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Extinct woolly mammoth to be cloned

SEOUL, March 13 (UPI) -- A South Korean research laboratory says it plans to work with a Russian university to clone a woolly mammoth, a species extinct for 4,500 years.

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The Sooam Biotech Research Foundation has signed a research agreement with Russia's North-Eastern Federal University to clone the creature from frozen remains found in Siberia, Fox News reported Tuesday.

The researchers said they would replace the nuclei of egg cells from a modern Indian elephant with those taken from the mammoth's cells, which could produce embryos with mammoth DNA.

If successful, the embryos would be implanted into the elephant for a 22-month pregnancy intended to produce a live mammoth, they said.

The leader of the Sooam lab, Hwang Woo-suk, is a deeply controversial figure in South Korean science, gaining fame in 2004 when he claimed to have created human stem cells from a cloned embryo.

Accused of violating medical ethics by using eggs from his own researchers and falsifying data, he was given a two-year suspended sentence for misuse of research funds and ethical lapses, Fox News reported.


Groups lists 'enemies of the Internet'

PARIS, March 13 (UPI) -- Reporters Without Borders says it has added Bahrain and Belarus to 10 other nations to its annual list of "enemies of the Internet."

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The two nations have been moved onto the press freedom advocacy group's list of countries that restrict Internet access, filter content and imprison bloggers, the BBC reported Tuesday.

India and Kazakhstan have also joined a list of "countries under surveillance" because of concerns that they are becoming more repressive, the French-based group said.

It said 2011 was the "deadliest year" yet for netizens, noting at least 199 arrests of Internet campaigners were recorded over the year, an increase of 31 percent compared with 2010.

China, followed by Vietnam and Iran, currently hold the largest number of netizens in jail, it said.

Bahrain was added to the list after the death of Zakariya Rashid Hassan, a Web forum moderator charged with disseminating false news and calling for the overthrow of his country's government before he died six days after being arrested in April 2010, Reporters Without Borders said.

In Belarus, the group said, President Alexander Lukashenko's government has increased the number of blocked Web sites and arrested some bloggers while inviting others to "preventative conversations" with the police during which they are pressured not to cover protests.

The countries currently on the group's "enemies of the Internet" list are Bahrain, Belarus, Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

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'See Me' satellites may help ground forces

WASHINGTON, March 13 (UPI) -- The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says it will research a system to let soldiers overseas access near-live satellite images of their location.

Current satellites cannot provide such information as they are in the wrong orbits and are difficult for troops on the ground to access, experts said.

DARPA's SeeMe program (Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements) would create a swarm of inexpensive disposable satellites to allow soldiers on the ground to hit a "see me" button on a hand-held device such as a smartphone or tablet and receive a satellite image back in less than 90 minutes, NewScientist.com reported Tuesday.

The system would use two dozen small satellites at a cost of $500,000 each that would be in a very low-Earth orbit, covering a band of the planet every 90 minutes and lasting two or three months before burning up on re-entry.

The idea behind the satellites' medium-term lifespan and range is to fill a gap between traditional high-orbit imaging satellites and UAVs, unmanned reconnaissance drones, researchers said.

"SeeMe is a logical adjunct to UAV technology, which will continue to provide local or regional very high-resolution coverage, but which can't cover extended areas without frequent refueling," DARPA program manager Dave Barnhart said.

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Lost da Vinci painting may have been found

SAN DIEGO, March 13 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they may be closing in on a solution to a centuries-old puzzle in the world of art: the fate of a lost masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci.

University of California, San Diego, researchers said samples taken from a stone wall hidden behind a fresco in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy, appear to contain a black pigment similar to the one Leonardo used on his masterpiece "Mona Lisa," while other samples contained a red lacquer-like substance and a beige material apparently applied with brush strokes, both consistent with the presence of a painting concealed behind the fresco.

The missing da Vinci masterpiece, "The Battle of Anghiari," might have been intentionally spared by fellow artist Giorgio Vasari when Vasari later decorated the palazzo with his own frescoes, the researchers said.

Maurizio Seracini, the UC San Diego researcher who has led the search for the Leonardo for three decades, called the findings "very encouraging."

"The evidence does suggest we are searching in the right place," Seracini told the Los Angeles Times.

In the early 1500s, Leonardo was commissioned to decorate the palazzo hall with scenes of Florentine military victories, but he abandoned his partially completed painting when his experimental technique -- oil painted on a base of plaster mixed with wax or linseed oil -- failed as the plaster began to separate from the wall.

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Seracini's search stirred controversy last fall when Italian conservation authorities allowed his team of researchers to drill holes through Vasari's fresco to insert tiny probes into the wall in areas where Vasari's original paint was already missing.

Hundreds of leading art historians from Europe and the United States denounced Seracini's work, saying he was destroying a known masterpiece in a problematic quest to find a missing one.

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