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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If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.








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Third Malaysian policeman killed in Borneo: report






LAHAD DATU, Malaysia - A Malaysian policeman was killed by "militants" in a region where Filipino followers of a self-claimed sultan are holed up in a deadly standoff with security forces, state media reported Sunday.

The police officer was killed when he was fired upon on Saturday in the Malaysian town of Semporna, 300 kilometres by road from the site of the standoff at Tanduo village on Borneo island where 12 Filipino intruders and two police died in a firefight the day before.

State news agency Bernama also said another officer suffered gunshot wounds.

It quoted police saying the killing was unrelated to the nearly three-week siege involving armed intruders who arrived from the Philippines by boat to press the "sultan's" historical claim to the area.

But the latest shooting raised fears on Malaysian social media sites of a possible spread of violence by suspected sympathisers of the group.

An estimated 100-300 Filipinos have been surrounded in a farming village by a Malaysian police and military cordon since landing by boat from the nearby Philippines to insist the area belongs to their Islamic leader Jamalul Kiram III's.

Kiram, 74, claims to be the heir to the Islamic sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled parts of the southern Philippines and Borneo.

Following Friday's firefight, Malaysian police stepped up threats to clear them out unless they surrendered immediately.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino, who has sharply criticised the intruders, also urged them to surrender unconditionally, but a spokesman for Kiram has said his followers were prepared to die.

The Sulu sultanate's power faded about a century ago but it has continued to receive nominal payments from Malaysia for Sabah under a historical lease arrangement passed down from European colonial powers.

- AFP/ir



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Closing of Wells Street Bridge creates uncertainty for CTA riders









The shutdown of the Wells Street Bridge has the impact of a blocked artery, straining the circulation of much of the CTA rail system.


The lower tier of the 91-year-old bridge was closed to vehicles and pedestrians in November for repairs, and now it's CTA riders' turn.


Even though only Brown Line and Purple Line/Evanston Express trains normally travel across the Wells bridge connecting the Loop elevated structure to tracks north of the Chicago River, service on six of the eight CTA rail lines is being affected by bridge and track work continuing through the week, transit officials said.








Weekday rush hours are expected to pose the biggest challenge to the transit agency and its customers. Brown Line trains will operate much less frequently during most of the day — running every 10 to 12 minutes, officials said. And Evanston Express service is canceled until March 11. Purple Line local service will continue to operate between Howard Street in Chicago and Linden Avenue in Wilmette.


On weekends, Green, Pink and Orange Line trains will terminate their runs at certain stations in the downtown area, officials said. A weekend free shuttle bus will operate to link the Chicago/Franklin, Merchandise Mart, Clark/Lake, Washington/Wells and Clinton/Lake stations, officials said.


Riders are being told to plan for longer, slower commutes starting Monday on trains that will be more crowded than usual. The frequency of trains on the Brown Line is being reduced because of the need to operate more trains than usual on the Red Line tracks, including in the State Street subway, officials said.


"Experience has taught me to become a little nervous any time the CTA changes service," Rick Gordon, 41, a Brown Line rider who commutes between the Western station and the Washington/Wells stop in the Loop, said Friday morning after getting off the train downtown.


Gordon, an investment counselor, said he still plans to ride the Brown Line on Monday. But because he won't be able to ride across the Wells bridge to his normal stop, he will instead take advantage of the free CTA shuttle bus that will operate between the Chicago Avenue station and the Loop "L," stopping at the Merchandise Mart, the Clark/Lake and Washington/Wells stations.


During rush hours, two of every three southbound Brown Line trains will travel through the Red Line subway tunnel, making all stops to the Roosevelt station, officials said. They will then head north through the subway and up to Fullerton Avenue, then will continue making all Brown Line stops to the Kimball Avenue terminal, officials said.


One of every three Brown Line trains will remain on the regular Brown Line route south of Fullerton but will make the last stop at the Merchandise Mart station, near the north end of the Wells bridge.


Extra service will be provided on the Red Line, in part to accommodate heavier passenger loading caused by the suspension of all Purple Line service south of Howard through the week, officials said. Commuters who normally ride the Purple Line/Evanston Express service might consider budgeting up to an extra hour travel time if they will ride the all-stop Red Line to downtown.


Also, the transit agency will introduce free shuttle trains that circle the Loop and alternative bus service to provide options for the thousands of riders affected over the roughly nine-day bridge closing, which began Friday night.


CTA officials predicted that the commutes of many rail customers will be only several minutes to 15 minutes longer than normal travel times during the service interruptions. But in light of the unpredictability of CTA service even under normal cases, allowing extra time would help commuters ensure they arrive at their destinations on time.


"We urge customers to think about their options because this will not be a typical commute for most Brown and Purple Line commuters," CTA spokesman Brian Steele said, adding that delays are likely on other lines too because of expected ridership shifts.


With some commuters taking Monday off for the Casimir Pulaski Day holiday, the first full test of the CTA's alternative service plan will likely be on Tuesday.


The service disruptions will last until completion of the Wells bridge replacement project, upgrades to the busy downtown rail junction at Lake and Wells streets, and track replacement around the curves at Hubbard and Kinzie streets. Regular CTA service resumes in time for the morning rush period on March 11, following the first phase of bridge reconstruction, officials said.


A second closing of the Wells bridge will occur April 26 through May 5, when the $41.2 million overhaul project is scheduled to be completed, the Chicago Department of Transportation said.


The Wells bridge's trusses, steel framing, railings, bridge houses, major structural parts and mechanical and electrical parts are being replaced, but the original 1920s-era appearance of the double-deck bridge will be maintained, CDOT officials said.


Full details on the CTA service changes are available at transitchicago.com/wellsbridge.


jhilkevitch@tribune.com Twitter @jhilkevitch





Read More..

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.


Read More..

US Seeks to Confirm Report of Terror Leader's Death












American military and intelligence officials said today they are attempting to confirm a report from the Chadian military of the death of al Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the alleged mastermind of the deadly attack on an Algerian natural gas facility in January.


If the new report is confirmed, Belmokhtar's death would be a significant victory against a growing al Qaeda threat in northern Africa.


Belmokhtar's killing was announced on Chadian national television by armed forces spokesperson Gen. Zacharia Gobongue, who said Chadian troops "operating in northern Mali completely destroyed a terrorist base."


"The [death] toll included several dead terrorists, including their leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar," he said.


However, an unidentified elected official in Mali told The Associated Press he doubted Belmokhtar had actually been killed and said he suspected the Chadian government of pushing the story to ease the loss of dozens of Chadian troops in operations in northern Africa.






SITE Intel Group/AP Photo











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Belmokhtar is known as Mr. Marlboro because of the millions he made smuggling cigarettes across the Sahara, but in the last few months the one-eyed terrorist leader has become one of the most sought after terrorists in the world. The attack on the plant near In Amenas in eastern Algeria left dozens of Westerns and at least three Americans dead.


Belmokhtar had formed his own al Qaeda splinter group and announced he would use his wealth to finance more attacks against American and Western interests in the region and beyond.


The U.S. has badly wanted Belmokhtar stopped and actively helped in the search by French and African military units to find him, as well as another top al Qaeda leader who was reported killed yesterday.


After the Chadian announcement, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said Belmokhtar's death, if confirmed, "would be a hard blow to the collection of jihadists operating across the region that are targeting American diplomats and energy workers."


Steve Wysocki, a plant worker who survived the attack in In Amenas thanked "military forces from around the world," especially the Chadian military, for bringing "this terrorist to an expedient justice."


"My family and I continue to mourn for our friends and colleagues who didn't make it home and pray for their families," Wysocki told ABC News.


The CIA has been after Belmokhtar since the early 1990s, Royce's statement said.


ABC News' Clayton Sandell contributed to this report.



Read More..

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.




































All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the "Report" link in that comment to report it to us.


If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.








Read More..

US Defence Secretary Hagel scolds budget cuts






WASHINGTON: Major budget cuts will endanger the US military's ability to conduct its missions, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel warned.

His comments came hours before President Barack Obama authorized cuts in domestic and defence spending, following the failure of efforts to clinch a deal with Republicans on cutting the deficit.

Hagel, whose budget at the Pentagon is set to be slashed by roughly $46 billion, said earlier: "Let me make it clear that this uncertainty puts at risk our ability to effectively fulfil all of our missions."

In contrast with his predecessor Leon Panetta, who branded the cuts a "doomsday mechanism" and "fiscal castration," Hagel was more measured two days after taking office as defence secretary.

But he made clear his thoughts on the consequences of the so-called "sequester" on the military.

Defence officials say they will be forced to reduce the working week of 800,000 civilian employees, scale back flight hours of warplanes and postpone some equipment maintenance.

The deployment of a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf has also been cancelled.

The US Navy will gradually stand down several hundred planes starting in April, the Air Force will curtail flying hours and the Army will cut back training for all units except those deploying to Afghanistan.

"This will have a major impact on training and readiness," Hagel said. "Later this month, we intend to issue preliminary notifications to thousands of civilian employees who will be furloughed."

Hagel acknowledged that the budget cuts "will cause pain, particularly among our civilian workforce and their families."

"I'm also concerned, as we all are, about the impact on readiness that these cuts will have across our force," he added.

The Pentagon chief expressed "confidence" that the White House and President Barack Obama's Republican foes in Congress would eventually reach agreement.

But other officials laid bare the consequences.

"If you stop training for a while and you're a combat pilot, then you lose your rating and eventually can't fly at all, because we can't allow you to fly if you can't fly safely," said Ash Carter, Hagel's deputy at the Pentagon.

"You can't, you obviously can't fly proficiently, but you can't even fly safely. Then you have to go back to the long building-back process of getting your readiness back."

Obama was bound by law to initiate the automatic, indiscriminate cuts.

The hit to military and domestic spending, known as the sequester, was never supposed to happen, but was rather a device seen as so punishing that rival lawmakers would be forced to find a better compromise to cut the deficit.

But despite a looming reality that the nation would suffer, Democrats and Republicans remained far from compromise and were never close to agreement.

- AFP/fa



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Still no signs of life after sinkhole swallows Florida man








SEFFNER, Fla.—





A Florida man was missing and feared dead on Friday after a large sinkhole suddenly swallowed the bedroom of his suburban Tampa home, police and fire officials said.

Jeff Bush, 36, was in his room sleeping and the other five members of the household were getting ready for bed on Thursday night when they heard a loud crash and Jeff screaming.

Jeff's brother, 35-year-old Jeremy Bush, jumped into the hole and furiously kept digging to find his brother.

"I feel in my heart he didn't make it," Jeremy told Tampa TV station WFTS. "There were six of us in the house; five got out."

Jeremy himself had to be rescued from the sinkhole by the first responder to the emergency call, Douglas Duvall of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. When Duvall entered Jeff Bush's bedroom, all he saw was a widening chasm but no sign of Jeff.

"The hole took the entire bedroom," said Duvall. "You could see the bedframe, the dresser, everything was sinking," he said.

Norman Wicker, 48, the father of Jeremy's fiancée who also lived in the house, ran to get a flashlight and shovel.

"It sounded like a car ran into the back of the house," Wicker said.

Authorities had not detected any signs of life after lowering listening devices and cameras into the hole and rescue efforts were suspended after the site was deemed too unsafe for emergency personnel to enter.

"There is a very large, very fluid mass underneath this house rendering the entire house and the entire lot dangerous and unsafe," Bill Bracken, the head of an engineering company assisting fire and rescue officials, told the news conference late on Friday.

"We are still trying to determine the extent and nature of what's down there so we can best determine how to approach it and how to extricate," Bracken said.

Several nearby homes were evacuated in case the 30-foot wide sinkhole got larger but officials said it only appeared to be getting deeper.

The Bush brothers worked together as landscapers, according to Leland Wicker, 48, one of the other residents of the house.

The risk of sinkholes is common in Florida due to the state's porous geological bedrock, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. As rainwater filters down into the ground, it dissolves the rock causing erosion that can lead to underground caverns, which cause sinkholes when they collapse.

Florida suffered one of its worst sinkhole accidents in 1994 when a 15-story-deep chasm opened up east of Tampa at a phosphate mine. It created a hole 185 feet deep and as much as 160 feet wide. Locals dubbed it Disney World's newest attraction - 'Journey to the Center of the Earth.'

In 1981 in Winter Park near Orlando, a sinkhole was measured as 320 feet wide and 90 feet deep, swallowing a two-story house, part of a Porsche dealership, and an Olympic-size swimming pool. The site is now an artificial lake in the city.

"Mortgage companies are more and more requiring Florida home buyers to have sinkhole coverage on their homeowners insurance policy," said K.C. Williams, a Tampa sinkhole and property damage claims lawyer who lives 2 miles away from the damaged home.


Reuters






Read More..

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."


Read More..

Obama Signs Order to Begin 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.


President Obama officially initiated the cuts with an order to agencies Friday evening.


He had met for just over an hour at the White House Friday morning 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 at midnight.


"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.








Sequestration Deadline: Obama Meets With Leaders Watch Video











Sequester Countdown: The Reality of Budget Cuts Watch Video





Federal agencies, including Homeland Security, 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.


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.






Read More..