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Sunday, June 23, 2013
By Daniel Arkin, Staff Writer, NBC News
Large hail and damaging winds were expected to pummel the northern Plains and Upper Midwest on Friday evening, according to the National Weather Service forecast, with storms already reported to have hit parts of South Dakota and Nebraska.
Brief but brutal storms battered eastern South Dakota on Friday afternoon, ripping through homes and trees, according to NBC station KDLT in Sioux Falls.
At least four tornadoes were seen sweeping through rural areas of Nebraska?s southern Panhandle, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
Storm watchers reportedly spotted a twister and golf-ball-sized hail in the city of Sidney on Friday afternoon, the newspaper reported. There were similar sightings in the cities of Colton, Brownson and Potter.
Harsh hail and wild winds could roll into Wisconsin and Michigan overnight, according to Dr. Greg Forbes, a severe weather expert with The Weather Channel. The Upper Midwest may also be due for a weekend of heavy rainfall, Forbes added.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a Shi'ite mosque in northern Baghdad killing at least 12 people during evening prayers, police and medics said, in the deadliest of a series of attacks that claimed more than 30 lives across Iraq on Saturday.
Sectarian tensions in Iraq and the wider region have been inflamed by the civil war in Syria, where mainly Sunni Muslim rebels are fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite sect derives from Shi'ite Islam.
Insurgents including al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate have been regaining ground and recruits from the country's Sunni minority, which feels sidelined since the U.S.-led invasion toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein and empowered majority Shi'ites.
"A suicide bomber blew himself up among the worshippers in the middle of evening prayer. There were bodies drenched in blood and others shouting for help while smoke filled the mosque," said a policeman at the scene.
A further 25 people were wounded in the attack, which took place in the Sab al-Bor district near Taji, 20 km (12 miles) north of Baghdad.
Scattered attacks across the country throughout the day killed at least 22 others, around half of them in or near the northern city of Mosul, where a suicide bomber killed four people at a police checkpoint.
In the western province of Anbar, which shares a border with Syria, militants detonated two car bombs near a checkpoint and attacked it with rocket-propelled grenades, killing five policemen.
Two people were killed when gunmen hurled a hand grenade at a gathering of laborers in Tikrit, 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad, and a roadside bomb near some restaurants in the center of the capital killed two more.
More than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in May alone, making it the deadliest month since the sectarian bloodletting of 2006-07.
(Reporting by Kareem Raheem, Kamal Naama and Ziad al-Sanjary; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
CHICAGO (AP) ? The best names in the NHL are the ones that never make the roster.
Or get used by Mom.
Tazer. Little Ball of Hate. The Great One. Sid the Kid. Looch (who also goes by Gino). The Bulin Wall. Kells.
"There's always someone, or a few guys, that want to call you different things," said Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad, dubbed "The ManChild" by his teammates. "I guess it's just part of the camaraderie of the sport and the guys being close. I'm not really sure of the exact science."
Anyone who has ever played a sport knows that nicknames are part of the game, a byproduct of both competition and camaraderie. But hockey players have taken it to an art form.
From the littlest mite to the NHL's biggest stars, everyone's got a moniker ? and usually more than one. Most are simplistic, involving the addition or subtraction of a letter or two. Shorten a last name, tack on an 's' or a 'y' ('ie' also works) and, voila! Instant nickname. Patrice Bergeron becomes "Bergy." Brent Seabrook is "Seabs" or "Seabsy."
If a player's last name only has one syllable, just add an 'r' or a 'y' (the 'ie' rule applies here, as well). Patrick Kane is now forever known as "Kaner," while Patrick Sharp, his occasional partner on Chicago's second line, is "Sharpie."
And anyone whose last name is Campbell is automatically "Soup" or "Soupy."
"Pretty boring," said Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly, who is known as, you guessed it, "Kells." ''I wish we came up with cooler nicknames."
But the beauty of the simplicity is in its versatility. It can be applied to almost any name, regardless of nationality.
Jaromir Jagr? Jags. Alex Ovechkin? Ovie. Marty Turco? Turks.
It even works with Bruins left wing Kaspars Daugavins.
"We call him Doggie," Kelly said.
But just as there are exceptions to every grammatical rule, there are some names that defy the conventions of hockey nicknamification. Or lend themselves to some added creativity.
Blackhawks right wing Jamal Mayers is "Jammer" ? not to be confused with Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who is "Hammer." Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is "The Bulin Wall." Henrik Lundqvist, he of the 2012 Vezina Trophy, seven straight 30-win seasons and Olympic gold medal in 2006, is, simply, King Henrik.
Other monikers come about because of something a player does on the ice.
Hall of Famer Max Bentley was known as the "Dipsy Doodle Dandy from Delisle" because of his silky-smooth style of evading opponents. Steve Yzerman thought Johan Franzen looked like "a mule" whizzing around the ice as a rookie back in 2005. The nickname stuck. Phoenix enforcer Paul Bissonnette is "BizNasty."
And some nicknames just happen.
Boston forward Brad Marchand is now called the "Little Ball of Hate," thanks to President Barack Obama. But the nickname originally belonged to Pat Verbeek of the New York Rangers. He got it because teammate Glenn Healy had already dubbed Ray Ferraro the "Big Ball of Hate."
"It's just a bunch of guys probably acting a little bit younger than they should and goofing around," said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, known as "Tazer" or "Captain Serious."
But it's also a nod to hockey's roots, a reminder that no matter how big the NHL becomes, it's not that far removed from its quaint history of small towns and backyard ponds.
"It goes back to the fact that hockey, more than baseball, for example, was a Canadian frontier game ... and the large majority of players came from small areas," said Stan Fischler, the MSG hockey analyst and leading NHL historian.
"(The NHL) is a multibillion-dollar industry. But at the same time, it does have a folksy, family feel about it," Fischler said.
Indeed, not only does everyone have a nickname, but everyone uses them, too.
Imagine LeBron James' teammates calling him "Jamesy" or "Headband." Or Gregg Popovich referring to Tim Duncan as "Duncs."
It would never happen.
Yet Chicago coach Joel Quenneville routinely refers to his players by their nicknames, and sometimes is the one who comes up with them. The next Blackhawk to call Kane Patrick will be the first.
"That's part of the beauty part of hockey," Fischler said. "Apart from the intensity on the ice, it's a very friendly sport."
AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen in Boston contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) ? The Obama administration on Saturday sharply warned Hong Kong against slow-walking the extradition of Edward Snowden, reflecting concerns over a prolonged legal battle before the government contractor ever appears in a U.S. courtroom to answer espionage charges for revealing two highly classified surveillance programs.
A formal extradition request to bring Snowden to the United States from Hong Kong could drag through appeal courts for years and would pit Beijing against Washington at a time China tries to deflect U.S. accusations that it carries out extensive surveillance on American government and commercial operations.
The U.S. has contacted authorities in Hong Kong to seek Snowden's extradition, the National Security Council said Saturday in a statement. The NSC advises the president on national security.
"Hong Kong has been a historically good partner of the United States in law enforcement matters, and we expect them to comply with the treaty in this case," White House national security adviser Tom Donilon said in an interview with CBS News. He said the U.S. presented Hong Kong with a "good case for extradition."
However, a senior administration official issued a pointed warning that if Hong Kong doesn't act soon, "it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong's commitment to the rule of law." The official was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and insisted on anonymity.
Hong Kong's government had no immediate reaction to the charges against Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who admitted providing information to the news media about the programs. Police Commissioner Andy Tsang told reporters only that the case would be dealt with according to the law. A police statement said it was "inappropriate" for the police to comment on the case.
A one-page criminal complaint against Snowden was unsealed Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., part of the Eastern District of Virginia where his former employer, government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, is headquartered, in McLean. He is charged with unauthorized communication of national defense information, willful communication of classified communications intelligence information and theft of government property. The first two are under the Espionage Act and each of the three crimes carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on conviction.
The complaint is dated June 14, five days after Snowden's name first surfaced as the person who had leaked to the news media that the NSA, in two highly classified surveillance programs, gathered telephone and Internet records to ferret out terror plots.
Snowden told the South China Morning Post in an interview published Saturday on its website that he hoped to stay in the autonomous region of China because he has faith in "the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate."
A prominent former politician in Hong Kong, Martin Lee, the founding chairman of the Democratic Party, said he doubted whether Beijing would intervene yet.
"Beijing would only intervene according to my understanding at the last stage. If the magistrate said there is enough to extradite, then Mr. Snowden can then appeal," he said.
Lee said Beijing could then decide at the end of the appeal process if it wanted Snowden extradited or not.
Snowden could contest extradition on grounds of political persecution.
Hong Kong lawyer Mark Sutherland said that the filing of a refugee, torture or inhuman punishment claim acts as an automatic bar on any extradition proceedings until those claims can be assessed.
"Some asylum seekers came to Hong Kong 10 years ago and still haven't had their protection claims assessed," Sutherland said.
Hong Kong lawmakers said that the Chinese government should make the final decision on whether Snowden should be extradited to the United States.
Outspoken legislator Leung Kwok-hung said Beijing should instruct Hong Kong to protect Snowden from extradition before his case gets dragged through the court system.
Leung urged the people of Hong Kong to "take to the streets to protect Snowden."
The Obama administration has now used the Espionage Act in seven criminal cases in an unprecedented effort to stem leaks. In one of them, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning acknowledged he sent more than 700,000 battlefield reports, diplomatic cables and other materials to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. His military trial is underway.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the charges against Snowden.
"I've always thought this was a treasonous act," he said in a statement. "I hope Hong Kong's government will take him into custody and extradite him to the U.S."
But the Government Accountability Project, a whistle-blower advocacy group, said Snowden should be shielded from prosecution by whistle-blower protection laws.
"He disclosed information about a secret program that he reasonably believed to be illegal, and his actions alone brought about the long-overdue national debate about the proper balance between privacy and civil liberties, on the one hand, and national security on the other," the group said in a statement.
Michael di Pretoro, a retired 30-year veteran with the FBI who served from 1990 to 1994 as the legal liaison officer at the American consulate in Hong Kong, said "relations between U.S. and Hong Kong law enforcement personnel are historically quite good."
"In my time, I felt the degree of cooperation was outstanding to the extent that I almost felt I was in an FBI field office," di Pretoro said.
The U.S. and Hong Kong have a standing agreement on the surrender of fugitives. However, Snowden's appeal rights could drag out any extradition proceeding.
The success or failure of any extradition proceeding depends on what the suspect is charged with under U.S. law and how it corresponds to Hong Kong law under the treaty. In order for Hong Kong officials to honor the extradition request, they have to have some applicable statute under their law that corresponds with a violation of U.S. law.
Disclosure of the criminal complaint came as President Barack Obama held his first meeting with a privacy and civil liberties board and as his intelligence chief sought ways to help Americans understand more about sweeping government surveillance efforts exposed by Snowden.
The five members of the little-known Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board met with Obama for an hour in the White House Situation Room, questioning the president on the two NSA programs that have stoked controversy.
One program collects billions of U.S. phone records. The second gathers audio, video, email, photographic and Internet search usage of foreign nationals overseas, and probably some Americans in the process, who use major Internet service providers, such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Yahoo.
This blog post originates from the Lindau Nobel Online Community,the interactive forum of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. The 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, dedicated to chemistry, will be held in Lindau, Germany, from 30 June to 5 July 2013. 35 Nobel Laureates will congregate to meet more than 600 young researchers from approximately 80 countries.
Ashutosh (Ash) Jogalekar is part of the official blog team. Please find all of his postings in the Community blog.
This year I again have the great pleasure of blogging from the 2013 Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates held in the scenic city of Lindau in Germany, this time focused on chemistry. I blogged for the meeting in 2009 and had a wholly unique time interacting with Nobel Laureates and about 600 hand-picked students from all around the world. The official purpose of the meeting ? which has been held since 1951 ? is the transfer of knowledge between generations and the event always amply serves the purpose.
As a prelude to the actual meeting which starts on June 30th, I have started writing a few posts on their website which is hosted by Nature. Over the next two weeks I will be cross-posting my pieces on this blog. I look forward to a week full of exciting scientific interactions between young and old blood.
My first post talks the central role of diversity in the science of chemistry.
Chemistry and diversity: Inseparable partners
Scientists come in two flavors, unifiers and diversifiers. Unifiers try to find the common threads underlying disparate phenomena. Diversifiers try to find more disparate phenomena for the unifiers to unify. Occasionally a diversifier may wear a unifier?s hat and consolidate what he knows and sometimes a unifier may take a break from his grand goal and revel in the details, but by and large the demarcation stands.
As the history of science demonstrates, both diversifiers and unifiers are necessary for the creation of new ideas and growth of the scientific enterprise. But there are also certain periods and fields where one or the other type of scientist has been dominant. Physics provides a particularly interesting case where the goal of unification has driven the field for several hundred years. From Aristotle?s dream of seeing the world through the common lens of four ?elements? to modern string theorists? dream of reducing the laws governing the universe to an abstract mathematical object, physics has always been particularly fruitful for unifiers. Yet there have been periods such as the fact-gathering era of the early nineteenth century when diversifiers have reigned.
If physics has been principally driven by unification, chemistry has mainly been a diversifier?s game. For a long time, what was known as ?chemistry? consisted of the accumulation of facts about the nature of substances, including ordinary properties like color, smell and physical state combined with increasing knowledge of the transformation that these substances undergo. For all the scorn that they invoke, the alchemists were great diversifiers, carefully listing the fruits of their feverish labors to turn base metals into gold and creating much of the basic equipment that is a mainstay of today?s chemical laboratories.
The first modern attempt at unification came at the end of the eighteenth century when Antoine Lavoisier classified substances into elements, compounds and mixtures. Lavoisier inaugurated a great age of unification in chemistry. His discoveries were followed about thirty years later by Friedrich W?hler?s watershed synthesis of urea from common inorganic substances, an act that unified inorganic and biological chemistry. The synthesis of urea signaled the beginning of the science of organic chemistry and the beginning of the end for the regressive doctrine of vitalism.?W?hler?s discoveries were followed by the development of the structural theory of chemistry by scientists like Friedrich Kekule, Justig von Liebig, Archibald Couper and Alexander Butlerov which gave concrete shape to what until then had been mere placeholder names. Chemical substances could now be represented on paper as discrete collections of atoms making up molecules. The culmination of chemical unification in the nineteenth century came with Dimitri Mendeleev who put the classification of disparate elements on a firm footing based on atomic weights. Mendeleev also demonstrated how unification could be a potent tool for the prediction of unknown properties.
The twentieth century has been a particularly striking example of how both unification and diversification play key roles in chemistry. The greatest act of chemical unification during this time was the success of Linus Pauling and other scientists in creating a theory of the chemical bond, a development that was directly based on the quantum mechanical revolution in physics. The work of quantum chemists made it possible to come up with common explanations for thousands of disparate chemical facts. Why are certain substances solids while others are liquids? Why do certain compounds dissolve in water while others don?t? What kind of bonds distinguish inorganic compounds from organic ones? What holds the structure of biological molecules together? Hundreds of such questions could be answered using the basic theory of chemical bonding combined with a potent tool ? x-ray crystallography. The theory of bonding provided tantalizing explanations, but it was crystallography that allowed us to confirm the common provenance of molecules and the true nature of the chemical bond. A parallel thread of unification in organic chemistry was led by the American chemist Robert Burns Woodward who, through his spectacular syntheses of complex natural products, demonstrated the unifying role that a few good chemical principles can serve.
Yet we saw that quantum chemistry did not do away with other fields of chemistry any more than quantum physics did away with other fields of physics. Diversifiers were still needed to do experiments. Chemistry is first and foremost an experimental science, and no amount of theorizing can diminish the value of the simple experiment revealing novel phenomena. The equations of quantum chemistry may be explanatory in principle, but in practice they are too complicated to explain or predict the most interesting chemical facts. We still have to experimentally determine the nature of the colors of a flower petal, the operating principle of the scent of ambergris, the drug staving off the cruel march of Alzheimer?s disease, the semiconducting material that would lead to the next breakthrough in electronics and the dye that could revolutionize the practice of solar energy. Theorists will aid all these discoveries but they will principally come from diverse experimenters.
Another important aspect of chemistry is the ability to create diversity through unity. For instance, Woodward may have brought powerful unifying principles to bear on his syntheses, but the sheer diversity of the substances which he synthesized ? ranging from cholesterol to vitamin B12 ? is clear. Even Woodward?s predecessor?W?hler paradoxically initiated a push toward diversity; by demonstrating that biological substances could in fact be potentially made from simple inorganic ones, he opened a window into appreciating the astonishing variety of molecules that evolution has fashioned from a limited sampling of building blocks. This is in fact a recurring theme and here are two more examples: The common molecular features that enable us to probe molecular structure using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy allow us to explore the subtle differences between molecules. In another case, you can use a single kind of reaction such as palladium catalyzed Suzuki cross-coupling to create libraries of diverse molecules. Chemistry is a particularly striking example of a science where diversity and unity piggyback on each other?s successes.
The range of diverse activities in chemistry is also apparent in the number of chemical specialties that have sprouted up in the last few decades. Their practitioners have given them fancy names like chemical biology, neurochemistry, nanochemistry and astrochemistry. There are unifying themes between all of these ? as well as, one suspects, some branding of old wine in new bottles ? but the practitioners of these disciplines consider themselves to be distinct enough to engage separate field of research. Diversity in chemistry is alive and kicking, certainly at the level of departments, conferences and funding.
There is another, deeper sense in which chemistry more than physics is a world of diversity. The equations of quantum mechanics do not help us understand the workings of brain chemistry not only because they are too complicated to solve in real time but because they deal with a different level of abstraction. One of the great philosophical paradigms of the twentieth century has been the discovery of emergent phenomena as a distinctive aspect of physical and biological systems. This paradigm demonstrated how, as we build up from atoms to molecules to cells to people, every level contains its own fundamental laws that cannot be directly mapped on to their underlying platforms. Quantum chemistry is quantum physics, but it?s more than that. And biochemistry is certainly chemistry, but in heralding the transition from nonliving matter to life, it shows itself capable of achieving something more than what simple chemistry can.
Diversity has a dominant role in allowing chemistry to account for emergent phenomena. Diversifiers can provide both the theoretical and experimental wherewithal to navigate the contours of these multiple levels of understanding, but when it comes to actually uncovering the raw facts of emergence, at this point in history experiments are far ahead of theory. At some point we will have a concrete theoretical framework that accounts for the chemical transition between living and nonliving matter for instance, but until then experiments must lead the way.
Chemistry has integrated itself in the working of the world at multiple levels, but at each level it demands separate explanatory frameworks that have lives of their own. One of the enduring challenges for chemists is how to use their knowledge of fundamental chemical principles to capture diversity at various levels of problem solving. Using their tools, diversifiers will illuminate corners of the tantalizing darkness. Unifiers can then find connections between these lonely spots which will reveal the grand edifice