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Measles Outbreak

Measles Outbreak Spreads to 15 States, Largest in 10 Years

A measles outbreak has sickened more than 120 people in 15 states – making it the biggest outbreak in the U.S. in more than 10 years, Reuters is reporting.

According to federal health officials, most of the victims were not vaccinated against the highly contagious virus.

In a statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the outbreak has been traced to travelers who became sick overseas, returned to the U.S. and infected others.

The news comes on the heels of public health officials stressing the importance of immunizing children.

"With the whole debate about vaccines — and now parents due to their personal beliefs not vaccinating their children — what we are seeing now is that we are going to have these epidemic outbreaks throughout the country," said Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing editor of health at

"If this continues, we will see outbreaks throughout the entire developed world — something we have never seen before," he added.

Last month, British health officials said measles had again become an epidemic in that country for the first time since the mid-1990s due to parents not getting their kids vaccinated.
"Until better global control is achieved, cases will continue to be imported into the United States and outbreaks will persist as long as there are communities of unvaccinated people," the CDC's Dr. Larry Pickering told a news conference.

Measles is caused by a virus that normally grows in cells that line the back of the throat and the lungs.

"This is a very contagious disease," Alvarez said. "It's very difficult to eradicate once you have it."

Typical symptoms include:
— Coughing
Runny nose
— High Fever
— Rash (which usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body)

Measles remains a leading cause of death among children in poor countries.

"What you have to remember is that 250,000 children die from this virus every year," Alvarez added. "So, vaccinations have to be a priority for parents because at the end of the day if you get measles, you can live through it, but in some particular cases, you're going to have complications."

About 1 and 5 measles sufferers experience more severe illness, which can include diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis, chronic neurological deficits and even death.
Details of the outbreak first surfaced in May when more than 70 people came down with the virus in nearly a dozen states.

States with cases now include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington state, as well as Washington, D.C., according to the CDC.

This latest outbreak comes eight years after the virus was declared practically dead in the U.S., thanks to a vaccination program that began in the 1960s.


Guy Kawasaki's Truemors Gets Acquired By NowPublic

Truemors, a rumor site launched by Guy Kawasaki in May 2007, has been acquired. The buyer is NowPublic, a "participatory news site" that we covered last year when they raised their second round of financing. Kawasaki is joining the company's advisory board as well.

The terms of the deal aren't being disclosed, but my guess is that it's very likely to be a tiny acquisition. Truemors remains a niche within a niche, with flatish traffic.

Now if Kawasaki can sell his other experimental startup, AllTop, I'll be impressed. Its so awful its kind of cool.

Original Source :

Adventures By Disney

Adventures By Disney
Remember how in the 1980s everyone was worried about how home video was going to kill off movie theaters? It hasn’t happened yet, and with luck it won’t happen, as long as the movie business keeps finding ways to make the theater experience unique. And thus Journey to the Center of the Earth, which star Brendan Fraser describes in his best techno-nerd voice as “the first feature-length digital narrative-driven live-action family adventure picture in 3D.”

You can overlook most of that tongue-twisting phrase other than the beginning and the end.

Adapted from the Jules Verne novel, this is a 3D feature. It’s not a movie with some 3D sequences: The whole thing is in 3D. And it’s 3D that works. As someone who has been wearing eyeglasses since the first grade, I have been disappointed more often than not by trying to look at a movie through cardboard glasses that did nothing but give me a headache. It’s the 21st century: They’ve got that stuff worked out now.

Director Eric Brevig.

The trick, says director Eric Brevig, is in the projectors. He knows from 3D: Along with a career as an Oscar-winning visual effects designer (Total Recall, Pearl Harbor, Men in Black and many others), Brevig has spent two decades designing 3D shorts for Disney theme parks, including “Captain Eo” and “Honey I Shrunk the Audience.”

If you’ve been to any of those, you know that spectacular 3D effects are possible. We haven’t had them in movies because the process up until now has involved using two projectors that have to be perfectly lined up. In an era when modern movie theaters no longer have staff projectionists, this was not going to happen. As Brevig puts it during a Manhattan press junket for Journey, “In theme parks they could barely do it, and they have fulltime staff.”

Now, he explains, the technology exists to project 3D images using a single projector. “I knew this movie was possible when I saw Chicken Little at this small town theater near where I live in West Virginia, and literally the guy who sells the popcorn flipped on a switch to start the movie and it was flawlessly projected.

Because that was the big hurdle keeping 3D from the masses.“
While this Journey has little that fans of the 1960 version will remember (“No Gertrude the duck, no Pat Boone in a kilt, no dinosaurs that are actually lizards with fins attached,” Brevig says), it is firmly in the tradition of Disney family adventures from the 1960s and meant to play equally well with audiences seeing it in regular 2D format (unfortunately the case in most Western New York area theaters).

Brendan Fraser stars as teacher/scientist Trevor Anderson, a specialist in the field of plate tectonics, as was his brother until he disappeared on an expedition to Iceland. Tracking his lost brother leads him to a cave that strands him thousands of miles beneath the surface of the Earth, accompanied by his young nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) and their Icelandic guide Hannah (Anita Briem).

It’s a world filled with prehistoric creatures and wondrous landscapes, that they appreciate as best they can while looking for a way back to the surface of the earth.
Naming films like Fantastic Voyage and the work of Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad) as his childhood favorites, Brevig was “a kid who loved fantasy movies and wanted to know how they were done so I could do them myself. I was self-taught because this was just before special effects became such a big deal [in the late 1970s].
“I grew up in that era when family films weren’t dumbed down.

I took my own kids to anything that they could get into. And so many of the films were just not enjoyable for adults. So one of the goals with Journey was to tell a story where the parents will get the jokes on their level—I think Pixar does an amazingly good job of that—and kids react to what’s on the screen.”

Brevig was particularly cautious of not wanting his debut as a director to be seen as a mere special effects showcase. “I was constantly downplaying the 3D,” he says. “The studio wanted us to throw more things at the camera. So we compromised where we did.

“The stuff that’s ‘off the screen,’ I tried to not make that feel like a gimmick. There a couple of them that are just blatant, to show the audience why they put on the glasses, But I tried to organically integrate those in to the scenes so they don’t take you out of the movie. This movie will also be seen in 2D by a lot of people, and I didn’t want to stop the movie [for them].”

Enjoyable as the eye-popping effects are, the story works without them. “We showed it to all demographics and uniformly everyone enjoys it in the same places. Adults get some gags that kids don’t, like when Brendan [is going through a box of his brother’s effects], picks up a stereopticon and tosses it aside because he doesn’t know what it is—that’s for the nerd 3D crowd, they shriek with laughter when they see that.

It plays the same no matter where we go.”
Of his star, Brendan Fraser, Brevig says “What a smart guy. He became a very important creative collaborator on the movie. He came to our first meeting with two things, with the original Jules Verne book, and with a 1950s 3D still camera.

He put them both down on the table, said, ‘I love this kind of story, I love 3D, here are my suggestions for how to improve the character.’ The script we had at that point was not the script we shot, it was not in as good a shape. He solved some problems that I had been struggling with, and we were off and running.”
Is the studio worried about competition from the upcoming The Mummy:

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which also has Fraser joined on his adventures by a teen-aged relative? Not at all. As Brevig puts it, “They can take the giant billboards for our movie and just paint different people around Brendan for The Mummy!”

Journey ends with an obvious lead-in for a continuation in which Trevor, Sean and Hannah look for the mythical undersea kingdom of Atlantis. There are as yet no plans for a sequel, Brevig would love to make one. Asked about the possibility of an Atlantis movie, he smiles “I hope so! Underwater 3D is really cool!”

Original Source : a New Way to Get Coupons
The Savings Can Be Significant

Have the recent economic factors of increasing fuel prices and, the fact that crops and meat that have been tainted or downsized, expanded your food bill above tolerance level?

You are in company with many other Americans who are finding it more and more difficult to stock the refrigerator.

There is some good news! According to Amy Bickers and Thomas M. Anderson, associate editors of, world production of source food products is going to modify food and gas prices probably by next year.

However they don't stop there. Something that many of us have eschewed over the years as being too much trouble is making a comeback in a big way; coupons. Bickers and Anderson illustrate their reporting by pointing to Kristina Huddleston and Kurt Kloppensteiner. They have indicated that they save over $100 per month by clipping coupons; hardly an amount to be ignored.

The article asserts that a family of four can save over 25% of their food bill.However we live in a different society than we used to; it's much more high-tech and coupons have changed with the times. According to the article, there are sites such as, and, to name some key ones.

In addition to that you can go to a manufacturer's website and find printable coupons specific to their products; in fact, all of the aforementioned sites have printable coupons.All of these new coupon "weapons" can be used in conjunction with the Sunday paper coupons and by continuing to watch for store specials.Bickers and Anderson end their article by straying from the subject of coupons and suggesting something that my wife and I do, and, it works!

There is no getting around high fuel prices right now.

Unless you have a lot of money or are in some way compensated for travel fuel costs will hurt you. Their suggestion (and we have found it very effective in implementation) is to schedule all family business on one day.

This has other benefits such as forcing planning and routing trips.

Original Source :

Teenager Finds Bat Hiding In Her Bra


Abbie Hawkins caused a right flap when she pulled a BAT out of her BRA in a hotel lobby.

The 19-year-old receptionist usually presents a cool front - but boobed when investigating an unexpected fluttering.

Abbie explained: "The bra had been on the washing line the day before. Driving to work I felt a vibration but thought it was my mobile in my jacket pocket."

But later she took out her phone - and something uninvited was still moving about. She went on: "I plucked up the courage to look and pulled out a little baby bat which had hid in my black bra's padding pocket."

Astonished colleagues rushed to help. Her manager caught the animal before releasing it outside the Holiday Inn, near Norwich International Airport.

Abbie added: "I was shocked but then sorry I disturbed it as it looked so snug."

The Bat Conservation Trust had never heard of a bat in a bra before but said they "roost anywhere dark or safe".

..and I found one in my trousers
Anna Buchan went batty when she felt something move in her trousers on the way to work.

She screamed on finding a 2in pipistrelle bat. It crept inside when Anna, 19, hung up her clothes the previous night. When she calmed down, the Aberdeen girl, right, said: "He was so cute."

Original Source :

Government-Owned Inventions Availability For Licensing

Government-Owned Inventions Availability For Licensing

Jul 09, 2008 (National Institutes of Health Documents and Publications/ContentWorks via COMTEX) -- TCHY | Quote | Chart | News | PowerRating -- SUMMARY: The inventions listed below are owned by an agency of the U.S. Government and are available for licensing in the U.S. in accordance with 35 U.S.C. 207 to achieve expeditious commercialization of results of federally-funded research and development. Foreign patent applications are filed on selected inventions to extend market coverage for companies and may also be available for licensing.

ADDRESSES: Licensing information and copies of the U.S. patent applications listed below may be obtained by writing to the indicated licensing contact at the Office of Technology Transfer, National Institutes of Health, 6011 Executive Boulevard, Suite 325, Rockville, Maryland 20852-3804; telephone: 301-496-7057; fax: 301-402-0220. A signed Confidential Disclosure Agreement will be required to receive copies of the patent applications.

Method for Detection and Quantification of PLK1 Expression and Activity

Description of Technology: Polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1) plays a role in the regulation of the cell cycle and control of cellular proliferation. Because Plk1 is associated with neoplastic transformation of human cells, expression of this protein has been proposed as a prognostic marker for many types of malignancies. In mammalian cells, four Plks exist, but their expression patterns and functions appear to be distinct from each other. Available for licensing is a Plk1 ELISA assay using peptide substrates that are specific for Plk1, in that they are phosphorylated and bound by Plk1, but not by the related polo kinases Plk2, Plk3 and Plk4.

By exploiting a unique Plk1-dependent phosphorylation and binding property, an easy and reliable ELISA assay has been developed to quantify Plk1 expression levels and kinase activity. With this highly sensitive assay, Plk1 activity can be measured with 2-20 microgram of total lysates without immunoprecipitation or purification steps. Since deregulated Plk1 expression has been suggested as a prognostic marker for a wide range of human malignancies, this assay may provide an innovative tool for assessing the predisposition for cancer development, monitoring cancer progression, and estimating the prognosis of various types of cancer patients.

Applications: Optimized PBIP1 polypeptides, a natural substrate of Plk1, with enhanced specificity and sensitivity over the native PBIP1 sequence.

ELISA assay to quantify Plk1 expression and kinase activity.

Advantages: Rapid, highly sensitive assay that requires lower amounts of starting material than conventional immunoprecipitation assays.

Assay that is selective for Plk1.

Development Status: The technology is currently in the pre-clinical stage of development.

Market: An estimated 1,444,920 new cancer diagnoses in the U.S. in 2007. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in United States. It is estimated that the cancer therapeutic market would double to $50 billion a year in 2010 from $25 billion in 2006.

Inventors: Kyung Lee and Jung-Eun Park (NCI).

Publications: 1. J-E Park, L Li, K Strebhardt, SH Yuspa, and KS. Lee. Direct quantification of polo-like kinase 1 activity in cells and tissues using a highly sensitive and specific ELISA assay (about to be submitted).

2. KS Lee et al. Mechanisms of mammalian polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1) localization: self-versus non-self-priming. Cell Cycle 2008 Jan;7(2): 141-145.

3. KS Lee et al. Self-regulated mechanism of Plk1 localization to kinetochores: lessons from the Plk1-PBIP1 interaction. Cell Div. 2008 Jan 23;3:4.

4. YH Kang et al. Self-regulated Plk1 recruitment to kinetochores by the Plk1-PBIP1 interaction is critical for proper chromosome segregation. Mol Cell. 2006 Nov 3;24(3): 409-422.

Patent Status: U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/054,032 filed 16 May 2008 (HHS Reference No. E-091-008/0-US-01).

Licensing Status: Available for exclusive or non-exclusive licensing.

Licensing Contact: Jennifer Wong; 301-435-4633.;

Collaborative Research Opportunity: The National Cancer Institute, Laboratory of Metabolism is seeking statements of capability or interest from parties interested in collaborative research to further develop, evaluate, or commercialize the PLK1 ELISA assay described above. Please contact John D. Hewes, Ph.D. at 301-435-3121 or for more information.

Cripto-1 Represents a Biomarker for Chronic Inflammatory Diseases

Description of Technology: Chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (e.g. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) and chronic inflammatory arthropathy such as rheumatoid arthritis represent an enormous socio-economic burden due to the cost for long term medication and rehabilitation and the decreased productivity due to periods of acute recurrences. A major characteristic of these diseases is the tissue infiltration of specific CD4+ T cells that sustain inflammation by secreting cytokines. One of these cytokines, TNF-alpha, is a current therapeutic target for the treatment of these chronic inflammatory diseases.

This technology describes Cripto-1 as a biomarker for chronic inflammatory diseases. Cripto-1, an epidermal growth factor (EGF)-related protein, shows higher expression levels in tissue sections of Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis as compared to adjacent unaffected areas. Moreover, the inventors show that the response to Cripto-1 is not due to a generic immune response, and Cripto-1 expression increases the expression of TNF-alpha in CD4+ T cells in tissues affected by chronic inflammatory disease. As a result, this technology could be used as a diagnostic biomarker for chronic inflammatory diseases as well as a novel therapeutic target to help control TNF-alpha in chronic inflammatory diseases.

Applications: Diagnostic tool for the detection of a chronic inflammatory disease.

Method to inhibit cytokine production in a tissue affected with a chronic inflammatory disease.

Development Status: The technology is currently in the pre-clinical stage of development.

Inventors: Luigi Strizzi, David S. Salomon, Monica I. Gonzales (NCI).

Patent Status: U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/045,746 filed 17 Apr 2008 (HHS Reference No. E-075-2008/0-US-01).

Licensing Status: Available for licensing.

Licensing Contact: Whitney A. Hastings; 301-451-7337;

Collaborative Research Opportunity: The National Cancer Institute Mammary Biology and Tumorigenesis Laboratory is seeking statements of capability or interest from parties interested in collaborative research to further develop, evaluate, or commercialize Cripto-1 as a biomarker for chronic inflammatory diseases. Please contact John D. Hewes, Ph.D. at 301-435-3121 or for more information.

Cripto-1 as a Biomarker for Cardiac Ischemia

Description of Technology: Ischemic heart disease is a major cause of human cardiac morbidity and mortality, affecting over 14 million people in the United States alone. Current detection of cardiac ischemia relies upon identification of electrocardiographic anomalies and the release of cardiac markers from the damaged myocardial tissue. Unfortunately, patients with acute myocardial infarction are often insensitive to these tests during the early phases of intervention and as a result more markers for cardiac ischemic disease are needed.

This technology describes Cripto-1 as a biomarker for infarcted cardiac tissues. Cripto-1 is a member of the epidermal growth factor (EGF)-related proteins and is currently thought to play an important role in several cancers. The present invention shows that Cripto-1 is overexpressed in infarcted myocardial tissue, and not expressed or weakly expressed in non-infarct related heart disease tissues and normal tissues. Furthermore, the overexpression of Cripto-1 correlates with the hypoxia-inducible factor-1-alpha indicating specificity to ischemic heart tissue. The expression of Cripto-1 has also been shown to be highly expressed in stem cells, which may have an important role in the repair of damaged myocardial tissue. Thus, this technology could represent a new biomarker for the diagnosis of myocardial infarction as well as a surrogate biomarker to monitor the healing process including regenerative stem cell activity of the infarcted myocardial tissue.


Diagnostic tool for the detection of myocardial infarction.

Method to monitor stem cell activity in damaged myocardial tissue.

Development Status: The technology is currently in the pre-clinical stage of development.

Inventors: Luigi Strizzi, Caterina Bianco, David S. Salomon (NCI).

Patent Status: U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/046,181 filed 18 Apr 2008 (HHS Reference No. E-049-2008/0-US-01).

Licensing Status: Available for licensing.

Licensing Contact: Whitney A. Hastings; 301-451-7337;

Collaborative Research Opportunity: The National Cancer Institute Mammary Biology and Tumorigenesis Laboratory is seeking statements of capability or interest from parties interested in collaborative research to further develop, evaluate, or commercialize Cripto-1 as a biomarker for cardiac ischemia. Please contact John D. Hewes, Ph.D. at 301-435-3121 or for more information.

Identification of Persons Likely To Benefit From Statin Mediated Cancer Prevention by Pharmacogenetics

Description of Technology: Inhibitors of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl (HMG) coenzyme A reductase (statins) are a class of well-tolerated compounds that are the most widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs in the United States. Reduced cancer risk among statin users has also been observed as a secondary outcome in randomized controlled clinical trials evaluating effects of statins on cardiovascular outcomes. However the observed cancer risk reduction varied with different clinical studies. Thus there is a need to identify individuals who would benefit from treatment with statins.

--This is a summary of a Federal Register article originally published on the page number listed below--


Citation: "73 FR 39319"

Federal Register Page Number: "39319"


Original Source :

South Park Studios

South Park Reveals 'Major Boobage' Magic

South Park's creators have rolled out a series of "making of" shorts about "Major Boobage," the drug-addled episode that pays homage to '80s triptastic cult film Heavy Metal.

In a series of shorts available at South Park Studios, the show's online headquarters, fans can get a closer look at the mechanics behind Kenny's cat-urine-induced psychedelic "cheesing" experiences from the episode, which aired in March.

The fourth and final "making of" installment, "Kenny's Hot Chick," debuted Wednesday. It features commentary by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone that details their approach to "Major Boobage." (Hint: It was an opportunity to overdose on boobs and violence.)

To mimic the hand-drawn feel of Heavy Metal in the episode, the South Park animation team used a combination of live-action and rotoscoping -- similar to the techniques used in Richard Linklater's animated films Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly (a Philip K. Dick adaptation). In the series of four featurettes (available with and without commentary), the South Park creators explain the integration of live-action models with hand-drawn animation online.

While "Major Boobage" isn't the first South Park tribute episode -- remember the anime-inspired "Chinpokomon" and the epic World of Warcraft spoof "Make Love, Not Warcraft"? -- it was the first episode to sail past a million views at South Park Studios.

And it looks like this is only the tip of the Trans Am. "We've got more exclusive content coming out all summer, as we head to October and the new season of South Park," a press release on the site promises.

Original Source :

iTunes 7.7

First look at iTunes 7.7

Apple has made available for download iTunes 7.7 ahead of the release of the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 2.0/iPod touch 2.9 software update, expected tomorrow. So what’s new here?

iTunes 7.7 gallery

iTunes 7.7First, let’s hit the About iTunes file that accompanies the new update. Here in the What’s new in iTunes 7.7 section Apple says:

Use iTunes 7.7 to sync music, video, and more with iPhone 3G, and download applications from the iTunes Store exclusively designed for iPhone and iPod touch with software version 2.0 or later. Also use the new Remote application for iPhone or iPod touch to control iTunes playback from anywhere in your home — a free download from the App Store.

When you install iTunes 7.7 it doesn’t initially look any different to the previous version but if you dig about in the Preferences window you start spotting new stuff.

First look at iTunes 7.7

Here we have concrete proof that the remote playback app lives. This should be interesting.

First look at iTunes 7.7

Applications don’t show in the Library pane automatically, you have to check it first.

First look at iTunes 7.7

And there’s the link. Can’t wait to click on it …

First look at iTunes 7.7

Ahh well … I’ll check it later!

As soon as the iPod touch 2.0 software is released I’ll grab a copy and see how all this stuff fits together.

Want to get in touch? Feel free to drop me a note!

Right to Reply: Should any industry representatives wish to comment on any posts on Hardware 2.0, I will be happy to publish their reply verbatim on this blog.

Adrian is a technology journalist and author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology. He also also runs a popular blog called The PC Doctor. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

Original Source :

La Leopolda Worlds Most Expensive House

Roman Abramovichs new PS250m villa is worlds most expensive house!

Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovichs new home has become the most expensive house on earth, after he paid a whopping 250 million pounds for it.

The Russian billionaire recently picked up the majestic hilltop villa overlooking the French Riviera after falling in love with it during a private viewing along with his girlfriend Daria Zhukova.

The villa, called La Leopolda is know not only to have the best sea views in the south of France, but it also sits on 10 acres of immaculate grounds that run right down to the resort of Villefranche.

It also has the added attraction of being just a stones throw from Monte Carlo, reports the Daily Express.

Previous owners of the villa, originally built for Belgian king Leopolds mistresses, include late banking magnate Edmund Safra, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Fiat tycoon Gianni Agnelli.

Abramovichs purchase means that he will now be making a monthly payment of 1.6 million pounds to pay its mortgage.

The new addition adds to a list of Abramovichs lengthy list of real estate.

He already owns the 15million pounds Chateau de la Croe just down the road from La Leopolda. The Chateau was where former British monarch the Duke of Windsor fled with Wallace Simpson in 1938.

Apart from these two, Abramovich also has properties in Knightsbridge, Sussex and Russia. (ANI)

Original Source :

卐 Swastika

卐 SwastikaThe swastika (from Sanskrit: svástika स्वस्तिक ) is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either right-facing () form or its mirrored left-facing () form. The swastika can also be drawn as a traditional swastika, but with a second 90° bend in each arm.

Archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates from the Neolithic period. An ancient symbol, it occurs mainly in the cultures that are in modern day India and the surrounding area, sometimes as a geometrical motif (as in the Roman Republic and Empire) and sometimes as a religious symbol. It was long widely used in major world religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Though once commonly used all over much of the world without stigma, because of its iconic usage in Nazi Germany, the symbol has become controversial, especially in the Western world.

Original Source :

Worm Eating Slug

Worm-eating slug found in garden

Ghost slug
The ghost slug lives underground and has no eyes

Gardeners in south Wales should not be surprised if they find an all-white, worm-munching slimy creature in their flowerbeds this summer.

A "ghost" slug found in a garden in Cardiff has been declared a new species by specialists at the National Museum of Wales and Cardiff University.

They have given the creature a partially Welsh name, Selenochlamys ysbryda, or ghost (ysbryd) slug.

Creatures of this type are more usually found in Turkey and Georgia.

The origin of the ghost slug, and its route into Britain, is completely unknown, and specimens have not been seen in Europe before this was discovered in Cardiff last year.

Another was was spotted in nearby Caerphilly.

Unlike most slugs, the ghost slug is carnivorous and kills earthworms at night with powerful, blade-like teeth, sucking them in like spaghetti.

It has no eyes or bodily colouring and lives underground.

"The Ghost Slug belongs to an obscure and almost unpronounceable group of slugs - the Trigonochlamydidae," said Ben Rowson, a biologist at National Museum Cardiff.

Slug's teeth
The slug's teeth are about half a mm long and blade-like

"We had to thumb through lots of old publications in Russian and German to find anything like them - but then discovered they were something entirely new."

After studying the slug's anatomy, the scientists realised it was an undescribed species and christened the creature with the name adapted from the Welsh word for ghost, ysbryd.

Mr Rowson said: "Selenochlamys ysbryda seemed appropriate for this spooky, nocturnal hunter and indicates where it was first found. We think this is the first time a Welsh word has been used in an animal's scientific name."

Bill Symondson, an ecologist at Cardiff University, also studied the slug.

He said: "The lack of eyes and body colour could indicate the species evolved in a cave system.

"It was probably introduced to Britain in plant pots, making it an 'alien' species, although we can't be certain.

"We're concerned that it might become a pest, but we need to find out more about it first."

The museum has produced a simple identification guide available from its website to help monitor the slug's spread.

Original Source :

Green Fuel

New green fuel system launched

A new economic and green system to fuel a standard car using hydrogen has been launched.

Sheffield-based ITM Power has come up with a system that means, for the first time, it will be possible to generate hydrogen at home.

That fuel can then be used in adapted petrol-engined vehicles for journeys up to 25 miles, with the prototype vehicle - a Ford Focus - switching back to petrol for longer trips.

ITM Power said that until now, the cost of equipment needed to convert water and electricity into hydrogen, which included platinum, has been a barrier to its wide-scale use as a fuel source.

Only a handful of hydrogen-powered cars exist and hydrogen filling stations are almost as scarce. Also, existing road-going hydrogen vehicles either run on liquid hydrogen, which is hard to store, or use fuel cells to drive electric motors.

In contrast ITM Power's Ford Focus burns hydrogen gas in a conventional petrol engine.

It has taken ITM's scientists eight years to create this low-cost means of manufacturing hydrogen. Their patented re-fuelling station uses a unique low-cost material which dispenses with the need for platinum and can be manufactured at 1% of the traditional cost, thereby significantly reducing its costs in mass production.

It is anticipated that the cost of the home re-fuelling system, which creates the hydrogen gas, will be the equivalent of buying a home boiler once mass manufacturing is under way. It is also estimated that, compared to a litre of petrol, this hydrogen equivalent will cost around 80p, with further reductions likely once the technology is widely in use.

The re-fuelling system works using an "electrolyser" which converts water and electricity into pure hydrogen and oxygen. For a totally green solution the electricity used can be sourced from wind, wave, solar or hydro-electric generating stations.

The company said today's technology will also have applications beyond the motor car. It has already established a showcase "hydrogen apartment" where home-produced hydrogen is used for heating, cooking and operating a fridge, while a hydrogen-powered generator provides the power for lighting and to operate the television and DVD player.

Original Source :

Vote For Donuts

Voters to be enticed to the polls... with an offer of free doughnuts

Voters should be enticed into polling stations with prize draws, free gifts and stickers that say 'I've voted', the Government said yesterday.

Ministers believe they can tackle low turnouts in local elections by handing out incentives to vote that could run from a chance to win a plasma television to a free doughnut.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said new laws to allow town halls to use voting incentives will be included in legislation to be introduced this autumn.

The gifts and prizes idea is one of a string of schemes to increase the number of people taking part in local politics, which are set out in a White Paper from Miss Blears's department.

Other plans include a pioneering offer of cash back to residents if a council fails to provide the services it promises.

That could mean a £10 rebate if dustmen fail to collect the rubbish on schedule.

Miss Blears also said local people should have the power to summon council chiefs and officials to meetings, to demand a response if a petition attracts enough signatures, and to be given more of a chance to press for the establishment of local mayors or parish and town councils.

But she is likely to face fierce opposition to another plank of the proposals, which would loosen political restrictions on councils and encourage more people to stand as councillors.

Rules which were designed to stop abuses operated by groups like the Militant Tendency in the 1980s - when one far-Left council would give well-paid jobs to the political leaders of another - will be swept aside.

In future, town halls will be able to pay high salaries to officials who are councillors elsewhere.

They will also be allowed to produce political propaganda to ' support councillors'.

And some councillors will no longer have to turn up at meetings. Instead they will be allowed to influence them at a distance by casting an electronic 'remote vote' from home.

Miss Blears said her 147-page Communities in Control paper would boost local democracy and improve turnouts, which ran at 35 per cent in this May's local elections. 'In many parts of the country, people feel they can't influence the way some issues are decided in their area,' she said.

'This needs to change. The White Paper provides real and practical ways to put communities in control, so that they have a real say, can find out first hand what is being done to improve their local services, and push any issue they think is of importance up the priority list of their local council.'

The scheme for voting incentives means those who turn up to polling stations could find that putting their paper in the ballot box would enter them for draws for prizes such as TVs, iPods and holidays.

The White Paper called for 'schemes which recognise people who have turned out on polling day, for example every voter getting an "I've Voted" sticker at the ballot box'. The plans follow recommendations made to Miss Blears by a 'councillors' commission' set up by her department last year.

The commission said voting incentives had never been tried on a large scale, but found that attempts to use them had been made in local elections in California, where free gifts for voters included doughnuts, visits to a chiropractor, and vouchers for a chicken dinner.

The Tories said the plans would open the way for corruption.

Local government spokesman Eric Pickles said: 'This is the product of a bankrupt Labour Party, wanting to stuff more cash into the pockets of Labour councillors, bribe their voters, bring back jobs for the boys and slip in back-door state funding.

'Councillors have a valued role to play in holding town halls to account. But rather than these highly-partisan measures, if the Government was genuine about local democracy, it would hand back the powers that unelected regional assemblies and Whitehall quangos have seized from local communities.'

Ideas in the White Paper were condemned by the Taxpayers' Alliance pressure group.

Its chief executive, Matthew Elliott, said: 'It is disappointing that with local government clearly in need of urgent reform, the Government seems hell bent on wasting more taxpayers' money and further undermining local democracy.

'The last thing ordinary taxpayers need is for their council tax to be spent on politicised council officers and even more party political propaganda. Local government needs cleaning up with genuine accountability and real power for taxpayers and voters, not more bias and spin.'

voting graphic

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Iran Tests Missiles Amid Tensions

Iran test fires more missiles

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran tested more missiles in the Gulf on Thursday, state media reported, a day after drawing Western criticism for test-firing nine rockets.

Washington, which fears Tehran wants to master technology to build nuclear weapons, said on Wednesday Iran should halt further missile tests if it wanted to gain the world's trust.

Speculation that Israel could bomb Iran has mounted since a big Israeli air drill last month. U.S. leaders have not ruled out military options if diplomacy fails to end the nuclear row.

Iran has responded by saying it will strike back at Tel Aviv, as well as U.S. interests and shipping, if it is hit. Tehran insists its nuclear programme has only civilian goals.

State TV and radio reported that the new missile tests took place during the night into Thursday.

"Deep in the Persian Gulf waters, the launch of different types of ground-to-sea, surface-to-surface, sea-to-air and the powerful launch of the Hout missile successfully took place," state radio said without giving further details of the missiles.

Iranian satellite channel Press TV said Hout was a torpedo.

"Iran's Revolutionary Guards test more missiles in Persian Gulf," the Press TV reported in a brief headline.

The reports followed remarks on Wednesday night by Guards air force commander Hossein Salami, who had told state television that a "night missile manoeuvre" was taking place. But he gave no details at the time.

Press TV said the new missile tests were part of an ongoing military manoeuvre.

Original Source :

Higher Bills For Motorists

More than nine million motorists face higher tax bills

Gordon Brown has been accused of misleading MPs after the Government admitted that more than nine million motorists would lose out under controversial road tax reforms.

Figures released last night show that only 33 per cent of cars will be taxed at a lower rate after the introduction of a new sliding scale designed to hit the most polluting vehicles.

As a result of the changes, 9.4 million motorists face higher bills by 2010-11, 43% of the predicted number of vehicles on the road. Some 8.4m will lay out around the same as at present, while only 1.4m are set to benefit financially.

Experts calculate that the Exchequer will have received more than a billion in extra revenue by 2011.

The figures, in a parliamentary answer, are a dramatic increase on previous Treasury estimates about the losers under the scheme, which affects vehicles up to seven years old. Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, only avoided a Commons rebellion last week after assuring Labour MPs that he was prepared to look again at the issue.

The Tories accused the Prime Minister of misleading parliament by claiming last month that most drivers would be better off. Motoring organisations also expressed outrage at the changes, claiming drivers hit by soaring fuel costs would face more misery.

George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, said: "Gordon Brown appears to have misled Parliament. He said that the majority of drivers would benefit from the changes to VED. Now even the Treasury have admitted that just a third of drivers will be better off in 2009, dropping to less than 20 per cent in 2010."

Edmund King, the AA President, said hammering so many motorists would be "politically dangerous" for Mr Brown with a general election looming. "This is not a green tax but a mean tax that will hit millions of hard-up families," he said.

Sheila Rainger, of the RAC, said: "It is shocking that the Treasury has taken so long to acknowledge the full impact of these budget changes.

"Far from being a green tax, this scheme will take £1.2 billion off the motorist and put it in the Treasury’s coffers. The Chancellor must think again."

However, giving evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee shortly before the new details were released, Treasury Minister Angela Eagle denied the Government was merely trying to raise revenue, insisting that reforms to road tax were never going to be popular, and suggesting those in for bigger bills were simply making more noise.

"I think that we have heard a lot from people who are worried about the changes. I don’t think we have heard anything from people who benefit from the changes," she said.

Mr Darling has been condemned for failing to mention the plans in his Budget speech in March, and putting them in the "small print" of the Red Book.

However, Ms Eagle insisted there had been no effort to hide the reforms. "It is a pretty bad stealth tax I would say, given all the publicity that is about," she said.

She refused to comment on hints from Justice Secretary Jack Straw that there could be a major climb-down on the road tax reforms, insisting only: "We have set out our stall on the direction of policy."

Currently, the maximum road tax for a vehicle registered between March 2001 and March 2006 is £210. However, from April 2010, in an attempt to hit the most polluting vehicles, that will increase to £455 for the heaviest polluters.

Vehicles such as Range Rovers and some people carriers emitting more than 255g of CO2 per kilometre will pay up to £440. Cars with smaller engines face a £100 rise.

Green groups welcomed moves to hit higher polluting vehicles, but said poorer people should be given financial help with new charges.

Simon Bullock, Friends of the Earth’s economics co-ordinator, said: “Three times more second hand cars are bought each year than new ones, so upping VED on old, very polluting cars will encourage people to choose greener vehicles, cut fuel bills and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

“But we do believe people should be given a helping hand. We are calling on ministers to help people switch to a cleaner vehicle by paying them to scrap their old gas-guzzlers and replace it with a greener car that uses less fuel.

“Ministers must stand firm on their VED plans and do more to encourage greener travel - such as backing tough fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles and investing in alternatives to the car such as rural public transport and faster, cheaper rail. This will also cut transport’s contribution to climate change.”

A Treasury spokesman said: "As we have consistently made clear, while more polluting vehicles will face higher charges, under the new bands of VED the majority of motorists will be better or no worse off."

Original Source :

Sixth Arrest Over Shakilus Murder

A sixth teenager has been arrested in connection with the murder of 16-year-old Shakilus Townsend in south London.

Shakilus, from Deptford, was beaten with a baseball bat and repeatedly stabbed in Thornton Heath on 3 July.

A 16-year-old was arrested at an address in South Norwood, south London, on Thursday morning, police said.

Tyrell Ellis, 18, of Thornton Heath, two youths, aged 17 and 16, and a girl aged 15 are due at Sutton Magistrates' Court charged with Shakilus's murder.

The spokesman added that a fifth person who was arrested, a 22-year-old man, has been bailed to return to a police station in south London in August, pending further investigations.

Shakilus is one of 19 youths to have died after being shot or stabbed in London this year.

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