|Animated Collage of NewsWeek (48)|
|Collage of Headline Pictures of NewsWeek(48)|
Science News This Week:
1) New microfluidic chip can help identify unwanted particles in water and food:
|New microfluidic chip can help identify unwanted particles in water and food:|
A new process for making a three-dimensional microstructure that can be used in the analysis of cells could prove useful in counterterrorism measures and in water and food safety concerns. The research, conducted by members of Virginia Tech's Microelectromechanical Systems Laboratory (MEMS) Laboratory in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is the focus of a recent article in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers' Journal of Microelectomechanical Systems.In their engineering laboratory, the researchers developed a new microfabrication technique to develop three-dimensional microfluidic devices in polymers. Microfluidics deals with the performance, control, and treatment of fluids that are constrained in some fashion, explained Masoud Agah , director of the laboratory.
As a result of this work, Agah, associate professor of the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, and Amy Pruden, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, have received a National Science Foundation award of $353,091 to use the technology and develop new microchips named 3D-πDEP standing for "three-dimensional, passivated-electrode, insulator-based dielectrophoresis" for pathogen detection.The NSF grant will allow them to focus on the isolation of waterborne pathogens that represent one of the "grand challenges to human health, costing the lives of about 2.5 million people worldwide each year," Agah and Pruden said.
According to the World Health Organization, the isolation of pathogenic bacteria from the environment has not significantly changed since the 1960s, when methods for chemical treatment of samples to remove background organisms were first implemented.In the past, Agah said, researchers have mainly used two-dimensional microfluidic structures since this type of fabrication is more simplistic. With the three-dimensional device developed by Agah and his collaborators, Yayha Hosseini and Phillip Zellner, both graduate students in the department, they are able to customize the shapes of the channels and cavities of the devices the fluids passed through.The advantage of the fabrication process is that with a very economical technique it creates three-dimensional varying channels and cavities in a microfluidic structure with rounded corners as well as many other customized shapes.These shapes are important because they resemble the living conditions as they occur naturally and this allows the use of the three-dimensional microfabrication technology beyond pathogen detection.As an example, in human blood vessels, cells interact with each other and their surrounding environment inside circular channels. They have varying diameters, along with multiple branching and joints."Only under this type of condition can one truly study the biology of cells within a system in vitro as if it is occurring in vivo -- our new microfluidic fabrication technology can resemble more realistically the structures of a cell's true living conditions," Agah said. It is the introduction of the three-dimensions that provides this distinctive environment.The combination of Agah and Pruden's expertise is important to the NSF-awarded work. Pruden has a broad background in applied environmental microbiology, and has worked extensively in the detection and characterization of pathogens in various environmental systems. She is also leading other research efforts focused on the detection and monitoring of various pathogens and antibiotic resistant pathogens in drinking water and in wastewater.Agah is the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for his work in three-dimensional micromachining and its use in microfluidics and chemical detection. Prudent also has a CAREER award as well as a presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering.
By blending their proficiencies, with Agah's group designing, modeling, and fabricating the chips, and Pruden's group preparing the different bacterial cultures for characterizing their dielectrophoresis properties and benchmarking it against more acceptable yet costly methods, they believe they will be able to isolate different pathogenic and nonpathogenic bacteria.To make their three-dimensional structure, the Virginia Tech researchers used the material polydimethylsixolane, known for its elastic properties similar to rubber. This material is already widely used because of its transparency, biocompatibility, and low-cost."Our work establishes a reliable and robust, yet low-cost technique for the fabrication of versatile 3-D structures in polydimethylsixolane," Agad said.Microfluidic devices can be used to trap and sort living organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and cells. With this new three-dimensional device that has a higher sensitivity and throughput than the two-dimensional version, according to Agah, he is able to make their predictions of applications ranging from water and food safety to fighting biological and chemical terrorism and to healthcare by fishing for abnormal cells in body fluids.Both Hosseini of Kashan, Iran, and Zellner of Hampton, Va., are working on their doctoral degrees. Zellner is a SMART scholarship recipient from the Department of Defense.
2) Human brain mapped in 3-D with high resolution :
|Human brain mapped in 3-D with high resolution|
A new 3-D map of the brain is the best thing since sliced cold cuts, at least to some neuroscientists.
“It’s a remarkable tour-de-force to reconstruct an entire human brain with such accuracy,” says David Van Essen, a neuroscientist at Washington University in St. Louis.Using a high-tech deli slicer and about 100,000 computer processors, researchers shaved a human brain into thousands of thin slivers and then digitally glued them together. The result is the most detailed brain atlas ever published. Dubbed BigBrain, the digital model has a resolution 50 times greater in each of the three spatial dimensions than currently available maps, researchers report in the June 21 Science.The difference is like zooming from a satellite view of a city down to the street level, says coauthor Alan Evans, a neuroimaging scientist at McGill University in Montreal.
BigBrain allows researchers to navigate the landscape of the human cortex, the rugged outer layer of the brain. And unlike previous maps, the tool also lets scientists burrow beneath the surface, tunnel through the brain’s hemispheres and step slice-by-slice through high-res structural data.Around 100 years ago, neuroscientists relied on thick slabs of brain tissue to crudely chart out neural regions. More recently, imaging tools such as MRI have let researchers take a more detailed look. But even the very best MRI maps are still a little fuzzy, says Hanchuan Peng, a computational biologist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.
In 2010, a team of Chinese researchers constructed a digital map of the mouse brain using techniques similar to the ones that produced BigBrain. But until now, no one had done it in humans. Because the human brain is thousands of times bigger than the mouse brain, Evans and colleagues had to massively scale up slicing and computing methods. First, Katrin Amunts and colleagues at the Jülich Research Center in Germany carved the donated brain of a 65-year-old woman into 7,404 ultrathin sheets, each about the thickness of plastic wrap.Next, researchers stained the sheets to boost contrast, took pictures of each sheet with a flatbed scanner, and then harnessed the processing power from seven supercomputing facilities across Canada to digitally stitch together the images. In all, the researchers analyzed about one terabyte, or 1,000 gigabytes, of image data. That’s about the same amount of data as 250,000 MP3 songs.“Your laptop would choke if it tried to run a typical image-processing program to look at this dataset,” Evans says.
His team designed a software program that lets researchers dig into BigBrain’s data. Users will be able to pick up the brain, rotate it in any direction and cut through any plane they want. “It’s like a video game,” he says.Evans hopes BigBrain will provide a digital scaffold for other researchers to layer on different kinds of brain data. Scientists could stack on information about chemical concentrations or electrophysical signals, just as climate and traffic data can be layered onto a geographical map.The 3-D map could also help researchers interpret data from lower-resolution brain-scanning techniques such as MRI and PET, study coauthor Karl Zilles of the Jülich Research Center said during a press briefing June 19. Overlaying images from these scans onto BigBrain might give neuroimagers a better idea of where exactly damaged tissue lies in diseased brains.And neurosurgeons might use BigBrain to guide placement of electrodes during deep-brain stimulation for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases, he said.Though all human brains have largely similar architecture, Evans says, every person has subtle shape variations. As a result, he’d like to make maps of more brains for comparison.Now that the teams have ironed out BigBrain’s technical kinks, the researchers think they can compile a second brain’s map in about a year. “The computational tools are all largely in place now,” Evans says.
3) Primitive fish could nod but not shake its head :
|Primitive fish could nod but not shake its head|
Ancient fish fossils with preserved muscle tissue offer a glimpse at how necks evolved in early vertebrate animals. The fossils also offer a puzzle: The fish had specialized abdominal muscles found today in land animals, but not in fish, paleontologists report June 13 in Science.
The 380-million-year-old fossils come from Western Australia’s Gogo Formation and contain three-dimensional details of neck, body and tail muscles. The specimens represent several genera of predatory fish armored in bony plates. Called placoderms, these extinct animals were among the earliest vertebrates with jaws. “A lot of structures in us first appear in these fish, particularly muscles that operate the jaw and the neck,” says coauthor Kate Trinajstic of Curtin University in Perth, Australia. Placoderms were also some of the first vertebrates to have necks separating their heads and shoulder bones, allowing the fish to move their heads independently of the rest of their bodies. The fossils reveal that the animals had several specialized muscles associated with a hinge joint connecting the head to the body. The fish could pivot their heads up and down, but not side to side. Sharks and other jawed vertebrates later evolved simpler muscles and a more flexible neck that had a greater range of motion, Trinajstic says.More surprising is that placoderms had abdominal muscles running perpendicular to the body’s midline, says coauthor Per Ahlberg of Sweden’s Uppsala University. Modern fish lack such transverse ab muscles. Land vertebrates, however, need these muscles to hold up their bellies. In placoderms, these muscles might have dampened shear forces between an animal’s swinging tail and stiff body armor, Ahlberg says. The muscles might also have prevented the body from swishing around inside the armor, Trinajstic adds.The researchers suspect that these muscles were common to all early jawed vertebrates. Later, sharks and bony fish lost the muscles and then early four-limbed vertebrates that moved onto land independently evolved them.
Not everyone agrees. It’s too soon to say whether all early jawed vertebrates had transverse ab muscles, says Matt Friedman, a paleobiologist at the University of Oxford in England. To find out, he says, the researchers first need to confirm the muscles were present in all types of placoderms, not unique to the one placoderm group they studied.
4) Particle Accelerator That Can Fit On a Tabletop Opens New Chapter for Science Research:
|Particle Accelerator That Can Fit On a Tabletop Opens New Chapter for Science Research|
Physicists at The University of Texas at Austin have built a tabletop particle accelerator that can generate energies and speeds previously reached only by major facilities that are hundreds of meters long and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build.
"We have accelerated about half a billion electrons to 2 gigaelectronvolts over a distance of about 1 inch," said Mike Downer, professor of physics in the College of Natural Sciences. "Until now that degree of energy and focus has required a conventional accelerator that stretches more than the length of two football fields. It's a downsizing of a factor of approximately 10,000."The results, which were published this week in Nature Communications, mark a major milestone in the advance toward the day when multi-gigaelectronvolt (GeV) laser plasma accelerators are standard equipment in research laboratories around the world.Downer said he expects 10 GeV accelerators of a few inches in length to be developed within the next few years, and he believes 20 GeV accelerators of similar size could be developed within a decade.Downer said that the electrons from the current 2 GeV accelerator can be converted into "hard" X-rays as bright as those from large-scale facilities. He believes that with further refinement they could even drive an X-ray free electron laser, the brightest X-ray source currently available to science.A tabletop X-ray laser would be transformative for chemists and biologists, who could use the bright X-rays to study the molecular basis of matter and life with atomic precision, and femtosecond time resolution, without traveling to a large national facility."The X-rays we'll be able to produce are of femtosecond duration, which is the time scale on which molecules vibrate and the fastest chemical reactions take place," said Downer. "They will have the energy and brightness to enable us to see, for example, the atomic structure of single protein molecules in a living sample."
To generate the energetic electrons capable of producing these X-rays, Downer and his colleagues employed an acceleration method known as laser-plasma acceleration. It involves firing a brief but intensely powerful laser pulse into a puff of gas."To a layman it looks like low technology," said Downer. "All you do is make a little puff of gas with the right density and profile. The laser pulse comes in. It ionizes that gas and makes the plasma, but it also imprints structure in it. It separates electrons from the ion background and creates these enormous internal space-charge fields. Then the charged particles emerge right out of the plasma, get trapped in those fields, which are racing along at nearly the speed of light with that laser pulse, and accelerate in them."Downer compared it to what would happen if you threw a motorboat into a lake with its engines churning. The boat (the laser) makes a splash, then creates a wave as it moves through the lake at high speed. During that initial splash some droplets (charged particles) break off, get caught up in the wave and accelerate by surfing on it."At the other end of the lake they get thrown off into the environment at incredibly high speeds," said Downer. "That's our 2 GeV electron beam."Former UT Austin physicist Toshiki Tajima and the late UCLA physicist John Dawson conceived the idea of laser-plasma acceleration in the late 1970s. Scientists have been experimenting with this concept since the early 1990s, but they've been limited by the power of their lasers. As a result the field had been stuck at a maximum energy of about 1 GeV for years.Downer and his colleagues were able to use the Texas Petawatt Laser, one of the most powerful lasers in the world, to push past this barrier. In particular the petawatt laser enabled them to use gases that are much less dense than those used in previous experiments.
"At a lower density, that laser pulse can travel faster through the gas," said Downer. "But with the earlier generations of lasers, when the density got too low, there wasn't enough of a splash to inject electrons into the accelerator, so you got nothing out. This is where the petawatt laser comes in. When it enters low density plasma, it can make a bigger splash."Downer said that now that he and his team have demonstrated the workability of the 2 GeV accelerator, it should be only a matter of time until 10 GeV accelerators are built. That threshold is significant because 10 GeV devices would be able to do the X-ray analyses that biologists and chemists want."I don't think a major breakthrough is required to get there," he said. "If we can just keep the funding in place for the next few years, all of this is going to happen. Companies are now selling petawatt lasers commercially, and as we get better at doing this, companies will come into being to make 10 GeV accelerator modules. Then the end users, the chemists and biologists, will come in, and that will lead to more innovations and discoveries.
5) The Link Between Circadian Rhythms and Aging: Gene Associated With Longevity Also Regulates the Body's Circadian Clock:
|The Link Between Circadian Rhythms and Aging: Gene Associated With Longevity Also Regulates the Body's Circadian Clock:|
Human sleeping and waking patterns are largely governed by an internal circadian clock that corresponds closely with the 24-hour cycle of light and darkness. This circadian clock also controls other body functions, such as metabolism and temperature regulation. Studies in animals have found that when that rhythm gets thrown off, health problems including obesity and metabolic disorders such as diabetes can arise. Studies of people who work night shifts have also revealed an increased susceptibility to diabetes.A new study from MIT shows that a gene called SIRT1, previously shown to protect against diseases of aging, plays a key role in controlling these circadian rhythms. The researchers found that circadian function decays with aging in normal mice, and that boosting their SIRT1 levels in the brain could prevent this decay. Conversely, loss of SIRT1 function impairs circadian control in young mice, mimicking what happens in normal aging.
Since the SIRT1 protein itself was found to decline with aging in the normal mice, the findings suggest that drugs that enhance SIRT1 activity in humans could have widespread health benefits, says Leonard Guarente, the Novartis Professor of Biology at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the findings in the June 20 issue of Cell."If we could keep SIRT1 as active as possible as we get older, then we'd be able to retard aging in the central clock in the brain, and health benefits would radiate from that," Guarente says.
Staying on schedule
In humans and animals, circadian patterns follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, directed by the circadian control center of the brain, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), located in the hypothalamus."Just about everything that takes place physiologically is really staged along the circadian cycle," Guarente says. "What's now emerging is the idea that maintaining the circadian cycle is quite important in health maintenance, and if it gets broken, there's a penalty to be paid in health and perhaps in aging."Last year, Guarente found that a robust circadian period correlated with longer lifespan in mice. That got him wondering what role SIRT1, which has been shown to prolong lifespan in many animals, might play in that phenomenon. SIRT1, which Guarente first linked with aging more than 15 years ago, is a master regulator of cell responses to stress, coordinating a variety of hormone networks, proteins and genes to help keep cells alive and healthy.
To investigate SIRT1's role in circadian control, Guarente and his colleagues created genetically engineered mice that produce different amounts of SIRT1 in the brain. One group of mice had normal SIRT1 levels, another had no SIRT1, and two groups had extra SIRT1 -- either twice or 10 times as much as normal.Mice lacking SIRT1 had slightly longer circadian cycles (23.9 hours) than normal mice (23.6 hours), and mice with a 10-fold increase in SIRT1 had shorter cycles (23.1 hours).
In mice with normal SIRT1 levels, the researchers confirmed previous findings that when the 12-hour light/dark cycle is interrupted, younger mice readjust their circadian cycles much more easily than older ones. However, they showed for the first time that mice with extra SIRT1 do not suffer the same decline in circadian control as they age.The researchers also found that SIRT1 exerts this control by regulating the genes BMAL and CLOCK, the two major keepers of the central circadian clock.
Enhancing circadian function
A growing body of evidence suggests that being able to respond to large or small disruptions of the light/dark cycle is important to maintaining healthy metabolic function, Guarente says."Essentially we experience a mini jet lag every day because the light cycle is constantly changing. The critical thing for us is to be able to adapt smoothly to these jolts," Guarente says. "Many studies in mice say that while young mice do this perfectly well, it's the old mice that have the problem. So that could well be true in humans."If so, it could be possible to treat or prevent diseases of aging by enhancing circadian function -- either by delivering SIRT1 activators in the brain or developing drugs that enhance another part of the circadian control system, Guarente says."I think we should look at every aspect of the machinery of the circadian clock in the brain, and any intervention that can maintain that machinery with aging ought to be good," he says. "One entry point would be SIRT1, because we've shown in mice that genetic maintenance of SIRT1 helps maintain circadian function."Some SIRT1 activators are now being tested against diabetes, inflammation and other diseases, but they are not designed to cross the blood-brain barrier and would likely not be able to reach the SCN. However, Guarente believes it could be possible to design SIRT1 activators that can get into the brain.
Roman Kondratov, an associate professor of biology at Cleveland State University, says the study raises several exciting questions regarding the potential to delay or reverse age-related changes in the brain through rejuvenation of the circadian clock with SIRT1 enhancement."The importance of this study is that it has both basic and potentially translational applications, taking into account the fact that pharmacological modulators of SIRT1 are currently under active study," Kondratov says.Researchers in Guarente's lab are now investigating the relationship between health, circadian function and diet. They suspect that high-fat diets might throw the circadian clock out of whack, which could be counteracted by increased SIRT1 activation.
6) Uncovering Quantum Secret in Photosynthesis:
|Uncovering Quantum Secret in Photosynthesis:|
The efficient conversion of sunlight into useful energy is one of the challenges which stand in the way of meeting the world's increasing energy demand in a clean, sustainable way without relying on fossil fuels. Photosynthetic organisms, such as plants and some bacteria, have mastered this process: In less than a couple of trillionths of a second, 95 percent of the sunlight they absorb is whisked away to drive the metabolic reactions that provide them with energy. The efficiency of photovoltaic cells currently on the market is around 20 percent. What hidden mechanism does nature use to transfer energy so efficiently? Various research groups around the world have shown that this highly efficient energy transport is connected to a quantum-mechanical phenomenon. However, until now, no one had directly observed the possible impacts of such a quantum transport mechanism at work at room temperature.
In an article published in the journal Science, researchers from ICFO- Institute of Photonic Sciences, in collaboration with biochemists from the University of Glasgow, have been able to show for the first time at ambient conditions that the quantum mechanisms of energy transfer make phyotosynthesis more robust in the face of environmental influences. The quantum phenomenon responsible, known as coherence, is manifested in so-called photosynthetic antenna proteins that are responsible for absorption of sunlight and energy transport to the photochemical reaction centers of photosynthesis.
In order to observe quantum effects in photosynthesis, the research group led by Niek van Hulst developed a pioneering experimental technique. Energy transport during photosynthesis is extremely fast and takes place at a molecular scale. To observe these processes they pushed the ultrafast spectroscopy techniques to the single-molecule limit. This involves sending ultrafast femtosecond light flashes to capture a high-speed series of 'pictures' of the states of individual antenna proteins after light absorption (during one femtosecond light travels only one hundredth of the diameter of a human hair, while in one second it travels from earth to moon). With these "snapshots" the researchers are able to understand how solar energy is transported through single proteins. "We have been able to observe how energy flows through sunlight absorbing photosynthetic systems with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution. This allowed us to observe the fundamental role of quantum effects in photosynthesis at ambient conditions" explains Richard Hildner, first author of the publication.
Van Hulst and his group have evaluated the energy transport pathways of separate individual but chemically identical, antenna proteins, and have shown that each protein uses a distinct pathway. The most surprising discovery was that the transport paths within single proteins can vary over time due to changes in the environmental conditions, apparently adapting for optimal efficiency. "These results show that coherence, a genuine quantum effect of superposition of states, is responsible for maintaining high levels of transport efficiency in biological systems, even while they adapt their energy transport pathways due to environmental influences" says van Hulst.
The results presented raise fascinating questions. Was the exploitation of quantum effects in photosynthesis driven by evolution to achieve the extraordinary efficiencies, or in other words did quantum transport outcompete other mechanisms during evolution? Are there other biological processes in which quantum effects play an important role? In the case of light-harvesting proteins quantum transportation allows extreme transport energy efficiency and robustness. This discovery could lead to new research lines aiming at the developments of a new generation of solar cells that mimic these quantum coherences for efficient energy transfer.
Movie Release This Week:
1) World War Z:
|World War Z|
The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself. Enos plays Gerry’s wife Karen Lane; Kertesz is his comrade in arms, Segen.
2) Monsters University:
Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan are an inseparable pair, but that wasn’t always the case. From the moment these two mismatched monsters met they couldn't stand each other. “Monsters University” unlocks the door to how Mike and Sulley overcame their differences and became the best of friends.
Compulsion is a psychological thriller starring Heather Graham and Carrie-Anne Moss as two women with dark pasts who live in apartments across from one another. Both suffer from various degrees of obsessive disorders and live in slightly skewed worlds of their own making. With images of sumptuous food and sensual enjoyment, the film explores the intimacy between the two through their connection with food, eating disorders and sex. In a battle of wills, one woman overflows with illusions and fearlessly faces life while the other withdraws from everything and fearlessly faces death.
4) A Hijacking:
The cargo ship MV Rozen is heading for harbor when it is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Among those on board are the ship's cook Mikkel and the engineer Jan who, along with the rest of the seamen, are taken hostage in a cynical game of life and death. With the demand for a ransom of millions of dollars, a psychological drama unfolds between the CEO of the shipping company and the Somali pirates.
5) The Conjuring:
A family encounters spirits living among them in their New England farmhouse.
Political News This Week:
1) Voting begins in Himachal parliamentary by-poll:
|Voting begins in Himachal parliamentary by-poll|
Polling for the parliamentary constituency of Mandi in Himachal Pradesh began Sunday amid tight security, election officials said here.However, votes in the landslide-hit Kinnaur district, part of the constituency, will be polled June 27. The vote count will be held simultaneously June 30.Electors could be seen reaching polling stations even before voting started at 8 a.m."There has been no report of any delay in starting the poll process," state Chief Electoral Officer Narinder Chauhan told IANS.A total of 11,24,786 voters will decide the fate of four candidates, including two independents. The main contest is between the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Congress has pitted Pratibha Singh, former MP and wife of six-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, against BJP's former minister and sitting legislator Jai Ram Thakur.The by-poll was necessitated after Virbhadra Singh was elected to the state assembly in December 2012.The chief minister and his family will cast vote in Rampur, some 120 km from the state capital Shimla.The Mandi constituency, which includes Kullu, Mandi and some areas of Chamba and Shimla districts, besides the tribal-dominated assembly constituencies of Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti, is one of the biggest in the country.
2) No govt official was there to help, says survivor of Himachal landslide:
|No govt official was there to help, says survivor of Himachal landslide|
“It’s now a death trap.” So said a Doordarshan journalist rescued Thursday after having been stranded for four days in a landslide-hit part of Himachal Pradesh.
“There is no water and electricity. The entire communication has been snapped since Sunday,” Doordarshan’s news editor Nandini Mital told IANS here after arriving from Pooh, 320 km from here, by an IAF chopper.Mital was rescued by the Indian Air Force along with two colleagues and a few tourists. Rampur is the base camp for rescue operation.She complained that no relief and rescue team from the state government or the National Disaster Management Authority had reached Pooh.“This was the first flight to Pooh in four days. Every morning we were told to reach the helipad. Every day we were told to come the next day,” she said.
Like her, 50-odd tourists mainly from Punjab and Chandigarh were stuck there.Mital said: “There was no government functionary to assist the stranded people. The locals were benevolent. They provided food and shelter to us. There was no air dropping of essential items. The ration with the locals will last only five or six days.”Mital’s team was on an official assignment when they were caught in torrential rains near Khab, the cold desert close to the China border.According to her, the national highway 22 which passes through Pooh was severally damaged at several locations due to landslips and rains.She said she and the others were told to reach Pooh from Khab to board the helicopter.“After leaving behind our vehicle, we reached Pooh on foot by covering over 15 km. In Pooh there was no government official to guide us. Finally, we took the help of an army unit,” she saidShe said the entire stretch of the highway between Khab and Pooh had been wiped out.“Even the entire standing crops of peas and wheat has been damaged due to untimely snow.“The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) officials told us that it would take a month and a half to restore normal traffic on the Hindustan-Tibet Road,” Mital said.
Official sources said three helicopters were deployed Thursday after the heavy rainfall stopped to evacuate tourists stranded across Kinnaur.Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, also stranded in Sangla for over 60 hours, was airlifted Tuesday.Legislator Jagat Singh Negi said the maximum damage to property – both government and private – in the district was reported from Pooh block due to snow.He said in certain areas most roads and bridges have been wiped out.“The government has released Rs.3.5 crore as calamity relief fund,” he added.Officials said 14 people have been killed, including five members of a family, in landslide and rain-related incidents in the district since Sunday.
3) Toll may cross 1,000, Uttarakhand CM says:
|Toll may cross 1,000, Uttarakhand CM says|
As daredevil pilots meandered their craft through unpredictable weather and soldiers slithered down wobbly choppers to help the stranded, hungry and sick people, rain and flood-ravaged Uttarakhand's chief minister finally conceded on Saturday that fatalities from the disaster could cross 1,000."The death toll is likely to be around 1,000," Vijay Bahuguna told reporters in Dehradun as rescuers stared at gloomy skies and more rain in the days ahead, making the task of ferrying to safety the 22,000 pilgrims and villagers who still remain out of reach more daunting.
Officials said the threat of fresh rain and epidemic breakout loomed large. In fact, on Saturday, bad weather and fresh destruction of some newly-erected infrastructure impeded rescue with security forces being unable to clear Kedarnath Valley and airlifting only 500 out of Badrinath where at least 8,000 are still stuck.
"According to the forecast with us, rain is likely on Monday and Tuesday. Even 3-4 cm of rain may hamper our work. Our choppers cannot navigate through the clouds in the valley," said Air Marshal S B Deo, chief of air operations.Sunday's operation is going to be especially difficult in Kedarnath valley, where several hundred bodies strewn over 30 sq km have started stinking due to decay. Forces are already functioning with masks over their faces with epidemic outbreak looming large.Much of Saturday was spent reestablishing broken roads and bridges in the Badrinath axis and building new helipads at Auli and Gaurikund. However, with infrastructure in place, forces hope to step up rescue work on a war footing on Sunday and try to evacuate everyone. "We are doubling our strength in Badrinath axis and putting even the administrative staff on duty tomorrow," said an ITBP officer overseeing rescue work.
Despite the difficulties, armed forces and ITBP rescued all 500 people stranded in and around Gangotri while 350 people of 1,000 stranded in Kedarnath valley around Rambada and Junglechetti were airlifted on Saturday. Forces also evacuated 1,550 people from Pandukeshwar while Ghjagaria on the Hemkunt axis was cleared of almost all pilgrims. A total of 61 helicopters were pressed into action.However, only 450 people could be airlifted out of main Badrinath and 700 are still stranded in Yamunotri. "Though there was no rain, fog interrupted air operations. The Lambagad bridge we had built in the Badrinath axis was swept away by Alaknanda on Friday night. We could not evacuate anyone from main Badrinath on foot. We had make another bridge today," said an ITBP official.
4) 1000 have died in the flash floods: Vijay Bahuguna:
|1000 have died in the flash floods: Vijay Bahuguna|
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna on Saturday confirmed that more than 1000 have died in the flash floods that recently hit the picturesque hill station.
"At least 1000 have died while thousands are still stranded. We welcome all the chief minister who are visiting the state," says Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna.Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde earlier in the day said that close to 30,000 people have been rescued so far from different parts of Uttarakhand, while over 40,000 people are still stranded.Shinde, who took stock of the rescue and relief operations in the flash flood hit areas of the hill state, said the evacuations will be completed in one or two days if the rescue operations continue in the same manner.
"Despite bad weather, the Army, NDRF and ITBP are landing and conducting rescue operations. Operations are underway on a war footing," he said, while emphasizing that the men in uniform are trying their best to evacuate those stranded.The Home Minister said the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been ordered to build access roads so that the stranded people can be reached.Shinde said the identification of dead bodies has begun.He, however, said that some of the bodies recovered were not identifiable." DNA tests of decomposed bodies will also be undertaken," said Shinde.
Shinde further informed that the government has appointed former Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal as a nodal officer to oversee the relief and rescue operations.
He informed that 550 deaths had occurred till yesterday."Also, 1,751 houses, 147 bridges and 1,307 roads have got damaged," he added.The Home Minister also played safe on the BJP's demand that Uttarakhand floods should be declared as a national calamity.
|Scenes of Uttarakhand Flood|
5) Yet another building collapse in Mumbai kills 7:
|Yet another building collapse in Mumbai kills 7|
Seven persons were killed and six others injured when a building came crashing down in suburban Dahisar in Mumbai on Saturday, exposing the poor housing conditions of the metropolis and its adjoining areas yet again.This is the fourth tragedy since April this year.The building -- 'Piyush' -- collapsed at around 6.30 am, civic authorities said, adding that most of those trapped in the rubbles were local vegetable vendors.The civic authorities had vacated the building two years back as it was in a dilapidated condition.
Shiv Sena MLA from Dahisar Vinod Ghosalkar and local Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam visited the crash site.Ghosalkar said the building was vacated two years ago after it was declared 'dilapidated' by the civic authorities."It was to be redeveloped, but was stuck in litigation due to a dispute between the builder and the flat owners. As the redevelopment was stuck, local workers and vendors had taken shelter in the building," he said.Nirupam said the building was nearly 30-years-old and could not be redeveloped as the builder had not issued conveyance deed to residents.Earlier on April 4, an unauthorised building had collapsed at Shil-Phata near Mumbra in Thane district, claiming as many as 74 lives and leaving over 60 injured.On June 10, a portion of a four-storey building collapsed in Mahim, killing 10 and injuring six. On Friday, a 30-year-old building collapsed in Mumbra in neighbouring Thane district, killing 10 and injuring eight.
6) Uttarakhand tragedy: Congress mum on Rahul's absence:
|Uttarakhand tragedy: Congress mum on Rahul's absence|
The Congress on Saturday sought to dismiss questions about Rahul Gandhi's absence from the country as well as his silence at a time when heavy rains have wrecked havoc in Uttarakhand."Some political parties are raising this question. In our party, there is a fixed responsibility on each office bearer...
"The in-charges of states look after the regions under their charge. The Congress president is herself monitoring the entire relief work in Uttarakhand, and no one should take pains to ask who is doing what," party spokesman Raj Babbar said.He said this in response to questions on where was Rahul at the time of calamity and why the Congress vice-president has not even issued a statement.On Narendra Modi's visit to flood-hit Uttarakhand, Babbar said the Congress chief ministers were in the vanguard for the relief and rescue effort, and the Haryana Chief Minister has sent three rescue teams.To questions about declaring the tragedy as a national calamity, he said the party and the government have been seriously involved in the relief work and everything would be done as per the yardsticks.
Sports News This Week:
1) India annihilate Sri Lanka by 8 wickets; set up summit clash against England:
|India annihilate Sri Lanka by 8 wickets; set up summit clash against England|
Such seems to be the agility in this present Indian team that if a batsman merely defends a delivery to keep it within the 30-yard circle, there are - at any given point of time - at least five fielders close enough to reach it. They seem to work like a pack of wolves, reaching their prey in seconds. Watching them right now is reminiscent of perhaps the South Africans in the late 90s and the Australians of the early 2000s. To simply mention that India won another easy match in the Champions Trophy on Thursday, this time the semifinal against Sri Lanka, would be an unfair judgment as it's indicative of only the result.
Each fielding effort, the perfect throw-ins from the deep, some extremely well-taken catches, an impressive demonstration of seam bowling and another cracking batting display deserve to be highlighted as India annihilated Sri Lanka at the Sophia Gardens.
Here's a team on a roll and in Sunday's final against England at Edgbaston, they'll make life difficult for the hosts. But until then, their clinical win over Sri Lanka in not very cricket-friendly conditions here in Cardiff is to be cherished.Luck has been with MS Dhoni too. Once again, the Indian skipper won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat first, opting to make use of the seam-friendly conditions and giving his pace trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma the opportunity to make the most of it.
But once the coin fell in India's favour, it wasn't luck that pursued their cause. Instead, the bowlers used the conditions well and bowled with great control. The spinners too kept the pressure on.The first three Sri Lankan wickets fell, caught at second slip, and gave the average Indian fan - not used to this kind of an approach - a vision of the potential havoc these bowlers can create for the opponents in these conditions.They bowled 22 overs on the trot and by then Sri Lanka were on the mat, not by way of having lost wickets but losing on confidence to counter an in-form Indian attack.The pressure of a big game did the rest as they were reduced to 181 for 8 from 119 for 4. The only respite for the Lankans was a handy fourth-wicket stand of 78 between Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.With the threat of rain remaining just that, the match looked set-up in India's favour. However, nothing would've prepared the Sri Lankans for what was about to follow. Thrice in succession, India's openers - Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma - successfully constructed a 50-plus partnership and they were in the zone again.Sharma played a loose shot and lost his wicket which served another reminder of how he manages to self destruct. But by then India were 77-1 and were cruising towards the target.
Sri Lanka dropped Dhawan towards the end of the chase but by then, only the margin of victory was waiting to be finalised. Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina, the latter coming in place of Dinesh Karthik, to get a feel of conditions, completed the formalities.India didn't make use of the DRS in both the innings, but were very effective during the powerplay, owing to an extremely disciplined bowling and fielding effort.
2) Scolari hails Neymar a genius after another masterclass:
|Scolari hails Neymar a genius after another masterclass|
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari classed Neymar as a "genius" on Saturday and said his Brazil side were pumped up and ready for Wednesday's Confederations Cup semi-final."He is the hero of every Brazilian and of everyone who loves football," Scolari said of the 21-year old striker after the hosts finished top of Group A with three wins from three following a 4-2 victory over second-placed Italy."He had some great moves today. People who have that genius can make a difference."Neymar won the man of the match award and scored for the third game running as Brazil shone in a pulsating encounter.Brazil pressured the Italians from the off and also scored through Dante and Fred, who netted twice.But it was Neymar's 55th minute free kick that caused the biggest roar in the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.
"He saw that Buffon took a step to the side and he knew that he was going to hit it in the corner," Scolari told reporters of a curling strike that left goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon rooted to the spot.Scolari said he took the Barcelona man off because he had committed a few fouls and he wanted to be certain he would not pick up any cautions that could rule him out of future matches.The coach also saluted defender Dante, the hometown boy who replaced David Luiz in the 34th minute, made a big mistake that almost gave Mario Balotelli a free shot at goal and then popped up inside the box just before halftime to put Brazil ahead"Dante plays in Bayern Munich and he's been thrown into much harder situation that he was today when he came on," Scolari said."I can't say he is a first pick but I have no worries about bringing him on. I've told all the players in the squad, I have no worries about taking someone off because I can trust all of the substitutes."
Although the win was Scolari's fourth in a row, the coach said Brazil were still a work in progress ahead of a probable meeting with Uruguay."We are not ready for what we will face in the World Cup but we're ready for the (Confederations Cup) semi-final," said Scolari."We have good quality and our tactical game is quite well established."Italy coach Cesare Prandelli agreed with that assessment and rated Brazil, bizarrely ranked 22 in the FIFA rankings, one of the outstanding two teams of the tournament."I've seen Brazil grow," said Prandelli, whose side will potentially face world champions Spain in the last four."Brazil play precise football and they have four players that attack and that is always decisive. And they are also the good at recovering the ball.
Book of This Week:
Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design : by : Stephen C. Meyer
Charles Darwin knew that there was a significant event in the history of life that his theory did not explain. In what is known today as the "Cambrian explosion," 530 million years ago many animals suddenly appeared in the fossil record without apparent ancestors in earlier layers of rock. In Darwin's Doubt Stephen C. Meyer tells the story of the mystery surrounding this explosion of animal life—a mystery that has intensified, not only because the expected ancestors of these animals have not been found, but also because scientists have learned more about what it takes to construct an animal.
Expanding on the compelling case he presented in his last book, Signature in the Cell, Meyer argues that the theory of intelligent design—which holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection—is ultimately the best explanation for the origin of the Cambrian animals.
Writer : Stephen C. Meyer
|Stephen C. Meyer|
Stephen C. Meyer is an American scholar, philosopher of science and advocate for intelligent design.
Born: 1958, United States of America
Education: University of Cambridge, Whitworth University