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"


















































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Education Minister urges schools to maintain long-term partnerships






SINGAPORE: Singapore Education Minister Heng Swee Keat has urged schools here to maintain long-term partnerships, which will enrich the community.

He was speaking at Yishun Junior College's (YJC) Celebrating Values Day on Saturday.

It is a carnival to raise funds for charities such as the President's Challenge and Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore.

YJC has roped in partners to organise the event - such as parent support groups and other schools in the neighbourhood.

The event also saw Mr Heng launching a book of values. The minister autographed ten copies of the book.

The school will keep a copy, while the remaining nine will be given to well-wishers who pledge at least S$500 to beneficiaries.

Mr Heng said: "YJC is creating a ripple effect in spreading the message to the community that values ought to be celebrated, that we will care for people in need, that we'll nurture the young. These are the values that will uplift our society and will give all Singaporeans a brighter future."

- CNA/xq



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Man slain on way to dialysis treatment: police

WGN-TV: Man fatally shot while waiting for ride to dialysis treatment.









A 72-year-old man was shot and killed in his gangway on the Far South Side early Saturday morning as he left a home for dialysis treatment.


The man's grandson was inside and heard the shots that killed his grandfather, who was identified by family and the Cook County medical examiner's office as William Strickland, of the 400 block of East 95th Street.


The man was shot about 3:30 a.m. and pronounced dead about 4 a.m., according to authorities.








The motive appears to be robbery, police said, but detectives are still investigating.


Detectives remained at the scene, across from Chicago State University, into the morning.


Police taped off the northeast corner of 95th Street and Eberhart Avenue, surrounding the two houses between which the man was killed.


Neighbors said Strickland had lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. He was described as friendly and willing to lend a helping hand, neighbors and friends said.


"He was just there for us," said Theolene Shears, 84, who has lived in the area since 1965. "He was a very nice neighbor. We couldn't ask for a better neighbor."


Shears said she was inside her home when she heard the shots.


"All I heard was three shots. Bang, bang, bang," she said.


Strickland, who went to dialysis three times a week, had been undergoing treatment for about five years, Shears said.


"He seemed to be very happy about it. The way he talked it was like a little social club," Shears said, adding that he eased her own concerns about potentially having to receive treatment.


He preferred to go early on Saturdays to get it out of the way, she said.


Strickland leaves behind a daughter, three grandchildren and a pet Chihuahua, said Shears.


"He was a good man," said Joshua Miles, 14, a friend of the family "He would help you out if you needed help."


"He always kept you laughing," he said.


pnickeas@tribune.com
Twitter: @peternickeas


nnix@tribune.com
Twitter: @nsnix87.com





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We Didn’t Domesticate Dogs. They Domesticated Us.


In the story of how the dog came in from the cold and onto our sofas, we tend to give ourselves a little too much credit. The most common assumption is that some hunter-gatherer with a soft spot for cuteness found some wolf puppies and adopted them. Over time, these tamed wolves would have shown their prowess at hunting, so humans kept them around the campfire until they evolved into dogs. (See "How to Build a Dog.")

But when we look back at our relationship with wolves throughout history, this doesn't really make sense. For one thing, the wolf was domesticated at a time when modern humans were not very tolerant of carnivorous competitors. In fact, after modern humans arrived in Europe around 43,000 years ago, they pretty much wiped out every large carnivore that existed, including saber-toothed cats and giant hyenas. The fossil record doesn't reveal whether these large carnivores starved to death because modern humans took most of the meat or whether humans picked them off on purpose. Either way, most of the Ice Age bestiary went extinct.

The hunting hypothesis, that humans used wolves to hunt, doesn't hold up either. Humans were already successful hunters without wolves, more successful than every other large carnivore. Wolves eat a lot of meat, as much as one deer per ten wolves every day-a lot for humans to feed or compete against. And anyone who has seen wolves in a feeding frenzy knows that wolves don't like to share.

Humans have a long history of eradicating wolves, rather than trying to adopt them. Over the last few centuries, almost every culture has hunted wolves to extinction. The first written record of the wolf's persecution was in the sixth century B.C. when Solon of Athens offered a bounty for every wolf killed. The last wolf was killed in England in the 16th century under the order of Henry VII. In Scotland, the forested landscape made wolves more difficult to kill. In response, the Scots burned the forests. North American wolves were not much better off. By 1930, there was not a wolf left in the 48 contiguous states of America.  (See "Wolf Wars.")

If this is a snapshot of our behavior toward wolves over the centuries, it presents one of the most perplexing problems: How was this misunderstood creature tolerated by humans long enough to evolve into the domestic dog?

The short version is that we often think of evolution as being the survival of the fittest, where the strong and the dominant survive and the soft and weak perish. But essentially, far from the survival of the leanest and meanest, the success of dogs comes down to survival of the friendliest.

Most likely, it was wolves that approached us, not the other way around, probably while they were scavenging around garbage dumps on the edge of human settlements. The wolves that were bold but aggressive would have been killed by humans, and so only the ones that were bold and friendly would have been tolerated.

Friendliness caused strange things to happen in the wolves. They started to look different. Domestication gave them splotchy coats, floppy ears, wagging tails. In only several generations, these friendly wolves would have become very distinctive from their more aggressive relatives. But the changes did not just affect their looks. Changes also happened to their psychology. These protodogs evolved the ability to read human gestures.

As dog owners, we take for granted that we can point to a ball or toy and our dog will bound off to get it. But the ability of dogs to read human gestures is remarkable. Even our closest relatives-chimpanzees and bonobos-can't read our gestures as readily as dogs can. Dogs are remarkably similar to human infants in the way they pay attention to us. This ability accounts for the extraordinary communication we have with our dogs. Some dogs are so attuned to their owners that they can read a gesture as subtle as a change in eye direction.

With this new ability, these protodogs were worth knowing. People who had dogs during a hunt would likely have had an advantage over those who didn't. Even today, tribes in Nicaragua depend on dogs to detect prey. Moose hunters in alpine regions bring home 56 percent more prey when they are accompanied by dogs. In the Congo, hunters believe they would starve without their dogs.

Dogs would also have served as a warning system, barking at hostile strangers from neighboring tribes. They could have defended their humans from predators.

And finally, though this is not a pleasant thought, when times were tough, dogs could have served as an emergency food supply. Thousands of years before refrigeration and with no crops to store, hunter-gatherers had no food reserves until the domestication of dogs. In tough times, dogs that were the least efficient hunters might have been sacrificed to save the group or the best hunting dogs. Once humans realized the usefulness of keeping dogs as an emergency food supply, it was not a huge jump to realize plants could be used in a similar way.

So, far from a benign human adopting a wolf puppy, it is more likely that a population of wolves adopted us. As the advantages of dog ownership became clear, we were as strongly affected by our relationship with them as they have been by their relationship with us. Dogs may even have been the catalyst for our civilization.

Dr. Brian Hare is the director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center and Vanessa Woods is a research scientist at Duke University. This essay is adapted from their new book, The Genius of Dogs, published by Dutton. To play science-based games to find the genius in your dog, visit www.dognition.com.


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Rescuers Search for Man as Fla. Sinkhole Grows












Rescuers early Saturday morning returned to the site where a sinkhole swallowed a Florida man in his bedroom after the home's foundation collapsed.


Jeff Bush was in his bedroom when a sinkhole opened up and trapped him underneath his home at 11 p.m. Thursday night.


While the sinkhole was initially estimated to be 15 feet deep on Thursday night, the chasm has continued to grow. Officials now estimate it measures 30 feet across and up to 100 feet deep.


MORE: How Sinkholes Can Develop


Rescue operations were halted Friday night after it became too dangerous to approach the home.


Bill Bracken, an engineer with Hillsborough County Urban Search and Rescue team said that the house "should have collapsed by now, so it's amazing that it hasn't."


RELATED: Florida Man Swallowed by Sinkhole: Conditions Too Unstable to Approach








Florida Man Believed Dead After Falling into Sinkhole Watch Video









Florida Sinkhole Swallows House, Man Trapped Inside Watch Video









Sinkhole Victim's Brother: 'I Know in My Heart He's Dead' Watch Video





Using ground penetrating radar, rescuers have found a large amount of water beneath the house, making conditions even more dangerous for them to continue the search for Bush.


"I'm being told it's seriously unstable, so that's the dilemma," said Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrell. "A dilemma that is very painful to them and for everyone."


Hillsborough County lies in what is known as Florida's "Sinkhole Alley." Over 500 sinkholes have been reported in the area since 1954, according to the state's environmental agency.


The Tampa-area home was condemned, leaving Bush's family unable to go back inside to gather their belongings. As a result, the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue set up a relief fund for Bush's family in light of the tragedy.


Officials evacuated the two houses adjacent to Bush's and are considering further evacuations, the Associated Press reported.


Meanwhile, Bush's brother, Jeremy Bush, is still reeling from Thursday night.


Jeremy Bush had to be rescued by a first responder after jumping into the hole in an attempt to rescue his brother when the home's concrete floor collapsed, but said he couldn't find him.


"I just started digging and started digging and started digging, and the cops showed up and pulled me out of the hole and told me the floor's still falling in," he said.


"These are everyday working people, they're good people," said Deputy Douglas Duvall of the Hillsborough County sheriff's office, "And this was so unexpected, and they're still, you know, probably facing the reality that this is happening."



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Golf: McIlroy pulls out of PGA event with toothache






PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida: World No. 1 and defending champion Rory McIlroy withdrew from the US PGA Honda Classic during his second round on Friday, saying he was struggling due to pain from a sore wisdom tooth.

McIlroy struggled through the back nine on Friday, his opening nine holes of the round, and hit his approach at the 18th into water. He then walked off the course and quickly departed the grounds with his coach and caddie.

"I sincerely apologise to The Honda Classic and PGA Tour for my sudden withdrawal," McIlroy said. "I have been suffering with a sore wisdom tooth, which is due to come out in the near future."

It was the first time in his career that McIlroy withdrew from a tournament and it comes as the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland struggles to find his form after switching to Nike equipment for this season.

McIlroy is a 6-1 co-favorite with 14-time major champion Tiger Woods in next month's Masters, but the tooth issue could dim his bid to add to a major haul that includes the 2011 US Open and 2012 PGA Championship.

"It began bothering me again last night," said McIlroy. "It was very painful again this morning, and I was simply unable to concentrate. It was really bothering me and had begun to affect my playing partners."

McIlroy gave no hint as to how the injury might impact his plans for playing in the weeks leading up to the year's first major tournament at Augusta National.

He had plans to play next week in a World Golf Championships event at nearby Doral and the Houston Open in the week before the Masters.

Especially gutting for McIlroy was the fact the pain flared as he was trying to defend the title he won a year ago to put himself atop the world rankings for the first time in his career.

"I came here with every intention of defending my Honda Classic title," said McIlroy. "Even though my results haven't revealed it, I really felt like I was rounding a corner. This is one of my favorite tournaments of the year and I regret having to make the decision to withdraw, but it was one I had to make."

McIlroy endured a horror-show start on Friday alongside South Africa's Ernie Els, the reigning British Open champion, and American Mark Wilson.

At the par-4 11th, he nearly put his approach into the water, then chipped across the green on his way to a double bogey.

On the par-4 13th, McIlroy went way to the right off the tee and missed a six-foot par putt.

After a pair of pars, he put his tee shot into the water at the par-4 16th, then took a drop and put his third shot into the water as well on the way to a triple bogey.

At the par-3 17th, the Northern Irishman three-putted from 42 feet for bogey to stand seven-over par for the round through eight holes.

McIlroy, who missed the cut in his first 2013 start at Abu Dhabi and lost in the first round of the WGC Match Play Championship last week, opened with a par-70 on Thursday but admitted he was still working on his timing and adjusting to his new clubs.

"It's hard to commit to the shot that you need to play every time," McIlroy said Thursday. "I felt like I hit the ball OK, not as good as I can, but it's getting there."

-AFP/ac



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Latest autopsy reveals no new details in lottery winner's death

The body of poisoned lottery winner, Urooj Khan, is exhumed at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. (John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune)









Cook County Chief Medical Examiner Stephen J. Cina said today that the exhumation and autopsy of Urooj Khan’s body revealed nothing new to help Chicago police in the investigation of the million-dollar lottery winner’s cyanide poisoning death last summer.


At a press conference at the medical examiner’s West Side office, Cina said the body was badly decomposed and the autopsy could not confirm how the cyanide entered his body.


Cina said no cyanide was detectable in Khan’s body tissues or in the “small amount” of contents in the stomach because of the advanced decomposition.








"Cyanide has a short half-life and may be lost over the postmortem period unless tissues are adequately preserved," he said. "In this case, due to advance putrefaction of the tissues, no cyanide was detectable in the tissues or small amounts of gastric content recovered following exhumation of the body."


The medical examiner said pathologists could not tell what Khan had last eaten, saying there was only “residue” left in the stomach.


"I can't say whether it (cyanide) was ingested or not," Cina said.


The autopsy did reveal 75 percent blockage in one of Khan’s coronary arteries, but the medical examiner still ruled that Khan died of cyanide toxicity -- with heart disease as a "contributing factor." The manner of death was homicide, he said.


"Since cyanide affects oxygen utilization in the tissues, it follows logically that a natural disease process that already limits blood flow to the heart could render an individual particularly susceptible to death due to this toxin," Cina said.


Cina said he was limited in what he could tell reporters because of the "ongoing police investigation."

When a reporter asked if Khan could have died of a heart attack, Cina said, "As a pathologist you have to look at the totality of the evidence. And I don't see how I can ignore a lethal level of cyanide in the blood."

Authorities hoped to shed light on the mystery after unearthing Khan’s body at a Far North Side cemetery on Jan. 18 and performing an autopsy on the remains that same day.

After the approximately two-hour autopsy, Cina said the body was in an advanced state of decomposition but that doctors were able to gather samples for toxicological testing. The body was reburied three days later at Rosehill Cemetery.

As the Tribune first revealed earlier in January, the medical examiner's office initially ruled that Khan, 46, died July 20 from hardening of the arteries after no signs of trauma were found on the body and a preliminary blood test didn't raise any questions. But the investigation was reopened about a week later after Khan’s brother, ImTiaz, raised concerns that Khan may have been poisoned.

In an interview last month with the Tribune, Imtiaz Khan said he was visiting his brother’s grave site about a week after his death with the medical examiner’s office returned his call.

"I said, 'No, my brother cannot die like this. He was so healthy. I have suspicions about this. It cannot be natural. Please go and look into more details about it,' " Khan said. "I'm looking at the grave. I said, 'He should not be here. Absolutely not. He cannot die like that.' "

Chicago police were notified in September after tests showed cyanide in Khan’s blood. By late November, more comprehensive tests showed lethal levels of the toxic chemical, leading the medical examiner's office to declare his death a homicide.

Khan had won the scratch-off lottery prize a few weeks before his death, but he didn't survive long enough to collect the winnings -- a lump-sum payment of about $425,000 after taxes.

At the time of the autopsy in January, Cina said Khan had been buried in a wood box with a plastic foam covering wrapped in a shroud. The box sat in a concrete vault.

Following Muslim tradition, Khan’s body was not embalmed, contributing to its decomposition, Cina said. Still, the medical examiner's team was able to take samples from major organs during the autopsy for toxicological analysis, he said.

"Generally, embalming preserves tissues better. It makes it easier to see things," Cina said. "However ... additives in the embalming fluid can confuse some of the toxicological analysis."

The team also recovered contents in Khan’s stomach, according to Cina. That could be helpful to determine whether cyanide had been in his food. Hair and fingernail samples also were gathered for testing, he said.

Authorities also collected a sample of the dirt surrounding the vault, because tiny organisms living in the soil can produce cyanide at low levels. Cina wanted to test it in case questions arose about whether the dirt could influence the laboratory findings on Khan’s body.

Cina's team did not smell cyanide during Friday's autopsy, but the medical examiner said that it likely wouldn't be possible to detect the bitter-almond scent of the chemical because of the decomposition.

In court papers, Cina said it was necessary to perform a full autopsy to "further confirm the results of the blood analysis as well as to rule out any other natural causes that might have contributed to or caused Mr. Khan’s death."

Khan’s widow, Shabana Ansari, who has hired a criminal defense lawyer, told the Tribune in January that she had been questioned for more than four hours by detectives and answered all their questions. She said the detectives had asked her about the ingredients she used to prepare the final meal that her husband ate.

The Tribune also has reported that Ansari's father, Fareedun, who also lives in the family home, had owed more than $120,000 in back taxes, leading the Internal Revenue Service to place liens on Khan’s West Rogers Park residence.

According to court records obtained by the Tribune, Imtiaz Khan has squabbled with Shabana Ansari over the lottery winnings in probate court. The brother raised concern that because Khan left no will, Khan’s daughter from a previous marriage, Jasmeen, 17, would not get "her fair share" of her father's estate. The couple did not have any children together.

An attorney for Ansari in the probate case said the money was all accounted for and the estate was in the process of being divided up by the court. Under state law, the estate typically would be split evenly between the spouse and Khan’s only child, he said.

Fareedun and Shabana Ansari have denied involvement in Khan’s death and neither has been accused of a crime.

But last month, Ansari’s lawyer contended that weeks before his death, Khan had inked a deal with a business partner to ensure that his share of several dry cleaning stores went to his wife in the event of his death.

The business contract means that Ansari owns half the dry cleaning operation and its real estate, valued at more than $1 million, instead of those assets being divided among heirs in probate court, according to Ansari's lawyer, Al-Haroon Husain. The lawyer acknowledged he expects the dispute over the assets to be fought in court.

"It's a bit unusual," Husain said of the contract. "I just think he wanted to make sure his wife had a business and had attachment to the commercial property if something happened to him." Although a motive has not been determined, police have not ruled out that Khan was killed because of his lottery win, a law enforcement source has told the Tribune. 

In addition, a real estate agreement Khan signed with his wife in 2007 entitles her to sole ownership of their West Rogers Park home, which is valued at almost half a million dollars, Husain said.

Kahn’s sister, Meraj Khan, told the Tribune her suspicions of Ansari's motives intensified after learning of the business agreement.

"Things are getting more clear about why my brother is gone," the sister said. "Out of nowhere she's the beneficiary for ... the business?"


jmeisner@tribune.com





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Stinkbug Threat Has Farmers Worried


Part of our weekly "In Focus" series—stepping back, looking closer.

Maryland farmer Nathan Milburn recalls his first encounter.

It was before dawn one morning in summer 2010, and he was at a gas station near his farm, fueling up for the day. Glancing at the light above the pump, something caught his eye.

"Thousands of something," Milburn remembers.

Though he'd never actually seen a brown marmorated stinkbug, Milburn knew exactly what he was looking at. He'd heard the stories.

This was a swarm of them—the invasive bugs from Asia that had been devouring local crops.

"My heart sank to my stomach," Milburn says.

Nearly three years later, the Asian stinkbug, commonly called the brown marmorated stinkbug, has become a serious threat to many mid-Atlantic farmers' livelihoods.

The bugs have also become a nuisance to many Americans who simply have warm homes—favored retreats of the bugs during cold months, when they go into a dormant state known as overwintering.

The worst summer for the bugs so far in the U.S. was 2010, but 2013 could be shaping up to be another bad year. Scientists estimate that 60 percent more stinkbugs are hunkered down indoors and in the natural landscape now than they were at this time last year in the mid-Atlantic region.

Once temperatures begin to rise, they'll head outside in search of mates and food. This is what farmers are dreading, as the Asian stinkbug is notorious for gorging on more than a half dozen North American crops, from peaches to peppers.

Intruder Alert

The first stinkbugs probably arrived in the U.S. by hitching a ride with a shipment of imported products from Asia in the late 1990s. Not long after that, they were spotted in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Since then, they've been identified in 39 other states. Effective monitoring tools are being developed to help researchers detect regional patterns.

There are two main reasons to fear this invader, whose popular name comes from the pungent odor it releases when squashed. It can be distinguished from the native stinkbug by white stripes on its antennae and a mottled appearance on its abdomen. (The native stinkbug can also cause damage but its population number is too low for it to have a significant impact.)

For one thing, Asian stinkbugs have an insatiable appetite for fruits and vegetables, latching onto them with a needlelike probe before breaking down their flesh and sucking out juice until all that's left is a mangled mess.

Peaches, apples, peppers, soybeans, tomatoes, and grapes are among their favorite crops, said Tracy Leskey, a research entomologist leading a USDA-funded team dedicated to stinkbug management. She adds that in 2010, the insects caused $37 million in damage just to apple crops in the mid-Atlantic region.

Another fear factor: Although the stinkbug has some natural predators in the U.S., those predators can't keep up with the size of the stinkbug population, giving it the almost completely unchecked freedom to eat, reproduce, and flourish.

Almost completely unchecked. Leskey and her team have found that stinkbugs are attracted to blue, black, and white light, and to certain pheromones. Pheromone lures have been used with some success in stinkbug traps, but the method hasn't yet been evaluated for catching the bugs in large numbers.

So Milburn—who is on the stakeholders' advisory panel of Leskey's USDA-funded team—and other farmers have had to resort to using some chemical agents to protect against stinkbug sabotage.

It's a solution that Milburn isn't happy about. "We have to be careful—this is people's food. My family eats our apples, too," he says. "We have to engage and defeat with an environmentally safe and economically feasible solution."

Damage Control

Research Entomologist Kim Hoelmer agrees but knows that foregoing pesticides in the face of the stinkbug threat is easier said than done.

Hoelmer works on the USDA stinkbug management team's biological control program. For the past eight years, he's been monitoring the spread of the brown marmorated stinkbug with an eye toward containing it.

"We first looked to see if native natural enemies were going to provide sufficient levels of control," he says. "Once we decided that wasn't going to happen, we began to evaluate Asian natural enemies to help out."

Enter Trissolcus, a tiny, parasitic wasp from Asia that thrives on destroying brown marmorated stinkbugs and in its natural habitat has kept them from becoming the extreme pests they are in the U.S.

When a female wasp happens upon a cluster of stinkbug eggs, she will lay her own eggs inside them. As the larval wasp develops, it feeds on its host—the stinkbug egg—until there's nothing left. Most insects have natural enemies that prey upon or parasitize them in this way, said Hoelmer, calling it "part of the balance of nature."

In a quarantine lab in Newark, Delaware, Hoelmer has been evaluating the pros and cons of allowing Trissolcus out into the open in the U.S. It's certainly a cost-effective approach.

"Once introduced, the wasps will spread and reproduce all by themselves without the need to continually reintroduce them," he says.

And these wasps will not hurt humans. "Entomologists already know from extensive research worldwide that Trissolcus wasps only attack and develop in stinkbug eggs," Hoelmer says. "There is no possibility of them biting or stinging animals or humans or feeding on plants or otherwise becoming a pest themselves."

But there is a potential downside: the chance the wasp could go after one or more of North America's native stinkbugs and other insects.

"We do not want to cause harm to nontarget species," Hoelmer says. "That's why the host range of the Asian Trissolcus is being studied in the Newark laboratory before a request is made to release it."

Ultimately, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will decide whether or not to introduce the wasp. If it does, the new natural enemy could be let loose as early as next year.

Do you have stinkbugs in your area? Have they invaded your home this winter? Or your garden last summer? How do you combat them? Share your sightings and stories in the comments.


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Obama, Congress Fail to Avert Sequester Cuts












President Obama and congressional leaders today failed to reach a breakthrough to avert a sweeping package of automatic spending cuts, setting into motion $85 billion of across-the-board belt-tightening that neither had wanted to see.


Obama met for just over an hour at the White House today with Republican leaders House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic allies, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Vice President Joe Biden.


But the parties emerged from their first face-to-face meeting of the year resigned to see the cuts take hold.


"This is not a win for anybody," Obama lamented in a statement to reporters after the meeting. "This is a loss for the American people."


READ MORE: 6 Questions (and Answers) About the Sequester


Officials have said the spending reductions immediately take effect Saturday but that the pain from reduced government services and furloughs of tens of thousands of federal employees would be felt gradually in the weeks ahead.


Federal agencies, from Homeland Security to the Pentagon, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Education, have all prepared to notify employees that they will have to take one unpaid day-off per week through the end of the year.








Obama Warns of Sequester Cuts: 'Pain Will Be Real' Watch Video









Sequestration Deadline: Obama Meets With Leaders Watch Video







The staffing trims could slow many government services, including airport screenings, air traffic control, and law enforcement investigations and prosecutions. Spending on education programs and health services for low-income families will also get clipped.


"It is absolutely true that this is not going to precipitate the crisis" that would have been caused by the so-called fiscal cliff, Obama said. "But people are going to be hurt. The economy will not grow as quickly as it would have. Unemployment will not go down as quickly as it would have. And there are lives behind that. And it's real."


The sticking point in the debate over the automatic cuts -- known as sequester -- has remained the same between the parties for more than a year since the cuts were first proposed: whether to include more new tax revenue in a broad deficit reduction plan.


The White House insists there must be higher tax revenue, through elimination of tax loopholes and deductions that benefit wealthier Americans and corporations. Republicans seek an approach of spending cuts only, with an emphasis on entitlement programs. It's a deep divide that both sides have proven unable to bridge.


"This discussion about revenue, in my view, is over," Boehner told reporters after the meeting. "It's about taking on the spending problem here in Washington."


Boehner: No New Taxes to Avert Sequester


Boehner says any elimination of tax loopholes or deductions should be part of a broader tax code overhaul aimed at lowering rates overall, not to offset spending cuts in the sequester.


Obama countered today that he's willing to "take on the problem where it exists, on entitlements, and do some things that my own party doesn't like." But he says Republicans must be willing to eliminate some tax loopholes as part of a deal.


"They refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole to help reduce the deficit," Obama said. "We can and must replace these cuts with a more balanced approach that asks something from everybody."


Can anything more be done by either side to reach a middle ground?


The president today claimed he's done all he can. "I am not a dictator, I'm the president," Obama said.






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