Wanted: A Bob Geldof for climate change



































EAST Africa is no stranger to crisis: who can forget the Ethiopian famine of the mid-1980s that killed about half a million people?











But the drought that struck in 2011 was different – it was caused, at least in part, by climate change, the first time a humanitarian disaster has been directly linked to global warming (see "Humanitarian disaster blamed on climate change"). It won't be the last.












If that wasn't bad enough, our climate now seems to have passed one of the abrupt changes known as tipping points. This is another first (see "Arctic thaw may be first in cascade of tipping points").













These stories are a depressing reminder of how we are damaging the planet. But they also remind us that change is possible. The famine of the mid-1980s was a tipping point of sorts too, because it thrust hunger onto the global agenda. We need a new hero. Is there a climate change Bob Geldof out there?












This article appeared in print under the headline "Holding out for a climate hero"


















































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NTU to offer new degree programme in public policy & global affairs






SINGAPORE: Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will offer a first-of-its-kind degree programme in Public Policy & Global Affairs in Singapore.

The Bachelor of Arts (Honours) programme offers a unique interdisciplinary curriculum that combines politics and international relations, public policy and public administration.

The programme, which will enrol its pioneer class of 55 students this August, will focus on two key areas for its teaching and research - global Asia and Asian regionalism and public policy in science and technology, creating new niche areas for NTU.

NTU said the new programme will prepare students for career and leadership roles in government agencies, non-profit organisations and the private sector.

It also fills the gap of one of the disciplinary cores in social sciences to be offered by NTU, namely political science.

Presently, through its School of Humanities and Social Sciences, seven social science majors are offered by NTU: Chinese, English, Economics, History, Linguistics and Multilingual Studies, Psychology and Sociology.

Prof Kam Chan Hin, Associate Provost in charge of Undergraduate Education at NTU, said: "As a university with established strengths in science, engineering and public administration, NTU is well-placed to offer this new programme to meet the growing demand for such policy experts, especially in Asia. The course will offer students real-world learning and practice in public service, particularly on how to deal with such strategic challenges and international and public affairs as a whole.

"The course builds on the strengths of NTU's core disciplines in the social sciences and enhances the intellectual breadth of the university. Besides providing rigorous training on the finer aspects of policy-making and global affairs, it will also imbue students with the critical values of leadership, integrity, life-long learning, exemplary character and professionalism."

Throughout the four-year direct honours programme, students will be exposed to a broad variety of subjects, such as policy analysis, programme evaluation, public financial management, human resource management and non-profit management.

They will also receive professional training in political dynamics, international politics, comparative politics, comparative public administration and global affairs.

Interdisciplinary courses will be taught by professors from different disciplines drawn from across the schools at NTU.

Prof Kam said: "Upon graduation, students will be ready to pursue a broad spectrum of rewarding careers in civil service administration, public management, policy analysis, journalism and research. They can also choose to become teachers, especially in Social Studies, History and China Studies. I am pleased that several potential employers, including a few ministries, the Economic Development Board and IE Singapore, have already expressed support for the programme."

Graduates from the programme will also be qualified to teach Social Studies, History and China Studies from primary school to junior college levels, to meet a growing demand in Singapore's schools.

As the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) will be a major partner in teaching and research, graduates from the programme can also pursue further studies at the RSIS.

The Public Policy and Global Affairs programme will be driven by Prof He Baogang, who has established an international reputation as an authority on Chinese democratisation, non-government organisations and local governance, as well as in international relations and Asian studies.

Prof He had also served as an adviser to public and governmental organisations, including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Danish International Development Agency.

- CNA/xq



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Jerome Oxman dies at 97; his mail-order business became military surplus store and museum









Jerome Oxman, who started a mail-order business in the early 1960s that grew into a sprawling Santa Fe Springs outlet that became both a military surplus store and a military museum, has died. He was 97.


Oxman died of prostate cancer Feb. 22 at his Buena Park home, said his son, Brian.


Oxman was an expert at buying items at government auctions, and his love for surplus military gear was honed by three years of World War II duty on a U.S. Army supply line in Iran. He worked at a Vernon surplus store before starting Oxman's Surplus Inc. at Rosecrans and Valley View avenues in 1961.





"There used to be so much surplus equipment stored by aircraft companies and military bases all over the country," he told The Times two years ago. "Now, it's hard to find."


Oxman started his historical collection in 1950 when his employer sent him to pick up a load of government gear at a surplus warehouse. On a whim, he purchased a discarded Norden bomb sight, which in 1940 had cost the equivalent of about $125,000 in today's dollars. Oxman paid $9.80.


"This thing was so secret it was set up with explosives to blow up if the plane was shot down or captured," Oxman would explain to visitors at his museum, which included a dining area he called the "Mess Tent Cafe" that served up military field rations.


At the time of his death, his collection contained some 1,600 items.


Oxman, who sometimes staged Saturday "Lunch with a Hero" events that paid tribute to military veterans, reveled in explaining the history and uses of artifacts on display. He encouraged young and old to sit in a B-17 cockpit near his store's front door and delighted in saying that he bought it for $100 in 1963 from an archaeological team that had found it buried in the Sahara Desert.


Much of Oxman's trove was a hands-on collection. He had fighter jet ejector seats that visitors could climb into and a heat-seeking missile with a tip they could unscrew to see its inner workings.


Other pieces, including a 1940s land mine, a pair of "minefield walking shoes" that were supposed to protect soldiers, and the funnel-like "fighter pilot relief tube," were kept behind glass.


First-time visitors to the store were invariably surprised by the museum pieces.


"One time, someone from Rockwell came in and saw my dad's Hound Dog air-to-surface missile gyro that was used on the B-52 and reported it to the FBI," Brian Oxman said. "Pretty soon, the men in black showed up and tried to take it, saying it was still classified. Dad refused to let them have it."


Another time, a customer set her handbag down in front of a parabolic mirror used in a World War II signaling device. Sun streaming through a window hit the curved glass just right, setting the purse on fire.


Oxman's community involvement included sponsoring the La Mirada Little League for 48 years.


Born June 23, 1915, in Duluth, Minn., Oxman married Miriam Averbook of Wisconsin in 1947. The couple came to California on their honeymoon and never went back.


In addition to his wife, Oxman's survivors include his sons Murray, Jason and Brian; sister Reene Oxman; and four grandchildren.


The family plans to continue operating the surplus store and museum.


A memorial will be held at 2 p.m. March 24 at the museum, 14128 E. Rosecrans Ave.


bob.pool@latimes.com





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Jerome Oxman dies at 97; his mail-order business became military surplus store and museum









Jerome Oxman, who started a mail-order business in the early 1960s that grew into a sprawling Santa Fe Springs outlet that became both a military surplus store and a military museum, has died. He was 97.


Oxman died of prostate cancer Feb. 22 at his Buena Park home, said his son, Brian.


Oxman was an expert at buying items at government auctions, and his love for surplus military gear was honed by three years of World War II duty on a U.S. Army supply line in Iran. He worked at a Vernon surplus store before starting Oxman's Surplus Inc. at Rosecrans and Valley View avenues in 1961.





"There used to be so much surplus equipment stored by aircraft companies and military bases all over the country," he told The Times two years ago. "Now, it's hard to find."


Oxman started his historical collection in 1950 when his employer sent him to pick up a load of government gear at a surplus warehouse. On a whim, he purchased a discarded Norden bomb sight, which in 1940 had cost the equivalent of about $125,000 in today's dollars. Oxman paid $9.80.


"This thing was so secret it was set up with explosives to blow up if the plane was shot down or captured," Oxman would explain to visitors at his museum, which included a dining area he called the "Mess Tent Cafe" that served up military field rations.


At the time of his death, his collection contained some 1,600 items.


Oxman, who sometimes staged Saturday "Lunch with a Hero" events that paid tribute to military veterans, reveled in explaining the history and uses of artifacts on display. He encouraged young and old to sit in a B-17 cockpit near his store's front door and delighted in saying that he bought it for $100 in 1963 from an archaeological team that had found it buried in the Sahara Desert.


Much of Oxman's trove was a hands-on collection. He had fighter jet ejector seats that visitors could climb into and a heat-seeking missile with a tip they could unscrew to see its inner workings.


Other pieces, including a 1940s land mine, a pair of "minefield walking shoes" that were supposed to protect soldiers, and the funnel-like "fighter pilot relief tube," were kept behind glass.


First-time visitors to the store were invariably surprised by the museum pieces.


"One time, someone from Rockwell came in and saw my dad's Hound Dog air-to-surface missile gyro that was used on the B-52 and reported it to the FBI," Brian Oxman said. "Pretty soon, the men in black showed up and tried to take it, saying it was still classified. Dad refused to let them have it."


Another time, a customer set her handbag down in front of a parabolic mirror used in a World War II signaling device. Sun streaming through a window hit the curved glass just right, setting the purse on fire.


Oxman's community involvement included sponsoring the La Mirada Little League for 48 years.


Born June 23, 1915, in Duluth, Minn., Oxman married Miriam Averbook of Wisconsin in 1947. The couple came to California on their honeymoon and never went back.


In addition to his wife, Oxman's survivors include his sons Murray, Jason and Brian; sister Reene Oxman; and four grandchildren.


The family plans to continue operating the surplus store and museum.


A memorial will be held at 2 p.m. March 24 at the museum, 14128 E. Rosecrans Ave.


bob.pool@latimes.com





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Herbal Viagra actually contains the real thing



































IF IT looks too good to be true, it probably is. Several "herbal remedies" for erectile dysfunction sold online actually contain the active ingredient from Viagra.












Michael Lamb at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and colleagues purchased 10 popular "natural" uplifting remedies on the internet and tested them for the presence of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. They found the compound, or a similar synthetic drug, in seven of the 10 products – cause for concern because it can be dangerous for people with some medical conditions.












Lamb's work was presented last week at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting in Washington DC.












This article appeared in print under the headline "Herbal Viagra gets a synthetic boost"


















































If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.




































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Bomb kills two, wounds 12 in Thai south






BANGKOK: Two security officials died and 12 people were wounded in a blast in Thailand's restive south on Saturday, an army spokesman said, as unrest continued despite plans for talks with a key rebel group.

The bomb hidden in a motorcycle in Yala provincial town was aimed at paramilitaries who had been manning a nearby checkpoint, said southern army spokesman Colonel Pramote Promin. Six civilians were among the wounded.

It follows twin bombings on Friday in Narathiwat province, near the Malaysian border where a nine-year insurgency has claimed more than 5,500 lives.

The Thai government has agreed to hold talks with Barisan Revolusi Nasional, part of a web of insurgent groups in the south.

A stubborn insurgency seeking greater autonomy has raged across several provinces in the south of Thailand for nine years -- with near-daily shootings and bombings.

Malaysian premier Najib Razak on Thursday said his country would host the talks in Kuala Lumpur in two weeks, following discussions with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was in the country for bilateral meetings.

- AFP/xq



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Chinatown landmark named for pioneering jurist









He was the first Chinese American graduate of Stanford Law School and the first Chinese American judge to be appointed to the bench in the continental United States.


On Friday, he became the first Chinese American to have a Los Angeles landmark named after him: Judge Delbert E. Wong Square, which encompasses the intersection of Hill and Ord streets at the western edge of Chinatown.


Councilman Ed Reyes hopes that someday the stretch of Hill Street that runs in front of the Chinatown public library will be named after Wong, who died in 2006 at age 85. Wong and his wife, Dolores, were instrumental in getting the library built, so the location would be fitting.





"The square is a starting point," said Reyes, who presided over the dedication.


A street in Little Tokyo bears the name of Judge John Aiso, the nation's first Japanese American judge.


Wong was born in the Central Valley town of Hanford in 1920, the son of a grocer from China's Guangdong province. The family later moved to Bakersfield, where Chinese and other minorities were restricted to the balconies of movie theaters and could only use the public swimming pool on Fridays, according to an oral history by Wong's son, Marshall Wong.


Wong graduated from UC Berkeley and enlisted in the Army Air Forces during World War II. As a navigator on a B-17 Flying Fortress, he completed 30 bombing missions in Europe, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals.


When he returned home, Wong decided to attend law school. His parents disapproved, fearing that racial prejudice would prevent him from finding work.


After graduating from Stanford, Wong found that his job options were indeed limited. The few Chinese American attorneys in California practiced immigration law. Wong gravitated to the public sector, working as a deputy legislative counsel and then as a deputy state attorney general.


In 1959, Wong became the first Chinese American judge in the continental United States when then-Gov. Pat Brown appointed him to the Los Angeles County Municipal Court. He later joined the Superior Court, serving for more than two decades. He continued to make headlines in retirement, leading a probe into racial discrimination at the Los Angeles Airport Police Bureau and working as a special master in the O.J. Simpson case.


Wong and his wife were among the founding benefactors of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Chinatown Service Center. They were also pioneers in another arena: housing. After a real estate agent told them that Chinese could not buy in Silver Lake, they sought out the property's owner, who was happy to sell to them.


Wong's widow and three of his four children attended Friday's dedication.


California now has more than 90 Asian American trial judges. Four of seven state Supreme Court justices are Asian American, including Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. But young people passing through Judge Delbert E. Wong Square should remember those who paved the way, perhaps even drawing inspiration from them, Marshall Wong said.


"The children who grow up in this neighborhood will pass by and wonder, 'Who was Judge Wong?' Hopefully, they'll learn something about his story and his work and think, 'Maybe I should go to law school and be a judge someday.'"


cindy.chang@latimes.com





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Black Hole Spins at Nearly the Speed of Light


A superfast black hole nearly 60 million light-years away appears to be pushing the ultimate speed limit of the universe, a new study says.

For the first time, astronomers have managed to measure the rate of spin of a supermassive black hole—and it's been clocked at 84 percent of the speed of light, or the maximum allowed by the law of physics.

"The most exciting part of this finding is the ability to test the theory of general relativity in such an extreme regime, where the gravitational field is huge, and the properties of space-time around it are completely different from the standard Newtonian case," said lead author Guido Risaliti, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and INAF-Arcetri Observatory in Italy. (Related: "Speedy Star Found Near Black Hole May Test Einstein Theory.")

Notorious for ripping apart and swallowing stars, supermassive black holes live at the center of most galaxies, including our own Milky Way. (See black hole pictures.)

They can pack the gravitational punch of many million or even billions of suns—distorting space-time in the region around them, not even letting light to escape their clutches.

Galactic Monster

The predatory monster that lurks at the core of the relatively nearby spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is estimated to weigh in at about two million times the mass of the sun, and stretches some 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometers) across-more than eight times the distance between Earth and the moon, Risaliti said. (Also see "Black Hole Blast Biggest Ever Recorded.")

Risaliti and colleagues' unprecedented discovery was made possible thanks to the combined observations from NASA's high-energy x-ray detectors on its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) probe and the European Space Agency's low-energy, x-ray-detecting XMM-Newton space observatory.

Astronomers detected x-ray particle remnants of stars circling in a pancake-shaped accretion disk surrounding the black hole, and used this data to help determine its rate of spin.

By getting a fix on this spin speed, astronomers now hope to better understand what happens inside giant black holes as they gravitationally warp space-time around themselves.

Even more intriguing to the research team is that this discovery will shed clues to black hole's past, and the evolution of its surrounding galaxy.

Tracking the Universe's Evolution

Supermassive black holes have a large impact in the evolution of their host galaxy, where a self-regulating process occurs between the two structures.

"When more stars are formed, they throw gas into the black hole, increasing its mass, but the radiation produced by this accretion warms up the gas in the galaxy, preventing more star formation," said Risaliti.

"So the two events—black hole accretion and formation of new stars—interact with each other."

Knowing how fast black holes spin may also help shed light how the entire universe evolved. (Learn more about the origin of the universe.)

"With a knowledge of the average spin of galaxies at different ages of the universe," Risaliti said, "we could track their evolution much more precisely than we can do today."


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Space gold rush should not be a free-for-all






















We need a consensus on regulations surrounding space mining if it’s to enrich us all
















EVER since we took our first steps out of Africa, human exploration has been driven by the desire to secure resources. Now our attention is turning to space.












The motivation for deep-space travel is shifting from discovery to economics. The past year has seen a flurry of proposals aimed at bringing celestial riches down to Earth. No doubt this will make a few billionaires even wealthier, but we all stand to gain: the mineral bounty and spin-off technologies could enrich us all.












But before the miners start firing up their rockets, we should pause for thought. At first glance, space mining seems to sidestep most environmental concerns: there is (probably!) no life on asteroids, and thus no habitats to trash. But its consequences – both here on Earth and in space – merit careful consideration.












Part of this is about principles. Some will argue that space's "magnificent desolation" is not ours to despoil, just as they argue that our own planet's poles should remain pristine. Others will suggest that glutting ourselves on space's riches is not an acceptable alternative to developing more sustainable ways of earthly life.












History suggests that those will be hard lines to hold, and it may be difficult to persuade the public that such barren environments are worth preserving. After all, they exist in vast abundance, and even fewer people will experience them than have walked through Antarctica's icy landscapes.











There's also the emerging off-world economy to consider. The resources that are valuable in orbit and beyond may be very different to those we prize on Earth (see "Space miners hope to build first off-Earth economy"). Questions of their stewardship have barely been broached – and the relevant legal and regulatory framework is fragmentary, to put it mildly.













Space miners, like their earthly counterparts, are often reluctant to engage with such questions. One speaker at last week's space-mining forum in Sydney, Australia, concluded with a plea that regulation should be avoided. But miners have much to gain from a broad agreement on the for-profit exploitation of space. Without consensus, claims will be disputed, investments risky, and the gains made insecure. It is in all of our long-term interests to seek one out.


















This article appeared in print under the headline "Taming the final frontier"


















































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"Don't Stop Believin'" tops 2012 most-watched dramas list






SINGAPORE: Singapore broadcaster MediaCorp on Friday unveiled the list of most-watched television programmes over its main free-to-air channels.

School drama "Don't Stop Believin'", which features stars like Felicia Chin, Romeo Tan, Elvin Ng and Ian Fang, topped the list of popular Mandarin dramas on Channel 8, with an average viewership of 918,000.

Heartland drama "It Takes Two" trailed close behind, drawing 912,000 viewers each night, with the blockbuster period drama "Joys of Life" rounding out the top three, bringing in 875,000 viewers each episode.

Despite strong competition from imported dramas, locally-produced "Show Hand" emerged tops on Channel U, with 361,000 viewers tuning in for the moving drama series each night.

"Show Hand" beat out Korean drama "He's Beautiful" and Taiwan drama "Material Queen" which both drew 342,000 viewers each episode, and took the second as well as third spot respectively.

Light-hearted Singapore school drama "Jump!" managed to take the fourth spot, with an average viewership of 337,000.

"Crimewatch 2012" was tops on Channel 5, heading the list of most popular English drama and variety series with an average viewership of 382,000 , followed by "Sasuke Singapore", "Point of Entry 2" and its sequel "Point of Entry 3".

Other notable shows include "Food Source", which was named the most popular Mandarin variety show, attracting some 831,000 viewers per episode, as well as "Star Awards 2012 - Show 2", which drew over 1.5 million viewers.

This makes "Star Awards 2012 – Show 2" the most-watched television programme of last year, beating even the televised broadcast of the National Day Parade 2012.

In addition to the viewership figures of its most popular shows, MediaCorp also revealed in the same report that the average viewership of Channel 8, Channel U and Channel 5 has increased in 2012, as had the number of people who watched its programmes online, via xinmsn.com's Catch-up TV service.

-CNA/ha



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