Wednesday, December 7, 2005

The United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has begun to address concerns raised by the EU, the Council of Europe, and several member countries about the CIA’s detention practices upon her arrival in Germany for a European tour that began Tuesday.

“As a matter of US policy, the United States’ obligations under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which prohibits, of course, cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment, those obligations extend to US personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside the United States,” said Rice, speaking from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Wednesday.

Media reports and Human Rights groups have alleged that the CIA transported renditioned prisoners through European countries, which could violate European laws and the sovereignty of countries involved. Secretary Rice claimed that the United States has respected the sovereignty of other countries, and that it has not transported detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture, and has not transported anyone to a country when we believe he will be tortured.

“We consider the captured members of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates to be unlawful combatants who may be held, in accordance with the law of war, to keep them from killing innocents. We must treat them in accordance with our laws, which reflect the values of the American people. We must question them to gather potentially significant, life-saving, intelligence. We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible,” Rice told reporters before she left from Andrews Air Force base on Monday.

Rice said that European nations should realize that interrogations of terrorist suspects have produced information that has saved European lives. However, Secretary Rice provided no specific cases.

“Secretary Rice made extra-legal rendition sound like just another form of extradition. In fact, it’s a form of kidnapping and ‘disappearing’ someone entirely outside the law,” said Tom Malinowski, a Human Rights Watch official in Washington.

The CIA practice known as “extraordinary rendition” is used to interrogate terrorist suspects outside the U.S., where they are not subject to American legal protection.

“Kidnapping a foreign national for the purpose of detaining and interrogating him outside the law is contrary to American values,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on the Khalid El-Masri case. “Our government has acted as if it is above the law. We go to court today to reaffirm that the rule of law is central to our identity as a nation.”

The ACLU feels the government has to be held to account over “extraordinary rendition”.



Thursday, August 23, 2007

Researchers say that new, ten million-year-old fossils found in Ethiopia, prove that the theory that humans may have evolved from a species of great apes eight million years ago, may not be true, but that humans may have split from apes as long as 10.5 million years ago.

At least nine fossilized teeth, one canine tooth and eight molars, of a previously unknown species of apes found in Africa were discovered by a team of researchers from Ethiopia and Japan who then compared the 3-D make up of the teeth to other fossils that date back as far as 8 million years and found that the fossils are likely a “direct ancestor” of apes currently living in Africa and that the new ape fossils were that of a species of gorilla who ate mostly plants high in fiber.

Current fossils and research say that the evolutionary split from apes to humans occurred at least eight million years ago. The new fossils say that the split may have happened as long as 10.5 million years ago.

“Based on this fossil, that means the split is much earlier than has been anticipated by the molecular evidence. That means everything has to be put back,” said researcher at the Rift Valley Research Service in Ethiopia and a co-author of the study, Berhane Asfaw.

Despite the finds, other researchers are not convinced that the findings are correct.

“It is stretching the evidence to base a time scale for the evolution of the great apes on this new fossil. These structures appear on at least three independent lineages of apes, including gorillas, and they could relate to a dietary shift rather than indicating a new genetic trait,” said a Professor at the London Natural History Museum in the United Kingdom, Peter Andrews who also added, “but the fossil evidence for the evolution of our closest living relatives, the great apes, is almost non-existent.

Researchers have named the newly discovered species Cororapithecus abyssinicus whose remains were found in the Afar Region of Ethiopia, the same place where the remains of Lucy were discovered in 1974.



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Friday, March 18, 2011

As the nuclear crisis in Japan’s crippled Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant appears to worsen, Japan’s nuclear safety agency raised their assessment of its severity from 4 to 5 on the 7-level International Nuclear Event Scale, the same rating given the 1979 Three Mile Island crisis. Japan’s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, said bluntly that the situation at the nuclear power plant was “very grave”. Weather forecasts indicate changing winds may begin moving radiation closer to Tokyo by March 30.

Efforts thus far to cool nuclear fuel in the reactors and the spent-fuel pools has produced little if any success, contends United States government officials.

Engineers are working frantically to connect electrical power to two reactors in the plant, as well as to restart the cooling systems and prevent overheating of fuel rods. Tokyo Electric Power Co. stated that it hopes to reconnect a power line needed to restart water pumps to the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors by Saturday morning. However, a TEPCO official cautioned that if the water pumps were damaged by the tsunami, they could fail to restart.

The extent of the damage to the plant’s reactors is still unclear. Japanese officials have concentrated on cooling spent fuel rods in Reactor No. 3’s storage pool. On Friday, however, steam was seen rising from Reactor No. 2., where an explosion occurred on Tuesday. Additionally, engineers said on Thursday that the steel lining of the storage pool at Reactor No. 4 and its concrete base seemed damaged, as attempts to refill the pool with water became increasingly difficult.

In a briefing on Friday, Philippe Jamet, a commissioner at France’s nuclear regulator Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, said, “We must avoid being overly optimistic. This will likely take human intervention like going into control rooms to reconnect valves.”



Jun

17

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Nick Bos, of the University of Helsinki, studies “the amazing adaptations social insects have evolved in order to fight the extreme parasite pressure they experience”. In a recently-accepted Evolution paper Bos and colleagues describe ants appearing to self-medicate.

I have no doubt that as time goes on, there will be more and more cases documented

The team used Formica fusca, an ant species that can form thousand-strong colonies. This common black ant eats other insects, and also aphid honeydew. It often nests in tree stumps or under rocks and foraging workers can sometimes be spotted climbing trees.

Some ants were infected with Beauveria bassiana, a fungus. Infected ants chose food laced with toxic hydrogen peroxide, whereas healthy ants avoided it. Hydrogen peroxide reduced infected ant fatalities by 15%, and the ants varied their intake depending upon how high the peroxide concentration was.

In the wild, Formica fusca can encounter similar chemicals in aphids and dead ants. The Independent reported self-medicating ants a first among insects.

Bos obtained his doctorate from the University of Copenhagen. He began postdoctoral research at Helsinki in 2012. He also runs the AntyScience blog. The blog aims to help address “a gap between scientists and ‘the general public’.” The name is a pun referencing ants, its primary topic, science, and “non-scientific” jargon-free communication. He now discusses his work with Wikinews.

((Wikinews)) What first attracted you to researching ants?

Nick Bos Me and a studymate were keeping a lot of animals during our studies, from beetles, to butterflies and mantids, to ants. We had the ants in an observation nest, and I could just look at them for hours, watching them go about. This was in my third year of Biology study I think. After a while I needed to start thinking about an internship for my M.Sc. studies, and decided to write a couple of professors. I ended up going to the Centre for Social Evolution at the University of Copenhagen where I did a project on learning in Ants under supervision of Prof. Patrizia d’Ettorre. I liked it so much there I ended up doing a PhD and I’ve been working on social insects ever since.

((Wikinews)) What methods and equipment were used for this investigation?

NB This is a fun one. I try to work on a very low budget, and like to build most of the experimental setups myself (we actually have equipment in the lab nicknamed the ‘Nickinator’, ‘i-Nick’ and the ‘Nicktendo64’). There’s not that much money in fundamental science at the moment, so I try to cut the costs wherever possible. We collected wild colonies of Formica fusca by searching through old tree-trunks in old logging sites in southern Finland. We then housed the ants in nests I made using Y-tong [aerated concrete]. It’s very soft stone that you can easily carve. We carved out little squares for the ants to live in (covered with old CD covers to prevent them escaping!). We then drilled a tunnel to a pot (the foraging arena), where the ants got the choice between the food with medicine and the food without.
We infected the ants by preparing a solution of the fungus Beauveria bassiana. Afterwards, each ant was dipped in the solution for a couple of seconds, dried on a cloth and put in the nest. After exposing the ants to the fungus, we took pictures of each foraging arena three times per day, and counted how many ants were present on each food-source.
This gave us the data that ants choose more medicine after they have been infected.
The result that healthy ants die sooner when ingesting ROS [Reactive Oxygen Species, the group of chemicals that includes hydrogen peroxide] but infected ants die less was obtained in another way (as you have to ‘force feed’ the ROS, as healthy ants, when given the choice, ignore that food-source.)
For this we basically put colonies on a diet of either food with medicine or without for a while. And afterwards either infected them or not. Then for about two weeks we count every day how many ants died. This gives us the data to do a so-called survival analysis.
We measured the ROS-concentration in the bodies of ants after they ingested the food with the medicine using a spectrophotometer. By adding certain chemicals, the ROS can be measured using the emission of light of a certain wave-length.
The detrimental effect of ROS on spores was easy to measure. We mixed different concentrations of ROS with the spores, plated them out on petridishes with an agar-solution where fungus can grow on. A day after, we counted how many spores were still alive.

((Wikinews)) How reliable do you consider your results to be?

NB The results we got are very reliable. We had a lot of colonies containing a lot of ants, and wherever possible we conducted the experiment blind. This means the experimenter doesn’t know which ants belong to which treatment, so it’s impossible to influence the results with ‘observer bias’. However, of course this is proof in just one species. It is hard to extrapolate to other ants, as different species lead very different lives.
At the moment it seems that sick ants mostly take care of the problem themselves

((Wikinews)) Where did the ants and fungus you used come from? How common are they in the wild?

NB For ants, see above about the collection.
This species of fungus does appear in Finland, but we chose to use a different strain from Denmark (with thanks to Prof. J. Eilenberg and the laboratory technician Louise Lee Munch Larsen from the University of Copenhagen). Animals can adapt to local strains (‘local adaptation’), and just to make sure we thought it would be good to use a strain of fungus that the ants definitely did not evolve specific resistances against. This means that the reaction of the ants (to self-medicate) is very likely to be a general response, and not just against their local fungal enemies.

((Wikinews)) Are there any ethical considerations around exposing ants to toxins and parasites?

NB Legally, no. Insects do not have any ‘rights’ as such regarding ethics. That said, we do take measures to not make them ‘suffer unnecessarily’. For example, dissections are done when the ants are anesthetized (either by CO2 or Ice), and when ants need to be killed, we do it in alcohol, which kills the ants in a matter of seconds. So while the ants do not have ‘rights’ as such, we still try to handle them with as much respect as possible (even though the experiment involves infecting them with a deadly fungus).
But even though the 12,000 ants in our study sounds like a lot (and it is), this is negligible in the ‘grand scheme of things’. It has been calculated that in the Netherlands alone, nearly a trillion insects die against just the licence-plates of cars every six months. I don’t own a car, so that means I’m excused right? 😉

((Wikinews)) This is the first evidence for self-medicating insects. How widespread do you think this phenomenon could be in reality?

NB It’s not actually the first evidence for self-medication in insects. Moths and fruit flies definitely do it, and there’s evidence in honey bees and bumble-bees as well. So it seems to be quite wide-spread in the insect world. I have no doubt that as time goes on, there will be more and more cases documented. Insects (and animals in general) seem to be quite good at taking care of themselves.

((Wikinews)) How might ants locate healing substances in the wild?

NB Very good question. This is something that’s important to know. If they would only do it in the lab, the behaviour wouldn’t be very interesting. We have some guesses where they might get it from, but at the moment we don’t know yet. That said, I plan to investigate this question (among others) further [in] the next couple of years.

((Wikinews)) For your PhD you researched ants’ scent-based communications. Could healthy ants perhaps tell other ants are infected and encourage this behaviour?

NB There’s not much known about this. There’s conflicting evidence about whether sick ants actually smell different from healthy ones or not. At the moment it seems that sick ants mostly take care of the problem themselves. Sick ants stop most interaction with nestmates and especially brood, and leave the nest to die in isolation. This is probably for reducing chance of infecting nestmates, but of course it also reduces the work load of their nest-mates, as their corpse doesn’t have to be dragged out etc.
So as an answer to the question, I would find it unlikely that such a behaviour would evolve, but it’s not known yet.

((Wikinews)) Ants generally avoided the peroxide if they were healthy, but in some circumstances might they try to build resistance against infection in advance?

NB Who knows? Also not known yet unfortunately. That said, there is a very interesting study about resin collection in ants. Wood ants collect tree-resin, which has anti-microbial properties. They collect this even if not infected, and when you infect them, they don’t collect more of the resin than normal. So basically it seems like they collect it in order to keep diseases out of the nest, so they stop the disease before it can actually infect them.

((Wikinews)) Are there plans to follow this research up? Might you research other species? Other substances?

NB I first want to find out where they get it from in nature. There might be many sources of medicine (recent evidence suggests that tobacco plays a similar role for bumble bees). Dalial Freitak, who is also on this paper is currently running tests with Ph.D. student Siiri Fuchs (who is also on the paper) with other substances to see if any have the same effect as H2O2 [hydrogen peroxide].
Once the behaviour has been well described in this species of ant, I might do a comparison with other species. For example, once we find the source of the medicine in nature… would species without access to this source also have evolved the same behaviour in the lab? And if so… where would they get it from?
Also… can ants medicate their friends? 🙂

((Wikinews)) What other research are you working on right now?

NB Phew…lots! 🙂
I still have some questions left unanswered from my Ph.D. work related to how ants recognize who is a friend and who isn’t. I also started collaborating with Prof. Michael Poulsen from the University of Copenhagen on immunity in fungus-growing termites, as well as their chemical recognition abilities. Furthermore we’re working on social parasitism in wood-ants (ants have lots of animals exploiting the nest for shelter and resources, which all somehow have to get in to the fortress without getting killed).

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Jun

12

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Wikinews recently caught up with screenwriter and film producer Chad Ridgely to discuss his latest indie horror film, 6:66PM. The film is scheduled to show at the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival in Buffalo, New York in November.



Jun

12

Thursday, November 8, 2007

India is the latest of the countries where the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) experiment has started. Children from the village of Khairat were given the opportunity to learn how to use the XO laptop. During the last year XO was distributed to children from Arahuay in Peru, Ban Samkha in Thailand, Cardal in Uruguay and Galadima in Nigeria. The OLPC team are, in their reports on the startup of the trials, delighted with how the laptop has improved access to information and ability to carry out educational activities. Thailand’s The Nation has praised the project, describing the children as “enthusiastic” and keen to attend school with their laptops.

Recent good news for the project sees Uruguay having ordered 100,000 of the machines which are to be given to children aged six to twelve. Should all go according to plan a further 300,000 machines will be purchased by 2009 to give one to every child in the country. As the first to order, Uruguay chose the OLPC XO laptop over its rival from Intel, the Classmate PC. In parallel with the delivery of the laptops network connectivity will be provided to schools involved in the project.

The remainder of this article is based on Carla G. Munroy’s Khairat Chronicle, which is available from the OLPC Wiki. Additional sources are listed at the end.

Contents

  • 1 India team
  • 2 Khairat
    • 2.1 The town school
  • 3 The workplace
  • 4 Marathi
  • 5 The teacher
  • 6 Older children, teenagers, and villagers
  • 7 The students
  • 8 Teacher session
  • 9 Parents’ meetings
  • 10 Grounding the server
  • 11 Every child at school
  • 12 Sources
  • 13 External links


Jun

10

Monday, June 7, 2010

An acrobatic group known by the name of Spelbound has been declared as the winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2010, a televised variety talent show competition broadcast on ITV in the United Kingdom. As the winning act of the show, Spelbound have won £100,000 (US$144,580, €120,313, A$175,079) and a place at The Royal Variety Performance, an annual gala evening that is attended by senior members of the British Royal Family.

In no particular order, the top three acts were revealed to be two dancers known by their stage name of Twist and Pulse, gymnastic group Spelbound and Kieran Gaffney, whose act involves playing on the drum kit. After Kieran Gaffney was revealed to be in third place, Anthony McPartlin, who hosts Britain’s Got Talent with Declan Donnelly, said to Kieran: “Well done Kieran. Kieran, you’re a star, you came back, you got all the way to the final. I know you’ve loved this. You’ve loved this, haven’t you?” In response to this, Kieran Gaffney stated: “Thank you very much. Thank you, everyone for supporting me. Thank you.”

Shortly afterwards, on the episode that was broadcast live on ITV1 on Saturday, Anthony announced: “After tens of thousands of auditons, five semi-finals and an amazing final, this…this is it. One of you is about to walk away with £100,000 and a place at this year’s Royal Variety Performance. The winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2010 is…Spelbound!” Glen Murphy from Twist and Pulse commented about finishing in second place, stating: “Yeah, it’s amazing. I can’t even believe it. I can’t believe it at all.”

Alex Uttley, a 24-year-old member of Spelbound, commented on the gymnastic group’s victory, commenting: “Oh, my god. This is unbelieveable. We just want to say thank you to everyone out there. It just shows that all our hard work has paid off.” One of the coaches of Spelbound, named Neil Griffiths, stated about Spelbound: “Oh, they’ve worked so hard over the last few weeks. Um, since the semi-final, we…we really had to pull out the stops to try and up the game. They’ve not known they’ve worked in the gym from six in the morning till twelve…twelve o’clock of the night. I couldn’t have asked for more. Um, it’s a team of coaches. I don’t take all the credit myself. There’s, uh, two people up there that know who they are who’ve been fantastic.”

Spelbound consists of 24-year-old Alex Uttley, Nicholas Illingworth, aged 24, Adam Buckingham, aged 21, 20-year-old Adam McAssey, 19-year-old Douglas Fordyce, 18-year-old Edward Upcott, 18-year-old Leighanne Cowler, 17-year-old Katie Axten, 17-year-old Lauren Kemp, 15-year-old Jonathan Stranks, Abigail Ralph, aged 15, 13-year-old Hollianne Wood and Amy Mackenzie, aged 12. Bookmakers had previously predicted that Spelbound would be the most likely act to become the winner of the series.

The running order for the final started with Twist and Pulse. The second act to perform was Liam McNally, a 14-year-old singer. The running order subsequently continued with 40-year-old impressionist Paul Burling, singer Christopher Stone, aged 28, Tina & Chandi, a woman and dog dancing act, Connected, a five-piece singing group, Kieran Gaffney, aged 12, 22-year-old Tobias Mead, a dancer, 80-year-old singer Janey Cutler and Spelbound in that particular order.

Earlier on in the final, Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden has stated to Spelbound: “We are hosting the 2012 Olympics and I think ‘what a brilliant opening act’.” Fellow judge Piers Morgan also commented that “[t]he purpose of this show is to identify hidden great British talent. You are that act.” After Spelbound won in the final, another judge, named Simon Cowell, stated that “the right boys and girls won on the night” and that he could “only say on live TV that that was one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen. Seriously.”



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