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Science & Medicine

Bird songs go online and digital

East Lansing, Mich. -- Backyard birdwatchers and professional ornithologists alike have a new resource in a U.S. database of bird songs, pictures and information, researchers say.

The Avian Vocalizations Center at Michigan State University, or AVoCet, offers free downloads of bird sounds from around the world, photos of the birds recorded and links to other online bird call collections, a university release said Tuesday.

AVoCet offers more than 10,200 recordings from over 3,190 species in 45 countries, "and that's growing quickly," Pamela Rasmussen, an assistant professor of zoology, said.

Study: Asian-American men in U.S. pay gap

Lawrence, Kan. -- U.S. employers don't pay Asian-American men as much as they pay similarly qualified white men, a University of Kansas study found.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates to investigate earnings, a university release said Tuesday.

"The most striking result is that native-born Asian Americans -- who were born in the U.S. and speak English perfectly -- their income is 8 percent lower than whites after controlling for their college majors, their places of residence and their level of education," ChangHwan Kim, assistant professor of sociology and study leader, said.

The findings show the United States has a way to go toward the goal of becoming a colorblind society, Kim says.

Study: Many plants found but unidentified

Oxford, England -- Thousands of species of collected but unidentified plants may be sitting in museum collections around the world waiting to be discovered, U.K. researchers say.

Examining how long it takes for new species collected in the field to eventually be identified, British researchers found it often took decades, the BBC reported.

Of the approximately 70,000 flowering plant species experts believe are yet to be found, over half may already be in collections awaiting identification, scientists say.

For hundreds of years, plants have been collected by mounting them on cardboard and placing them in what is known as a herbarium for safekeeping.

Important multiple sclerosis research find

Edinburgh, Scotland -- Scottish researchers say a discovery involving stem cells may lead to reversing nerve damage and paralysis caused by multiple sclerosis.

MS is caused when the body's immune system attacks a substance called myelin that covers and protects nerve fibers, disrupting messages as they are sent around the body.

Researchers from Edinburgh and Cambridge universities say they have identified a mechanism that helps regenerate the myelin sheaths that protect the body's nerve fibers, particularly in the brain, The Daily Express reported Monday.

Identifying a way of regenerating the sheaths could lead to new drugs and treatments, the researchers say.

Antibiotics push drug-resistant pathogens

Blackburg, Va. -- Antibiotics can pass through the body without metabolizing and enter the environment, causing concerns of heightened antibiotic resistance, a study says.

Amy Pruden, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, says the antibiotics in the environment become "potential sources of antibiotic resistance genes," reported Monday.

"The presence of antibiotics, even at sub-inhibitory concentrations, can stimulate bacterial metabolism and thus contribute to the selection and maintenance of antibiotic resistance genes," Pruden says. "Once they are present in rivers, antibiotic resistance genes are capable of being transferred among bacteria, including pathogens, through horizontal gene transfer."

Big stork fossil found on 'hobbit' island

Washington -- The fossil of a 6-foot-tall stork has been found in Indonesia where an earlier discovery of a "hobbit" human species was made, researchers say.

Fossils of the big bird were discovered on the island of Flores, a place previously famed for the discovery of Homo floresiensis, a small hominin species closely related to modern humans, the BBC reported Tuesday.

Discovered in 2004, H. floresiensis is thought to be a human-like species standing just 3 feet tall that survived until about 17,000 years ago.

Mich. city defies state pot law, votes ban

Wyoming, Mich. -- Marijuana advocates say they want to kick the entire city council of a Michigan city out of office for banning the drug state law permits for medicinal use.

The city council of Wyoming, Mich., reaffirmed a November vote Monday giving the ban a second and final reading that makes medical marijuana illegal within city limits, the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press reported

The vote goes against a 2008 statewide vote approving medical marijuana.

Voters in 27 of Wyoming's precincts supported that marijuana proposal.

John Ter Beek, a lawyer who has sued the city, plans a campaign to recall all seven elected officials and says he is recruiting volunteers to circulate recall petitions.

BPA found on dollar bills, receipts

Washington -- Two groups researching BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to serious health problems, say it's been found on dollar bills and cash register receipts.

The study -- released Wednesday by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition and the Washington Toxics Coalition -- says bisphenol A, implicated in cancer, infertility and early puberty, can rub off of receipts onto bills and be absorbed by the skin, a release said.

Thermal paper commonly used in receipts contains BPA that isn't chemically bound in any way, the report says. Free BPA in a powdery film on receipts easily transfers to skin and other items that it rubs against.

Mountain gorilla numbers rising

Washington -- The numbers of African gorillas have increased thanks to conservationists collaborating in three countries where they are found, wildlife advocates say.

A census in the Virunga Massif, where most of the world's mountain gorillas live, revealed 480 individuals living in 36 groups, the BBC reported Tuesday.

Thirty years ago only 250 gorillas survived in this same area, conservationists say.

Three contiguous national parks are found within the Virunga Massif: Parc National des Virunga in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.

Conservationists credit the increase in gorilla numbers to collaborative "transboundary" efforts by organizations in the three countries.

Cosmic 'hiccups' puzzle astronomers

Heidelberg, Germany -- The Crab Nebula, the steadiest source of energetic radiation in the universe, astonished European and U.S. astronomers with giant gamma-ray "hiccups," they say.

The astonishment comes because radiation from the supernova remnant at the center of the nebula was long held to be so constant astronomers used it as a standard "candle" with which to measure the energetic radiation of other astronomical sources, reported Tuesday.

That was before two spacecraft recently recorded giant gamma-ray bursts from the nebula, the remnants of a stellar explosion 6,500 light-years from Earth that was observed by humans in 1054.