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.








Read More..

UN in Syria talks offer, warns against war crimes






DAMASCUS: The UN chief and his Syria envoy said Saturday they are prepared to broker peace talks between the regime and opposition, as Damascus ally Iran said Bashar al-Assad would stand again for president in 2014.

A joint statement by Ban Ki-moon and Lakhdar Brahimi said the UN would "be prepared to facilitate a dialogue between a strong and representative delegation from the opposition and a credible and empowered delegation from the Syrian government."

They met after both sides in Syria had indicated a "willingness to engage in dialogue," the UN said.

"Both expressed deep frustration at the failure of the international community to act with unity to end the conflict which has left over 70,000 dead and resulted in a massive human displacement within and outside of the Syrian borders," the statement said.

They also warned that both the regime and opposition fighters "have become increasingly reckless with human life" and said perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity must be brought to justice.

In Tehran on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Assad will take part in next year's presidential election and that it is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leader.

He spoke during a visit by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem for talks on the nearly two-year conflict.

At a joint news conference, Salehi said "in the next election, President Assad, like others, will take part, and the Syrian people will elect whomever they want."

The "official position of Iran is that... Assad will remain legitimate president until the next... election" in 2014.

Assad, who took over as president in 2000 following the death of his father Hafez, has repeatedly rejected opposition, Western and Arab calls to step down.

A new constitution adopted in February 2012 stipulates that he can run for the presidency twice from 2014, which means he could stay at the helm until 2028 if re-elected.

Salehi also backed a call by Damascus for talks with the armed opposition, calling the initiative a "positive step," but reiterated that Assad's regime has "no choice" but to keep fighting rebels.

"We believe that the crisis has no military solution and only a Syrian political one," he said.

Muallem condemned the announcement by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday that Washington would provide US$60 million in "non-lethal" assistance to support Syria's political opposition.

"When the US (says it has) allocated US$60 million to the opposition and this opposition is killing people, I don't understand this initiative... Are there any weapons that do not kill people? Who are you kidding?" Muallem asked.

He repeated calls for pressure to be exerted on Turkey and Qatar, among the main supporters of the rebels alongside Western countries.

Damascus has repeatedly blamed foreign-backed "terrorists" for the violence, using the term to refer both to rebels and peaceful opponents ever since the outbreak of a popular revolt against Assad in March 2011.

On the ground, the army said on Saturday it seized control of a key road linking the central province of Hama to Aleppo international airport, the scene of fierce battles since mid-February.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said this was significant because it will allow new troop deployments and supplies to reach the area surrounding the airport and nearby Nayrab military airbase.

Fierce clashes also raged in the northern city of Raqa between rebels and troops, killing at least 26 fighters -- 16 rebels and 10 soldiers, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The Britain-based Observatory and activists said military helicopters strafed rebels in some parts of Raqa, which Abdel Rahman said was home to about 800,000 people displaced by violence elsewhere in Syria.

At least 133 people were killed nationwide on Saturday, the Observatory said.

They included two Palestinians hanged by rebels from trees at Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus on suspicion of aiding the regime, the Observatory said. The two were suspected of pinpointing rebel targets for regime forces.

The Israeli military said mortar rounds believed to have been fired from Syria hit the southern Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Saturday without causing damage or casualties.

The Observatory said there had been clashes in the Quneitra area, with two rebels and an unknown number of soldiers killed.

- AFP/jc



Read More..

'Nice neighbor' slain on way to dialysis treatment

WGN-TV: Man fatally shot while waiting for ride to dialysis treatment.









A Far South Side man was in a gangway just steps from his home early Saturday morning when he was shot to death in an apparent robbery attempt while walking toward the ride scheduled to take him to a dialysis appointment.


Neighbors, family members and the driver of the PACE van there for the pickup alike heard the shots that felled 72-year-old William Strickland, who neighbors said had lived in the home in the 400 block of East 95th Street in the Brainerd neighborhood for 30-some years.


He was described by neighbors and friends as friendly and willing to lend a helping hand.








"He was just there for us," said Theolene Shears, 84, who has lived in the area since 1965. "He was a very nice neighbor. We couldn't ask for a better neighbor."


Strickland was shot about 3:30 a.m. and was pronounced dead at the scene about 4 a.m., according to authorities. The motive appears to be robbery, police said, but detectives are still investigating.


Detectives remained at the scene, across from Chicago State University, into the morning.


Police taped off the northeast corner of 95th Street and Eberhart Avenue, surrounding the two houses between which the man was killed.


Strickland's grandson was inside the home and heard the shots; his family later declined to answer questions about Strickland's death. Shears also was inside her home.


"All I heard was three shots. Bang, bang, bang," she said.


Strickland, who went to dialysis three times a week, had been undergoing treatment for about five years, Shears said. Patrick Wilmot, spokesman for PACE, confirmed that Strickland had a scheduled pickup at 3:30 a.m. and that he was being taken to a standing dialysis appointment.


"He seemed to be very happy about it. The way he talked it was like a little social club," Shears said of the dialysis treatments, adding that he eased her own concerns about potentially having to receive treatment.


He preferred to go early on Saturdays to get it out of the way, she said.


Strickland leaves behind a daughter, three grandchildren and a pet Chihuahua, said Shears.


"He was a good man," said Joshua Miles, 14, a friend of the family. "He would help you out if you needed help."


"He always kept you laughing," he said.


pnickeas@tribune.com
Twitter: @peternickeas

nnix@tribune.com
Twitter: @nsnix87.com





Read More..

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.


Read More..

Abandoned Baby's Tooth Used in Search for Parents












Authorities are using the bottom tooth of the week-old infant abandoned in a plastic bag outside an apartment complex in Cypress, Texas, as a clue in the search for her parents.


The newborn's early tooth, seen in just one of 2,000 births, is a unique genetic trait that may prove to be a link to her family history, according to investigators.


The baby, named Chloe by rescuers, weighed just four pounds when she was found by a woman walking her dogs near the apartment complex.


"More than likely her mother didn't have any type of prenatal care," Estella Olguin, spokeswoman for Texas Child Protective Services, told ABC's "Good Morning America."


To aid in their investigation, police commissioned Texas sketch artist Lori Gibson to create a rendering of what her parents might look like by studying the newborn's features.








Texas Cops Rely on Sketches in Abandoned Baby Case Watch Video









RELATED: Cops Rely on Sketch to Find Abandoned Baby's Parents


"The people would recognize that smile," Gibson told "Good Morning America," "It's a ready smile, and then all I had to do was put teeth."


Authorities said they are hoping Chloe's mother or other relatives come forward to claim the baby, or officially allow another family to take custody of the newborn. They plan to charge the parents if they can find them, police said.


Texas has an infant safe haven law, which allows mothers to anonymously give up their babies to designated locations where they can receive care until they are placed in a permanent home.


Texas was the first state to enact an infant safe haven law, which was passed in 1999. The laws, now adopted by many other states and known as "Baby Moses laws," are meant to provide mothers with an incentive not to abandon unwanted children, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Meanwhile, Harris County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Christina Garza said once custody issues are resolved, "[Chloe] will be placed in a loving home."


"There is no shortage of people who want her," she said.



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.








Read More..

Al-Qaeda's top leader in Mali killed in fighting






PARIS: Al-Qaeda's top commander in Mali has been killed, Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno said Friday, in what would be one of the most significant blows to the rebels in the seven-week French-led intervention against Islamist insurgents.

Several newspapers in Abou Zeid's native Algeria had reported his death and Washington had described the reports as "very credible".

Deby said Abou Zeid, the Mali-based operative in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed in deadly fighting between Chadian troops and Islamist fighters on February 22.

"On February 22, we lost several soldiers in the Ifogha mountains after destroying the jihadists' base. This was the first time there was a direct confrontation with the jihadists," he said.

"Our soldiers killed two jihadist chiefs including Abou Zeid," said Deby, whose elite forces are among the best desert troops on the continent and have played a key role in the offensive to liberate northern Mali.

Algeria's independent Ennahar TV reported earlier this week that Abou Zeid was killed in northern Mali along with 40 other Islamist militants.

In Washington, a US official speaking on condition of anonymity said reports of his death seemed "very credible" and that if Abou Zeid was indeed slain "it would be a significant blow to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb."

French officials have so far reacted with caution, with President Francois Hollande saying Friday: "Reports are circulating, it is not up to me to confirm them."

The killing of Abou Zeid, a ruthless militant linked with kidnappings and executions of Westerners, would be a major success for French forces, who intervened in Mali in mid-January to help oust Islamist rebels then in control of the north.

Algeria's El Khabar newspaper reported Friday that authorities there had carried out DNA tests to try to confirm Abou Zeid's death.

"The security services are comparing DNA taken from two close relatives of Abou Zeid with samples taken from the remains of a body supplied by French forces", it said.

French and west African troops have been hunting down rebels they dislodged from northern Mali's main cities following a lightning advance against the Islamists.

Abou Zeid, 46, whose real name is Mohamed Ghedir, was often seen in the cities of Timbuktu and Gao after the Islamists took control of northern Mali last year and sparked fears the region could become a haven for extremists.

An Algerian born near the border with Libya, Abou Zeid was a former smuggler who embraced radical Islam in the 1990s and became one of AQIM's key leaders.

He was suspected of being behind a series of brutal kidnappings in several countries, including of British national Edwin Dyer, who was abducted in Niger and executed in 2009, and of 78-year-old French aid worker Michel Germaneau, who was executed in 2010.

Abou Zeid was believed to be holding a number of Western hostages, including four French citizens kidnapped in Niger in 2010.

He was thought to have about 200 seasoned fighters under his command, mainly Algerians, Mauritanians and Malians, who were well-equipped and highly mobile.

An Algiers court last year sentenced Abou Zeid in absentia to life in prison for having formed an international armed group involved in the kidnapping of foreigners. Five other members of his family were jailed for 10 years each.

He was seen as a true religious fanatic and more uncompromising than some other leaders of north African armed Islamist groups, such as Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the mastermind of January's attack on an Algerian natural-gas facility that left 37 foreign hostages dead.

On the ground in Mali Friday, Malian troops arrested about 50 people near Gao on an island in the Niger river that was used as a hideout by armed Islamists, military sources told AFP.

-AFP/ac



Read More..

Sinkhole swallows Florida man inside house

Brother of sinkhole victim talks to reporters at the scene.









TAMPA, Fla. -- A 36-year-old Florida man was feared dead on Friday after a sinkhole suddenly opened beneath the bedroom of his suburban Tampa home swallowing him, police and fire officials said.


Rescuers responded to a 911 call late on Thursday after the man's family reported hearing a loud crash in the house and rushed to his bedroom.


“All they could see was a part of a mattress sticking out of the hole,” said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Ron Rogers. “Essentially the floor of that room had opened up.”








A sheriff deputy who arrived at the scene rescued the man's brother who jumped in the sinkhole and tried to rescue him. Three other adults and a child were in the house at the time the sinkhole opened up.


"He's down there but we can't hear anything and we can't see anything," said Ronnie Rivera, a Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokesman. "We can't confirm anything but it's been several hours."


The victim screamed for help and his brother, Jeremy Bush, jumped in to try to save him but was unsuccessful.


Bush tried again using a shovel to dig but was pulled out by deputies as he was being sucked into the hole, Rivera said.

Bush told television reporters on scene, "I know in my heart he's dead."


About five other people reportedly lived inside the home, which has been occupied by the same family since 1974. The residents were taken to a local hotel and were given food.


Authorities have not been able to contact the missing man and ordered the evacuation of several nearby homes out of concern the sinkhole is continuing to grow.

Bill Bracken, the head of an engineering company assisting rescuers, said the sinkhole was as much as 30 feet (9 meters) in diameter and 20 feet (6 meters) deep.


“It started in the bedroom and it has been expanding outward and it's taking the house with it as it opens up,” Bracken said.


The risk of sinkholes is common in the state due to its porous geological bedrock, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said.


As rainwater filters down it dissolves the rock causing erosion that can lead to underground caverns, which cause sinkholes when they collapse.


Rogers said officials lowered listening devices and cameras into the hole but had so far not detected any signs of life.


Rescue efforts were suspended on Friday over concerns about the house's stability, Rogers said.





Read More..

Stinkbug Threat Has Farmers Worried


Part of our weekly "In Focus" series—stepping back, looking closer.

Maryland farmer Nathan Milburn recalls his first encounter.

It was before dawn one morning in summer 2010, and he was at a gas station near his farm, fueling up for the day. Glancing at the light above the pump, something caught his eye.

"Thousands of something," Milburn remembers.

Though he'd never actually seen a brown marmorated stinkbug, Milburn knew exactly what he was looking at. He'd heard the stories.

This was a swarm of them—the invasive bugs from Asia that had been devouring local crops.

"My heart sank to my stomach," Milburn says.

Nearly three years later, the Asian stinkbug, commonly called the brown marmorated stinkbug, has become a serious threat to many mid-Atlantic farmers' livelihoods.

The bugs have also become a nuisance to many Americans who simply have warm homes—favored retreats of the bugs during cold months, when they go into a dormant state known as overwintering.

The worst summer for the bugs so far in the U.S. was 2010, but 2013 could be shaping up to be another bad year. Scientists estimate that 60 percent more stinkbugs are hunkered down indoors and in the natural landscape now than they were at this time last year in the mid-Atlantic region.

Once temperatures begin to rise, they'll head outside in search of mates and food. This is what farmers are dreading, as the Asian stinkbug is notorious for gorging on more than a half dozen North American crops, from peaches to peppers.

Intruder Alert

The first stinkbugs probably arrived in the U.S. by hitching a ride with a shipment of imported products from Asia in the late 1990s. Not long after that, they were spotted in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Since then, they've been identified in 39 other states. Effective monitoring tools are being developed to help researchers detect regional patterns.

There are two main reasons to fear this invader, whose popular name comes from the pungent odor it releases when squashed. It can be distinguished from the native stinkbug by white stripes on its antennae and a mottled appearance on its abdomen. (The native stinkbug can also cause damage but its population number is too low for it to have a significant impact.)

For one thing, Asian stinkbugs have an insatiable appetite for fruits and vegetables, latching onto them with a needlelike probe before breaking down their flesh and sucking out juice until all that's left is a mangled mess.

Peaches, apples, peppers, soybeans, tomatoes, and grapes are among their favorite crops, said Tracy Leskey, a research entomologist leading a USDA-funded team dedicated to stinkbug management. She adds that in 2010, the insects caused $37 million in damage just to apple crops in the mid-Atlantic region.

Another fear factor: Although the stinkbug has some natural predators in the U.S., those predators can't keep up with the size of the stinkbug population, giving it the almost completely unchecked freedom to eat, reproduce, and flourish.

Almost completely unchecked. Leskey and her team have found that stinkbugs are attracted to blue, black, and white light, and to certain pheromones. Pheromone lures have been used with some success in stinkbug traps, but the method hasn't yet been evaluated for catching the bugs in large numbers.

So Milburn—who is on the stakeholders' advisory panel of Leskey's USDA-funded team—and other farmers have had to resort to using some chemical agents to protect against stinkbug sabotage.

It's a solution that Milburn isn't happy about. "We have to be careful—this is people's food. My family eats our apples, too," he says. "We have to engage and defeat with an environmentally safe and economically feasible solution."

Damage Control

Research Entomologist Kim Hoelmer agrees but knows that foregoing pesticides in the face of the stinkbug threat is easier said than done.

Hoelmer works on the USDA stinkbug management team's biological control program. For the past eight years, he's been monitoring the spread of the brown marmorated stinkbug with an eye toward containing it.

"We first looked to see if native natural enemies were going to provide sufficient levels of control," he says. "Once we decided that wasn't going to happen, we began to evaluate Asian natural enemies to help out."

Enter Trissolcus, a tiny, parasitic wasp from Asia that thrives on destroying brown marmorated stinkbugs and in its natural habitat has kept them from becoming the extreme pests they are in the U.S.

When a female wasp happens upon a cluster of stinkbug eggs, she will lay her own eggs inside them. As the larval wasp develops, it feeds on its host—the stinkbug egg—until there's nothing left. Most insects have natural enemies that prey upon or parasitize them in this way, said Hoelmer, calling it "part of the balance of nature."

In a quarantine lab in Newark, Delaware, Hoelmer has been evaluating the pros and cons of allowing Trissolcus out into the open in the U.S. It's certainly a cost-effective approach.

"Once introduced, the wasps will spread and reproduce all by themselves without the need to continually reintroduce them," he says.

And these wasps will not hurt humans. "Entomologists already know from extensive research worldwide that Trissolcus wasps only attack and develop in stinkbug eggs," Hoelmer says. "There is no possibility of them biting or stinging animals or humans or feeding on plants or otherwise becoming a pest themselves."

But there is a potential downside: the chance the wasp could go after one or more of North America's native stinkbugs and other insects.

"We do not want to cause harm to nontarget species," Hoelmer says. "That's why the host range of the Asian Trissolcus is being studied in the Newark laboratory before a request is made to release it."

Ultimately, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will decide whether or not to introduce the wasp. If it does, the new natural enemy could be let loose as early as next year.

Do you have stinkbugs in your area? Have they invaded your home this winter? Or your garden last summer? How do you combat them? Share your sightings and stories in the comments.


Read More..

Obama, Congress Fail to Avert 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.


Obama met for just over an hour at the White House today 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.


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.








Sequestration Deadline: Obama Meets With Leaders Watch Video











Sequester Countdown: The Reality of Budget Cuts Watch Video





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.






Read More..