If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?
South Korea deploys robot capable of killing intruders along border with North South Korea has deployed sentry robots capable of detecting and killing intruders along the heavily-fortified border with North Korea, officials said on Tuesday.
Published: 11:12AM BST 13 Jul 2010
Two robots with surveillance, tracking, firing and voice recognition systems were integrated into a single unit, a defence ministry spokesman said.
The 400 million won (£220,000) unit was installed last month at a guard post in the central section of the Demilitarised Zone which bisects the peninsula, Yonhap news agency said.
It quoted an unidentified military official as saying the ministry would deploy sentry robots along the world's last Cold War frontier if the test was successful.
The robot uses heat and motion detectors to sense possible threats, and alerts command centres, Yonhap said.
Gods, floods – and global warming The new science of geomythology links ancient legends and natural disasters - and supports climate change , writes Steve Jones.
By Steve Jones Published: 10:44AM BST 13 Jul 2010
'Global warming is a myth.” Type that into a search engine and you get thousands of hits – but global warming is not a product of the human imagination; or no more so than any other scientific claims for – like them – it depends on its data, the accuracy of which has been affirmed by the inquiry into the leaked East Anglia documents. The subject has, alas, become the home of boring rants by obsessives.
More interesting is the notion that myths themselves may reflect real happenings of long ago. The new science of geomythology sets out to tie such tales to ancient disasters. Often, geology and legend fit remarkably well.
The Greek fire-dragon the Chimaera was slain at her lair but – being immortal – her blazing breath lived on. It can be visited today, on the Turkish coast, where a jet of methane from underground has been burning for millennia. Nearby, are the ruins of Colossus. In AD60 a huge earthquake struck. Its Greek temple was directly over a rift in the Earth, where a stinking spring rose from Hades (the Oracle at Delphi was the same, and the best prophecies came after inhaling the gases). The event was remembered by the local pagans as a visitation from the murderous snake goddess Echidna, but as Christianity spread (helped by Paul’s Epistles to the city) the tale grew up that the Archangel Michael had done the job instead, shaking the ground, raising thunderous voice in protest against heresy and opening a great canyon.
Volcanoes, too, tend to leave a lasting impression. The Hawaiians have suffered repeated – and well-dated – eruptions, each remembered as a battle of a chief with a demigod. They keep precise genealogies of their aristocracy, and each battling ruler did indeed reign at just the time of an explosion – the geological and family records of which date back to 700AD.
The greatest tale of all is that of the Flood. Noah finds his roots in older legends. Three hundred Flood narratives are known, from the Americas to Australia (from whence comes the tale of the frog that swallowed the world’s water only to spew it out when the other animals made him laugh). A Babylonian version tells of a divine decision to destroy everyone, apart from a certain Atrahasis, who builds a boat for his family and escapes. A real Atrahasis ruled in Sumeria around 3000 BC and the ruins of his city reveal signs of a gigantic flood of the Euphrates at about that time.
Enthusiasts hint that flood stories date back much further, to the end of the last Ice Age. Ice ages come in slowly, but go out with a bang. The last major event began around a hundred thousand years ago, with a gradual cooling that lasted for tens of millennia. It was interrupted by brief warmings – interstadials – none of which lasted more than a few thousand years. Then, quite suddenly, less than 20,000 years ago, an interstadial began to run away with itself and, quite soon, the icy shroud was almost gone.
The collapse came when climate reached a tipping point. As the edges of glaciers meet the seas they break off. Fleets of icebergs set out into the ocean. Again and again, though, the main ice age sheet recovered and the cold continued.
Then came the end. The evidence lies in ocean mud, in fossil pollen, and in changes in ratio of chemical isotopes that record shifts in temperature. The continental sheet sent out a vast – and final – armada of floating ice, which covered much of the northern seas. A slight increase in the Sun’s output was matched by the disruption of deep ocean currents caused by cold fresh water sinking from the melting floes above. As the glaciers began to dissolve, their waters roared towards the sea. The Thames became a tributary of the Fleuve Manche, a river as huge and silt-laden as the Congo. It ran down what is now the English Channel. Probes into the sea floor far into the Atlantic reveal great beds of mud, the remains of a destroyed European landscape.
The deep seas are a vast reservoir of carbon dioxide, dissolved under pressure, but the chilly and hence heavy water from the disappearing bergs – helped by the Fleuve and its fellows – sank to the bottom and pushed that ancient reserve of trapped carbon towards the surface. Gas bubbled out and entered the air, pushing onwards the wave of warming. Within a couple of centuries the glaciers began their precipitate retreat, the oceans rose by tens of metres, and we were in the modern world.
Most of those ingredients are evident today, but millions insist that the warming story is made up. It’s enough to make a frog laugh.
Steve Jones is Professor of Genetics at University College London
July 12, 2010 Diabetes Drug Maker Hid Test Data on Risks, Files Indicate By GARDINER HARRIS
In the fall of 1999, the drug giant SmithKline Beecham secretly began a study to find out if its diabetes medicine, Avandia, was safer for the heart than a competing pill, Actos, made by Takeda.
Avandia’s success was crucial to SmithKline, whose labs were otherwise all but barren of new products. But the study’s results, completed that same year, were disastrous. Not only was Avandia no better than Actos, but the study also provided clear signs that it was riskier to the heart.
But instead of publishing the results, the company spent the next 11 years trying to cover them up, according to documents recently obtained by The New York Times. The company did not post the results on its Web site or submit them to federal drug regulators, as is required in most cases by law.
“This was done for the U.S. business, way under the radar,” Dr. Martin I. Freed, a SmithKline executive, wrote in an e-mail message dated March 29, 2001, about the study results that was obtained by The Times. “Per Sr. Mgmt request, these data should not see the light of day to anyone outside of GSK,” the corporate successor to SmithKline.
The heart risks from Avandia first became public in May 2007, with a study from a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who used data the company was forced by a lawsuit to post on its own Web site. In the ensuing months, GlaxoSmithKline officials conceded that they had known of the drug’s potential heart attack risks since at least 2005.
But the latest documents demonstrate that the company had data hinting at Avandia’s extensive heart problems almost as soon as the drug was introduced in 1999, and sought intensively to keep those risks from becoming public. In one document, the company sought to quantify the lost sales that would result if Avandia’s cardiovascular safety risk “intensifies.” The cost: $600 million from 2002 to 2004 alone, the document stated.
Mary Anne Rhyne, a GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman, said that the company had not provided the results of its study because they “did not contribute any significant new information.”
The company said that Avandia was safe and that Dr. Freed no longer worked for GlaxoSmithKline.
A panel of experts will meet Tuesday and Wednesday to decide whether Avandia should still be sold and whether it is ethical to test Avandia directly against Actos.
Whether to withdraw Avandia is a question that has split the F.D.A., with some officials arguing that the drug is useful despite its risks and others insisting that it must be withdrawn.
According to the documents, Dr. John Jenkins, director of the agency’s office of new drugs, who has argued internally that Avandia should remain on the market, briefed the company extensively on the agency’s internal debate.
“It is clear the office of new drugs is trying to find minimal language that will satisfy the office of drug safety,” a top company official wrote in an e-mail message after he spoke with Dr. Jenkins, according to a sealed deposition obtained by The Times.
In the deposition, Dr. Rosemary Johann-Liang, a former supervisor in the drug safety office who left the F.D.A. after she was disciplined for recommending that Avandia’s heart warnings be strengthened, said of Dr. Jenkins’ conversations with GlaxoSmithKline, “This should not happen, and the fact that these kind of things happen, I mean, I think people have to make a determination about the leadership at the F.D.A.”
An F.D.A. spokeswoman said the agency would not comment on the contents of the deposition.
Members of Congress, where the Avandia case has led to legislative changes, said they were outraged at GlaxoSmithKline’s behavior.
“When drug companies withhold data regarding safety concerns about their medicines, they put patients at risk,” said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Mr. Baucus and Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s ranking Republican, spent years investigating GlaxoSmithKline’s development of Avandia.
Besides the trial comparing Avandia with Actos, the company also conducted trials comparing Avandia with glyburide, a cheaper and older diabetes medicine.
When Rhona A. Berry, a company official, asked about publishing two of the trials, Dr. Freed responded in an e-mail message dated July 20, 2001, that referred to Avandia by the abbreviation of its generic name, rosiglitazone: “Rhona — Not a chance. These put Avandia in quite a negative light when folks look at the response of the RSG monotherapy arm,” the message said. “It is a difficult story to tell and we would hope that these do not see the light of day.”
Hiding the results of negative clinical trials was once widespread in the drug industry.
But after GlaxoSmithKline was found in 2004 to have hidden data that showed that its antidepressant, Paxil, led children and teenagers to have more suicidal thoughts and behaviors, the company settled a lawsuit by agreeing to publicly post data from all of its trials. In 2007, Congress mandated such disclosures. But the postings are often little more than cryptic references, so the issue is far from resolved.
With Avandia, GlaxoSmithKline has done more than hide trial data. An F.D.A. reviewer who closely examined a landmark Avandia clinical trial called “Record,” found at least a dozen instances in which patients taking Avandia suffered serious heart problems that were not counted in the trial’s tally of adverse events, mistakes that further obscured Avandia’s heart risks.
July 12, 2010 Bid for Trophy Becomes a Test of Iroquois Identity By THOMAS KAPLAN
The Iroquois national lacrosse team was hoping to spend Monday getting acclimated in England as it prepared for its first game in this year’s world championships.
Instead, the team was stuck in a hotel in Midtown Manhattan, missing the visas needed to travel abroad. And the stakes are bigger than a game: what began late last week as a documentation dispute with the British consulate became on Monday a debate over American Indian sovereignty.
Playing international sports, it turns out, is a lot more complicated when players have to convince the State Department that their passports are legitimate.
“There have been hurdles every step of the way,” said Ansley Jemison, the team’s general manager.
The Iroquois team, known as the Nationals, represents the six Indian nations that comprise the Iroquois Confederacy, which the Federation of International Lacrosse considers to be a full member nation, just like the United States or Canada. The Nationals enter this year’s tournament ranked fourth in the world.
The Nationals’ 50-person delegation had planned to travel to Manchester, England, on Sunday on their own tribal passports, as they have done for previous international competitions, team officials said.
But on Friday, the British consulate informed the team that it would only issue visas to the team upon receiving written assurance from the United States government that the Iroquois had been granted clearance to travel on their own documents and would be allowed back into the United States. Neither the State Department nor the Department of Homeland Security would offer any such promise.
“Lacrosse is our game — we are the originators, we invented the game, there are 60 countries that play our game,” said Denise Waterman, a member of the team’s board of directors. “And now we can’t go to a tournament that’s honoring our game? It’s almost unbelievable that this is happening.”
Spokesmen for the Department of Homeland Security and the British consulate said that they would not comment on specific cases. A spokeswoman for the State Department would only say that the Iroquois team has been offered expedited United States passports, but they declined that offer.
“It would be like saying the Canadians are having travel difficulties and the U.S. says we’ll make you U.S. passports and you can go over,” Ms. Waterman said.
Only a few Indian nations issue their own passports, said Robert J. Miller, a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., who has written extensively about federal Indian law. He said that he had never heard of the United States government objecting to the use of such a document.
Neither has Robert Anderson, who was associate solicitor for Indian affairs in the Interior Department during the Clinton administration and now directs the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington School of Law.
“The tribes will probably say, ‘Hey, we’ve got the authority to do this,’ ” he said.
But the State Department said Monday that federal law does not allow a tribal document to be used in lieu of a United States passport when traveling outside the United States. A spokeswoman said that an October 2008 internal directive emphasized that policy, though it noted that other countries had sometimes recognized such documents.
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on Monday to express his dismay that the players were being prohibited from traveling with their tribal passports.
“It’s a matter of tribal sovereignty and respecting the rights of the Native American population of this country,” he said in a telephone interview.
Representative Dan Maffei, a Democrat from upstate New York, said that the federal government’s refusal to recognize the Iroquois passports had the potential to be an “embarrassing situation” for the United States.
“This is a true issue of principle,” he said. “Whether or not their principle is right is not for us to decide.”
The Iroquois team said that even if its situation is resolved immediately, the players will not be able to arrive in England until Wednesday at the earliest, leaving little or no time for practice before their first game — against England, in the tournament’s opening contest — on Thursday night.
The delay has been an expensive one. It was difficult for the Nationals to raise the $300,000 for their trip to the world championships, and the delay in traveling to England — and the arrangements that had to change as a result — has already cost the team more than $20,000, Ms. Waterman said.
The team was able to secure practice time at Wagner College on Staten Island, where players worked out on Sunday and Monday. Meanwhile, some members of the team who had never been to New York City used their free time on Monday to visit Times Square.
Confidence in Obama reaches new low, Washington Post-ABC News poll finds
By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, July 13, 2010; A01
Public confidence in President Obama has hit a new low, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Four months before midterm elections that will define the second half of his term, nearly six in 10 voters say they lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country, and a clear majority once again disapproves of how he is dealing with the economy.
Regard for Obama is still higher than it is for members of Congress, but the gap has narrowed. About seven in 10 registered voters say they lack confidence in Democratic lawmakers and a similar proportion say so of Republican lawmakers.
Overall, more than a third of voters polled -- 36 percent -- say they have no confidence or only some confidence in the president, congressional Democrats and congressional Republicans. Among independents, this disillusionment is higher still. About two-thirds of all voters say they are dissatisfied with or angry about the way the federal government is working.
Such broad negative sentiments have spurred a potent anti-incumbent mood. Just 26 percent of registered voters say they are inclined to support their representative in the House this fall; 62 percent are inclined to look for someone new.
Democrats nationally remain on the defensive as they seek to retain both houses of Congress this fall. Registered voters are closely divided on the question of whether they will back Republicans or Democrats in House races. Among those who say they are sure to cast ballots in November, 49 percent side with the GOP and 45 percent with Democrats.
Overall, a slim majority of all voters say they would prefer Republican control of Congress so that the legislative branch would act as a check on the president's policies. Those most likely to vote in the midterms prefer the GOP over continued Democratic rule by a sizable margin of 56 percent to 41 percent.
Economic worries continue to frame the congressional campaigns. Almost all Americans rate the economy negatively, although compared with the depths of the recession in early 2009, far fewer now describe economic conditions as "poor." Only about a quarter of all Americans think the economy is improving.
Recent economic developments -- a declining stock market, problems in the housing industry and an unemployment report showing only tepid job growth in the private sector -- may have bruised the president's ratings.
Just 43 percent of all Americans now say they approve of the job Obama is doing on the economy, while 54 percent disapprove. Both are the worst, marginally, of his presidency. Even a third of Democrats give him negative marks here. And overall, intensity runs clearly against the president on the issue, with twice as many people rating him strongly negative as strongly positive.
At the same time, Democrats generally continue to hold the edge over Republicans when it comes to dealing with the nation's fragile economy. But that Democratic lead is slimmer than it was in 2006 before the party won back control of Congress. And among those most likely to vote this year, 39 percent trust the Democrats more and 40 percent the Republicans. About 17 percent of likely voters put their confidence in neither side.
Public opinion is split down the middle on the question of whether the government should spend more money to stimulate the economy in a way that leads to job creation. Among those who support such new spending, 18 percent change their minds when asked what they think if such outlays could sharply increase the budget deficit. In that scenario, 57 percent opposed another round of spending.
About six in 10 Democrats say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who favors new government spending, while 55 percent of Republicans say they would be less likely to do so. Independent voters are divided on the question, with 41 percent more apt to oppose and 35 percent to support.
On at least one issue pending in Congress there is broader agreement: A sizable majority says the government should extend unemployment benefits.
Most Democrats and independents support increasing the time limit on government payments for jobless claims, and they are joined by 43 percent of Republicans. The notion clearly divides the GOP: Sixty percent of conservative Republicans oppose the idea, while 57 percent of moderate or liberal Republicans support it.
Low marks on deficit
On the question of Obama's leadership, 42 percent of registered voters now say they have confidence that he will make the right decisions for the country, with 58 saying they do not. At the start of his presidency, about six in 10 expressed confidence in his decision-making.
Obama's overall job-approval rating stands at 50 percent, equaling his low point in Post-ABC polling; 47 percent disapprove of the job he is doing. For the first time in his presidency, those who strongly disapprove now significantly outnumber those who strongly approve.
Among those who say they definitely will vote in November, 53 percent disapprove of the way he is handling his responsibilities.
The president's approval ratings reached a new low among whites, at 40 percent, with his positive marks dipping under 50 percent for the first time among white college-educated women.
On the issues tested in the poll, Obama's worst ratings come on his handling of the federal budget deficit, where 56 percent disapprove and 40 percent approve. He scores somewhat better on health-care reform (45 percent approve) and regulation of the financial industry (44 percent). His best marks come on his duties as commander in chief, with 55 percent approving.
Obama's overall standing puts him at about the same place President Bill Clinton was in the summer of 1994, a few months before Republicans captured the House and Senate in an electoral landslide.
President Ronald Reagan, who also contended with a serious recession at the outset of his first term, was a little lower at this point in 1982, with a 46 percent to 45 percent split on his approval ratings. Republicans went on to lose about two dozen seats in the House that fall.
Of course, Reagan and Clinton subsequently rebounded and went on to win reelection easily.