- - Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Israeli wins chemistry Nobel for quasicrystals

STOCKHOLM | Israeli scientist Dan Shechtman was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for a discovery that faced skepticism and mockery, even prompting his expulsion from his research team, before it won widespread acceptance as a fundamental breakthrough.

While doing research in the U.S. in 1982, Mr. Shechtman discovered a new chemical structure - quasicrystals - that researchers previously thought was impossible.

He was studying a mix of aluminum and manganese in an electron microscope when he found the atoms were arranged in a pattern - similar to one in some traditional Islamic mosaics - that appeared contrary to the laws of nature.

He concluded that science was wrong - but it would take years for him and other researchers to prove that he was right.

Since then, quasicrystals have been produced in laboratories and a Swedish company found them in one of the most durable kinds of steel, which is now used in products such as razor blades and thin needles made specifically for eye surgery.


Cops nab leader of fading drug cartel

MEXICO CITY | One of the last major leaders of the pseudo-religious La Familia drug gang has been captured, Mexican officials said Wednesday, an arrest that has provided insights into the final days of one of the country’s most bizarre criminal cartels.

Martin Rosales Magana had been on the run since a breakaway gang threatened to kill relatives of those who still sympathized with La Familia, said federal police anti-drug chief Ramon Pequeno.

He is said to have taken refuge in a state bordering La Familia’s stronghold of Michoacan and plotted an alliance with his group’s old enemies, the Zetas.

At one point, Mr. Rosales Magana plotted to lead 200 Zetas and La Familia gunmen in an assault on Apatzingan, a city in western Mexico now dominated by the equally cultlike Knights Templar cartel that broke away from his group, Mr. Pequeno said.

Mr. Rosales Magana and three other men were arrested Tuesday in the neighboring state of Mexico.


Authorities foil plot to kill president

KABUL | Afghan intelligence officials said they have foiled an assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai, arresting six people in Kabul who they say are affiliated with al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network militant group.

Intelligence service spokesman Latifullah Mashal said Wednesday that those arrested included one of Mr. Karzai’s bodyguards, three college students and a university professor.

He said the group was recruited by two Arab nationals based in Pakistan.

Afghan officials have been increasingly vocal in publicly accusing Pakistan and its spy agency of supporting militants. On Tuesday, they claimed that Pakistani officials had advance knowledge of the Sept. 20 assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Pakistan has denied the charges.


Ruler pledges military will cede power

CAIRO | Egypt’s military ruler vowed Thursday not to step down until the council of generals he heads has “fulfilled its commitments,” adding that the military does not benefit from prolonging its hold on power.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi’s comments appeared designed to debunk claims by some politicians that he and the generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces have no intention of handing over power to a democratic government as they promised when they took over from President Hosni Mubarak, toppled nearly eight months ago.

“We will not abandon Egypt before we finish what we pledged to do and committed ourselves to before the people,” Field Marshal Tantawi told reporters in comments shown on state television and carried by the country’s official news agency. “The military council has no interest in staying [in power] for a long time.”

“Given the chance, the military council will step down tomorrow,” he said.

Many activists in the youth groups that engineered the Egyptian uprising have accused Field Marshal Tantawi, Mr. Mubarak’s defense minister for 20 years, of being slow in dismantling the legacy of his former patron’s 29-year rule and of not doing enough to stop the torture of detainees by the military.


Lawmakers extend mandate for Iraq strikes on Kurds

ANKARA | Turkey’s parliament on Wednesday extended the government’s mandate to order military strikes against Kurdish rebels holed up in neighboring Iraq.

The vote comes as attacks by Kurdish rebels on civilians are piling pressure on the Turkish government, which has threatened to launch an incursion into northern Iraq by its land forces to root out rebel bases.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted a motion that gives Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan permission to order strategic strikes or large-scale incursions into Iraq for one more year.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey’s military strikes based on the fresh mandate would target the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) bases and logistics in northern Iraq, not Iraq or the Iraqi people.

“We have a strong will in the fight against terrorism,” Mr. Davutoglu told the assembly.

The current authorization expires on Oct. 17.

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