Herbal Viagra actually contains the real thing



































IF IT looks too good to be true, it probably is. Several "herbal remedies" for erectile dysfunction sold online actually contain the active ingredient from Viagra.












Michael Lamb at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and colleagues purchased 10 popular "natural" uplifting remedies on the internet and tested them for the presence of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. They found the compound, or a similar synthetic drug, in seven of the 10 products – cause for concern because it can be dangerous for people with some medical conditions.












Lamb's work was presented last week at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting in Washington DC.












This article appeared in print under the headline "Herbal Viagra gets a synthetic boost"


















































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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Japan, EU to launch free trade talks: report






TOKYO: Japan and the European Union are to hold a summit this month to formally launch negotiations on a huge free trade deal, a report said Sunday.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso will visit Tokyo in the last week of March to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Nikkei business daily said.

The report said the two sides would reach a final accord to launch long-awaited negotiations aiming to liberalise trade and remove barriers on services and investment.

The EU and Japanese leaders also plan to begin separate talks on a "political accord" featuring cooperation on security, the environment and science and technology.

EU trade ministers agreed in November to launch free trade talks with Tokyo while pledging to safeguard Europe's struggling carmakers.

European car and car parts manufacturers fear the removal of tariffs will lead to a rise in Japanese car imports, pointing to a previous trade deal with South Korea that bumped up sales of South Korean vehicles in Europe.

EU trade ministers have pledged to safeguard struggling carmakers but auto companies have criticised the envisaged deal, with the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association calling it "a one-way street' for Japanese cars.

- AFP/ir



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Outside cash prominent in L.A. school board races









Outside spending is dominating campaigns for three seats on the Los Angeles Board of Education, surpassing $4.4 million through Friday.


The outcome of Tuesday's primary is expected to shape the path of improvement efforts in the nation's second-largest school system.


The costliest race is in District 4, which spans the Westside and the western San Fernando Valley. There, one-term incumbent and former teacher Steve Zimmer faces parent and attorney Kate Anderson.





The pro-Anderson and anti-Zimmer effort has spent more than $1.1 million. Also, Anderson's campaign has raised more than $250,000.


Conversely, the pro-Zimmer and anti-Anderson independent campaign has spent more than $950,000. Zimmer's campaign has collected $82,406.


Zimmer benefits from an independent campaign by employee unions and the L.A. County Federation of Labor. Anderson is backed by a coalition of wealthy donors, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and advocates for independently managed charter schools.


The coalition is the biggest money player, having assembled more than $3.2 million.


Spending in the other two races reflects campaign strategies of the coalition and the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles.


In District 2, which stretches outward from downtown, the coalition supports two-term incumbent Monica Garcia. She is the mayor's closest ally on the school board and a steadfast supporter of L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy.


The coalition hopes to push Garcia to victory on Tuesday by helping her capture more than 50% of the vote in a field with four challengers. The coalition has spent the lion's share of a $1.2-million independent campaign; some unions also have chipped in with significant contributions. Garcia's campaign has raised nearly $430,000.


Garcia's challengers have raised a combined $46,000. The teachers union has divided a modest $18,000 among three of the challengers. Its goal is to force a runoff, and to that end, UTLA launched an anti-Garcia campaign at a cost of $90,000.


District 6, in the eastern San Fernando Valley, is an open seat. There, the coalition hopes to sweep Antonio Sanchez past two other candidates. Independent campaigns on his behalf — including support from some labor unions — have logged more than $1 million in expenditures. Sanchez's own campaign has reported donations of close to $55,000.


There are no independent campaigns on behalf of Monica Ratliff, who has raised about $15,000, or Maria Cano, who has raised about $17,000.


Hoping to preserve campaign resources, the teachers union has not helped fund a candidate in this contest, although it endorsed all three.


howard.blume@latimes.com





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We Didn’t Domesticate Dogs. They Domesticated Us.


In the story of how the dog came in from the cold and onto our sofas, we tend to give ourselves a little too much credit. The most common assumption is that some hunter-gatherer with a soft spot for cuteness found some wolf puppies and adopted them. Over time, these tamed wolves would have shown their prowess at hunting, so humans kept them around the campfire until they evolved into dogs. (See "How to Build a Dog.")

But when we look back at our relationship with wolves throughout history, this doesn't really make sense. For one thing, the wolf was domesticated at a time when modern humans were not very tolerant of carnivorous competitors. In fact, after modern humans arrived in Europe around 43,000 years ago, they pretty much wiped out every large carnivore that existed, including saber-toothed cats and giant hyenas. The fossil record doesn't reveal whether these large carnivores starved to death because modern humans took most of the meat or whether humans picked them off on purpose. Either way, most of the Ice Age bestiary went extinct.

The hunting hypothesis, that humans used wolves to hunt, doesn't hold up either. Humans were already successful hunters without wolves, more successful than every other large carnivore. Wolves eat a lot of meat, as much as one deer per ten wolves every day-a lot for humans to feed or compete against. And anyone who has seen wolves in a feeding frenzy knows that wolves don't like to share.

Humans have a long history of eradicating wolves, rather than trying to adopt them. Over the last few centuries, almost every culture has hunted wolves to extinction. The first written record of the wolf's persecution was in the sixth century B.C. when Solon of Athens offered a bounty for every wolf killed. The last wolf was killed in England in the 16th century under the order of Henry VII. In Scotland, the forested landscape made wolves more difficult to kill. In response, the Scots burned the forests. North American wolves were not much better off. By 1930, there was not a wolf left in the 48 contiguous states of America.  (See "Wolf Wars.")

If this is a snapshot of our behavior toward wolves over the centuries, it presents one of the most perplexing problems: How was this misunderstood creature tolerated by humans long enough to evolve into the domestic dog?

The short version is that we often think of evolution as being the survival of the fittest, where the strong and the dominant survive and the soft and weak perish. But essentially, far from the survival of the leanest and meanest, the success of dogs comes down to survival of the friendliest.

Most likely, it was wolves that approached us, not the other way around, probably while they were scavenging around garbage dumps on the edge of human settlements. The wolves that were bold but aggressive would have been killed by humans, and so only the ones that were bold and friendly would have been tolerated.

Friendliness caused strange things to happen in the wolves. They started to look different. Domestication gave them splotchy coats, floppy ears, wagging tails. In only several generations, these friendly wolves would have become very distinctive from their more aggressive relatives. But the changes did not just affect their looks. Changes also happened to their psychology. These protodogs evolved the ability to read human gestures.

As dog owners, we take for granted that we can point to a ball or toy and our dog will bound off to get it. But the ability of dogs to read human gestures is remarkable. Even our closest relatives-chimpanzees and bonobos-can't read our gestures as readily as dogs can. Dogs are remarkably similar to human infants in the way they pay attention to us. This ability accounts for the extraordinary communication we have with our dogs. Some dogs are so attuned to their owners that they can read a gesture as subtle as a change in eye direction.

With this new ability, these protodogs were worth knowing. People who had dogs during a hunt would likely have had an advantage over those who didn't. Even today, tribes in Nicaragua depend on dogs to detect prey. Moose hunters in alpine regions bring home 56 percent more prey when they are accompanied by dogs. In the Congo, hunters believe they would starve without their dogs.

Dogs would also have served as a warning system, barking at hostile strangers from neighboring tribes. They could have defended their humans from predators.

And finally, though this is not a pleasant thought, when times were tough, dogs could have served as an emergency food supply. Thousands of years before refrigeration and with no crops to store, hunter-gatherers had no food reserves until the domestication of dogs. In tough times, dogs that were the least efficient hunters might have been sacrificed to save the group or the best hunting dogs. Once humans realized the usefulness of keeping dogs as an emergency food supply, it was not a huge jump to realize plants could be used in a similar way.

So, far from a benign human adopting a wolf puppy, it is more likely that a population of wolves adopted us. As the advantages of dog ownership became clear, we were as strongly affected by our relationship with them as they have been by their relationship with us. Dogs may even have been the catalyst for our civilization.

Dr. Brian Hare is the director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center and Vanessa Woods is a research scientist at Duke University. This essay is adapted from their new book, The Genius of Dogs, published by Dutton. To play science-based games to find the genius in your dog, visit www.dognition.com.


Read More..

Herbal Viagra actually contains the real thing



































IF IT looks too good to be true, it probably is. Several "herbal remedies" for erectile dysfunction sold online actually contain the active ingredient from Viagra.












Michael Lamb at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and colleagues purchased 10 popular "natural" uplifting remedies on the internet and tested them for the presence of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. They found the compound, or a similar synthetic drug, in seven of the 10 products – cause for concern because it can be dangerous for people with some medical conditions.












Lamb's work was presented last week at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting in Washington DC.












This article appeared in print under the headline "Herbal Viagra gets a synthetic boost"


















































If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.




































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


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Malaysia threatens 'drastic' steps in Borneo siege






LAHAD DATU, Malaysia: Malaysia threatened Saturday to take "drastic action" against intruding followers of a self-proclaimed Filipino sultan after a tense standoff erupted into a shootout that killed 14 people.

Twelve followers of the little-known sultan of Sulu and two Malaysian security personnel were killed in Friday's firefight, police said, as the more than two-week-old siege in a remote corner of Malaysia turned deadly.

Dozens of Filipinos have been holed up on Borneo island, surrounded by a massive Malaysian police and military cordon, since landing by boat from their nearby Philippine islands to insist the area belongs to their Islamic leader.

"We want them to surrender immediately. If they don't, they will face drastic action," Hamza Taib, police chief of the Malaysian state of Sabah where the drama was taking place, told AFP.

He declined to provide details of what security forces had in store but his comments echoed growing Malaysian impatience with the situation.

In Manila, Philippine President Benigno Aquino urged the gunmen to surrender immediately.

"To those who have influence and the capacity to reason with those in (the affected town of) Lahad Datu, I ask you to convey this message: surrender now, without conditions," he said in a statement.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose government has been embarrassed by the security breach, said in the shootout's aftermath that he told police and armed forces to take whatever action was necessary to end the impasse.

"Now there is no grace period for the group to leave," he was quoted as saying by Malaysian media, blaming the intruders for sparking the violence.

But the deadly clash drew criticism from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

"Why is our government lax about national security,?" he said in a statement late Friday, adding that the government must explain what transpired in the bloody clash claiming two Malaysian lives.

Muslim-majority Malaysia had previously avoided tough talk, expressing hope the intruders would leave peacefully.

But even if they give up, they will face Malaysian prosecution, Hamza said, after he met with Malaysia's home minister and other top security officials.

Local residents were staying indoors and the usually bustling coastal town of Lahad Datu was quiet with most shops closed on Saturday.

Georgina Paulino, a 50-year-old street vendor, complained that her business has been badly hit.

"People are afraid they could be shot if they come out," she told AFP.

The Filipinos, who are estimated to number between 100 and 300, sailed from their remote islands to press Jamalul Kiram III's claim to Sabah.

Kiram, 74, claims to be the heir to the Islamic sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled parts of the southern Philippines and a portion of Borneo.

The Sulu sultanate's power faded about a century ago but it has continued to receive nominal payments from Malaysia for Sabah under a historical lease arrangement passed down from European colonial powers.

- AFP/ck



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Chinatown landmark named for pioneering jurist









He was the first Chinese American graduate of Stanford Law School and the first Chinese American judge to be appointed to the bench in the continental United States.


On Friday, he became the first Chinese American to have a Los Angeles landmark named after him: Judge Delbert E. Wong Square, which encompasses the intersection of Hill and Ord streets at the western edge of Chinatown.


Councilman Ed Reyes hopes that someday the stretch of Hill Street that runs in front of the Chinatown public library will be named after Wong, who died in 2006 at age 85. Wong and his wife, Dolores, were instrumental in getting the library built, so the location would be fitting.





"The square is a starting point," said Reyes, who presided over the dedication.


A street in Little Tokyo bears the name of Judge John Aiso, the nation's first Japanese American judge.


Wong was born in the Central Valley town of Hanford in 1920, the son of a grocer from China's Guangdong province. The family later moved to Bakersfield, where Chinese and other minorities were restricted to the balconies of movie theaters and could only use the public swimming pool on Fridays, according to an oral history by Wong's son, Marshall Wong.


Wong graduated from UC Berkeley and enlisted in the Army Air Forces during World War II. As a navigator on a B-17 Flying Fortress, he completed 30 bombing missions in Europe, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals.


When he returned home, Wong decided to attend law school. His parents disapproved, fearing that racial prejudice would prevent him from finding work.


After graduating from Stanford, Wong found that his job options were indeed limited. The few Chinese American attorneys in California practiced immigration law. Wong gravitated to the public sector, working as a deputy legislative counsel and then as a deputy state attorney general.


In 1959, Wong became the first Chinese American judge in the continental United States when then-Gov. Pat Brown appointed him to the Los Angeles County Municipal Court. He later joined the Superior Court, serving for more than two decades. He continued to make headlines in retirement, leading a probe into racial discrimination at the Los Angeles Airport Police Bureau and working as a special master in the O.J. Simpson case.


Wong and his wife were among the founding benefactors of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Chinatown Service Center. They were also pioneers in another arena: housing. After a real estate agent told them that Chinese could not buy in Silver Lake, they sought out the property's owner, who was happy to sell to them.


Wong's widow and three of his four children attended Friday's dedication.


California now has more than 90 Asian American trial judges. Four of seven state Supreme Court justices are Asian American, including Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. But young people passing through Judge Delbert E. Wong Square should remember those who paved the way, perhaps even drawing inspiration from them, Marshall Wong said.


"The children who grow up in this neighborhood will pass by and wonder, 'Who was Judge Wong?' Hopefully, they'll learn something about his story and his work and think, 'Maybe I should go to law school and be a judge someday.'"


cindy.chang@latimes.com





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Black Hole Spins at Nearly the Speed of Light


A superfast black hole nearly 60 million light-years away appears to be pushing the ultimate speed limit of the universe, a new study says.

For the first time, astronomers have managed to measure the rate of spin of a supermassive black hole—and it's been clocked at 84 percent of the speed of light, or the maximum allowed by the law of physics.

"The most exciting part of this finding is the ability to test the theory of general relativity in such an extreme regime, where the gravitational field is huge, and the properties of space-time around it are completely different from the standard Newtonian case," said lead author Guido Risaliti, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and INAF-Arcetri Observatory in Italy. (Related: "Speedy Star Found Near Black Hole May Test Einstein Theory.")

Notorious for ripping apart and swallowing stars, supermassive black holes live at the center of most galaxies, including our own Milky Way. (See black hole pictures.)

They can pack the gravitational punch of many million or even billions of suns—distorting space-time in the region around them, not even letting light to escape their clutches.

Galactic Monster

The predatory monster that lurks at the core of the relatively nearby spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is estimated to weigh in at about two million times the mass of the sun, and stretches some 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometers) across-more than eight times the distance between Earth and the moon, Risaliti said. (Also see "Black Hole Blast Biggest Ever Recorded.")

Risaliti and colleagues' unprecedented discovery was made possible thanks to the combined observations from NASA's high-energy x-ray detectors on its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) probe and the European Space Agency's low-energy, x-ray-detecting XMM-Newton space observatory.

Astronomers detected x-ray particle remnants of stars circling in a pancake-shaped accretion disk surrounding the black hole, and used this data to help determine its rate of spin.

By getting a fix on this spin speed, astronomers now hope to better understand what happens inside giant black holes as they gravitationally warp space-time around themselves.

Even more intriguing to the research team is that this discovery will shed clues to black hole's past, and the evolution of its surrounding galaxy.

Tracking the Universe's Evolution

Supermassive black holes have a large impact in the evolution of their host galaxy, where a self-regulating process occurs between the two structures.

"When more stars are formed, they throw gas into the black hole, increasing its mass, but the radiation produced by this accretion warms up the gas in the galaxy, preventing more star formation," said Risaliti.

"So the two events—black hole accretion and formation of new stars—interact with each other."

Knowing how fast black holes spin may also help shed light how the entire universe evolved. (Learn more about the origin of the universe.)

"With a knowledge of the average spin of galaxies at different ages of the universe," Risaliti said, "we could track their evolution much more precisely than we can do today."


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Space gold rush should not be a free-for-all






















We need a consensus on regulations surrounding space mining if it’s to enrich us all
















EVER since we took our first steps out of Africa, human exploration has been driven by the desire to secure resources. Now our attention is turning to space.












The motivation for deep-space travel is shifting from discovery to economics. The past year has seen a flurry of proposals aimed at bringing celestial riches down to Earth. No doubt this will make a few billionaires even wealthier, but we all stand to gain: the mineral bounty and spin-off technologies could enrich us all.












But before the miners start firing up their rockets, we should pause for thought. At first glance, space mining seems to sidestep most environmental concerns: there is (probably!) no life on asteroids, and thus no habitats to trash. But its consequences – both here on Earth and in space – merit careful consideration.












Part of this is about principles. Some will argue that space's "magnificent desolation" is not ours to despoil, just as they argue that our own planet's poles should remain pristine. Others will suggest that glutting ourselves on space's riches is not an acceptable alternative to developing more sustainable ways of earthly life.












History suggests that those will be hard lines to hold, and it may be difficult to persuade the public that such barren environments are worth preserving. After all, they exist in vast abundance, and even fewer people will experience them than have walked through Antarctica's icy landscapes.











There's also the emerging off-world economy to consider. The resources that are valuable in orbit and beyond may be very different to those we prize on Earth (see "Space miners hope to build first off-Earth economy"). Questions of their stewardship have barely been broached – and the relevant legal and regulatory framework is fragmentary, to put it mildly.













Space miners, like their earthly counterparts, are often reluctant to engage with such questions. One speaker at last week's space-mining forum in Sydney, Australia, concluded with a plea that regulation should be avoided. But miners have much to gain from a broad agreement on the for-profit exploitation of space. Without consensus, claims will be disputed, investments risky, and the gains made insecure. It is in all of our long-term interests to seek one out.


















This article appeared in print under the headline "Taming the final frontier"


















































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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US sailors jailed for Okinawa rape: report






TOKYO: Two US sailors who raped a Japanese woman in Okinawa last October, sparking island-wide anger, were on Friday jailed for nine and 10 years, a report said.

The Naha District Court in Okinawa said Christopher Browning, 24, should go to prison for 10 years while Skyler Dozierwalker, 23, should serve nine, Jiji Press reported.

Browning and Dozierwalker, who were not stationed in Okinawa, had been drinking on the evening of the attack, which took place on the street and left the unidentified woman with neck injuries.

During an earlier court appearance the two men had admitted the offence, which caused outrage on the sub-tropical islands and beyond, and led to a nationwide night-time curfew on all US military personnel in Japan.

Despite the curfew, misconduct involving US servicemen, much of it drunken, has continued to fuel anti-US sentiment in communities with bases.

Wary of yet another public relations disaster, the US moved quickly to try to lower the temperature in the immediate aftermath of the rape, with ambassador John Roos holding a special news conference at which he appeared visibly angry and upset.

"The United States will cooperate in every way possible with the Japanese authorities to address this terrible situation."

"I understand the anger that many people feel with respect to this reported incident," he said. "I have a 25-year-old daughter myself, so this is very personal to me."

The attack came amid already high tensions in Okinawa, which saw demonstrations last year against the US deployment to the island of the tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft.

The aircraft's perceived poor safety record has been picked over in Japanese media and by local opponents, but commentators say it is a proxy issue and resentment over what many see as an unfair burden is at the root of objections.

Okinawa is the reluctant host to more than half of the 47,000 American service personnel in Japan, and the crimes, noise and risk of accidents associated with their bases regularly provoke ire in the local community.

In 1995 the gang rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by US servicemen sparked mass protests resulting in a US-Japan agreement to reduce the huge US military presence on the Okinawan chain.

Okinawans say other parts of Japan should take more of the burden and want bases closed or reduced in size.

- AFP/xq



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