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Jan. 25, 2013 at 7:00 PM
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Origin of HIV put at millions of years ago

SEATTLE, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The origins of HIV, which causes AIDS, go back millions of years rather than the tens of thousands that had previously been believed, U.S. researchers say.

Writing in the journal PLoS Pathogens, scientists from the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle report a virus with characteristics similar to the human immunodeficiency virus arose in African monkeys and apes 5 million to 12 million years ago.

While HIV emerged in humans in the 20th Century when an HIV-like virus jumped from chimps to humans, scientists had long understood similar viruses existed in monkeys and apes much earlier.

Earlier genetic studies had suggested these related viruses arose tens of thousands of years ago, but there had been suspicions that time frame was underestimated.

The new study of the genetic signatures of HIV-like viruses in a number of primates, including chimps, gorillas, orangutans and macaques, found changes in genes that have evolved in their immune systems suggest the viruses arose 5 million to 16 million years ago.

The findings could lead to a better understanding of HIV and AIDS, researchers in the field said.

"This kind of research helps us understand how the virus works," Sam Wilson of the University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research told the BBC.

"The hope is that one day this will translate into therapy."

French court rules on hate tweets

PARIS, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- A French court says Twitter must identify the posters of racist and anti-Semitic tweets by alerting French authorities to "illegal content" on its French site.

The French-language twittersphere has seen a rash of racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic tweets for months and, while Twitter agreed to remove some offensive postings, the company resisted calls to release identifying information on the posters.

A French advocacy group, the Union of Jewish Students, took Twitter to court in attempt to force the issue.

"We're not able to identify the individuals, only Twitter can do so," Sacha Reingewirtz, the vice president of the student group, said.

On Thursday, the Grand Instance Court in Paris ordered Twitter to identify the authors of anti-Semitic tweets by creating a mechanism to alert French authorities of such postings "in a visible and easily-accessible [way]," CNN reported.

If Twitter doesn't comply within two weeks, the court said, the company would face fines of $1,336 per day.

NASA science balloon sets flight record

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- NASA says a balloon launched in Antarctica and carrying a scientific experiment has broken the record for longest flight by a balloon of its size.

The balloon carrying the Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder (Super-TIGER) experiment has been aloft for 46 days and is on its third orbit around the South Pole, the space agency reported Thursday.

"This is an outstanding achievement for NASA's Astrophysics balloon team," said John Grunsfeld of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Keeping these huge balloons aloft for such long periods lets us do forefront science that would be difficult to do otherwise."

The Super-TIGER instrument is measuring rare heavy elements among the high-energy cosmic rays bombarding the Earth from elsewhere in our Milky Way galaxy.

The 39-million cubic foot scientific balloon launched Dec. 8 from the long duration balloon site near McMurdo Station, Antarctica, took its scientific payload to an altitude of 127,000 feet, more than four times the altitude of most commercial airliners, scientists said.

The McMurdo launch site takes advantage of the stratospheric anti-cyclonic wind pattern circulating from east to west around the South Pole.

The Super-TIGER science team said it plans to keep the balloon flying for eight to 10 more days to allow a close approach to McMurdo Station before terminating the flight and recovering the experiment.

Dutch firm envisions iPhone cup holder

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- A Dutch marketing company says it's seeking funding for the ultimate iPhone accessory -- a phone case complete with cup holder.

Natwerk says deciding between texting on the phone or drinking coffee causes people to either spill their drinks or drop their devices, but claims it has the answer: an iPhone case with a cup holder.

The company has posted images and a video of its Uppercup concept on Indiegogo, a crowdsourcing site for project funding, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

The case features a slide-out cup holder where users can park their morning caffeine hit, freeing both hands for texting or playing video games, Natwerk said.

"Drink freely while you tap without spilling coffee on your lap," a musical jingle in the posted video says. "Finally what we've been waiting for, the Uppercup will change your world and more."

Natwerk, based in Amsterdam, said it is seeking to raise $25,000 for the gadget and plans to begin delivering Uppercups in April.

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