Herbal Viagra actually contains the real thing



































IF IT looks too good to be true, it probably is. Several "herbal remedies" for erectile dysfunction sold online actually contain the active ingredient from Viagra.












Michael Lamb at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and colleagues purchased 10 popular "natural" uplifting remedies on the internet and tested them for the presence of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. They found the compound, or a similar synthetic drug, in seven of the 10 products – cause for concern because it can be dangerous for people with some medical conditions.












Lamb's work was presented last week at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting in Washington DC.












This article appeared in print under the headline "Herbal Viagra gets a synthetic boost"


















































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Education Minister urges schools to maintain long-term partnerships






SINGAPORE: Singapore Education Minister Heng Swee Keat has urged schools here to maintain long-term partnerships, which will enrich the community.

He was speaking at Yishun Junior College's (YJC) Celebrating Values Day on Saturday.

It is a carnival to raise funds for charities such as the President's Challenge and Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore.

YJC has roped in partners to organise the event - such as parent support groups and other schools in the neighbourhood.

The event also saw Mr Heng launching a book of values. The minister autographed ten copies of the book.

The school will keep a copy, while the remaining nine will be given to well-wishers who pledge at least S$500 to beneficiaries.

Mr Heng said: "YJC is creating a ripple effect in spreading the message to the community that values ought to be celebrated, that we will care for people in need, that we'll nurture the young. These are the values that will uplift our society and will give all Singaporeans a brighter future."

- CNA/xq



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Florida sinkhole victim still missing, presumed dead









SEFFNER, Fla. -- Florida rescue personnel on Saturday searched for a Florida man who disappeared into a sinkhole that swallowed his whole bedroom while he was asleep in his suburban Tampa home.

Jeff Bush, 36, who is presumed dead, was in bed when the other five members of the household who were getting ready for bed on Thursday night heard a loud crash and Jeff screaming.






Jeff's brother, 35-year-old Jeremy Bush, jumped into the hole and furiously kept digging to find his brother.

Jeremy himself had to be rescued from the sinkhole by the first responder to the emergency call, Douglas Duvall of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. When Duvall entered Jeff Bush's bedroom, all he saw was a widening chasm but no sign of Jeff.

"The hole took the entire bedroom," said Duvall. "You could see the bedframe, the dresser, everything was sinking," he said.

Norman Wicker, 48, the father of Jeremy's fiancée who also lived in the house, ran to get a flashlight and shovel.

"It sounded like a car ran into the back of the house," Wicker said.

Authorities have not detected any signs of life after lowering listening devices and cameras into the hole.

"There is a very large, very fluid mass underneath this house rendering the entire house and the entire lot dangerous and unsafe," Bill Bracken, the head of an engineering company assisting fire and rescue officials, told the news conference late on Friday.

"We are still trying to determine the extent and nature of what's down there so we can best determine how to approach it and how to extricate," Bracken said.

After suspending the search overnight, it resumed at daylight on Saturday, with engineering consultants trying to determine the extent of the collapse so that a perimeter boundary can be established for setting up heavy equipment for future excavation.

In addition, listening devices were being used to detect any evidence of life although Bush was presumed dead. Rescue officials said they were focusing on engineering analysis including soil samples, ground penetration radar and other techniques to determine the extent of the ongoing collapse.

Several nearby homes were evacuated in case the 30-foot (9-meter) wide sinkhole got larger but officials said it only appeared to be getting deeper.

The Bush brothers worked together as landscapers, according to Leland Wicker, 48, one of the other residents of the house.



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We Didn’t Domesticate Dogs. They Domesticated Us.


In the story of how the dog came in from the cold and onto our sofas, we tend to give ourselves a little too much credit. The most common assumption is that some hunter-gatherer with a soft spot for cuteness found some wolf puppies and adopted them. Over time, these tamed wolves would have shown their prowess at hunting, so humans kept them around the campfire until they evolved into dogs. (See "How to Build a Dog.")

But when we look back at our relationship with wolves throughout history, this doesn't really make sense. For one thing, the wolf was domesticated at a time when modern humans were not very tolerant of carnivorous competitors. In fact, after modern humans arrived in Europe around 43,000 years ago, they pretty much wiped out every large carnivore that existed, including saber-toothed cats and giant hyenas. The fossil record doesn't reveal whether these large carnivores starved to death because modern humans took most of the meat or whether humans picked them off on purpose. Either way, most of the Ice Age bestiary went extinct.

The hunting hypothesis, that humans used wolves to hunt, doesn't hold up either. Humans were already successful hunters without wolves, more successful than every other large carnivore. Wolves eat a lot of meat, as much as one deer per ten wolves every day-a lot for humans to feed or compete against. And anyone who has seen wolves in a feeding frenzy knows that wolves don't like to share.

Humans have a long history of eradicating wolves, rather than trying to adopt them. Over the last few centuries, almost every culture has hunted wolves to extinction. The first written record of the wolf's persecution was in the sixth century B.C. when Solon of Athens offered a bounty for every wolf killed. The last wolf was killed in England in the 16th century under the order of Henry VII. In Scotland, the forested landscape made wolves more difficult to kill. In response, the Scots burned the forests. North American wolves were not much better off. By 1930, there was not a wolf left in the 48 contiguous states of America.  (See "Wolf Wars.")

If this is a snapshot of our behavior toward wolves over the centuries, it presents one of the most perplexing problems: How was this misunderstood creature tolerated by humans long enough to evolve into the domestic dog?

The short version is that we often think of evolution as being the survival of the fittest, where the strong and the dominant survive and the soft and weak perish. But essentially, far from the survival of the leanest and meanest, the success of dogs comes down to survival of the friendliest.

Most likely, it was wolves that approached us, not the other way around, probably while they were scavenging around garbage dumps on the edge of human settlements. The wolves that were bold but aggressive would have been killed by humans, and so only the ones that were bold and friendly would have been tolerated.

Friendliness caused strange things to happen in the wolves. They started to look different. Domestication gave them splotchy coats, floppy ears, wagging tails. In only several generations, these friendly wolves would have become very distinctive from their more aggressive relatives. But the changes did not just affect their looks. Changes also happened to their psychology. These protodogs evolved the ability to read human gestures.

As dog owners, we take for granted that we can point to a ball or toy and our dog will bound off to get it. But the ability of dogs to read human gestures is remarkable. Even our closest relatives-chimpanzees and bonobos-can't read our gestures as readily as dogs can. Dogs are remarkably similar to human infants in the way they pay attention to us. This ability accounts for the extraordinary communication we have with our dogs. Some dogs are so attuned to their owners that they can read a gesture as subtle as a change in eye direction.

With this new ability, these protodogs were worth knowing. People who had dogs during a hunt would likely have had an advantage over those who didn't. Even today, tribes in Nicaragua depend on dogs to detect prey. Moose hunters in alpine regions bring home 56 percent more prey when they are accompanied by dogs. In the Congo, hunters believe they would starve without their dogs.

Dogs would also have served as a warning system, barking at hostile strangers from neighboring tribes. They could have defended their humans from predators.

And finally, though this is not a pleasant thought, when times were tough, dogs could have served as an emergency food supply. Thousands of years before refrigeration and with no crops to store, hunter-gatherers had no food reserves until the domestication of dogs. In tough times, dogs that were the least efficient hunters might have been sacrificed to save the group or the best hunting dogs. Once humans realized the usefulness of keeping dogs as an emergency food supply, it was not a huge jump to realize plants could be used in a similar way.

So, far from a benign human adopting a wolf puppy, it is more likely that a population of wolves adopted us. As the advantages of dog ownership became clear, we were as strongly affected by our relationship with them as they have been by their relationship with us. Dogs may even have been the catalyst for our civilization.

Dr. Brian Hare is the director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center and Vanessa Woods is a research scientist at Duke University. This essay is adapted from their new book, The Genius of Dogs, published by Dutton. To play science-based games to find the genius in your dog, visit www.dognition.com.


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Rescuers Search for Man as Fla. Sinkhole Grows












Rescuers early Saturday morning returned to the site where a sinkhole swallowed a Florida man in his bedroom after the home's foundation collapsed.


Jeff Bush was in his bedroom when a sinkhole opened up and trapped him underneath his home at 11 p.m. Thursday night.


While the sinkhole was initially estimated to be 15 feet deep on Thursday night, the chasm has continued to grow. Officials now estimate it measures 30 feet across and up to 100 feet deep.


MORE: How Sinkholes Can Develop


Rescue operations were halted Friday night after it became too dangerous to approach the home.


Bill Bracken, an engineer with Hillsborough County Urban Search and Rescue team said that the house "should have collapsed by now, so it's amazing that it hasn't."


RELATED: Florida Man Swallowed by Sinkhole: Conditions Too Unstable to Approach








Florida Man Believed Dead After Falling into Sinkhole Watch Video









Florida Sinkhole Swallows House, Man Trapped Inside Watch Video









Sinkhole Victim's Brother: 'I Know in My Heart He's Dead' Watch Video





Using ground penetrating radar, rescuers have found a large amount of water beneath the house, making conditions even more dangerous for them to continue the search for Bush.


"I'm being told it's seriously unstable, so that's the dilemma," said Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrell. "A dilemma that is very painful to them and for everyone."


Hillsborough County lies in what is known as Florida's "Sinkhole Alley." Over 500 sinkholes have been reported in the area since 1954, according to the state's environmental agency.


The Tampa-area home was condemned, leaving Bush's family unable to go back inside to gather their belongings. As a result, the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue set up a relief fund for Bush's family in light of the tragedy.


Officials evacuated the two houses adjacent to Bush's and are considering further evacuations, the Associated Press reported.


Meanwhile, Bush's brother, Jeremy Bush, is still reeling from Thursday night.


Jeremy Bush had to be rescued by a first responder after jumping into the hole in an attempt to rescue his brother when the home's concrete floor collapsed, but said he couldn't find him.


"I just started digging and started digging and started digging, and the cops showed up and pulled me out of the hole and told me the floor's still falling in," he said.


"These are everyday working people, they're good people," said Deputy Douglas Duvall of the Hillsborough County sheriff's office, "And this was so unexpected, and they're still, you know, probably facing the reality that this is happening."



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Smartphone projector breathes life into storybooks



Hal Hodson, technology reporter



Remember your favourite storybook from childhood? Now imagine that the characters that graced its pages didn't only appear in print, but acted out scenes right in front of you, à la magic Harry Potter paintings.


HideOut, a smartphone projector system developed by Karl Willis at Disney Research in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, does exactly that by using invisible-ink markers to guide the projected characters of a storybook through an entire other layer of activities.






The projector also lets the user move a digital, animated character over surfaces in the real world. By passing the camera over another of the hidden patterns - which are visible only in infrared - the character can even seem to interact with physical obstacles, as in the video above.


In a paper describing the system, presented this month at the Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction conference in Barcelona, Spain, Willis laid out how projection will move past games and playing to become an important computer-human interaction technology, freeing digital content from the screens.


Willis writes that future smartphones with embedded projectors will be used to browse digital files projected on any wall or table, to augment theme parks with digital characters, or to make digital board games that jump out of the table. "Enabling projected content to be mapped onto everyday surfaces from mobile devices is an important step towards seamless interaction between the digital and physical worlds."




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US manufacturing rises for 3rd straight month: ISM






WASHINGTON, March 1, 2013 (AFP) - US manufacturing activity expanded in February for the third month in a row, hitting the highest level since 2011, according to the ISM survey of purchasing managers released Friday.

The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing sector index rose to 54.2 from 53.1 in January, boosted by a 4.5 percent surge in new orders.

Manufacturing appeared to be pulling out of a holding pattern in the second half of 2012, when the index hovered around the 50 break-even line between growth and contraction.

The index, based on a nationwide survey of manufacturing purchasing executives, showed across-the-board gains for the second straight month.

The February reading was the highest since June 2011 and unexpectedly strong.

Most analysts estimated the index would fall to 52.4.

Gains were seen in all five sub-indexes: new orders, production, employment, supplier deliveries and inventories.

Of the 18 manufacturing industries surveyed, 15 reported growth, compared with 13 in January.

Executives polled in the survey generally appeared upbeat about demand, although some indicated worry about the government's drastic "sequester" spending cuts that were to begin Friday.

"Overall business is good," said an executive in the food, beverage and tobacco products industry.

A furniture executive said: "Business seems to be on an uptick. The normal seasonal downturn for us has been much shorter and not as severe as in the past four years."

But an executive in computers and electronics pointed to government cuts in defense spending as a problem for his industry, one of the three reporting a contraction in February.

- AFP/ch



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Obama, lawmakers talk as deep cuts loom


























































WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama heaped blame on Republicans on Friday for the failure to break a deadlock in efforts to avert looming automatic spending cuts and warned that a “ripple effect” would start hurting the middle class and the overall U.S. economy.

Obama, following a White House meeting with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders, said he would keep on reaching out to a “caucus of common sense” among lawmakers on Capitol Hill and is looking for a compromise in coming days and weeks once the cuts take effect later on Friday.









Earlier, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner ruled out tax increases as a way to address the nation's deficit after talks with Obama.


“The discussion about revenue, in my view is over. It's about taking on the spending problem,” Boehner said in a short statement to reporters after leaving the White House meeting.

Boehner told reporters the Republican-led House would move a “continuing resolution” to fund government through the rest of the fiscal year, a stop-gap bill that must pass by March 27 to keep the government running.

“I'm hopeful that we won't have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown,” Boehner said.

Both sides still hope the other will either be blamed by voters for the cuts or cave in before the worst effects predicted by Democrats - like air traffic chaos or furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal employees - start to bite in the coming weeks.

Barring any breakthroughs, across-the-board cuts totaling $85 billion will begin to come into force at some time before midnight on Friday. The full brunt of the belt tightening, known in Washington as “sequestration,” will take effect over seven months so it is not clear if there will be an immediate disruption to public services.

No matter how Obama and Congress resolve the 2013 battle, this round of automatic spending cuts is only one of a decade's worth of annual cuts totaling $1.2 trillion mandated by the sequestration law.

Democrats insist tax increases be part of a solution to ending the automatic cuts, an idea Republicans reject.

Congress can stop the cuts at any time after they start on Friday if the parties agree to that. In the absence of any deal at all, the Pentagon will be forced to slice 13 percent of its budget between now and Sept. 30. Most non-defense programs, from NASA space exploration to federally backed education and law enforcement, face a 9 percent reduction.

If the cuts were to stay in place through September, the administration predicts significant air travel delays due to layoffs of airport security workers and air traffic controllers.

The International Monetary Fund warns that U.S. economic growth could be slowed by 0.5 of a percentage point this year, hitting the global economy.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts 750,000 jobs could be lost in 2013 and federal employees throughout the country are looking to trim their own costs.

NO VISITS TO MOVIES, RESTAURANTS

“The kids won't go to the dentist, the kids might not go to the doctor, we won't be spending money in local restaurants, local movie theaters,” said Paul O'Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council, which represents some 2,500 workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

But some Republicans accused Obama of exaggerating the severity of possible disruptions in government services to force them to call off sequestration on his terms.

The public, Republican Representative Lee Terry of Nebraska said, is “being told … that Armageddon occurs on Saturday: You're never going to fly, you can't buy any meat at a grocery store, every illegal alien is going to be released, that our borders are going to be overrun by terrorists and al Qaeda will establish themselves in every city of the United States if this goes through.”

Terry said Republicans “want the cuts” to trigger, but with more flexibility on how they are carried out.

Even some Republicans keen to rein in government spending are wary of sequestration because of its potential to cause pain. The cuts are designed to hurt by hitting a wide range of government programs regardless of whether cost reduction is warranted.

Instead of these indiscriminate cuts, Obama and Democrats in Congress urge a mix of targeted spending cuts and tax increases on the rich to help tame the growth of a $16.6 trillion national debt.

Republicans want to cut the cost of huge social safety nets, including Social Security and Medicare, that are becoming more expensive in a country with an aging population.

By midnight, Obama is required to issue an order to federal agencies to reduce their budgets, and the White House budget office must send a report to Congress detailing the spending cuts. In coming days, federal agencies are likely to issue 30-day notices to workers who will be laid off.





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Stinkbug Threat Has Farmers Worried


Part of our weekly "In Focus" series—stepping back, looking closer.

Maryland farmer Nathan Milburn recalls his first encounter.

It was before dawn one morning in summer 2010, and he was at a gas station near his farm, fueling up for the day. Glancing at the light above the pump, something caught his eye.

"Thousands of something," Milburn remembers.

Though he'd never actually seen a brown marmorated stinkbug, Milburn knew exactly what he was looking at. He'd heard the stories.

This was a swarm of them—the invasive bugs from Asia that had been devouring local crops.

"My heart sank to my stomach," Milburn says.

Nearly three years later, the Asian stinkbug, commonly called the brown marmorated stinkbug, has become a serious threat to many mid-Atlantic farmers' livelihoods.

The bugs have also become a nuisance to many Americans who simply have warm homes—favored retreats of the bugs during cold months, when they go into a dormant state known as overwintering.

The worst summer for the bugs so far in the U.S. was 2010, but 2013 could be shaping up to be another bad year. Scientists estimate that 60 percent more stinkbugs are hunkered down indoors and in the natural landscape now than they were at this time last year in the mid-Atlantic region.

Once temperatures begin to rise, they'll head outside in search of mates and food. This is what farmers are dreading, as the Asian stinkbug is notorious for gorging on more than a half dozen North American crops, from peaches to peppers.

Intruder Alert

The first stinkbugs probably arrived in the U.S. by hitching a ride with a shipment of imported products from Asia in the late 1990s. Not long after that, they were spotted in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Since then, they've been identified in 39 other states. Effective monitoring tools are being developed to help researchers detect regional patterns.

There are two main reasons to fear this invader, whose popular name comes from the pungent odor it releases when squashed. It can be distinguished from the native stinkbug by white stripes on its antennae and a mottled appearance on its abdomen. (The native stinkbug can also cause damage but its population number is too low for it to have a significant impact.)

For one thing, Asian stinkbugs have an insatiable appetite for fruits and vegetables, latching onto them with a needlelike probe before breaking down their flesh and sucking out juice until all that's left is a mangled mess.

Peaches, apples, peppers, soybeans, tomatoes, and grapes are among their favorite crops, said Tracy Leskey, a research entomologist leading a USDA-funded team dedicated to stinkbug management. She adds that in 2010, the insects caused $37 million in damage just to apple crops in the mid-Atlantic region.

Another fear factor: Although the stinkbug has some natural predators in the U.S., those predators can't keep up with the size of the stinkbug population, giving it the almost completely unchecked freedom to eat, reproduce, and flourish.

Almost completely unchecked. Leskey and her team have found that stinkbugs are attracted to blue, black, and white light, and to certain pheromones. Pheromone lures have been used with some success in stinkbug traps, but the method hasn't yet been evaluated for catching the bugs in large numbers.

So Milburn—who is on the stakeholders' advisory panel of Leskey's USDA-funded team—and other farmers have had to resort to using some chemical agents to protect against stinkbug sabotage.

It's a solution that Milburn isn't happy about. "We have to be careful—this is people's food. My family eats our apples, too," he says. "We have to engage and defeat with an environmentally safe and economically feasible solution."

Damage Control

Research Entomologist Kim Hoelmer agrees but knows that foregoing pesticides in the face of the stinkbug threat is easier said than done.

Hoelmer works on the USDA stinkbug management team's biological control program. For the past eight years, he's been monitoring the spread of the brown marmorated stinkbug with an eye toward containing it.

"We first looked to see if native natural enemies were going to provide sufficient levels of control," he says. "Once we decided that wasn't going to happen, we began to evaluate Asian natural enemies to help out."

Enter Trissolcus, a tiny, parasitic wasp from Asia that thrives on destroying brown marmorated stinkbugs and in its natural habitat has kept them from becoming the extreme pests they are in the U.S.

When a female wasp happens upon a cluster of stinkbug eggs, she will lay her own eggs inside them. As the larval wasp develops, it feeds on its host—the stinkbug egg—until there's nothing left. Most insects have natural enemies that prey upon or parasitize them in this way, said Hoelmer, calling it "part of the balance of nature."

In a quarantine lab in Newark, Delaware, Hoelmer has been evaluating the pros and cons of allowing Trissolcus out into the open in the U.S. It's certainly a cost-effective approach.

"Once introduced, the wasps will spread and reproduce all by themselves without the need to continually reintroduce them," he says.

And these wasps will not hurt humans. "Entomologists already know from extensive research worldwide that Trissolcus wasps only attack and develop in stinkbug eggs," Hoelmer says. "There is no possibility of them biting or stinging animals or humans or feeding on plants or otherwise becoming a pest themselves."

But there is a potential downside: the chance the wasp could go after one or more of North America's native stinkbugs and other insects.

"We do not want to cause harm to nontarget species," Hoelmer says. "That's why the host range of the Asian Trissolcus is being studied in the Newark laboratory before a request is made to release it."

Ultimately, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will decide whether or not to introduce the wasp. If it does, the new natural enemy could be let loose as early as next year.

Do you have stinkbugs in your area? Have they invaded your home this winter? Or your garden last summer? How do you combat them? Share your sightings and stories in the comments.


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Obama, Congress Fail to Avert Sequester Cuts














President Obama and congressional leaders today failed to reach a breakthrough to avert a sweeping package of automatic spending cuts, setting into motion $85 billion of across-the-board belt-tightening that neither had wanted to see.


Obama met for just over an hour at the White House Friday with Republican leaders House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic allies, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Vice President Joe Biden.


But the parties emerged from their first face-to-face meeting of the year resigned to see the cuts take hold.


Officials have said the spending reductions immediately take effect on Saturday but that the pain from reduced government services and furloughs of tens of thousands of federal employees would be felt gradually in the weeks ahead.


The sticking point in the debate over the automatic cuts -- known as sequester -- remains whether to include more new tax revenue in a broad deficit reduction plan.


The White House insists there must be higher tax revenue, through closure of tax loopholes and elimination of some deductions. Republicans seek an approach of spending cuts only, with an emphasis on entitlement programs.



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