SPOTLIGHT BRIEFS

Scientists take temperature of long-gone dinosaurs

Posted June 23, 2011, at 10:05 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Scientists have figured out a way to take the temperature of dinosaurs, and it turns out to be almost the same as ours.

Of course you can’t just stick a thermometer under the tongue of a gigantic creature that’s been extinct for millions of years.

So they did the next best thing. They studied dinosaur teeth, which can reflect body temperature.

They found the long-necked Brachiosaurus had a temperature of about 100.8 degrees F and the smaller Camarasaurus had a temperature of about 98.3 degrees. People average 98.6.

Their study, reported online Thursday in the journal Science, won’t settle the long-running debate over whether dinosaurs were warm-blooded like modern mammals or cold-blooded, requiring outside sources of warmth to get them going like lizards.

When they were first discovered, the theory was that they were lumbering and cold-blooded, but in recent years the consensus has been moving more toward warm-blooded, which would allow them to be more active, like the velociraptors in the Jurassic Park movies.

“Our analysis really allows us rule out that they could have been cold, like crocodiles, for example,” lead researcher Robert A. Eagle of the California Institute of Technology said in a briefing.

But, he added, “this doesn’t necessarily mean these large dinosaurs had high metabolism like mammals and birds … they could have been ‘gigantotherms’ and stay warm because they were so large.”

N.Y. Republicans debating same-sex marriage bill

ALBANY, N.Y. — Facing political and social pressure from all sides, Senate Republicans were expected to debate late into the night Thursday on whether to bring a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York to a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, on Thursday was set to hold a lengthy closed-door session with fellow Republicans to determine what to do with an issue that might impact the GOP’s narrow hold on the Senate. Skelos had been putting off discussions until the very end of the legislative session, using that leverage to help drive bargains on other major issues such as a statewide property-tax cap and a tuition plan for the State University of New York.

But while that bought time, it also helped fuel rhetorical battles and raucous demonstrations that have filled the Capitol for the past two weeks.

Every day, Republicans have had to run a gantlet of protesters from either side of the issue as they negotiated a U-shaped corridor that leads from the Senate chambers to the GOP conference room. Opponents sang “Amazing Grace” and “God Bless America,” and held signs that read “God defines marriage.” Supporters countered with “This Little Light of Mine,” chants of “I am somebody! “ and placards reading “Marriage Equality Now.” Moments of silence were brief and sporadic. State troopers patrolled the halls, trying to keep a center walking aisle clear and frequently escorting demonstrators to the side.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has made same-sex marriage one of his three priority issues for the second half of the session. He’s succeeded on a new ethics bill, while lawmakers last night were expected to approve a property tax cap.

IRS increases gas mileage deduction in midyear

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service is increasing the tax deduction motorists can take for using private vehicles for business, a rare midyear move sparked by high gas prices.

Starting July 1, motorists who use their personal vehicles for business will be able to deduct 55 ½ cents a mile from their taxable income, the agency announced Thursday. That’s an increase of 4 ½ cents from the first six months of the year.

The rate is also used as a benchmark by the federal government and many businesses to reimburse their employees for mileage. Workers who receive the reimbursement don’t have to report it as income, as long as the payments don’t exceed the IRS benchmark.

High gas prices have hit consumers, slowed the economic recovery and put increased political pressure on President Barack Obama. On Thursday, the Obama administration said it will release 30 million barrels of oil from the country’s emergency reserve as part of an international response to lost oil supplies caused by turmoil in the Middle East and Libya.

The average gas price is about $3.61 a gallon, up from $2.74 a year ago, according to AAA.

Syrian troops push to Turkey border, villagers run

GUVECCI, Turkey — Syrian troops pushed to the Turkish border Thursday in their sweep against a 3-month-old pro-democracy movement, sending panicked refugees, including children, rushing across the frontier to safe havens in Turkey.

The European Union, meanwhile, announced it was slapping new sanctions on the Syrian regime because of the “gravity of the situation,” in which the Syrian opposition says 1,400 people have been killed in a relentless government crackdown. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Syria to pull its troops back from the border.

Syrian soldiers patrolled in military vehicles and on foot around the border village of Khirbet al-Jouz, according to Associated Press journalists who watched their movements from the Turkish side. The Local Coordinating Committees, which track the Syrian protest movement, said residents reported tanks had entered the village and snipers were spotted on rooftops.

Syria has banned foreign journalists and restricted local media, making it nearly impossible to independently confirm the accounts.

More than 11,000 Syrians are housed or seeking shelter in Turkish refugee camps, including 600 who crossed over on Thursday, the Turkish Red Crescent said. The refugees came in a convoy of about 20 minibuses and some rushed on foot across the border, to be met by Turkish soldiers and escorted to nearby camps.

Some refugees glanced behind them as they crossed into Turkey, as though fearful of being chased. Later, another convoy of nine minibuses was seen ferrying refugees to the Turkish camps.

The deployment was the closest Syrian troops had come to Turkey since the military operation in the area began two weeks ago as Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces tried to extinguish any chance the opposition could gain a territorial base for a wider rebellion. The army’s main thrust came against the town of Jisr al-Shughour, where armed anti-government resistance flared in early June.

 

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