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Showing posts from August, 2014

Glasgow revels in Bolt buzz and warm glow

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games proved to be much more than just 'Friendly' as Scottish culture, sport and six-times Olympic champion Usain Bolt combined to create a memorable 11-day event. The success of the Games was assured with the golden seal of approval from Bolt, the world's most recognisable athlete, whose cameo in Jamaica's sprint relay triumph lit up Scotland's biggest city. Inevitably, Bolt stole the show, providing one of the images of the "Friendly Games" as he returned home with a gold medal from his maiden Commonwealth appearance. The Games provided few truly jaw-dropping sporting moments, but they will be remembered for the spirit in which athletes and visitors from the 71 Commonwealth nations and territories were greeted by crowds determined to enjoy the party. "In my view, they are the standout Games in the history of the movement," Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper said. "The way in whic

U.S. CDC says it 'may never know' how bird flu mishap occurred

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "may never know" how a fairly harmless form of bird flu was cross-contaminated with a dangerous bird flu strain before it was sent to a laboratory outside of the CDC, an agency spokesman said on Monday. That's because most of the materials used in the experiment to culture the virus were discarded shortly after they were used by the scientists performing the work, which occurred in March, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told Reuters. The CDC disclosed the bird flu incident as part of an internal investigation into the agency's mishandling of live anthrax in June, potentially exposing dozens of its own lab workers to the pathogen. While no humans fell ill as a result of the bird flu breach, CDC Director Dr Thomas Frieden has called it “the most distressing" in a series of safety breaches at the agency because of the public risk posed by the virus. Researchers at a high-security CDC influenza lab learned of their

Hacking experts build device to protect cars from cyber attacks

Two security experts who a year ago exposed methods for hacking the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape say they have developed technology that would keep automobiles safe from cyber attacks. At last summer's Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, the two researchers, Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller, described ways to launch dangerous attacks, including manipulating the brakes of the moving Prius and the Ford Escape. Valasek, director of vehicle security research at the consulting firm IOActive, told Reuters on Tuesday that he and Miller will show off a prototype vehicle "intrusion prevention device" at next month's Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas. They built the device with about $150 in electronics parts, though the real "secret sauce" is a set of computer algorithms that listen to traffic in a car's network to understand how things are supposed to work. When an attack occurs, the device identifies traffic anomalies and blocks rogue activity,

U.S. scientists to map interior of Mount St. Helens volcano

A series of explosions set off by a team of scientists is expected to rattle the Mount St. Helens in Washington State on Wednesday as researchers map the volcano's interior, whose 1980 eruption was the worst in American history. Mount St. Helens, approximately 150 km (95 miles) south of Seattle and 50 miles (80 km) north of Portland, exploded in a hot ash eruption in May 1980, scattering debris over a large area, killing 57 people and causing more than $1 billion in damage. Scientists throughout the United States are seeking to get a better handle on the 8,300-foot (2,530-meter) volcano's magma stores and internal workings to strengthen alert systems before eruption. "Mount St. Helens and other Cascade Range volcanoes challenge metropolitan centers from Vancouver to Portland," said lead scientist Alan Levander of the University of Rice in Houston in a statement.  "We would like to understand better their inner workings to help predict when they could erupt and ho

Paracetamol no better than placebo for low back pain, study finds

Paracetamol, a painkiller universally recommended to treat people with acute low back pain, does not speed recovery or reduce pain from the condition, according to the results of a large trial published on Thursday. A study published in The Lancet medical journal found that the popular pain medicine was no better than placebo, or dummy pills, for hastening recovery from acute bouts of low back pain or easing pain levels, function, sleep or quality of life. Researchers said the findings challenge the universal endorsement of paracetamol as the first choice painkiller for lower back pain. "We need to reconsider the universal recommendation to provide paracetamol as a first-line treatment," said Christopher Williams, who led the study at the University of Sydney in Australia. Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In the United States alone, costs relating to the condition are estimated to be more than $100 billion a year. Currently, every back pain

NASA puts out call for satellite communication services – on Mars

Dogs are capable of feeling jealousy: U.S. study

Dogs are a man's best friend, and research released on Wednesday says canines want to keep it that way. Dogs are capable of feeling a basic form of jealousy, according to a study published in the PLOS ONE scientific journal. The research, said to be the first experiment on canine jealousy, could redefine the view that the complex emotion of envy is a human construct, said Christine Harris, University of California, San Diego psychologist and an author of the study. The owners of 36 small dogs were asked to do three things in the test - shower affection on a plush animatronic dog, shower affection on a plastic jack-o-lantern pail and read a children's book aloud - while ignoring their pet. Researchers then watched how the dogs reacted. Roughly 80 percent of the dogs pushed or touched their owner when they were coddling the toy, almost twice as often as when the owner played with the pail and about four times as often as when the owner was reading. A quarter of the dogs e

Paracetamol no better than placebo for low back pain, study finds

Paracetamol, a painkiller universally recommended to treat people with acute low back pain, does not speed recovery or reduce pain from the condition, according to the results of a large trial published on Thursday. A study published in The Lancet medical journal found that the popular pain medicine was no better than placebo, or dummy, pills for hastening recovery from acute bouts of low back pain or easing pain levels, function, sleep or quality of life. Researchers said the findings challenge the universal endorsement of paracetamol as the first choice painkiller for lower back pain. "We need to reconsider the universal recommendation to provide paracetamol as a first-line treatment," said Christopher Williams, who led the study at the University of Sydney in Australia. Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In the United States alone, costs relating to the condition are estimated to be more than $100 billion a year. Currently, every back pain

Researchers practice living on Mars - without leaving Earth

For the past four months, a team of researchers have been living in a mockup Mars habitat on a Hawaiian volcano practicing isolated living on the Red Planet. For the most part, expedition leader Casey Stedman and his five crewmates have stayed inside their 1,000-square foot (93-square meter) solar-powered dome, venturing out only for simulated spacewalks and doing so only when fully attired in mock spacesuits. "I haven’t seen a tree, smelled the rain, heard a bird, or felt wind on my skin in four months,” Stedman wrote in a blog on Instagram. Stedman is a U.S. Air Force Reserve officer, graduate student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide. “We are simulating a long-duration mission on Mars, with a focus on crew psychology in isolation,” the crew said during an online interview with Reddit on Sunday. Crewmembers, who include a NASA chemical engineer and a neuropsychologist at the Fort Wayne Neurological Center in Indiana, have been isolated from direct human

Keryx drug improves phosphorus, iron in kidney patients: trial

A pivotal trial of Keryx Biopharmaceuticals Inc's experimental drug Zerenex showed that it improved levels of serum phosphorus and iron in patients on kidney dialysis, according to results published on Thursday. _0"> The trial involved 441 patients, according to the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, which published the results. Over the four-week efficacy assessment period, mean serum phosphorus for Zerenex patients dropped by 2.2 milligrams per deciliter compared with placebo patients, the trial showed. Most patients with kidney disease that requires dialysis need chronic treatment with phosphate-binding agents to lower and maintain serum phosphorus at acceptable levels. The study found that, if approved, Zerenex would be the only phosphate binder that also increases iron stores, reducing the need for other drugs to treat anemia. Side effects experienced by patients treated with Zerenex included diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and constipation. Serious adver

Scientists to excavate Wyoming cave with trove of Ice Age fossils

Scientists will begin excavation early next week of an ancient Wyoming sinkhole containing a rare bounty of fossil remains of prehistoric animals, such as mammoths and dire wolves, preserved in unusually good condition, researchers said on Thursday.    The two-week dig, set to begin next Monday under the direction of Des Moines University paleontologist Julie Meachen, marks the first exploration of Natural Trap Cave in north-central Wyoming since its initial discovery in the 1970s. At that time, scientists found that the 85-foot-deep cavern formed a natural repository for a rich fossil record that may date back as far as 100,000 years, but a full-scale expedition into the sinkhole has not previously been attempted.   The cave, formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, became a tomb for thousands of ancient mammals that stumbled into the 15-foot-wide mouth of the sinkhole, then concealed by vegetation, and plunged to their deaths.  

Bayer says Nexavar fails in breast cancer study

German drugmaker Bayer said a Phase III trial of cancer drug Nexavar in patients with advanced breast cancer did not meet its primary endpoint of delaying the progression of the disease. _0"> The study, called Resilience, evaluated Nexavar in combination with chemotherapeutic agent capecitabine, in women with HER2-negative breast cancer. Oral drug Nexavar, which Bayer is developing jointly with Amgen, is approved for use against certain types of liver, kidney and thyroid cancer. Study details are expected to be presented at an upcoming scientific conference. (Reporting by Ludwig Burger ; Editing by Kirsti Knolle)

Evidence suggests babies in womb start learning earlier than thought: study

Babies in the womb show evidence of learning by their 34th week, three weeks earlier than previously thought, new research has found. "It really pushed the envelope" in terms of how early babies begin to learn, lead researcher Charlene Krueger, associate professor at the University of Florida's College of Nursing, said on Thursday. The study, published in the journal Infant Behavior and Development, followed 32 women from their 28th through 38th weeks of pregnancy in an investigation to pinpoint when the ability to learn emerges. Krueger had the women repeat three times out loud a set 15-second nursery rhyme, and do it twice a day for six weeks. The selected rhyme was previously unknown to the mothers. The fetuses’ heart rates were monitored at 32, 33 and 34 weeks as they listened to a recording of a female stranger recite the rhyme. By the 34th week, Krueger said, the heart rates of the tested fetuses showed an overall slight decline while listening to the recordi

Researchers practice living on Mars - without leaving Earth

For the past four months, a team of researchers have been living in a mockup Mars habitat on a Hawaiian volcano practicing isolated living on the Red Planet. For the most part, expedition leader Casey Stedman and his five crewmates have stayed inside their 1,000-square foot (93-square meter) solar-powered dome, venturing out only for simulated spacewalks and doing so only when fully attired in mock spacesuits. "I haven’t seen a tree, smelled the rain, heard a bird, or felt wind on my skin in four months,” Stedman wrote in a blog on Instagram. Stedman is a U.S. Air Force Reserve officer, graduate student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide. “We are simulating a long-duration mission on Mars, with a focus on crew psychology in isolation,” the crew said during an online interview with Reddit on Sunday. Crewmembers, who include a NASA chemical engineer and a neuropsychologist at the Fort Wayne Neurological Center in Indiana, have been isolated from direct human

Rocket blasts off with U.S. ‘neighborhood watch’ spy satellites

An unmanned Delta 4 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Monday with a pair of U.S. military satellites designed to keep watch on other countries’ spacecraft. The 206-foot (63-meter) tall rocket, built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, lifted off at 7:28 p.m. EDT and blazed through partly cloudy skies as it headed into orbit, a United Launch Alliance live webcast showed. Launch of two satellites for the U.S. Air Force’s recently declassified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP, had been slated for July 23, but was delayed one day to resolve a technical issue with ground support equipment and then three more times by poor weather. Once in orbit, the GSSAP satellites, built by Orbital Sciences Corp, will drift above and below a 22,300-mile (35,970-km) high zone that houses most of the world's communications satellites and other spacecraft. General William Shelton, head of Air Force

NASA's Mars rover sets off-Earth, off-road distance record

NASA's decade-old Mars rover Opportunity has set a new off-Earth, off-road distance record, logging just over 25 miles (40 km) on the surface of the Red Planet to surpass the benchmark set in 1973 by a Russian probe on the moon. Opportunity, which arrived on Mars in January 2004, a few weeks after its now-defunct rover twin Spirit, was built to drive only about a single kilometer but has continued to operate far beyond its design capabilities. Earlier this year, the aging but intrepid rover, a six-wheeled vehicle about the size of a golf cart, found evidence that fresh water once pooled on the surface of Mars, reinforcing similar discoveries made by a newer, larger probe Curiosity, on the other side of the planet. On Sunday, the robot rover advanced another 157 feet (48 meters) as it continued along the rim of a Martian crater, putting Opportunity's total odometer at 25.01 miles (40.25 km), according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California. By co

Octopus mom protects her eggs for an astonishing 4-1/2 years

If someone were to create an award for "mother of the year" in the animal kingdom, a remarkably dedicated eight-limbed mom from the dark and frigid depths of the Pacific Ocean might be a strong contender. Scientists on Wednesday described how the female of an octopus species that dwells almost a mile below the sea surface spends about 4-1/2 years brooding her eggs, protecting them vigilantly until they hatch while forgoing any food for herself. It is the longest known egg-brooding period for any animal, they wrote in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. The scientists used a remote-controlled submarine to monitor the deep-sea species, called Graneledone boreopacifica, off the coast of central California. They tracked one female, recognizable by its distinctive scars, that clung to a vertical rock face near the floor of a canyon about 4,600 feet (1,400 meters) under the surface, keeping the roughly 160 translucent eggs free of debris and silt and chasing off predators. This

Lead in teeth holds secrets of person's origins, research shows

The lead in human teeth holds clues about where a person grew up and can help criminal investigators and archaeologists working with old or decomposed corpses, according to a University of Florida researcher. Because lead ore deposits around the world differ, and as young people's teeth absorb traces of the metal in the environment, the region where a person grew up can be distinguished through lead analysis of a tooth, said geologist George Kamenov. His study on the topic will appear in the August issue of Science of The Total Environment, a peer-reviewed journal. "If you were born in Europe and then came to the U.S., yes, I will be able to see that," Kamenov said. "I was born in Bulgaria so I have the European ... signal." Kamenov said he has worked with law enforcement officers on cold cases, with lead analysis helping investigators narrow their focus. In addition to aiding authorities in identifying bodies, the analysis can help archaeologists locate

Fly Fido to the moon in space send off for deceased pets

A Texas company is offering a unique send off for beloved pets by placing a portion of their cremated remains in a capsule and blasting them off into space. Celestis Inc, which has provided memorial space flights for human remains since 1997, will launch its first commercial pet memorial spaceflight in October 2014 with the remains of a blue merle Australian shepherd, named Apollo, the company said. The pet services, such as one dubbed Earth Rise, start at $995 and include having the pet’s remains into flown into space on a commercial flight and returned to the owner. The space send-off options go up to $12,500, which allows the pet’s remains to be launched into deep space or to visit the moon. Memorial service are available before blast off and families can witness most of the launches, depending on location, the company said. "Our pet service flights are an idea that’s been a long time coming," Celestis Chief Executive Charles Chafer said. (Reporting by Jon Hersko

How do you make a bird? Shrink a dinosaur for 50 million years

How do you make a bird? Shrink a dinosaur for 50 million years

Large flesh-eating dinosaurs evolved into small flying birds, but it did not happen overnight. An international team of scientists on Thursday described an extraordinary evolutionary process that unfolded over a period of 50 million years in which a lineage of carnivorous dinosaurs shrank steadily and acquired numerous traits that led to the first appearance of birds. The researchers, using techniques developed by molecular biologists to reconstruct virus evolution, examined 1,500 anatomical traits in 120 different dinosaurs from the theropod group. These bipedal meat-eaters included giants like Tyrannosaurus rex and Giganotosaurus as well as the lineage that produced birds. "Our study measured the rate of evolution of different groups of theropod dinosaurs," said lead researcher Michael Lee, a paleontologist at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum. "The fastest-evolving group also happened to be ancestral to birds. So, ultimately, the most ad

Grimm choice: Tax fraud trial could dog NY re-election campaign

This fall, when Representative Michael Grimm asks New York voters to send him to Washington for a third term in Congress he may be splitting his time between the campaign trail and a courtroom where he is due to face tax evasion charges. Grimm, a Republican and former FBI agent who represents parts of the city's Staten Island and Brooklyn boroughs, was indicted in April on charges of fraud, perjury and conspiracy tied to his restaurant, Healthalicious. Last week, prosecutors asked a federal judge to start his trial in October, weeks ahead of the Nov. 4 election. But a flurry of headlines about his business dealings is just one of the problems facing Grimm, who hails from one of New York City's rare Republican-leaning districts. He was caught on camera in January threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony in the U.S. Capitol, saying: "I'll break you in half. Like a boy." Grimm is far from the first U.S. politician to seek re-election under a legal cloud.

Representative Cantor to resign House seat early

Representative Eric Cantor said on Friday he will resign his seat effective Aug. 18, months earlier than expected following a stunning defeat in a Republican primary election. _0"> Cantor, who on Thursday stepped down from his leadership position in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, said he had asked Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to call a special election to coincide with November's congressional elections. Such a race would allow the winner to take office immediately, rather than in January when the next Congress convenes, he wrote in a column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "I want to make sure that the constituents in the 7th District will have a voice in what will be a very consequential lame-duck session," Cantor told the newspaper in an interview, referring to the period between the election and start of the new Congress. It also would give the winner some seniority over the rest of the new class elected in November, he wrote. C

Chicago budget gap to shrink, but pension payment spike looms

Chicago said its budget deficit was on track to shrink to just below $300 million in 2015, but a state-mandated increase in pension payments would expand gaps in the future. _0"> The projected $297 million operating fund deficit, the lowest for the city in seven years, is based on $3.22 billion in revenue and $3.52 billion in expenses, according to an annual financial analysis that Chicago released late on Thursday. The projection assumes continued economic growth and a return to normal revenue trends, which were affected by this year's severe weather, a statement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. Meanwhile, higher expenses were mainly due to increased salaries and wages under collective bargaining agreements. “While a $297 million budget shortfall is substantial, we are making progress in righting the city’s financial ship,” the mayor said in the statement. A looming $500 million increase in pension payments to Chicago's police and fire retirement systems would infla

Corruption trial of former Virginia governor to hear from businessman

The federal jury hearing the corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell on Friday saw a racy email his wife sent to a businessman, a communication defense attorneys said was proof that the two were having an affair. Lawyers for McDonnell's wife, Maureen, said at the start of the trial that the couple's marriage had been unraveling at the time they accepted gifts from a businessman they said Maureen McDonnell had a "crush" on. But the businessman, witness Jonnie Williams, has insisted in three days of testimony that the relationship was strictly mercenary, with him offering $165,000 in gifts and loans in hopes of getting help for his company Star Scientific Inc, a nutritional supplement maker. McDonnell, 60, and his wife are charged with 14 counts of corruption and bribery for allegedly accepting gifts and loans from Williams in exchange for supporting his former company, now known as Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals. Maureen McDonnell's attorney

Massachusetts lawmakers pass bill tightening state gun laws

Massachusetts lawmakers on Friday tightened the state's already strict gun laws by passing a measure that gives police chiefs authority to turn down a resident's requests to buy a rifle or shotgun if they believe the person may be a danger. House lawmakers overrode objections from gun-rights advocates in the state Senate who had opposed the measure, worrying that police chiefs could abuse the authority to deny firearms to law-abiding citizens. "We seek not to be the safest state in the nation but strive to make our communities the safest in the world," said House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Democrat. The bill now goes to Governor Deval Patrick, a fellow Democrat, who supports tightening the state's gun laws. The measure broadens the authority of police, who were already allowed to deny sales of handguns to people who failed background checks. The new measure gives a police chief 90 days to petition a court to deny a firearms identification card to someone the ch

Tape emerges of Clinton discussing bin Laden day before 9/11 attack

Former President Bill Clinton said he "could have killed" Osama bin Laden in remarks to an audience in Australia the day before al Qaeda's 2001 attacks on the United States, according to an audio tape that emerged this week. Clinton and officials from his administration have expressed similar sentiments both before and after the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people but the recording appears to have attracted attention because he was speaking less than 36 hours before al Qaeda hijackers would board four airliners for attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. On the tape Clinton said he declined to pursue one opportunity to kill bin Laden in Afghanistan because it would have risked killing hundreds of civilians. "And I'm just saying, you know, if I were Osama bin Laden -he's a very smart guy. I spent a lot of time thinking about him. And I nearly got him once," Clinton can be heard saying as people in the audience laugh. "I

U.S. asks appeals court to reconsider Obamacare subsidies ruling

The U.S. Justice Department asked a federal appeals court on Friday to reconsider its July 22 ruling that poses a major setback to the Obamacare health insurance overhaul as it could limit the availability of federal health insurance subsidies for millions of people. In the ruling last month, the appeals court said the subsidies, which help people afford health insurance, may only be paid in states that have their own online health insurance exchanges. There are 36 states that lack their own exchanges, which are a central feature in the Obamacare system. Five million people could be affected, analysts have estimated, if subsidies were to disappear from the federally created marketplaces that have been set up in the states that did not set up their own exchanges. In the court filing, the government, as expected, asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the three-judge panel's decision. If the court agrees to rehear the case, oral a

Senator Grassley probes U.S. CFTC's spending on office leases

A U.S. lawmaker has launched an inquiry into the amount of money the Commodity Futures Trading Commission spends on leases, expressing concern that the derivatives regulator is wasting taxpayer money on underutilized space. In a July 31 letter to the CFTC, U.S. Senate Iowa Republican Charles Grassley requested records detailing how much the agency has been spent and whether it has taken steps to reduce the amount of unused space it leases. "The purpose of this letter is to state our concerns with how the agency has managed its resources in the past, and to learn how the agency plans to better manage these resources in the future," Grassley wrote. The CFTC's inspector general released a report in June that concluded the CFTC had paid millions of dollars for office space in Kansas City, Missouri, that was vacant. The report said that of $5.3 million the CFTC was paying for the 10-year lease, $3.6 million was for unused space. For an agency with a $215 million budget,

N.J. Governor Christie creates public pension study commission

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Friday created a panel to recommend reforms to the state's pension and health benefits for retired public employees. _0"> The panel of experts will be charged with "thinking big and being bold when it comes to developing recommendations for how New Jersey can create a sustainable retirement and health benefits system," Christie's office said in a statement. The governor began calling for a new round of pension reform in February but has yet to lay out specific proposals. New Jersey's Democratic legislative leaders had worked with Christie, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, to craft 2011 pension reforms. Those changes mandated annual increases in the state's pension contribution to make up for years of skimping, with a target for reaching the full actuarially required contribution of $4.8 billion in fiscal 2018. But in May, citing financial constraints, Christie slashed $904 million from the s

Judge: Florida to redraw congressional maps by Aug. 15

A Florida judge on Friday set a deadline of Aug. 15 for state lawmakers to redraw U.S. congressional district maps that he ruled were unconstitutional. Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis also held open the possibility of delaying the election for the affected districts. The general election is on Nov. 4. Lewis had ruled that two of the state's 27 districts for the U.S. House of Representatives must be redrawn because Republican leaders had conspired to rig the boundaries to protect the party's majority in Washington. It was not immediately clear if Republican leaders could slow down any changes during an election year by appealing the decision. “Time is of the essence,” Lewis wrote in his six-page order. “It is necessary to get a revised map in place and for me to consider additional evidence as to the legal and logistical obstacles to holding delayed elections for affected districts in 2014.” The League of Women Voters of Florida, which successfully sued the state for ille

Q&A: U.S. Justice Ginsburg on Hobby Lobby, gay marriage, retirement

In an interview ( here ) with Reuters late on Thursday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 81, was not just defiant about calls for her retirement. A former women's rights advocate appointed to the court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, Ginsburg also had plenty to say about how the Court's controversial Hobby Lobby decision highlighted a gender gap among her fellow justices, why gay marriage will continue to face court challenges, and why a woman might not be her ideal successor. Excerpts: THE GENDER GAP Q: The Court issued a string of decisions this term that might hurt women, and you’ve complained specifically about the Hobby Lobby case that said for-profit employers can cite religious reasons to opt out of birth control coverage under federal law. Do you think the majority is going backwards, even though there are now three female justices? A: Not on this issue. Their blind spot (on women) has been there (in past cases). Some of my colleagues are sensiti

Obama says that after 9/11, 'we tortured some folks'

President Barack Obama said on Friday the CIA "tortured some folks" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that the White House had handed over to Congress a report about an investigation into "enhanced interrogation techniques." "We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values," Obama told a White House news conference. Obama's comment was a reaffirmation of his decision to ban the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding shortly after he took office in January 2009. The administration of President George W. Bush, Obama's predecessor, authorized the use of harsh questioning techniques of militant detainees in the wake of the 9/11 attacks after deciding they did not amount to torture. Obama told reporters the techniques were used because the United States was afraid more attacks were imminent. "It's important for us not to feel too sanctimon

U.S. Congress backs more visas for Afghans who worked with troops

The U.S. Senate passed legislation on Friday authorizing 1,000 more visas for Afghan civilians who worked with American troops and diplomats - often risking their lives - sending the measure to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign into law. _0"> The bill, passed unanimously, expands the 2009 Special Immigrant Visa program to 4,000 from 3,000 visas. The House of Representatives passed the measure, also unanimously, on Wednesday. The measure is intended to assist Afghans who worked for Americans, mostly as interpreters and guides, during the 13-year-long war and to ease the difficult process of getting visas to come to the United States. Many of the Afghans have had to go into hiding while waiting for visas because the Taliban views them as traitors to their homeland because they worked for the United States. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle ; Editing by Ken Wills )

Republicans revive U.S. border security bills to speed deportations

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives sought to patch over another deep rift and pass revised border security legislation on Friday, hoping to persuade voters they are acting to tackle the growing crisis over child migrants from Central America. Tougher language in the twin bills would make it easier to deport migrant children, add money to deploy National Guard troops at the border with Mexico and largely reverse President Barack Obama's policy of deferring action against minors brought to the United States illegally by their parents. The changes were intended to satisfy conservative House Republican lawmakers who withdrew their support on Thursday amid a revolt instigated by Senator Ted Cruz, the Tea Party firebrand from Texas. In an embarrassing defeat, House Speaker John Boehner canceled a vote on Thursday after support collapsed. The revised bills are due to be considered by the House on Friday night. But even if they pass, they have virtually no chance of beco

Border security bill clears procedural vote in U.S. House

A $694 million bill to further secure the U.S. border with Mexico, amid a flood of Central American migrants, cleared a procedural vote in the House of Representatives on Friday. _0"> By a vote of 218-191, the Republican-controlled House paved the way for debate and a final vote on passage of the bill later on Friday. No Democrats voted in favor of advancing the controversial legislation. (Reporting By Richard Cowan and David Lawder; Editing by Sandra Maler )

Obama says that after 9/11, 'we tortured some folks'

President Barack Obama said on Friday the CIA "tortured some folks" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that the White House had handed over to Congress a report about an investigation into "enhanced interrogation techniques." "We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values," Obama told a White House news conference. Obama's comment was a reaffirmation of his decision to ban the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding shortly after he took office in January 2009. The administration of President George W. Bush, Obama's predecessor, authorized the use of harsh questioning techniques of militant detainees in the wake of the 9/11 attacks after deciding they did not amount to torture. Obama told reporters the techniques were used because the United States was afraid more attacks were imminent. "It's important for us not to feel too sanctimon

U.S. House passes border-security funding bill to speed deportations

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday to crack down on Central American migrants, including unaccompanied children, who are flooding to the U.S. border with Mexico, as lawmakers passed a $694 million border security bill. The 223-189 vote came one day after conservative Republicans balked at an earlier version of the measure, exposing a deep rift between Tea Party activists and more mainstream Republicans. In passing the retooled bill, the Republican-led House ignored a veto threat from the White House. But with the Senate already on a five-week summer recess, this measure will advance no further at least until September. "We couldn't go home (for recess) and not have a decision," said Representative Kay Granger of Texas, who helped draft the original bill. Granger said the measure would serve as a marker for negotiations in September to resolve the humanitarian crisis that has seen nearly 60,000 children from El Salvador, Honduras and Gua

Late to the party, Obama seeks bigger U.S. Africa role

Ask Major-General Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., the top U.S. military officer in Africa, how he thinks U.S. and European-backed African troops are faring in their war on Islamist militants in Somalia, and his answer comes back smartly: "Pretty darn good!". But when "son of Africa" U.S. President Barack Obama hosts 50 African leaders in Washington this week, the admiration may be less than mutual. Many Africans feel America is lagging behind China and others in its engagement with their continent. The Aug. 4-6 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, billed by U.S. officials as a first-of-its-kind event, looks like a belated imitation of Africa gatherings hosted in recent years by China, India, Japan and the continent's former colonial master Europe. The world's richest nation has been slow coming to the party of an economically rising Africa, long dismissed as a hopeless morass of poverty and war, but now offering investors a huge market for everything from banking and reta