|Collage of NewsWeek (52)|
Science News This Week:
1) Rare Fossil of Late Cretaceous Plesiosaur Discovered:
|Rare Fossil of Late Cretaceous Plesiosaur Discovered|
University of Alabama researchers have discovered the fossilized remains of a large marine reptile that once ruled the open seas 80 million years ago.
The initial discovery, made June 20 by middle-school student Noah Traylor during a UA-hosted expedition, was later identified as part of a large neck vertebra of an elasmosaur, which is a subgroup of the late Cretaceous plesiosaurs.
Elasmosaurid plesiosaurs are easily recognized by their large body size -- some species reach up to 45 feet in length.
"Think Loch Ness monster," said Dr. Dana Ehret, UA Museum paleontologist. "They have very large flippers for swimming and extremely long necks, consisting of up to about 70 neck vertebrae."Plesiosaurs became extinct by the end of Cretaceous, or about 65.5 million years ago, and they are generally rare in the fossil record for Alabama. This is only the second elasmosaurid specimen containing more than one or two bones found in the state, Ehret said. The first, which consists of 22 vertebrae, was found in the late 1960s and is now part of UA Collections.
This discovery appears to be on par with the first one. To date, about 15 large vertebrae, a few paddle bones and many bone fragments have been collected, but an extensive excavation is still in progress, so Ehret is uncertain how complete this skeleton is."We find a lot of the more common fossils here, but this is a macropredator that is not normally found in Alabama," Ehret said. "It's really interesting because it gives us a bigger picture of what was happening in Alabama at that time."The skeleton was also not found near water. Ehret said during the late Cretaceous period, temperatures were much warmer than they are today, resulting in higher sea levels. The specimen was found in a small quarry in rural Greene County, a region commonly called the "Black Belt."
The "Black Belt" represents the late Cretaceous shoreline in the Gulf Coast. The sediments found in this region are classified as chalk, are composed of extinct microscopic organisms and are extremely nutrient rich, making them the perfect place for farming.The discovery was made during the Museum's Expedition 35, which was hosted by UA's Alabama Museum of Natural History and led by Randy Mecredy, director of the Museum. The expedition is an annual summer program that is open to middle and high-school students.In addition to Ehret, others involved in the excavation include students from the expedition, Dr. Takehito "Ike" Ikejiri with UA's department of geological sciences, museum staff, Dr. Prescott Atkinson of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the UA Museum's Board of Regents and a few UA geology students.The bones were initially excavated in place from the chalk in the quarry. Once they were able to determine the size and extent of the individual bones, those working the excavation could take them out of the ground and transport them back to the museum. Some pieces came back loose, while others were wrapped to prevent them from falling apart.
In the paleontology lab, the bones are now being unwrapped and prepared. Specimens are washed and scrubbed to remove loose sediments, and, for those that are still embedded in the chalk sediment, Ehret said they will use different tools to remove the sediment.It will take several weeks to prepare the bones properly and then harden them to ensure they will not later fall apart. Once finished, the specimen will be displayed in UA's Smith Hall."From a research standpoint, this is an important find. To have this many pieces, you can do an extensive comparative analysis," Mecredy said. "But, it's also having the ability to take high-school and middle-school students in the field where they find these things. It inspires them to pursue science-related fields."
2) Steering Stem Cells With Magnets:
|Steering Stem Cells With Magnets|
Magnets could be a tool for directing stem cells' healing powers to treat conditions such as heart disease or vascular disease.
By feeding stem cells tiny particles made of magnetized iron oxide, scientists at Emory and Georgia Tech can then use magnets to attract the cells to a particular location in the body after intravenous injection.The results are published online in the journal Small and will appear in an upcoming issue.
The paper was a result of collaboration between the laboratories of W. Robert Taylor, MD, PhD, and Gang Bao, PhD. Taylor is professor of medicine and biomedical engineering and director of the Division of Cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine. Bao is professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Co-first authors of the paper are postdoctoral fellows Natalia Landazuri, PhD, and Sheng Tong, PhD. Landazuri is now at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.
The type of cells used in the study, mesenchymal stem cells, are not embryonic stem cells. Mesenchymal stem cells can be readily obtained from adult tissues such as bone marrow or fat. They are capable of becoming bone, fat and cartilage cells, but not other types of cell such as muscle or brain. They secrete a variety of nourishing and anti-inflammatory factors, which could make them valuable tools for treating conditions such as cardiovascular disease or autoimmune disorders.
Magnetized iron oxide nanoparticles are already FDA-approved for diagnostic purposes with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Other scientists have tried to load stem cells with similar particles, but found that the coating on the particles was toxic or changed the cells' properties. The nanoparticles used in this study have a polyethylene glycol coating that protects the cell from damage. Another unique feature is that the Emory/Tech team used a magnetic field to push the particles into the cells, rather than chemical agents used previously."We were able to load the cells with a lot of these nanoparticles and we showed clearly that the cells were not harmed," Taylor says. "The coating is unique and thus there was no change in viability and perhaps even more importantly, we didn't see any change in the characteristics of the stem cells, such as their capacity to differentiate. This was essentially a proof of principle experiment. Ultimately, we would target these to a particular limb, an abnormal blood vessel or even the heart."
3) A New Alien-Like Species Discovered Off California:
|A New Alien-Like Species Discovered Off California|
After nearly 25 years of searching, three scientists have finally found Waldo. No, not the loveable bespectacled character in children's picture books, but rather an unusual clam discovered off the coast of California and British Columbia.
Paul Valentich-Scott from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and Diarmaid Ó Foighil from the University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology first began discussing this unusual clam back in 1989. Valentich-Scott discovered his strange specimens off the coast of Santa Barbara and Morro Bay, California, while Ó Foighil uncovered his while trawling for invertebrates off Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
At a scientific conference Valentich-Scott and Ó Foighil were chatting about clams during a break in the proceedings. As they were discussing new discoveries, the light went off. They had discovered the same new species, at the same time, but over 1,000 miles apart.Neither scientist could identify the animal, and both were amazed by its thin, translucent shell and long willowy tentacles. Ó Foighil was able to collect and observe living specimens of the new species. 'We were looking closely at sea urchins and noticed something crawling on the fine spines covering the urchin body', declared Ó Foighil. 'We were amazed to see that there were minute clams crawling all over the sea urchin.'Thus two decades of research began, trying to understand and formally describe this new animal. 'We never anticipated this would be such a long project', Valentich-Scott exclaimed. 'But every time we started in one direction we hit a wall and needed to begin again.'
Rescue finally came from doctoral student Jingchun Li at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Li is a specialist in clam DNA. She was able to amplify the DNA of the new species and compare it to other similar species. 'We were pleased to see the new species was very distinct genetically', said Li. 'However we were surprised to find that its closest relative was from the South Atlantic Ocean off Argentina.' Valentich-Scott and Ó Foighil invited Li to collaborate on the final publication.
Valentich-Scott stated, 'This is a very peculiar animal, they only seems to live on the spines of one type of sea urchin in a commensal relationship. We found it ironic that the new species was in the genus Waldo and just couldn't help but ask, "Where's Waldo?"'
The particles are coated with the nontoxic polymer polyethylene glycol, and have an iron oxide core that is about 15 nanometers across. For comparison, a DNA molecule is 2 nanometers wide and a single influenza virus is at least 100 nanometers wide.The particles appear to become stuck in cells' lysosomes, which are parts of the cell that break down waste. The particles stay put for at least a week and leakage cannot be detected. The scientists measured the iron content in the cells once they were loaded up and determined that each cell absorbed roughly 1.5 million particles.
Once cells were loaded with iron oxide particles, the Emory/Tech team tested the ability of magnets to nudge the cells both in cell culture and in living animals. In mice, a bar-shaped rare earth magnet could attract injected stem cells to the tail (see photo). The magnet was applied to the part of the tail close to the body while the cells were being injected. Normally most of the mesenchymal stem cells would become deposited in the lungs or the liver.To track where the cells went inside the mice, the scientists labeled the cells with a fluorescent dye. They calculated that the bar magnet made the stem cells 6 times more abundant in the tail. In addition, the iron oxide particles themselves could potentially be used to follow cells' progress through the body."Next, we plan to focus on therapeutic applications in animal models where we will use magnets to direct these cells to the precise site need to affect repair and regeneration of new blood vessels," Taylor says.
4) Sound waves put levitation on the move:
|Sound waves put levitation on the move|
Levitating objects can spin, glide and collide together — no magnets or magic tricks required.
Using steady streams of sound waves, engineers maneuvered hovering toothpicks, coffee granules and water droplets through the air, a team from ETH Zurich reports July 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists could use the touch-free technique to gently handle delicate or hazardous lab chemicals or to avoid contaminating cells in biological experiments.“It’s a beautiful piece of work,” says Penn State bioengineer Tony Jun Huang, who has used sound to manipulate particles in liquid. In a single device, the study’s authors can move two airborne particles in different directions or make them converge. No one has done that before, Huang says.Scientists have known for years how to use sound waves to hoist particles in the air, a process known as acoustic levitation. But moving the lifted bits around was more challenging. The sound waves tend to trap a levitated object in a fixed pocket of space.
The new technique moves the pockets around by deforming a field of sound waves, letting researchers transport trapped objects several centimeters, says study coauthor Dimos Poulikakos, a mechanical engineer at ETH Zurich.“Before, it was like you had a beautiful car, but could only park it,” Poulikakos says. “Now you can drive the car.”To achieve levitation, Poulikakos and colleagues vibrate aluminum blocks about the size of postage stamps up and down, like tiny jackhammers. The rapid buzz kicks up sound waves that sail upward until they hit a Plexiglas reflector and then bounce back down to the blocks.When these falling waves run into the climbing ones, they can cancel out, creating a low-pressure pocket that can support an object’s weight.By adjusting vibration rates to control the position of the pocket, the researchers could float particles across a chessboard of the aluminum blocks. The team used the technique to mix droplets of cells with DNA. They also glided a bubble of water into a globule of sodium metal to demonstrate how to safely work with hazardous materials from a distance. When the water struck the metal, the combo exploded, spewing flammable hydrogen gas.
Poulikakos and colleagues also drifted together levitating drops of water and instant coffee granules to make tiny cups of joe. “That was just for fun,” he says. But the experiment highlights an advantage over magnetic levitation: The new technique doesn’t require the floating objects to be magnetic.The method may also be an improvement over microfluidic chips, devices that mix tiny amounts fluids together in channels carved into plastic or glass, says Pierre Lambert a microfluidics engineer at the Université libre de Bruxelles. Though the chips allow scientists to mix chemicals, the liquids still contact the devices’ carved channels. Levitation can keep the liquids from touching anything but air.“Basically everything that is done on microfluidic chips could be done by levitation,” Lambert says.Now, Poulikakos is scaling up his chessboard and working on moving heavier objects, such as steel pellets.By gliding a globule of metal sodium (left) into a droplet of water (right), engineers demonstrate how to safely handle hazardous chemicals using acoustic levitation.
5) News in Brief: Dinosaur had impressive schnoz:
|News in Brief: Dinosaur had impressive schnoz|
Fossils found in Utah reveal geographic segregation of horned species. A newly discovered dinosaur species was the Cyrano de Bergerac of its time. The beast, a horned dinosaur like Triceratops, had an especially large snout, scientists report July 17 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.First unearthed in 2006 in Utah, the big-nosed Nasutoceratops titusi also had unusually long, curved horns that grew about a meter long and a simple bony frill behind its head that lacked the fancy hooks or spikes found in some other horned species. These features indicate that N. titusi belonged to a previously unknown group of horned dinosaurs, say Scott Sampson of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and colleagues.
N. titusi lived roughly 76 million years ago when Utah was part of an isolated landmass called Laramidia. The species is the first horned dino of its age found in southern Laramidia and was part of a separate lineage from the horned dinosaurs living to the north, in Alaska and Canada, the researchers say. The new find supports the idea that during that time northern and southern Laramidia were home to non-overlapping sets of dinosaur species.
6) Scientists Break Record for Thinnest Light-Absorber: May Lead to More Efficient, Cheaper Solar Cells:
Scientists Break Record for Thinnest Light-Absorber: May Lead to More Efficient, Cheaper Solar Cells:
Stanford University scientists have created the thinnest, most efficient absorber of visible light on record. The nanosize structure, thousands of times thinner than an ordinary sheet of paper, could lower the cost and improve the efficiency of solar cells, according to the scientists.
Their results are published in the current online edition of the journal Nano Letters.
"Achieving complete absorption of visible light with a minimal amount of material is highly desirable for many applications, including solar energy conversion to fuel and electricity," said Stacey Bent, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford and a member of the research team. "Our results show that it is possible for an extremely thin layer of material to absorb almost 100 percent of incident light of a specific wavelength."
Thinner solar cells require less material and therefore cost less. The challenge for researchers is to reduce the thickness of the cell without compromising its ability to absorb and convert sunlight into clean energy.For the study, the Stanford team created thin wafers dotted with trillions of round particles of gold. Each gold nanodot was about 14 nanometers tall and 17 nanometers wide
An ideal solar cell would be able to absorb the entire visible light spectrum, from violet light waves 400 nanometers long to red waves 700 nanometers in length, as well as invisible ultraviolet and infrared light. In the experiment, postdoctoral scholar Carl Hagglund and his colleagues were able to tune the gold nanodots to absorb one light from one spot on the spectrum: reddish-orange light waves about 600 nanometers long.
"Much like a guitar string, which has a resonance frequency that changes when you tune it, metal particles have a resonance frequency that can be fine-tuned to absorb a particular wavelength of light," said Hagglund, lead author of the study. "We tuned the optical properties of our system to maximize the light absorption."
The gold nanodot-filled wafers were fabricated at a nearby Hitachi facility using a technique called block-copolymer lithography. Each wafer contained about 520 billion nanodots per square inch. Under the microscope, the hexagonal array of particles was reminiscent of a honeycomb.
Hagglund's team added a thin-film coating on top of the wafers using a process called atomic layer deposition. "It's a very attractive technique, because you can coat the particles uniformly and control the thickness of the film down to the atomic level, " he said. "That allowed us to tune the system simply by changing the thickness of the coating around the dots. People have built arrays like this, but they haven't tuned them to the optimal conditions for light absorption. That's one novel aspect of our work."
The results were record-setting. "The coated wafers absorbed 99 percent of the reddish-orange light," Hagglund said. "We also achieved 93 percent absorption in the gold nanodots themselves. The volume of each dot is equivalent to a layer of gold just 1.6 nanometers thick, making it the thinnest absorber of visible light on record -- about 1,000 times thinner than commercially available thin film solar cell absorbers."
The previous record-holder required an absorber layer three times thicker to reach total light absorption, he added. "So we've substantially pushed the limits of what can be achieved for light harvesting by optimizing these ultrathin, nano-engineered systems," Hagglund said.
The next step for the Stanford team is to demonstrate that the technology can be used in actual solar cells.
"We are now looking at building structures using ultrathin semiconductor materials that can absorb sunlight," said Bent, co-director of the Stanford Center on Nanostructuring for Efficient Energy Conversion (CNEEC). "These prototypes will then be tested to see how efficiently we can achieve solar energy conversion."
In the experiment, the researchers applied three types of coatings -- tin sulfide, zinc oxide and aluminum oxide -- on different nanodot arrays. "None of these coatings are light-absorbing," Hagglund said. "But it has been shown theoretically that if you apply a semiconductor coating, you can shift the absorption from the metal particles to the semiconductor materials. That would create more long-lived energetic charge carriers that could be channeled into some useful process, like making an electrical current or synthesizing fuel."
The ultimate goal, Bent added, is to develop improved solar cells and solar fuel devices by confining the absorption of sunlight to the smallest amount of material possible. "This provides a benefit in minimizing the material necessary to build the device, of course," she said. "But the expectation is that it will also allow for higher efficiencies, because by design, the charge carriers will be produced very close to where they are desired -- that is, near where they will be collected to produce an electrical current or to drive a chemical reaction."
The scientists are also considering nanodot arrays made of less expensive metals. "We chose gold because it was more chemically stable for our experiment," Hagglund said. "Although the cost of the gold was virtually negligible, silver is cheaper and better from an optical point of view if you want to make a good solar cell. Our device represents an orders-of-magnitude reduction in thickness. This suggests that we can eventually reduce the thickness of solar cells quite a lot."
Movies Release this Week:
A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him.
Turbo is the story of a garden snail with an impossible dream: to win the Indy 500. When a freak accident gives him extraordinary speed, Turbo sets out to try to make this dream come true.
3) Girls Most Likely:
|Girls Most Likely|
Kristen Wiig stars as Imogene, a failed New York playwright awkwardly navigating the transition from Next Big Thing to Last Year's News. After both her career and relationship hit the skids, she's forced to make the humiliating move back home to New Jersey with her eccentric mother and younger brother (Annette Bening and Christopher Fitzgerald). Adding further insult to injury, there's a strange man sleeping in her old bedroom (Darren Criss) and an even stranger man sleeping in her mother's bed (Matt Dillon). Through it all, Imogene eventually realizes that as part of her rebuilding process she must finally come to love and accept both her family and her Jersey roots if she's ever going to be stable enough to get the hell away from them.
4) Under the Bed:
|Under the Bed|
Every child knows about the monster under the bed—Neal Hausman’s mistake was trying to fight it. Neal (Jonny Weston, Chasing Mavericks) has returned from a two-year exile following his tragic attempt to defeat the monster, only to find his father ticking ever closer to a breakdown, a new stepmother who fears him, and his little brother Paul (Gattlin Griffith, Green Lantern, Changeling), terrorized by the same monster. While Neal and Paul work together to try and fight the nocturnal menace, their parents are taking desperate measures to get the family back to normal. With no support from their parents, the brothers have nothing to rely on but each other, and courage beyond belief.
5) Only God Forgives:
|Only God Forgives|
Julian (Gosling), an American fugitive from justice, runs a boxing club in Bangkok as a front for his drug business.
His mother, the head of a vast criminal organization, arrives from the US to collect the body of her favorite son, Billy. Julian’s brother has just been killed after having savagely murdered a young prostitute. Crazy with rage and thirsty for vengeance she demands the heads of the murderers from Julian.
But first, Julian must confront Chang, a mysterious retired policeman - and figurehead of a divine justice - who has resolved to scourge the corrupt underworld of brothels and fight clubs.
Political News This Week:
1) Protests by students in Bihar over mid-day meal turn violent:
|Protests by students in Bihar over mid-day meal turn violent|
A protest by students in Bihar against the quality of their free lunch served by their school turned violent. Three teachers were allegedly beaten up.
Bihar has been grappling with the tragedy of losing 23 young children in its Chhapra district earlier this week; they died after eating a mid-day meal at their school that was poisoned with insecticide. Villagers are seething over the fact that nobody has been arrested or held accountable yet. The school's headmistress and her husband, who allegedly supplied the school its groceries, are missing.
|Protests by students in Bihar over mid-day meal turn violent|
Today's protest erupted 25 kms away in the Nawada district. The teachers tried to intervene but were beaten up by angry students.
India's midday meal scheme is the world's biggest school nutrition programs and covers nearly 120 million schoolchildren. It's part of an effort to address concerns about malnutrition, which the government says nearly half of all Indian children suffer from.
Although there have been occasional complaints about the quality of the food served and the lack of hygiene, the disaster in Chhapra is unprecedented for the massive food programme.
2) Apple, Google, dozens of others urge U.S. surveillance disclosures:
|Apple, Google, dozens of others urge U.S. surveillance disclosures|
Dozens of companies, non-profits and trade organizations including Apple Inc , Google Inc and Facebook Inc sent a letter on Thursday pushing the Obama administration and Congress for more disclosures on the government's national security-related requests for user data.
General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, suggested he was open to the idea but that officials were trying to determine a way to disclose that information without jeopardizing FBI investigations."We just want to make sure we do it right, that we don't impact anything ongoing with the FBI. I think that's the reasonable approach," Alexander told the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, when asked about the letter.
Together with LinkedIn Corp , Yahoo! Inc , Microsoft Corp , Twitter and many others, the companies asked for more transparency of secret data gathering in the letter addressed to Alexander as well as President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and national security leaders in Congress.
Tech companies have been scrambling to assert their independence after documents leaked last month by former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden raised questions about how much data on their clients they handed over to the government to aid its surveillance efforts.The leaks have renewed a public debate over the balance between national security and privacy, and have put tech companies in an awkward position, especially because many have been assailed for their own commercial use of customer data.Some companies, including Facebook and Apple, struck an agreement in June with the government to release some information about the number of surveillance requests they receive. But they were limited to disclosing aggregate government requests for data without showing the split between surveillance and criminal requests, and only for a six-month period.
In Thursday's letter, they asked to be allowed to regularly report statistics on the number and scope of user data requests done under specific national security authorities and the number of individuals, accounts or devices affected by those requests.
'THEY DON'T HAVE A CHOICE'
Alexander said it was important to keep in mind that companies were compelled by U.S. law to hand over data."They don't have a choice. Court order, they have to do this," he said."From my perspective, what they want is the rest of the world to know that we're not reading all of that email, so they want to give out the numbers. I think there's some logic in doing that."The letter also asked Congress to pass legislation that would require the federal government to make transparency reports and let companies disclose user data requests without having to ask a court for permission.
Co-signers included investors such as Boston Common Asset management and Union Square Ventures, as well as scores of associations including Human Rights Watch, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Tax Reform and conservative FreedomWorks.One of the lawmakers to whom the letter was addressed was Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat who has introduced a bill that would expand reporting requirements for the secret programs, add more court reviews and move up the expiration of the authorization for some of the data collection by 2 1/2 years.
"Americans deserve to know how much of their communications data is being swept up by government surveillance, and the government's use of these authorities must be subject to strong oversight," Leahy said on Thursday.He said the Judiciary Committee would hold another hearing on the issue later this month.
The White House and Department of Justice did not immediately comment on Thursday's letter.
3) West Bengal Panchayat elections: Sporadic violence during third phase panchayat election:
|West Bengal Panchayat elections: Sporadic violence during third phase panchayat election|
Sporadic violence on Friday marked the third phase of panchayat elections in West Bengal covering three districts of Howrah, North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas where an average 25 per cent polling was recorded in the first four hours of voting.SEC secretary Tapas Ray said the voting process remained by and large peaceful till noon except for stray violence."We are getting reports of sporadic violence and scuffles in some places, especially at Amata and Panchla in Howrah and in some parts of North 24-Parganas district," Ray said.He said that some crude bombs were hurled in Amata and Panchla.
Minor incidents of violence were also reported in North 24-Parganas district in which bombs were hurled in front of some booths, which led to temporary disruption of the voting process.In the trouble-prone areas of Bhangar and Canning in South 24-Parganas district, some CPI(M) agents were badly beaten up, the police said.
|West Bengal Panchayat elections: Sporadic violence during third phase panchayat election|
SEC officials said that till 11 AM, 26.91 per cent votes were cast in Howrah, 25.10 per cent in North 24-Parganas district and 24.31 per cent in South 24-Parganas district.The CPI(M), which had threatened to organise sit-in demonstrations and road blockades if violence occurred in rural Bengal, blocked roads at various places in and around the metropolis."In several areas, the people are not allowed to vote freely. Hundreds of Trinamool Congress goons have come from East Midnapore district and are now on the roads of North and South 24-Pargans district to stop people from voting," alleged Nepal Deb Bhattacharjee, CPI(M) state committee member.CPI(M) supporters blocked important roads in Naihati, Shyamnagar and B T Road crossing.
Reports from North 24 Parganas district said the CPI(M)organised road blockades at BT Road in Sodepur and Ghorpara Road in Naihati alleging that the Panchayat elections are not being held in a free and fair manner.Party activists also stopped local trains at Shyamnagar Railway Station.
4) Shares hit record highs as Bernanke speaks, yen drops:
|Shares hit record highs as Bernanke speaks, yen drops|
Stock markets around the world extended their rally on Thursday as investors felt reassured the Federal Reserve would unwind stimulus measures with care, while the yen and the euro fell.Japanese shares surged 1.3 percent, with market participants looking to Upper House elections in Japan this weekend. The dollar gained 1 percent against the yen, to 100.56 yen.
The euro fell and the dollar rose against a basket of currencies as Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, testified before Congress for a second day, this time to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee.
On Wednesday, Bernanke had reiterated to a U.S. House of Representatives panel his recent assurances that the U.S. central bank will only start phasing out its huge monetary support program once it is sure the economy is strong enough to stand on its own feet.
The comments lured investors to equities, lifting the Dow Jones industrial average to a record Thursday and putting the S&P 500 on track for its tenth positive session out of the past 11.
"Bernanke has made equities the only place for most people to go, and the rally has been entirely on him," said Mark Grant, managing director at Southwest Securities in Fort Lauderdale.
As he speaks to Congress, Grant added, "Bernanke will stay the course and calm markets as much as he can."The Dow Jones industrial average was up 105.69 points, or 0.68 percent, at 15,576.21. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 10.65 points, or 0.63 percent, at 1,691.56. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 11.65 points, or 0.32 percent, at 3,621.65.
U.S. stocks were also supported by strong quarterly reports from IBM and Morgan Stanley, though shares of Intel Corp were sold following its results. A jump in regional factory activity also boosted sentiment.The MSCI International ACWI Price Index rose 0.5 percent.European equities rose 0.8 percent, outperforming U.S. markets as the broad STOXX Europe 600 broke above a resistance level.The dollar rose 0.3 percent against a basket of currencies while the euro was down 0.3 percent. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 7/32, with the yield at 2.5171 percent.Market participants awaited a meeting in Moscow of Group of 20 finance ministers for signs of an orchestrated approach to the end of U.S. money-printing, which could help defuse volatility in global markets.
5) Mumbai Dance Bars Get Green Light:
|Mumbai Dance Bars Get Green Light|
With the Supreme Court quashing the ban on dance bars in Maharashtra, bar-owners and dancers look forward to business starting once again, reports Neeta Kolhatkar. However, some issues need to be sorted out.While the Supreme Court order to lift the ban on dance bars in Maharashtra has come as a shock to the police and the Democratic Front Alliance of the Congress and Nationalist Party of India that is in power in the state, the bar-owners and dancers say it is the end of their trauma that lasted eight long years.
“This is truly the happiest day of my life. I can now feed my family and educate my children,” says Sunita, a 30-year-old bar dancer. Having come to Mumbai city 10 years ago, she danced at Home Palace in Andheri East. Sunita says she and her female colleagues were left helpless by the ban imposed by the Home Minister RR Patil (of the NCP). “I didn’t want to do other kind of work. I haven’t been exploited, but what the Maharashtra government did was unjust. We lost jobs and many got dragged into prostitution.”
|We lost jobs and many got dragged into prostitution.”|
The court verdict has been welcomed by the activist who fought the cause of bar dancers and took it all the way to the Supreme Court. Leader of the bar dancers association Varsha Kale told Rediff.com, “We fought for eight long years, I’m happy that the court has taken cognisance of the fact that the image of bar dancers, which was perceived as negative, is not the actual case. This gives the bar dancers a fundamental right to earn, and respect to their profession.”
The bar-owners who had camped in New Delhi for over a week to pursue the case were more than happy to ensure their business kicks off this very night. The bar-owners claim that from over 1250 bars, pre-2008, only 800 bars remain in the city now. While before 2008 nearly 72,000-75,000 girls/women worked in these bars, today there are barely 20,000 girls left. Most moved to satellite areas like Navi Mumbai, Thane and other regions, many moved on to Dubai, and many got sucked into acting in blue films and the sex trade.
“The police harassed us and would file false charges against us. I have recorded their harassment on video. They force us to pay hafta and they in turn complain we are indulging in wrong business. But we don’t harass our girls,” says Ramanna, the owner of HomePalace.
Following the court verdict RR Patil told the state legislative council on Tuesday that the state government will set up a legal panel to study the court ruling. “We have not yet received a copy of the Supreme Court ruling. A panel comprising lawyers, legal consultants and legislators will study it and submit a report to the state government,” he said.
While the NCP has been vigorously pursuing the ban on dance bars, Congress leaders feel it is time the Maharashtra government ensures protection to working women in the state. Congress member of Parliament Sanjay Nirupam, whose constituency has a large number of dance bars, told Rediff.com, "The Supreme Court order should be welcomed and respected. In fact the government should now ensure that the minority community, that is women, in this case bar dancers who are vulnerable, are protected from any sort of exploitation and given employment opportunity, instead of a head-on collision with them."
The state government said the intention behind its ban was to end the vicious nexus among gangsters, bar owners and the police. While it was being rumoured that many from the encounter squad, the creamy lot of the Mumbai police, had a financial stake in some dance bars, it was never placed on record or proved. “The police have been harassing us from day one. They would scout our areas, falsely claim we were forcing our girls into sex trade and then misuse Section 110 of Bombay Police Act, IPC Section 294 and Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act,” said Pravin Agarwal, owner of Ellora Bar.
RR Patil had then said in the state assembly that it was sound logic to pass a bill banning dance bars. The middle class youth were becoming alcoholics and families were being destroyed. Also, the government wanted to put an end to the corruption, he had said. The move was opposed by the bar owners who fought him the legal way. First knocking on the doors of the Bombay high court, which stayed the ban on dance bars. Since the bars shut down from the midnight of August 14, 2008, a bitter battle raged between the bar-owners and the Maharashtra government and Mumbai police.
In fact, in these eight years, strict action was being taken consistently against bar-owners. The Maharashtra government also ensured that only orchestra music played at bars during the day, banned any form of dancing, money throwing or other deals. The government also brought in rules to allow girls to work only till 9.30pm, and restricted the number of girls who can sing till 1.30 am to four. Raids too were conducted every few weeks on bars and lodges along the highways in and around Mumbai’s suburbs.
In the interim period, the much-hated Assistant Commissioner of Police Vasant Dhoble of the social services branch was asked to monitor activity in and around the bars. His raids on many bars and the methodology he used (like busting in with a hockey stick) fetched him a lot of ire on social networking sites, apart from the bar-owners. As a result, many bar-owners and women were allegedly charged under PITA.
While the bar-owners accuse Dhoble of harassment, the cop however refused to comment in his defence. “The matter is sub-judice and I will not comment,” was all he would say. However, sources in the police told Rediff.com, “There is no conviction in these cases because the matter hasn’t come up as yet. It doesn’t mean the bar-owners have got a clean chit. Dhoble meticulously followed up on information received about the kind of nefarious activities that took place inside these bars and acted accordingly.”
Sports News This Week:
1) Manoj Tiwary ties knot with long-time girlfriend Sushmita Roy:
|Manoj Tiwary ties knot with long-time girlfriend Sushmita Roy|
The dashing Indian batsman, Manoj Tiwary, has tied the knot with his long-time grilfriend Sushmita Roy in Howrah on Thursday.
According to media reports, the couple met about six years ago through a common friend. Since then the two have been spotted regularly in public places.
While the Kolkata Knight Riders(KKR) batsman hails from West Bengal, his better-half comes from a Brahmin family in Uttar Pradesh.
During the last year's Indian Premier League, Tiwary had smashed a six off Sri Lankan speedster Lasith Malinga and dedicated the maximum to Sushmita after she challenged him to hit the big shot off the Lankan.
The 27-year-old batsman is currently missing in action from cricket due to his knee injury. He has played eight ODIs for India with the highest score of 104* against the West Indies.
2) Ashes 2013: Comeback man Ryan Harris makes instant impact:
|Ashes 2013: Comeback man Ryan Harris makes instant impact|
Just two-and-a half-years ago, Australia's quest to regain the Ashes left Ryan Harris at the lowest ebb of his cricket career. But the injury-hit bowler finally put those painful memories behind as he led Australia's attack at Lord's on Thursday.
Before lunch Harris took two wickets in five balls, including the scalp of Kevin Pietersen, in front of a capacity crowd to give Australia hope in this Test.
It was a cathartic moment for Harris, who has battled back from a series of ailments that threatened to wreck his career. Harris emerged as a new ball threat for Australia, after belatedly marking his Test debut aged 30, with six wickets against New Zealand in 2010.
Plagued by injuries
But since then the 33-year-old has been plagued by a series of injuries including a chronic knee problem that will be with him until he retires. The most frustrating of those injuries came during the 2010-11 Ashes series just as Sydney-born Harris was starting to fulfil his potential.
When he took nine wickets at Perth to help level the series, it seemed Australia had unearthed a real gem. But Harris suffered a stress fracture to his left ankle in the fourth Test in Melbourne, England went on to win the series 3-1 and the pace bowler has never quite been able to shake off the injury-prone tag.
A shoulder complaint that needed surgery in 2012 left Harris sidelined for several months, while an Achilles injury earlier this year cut short his spell in the IPL. He had been in good form for Queensland of late and he showcased his ability to thrive in English conditions with five wickets for Australia A last month.
3) The Open Championship: Shiv Kapur's moment under the sun:
|The Open Championship: Shiv Kapur's moment under the sun|
No one played better on the front side of the first day of the British Open than Shiv Kapur, who birdied six of the first seven holes and made the turn with a 6-under 30, briefly moving to the top line of the leaderboard. But the back nine was playing much tougher, which he discovered right away. He three-putted for double-bogey at the 10th to drop back. A further bogey on the 14th meant Kapur finished the 16th hole two shots behind leader Zach Johnson before play was called off for the day.
Johnson worked out how to play the first round while the likes of Rory McIlroy couldn't make anything work. Bouncing back from a tough loss last weekend, Johnson began with a 6-under 66 on a sunny Thursday at Muirfield, another brilliant opening after a 65 at Lytham last year.
A year ago, the 2007 Masters champion followed up with a 74 in the second round on the way to a ninth-place finish. "This game demands resilience," Johnson said. "That just comes with experience. That certainly comes with embracing what's happened and then also throwing it behind you and plodding along to the future." The immediate future looks pretty bleak for McIlroy, who only last August won his second major title with a runaway victory at the U.S. PGA Championship. He showed no signs of snapping out of his baffling slump this season, struggling mightily to a 79 that marked the second-worst round of his Open career.
The only time McIlroy shot worse was an 80 at St. Andrews in 2010, but that was more a product of a brutal wind than poor shots. This time, he could blame only himself. He didn't even beat birthday boy Nick Faldo, who stirred up a bit of a tempest this week when he advised McIlroy to spend more time focused on golf rather than off-the-course pursuits.
4) Pradeep Sangwan in dope net:
|Pradeep Sangwan in dope net|
Delhi's left arm pacer Pradeep Sangwan, who was representing Kolkata Knight Riders in the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League this year, tested positive for banned substances from samples taken during the tournament. The Board of Control for Cricket in India is expected to take a strict stance, banning the 22-year old for a minimum of six months for the offense.
Sangwan is the second cricketer in IPL, after Pakistani speedster Mohammad Asif, to have failed a dope test. During a random test conducted by BCCI's anti-doping agency during the game between Mumbai Indians and KKR game on May 8, Sangwan too was asked to give his urine sample, which later tested positive for drugs.
"Yes, Sangwan has tested positive for a banned substance during this year's Indian Premier League. The BCCI has already issued a letter to the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association in this regard. There have been traces of banned substances in his 'A' sample," a top BCCI said.
Sangwan, however, has said that his positive test was down to the consumption of a supplement, which would have helped him lose weight, on the suggestion of his gym trainer. The pacer, who is currently recuperating in London from a shoulder surgery, also said that he could have inadvertantly consumed medication to deal with his operation.
"I didn't know that the supplement which I was taking contained banned substances. I relied blindly on my trainer. Also, I have been taking medications to deal with my shoulder surgery and it could have had an effect too. I was shocked when the result came out," said Sangwan, speaking to The Indian Express.
Asked if it was a recreational or a performance enhancing drug, the BCCI source said: "We will be able to know that only after the 'B' sample test is done. As you have seen the trend in other sports, the 'B' sample tests normally shows the trend of 'A' sample," the official said.
5) Wayne Rooney - Jose Mourinho's welcome home present:
|Wayne Rooney - Jose Mourinho's welcome home present|
This week's events make for a resounding overture to the Wayne Rooney soap opera. If the prelude is anything to go by then brace yourselves people we are in for a riveting finale. The supporting cast – Jose Mourinho and David Moyes – through their respective comments have laid the perfect foundation for our protagonist. But hold on, Master Wayne is indisposed as he is presently nursing a minor hamstring tear so in the meantime his stand-in Paul Stretford (Rooney's agent) shall commence the opening act with the cryptic – "angry and confused."
How "angry and confused" one can feel on £250,000 a week and where the media picked up on these three words from is debatable. Nevertheless enter Jose Spin-doctor Mourinho whose latest sound bite, "players who want to go to their national team and play for their country, normally they must be first choice players for their clubs and be playing regularly. That's the big motivation if you are thinking about playing at the World Cup", though possibly targeted at Moyes and Rooney, may well leave Torres, Ba, and Lukaku "angry and confused". After all they too are vying for spots in their respective national sides.
Chelsea has a great squad, one that can only be enhanced by the arrival of Master Wayne. In Mourinho's preferred 4-2-3-1 there exist a wealth of options – Mata, Oscar, Hazard, Schürrle, Moses and De Bruyne – in the three attacking midfield positions to provide the sort of service that would make a lone target man salivate. Torres and Ba have been mediocre since their arrival and Lukaku, though a player for the future, still is not experienced enough to "lead the line". Chelsea need someone to score 30 plus goals a season and that player Mourinho believes, albeit after missing out on Falcao and Cavani, is Wayne Rooney.