Displaying 1 - 10 of 755 entries.

Israel Journal: Is Yossi Vardi a good father to his entrepreneurial children?

  • Posted on December 12, 2018 at 2:46 am

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wikinews reporter David Shankbone is currently, courtesy of the Israeli government and friends, visiting Israel. This is a first-hand account of his experiences and may — as a result — not fully comply with Wikinews’ neutrality policy. Please note this is a journalism experiment for Wikinews and put constructive criticism on the collaboration page.

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Dr. Yossi Vardi is known as Israel’s ‘Father of the Entrepreneur’, and he has many children in the form of technology companies he has helped to incubate in Tel Aviv‘s booming Internet sector. At the offices of Superna, one such company, he introduced a whirlwind of presentations from his baby incubators to a group of journalists. What stuck most in my head was when Vardi said, “What is important is not the technology, but the talent.” Perhaps because he repeated this after each young Internet entrepreneur showed us his or her latest creation under Vardi’s tutelage. I had a sense of déjà vu from this mantra. A casual reader of the newspapers during the Dot.com boom will remember a glut of stories that could be called “The Rise of the Failure”; people whose technology companies had collapsed were suddenly hot commodities to start up new companies. This seemingly paradoxical thinking was talked about as new back then; but even Thomas Edison—the Father of Invention—is oft-quoted for saying, “I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

Vardi’s focus on encouraging his brood of talent regardless of the practicalities stuck out to me because of a recent pair of “dueling studies” The New York Times has printed. These are the sort of studies that confuse parents on how to raise their kids. The first, by Carol Dweck at Stanford University, came to the conclusion that children who are not praised for their efforts, regardless of the outcome’s success, rarely attempt more challenging and complex pursuits. According to Dweck’s study, when a child knows that they will receive praise for being right instead of for tackling difficult problems, even if they fail, they will simply elect to take on easy tasks in which they are assured of finding the solution.

Only one month earlier the Times produced another story for parents to agonize over, this time based on a study from the Brookings Institution, entitled “Are Kids Getting Too Much Praise?” Unlike Dweck’s clinical study, Brookings drew conclusions from statistical data that could be influenced by a variety of factors (since there was no clinical control). The study found American kids are far more confident that they have done well than their Korean counterparts, even when the inverse is true. The Times adds in the words of a Harvard faculty psychologist who intoned, “Self-esteem is based on real accomplishments. It’s all about letting kids shine in a realistic way.” But this is not the first time the self-esteem generation’s proponents have been criticized.

Vardi clearly would find himself encouraged by Dweck’s study, though, based upon how often he seemed to ask us to keep our eyes on the people more than the products. That’s not to say he has not found his latest ICQ, though only time—and consumers—will tell.

For a Web 2.User like myself, I was most fascinated by Fixya, a site that, like Wikipedia, exists on the free work of people with knowledge. Fixya is a tech support site where people who are having problems with equipment ask a question and it is answered by registered “experts.” These experts are the equivalent of Wikipedia’s editors: they are self-ordained purveyors of solutions. But instead of solving a mystery of knowledge a reader has in their head, these experts solve a problem related to something you have bought and do not understand. From baby cribs to cellular phones, over 500,000 products are “supported” on Fixya’s website. The Fixya business model relies upon the good will of its experts to want to help other people through the ever-expanding world of consumer appliances. But it is different from Wikipedia in two important ways. First, Fixya is for-profit. The altruistic exchange of information is somewhat dampened by the knowledge that somebody, somewhere, is profiting from whatever you give. Second, with Wikipedia it is very easy for a person to type in a few sentences about a subject on an article about the Toshiba Satellite laptop, but to answer technical problems a person is experiencing seems like a different realm. But is it? “It’s a beautiful thing. People really want to help other people,” said the presenter, who marveled at the community that has already developed on Fixya. “Another difference from Wikipedia is that we have a premium content version of the site.” Their premium site is where they envision making their money. Customers with a problem will assign a dollar amount based upon how badly they need an answer to a question, and the expert-editors of Fixya will share in the payment for the resolved issue. Like Wikipedia, reputation is paramount to Fixya’s experts. Whereas Wikipedia editors are judged by how they are perceived in the Wiki community, the amount of barnstars they receive and by the value of their contributions, Fixya’s customers rate its experts based upon the usefulness of their advice. The site is currently working on offering extended warranties with some manufacturers, although it was not clear how that would work on a site that functioned on the work of any expert.

Another collaborative effort product presented to us was YouFig, which is software designed to allow a group of people to collaborate on work product. This is not a new idea, although may web-based products have generally fallen flat. The idea is that people who are working on a multi-media project can combine efforts to create a final product. They envision their initial market to be academia, but one could see the product stretching to fields such as law, where large litigation projects with high-level of collaboration on both document creation and media presentation; in business, where software aimed at product development has generally not lived up to its promises; and in the science and engineering fields, where multi-media collaboration is quickly becoming not only the norm, but a necessity.

For the popular consumer market, Superna, whose offices hosted our meeting, demonstrated their cost-saving vision for the Smart Home (SH). Current SH systems require a large, expensive server in order to coordinate all the electronic appliances in today’s air-conditioned, lit and entertainment-saturated house. Such coordinating servers can cost upwards of US$5,000, whereas Superna’s software can turn a US$1,000 hand-held tablet PC into household remote control.

There were a few start-ups where Vardi’s fatherly mentoring seemed more at play than long-term practical business modeling. In the hot market of WiFi products, WeFi is software that will allow groups of users, such as friends, share knowledge about the location of free Internet WiFi access, and also provide codes and keys for certain hot spots, with access provided only to the trusted users within a group. The mock-up that was shown to us had a Google Maps-esque city block that had green points to the known hot spots that are available either for free (such as those owned by good Samaritans who do not secure their WiFi access) or for pay, with access information provided for that location. I saw two long-term problems: first, WiMAX, which is able to provide Internet access to people for miles within its range. There is already discussion all over the Internet as to whether this technology will eventually make WiFi obsolete, negating the need to find “hot spots” for a group of friends. Taiwan is already testing an island-wide WiMAX project. The second problem is if good Samaritans are more easily located, instead of just happened-upon, how many will keep their WiFi access free? It has already become more difficult to find people willing to contribute to free Internet. Even in Tel Aviv, and elsewhere, I have come across several secure wireless users who named their network “Fuck Off” in an in-your-face message to freeloaders.

Another child of Vardi’s that the Brookings Institution might say was over-praised for self-esteem but lacking real accomplishment is AtlasCT, although reportedly Nokia offered to pay US$8.1 million for the software, which they turned down. It is again a map-based software that allows user-generated photographs to be uploaded to personalized street maps that they can share with friends, students, colleagues or whomever else wants to view a person’s slideshow from their vacation to Paris (“Dude, go to the icon over Boulevard Montmartre and you’ll see this girl I thought was hot outside the Hard Rock Cafe!”) Aside from the idea that many people probably have little interest in looking at the photo journey of someone they know (“You can see how I traced the steps of Jesus in the Galilee“), it is also easy to imagine Google coming out with its own freeware that would instantly trump this program. Although one can see an e-classroom in architecture employing such software to allow students to take a walking tour through Rome, its desirability may be limited.

Whether Vardi is a smart parent for his encouragement, or in fact propping up laggards, is something only time will tell him as he attempts to bring these products of his children to market. The look of awe that came across each company’s representative whenever he entered the room provided the answer to the question of Who’s your daddy?

Israel Journal: Is Yossi Vardi a good father to his entrepreneurial children?
»

  • Filed under:
    • Uncategorized

Somali pirates hijack Indonesian tugboat and Turkish container ship

  • Posted on December 12, 2018 at 2:41 am

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Two more vessels have been hijacked in Somalia. Pirates have captured an Indonesian tugboat with a barge that was working for French oil firm Total and a Turkish container ship.

The Turkish vessel’s seizure was confirmed by a US Fifth Fleet spokesman. MV Bosphorus Prodigy is a 330 ft (100 m) container vessel flagged in Antigua and Barbuda. It is owned and operated by Isko Marine Company based in Istanbul.

The Fifth Fleet could not confirm the tugboat’s seizure, but an anonymous official with Total in Yemen could. He explained the boat and barge were headed to Malaysia from the Yemeni port of Mukalla. He said the crew consisted of both Indonesians and other nationalities, and that the vessels, which had been hired by a subcontractor, were not carrying any oil at the time.

The new hijackings came as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime asked for greater policing in the area by international bodies, and for the signing of agreements that allowed the arresting officer to take pirates back to the officer’s country for prosecution.

“Pirates cannot be keelhauled or forced to walk the plank, nor should they be dumped off the Somali coast,” said the office’s head Antonio Maria Costa. “They need to be brought to justice”.

Somali pirates hijack Indonesian tugboat and Turkish container ship
»

  • Filed under:
    • Uncategorized

Rockets kill ten civilians in Afghanistan

  • Posted on December 11, 2018 at 2:44 am

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Insurgents in eastern Afghanistan fired rockets into a marketplace on Monday, killing ten civilians in an area where French armed forces were meeting with tribal elders.

French and Afghan officials said the attack, which was in the town of Tagab in the Kapisa province, wounded at least 28 people. Two rockets hit the market as the commander of French troops in eastern Afghanistan, General Marcel Druart, was meeting tribal chiefs nearby.

“The Taliban fired the rockets from Badrab, where they have a base. They are strong there,” said deputy police chief Haji Mohammed Akbar.

French and US medical teams evacuated the wounded by helicopter to hospitals for treatment. No French personnel were reported hurt.

The French commander attended the gathering of tribal elders, known as a “shura,” as part of NATO efforts to win the trust of Afghan civilians in a region with a strong Taliban presence. French troops have been fighting the Taliban northeast of the capital, Kabul, to try to secure towns and roads threatened by the militants.

Rockets kill ten civilians in Afghanistan
»

  • Filed under:
    • Uncategorized

An account of the Esperanza Fire from an animal rescuer

  • Posted on December 11, 2018 at 2:03 am
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

As families fled their homes in the early morning hours on Thursday October 26, there was no warning. The Esperanza Fire southeast of Los Angeles and West of Palm Springs, California, had ballooned under the influence of Santa Ana winds to more than 19,000 acres as of the morning of October 27. No time to get the animals, no time for crates or even a leash. Sadly, owners left behind not only their horses, lamas, donkeys, chickens, rabbits, but also their dogs and cats.

Many of the families who did manage to evacuate their pets found themselves in the parking lot at the Fellowship in the Pass Church Red Cross Shelter where a MuttShack Animal Rescue team caught up with them.

Pam Anderson, Director of the emergency Red Cross shelter said that many people with animals had come and left.

The air was thick with smoke, and ash was raining down on the parking lot where dog owners, not able to take their dogs into the shelter were camping out in pup tents andin their cars.

Those who could afford it checked themselves into pet friendly hotels in nearby towns.

Some were prepared. Jane Garner, a small dog breeder was able to get all her animals out, and had set up her puppy runs alongside her RV in the parking lot. Others were not doing too well, having left home without as much as a leash.

The same scenario played out at the Red Cross shelter at Hemet High School. Animals were being boarded in vans, trailers and cars and small travel crates.

When MuttShack Animal Rescue arrived, a small fracas had sent several dogs off in different directions, running out of the school parking lot down busy streets necessitating an instant rescue response.

The Incident Command for the Esperanza Animals, Ramona Humane Society in San Jacinto welcomed MuttShack‘s offer to help at the shelters.

Ramona Humane Society had recently published a notice in their Newsletter about the newly passed “PETS Act”and warned owners not wait until a major disaster such as an earthquake or fireto prepare. “Be proactive to ensure that your pet will be taken care of.”

MuttShack and PetSmart Charities set up ad hoc facilities for the animals at both shelters.

The Red Cross shelter, run by Madison Burtchaell of the Orange County Red Cross was very accommodating about allowing a small emergency pet shelter adjacent to the School.

Barbara A. Fought of PetSmart Charities, an organization that works with animal welfare organizations and provide assistance in disasters, provided crates and emergency supplies.

MuttShack and Red Cross volunteers, Martin St. John, Tom Hamilton, and Steve Meissner helped assemble the crates to secure a safe environment for evacuated pets.

It was a great relief for evacuees who had camped out in the parking lot to finally leave their vehicles and relax at the shelter, setting up their cots to grab some sorely needed rest.

Firefighters and residents reported loss of wildlife and animals. The Esperanza fire burned 34 homes, consumed 40,000 acres and cost five Firefighters their lives before it was contained four days later on October 30. Firefighting operations cost nearly $10 million.

MuttShack Animal Rescue is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization active in disasters and dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and care of lost or discarded dogs, cats and other animals.

An account of the Esperanza Fire from an animal rescuer
»

  • Filed under:
    • Uncategorized

Celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Ryan dies in car accident aged 50

  • Posted on December 10, 2018 at 2:43 am

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Plastic surgeon to the stars Dr. Frank Ryan has died in a car accident at age 50. It is reported that the Jeep Ryan was driving crashed over the side of the Pacific Coast Highway and landed on rocks. Lifeguards were first on the scene and unsuccessfully tried to rescue Ryan. It is thought that no other vehicle was involved in the incident.

Dr. Ryan, a celebrity in his own right, performed plastic surgery on several stars including Janice Dickinson, Gene Simmons, Shauna Sand and Adrianne Curry. He appeared on several television shows and became one of the first people to perform plastic surgery on television in 1995.

A representative for Janice Dickinson released a statement about the death of Ryan. She said “Janice is deeply, deeply anguished! She is stunned and wants the world to know what a genius Dr. Ryan was.”

Ryan was traveling with his pet dog at the time of the crash; the dog was found seriously injured in the ocean and was transported to a local veterinarian. Dr. Ryan was pronounced dead at the scene.

Celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Ryan dies in car accident aged 50
»

  • Filed under:
    • Uncategorized

An interview with Jimbo Wales

  • Posted on December 10, 2018 at 2:20 am

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Just five years ago, when Jimbo Wales founded Wikipedia, the project’s goal of 100,000 articles [1] seemed ambitious. Yet today, the project, now one of the top 25 websites in the world according to Alexa, is nearing closer 1,000,000 articles in English, and 3.5 million articles across all languages. This week, we interviewed Jimbo Wales.

Color-free version

Wikinews: Raul654 asks: “Recently, there were revelations about organized attempts by US Congressmen to whitewash their articles. What is your take on this, as well as earlier reports of Corporate astroturfing?”

Jimbo Wales: The question is invalid. There were no revelations of organized attempts by US Congressmen to whitewash their articles. Not any evidence of “corporate astroturfing” of which I am aware. There was evidence that some congressional staffers edited Wikipedia in inappropriate ways. But the internal evidence of the type and style of these edits do not suggest “organized attempts”.

WN: Nichalp asks: “Budget permitting, are there any plans to increase the number of Wikipedia servers, specifically into the less developed countries?”

JW: We are always buying new servers. There are no specific plans to add servers in less developed countries, but we have looked into it as a possibility. We are particularly interested in doing so if it helps increase access and reduce costs for those users.

WN: An anonymous reader asks: “How much of a role do you feel the Wikipedia community (and the communities of its sister projects) should have in the running of the Wikimedia Foundation? Do you see an increasing separation of the organization from the projects? If so, do you regard that as beneficial or a potential problem?”

JW: The community has always been and will always be absolutely crucial to the running of the Wikimedia Foundation. We are increasing the community input and activity in the foundation through a new series of committees to delegate things to community members which have traditionally been handled by me or the Board. I do not see any increasing separation of the organization from the projects, quite the opposite. I consider the increasing integration of the community and the foundation as overwhelmingly beneficial.

WN: ALoan asks: “English Wikipedia is approaching 1 million articles, but less than 1 in a thousand are Featured articles. The list of featured articles English Wikipedia should have has few featured articles, and recent surveys of articles chosen at random show that many articles are poorly written. How can we get from here to an encyclopedia of well-written articles? Or should we not worry too much about coverage and content?”

JW: We should be tightly focused on the quality of our coverage and content. The goal of Wikipedia is to create and distribute a freely licensed high quality encyclopedia. The path to that goal will require us to be flexible and thoughtful. The first steps will come soon with the article review system, which will initially be used simply to gather data. After we have data, we can begin to work on how we will focus our attention to improve quality.

WN: GeorgeStepanek asks: “You’ve said that ‘Wikimedia’s mission is to give the world’s knowledge to every single person on the planet in their own language.’ But very few of the wikipedias in the languages of third-world countries are seeing as much activity as the first-world language wikipedias. Do you have any ideas on how this could be turned around?”

JW: I am a believer in outreach. I would like for the Foundation to raise money specifically to pay one or more minority language co-ordinators. The goal would be to reach out in a more organized way to professors and graduate students and expat communities who have good Internet access, to seed projects for languages where the majority of speakers have poor internet access.

WN: Jacoplane asks: “How do you feel we will be able to reach Wikipedia 1.0? The tools currently available for vetting our articles are crude at best. The Featured article process seems too slow, and the article validation feature seems to have died a quiet death. Are you planning a big push on this front?”

JW: Isn’t that the same question as the quality question? The article validation feature has not died a quiet death at all.

WN: Quadell asks: “Most important decisions on Wikimedia projects are handled with consensus. However, we sometimes have to deal with legal issues, especially related to copyright law. For instance, we as a community may need to decide whether to consider a certain use “fair”, or how to deal with conflicting copyright claims. Dealing with this through consensus is problematic, since we can’t do something illegal even if there is widespread misguided support for it. In general, how can we as a community deal with these issues?”

JW: I don’t think there is any real problem with this. The community is strongly in support of following the law. I don’t know of any particular cases of widespread misguided support for something illegal. In particular cases, there can of course be [dis]agreement, but I have never seen anyone in the community argue that we should not listen to the advice of our legal team.

WN: Raul654 asks: “Where do you see Wikipedia in 10 years?”

JW: I don’t know. My favorite answer to this is to say, the real question is: where will the world be after 10 more years of Wikipedia. 🙂 Seriously, I think we’ll eventually see a tapering off of new article creation in the large language wikipedias as more and more “verifiable” topics are covered. At this point, most changes will be expansions and updates and quality improvements to existing articles. But in 10 years, it seems likely to me that many languages which are now quite small will have very large Wikipedia projects. Our community will continue to become more diverse as more and more people worldwide come online.

WN: Kevin Myers asks: “The values reflected in certain Wikipedia policies (anti-censorship, neutral point-of-view) are problematic in cultures where freedom of expression is limited, as the blocking of Wikipedia in mainland China and arguably the Muhammad cartoons controversy attest. As Wikipedia expands internationally, do you foresee Wikipedia becoming increasingly controversial in countries where “Western values” are seen as a potential threat?”

JW: I don’t think that neutrality and objectivity are really controversial among most people of the world. It is true that the leadership in some places does not value these things, and may actually work against these things, but we can not deviate from our goals to accommodate them.

WN: On a similar topic, Vsion asks: “Are there currently any efforts being undertaken by the Foundation to address the People’s Republic of China’s blocking of Wikipedia or to alleviate its effect?”

JW: Beijing-area Wikipedians are working to have the block lifted. Our position is that the block is in error, even given China’s normal policies. Wikipedia is not propaganda, it is basic information. We expect that the block will be lifted.

WN: David.Monniaux asks: “The Foundation receives daily accusations of libel from semi-well-known people who have an entry on Wikipedia or are mentioned in some Wikipedia entry. What do you propose? Would a strict application of the rule of citing controversial claims suffice, in your opinion?”

JW: Yes. I think that our current systems do a good job of addressing these sorts of complaints, although it is very time-consuming for us here in the office. What really works wonders is a very strict application of the rule of citing controversial claims particularly relating to biographies of living persons. The new policy on biographies of living persons is a very strong step in the right direction.

WN: Tony Sidaway asks: “In the past six weeks the number of userboxes on English Wikipedia has risen from 3500 to 6000 and, despite your appeals for restraint, the number pertaining to political beliefs has risen from 45 to 150. Can the problem of unsuitable userboxes still be resolved by debate?”

JW: My only comment on the userbox situation is that the current situation is not acceptable.

WN: Larsinio asks: “How can Wikipedia effectively explain to the public its open-contribution model without simultaneously worrying the public about inaccurate information?”

JW: I think we do a reasonably good job of that. The best thing is to point to our overall quality while at the same time pointing out that we are currently a work in progress. Over time, this answer will change as we move toward ‘1.0’. At that time, we can point to ‘1.0’ for those who are made nervous by the live editing.

WN: Rob Church asks: “Do you consider the encyclopedia to be ‘finished’? Do you think it ever can be?”

JW: Nothing is ever finished. Human knowledge is always growing.

WN: Raul654 and Pavel Vozenilek both asked, “What kind of cool new features/announcements can we expect to see in the next year or two?”

JW: I think this question is too hard for me to answer. I almost never “announce” anything, and features are developed publicly by the community. I think other people have a better idea than I do what will happen in the next year or two. 🙂 Ask Brion [Vibber].

WN: Celestianpower asks: “If you had not founded Wikipedia, and had just been referred to it by a friend, how active a contributor do you think you would be?”

JW: [I] dream fondly of such a scenario. I might actually get to edit articles then. Instead of spend the morning (this morning) documenting transactions and taking phone calls.

WN: OpenToppedBus asks: “The last fundraising drive was less successful than had been anticipated. Do you see a shortage of money holding back Wikipedia/Wikimedia in the short-to-medium-term, and are there any plans to bring in income from sources other than individual donations?”

JW: The last fundraising drive was more successful than had been anticipated, by a long shot. It was the most successful fund drive in our history. [Regarding a quoted goal of $500,000], Mav wrote something like that somewhere, in a scratchpad kind of way. That number was just a placeholder and had nothing to do with me or the official view of the foundation. He’s apologized repeatedly for it.

WN: Thryduulf asks: “What is your single greatest wish for Wikipedia?”

JW: I would have to just point back to our original goal: a freely licensed high quality encyclopedia for every single person on the planet. That’s what I remain focused on daily.

This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

An interview with Jimbo Wales
»

  • Filed under:
    • Uncategorized

Wikinews interviews Aurélien Miralles about Sirenoscincus mobydick species discovery

  • Posted on December 10, 2018 at 2:06 am

Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

A group of researchers published a paper about their discovery of a new species of Madagascar mermaid skink lizards last December. The species is the fourth forelimbs-only terrestrial tetrapods species known to science, and the first one which also has no fingers on the forelimbs.

The species was collected at Marosely, Boriziny (French: Port-Bergé), Sofia Region, Madagascar. The Sirenoscincus mobydick name is after the existing parent genus, and a sperm whale from the 1851 novel Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

This week, Wikinews interviewed one of the researchers, French zoologist Aurélien Miralles, about the research.

((Wikinews)) What caused your initial interest in Madagascar lizards?

Aurélien Miralles: Well, I would say that since I am a child I am fascinated by the biodiversity of tropical countries, and more especially by reptiles. I did a PhD on the evolution and systematics of skink lizards from South America. Then, I get a Humboldt grant to do a postdoc in Germany, at the Miguel Vences Lab, in order to study Malagasy skinks. Madagascar being a fabulous hotspot for reptiles (and not only for reptiles actually), it was a very nice opportunity. Professor Vences proposed me to associate our complementary fields of expertise: he is expert in herpetology for Madagascar, and I am expert in skinks lizards (family Scincidae). It was a very fruitful experience, and many other results have still to [be] published.

((WN)) How was the new species discovered?

AM: By a very funny coincidence actually. In 2010, I went to Madagascar for a long trip through the south of the island, in the semi-arid bush for collecting lizards and snakes samples. Then, during the last days, just before coming back to Germany, I have visited by coincidence the zoological collection of the University of Antananarivo. In that place, I found an old jar of ethanol with two weird little specimens previously collected by a student who didn’t realize it was something new. Being expert on skinks, I immediately recognised it was something very probably new, very different from all the other known species.

((WN)) What does “Sirenoscincus” stand for?

AM: I am not the author of the genus name Sirenoscincus. This genus name was already existing. It has been described by Sakata and Hikida (two Japanese herpetologists). “Sireno” means mermaid. “Scincus” means skinks, a group of little lizards on which I am particularly focusing my studies. So, Sirenoscinus means “mermaid skink”, in reference to [the] fact it has forelimbs but no hindlimbs.

((WN)) How deep underground do the lizards live?

AM: Hard to answer this question because nothing is known on the ecology of this species. But more reasonably, we can hypothesize, by comparison to similar species of skinks, that it is probably living just under the sand surface, [a] few centimeters deep, probably no more, or below [a] rock, leaf litter, or piece of dead wood.

((WN)) What do the lizards eat?

AM: Again, by analogy, I would say most likely small invertebrates (insects, larvae, worms etc…).

((WN)) What equipment was used during the research?

AM: Classic equipment (microscope) and also a state-of-the-art device: a micro CT-scan. It is a big device producing [a] 3D picture of the internal structure without damaging the specimen. It is actually very similar to the scanner used in human medicine, but this one is specially designed for small specimens. Otherwise, I am currently studying the DNA of this species and closely related species in order to determine its phylogenetic position compared to other species with legs, in order to learn more about the evolutionary phenomena leading to limb loss.

((WN)) There are several news sources that have a photo of the species. Is it a photo as seen in a CT-scan?

AM: No, this picture showing a whitish specimen on a black background is not a CT-scan. It is a normal photograph of the collection specimen preserved in alcohol (the one that was in the jar). You can see the complete of picture (including CT-scan 3D radiography, drawing…) in the original scientific publication.

((WN)) Do you know when the newly discovered mermaid skink species was put into the jar? Do you have its photo (of the jar)?

AM: No, I have no picture of the jar. The specimen has been collected in November 2004.

((WN)) What were the roles of the people involved in the research? What activity was most time-consuming?

AM: As first investigator, I did most of the work…and the longest part of the work was to examine closely related species in order to do comparisons…and also to check the complete bibliography related to this topic and to write the paper.
Mrs Anjeriniaina is the student who […] collected the specimen a couple of years ago.
Mrs Hipsley and Mr Müller learnt me how to use the CT-scan, and helped me concerning some point relative to internal morphology. Mr Vences helped me as supervisors. Additionally, all of them have corrected the article, and gave me many relevant advices and corrections, thus improving the quality and the reliability of the paper.

((WN)) Did you get in touch with an external entity to get the new species officially recognised?

AM: No. In zoology, it is only needed to publish the description of a new species (and to give it a name) in a scientific journal, and to designate a holotype specimen (= specimen that will be the official reference for this species), to get this new species “officially” recognised by the scientific community. That does not mean that this new species is “correct” (it might be invalidated by subsequent counter-studies), but that means that this discovery and the new name of [the] species are officially existing.

((WN)) Are there any further plans on exploring the species habitat and lifestyle?

AM: No, not really for the time being, because ecology is not our field of expertise. But other studies (including molecular studies) are currently in progress, in order to focus on the phylogenetic position and the evolution of this species.

Wikinews interviews Aurélien Miralles about Sirenoscincus mobydick species discovery
»

  • Filed under:
    • Uncategorized

Surgeon declares that Fidel Castro does not have cancer

  • Posted on December 9, 2018 at 2:59 am

Wednesday, December 27, 2006File:Fidel Castro 102006.jpg

José Luis García Sabrido, the chief surgeon at Gregorio Marañón hospital in Madrid who treated 80-year-old Fidel Castro last week, announced that the intestinal bleeding which led to surgery was not caused from cancer. Rather, he had a “benign illness” with a series of complications. He is currently recovering from a serious operation. When asked if Castro had cancer, Sabrido responded, “From what I know, I absolutely deny it.”

Sabrido refuses to declare which caused Castro’s illness, keeping in the Cuban government’s wishes, however The New York Times says diverticulitis is a common, non-cancerous cause of intestinal bleeding.

US politicians still believe that Castro is seriously ill; there is speculation in Washington and among Cuban exiles that Castro has colon cancer. John D. Negroponte, the United States Director of National Intelligence, told The Washington Post that Castro is “terminally ill” and will be dead in “months, not years.”

Fidel Castro transferred his position to his brother Raul on July 31 due to intestinal surgery. The Cuban government has since kept his health situation relatively secret; this is the first time a medical expert outside the Cuban government has commented on his health since he dropped from the public view in July.

According to recent reports, Castro will be healthy enough to be President of Cuba again.

Surgeon declares that Fidel Castro does not have cancer
»

  • Filed under:
    • Uncategorized

Call The Best Ac Repair In Franklin, Tn

  • Posted on December 8, 2018 at 2:06 am

byAlma Abell

Whether it snowing outside or it’s a hot summer day, a good heating and cooling system is needed in your home to maintain its comfort level. Homeowners hire professional HVAC companies to come out and give them an estimate on the costs to install a new system. For those people who make their living buying homes and renovating them to sell, working with a really good AC Repair in Franklin, TN keeps them up to speed in completing the work on the home and getting it sold quickly.

Chiles Heating and Cooling is an AC Repair in Franklin, TN that offers excellent service to customers throughout Franklin and surrounding areas. They work with homeowners repairing, replacing and installing gas furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners, air handlers and air filtration. There is no guess work involved when they do the work. They educate customers how to have a healthier home by installing air cleaners and proper ventilation throughout the home. They do yearly maintenance work for customers by checking out furnaces and giving them a clean bill of health for another year. They also clean air ducts of dust mites and dander that can collect in them and cause allergies.

Proper maintenance of your heating and cooling systems also ensures that the family is healthier, and everyone is much safer when furnaces are checked before winter. Carbon Monoxide is very dangerous and even though you can’t see, smell or taste it, it’s very dangerous. When furnaces are cleaned, there is much less chance of a fire since they are running constantly in the winter. Having a new system installed is not only safer, it saves on energy costs because it takes less energy to operate them.

You can also log onto the company website and get answers to questions such as “should I repair or replace?” The company will show you how you can save a tremendous amount on your utility bills throughout the coming years by having one of their energy saving systems installed in your home. Not only will you be saving money while working with a well known family owned business in the area, your family will enjoy warmth on a cold winter night and cool comfort on the hottest of summer days. For more information visit chilesheatingandcooling.com.

Simple animals may live in Martian brines: Wikinews interviews Vlada Stamenkovi?

  • Posted on December 7, 2018 at 2:12 am

Friday, November 9, 2018

Vlada Stamenkovi? and his colleagues have developed a new chemical model of how oxygen dissolves in Martian conditions, which raises the possibility of oxygen-rich brines; enough, the work suggests, to support simple animals such as sponges. The model was published in Nature on October 22. A Wikinews reporter caught up with him in an email interview to find out more about his team’s research and their plans for the future.

The atmosphere of Mars is far too thin for humans to breathe or for lungs like ours to extract any oxygen at all. It has on average only around 0.6% of the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere, and this is mainly carbon dioxide; only 0.145% of that 0.6% is oxygen. The new model indicated that these minute traces of oxygen should be able to enter salty seeps of water on or near the planet’s surface at levels high enough to support life forms comparable to Earth’s microbes, possibly even simple sponges. Some life forms can survive without oxygen, but it permits more energy-intensive metabolism. Almost all complex multicellular life depends on oxygen.

“We were absolutely flabbergasted. I went back to recalculate everything like five different times to make sure it’s a real thing,” Stamenkovi? told National Geographic.

“Our work is calling for a complete revision for how we think about the potential for life on Mars, and the work oxygen can do,” he went on to tell Scientific American, “implying that if life ever existed on Mars it might have been breathing oxygen.”

Stamenkovi? et al cite research from 2014 that showed that some simple sponges can survive with only 0.002 moles per cubic meter (0.064 mg per liter) . Some microbes that need oxygen can survive with as little as a millionth of a mole per cubic meter (0.000032 mg, or 32 nanograms per liter). In their model, they found that there can be enough oxygen for microbes throughout Mars, and enough for simple sponges in oases near the poles.

This isn’t the first time researchers have suggested that multicellular life may exist on Mars. In 2014, de Vera et al using the facilities at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) studied some lichens, including Pleopsidium chlorophanum, which can grow high up in Antarctic mountain ranges. They showed that they can also survive and even grow in Mars simulation chambers. However, they can do this because their algal component is able to produce the oxygen needed by the fungal component. Stamenkovi? et al’s research provides a way for oxygen to get into the brines without algae or photosynthesis.

Stamenkovi? et al found that oxygen levels throughout Mars would be high enough for the least demanding aerobic (oxygen using) microbes, around 25 millionths of a mole per cubic meter (0.0008 mg per liter) even in the southern uplands where concentrations are lowest. They found that at regions poleward of about 67.5° to the north and about ? 72.5° to the south, oxygen concentrations could be high enough for simple sponges, and closer to the poles, concentrations could go higher, approaching levels typical of sea water on Earth, 0.2 moles per cubic meter (6.4 mg per liter). In their paper they described some uncertainties in the calculations but with their best case estimate, which they think is close to the true situation, and supercooling oxygen concentrations could reach higher values as high as two moles per cubic meter (64 mg per liter). On Earth, worms and clams that live in the muddy sea beds require 1 mg per liter, bottom feeders such as crabs and oysters 3 mg per liter, and spawning migratory fish 6 mg per liter, all well within their 0.2 moles per liter.

((Wikinews)) Does your paper’s value of up to 0.2 moles of oxygen per cubic meter, the same as Earth’s sea water mean that there could potentially be life on Mars as active as our sea worms or even fish?
Stamenkovi?: Mars is such a different place than the Earth and we still need to do so much more work before we can even start to speculate.

Stamenkovi? et al studied mixtures of magnesium and calcium perchlorates, common on Mars. They found that the highest oxygen concentrations occur when the water is colder, which happens most in polar regions.

((WN)) The temperatures for the highest levels of oxygen are really low -133 °C, so, is the idea that this oxygen would be retained when the brines warm up to more habitable temperatures during the day or seasonally? Or would the oxygen be lost as it warms up? Or – is the idea that it has to be some exotic biochemistry that works only at ultra low temperatures like Dirk Schulze-Makuch’s life based on hydrogen peroxide and perchlorates internal to the cells as antifreeze?
Stamenkovi?: The options are both: first, cool oxygen-rich environments do not need to be habitats. They could be reservoirs packed with a necessary nutrient that can be accessed from a deeper and warmer region. Second, the major reason for limiting life at low temperature is ice nucleation, which would not occur in the type of brines that we study.

As Stamenkovi? et al explain in the paper, the brines they study smoothly transition to a glassy state after supercooling rather than forming sharp crystals that rip apart the cell as they freeze. They cite simulation experiments that show that these can be supercooled to temperatures as low as -123 to -133 °C before they transition from liquid to a glassy state. They do this even when mixed with the soil of Mars.

The usual cold limit of life cited is -20 °C (not a hard limit because metabolisms slow down at lower temperatures, to the point where individual microbes have lifetimes measured in millennia which his hard to distinguish from dormant life). Stamenkovi? is suggesting that because of the supercooling properties of the brines, life on Mars which usese these brines internally may be able to thrive at temperature more than 110 °C colder than this. Alternatively, he says, it may be able to take advantage of the oxygen in warmer seeps from below that encounter colder layers.

Stamenkovi? et al’s paper is theoretical and is based on a simplified general circulation model of the Mars atmosphere – it ignores distinctions of seasons and the day / night cycle. But it takes account of topography such as mountains and craters etc and the axial tilt. Stamenkovi?’s team combined it with a chemical model of how oxygen would dissolve in the brines and used this to predict oxygen levels in such brines at various locations on Mars.

When asked about plans for a future model that might include seasonal timescales, Stamenkovi? told Wikinews, “Yes, we are now exploring the kinetics part and want to see what happens on shorter timescales.”

Stamenkovi? et al’s model took account of the tilt of the Mars axis, which varies much more than Earth’s does. They found that for the last five million years, conditions were particularly favorable for oxygen-rich brines, and that it continued like this for ten million years into the future, which was as far as they ran the model. For the last twenty million years, as far back as they took their modeling, oases with enough oxygen for sponges were still possible.

Wikinews asked Stamenkovi? if he had any ideas about whether and how sponges could survive through times when the tilt was higher and less oxygen would be available:

((WN)) I notice from your figure 4 that there is enough oxygen for sponges only at tilts of about 45 degrees or less. Do you have any thoughts about how sponges could survive periods of time in the distant past when the Mars axial tilt exceeds 45 degrees, for instance, might there be subsurface oxygen rich oases in caves that recolonize the surface? Also what is the exact figure for the tilt at which oxygen levels sufficient for sponges become possible? (It looks like about 45 degrees from the figure but the paper doesn’t seem to give a figure for this).
Stamenkovi?: 45 deg is approx. the correct degree. We were also tempted to speculate about this temporal driver but realized that we still know so little about the potential for life on Mars/principles of life that anything related to this question would be pure speculation, unfortunately.
((WN)) How quickly would the oxygen get into the brines – did you investigate the timescale?
Stamenkovi?: No, we did not yet study the dynamics. We first needed to show that the potential is there. We are now studying the timescales and processes.

As examples of the dynamics of the Martian atmosphere, the Mars rover Curiosity, which is currently active, measures temperature changes of around 70 °C between day and night. Also there are large pressure differences between summer and winter. In Mars’ Gale crater, pressure varies from under 7.5 mbar to nearly 9.5 mbar. There are also large pressure differences between day and night, varying by 10% compared to a tenth of a percent on Earth. On Earth we see such large pressure differences only during major hurricanes.

((WN)) Could the brines that Nilton Renno and his teams simulated forming on salt / ice interfaces within minutes in Mars simulation conditions get oxygenated in the process of formation? If not, how long would it take for them to get oxygenated to levels sufficient for aerobic microbes? For instance could the Phoenix leg droplets have taken up enough oxygen for aerobic respiration by microbes?
Stamenkovi?: Just like the answer above. Dynamics is still to be explored. (But this is a really good question ?).

Wikinews also asked Stamenkovi? how their research is linked to the recent discovery of possible large subglacial lake 1.5 km below the Martian South Pole found through radar mapping.

((WN)) Some news stories coupled your research with the subglacial lakes announcement earlier this year. Could the oxygen get through ice into layers of brines such as the possible subglacial lakes at a depth of 1.5 km?
Stamenkovi?: There are other ways to create oxygen. Radiolysis of water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen can liberate oxygen in the deep and that O2 could be dissolved in deep groundwater. The radiolytic power for this would come from radionuclides naturally contained in rocks, something we observe in diverse regions on Earth.

Wikinews asked “could it get into a layer of fresh water just 30 cms below clear ice melted by the solid state greenhouse effect, as in Möhlmann’s model (which forms subsurface liquid water at surface temperatures as low as -56 °C).”. In reply, Stamenkovi? suggested the same response, i.e. Radiolysis\Radiolysis from radionuclides in the rocks.

According to Stamenkovi? et al’s paper, present-day Mars would have more oxygen available for life than early Earth had prior to 1.4 billion years ago. They remark in the paper that on Earth, photosynthesis seems to have come first, generating the oxygen for the first animals, while on Mars, which seems to have had different sources of oxygen, oxygen breathers could arise without photosynthesis. The paper concludes by suggesting that this gives broader opportunities for oxygen-breathing life on other planets.

((WN)) And I’d also like to know about your experiment you want to send to Mars to help with the search for these oxygenated brines
Stamenkovi?: We are now developing at “NASA/JPL-California Institute of Technology” a small tool, called TH2OR (Transmissive H2O Reconnaissance) that might one day fly with a yet-to-be-determined mission. It will use low frequency sounding techniques, capable of detecting groundwater at depths down to ideally a few km under the Martian surface, thanks to the high electric conductivity of only slightly salty water and Faraday’s law of induction. Most likely, such a small and affordable instrument could be placed stationary on the planet’s surface or be carried passively or actively on mobile surface assets; TH2OR might be also used in combination with existing orbiting assets to increase its sounding depth. Next to determining the depth of groundwater, we should also be able to estimate its salinity and indirectly its potential chemistry, which is critical information for astrobiology and ISRU (in situ resource utilization).
((WN)) Does your TH2OR use TDEM like the Mars 94 mission – and will it use natural ULF sources such as solar wind, diurnal variations in ionosphere heating and lightning?
Stamenkovi? : The physical principle it uses is the same and this has been used for groundwater detection on the Earth for many decades; it’s Faraday’s law of induction in media that are electrically conducting (as slightly saline water is).
Stamenkovi? : However, we will focus on creating our own signal as we do not know whether the EM fields needed for such measurements exist on Mars. However, we will also account for the possibility of already existing fields.

[edit]

Simple animals may live in Martian brines: Wikinews interviews Vlada Stamenkovi?
»

  • Filed under:
    • Uncategorized