kin of mumbai attack victims welcome

Relatives of victims of the 2008 Mumbai attack victims on Wednesday welcomed the execution of the lone surviving attacker, Ajmal Kasab, saying justice has been finally delivered. In Varanasi, Sunita Yadav, wife of victim Upendra Yadav, expressed her gratitude to the authorities for carrying out the execution.

Daily Bollywood News:Bipasha Basu - Bollywood will remain a hero-centric business

Women are active in show business like never before, but will they surpass the status Bollywood heroes enjoy? Never, says Bipasha Basu, who feels there is minimum opportunity for female actors in the Hindi film industry

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Skin Cells Turned Into Working Heart Muscle


Research could lead to new treatments for organ's diseases that have genetic cause.



(SOURCE: University of Wisconsin-Madison, news release, Feb. 12, 2009)

THURSDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- It may be possible to use skin cells to create stem cells that can repair damaged hearts, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison report.

In late 2007, UW-Madison researchers showed that skin cells could be turned back into stem cells. In this new study, these induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells were used to create working heart-muscle cells (cardiomyocytes).

The research was published in the Feb. 12 issue of Circulation Research.

"It's an encouraging result, because it shows that those cells will be useful for research and may someday be useful in therapy," lead researcher Tim Kamp, a professor of medicine at the UW Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, said in a university news release. "If you have a heart failure patient who is in dire straits -- and there are never enough donor hearts for transplantation -- we may be able to make heart cells from the patient's skin cells, and use them to repair heart muscle. That's pretty exciting."

However, much more research is required before that kind of therapy may be possible.

"We're excited about it, because it's some of the first research to show it can be done, but in the future, we'll probably say, 'Well, of course, it can be done,'" Kamp said. "But you don't know until you do it. It's a very mysterious and complicated dance to get these cells to go from skin cells to stem cells to heart cells."

NASA To Hold Briefing About Upcoming Kepler Exoplanet Mission

WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a media briefing on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 1 p.m. EST, to discuss the upcoming Kepler mission. Kepler is the first spacecraft with the ability to find Earth-size planets orbiting stars like our sun in a zone where liquid water could exist. The televised briefing will take place in the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. S.W., Washington.

Kepler is scheduled to launch March 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Participants are:
-- Jon Morse, director, Astrophysics Division, NASA Headquarters
-- William Borucki, principal investigator for Kepler science, NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
-- Jim Fanson, Kepler project manager, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
-- Debra Fischer, professor of Astronomy, San Francisco State University

Reporters also may ask questions from participating NASA locations or by telephone. To reserve a telephone line, contact J.D. Harrington by e-mail at j.d.harrington@nasa.gov.

Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. Ames is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. JPL manages Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp of Boulder, Colo. is responsible for developing the Kepler flight system and supporting mission operations.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mediterranean Diet Aids the Aging Brain: Study


Eating plan seems to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment, dementia.



(SOURCES: Nikolaos Scarmeas, M.D., assistant professor, neurology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York City; Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc., Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston; Gary Kennedy, M.D., director, geriatric psychiatry, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; February 2009, Archives of Neurology)

TUESDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Chalk up another endorsement for the so-called Mediterranean diet: The eating regimen, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil, may help the brain stay sharp into old age, a new study suggests.

Following the healthful diet reduced the risk of getting mild cognitive impairment -- marked by forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating. And it also cut the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease if cognitive impairment was already present, said study lead author Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas, an assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

"We did two different types of analysis," Scarmeas said of the study, published in the February issue of Archives of Neurology.

Previous research has found that people who follow the Mediterranean are at less risk of developing a variety of diseases besides Alzheimer's, including heart disease, cancer and Parkinson's.

The Columbia researchers began the study by evaluating almost 1,400 people without cognitive impairment and 482 people with mild cognitive impairment, and then followed them for an average of 4.5 years. The participants -- average age 77 -- also completed a food frequency questionnaire, detailing what they had eaten during the past year.

The researchers divided the participants into three groups -- those who adhered somewhat or not at all to the Mediterranean diet, those who adhered moderately to it, and those who adhered regularly. Then they evaluated the participants' cognitive functioning.

They found that the diet helped in both cases -- preventing mild cognitive impairment and also the risk of further decline, even if people weren't entirely strict in their adherence to the diet.

"As compared to the group that ate very little or not at all of the Mediterranean diet, those who ate it to a moderate degree had 17 percent less risk of developing mild cognitive impairment," Scarmeas said. "Those who adhered a lot had a 28 percent less risk of developing mild cognitive impairment."

The diet also helped those who already had mild impairment. "Compared to those who adhered not at all or very little, those who ate the Mediterranean diet to a moderate degree had a 45 percent reduction in risk going from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease. Those who adhered a lot had a 48 percent reduction in risk of going from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's," he said.

Scarmeas said previous research he's carried out found that a greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.

It's not known exactly how the diet may help keep the brain healthy, Scarmeas said. One possibility is that it might reduce inflammation, which plays a role in brain disease. Or it might work by improving cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol, he said.

Two experts who reviewed the study put their perspective on the findings.

"You see what is called a dose response. The more stringently you follow the Mediterranean diet, the better the outcome," noted Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Alice Lichtenstein, Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, said: "It's encouraging to see the results -- those reporting the healthier dietary pattern seem to do better." What remains to be seen, she added, is whether it was the specific diet that helped people avoid cognitive decline or if those people who ate properly had other healthy habits that decreased their risk.

All three experts agreed: Until more evidence is in that the Mediterranean diet keeps brains sharp, there are plenty of other reasons to follow it, including heart health.

MESSENGER Continues Hunt for Ever-Elusive Vulcanoids



MESSENGER reaches its orbital perihelion today and passes within 0.31 astronomical units (AU) of the Sun (one AU is nearly 150 million kilometers or 93 million miles). The mission's imaging team is taking advantage of the probe's proximity to the fiery sphere to continue their search for vulcanoids - small, rocky asteroids that have been postulated to circle the Sun in stable orbits inside the orbit of Mercury.

Vulcanoids are named after Vulcan, a planet once proposed to explain unusual motions in Mercury's orbit. Scientists have long suspected that these small, faint "space rocks" exist. There is a gravitationally stable region between the orbit of Mercury and the Sun, which means that any objects that originally formed there could have remained for billions of years and might still be there today. All other such regions in the solar system are occupied by some type of debris (e.g., Trojan asteroids at stable points along the orbits of Jupiter and Neptune and Kuiper Belt objects near and beyond the orbit of Pluto).

The so-called vulcanoid region between the orbit of Mercury and the Sun is the main gravitationally stable region that is not known to be occupied. The region is, however, the most difficult to observe. Any vulcanoids would be difficult to detect from Earth because of the strong glare of the Sun. Previous vulcanoid searches have revealed no bodies larger than 60 kilometers in diameter. But MESSENGER's travels in near-Mercury space enable a search for vulcanoids from a vantage never before attempted, says MESSENGER Science Team Member Clark Chapman, who is spearheading the team's search along with his associate, William Merline.

"With MESSENGER, we can search for vulcanoids as small as 15 kilometers across," said Chapman, a senior scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Between February 7 and 11, the wide-angle camera of MESSENGER's Mercury Dual Imaging System will have snapped 256 images in the areas east and west of the Sun. Because of the danger of the Sun's glare, the camera will have to peek just past the probe's sunshade to capture images.

"We are making the same observations on each day," MESSENGER team member Nancy Chabot explained. "This cadence will allow us to reject cosmic rays and to distinguish, by its motion, the class of each object imaged" (e.g., vulcanoid vs. near- or inner-Earth asteroid).

The team carried out a similar imaging campaign over a nine-day period in June 2008, capturing 240 images of the outer portions of the would-be vulcanoid belt. "This sequence was designed to refine our observing techniques, assess limiting magnitudes, verify detectability of known objects, and make an initial search," Chapman explained.

"Vulcanoids, should they be found, may provide scientists with insights into the conditions prevalent in the early solar system," Chapman said. "In particular, if they exist or once existed, they would represent an additional population of impactors that would have cratered no other planet but Mercury, implying that the geological processes on Mercury have happened more recently than we would calculate if we assumed that Mercury's craters formed at rates equivalent to cratering on the Moon and Mars."

If vulcanoids are found not to exist, then we could be more confident that most of Mercury's volcanic plains formed billions of years ago, as on the Moon, according to Chapman. The absence of vulcanoids would also focus scientists' thinking on why vulcanoids never formed or, if they did form, why they are no longer there.

The Mercury-bound MESSENGER spacecraft will be assaulted by temperatures as high as 700?F as it orbits the planet closest to the Sun, and the only thing that will stand between its room-temperature science instruments and the blistering heat is a handmade ceramic-cloth quilt just one-quarter of an inch thick. Carl Jack Ercol, the man largely responsible for making sure that MESSENGER will be able to stand up to such harsh heat once imagined he'd make his living in a darker, much cooler environment: the coal mining industry. Read more about Ercol at http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/who_we_are/member_focus.html.


MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury will start a yearlong study of its target planet in March 2011. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Closing of Guantanamo Bay is Subject of Feb. 18 Panel at the Library of Congress

On January 22, 2009, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order directing the Central Intelligence Agency to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba within a year. Some individuals and groups view this as a risky step because the facility known as "Gitmo" is perceived as a secure location to conduct trials of terrorist suspects. Others welcome the move, but believe it could take longer than one year to accomplish.

The Law Library of Congress will sponsor a panel discussion titled "Looking Beyond Gitmo: U.S. and Foreign Approaches Toward Legal Treatment of Terrorist Suspects." The 90-minute program will be held at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 18, in the Mumford Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building at 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited and advance reservations are suggested at (202) 707-9834.

Panelists include Charles D. Stimson, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and former deputy assistant defense secretary for detainee affairs at the Pentagon; and Law Library of Congress legal specialists Clare Feikert, Louis Fisher and Ruth Levush. The panel will be moderated by Peter Roudik, assistant director of legal research and head of the Eastern Law Division in the Law Library of Congress.
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its Web site at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized Web site at myLOC.gov.

Founded in 1832, the Law Library makes its resources available to members of Congress, the Supreme Court, other branches of the U.S. Government and the global legal community, and sustains and preserves a universal collection of law for future generations. With more than 2.6 million volumes, the Law Library contains the world’s largest collection of law books and other resources from all countries and provides online databases and guides to legal information worldwide through its Web site at www.loc.gov/law/.

Brain Protein May Have Potential Against Alzheimer's

Study in animals finds memory improvements and less cell degeneration.



SUNDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- A naturally occurring brain protein appears able to slow or stop Alzheimer's disease in recent studies done on animal models.

The brain's entorhinal cortex, which supports memory, normally produces brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF); however, its production appears to decrease when Alzheimer's is present. When researchers injected BDNF in lab animals that either were aged, had entorhinal cortex damage or were genetically altered to have Alzheimer's-like symptoms, they found that the animals had improved memory and cognitive skills and that cell degeneration and death was prevented or reversed.
"The effects of BDNF were potent," researcher Dr. Mark Tuszynski, professor of neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, said in a news release issued by the school. "When we administered BDNF to memory circuits in the brain, we directly stimulated their activity and prevented cell death from the underlying disease."

The animals receiving the treatment -- transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer's disease, aged rats, rats with induced damage to the entorhinal cortex, aged rhesus monkeys and monkeys with entorhinal cortex damage -- also showed long-term benefits. They began producing more BDNF on their own and exhibited better brain cell signaling and neuronal function, whereas the untreated animals degenerated further. The hippocampus, the brain's short-term memory processing center, which Alzheimer's disease can quickly damage, also appeared to show improvement.

The team, whose findings were published in the Feb. 8 issue of Nature Medicine, concluded that, since BDNF appeared both safe and effective on animal models, it could hold hope for treating Alzheimer's disease in humans.

"In this series of studies, we have shown that BDNF targets the cortical cells themselves, preventing their death, stimulating their function and improving learning and memory," Tuszynski said. "Thus, BDNF treatment can potentially provide long-lasting protection by slowing, or even stopping, disease progression in the cortical regions that receive treatment."

Here Comes Lulin

In 1996, a 7-year-old boy in China bent over the eyepiece of a small telescope and saw something that would change his life--a comet of flamboyant beauty, bright and puffy with an active tail. At first he thought he himself had discovered it, but no, he learned, two men named "Hale" and "Bopp" had beat him to it. Mastering his disappointment, young Quanzhi Ye resolved to find his own comet one day.
And one day, he did.

Fast forward to a summer afternoon in July 2007. Ye, now 19 years old and a student of meteorology at China's Sun Yat-sen University, bent over his desk to stare at a black-and-white star field. The photo was taken nights before by Taiwanese astronomer Chi Sheng Lin on "sky patrol" at the Lulin Observatory. Ye's finger moved from point to point--and stopped. One of the stars was not a star, it was a comet, and this time Ye saw it first.

Comet Lulin, named after the observatory in Taiwan where the discovery-photo was taken, is now approaching Earth. "It is a green beauty that could become visible to the naked eye any day now," says Ye.

Amateur astronomer Jack Newton sends this photo from his backyard observatory in Arizona:



"My retired eyes still cannot see the brightening comet," says Newton, "but my 14-inch telescope picked it up quite nicely on Feb. 1st."
The comet makes its closest approach to Earth (0.41 AU) on Feb. 24, 2009. Current estimates peg the maximum brightness at 4th or 5th magnitude, which means dark country skies would be required to see it. No one can say for sure, however, because this appears to be Lulin's first visit to the inner solar system and its first exposure to intense sunlight. Surprises are possible.

Lulin's green color comes from the gases that make up its Jupiter-sized atmosphere. Jets spewing from the comet's nucleus contain cyanogen (CN: a poisonous gas found in many comets) and diatomic carbon (C2). Both substances glow green when illuminated by sunlight in the near-vacuum of space.

In 1910, many people panicked when astronomers revealed Earth would pass through the cyanogen-rich tail of Comet Halley. False alarm: The wispy tail of the comet couldn't penetrate Earth's dense atmosphere; even it if had penetrated, there wasn't enough cyanogen to cause real trouble. Comet Lulin will cause even less trouble than Halley did. At closest approach in late February, Lulin will stop 38 million miles short of Earth, utterly harmless.

To see Comet Lulin with your own eyes, set your alarm for 3 am. The comet rises a few hours before the sun and may be found about 1/3rd of the way up the southern sky before dawn. Here are some dates when it is especially easy to find:



Feb. 6th: Comet Lulin glides by Zubenelgenubi, a double star at the fulcrum of Libra's scales. Zubenelgenubi is not only fun to say (zuBEN-el-JA-newbee), but also a handy guide. You can see Zubenelgenubi with your unaided eye (it is about as bright as stars in the Big Dipper); binoculars pointed at the binary star reveal Comet Lulin in beautiful proximity. [sky map]

Feb. 16th: Comet Lulin passes Spica in the constellation Virgo. Spica is a star of first magnitude and a guidepost even city astronomers cannot miss. A finderscope pointed at Spica will capture Comet Lulin in the field of view, centering the optics within a nudge of both objects. [sky map]

Feb. 24th: Closest approach! On this special morning, Lulin will lie just a few degrees from Saturn in the constellation Leo. Saturn is obvious to the unaided eye, and Lulin could be as well. If this doesn't draw you out of bed, nothing will. [sky map]

Ye notes that Comet Lulin is remarkable not only for its rare beauty, but also for its rare manner of discovery. "This is a 'comet of collaboration' between Taiwanese and Chinese astronomers," he says. "The discovery could not have been made without a contribution from both sides of the Strait that separates our countries. Chi Sheng Lin and other members of the Lulin Observatory staff enabled me to get the images I wanted, while I analyzed the data and found the comet."

Somewhere this month, Ye imagines, another youngster will bend over an eyepiece, see Comet Lulin, and feel the same thrill he did gazing at Comet Hale-Bopp in 1996. And who knows where that might lead...?

"I hope that my experience might inspire other young people to pursue the same starry dreams as myself," says Ye.

Iron on its Route to the Sea-Floor: A New Path


"Dust" from iron can float up from hydrothermal vents



Iron dust, the rarest nutrient for most marine life, can be washed down by rivers or blown out to sea or--a surprising new study finds--float up from the sea floor in the material spewed from hydrothermal vents.

The discovery, published online Feb. 8, 2009, in a paper in the journal Nature Geoscience, connects life at the surface to events occurring at extreme depths and pressures. The two worlds were long assumed to have little interaction.

A team from the University of Minnesota, University of Southern California, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory took samples from the East Pacific Rise, a volcanic mid-ocean ridge. The group found that organic compounds capture some iron from hydrothermal vents, enabling it to be carried away in seawater, according to scientist Brandy Toner of the University of Minnesota, lead author of the Nature Geoscience paper. Iron trapped in this way does not rust. For the scientists, discovering shiny iron in the ocean was like fishing a dry sponge out of a bath.

"Everything we know about the chemical properties of iron tells us that it should be oxidized; it should be rusted," said Katrina Edwards of USC.

The metal's purity has practical value. Aquatic organisms metabolize pure iron much more easily than its rusted form, Edwards said. How much captured iron floats into surface waters remains unknown. But any that does would nourish ocean life more efficiently than the oxidized iron from regular sources.

"This is one potential mechanism of creating essentially a natural iron fertilization mechanism that's completely unknown," Edwards said.

"A major question involves the importance of bacteria-catalyzed oxidation versus the conventional rusting process," said Don Rice, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Chemical Oceanography Program, which funded the research. "How much of the world's iron is deposited with bacterial help? And how much escapes both bacteria and the natural oxidation process?"
The sea floor may hold the answer.

Some marine scientists have called for iron fertilization because of the metal's crucial place in the aquatic food chain. Iron is the limiting nutrient in most parts of the oceans, meaning that its scarcity is the only thing standing in the way of faster growth. Iron's equivalent on land is nitrogen. Crop yields rose dramatically during the 20th century in part because of increased nitrogen fertilization. The expedition team discovered the phenomenon of iron capture serendipitously. Edwards and collaborators were studying deep-sea bacteria that catalyze the iron rusting reaction. Of the possible reactions that support microbial communities on rocks, iron oxidation is one of the most important, Edwards explained. Unfortunately, she added, "it's probably the least well understood major metabolic pathway in the microbial world."

The bacteria involved do not grow well in culture, so the researchers are using a range of molecular techniques to search for genes related to iron oxidation. The samples were collected continuously using a remote sampling device deployed and retrieved from the research vessel Atlantis between May 16 and June 27, 2006.
The other team members are Steven Manganini, Cara Santelli, Olivier Rouxel and Christopher German of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; James Moffett of USC; and Matthew Marcus of the Advanced Light Source at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The research also was supported by NASA and the Department of Energy.