Posts for December 2019

UP CM’s ‘surya namaskar’ remark is to befool Muslims: Owaisi

first_imgAIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Saturday said that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s statement on ‘surya namaskar’ being similar to ‘namaz’ was aimed at fooling Muslims and it would not work.Mr. Owaisi also alleged that instead of addressing issues like loss of employment due to action against slaughterhouses in the state, Adityanath was making statements that “won’t have any impact whatsoever.” “Statements drawing similarity between surya namaskar and namaz, and fasting during Ramzan and Navratri are aimed at fooling Muslims. These are not going to work,” the Lok Sabha member from Hyderabad told PTI here.“These are all patronising statements, which the Muslim community has been hearing for the past 55 years,” he said.Mr. Owaisi said the primary duty of the Chief Minister was to do justice.Mr. Adityanath had recently said ‘surya namaskar’ was similar to ‘namaz’ (prayers) offered by Muslims and those opposing the yogic exercise wanted to divide the society on religious lines.“The namaz offered by the Muslims resembles different postures and asanas of surya namaskar including pranayam,” he had said.Mr. Owaisi also slammed the decision to shut down illegal slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh.“Fifteen lakh people are engaged in the profession of selling and distributing meat and the action against slaughterhouses is putting their employment in jeopardy. Why isn’t he [Adityanath] addressing that? Instead of that, all these statements [on surya namaskar] are being made. It will not have any impact whatsoever,” he said.Mr. Owaisi alleged the food processing units engaged in meat export are also being closed in Uttar Pradesh.“Can you imagine the loss to the nation? Nearly Rs 11,000 crore worth of buffalo meat is exported [every year] from Uttar Pradesh itself.” The AIMIM leader also charged that the BJP-led government at the Centre is being soft on Swami Aseemanand, an accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, who was granted bail by a court here last week.The government’s statement that it is firm on its fight against terrorism is “hollow” because it is not “firm” on Aseemanand, he said.“Why are you not firm on Aseemanand? Why are you not challenging the bail given to Aseemanand? Why are you soft on Aseemanad? Aseemanand is still facing grave charges of terrorism in Mecca Masjid bomb blast, Samjhauta blast (cases).You don’t want to appeal against the bail. What kind of message are you sending?” he said.Aseemanand was released from the Chanchalguda central prison in Hyderabad last evening.last_img read more

Ram Rahim verdict: Violence in Sriganganagar, prohibitory orders imposed

first_imgSecurity was stepped up in Sriganganagar and Hanumangarh districts of northern Rajasthan, bordering Punjab and Haryana, on Friday after some violent incidents were reported following the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a rape case. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of Cr.P.C. were imposed in both the districts.A group of unidentified persons torched a jeep parked inside a power house in Sriganganagar when the information about the judgement passed by a CBI court at Panchkula in neighbouring Haryana spread. Police said two power houses in the rural areas of the district and a building of Labour Department in the city were also set on fire.A portion of the employment exchange in Sriganganagar was damaged and the files lying in the office were destroyed. The violent crowd fled from the spot and none of the accused could be arrested.Security was also beefed up in Gurusar Modiya village in Surtagarh tehsil, 38 km from Sriganganagar, which is the birthplace of Ram Rahim Singh. There are 24 ‘Deras’ in Sriganganagar and Hunumangarh districts, where a large number of Dera followers reside.Sriganganagar Collector Gyana Ram declared holiday in all schools in the district on Saturday in view of the tension prevailing after the Dera chief’s conviction. The mobile internet services have been blocked for 48 hours in the two districts.The Rajasthan Roadways has suspended plying of buses from the two districts on the Haryana and Chandigarh routes, while the North-Western Railway partially cancelled some passenger trains and changed the timings of other trains in the region.last_img read more

16 balsam species found in 5 years in Arunachal

first_imgTwo more species of balsam, Impatiens rugosipetala from the State’s Lower Dibang valley, and Impatiens tatoensis from the West Siang district, were also discovered and described earlier this year.“Three new species of balsam were discovered from Arunachal Pradesh in 2016, and five [were discovered] in 2015. Since 2013, at least 16 new species of plants under the genus Impatiens, commonly referred to as balsam, have been discovered from Arunachal Pradesh,” said Rajib Gogoi, a scientist with the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), who has been working on balsams in Arunachal Pradesh since 2012, told The Hindu.He said that botanists have found 55 species of balsam from the northeastern State, 16 of which are new discoveries to science. In 2017 alone, scientists discovered and published their findings on five other new species of balsam, taking the total number of balsam species discovered this year to six.Impatiens arunachalensis, which bears purple flowers and a pink throat, was discovered from the Upper Siang district. Since only 50 plants of the species were found at a particular location, scientists described the conservation status of the plant as critically endangered.Another species, Impatiens zironiana, with lanceolate pale yellow floral buds flowering and fruiting in the rainy season from July to September, was discovered from the Lower Subansiri district. Impatiens lohitensis In August 2017, a research paper describing Impatiens walongensis, a new species of balsam, was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Phytotaxa.The species was discovered from Arunachal Pradesh’s Anjaw district, one of India’s easternmost. About a meter tall with ovate elliptical leaves and light pink flowers, the plant was named after Walong, the locality where it was found. Impatiens walongensis is the latest but not the only new discovery of balsam in Arunachal Pradesh.center_img  Soil requirementKnown for their starkly differing flower shapes, which are produced along the stem with vivid colours like pink, red, white, purple and yellow, balsams grow in rich moist soil. Across the world, about 1,000 species of these angiosperms or closed seeded plants are known to occur.In India, about 210 balsam species were known till these new discoveries from Arunachal Pradesh emerged. Now, the number of balsam species has increased to 230.“What makes the Impatiens interesting is the high endemism among these plants. In most cases, while collecting the specimens, only a handful of plants are spotted. Since these plants have a very small habitat, they face a threat from the fast-changing landscape of the region,” said Souravjyoti Borah, another botanist associated with these discoveries.  Mr. Borah, who has been working with Mr. Gogoi on genus Impatiens, pointed out that inaccessibility and the difficult terrain of the region were among the reasons why it took so long for the new species to be discovered.The researchers also had to dissect and study their morphology in the field itself.Study on hybridsBoth botanists emphasise that balsams have immense horticultural importance. Studies on hybrids of the plants have been undertaken in parts of the country to produce flowers that can sustain in different environmental conditions. Different hybrids can be created from wild balsam species, so it is important to know the actual number of balsam species in the wild, Mr. Borah said.last_img read more

NIA arrests jail officer for ‘helping Hizb’

first_imgThe National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday arrested deputy superintendent of the Amphalla prison, Jammu, for “assisting a Hizbul Mujahideen militant inside a jail in 2017 to send youth for arms training in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).”An NIA spokesman said Feroze Ahmad Lone, posted as deputy jail superintendent in the Central Jail Srinagar in 2017, “actively assisted Hizbul Mujahideen militant Ishaq Palla, then lodged in the jail, to motivate two youth to take up arms training in PoK.”The spokesman said Suhail Ahmad Bhat and Danish Ghulam Lone were arrested when they were planning to travel to PoK for arms training “for waging war against the state.” “They were motivated by Palla, who was instrumental in hatching the conspiracy from the jail. In this conspiracy, he was actively assisted by Lone. The conspiracy meeting at the Central prison Srinagar was held on October 25, 2017,” said the NIA. He said the accused persons were in contact with each other through blackberry messenger during the whole of October before they were apprehended by the police on October 30, 2017.“The investigation is continuing to unearth the larger conspiracy,” said the spokesman.Candidates warnedMeanwhile, the Hizbul Mujahideen on Tuesday warned people against participating in the upcoming panchayat polls in J&K.“Our (militant) families are targeted these days to prepare the ground for the panchayat polls. We warn candidates that they should buy shroud too when they fill the form for the polls,” said Riyaz Naikoo, ‘operational commander’, in a 12-minute audio released online.He said the outfit have “procured hydrochloric and sulphuric acid for people who are planning to contest elections.” The militant ‘commander’ asked shopkeepers to remove CCTV cameras. “We do not want the activities of militants to be recorded on the cameras,” said Naikoo.last_img read more

What next in CBI-Kolkata Police case?

first_img The CBI sent three notices earlier to Mr. Kumar. Mr Kumar replied to the letters citing various reasons on why he cannot appear before the CBI on the dates indicated by the CBI.In the case of non-cooperation during interrogation by Mr. Kumar, CBI may have to move the Court to seek permission for custodial interrogation.In the course of interrogation, the CBI may try to find about two items – a pen drive in which all data are stored and the diary of Debjani Mukherjee, Saradha Group CMD and one of the key accused in the financial scam.The BJP has been demanding to know the whereabouts of this diary and pen drive. Apparently, Ms. Mukherjee noted the names of the beneficiaries of the Ponzi scheme in the diary. The Saradha Group’s office was located in the Biddhanagar Police Commissionerate area and Mr. Kumar was the first Commissioner to investigate the Saradha Group. CBI officials feel that he has a good idea about the items.Also Read Why Mamata and BJP are both right in claiming victory in CBI vs Police  Mr. Kumar was the Kolkata CP prior to the 2016 Assembly polls. However, the EC asked the State government to remove Mr. Kumar from his post following complaints of bias from various political parties (not the Trinamool Congress). The EC then recommended IPS officer Soumen Mitra. Since the Model Code was in place, the State government at the time had to listen to the EC and replace Mr. Kumar with Mr. Mitra as the city’s Police Commissioner.However, when the Trinamool Congress swept to power in the polls, Mr. Kumar was brought back. In a few weeks, in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, it remains to be seen if the State and EC will lock horns again on this crucial posting. Mamata Banerjee ends Kolkata drama, sets shrill tone for poll battle Kolkata police chief Rajeev Kumar connived with chit fund scam accused, CBI tells Supreme Court Within an hour of the Supreme Court’s order, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials met at their eastern Kolkata office to form teams to send to Shillong where Kolkata’s Commissioner of Police (CP) Rajeev Kumar’s next round of interrogation will take place.“No coercive steps, including arrest” can be initiated against Mr. Kumar, the Court noted. Senior government officials told The Hindu that at the end of this interrogation “a chargesheet could be produced” against him.“CBI had this tradition of moving the Court, seeking warrant before arresting a high-profile accused. That tradition was largely altered around the time of Ranjit Sinha in 2012. In this case, that old pattern may be brought back. After interrogation, CBI may move the court, appeal to vacate today’s order which puts a stay on the arrest and take him (Mr. Kumar) into custody if they have enough evidence…now things will move via Court,” a senior government official said.Also Read  But, lawyers familiar with the case, say that there is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Kumar was ever in possession of the pen drive or diary. “If he knew about those and did not produce it in court as Alamat (items listed in seizure list) then it is an offence. But does he know about the pen drive or diary? So far there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Kumar is aware of those. CBI has to establish that if they are trying to locate the items,” a lawyer said.The call record tampering is another of CBI’s area of interest and investigation.Meanwhile, complying with Election Commission’s (EC) intent to replace officers who are in their respective positions for more than three years, the Chief Minister may replace Mr. Kumar anytime now, before the EC’s Model Code of Conduct is imposed.The names of officers doing the rounds for the CP’s post are that of Anuj Sharma, ADG, Law and Order and Sudhir Mishra, Deputy State Security Adviser. However, there is no guarantee that the EC will not bring in its person, once the Code of Conduct is imposed in about a month from now.Also Readlast_img read more

Manohar Parrikar hospitalised

first_imgAiling Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was admitted to the Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) here Saturday night, a statement said.“Honourable Chief Minister taken to Goa Medical College for upper GI (gastrointestinal) endoscopy. His health condition continues to be stable,” the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said in the statement. Mr. Parrikar (63) would be kept under observation for around 48 hours, the CMO added. A strong police force has been deployed outside the GMCH. Mr. Parrikar, diagnosed with a pancreatic ailment, has been ailing for the last one year. He underwent treatment at a US hospital and also at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. Earlier in the day, senior Goa minister Vijai Sardesai, who met the chief minister at his residence, denied reports that Mr. Parrikar had been put on life support.last_img read more

BJP files complaint against Rahul Gandhi

first_imgThe BJP has lodged a complaint with the Chief Electoral Officer of Tripura against Congress president Rahul Gandhi for allegedly referring to party chief Amit Shah as a “murder accused” at a rally. State BJP spokesperson Ashok Sinha on Sunday alleged that Mr. Gandhi “violated” the provisions of the model code of conduct as he had stated in his speech at the March 20 rally in Khumulwng that Mr. Shah was a “murder accused”.‘False case’ The BJP leader stressed that the “false case” of murder against Shah was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2014. “A false case of murder was filed against Amit Shah during the Congress-led UPA regime, which was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2014 itself. Mr. Gandhi distorted facts for the sake of political mileage at a rally at Khumulwng,” Mr. Sinha said. “We have filed a complaint against him on March 23 for violating the model code of conduct,” he added.‘Code violation’ Mr. Gandhi in his speech had also stated that a “sum of ₹30,000 crore was paid to Anil Ambani in the Rafale deal”. Mr. Sinha claimed that this was an unsubstantiated accusation which also violated the model code of conduct. He said that the Tripura BJP unit had on Saturday submitted a written complaint to the State’s CEO against Mr. Gandhi.‘CM should apologise’ On Friday, the Congress’ Tripura unit had demanded an “unconditional” public apology from Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb for calling the party “sly fox, thief and Satan”, and said the use of “unparliamentary” words was unbecoming of a leader of his stature. The Congress had also filed a complaint against Mr. Deb with the Election Commission of India.last_img read more

Massive crackdown after Arunachal MLA killing: Rijiju

first_imgThe killing of the Arunachal Pradesh legislator and 10 others allegedly by members of the NSCN(IM) has put a question mark on the yet to be concluded Naga peace deal.Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said “politicians and important people” were primarily responsible for the situation “as at times they take the help of insurgents.” The Naga peace accord has been hanging fire since the Centre, represented by interlocutor R.N. Ravi, signed a framework agreement with the NSCN-IM in 2015, the largest group representing the Nagas then. Progressively, the Centre also signed a preamble in November 2017 with six Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) to further hold discussions to find a solution to the issue lingering on for decades.The NSCN (IM) has been fighting for a ‘Greater Nagaland’, or Nagalim. It wants to extend Nagaland’s borders by including Naga-dominated areas in neighbouring Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, to unite 1.2 million Nagas.A senior government official said the killings were a result of rivalry between two factions of the NSCN(IM).Last year, a parliamentary panel quoted the Home Ministry that in Nagaland, the insurgent groups have been indulging in extortion and collecting taxes from many sources including government departments and the NSCN(IM) has had the largest extortion network spanning almost all of the villages of Nagaland. The report also said that the group had emerged as the biggest supplier of arms in the northeast. “Arms were smuggled from China, through Bangladesh, and sold to insurgent outfits across the region,” the report tabled in Rajya Sabha on July 19 last year said.Mr. Rijiju, also a member of Parliament from Arunachal, posted on Facebook that involvement of local community members in insurgency-related activities affected the security operations in the region.“Even if few members of local community are involved in insurgency activities then it affects the security operations because of their family links etc which results in collateral damages and (it) become (a) human right issue… Some people will only question and blame the security forces but never condemn acts of insurgents. They only talk against AFSPA which is actually brought for better security operation and to protect the citizens,” Mr. Rijiju said. In an order on April 2 last year, the Home Ministry had announced the partial withdrawal of AFSPA from the State, 32 years after it was imposed.He said a “massive military operation” has been launched by the security forces in eastern Arunachal Pradesh.last_img read more

ScienceShot: Ban on Ozone Destroyers Slowed Global Warming

first_imgEarth is warming, but temperatures would be even higher than they are today if much of the world hadn’t banned chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the late 1980s. That’s the conclusion of a new study, in which researchers tracked the heat-trapping ability of all greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere, including carbon dioxide, methane, and CFCs, throughout the 20th century. If CFCs—which used to be common in aerosol cans (image), industrial solvents, and as refrigerants, and which poke huge holes in the ozone layer and trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere much more effectively than carbon dioxide does—hadn’t been curtailed, the heat-trapping ability of human-emitted greenhouse gases would today be more than 15% higher than it actually is, the researchers report online today in Nature Geoscience. Previous studies have shown that global average temperatures rose about 0.8°C (about 1.44°F) during the 20th century. The new research, scientists say, suggests that global average temperatures would be another 0.1°C higher without the ban on CFCs.See more ScienceShots.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)last_img read more

WHO ponders treating Ebola-infected people with blood of survivors

first_imgAs the Ebola outbreaks rages on in West Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO), desperate for a way to help infected people, is reconsidering a potential Ebola treatment tried as far back as 1976, after the first documented outbreak of the deadly viral disease: using the blood of people who have recovered from an infection to treat those still fighting the virus. “Convalescent serum is high on our list of potential therapies and has been used in other outbreaks (eg in China during SARS),” WHO said in a written statement to ScienceInsider. “There is a long history of its use, so lots of experience of what needs to be done, what norms and standards need to be met.”There are not yet official plans to administer convalescent serum to ill people, but WHO said it will assess if the treatment approach was “safe and feasible” and was already working with officials in Ebola-affected areas to strengthen the blood-banking systems there. These moves come as researchers debate the mixed results of past uses of convalescent serum. “The jury is still out” on the approach, says Daniel Bausch, an Ebola expert at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Nonetheless, he and others believe the therapy should be explored. “I feel we have a moral imperative to push forward with all the scientifically plausible modalities,” Bausch says.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The Ebola virus has sickened at least 2127 people and killed 1145 of them in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria. Those numbers may “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak,” WHO warned on Thursday. It is already the largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded, and the unprecedented number of deaths has led to calls to try out experimental therapies that are in the early stages of development. On Tuesday, an ethics committee at WHO declared it was ethical under the special circumstance to use unapproved Ebola treatments such as ZMapp, a mix of antibodies that has been tested in animals and was given to two U.S. health care workers who fell sick in Liberia. Other experts are advocating the use of drugs that are approved to treat other diseases but may help Ebola patients, too. And Nigeria is reportedly exploring a controversial treatment called Nano Silver.As for using convalescent serum to treat patients, it is an attractive option for a number of reasons, Bausch says. Getting blood transfusions has become commonplace; no approval from agencies such as the U.S. Food or Drug Administration or European Medicines Agency is needed, and in the affected countries in West Africa many people have survived Ebola, meaning there can be a ready supply of the serum. In fact, the therapy has already been tried in the current outbreak. One of the two U.S. health care workers who was treated with ZMapp, Kent Brantly, earlier received a blood transfusion from a 14-year-old boy he had cared for and who had survived Ebola.But like the other treatments under discussion, it is far from proven that convalescent serum will help Ebola patients. The idea is simple: Because survivors have usually developed antibodies to fight the virus, transferring their blood could help patients. In the past, the strategy was used to treat people with SARS and Lassa fever, a viral hemorrhagic fever, like Ebola. David Heymann, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a former executive director of communicable diseases at WHO, says that the therapy’s use in 1976 was encouraging. Heymann, who was part of a team investigating the outbreak in Zaire, stayed behind for 2.5 months collecting a unit of blood every week from survivors, he says. The outbreak ended before the serum could be used in Africa, but some of it was given later that same year to a researcher in the United Kingdom who accidentally pricked infected himself while transferring blood from a guinea pig infected with Ebola. He survived. “The blood was stored in South Africa and at the CDC in Atlanta, but I don’t know what happened to it,” Heymann says.  Convalescent serum was tried again in 1995 in an Ebola outbreak in Kikwit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Doctors at the Kikwit General Hospital treated eight Ebola patients with blood donated by five people who had survived their infections. Seven of those receiving the serum also survived. A later reanalysis, however, concluded that the patients had survived their infection long enough before receiving the serum that they likely would have recovered without it. And a study in rhesus macaques, published in 2007, found no benefit from transferring blood of convalescent monkeys. “There are many variables and the quality of the immune blood or serum may vary widely from person to person,” says Thomas Geisbert, a researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and one of the authors of that study.The WHO filovirus clinical working group, convened in response to the current outbreak, discussed the evidence on convalescents’ serum at a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, at the end of July, says Bausch, who is part of the group. A plan was proposed to fly blood of Ebola survivors to the United States and have Geisbert or Heinz Feldmann, a researcher at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases , try the therapy in nonhuman primates, Bausch says. But Geisbert, in an e-mail, notes that there are “no current plans to test this in nonhuman primates” and there has been “no official request from any agency” though he and Heinz “are both willing and ready to do whatever is needed to support the outbreak response.” Tom Solomon, director of the United Kingdom’s Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging Infections based at the University of Liverpool, says he is also considering a trial of the therapy in humans. “We are in discussions with WHO and an international group of partners to develop a trial and are looking at both convalescent plasma and novel therapeutics,” he says. If serum is tested on humans, it should be checked in advance that it can neutralize the virus, says Stephan Günther, a virologist at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, who is now in Nigeria. “Otherwise, you don’t need to give the serum.” Neutralization could be measured in cell culture with real virus or a recombinant vaccine virus expressing the Ebola virus surface protein, Günther says.Even if the therapy works, there are challenges. One is the risk of infecting patients with other pathogens such as HIV or hepatitis C. Getting blood from recovered patients in the first place may also be a problem, Bausch says. “Blood is an entity that people pay a lot of attention to in West Africa. When people feel like they are losing blood that is an important and bad thing,” he says. Still, trying the therapy in nonhuman primates and then implementing it in the affected countries in West Africa makes sense, Bausch says. “It’s gonna be messy, it’s gonna be difficult to do, but at some point we’ll just have to try to plunge in and move forward.” Robert Colebunders, an infectious disease clinician at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, who was involved in treating Ebola patients in the 1995 outbreak, says if there are survivors willing to donate blood, doctors should try the therapy. “And then they need to follow it up scientifically, so we learn something from it.”Still, WHO warned today in a statement, the focus on untested therapies is “creating some unrealistic expectations. … The public needs to understand that these medical products are under investigation. They have not yet been tested in humans and are not approved by regulatory authorities, beyond use for compassionate care.”Focus on the therapies is also distracting from what really needs to be done, says Steven Riley, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Imperial College London. “We don’t need to export drugs. We need to export gold-standard public health processes,” he says. Infectious disease experts agree that tracing those who have been in contact with an infected person and isolating them is the key to containing the deadly virus.*The Ebola Files: Given the current Ebola outbreak, unprecedented in terms of number of people killed and rapid geographic spread, Science and Science Translational Medicine have made a collection of research and news articles on the viral disease freely available to researchers and the general public.last_img read more

Feature: A castaway from ancient Mars

first_imgJay Piatek pulls his Jaguar convertible onto the highway frontage road and turns past the billboard that bears his name and a slogan: Weight loss. Health. Motivation. It is here, at the Piatek Institute, on the bland, exurban edge of Indianapolis, that the doctor made his fortune, ministering to thousands of patients who struggle with eating compulsions.Piatek has his own compulsions. Locked away at the clinic is a climate-controlled vault for his abiding passion: meteorites. With a near-photographic memory, he is able to rattle off the names and provenance of some of his more exotic specimens—Itzawisis, a pallasite found in Namibia; Gujba, a bencubbinite found in Nigeria. “They’re like little movie stars,” he says dreamily.There is one diva in particular that I’m here to pay homage to: Black Beauty, a shiny, scaly-skinned, 4.4-billion-year-old rock from Mars. It began its journey to Earth more than 5 million years ago, about the time humans and chimpanzees were splitting from a common ancestor. That is when an asteroid struck Mars, catapulting the rock into space. Sometime in the last thousand years or so, orbital mechanics and gravity delivered the wandering rock to Earth. Surviving an incendiary plunge through the atmosphere, it landed in more than a dozen pieces in the western Sahara. There the fragments sat, untouched except by wind and sand. Finally, a nomad plucked a piece from the dunes. After passing through the hands of several Moroccan middlemen, the first piece wound up in Piatek’s hands in 2011. He would acquire nine more.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Black Beauty has since set the collecting world on fire, reaching values of more than $10,000 per gram. (Gold trades for $40 per gram.) The price is in no small part due to the parade of scientific discoveries emerging from the rock’s jumbled-up guts. It is the oldest rock from Mars and chock-full of the planet’s primordial water. Most intriguing of all, it appears to be the first martian meteorite made of sediment, deposited by wind or water. That makes Black Beauty not only a cosmic blessing—sedimentary rocks are fragile and thought unlikely to survive interplanetary launches—but also a boon for astrobiologists. “If you’re going to look for life, you want a sedimentary rock,” says Munir Humayun, a meteoriticist at Florida State University in Tallahassee who led a study that last year pinpointed the rock’s age.Even if it holds no trace of life, Black Beauty has plenty to captivate scientists. It is a breccia—a rock made of rocks, welded together in a fine-grained matrix. Each embedded pebble has a history to be unraveled. Black Beauty holds not just a geological story but an immense anthology. “We’re looking at the equivalent of a martian geological field area,” says Carl Agee, a meteoriticist at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.Agee led the team that, in a 2013 publication in Science, was the first to recognize that Black Beauty was from Mars—and yet was unlike any of the other 74 known martian meteorites. As expensive as Black Beauty has become, it is still a bargain compared with proposals for a robotic Mars sample return mission. “I sort of half-jokingly say ‘Morocco sample return,’ ” Agee says. “Some of these meteorites, like Black Beauty, are the next best thing.”About a dozen institutions have paid dearly—or traded choice holdings—for the privilege of working with tiny slices. Many more scientists are in the queue for pieces. And Piatek, through a combination of luck, money, and quick action, has cornered the market. He controls about two-thirds of the 2 kilograms of Black Beauty known to exist. The pieces are waiting for us at the clinic. PHOTO: CARL AGEE/UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICOThe Nature paper also reassessed Black Beauty’s age. Agee’s team had pegged it at 2.1 billion years, based on a radiometric dating of rubidium and strontium, averaged across the sample in bulk. That age would have made Black Beauty much older than the shergottites, which are on average a few hundred million years old, but not nearly as old as the 4.1-billion-year-old Allan Hills 84001, a softball-sized Mars meteorite that sparked lasting controversy in 1996, when some scientists claimed it contained fossilized bacteria. In Humayun’s scenario, however, different components of the rock could have formed at different times.Humayun’s team analyzed rock pieces rich in pyroxene and feldspar—minerals that would have been among the first to settle out of a cooling magma chamber. In these regions they found zircons, hardy little crystals that are valued because they suck up enough radioactive uranium to be used for dating. The age Humayun’s team obtained from these minerals—4.4 billion years—would make Black Beauty, or at least these regions within it, the very oldest martian meteorite. It would also mean that, just a hundred million years after Mars itself coalesced as a molten ball of rock, its crust had cooled enough to support magma chambers in which zircons could form.Now scientists are pressing further into the rock. Every cut and slice seems to yield a surprise. In September, at the Meteoritical Society meeting in Casablanca, Humayun reported finding veins of pyrite, fool’s gold. The veins crosscut other parts of the meteorite—meaning they must have been among the last features to form while the rock was sitting on Mars—and the mineral is intrinsically interesting because it forms in the presence of water.Also at the meeting, Francis McCubbins, a colleague of Agee’s at the University of New Mexico, presented evidence that the rounded appearance of the large faint pebbles suggests erosion by water or wind. CT scans have also revealed smaller iron-rich spherules resembling “blueberries,” the iron-oxide concretions discovered on Mars a decade ago by the Opportunity rover and thought to have precipitated out of water. The edges of these veins and spherules would all be good places to look for organic signals, says Andrew Steele, a biogeochemist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., who is probing the rock for organics.So far, Steele has found no hint of martian biology—just trace amounts of organic molecules associated with volcanic processes. But he has found plenty of Earth bugs in the cracks—something that he takes as a good sign. “It’s a very habitable rock,” he says. “All it needs is a little warmth.”While the scientists continue to poke and prod, Piatek totes his martian meteorites to events and institutions around the world. He is a loving but not always careful guardian. In 2013, after the Tucson, Arizona, Gem and Mineral Show—a mecca for meteorite collectors—Piatek visited the house of Robert Ward, a meteorite hunter, dealer, and collector in Prescott, Arizona. The two started drinking and playing around with Ward’s new night vision goggles. They figured that Black Beauty’s fragments, full of heat-retaining minerals, would stand out in the darkness like living things. So Piatek hid the stones outside in a freshly fallen snow. “We got done with the tequila and then remembered the Black Beauties hanging out in the snow,” Ward recalls. “It was like an Easter egg hunt,” Piatek says, chuckling. “It was crazy!”TOWARD THE END OF DINNER at the Indianapolis steakhouse, Piatek receives a text from his niece-slash-personal assistant. “We’re in!” he says. He asks the waitress to bag up our scraps of beef for the 13 dogs he and his wife keep at home.Brock’s sanctioned break-in has done the job. Piatek unzips the roller carry-on bag and begins to take out his pieces of Black Beauty, one by one. Accidently, he drops one and picks it up a bit sheepishly. “Oh, yeah, Smithsonian would have died on that one,” he says.Piatek is handling the oldest rocks on Earth—hundreds of millions of years older than any rock native to our planet, where the constant churn of plate tectonics renews the crust. Black Beauty waited billions of years to get to Earth. Then, all in the last few years, pieces of it traveled to Rome; Washington, D.C.; Tucson; Tempe; Albuquerque; Toronto—a meteoritical Grand Tour. As Piatek continues to make donations and trades, and as researchers slice and dice the stones into ever smaller chips, Black Beauty is spreading itself, entropically, across the world. Mars to Earth, rock to dust.Piatek shows me his favorite Black Beauty party trick. He takes the 525-gram main mass and the 241-gram piece and a little 7.7-gram shard, and twists the three around until, like a jigsaw puzzle, they lock perfectly into place—the way they must have been before the parent body broke up in the atmosphere. “Look at that,” he says, marveling at the fit. “Isn’t that crazy?” In this moment, the arrow of time spins backward, and you can imagine all the pieces coalescing in reverse motion, gathering heft and speed and youth as they return from whence they came. Earth to Mars, dust to rock.A few months later, I call Piatek and catch him creaky-voiced, lying in the bed of a hotel room in Bally’s casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Things have not gone well lately, and not just at the craps table. He and his wife are divorcing. His kids have left the nest. He’s not going to renew his Indiana Pacers season tickets. He is resolving to lead a simpler life, spending more time with family and friends. It also means shedding more of his meteorite collection. But not Black Beauty. That’s his touchstone, his bedrock—monetarily and metaphysically. It has both the pedigree of 4.4 billion years and the promise of a future.“Some Black Beauty I’m going to have to keep forever,” he says. “For the kids, or for when I die. Because they might find something in it.”“What if they find life? It’s the ‘what if’ is what I’m into. It’s like wow. That’s the cool thing about it: the potential of Black Beauty.”*Correction, 26 November, 12 p.m.: The photograph for the “Rock of ages” chart should have been attributed to Carl Agee of the University of New Mexico. PHOTOS: (TOP TO BOTTOM) AHMAD BOURAGAA; MOHAMED AIDIn 2012 and 2013, hundreds of meteorite hunters combed the sands of the western Sahara for Black Beauty—and found pieces like this 241-gram specimen.THE SUN HAS STARTED TO FALL on this steamy July day, but Piatek is just revving up as he parks. Entering the clinic, he shows me a room-sized tank stocked with tropical triggerfish, a tank so big that Piatek puts on a wetsuit and goes diving to clean it. There are empty patient waiting rooms, decked out in a style you might call Greco-Vegas: plastic fruit, purple drapes, faux-Doric columns. A few hours before, they would have been filled with people waiting for 5-minute visits with Piatek and his prescriptions of hormones, vitamins, and stimulants. His fellow doctors may look askance, but Piatek doesn’t really care. “They think we’re just giving out speed,” he says. “I’d rather have my patients love me. Screw my colleagues.”Normally, Piatek keeps Black Beauty and his other most valuable specimens at a bank vault. But he has just recently returned from the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., where he attempted to make a trade, and so he hasn’t yet returned the stones to the bank. They lie in a carry-on roller bag inside the clinic’s vault. Piatek punches in numbers and tugs on the door. “Unbelievable,” he says. “Look at that.” The door handle is jammed.He fetches some tools and pops out the hinges, but the door is still wedged. Piatek calls his niece to summon more muscle: her husband, Brock. “Tell him to bring a couple screwdrivers, and a few pliers, but not little ones.” Then he calls another number. “It’s me, Piatek. I’m coming in with a friend.” He hangs up and faces me. “Do you like steak?” he asks.RUTH’S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE is Piatek’s customary retreat after watching Indiana Pacers basketball games from his courtside seats. There, over steaks and California cabernet, Piatek begins the saga of a 4.4-billion-year-old rock and the 53-year-old man who owns it.Piatek was born in Gary, Indiana, to a mother who worked in the steel mills. His adoptive father was a driver for the fire department. He spent college summers at the mill, working in the coke ovens. “It was, like, brutal,” he recalls. “You’re blowing your nose for 2 weeks afterwards and coke is coming out, and it’s not the coke that’s good.” Medical school at Indiana University opened the way to a different life.After marriage, four children, and nearly a decade as an emergency room doctor, Piatek started his weight loss practice in 1995. Business was brisk. At one point, he was seeing 150 patients a day. But in 2003 his son was working on a fourth-grade school project on meteorites. “What’s a meteorite?” Piatek asked him—and an obsession was born. “I loved that you could get a piece of outer space that’s billions of years old, and you can hold it in your hand,” he says.There are more than 50,000 named and classified meteorites. The vast majority are chondrites, pieces of asteroids filled with little glassy beads called chondrules. Much rarer—and more expensive—are meteorites from the moon, Mars, and other special bodies in the solar system, such as the asteroid Vesta. At first, Piatek was disappointed to learn that he couldn’t own a piece of everything: Some were locked up in institutional collections, others destroyed or lost. He made a list of priorities and started hunting on eBay, quickly graduating to gem and mineralogy shows. At his peak, he had 1300 specimens. By comparison, Arizona State University, Tempe, which has the largest university-owned collection in the world, has about 2000, says Meenakshi Wadhwa, the director of Arizona State’s Center for Meteorite Studies, who recently traded with Piatek for a 20-gram cut of Black Beauty.A few years ago, spurred by chest pains and intimations of his mortality, Piatek decided to cut back on both his working hours and his meteorite addiction. He brought on another doctor to do most of the work at the clinic. And he sold 400 of his specimens—including a couple of Black Beauty fragments—for more than a million dollars to Naveen Jain, a tech billionaire. Although the transaction delighted his wife, who never quite understood the value of collecting these rocks, Piatek winces at the memory. “I had stuff that no one had,” he says. “I had the one that hit the lady, I had the one that hit the dog.”Piatek has whittled his collection down to a prized 400 or so. But his passion still burns. One paramount goal: completing his collection of pallasites, pretty meteorites that often contain green olivine crystals suspended in a gray matrix like luminous polka dots. Of the 59 pallasites that are possible to get (a few others reside in untouchable collections), Piatek has 57.One, the El Rancho Grande pallasite, came in a trade from Agee, a genteel scholar who was once chief scientist for NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and now curates the University of New Mexico’s meteorite collection. “Our relationship was sealed at that point,” Piatek says. He has donated more of Black Beauty to the University of New Mexico than anywhere else, elevating its collection from obscurity.The relationship would prove crucial when it came to figuring out the rock’s origin. In 2011, Piatek bought the first piece, a 320-gram mass, from Aziz Habibi, a dealer from Erfoud, Morocco, who had been regularly sending Piatek pictures of meteorites for sale—including one he called Black Beauty. Almost on a whim, Piatek paid $6000 for the stone—cheap in the meteorite world—thinking it was nothing more than a regular chondrite. (Piatek says he later paid a bonus to Habibi when its true nature was revealed.)Piatek sent the stone to Agee, who wasn’t convinced that it was a meteorite at all. It didn’t have the heft of a chondrite, which are typically rich in dense metals. And the scaly skin—the “fusion crust” that forms on the superheated surface of a falling meteorite—seemed so shiny that it might be fake. “I thought someone had taken a desert stone and spray-painted it,” Agee says. Nonplussed, he stuck the rock on a shelf for a few months. Eventually, in the fall of 2011, he took a diamond-tipped rock saw, sliced off one end of the stone—and marveled at what he saw inside. Dark, angular crystals of pyroxene floated alongside white, chunky feldspars. Large, faint pebbles sat next to tiny, dark beads. It was evocative of the lunar breccias Agee recalled from the Apollo days—except that Black Beauty’s spherules were much more diverse.Agee now knew he had a meteorite, but what was it? He chipped off a gram piece and put it under an electron microprobe, which uses an electron beam to excite atoms in the rock’s minerals. The atoms then emit x-rays that reveal the sample’s chemical makeup. It turned out that the rock had an elevated manganese-to-iron ratio—higher than that in Earth rocks and consistent with other martian meteorites. Next, Agee and his colleagues used a laser to extract water molecules trapped within minerals in the meteorite and fed them into a mass spectrometer to calculate the ratio of deuterium, a heavy isotope of hydrogen, to ordinary hydrogen. Every place in solar system has a distinctive ratio. Lo and behold, the copious water in Black Beauty was Mars-like.Agee was convinced that Black Beauty was from Mars—and also that it was unlike all the other martian meteorites. In a talk at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas in March 2012, he and his team described the rock as a volcanic breccia—a mélange of mineral crystals that formed underground in different slow-cooling magma chambers and were blasted together and fused by an explosive eruption.After Agee’s team published their findings in Science in February 2013, Piatek’s life instantly became more complicated. “You guys killed me,” he says. Almost overnight, Moroccan dealers raised their asking prices for chunks of Black Beauty from tens to hundreds to thousands of dollars per gram. And while Piatek had previously had the market to himself, he now had rivals. Chief among them was another doctor-cum-collector: a Frenchman named Luc Labenne. “I knew he was going to be my competition,” Piatek says. “Then, it was on.” LABENNE HAS A SMALL PIECE OF MARS in the pocket of his bright red pants. He came to Casablanca, Morocco, this past September for the annual meeting of the Meteoritical Society. Like many collectors and dealers, Labenne cares deeply about the science and spends much of his time at the conference diligently attending the scientific sessions—especially the dozen talks that focus on Black Beauty. But he is also here to do business. He has just paid a local dealer nearly €10,000 for a 25-gram martian meteorite called a shergottite. The most common type of martian meteorite, shergottites are relatively cheap and not nearly as scientifically interesting as Black Beauty, but this particular rock’s delicate fusion crust should boost its value. “It’s just magnificent,” he says. “It’s black and fresh. So great.”Like Piatek, Labenne is a semiretired physician. But unlike the frenetic Piatek, Labenne is contemplative and keeps his own counsel. He often takes several trips a year to Libya, Morocco, Chile, and Oman to hunt for meteorites with his brother. Driving slowly and systematically across the desert from sunup until sundown, he takes a quiet pleasure in scanning the landscape for dark objects that don’t belong. At night, he uses LED lights to search for meteorites near the campsite—and has found two lunar meteorites this way. Labenne owns seven pieces of Black Beauty, the second most after Piatek, and has been a primary source of material for scientists in Europe.During a coffee break at the conference, Labenne lurks quietly behind Habibi, the flashy, chain-smoking impresario of Morocco’s meteorite dealers. Habibi has a suitcase open and is showing off samples to scientists, unwrapping them from foil or old socks. He was hooked on fossils and meteorites as a teenager, when he explored the quarries in his hometown, Erfoud, for ammonites, the nautilus-shaped mollusks that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. Habibi now operates a 140-room hotel in Erfoud, but his main love is meteorites—and the wheeling and dealing in them.In 2011, Habibi was in the town of Agadir, recovering from gallstone surgery, when he met another dealer who offered him a shiny black stone. No one could agree what it was, or was worth, and Habibi passed on it. But as he was driving away, he had second thoughts. He turned around and made a deal for the first, 320-gram piece of Black Beauty.With meteorites, where there is one, there are usually more. In 2012, as reports of Black Beauty’s significance began circulating, Habibi went searching. He worked upstream from the Agadir dealer and discovered that the original finder was a nomad who worked the desolate terrain between Mauritania and southwestern Morocco. The nomad, whose name is Bahba, had picked up the stone from a void, featureless place called Rabt Sbayta (“sand dunes of Sbayta”), a few hundred kilometers from the coast within the disputed territories of Western Sahara.Habibi wasn’t the only dealer making inquiries. Rabt Sbayta soon became a village, with dozens of encampments and hundreds of people combing the shifting dunes. The rules were simple: finders keepers. A “strewn field” emerged: a stretch of desert roughly 10 kilometers long and a few kilometers wide strewn with pieces that fell as Black Beauty broke up in the final moments of its descent. Newfound stones were sold up through the food chain of dealers like Habibi and usually wound up in the hands of Piatek or Labenne. “It was a big race,” Habibi says. “It was the most expensive stone of my life. We were paying $1000 per gram here in Morocco. I have never been so stressed.” INSET: GOOGLE MAPS/(DATA) AHMAD BOURAGAAMeteorite collectors, dealers, and scientists are intertwined in wary but symbiotic relationships. Science gains from a long-standing “20/20” rule: To get a meteorite name and an official classification—which makes a stone more valuable—a dealer or collector must hand over to a scientific institution 20 grams or 20% of the weight of the stone, whichever is less. Scientists have now studied and classified seven of the fallen Black Beauty stones. But the rest—including most of Piatek and Labenne’s stones—are unclassified, as the owners have little incentive to give up the material gratis.Hasnaa Chennaoui, a meteoriticist at Hassan II University in Casablanca who organized the conference, complains that the 20/20 rule rewards scientists in Europe and North America, where collectors have the most money and scientists the best equipment. Her university lacks an electron microprobe—the primary tool used for classification—and so she understands why collectors and dealers tend to go to Western scientists. But she feels that she and her Moroccan colleagues ought to have a chance to study their own country’s meteorites. So far, she has had no research access to Black Beauty. “Yes, it goes to science,” she says, “but to science outside of Morocco.”ALL THE PLAYERS in the world of meteorites have their incentives. Hunters want to make money. Collectors want to make a complete set. And scientists want to make their name. That holds for Florida State’s Humayun, who knew that Black Beauty was going to be special from the moment Agee spoke at the 2012 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. In his talk, Agee presented the results of the isotope analysis for oxygen as well as hydrogen. The hydrogen for isotopes were consistent with Mars-like water. But the oxygen isotope ratios were puzzlingly different from those in all other martian meteorites. Humayun thought he had the solution. After the talk, he jumped up and asked for a sample. “Carl said he’d give me one, but he wasn’t in a hurry,” he says. “I just wanted to get my hands on it, to tell the truth.”Tidy in dress and excitable in manner, Humayun is a perfect foil to the laid-back Agee, who says he wasn’t trying to sideline Humayun from access to Black Beauty; he just didn’t get around to sending him any in time. So Humayun arranged to work on a sample held by the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. He realized that the skewed oxygen isotope ratios could be explained if the rock had been exposed to martian air or water for a long period. That couldn’t have happened in Agee’s explosive-eruption origin scenario, because the rock’s interior would have been quickly sealed off from the elements.“It struck me,” Humayun says, “that this was not a volcanic breccia.” Instead, Humayun argues, Black Beauty is a sedimentary rock. The mineral and rock ingredients had formed igneously, from cooling magma, but they then eroded into sediments that were altered by water and air. Sometime later, asteroid impacts fused the breccia into a solid rock, before a final impact launched it into space. Humayun published his conclusions in Nature in November 2013.last_img read more

How mosquitoes walk on water

first_imgMosquitoes may not seem divine, but they can walk on water, thanks to their ultraflexible legs. A mosquito’s leg is made up of three sections, known as a femur, a tibia, and a tarsus. The tarsus is the long, thin section that skims the water’s surface, pictured above. It is covered in scales that repel water molecules, but that only partly explains how mosquitoes stay afloat, a new study shows. To better understand how tarsi support mosquitoes’ weight, researchers plucked the leg fragments from mosquitoes and measured the force they exerted when pressed against water. The secret of the tarsus is its flexibility, they found—stiff tarsi exert less force before breaking through the water’s surface. A flexible tarsus, in contrast, can support up to 20 times the weight of a mosquito by conforming to the water’s surface, the researchers report online today in AIP Advances. Mosquitoes can adjust the level of support by changing the angle at which tarsi impact the water, allowing them to walk, take off, and land in gusty weather. Understanding the science of mosquito legs could be useful for the development of miniature water-striding robots, researchers say. Presumably, these robot mosquitoes would be less annoying than the real kind.last_img read more

Personalized cancer vaccines may fight tumors

first_imgCancer treatments that harness the body’s immune system to wipe out tumors have begun paying off for some patients for whom all other therapies have failed. Now, a small clinical study has found support for a newcomer on the cancer immunotherapy front. Injected with a vaccine designed to match specific mutations in their tumors, three patients with advanced melanoma had a strong immune response and in two their tumors shrunk or stabilized, at least temporarily. Although the study was mainly meant to test safety, the results suggest it holds promise for stopping tumors from growing.“There’s a lot of excitement about this approach,” says oncologist and cancer immunologist Craig Slingluff of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who was not involved with the study.Vaccines for infectious diseases typically deliver into the body bits of protein or other material from a virus or bacterium that trigger the immune system to defend against the invading pathogen. With cancer, the similar idea is to vaccinate a patient with immune-stimulating molecules, known as antigens, found only on tumor cells, so that the person’s immune system ends up attacking the tumor. But cancer vaccines have a poor record of success. That’s because most of the tumor antigens tested also appear in small amounts on healthy cells, and the immune system has mechanisms that make it tolerate, or ignore, these familiar antigens.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Scientists have their eye on a more promising kind of tumor antigen: those that result from the mutations that riddle a tumor’s DNA, thanks to the chaos cancer causes to a genome. Some of these mutations do not appear in genes that drive cancer growth, but instead code for novel peptides—short proteins—that may act as antigens on the surface of tumor cells. Because these so-called neoantigens are completely foreign to the body, they could in theory make a cancer vaccine.Devising a neoantigen cancer vaccine requires sequencing a lot of tumor DNA, which wasn’t feasible or affordable until recently. But now that DNA sequencing costs have dropped and speeds increased, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have begun exploring neoantigen cancer vaccines for melanoma, a tumor in which the sun’s ultraviolet light that sparks cancer-causing mutations also creates hundreds of additional mutations that are likely to include many coding for neoantigens.Human immunologist Beatriz Carreno, trial leader Gerald Linette, and collaborators recently studied three melanoma patients who had surgery to remove their tumors, but who had cancer cells that had spread to their lymph nodes, making tumors likely to recur. The researchers sequenced the exome, or protein-coding DNA, of each patient’s original melanoma tumor and compared it with the exome of their other cells to identify dozens of mutations coding for newly created peptides that might act as neoantigens. (Not all peptides made by a cell get displayed on its surface.) They analyzed the possible neoantigens’ structures and did lab tests to predict which are actually made by the cell and get displayed on its surface, then homed in on those most likely to trigger an immune response. For each melanoma patient they chose seven neoantigens unique to that person’s tumor.After taking blood from each patient and harvesting from it immune sentinels called dendritic cells, the researchers then mixed each patient’s set of neoantigens with these white blood cells so that they would display the peptides to other immune cells. The team used the neoantigen-coated dendritic cells to make personalized neoantigen vaccines that were infused into the patients three times over about 4 months.Carreno and collaborators found that a key measure of vaccine response, the number of immune system T cells specific to the neoantigens in each patient, rose in the patients’ blood, along with an increase in the diversity of these T cells. These neoantigen-specific T cells could also kill cultured melanoma cells expressing the same neoantigens, the team reports online today in Science.In one patient, metastatic tumors in the woman’s lungs shrank, then regrew, but are now stable after 8 months; the second person’s tumor remnants have also been stable for 9 months. A third patient who had received an immunotherapy drug after surgery that put his cancer in remission remains cancer-free. However, the trial was designed primarily to confirm the safety of the vaccine and immune response, not to test its effectiveness, and because the patients received other treatments, it is not possible to say whether the vaccine helped: “I would be speculating if I said that the vaccine had any benefit to the patients,” Linette says.But the fact that the study found “a pretty high magnitude of immune response,” combined with recent reports that a different neoantigen vaccine can fight cancer in mice, suggests the idea is “promising,” Slingluff says.Such a vaccine, which should be less toxic than chemotherapy, might be used to prevent cancer from recurring after surgery. It might also be combined with other immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors that seem to work best for cancers such as lung and melanoma in which tumors have many mutations. “The high anticipation is whether the one-two punch with checkpoint inhibition would work,” says Roger Lo, a melanoma researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles.last_img read more

Demonetisation Also Affects NRIs

first_imgDemonetisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 currency notes has not only taken the Indian citizens by surprise but also created quite a situation for the Non Resident Indians living overseas. Related Itemslast_img

Indian American Former Equifax Software Developer Sudhakar Reddy Bonthu Charged with Insider Trading

first_imgAn Indian American former software developer for Equifax faces insider trading charges related to the company’s massive data breach last year, federal prosecutors in Atlanta said June 28.Sudhakar Reddy Bonthu, 44, used nonpublic information to determine Equifax had been breached last year before any public announcement and then bought put options that he exercised for a profit of more than $75,000 after the breach was announced, according to a court filing.Read it at India West Related Itemslast_img read more

US Encourages, Welcomes Qualified Indians: Consul General

first_imgAs the Trump administration continues to tighten screws on the H-1B visa programme, United States Consul General in Mumbai, Edgard Kagan, says his country encourages and welcomes “qualified Indians”.US President Donald Trump is “very committed” to relations with India, he told PTI. Read it at Economic Times Related Itemslast_img

Ageas Completes The Acquisition Of The 40% Stake In Indian Non-Life Insurer RSGI

first_imgRSGI is a top 10 privately owned player in the Indian Non-Life market with strong positions in Motor and Health insurance. The company benefits from extended distribution capabilities with a nationwide network of more than 5,600 agents, 700 branches, and well-established relationships with banks and other distribution partners off- and online. For the first nine months of the current financial year that in India ends in March, RSGI reported EUR 12 million net profit. Between 2015 and 2018 RSGI realised an average annual growth rate of 55% in net profit.Read it at Globe News Wire Related Itemslast_img read more

Asian Workers File Complaint Against California Resort

first_imgA resort in California is under scrutiny following accusations of trafficking and exploitation of migrant workers mostly hailing from Asian countries. Unite Here, a hotel workers’ union, filed a complaint on behalf of Kolkata couple Falak Rashid and Wahid Rahman who were allegedly misled by an “internship” offer from the Terranea Resort.According to the complaint filed in the U.S. Department of State on Dec. 22, Terranea Resort hires migrant workers from the Philippines, India, and Malaysia on J-1 visas to replace its entire entry-level cook workforce, violating State Department regulations, the Los Angeles Times reported.The lawsuit is seeking investigation into the resort’s internship program where prospective interns were promised training in a variety of cuisines via promotional videos and Skype interviews. Rashid, 23, and Rahman, 24, paid for the year-long program beginning Aug. 15 last year that was intended to train them and further their career after their graduation from a culinary school in Kolkata. The reality of the resort apparently came crashing down on them after they paid to get to the internship, only to find they were performing the same tasks as ordinary workers, and, as per their complaint, “don’t receive raises or benefits.”According to the complaint, 45 interns in 2017 became the resort’s entry-level employees.As much as 60 per cent of full-time entry-level positions are currently filled with interns from the international internship program, NextShark reported citing an old employee of the resort.According to Rashid and Rahman, they spent $15,000 together on airfare, visas, and placement fees just to participate in the “internship”. They looked for their own house in Los Angeles, bought their own kitchen supplies, and other necessities. They quit in less than two months and are looking for a reimbursement of their expenses, as they now have $11,000 in debt.Jon Tuason, a student of a culinary school in the Philippines who was recruited by the resort in 2015, told the Los Angeles Times that he was in the room service kitchen for about five months before he was allowed to move to the cold kitchen where he spent the rest of his internship peeling fruit and making salads.“I felt like a manufacturing machine,” Tuason told the publication.  “I knew it was going to be hard work — I was expecting that.  But I was at least expecting to learn something from it.”Terranea’s practices allegedly violate federal human trafficking laws against fraudulent recruiting or hiring foreign workers under false pretenses, according to the complaint.Jessie Burns, a representative of the resort, dismissed the complaints and called them baseless, the report said. She said that over 160 students have benefited from the program since 2011 and that some of the former students have opened their own restaurants or become chefs. Related ItemsCaliforniaEmploymentHuman Traffickinglast_img read more

Indian Man Pleads Guilty to Visa Fraud Using Social Network Platforms

first_imgAn Indian citizen has pleaded guilty to operating a scam using Facebook and WhatsApp to defraud people seeking visas to the United States.Kanwar Sarabjit Singh (aka Sandy Singh), 51, made use of the social network platforms to falsely represent himself as an employee of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who worked in the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. He told the victims that he could obtain genuine United States visas in exchange for a fee of $3,000 to $4,000, the statement added. As part of his fraud scheme, Singh created a fake photo identification document purporting to be from DHS, which he emailed to others in an effort to show them that he was able to obtain U.S. immigration documents. Singh asked interested candidates to send him all their credentials, including passport photographs, copies of their passports and other personally identifying information, along with bank details to transfer to him the amount within a day or so.  Upon receiving the credentials and the asked fee, Singh generated and emailed fraudulent letters purporting to be from the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, India, which falsely claimed that there was an appointment to pick up the requested visa documents.  Singh pleaded guilty to wire fraud and impersonation of a federal officer on Sept. 10. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 14.  Besides the visa fraud scheme, Singh admitted to his direct involvement in an investment fraud scheme in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in 2012, in which he defrauded 22 investors of approximately $340,000, the justice department’s statement added. As per the court documents, after gaining the trust of the local pastor and his church, including elderly members, Singh convinced them that he owned a small company in India that provided labor for services, including data entry, to two large, international companies and that for a small, up-front investment, they would see a large return on their money. Earlier this month, Harvinder Kaur Thethi, an Indian-origin woman, was sentenced to five years in prison for posing as an immigration lawyer and duping vulnerable people of big amounts in name of immigration-related services. She obtained £68,000 from victims, promising them immigration-related services which were never delivered. Related ItemsUnited Statesvisa fraudlast_img read more