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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Bangladesh deploys troops as protest toll mounts






DHAKA: Bangladesh deployed troops in the north of the country on Sunday as six more people were killed in fresh clashes over the conviction of Islamist leaders for war crimes in the Muslim-majority nation.

The army was deployed in violence-wracked Shahjahanpur town after more than 5,000 stick-wielding protesters attacked two police stations, forcing police to open fire, they said.

"At least four people were killed in clashes after Jamaat-e-Islami supporters attacked us. The toll could rise," Shahjahanpur district's deputy police chief Moqbul Ahmed told AFP, adding that troops had been deployed to boost security.

Two other people were also killed on Saturday night, including a ruling party student activist who was allegedly hacked to death by suspected Jamaat supporters, police said.

An inter-city train was torched late Saturday in the northwest but there were no casualties, police said.

The death toll in the clashes over the war crimes verdicts has risen to 62 since January 21, including 46 killed in the past four days after Jamaat's vice president was sentenced to death, police said.

Delwar Hossain Sayedee was on Thursday found guilty of murder, religious persecution and rape during the 1971 independence war, triggering violent clashes between rampaging Jamaat supporters and police across the country.

The 73-year-old firebrand preacher was the third person to be convicted by the war crimes tribunal, whose verdicts have been met with outrage from Islamists.

Jamaat says the process is more about settling scores than delivering justice. The party has enforced a nationwide strike on Sunday to protest the verdict and killing of its activists in police "brutalities".

The war crimes trials of a dozen Jamaat and main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders have opened old wounds and divided the nation, with the opposition parties accusing the government of staging a witch-hunt.

The government, which says the war claimed three million lives, rejects the claims and accuses Jamaat leaders of being part of pro-Pakistani militias blamed for much of the carnage during the 1971 independence war.

Independent estimates put the death toll from the war in which Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan at a much lower figure of 300,000 to 500,000.

- AFP/ir



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Rescuers end effort to find body of man presumed dead in sinkhole









SEFFNER, Florida -- Florida rescue workers have ended their efforts to recover the body of a man who disappeared into a sinkhole that swallowed his bedroom while he slept in a suburban Tampa home, and the house will be demolished, a public safety official said on Saturday.


Jeff Bush, 36, who is presumed dead, was asleep when the other five members of the household who were getting ready for bed on Thursday night heard a loud crash and Jeff screaming.


Authorities have not detected any signs of life after lowering listening devices and cameras into the hole.








"Our data has come back, and there is absolutely no way we can do any kind of recovery without endangering lives of workers," said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Dam.


The sinkhole also has compromised the house next door, officials said Saturday.


Officials planned to let family members, accompanied by firefighters, into the threatened  home for about 20 minutes to gather some  belongings, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokesman Ronnie Rivera told reporters Saturday.


She said demolition of the home would begin early on Sunday.


Bush's body hadn’t been removed by Saturday afternoon and the ground near the home was still "very, very unsafe," Rivera said at a televised press conference Saturday.


"At this time we did some testing and we determined that the house right next to the house that’s actually damaged is also compromised by the sinkhole," Rivera said.


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


"I really don't think they are going to be able to find him," Jeremy said on Saturday. He "will be there forever."


A small memorial of balloons and flowers for his brother had formed near the house on Saturday morning.


"I thank the Lord for not taking my daughter and the rest of my family," he said.


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 bed frame, the dresser, everything was sinking," he said.


Norman Wicker, 48, the father of Jeremy's fiancee 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.


"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.


After suspending the search overnight, it resumed at daylight on Saturday, with engineering consultants trying to determine the extent of the collapse so that a perimeter boundary can be established for setting up heavy equipment for future excavation.


Several nearby homes were evacuated in case the 30-foot wide sinkhole got larger but officials said Friday it only appeared to be getting deeper. Soil samples showed that the sinkhole has compromised the ground underneath a home next door, engineers said Saturday.


The residents of that house were allowed 20 minutes in their home on Saturday to gather belongings. Firefighters and residents formed an assembly line to move items out of the house into SUVs and trucks.


Rescue officials said that in addition to soil samples, they were focusing on engineering analysis, ground penetration radar and other techniques to determine the extent of the ongoing collapse. Listening devices were being used to detect any evidence of life although Bush was presumed dead.


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.

Reuters





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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.


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Man's Body Recovery Effort Ends; Sinkhole 'Unstable'












Authorities have discontinued the rescue effort for a Florida man who was swallowed by a sinkhole when his home's foundation collapsed and said it is unlikely his body will ever be recovered.


"We feel we have done everything we can," Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrell said at a news conference this afternoon. "At this point, it's not possible to recover the body."


Merell said officials would bring in heavy equipment to begin demolishing the home on Sunday.


"We're dealing with a very unusual sinkhole," he said. "It's very deep. It's very wide. It's very unstable."


Jeff Bush was in his bedroom when a sinkhole opened up and trapped him underneath his home at 11 p.m. Thursday.


Two homes next door to Bush's residence were evacuated today after authorities said they had been compromised by the growing sinkhole.


With the assistance of rescuers, the homeowners will be allowed to enter their home for only 30 minutes to gather valuables, authorities said.


Rescuers returned to the site in Seffner, Fla., early this morning to conduct further testing, but decided it was too dangerous for the family initially affected by the sinkhole to enter their home, which was declared condemned.








Florida Sinkhole Opens Up Beneath Man's Home Watch Video









Florida Man Believed Dead After Falling into Sinkhole Watch Video









Florida Sinkhole Swallows House, Man Trapped Inside Watch Video





While the sinkhole was initially estimated to be 15 feet deep on Thursday night, the chasm has continued to grow. Officials now estimate it measures 30 feet across and is up to 100 feet deep.


The Hillsborough County Fire Rescue has set up a relief fund for all families affected by the growing sink hole.


MORE: How Sinkholes Can Develop


Rescue operations were halted Friday night after it became too dangerous to approach the home.


Bill Bracken, an engineer with Hillsborough County Urban Search and Rescue team said the house "should have collapsed by now, so it's amazing that it hasn't."


RELATED: Florida Man Swallowed by Sinkhole: Conditions Too Unstable to Approach


Using ground penetrating radar, rescuers have found a large amount of water beneath the house, making conditions even more dangerous for them to continue the search for Bush.


Hillsborough County lies in what is known as Florida's "Sinkhole Alley." More than 500 sinkholes have been reported in the area since 1954, according to the state's environmental agency.


Meanwhile, Bush's brother, Jeremy Bush, is still reeling from Thursday night.


Jeremy Bush had to be rescued by a first responder after jumping into the hole in an attempt to rescue his brother when the home's concrete floor collapsed, but said he couldn't find him.


"I just started digging and started digging and started digging, and the cops showed up and pulled me out of the hole and told me the floor's still falling in," he said.


"These are everyday working people, they're good people," said Deputy Douglas Duvall of the Hillsborough County sheriff's office. "And this was so unexpected, and they're still, you know, probably facing the reality that this is happening."



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.








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Thai tourist industry 'driving' elephant smuggling






BANGKOK: Smuggling the world's largest land animal across an international border sounds like a mammoth undertaking, but activists say that does not stop traffickers supplying Asian elephants to Thai tourist attractions.

Unlike their heavily-poached African cousins -- whose plight is set to dominate Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) talks in Bangkok next week -- Asian elephants do not often make the headlines.

But the species is also under threat, as networks operate a rapacious trade in wild elephants to meet the demands of Thailand's tourist industry.

Camps and zoos featuring elephants tightrope walking, playing football or performing in painting contests employ almost 4,000 domesticated elephants for the amusement of tourists.

Conservation activists accuse the industry of using illicitly-acquired animals to supplement its legal supply, with wild elephants caught in Myanmar and sold across the border into one of around 150 camps.

"Even the so-called rescue charities are trying to buy elephants," said John Roberts of the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation.

Domestic elephants in Thailand -- where the pachyderm is a national symbol -- have been employed en masse in the tourist trade since they found themselves unemployed in 1989 when logging was banned.

Just 2,000 of the animals remain in the wild.

Prices have exploded with elephants now commanding between 500,000 and two million baht ($17,000 to $67,000) per baby, estimates suggest.

The number of baby elephants "coming into the system" is far higher than would be possible "from actual breeding", said Roberts, whose group decided to stop buying elephants seven years ago and now has 26 residents.

"I cannot see a way to buy an elephant which doesn't cause another elephant to be smuggled," he added.

Between 50 and 100 wild baby or young female elephants are sold from Myanmar each year, according to estimates by British charity Elephant Family.

The group's head of conservation, Dan Bucknell, told AFP that while some trafficked elephants may be taken elsewhere, the majority enter the Thai market.

"Thailand is certainly a hub," he said.

Smuggling such a large mammal should in theory require elaborate planning to avoid the police but in reality traffickers just "do it over a normal road", said wildlife trade researcher Vincent Nijman of Oxford Brookes university.

"Elephants can be in a truck or even walk" across the Thai border in front of complicit customs officers and border guards, he said.

Demand is not only threatening the 4,000 to 5,000 wild elephants in Myanmar, but is also hitting populations in Thailand's other neighbour Laos.

Young domestic elephants are exported across the border, furthering the decline of a population of around 480 animals, said Gilles Maurer of the group ElephantAsia.

Laos, known as the "land of a million elephants", only has between 300 and 500 wild pachyderms left and Maurer said that as the domestic population shrinks, "there is a strong risk" that poachers will turn to them.

Last year Thai authorities conducted several raids on elephant camps and seized some 25 animals -- 19 remain under their protection.

"It is likely the 19 seized elephants were smuggled wild animals as their paperwork did not match up," said forest ranger Pradung Jitraon, of Thailand's National Parks department, who participated in the operation.

Activists have welcomed the initiative but are also calling for broader reforms. "The system now is so weak," said Petch Manopawitr of the World Wildlife Fund in Thailand.

Thailand needs "more control, more transparent monitoring of the population, of what they do in terms of new born elephants", he said, calling for a proper database of elephants, using DNA testing or microchips.

Such a system, he added, would allow foreigners to visit elephant camps safe in the knowledge they are not "harming or threatening the wild population".

- AFP/ck



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Blackhawks' streak at 21 with overtime win over Blue Jackets









Chalk one up for the "slug defenseman."

Brent Seabrook's goal in overtime kept the Blackhawks' record-breaking streak alive as they edged the Blue Jackets 4-3 Friday night at the United Center to remain without a regulation loss this season. At 18-0-3, the Hawks keep piling up the points, securing 39 of a possible 42 this season.






Friday night's hero — with a little help from his friends — was Seabrook, who took a pass from Jonathan Toews 3 minutes, 23 seconds into overtime and beat Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason for the game-winner.

"(Toews) is good — he's a hell of a player," Seabrook said, giving credit to his captain. "He usually likes to shoot low and I think Mason was probably thinking he was going to shoot it. (Toews) had a slug defenseman (in me) going down on the off side so he made a great pass. I don't think the Blue Jackets defenseman, Mason or I expected it to come. Somehow he saw me and made a great pass.

"He didn't look at me once and I didn't yell. He's pretty good in those situations so I just let him do his thing. I don't think I shot the puck, it was such a hard pass it hit my stick and just bounced in."

Against a banged up and usually bumbling Blue Jackets squad, the Hawks increased their points streak over the course of two seasons to 27 consecutive games — third-longest in NHL history.

Viktor Stalberg, Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell had goals in regulation and Ray Emery earned the victory in net for the Hawks.

Vinny Prospal, Artem Anisimov and Ryan Johansen scored for the Blue Jackets but it wasn't enough. The Blue Jackets, who entered the game with the fewest points in the league, were without defensemen James Wisniewski, Jack Johnson and John Moore and forwards Derick Brassard and Brandon Dubinsky but fought gamely.

A night after the Hawks opened their victory over the Blues with a Toews goal just 10 seconds into the game, the Blue Jackets struck quickly when Prospal jumped on a big rebound Emery yielded off a Derek Dorsett shot and fired it into the open net with 31 seconds elapsed.

Stalberg later continued his mastery over the Blue Jackets with his 11th goal in his 15th game against them when the winger tapped in a puck in the crease during a scramble.

"We're finding ways to really get it done," Stalberg said. "It's pretty amazing to be a part of a run like this. It seems like it hasn't gotten to our heads at all. We're staying with it … and that's all we can do right now."

The Jackets kept coming and took the lead when Anisimov's shot from the point deflected off the Hawks' Daniel Carcillo and bounded past Emery.

Late in the second, the Hawks' offense kicked into gear. Sharp evened the score at 2-2 when his backhander from the left circle somehow made it through Mason's pads and trickled across the goal line.

Bickell's splendid individual effort put the Hawks ahead just less than a minute later. The winger stripped Anisimov of the puck, skated in two-on-one with Stalberg and rifled a wrist shot from the left dot past Mason to the stick side.

After Johansen tied it midway through the third, the goalies held and the game went to overtime where Toews and Seabrook won it.

"(The Blue Jackets are) a hard-working team," Seabrook said. "They play 60 minutes hard and you have to come to play this team hard every time. There are no easy games in this league and you never can take a night off. I thought we fought hard on the second part of a back-to-back and it was good to get the win."

ckuc@tribune.com

Twitter @ChrisKuc



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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."


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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.






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