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September 18, 2008

Royal Society education chief forced out in creation row

Filed under: Audio reports,Education,The Times (UK),United Kingdom — admin @ 5:00 am

Royal Society education chief forced out in creation row

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

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Following misleading reports that Rev Professor Michael Reiss had advocated that creation should be taught in science class, he left his post as director of education at the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science.

Last week at the British Association’s science festival Rev Professor Michael Reiss said that creation should not be ignored if it come up in class. Professor Reiss, who was director of education at the Royal Society, said that since a substantial number of pupils have concerns about the issue, they are likely to “detach from” science if their concerns and world view are not addressed. Creation should not be taught, he said, but if it comes up, teachers should be encouraged to explain the science of evolution. He also said that students should be taught the nature of a scientific theory – that it does not simply mean a hypothesis about the way things might work, but a rigorously supported system of ideas that fit with the available evidence.

The Times of London reported him as saying that Creationism should be taught in science classes as a legitimate point of view. This provoked a storm of protest from a group that included two Nobel Laureates and other scientists who strongly oppose the teaching, or even the discussion of creation in science class.

Yesterday the Royal Society said in a statement that some of Professor Reiss’ comments had been “open to misinterpretation”, and that this had damaged the Society’s reputation. “As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the society, he will step down immediately as director of education.” The Royal Society went on to say: “However, if a young person raises creationism in a science class, teachers should be in a position to explain why evolution is a sound scientific theory and why creationism is not, in any way, scientific.”

The chief executive of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Roland Jackson, said that the Royal Society should have supported Professor Reiss and used this opportunity to further a reasoned debate. “I was at the actual discussion, and what I heard him say, however it has been reported, was essentially the position advocated by the Royal Society,” Jackson said.


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Markets rally as world\’s central banks infuse cash

Markets rally as world’s central banks infuse cash

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

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Stock indexes around the globe reacted favorably after several national banks announced a joint effort to pump more money into the markets.

At 0800 UTC, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank (ECB), the United States Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, and the Swiss National Bank jointly announced that they would be working together to provide reciprocal credit arrangements to institutions facing a financial crush from the U.S. dollar. The credit arrangements, also known as “swap lines”, will be used to help short-term funding of smaller loan groups.

Totaling US$180 billion, the Federal Reserve arranged to increase existing swap lines with the European Central Bank from US$55 billion to US$110 billion, and with the Swiss National Bank from US$12 billion to US$27 billion. Additionally, it opened new swap lines with the Bank of Japan for up to US$60 billion, up to US$40 billion with the Bank of England, and up to US$10 billion with the Bank of Canada. These swap lines will be available until January 30, 2009.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve stated, “These measures, together with other actions taken in the last few days by individual central banks, are designed to improve the liquidity conditions in global financial markets. The central banks continue to work together closely and will take appropriate steps to address the ongoing pressures.”

In the first 90 minutes in the American stock markets, the Dow Jones surged nearly 200 points, the NASDAQ was up nearly nine points, and the S&P 500 was up nearly 15 points. Mid-day trading in the European markets saw the UK’s FTSE 100 was up 25 points, the DAX was up over 54 points, and the CAC 40 was up nearly 15 points. While Japan’s Nikkei index closed at a three-year low of 11,489.30 points, and the Hang Seng bottomed out at 16,283.72 points before closing at 17,849.97 points.

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The Russian markets continued to remain closed for a third day under orders of the Russian government. Russia announced that it would be infusing their own markets with an additional US$19.7 billion, half of which would come from the federal budget. Russia’s exchanges will re-open on Friday morning.


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Flu shots for pregnant women protect newborns after birth

Flu shots for pregnant women protect newborns after birth

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Influenza virons.
Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Late term pregnancy flu shots continue to protect newborns after birth, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. This gives reason for more expectant mothers to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and obtain a flu shot during flu season. Only 15% of women in the United States receive the vaccination during pregnancy, although the CDC has advised this preventive treatment for the past 11 years.

The study was conducted in Bangladesh on a group of 340 pregnant women during third trimester and reduced the risk of respiratory illness among the mothers by 36 percent. The benefit to their infants was even greater: 63 percent reduction in influenza incidence and an overall reduction of respiratory illness by 29 percent. The study found 6 confirmed cases of influenza in the vaccinated group compared to 16 cases among the mothers of a control group.

Late term pregnancy flu vaccination represents an important window for preventive treatment because the flu vaccine is not recommended for infants less than 6 months old. Infants under the age of 6 months also run the highest risk of dying from the flu.



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New I-35W Minneapolis bridge opens

New I-35W Minneapolis bridge opens – Wikinews, the free news source

New I-35W Minneapolis bridge opens

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

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North end of bridge during opening.
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The new Interstate 35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States was opened shortly after 5 AM today. It replaces a bridge which collapsed last year, killing 13 people.

A fire engine and ambulance were first across on each side. In each direction, a line of State Highway Patrol cars was followed by a formation of Department of Transportation construction trucks. A cluster of awaiting vehicles went honking across for a few minutes, then traffic returned to the sparse levels more typical of the pre-dawn period.

The September 18 opening was well ahead of the scheduled December 24 goal, earning the contractor, Flatiron-Manson, up to $19.6 million in performance bonuses.

The bridge is 189 feet wide, with a main span length of 504 feet and a deck height of over 100 feet above the Mississippi River. Traffic is expected to return to previous levels of 141,000 vehicles per day on the 10 lanes. The accelerated construction (of only 11 months) was accomplished by pouring 120 concrete sections in heated pole barns, and then lifting them all into place via a crane mounted on a river barge. The bridge contains 323 electronic sensors for real-time monitoring of stresses and movement of the bridge components. It is illuminated with white light-emitting diodes.


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September 17, 2008

Discovery sheds light on flow of water in carbon nanotubes

Discovery sheds light on flow of water in carbon nanotubes

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This illustration demonstrates one form a carbon nanotube can take.
Image: Arnero.

Experiments during the past several years examining membranes formed from carbon nanotubes have demonstrated potential for a variety of applications, perhaps most notably economical filtration of water for desalination. But something that has consistently confused researchers is that the rate of flow for water passing through these special membranes is considerably higher than would be predicted by classical physics. In some experiments the flow rate was up to 10,000 times the speed expected. In addition, recent measurements by a team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory conducted via nuclear magnetic resonance showed that the water passing through nanotubes exhibits very different properties in comparison to bulk water.

In a press release Tuesday the News Bureau of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign highlighted a recent finding that offers one possible explanation for the phenomenon. The research, published in Physical Review Letters last month (doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.101.064502 ), used molecular modeling to analyze the predicted behavior and interactions of individual water molecules passing through a nanotube.

UIUC researchers Narayana R. Aluru, a professor of mechanical science and engineering, and doctoral student Sony Joseph found that the chemical polarity of H2O and what they describe as “confinement effects” within the bounds of smaller nanotubes cause the molecular movements to couple. Due to the water molecules interacting and orienting themselves in response to one another they flow in a more orderly helical or corkscrew pattern through the nanotube. This flow pattern may explain some of the experimental results obtained by other scientists.

Hopefully this discovery is another step towards an affordable technology to produce plentiful potable water for drinking, irrigation of crops, and other purposes, a vital resource that is in short supply in many parts of the world.



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Stock markets worldwide fall dramatically

Stock markets worldwide fall dramatically

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stock markets around the world, particularly those in the United States, have fallen dramatically today. This is due to the ongoing events in the financial world, including the bailout of large insurance firm AIG by the US Federal Reserve.

The primary UK index, the FTSE 100, dropped in value by 2.36%, which is 118.40 points, to below the 5000 mark at 4907.20. The Dow Jones was down 2.62% at 16:08 UTC, a slight increase from earlier today. The Dow Jones currently has a value of 10769.00 points. The Nasdaq index has fallen by 3.16% to 2138.14, while the Dax was 1.75% lower than the start of the day as of 16:08 UTC.

The Japanese index the Nikkei was one of the few to rise in value over the day. It ended up 1.2%, although this follows a large fall in the value of the index when it hit an all time low yesterday.

Darren Winder, a market analyst from Cazenove, said that “I don’t think anyone has got any or much confidence in market direction for more than a few days.”

A lot of today’s activities in the market were related to the takeover of the American International Group (AIG) on Tuesday in an US$ 85 billion loan, in exchange for a 79.9% stake in the company.

The fact that AIG has thousands of divisions engaged in business across the globe sets them apart from the recent problems with other banks. AIG was built up over the last several years via the buyouts and mergers of many companies around the world, offering AIG’s stockholders a diverse base of income which allowed it to steadily increase profits.

In addition, the markets have also had difficulties during the past week after the refusal of the Federal Reserve to bail out Lehman Brothers, forcing the company to file for bankruptcy on Monday after Bank of America (BoA) and Barclays PLC pulled out of negotiations over the weekend.



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Russian stock markets suspended amid market turmoil

Russian stock markets suspended amid market turmoil

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

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Trading on Russia’s major stock markets has been suspended for a second consecutive day due to the ongoing turmoil in the financial markets around the world.

The suspension took place due to an order of the Russian government’s Federal Service for the Financial Markets, which demanded the suspension. “It took too long for the money to get into the system,” said Uralsib analyst Chris Weafer commenting on this decision. “They were afraid of panic selling so they stopped the market.”

Before the suspension, the RTS exchange fell by 6.39 percent in just two hours, while the MICEX index started the day with an increase, before falling again. This day was the worst day in Russia’s market since the country’s 1998 financial crisis

Several financial markets have continued to lose value. The primary British index, the FTSE 100, dropped in value by 2.36%, which is 118.40 points, to below the 5000 mark at 4907.20. The Dow Jones, was down 2.62% at 16:08 UTC, a slight increase from earlier today. The Dow Jones currently has a value of 10769.00 points. The NASDAQ index has fallen by -3.16% to 2138.14, while the Dax was 1.75% lower than the start of the day at 16:08 UTC.

The Russian Government has also announced the injection of 44 billion dollars into the Russian economy. The cash injection will take place through VTB, Sberbank and Gazprom Bank, which are all state run banks.



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US Federal Reserve prepares to take over AIG

US Federal Reserve prepares to take over AIG

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Federal Reserve took over American International Group (AIG) on Tuesday in an US$85 billion loan, in exchange for a 79.9% stake in the company.

A press release issued Tuesday stated that “the Board determined that, in current circumstances, a disorderly failure of AIG could add to already significant levels of financial market fragility and lead to substantially higher borrowing costs, reduced household wealth, and materially weaker economic performance.”

The deal allows AIG to draw up to US$85 billion in loans over the next 24 months to shore up the orderly sale of various divisions of the company without further interruption to the economy. In exchange, the Federal Reserve will have a 79.9% equity stake, primarily in the form of equity participation notes. The loan carries an interest rate of LIBOR plus 850 points. Should AIG fail, the loan is covered completely by company assets. Should AIG recover however, taxpayers could potentially recover large profits.

This news comes on the heels of the Federal Reserve refusing to bail out Lehman Brothers, forcing the company to file for bankruptcy on Monday after Bank of America(BoA) and Barclays PLC pulled out of negotiations over the weekend. The fact that AIG has thousands of divisions engaged in business across the globe sets them apart from the recent problems with other banks. AIG was built up over the last several years via the buyouts and mergers of many companies around the world, offering AIG’s stockholders a diverse base of income which allowed it to steadily increase profits.

It is this interconnectedness that had the Federal Reserve worried. Should AIG collapse, it could set off a global chain reaction in multiple markets. In an interview with the New York Times, former Treasury official Roger Altman said, “It’s the interconnectedness and the fear of the unknown. The prospect of the world’s largest insurer failing, together with the interconnectedness and the uncertainty about the collateral damage — that’s why it’s scaring people so much.”

While AIG, like many other banks, found itself embroiled in the middle of the sub-mortgage lending crisis, AIG has also been struggling to deal with controversies in other complex financial instruments such as credit default swaps. These markets have been exploding for several years, but due to lack of regulation by the government, recent reversals have seen AIG’s stock value tumble by over 90 percent in the last year.



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Controversy after leak of preliminary report into Spanair disaster

Controversy after leak of preliminary report into Spanair disaster

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The jet before it crashed

Spain’s Ministry for Development has leaked a preliminary report into the crash of Spanair Flight 5022. The McDonnel-Douglas MD-82 that was lost at Madrid‘s Barajas Airport in Spanair’s first and only fatal accident resulted in the deaths of 154. Controversy has come as a result of both the documents’ contents and the fact that it was leaked at all.

According to the report, the airliner was defective for as yet undetermined reasons. The wing flaps failed to move into the required configuration for takeoff, and the alarm system that would normally alert pilots failed to activate, leaving the pilots unaware of the impending crash. The report goes on to note that after a similar accident befell Northwest Airlines Flight 255 in the United States in 1987, also with 154 dead, manufacturer McDonnel-Douglas (since merged with Boeing) told operators of MD-82s that they recommended pilots verified the alarm system was operational before every takeoff.

Spanair, however, did not follow this advice and instead trained pilots to check the system before the first takeoff each day and after each change in flight crew. The plane had been taken to Madrid from Barcelona earlier that day with the same flight crew, and therefore the pilots were not expected to check the alarm.

File:Columnas de humo del accidente aéreo de Madrid-Barajas (2008).jpg

Smoke rises after the crash
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Spanair’s director of operations, Javier Muela, has responded by denial that the primary cause of the crash was the alarm’s failure, as was implied by the report. He did confirm that the airline was not following the recommendation from the airframer, but in his defense said that “Spanair did not exist” at the time – “it was made in 87, Spanair was founded in 88,” he said. He also said the airline’s independent experts did not believe the reports claims about the incorrect flap position was accurate.

Typically, airliners come with documents detailing operating recommendations among other details, but newspapers have not confirmed that Spanair did in fact receive this information with any of its MD-82s.

Regardless of the report’s accuracy, further controversy has arisen over its status, with a pilots’ union enraged over the fact that it was ever made public. The Pilots College, COPAC, expressed an intention to bring legal action against the Ministry for Development. The union say the ministry broke protocols on both confidentiality and law.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues. It remains unclear why the systems on the aircraft failed, if they indeed did, although Spanish paper El Pais speculates it may be linked to a faulty temperature gauge on one of the engines, which caused the first attempted takeoff to be aborted and delayed the flight an hour. Javier Pérez, the judge in charge of the investigation, will examine the contents of the aircraft’s flight recorders tomorrow. It is also reported that he is unlikely to call any witnesses to the disaster.



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September 16, 2008

IMF and EU approve aid for Georgia

IMF and EU approve aid for Georgia – Wikinews, the free news source

IMF and EU approve aid for Georgia

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The International Monetary Fund and the European Union approved aid packages to help Georgia recover from its conflict with Russia, which occurred in early August. The IMF approved a US$750 million loan which will allow Georgia to rebuild its currency reserves. The European Union also approved an aid package of €500 million in aid by 2010, which is expected to help internally displaced people (IDPs) and economic recovery in the form of new infrastructure. Only €100 million of the EU aid will be given to Georgia this year.

These loans are aimed to restore confidence in Georgia’s economy and send a signal to international investors that Georgia’s economy is sound. According to the IMF, international investors have been “critical to Georgia’s economic growth in recent years.”

IMF Headquarters in Washington D.C.

Takatoshi Kato, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chairman of the IMF executive committee, said the loan will “make significant resources available to replenish international reserves and bolster investor confidence, with the aim of sustaining private capital inflows that have been critical to Georgia’s economic growth in recent years.”

Georgia has requested $2 billion in international aid to help it recover from the conflict. So far, the United States has pledged $1 billion in aid. Further assistance and loans to Georgia are expected from other organizations. Kato noted that “…Georgia is expected to receive financial assistance from multilateral and bilateral donors and creditors in support of the reconstruction effort.” It is expected that an international donors’ conference will take place next month to solicit more aid for the country.

Georgia’s government expects that economic growth will be more than cut in half as a result of the conflict. Last year, Georgia’s GDP increased 12.4% and it is predicted by the IMF that growth will be less than 4 percent in the coming year.



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