Herbal Viagra actually contains the real thing



































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












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












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












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


















































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









































































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China village defies officials to demand democracy






SHANGPU, China: Villagers in southern China were locked in a stand-off with authorities on Sunday and were demanding democratic polls after a violent clash with thugs linked to a local official over a land transfer.

Just over a week ago, residents of Shangpu in Guangdong province fought with scores of attackers whom they claimed were sent by the village communist party chief and a business tycoon after they protested against a land deal.

Police are blockading the settlement to outsiders while residents refuse to let officials inside, days before the annual meeting of the country's legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC).

The situation recalls a similar episode in Wukan, also in Guangdong and around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Shangpu, which made headlines worldwide 15 months ago.

At the main entrance of the village of 3,000 people, 40 police and officials stood guard, barring outside vehicles from entering. Not far away, a cloth banner read: "Strongly request legal, democratic elections."

Shangpu's two-storey houses and low-slung family-run workshops are surrounded by fields awaiting spring planting. But the main street is lined with the wrecks of cars damaged in the clash, with glass and metal littering the ground.

Residents said they should have the right to vote both for the leader who represents them and on whether to approve a controversial proposal to transform rice fields into an industrial zone.

"This should be decided by a vote by villagers," said one of the protest leaders, adding: "The village chief should represent our interests, but he doesn't."

Locals fear that once the NPC -- which starts on Tuesday -- ends, authorities will move in with force.

Chinese leaders have repeatedly ruled out Western-style democracy for the country.

"For the purpose of maintaining stability, they (authorities) don't want to use forceful measures before the meetings," another villager said. "We are afraid of them coming back."

The unidentified attackers, some of whom wore orange hard hats and red armbands, drove into the village and turned on residents with shovels and other weapons.

Villagers drove the interlopers off by hitting them with bamboo poles and throwing bricks from a nearby construction site, according to first-hand accounts and video of the incident provided to AFP.

They said they then vented their fury on the attackers' cars, overturning and smashing as many as 29 vehicles.

Residents claimed some of the group had knives and a gun. A video showed a man firing a handgun into the air and villagers said he was a plainclothes police officer trying to intercede. At least eight villagers were injured.

In Wukan in late 2011, a protest by residents against a land grab by local officials accused of corruption escalated after one of their leaders died in police custody.

Villagers barricaded roads and faced off against security forces for 10 days, until authorities backed down and promised them rare concessions. Residents were later allowed to hold open village elections -- a first in Wukan.

The people of Shangpu had heard of Wukan indirectly, and had similar demands: free elections for their leader.

They claim the current village chief Li Baoyu, who is also the party head, was foisted on them by higher authorities.

Residents allege Li fraudulently obtained signatures to support the transfer of 33 hectares (82 acres) of farmland to the Wanfeng Investment Co, backed by businessman Wu Guicun, to be used for factories producing electrical cables.

The village's ruling committee will receive compensation based on the yield of rice that would have been planted on the land. But residents fear they themselves will not be paid and say the compensation does not reflect the true value.

"Village cadres have illegally dealt in land and leased land at a low price," they said in a petition to higher officials.

In the government's only official statement on the case, Jiexi county, which administers the village, pledged to pursue those responsible for the attack and bring criminal prosecutions.

No one from Wanfeng Investment Co could be reached for comment.

- AFP/xq



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Jerome Oxman dies at 97; his mail-order business became military surplus store and museum









Jerome Oxman, who started a mail-order business in the early 1960s that grew into a sprawling Santa Fe Springs outlet that became both a military surplus store and a military museum, has died. He was 97.

Oxman died of prostate cancer Feb. 22 at his Buena Park home, said his son, Brian.

Oxman was an expert at buying items at government auctions, and his love for surplus military gear was honed by three years of World War II duty on a U.S. Army supply line in Iran. He worked at a Vernon surplus store before starting Oxman's Surplus Inc. at Rosecrans and Valley View avenues in 1961.








"There used to be so much surplus equipment stored by aircraft companies and military bases all over the country," he told The Times two years ago. "Now, it's hard to find."

Oxman started his historical collection in 1950 when his employer sent him to pick up a load of government gear at a surplus warehouse. On a whim, he purchased a discarded Norden bomb sight, which in 1940 had cost the equivalent of about $125,000 in today's dollars. Oxman paid $9.80.

"This thing was so secret it was set up with explosives to blow up if the plane was shot down or captured," Oxman would explain to visitors at his museum, which included a dining area he called the "Mess Tent Cafe" that served up military field rations.

At the time of his death, his collection contained some 1,600 items.

Oxman, who sometimes staged Saturday "Lunch with a Hero" events that paid tribute to military veterans, reveled in explaining the history and uses of artifacts on display. He encouraged young and old to sit in a B-17 cockpit near his store's front door and delighted in saying that he bought it for $100 in 1963 from an archaeological team that had found it buried in the Sahara Desert.

Much of Oxman's trove was a hands-on collection. He had fighter jet ejector seats that visitors could climb into and a heat-seeking missile with a tip they could unscrew to see its inner workings.

Other pieces, including a 1940s land mine, a pair of "minefield walking shoes" that were supposed to protect soldiers, and the funnel-like "fighter pilot relief tube," were kept behind glass.

First-time visitors to the store were invariably surprised by the museum pieces.

"One time, someone from Rockwell came in and saw my dad's Hound Dog air-to-surface missile gyro that was used on the B-52 and reported it to the FBI," Brian Oxman said. "Pretty soon, the men in black showed up and tried to take it, saying it was still classified. Dad refused to let them have it."

Another time, a customer set her handbag down in front of a parabolic mirror used in a World War II signaling device. Sun streaming through a window hit the curved glass just right, setting the purse on fire.

Oxman's community involvement included sponsoring the La Mirada Little League for 48 years.

Born June 23, 1915, in Duluth, Minn., Oxman married Miriam Averbook of Wisconsin in 1947. The couple came to California on their honeymoon and never went back.

In addition to his wife, Oxman's survivors include his sons Murray, Jason and Brian; sister Reene Oxman; and four grandchildren.

The family plans to continue operating the surplus store and museum.

A memorial will be held at 2 p.m. March 24 at the museum, 14128 E. Rosecrans Ave.

bob.pool@latimes.com





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We Didn’t Domesticate Dogs. They Domesticated Us.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Read More..

Herbal Viagra actually contains the real thing



































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












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












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












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


















































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




































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


If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.








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3 dead in new Bangladesh war crimes protests: police






CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh: Bangladesh police on Saturday opened fire at Islamists protesting the conviction for war crimes of one of their leaders, killing three people outside the port city of Chittagong.

The deaths brought the total number killed since a war crimes tribunal delivered its first verdict on January 21 to at least 56, according to police figures.

The number includes 40 who have died in the last three days, since Jamaat-e-Islami party vice president Delwar Hossain Sayedee was sentenced to death, police said.

Sayedee was found guilty on Thursday of murder, religious persecution and rape during the 1971 independence war, triggering violent clashes between rampaging Jamaat supporters and police across the country.

The 73-year-old firebrand preacher was the third person to be convicted by the war crimes tribunal, whose verdicts have been met by outrage from Islamists.

The Islamists say the process is more about settling scores than delivering justice.

The latest violence came a day after the United States called for calm in the impoverished South Asian nation.

"While engaging in a peaceful protest is a fundamental democratic right, we believe violence is never the answer," US State Department deputy acting spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters in Washington.

But he stressed the United States believes "it is important to bring justice to those who have committed war crimes and atrocities" while ensuring that the trials be "free, fair, transparent".

In the new clashes, police said they fired live rounds after hundreds of student activists of Jamaat barricaded a key highway and attacked officers with stones and sticks as they tried to clear the road.

"We were forced to open fire. Three people were killed in the clashes," senior Chittagong police official Rabiul Islam told AFP, adding 10 people, including policemen, were wounded.

The war crimes trials of a dozen Jamaat and main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders have opened old wounds and divided the nation.

The opposition has accused the government of staging a witchhunt.

The government, which says the war claimed three million lives, rejects the claims and accuses Jamaat leaders of being part of pro-Pakistani militias blamed for much of the carnage during the 1971 independence war.

Independent estimates put the death toll from the war in which Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan at a much lower figure of 300,000 to 500,000.

- AFP/ck



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Chinatown landmark named for pioneering jurist









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


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


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





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


cindy.chang@latimes.com





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Black Hole Spins at Nearly the Speed of Light


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

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

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

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

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

Galactic Monster

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking the Universe's Evolution

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

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

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

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

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


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






















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
















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












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












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












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












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











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













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


















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


















































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









































































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Bertelsmann buys out KKR in music rights business BMG






FRANKFURT: German media giant Bertelsmann said Friday it has agreed to buy out the US investment fund KKR in their jointly-owned music rights management company BMG for an undisclosed sum.

Bertelsmann said in a statement it will acquire the 51-percent stake that KKR has held in BMG since 2009, finally bringing the unit back under full ownership.

BMG was originally set up in 2008 and KKR acquired its 51-percent stake in 2009.

According to the Financial Times last week, the estimated cost of the deal is around 500 million euros ($654 million).

The deal is still subject to regulatory approval, but is scheduled to close "during the first half of this year," the statement said.

Bertelsmann said BMG manages the rights to more than one million songs, including works by such artists as Bruno Mars, Duran Duran, Gossip, Johnny Cash, and Will.i.am.

It also represents the master rights -- composition and recording -- of artists such as Brian Ferry, Nena and Anastacia.

"This is a great day for Bertelsmann. We are bringing the music home to our group. We are happy to have BMG as our own company again," said Bertelsmann chief executive Thomas Rabe.

Rabe said KKR had been a good partner, but taking full ownership of BMG was "an important step in putting Bertelsmann's growth strategy into practice," Rabe said.

-AFP/sb



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