wildly popular in his heavily Democratic district, consistently winning elections with more than 80 percent of the vote.


Jackson served as national co-chair of Obama's presidential campaign in 2008 and had his eyes on becoming mayor or a senator. But those hopes were dashed when his name surfaced as part of the Blagojevich corruption investigation and with revelations that Jackson had been involved in an extramarital affair.


Jackson denied any wrongdoing in the Blagojevich matter, which involved unproven allegations that he was involved in discussions to raise campaign funds in exchange for being appointed to Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.


Suddenly last summer, Jackson disappeared from public view for several weeks. His staff eventually revealed he was being treated for bipolar disorder and other medical issues.


When Jackson resigned from office in November, he cited his bipolar disorder and acknowledged he also was under federal investigation. Sandi Jackson resigned from her Chicago alderman seat in January.


U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, who represents a neighboring district and visited Jackson Jr. shortly after his release from treatment at the Mayo Clinic, said the charges against the Jacksons "couldn't be more unfortunate."


"I think things probably just got out of hand for them and they got involved in making decisions that just didn't make a lot of good sense," Davis said.


Davis wondered whether the long list of luxury purchases mentioned in the federal criminal complaint were "an indication that his bipolar condition kind of was manifesting itself even then."


If so, he said, it's unfair to compare this situation to other Illinois corruption.


"It's hard to rationalize it," Davis said. "Not all elected officials in Illinois are corrupt or building any kind of political dynasty or trying to develop political power. Most individuals elected to public office are citizens who want to make the most effective use of themselves and make this world a better place in which to live."


Delmarie Cobb, a Chicago political consultant who worked on Jackson Jr.'s first campaign and was an aide to his father when he ran for president in 1988, said Saturday she was "absolutely astonished" by the news. She, too, believes Jackson Jr.'s actions were triggered by his bipolar disorder.


"It is just not the Jesse Jr. I knew," said Cobb, who's known Jackson Jr. since he was a senior in college and was present when he met Sandi.


"It's a very sad ending for everybody."


___


Associated Press writers Don Babwin and Tammy Webber contributed to this report.


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Picture Archive: Making Mount Rushmore, 1935-1941

Photograph from Rapid City Chamber of Commerce/National Geographic

There's no such thing as Presidents' Day.

According to United States federal government code, the holiday is named Washington's Birthday, and has been since it went nationwide in 1885.

But common practice is more inclusive. The holiday expanded to add in other U.S. presidents in the 1960s, and the moniker Presidents' Day became popular in the 1980s and stuck. It may be that George Washington (b. February 22, 1732) andAbraham Lincoln (b. February 12, 1809) still get the lion's share of attention—and appear in all the retail sale ads—on the third Monday in February, but the popular idea is that all 44 presidents get feted.

Mount Rushmore is a lot like that one day a year writ large—and in granite. It's carved 60 feet (18 meters) tall and 185 feet (56 meters) wide, from Washington's right ear to Lincoln's left.

The monument's sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, grew up in Idaho, a first-generation American born to Danish parents. He studied art in France and became good friends with Auguste Rodin. Borglum mostly worked in bronze, but in the early 1910s he was hired to carve the likenesses of Confederate leaders into Stone Mountain in Georgia.

He was about to be fired from that job for creative differences about the same time that a South Dakota historian named Doane Robinson had an idea. Robinson wanted to have a monument carved into the Black Hills of South Dakota, maybe Western historical figures like Chief Red Cloud and Lewis and Clark, each on their own granite spire. (Plan a road trip in the Black Hills.)

Robinson hired Borglum and gave him carte blanche. Borglum was looking for something with national appeal, so he chose to depict four presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

Borglum wanted to represent the first 150 years of the nation's history, choosing four presidents as symbols of their respective time periods. He took a tour of western South Dakota, searching for an ideal canvas.

The sculptor was looking for three things: a surface strong enough to sculpt, a mountain big enough to hold several figures, and a mountain face that received morning sunlight. Mount Rushmore fit the bill and was already part of a national forest, so it was easy to set aside as a national memorial.

Work started in 1927. Calvin Coolidge attended the dedication ceremony. It took 14 years to finish the carving, conducted mostly in summertime because of the area's harsh winters.

There were approximately 30 workers on the mountain at any give time. In total about 400 had worked on it by the time the monument was finished. Though the project involved thousands of pounds of dynamite and perilous climbs, not a single person died during the work.

Borglum himself died of natural causes in 1941, though, just six months before the project was declared "closed as is" by Congress that Halloween. His son Lincoln—named for his father's favorite president—took over.

In the photo above, a worker refines the details of Washington's left nostril.

About 90 percent of the mountain was carved using dynamite, which could get within 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 centimeters) of the final facial features. For those last few inches, workers used what was known as the honeycomb method: Jackhammer workers pounded a series of three-inch-deep holes followed up by chiselers who knocked off the honeycomb pieces to get the final shape. Then carvers smoothed the "skin's" surface.

—Johnna Rizzo

February 16, 2013

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Meteor Blast 'Something We Only Saw in Movies'












A day after a massive meteor exploded over this city in central Russia, a monumental cleanup effort is under way.


Authorities have deployed around 24,000 troops and emergencies responders to help in the effort.


Officials say more than a million square feet of windows -- the size of about 20 football fields -- were shattered by the shockwave from the meteor's blast. Around 4,000 buildings in the area were damaged.


The injury toll climbed steadily on Friday. Authorities said today it now stands at more than 1,200. Most of those injuries were from broken glass, and only a few hundred required hospitalization.


According to NASA, this was the biggest meteor to hit Earth in more than a century. Preliminary figures suggest it was 50 feet wide and weighed more than the Eiffel Tower.










SEE PHOTOS: Meteorite Crashes in Russia


NASA scientists have also estimated the force of the blast that occurred when the meteor fractured upon entering Earth's atmosphere was approximately 470 kilotons -- the equivalent of about 30 Hiroshima bombs.


Residents said today they still can't believe it happened here.


"It was something we only saw in the movies," one university student said. "We never thought we would see it ourselves."


Throughout the city, the streets are littered with broken glass. Local officials have announced an ambitious pledge to replace all the broken windows within a week. In the early morning hours, however, workers could still be heard drilling new windows into place.


Authorities have sent divers into a frozen lake outside the city, where a large chunk of the meteor is believed to have landed, creating a large hole in the ice. By the end of the day they had not found anything.


They are not the only ones looking for it.


Meteor hunters from around the world are salivating at what some are calling the opportunity of a lifetime. A small piece of the meteor could fetch thousands of dollars and larger chunks could bring in even hundreds of thousands.



Read More..

False memories prime immune system for future attacks









































IN A police line-up, a falsely remembered face is a big problem. But for the body's police force – the immune system – false memories could be a crucial weapon.












When a new bacterium or virus invades the body, the immune system mounts an attack by sending in white blood cells called T-cells that are tailored to the molecular structure of that invader. Defeating the infection can take several weeks. However, once victorious, some T-cells stick around, turning into memory cells that remember the invader, reducing the time taken to kill it the next time it turns up.












Conventional thinking has it that memory cells for a particular microbe only form in response to an infection. "The dogma is that you need to be exposed," says Mark Davis of Stanford University in California, but now he and his colleagues have shown that this is not always the case.












The team took 26 samples from the Stanford Blood Center. All 26 people had been screened for diseases and had never been infected with HIV, herpes simplex virus or cytomegalovirus. Despite this, Davis's team found that all the samples contained T-cells tailored to these viruses, and an average of 50 per cent of these cells were memory cells.












The idea that T-cells don't need to be exposed to the pathogen "is paradigm shifting," says Philip Ashton-Rickardt of Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study. "Not only do they have capacity to remember, they seem to have seen a virus when they haven't."












So how are these false memories created? To a T-cell, each virus is "just a collection of peptides", says Davis. And so different microbes could have structures that are similar enough to confuse the T-cells.












To test this idea, the researchers vaccinated two people with an H1N1 strain of influenza and found that this also stimulated the T-cells to react to two bacteria with a similar peptide structure. Exposing the samples from the blood bank to peptide sequences from certain gut and soil bacteria and a species of ocean algae resulted in an immune response to HIV (Immunology, doi.org/kgg).












The finding could explain why vaccinating children against measles seems to improve mortality rates from other diseases. It also raises the possibility of creating a database of cross-reactive microbes to find new vaccination strategies. "We need to start exploring case by case," says Davis.












"You could find innocuous pathogens that are good at vaccinating against nasty ones," says Ashton-Rickardt. The idea of cross-reactivity is as old as immunology, he says. But he is excited about the potential for finding unexpected correlations. "Who could have predicted that HIV was related to an ocean algae?" he says. "No one's going to make that up!"












This article appeared in print under the headline "False memories prime our defences"




















































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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Mexico to slaughter 486,000 chickens over bird flu






CELAYA, Mexico: Mexico will slaughter 486,000 chickens after an outbreak of bird flu was detected in the central state of Guanajuato, officials said Friday.

Poultry producer Bachoco reported a possible case of H7N3 influenza in five breeder farms late Wednesday, which agriculture ministry officials confirmed on Friday.

Authorities launched preventive measures, testing nearby farms to check if the outbreak had spread elsewhere.

Last year, a bird flu outbreak in the western state of Jalisco forced farmers to slaughter 22 million hens, sparking an egg crisis in Mexico, the world's top consumer of eggs per capita.

- AFP/fa



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Jesse Jackson Jr., wife agree to plead guilty


WASHINGTON (AP) — In a spectacular fall from political prominence, former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife agreed Friday to plead guilty to federal charges growing out of what prosecutors said was a scheme to use $750,000 in campaign funds for lavish personal expenses, including a $43,000 gold watch and furs.


Federal prosecutors filed one charge of conspiracy against the former Chicago congressman and charged his ex-alderman wife, Sandra, with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns for the years 2006 through 2011 that knowingly understated the income the couple received. Both agreed to plead guilty in deals with federal prosecutors.


Both face maximum penalties of several years in prison; he also faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and forfeitures. But the government did not immediately release the text of its plea agreements. Such agreements almost invariably call for prosecutors to recommend sentences below the maximum.


The son of a famed civil rights leader, Jackson, a Democrat, entered Congress in 1995 and resigned last November. Sandi, as she's known, was a Chicago alderman, but resigned last month amid the federal investigation.


Jackson used campaign money to buy such things as a $43,350 on a gold-plated, men's Rolex watch and $9,587.64 on children's furniture, according to court papers filed in the case. His wife spent $5,150 on fur capes and parkas, the document said.


"I offer no excuses for my conduct, and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made," the ex-congressman said in a written statement released by his lawyers. "I want to offer my sincerest apologies ... for my errors in judgment and while my journey is not yet complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for things that I did right."


Several messages left with Jackson's father, the voluble civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, were not returned Friday. The elder Jackson has often declined to comment about his son's health and legal woes over the past several months.


The government said, "Defendant Jesse L. Jackson Jr., willingly and knowingly, used approximately $750,000 from the campaign's accounts for personal expenses" that benefited him and his co-conspirator, who was not named in the one-count criminal information filed in the case. The filing of a criminal information means a defendant has waived the right to have a grand jury consider the case; it is used by federal prosecutors when they have reached a deal for a guilty plea.


The prosecutors' court filing said that upon conviction, Jackson must forfeit $750,000, plus tens of thousands of dollars' worth of memorabilia items and furs. The memorabilia includes a football signed by U.S. presidents, a Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen guitar, a Michael Jackson fedora, Martin Luther King Jr. memorabilia, Malcolm X memorabilia, Jimi Hendrix memorabilia and Bruce Lee memorabilia — all from a company called Antiquities of Nevada.


The conspiracy charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and other penalties. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins is assigned to the case.


Tom Kirsch, an attorney for Jackson's wife said she has signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors and would plead guilty to one tax count.


Kirsch said his client and her husband have supported each other. He said the episode has been stressful for Sandi Jackson, but she "expected to be held responsible ... and wants to put (it) behind her and her family."


The charge against Sandi Jackson carries a maximum of three-year prison sentence. But Kirsch says the agreement "does not contemplate a sentence of that length."


The court papers said that Jackson filed false financial reports with the U.S. House of Representatives in an attempt to conceal his and his wife's conversion of campaign funds for their personal benefit.


A black and red cashmere cape cost $1,500, a mink reversible parka cost $1,200 and a black fox reversible cost $1,500, prosecutors wrote.


According the government's court papers:


—Jackson and his wife carried out the scheme by using credit cards issued to Jackson's re-election campaigns to pay personal credit card bills for $582,772.58 in purchases by Jackson. Jackson provided his wife and a long-time campaign treasurer $112,150.39, solely for having the two carry out transactions that personally benefited Jackson.


—In a false filing with the House, the owner of an unidentified Alabama-based company issued a $25,000 check to pay down a balance on one of Jackson's personal credit cards. Jackson's financial disclosure statement with the House omitted the payment made on Jackson's behalf.


—In a false campaign filing with the Federal Election Commission, an unidentified treasurer for Jackson's campaigns reported that the campaign spent $1,553.09 at a Chicago Museum for "room rental-fundraiser." In fact, said the court papers, Jackson spent those funds to buy porcelain collector's items.


Jackson's resignation ended a once-promising political career tarnished by unproven allegations that he was involved in discussions to raise campaign funds for imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for appointment — which never came — to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. The House Ethics Committee, which no longer has any power over Jackson, may choose to issue a report on the matter.


Jackson denied any wrongdoing in the Blagojevich matter. But the suspicions, along with revelations that he had had an extramarital affair, derailed any aspirations for higher political office. It wasn't clear from the court papers whether the woman with whom he had the affair was among the half dozen people identified the documents by letters of the alphabet rather than by their names.


Since last June, Jackson has been hospitalized twice at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for treatment of bipolar disorder and other issues, and he stayed out of the public eye for months, even during the November elections.


___


Associated Press writer Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed to this report.


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Meteorites: Best Places to See Them Up Close


The meteorite that touched down in central Russia on Friday sent many people running, hoping to avoid getting hurt. Now, plenty of others will be running in search of valuable meteorite pieces, which can be filled with precious metals.

Although it can be cost prohibitive to collect them, museums and other tourist sites offer an inexpensive way to admire space rocks. (Related: Asteroid Impacts: 10 Biggest Known Hits)

Here are five noteworthy meteorites from around the globe.

1. Hoba Meteorite

Where is it: Right where it landed, in Namibia, South Africa. It was declared a National Monument in 1955.

Specs: This is the largest single meteorite ever found and the largest slab of naturally-occurring iron ever discovered on Earth's surface. The Hoba Meteorite weighs 60 tons and measures roughly nine feet wide by nine feet long, with a depth of three feet.

Origin: The Hoba is thought to have fallen through Earth's atmosphere 80,000 years ago, but it wasn't discovered until a farmer came across it in 1920. Despite its size, the meteorite left no impact crater, which scientists are still trying to explain. Many believe that the combination of its shape and the Earth's atmosphere must have significantly decreased the speed at which it was traveling before it crash-landed.

2. El Chaco Meteorite

Where is it: After an attempt to move the rock to Germany was blocked in 2012 by Argentine citizens and scientists, El Chaco and the rest of the pieces sit comfortably in the El Chaco province in northeastern Argentina.

Specs: The El Chaco Meteorite is one of many fragments of a group of iron meteorites called Campo del Cielo. Weighing over 37 tons, it is not only the largest fragment of that group but also the second-largest single-piece meteorite. The combined weight of the fragments discovered far exceeds 60 tons, which would have allowed it to steal the Hoba's mantle of largest meteorite found on Earth.

Origin: The meteorite was believed to have landed in the northeastern part of Argentina as part of a meteor shower sometime between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago.

3. Willamette Meteorite

Where is it now: The American Natural History Museum in New York

Specs: Weighing 15.5 tons, the iron Willamette Meteorite is the largest ever found in the United States. It is also the sixth-largest in the world.

Origin: Although discovered in Oregon in 1902 by a miner named Ellis Hughes, the pitted meteorite is believed to have crashed into Earth at least a million years ago, the result of an iron-nickel core of a planet or moon shattering in a stellar collision. It is revered by an American Indian tribe known as the Clackamas Chinook, who lived in Willamette Valley prior to European settlement.

4. Ahnighito, also known as the Tent

Where is it: The American Natural History Museum in New York

Specs: Ahnighito weighs in at 31 tons and is the largest meteorite ever moved by man.

Origin: The meteorite is one fragment of the massive Cape York Meteorite that was thought to hit Earth over 10,000 years ago in an area that is now northwestern Greenland.  Once belonging to the native Inuit tribe, the chunk of iron was coveted by many different people. It wasn't until 1897 when explorer Sir John Ross risked everything to take the Tent to New York. He had to manually slide the rock onto his ship, making it the ultimate battle of man vs. nature—with man coming out on top.

5. Bacubirito Meteorite

Where is it: It is currently on display at the Centro de Ciencias building in Culiacan, a city in northwestern Mexico.

Specs: The Bacubirito Meteorite weighs 24 tons—much smaller than the ones described above—but measuring 14 feet across, it is one of the longest meteorites ever found.

Origin: The meteorite was discovered in 1863 by geologist Gilbert Ellis Bailey and is considered one of Mexico's most famous tourist attractions.


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Carnival Cruise Ship Hit With First Lawsuit












The first lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Lines has been filed and it is expected to be the beginning of a wave of lawsuits against the ship's owners.


Cassie Terry, 25, of Brazoria County, Texas, filed a lawsuit today in Miami federal court, calling the disabled Triumph cruise ship "a floating hell."


"Plaintiff was forced to endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled vessel, and wade through human feces in order to reach food lines where the wait was counted in hours, only to receive rations of spoiled food," according to the lawsuit, obtained by ABCNews.com. "Plaintiff was forced to subsist for days in a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell."


Click Here for Photos of the Stranded Ship at Sea


The filing also said that during the "horrifying and excruciating tow back to the United States," the ship tilted several times "causing human waste to spill out of non-functioning toilets, flood across the vessel's floors and halls, and drip down the vessel's walls."


Terry's attorney Brent Allison told ABCNews.com that Terry knew she wanted to sue before she even got off the boat. When she was able to reach her husband, she told her husband and he contacted the attorneys.


Allison said Terry is thankful to be home with her husband, but is not feeling well and is going to a doctor.








Carnival's Triumph Passengers: 'We Were Homeless' Watch Video









Girl Disembarks Cruise Ship, Kisses the Ground Watch Video









Carnival Cruise Ship Passengers Line Up for Food Watch Video





"She's nauseated and actually has a fever," Allison said.


Terry is suing for breach of maritime contract, negligence, negligent misrepresentation and fraud as a result of the "unseaworthy, unsafe, unsanitary, and generally despicable conditions" on the crippled cruise ship.


"Plaintiff feared for her life and safety, under constant threat of contracting serious illness by the raw sewage filling the vessel, and suffering actual or some bodily injury," the lawsuit says.


Despite having their feet back on solid ground and making their way home, many passengers from the cruise ship are still fuming over their five days of squalor on the stricken ship and the cruise ship company is likely to be hit with a wave of lawsuits.


"I think people are going to file suits and rightly so," maritime trial attorney John Hickey told ABCNews.com. "I think, frankly, that the conduct of Carnival has been outrageous from the get-go."


Hickey, a Miami-based attorney, said his firm has already received "quite a few" inquiries from passengers who just got off the ship early this morning.


"What you have here is a) negligence on the part of Carnival and b) you have them, the passengers, being exposed to the risk of actual physical injury," Hickey said.


The attorney said that whether passengers can recover monetary compensation will depend on maritime law and the 15-pages of legal "gobbledygook," as Hickey described it, that passengers signed before boarding, but "nobody really agrees to."


One of the ticket conditions is that class action lawsuits are not allowed, but Hickey said there is a possibility that could be voided when all the conditions of the situation are taken into account.


One of the passengers already thinking about legal action is Tammy Hilley, a mother of two, who was on a girl's getaway with her two friends when a fire in the ship's engine room disabled the vessel's propulsion system and knocked out most of its power.


"I think that's a direction that our families will talk about, consider and see what's right for us," Hilley told "Good Morning America" when asked if she would be seeking legal action.






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Sand-grain-sized drum extends reach of quantum theory


































The banging of a tiny drum heralds the intrusion of the weird world of quantum mechanics into our everyday experience. Though no bigger than a grain of sand, the drum is the largest object ever to have been caught obeying the uncertainty principle, a central idea in quantum theory.












As well as extending the observed reach of quantum theory, the finding could complicate the hunt for elusive gravitational waves : it suggests that the infinitesimal motion caused by these still-hypothetical ripples in spacetime could be overwhelmed by quantum effects.













The uncertainty principle says that you cannot simultaneously determine both a particle's exact position and momentum. For example, bouncing a photon off an electron will tell you where it is, but it will also change the electron's motion, creating fresh uncertainty in its speed.












This idea limits our ability to measure the properties of very small objects, such as electrons and atoms. The principle should also apply to everyday, macroscopic objects, but this has not been tested – for larger objects, the principle's effects tend to be swamped by other uncertainties in measurement, due to random noise, say.











Quantum drum













To extend the known reach of the uncertainty principle, Tom Purdy and colleagues of the University of Colorado, Boulder, created a drum by tightly stretching a 40-nanometre-thick sheet of silicon nitride over a square frame with sides of half a millimetre – about the width of a grain of sand. They placed the drum inside a vacuum chamber cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero, minimising any interference by random noise.












By continuously firing a stream of photons at the drum they were able to get increasingly precise measurements of the position of the skin at any moment. However, this also caused the skin to vibrate at an unknown speed. When they attempted to determine its momentum, the error in their measurement had increased – just as the uncertainty principle predicts.












"You don't usually have to think about quantum mechanics for objects you can hold in your hand," says Purdy.












That the uncertainty principle holds sway at such a large scale could affect the hunt for gravitational waves, which are predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity but have never been detected.











Mitigation strategy












Gravitational wave detectors look for very slight changes in the distance between two test masses caused by passing spacetime ripples. Purdy says his team's experiment confirms long-held suspicions that quantum uncertainty could overwhelm these very small changes.













Now he and others can use the drum to explore more advanced measurement techniques to mitigate the effects. For example, uncertainty in an object's momentum could lead to future uncertainty in its position and there should be ways to minimise such knock-on effects. "You can't avoid the uncertainty principle, but you can in some clever ways make it [such that] increasing the momentum doesn't add back to the uncertainty in position at a later time," says Purdy.











His experiment is a neat demonstration of the breakdown of the traditional notion that the atomic world is quantum while the macroscopic world is classic, says Gerard Milburn of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, who was not involved in the work. Previous, attempts to blur the quantum-classical divide have involved entangling diamonds and demonstrating quantum superposition in a strip of metal.













Despite these feats, Milburn doesn't rule out the prospect of a breakdown on really large scales. "Of course maybe one day we will see quantum mechanics fail at some scale. Testing it to destruction is a good motivation for going down this path," he says.












Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1231282


















































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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Capriles says Venezuela lying about Chavez health






CARACAS: Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles on Thursday again accused the government of lying about the health of cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez, who is convalescing in Cuba.

"Most probably, they have lied to us about the condition of the president of the republic during the past two months," Capriles told a press conference.

He said authorities in Caracas had already "lied" to the people by saying the national currency would not be devalued -- only to announce the devaluation of the bolivar by more than 30 per cent, which went into effect Wednesday.

"If a person can sign documents, then why can't that person speak to the nation? Therefore, they are lying -- the president is not really speaking or signing anything," Capriles said.

Chavez, 58, has not been seen or heard from since his last cancer operation on December 11 in Havana.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Wednesday that the firebrand leftist leader was undergoing "extremely tough and complex" treatment in the Cuban capital.

Declining to provide details about the course of treatment, Maduro insisted that Chavez was facing his medical travails with a "fighting spirit."

Capriles, who lost to Chavez in October's presidential election, however said the president could be in a condition that is "totally different" from what government ministers have described.

The governor of Miranda state refused to say whether he would again run for the presidency should a special election be called if Chavez -- who has been in power since 1999 -- is unable to carry on.

Chavez was too sick to attend his own inauguration on January 10, prompting the government to delay the swearing-in indefinitely under an interpretation of the constitution that was heavily criticized by the opposition.

Throughout his illness, first detected in June 2011, Chavez has refused to relinquish the powers of the presidency.

- AFP/jc



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Senate GOP blocks Hagel vote for now


WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked the nomination of former GOP senator Chuck Hagel as the nation's next defense secretary over unrelated questions about President Barack Obama's actions in the aftermath of the deadly raid on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya. Obama accused Republicans of playing politics with national security during wartime, and Democrats vowed to revive the nomination after Congress' weeklong break.


By 58-40, with one abstention, the Senate fell short of the 60-vote threshold required to advance Hagel's nomination to a final, up-or-down vote on his confirmation. Four Republicans voted with Democrats to end the debate and proceed to a final vote: Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Mike Johanns of Nebraska.


Obama reacted immediately, hammering Republicans for an unprecedented filibuster of a nominee for defense secretary and insisting that Hagel — a former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska and twice-wounded Vietnam combat veteran — will eventually win confirmation. He would succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is stepping down after four years as CIA director and Pentagon chief.


"It's just unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at a time when I'm still presiding over a war in Afghanistan and I need a secretary of defense who is coordinating with our allies to make sure that our troops are getting the kind of strategy and mission that they deserve," the president said in an online chat sponsored by Google.


In the final minutes of the tally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., switched his vote from "yes" to "no," a procedural move that allows him to revive the nomination after the break. He set another vote for Feb. 26.


"Just when you thought things couldn't get worse, it gets worse," the Democratic leader lamented of the chamber's bitter partisanship.


The successful Republican effort to block a vote on Hagel leaves one of the most contentious nominations of the Obama presidency in limbo, although Republicans signaled that they would relent and allow a simple majority vote on Hagel when they return from their recess.


Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., voted against ending debate. But he said that he expects to change his vote, and he believes many of his GOP colleagues will do the same.


"I'm confident that after a reasonable period of time I'm going to vote to end the debate so that we can have an up-or-down vote on Chuck Hagel," Alexander said. "I suspect there will be a large number of Republican senators who also do that."


Echoing a complaint by other Republicans, Alexander called Thursday's vote "unfortunate" and "unnecessary" because Hagel's nomination came up on the Senate floor too quickly — just two days after it was approved by a bitterly divided Armed Services Committee.


Still, a week without any resolution and the possibility of any surprises are the last things any White House wants for its nominees. Hagel's nomination has been unusual, facing a well-funded opposition that has unleashed a barrage of criticism in campaign-style television and print ads. Hagel has faced intense opposition from Republicans, who have challenged his past statements and votes on Israel, Iran, Iraq and nuclear weapons.


At least one group insisted shortly after the vote that it would redouble its efforts to defeat Obama's choice.


"The Emergency Committee for Israel will continue to work to convince a majority of senators of the undeniable truth that we can do much, much better than Mr. Hagel," William Kristol, chairman of the group said in a statement.


The vote on Hagel combined with the delay on CIA Director-designate John Brennan's nomination puts Republicans in a tough position as Democrats are certain to cast them as filibustering two critical members of the Obama's second-term national security team.


"Today's vote to filibuster Chuck Hagel's nomination by Republicans is a disgrace, and the GOP is now holding America's security and its troops hostage," said Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and chairman of VoteVets.org.


Republicans, led by Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, had been blocking the confirmation of their former colleague until they received information from the White House on when Obama contacted Libyan officials after the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi last September in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.


The White House responded to questions about Benghazi by saying former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf on Obama's behalf on Sept. 11, the day of the attack, to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama spoke to Magariaf on the evening of Sept. 12.


The Obama administration also had disclosed the calls at the time they were made.


Reid said it was "shocking" and "tragic" that the GOP would attempt to block Hagel's nomination at a time when the U.S. military is engaged in so many places around the world. "Not a single nominee for secretary of defense ever in the history of our country has been filibustered," he said in a speech on the Senate floor.


In the nation's history of hundreds of Cabinet nominees, the Senate has only rejected nine nominees and 21 were withdrawn or no action was taken, according to Senate historian Donald Ritchie. On just two occasions has the Senate imposed a 60-vote threshold for a Cabinet nominee. Neither was the president's pick for defense secretary.


A full Senate vote on Hagel had been expected Friday after Reid filed a motion to limit debate. While Democrats hold a 55-45 edge in the Senate and have the numbers to confirm Hagel on a majority vote, they needed the support of five Republicans to clear the way for a majority vote. In the end, they only got four.


Graham had said Wednesday he would vote against ending debate on Hagel's nomination.


"There seems to not be much interest to hold this president accountable for a national security breakdown that led to the first ambassador being killed in the line of duty in over 30 years," Graham said. "No, the debate on Chuck Hagel is not over. It has not been serious. We don't have the information we need. And I'm going to fight the idea of jamming somebody through until we get answers about what the president did personally when it came to the Benghazi debacle."


The Senate Intelligence Committee is pushing off a vote on Brennan amid demands that the White House turn over more details about drone strikes against terror suspects and about the Benghazi attacks. Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California said a vote likely will be postponed until late February.


The Armed Services Committee on Tuesday voted to approve Hagel by a 14-11 vote, with all the panel's Democrats backing him. The committee's Republicans were unified in opposition to their onetime colleague.


If ultimately confirmed by the Senate, Hagel, 66, would take charge of the U.S. armed forces at a time of turmoil. Automatic cuts to the Pentagon's budget are looming, American troops in Afghanistan are being halved over the next year, North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon, Iran remains a threat in the Persian Gulf region, and Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Mali and Tunisia all are in a state of unrest.


At a Pentagon award ceremony on Thursday for Clinton, Panetta said it was fitting to recognize her accomplishments as secretary of state on Valentine's Day. And he said the second-best Valentine's Day present would be for the Senate to confirm Hagel and allow Panetta and his wife to "get the hell out of town." He said he's got his belongings packed.


Republicans accused Democrats of setting up a test vote Thursday that they knew would fail so the president's allies could paint Republicans as obstructionists during the Presidents Day break.


"We could have worked this out," said Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.


___


Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Donna Cassata and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.


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Why We Walk … and Run … And Walk Again to Get Where We're Going


You have to get to a bus stop to catch the once-an-hour express ... or to a restaurant to meet a friend ... or to a doctor's office. You've got maybe a half a mile to cover and you're worried you'll be late. You run, then you stop and walk, then run some more.

But wait. Wouldn't it be better to run the whole way?

Not necessarily.

A new study by an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State University tests the theory that people subconsciously mix walking and running so they get where they need to. The idea is that "people move in a manner that minimizes energy consumption," said the professor, Manoj Srinivasan.

Srinivasan asked 36 subjects to cover 400 feet (122 meters), a bit more than the length of a football field. He gave them a time to arrive at the finish line and a stopwatch. If the deadline was supertight, they ran. If they had two minutes, they walked. And if the deadline was neither too short nor too far off, they toggled between walking and running.

The takeaway: Humans successfully make the walk-run adjustment as they go along, based on their sense of how far they have to go. "It's not like they decide beforehand," Srinivasan said. (Get tips, gear recommendations, and more in our Running Guide.)

The Best Technique for "the Twilight Zone"

"The mixture of walking and running is good when you have an intermediate amount of time," he explained. "I like to call it 'the Twilight Zone,' where you have neither infinite time nor do you have to be there now."

That ability to shift modes served ancient humans well. "It's basically an evolutionary argument," Srinivasan said. A prehistoric human seeking food would want to move in a way that conserves some energy so that if food is hard to find, the hunter won't run out of gas—and will still be able to rev it up to escape predators.

The study, published on January 30 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, doesn't answer that question of how we make such adjustments.

Runners: Take a Break if You Need It

The mix of walking and running is also something that nonelite marathoners are familiar with. Covering 26.2 miles might take less of a toll if the runner stops running from time to time, walks a bit, then resumes a jogging pace. "You use less energy overall and also give yourself a bit of a break," Srinivasan noted. (Watch: An elite marathoner on her passion for running.)

One take-home lesson is: Runners, don't push it all the time. A walk-run mix will minimize the energy you expend.

Lesson two: If you're a parent walking with your kid, and the kid lags behind, then runs to catch up, then lags again, the child isn't necessarily trying to annoy you. Rather, the child is perhaps exhibiting an innate ability to do the walk-run transition.

Potential lesson three: The knowledge that humans naturally move in a manner that minimizes energy consumption might be helpful in designing artificial limbs that feel more natural and will help the user reduce energy consumption.

The big question for Manoj Srinivasan: Now that he has his walk-run theory, does he consciously switch between running and walking when he's trying to get somewhere? "I must admit, no," he said. "When I want to get somewhere, I just let the body do its thing." But if he's in a rush, he'll make a mad dash.

"Talk to you tomorrow," he signed off in an email to National Geographic News. "Running to get to teaching now!"


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Water wars loom as the US runs dry


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Tennis: Nadal out of Brazil Open doubles over knee fear






SAO PAULO: Rafael Nadal will not play his scheduled doubles match at the Brazil Open Wednesday because of "knee overuse", organisers said.

But they added that the Spanish star intends to play his opening singles match Thursday against Brazilian Joao Souza.

World number five Nadal had been scheduled to team up with Argentina's David Nalbandian in a second-round encounter against Argentine Horacio Zeballos and Austrian Oliver Marach on Wednesday.

Former world number one Nadal only returned to the tour in Chile last week, where he lost in the final, after a seven-month injury absence.

"The conditions are very difficult. The court is not in the best condition and the ball is very difficult to control," Nalbandian told a press conference.

Nalbandian and Nadal won a hard-fought match 6-3, 3-6, 11-9 against Spaniards Pablo Andujar and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on the court late Tuesday.

"It's too bad I cannot play the doubles after the match Rafa and I had (yesterday)," the Argentine said. "But he (Nadal) has to take care of himself and prepare for a long and hard year".

At a press conference Tuesday, Nadal complained about having to play so many hardcourt events

"That is a theme among the players and doctors," he said.

While conceding that reducing the number of events on hard surface was not possible at this time, he added: "I think that the ATP has to work to think of how to lengthen tennis players' careers."

"Can you imagine football players playing on cement?" he added.

"I am a bit tired after a hard week in Chile. But it was positive. The process of recovery follows its course," Nadal also said. "As always I come here to do the best possible and hope that things turn out all right."

Asked when he expected to be 100 per cent fit, he responded: "I cannot know the future. If my knee allows, I will do everything possible to be at my best."

"I am a player who plays with a lot passion, a lot of energy. I suppose that does not help the knee."

"My long-term objective is to be in Brazil in 2016 (for the Rio Summer Olympics). I am going to work to arrive in good condition at what are likely to be my last Olympics," he said.

Considered by many to be the best ever claycourt player, seven-time French Open champion Nadal was back in Chile last week for the first time since a surprise second-round exit at Wimbledon in June.

The world number five lost the singles and doubles finals in the Vina del Mar Open on Sunday.

- AFP/jc



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Senators delay Brennan CIA vote over drone memos


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Intelligence Committee will delay voting to confirm John Brennan as CIA director as the panel's Democratic chairwoman demanded Wednesday that the White House turn over more details about lethal drone strikes on terror suspects and last September's attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left the U.S. ambassador there and three other Americans dead.


Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said the vote likely will be pushed off until late February.


In a statement, the California Democrat said senators need to see more classified legal opinions that justify using the unmanned spy planes to kill al-Qaida suspects overseas, including American citizens. The Obama administration last week released two of nine classified Justice Department memos outlining the legal reasoning to Feinstein's committee just hours before Brennan's confirmation hearing in front of the panel.


Feinstein said the memos are necessary "in order to fully evaluate the executive branch's legal reasoning, and to broaden access to the opinions to appropriate members of the committee staff."


The White House declined to comment Wednesday.


Feinstein and other lawmakers are considering creating a special court to review strikes against U.S. citizens. In 2011, drone strikes in Yemen killed three Americans: U.S. born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old-son and al-Qaida propagandist Samir Khan.


Last week, Brennan defended the strikes in his confirmation testimony, but also said he welcomed more discussion on the controversial program.


"American citizens by definition are due much greater due process than anybody else by dint of their citizenship," Brennan told Feinstein's committee.


The Senate and House Judiciary committees also want to see the documents, and other lawmakers are pressing the White House for more for information on the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi the killed Ambassador Chris Stevens.


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Are Honeybees Losing Their Way?



A single honeybee visits hundreds, sometimes thousands, of flowers a day in search of nectar and pollen. Then it must find its way back to the hive, navigating distances up to five miles (eight kilometers), and perform a "waggle dance" to tell the other bees where the flowers are.


A new study shows that long-term exposure to a combination of certain pesticides might impair the bee's ability to carry out its pollen mission.


"Any impairment in their ability to do this could have a strong effect on their survival," said Geraldine Wright, a neuroscientist at Newcastle University in England and co-author of a new study posted online February 7, 2013, in the Journal of Experimental Biology.


Wright's study adds to the growing body of research that shows that the honeybee's ability to thrive is being threatened. Scientists are still researching how pesticides may be contributing to colony collapse disorder (CCD), a rapid die-off seen in millions of honeybees throughout the world since 2006.


"Pesticides are very likely to be involved in CCD and also in the loss of other types of pollinators," Wright said. (See the diversity of pollinating creatures in a photo gallery from National Geographic magazine.)


Bees depend on what's called "scent memory" to find flowers teeming with nectar and pollen. Their ability to rapidly learn, remember, and communicate with each other has made them highly efficient foragers, using the waggle dance to educate others about the site of the food source.



Watch as National Geographic explains the waggle dance.


Their pollination of plants is responsible for the existence of nearly a third of the food we eat and has a similar impact on wildlife food supplies.


Previous studies have shown certain types of pesticides affect a bee's learning and memory. Wright's team wanted to investigate if the combination of different pesticides had an even greater effect on the learning and memory of honeybees.


"Honeybees learn to associate floral colors and scents with the quality of food rewards," Wright explained. "The pesticides affect the neurons involved in these behaviors. These [affected] bees are likely to have difficulty communicating with other members of the colony."


The experiment used a classic procedure with a daunting name: olfactory conditioning of the proboscis extension reflex. In layman's terms, the bee sticks out its tongue in response to odor and food rewards.


For the experiment, bees were collected from the colony entrance, placed in glass vials, and then transferred into plastic sandwich boxes. For three days the bees were fed a sucrose solution laced with sublethal doses of pesticides. The team measured short-term and long-term memory at 10-minute and 24-hour intervals respectively. (Watch of a video of a similar type of bee experiment.)


This study is the first to show that when pesticides are combined, the impact on bees is far worse than exposure to just one pesticide. "This is particularly important because one of the pesticides we used, coumaphos, is a 'medicine' used to treat Varroa mites [pests that have been implicated in CCD] in honeybee colonies throughout the world," Wright said.


The pesticide, in addition to killing the mites, might also be making honeybees more vulnerable to poisoning and effects from other pesticides.


Stephen Buchmann of the Pollinator Partnership, who was not part of Wright's study, underscored how critical pollinators are for the world. "The main threat to pollinators is habitat destruction and alteration. We're rapidly losing pollinator habitats, natural areas, and food—producing agricultural lands that are essential for our survival and well being. Along with habitat destruction, insecticides weaken pollinators and other beneficial insects."


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Ship Stranded: Love Boat to Horror Honeymoon













A Texas couple's fantasy wedding quickly turned into a nightmare honeymoon when the fire-damaged Carnival Cruise ship carrying them became stranded in the Gulf of Mexico.


Rob Mowlam, 37, and Stephanie Stevenson, 27, of Nederland, Texas, got married on the Carnival Triumph on Saturday. The four-day cruise was meant to be back to shore on Monday, but was left disabled by an engine fire on Sunday.


The ship is being slowly towed to shore and is expected to dock in Mobile, Ala., on Thursday if weather permits. The vessel is without air conditioning, many working toilets and some restaurant service. Passengers, many who are sleeping in tents on deck, have told ABC News the smell on the ship is foul.


That is the honeymoon setting for Mowlam and Stevenson.


"[Rob Mowlam] had been with his girlfriend, or fiance, for a long period of time and they just took the next step," Mowlam's brother James Mowlam III told ABCNews.com. "The captain is the king of the world when they're on the boat and he hitched them up."


James Mowlam said he was shocked when he heard about the stranded boat and the increasingly dire conditions on the ship.


"It is an atrocious scene to be subjected to," he said.


Mowlam said he has not been able to communicate with his brother, but that his father has had sporadic communication with him.


"It would be my guess that this would probably not be on anyone's great list of memorable wedding experiences," Mowlam said with a laugh. "Although, my mom told him that she was hoping they had a memorable wedding and I think this would classify as a memorable wedding experience."






Lt. Cmdr. Paul McConnell/U.S. Coast Guard/AP Photo











Carnival Cruise Ship Stranded for Third Day Watch Video









Carnival Cruise Ship Stranded off Yucatan Peninsula Watch Video









Cruise Ship Stranded Without Power in Gulf of Mexico Watch Video





The bride's brother, Justin Davis, told ABCNews.com that his sister works for a doctor's office and the cruise was a gift from the doctor to the staff.


Davis has not been able to speak to Stevenson but said that her two young sons are being cared for by her mother. He said his sister is tough and he guesses she's probably not scared.


"She might be a little aggravated at the situation, but I'd say she's [probably] handling it really well," he said.


Others on the ship do not seem to be handling the situation so well.


Elderly and disabled passengers aboard the ship are struggling to cope with the worsening conditions, according to at least one passenger.


"Elderly and handicap are struggling, the smell is gross," passenger Ann Barlow text-messaged ABC News overnight. "Our room is leaking sewage."


The head of Carnival Cruise Lines said the British-U.S.-owned company was working hard to ensure the thousands of passengers stranded on the disabled ship were as comfortable as possible while the vessel was being towed to a port in Alabama.


"I need to apologize to our guests and to our families that have been affected by a very difficult situation," Carnival Cruise Lines president and CEO Gerry Cahill said at a news conference Tuesday evening.


It was the first time since a fire erupted in Triumph's engine room Sunday, knocking out its four engines, that a company representative had spoken publicly. The Triumph, with roughly 4,200 people on board, was left bobbing like a 100,000-ton cork for more than 24 hours. Giant sea-faring tugboats then hooked up to the ship and began towing the nearly 900-foot-long ship to land.


Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva told The Associated Press Tuesday that a passenger with a pre-existing medical condition was taken off the ship as a precaution. Everyone else will likely have to weather conditions such as scarce running water, no air conditioning and long lines for food.


Back on land, passenger Barlow's 11-year-old twins told ABC News Tuesday they are worried as more passengers continue to talk about living with limited power and sanitation.






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Plants listen more closely to kin than strangers









































It is not just humans that like a natter with their nearest and dearest – plants pay most attention to their closest relatives.











When an insect bites a leaf, many plants release volatile chemicals to prime their neighbours for attack. The defences this triggers vary – some plants respond by attracting predatory insects that eat the herbivores, others make themselves less tasty.













Now Richard Karban of the University of California, Davis, has shown that for the sagebrush, responses to these warning signals can vary with relatedness.












At the start of three growing seasons, Karban's team exposed different branches of the same plants to volatile chemicals. The substances came from relatives of the same species whose leaves had been clipped to trigger chemical release.












By the end of the seasons, herbivores had done less damage to the branches exposed to chemicals from close relatives than to those receiving signals from more distant relatives – the warning probably prompting the plants to release herbivore-deterring chemicals, says Karban.












He has previously shown that the blend of volatiles varies enormously between individuals – "so much so that big peaks in some individuals are undetectable in others", he says.












However, there is some similarity between family members. Karban thinks this variability is being exploited by the plants as a kind of family-specific signature, to prevent eavesdroppers from listening in and to give those that share the same genes a greater chance of survival.












Some plants are genetically more resistant to being eaten than others, so it makes sense that plants should care more about their kin's fate than that of the general population.












"It is very elegant work," says Susan Dudley from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, who has shown that plants competing for space in a small pot are less aggressive if they are related to their neighbours.












She thinks this kind of kin-recognition is probably common among many plants.












Journal Reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.3062


















































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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17 gunmen dead in Thai military base attack

 





BANGKOK, Thailand: Scores of heavily-armed gunmen stormed a military base in unrest-plagued southern Thailand, an army spokesman said on Wednesday, in a major assault that left at least 17 militants dead.

"Some 100 fully armed militants stormed the base, where there were 60 marines," Colonel Pramote Promin, southern army spokesman, told AFP.

He said the attack, one of the most ambitious in several years of violence in Thailand's three southernmost provinces, had left at least 17 assailants dead. No military casualties were reported.

- AFP/de




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Obama vows job creation without adding to deficit


WASHINGTON (AP) — Pledging to revive a "rising, thriving middle class," President Barack Obama promised Tuesday night to create solid new jobs without raising the federal deficit. He's calling for a "smarter government" but not a bigger one.


In excerpts released ahead of his State of the Union address, Obama called job creation his "North Star" and implored a divided Congress to center its work on attracting more jobs to the U.S., equipping Americans to compete for those positions and making sure hard work leads to a decent living.


"It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country — the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love," Obama said.


The president said his proposals to increase spending on manufacturing, infrastructure and clean-energy technologies would be fully paid for, though he did not specify in the excerpts how he would offset the cost of his proposals.


"Nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime," Obama said. "It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth."


In focusing his annual address on jobs and the deficit, the president is underscoring the degree to which the economy still threatens to disrupt his broader second-term agenda. Despite marked improvements since he took office four years ago, the unemployment rate is still hovering around 8 percent and consumer confidence has slipped.


White House officials said Obama was offering an outline for job creation, though much of his blueprint apparently includes elements Americans have heard before, including spending more money to boost manufacturing and improve infrastructure. Getting that new spending through Congress appears unlikely, given that it would require support from Republicans who blocked similar measures during Obama's first term.


Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising Republican star, was to deliver his party's response. In excerpts of his remarks, Rubio also appealed to the middle class, but sought to draw a distinction with the president by citing "our free enterprise economy" as the source of prosperity, not the government.


The president was expected to be uncompromising in his calls for lawmakers to offset across-the-board spending cuts that are scheduled to begin March 1 with a mix of tax increases as well as targeted budget cuts.


The president hasn't detailed where he wants lawmakers to take action, though he and his aides often mention as examples of unnecessary tax breaks a benefit for owners of private jets and tax subsidies for oil and gas companies. Such measures are modest, however. Ending the corporate plane and oil and gas breaks would generate about $43 billion in revenue over 10 years.


That appeal for new revenue is getting stiff-armed by Republicans, who reluctantly agreed at the start of the year to increase tax rates on the wealthiest Americans in exchange for extending Bush-era tax rates for the rest of taxpayers.


"He's gotten all the revenue he's going to get," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. "Been there, done that."


Still, buoyed by his re-election, the president and his top aides are confident that Americans back their vision for the economy. Immediately following his speech, Obama was to hold a conference call with supporters to urge them to pressure lawmakers to back his agenda. He'll also seek to rally public support with trips this week to North Carolina, Georgia and Illinois.


Though Obama was devoting less time to foreign policy in this year's speech, he was to announce that 34,000 U.S. troops — about half the size of the American force — would leave Afghanistan within a year. The drawdown announcement has been highly anticipated and puts the nation on pace to formally finish the protracted war by the end of 2014.


And he was expected to sharply rebuke North Korea for defying the international community and launching a nuclear test hours before Obama's remarks. The White House said Obama would make the case that the impoverished nation's nuclear program has only further isolated it from the international community. North Korea said Tuesday that it successfully detonated a nuclear device in defiance of U.N. warnings.


Also Tuesday night:


— The president was to press Congress to overhaul immigration laws and tackle climate change.


— His wish-list was to include expanding early childhood education and making it easier for voters to cast ballots in elections.


— Obama was expected to make an impassioned plea for stricter gun laws, including universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.


First lady Michelle Obama was to sit with the parents of a Chicago teenager shot and killed just days after she performed at the president's inauguration. Twenty-two House members have invited people affected by gun violence, according to Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who helped with the effort. And Republican Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas said he had invited rocker Ted Nugent, a long-time gun control opponent who last year said he would end up "dead or in jail" if Obama won re-election.


___


Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Josh Lederman contributed to this report.


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Where Will Pope Benedict XVI Retire?


Someone with a suspicious mind and deep knowledge of Vatican trivia might have guessed that something was going on months ago. Last November, a community of cloistered nuns vacated the  Mater Ecclesiae monastery, located inside Vatican Gardens, two years before they were expected to do so.

The monastery has since been closed for renovation.

On Monday, in the press conference that followed Pope Benedict XVI's announcement that he will resign at the end of the month, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office,  revealed that the monastery will be the retired pontiff's new home. (Photo Gallery: Inside the Vatican.)

"When renovation work on the monastery of cloistered nuns inside the Vatican is complete, the Holy Father will move there for a period of prayer and reflection," Lombardi said.

Until then, the pope will stay at the Apostolical Palace and the Pontifical Villas in Castel Gandolfo, a small lake town about 15 miles (24 kilometers) southeast of Rome, which serves as the traditional summer residence for popes.

The Mater Ecclesiae monastery was founded in 1992 by Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, "to create a place to house an international convent for contemplative life within the walls of Vatican City," according to the Vatican City State website.

It has housed small communities of cloistered nuns whose main task has been to provide spiritual assistance to the pope and to the Roman Catholic Church as a whole by praying in Latin and singing Gregorian chants.

The nuns would also embroider papal garments and cultivate a small organic orchard and a rose garden next to their residence. In a 2009 interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the monastery's then abbess said that Benedict particularly appreciated the special-recipe marmalade that the nuns would prepare out of the oranges and lemons they picked in the Vatican orchard.

It is not yet clear for how long the soon-to-be-former pope will stay at the monastery. Lombardi has said that Benedict will not participate in the March conclave that will elect his successor, stressing that there will be "no confusion or division arising from his resignation."

Lombardi also said that he wasn't sure of Benedict's future title-there are no canon law provisions or historical precedents regarding the statute, prerogatives, or titles for a retired pope.

Resignations of Popes Past

Only a handful of popes have willfully or forcefully resigned in the church's history, the last case going back to 1415, almost 600 years ago.

"It was Pope Gregory XII, who, in a very sacrificial gesture, offered to resign so that the Council of Constance could assume his power and appoint a new pope, and in so doing bring an end [to the] Great Western Schism," Donald Prudlo, associate professor of history at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, told Vatican Radio.

Italian and foreign commentators have been likening Benedict's choice to a famous case of papal abdication-that of Celestine V, who was elected in 1294 and left the Roman throne only five months later.

"At the end of the 13th century, a very holy hermit named Peter was elected as Pope Celestine V in order to break a deadlock in the conclave that had lasted nearly three years," Prudlo explained. "He was elected because of his personal holiness, sort of a unity candidate. And once he got there, being a hermit, not used to the ways of the Roman Curia, he found himself somewhat unsuited to the task."

So he resigned and lived as a hermit—or, some historians say, as a prisoner—in a castle belonging to his successor, Boniface VIII, before dying in 1296.

Celestine is widely recognized as the object of Dante Alighieri's scolding verses in his Divine Comedy. The former pope was proclaimed saint in 1313.

In 2009, Benedict XVI visited Celestine's tomb in L'Aquila (map) and left the pallium—a vestment that is the symbol of papal authority—on the grave. Now that gesture is being interpreted as a premonition of the choice he would eventually make.


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