Wisconsin abortion law ruled unconstitutional in federal court

A Wisconsin law that requires abortion providers to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court panel ruled Monday. See also: Supreme Court to hear first abortion case since 2007 The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel's 2-1 decision doesn't put the question to rest. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed earlier this month to hear a challenge to a similar Texas law in a case that could settle the issue nationally. The Wisconsin case centers on a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 Republican-backed law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion. The law's supporters counter it ensures continuity of care if a woman developed complications from an abortion and needed to be hospitalized. But the lawsuit said the statute would force AMS's clinic in Milwaukee to close because its doctors couldn't get admitting privileges. That in turn would lead to longer waits at Planned Parenthood clinics. Therefore, the lawsuit maintained, the law amounts to an illegal restriction on abortions. U.S. District Judge William Conley sided with the abortion providers in March, saying the law served no legitimate health interest. The Wisconsin Department of Justice later appealed to the 7th Circuit. Writing for the 7th Circuit majority, Judge Richard Posner called the contention that the law would protect women's health "nonexistent." He said the law would put more women in danger by increasing the waiting times for abortions, which could push some procedures into the second trimester. "What makes no sense is to abridge the constitutional right to abortion on the basis of spurious contentions regarding women's health — and the abridgement challenged in this case would actually endanger women's health," he wrote. He also said that a woman who experiences complications from an abortion will go to the nearest hospital, which will treat her regardless of whether her abortion doctor has admitting privileges there. The judge noted that the law required providers to obtain privileges within two days of Gov. Scott Walker signing it, even though the process typically takes months. "The legislature's intention to impose the two-day deadline ... is difficult to explain save as a method of preventing abortions that women have a constitutional right to obtain," Posner wrote. Judge David Manion was the lone dissenter, saying the law protects women's health and doesn't amount to an undue constitutional burden. "The solution to the plaintiffs' problems is that they find more qualified doctors, not that the state relax — or that we strike down as unconstitutional — precautions taken by the state to protect the health and safety of pregnant women who have chosen to end their pregnancies," Manion wrote. Eleven states have imposed similar admitting privilege requirements on abortion providers; courts have blocked the requirements in six states, including Wisconsin, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin issued a statement praising the 7th Circuit decision. The group's CEO, Teri Huyck, said the law was intended "to put obstacles in the path of women seeking safe, legal abortion care in Wisconsin." The Wisconsin Department of Justice, run by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, defended the law. Agency spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said in an email the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide the issue. Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments. Read more

Scientists on quest for friction-free oil

Scientists from BP are applying molecular science in their laboratories to make the perfect oil blend to reduce engine friction and increase efficiency.According to the company, friction caused by various metal-to-metal contact points is a major problem for car engines; costing the UK economy an estimated 24 billion pounds (36.2 billion USD) each year through lost efficiency and damage through wear and tear. The only barrier between the high-force contacts of engine surfaces is a thin layer of lubricant, but they are coming under increasing pressure from modern engines.At BP's facility in Berkshire, west of London, scientists and engineers are working to create lubricants that operate inside the latest motor engines, while improving the performance and efficiency of vehicles already on the market. "Engine oil is like the blood of the engine. It touches every part of the engine, it has many jobs to do and it has to keep that engine running efficiently by keeping things clean, keeping metal surfaces apart and reducing friction," explained development technologist, Simon Gurney, at BP's Technology Centre. The pressure inside modern engines also increases the need for effective fuels and lubricants. The Bugatti Veyron supercar, for example, had an engine pressure of 18 bar when it launched in 2005. Today a standard Ford Fiesta can run a similar pressure.Gurney said the increasing brake mean effective pressure (BMEP) -- the pressure within an engine -- has put bigger demands on an oil's performance."In an engine it's full of metal parts; the oil's primary job is to keep those metal parts apart from one another. So it has to be really strong under these high pressure environments. Now, an engine maybe 20 years ago was maybe making 10 bar of pressure, today; 20 bar. So engine pressures have doubled," he said. Using a state-of-the-art scanning electron microscope, the scientists at BP can see the damage caused by friction and fuel breakdown forming deposits on engines at a nano-level. It's their job to experiment with hundreds of thousands of oil compounds that could reduce this effect, according to analytical expert Tom Lynch."Our task is to find that needle in a haystack that makes that big difference in an improvement of the performance of our oil. And so we strive, using these high end analytical pieces of equipment to be able to understand what each molecule does and what its role is in our lubricant. And we try and tune these molecules to be the best at that job," Lynch told Reuters, adding that they use a mass spectrometer to test molecular formulas 24-hours-a-day at temperatures of up to 6000 degrees Celsius. Once they've established a viable formula, the oils are transferred to the BP Blend Shop to be produced on a larger scale that could eventually be replicated around the world."The demands of modern engines and modern hardware mean that the complexity of our formulations is increasing. We have to experiment with various different materials and determine the best blending methods so they can be replicated globally," said Christopher Rolfe, team leader for blending operations. "Once the formulation has been sent over from the laboratory, we would then take that formulation and work out how to blend it. The blending methods here get replicated globally, so the understanding of the hardware and the engines that takes place in the laboratory, is then transferred into real-world applications in the blend shop here," he added.The team concedes that industry moves toward more hybrid engines may present new challenges. But BP says the potential for greater efficiency and CO2 reduction is significant. It's their aim to concoct oil and lubricants that will help today's engines be as environmentally friendly as possible; with the war on friction a key factor in achieving this goal. Read more

Covering terror in the city I love

PARIS—The first thing I saw when I arrived in Paris to cover the aftermath of the shooting at Charlie Hebdo magazine was a gathering at Place de la Republique — a mass of people holding pens in the air during that cold January night. See also: Those we lost: The victims of the Paris attacks It was moving, this vigil for the murdered cartoonists in the shadow of the statue of Marianne who personifies the French Republic. "Pens against guns" was how one man described it and it kicked off days of marches and remembrances even as the manhunt for the attackers was still underway.Two days later, police killed the three attackers in two separate shootouts. But afterward, what stayed with me wasn't the intense manhunt or the standoff near the kosher supermarket in central Paris but rather the scenes of Parisians trying to make sense of what had happened in their beloved city. Memorial for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack.Image: Tim Chester/MashableThe Muslims I spoke to had one clear message: Not in our name. And a tiny anti-Islam demonstration notwithstanding, people didn't fire up anti-Muslim rhetoric. Everyone seemed to understand that this bloody attack on free speech was committed by extremists. Above all, people were determined to carry on with their lives. Parisians would not forget but they would not be intimidated, either. The night before I left Paris in January, I went for supper at a Cambodian restaurant with Charlotte, the translator who had worked with me, covering the story. She had recommended the place for its excellent noodle soups. The restaurant was called Le Petit Cambodge. Image: Tim Chester/MashableThe next time I saw Le Petit Cambodge was last Saturday. The shutters were drawn. Blood stained the pavement outside the restaurant. Bullets had left a spray of marks across its walls and the windows of a bar opposite had been shattered. People had left bouquets of flowers on the sidewalk.The capital had been struck once more, just ten short months after Charlie Hebdo. And this time, the death toll was even worse. In a series of attacks, 129 people were killed — random members of the public mercilessly massacred in central Paris. Image: Tim Chester/MashableThe joy and conviviality of a normal Friday night had been shattered. French culture –- music, soccer, chatter on a terrace with a glass of wine –- had been specifically singled out. This wasn’t an attack on free speech. It was an attack on people's freedom. Once again the city I love — scene of so many happy weekends — had been bloodied by nihilists who seem to be believe in little else than death and terror.At first, I struck by the city's resilience. "They spill blood, we give blood,” one resident told me as he observed the people outside the hospital opposite Le Petit Cambodge linign give blood that Saturday morning.However, this time around, the city felt different. For one thing, the attack sites were left untouched for days. Shattered glass carpeted a launderette. Blood wasn't washed off the pavement outside a pizzeria. Image: Tim Chester/MashableThe death toll was much higher, and the manhunt for the suspects played out over many more days. Many were still trying to locate missing friends. After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Parisians, tourists and politicians marched in defiance. But this time around, the government had banned public gatherings out of security concerns and so as the rest of the world lit up in the colors of the French tricolore red, white and blue, there was nothing like the massive march after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Instead, Parisians made small gestures. Someone played "Imagine" on the piano, drawing a silent crowd. Flowers filled up on the site of the attacks. Image: Tim Chester/MashableFrench President Francois Hollande spoke of "war" and launched a series of airstrikes in Syria, targeting the Islamic State, which has taken responsibility for the attacks. And the city remained on edge. At Le Défense, my bag was checked multiple times. A false alarm at Place de la Republique sent people scattering. And while I was inside Notre Dame for a memorial mass, in a chilling moment I was warned on my phone that there were gunshots outside. (It was a false alarm.) Image: Tim Chester/MashableEventually things began to return to normal. Paris is a large metropolis and life goes on. Charlie Hebdo published a magazine, showing a man perforated by bullets. Champagne gushes from his wounds. The text on the cover read: "They have weapons. F*** them, we have Champagne!" Someone created the #JeSuisEnTerrasse hashtag to encourage a return to the cafes. And eventually, people did, resuming conversations with friends over glasses of wine and indeed champagne. I joined them Monday for steak frites in a bar playing bad lounge versions of Radiohead. The City of Light was momentarily dimmed but not put out. Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments. Read more

More than half of Amazon tree species seen at risk of extinction

WASHINGTON South America's vast Amazon region harbors one of the world's most diverse collection of tree species, but more than half may be at risk for extinction due to ongoing deforestation to clear land for farming, ranching and other purposes, scientists say.Researchers said on Friday that if recent trends continued, between 36 and 57 percent of the estimated 15,000 Amazonian tree species likely would qualify as threatened with extinction under criteria used by the group that makes such determinations, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.The study covered roughly 2.1 million square miles (5.5 million square km) spanning Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. The researchers analyzed Amazonian forest surveys and data on current and projected deforestation areas."Many of the species that we suggest may be threatened areused by Amazonian residents on a daily basis, and many othersare crucial to Amazonian economies," conservation ecologist Nigel Pitman of the Field Museum in Chicago.These range from wild populations of economically important food crops like the Brazil nut, açaí fruit and heart of palm, to valuable timber species, to several hundred species that Amazonian residents depend upon for fruits, seeds, thatch, medicines, latex and essential oils, Pitman said.The trees also are important in their ecosystems for erosion control and climate moderation, Pitman said. "Scientists have been raising the alarm about Amazonian deforestation for several decades, and projections indicate that forest loss will continue for the foreseeable future," said forest ecologist Hans ter Steege of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands."The good news is that over the last 10 years the rate of forest loss in the Amazon has dropped dramatically."Amazonian forests have been shrinking since the 1950s as people cut and burn areas for farming, ranching and development. Until now, there has been no reliable estimate of how many tree species were threatened with extinction. "Yes, the threats are daunting, but it's important to remember that more than 85 percent of forests in the greater Amazon are still standing," Pitman said.The researchers said Amazon parks, reserves and indigenous territories, if managed well, should be able to protect most of the threatened species. Previous research found Amazon forests already have dwindled by about 12 percent and will decline up to another 28 percent by 2050. The research was published in the journal Science Advances. (Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler) Read more

Brazil anti-trust watchdog to investigate actions against Uber

BRASILIA Brazil's anti-trust watchdog Cade said on Friday it would investigate anti-competitive actions by some cab drivers and taxi groups against ride-sharing software Uber. Some cab companies have used "abusive means to block the entry of Uber in the market" that includes violence against Uber drivers and passengers, the watchdog said in a statement. As long as controversy over the legality of Uber in the country is not resolved, the software should be considered a competitor in the market, the watchdog said. The country's main cities Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are moving to ban the mobile application after a series of protests by taxi drivers and strong lobby by local politicians. President Dilma Rousseff blamed the application for increasing unemployment, calling on local authorities to regulate the service. (Reporting by Alonso Soto; Editing by Bernadette Baum) Read more

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