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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Education Minister urges schools to maintain long-term partnerships






SINGAPORE: Singapore Education Minister Heng Swee Keat has urged schools here to maintain long-term partnerships, which will enrich the community.

He was speaking at Yishun Junior College's (YJC) Celebrating Values Day on Saturday.

It is a carnival to raise funds for charities such as the President's Challenge and Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore.

YJC has roped in partners to organise the event - such as parent support groups and other schools in the neighbourhood.

The event also saw Mr Heng launching a book of values. The minister autographed ten copies of the book.

The school will keep a copy, while the remaining nine will be given to well-wishers who pledge at least S$500 to beneficiaries.

Mr Heng said: "YJC is creating a ripple effect in spreading the message to the community that values ought to be celebrated, that we will care for people in need, that we'll nurture the young. These are the values that will uplift our society and will give all Singaporeans a brighter future."

- CNA/xq



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Trutanich struggling in bid to keep his city attorney post









With large numbers of Los Angeles voters yet to make up their minds, a new poll shows that first-term City Atty. Carmen Trutanich is struggling to stay afloat as Tuesday's primary election approaches.


Trutanich is in a statistical dead heat for second place with private attorney Greg Smith. Former lawmaker Mike Feuer enjoys a slight edge over both as the three candidates battle to advance to an expected May runoff.


Feuer, who served on the City Council and then in the state Assembly representing the city's Westside, was the choice of 23.8% of those surveyed for the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy/L.A. Times Los Angeles City Primary Poll, while 16.4% favored Trutanich, who won the office in a 2009 upset. Smith, a first-time candidate who has pumped more than $800,000 of his personal wealth into the race, was preferred by 15.2%.





But the poll has a margin of sampling error of 4.4 percentage points in either direction. Furthermore, 40% of those surveyed said they hadn't decided on a candidate.


"Feuer maintains a small advantage," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. But, he added, Smith's television and radio advertising and incumbent Trutanich's name ID "could change that," particularly with so many undecided voters.


Just 4.7% of respondents favor a fourth candidate on the ballot, private attorney Noel Weiss. Weiss, who also ran for the post in 2009, has not had the money to mount a viable campaign.


The bipartisan telephone survey canvassed 500 likely voters in the city from Feb. 24 through 27. It was conducted jointly by the Benenson Strategy Group, a Democratic firm, and M4 Strategies, a Republican company.


Earlier independent surveys by other organizations showed that Trutanich had started the race with a lead. But he got into the contest late — after failing to make the runoff in his bid for county district attorney last year — and has not been able to match the campaign treasuries of Feuer and Smith, both earlier entrants in the contest. The blunt-spoken Trutanich, who has tangled publicly with the mayor and City Council, has also alienated some of his past supporters with his style and his decision to run for D.A. despite his 2009 campaign promise to serve two full terms at City Hall before seeking another post.


"To the extent that voters know about the candidates, this race is a referendum on Carmen Trutanich," Schnur said.


In the survey, Trutanich did somewhat better than Feuer and Smith among Latinos: 22.8% of voters in that group said they would vote for the incumbent, compared with 17.8% for Feuer and 12.7% for Smith. Feuer fared best among whites — 26.1% favored him, while Trutanich and Smith were backed by 16.7% and 16.4%, respectively.


Feuer also fared better with female voters (25%) than either Trutanich (13%) or Smith (14%). A Democrat, Feuer also did best among voters who identified with that party — 32% preferred him to Smith, another Democrat, who was chosen by 11%; while 15% favored Trutanich, a former Republican who is currently unaffiliated with a party. Among Republicans, who make up about one-fifth of the city's voters, Trutanich and Smith tied with 23% apiece, while 8% preferred Feuer.


jean.merl@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.


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Smartphone projector breathes life into storybooks



Hal Hodson, technology reporter



Remember your favourite storybook from childhood? Now imagine that the characters that graced its pages didn't only appear in print, but acted out scenes right in front of you, à la magic Harry Potter paintings.


HideOut, a smartphone projector system developed by Karl Willis at Disney Research in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, does exactly that by using invisible-ink markers to guide the projected characters of a storybook through an entire other layer of activities.






The projector also lets the user move a digital, animated character over surfaces in the real world. By passing the camera over another of the hidden patterns - which are visible only in infrared - the character can even seem to interact with physical obstacles, as in the video above.


In a paper describing the system, presented this month at the Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction conference in Barcelona, Spain, Willis laid out how projection will move past games and playing to become an important computer-human interaction technology, freeing digital content from the screens.


Willis writes that future smartphones with embedded projectors will be used to browse digital files projected on any wall or table, to augment theme parks with digital characters, or to make digital board games that jump out of the table. "Enabling projected content to be mapped onto everyday surfaces from mobile devices is an important step towards seamless interaction between the digital and physical worlds."




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US manufacturing rises for 3rd straight month: ISM






WASHINGTON, March 1, 2013 (AFP) - US manufacturing activity expanded in February for the third month in a row, hitting the highest level since 2011, according to the ISM survey of purchasing managers released Friday.

The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing sector index rose to 54.2 from 53.1 in January, boosted by a 4.5 percent surge in new orders.

Manufacturing appeared to be pulling out of a holding pattern in the second half of 2012, when the index hovered around the 50 break-even line between growth and contraction.

The index, based on a nationwide survey of manufacturing purchasing executives, showed across-the-board gains for the second straight month.

The February reading was the highest since June 2011 and unexpectedly strong.

Most analysts estimated the index would fall to 52.4.

Gains were seen in all five sub-indexes: new orders, production, employment, supplier deliveries and inventories.

Of the 18 manufacturing industries surveyed, 15 reported growth, compared with 13 in January.

Executives polled in the survey generally appeared upbeat about demand, although some indicated worry about the government's drastic "sequester" spending cuts that were to begin Friday.

"Overall business is good," said an executive in the food, beverage and tobacco products industry.

A furniture executive said: "Business seems to be on an uptick. The normal seasonal downturn for us has been much shorter and not as severe as in the past four years."

But an executive in computers and electronics pointed to government cuts in defense spending as a problem for his industry, one of the three reporting a contraction in February.

- AFP/ch



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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.


richard.winton@latimes.com


john.glionna@latimes.com


kate.mather@latimes.com


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





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Stinkbug Threat Has Farmers Worried


Part of our weekly "In Focus" series—stepping back, looking closer.

Maryland farmer Nathan Milburn recalls his first encounter.

It was before dawn one morning in summer 2010, and he was at a gas station near his farm, fueling up for the day. Glancing at the light above the pump, something caught his eye.

"Thousands of something," Milburn remembers.

Though he'd never actually seen a brown marmorated stinkbug, Milburn knew exactly what he was looking at. He'd heard the stories.

This was a swarm of them—the invasive bugs from Asia that had been devouring local crops.

"My heart sank to my stomach," Milburn says.

Nearly three years later, the Asian stinkbug, commonly called the brown marmorated stinkbug, has become a serious threat to many mid-Atlantic farmers' livelihoods.

The bugs have also become a nuisance to many Americans who simply have warm homes—favored retreats of the bugs during cold months, when they go into a dormant state known as overwintering.

The worst summer for the bugs so far in the U.S. was 2010, but 2013 could be shaping up to be another bad year. Scientists estimate that 60 percent more stinkbugs are hunkered down indoors and in the natural landscape now than they were at this time last year in the mid-Atlantic region.

Once temperatures begin to rise, they'll head outside in search of mates and food. This is what farmers are dreading, as the Asian stinkbug is notorious for gorging on more than a half dozen North American crops, from peaches to peppers.

Intruder Alert

The first stinkbugs probably arrived in the U.S. by hitching a ride with a shipment of imported products from Asia in the late 1990s. Not long after that, they were spotted in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Since then, they've been identified in 39 other states. Effective monitoring tools are being developed to help researchers detect regional patterns.

There are two main reasons to fear this invader, whose popular name comes from the pungent odor it releases when squashed. It can be distinguished from the native stinkbug by white stripes on its antennae and a mottled appearance on its abdomen. (The native stinkbug can also cause damage but its population number is too low for it to have a significant impact.)

For one thing, Asian stinkbugs have an insatiable appetite for fruits and vegetables, latching onto them with a needlelike probe before breaking down their flesh and sucking out juice until all that's left is a mangled mess.

Peaches, apples, peppers, soybeans, tomatoes, and grapes are among their favorite crops, said Tracy Leskey, a research entomologist leading a USDA-funded team dedicated to stinkbug management. She adds that in 2010, the insects caused $37 million in damage just to apple crops in the mid-Atlantic region.

Another fear factor: Although the stinkbug has some natural predators in the U.S., those predators can't keep up with the size of the stinkbug population, giving it the almost completely unchecked freedom to eat, reproduce, and flourish.

Almost completely unchecked. Leskey and her team have found that stinkbugs are attracted to blue, black, and white light, and to certain pheromones. Pheromone lures have been used with some success in stinkbug traps, but the method hasn't yet been evaluated for catching the bugs in large numbers.

So Milburn—who is on the stakeholders' advisory panel of Leskey's USDA-funded team—and other farmers have had to resort to using some chemical agents to protect against stinkbug sabotage.

It's a solution that Milburn isn't happy about. "We have to be careful—this is people's food. My family eats our apples, too," he says. "We have to engage and defeat with an environmentally safe and economically feasible solution."

Damage Control

Research Entomologist Kim Hoelmer agrees but knows that foregoing pesticides in the face of the stinkbug threat is easier said than done.

Hoelmer works on the USDA stinkbug management team's biological control program. For the past eight years, he's been monitoring the spread of the brown marmorated stinkbug with an eye toward containing it.

"We first looked to see if native natural enemies were going to provide sufficient levels of control," he says. "Once we decided that wasn't going to happen, we began to evaluate Asian natural enemies to help out."

Enter Trissolcus, a tiny, parasitic wasp from Asia that thrives on destroying brown marmorated stinkbugs and in its natural habitat has kept them from becoming the extreme pests they are in the U.S.

When a female wasp happens upon a cluster of stinkbug eggs, she will lay her own eggs inside them. As the larval wasp develops, it feeds on its host—the stinkbug egg—until there's nothing left. Most insects have natural enemies that prey upon or parasitize them in this way, said Hoelmer, calling it "part of the balance of nature."

In a quarantine lab in Newark, Delaware, Hoelmer has been evaluating the pros and cons of allowing Trissolcus out into the open in the U.S. It's certainly a cost-effective approach.

"Once introduced, the wasps will spread and reproduce all by themselves without the need to continually reintroduce them," he says.

And these wasps will not hurt humans. "Entomologists already know from extensive research worldwide that Trissolcus wasps only attack and develop in stinkbug eggs," Hoelmer says. "There is no possibility of them biting or stinging animals or humans or feeding on plants or otherwise becoming a pest themselves."

But there is a potential downside: the chance the wasp could go after one or more of North America's native stinkbugs and other insects.

"We do not want to cause harm to nontarget species," Hoelmer says. "That's why the host range of the Asian Trissolcus is being studied in the Newark laboratory before a request is made to release it."

Ultimately, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will decide whether or not to introduce the wasp. If it does, the new natural enemy could be let loose as early as next year.

Do you have stinkbugs in your area? Have they invaded your home this winter? Or your garden last summer? How do you combat them? Share your sightings and stories in the comments.


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The self: Why are you like you are?


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Pope leaves Vatican on historic final day






VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican on Thursday for the last time as pontiff before he steps down as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, becoming the first pope to resign in 700 years.

Benedict boarded a white helicopter emblazoned with the Vatican flag for the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo near Rome, flying over the Vatican for the last time as pope.

As he took leave of his closest aides in an emotional parting ceremony in the Vatican, staff lined the route of his motorcade and applauded.

The bells of St Peter's Basilica rang out as the helicopter took off from the Vatican's helipad.

"Thank you for your love and support," the pope said in a final tweet sent from his @pontifex Twitter account just before taking off.

"May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives."

The Twitter account will now be suspended until a new pope is elected in a conclave next month.

The 85-year-old, who has said he can no longer carry on, will then bid one last goodbye to residents of Castel Gandolfo before retiring out of the public eye forever to a life of prayer.

At 1900 GMT, Benedict will no longer be pope.

The Swiss Guards -- a military corps that has protected the papacy since the 15th century and is best known for its brightly-coloured uniforms -- will then leave their posts and return to Rome.

Following tradition, staff in the Vatican will meanwhile apply seals to the doors of the papal apartments and the lift that leads up to them -- to be broken only once a new pope has been elected.

Benedict is only the second pope to resign in the Church's 2,000-year history and in his final hours as pope on Thursday he took the unprecedented step of pledging allegiance to his successor.

"Among you there is also the future pope to whom I promise my unconditional obedience and reverence," the pope said as he bade farewell to cardinals in the Vatican's ornate Clementine Hall.

"Let the Lord reveal the one he has chosen," said the pope, wearing an ermine-lined red stole over his white cassock as cardinals doffed their berettas and lined up to kiss the papal ring.

Benedict will remove the personalised signet ring -- known as the "Fisherman's Ring" -- before he leaves office and it will be destroyed, a tradition to ensure the papal seal is not misused.

"We have experienced, with faith, beautiful moments of radiant light together, as well as times with a few clouds in the sky," Benedict told the cardinals, reprising his remarks to a crowd of 150,000 faithful in St Peter's Square on Wednesday.

"Let us remain united, dear brothers," he said, in the final moments of an eight-year pontificate often overshadowed by infighting at the Vatican and divisions between reformers and traditionalists in the Catholic Church.

The Vatican has said pope will live in Castel Gandolfo for the next two months before taking up permanent residence inside a former convent on a hilltop in the Vatican grounds overlooking Rome.

The German pope stunned the globe when he announced on February 11 his decision to step down, saying he no longer had the "strength of mind and body" required by a fast-changing world.

The news has captured massive media attention, with the Vatican saying that 3,641 journalists from 61 countries will cover the upcoming conclave -- on top of the regular Vatican press corps.

The ex-pontiff will formally carry the new title of "Roman Pontiff Emeritus" or "pope emeritus" for short, although he will still be addressed as "Your Holiness Benedict XVI".

The only other pope who resigned by choice was Celestine V, a humble hermit who stepped down in 1294 after just a few months in office out of disgust with Vatican corruption and intrigue.

Once Benedict takes up residence inside the Vatican, the Church will be in the unprecedented situation of having a pope and his predecessor living within a stone's throw of each other.

Commenting on the new arrangement, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said that Benedict "has no intention of interfering in the positions, decisions or activities of his successor".

Benedict has said he will live "hidden from the world" but the Vatican indicated he could provide "spiritual guidance" to the next pope.

Vatican analysts have suggested his sudden exit could set a precedent for ageing popes in the future, and many ordinary Catholics say a more youthful, pastoral figure could breathe new life into a Church struggling on many levels.

From Catholic reformers calling for women clergy and for an end to priestly celibacy, to growing secularism in the West and ongoing scandals over sexual abuses by paedophile priests going back decades, the next pope will have a tough agenda.

Meanwhile the suspense was building up in Castel Gandolfo -- a tiny mediaeval hilltop town which has hosted visiting popes for centuries and where many locals work at the sprawling papal residence.

"It's a very emotional day," said Patrizia Gasperini, 40, who works in a gift shop next to the imposing wooden doors Swiss Guards will shut at 1900 to signal the end of Benedict's papacy.

Gasperini, who named her eight-year-old daughter Benedetta in his honour, said: "We've been privileged to see a different, more humane side to him over the years, and grown to love him."

-AFP/ac



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