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Nigerian Super Model and Dancer - Amanda Igwe

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Lady Gaga


The controversial Lady Gaga continues to be a rich material for the press and tabloids. After her constant change of appearances and looks, she decided take the famous sexy Marlilyn Monroe as her muse in fashion.

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Mercy the Drama Queen and the sister Grace.


Science


Scientist seeks WHO approval for malaria vaccine

AS the world battles to stop malaria in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a Nigerian pharmacist, Ben Amodu, has laid claim to developing an anti-pyretic immune boosting vaccine for the treatment of the scourge. Amodu claimed that the anti-malaria vaccine, called Saabmal, could confer immunity against malaria for three months and can be repeated over the year “without any single side effects”. The combination, which he said originated from an experiment from his native Igala herbal vegetables, also has in its blend anti-plasmodia and anti-oxidant mix. Amodu told The Guardian: “Already, the discovery has been sent for publication in an international journal, from where the World Health Organisation took the abstract, analysed, reviewed and adopted it”.

Scientists confirm rocks fell from Mars


WASHINGTON – They came from Mars, not in peace, but in pieces. Scientists are confirming that 15 pounds of rock collected recently in Morocco fell to Earth from Mars during a meteorite shower last July.

This is only the fifth time in history scientists have chemically confirmed Martian meteorites that people witnessed falling. The fireball was spotted in the sky six months ago, but the rocks weren't discovered on the ground in North Africa until the end of December. This is an important and unique opportunity for scientists trying to learn about Mars' potential for life. So far, no NASA or Russian spacecraft has returned bits of Mars, so the only samples scientists can examine are those that come here in a meteorite shower. Scientists and collectors are ecstatic, and already the rocks are fetching big bucks because they are among the rarest things on Earth — rarer even than gold. The biggest rock weighs over 2 pounds.

"It's Christmas in January," said former NASA sciences chief Alan Stern, director of the Florida Space Institute at the University of Central Florida. "It's nice to have Mars sending samples to Earth, particularly when our pockets are too empty to go get them ourselves." A special committee Tuesday of meteorite experts, including some NASA scientists, confirmed test results that showed the rocks came from Mars, based on their age and chemical signature. Astronomers think millions of years ago something big smashed into Mars and sent rocks hurtling through the solar system. After a long journey through space, one of those rocks plunged through Earth's atmosphere, breaking into smaller pieces.

Most other Martian meteorite samples sat around on Earth for millions of years — or at the very least, decades — before they were discovered, which makes them tainted with Earth materials and life. These new rocks, while still probably contaminated because they have been on Earth for months, are purer. The last time a Martian meteorite fell and was found fresh was in 1962. All the known Martian rocks on Earth add up to less than 240 pounds. The new samples were scooped up by dealers from those who found them. Even before the official certification, scientists at NASA, museums and universities scrambled to buy or trade these meteorites.

"It's incredibly fresh. It's highly valuable for that reason," said Carl Agee, director of the Institute of Meteoritics and curator at the University of New Mexico. "This is a beauty. It's gorgeous." Meteorite dealer Darryl Pitt said he is charging $11,000 to $22,500 an ounce and has sold most of his supply already. At that price, the Martian rock costs about 10 times as much as gold.

One of the key decisions the scientists made Tuesday was to officially connect these rocks to the fiery plunge witnessed by people and captured on video last summer. The announcement and the naming of these meteorites — called Tissint — came from the International Society for Meteoritics and Planetary Science, which is the official group of 950 scientists that confirms and names meteorites. Tony Irving of the University of Washington did the scientific analysis on the rocks and said there is no doubt they are from the red planet. Several of the world's top experts in meteorites told The Associated Press that they, too, are convinced. Scientists can tell when meteorites are from Mars because they know what the Martian atmosphere is made of, thanks to numerous probes sent there. The chemical signature of the rocks and the Martian air match, Irving said.

Another clue is that because Mars is geologically active, its rocks tend to be much younger — millions of years old instead of hundreds of millions or more — than those from the moon or asteroids. Most of the known Martian rocks on Earth have been around for centuries or longer and have been found in Antarctica or the desert. They look so similar to dark Earth rocks that if they fell in other places, such as Maryland, they would blend right in and never be discovered. Because known Martian meteorite falls happen only once every 50 years or so — 1815 in France, 1865 in India, 1911 in Egypt and 1962 in Nigeria — this is a once-in-a-career or even a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Jeff Grossman, a NASA scientist who is the meteorite society's database editor, said there is a higher probability of finding "something interesting" from Mars on these rocks because they fell so recently. However, six months is a long time for Earthly contamination to occur, he said. University of Alberta meteorite expert Chris Herd, who heads the committee that certified the discovery, said the first thing he would do with the rocks would be to rinse them with solvents to try to get rid of earthly contamination and see what carbon-based compounds are left. But Cornell University astronomer Steve Squyres, who is the principal investigator for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Program and the space agency's go-to guy on Mars, said unfortunately this type of rock isn't the kind scientists are most hoping for. This find is igneous, or volcanic, rock.

A softer kind of rock that could hold water or life would be better, but that type is unlikely to survive a fiery re-entry through Earth's atmosphere, he said. Scientists are hoping NASA and the European Space Agency team up in 2018 to send robotic spaceships to Mars that can bring back samples of rock and dirt. Just this past weekend, a Russian probe that was going to try to bring samples back from a Martian moon came plummeting back to Earth in failure. A Martian meteorite that was buried in Antarctica made news in 1996. NASA scientists theorized the rock showed traces of life from Mars. Even the White House declared it the first sign of life outside of Earth. Years of study since then have led much of the astronomy world to conclude there was insufficient evidence to support the claim.

Russia asks if US radar ruined space probe


MOSCOW – Russia will look into the possibility that a U.S. radar station could have inadvertently interfered with the failed Mars moon probe that plummeted to Earth, Russian media reported Tuesday, but experts argued that any such claims were far-fetched.

NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs also said the U.S. space agency was not using the military radar equipment in question at the time of the Russian equipment failure, but instead was using radar in the Mojave desert in the western United States and in Puerto Rico.

Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Yury Koptev, former head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, as saying investigators will conduct tests to check if U.S. radar emissions could have impacted the Phobos-Ground space probe, which was stuck in Earth's orbit for two months before crashing down near Chile and Brazil. "The results of the experiment will allow us to prove or dismiss the possibility of the radar's impact," said Koptev, who is heading the government commission charged with investigating causes of the probe's failure.

U.S. experts suggested that the Russians should look for causes of the failure at home.

"The Russian Space Agency would do themselves and the future of Russian planetary exploration some good to look inside the project and the agency to find the cause of the Phobos-Ground mishap," said Alan Stern, former associate administrator for science at NASA and now director of the Florida Space Institute at the University of Central Florida. The current Roscosmos head, Vladimir Popovkin, has said the craft's malfunction could have been caused by foreign interference. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin acknowledged U.S. radar interference as a possible cause but said it was too early to make any conclusions and suggested the problem could be the spacecraft itself. "Practially all disruptions are due to flaws in the technologies manufactured 12 to 13 years ago," he said.

Other space experts said the possibility of U.S. interference should be considered only after investigating all other possible causes. Alexander Zakharov, a specialist at the Space Research Institute, which developed the Phobos-Ground, called the suggestion "contrived" and doubted the United States has radar powerful enough to interfere with a spacecraft at an altitude of around 200 kilometers (124 miles).

"You can come up with a lot of exotic reasons," Zakharov told RIA Novosti. "But first you need to look at the apparatus itself, and there is a problem there." The Phobos-Ground fell to Earth on Sunday in the vicinity of Chile and Brazil, but no confirmed impact sites have been reported. The $170 million craft was one of the heaviest and most toxic pieces of space junk ever to crash to Earth, but space officials and experts said the risks posed by its crash were minimal because the toxic rocket fuel on board and most of the craft's structure would burn up in the atmosphere high above the ground anyway. The Phobos-Ground probe was designed to travel to one of Mars' twin moons, Phobos, land on it, collect soil samples and fly them back to Earth in 2014 in one of the most daunting interplanetary missions ever. It got stranded in Earth's orbit after its Nov. 9 launch, and efforts by Russian and European Space Agency experts to bring it back to life failed.

Phobos-Ground was Russia's most expensive and the most ambitious space mission since Soviet times. Its mission to the crater-dented, potato-shaped Martian moon was to give scientists precious materials that could shed more light on the genesis of the solar system. Russia's space chief has acknowledged the Phobos-Ground mission was ill-prepared, but said that Roscosmos had to give it the go-ahead so as not to miss the limited Earth-to-Mars launch window.

NASA spaceport breaks ground for shuttle display


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA's retired space shuttle Atlantis is a step closer to completing its final journey. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex broke ground Wednesday for Atlantis' permanent home, a $100 million exhibit due to open in summer 2013. Schoolchildren waved red, white and blue Atlantis flags — 33 flags representing each of Atlantis' space missions — as state and local dignitaries joined former shuttle staff at the construction site.

The astronaut who commanded Atlantis' final spaceflight, Christopher Ferguson, told the more than 100 guests that Atlantis will serve as "a reminder of the limitless potential" of Americans and also inspire children, some of whom will become future space travelers.

Ferguson, who now works for Boeing on new space vehicles, made note of the effort to preserve the past while working toward the future: "I'd like you all to stay tuned as we turn to the next chapter of the journey that will never end."

Shuttle Discovery will actually be the first to ship out to museums. In April, it will head to the National Air and Space Museum's display hangar outside Washington. Shuttle Endeavour will travel to the California Science Center in Los Angeles in the second half of the year. NASA's 30-year shuttle program ended last July with the voyage of Atlantis. Since then, workers have been getting them ready for display by draining hazardous fuel, disconnecting or removing some systems and replacing the main engines with replicas.

Delaware North Parks & Resorts, which runs the Kennedy visitor complex for NASA, used an industrial-size digger to unveil a huge picture of the planned exhibit hall. The six-story structure will feature two curved "wings" in orange and gold colors, representing the intense heat of re-entry. Atlantis will be displayed as if flying in orbit, with the cargo bay doors open and the robot arm extended.

Conference in overtime on future of climate talks

DURBAN, South Africa – Deep into overtime, negotiators from 194 nations worked straight through a second night, parsing drafts and seeking compromises to map out the future pathway to fight global warming.

Delegates, working on little sleep, huddled with allies to prepare for a decisive meeting later Saturday, when it will become clear whether the diverse and long-bickering parties can come together on a plan to extend and broaden the global campaign to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

"We think it's important not to give up now. We have come a long way," said a weary Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner on climate issues, speaking more than 12 hours after the two-week conference had been scheduled to close Friday evening.

But she was concerned that the process was taking so long that ministers would leave before decisions could be adopted, costing hard-won momentum. "It would really really be a pity if we lose that now," she told The Associated Press.

Small island countries and the world's poorest nations lined up behind an EU plan to begin talks on a future agreement that would come into effect no later than 2020. As negotiations progressed, the United States and India eased objections to compromise texts, but China remained a strong holdout, EU officials said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the continuing talks.

Under discussion was an extension of binding pledges by the EU and a few other industrial countries to cut carbon emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. Those commitments expire next year.

The EU, the primary bloc bound by commitments under the 1997 protocol, conditioned an extension on starting new talks on an accord to succeed Kyoto. The talks would conclude by 2015, allowing five years for it to be ratified by national legislatures. The plan insists the new agreement equally oblige all countries — not just the few industrial powers — to abide by emission targets.

Developing countries are adamant that the Kyoto commitments continue since it is the only agreement that compels any nation to reduce emissions. Industrial countries say the document is deeply flawed because it makes no demands on heavily polluting developing countries. It was for that reason that the U.S. never ratified it. Host country South Africa organized the final stages of negotiations into "indabas," a Zulu-language word meaning important meetings that carry the weight of a rich African culture.

At the indaba, the chief delegate from fewer than 30 countries, each with one aide, sat around an oblong table to thrash over text. Dozens of delegates were allowed to stand and observe from the periphery of the room but not to participate.

After the first meeting that ran overnight into Friday morning, conference president Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is South Africa's foreign minister, drafted an eight-point compromise on the key question of the legal form of a post-2020 regime. The wording would imply how tightly countries would be held accountable for their emissions.

But the text was too soft for the Europeans and for the most vulnerable countries threatened by rising oceans, more frequent droughts and fiercer storms.

With passion rarely heard in a negotiating room, countries like Barbados pleaded for language instructing all parties to dig deeper into their carbon emissions and to speed up the process, arguing that the survival of their countries and millions of climate-stressed people were at risk.

Nkoana-Mashabane drafted new text after midnight Saturday that largely answered those criticisms. The U.S. told the indaba it could live with the language, but the reactions of China and India were not clear.

NASA OKs Feb. launch of private space station trip

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A private California company will attempt the first-ever commercial cargo run to the International Space Station in February.

NASA announced the news Friday, one year and one day after Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, became the first private business to launch a capsule into orbit and return it safely to Earth.

On Feb. 7, SpaceX will attempt another orbital flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This time, the unmanned Dragon capsule will fly to the space station and dock with a load of supplies.

NASA stressed it is a target date.

"Pending all the final safety reviews and testing, SpaceX will send its Dragon spacecraft to rendezvous with the International Space Station in less than two months," said NASA's No. 2, deputy administrator Lori Garver. "So it is the opening of that new commercial cargo delivery era."

NASA has turned to industry to help stock the space station now that the space shuttles are retired, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in this startup effort. The station currently is supplied by Russian, European and Japanese vessels.

SpaceX's Dragon capsule will fly within two miles of the space station, for a checkout of all its systems. Then it will close in, with station astronauts grabbing the capsule with a robotic arm. The Dragon ultimately will be released for a splashdown in the Pacific. None of the other cargo carriers come back intact; they burn up on re-entry.

If the rendezvous and docking fail, SpaceX will try again. That was the original plan: to wait until the third mission to actually hook up with the station and delivery supplies. SpaceX wanted to hurry it up.

None of the supplies on board the Dragon will be one-of-a-kind or crucial, in case of failure.

SpaceX — run by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk — is one of several companies vying for space station visiting privileges. It hopes to step up to astronaut ferry trips in perhaps three more years. In the meantime, Americans will be forced to continue buying seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

"Every decision that we make at SpaceX is focused on ... taking crew to space," SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said Friday at a forum in Seattle about NASA's future. She said the company is "thrilled" at the prospect of delivering cargo to the space station early next year, and noted that the company is shooting for 2014 with astronauts.

Congress has appropriated $406 million for the commercial crew effort for 2012, considerably less than NASA's requested $850 million. "It is nevertheless a significant step," Garver said at the forum, televised by NASA. She said NASA is evaluating whether it can speed up when U.S. companies "deliver our precious astronauts to and from the space station."

Rats' bad rap: Study shows them nice, not naughty



>New experiments show rats demonstrating compassion and helping other rodents. It's a trait some scientists thought was reserved only for humans and higher primates.

And it's certainly not the sneaky, selfish rap that goes with calling someone a dirty rat.

In repeated tests, rats freed another trapped rat in their cage, even when yummy chocolate served as a tempting distraction. Twenty-three of the 30 rats opened the trap by pushing in a door. The rats could have gobbled the chocolate before freeing their partners, but often didn't, choosing to help and share the goodies.

"Basically they told us (freeing another rat) is as important as eating chocolate," said study author Peggy Mason of the University of Chicago. "That's a very striking thing."

In some cases, the rats first took the chocolate chips out of a container, but didn't eat them, then freed the other rat and shared "almost as if they were serving them chocolate," Mason said. The research is reported in Thursday's journal Science.

Also, females showed more consistent empathy than males, Mason said. All six females freed their trapped partner; 17 of the 24 males did so. This confirms other studies that show females demonstrating more pro-social behavior than males, she said.

There were days when the male rats took the day off from helping their trapped partner, but the females never did, she said.

Jeff Mogil at McGill University in Canada, who wasn't part of the study, said it was a tad surprising but even more convincing.

"It's a very, very obvious demonstration of the phenomena," Mogil said. Both scientists said social empathy is probably a characteristic that is important in the evolution of animals.

Mason joked that if rats can be so caring and helpful "there's a sense of optimism. It's something we could be."

The Misplaced Stuff: NASA loses moon, space rocks



WASHINGTON – Astronauts may have had the `right stuff' to go to the moon, but when it comes to keeping track of what they brought back, NASA seems to have misplaced some of that stuff.

In a report issued by the agency's Inspector General on Thursday, NASA concedes that more than 500 pieces of moon rocks, meteorites, comet chunks and other space material were stolen or have been missing since 1970. That includes 218 moon samples that were stolen and later returned and about two dozen moon rocks and chunks of lunar soil that were reported lost last year.

NASA, which has loaned more than 26,000 samples, needs to keep better track of what's sent to researchers and museums, the report said. The lack of sufficient controls "increases the risk that these unique resources may be lost," the report concluded.

After last year's case of a missing moon sample loaned to a Delaware astronomical observatory — which the astronomers there claimed they returned to NASA — the agency's inspector general decided to audit about one quarter of the thousands of samples of moon rocks, lunar dust, meteorites, and other space material that the agency loaned.

Of those cases, 19 percent of the researchers either couldn't account for the samples or they had material that NASA records indicated had been destroyed or loaned to someone else. That included 22 meteorites and 2 comet samples from a daring mission that grabbed comet chunks.

In two cases, one researcher still had nine lunar samples he borrowed 35 years ago and another had 10 chunks of meteorites he kept for 14 years. Neither had ever worked on them. Another researcher had 36 moon samples and kept them for 16 years after he had finished his research.

The audit also unearthed records that listed hundreds of samples that no longer existed.

In the Delaware case, NASA loaned the Mount Cuba observatory a disk of moon rocks and moon dust in 1978 with the loan expiring in 2008. In 2010, NASA contacted the observatory and learned that its manager had died and the observatory couldn't find the sample, the inspector general's report said.

But that's not how the observatory sees it.

"We didn't lose it," said University of Delaware physics professor Harry Shipman, a trustee of the observatory. Yes, the observatory manager died, but sometime in the 1990s "he returned it to NASA. We don't know what NASA did with it," he said.

NASA told the auditors that the observatory returned meteorites, but not the lunar sample and that's still missing, said inspector general spokeswoman Renee Juhans.

NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage said the agency will continue to loan out material to scientists and for educational display, but will adopt the specific recommendations the inspector general made to improve its tracking.

"NASA does not consider these national treasure assets to be at high risk," he said.

Atom smasher to narrow search for Higgs boson

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GENEVA – Scientists at the world's largest atom smasher have new data that shows with greater certainty where to find a long-sought theoretical particle that would help explain the origins of the universe.

Physicists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva, told The Associated Press on Thursday that reams of new data will help in the search for the Higgs boson, whose existence is theorized under the main particle physics theory that explains the Big Bang.

Finding it would be an enormous scientific breakthrough for the physics world and would help explain why different particles have different masses. That is because the particle itself is thought to give mass to other particles, and thus to objects and creatures in the Universe.

CERN scientists say their data from two main experiments using CERN's $10-billion Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border will be made public next Tuesday, but any firm discovery will have to wait until next year.

They say the data helps narrow the region of the search because it excludes some of the higher energy ranges where the Higgs boson might be found, and shows some intriguing possibilities involving a small number of "events" at the lower energy ranges.

"What's exciting is we know we're close to getting something in focus. We know we're close to the stage where we're going to see something," said Joe Incandela, a physicist who will lead one of CERN's two main experiments next year.

"We're really right at the boundary of where you might get a vague hint of something," he said. "But whenever you're talking about that small number of events, there's no real statement you can make."

Thousands of researchers around the world have been poring over the data generated at the collider, and many expect it to produce significant discoveries about the makeup of matter and other mysteries of the universe.

High energy beams of protons are sent crashing into each other though a 17-mile (27-kilometer tunnel) to see what happens when they collide. The protons travel at incredible speeds in conditions simulating those 1 trillionth to 2 trillionths of a second after the Big Bang.

Physicists once thought protons and neutrons were the smallest components of the atom's nucleus, but colliders showed they are made of quarks and gluons and that there are other forces and particles.

Speculation about progress in the hunt for the precise level of energy where the Higgs boson might be found had the physics world and blogosphere buzzing Thursday. An American scientist who's collaborating in the hunt for the Higgs boson said people are really excited about the new CERN data but it will be another year before anything that is definite.

"There's a lot of drama," said Drew Baden, chair of the physics department at the University of Maryland. "It's not anything anybody can look at and say, 'There it is.' "

The hunt for the Higgs boson is different than the much-publicized research by French and Italian researchers that appeared to show subatomic neutrino particles traveling faster than light.

But scientists at CERN are involved in testing that research, which would show neutrinos breaking what Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein considered the ultimate speed barrier.

National interests clash as climate talks near end



DURBAN, South Africa – As a global climate conference enters the home stretch, it's likely that the 194 nations represented will reach some consensus on how to respond to the emissions that are warming the planet. But details on how tough those measures will be remain buried under a sea of competing national interests and economic worries.

The talks, due to wrap up Friday or early Saturday, are likely to finalize a massive fund to help poor countries cope with climate change. And indications are strong the conference could end with an agreement to begin the next phase in a battle to control heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

But Durban could also be the place where the only treaty that has governed carbon emissions from the industrial world, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, breaks down, several years before anything is likely to replace it.

The slow pace of dealing with the core problem of rising temperatures is dispiriting delegates from small islands on the edge of survival, and from activists impatient with the familiar posturing of climate negotiations.

"Waiting is going to be a disaster for us," said Samuela Alivereti Saumatua, Fiji's environment minister, who said the Pacific island this month relocated its first coastal village because of climate-related flooding and unseasonable cyclones.

"We have cyclones now at any time of the year. We have flash floods in the coastal areas. Water supply is being salinated. Food security is going to be a problem. We are desperately looking at how we will deal with the situation," he told reporters.

The conference in this coastal city along the Indian Ocean began Nov. 28. It is the latest meeting to seek incremental steps after attempts were abandoned two years ago to reach a global agreement on reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Much of the debate centered on a demand by industrial countries, led by the European Union, to revise the 20-year-old division of the world into rich and poor nations with two levels of responsibility: Rich countries are legally bound to reduce carbon emissions while developing countries take voluntary actions.

"This is the main issue. I don't know how it's going to be resolved," said Argentine Ambassador Sylvia Merega, who leads the 132-nation group known as G77 and China.

The EU won an endorsement from an alliance of small islands and the world's poorest countries — about 120 nations altogether — for its proposal to start negotiations now on a deal to take effect after 2020. Under the EU proposal, all countries would be equally accountable for their global-warming actions. The EU later announced that Brazil — a major power in the developing world — also was lining up with its proposal.

The European Union has said it will not renew its emissions reduction pledges, which expire in one year, unless all countries agree to launch negotiations on a new treaty that would equally oblige all countries — including the world's two largest polluters the United States and China — to control their emissions. The U.S. never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, though it has made voluntary efforts to reduce emissions.

The EU's failure to commit to another five-year reduction period would leave the landmark agreement in place, but gutted of its most important element, and would surely lead to Durban being branded as the protocol's burial ground.

Both China and the U.S. said they would be amenable to the EU proposal, but each attached riders that appeared to hobble its prospects for unanimous acceptance.

The United States, with its eye on Congress that is generally seen as hostile on the climate issue, is concerned about conceding any competitive business advantage to China. Beijing, too, is resisting the notion that it has become a developed country on a par with the U.S. or Europe, saying it still has hundreds of millions of impoverished people.

Activists in Durban have expressed their anger at the U.S. and other countries in many ways.

An American college student was ejected from the conference Thursday after disrupting a speech by U.S. delegate Todd Stern. Police escorted the student, Abigail Borah, 21, from the cavernous plenary of the conference as delegates applauded her removal.

Before she was seized, Borah began reading a speech accusing the U.S. of stonewalling an agreement, but Stern denied that.

"I've heard this from everywhere from ministers to press reports to the very sincere and passionate young woman who was in the hall when I was giving my remarks. I just wanted to be on the record as saying that, that's just a mistake. It is not true," he told reporters later.

A day earlier, six Canadians were thrown out for a similar protest against Canada's Environment Minister Peter Kent.

At a separate meeting Thursday attended by South African President Jacob Zuma, scuffles broke out between his supporters and environmentalists holding up posters reading, "Zuma stand with Africa, not with USA," and "Zuma don't let Africa fry."

Negotiations to provide climate aid for poor countries are less sensitive than talks over mandatory emissions reductions, but even they have proved difficult thanks to the global financial crisis. Some nations are concerned that the envisioned aid, scaling up from $10 billion a year now to $100 billion annually in 2020, will have trouble raising donations from wealthier governments.

"In a time of constraints, in a time of crisis, in a time of tough budgets, people are saying that charity starts at home, that we cannot deal with something noble but medium and long-term like the environment," said Angel Gurria, head of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an organization of 34 Western countries.

Critical progress has been made on the structure and governance of the Green Climate Fund, which will handle most of the money.

"It's an area actually which is among the most advanced in the negotiations," said Stern, the chief U.S. negotiator. "I don't have any reason to think that that's not going to conclude."

Vaccine developed against Ebola



Scientists have developed a vaccine that protects mice against a deadly form of the Ebola virus.

First identified in 1976, Ebola kills more than 90% of the people it infects.

The researchers say that this is the first Ebola vaccine to remain viable long-term and can therefore be successfully stockpiled.

The results are reported in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

Ebola is transmitted via bodily fluids, and can become airborn. Sufferers experience nausea, vomiting, internal bleeding and organ failure before they die.

Although few people contract Ebola each year, its effects are so swift and devastating that it is often feared that it could be used against humans in an act of terroism.

All previously developed vaccines have relied on injecting intact, but crippled, viral particles into the body.

Long-term storage tends to damage the virus, paralysing the vaccine's effectiveness.

The new vaccine contains a synthetic viral protein, which is capable of recognising the Ebola virus and is much more stable when stored long-term.

The vaccine protects 80% of the mice injected with the deadly strain, and survives being "dried down and frozen," said biotechnologist Charles Arntzen from Arizona State University who was involved in its development.

He said the next step is to try the vaccine on a strain of Ebola that is closer to the one that infects humans.

Ex-UN climate chief to AP: talks are rudderless

DURBAN, South Africa – Yvo de Boer said he left his job as the U.N.'s top climate official in frustration 18 months ago, believing the process of negotiating a meaningful climate agreement was failing. His opinion hasn't changed.

"I still have the same view of the process that led me to leave the process," he told The Associated Press Sunday. "I'm still deeply concerned about where it's going, or rather where it's not going, about the lack of progress."

For three years until 2010, the Dutch civil servant was the leading voice on global warming on the world stage. He appeared constantly in public to advocate green policies, traveled endlessly for private meetings with top leaders and labored with negotiators seeking ways to finesse snags in drafting agreements. In the end he felt he "wasn't really able to contribute as I should be to the process," he said.

Today he can take a long view on his years as a Dutch negotiator in the 1990s and later as a senior U.N. official with access to the highest levels of government, business and civil society. He is able to voice criticisms he was reluctant to air when he was actively shepherding climate diplomacy.

Negotiators live "in a separate universe," and the ongoing talks are "like a log that's drifted away," he said. Then, drawing another metaphor from his rich reservoir, he called the annual 194-nation conferences "a bit of a mouse wheel."

De Boer spoke to the AP on the sidelines of the latest round of talks in this South African port city, which he is attending as a consultant for the international accounting firm KPMG.

Elsewhere in Durban Sunday, the South African host of the talks called for divine help at a climate change church service organized by the South African Council of Churches.

"We needed to pray for (an) acceptable, balanced outcome, that has a sense of urgency," said Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who as South Africa's foreign minister is president of the Durban round of negotiations. Priests laid their hands on her head in blessing during the service.

De Boer said world leaders have failed to become deeply engaged in efforts to reach an international accord to control greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming. In recent years, their inattention has been compounded by their preoccupation with the economic and Eurozone crises.

Negotiators have been at the job so long — since the 1992 climate convention — that they have lost touch with the real world, he said. But it wasn't their fault. "I completely understand that it is very difficult for a negotiator to move if you haven't been given a political sense of direction and the political space to move," he said, chatting on a hilltop terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Rather than act in their own national interests, many leaders look to see what others are willing — or unwilling — to concede.

"You've got a bunch of international leaders sitting 85 stories up on the edge of a building saying to each other, you jump first and I'll follow. And there is understandably a reluctance to be the first one to jump," he said.

The 2009 Copenhagen summit was a breaking point. Expectations soared that the conference would produce an accord setting firm rules for bringing down global carbon emissions. When delegates fell short, hopes remained high that President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, most of Europe's heads of government and more than 100 other top leaders would save the day at the last minute.

De Boer said he spent the last 24 hours of the summit in "a very small and very smelly room" with about 20 prime ministers and presidents, but the time was not ripe for the hoped-for international treaty.

Obama still hoped to push domestic legislation through the Senate, and any prior commitment to a U.N. treaty would have killed his chances. The bill died anyway. China and India, too, were not ready in Copenhagen to accept internationally binding limits on their emissions.

Many Americans, he said, have still not bought into the "green story," he said. In the meantime, the U.S. is losing a competitive edge against China, which is investing heavily to shift the course of its economy — from which it will benefit regardless of the global warming issue, he said.

Despite their failures, De Boer said he thought most leaders sincerely want a deal on climate change.

"I do not see the negotiating process being able to rise to that challenge, being capable of delivering on that," he said. "I believe the sincerity on the part of world leaders is there, but it's almost as though they do not have control of the process that's suppose to take them there."

US: Bluefin tuna probably OK after BP oil spill

WASHINGTON – Last year's BP oil spill probably won't push the troubled bluefin tuna population in the Gulf of Mexico over the edge as some scientists had worried, a federal analysis shows.

Of all the potential damage from the 172-million-gallon (651-million-liter) spill in April 2010, scientists had been most concerned about how the oil spill would harm an already overfished species of large tuna. That's because about one-fifth of the spawning habitat where the Gulf's baby tuna were living was coated with oil, according to satellite records. Tuna less than a year old are most vulnerable to pollution.

An analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, using two different projections from computer models, says that at most, such a spill probably would result in a 4 percent reduction in future spawning of the fish, but probably far less.

Bluefish tuna is considered one of the Gulf's signature species. A summit that begins Monday in Houston will examine the Gulf's health, including the government's restoration plans and the tuna's fate.

"It appears so far that the impact on the larval population is relatively small," said Clay Porch, director of sustainable fisheries for NOAA's Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami.

The agency's analysis, which was mentioned in two pages of a 114-page government update on overall tuna health released in May, is based on an assumption that 1 in 5 baby tuna was killed or unable to reproduce in the future because that's the size of the spill in the spawning area.

That 20 percent potential loss of year-old tuna translates to 4 percent of the overall tuna population in the future. Overall population figures also have to factor in the fact that in general many baby tuna at that age die naturally.

But that is probably way too high a figure, Porch said in an interview.

Instead of 20 percent of baby tuna being harmed, more recent analysis yet to be published said it should be 11 percent or maybe even 5 percent, he said. Those figures should be reduced even more for the overall future population of tuna, down nearer to 2 percent.

At most that number should be 1 in 9 or even in 1 in 20 deaths of baby tuna, and that's only the effect on one year for the long-lived tuna.

Those smaller figures are based on larval surveys that have not been released publicly because of a potential court case with BP over damages from the spill, and more simulations "that are conditioned on real data," Porch said.

Porch said it's unlikely that the effect on tuna stock would hit 4 percent and "it is not an additional major source of stress" on the overall population of the bluefin tuna in the Gulf. Other work on baby tuna health will be published in peer reviewed science journals.

But that's only the young. So far NOAA doesn't know how the spill affected adults and whether adults of all ages were killed or made infertile in massive numbers that could have a bigger effect on the overall population than the oiling of one year's worth of young, Porch said.

Boris Worm, a fisheries professor at Dalhousie University in Canada who has warned of problems with tuna populations in the past, said the NOAA figures are within the yearly variations of mortality for tuna.

"So it will be a bad year, but not a catastrophic year," Worm said. "This wouldn't push them over the brink."

Former NOAA chief scientist Sylvia Earle, a renowned ocean explorer who has campaigned against overfishing of tuna, isn't convinced that bluefin tuna weathered the oil slick.

"I think it's too early to celebrate a possible greater survival than had been predicted. These are, after all, models," Earle said. "The truth is we don't have enough information to be able to clearly say one way or another what happened to the 2010 class of baby tuna."

Gulf scientists have wondered for months about the health of the bluefin tuna, said Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi.

"They are sentinel species that gives us an idea of the health of the open ocean, where we don't know a lot," McKinney said.

Assisted suicide — Canada revisits an old debate

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Confined to a wheelchair, in constant pain and unable to bathe without help, a 63-year-old grandmother has forced the issue of assisted suicide into Canadian courts for the third time in two decades.

Gloria Taylor has Lou Gehrig's disease, a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological affliction.

"It is my life and my body and it should be my choice as to when and how I die," she said before going to the British Columbia Supreme Court last Thursday to challenge Canada's ban on assisted suicide, a crime carrying a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.

It has been nearly 20 years since another Lou Gehrig's disease sufferer, Sue Rodriguez, gripped Canadian hearts with her court battle for the right to assisted suicide. She lost her appeal but took her own life with the help of an anonymous doctor in 1994, aged 44.

In 1993, a Saskatchewan farmer, Robert Latimer, put his quadriplegic daughter Tracey in his pickup truck, attached an exhaust hose and watched her die. He said the 12-year-old functioned at the level of a three-year-old, living in pain, unable to walk, talk or feed herself.

Convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, after numerous appeals Latimer's conviction was upheld and he began serving his sentence in 2001. He was paroled a year ago.

In the latest case now unfolding, Taylor's lead lawyer, civil liberties defender Joe Arvay, argued to the court that assisted suicides were taking place despite the ban, a practice he likened to the illegal "back-alley abortions" of the past.

Taylor and her family won't testify, but she sat in the courthouse in her wheelchair. She has told reporters she can't even wash herself unaided or perform basic household chores. She called it "an assault not only on my privacy, but on my dignity and self-esteem."

She frequently uses a respirator. "I fear that I will eventually suffocate and die struggling for air like a fish out of water," she said. Opponents argue that allowing assisted deaths could lead to abuses of the elderly and infirm. Dr. Will Johnston of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Canada fears people could be pushed toward death when their lives are no longer convenient for others.

Supporters draw support from the Royal Society of Canada, the country's senior scholarly body. Its panel of professors and specialists in medical ethics and health law said in a report issued Nov. 15 that assisted death in Canada should be regulated and monitored rather than criminalized.

"A significant majority of the Canadian population appears to support a more permissive legislative framework for voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide," the report said.

It said assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the U.S. states of Oregon, Washington and Montana, while in England and Wales the policy does not stipulate that every case must be prosecuted.

Johnston called the report "a euthanasia manifesto disguised as an impartial report."

Sheila Tucker, a lawyer with the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, says the issue is back on the agenda because with the passage of time various jurisdictions have gained working experience with the legalities of assisted dying.

Johnston countered that Canadian political attitudes had not changed — that only last year Parliament voted 228-59 against changing the law to allow doctors to help people die "once the person has expressed his or her free and informed consent to die."

The British Columbia Supreme Court is expected to rule early next year, but Tucker is sure the decision will go to the Canadian Supreme Court, meaning no change in the law can be expected before next winter at the earliest.

By then, she said, Taylor may no longer be alive.

Few teens sexting racy photos, new research says

CHICAGO – Teen sexting of nude photos online or via cellphone may be far less common than people think, new research suggests.

Only 1 percent of kids aged 10 to 17 have shared images of themselves or others that involve explicit nudity, a nationally representative study found. Roughly the same number said they'd shared suggestive but less graphic photos; while 7 percent said they'd received either type of picture.

The research suggests texting of sexual photos among younger kids is extremely rare but more common among older teens.

The results are reassuring, showing that teen sexting isn't rampant, usually isn't malicious, and is generally not something parents should panic over, said lead author Kimberly Mitchell, a research assistant psychology professor at the University of New Hampshire.

Previous reports said as many as one in five young people — 20 percent — have participated in sexting. But some surveys included older teens and people in their early 20s. And some used definitions of sexting that included racy text messages without photos, or images "no more revealing than what someone might see at a beach," authors of the new study said.

They focused only on pictures, and asked more detailed questions about the kinds of racy photos kids are sharing.

The researchers did a separate study on how police deal with teen sexting of photos. Contrary to some reports, that research suggests few kids are being prosecuted or forced to register as sex offenders for sexting. It estimates that nearly 4,000 teen sexting cases were reported to police nationwide in 2008 and 2009.

Slightly more than one-third of those cases resulted in arrests. About one-third of all cases involved teens and young adults; the adults were much more likely to be arrested.

The studies were released Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The research shows that sexting can range from incidents that some teen health experts consider typical adolescent exploring — the 21st century version of sneaking a look at dad's Playboy magazine, to malicious cases with serious consequences made possible by today's technology.

For example, one case involved a 10-year-old boy who sent a cellphone picture of his genitals to an 11-year-old classmate "to gross her out." The girl's mother called police; the boy cried when questioned by police, who concluded he didn't understand the magnitude of his actions and left the matter to his parents.

Another involved a 16-year-old girl who said she accidentally posted a nude photo of herself on a social networking site. A 16-year-old boy at her school found the photo and distributed it to 100 people when she refused his demand to send him more nude pictures. He was charged with a felony and was put on probation.

The results suggest that police generally aren't overreacting to teen sexting, said Janis Wolak, lead author of the second study. Some cases that aren't clearly criminal are still worrisome and warrant intervention by parents or others, she said.

In the first study, researchers questioned 1,560 kids nationwide by phone, with parents' permission, between in August 2010 and January of this year. The second study is based on mailed questionnaires to nearly 3,000 police departments and follow-up phone interviews with investigating officers about sexting cases handled in 2008 and 2009.

The studies illustrate how sexting may include a wide range of teen behavior, and highlight an issue "about which we as a society have gotten pretty hysterical and probably blew out of proportion," said Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston.

Exploring sexuality is normal behavior for teens and taking pictures of themselves and others is one way "just to find out what it is like," he said. "We've been doing that since somebody scribbled a picture of a nude woman on the side of a cave and the guys gathered around to check it out."

Sexting is different only because it is happening "in an environment that the adult community doesn't understand as well as kids," Rich said.

Dr. Victor Strasburger, an adolescent medicine expert at the University of New Mexico, said parents, schools and law enforcement authorities "need to understand that teenagers are neurologically programmed to do dumb things." Their brains aren't mature enough to fully realize the consequences of their actions, including sexting, until early adulthood, he said.

Instead of prosecution, he said, there should be more emphasis on teaching teens to be responsible with new technology. Kids need to be told "that when you put things online and even when you send them via cellphone, they're potentially there forever."

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Woman Gives Birth After Completing Marathon

27-year-old marathon runner Amber Miller was nearly 39 weeks pregnant when she completed the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, but instead of putting her feet up and having a good rest, she went straight to hospital to give birth: her contractions started within minutes of crossing the finishing line.

Miller, who lives in Westchester, a suburb of Chicago, described Sunday as "the longest day of my life". On that day she not only completed the 26.2 mile (42.16km) course, half running and half walking, in 6h 25m, she was also delivered of a healthy 7.7lb (3.5kg) daughter June, thus giving her one-year-old son, Caleb, a baby sister.

While recovering in hospital on Monday, Miller told the Associated Press in an interview that she was "crazy about running", and that doing the marathon that day "wasn't anything out of the ordinary" for her as she had been running regularly up to that point anyway.

Miller has been running for over 10 years. She had already signed up for the Chicago Marathon, her eighth, when she discovered she was pregnant. On the advice of her doctor she half ran and half walked it, drank lots of fluids and ate along the way.

She said she heard people cheering her, "Go pregnant lady!" which was a nice surprise as she had been expecting to hear negative remarks.

HIV Life Expectancy Increases In UK



Thanks to earlier diagnosis and improvements in antiretroviral therapy, life expectancy for people treated for HIV infection has gone up by more than 15 years in the UK since the mid-90s, according a study reported in the BMJ yesterday. However, an accompanying editorial says the survival figures, which are some 13 years less than for the UK population as a whole, are still not good enough.

Academics at the University of Bristol and University College London (UCL), led the Medical Research Council (MRC)-funded research.

They used data from the UK Collaborative HIV Cohort (UK CHIC) study on over 17,500 patients who started antiretroviral therapy between 1996 and 2008 at HIV clinics throughout the UK and compared their life expectancy with that of the UK population.

Lead author Dr Margaret May, Senior Research Fellow at Bristol's School of Social and Community Medicine, told the press their findings "strongly support" the idea of more widespread testing for HIV.

Before this, few studies had looked at how long people with HIV in the UK were likely to live.

For their calculations, May and colleagues estimated how many additional years after the age of 20 an HIV-positive person in the UK is likely to live.

The patients they included had CD4 cell counts of up to 350 cells/mm3 when they started their antiretroviral therapy.

They found that: