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Feb. 15, 2013 at 7:05 PM   |   Comments

Study: Discarded human drugs affect fish

UMEA, Sweden, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Traces of a common anti-anxiety drug turning up in rivers and streams could be having an effect on fish behavior and breeding, Swedish researchers say.

Researchers at Umea University exposed wild European perch to water with different concentrations of Oxazepam, a common psychiatric medication, The New York Times reported Friday.

The drug can make its way into waterways after being flushed, excreted or discarded, the researchers said.

Fish exposed in the study to dilute concentrations of the drug showed a tendency to be less social, to be more active and to eat faster, the researchers said, all of which could create ecosystem impacts.

Donald Tillitt, a toxicologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, who was not involved in the research said the study is environmentally "relevant."

He said the measures of fish behavior examined in the study "are all important ones that we like to look at when we're trying to see the environmental effects of pharmaceuticals."

"It seems to be a solid study with an environmentally relevant species," he said.


Comet dust seeding life to Jupiter moons?

BOULDER, Colo., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Comet dust may have seeded Jupiter's moons, including Europa and its liquid ocean beneath an icy crust, with the raw ingredients for life, U.S. researchers say.

Asteroids and comets rich in the carbon-containing compounds that are key to life on Earth have been captured by Jupiter's gravity, becoming orbiting moons that frequently collided as they settled into new orbits billions of years ago and created a fine dust of those compounds, they say.

The question is, where has all that dust gone?

Computer models suggest Jupiter should have captured about 70 million gigatons of rocky material but less than half that amount remains as irregular moons orbiting the planet.

William Bottke of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., said the ground-up material would have fallen toward Jupiter, dragged by gravity and blown by the solar wind and almost half of it would have hit Jupiter's largest moons, including Callisto, Ganymede and Europa.

Images from NASA's Galileo spacecraft have shown dark material on Ganymede and Callisto.

"Callisto literally looks like it's buried in dark debris," Bottke told NewScientist.com, noting the surface of Ganymede looks similar.

In comparison, Europa's surface appears relatively clean but cracks in the moon's icy crust suggest material is being cycled from the surface to deeper inside.

Carbon-rich debris settling on Europa may have been incorporated into the ice and made it into the ocean, Bottke said.

"Would it be important in Europa's ocean? It's hard to say," he said. "But it is kind of interesting to think about."


Russia cracks down on fake doctorates

MOSCOW, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Russian academic authorities said Friday they revoked the doctorates of 11 people in a crackdown on an alleged network cranking out fake Ph.D. degrees.

All the doctorate holders stripped of titles by the Higher Attestation Commission had defended their dissertations at the Moscow State Pedagogic University, RIA Novosti reported Friday.

Andrei Andriyanov, 30, a member of the ruling United Russia party who was appointed last March to head an elite Moscow mathematical school, is among those stripped of his doctorate because of plagiarism accusations. Bloggers who questioned his qualifications examined his dissertation and reported numerous violations of doctoral requirements and plagiarism.

A state commission checked a sample of 25 dissertations defended at the Moscow State Pedagogic University from 2007 to 2012, including Andriyanov's, and found violations and plagiarism in 24 of them.

"It looks like a commercial network producing fraudulent ... dissertations in history," said Ivan Kurilla, a historian involved in the blogger check of the dissertations.

Andriyanov has denied the allegations but resigned from the Mathematics school in November.

Friday's decision by the commission has to be approved by the Education and Science Ministry, RIA Novosti said.


Canada ranks high in malware sites

OTTAWA, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Canada is near the top of a list of countries that host websites with malicious software and Canadians are more likely than most to be victims, a report says.

Websense Security Labs, which has headquarters in California, placed Canada 10th on its malware hosting list and eighth on its list of countries whose citizens are likely to be victimized by hacking, Postmedia News reported Thursday.

The findings are evidence governments around the world should consider enacting laws requiring website hosting companies to root out malware, the Websense report said.

"There are no legal requirements to do so, as far as I know, anywhere in the world," Patrick Runald, security research director at Websense, said. "If you're Bell Canada ... that might be difficult to do but I'm confident there are ways to do it. That would be a great step if hosting providers actively looked for that malicious content."

Canada ranks high for hosting malware because it is a trusted source for Internet traffic, Websense said.

Data are increasingly at risk from malware because so much of it carried on laptops, mobile devices and cloud computers, Runald said.

"The way you protect yourself has to change from the big wall around your perimeter to protecting the data," he said. "You rely on that wall to keep the attackers out. The problem in this world is that the data isn't always where we think it is."

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