27/07/2013

Super-cute baby zonkey, not for sale, probably sterile


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Is there a fix for global warming under our feet?

Scientists are testing whether Washington’s porous basalt deposits prove useful in storing liquid carbon dioxide.

WALLULA, Walla Walla County — After nearly a decade of preparation, the experiment that started last week near the banks of the Columbia River seems almost anti-climactic.
Four cylindrical tanks, each containing about 40 tons of carbon dioxide, sit tethered by pipes and tubes to a hole in the ground. There’s a faint hum of machinery as a pump forces the liquefied gas down the well and into rocks more than half a mile below the surface.
The setup doesn’t look like much, conceded project leader Peter McGrail, of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). But it represents the first crack at finding out whether the vast basalt deposits of the Columbia Basin might someday serve as a geologic vault to lock up greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other industrial sources.
“This is the only one in the world,” McGrail said earlier this week at the experiment site. “Nobody else has injected (liquefied) CO2 into basalt.”
The pumping started July 17 and will continue for about two weeks. The goal is to inject 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide — about as much as an average coal-fired power plant emits every three hours. Then the well will be capped and monitored for more than year to make sure there’s no leakage.
But it’s not clear when — or if — the approach will ever be applied to help slow the rate of global climate change.
The project was conceived during the mid-2000s, a period McGrail wistfully refers to as the “heady days” of research on methods to capture carbon dioxide and store, or sequester, it underground.
The federal government seemed poised to restrict greenhouse gas emissions. With more than 100 coal-fired power plants on the drawing board in the United States, carbon sequestration appeared to offer a relatively simple way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide flooding into the atmosphere.
“Those days are long gone,” McGrail said with a shrug.
As the experiment finally gets under way, the prospects of federal climate change legislation have dimmed to the point of invisibility. At the same time, hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits in the Rocky Mountains and elsewhere has produced such a bounty of cheap natural gas that most proposed power plants have abandoned dirtier-burning coal in favor of cleaner-burning gas.
“That has dramatically changed the landscape,” McGrail said. “The outlook for carbon sequestration isn’t very bright at the moment.”
Federal funding for carbon-storage research is falling and several utilities have scrapped plans for demonstration projects, said Judi Greenwald, of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a nonpartisan think tank. Two proposed coal-based power plants in Washington that could have incorporated underground carbon storage were both canceled.
“Why would you invest all this money in the technology if you don’t have to reduce CO2 emissions?” asked Greenwald.
She testified before the House Energy Subcommittee on Thursday, calling for continued research on carbon storage and tax incentives to encourage companies to adopt a variation on the approach. But the Obama administration’s proposed 2014 budget would actually cut funding, Greenwald said.
Not a new idea
The $12 million PNNL project is part of a government-industry consortium called the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership. Six other regional consortiums across the country are also exploring carbon storage technology.
The idea of pumping carbon dioxide underground isn’t new. The oil industry has been doing it for decades to force recalcitrant petroleum out of rocks.
One of North America’s biggest carbon storage projects pumps carbon dioxide from a coal gasification plant in North Dakota to oil fields in Saskatchewan, where it is injected into wells to boost production and provide a test bed for storage technology.
Several other sequestration projects are operating around the world, mostly injecting gas into deposits of sandstone — the same type of fine-grained rock where oil is often found.
The thing that’s unique in Washington is basalt, McGrail explained, holding up two cylinders of the dark-colored rock. The Columbia Basin is underlain by layers up to three miles thick, the result of repeated outpourings from volcanic fissures.
One of McGrail’s cylinders was shot through with small holes formed as gas bubbled out of the cooling lava millions of years ago. “This is the kind of stuff we’re injecting CO2 into,” he said. The liquefied gas flows into the pores, displacing groundwater.
The second cylinder was free of pores. “This is what sits on top,” McGrail said. Thick layers of the impermeable cap rock act as a natural barrier to prevent carbon dioxide from leaking out.
But laboratory tests at PNNL have also shown that once carbon dioxide diffuses into the porous basalt, it is quickly converted to solid, carbonate minerals, which further lowers the risk of leaks. The main goal of the experiment is to see if the computer modeling and lab tests hold up in the real world.
“There’s no substitute for doing a field study,” McGrail said.
The best way to verify that the CO2 actually solidifies would be to drill cores from around the test site, something the researchers hope to do if they can scrape up the money.
A PNNL analysis estimated that basalt flows in the Northwest are commodious enough to hold 20 years’ worth of U.S. power-plant emissions — though it’s unlikely carbon dioxide would ever be piped here from other parts of the country.
But the results from the Washington experiment will be relevant to basalt deposits elsewhere in the United States and in countries like India, where the growing appetite for energy is fueling a boom in power-plant construction and heat-trapping emissions.
Finding the right site
McGrail and his colleagues originally planned their experiment for 2007, but it wound up taking several years just to find a place to drill. Their first choice was the Hanford site, where the Department of Energy had spent $500 million studying basalt as a possible nuclear-waste repository. But with the current emphasis on cleanup, DOE didn’t want the sequestration experiment on-site.
Next, the research project was linked with plans for a coal-gasification plant on property owned by the Port of Walla Walla. But residents objected and the project unraveled.
The experiment eventually found a home in an unlikely spot: On the grounds of the Boise Inc. paper mill at Wallula. The mill doesn’t have any plans to capture and store its own carbon emissions, but is interested in tracking and helping advance the research, said spokesman Destry Henderson.
Washington’s Ecology Department reviewed the plans and found no reason to be concerned about impacts on water quality, said regional director Grant Pfeifer. The injection zone is far below any wells, and the aquifer in the area is laced with so much iron, fluoride and other chemicals that it’s not suitable for drinking or irrigation. The agency is also convinced that there’s no chance of a gas leak big enough to be dangerous to people.

Geologists have raised concerns that large-scale carbon injection — on the order of millions of tons — could trigger small earthquakes. But the amounts involved in the PNNL experiment are so tiny that’s not a worry, McGrail said.

The project is currently injecting about 40 tons of carbon dioxide a day. By the time they’re done, the researchers will have gone through 25 of the big white tanks.
For a waste product that everyone wants to get rid of, carbon dioxide is not cheap, McGrail said. The experiment is using food-grade gas — the type that’s bubbled into carbonated beverage — at a cost of about $100,000.

Giant Magnet Finally Reaches Destination After A Month Long Tedious Trip

Emmert International


The humongous electromagnet has finally reached its destination after travelling through water and roads, throwing a spectacular show for viewers. The magnet garnered itself a lot of fan following on Twitter (#bigmove) covering a safe 3,200 mile journey. The 50-foot-wide, 15-ton electromagnet became a sensation while making a move from the national laboratory in Brookhaven, New York to Fermilab in Batavia, Ill, Friday night.


The giant magnet's arrival was welcomed by the new home crowd. A 15-hour drive-down from New York to Illinois, took a month for the giant magnet, considering the safety of the $30 million gadget. It traveled down the East Coast, through the Gulf of Mexico and up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, by ship. It was then towed into a custom-made 16-axel flatbed truck, which was designed to travel at an average speed of 10 miles per hour, to cover its final leg of the journey.
The truck displayed a huge board "Driving discovery in particle physics" to hint the puzzled onlookers. It mostly traveled through the night to avoid traffic and remained parked during the day. The hard work and the duration of the journey finally paid off when the massive magnet reached with no damage. Even if about an eighth of an inch of the magnet was twisted or taken apart, it would be nothing but an over sizednon-functional object.
"The whole thing went as smoothly as we could have wanted it to," Fermilab spokesman Andre Salles, who was among the magnet's traveling companions for about 10 days of the trip, told Washington Post.
The whole travel operation was pre-planned and executed by Emmert International. Terry Emmert, President of Emmert International said that everything went as planned.
"There's a lot of areas that we had planned to have very, very snug fits and everything went as planned, everything was laid out perfect, everything had a backup plan and the execution was perfect on everybody's part," he said.
The giant magnet will be used by the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory officials to study super-fast subatomic particles that live only 2.2 millionths of a second. The success of the experiment called Muon g-2 will lead to new discoveries in the field of particle physics.
The huge magnet was built in the 1990s by the scientists at the Brookhaven National Lab. Since the scientists did not need the magnet for further experiments, they shipped it to the Midwest for $3 million. The cost to build a new electromagnet would take as much as $30 million, Chris Polly, manager of the Muon g-2 project at Fermilab, said.

Frogs ingest pesticides from agriculture fields 100 miles away

Pacific chorus frogs like this one were found to contain traces of 10 agricultural chemicals that were used in farming fields up to 100 miles away, according to a new study.

Frogs living in remote mountain ponds in the Sierra Nevada are ingesting pesticides used to grow crops 50 to 100 miles away in California’s Central Valley, according to a study by government scientists. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey identified 10 distinct chemicals in the frogs’ tissues, including residues of DDT, an insecticide that’s been banned for more than 40 years.
No Kermit, it’s not easy being green.
While the new study, published Thursday in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, found only trace amounts of the agricultural chemicals, researchers say that’s almost beside the point: The mere fact that the pesticides had made their way to distant sites in national parks and other public lands was their primary concern.
Amphibians are considered excellent indicators of ecosystem health due to their sensitivity to environmental change. And while they’re not as charismatic as polar bears,“they are a part of the food web,” said study leader Kelly Smalling, a research hydrologist who monitors pesticides in amphibians for the U.S. Geological Survey.
“If frog populations decline, you’re going to have an increase in insect populations,” Smalling said. By by protecting them, “you’re keeping the food web balanced.”
And their populations are declining. Badly.
A recent study of frogs in the U.S. showed that even populations of species thought to be doing well are disappearing at a rate of almost 3% per year.
They’re so fragile that Congress created the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative in 2000 to keep track of the vulnerable animals.
Study co-author and herpetologist Gary Fellers of USGS began monitoring frogs in California in the early 1990s. In 2009, as Fellers prepared to do his usual counts, Smalling decided to tag along to see whether pesticides were contributing to amphibians’ demise.
Before long, she was in Yosemite, wading around ponds at night and imitating mating calls When a male responded, she and Fellers would “scoop them up in a net” and then euthanize them, she said.
The pair collected frogs from seven sites in the Sierra Nevada, ranging from Lassen Volcanic National Park in the north to Giant Sequoia National Monument in the south. All of the animals were members of the species Pseudacris regilla, an impossibly bright green creature about the size of a half-dollar, according to the study.
Back in the lab, the researchers ground up the frogs and screened their tissues for evidence of 98 pesticides. They found 10, including a degraded form of DDT, which was outlawed in 1972. Several of the compounds had never before been observed in frogs.
The three most common chemicals were pyraclostrobin, tebuconazole and simazine, all of which are used to kill pest fungi and plants.
The amount of pesticides found was considered “trace,” but Smalling said it’s impossible to know whether it was enough to cause damage, since these chemicals have never been found in frogs before. “Every pesticide is going to affect organisms differently,” she said.
While the chemicals are not used in the vicinity of the frog ponds, they can travel through the atmosphere.
“They’re moved by the prevailing winds,” she said. “They’re either released via dust or precipitation.”
The researchers were surprised that none of the pesticides discovered in the frogs were detected in water samples from the ponds where the frogs lived. Very few of the chemicals were found in sediment samples either.
Many studies examining the effects of chemicals on wildlife place more emphasis on collecting samples from water and soil rather than the animals that live in and on them. But the results of this study highlight the problems with that approach, Fellers said.
“The frogs are being exposed to much higher concentrations than we would have suspected just by doing the basic environmental sampling,” he said.
Now that pesticides have been in frogs, the next step is to figure out their effects. Death is not the only outcome that concerns Smalling and her team. “Even if concentrations are not high enough to be lethal,” the chemicals could leave the frogs more vulnerable to diseases, they wrote.



Global Warming Creates Lake at North Pole

Melted Arctic ice at North Pole

Global warming has been bantered about for years. Is it happening? Is it a myth? The pros and cons have been heard around the world and often attempt to cancel each other out. However, the North Pole Environmental Observatory has released photos of what was once the frozen North Pole–only it’s now a lake.
The North Pole Environmental Observatory has been around since the year 2000. It is funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and its purpose is to monitor the Arctic sea ice. The lake began forming on July 13 after a month of temperatures rising one to three degrees Celsius above normal. Ice still separates the lake from the Arctic Ocean, but as that frozen layer keeps melting, the lake will deepen.
Scientists have been monitoring the melting ice during recent years. It freezes over after the summer months, but melts again the next year. The melting has opened up the Northwest Passage for shipping as well as oil and gas exploration. Unfortunately for the polar bears and other animals that depend on sea ice, their natural environment is shrinking.
The ice cap in its frozen state helps insulate the air, ocean currents, and reflects sunlight. When the ice melts, it creates problems of accelerated global warming, rising ocean levels, and loss of natural habitat for Arctic animals.
Written by: Cynthia Collins

New NASA telescope scours sun in 'grand opening'

This combination of images made available by NASA´s Goddard Space Flight Center on Thursday, July 25, 2013 shows a comparison between the higher resolution provided by the new ISIS (Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph), right, and the SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) spacecraft. Launched in June 2013, NASA´s IRIS has a scheduled mission of two years. Scientists say the observations will help shed light on the sun´s impact on Earth. (AP Photo/NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - NASA is getting an unprecedented close-up look at the sun, thanks to a new telescope.
NASA's IRIS spacecraft, launched just a month ago, already is providing detailed pictures of the sun. The telescope's door opened last week, and it began observing the lower solar atmospheres in never-before-seen detail. The early results were announced Thursday and hailed by the research team as exciting.
NASA's science mission directorate chief, former astronaut John Grunsfeld, says it's "a grand opening of a new era in solar physics."
IRIS is short for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph. It will continue its mission for the next two years. Scientists say the observations will help shed light on the sun's impact on Earth.
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Online:
NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/iris

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/science/20130725_ap_bd616b58ba8f44c6a15556cc79f145bd.html#rBk7RS44tpHKiz3P.99

China-EU Solar Panel Deal Avoids Tariffs With Import Cuts

European Union and Chinese negotiators reached an agreement to curb EU imports of solar panels from China in exchange for exempting the shipments from punitive tariffs.
The accord would set a minimum price for imports of the renewable-energy technology from China. In return, Chinese manufacturers would be spared EU levies meant to counter below-cost sales, a practice known as dumping. The EU import taxes target more than 100 Chinese companies including Yingli Green Energy Holding Co., Wuxi Suntech Power Co. and Changzhou Trina Solar Energy Co.
“We found an amicable solution in the EU-China solar-panels case that will lead to a new market equilibrium at sustainable prices,” European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a statement yesterday in Brussels. He didn’t disclose China’s minimum-price offer, which must be accepted by the full European Commission, or indicate whether the accord includes a limit on the volume of imports from China.
The goal is to limit Chinese competition against European manufacturers such as Solarworld AG (SWV) in the EU’s largest commercial dispute of its kind, without resorting to anti-dumping duties. The case covers EU imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules or panels, and cells and wafers used in them -- shipments valued at 21 billion euros ($28 billion) in 2011.
The pledged price will allow Chinese companies to continue exports to the EU and “keep reasonable market share,”according to a statement yesterday on the website of the China New Energy Chamber of Commerce, which advises both the government and companies.

Provisional Duties

In early June, the commission announced provisional anti-dumping duties as high as 67.9 percent on Chinese solar panels. The commission, the EU’s Brussels-based executive arm, decided to apply an initial lower rate of 11.8 percent for two months to encourage the government in Beijing to negotiate a solution. As of Aug. 6, unless the accord goes ahead, the provisional levies will range from 37.3 percent to 67.9 percent, depending on the Chinese company.
“After weeks of intensive talks, I am satisfied with the offer of a price undertaking submitted by China’s solar-panel exporters,” De Gucht said. “We are confident that this price undertaking will stabilize the European solar-panel market and will remove the injury that the dumping practices have caused to the European industry.”
The commission said that it can’t give further details on the price undertaking until it has formally approved the agreement.

Minimum Price

The accord would fix a minimum price of 56 euro cents a watt for annual imports from China of as much as 7 gigawatts, said a trade official in Europe who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information hasn’t been publicly announced yet.
The pact would cover around 90 Chinese exporters that have about 60 percent of the EU solar-panel market, according to the official.
The case highlights EU concerns about the expansion of Chinese solar companies, which have grabbed market share from European rivals that were once dominant, and underpins a broader crackdown by Europe on perceived unfair low pricing by China’s exporters.
“Reaching a consensus is positive and has a quite good outcome”, Lian Rui, an analyst at NPD Solarbuzz in Beijing said today by phone. “The price is more beneficial for Chinese solar-component manufacturers than higher duties.”
EU ProSun, which represents around 40 European solar-panel producers including Solarworld of Germany, called the deal unacceptable and vowed to file a lawsuit.
The group said the agreed minimum price matches that at which Chinese exporters are selling solar panels in the EU and the volume cap represents about 70 percent of the “expected”solar market.
“This is essentially a guarantee of sales at that level and more for China and an authorization to sell at dumped prices,” Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun, said in an e-mailed statement. “That is a clear violation of EU trade law.”

Creditor Protection

In Europe, which accounts for about three-quarters of the global photovoltaic market, more than two dozen manufacturers have sought protection from creditors since 2010 and many have shifted production to lower-cost plants in Asia. Germany’s Q-Cells SE, which was acquired last year by South Korea’s Hanwha Group, has its largest factory in Malaysia.
Chinese exporters increased their combined share of the EU modules market to 80 percent in the 12 months through June 2012 from 63 percent in 2009, the commission said in June, when introducing the provisional anti-dumping duties. The Chinese industry expanded its share of the bloc’s cells market to 25 percent from 8 percent and of Europe’s wafers market to 33 percent from 6 percent over the period, according to the commission.

Dumping Inquiry

The duties were the preliminary outcome of a dumping inquiry that the commission opened in September last year and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in May shouldn’t lead to permanent levies against China. EU governments, acting on a commission proposal, have until Dec. 6 to decide whether to accept the draft agreement as a definitive measure. Such arrangements usually last for a period of five years.
The EU is also threatening to impose a separate set of duties on Chinese solar panels to counter alleged subsidies. That’s the focus of a second investigation in which the deadline for introducing any provisional anti-subsidy duties is Aug. 8 and for imposing any definitive measures is early December.
To contact the reporters on this story: Jim Brunsden in Brussels at jbrunsden@bloomberg.net; Jonathan Stearns in Strasbourg, France at jstearns2@bloomberg.net


Coming of age in ‘The Night of the Comet’

For the followup to his first novel ( Letter to My Daughter), author George Bishop sets The Night of the Comet in 1973 Terrebonne, La. — a fictitious small town deep in Cajun Country. Bishop, who lives in New Orleans, borrowed memories from his childhood in Jackson, La., to populate the much more exotic Terrebonne.
“A couple of gas stations, a handful of shops, two schools and a water tower ... I could circumnavigate my whole world in a half hour on my bike. Those were the kind of things I borrowed for my novel,” Bishop said in press material.
The buildup for the arrival of the Comet Kohoutek, the so-called “comet of the century,” has begun and our narrator, 14-year-old Alan Broussard Jr., receives a telescope as a birthday gift from his father, the high school science teacher who is eager to share his astral obsession — and maybe make a connection — with his son. Meanwhile, Junior would rather spy on the new girl across the bayou than train his telescope to the skies.
Part coming-of-age novel and part family saga (which the author said he prefers), there’s a story thread for all four members of the family — frustrated father, unhappy mother, sister and Junior. And, of course, Comet Kohoutek.
“I still don’t own a telescope, although since writing the book, I think I’d like to get one now,” Bishop said in press materials.
Just in time for the arrival of Comet Ison in November.
— Celeste Williams










http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/07/28/5019235/coming-of-age-in-the-night-of.html
Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/07/28/5019235/coming-of-age-in-the-night-of.html#storylink=cpy

Scientists can implant false memories into mice

Mouse

False memories have been implanted into mice, scientists say.
A team was able to make the mice wrongly associate a benign environment with a previous unpleasant experience from different surroundings.
The researchers conditioned a network of neurons to respond to light, making the mice recall the unpleasant environment.
Reporting in Science, they say it could one day shed light into how false memories occur in humans.
The brains of genetically engineered mice were implanted with optic fibres in order to deliver pulses of light to their brain. Known as optogenetics, this technique is able to make individual neurons respond to light.
Unreliable memory

Just like in mice, our memories are stored in collections of cells, and when events are recalled we reconstruct parts of these cells - almost like re-assembling small pieces of a puzzle.
It has been well documented that human memory is highly unreliable, first highlighted by a study on eyewitness testimonies in the 70s. Simple changes in how a question was asked could influence the memory a witness had of an event such as a car crash.
When this was brought to public attention, eyewitness testimonies alone were no longer used as evidence in court. Many people wrongly convicted on memory statements were later exonerated by DNA evidence.
Xu Liu of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics and one the lead authors of the study, said that when mice recalled a false memory, it was indistinguishable from the real memory in the way it drove a fear response in the memory forming cells of a mouse's brain.

How a memory was implanted in a mouse

This cartoon explains how Dr Tonegawa's team created a false memory in the brain of mice
  • A mouse was put in one environment (blue box) and the brain cells encoding memory were labelled in this environment (white circles)
  • These cells were then made responsive to light
  • The animal was placed in a different environment (the red box) and light was delivered into the brain to activate these labelled cells
  • This induced the recall of the first environment - the blue box. While the animal was recalling the first environment, they also received mild foot shocks
  • Later when the mouse was put back into the first environment, it showed behavioural signs of fear, indicating it had formed a false fear memory for the first environment, where it was never shocked in reality
The mouse is the closest animal scientists can easily use to analyse the brain, as though simpler, its structure and basic circuitry is very similar to the human brain.
Studying neurons in a mouse's brain could therefore help scientists further understand how similar structures in the human brain work.
"In the English language there are only 26 letters, but the combinations of letters make unlimited words and sentences, this is also true for memories," Dr Liu told BBC News.
Evolving memories
"There are so many brain cells and for each individual memory, different combinations of small populations of cells are activated."
These differing combinations of cells could partly explain why memories are not static like a photograph, but constantly evolving, he added.


Erasing memories?

Brain artwork
Mice have previously been trained to believe they were somewhere else, "a bit like the feeling of deja-vu we sometimes get", said Rosamund Langston from Dundee University.
A possibility in the future is erasing memories, she told BBC News.
"Episodic memories - such as those for traumatic experiences - are distributed in neurons throughout the brain, and in order to make memory erasure a safe and useful tool, we must understand how the different components of each memory are put together.
"You may want to erase someone's memory for a traumatic event that happened in their home, but you certainly do not want to erase their memory for how to find their way around their home."
"If you want to grab a specific memory you have to get down into the cell level. Every time we think we remember something, we could also be making changes to that memory - sometimes we realise sometimes we don't," Dr Liu explained.
"Our memory changes every single time it's being 'recorded'. That's why we can incorporate new information into old memories and this is how a false memory can form without us realising it."
Susumu Tonegawa, also from RIKEN-MIT, said his teams' work provided the first animal model in which false and genuine memories could be investigated in the cells which store memories, called engram-bearing cells.
"Humans are highly imaginative animals. Just like our mice, an aversive or appetitive event could be associated with a past experience one may happen to have in mind at that moment, hence a false memory is formed."
Silencing fear
Neil Burgess from University College London, who was not involved with the work, told BBC News the study was an "impressive example" of creating a fearful response in an environment where nothing fearful happened.
"One day this type of knowledge may help scientists to understand how to remove or reduce the fearful associations experienced by people with conditions like post traumatic stress disorder."
But he added that it's only an advance in "basic neuroscience" and that these methods could not be directly applied to humans for many years.
"But basic science always helps in the end, and it may be possible, one day, to use similar techniques to silence neurons causing the association to fear."
'Diseases of thought'
Mark Mayford of the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, US, said: "The question is, how does the brain change with experience? That's the heart of everything the brain does.
He explained that work like this could one day further help us to understand the structure of our thoughts and the cells involved.
"Then one can begin to look at those brain circuits, see how they change, and hopefully find the areas or mechanisms that change with learning."
"The implications are potentially interventions for diseases of thought such as schizophrenia. You cannot approach schizophrenia unless you know how a perception is put together."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23447600

House ethics committee extends Bachmann investigation

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s problems with the House ethics committee are not going away yet.
On Friday, the chair and ranking member of the committee, a Democrat and a Republican, announced that a review of the congresswoman’s case will be extended another 45 days, meaning that the earliest a decision can be expected is on Sept. 11.
The ethics committee extension is routine, but it also signifies the first public acknowledgment by any federal entity of the multiple allegations of campaign finance or ethical improprieties by Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign.
The case was referred to the committee on June 13 by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which has interviewed former Bachmann staffers about allegations of improper payments and the use of campaign staffers to promote her book, “Core of Conviction.”
Bachmann’s attorneys have denied any wrongdoing on her part. Bachmann recently announced she would not seek re-election.
The ethics panel faced a Sunday deadline to dismiss the case or extend it for further review. Under House rules, the committee now faces a September deadline to drop the case or pursue it further, possibly leading to sanctions.
The panel has yet to disclose publicly the nature of the allegations under review. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Election Commission also are investigating the campaign. Meanwhile, officials in Iowa are investigating allegations of improper payments to state Sen. Kent Sorenson, Bachmann’s Iowa chairman. Urbandale police continue to probe theft allegations involving a database in the custody of ex-Bachmann staffer Barb Heki, who recently settled a lawsuit against the Bachmann campaign.
Bachmann has racked up nearly $200,000 in legal expenses this year, according to FEC campaign spending reports.
Those expenses come on top of $260,000 in billings from Patton Boggs, the firm defending her, in 2011 and 2012.
Kevin Diaz

U.S. Senator: On NSA Spying: It’s As Bad As Snowden Says

big brother grid

When the Patriot Act was last reauthorized, I stood on the floor of the United States Senate and said, “I want to deliver a warning this afternoon. When the American people find out how their government has interpreted the Patriot Act, they are going to be stunned and they are going to be angry.”
From my position on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I had seen government activities conducted under the umbrella of the Patriot Act that I knew would astonish most Americans. At the time, Senate rules about classified information barred me from giving any specifics of what I’d seen except to describe it as “secret law”—a secret interpretation of the Patriot Act, issued by a secret court, that authorizes secret surveillance programs; programs that I and colleagues think go far beyond the intent of the statute.
If that is not enough to give you pause, then consider that not only were the existence of and the legal justification for these programs kept completely secret from the American people, senior officials from across the government were making statements to the public about domestic surveillance that were clearly misleading and at times simply false. Senator Mark Udall and I tried again and again to get the executive branch to be straight with the public, but under the classification rules observed by the Senate we are not even allowed to tap the truth out in Morse code ­ and we tried just about everything else we could think of to warn the American people. But as I’ve said before, one way or another, the truth always wins out.
Edward Snowden’s Revelations
Last month, disclosures made by an NSA contractor lit the surveillance world on fire. Several provisions of secret law were no longer secret and the American people were finally able to see some of the things I’ve been raising the alarm about for years. And when they did, boy were they stunned, and boy, are they angry.
You hear it in the lunch rooms, town hall meetings and senior citizen centers. The latest polling, the well­-respected Quinnipiac poll, found that a plurality of people said the government is overreaching and encroaching too much on Americans’ civil liberties. That’s a huge swing from what that same survey said just a couple years ago, and that number is trending upward. As more information about sweeping government surveillance of law­abiding Americans is made public and the American people can discuss its impacts, I believe more Americans will speak out. They’re going to say, in America, you don’t have to settle for one priority or the other: laws can be written to protect both privacy and security, and laws should never be secret.
After 9/11, when 3,000 Americans were murdered by terrorists, there was a consensus that our government needed to take decisive action. At a time of understandable panic, Congress gave the government new surveillance authorities, but attached an expiration date to these authorities so that they could be deliberated more carefully once the immediate emergency had passed. Yet in the decade since, that law has been extended several times with no public discussion about how the law has actually been interpreted. The result: the creation of an always expanding, omnipresent surveillance state that ­­ hour by hour ­­ chips needlessly away at the liberties and freedoms our founders established for us, without the benefit of actually making us any safer.
So, today I’m going to deliver another warning: If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we will all live to regret it. I’ll have more to say about the consequences of the omnipresent surveillance state, but as you listen to this talk, ponder that most of us have a computer in our pocket that potentially can be used to track and monitor us 24/7. The combination of increasingly advanced technology with a breakdown in the checks and balances that limit government action could lead us to a surveillance state that cannot be reversed.
What’s Happened Since 9/11
At this point, a little bit of history might be helpful. I joined the Senate Intelligence Committee in January 2001, just before 9/11. Like most senators I voted for the original Patriot Act, in part because I was reassured that it had an expiration date that would force Congress to come back and consider these authorities more carefully when the immediate crisis had passed. As time went on, from my view on the Intelligence Committee there were developments that seemed farther and farther removed from the ideals of our founding fathers.
This started not long after 9/11, with a Pentagon program called Total Information Awareness, which was essentially an effort to develop an ultra­ large-­scale domestic data­mining system. Troubled by this effort, and its not-exactly-modest logo of an all­-seeing eye on the universe, I worked with a number of senators to shut it down. Unfortunately, this was hardly the last domestic surveillance overreach. In fact, the NSA’s infamous warrantless wiretapping program was already up and running at that point, though I, and most members of the Intelligence Committee didn’t learn about it until a few years later. This was part of a pattern of withholding information from Congress that persisted throughout the Bush administration ­ I joined the Intelligence Committee in 2001, but I learned about the warrantless wiretapping program when you read about it in the New York Times in late 2005.
The Bush administration spent most of 2006 attempting to defend the warrantless wiretapping program. Once again, when the truth came out, it produced a surge of public pressure and the Bush administration announced that they would submit to oversight from Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court. Unfortunately, because the FISA court’s rulings are secret, most Americans had no idea that the court was prepared to issue incredibly broad rulings, permitting the massive surveillance that finally made headlines last month.
It’s now a matter of public record that the bulk phone records program has been operating since at least 2007. It’s not a coincidence that a handful of senators have been working since then to find ways to alert the public about what has been going on. Months and years went into trying to find ways to raise public awareness about secret surveillance authorities within the confines of classification rules. I and several of my colleagues have made it our mission to end the use of secret law.
When Oregonians hear the words “secret law,” they have come up to me and asked, “Ron, how can the law be secret? When you guys pass laws that’s a public deal. I’m going to look them up online.” In response, I tell Oregonians that there are effectively two Patriot Acts ­­the first is the one that they can read on their laptop in Medford or Portland, analyze and understand. Then there’s the real Patriot Act—the secret interpretation of the law that the government is actually relying upon. The secret rulings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have interpreted the Patriot Act, as well as section 702 of the FISA statute, in some surprising ways, and these rulings are kept entirely secret from the public. These rulings can be astoundingly broad. The one that authorizes the bulk collection of phone records is as broad as any I have ever seen.
This reliance of government agencies on a secret body of law has real consequences. Most Americans don’t expect to know the details about ongoing sensitive military and intelligence activities, but as voters they absolutely have a need and a right to know what their government thinks it is permitted to do, so that they can ratify or reject decisions that elected officials make on their behalf. To put it another way, Americans recognize that intelligence agencies will sometimes need to conduct secret operations, but they don’t think those agencies should be relying on secret law.
Now, some argue that keeping the meaning of surveillance laws secret is necessary, because it makes it easier to gather intelligence on terrorist groups and other foreign powers. If you follow this logic, when Congress passed the original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act back in the 1970s, they could have found a way to make the whole thing secret, so that Soviet agents wouldn’t know what the FBI’s surveillance authorities were. But that’s not the way you do it in America.
It is a fundamental principle of American democracy that laws should not be public only when it is convenient for government officials to make them public. They should be public all the time, open to review by adversarial courts, and subject to change by an accountable legislature guided by an informed public. If Americans are not able to learn how their government is interpreting and executing the law then we have effectively eliminated the most important bulwark of our democracy. That’s why, even at the height of the Cold War, when the argument for absolute secrecy was at its zenith, Congress chose to make US surveillance laws public.
Without public laws, and public court rulings interpreting those laws, it is impossible to have informed public debate. And when the American people are in the dark, they can’t make fully informed decisions about who should represent them, or protest policies that they disagree with. These are fundamentals. It’s Civics 101. And secret law violates those basic principles. It has no place in America.
The Truth About the FISA Court
Now let’s turn to the secret court­ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the one virtually no one had heard of two months ago and now the public asks me about at the barber. When the FISA court was created as part of the 1978 FISA law, its work was pretty routine. It was assigned to review government applications for wiretaps and decide whether the government was able to show probable cause. Sounds like the garden-variety function of district court judges across America. In fact, their role was so much like a district court that the judges who make up the FISA court are all current federal district court judges.
After 9/11, Congress passed the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act. This gave the government broad new surveillance powers that didn’t much resemble anything in either the criminal law enforcement world or the original FISA law. The FISA court got the job of interpreting these new, unparalleled authorities of the Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act. They chose to issue binding secret rulings that interpreted the law and the Constitution in the startling way that has come to light in the last six weeks. They were to issue the decision that the Patriot Act could be used for dragnet, bulk surveillance of law­-abiding Americans.
Outside the names of the FISA court judges, virtually everything else is secret about the court. Their rulings are secret, which makes challenging them in an appeals court almost impossible. Their proceedings are secret too, but I can tell you that they are almost always one­sided. The government lawyers walk in and lay out an argument for why the government should be allowed to do something, and the court decides based solely on the judge’s assessment of the government’s arguments. That’s not unusual if a court is considering a routine warrant request, but it’s very unusual if a court is doing major legal or constitutional analysis. I know of absolutely no other court in this country that strays so far from the adversarial process that has been part of our system for centuries.
It may also surprise you to know that when President Obama came to office, his administration agreed with me that these rulings needed to be made public. In the summer of 2009 I received a written commitment from the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that a process would be created to start redacting and declassifying FISA court opinions, so that the American people could have some idea of what the government believes the law allows it to do. In the last four years exactly zero opinions have been released.
Now that we know a bit about secret law and the court that created it, let’s talk about how it has diminished the rights of every American man, woman and child. Despite the efforts of the intelligence community leadership to downplay the privacy impact of the Patriot Act collection, the bulk collection of phone records significantly impacts the privacy of million of law­-abiding Americans. If you know who someone called, when they called, where they called from, and how long they talked, you lay bare the personal lives of law­abiding Americans to the scrutiny of government bureaucrats and outside contractors. This is particularly true if you’re vacuuming up cell phone location data, essentially turning every American’s cell phone into a tracking device. We are told this is not happening today, but intelligence officials have told the press that they currently have the legal authority to collect Americans’ location information in bulk.
Especially troubling is the fact that there is nothing in the Patriot Act that limits this sweeping bulk collection to phone records. The government can use the Patriot Act’s business records authority to collect, collate and retain all sorts of sensitive information, including medical records, financial records, or credit card purchases. They could use this authority to develop a database of gun owners or readers of books and magazines deemed subversive. This means that the government’s authority to collect information on law­abiding American citizens is essentially limitless. If it is a record held by a business, membership organization, doctor, or school, or any other third party, it could be subject to bulk collection under the Patriot Act.
Authorities this broad give the national security bureaucracy the power to scrutinize the personal lives of every law­-abiding American. Allowing that to continue is a grave error that demonstrates a willful ignorance of human nature. Moreover, it demonstrates a complete disregard for the responsibilities entrusted to us by the founding fathers to maintain robust checks and balances on the power of any arm of the government. That obviously raises some very serious questions. What happens to our government, our civil liberties and our basic democracy if the surveillance state is allowed to grow unchecked?
As we have seen in recent days, the intelligence leadership is determined to hold on to this authority. Merging the ability to conduct surveillance that reveals every aspect of a person’s life with the ability to conjure up the legal authority to execute that surveillance, and finally, removing any accountable judicial oversight, creates the opportunity for unprecedented influence over our system of government.
Why Checks And Balances Are Needed
Without additional protections in the law, every single one of us in this room may be and can be tracked and monitored anywhere we are at any time. The piece of technology we consider vital to the conduct of our everyday personal and professional life happens to be a combination phone bug, listening device, location tracker, and hidden camera. There isn’t an American alive who would consent to being required to carry any one of those items and so we must reject the idea that the government may use its powers to arbitrarily bypass that consent.
Today, government officials are openly telling the press that they have the authority to effectively turn Americans’ smart phones and cell phones into location­-enabled homing beacons. Compounding the problem is the fact that the case law is unsettled on cell phone tracking and the leaders of the intelligence community have consistently been unwilling to state what the rights of law­abiding people are on this issue. Without adequate protections built into the law there’s no way that Americans can ever be sure that the government isn’t going to interpret its authorities more and more broadly, year after year, until the idea of a telescreen monitoring your every move turns from dystopia to reality.
Some would say that could never happen because there is secret oversight and secret courts that guard against it. But the fact of the matter is that senior policymakers and federal judges have deferred again and again to the intelligence agencies to decide what surveillance authorities they need. For those who believe executive branch officials will voluntarily interpret their surveillance authorities with restraint, I believe it is more likely that I will achieve my life­long dream of playing in the NBA.
But seriously, when James Madison was attempting to persuade Americans that the Constitution contained sufficient protections against any politician or bureaucrat seizing more power than that granted to them by the people, he did not just ask his fellow Americans to trust him. He carefully laid out the protections contained in the Constitution and how the people could ensure they were not breached. We are failing our constituents, we are failing our founders, and we are failing every brave man and woman who fought to protect American democracy if we are willing, today, to just trust any individual or any agency with power greater than the checked and limited authority that serves as a firewall against tyranny.
Now I want to spend a few minutes talking about those who make up the intelligence community and day in and day out work to protect us all. Let me be clear: I have found the men and women who work at our nation’s intelligence agencies to be hard­working, dedicated professionals. They are genuine patriots who make real sacrifices to serve their country. They should be able to do their jobs secure in the knowledge that there is public support for everything that they are doing. Unfortunately, that can’t happen when senior officials from across the government mislead the public about the government’s surveillance authorities.
And let’s be clear: the public was not just kept in the dark about the Patriot Act and other secret authorities. The public was actively misled. I’ve pointed out several instances in the past where senior officials have made misleading statements to the public and to Congress about the types of surveillance they are conducting on the American people, and I’ll recap some of the most significant examples.
For years, senior Justice Department officials have told Congress and the public that the Patriot Act’s business record authority ­ which is the authority that is used to collect the phone records of millions of ordinary Americans ­ is “analogous to a grand jury subpoena.” This statement is exceptionally misleading. It strains the word “analogous” well beyond the breaking point. It’s certainly true that both authorities can be used to collect a wide variety of records, but the Patriot Act has been secretly interpreted to permit ongoing bulk collection, and this makes that authority very, very different from regular grand jury subpoena authority. Any lawyers in here? After the speech is over come up and tell me if you’ve ever seen a grand jury subpoena that allowed the government on an ongoing basis to collect the records of millions of ordinary Americans.
The fact is that no one has seen a subpoena like that is because there aren’t any. This incredibly misleading analogy has been made by more than one official on more than one occasion and often as part of testimony to Congress. The official who served for years as the Justice Department’s top authority on criminal surveillance law recently told the Wall Street Journal that if a federal attorney “served a grand­jury subpoena for such a broad class of records in a criminal investigation, he or she would be laughed out of court.”
Years of Deceiving Congress
Defenders of this deception have said that members of Congress have the ability to get the full story of what the government is doing on a classified basis, so they shouldn’t complain when officials make misleading public statements, even in congressional hearings. That is an absurd argument. Sure, members of Congress could get the full story in a classified setting, but that does not excuse the practice of half truths and misleading statements being made on the public record. When did it become all right for government officials’ public statements and private statements to differ so fundamentally? The answer is that it is not all right, and it is indicative of a much larger culture of misinformation that goes beyond the congressional hearing room and into the public conversation writ large.
For example, last spring the director of the National Security Agency spoke over at the American Enterprise Institute, where he said publicly that “we don’t hold data on U.S. citizens.” That statement sounds reassuring, but of course the American people now know that it is false. In fact, it’s one of the most false statements ever made about domestic surveillance. Later that same year, at the annual hackers’ conference known as DefCon, the same NSA director said that the government does not collect “dossiers” on millions of Americans. Now I’ve served on the Intelligence Committee for a dozen years and I didn’t know what “dossiers” meant in this context. I do know that Americans not familiar with the classified details would probably hear that statement and think that there was no bulk collection of the personal information of hundreds of millions of Americans taking place.
After the director of the NSA made this statement in public, Senator Udall and I wrote to the director asking for a clarification. In our letter we asked whether the NSA collects any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans. Even though the director of the NSA was the one who had raised this issue publicly, intelligence officials declined to give us a straight answer.
A few months ago, I made the judgement that I would not be responsibly carrying out my oversight powers if I didn’t press intelligence officials to clarify what the NSA director told the public about data collection. So I decided it was necessary to put the question to the director of National Intelligence. And I had my staff send the question over a day in advance so that he would be prepared to answer. The director unfortunately said that the answer was no, the NSA does not knowingly collect data on millions of Americans, which is obviously not correct.
After the hearing, I had my staff call the director’s office on a secure line and urge them to correct the record. Disappointingly, his office decided to let this inaccurate statement stand. My staff made it clear that this was wrong and that it was unacceptable to leave the American public misled. I continued to warn the public about the problem of secret surveillance law over the following weeks, until the June disclosures.
Even after those disclosures, there has been an effort by officials to exaggerate the effectiveness of the bulk phone records collection program by conflating it with the collection of Internet communications under Section 702 of the FISA statute. This collection, which involves the PRISM computer system, has produced some information of real value. I will note that last summer I was able to get the executive branch to declassify the fact that the FISA court has ruled on at least one occasion that this collection violated the Fourth Amendment in a way that affected an undisclosed number of Americans. And the court also said that the government has violated the spirit of the law as well. So, I think section 702 clearly needs stronger protections for the privacy of law­-abiding Americans, and I think these protections could be added without losing the value of this collection. But I won’t deny that this value exists.
Meanwhile, I have not seen any indication that the bulk phone records program yielded any unique intelligence that was not also available to the government through less intrusive means. When government officials refer to these programs collectively, and say that “these programs” provided unique intelligence without pointing out that one program is doing all the work and the other is basically just along for the ride, in my judgment that is also a misleading statement.
And there have also been a number of misleading and inaccurate statements made about section 702 collection as well. Last month, Senator Udall and I wrote to the NSA director to point out that the NSA’s official fact sheet contained some misleading information and a significant inaccuracy that made protections for Americans’ privacy sound much stronger than they actually are. The next day that fact sheet was taken down from the front page of the NSA website. Would the misleading fact sheet still be up there if Senator Udall and I hadn’t pushed to take it down? Given what it took to correct the misleading statements of the director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency that may well be the case.
What Are You Going To Do About It?
So having walked you through how secret law, interpreted by a secret court, authorized secret surveillance, the obvious question is, what is next? Ron, what are you going to do about it?
A few weeks ago more than a quarter of the U.S. Senate wrote to the director of National Intelligence demanding public answers to additional questions about the use of the government’s surveillance authorities. It’s been two months since the disclosures by Mr. Snowden, and the signers of this letter—including key members of the senate leadership and committee chairs with decades of experience—have made it clear they are not going to accept more stonewalling or misleading statements. Patriot Act reform legislation has also been introduced. The centerpiece of this effort would require that the government show a demonstrated link to terrorism or espionage before collecting Americans’ personal information.
Senators have also proposed legislation that would ensure that the legal analysis of secret court opinions interpreting surveillance law is declassified in a responsible manner. And I am collaborating with colleagues to develop other reforms that will bring openness, accountability, and the benefits of an adversarial process to the anachronistic operations of the most secretive court in America. And most importantly, I and my colleagues are working to keep the public debate alive. We have exposed misleading statements. We are holding officials accountable. And we are showing that liberty and security are not incompatible. The fact is, the side of transparency and openness is starting to put some points on the board.
As many of you are now aware, the NSA also had a bulk email records program that was similar to the bulk phone records program. This program operated under section 214 of the Patriot Act, which is known as the “pen register” provision, until fairly recently. My Intelligence Committee colleague Senator Udall and I were very concerned about this program’s impact on Americans’ civil liberties and privacy rights, and we spent a significant portion of 2011 pressing intelligence officials to provide evidence of its effectiveness. It turned out that they were unable to do so, and that statements that had been made about this program to both Congress and the FISA court had significantly exaggerated the program’s effectiveness. The program was shut down that same year. So that was a big win for everyone who cares about Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, even though Senator Udall and I weren’t able to tell anyone about it until just a few weeks ago.
More recently, when the annual Intelligence Authorization bill was going through the Intelligence Committee late last year it included a few provisions that were meant to stop intelligence leaks but that would have been disastrous to the news media’s ability to report on foreign policy and national security. Among other things, it would have restricted the ability of former government officials to talk to the press, even about unclassified foreign policy matters. And it would have prohibited intelligence agencies from making anyone outside of a few high­level officials available for background briefings, even on unclassified matters. These provisions were intended to stop leaks, but it’s clear to me that they would have significantly encroached upon the First Amendment, and led to a less­informed public debate on foreign policy and national security matters.
These anti­leaks provisions went through the committee process in secret, and the bill was agreed to by a vote of 14-­1 (I’ll let you all guess who that nay vote was). The bill then made its way to the Senate floor and a public debate. Once the bill became public, of course, it was promptly eviscerated by media and free speech advocates, who saw it as a terrible idea. I put a hold on the bill so that it could not be quickly passed without the discussion it deserved and within weeks, all of the anti­leaks provisions were removed.
A few months later, my colleagues and I were finally able to get the official Justice Department opinions laying out what the government believes the rules are for the targeted killings of Americans. You probably know this as the drones issue. These documents on killing Americans weren’t even being shared with members of Congress on a classified basis, let alone with the American people. You may have heard me say this before, but I believe every American has the right to know when their government thinks it is allowed to kill them. My colleagues and I fought publicly and privately to get these documents, used whatever procedural opportunities were available, and eventually got the documents we had demanded.
Since then we’ve been looking them over and working out a strategy that would allow for the pertinent portions of these documents to be made public. I don’t take a backseat to anybody when it comes to protecting genuinely sensitive national security information, and I think most Americans expect that government agencies will sometimes conduct secret operations. But those agencies should never rely on secret law or authorities granted by secret courts.
Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/sen-ron-wyden-nsa-spying-its-bad-snowden-says
Links:
[1] http://alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/ron-wyden
[3] http://www.alternet.org/tags/nsa-spying
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/domestic-spying
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/patriot-act
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/edward-snowden
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/fisa-court
[8] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

John Kerry's wife leaves Boston rehab hospital


BOSTON (AP) — Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, was discharged from a Boston hospital Saturday, just under three weeks after she suffered a seizure at their Nantucket home, a State Department spokesman said.
Heinz Kerry, 74, is expected to make a full recovery from the July 7 seizure following additional outpatient treatment, spokesman Glen Johnson said.
"I'm extremely grateful for the quality of care Teresa received," Kerry said in the statement. "I've always known Massachusetts is blessed to have some of the greatest health care in the world, but we've just lived it, and are grateful to all."
Heinz Kerry thanked her doctors and caregivers. "They are the kindest people, who love what they do and do it superbly well," she said.
Kerry praised the State Department Diplomatic Security Service members who first responded when his wife fell ill. Heinz Kerry was treated at a Nantucket hospital and another in Boston before ultimately being discharged from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
Johnson previously said the cause of the seizure had not been determined but doctors had ruled out a brain tumor, heart attack or stroke. The family does not plan to comment further on Heinz Kerry's health, he said.
Heinz Kerry, an heir to the Heinz ketchup fortune, is the widow of former U.S. Sen. John Heinz, who was killed along with six others in 1991 when a helicopter collided with a plane over a schoolyard in Merion, Pennsylvania. She married Kerry, a longtime senator from Massachusetts, in 1995.
Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, resigned from the U.S. Senate on Feb. 1 after being confirmed to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Friend charged with manslaughter in boat crash on NY river that threw bride-to-be into water

PIERMONT, N.Y. — A deadly nighttime speedboat crash on the Hudson River hurled a bride-to-be and her fiance’s best man into the water and left the groom and three others injured, including a friend charged with vehicular manslaughter on Saturday, just two weeks before the couple was to exchange their vows.
Six friends were on board the boat Friday night when it struck a barge near the Tappan Zee Bridge, sending Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon, both 30, into the water and injuring the other four, including groom-to-be Brian Bond, officials said.




A body matching Stewart’s description was recovered Saturday while Lennon is presumed dead, Rockland County Sheriff’s Department Chief William Barbera said. The search for Lennon’s body will resume Sunday.
“The search has been suspended this evening and the tides have a lot to do with that,” Barbera said. “We’ll start again first thing in the morning.”
Authorities charged the boat’s operator, Jojo John, 35, of Nyack, with vehicular manslaughter and vehicular assault. He was arraigned from a hospital bed and ordered held on $250,000 bond, Barbera said. John is suspected of operating the boat while intoxicated but authorities are still awaiting the result of blood tests.
Attempts to reach John’s family were not immediately successful and it was not clear if he had an attorney.
Earlier Saturday, authorities pulled a woman’s body from the water that matched Stewart’s description. Officials were working to confirm that the body was Stewart’s but it was unclear how long that could take.
Stewart and Lennon were thrown from the boat when it struck a barge carrying materials for the construction of a replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge, about a half-hour’s drive north of New York City.
The boat, a 21-foot Stingray, had left the village of Piermont for a short trip across the river to Tarrytown, authorities said.
Stewart, of Piermont, worked for an insurance company. She and Bond were set to be married Aug. 10, family members said.
Bond, 35, was knocked unconscious in the crash but later woke and was able to call 911, Stewart’s mother, Carol Stewart-Kosik, said.
Stewart’s stepfather, Walter Kosik, said the couple have known each other since they were young children and used to go to church together.
“They have been friends the whole time, and they fell in love about 3 ½ years ago,” Kosik said.
They were to be married at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Pearl River, with a reception at a vineyard in Hillburn, he said.


Barbera declined to identify the other people aboard the boat and had no information on their conditions. He said the barge was equipped with lights, but it was still difficult to see on the water late at night.
The New York State Thruway Authority, which is overseeing the bridge project, said it was reviewing safety procedures.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time,” the authority said in a statement. It added that the lighting on the barges appeared to be functioning normally.
Stewart’s former English teacher at Pearl River High School, who remained in contact with her through Facebook, called the accident “heartbreaking.”
“She was one of my students and a bright, sweet girl loved by everyone,” said Doreen Arney. “I knew that she was getting married, and to Brian. To happen to two such special kids — it just shouldn’t happen.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Lady Gaga pierces her nose

James Spader Reinvents Himself as Shaved-Headed Mystery Man on NBC's The Blacklist




Who is Red Reddington?

That's the question NBC's new fall thriller The Blacklist poses. In order to play the series' central mystery man, veteran actor James Spader felt it was necessary to reset his image, starting with shaving his usual full head of hair. "Actors are burdened with everything else they've done before that," he said at the Television Critics Association fall previews on Saturday. "I thought it would be nice to take off my hat [in the pilot] and it's a completely different person."

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On the show, Reddington is a notorious wanted criminal who surrenders himself to the FBI but stays out of jail by tipping them off about a list of uber criminals that only he can help the Bureau capture. The caveat? He only wants to speak to rookie profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone).

As for comparisons between Red and Elizabeth's relationship and that of Silence of the Lambs' antagonist Lecter and hero Clarice, Spader insists that the similarities are merely visual. "It's based on imagery more than anything else. He's in shackles," he pointed out. "But the basis of their relationship is real - there is a past between them that she is not aware of." Executive producer John Eisendrath added, "There's a big difference between the characters on our show and Silence of the Lambs: Red is not a psychopath; he's more of an enigma."

The Blacklist premieres on Monday, Sept. 23 at 10/9c on NBC. Check out the official trailer below:


Radio personality Kidd Kraddick dies in New Orleans


Kidd Kraddick, the likable Dallas radio personality whose popularity expanded nationwide when his morning show was syndicated, died on Saturday at the age of 53.
He passed away in New Orleans at a fundraising event for his Kidd's Kids charity organization at Timberlane County Club in Gretna, Louisiana.
Local law enforcement confirmed that Kraddick was taken to West Jefferson Medical Center in New Orleans on Saturday.
A staple of North Texas radio since 1984, he broadcast his nationally syndicated "Kidd Kraddick in the Morning" radio show from a studio at Las Colinas. It aired locally on KISS-FM 106.1.
"All of us at KISS-FM, Clear Channel Dallas, YEA Networks and the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning crew are heartbroken over the loss of our dear friend and leader," a statement from Clear Channel Dallas said late Saturday night. "He died doing what he loved, and his final day was spent selflessly focused on those special children that meant the world to him."
Kraddick was 53. The cause of his death was not released. Clear Channel said that information will be made available "at the appropriate time."
Kraddick's family issued a brief statement asking that their privacy be respected in their mourning period.
KISS-FM altered its usual format late Saturday to celebrate Kraddick's life by playing music and taking calls from listeners.
"I can't believe this is actually happening," one caller said. "He's a part of everybody's family; he makes people laugh."
In a bitterly ironic twist, Kraddick did a radio segment just last week on "what he would say to each member of the show in his final moments on earth" as a comedy bit.
"Have you ever thought about those last moments of your life?" he asked his radio crew. "Nobody wants a long, lingering illness; nobody wants just that; but it would be nice if you could have a day or two where you know it's coming."
He then spent several minutes saying goodbye to each member of his on-air staff.
"When I die, you have permission to take a bunch of creepy pictures of my body," Kraddick said. "I want to thank all of you guys for being at my deathbed today. I'm going to miss you so much."
The final message posted on his official Twitter account was a promotion for his Kidd's Kids charity concert at the House of Blues on August 15. The proceeds will be used to send children with chronic or terminal illnesses to Disney World.
The news of Kraddick's death was greeted with disbelief on social media.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban offered his condolences: "You were an amazing man and a friend," he wrote. "You are already missed."
Regular fans were saddened as well. "I have listened to Kidd for the last 25 years," wrote Jackie Small Brown on Facebook. "Morning radio will never be the same again."
"Seems like I've just lost a friend, " Holli Younger said on Twitter.
And Tucker McLendon tweeted: "I think Monday all radio stations should have a moment of silence for Kidd."
Kraddick was divorced and has one daughter. He won a number of awards, including the Marconi Award for radio personality of the year in 2006.
WWL-TV in New Orleans contributed to this report.