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"

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There is need to look at factors holding corporate women back: minister

SINGAPORE: Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam said there is a need to look at the factors that are holding women back from doing well in the corporate sector to see what can be done.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking to Channel NewsAsia on Saturday after a closed-door women's dialogue in his constituency Nee Soon GRC, in the lead-up to International Women's Day on 8 March.

He said while the labour force participation rate for women in Singapore is good, the board representation of women is "very low", at seven per cent. In addition, he noted the representation of women in executive committees in Singapore companies is 15 per cent.

He said women have done well in the professional sectors such as law and medicine, but their performance in the corporate sector has been held back by the "usual factors", such as having to juggle family and work as well as gender bias.

He said these issues which hold women back from reaching the very top are particularly relevant.

A resident suggested lowering the foreign domestic levy for more households - other than those with dependents - as a way to encourage more women to return to the workforce.

Mr Shanmugam said: "We want to reduce the growth of foreign workers, which would include house help, maids. If we liberalise this sector, the numbers will go up, and the overall number of foreigners here, which includes nurses, construction workers, maids - we have about 200,000 maids in Singapore - that number will go up as well.

"I think it's a conversation we have to have with Singaporeans to say in which areas it can go up, by how much and yet take into account the overall public sentiment that you want foreign worker participation to go down."

In its recent Budget announcement, the government reduced the levy to S$120, from S$170, for families with dependents such as children and elderly parents.

- CNA/xq

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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.'"


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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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British PM under pressure after election rout

EASTLEIGH, United Kingdom: British Prime Minister David Cameron was under pressure on Friday after his Conservatives were beaten into third place in a key election by his scandal-hit coalition partners and a eurosceptic party.

Cameron admitted it was a "disappointing" night for his party after the Liberal Democrats held the parliamentary seat of Eastleigh in southern England in a contest billed as the most important British by-election in a generation.

The Conservatives had hoped at least to come in second but they were condemned to third place by the anti-European Union and anti-immigration UK Independence Party, which registered its best ever performance.

The vote was sparked by the resignation of disgraced former energy minister Chris Huhne, a Liberal Democrat who has pleaded guilty to trying to avoid a speeding fine.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, whose own position as Lib Dem leader had been on the line after a collapse in the party's poll ratings, said the "stunning victory" showed they "can be a party of government and still win".

UKIP leader Nigel Farage insisted the party's best ever result in a British election was not a "protest vote".

Cameron said he was "confident" the Conservatives could win back support at the next general election, which is due in 2015.

"It is a disappointing result for the Conservative party but it's clear that in mid-term by-elections people want to register a protest," the prime minister told the BBC.

The returning officer announced shortly after 0200 GMT on Friday that Lib Dem candidate Mike Thornton had secured 13,342 votes, 1,771 more than UKIP representative Diane James.

Tory nominee Maria Hutchings limped in third with 10,559 votes in a seat that the Conservatives held as recently as 1994, while the main opposition Labour party's candidate John O'Farrell was fourth with 4,088.

The Lib Dems overcame not only the Huhne scandal, but also an ongoing row surrounding the party's handling of claims that its former chief executive Chris Rennard molested female party members.

A jubilant Clegg told supporters in Eastleigh that they had won the election in "exceptionally difficult circumstances" and that "our opponents have thrown everything at us".

"Two and a half years ago when we entered into coalition with the Conservatives our critics said we were going to lose our soul. Last night, we proved those critics are emphatically wrong," Clegg told supporters.

The coalition has brought in a series of unpopular austerity measures to tackle Britain's record deficit, but it is the centrist Lib Dems who have taken a far bigger hit in opinion polls than the centre-right Conservatives.

UKIP's James said her second-place finish was a "humongous shock" that showed the party was now a major force in British politics.

Farage -- a member of the European parliament who had reportedly considered standing in Eastleigh himself before backing out -- said he was confident UKIP would win seats in the 2015 general election.

"If the Conservatives hadn't split our vote we would have won," he told the BBC.

He said Cameron had alienated voters by "talking about gay marriage, wind turbines, unlimited immigration from India (and) he wants Turkey to join the European Union."

Senior Conservative David Davis had earlier warned that third place for the party would be a "crisis" that would place serious doubt over Cameron's leadership.

But Cameron rejected the claims and dismissed talk that the party would now lurch to the right.

The result came despite Cameron's pledge in January to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the European Union and then put British membership of the bloc to a referendum by the end of 2017.

The vow was supposed to head off both the threat from UKIP and the increasingly noisy eurosceptic wing of his own Conservative party, but appeared not to have resonated with voters.

- AFP/al

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Las Vegas Strip shooting suspect is arrested in L.A.

A man suspected in a deadly car-to-car shooting in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip was arrested Thursday at a Studio City apartment complex, bringing an end to a weeklong manhunt.

Los Angeles police and FBI agents surrounded the suburban apartment complex in the 4100 block of Arch Drive about noon and ordered Ammar Harris to surrender. Officers said there was a woman inside the apartment where he was holed up; she was not arrested.

Harris, 26, is being held on suspicion of murder and is expected to be extradited back to Nevada.

"This arrest is much more than just taking Ammar Harris," said Las Vegas Sheriff Doug Gillespie, speaking at police headquarters near the Strip. "The citizens of our community as well as tourists who visit and work in the Las Vegas Valley are entitled to a safe community."

Harris — described by law enforcement officials as a man with an "extensive and violent criminal history" — is accused of being the gunman in the Feb. 21 shooting that killed three people, including Kenneth Cherry Jr., an Oakland native and rapper known as Kenny Clutch.

Las Vegas police said Harris opened fire from his Ranger Rover on Cherry's Maserati on Las Vegas Boulevard after an altercation at a valet stand at the Aria hotel resort.

The Maserati then sped into the intersection at Flamingo Road, where it rammed a Yellow Cab, which erupted in flames near the mega-wattage casinos of the Bellagio, the Flamingo and Ceasars Palace. The explosion killed the taxi driver and passenger inside.

Cherry and a passenger in his Maserati were taken to a hospital, where Cherry was pronounced dead. Four other vehicles were involved in the fiery crash, which left three other people with injuries.

"What I can tell you is that Mr. Harris' behavior was unlike any other I've seen, and I've been in this community in law enforcement for 32 years," Clark County Dist. Atty. Steve Wolfson said.

"I cannot imagine anything more serious than firing a weapon from a moving vehicle into another moving vehicle on a corner such as Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo."

Even in a city accustomed to spectacle, the shooting and collision were shocking.

On the night of the shooting, Harris was accompanied by three people in his Range Rover, none considered suspects, said Lt. Ray Steiber of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. On Saturday, Las Vegas police found Harris' black Range Rover at an apartment complex in the city. The district attorney charged Harris with murder even though he could not be located, and a federal magistrate signed off on a charge of fleeing the jurisdiction.

Federal court documents show Las Vegas homicide detectives suspected that Harris may have fled to California because his phone showed he made calls in the state.

According to law enforcement sources, Harris operated as a pimp in Las Vegas. In a video released by Las Vegas police, Harris flashed a fistful of $100 bills as he bragged about the money. He boasted about money, guns, expensive cars and run-ins with the law on social media accounts, authorities said.

On one social media site, using the name Jai'duh, someone authorities believe was Harris posted pictures of stacks of $100 bills and a Carbon 15 pistol.

Harris' record includes a 2010 arrest in Las Vegas on suspicion of pimping-related offenses of pandering with force and sexual assault. He has previously been arrested on suspicion of a variety of crimes in South Carolina and Georgia, authorities said.

Harris is slated to appear in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Monday for an extradition proceeding.




Glionna reported from Las Vegas. Times staff writer Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.

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Scarred Duckbill Dinosaur Escaped T. Rex Attack

A scar on the face of a duckbill dinosaur received after a close encounter with a Tyrannosaurus rex is the first clear case of a healed dinosaur wound, scientists say.

The finding, detailed in the current issue of the journal Cretaceous Research, also reveals that the healing properties of dinosaur skin were likely very similar to that of modern reptiles.

The lucky dinosaur was an adult Edmontosaurus annectens, a species of duckbill dinosaur that lived in what is today the Hell Creek region of South Dakota about 65 to 67 million years ago. (Explore a prehistoric time line.)

A teardrop-shaped patch of fossilized skin about 5 by 5 inches (12 by 14 centimeters) that was discovered with the creature's bones and is thought to have come from above its right eye, includes an oval-shaped section that is incongruous with the surrounding skin. (Related: "'Dinosaur Mummy' Found; Have Intact Skin, Tissue.")

Bruce Rothschild, a professor of medicine at the University of Kansas and Northeast Ohio Medical University, said the first time he laid eyes on it, it was "quite clear" to him that he was looking at an old wound.

"That was unequivocal," said Rothschild, who is a co-author of the new study.

A Terrible Attacker

The skull of the scarred Edmontosaurus also showed signs of trauma, and from the size and shape of the marks on the bone, Rothschild and fellow co-author Robert DePalma, a paleontologist at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History in Florida, speculate the creature was attacked by a T. rex.

It's likely, though still unproven, that both the skin wound and the skull injury were sustained during the same attack, the scientists say. The wound "was large enough to have been a claw or a tooth," Rothschild said.

Rothschild and DePalma also compared the dinosaur wound to healed wounds on modern reptiles, including iguanas, and found the scar patterns to be nearly identical.

It isn't surprising that the wounds would be similar, said paleontologist David Burnham of the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, since dinosaurs and lizards are distant cousins.

"That's kind of what we would expect," said Burnham, who was not involved in the study. "It's what makes evolution work—that we can depend on this."


Phil Bell, a paleontologist with the Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative in Canada who also was not involved in the research, called the Edmontosaurus fossil "a really nicely preserved animal with a very obvious scar."

He's not convinced, however, that it was caused by a predator attack. The size of the scar is relatively small, Bell said, and would also be consistent with the skin being pierced in some other accident such as a fall.

"But certainly the marks that you see on the skull, those are [more consistent] with Tyrannosaur-bitten bones," he added.

Prior to the discovery, scientists knew of one other case of a dinosaur wound. But in that instance, it was an unhealed wound that scientists think was inflicted by scavengers after the creature was already dead.

It's very likely that this particular Edmontosaurus wasn't the only dinosaur to sport scars, whether from battle wounds or accidents, Bell added.

"I would imagine just about every dinosaur walking around had similar scars," he said. (Read about "Extreme Dinosaurs" in National Geographic magazine.)

"Tigers and lions have scarred noses, and great white sharks have got dings on their noses and nips taken out of their fins. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and [Edmontosaurus was] unfortunately in the line of fire from some pretty big and nasty predators ... This one was just lucky to get away."

Mysterious Escape

Just how Edmontosaurus survived a T. rex attack is still unclear. "Escape from a T. rex is something that we wouldn't think would happen," Burnham said.

Duckbill dinosaurs, also known as Hadrosaurs, were not without defenses. Edmontosaurus, for example, grew up to 30 feet (9 meters) in length, and could swipe its hefty tail or kick its legs to fell predators.

Furthermore, they were fast. "Hadrosaurs like Edmontosaurus had very powerful [running] muscles, which would have made them difficult to catch once they'd taken flight," Bell said.

Duckbills were also herd animals, so maybe this one escaped with help from neighbors. Or perhaps the T. rex that attacked it was young. "There's something surrounding this case that we don't know yet," Burnham said.

Figuring out the details of the story is part of what makes paleontology exciting, he added. "We construct past lives. We can go back into a day in the life of this animal and talk about an attack and [about] it getting away. That's pretty cool."

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Bacteria defeat antibiotics they have never met before

BACTERIA that resist antibiotics are a growing problem worldwide, but one we thought we could limit or even reverse by better control of the drugs. This may be a forlorn hope: some bacteria that have never seen an antibiotic can evolve resistance, and even thrive on it.

Bacteria usually become resistant if they are exposed to drug levels too low to kill them off, but high enough to favour the survival of resistant mutants. Such resistance is growing and could make TB and other diseases untreatable again.

The prevailing notion was that bacteria acquire and maintain resistance genes at a cost. So by carefully controlling antibiotics, resistance should not emerge by itself – and should die out as soon as the antibiotic is withdrawn and resistance is no longer an advantage.

Maybe not. Olivier Tenaillon at Denis Diderot University, Paris, and colleagues were studying bacterial evolution by exposing Escherichia coli to high temperatures and little food. Unexpectedly, some bacteria spontaneously became resistant to the antibiotic rifampicin, even though they had never encountered it. The mutation that helped them deal with environmental stress just happened to confer resistance to the drug, used to treat TB and meningitis (BMC Evolutionary Biology, doi.org/kks).

"Our work suggests that selective pressure other than antibiotics may drive resistance," says Tenaillon.

Moreover, bacteria with the mutation grew 20 per cent faster than otherwise-identical bacteria – a first for a resistance mutation.

It only had this beneficial effect in the heat-adapted strain, says Arjan de Visser of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who was not involved in the study. But, he adds, "these results are a cautionary tale for the use of antibiotics – resistance may come without costs [to bacteria]".

This article appeared in print under the headline "Bacteria defeat antibiotics they have never met"

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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Govt taking brave step to achieve quality growth, inclusive society: Dr Yaacob

SINGAPORE: Communications and Information Minister and Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Dr Yaacob Ibrahim has described Budget 2013 as a brave step taken by the government to achieve quality growth and an inclusive society.

Dr Yaacob made the statement during the first Budget Forum to be conducted in Malay.

The forum will be aired on MediaCorp TV channel Suria from 9.30pm to 10.30pm on Thursday.

He said the government has to make some specific choices to achieve the two objectives.

These include reducing the number of foreign workers and extending more help to businesses and those who are in need.

He said the economy also needs to be restructured in order to improve productivity.

Some 20 people from all walks of life were invited to share their views on the Budget.

Polls were also conducted during the show. Nearly 8 in 10 participants felt Budget 2013 could bring about quality growth and an inclusive society.

One way the Budget aims to do this is to have a more progressive tax structure, with the rich paying more.

Dr Yaacob said such a policy is useful, but needs to evolve depending on the conditions of the economy.

"If in the future, our economy slows down and affects all levels of society, it may not be possible to implement this," he said.

"But as one of the policy tools, I feel this is one the government can use in suitable times because we know the income inequality has to be looked into as we do not want to see the emergence of two classes in Singapore ... which could affect our harmony," Dr Yaacob added.

- CNA/al

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